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Duterte meets with lumad, Muslim leaders after SONA


CONVERSATION. President Rodrigo Duterte meets with activists, lumad, and Moro leaders after his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25, 2016. Photo courtesy of Renato Reyes Jr

MANILA, Philippines – Just as activists, Lumad, and Muslim marchers from Mindanao were packing up right after the State of the Nation Address (SONA), cops invited their leaders to a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte Monday night, July 25.

In a Facebook post, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr said that Duterte "engaged them in a conversation" in a lounge inside the House of Representatives.

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"We talked about peace and how the President wanted to devote more resources to social services once the armed conflict was resolved. He talked about how the Lumad can return home without fear for their safety," Reyes told Rappler after meeting the President. 

Reyes said it was a long meeting that started at 7 pm and ended at 8:30 pm.

"It was a gesture we truly appreciated. A lot of firsts indeed in the president's first SONA," Reyes said.

Earlier in the day, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police, went onstage during the rally near Batasan to assure hundreds gathered there, including the Lumad and Muslim marchers from Mindanao, that the police were there to protect them

Manilakbayan 2016

Thousands of marchers from Mindanao traveled to Manila hoping to bring to Duterte's attention their concerns about alleged militarization in their communities.

According to activists, the march dubbed Manilakbayan 2016 is a people's action supporting the first SONA of Duterte, the first President from Mindanao.

KALUMBAY Regional Lumad Organization chairperson Datu Jomorito Goaynon, one of the caravan's leaders, shared the ordeal they went through just to reach the country's capital.

"Kinahanglan nga magpadayon kami sa pagpanawagan sa paghunong sa militarisasyon sa among mga komunidad ug sa pagpaningil sa saad sa bag-ong Presidente nga ipull-out ang mga military sa among komunidad. Lisod, kapoy, ug puno og sakripisyo kining Manilakbayan 2016, apan dili kini babag para sa amoa nga mga lumad na ipaabot sa bag-ong administrasyon ang padayon namo nga panawagan alang sa among katungod para sa kaugalingong paghukom uban ang among katungod diha sa among yutang kabilin."

(It is important for us to continue our call against militarization in our communities and to ask for the President's pronouncement to pull out the military troops in our communities. Manilakbayan 2016 is hard, tiring, and full of sacrifices, but these should not be a hindrance for us Lumad to register our calls for our right to self determination along with our right to our ancestral lands for the new administration.

He also announced: "To our Lumad brothers, the government has issued you ancestral certificates covering vast tracts of land especially in Mindanao."

In his SONA, Duterte looked for the Lumad marchers, suggesting that they should be inside the Batasan because "the building is theirs anyway." – Rapper.com

Cebu students find Duterte's SONA 2016 authentic


SONA 2016. Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his first State of the Nation Address during the opening of the 17th Congress at the House of Representatives in Quezon City, East of Manila, Philippines July 25, 2016. Photo by Francis R. MALASIG/EPA

CEBU CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte won big in Cebu last May 9 with 1.1 million votes from the city and province.

Weeks later, Duterte delivered his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Manila on July 25.

Students at the University of San Carlos, here in Cebu, watched his 100-minute speech at the canteen of the Talamban campus. Other viewing locations were also set up at two of the university's other campuses'.

"I hoped Duterte would address the droughts," Norch Van Honoridez, an electronics engineering student said. He said that he was interested in the "measures Duterte's taking" to lessen crime rates as well.

Jamil Adiong, a political science student from Mindanao who is studying at the university, said he was happy the President addressed peace issues.

"He was passionate to talk about the struggles in Mindanao, especially in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao)," Adiong said.

Defending Gina Lopez

He also pointed out how protecting the environment was a major focus of the speech: "I like how he repeated his concerns for the environment, even mentioning Secretary Gina Lopez, who I really look up to."

Lopez, an anti-mining advocate, was the managing director of the ABS-CBN foundation prior to her appointment as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Duterte mentioned Lopez several times during his SONA and defended her from criticism.

"She's just doing her job. You know, she's a crusader," Duterte said.

Authentic speech

Shad Quiñones, a cinematography student, said that he wanted to hear Duterte speak about the upcoming youth and barangay elections.

"He didn't say anything about the SK (Sangguniang Kabataan)," Quiñones said, "but I'm happy to know the president really cares."

While analysts critized his speech for being long-winding and disorganized, Quiñones thought the speech showed his authenticty.

"May essence talaga (You can feel his esssence)," Quiñones said.

"You can tell he really cares, like making processing times shorter for passport applications, and making it valid for a longer period of time," he cited as an example.

“What the hell happened to the procedure?” Duterte said during his speech.

