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    STRIKE. In this file photo, Piston leader George San Mateo talks to Quezon City police during the October 2017 transport strike. File photo by Aika Rey/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Several groups slammed the government for arresting Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) leader George San Mateo on Tuesday, December 5.

    In separate statements, leftist groups Kadamay and Agham – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People condemned the move, saying it was an "affront to democracy."

    "Masyadong halata ang paranoia ng gobyernong ito. Magpipiyansa na nga, inaresto pa. (The paranoia of this government is obvious. He was already about to post bail but he was still arrested.) The Duterte government and the transport agencies have been exposed and they know that the modernization plan is inherently anti-driver and anti-commuter, hence their efforts to stifle the movements against this," said Kadamay chairperson Gloria Arellano.

    Agham also said the arrest shows "the government's refusal to heed the calls of the protesting groups."

    "The supposed violation of failing to deliver the transportation service unjustly puts the blame on the protesting drivers who joined the strike to oppose a program that will adversely impact their livelihood," the group said.

    San Mateo was arrested at the Quezon City (QC) Hall of Justice on Tuesday. The QC Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 43 had ordered San Mateo's arrest for leading a transport strike against the public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization plan back in February.

    According to the arrest order issued last Friday, December 1, the Piston president allegedly violated the Public Service Act.

    "Mas dapat nga lalo tayong kumilos [dahil sa] kasuklam-suklam [na] panggigipit na ginagawa ng diktadura ni Duterte," San Mateo said regarding his arrest. (We should mobilize more because of this disgusting oppression under the Duterte dictatorship.)

    Discrediting Piston?

    Kadamay pointed out that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) earlier said that San Mateo is currently not a jeepney operator. (READ: DOTr hits Piston 'propaganda' on modernization program)

    "The arrest itself reeks of government desperation to discredit Piston," the group added.

    Kadamay and Agham also noted that Piston's willingness to cooperate with the government was evident when it canceled a two-day strike this December, heeding Senator Grace Poe's appeal.

    San Mateo is set to attend a Senate hearing called by Poe next Monday, December 11.

    Poe questioned the timing of the arrest order, saying it "casts doubt on the intent of the complainant in filing such charges."

    "The PUV modernization program should be borne from a democratic process and not from underhanded tactics," the senator said on Tuesday.

    No consultation?

    In a statement, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) refuted Piston's claim that they were not consulted regarding the PUV modernization.

    Transportation Assistant Secretary for Commuter Affairs Elvira Medina said she spoke to San Mateo during a protest in front of the DOTr office in Mandaluyong City last June.

    "I was able to make it clear to them that there is no [total] phaseout of jeepneys. He gave me his phone number and promised to schedule a meeting. However, he has not responded to my text messages and calls up to this date," Medina said on Tuesday.

    Medina also said she explained that the new jeepney models would serve commuters better.

    In November, Transportation Undersecretary Thomas Orbos said deteriorated PUVs would be phased out starting January, following President Rodrigo Duterte's order to modernize jeepneys.

    Piston argued that PUV modernization would lead to loss of jobs, and asked the government to junk the program, staging 3 transport strikes this year.

    The group criticized the program as "pro-big business" and anti-poor, as the new jeepney models cost around P1.5 million each – too expensive for drivers and operators. – Rappler.com


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    ARRESTED. Piston leader George San Mateo went to Boy Scout Circle in Quezon City after posting bail. All photos by Maria Tan/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Several groups staged a rally Tuesday afternoon, December 5, after Quezon City police arrested Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) leader George San Mateo.

    Piston, Kadamay, and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) gathered at the Boy Scout Circle in Quezon City to condemn the "illegal and arbitrary" arrest of San Mateo earlier on Tuesday.

    "The arrest was also treacherous and malicious given the fact that the trumped-up charges filed against San Mateo were a mere minor case and could have been settled without the arrest," said Elmer Labog, KMU chairperson.

    The arrest order was issued Friday, December 1, alleging that San Mateo violated the Public Service Act.

    Leftist groups condemned San Mateo's arrest, calling the Duterte administration "paranoid."

    Senator Grace Poe, chair of the chamber's committee on public services, said the timing of the release of the warrant was suspicious, given that the transport group leaders were scheduled to dialogue with her. 

    "Everyone has the right to peaceably assemble. It is unclear based on the cited section of the Public Service Act what exactly San Mateo violated. If holding a strike is tantamount to a violation under any memorandum of the LTFRB, then the proper penalty should have been a fine or suspension or cancellation of their franchise, not threatening their leader with incarceration," the senator said in a statement on Tuesday, moments before San Mateo's arrest.

    Here are some photos during the rally:

    Rappler.com


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    CHRISTMAS TREE. With Christmas fast-approaching, communities from Manicani and Zambales light a Christmas tree at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Quezon City Dec 4, 2017. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – At the onset of the Christmas season, Kampuhan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Malakihang Pagmimina at Open-Pit Mining lit a Christmas tree on Monday, December 4.

    The tree, according to the group, symbolizes the hope of residents Sta Cruz, Zambales, and Manicani, Eastern Samar, that the open-pit mining  in those areas will soon end.

    Residents of Manicani have been encamped in front of the DENR for 26 days as of December 4, to demand the immediate halt in mining operations in their islands. The mine permits expired on October 27. (READ: Meet this 11-year-old advocate against Manicani mining)

    In an earlier statement released on November 30, Philippine Misereor Partnership Incorporated (PMPI) welcomed the announcement of President Rodrigo Duterte upholding DENR DAO 2017-10,  imposing a ban on the open-pit method of mining for copper, gold, silver, and complex ores in the country.

    “Open pit mining in very small islands in the country will not only destroy the terrestrial make-up of these islands but negatively impacts the aquatic resources of the country as well,” PMPI said.

    Below are some photos from the camp outside DENR:

    HOPE AND PROTEST. Protesters camping outside the DENR says the Christmas is a symbol of hope. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    PROTEST. Residents of Manicani, Eastern Samar and Sta. Cruz Zambales all calling for an end of the open pit mining activities in their respective communities. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    – Rappler.com

     

     


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    STOP THE KILLINGS. A protester holds a placard that shows half of his face in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. All photos by Angie de Silva/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Ahead of the International Human Rights Day on December 10, rights groups protested against the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao.

    Barug Katungod Mindanao and the militant rights group Karapatan staged a demonstration in front of Department of National Defense in Quezon City on Wednesday, December 6. They decried the numerous human rights violations allegedly committed amid  Martial Law in Mindanao.

    "[Duterte] has made Mindanao and the rest of the country into a killing field, instigating an open season for killings and rights violations, through counter-insurgency program and [the] Martial Law declaration," Ryan Amper of Barug Katungod said.

    According to Karapatan, they have identified 29 victims of extrajudicial killings many of whom were members of farmers' organizations and affiliates of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).

    Karapatan has also documented 15 cases of torture, 58 illegal arrests and detention, and gunfire incidents and air strikes that affected nearly 335,700 people. (READ: Martial Law 101: Things you should know)

    "We have seen the devastating impact of Marco's Martial Law, and recently, people in Mindanao have relived this horror, albeit in a more intensified and relentless manner," Karapatan deputy secretary-general Roneo Clamor said.

    In May, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law in Mindanao after government troops clashed with terrorist forces in Marawi City. (TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in all of Mindanao)

    Marawi City has remained under military rule even after Duterte declared that it has been "liberated from terrorist influence" in October 16. Martial law in Mindanao is set to expire on December 31, after Congress voted to extend it after its original expiry date on July 22.

    On Tuesday, December 5, the Supreme Court affirmed its earlier ruling that upheld the constitutionality of Martial Law in the island.

    "The Duterte regime is brazenly, openly, turning its guns against the Filipino people. This can only merit resistance. The Martial Law declaration should be lifted, not extended, nor should it be expanded nationwide," Clamor added.

    Below are some photos during the rally:

    – Rappler.com


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    Bookmark this page to watch Rappler's interview with Transportation Assistant Secretary Arnulfo Fabillar on Thursday, December 7, at 4 pm

    MANILA, Philippines – Deaths from road crash incidents are rising in the country every year.

    In 2006, the Philippine Statistics Authority recorded 6,869 deaths due to motor vehicle crash incidents. Nine years later, in 2015, the figure jumped to 10,012.

    Several policy measures have been implemented but gaps remain, according to experts.

    Last November, the Department of Transportation launched a road safety plan to reduce fatalities from road crash incidents, an update of the earlier action plan launched in 2011.

    Are Philippine roads safer in 2017 and in the coming years?

    On Thursday, December 7, at 4 pm, Rappler researcher Aika Rey will talk to Transportation Assistant Secretary Arnulfo Fabillar about the state of road safety in the country and measures to strengthen it.

    Join the conversation by posting on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #SaferRoadsPH or by joining the Facebook group– Rappler.com


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    DISCUSSION. Education Secretary Leonor Briones holds a dialogue with indigenous community leaders on December 5, 2017. Photo by Abigail Abigan/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Education Secretary Leonor Briones held a dialogue with regional leaders of indigenous communities to hear their concerns about the government's education program for indigenous peoples (IPs).

    Briones initiated the dialogue on the sidelines of the 2017 Philippine Education Summit at the Manila Hotel on Tuesday, December 5,  or days after  Lumad groups led by the Save Our Schools Network (SOS) camped out in front of the Department of Education building for 12 days to call on the education department to act on the supposed military attacks against indigenous peoples' (IP) schools. 

    Eleven leaders representing IP communities in Kalinga, Pampanga, Rizal, Tacloban City, Bukidnon, Agusan del Sur, Davao del Sur, and South Cotabato, sat down with Briones. The IP leaders participated in both the plenary sessions and the inclusive education parallel session of the  2017 Education Summit. 

    Though SOS pushed for a dialogue with Briones, it was not invited to the dialogue. According to DepEd, it initiated the closed-door meeting to hear the side of the IP community through their regional leaders. (READ: Activists heckle Briones over Lumad schools issue)

    Concerns

    From teachers to classrooms, there was no shortage of issues raised by the leaders during the meeting that lasted two hours. 

    One of the issues the leaders raised is the failure of many teachers in tribes to pass the Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET).  

    "Una, 'yung mga teachers nila na maski hindi pumasa ng LET ay payagang magturo, or minsan nga sinasabi na puwedeng bigyan ng free review classes para magqualify sila. So I think that's a valid request," Briones said in an interview with Rappler after the meeting.

    (First, [they asked] that their teachers who didn't pass the LET would be allowed to teach or be given free review classes to qualify. So I think that's a valid request.)

    The LET is provided under  Republic Act 7836 or the Philippine Teachers Professionalization Act of 1994. The teachers' exam is not only intended to ensure the quality of teachers teachers, but also the quality of education and the whole education system. (READ: Know the best schools for teachers in PH)

    Even if teachers in tribes pass the exam, many of them do not stay put in one community, according to the IP leaders. Teachers would move from one school to another, creating instability among schools. 

    "Yung sinasabi din nila na 'yung mga teachers daw na lilipat-lipat, mahirap kasi mag-adjust, mahirap maghanap ng teacher na kabisado ang lenggwahe ng katutubo o tribes. I-didiscourage natin yung paglilipat lipat. We need to recognize na special ang needs nila," Briones shared. 

    (They said teachers transfer from one tribe school to another, it's hard to adjust, it's hard to look for a teacher who knows the language of the tribes. We will discourage moving teachers from one place to another. We need to recognize that their needs are special.)

    Preserve IP culture

    Datu "Ampuan" Jeodoro Sulda-Pangantucan from Bukidnon raised the shortage of classrooms in his community and asked that the design and concept of such facilities reflect their culture.

    "Kung maari po ay i-aayon ito sa design ayon sa katutubong konsepto upang maramdaman naman po ng IP community na talagang kanila po ang school na 'yan (If possible, please pattern the design according to our indigenous concept so that the Indigenous community will feel that it's really their own school)," Sulda-Pangantucan said.

    The construction of new classrooms falls under the budget of the Department of Social and Welfare Development, according to Briones. DepEd has already coordinated with DSWD to address this matter, she said.

    As of June 2017, around 50,000 of 113,000 needed classrooms have been built, but this doesn't mean they be be used immediately. (READ: How DepEd to address PH classroom in PH

    Briones said before she assumed office, P500 million of the DepEd budget  was "moved" to the DSWD so it can take care of building classrooms for IPs. She said she has written the DSWD to follow up on the program. (READ: DepEd to hold Brigada Eskwela in Marawi on Dec 13 to 15)

    The IP leaders also want their learners to hone their skills outside of classroom. They asked Briones if they could be taught basic sports played at the annual Palarong Pambansa, and allow their native sports to be included in the sports program of DepEd.

    "Marami tayong mga talented na IP. Kung maari po ay mabigyan rin ng pagkakataon ang mga katutubong school na matuto para sa amin pong mga anak, para rin po masasabi natin na kami rin pong IP community meron rin po kaming sariling sports na maipagmamalaki na puwede nating ituro sa lipunan," said Benny Capuno of Ayta ICC in Pampanga.

    (We have a lot of talented IPs. Please give us the IP schools a chance to learn for our children, and also so that it can be said that the IP community also has its own sports that we can be proud of and we can teach society.)

    Briones assured them that DepEd will consider indigenous sports in their program.

    Meanwhile, student representative Raymund Panes from South Cotabato appealed to Briones to continuously sustain the IP programs for the younger generation.