He vowed to go after inefficient officials: "Local, barangay, police, military, everyone. Give them a shopping list and don't make them come back, because if they call the 8888 hotline, and I see that the grievance is valid, watch out. Not enough time? I will see you in your office." – Rappler.com

#ThinkPH: What robots can't offer yet: Creative intelligence


Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – “Creative innovators are now the people who are leading global thinking.”

In his talk at Rappler’s #ThinkPH event at Resorts World Manila last Thursday, July 21, Eric Cruz, executive creative director of the digital ad agency AKQA’s Shanghai office, explains how technology is freeing us up from menial tasks, allowing us to channel our energy towards creative thinking and to pursue our passions. 

We are seeing the “rise of the robots,” according to Cruz.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has made such great strides that we are now able to entrust tasks that in the past only humans were able to do.

AI, he says, is evolving from “dumb A.I. to smart A.I.,” aided in part by advancement in robotics and that the A.I. brain can now exist in the cloud like a mega-mind with access to great amounts of data.

For instance: cars and self-driving technology. The automotive industry, an industry whose innovations have, for years, partly been driven by their desire to sell an exciting driving experience to the owner, is being challenged to take away the act of driving itself. With the task of piloting a vessel taken away, the driver now has the privilege to occupy his mental and physical capacities with something else.

Cruz cites one possibility: “If you don’t have to drive, what does the car become? It becomes a moving entertainment vehicle. You don’t have to pay attention. You basically sit there, do your e-mails, watch movies, do whatever it is you want to do, have fun – you can even have parties inside the car itself. "

You free yourself from the task of taking yourself from point A to B, so you can channel your brainpower to something else you’d actually want or need to do. You free yourself up from what has become a routine, menial task (driving) and occupy yourself with a passion (having parties inside the car or whatnot).

Aside from driving, Cruz mentions several other industries where automation has been taking place. In music, a band of German robots called Compressorhead have shown the ability to play songs like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and Motörhead’s “Ace Of Spades.” In telemarketing, it will become harder and harder to tell whether you’re speaking to a human or a robot on the phone as evidenced by a clip from 2013 that Cruz played in his presentation:

Man: “Hey, are you a robot?”
Robot: “Haha what? No, I am a real person. Maybe we have a bad connection, I’m sorry about that.”

(One suggestion: Maybe teach the robots to not lie.)

In the medical field, Cruz cites “Molly,” an animatronic nurse that can read diagnostics, and “Actroid F,” a lifelike robot nurse developed in Japan.

Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

Where do we go from here?

Who might be affected by this swell of automation?

To provide a clearer picture, Cruz points to a specific segment: Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

He says, “Technology and A.I. is disrupting even their future. What does that mean for the 2.3 million OFWs?” Following the assumption that robots can replace OFWs, the figure could decrease.

Or it won’t. Technology’s effects have never been the easiest thing to predict.

Cruz himself acknowledges this: “We don’t know what’s ahead. We have no idea what it’s going to do for us and do for humanity, moving forward. Why is that? How we think about the future is only relatable to what has happened in the past. We can only judge our progress based out of what we’ve seen 50 years ago, 60 years ago, even 20 years ago. It’s impossible to predict the future.”

The only thing Cruz says he can be certain of is that technology is accelerating exponentially. He says, “The rate at which humanity is accelerating with technology is getting faster and faster. In the next five years, we will be 32 times more powerful in terms of computing power. In the next 10 years, a thousand times. In the next 30 years, we’ll be a billion times more advanced. In the following 40 years ahead of that, we’ll be a trillion times more advanced. In the next 50 years, we’ll be quadrillion times more advanced.”

Championing creativity

How do we not become obsolete?

Cruz has a simple solution: be human.

“Being able to play, imagine, invent and create – those are the things that A.I. can still not do, not yet at least. There’s one important skill that robots could not really master and that’s creative thinking. So to me, the rise of robots equals the rise of the creative class.”

As robots take over routine tasks, we’re left with more time to deploy creative abilities. More and more, it will not be about the strength of your back, as Cruz puts it, but the strength of your mind – to think creatively, to work out creative solutions that machines can’t imagine yet. More and more, we’ll be able to focus on our passions, too.

On this, Cruz quotes a hero of his, futurist and musician Brian Eno: “One day, humans will be living a life of leisure, our every one need met by machines and computers, leaving us free to pursue more intellectual and creative pastimes. And rather than engaging in tedious, repetitive work, this will herald a new arrival of the leisure economy.”

In a nutshell, the leisure economy is where an individual reaps financial benefits from pursuing a passion. And it’s happening right now. People sharing their love of food, travel, sports or fashion on the Internet, and developing a revenue stream out of it—that’s the leisure economy. Musicians and artists self-publishing their works online, and building an audience out of it – that’s the leisure economy.