    "Sana po masustain po 'yun sa generation to generation, para at least kung kami man 'yung makibanabang ngayon, sana 'yung susunod na kabataan ay makinabang rin sa IP program ng DepEd," Panes said. 

    (We hope this can be sustained from generation to generation, so that at least the next generation would also be able to benefit from the IP program of DepEd.)

    The IP Education Program of DepEd is a response to the right of indigenous peoples to have good education that promotes their indigenous knowledge, skills, and other aspects of their cultural heritage. As of 2017, there are 2,929,456 IP learners enrolled in 33,633 public schools all over the country.

    On Thursday, December 7, DepEd will align with its concerned divisions and other agencies to address the issues.

    Other issues

    DepEd Assistant Secretary GH Ambat Ambat said the issues tackled at the dialogue between Briones and the IP leaders did not touch on the other issues raised by SOS such as ancestral domain, mining, and martial law in Mindanao, because these are beyond the DepEd’s mandate. 

    Ambat also said that the dialogue being sought by SOS is already being carried out by DepEd at the local level and will be expanded to other areas implementing the IP education program, with or without the prompting of the group.

    She also said that the the DOH has been addressing the issues raised by the SOS. 

    On issue of securing a DepEd permit,  Ambat said that the department, through its regional and division offices, has been working with IP schools to help them comply with the requirements under DepEd Order No. 21  or the Guidelines on the Recognition of Private Learning Institutions Serving Indigenous Peoples Learners.

    She said  DepEd Region 12 recently met with teachers and coordinators of the Center for Lumad Advocacy and Networking, Incorporated (CLANS) to provide them with technical assistance in their application for permit to operate. 

    Ambat also said that in the Davao region, all private IP school-applicants have been given temporary permits.

    On allegations that Lumad schools are being bombed by the military, Ambat said the DepEd has not received any such reports from concerned local government units and school division offices.

    She added that DepEd does not allow any armed presence within and near the premises of its schools and has received the commitment of the military to maintain schools as zones of peace. – Rappler.com


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    Bookmark this page to watch the roundtable discussion on Friday, December 8, at 2 pm.

    MANILA, Philippines – Three in 5 women experience sexual harassment at least once in their lifetime, a study revealed in 2016.

    In most cases, sexual harassment incidents are left untold for fear of being called a "whore," or being told that "she enjoyed it anyway."

    But there are also women who refuse to be caged in fear. Recently, the hashtag #MeToo trended on social media when people shared their painful personal stories in response to a series of sexual misconduct in Hollywood and in the Philippine indie music scene.

    How do we break the silence on sexual violence?

    On Friday, December 8, at 2 pm, Rappler social media producer Marguerite de Leon will moderate a roundtable discussion with UN Women's Chang Jordan, Filipino Deaf Women Health and Crisis Center's Rowena Rivera, and the Institute of Politics and Governance's Hubert Belandres to talk more about ending sexual violence.

    Join the conversation by using the hashtag #SafeCities#FreeFromFear, or #MeToo. – Rappler.com


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    Manlaban Para sa Karapatan rally/concert at the CHR kicks off with a performance from Cheats, Saab Magalona. File Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines - Dakila, a group of artists and activists, organizes a concert for human rights advocacies on Saturday, December 9, at the Times Square, Araneta Center, Quezon City.

    “Alab ng Puso” is in celebration of International Human Rights Day and will culminate the Active Vista Human Rights Festival. (READ: Things to know: Human rights in the Philippines)

    The free concert – which will run from 4 to 9 pm – will feature performances from Sandwich, Noel Cabangon, BLKD, Aia de Leon, Tanya Markova, Hilera, Cooky Chua, Bayang Barrios and Naliyagan Band, Gary Granada, Flying Ipis, Brass Pas Pas Pas Pas, IV of Spades, Oh! Flamingo, Ourselves the Elves, and spoken word artists Alfonso Manalastas, Louise Meets, Abby Orbeta, and Juan Miguel Severo. The concert will be hosted by TV personality Jun Sabayton.

    “Now, more than ever, should we celebrate human rights at this time when democratic institutions and spaces that protect our human rights are under attack and when false news, historical revisionism, and alternate truths are used to drown our rights and freedoms," Dakila executive director Rash Caritativo said in a statement. (READ: Hate human rights? They protect freedoms you enjoy

    He said the concert is both a celebration and a protest action. Through music and poetry, the artists will call to uphold, protect, and defend human rights for all.

    In October, a European Union report noted that human rights violations in the Philippines had “considerably worsened” in the second half of 2016 as a consequence of President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent war on drugs. (READ: Privacy concerns raised over PNP's human rights app)

    Data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) show at least 3,850 people have been killed in police operations while at least 2,290 others were killed mostly by vigilantes. Independent count by human rights organizations cite a much higher number of drug-related killings. 

    The government, however, consistently denies the existence of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. (READ: Human rights 'considerably worsened' in first 6 months of Duterte – EU report)

    Active Vista executive director and Dakila co-founder Leni Velasco expressed her group’s concern over the situation: “We are again in dark and troubled times. This plethora of human rights abuses mostly hit the poor and vulnerable sectors of our society. Too many acts of injustice are being committed by the State itself, and human rights advocates are being silenced, persecuted, and threatened.”

    The Active Vista Human Rights Festival opened on November 22 and featured the Moving Pictures art exhibit, human rights film screenings in theaters, schools and alternative spaces, talks and workshops, and the Tao Po play.

    On Saturday, a bike ride shall be held for 12 hours from Nueva Ecija to Quezon City. The arrival of cyclists at the concert grounds will signal the start of the “Alab ng Puso” concert.

    The concert is organized through the partnership of Dakila, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, and i-Defend. – with reports from Jodesz Gavilan/Rappler

     


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    STOP THE KILLIGS. Kadamay members condemning the increasing numbers of killings because of the campaign against drugs. All photos by Maria Tan/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Two days before International Human Rights Day, Kadamay led the urban poor in a march to Mendiola for a protest rally urging the ouster of President Rodrigo Duterte.

    On Friday, December 8, Kadamay criticized the Duterte administration's anti-poor policies and said that many Filipinos have had "enough."

    "On his almost two years in office, Duterte only exposed himself to be merciless, harsh, hateful, and tyrannous against the poor," said Maricel Babatio, spokesperson of Kadamay in Metro Manila.

    They cited Duterte's failed promises in resolving homelessness, job insecurity, contractualization, and rising prices of basic goods as the primary grounds for the "Oust Duterte" call.

    Kadamay noted the rising number of killings due to the drug war of the Duterte administration. It said that the campaign only kills the poor and does not address the root causes of drug use and abuse, which is poverty.

    "Duterte's Oplan Tokhang targets only the poor and has no clear program in resolving the drug probem in the country," Babatio added. (READ: TIMELINE: The PNP's use of the term 'deaths under investigation’) 

    Here are some photos from the rally:

    On November 22, Kadamay members protested outside the National Housing Authority (NHA) office seeking the faster distribution of unoccupied houses intended for police and soldiers. This was 9 months after President Rodrigo Duterte agreed to give them the houses. – Rappler.com


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    COLLAPSED STRUCTURE. In this scenario, responders deploy to rescue trapped individuals inside the Logistics Command building at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. Photo by Lou Gepuela/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – How ready are our responders for a major earthquake in Metro Manila?

    The 2017 Disaster Responders’ Challenge, now on its second year, aims to answer that very timely and important question in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on December 4 and 5.

    Responders evaluated if their training, skills, and equipment are up to par in case the West Valley Fault Line moves, generating a 7.2-magnitude earthquake. (READ: What dangers await when the West Valley Fault line moves?)

    The 2017 Disaster Responders’ Challenge is an earthquake simulation exercise that tests capability and coordination between response units in collapsed structures in an urban setting. (READ: Part 2: What makes buildings earthquake-ready?)

    Responders were evaluated based on their ability to properly assess the situation, administering first aid, use of available equipment, as well as their skills to improvise based on the needs of the emergency situation.

    It also tested the logistics plans and operations of response units, as well as their stamina and resilience, with the conduct of 24-hour operations and minimal external assistance. Like in a real disaster, responders practice how to independently sustain and feed themselves during ongoing crisis operations. (READ: INFOGRAPHIC: How powerful is a magnitude 7.2 earthquake)

    "Through this activity, we were able to test the viability of our Incident Command System, and capabilities of the different disaster response units in Metro Manila as well as neighboring provinces," Armed Forces chief General Rey Leonard Guerrero said in a message to participants.

    Several government agencies and volunteer groups joined the event, including representatives from the local government units of Makati, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Navotas, Quezon City, Taguig, Paranaque, Muntinlupa, Pasig, and Laguna.

    The following government agencies and volunteer groups also participated in the disaster response challenge:

    1. AFP Reserve Command
    2. AFP Reserve Command Urban Search and Rescue Team
    3. AFP V Luna Medical Center
    4. 1st Air Reserve Wing, 1st Air Reserve Center, Philippine Air Force
    5. 525th Engineering Battalion, Philippine Army
    6. Education, Doctrine, Training Command, Philippine Air Force
    7. Joint Task Force - National Capital Region
    8. Naval Construction Brigade, Philippine Navy
    9. Rescue Recon
    10. 505th Search and Rescue Auxiliary Group, Philippine Air Force
    11. Metro Manila Emergency Volunteer Corps
    12. MMDA K9 Corps
    13. National Service Reserve Corps
    14. RAHA Volunteers
    15. SR Fire Rescue & Communication Volunteers

    The event's exercise director, Hector Reyes, hoped that the participants did not only participate but were able to practice the needed skills and capabilities.

    "We expect, sakaling magkaroon again ng Disaster Responders’ Challenge next year, hindi lang tayo magparticipate, at bagkus ay magpractice ulit natin 'yung ating skills in responding to collapsed structures, in preparation for the Big One," said Reyes. (READ: Fault-finders, storm-chasers: Hazard mapping in the PH)

    (We expect, should there be another Disaster Responders' Challenge next year, not just for everyone to participate, but for everyone to practice the skills [needed] in responding to collapsed structures, in preparation for the Big One.)

    Based on the Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS), which analyzed different earthquake scenarios in Metro Manila, if a magnitude 7.2 earthquake from the West Valley Fault hits the mega city at nighttime, it could leave 33,500 people dead.

    The West Valley Fault, which traverses various parts of Metro Manila and surrounding provinces, is anticipated to critically affect the entire country. – Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – On Saturday, December 9, 179 families of victims of extrajudicial killings from the 8 parishes in Novaliches gathered during the first Christmas get-together organized by the Diocese of Novaliches in Lagro, Quezon City. 

    "The gathering aims to accompany them in healing, to move forward with hope and to fight for justice," said Fr. Antonio E. Labiao, Vicar General for Pastoral Affairs of the diocese.

    The Diocese of Novaliches conducted activities such as medical mission, gift giving, legal counselling, and games and entertainment for the families. Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias led the mass at noon.

    Last October 18, Bishop Tobias, Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, Barangay Batasan Hills, and the Philippine National Police (PNP) signed a partnership agreement for a local drug rehabilitation program involving the Batasan area. (READ: Novaliches bishop, QC gov't, PNP sign drug rehab deal)

    Here are some of photos from the event.

    WARM UP. Kids of EJK families' victims dances in the tune of 'Baby Shark' as they start their activities. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

    LINE UP. Parents and children line up for the free medicines and consultation. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    RISE UP. Volunteers lead the kids in fun and games session. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    STORYTELLING. Kids of EJK families' victims listening attentively to some volunteers of the Diocese of Novaliches. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

    HAPPY BEE. Kids excitedly run fast to Jollibee. Photo Maria Tan/Rappler

    HAPPY MEAL. Families of EJK victims enjoy their Jollibee Chickenjoy meal during lunch. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    STOP AND SIT. Moms and wives of EJK victims enjoy playing Trip to Jerusalem. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    HOPE. Novaliches Bishop Antonio R. Tobias leads the homily with 154 families of EJK vicitims. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

     

    - Rappler.com


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    YOUTH INVOLVEMENT. A student from St. Scholastica’s College in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga, places leftover food in a food bin at the school cafeteria. Photo by Khate Nolasco

    PAMPANGA, Philippines – Having recognized as the first to comply with the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 (Republic Act 9003), San Fernando in Pampanga is known locally and internationally, as one of the pioneers in zero waste.

    In 2012, just a year after its partnership with Mother Earth Foundation, it was able to divert 70% of its waste away from the dumpsite, and to good use.

    The city's public and private schools have been actively implementing zero waste projects – thus making them a huge part in the city's success.

    Their efforts are helping influence thousands of youth into adopting these practices through the platform for partnership among schools and youth leaders that the city has provided. (READ: 6 creative ways to go 'zero waste')

    Public and private participation

    Strict segregation is practiced in St. Scholastica’s Academy, where Sister Delia Singian has helped in linking the Benedictine school’s mission to the city’s efforts in pursuing Zero Waste.

    Trash bins for different kinds of waste are seen around campus. In the cafeteria, there are no plastic straws and disposable utensils; students also separate their food wastes. The school’s Materials Recovery Facility is well maintained.

    It’s not only the private schools that practice Zero Waste – the city’s public schools are just as active in this advocacy. One of these is Sindalan Elementary School, led by its principal Lorna Aquino. (READ: PH food wastage: Think twice before wasting your meal)

    Through Project W.O.W. (Warriors of Waste), the school focuses on segregating wastes and facilitating the construction of the school’s Materials Recovery Facility. Students act as “warriors” by monitoring the segregation of wastes per classroom, and overseeing composting and recycling.