Cruz has his own examples: skateboarder Paul “P-Rod” Rodriguez and former basketball player Kobe Bryant. They’re star athletes but in essence, they were still people who pursued a hobby or a pastime intensely. What Cruz may be saying is that technology has the power to create an environment where we have more time to spend on a creative pursuit.

Cruz later cited more examples that more people will be able to relate to without being a genetically gifted 6’7” athlete. Eighteen-year-old kids can become millionaires overnight through gaming.

In one Defense of the Ancients (DotA) 2 tournament, a team of five kids won a five- million dollar purse. Twenty-six-year old YouTube video-blogger from Sweden, PewDiePie (real name: Felix Kjellberg), earned 12 million dollars in 2015. Thirty-one-year-old Rosanna Pansino who teaches people how to bake on Youtube made 2.1 million dollars in the same year. Like Kobe and P-Rod, these are individuals who pursued a passion intensely.

Mutual coexistence 

Through technology, they were able to showcase this passion, for which they were rewarded monetarily. Through technology, PewDiePie, Rosanna Pansino, and young e-sport players didn’t have to go through the task of finding a TV network that would broadcast their talents. They instead focused on following a passion, with the awareness that they’ll have the technological tools at hand that would allow their audience – individuals with similar interests – to find them.

Today’s generation is lucky that technology – the platforms, the automation – has paved this avenue for creativity. What technology can’t automate is our desire to create. That one is up to us. In closing, Cruz encourages us to take advantage of this moment:

“Rethink, reimagine, reinvent the Philippines. Make ideas that evolve who we are. We are at a golden moment in history where creativity is the engine. Let’s play to invent tomorrow, but let’s start today. Let’s rewrite the rules to write our new chapter." – Rappler.com

#ThinkPH: How Google is keeping up with big shift to mobile


Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Sixteen years ago, you had to fork out somewhere in the range of $1,000 to afford a desktop computer. Today, that computer’s power can be had in the palm of your hands through a smartphone.

Ken Lingan, Google’s country manager for the Philippines, offers this detail as one of the probable explanations to the boom in the amount of internet users today.

Today’s smartphones have the computing power necessary to do what a “clunky device” like yesteryear’s laptops or desktops could do – including connecting to and harnessing the power of the internet. This shift from stationary computing to mobile computing, he says, is the challenge that we are all facing now – including a tech giant like Google – during his talk entitled “The Future Of Platforms” at Rappler’s #ThinkPH event at Resorts World Manila last July 21, Thursday. (Check the stellar lineup of speakers here)

Reinforcing his claim, Lingan notes that in the year 2000, there were 400 million people online. Today, there are 3 billion, 66 percent of which are coming from emerging markets. That includes the Philippines, which reached 50 million internet users last year.

This, according to him, is a milestone: “Majority of the Filipinos are now online.” Just as important: the fact that internet users in the country is growing by 500,000 every month. “In an annual basis,” he adds, “that’s almost more than the size of the population of Singapore. It’s really an exciting time, particularly here in the Philippines where more and more people are coming online primarily through a mobile device. In fact, it’s not anymore mobile-first, but in most cases, it’s mobile only.”

We've gone mobile

The cards have been laid out: Filipinos are online, connecting through a mobile device. Mobile phones have created a positive disruption, a game-changer.

How does a tech giant like Google, itself a game-changer in numerous ways, approach the disruption? By recognizing it, acknowledging it, and evolving according to the new rules that the mobile-first era has brought about.

Lingan reveals Google’s underlying principles that guide their decision-making through this sea change:

  1. Always think of the user first.
  2. Recognize that ideas can come from practically anywhere.  
  3. Empower users to maximize the scale of reach and the speed of reaching people that mobile affords.

Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

A user-first approach

Lingan on thinking of the user first: “It’s not about the product, it’s not about the platform, it’s all about serving the user. We have a mantra at Google: ‘When you focus on the user, everything else will follow.’” He translates the mantra into a question: “How do we make it a delightful experience?”

With YouTube, internet speeds have been an endemic problem in the Philippines. Connections simply haven’t been consistent enough to sustain the demands of a YouTube video.

To address that, Google launched “YouTube Offline,” a feature which allows users to watch videos even with low or no connectivity. The feature has also been adapted to Google Maps, and soon for other Google applications, too.

In this environment which Lingan describes as “bandwidth-challenged,” they simply cannot wait for infrastructure to happen and have to deploy solutions on their own. That’s what they mean by thinking of the user.

Google’s search prediction technology, which answers queries before you can even finish typing; Google Now, a personal assistant that suggests information relevant to your interests; the unreleased Google messaging app, Allo, which features the voice-activated Google Assistant; and predictive response technologies in Gmail as well as Google Translate all reflect the company’s user-first stance, according to Lingan.