    ZERO WASTE. Students from Sindalan Elementary School in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga ensures that wastes from classrooms have been segregated properly. Photo by Khate Nolasco

    Sixth grader Isabela, 11, is the vice president of the student government, and part of her job is to monitor trash segregation.

    She said, Hindi naman po ako nahihirapan, kasi po kapag masaya ka, gusto niyo po ‘yung ginagawa niyo, at masaya kayo sa pakiki-tungo niyo sa mga kasama niyo sa organization, hindi po kayo mahihirapan dahil madali silang kausap, at mas nagtutulungan po kami para magawa ‘yung mga dapat naming gawin.”

    (If you’re happy, you want what you’re doing, and you have a strong relationship with your organization. It’s not that hard, because everyone is cooperating in order to achieve our goal.)

    Fernandino YES-O network

    Zero Waste efforts are not limited to schools. In partnership with Mother Earth Foundation, the city linked student leaders to form the Youth for Environment in Schools Organization (YES-O) Network. (READ: #HackSociety 2017: Ideas to manage waste, sustain food production

    Grade 12 student Jam Manalese, 17, is the former president of the YES-O Network and the current president of the Zero Waste Youth Pilipinas. He represented the youth sector in the City Solid Waste Management Board (CSWMB). 

    YOUTH LEADER. Jam Manalese, former president of the YES-O Network and current president of the Zero Waste Youth Pilipinas prepares trophies for the awarding of the city’s most environmental schools. Photo by Khate Nolas

    Manalese said it is important to create such networks in order to achieve a sustainable environment in the future.

    “Major role ko dito ay siyempre magiging ahente ako ng pagbabago,” he said. Naniniwala ako na kapag na-raise na ang awareness dito sa City of San Fernando, ay magkakaroon ng domino effect, palabas nang palabas, hanggang sa buong Pilipinas, hanggang sa buong mundo.”

    (My major role is to be an agent of change. I believe that raising awareness [on the different environmental problems] here in San Fernando, will cause a domino effect across the Philippines, and eventually, throughout the world.)

    “Giving responsibility to the youth empowers them to help and contribute in solving the waste problem,” said Froilan Grate, president of Mother Earth Foundation and Regional Coordinator of GAIA AP. “It allows them to fully understand that what they are doing is vital to the city’s zero waste goal." – Rappler.com

    The author, Paula de Castro, is the communications officer of Mother Earth Foundation. School administrators provided consent for the interview of the students.


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    UPHOLDING HUMAN RIGHTS. On Sunday, December 10, various groups join the nationwide protest to celebrate the International Human Rights Day. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Only about two years into his term, President Rodrigo Duterte’s human rights record has already surpassed that of the Marcos regime's, youth activists claimed on December 10, International Human Rights Day.

    “From what we see today, it is worse than Marcosian dictatorship, and can even be as equally deadly as Hitler’s holocaust,” Kabataan said in a statement on Sunday.

    The youth group particularly cited these rights violations allegedly committed by the Duterte administration:

    • 13,000 drug-related deaths
    • 113 politically-related extrajudicial killings
    • 22 politically-motivated frustrated extrajudicial killings
    • 256 illegal arrests and detention
    • 426,170 victims of forced evacuation
    • 364,617 victims of indiscriminate firing and bombing

     

    During martial law under the Marcos regime, about 70,000 people were detained, at least 34,000 were tortured, and 3,240 were killed, according to Amnesty International (AI). (READ: Worse than death: Torture methods during martial law)

    Kabataan joined other militant groups during the nationwide protests on Sunday to call on the Filipino youth to hold the president accountable and “fight tyranny” in the country. (READ: On Human Rights Day, PH says it upholds 'due process for state agents'

    Death of human rights in PH

    The youth activists lamented the decline of human rights in the country as the Duterte administration pursues its wars on drugs and terrorism.

    “While we mourn the death of our loved ones and friends, while we mourn the impending death of human rights itself, we also challenge everyone – ourselves and the youth, most especially – to stand against Duterte’s dictatorship,” Kabataan said.

    Meanwhile, the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) denounced the reported harassment and death threats received by student leaders and activists. The student group said that this is part of the “government’s attempt to crack down critics and those who are calling for human rights.”

    Student leaders from the University of the Philippines (UP), University of Santo Tomas (UST), and Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) have recently received death threats through text messages.

    “The tone of the messages does not vary: same pattern of red-tagging and warnings that they will be killed anytime if they do not stop calling for justice,” NUSP spokesperson Mark Vincent Lim said.

    On November 28, 15 alleged members of the New Peoples Army (NPA) were killed in two separate encounters with government troops in Nasugbu town in Batangas. One of them is Jo Lapira, a former student from UP Manila.

    “It is clear that even while laws exist to lay the foundation of our rights and freedoms, they are not safeguards that will completely protect the people from state-perpetrated violence. Laws do not ensure the protection of our rights; continuous struggle does,” Kabataan said.

    The United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948 responding to the massive human rights violations perpetrated by states before and during World War II. The Philippines, as a signatory to this declaration, has the obligation to respect the universal and fundamental rights and freedom. – Rappler.com


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    STOP THE KILLINGS. On International Human Rights Day, groups condemn the Duterte administration's drug war. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – For thousands of Filipinos who took to the streets on Sunday, December 10, the fight to uphold human rights goes beyond International Human Rights Day.

    Various groups joined protests on Sunday to call on the Filipino youth to hold President Rodrigo Duterte accountable and "fight tyranny" in the country.

    The groups pointed to killings in the Duterte administration's bloody drug war, as well as the imposition of martial law in Mindanao which the President will seek another extension for.

    According to them, Duterte's human rights record is already worse than that of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

    "It is clear that even while laws exist to lay the foundation of our rights and freedoms, they are not safeguards that will completely protect the people from state-perpetrated violence. Laws do not ensure the protection of our rights; continuous struggle does," Kabataan said in a statement.

    Here are some photos from the protests in Metro Manila.

    HUMAN RIGHTS DAY. The Philippines, as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has the obligation to respect fundamental rights. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    EFFIGY. Protesters prepare an effigy of President Rodrigo Duterte on December 10, 2017. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    YOUTH. Groups urge Filipinos, especially the youth, to help uphold human rights amid supposed violations by the government. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    DEFEND HUMAN RIGHTS. Protesters slam plans of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend martial law in Mindanao. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    CHANT. Groups call on the Filipino youth to hold President Rodrigo Duterte accountable and 'fight tyranny' in the country. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

    BURN. Protesters burn the effigy of President Rodrigo Duterte at Mendiola in Manila on December 10, 2017. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

    The United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948, responding to massive human rights violations perpetrated by states before and during World War II. The Philippines, as a signatory to this declaration, has the obligation to respect fundamental rights. – Rappler.com 


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    FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. In a statement released on International Human Rights Day, groups say freedom of expression is under siege in the Philippines. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Amid the proliferation of fake news and propaganda on social media, human rights defenders and civil society organizations (CSOs) urged Filipinos to defy threats to freedom of expression on Sunday, December 10.

    In a statement released on International Human Rights Day, groups and advocates who gathered in the Freedom of Expression Conference (FreeXP.con) expressed alarm over instances where government officials have attempted to intimidate the media or clamp down on dissent.

    "Reaffirming the right to freedom of expression is the most fundamental freedom and right in a democratic society, as enshrined in Article III, Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the Philippines and international standards," the FreeXP.con Declaration reads.

    The Philippines is not alone in facing challenges to freedom of expression. According to human rights organization Freedom House and press watchdog Reporters Without Borders, just 13% of the world's population enjoy a free press, and the situation is nearing a "tipping point."

    What is unique about the Philippines, however, is the apparent legitimization of hate speech by the government through the appointment of social media personalities known to amplify incendiary and misleading social media posts. (READ: Mocha Uson: Fake news victim or fake news peddler?)

    More than supporting the Duterte administration and its policies, these appointees have also been known for their targeted attacks against members of the media and individuals critical of the administration. (READ: State-sponsored hate: The rise of the pro-Duterte bloggers)

    The groups added that libel provisions under Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and Senate Bill No. 1492 or the Anti-Fake News Act of 2017 further threaten freedom of expression.

    "The government has the obligation to foster an enabling environment for freedom of expression by taking measures to promote media and digital literacy, including but not limited to, engaging with civil society organizations and other stakeholders to address the negative effects of disinformation and propaganda," they said. (READ: Propaganda war: Weaponizing the internet

    Signatories of the FreeXP.con Declaration include the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement, Advocates for Freedom of Expression Coalition Southeast-Asia, Amnesty International, ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya, Pagkakaisa ng Kababaihan para sa Kalayaan, and Cecilia Lero.

    On International Human Rights Day, various groups also took to the streets to urge Filipinos to "fight tyranny" and uphold human rights in the country. – with a report from Raisa Serafica/Rappler.com


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    BRIDGING GAPS. Director Jocelyn DR Andaya emphasizes the importance of bridging 'the great divide' in technology between students and teachers

    MANILA, Phillippines – With the emerging trend in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) education, the Department of Education (DepEd) is addressing technology gaps among teachers and students.  

    DepEd's Bureau of Curriculum Development Director Jocelyn DR. Andaya said in a speech during the Education Summit last December 5, that closing the technological gaps in ICT is the first step to enhancing the quality of education in the Philippines. 

    "For the framework to work, a transformational and enabling environment must be in place. While the learners are digital natives, most of the teachers today are digital immigrants," she said. 

    Students are all digital natives – fluent "speakers" of the digital language of computers, video games, and the internet, while teachers are digital immigrants who were not born into the digital world but have adopted many aspects of the new technology. Both terms were coined by Marc Prensky in 2001. 

    It is within this context that DepEd has been working in terms of closing the technological gaps in ICT. Andaya also said that teachers should adapt to technological advances in education to allow maximum learning with the use of modern gadgets. 

    Challenges

    In the consultative workshop during the Education Summit, school heads from all over the country raised their concerns regarding ICT integration. 

    According to them, school heads must have enough capacity and appreciation of the benefits of ICT through proper resource management. They also stressed the importance of strategic external partnerships from private sectors. 

    To address this, they suggested that a regular training program for teachers be developed and periodic ICT fora be held where teachers across all levels can exchange ideas to advance the quality of ICT education in the country.

    To kickstart the integration of the ICT program, DepEd initiated the Learners’ Information System (LIS) that shows real-time registration of learners enrolled in public schools.

    LIS is a tool to manage information and seeks to promote transparency, informed decision making, and empowerment at different levels of the organization. (READ: The Philippines needs an ICT revolution, now)

    Since its installation, LIS has allowed DepEd to generate total public school enrollment based on the actual registration of learners.

    Inclusive ICT education

    Andaya also stressed the role of information technology in harnessing the abilities of students under the Special Education (SPED) Program.

    "For SPED, ICT can also support learners with special needs through the help of adaptive and assistive devices and technology. These tools are used to assist the learners with disabilities to maintain and improve their function capabilities, thus able to meet the same competencies," Andaya said. (READ: Education and the Internet for a sustainable PH)

    To fully realize this, Andaya said that teachers should understand that ICT is both a platform and tool for delivering instructions.

    "ICT integration in digital literacy focuses on learning about ICT itself, how the technology works, and how it is used in addressing the need for inclusive education," she added. (READ: Education and the Internet for a sustainable PH)

    Andaya emphasized that to bridge the technological divide among educators and students, the challenge is to develop teachers who do not just teach, but also innovate. Part of the challenge is  making advancement not via competition, but collaboration.

    "As educators, our job is not to prepare kids for something. Rather, our job is to help kids learn to prepare themselves for anything," Andaya said. – Rappler.com 


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    SOMBER HOLIDAYS. Families of victims of extrajudicial killings gather on December 9, 2017. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Festive music blared from the speakers as 179 families attended a Christmas party at the Sacred Heart Village in Quezon City on Saturday, December 9.

    Despite the celebratory music, however, there was sadness in the air as well.

    It was, after all, not a typical Christmas party. The families present had lost a loved one to the Duterte administration's war on drugs.

    The gathering had been organized by the Diocese of Novaliches to help the families heal and move forward as they fight for justice. (IN PHOTOS: Families of EJK victims celebrate early Christmas)

    'No more celebration'

    It served, at least for some, as a little escape from the pain and grief they have experienced from losing their loved ones.

    Fe, for instance, lost her nephew Adrian in a police operation in Novaliches in August 2016. Adrian and his wife Vivian were reportedly killed while they were sleeping.

    For Christmas this year, Fe promised to bring together the 7 children that the couple left behind. Fe shared that she and Vivian's parents had agreed to share the responsibility of raising the orphans – 3 are with Fe, while the 4 others are with their grandparents.

    "Ang gusto lang talaga nila, magkasama-sama sila, kasi 'yun ang nakasanayan nila dati, sama-sama," Fe said, sobbing. "Gagawa talaga ako ng paraan para makapag-celebrate sila ng sama-sama ngayong Pasko."

    (What they really want is to be together, just like what they're used to. I will really find a way to make sure they will celebrate Christmas together.)

    REMEMBERING. Cecilia always brings a photo of her son Asoy in her bag. Photo by Abigail Abigan/Rappler

    For Cecilia, mother of 19-year-old Asoy, Christmas is no longer worth celebrating. Asoy, a graduate of a vocational automotive course, died last July in front of their house.