Mobile users as eyes and ears

On to the second point, the users themselves and the information they provide are an integral part of the Google machinery too, Lingan says. “Ideas can come from practically anywhere. We alone could not do it. We need to tap into our growing number of users.”

Google wants to make it easier for people to provide information on their platforms. As Google sees it, the millions of mobile users aren’t just customers, they’re partners in providing real-life feedback about say, a restaurant or traffic conditions.

It’s not a new thing. Waze has already been doing that to cite one example. But what Google wants to do is to continuously make the process easier such as in Google Maps’ “Local Guides” feature, which lets people put information about places of interest as an example. They want to make it easier for people to give feedback because as Lingan puts it, “The more that people contribute to the internet, the richer the information and the more value that we create for everyone.”

Google wants to do it for businesses too, and not just end users. Right now, only one percent of the one million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Philippines have a website. Only 10 percent have online presence through social networks. They want to raise that number.

How? One Google-powered platform may help, Lingan says: “We have a platform called ‘Google My Business’ where you could put relevant information – location, closing time – and the moment [it is] validated, your business could immediately be found in Maps, search and Google Plus.”

Empowerment through platforms

In Google’s third principle, what they’re saying is that they’re aware of the sheer number of people any one person on the internet can reach out to. There’s really no boundary, technically.

Google wants to make people even more aware of this boundary-less existence. Whatever work it is you do – a publisher, a software developer, a merchant – the world is your market. “The internet levels the playing field. It doesn’t matter if you’re a big business or a small business,” says Lingan.  

They do it by developing platforms that individuals can use to springboard their ideas from their bedroom and into the 3 billion people currently on the internet. There’s the one-billion-strong Google Play Store, on which Filipino developer Altitude Games who “reached a target beyond the Philippines,” according to Lingan, and YouTube, of course.

In Indonesia, Lingan recalls how the information that’s readily accessible on Google Maps enabled the success of motorcycle-based delivery and mobility app called Go-Jek. In these examples, we can see how platforms can empower and allow any individual to enhance their scale and reach instantaneously and immensely.

“What we’re really excited about is, imagine, the next billion users not just having access, not just consuming the internet but also contributing to the internet. And the more they contribute – that’s really the power of platforms – the more we could create value for everyone on the internet,” Lingan concludes. –  Rappler.com

Yolanda survivors gather in support for Duterte's SONA 2016


SUPPORT. Hundreds of Yolanda survivors gather on Monday, July 25, to show their support for President Rodrigo Duterte as he delivers his first State of the Nation Address. All photos by Jazmin Bonifacio

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines –  Hundreds of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors from different towns of Leyte gathered in a rally on Monday, July 25, to show their support to President Rodrigo Duterte's first State of the Nation Address (SONA). (READ: Highlights: President Rodrigo Duterte’s SONA 2016)

A few days after Yolanda barreled through Eastern Visayas, then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte visited Tacloban City, one of the areas most devastated by the disaster.

Duterte sent a convoy of medical teams that included 20 doctors, 20 nurses, and 40 relief workers to help in the massive search and rescue operations. He also brought P7 million in cash donation for Tacloban and Leyte. 

If the gathering in Leyte is any indication, the Yolanda survivors did not forget how Duterte responded to their needs in the aftermath of the disaster. 

People’s Surge spokesperson Marisa Cabaljao said that they are calling for Duterte to conduct a thorough investigation on the alleged stolen funds dedicated for the recovery and rehabilitation of Yolanda-affected areas. 

"We are applealing to President Duterte to conduct an investigation to give justice to those victims of Typhoon Yolanda.  Let them get what they are supposed to get. We have trust in you," Cabaljao said.

According to the Waray-Waray people who came from various towns in Eastern Visayas, they are satisfied with the President's performance in his first month in office. They added that they are looking forward to his plans in the next year. 

Sarah Dixon, a 32 year old single mom who lost her job after Yolanda, is optimistic she will be able to find a job this year with Duterte as president.

YOLANDA PROBE. Yolanda survivors call on President Rodrigo Duterte to investigate how funds for the rehabilitation of Super Typhoon Yolanda-affected area were used

"He is giving me the opportunity to get ahead in life. He is creating more jobs and opportunities to get another job," Dixon said. 

Jesus Dacaynos, a 63-year old retired government employee who said he was "eased out" of his job, lauded Duterte's one-month performance, particularly his plans to solve poverty and establish peace and order across the country. 

"There seems to have a lot of improvement especially on peace and order.  However, a lot could be done, especially in addressing the needs of the less privileged families," he said in Filipino. 

Tacloban airport development 

Meanwhile, Tacloban City Vice Mayor Jerry 'Sambo' Yaokasin hopes that Duterte will support the full development of the Tacloban Airport. In November 2014, the Aquino administration promised to finish the ehabilitation of the airport by January 2015. 