    "Sabi ko sa mga anak ko, huwag na tayo mag-ano, mag-Pasko, nalulungkot lang ako dahil wala na ang anak kong isa," Cecilia said.

    (I told my other children that we should no longer celebrate Christmas. I'm sad because one of my kids is gone.)

    According to Cecilia, Asoy was a sweet, cheerful son. He even promised to buy a car so that he could help their family.

    "Hindi na nga masaya sa bahay namin eh. Tapos kapag matutulog ka makikita mong kulang ang mga anak mo. Ang hirap lang talaga. Maski walang makain basta kumpleto 'yung mga anak ko," Cecilia shared while crying.

    (Our home is no longer happy. Whenever I'm about to go to sleep, I see that my children are no longer complete. It's really difficult. I don't mind not having anything to eat as long as my children are complete.) 

    Confronting challenges

    While losing a loved one is tough, Bishop Antonio Tobias urged everyone to draw strength from their struggles.

    "Ang nakaraan, mga nangyari, ay nakaraan na. Ibig sabihin, gusto ng Panginoon daanan mo 'yan. Daanan natin lahat ng ating mga pangkasalukuyan na mga pagsubok sapagkat diyan lamang lalakas ang inyong kalooban," he said.

    (What is past is past. The Lord wants you to go through that. Let us persevere amid all the challenges because it is through them that we will find strength.)

    During Tobias' homily, he also assured the victims' families that the Catholic Church is listening to the cries of the poor.

    "Sa totoo hindi naman kayo nag-iisa. Nandito ang mga kapatid ninyo. Alam 'nyo itong ginagawa natin (church workers) ngayon, nakakapagbigay dapat ng lakas ng loob. 'Yan po ang diwa ng isang Kristiyano – 'di ka nagiisa," he added.

    (You are not alone. All your brothers and sisters in faith are with you. This gathering should help strengthen your resolve. That is the essence of being a Christian – you are not alone.)

    MOVE FORWARD. 'There is no easy way in moving on, only with the help of God,' Bishop Antonio Tobias tells the bereaved families. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

    Thousands have been killed in both police operations and vigilante-style killings since President Rodrigo Duterte began his drug war in July 2016, including children and teenagers. (READ: Impunity: The Church of the Resistance)

    Recently, the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, known as the Baclaran Church, generated buzz on social media after temporarily replacing the INRI inscription on a crucifix with "Stop the killings" written on a piece of cardboard. (LOOK: Baclaran Church reminds faithful Jesus was an EJK victim too)

    Last July, the Diocese of Caloocan joined the Walk for Life. They marched from San Ildefonso Parish to the Church of San Jose de Navotas to pray for victims, similar to the Walk for Life attended by around 10,000 people in Manila back in February.

    Duterte has repeatedly slammed the Catholic Church, saying it should help address the country's drug problem instead of criticizing the anti-drug campaign. The Church, in fact, has been handling drug rehabilitation programs, such as one in Bulacan that has been running for more than two decades.

    "Laban sa droga – kaya may namamatay diyan kasi laban 'yan eh, labanan. Pero para sa ating mga Kristiyano, ang buhay ay labanan pero dapat walang namamatay. Iyan ang ating ipakikita sa ngayon," Tobias said. 

    (People get killed in the war on drugs because that is a war. For us Christians, life is also a war but nobody should get killed. That's what we should uphold.) – Rappler.com


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    GAWAD KALASAG AWARD. Secretary of National Defense and DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero awards local councils, organizations, and individuals for their outsanding contributions in the field of disaster risk reduction and humanitarian response. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Various local government units were recognized for their outstanding contribution to disaster risk reduction and management at the 19th Gawad Kalasag National Awards held in Pasig City on Monday, December 11.

    The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), which organizes the annual event, honored 58 local DRR offices for their exemplary work and various groups and individuals for their humanitarian efforts in 2017.

    According to Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) administrator and NDRRMC executive director, the Gawad Kalasag is the agency’s way of promoting awareness of the best practices in DRR especially at the local level.

    “We need to sustain this practice in order to attain our goal of zero casualty. The goal of the awards is to promote the localization of DRR because local councils, communities, and schools are on the frontlines of disasters,” Jalad said in a mix of Filipino and English in his speech at the awarding ceremony.

    58 AWARDEES. NDRRMC awards 58 local councils and groups during the 19th Gawad Kalasag on Monday, December 11, 2017. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    First place winners took home P100,000 while second place and third place winners received P75,000 and P50,000, respectively. 

    “Congratulations to all awardees of the Gawad Kalasag. Just by merely joining, you are able to help in promoting DRR,” Jalad said.

    Below is the list of first place winners at the 19th Gawad Kalasag Awards:

    • Best private hospital: Adventist Medical Center in Bacolod
    • Best local government unit hospital: Hinatuan District Hospital in Surigao del Sur
    • Best national hospital: Mayor Hilarion A. Ramiro, Sr Medical Center in Ozamiz  City, Misamis Occidental
    • Best public school, rural category: Vinzons Pilot High School in Vinzons, Camarines Norte
    • Best school, private urban category: Lord's Hand Academy in Pasig City
    • Best public school, rural category: Vinzons Pilot High School in Vinzons, Camarines Norte
    • Best public school, urban category: Raniag High School in Ramon, Isabela
    • Best higher educational institution category: University of the Cordilleras in Baguio City
    • Best early learning center, rural category: Sipitan-Badiang Day Care Center in Guimbal, Iloilo
    • Best early learning center, urban category: Barangay 18 Day Care center in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental
    • Best government emergency management services basic search and rescue category: Disaster Assistance Response Team, province of Tarlac
    • Best government emergency management services, fire rescue category: Rescue 922, Cauayan City, Isabela
    • Best volunteer organization category: Amity Volunteer Fire Brigade
    • Best civil society organization category: Sibog Katawhan Alang sa Paglambo (SIKAP) Incorporated
    • Best people's organization category: Nagkahiusang Mangingisda sa Hinatuan (NAMAHIN)
    • Best barangay DRRM committee, rural category: Barangay Alinguigan 2nd, Ilagan City, Isabela
    • Best barangay DRRM committee, urban category: Barangay Poblacion, Tupi, South Cotabato
    • Best municipal DRRM council (4th-6th class) category: Municipality of San Gabriel, Province of La Union
    • Best municipal DRRM council (1st-3rd class) category: Municipality of Hinatuan, Province of Surigao del Sur
    • Best city DRRM council (Independent/Component) category: City of Santiago, Province of Isabela
    • Best city DRRM council (Highly-Urbanized) category: City of Davao
    • Best provincial DRRM council category: Province of Isabela
    • Gawad KALASAG Special Recognition: 1LT Ben Frederick R. Rodriguez (RES MAC)
    • Hall of Fame Awards for Best Early Learning Centers-Rural Category: Sipitan-Badiang Day Care Center, Guimbal, Iloilo
    • Hall of Fame Awards for Best Schools & Higher Education Institutions-Private School (Urban) Category: Lord’s Hand Academy, Pasig City
    • Hall of Fame Awards for Best Government Emergency Management Services (GEMS)-Advance Search and Rescue Category: Rescue 922, Cauayan City, Isabela
    • Hall of Fame Awards for Best Government Emergency Management Services (GEMS)-Basic Search and Rescue Category: Disaster Assistance Response Team, Province of Tarlac
    • Hall of Fame Awards for Best Local DRRM Councils & Committees-Municipal DRRM Council (1st – 3rd Class) Category: Municipality of Hinatuan, Province of Surigao del Sur
    • Hall of Fame Awards for Best Local DRRM Councils & Committees-Provincial DRRM Council Category: Province of Isabela
    • Heroic Act award: Jonathan Palen, Steven Sabuero and Kenzo Wahing