Yolanda severely damaged the airport, a major thoroughfare for tourists and businesses coming in and out of Leyte. Yaokasin claimed that the Aquino administration failed to deliver on its promise. 

Commenting on Duterte's performance, Yaokasin noted that the President "is doing good and effective at this time."

Leyte Vice Governor Carlo Loreto shared his wish-list to Duterte, according to him the president will surely express his strong position against criminality and illegal drugs.

Loreto is optimistic that the new administration will deliver on fiscal policy, charter change, and priority legislative agenda, and implement projects that will help improve the situation in the province. – with a report from Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler.com 

Disaster preparedness advocates hail Duterte’s SONA


ENVIRONMENT. In his first SONA, President Rodrigo Duterte directs the environment department to 'amend, suspend, revoke' environmental permits, if needed'.

MANILA, Philippines – A day after President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), the Disaster Risk Reduction Network (DRRNet) Philippines welcomed the President’s bold pronouncements about the environment.

They also reminded Duterte to include disaster risk reduction in his priorities.

"What he said about the environment and illegal mining was good. If it will really be implemented, it's a good contribution because open pit mining and the destruction of the environment aggravate disasters," Maria Fellizar Cagay, lead convenor of DRRNet Philippines, said on Tuesday, July 26.

On Monday, July 25, Duterte emphasized the importance of taking care of the environment and directed the environment department to "go ahead" and "amend, suspend, or revoke" environmental permits if warranted.

During his speech, Duterte also warned industries that affect the environment to comply with government standards.

"[The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)] is likewise directed to review all permits granted to the mining, logging, and other environmental-sensitive activities. Ensure compliance with government standards and if warranted," Duterte said.

Cagay added that Duterte’s environmental policy is important especially in a disaster-prone country like the Philippines.

A study conducted by risk analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft in 2015 revealed that 8 out of 10 disaster-prone cities in the world are located in the Philippines. Aside from the risks posed by of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and floods, the country is also hit by an average of 20 typhoons every year.

Disaster risk reduction

While Duterte’s pronouncements are important in reducing disaster risks, DRRNet enumerated the actions the current administration can undertake in its first 100 days to protect the vulnerable and build more resilient communities.

Aimed at guiding the administration in its action plan for the environment, DRRNEt launched its 911 campaign: 9 calls, 1 agenda, 1 resilient Philippines.

“The first 100 days campaign is our effort to bring together various issues and agenda related to building resilient communities under this administration. It aims to monitor the administration's pronouncements and actions on a range of issues we think are important in addressing the key drivers of poverty and vulnerability in our country,” Oxfam coordinator Marie Grace Madamba-Nuñez said.

Oxfam and ther environmental groups under DRRNet like Balay Rehabilitation Center, Buklod Tao, and Citizens' Disaster Response Center made the following recommendations to the President.

  1. Certify as urgent the passage of an amendatory bill to Republic Act 10121 that will establish an independent National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority.

  2. Certify as urgent the passage of a comprehensive legislation that will protect and promote the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially in disaster and conflict-affected areas.

  3. Direct the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to immediately take action on Yolanda reconstruction and recovery issues and fast track implementation of reconstruction programmes in Yolanda–affected areas particularly on resilient human settlements.

  4. Direct the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to issue a clear policy guideline on the proactive use of the National DRRM Fund particularly for high risk and low-income LGUs.

  5. Direct the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to intensify inclusive capacity building programs and ensure that Local DRRM Offices are functional and permanent DRRM Officers are in place.

  6. Direct the NDRRMC to create a program supporting the establishment of safe, resilient, and multi-purpose evacuation centers, prioritizing high-risk and vulnerable areas.

  7. Direct the NDRRMC to issue a clear policy guideline to ensure inclusive participation and representation of CSOs at the local level.

  8. Direct the NDRRMC to develop a Magna Carta for DRRM Workers and volunteers.

  9. Direct the NDRRMC to ensure accountability of public officials as stipulated in Republic Act 10121.

DRRNet vowed to continue engaging the government to ensure that disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are included in the priority agenda of both the legislative and executive branches of the government. Rappler.com

How community libraries can change lives


LIBRARY. Volunteers of LRP read a storytelling book to the kids. All photos by Dwight Angelo de Leon

MANILA, Philippines – Many of the kids in Tondo are said to be scavengers, but if people can change the destinies of others, a non-government organization believes it starts with donating books.

Volunteers of Library Renewal Partnership went back to Childream Daycare Center in Barangay 105, Tondo on Saturday, July 16, two years after their first visit, to refill the library in their community with books and other educational equipment.

Established in 2010, the organization aims to build at least 200 community libraries by 2020 and “empower Filipinos to make our nation great again”. (READ: Where have our libraries gone?