     – Rappler.com  


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    REPORT. Students at Bobo Elementary School are oriented to report to their teachers should they find unexploded bomb. Photo by Ana Santos/Rappler

    Lanao del Sur, Philippines – The classroom full of grade school learners chanted the three-word mantra, dutifully acting out corresponding hand gestures.

    "Huwag lapitan! Huwag hawakan! Tawagin si titser!" (Don’t go near! Don’t touch! Call teacher!)

    After the end of clashes between government forces and armed groups, Marawi residents are slowly heading back home. But first, they are learning how to recognize an unexploded ordnance or an improvised explosive device that may have been left over from the fighting.

    For children, that starts with memorizing the three-rule mantra.

    AWARENESS. FSD Mindanao and its network of trained volunteers from DepEd teach residents about the risks of unexploded ordnance. Photo by Ana Santos/Rappler

    “Residents need to be aware of the risks posed by unexploded ordnance or bombs that were dropped but did not explode and improvised explosive devices,” said Namra Bagundang, a Mine Risk Education officer from Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD).

    “Some mistake an unexploded ordnance for gold or something valuable because it is made of shiny metal. They may try to crack it open. Kids may think it is a toy and play with it. This is very dangerous and can cause the device to explode,” she added.

    FSD Mindanao and its network of trained volunteers from the Department of Education (DepEd) conduct school visits to educate Marawi residents about the risks of unexploded ordnance and how to keep themselves and their families safe. The learning sessions are conducted in coordination with the Philippine military. 

    Displaced

    More than 350,000 people were displaced from Marawi after the ISIS-inspired Maute Group overran the city on May 23. It took state forces 5 months to regain control of the city and drive out the local terrorists.

    The months of intensive fighting with nearly daily airstrikes left Marawi City littered with unexploded ordnance. Improvised explosive devices reported to have been used extensively by Maute fighters may have been left behind, camouflaged by or hidden under debris.

    Aerial bombs dropped during air strikes may not have exploded. Other natural occurrences like heavy rains may have transported an exploded ordnance to riverbeds and closer to residential settlements. This situation poses potential dangers to civilians returning to their homes.

    The military had already conducted extensive clearing operations and employed bomb-sniffing canines to ensure that affected areas are safe for both residents and aid workers involved in rebuilding efforts.

    Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr, deputy commander of Task Force Ranao, confirmed that 27 barangays have been cleared by the military. However, about 36 barangays in Marawi City remain closed for returning residents as the military continues its clearing operations.

    The main battle area composed of 36 barangays is still closed to the public as the military continues its clearing operations there.

    “The military and its partners will continue to work on making sure that residents who can return to their homes will be safe,” Brawner said.

    Adult training

    The basic three-rule mantra was taught to children with instructions such as how  not to use a mobile phone near an explosive device because the electrostatic waves from the phone could detonate it.

    While the grade school learners were being educated about the dangers of bombs, outside the classrooms, parents and other adult residents attended trainings on recognizing unexploded ordnances.

    FSD started conducting these trainings in 2013, around the time of the Zamboanga siege. There were no injuries reported from unexploded ordnance or improvised explosive devices after the siege. Authorities said they would like to keep such safety record, noting the importance of conducting safety trainings.

    MARAWI. At the Bobo Elementary School in Piagapo, an old bomb is used as a school bell. Photo by Ana Santos/Rappler

    At the Bobo Elementary School in Piagapo, an old bomb has been used as a school bell for years. The principal did not know where it came from or when the school has started using it. 

    “They think it may have been left by the Japanese,” FSD's Bagundang said, referring to the period when the Japanese occupied the Philippines during World War II.

    To end the training, FSD changed the old bomb with an actual school bell.

    “We need to keep our message consistent so kids will not be confused," Bagundang said, stressing that "bombs should not be touched nor should they be clanged like bells.” - Rappler.com


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    RECOGNITION. AroogaHealth is awarded as one of the top 3 ASEAN startups at the Global Entrepreneurship Community Summit in Malaysia. Photo by Dominique de Leon/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – AroogaHealth emerged as one of the top 3 Southeast Asian startups at the Global Entrepreneurship Community Summit 2017 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center, Malaysia on Tuesday night, December 12.

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    "This is an inspiring validation that mental health matters," wrote AroogaHealth in a Facebook post.

    Phinix, meanwhile, advanced as one of the top 15 finalists.

    Both teams were invited to the regional competition through Rappler and UNDP’s #HackSociety supported by UNDP’s Youth Co:Lab program. (READ: Standout solutions: The winning ideas from #HackSociety 2017)

    The Pre-Acceleration Bootcamp is an all-champions league from startup competitions across Southeast Asia organized by the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC).

    As mentored by top innovators and entrepreneurs in the region, the 25 invited teams refined their prototypes at the MaGIC Malaysia campus in Cyberjaya from November 26 until the demo day on December 12.

    HackSociety winners

    AroogaHealth, founded by Nina Samantha Sanchez and Dominique de Leon, is a platform that matches individuals with trusted healthcare providers for their emotional and mental wellness. (READ: #HackSociety 2017: Ways technology can improve public health)

    Phinix, founded by Pamela Nicole Mejia, is a textile upcycling social enterprise that creates high-value products such as designer shoes and accessories. (READ: #HackSociety 2017: Ideas to manage waste, sustain food production)

    Grand champion #HackSociety team LawKo will compete representing the Philippines at the UNDP Regional Competition in Bangkok, Thailand in March 2018.

    HackSociety is an ideathon that crowdsources "hacks" to society's problems – a spin-off of the Social Good Summit, jointly organized by Rappler and UNDP Philippines. – with reports from Pamela Nicole Mejia / Rappler.com


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