According to Quintin Jose Pastrana, founder and managing director of the Library Renewal Partnership, they have either built or donated to 155 community libraries as of 2016, and the daycare center in Tondo was their 75th library, marking the “halfway point” to their record.

“The place has become more beautiful; the place has expanded and it’s the community that owns the place and takes care of the place. So in a sense, it’s the locality that manages the library with their resources, sometimes with help from others. And it’s nice that the kids are the ones who benefit from this,” says Pastrana.

When asked on why he chose this advocacy, he said that among many other things, investing is education is his greatest reward.

“Even if kids don’t go to school, they can still be productive citizens of the society. Otherwise, they will not be able to be successful in life. So this is why we think public libraries for out of school youth is very important,” Pastrana said in a mix of English and Filipino. (READ: Let curiosity take you places)

Storytelling session

The children of Tondo joined a storytelling session conducted by volunteers of the Library Renewal Partnership.

Volunteers were friends and relatives of Pastrana, some foreigners, and representatives from the National Book Development Board, an extension of the Department of Education.

Children were read storytelling books complete with visuals, their favorite, according to their teacher Remy Cabello, a social worker who manages the daycare center.

VOLUNTEER. Remy Cabello talks to her pupils

Cabello, who also works for the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children, said the establishment of the library promotes positive values to kids.

“Here in our place, wayback five years ago, it’s disorderly here. But because many NGOs and awareness groups came to help us, there have been libraries and computers, and [I can observe that] criminality in our community has reduced,” Cabello said.

After the storytelling session, the kids were treated to an afternoon of ice cream and popcorn. Cabello said they do this every Friday where they provide food to encourage the kids more to attend the class.

Lessons learned

According to Pastrana, their foundation has donated approximately 5,000 books to Tondo alone, which include textbooks and artbooks.

Library Renewal Partnership also donated a flat screen television set to the daycare center for multimedia presentations and some toys for the children to use.

“In a given event, we receive many donations from different NGOs. We are partnered with National Bookstore, Anvil, Adarna, Bato Balani Foundation, et cetera. Many people give, so we always have enough donations,” Pastrana said.

Regarding future plans, the LRP founder said they will be expanding to other remote areas in the Philippines very soon.

“We have libraries opening up in ARMM. Next month, we’ll also open libraries in Ormoc and Tacloban, those who were affected by Haiyan. Even in Surigao and Jolo, we’re gonna do more libraries. And some organizations abroad would like to partner with us because they saw the bayanihan spirit we have here. So we’re going to do one in Bhutan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar,” Pastrana said.

When asked about the most valuable lesson he learned, Pastrana said it’s that “education really changes lives”.

“Libraries become sanctuaries for children, especially in an informal settlers’ area where there is no public space. Whether a library is cheap or expensive, it gives power to children who want to read. And maybe someday, they can get out of poverty,” he shared.– Rappler.com

Dwight De Leon is a Rappler intern and the president of DZUP Radio Circle, the official student organization arm of UP Diliman’s official AM radio station, DZUP 1602.

DSWD holds dialogue with Bukidnon farmers affected by El Niño


EL NIÑO. DWSD Field Office Region X signs an agreement with Bukidnon farmers to expedite rice aid to El Niño-affected farmers. Photo from DSWD

MANILA, Philippines – What happened to the Bukidnon farmers gravely affected by the drought earlier this year? 

During the campaign season, El Niño catapulted the plight of farmers into the national election agenda as it made life for Mindanao farmers a daily waiting game. 

This year's El Niño, which was reported to be the strongest in modern history, also sparked food protests in Mindanao. 

Addressing their concerns, the Department of Social Welfare and Development-Field Office X (DSWD-FO X) met with an estimated 4,000 El Niño-affected farmers from Bukidnon on Tuesday, July 26, to discuss their request for rice assistance. The farmers were not able to farm during the prolonged dry spell. 

Among the farmers' questions during the dialogue: Why did some families receive one sack of rice, while others only received 5 to 10 kilos along with tarpaulins of politicians during the rice distribution? What happened to the calamity funds of local government units (LGUs)?

The Field Office explained that the DSWD has no mandate over LGUs. It also emphasized that it distributed 25-kilo packs of rice exclusively for 2,791 families of indigenous peoples. The Field Office added that the provision of assistance to affected families is still ongoing.

However, many IP-farmers who participated in the dialogue said that they were not part of the list of recipients of the 25-kilo rice packs. According to the Field Office, they will conduct a validation of the list to make sure everyone is accounted for. 

The meeting ended peacefully with an agreement that outlines the provision of rice assistance for farmers.

According to the agreement, the farmers' group is expected to submit the names of the 16,000 families affected by the dry spell for validation and matching with the list of beneficiaries of the DSWD.

Once the list of beneficiaries is received and validated, the Field Office will resume the distribution of sacks of rice in coordination with Ugion Bukidnon and the Diocese of Balay-Balay to ensure that the assistance will not be used to advance any political interests. 

The agency also committed to provide 4,000 sacks of rice for the farmers from the municipality of Quezon and other affected towns in Bukidnon.

DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo promised to expedite the distribution of assistance to the affected farmers. She also asked the farmers to cooperate with the agency and submit the needed list of beneficiaries.

Taguiwalo also assured the farmers' group that the DSWD's communication lines are open for complaints or inquiries. – Rappler.com

Kerry to Filipino youth: Lead ocean conservation efforts



US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with YSEALI alumni in Manila to talk about the Our Ocean launch. Photo from John Kerry's Twitter account

MANILA, Philippines – United States Secretary of State John Kerry called on the Filipino youth to initiate marine conservation during the Sea and Earth Advocate (SEA) Camp Summit on Wednesday, July 27, in Manila.  

The summit culminated the week-long SEA Camp held in Boracay, Aklan in June organized in partnership with the US Embassy in the Philippines under the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI).

Kerry appeared before 40 youth advocates as part of his overnight trip to Manila, where he met with President Rodrigo Duterte and Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay.

During his brief exchange with SEA campers, Kerry, a known ocean conservation advocate, recalled having loved the ocean as a kid growing up in Massachusetts. His stint as a senator for his home state involved lobbying for laws against whaling and hazardous wastes, among other things.

Kerry also pushed for laws that promote environmental justice, tackling desert protection and mercury regulation.

Threats to Earth’s waters

“A lot of people look out to the ocean and they see this vast expanse of water, and it’s bigger than any of us,” Kerry said.

“[We think that] there’s no way that any of us [can] hurt the ocean. But you know that’s wrong,” he added.

Kerry pointed out the growing threat to the world’s waters by enumerating what he believes are among the most pressing concerns to be addressed.

One problem, according to Kerry, is the prevalence of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

“In the high seas, [fishing regulations are] very difficult to enforce because there [are] no police out there to make sure that people are [following] the rules,” he said.

The World Ocean Review revealed that IUU fishing is prevalent in developing countries, which find it difficult to fund complex fisheries control structures similar to those found in Europe. IUU fishing leads to overfishing, which the World Wildlife Fund cited as the main threat to the food supply of many coastal communities the world over.

Kerry also talked about the growing concern over plastic pollution . Kerry also talked about a cleanup drive in 2015 in which volunteers recovered 18 millions tons of plastic in one day.

“In a few years, if we keep going the [rate] we’re going, by 2050, which is not so far away, there’ll be more plastic in the ocean than there will be fish,” he warned.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), every square mile of ocean was recorded to contain 46,000 pieces of floating plastic in 2006. Aside from polluting the waters, UNESCO also said that plastic debris pose threats to marine mammals’ lives, “[causing] the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals.” 

The last problem that Kerry brought up was climate change.

“Climate change is warming the ocean, changing ocean current patterns, and [is causing acidification,” Kerry said. The effects of acidification, in particular, affect agriculture and other sources of livelihood.

But its main effect, according to UNESCO, is on ocean ecosystems: “[Acidification] causes seawater to become corrosive to the shells and skeletons of numerous marine organisms, affecting their reproduction and physiology”

SEA CAMP. Delegates of the June 2016 SEA Camp pose for a photo opportunity in Boracay. Photo courtesy of Save Philippines Seas

Conservation can be fun

Kerry called on the youth to make a difference.

"We need young people to be part of the political process to make sure it’s transparent, accountable, and answers to the needs of [the common citizen],” he said.

Patrick Uygen, a SEA Camper from Visayas, responded by sharing his group's marine conservation initiative called Junior E-coal-aboration.

The project, which Uygen pitched during the SEA Camp, was among the initiatives that won P10,000-to-P20,000 grants from the US Embassy. It seeks to raise awareness on the harmful effects of coal mining on health and environment, specifically in the Manila Bay area.

The SEA Camp was the brainchild of Anna Oposa, Executive Director of Save Philippines Seas (SPS). Like Uygen’s project, the idea to organize such a camp started as a pitch. Now SPS, together with the US Embassy, has hosted 6 SEA camps since 2015.

“We have young participants from all over the Philippines; we have participants from La Union, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and other islands in between,” Oposa said.

“As an archipelago, ocean conservation must be a priority for us,” she said.

Oposa said previous SEA Camps produced young environmentalists from various fields. She believes that ocean conservation must be interdisciplinary, with a balance of scientific integrity and creativity.

“When you see that [ocean conservation] can be witty, fun, and engaging, I think it catches people’s attention. Conservation can be fun— and it is. Let us not make it exclusive to just scientists and policy makers.” – Rappler.com

Janelle Paris is a Rappler intern and a student from the Ateneo de Manila University.


1 in 3 Filipino kids still malnourished, stunted – study


SATIATING HUNGER. Children wait their turn at a feeding program for informal settlers in Quezon City. File photo by Rolex dela Peña/ EPA

MANILA, Philippines – Poor nutrition remains a major problem in the Philippines with 3.4 million children found to be stunted and over 300,000 underweight – all under 5 years old.

A study released by the Inter-Agency Regional Analyst Network (RAN) and the Action Against Hunger (ACF) said these figures are alarming, given the growing economy of the Philippines. 

Titled "Socio-economy of Chronic Malnutrition in the Philippines: A preliminary key trends analysis by 2030", the study noted that several theories have established that "higher incomes automatically improve the access to food."

"A relatively modest increase in GDP per capita could – or should – significantly improve a range of social progress indicators," it added.

But the Philippines, the 9th among the countries with the highest prevalence of stunted kids, has had slow progress in addressing the issue.

From a prevalence rate of 38% in 1998, the decrease has not been consistent, only reaching 30% in 2013 based on the estimates of United Nations (UN) agencies. (READ: Addressing malnutrition, one meal at a time)

Based on Food Nutrition and Research Institute (FNRI) data as of 2015, stunting or the chronic malnutrition rate among children is now at 33.4%.

Lower-income countries like Vietnam and Cambodia are even faring better than the Philippines. Only 23% of children are stunted in Vietnam while 32.9% are affected in Cambodia.  

The Philippines' disturbing figures, the study said, are expected to shoot up by 2030 if government does not boost support for social services.

According to the study, 20% of deaths among children under 5 years old are due to poor health services. (READ: Ending hunger, ensuring nutrition by 2030

Focus on factors

"Our call for the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is to commit and invest in nutrition as well as hold nutrition stakeholders accountable to meet targets to reduce child stunting and wasting, and strengthen and sustain the political will to address malnutrition as a crucial concern of development," said Action Against Hunger Philippines country director Javad Amoozegar.

The study suggests that the government focus on the root causes of chronic malnutrition, such as poverty.

Children born from mothers with poor nutritional status before and during pregnancy have a low birth weight (LBW) – a likely determinant of stunting. (READ: The challenge in ending poverty by 2030

Stunting is also pronounced in informal settlements which do not have access to safe water and sanitation.

Ensuring education and local employment for women, who are eventually going to be mothers, is also key to reducing malnutrition in the long run.

Work opportunities for mothers, preferably near their homes or within the country, is associated with fighting malnutrition since child feeding routines may be affected if mothers are away. (READ: How much can you save when you breastfeed?)

"Long distances to work and irregular working shifts thus tend to be associated with suboptimal feeding practices," the study said, adding that overseas employment forces mothers to pass the role of taking care of children to other members of the family.

Stunting, if not addressed, affects the physical and mental development of a child – consequences that are irreversible when a child reaches the age of two.

Citing a World Bank report, the study said "that a 1% loss in adult height as a result of childhood stunting is linked with a 1.4% loss in economic productivity, making them earn 20% less as adults." – Rappler.com

Groups urge youth to make change come in SK


CHANGE. Youth groups urge the Filipino youth to register for the Sangguniang Kabataan

CEBU, Philippines – "Make change come in the Sangguniang Kabataan."

This is the message of youth groups in a press conference on Wedneday, July 27, for their fellow youth, urging them to register for the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections before the deadline on July 30.

This ongoing registration for SK elections is the first one after the R.A. 10742 or the SK Reform Law was signed on January 15, 2016. 

The SK Reform Law seeks to implement various reforms in the barangay youth arm, which has long been criticized for being inefficient and corrupt. (READ: Why the Sangguniang Kabataan needs an overhaul)

The youth groups, convened as the SK Reform Coalition, said that SK is the first elected body in the country to implement an anti-dynasty policy.

Other reforms introduced into the new SK law is the increase in the voting age to 15-30 years old from the previous 15-24 years old. Also, the age of those who can now run for SK chairperson is now 18-24 years old. This is to allow the SK chairperson to legally sign financial documents.  

"We are reminding the youth that the first step to change is committing to vote," said Chatch Calderon of Akbayan Youth. "Registering before the deadline is important to make change happen for the SK Elections on October."

Calderon added that it is important for the youth to actively participate in the elections to push forward different youth advocacies in the barangays.

Comission on Elections (Comelec) offices all over the country are accepting registrants for SK until July 30. Young voters who registered in the previous elections do not need to register again.

SK election was suspended in 2010 and its return has been anticipated by youth groups who believe it is a relevant avenue for youth participation in government.

Youth groups in Cebu like the First Time Voters Network, Akbayan Youth, Youth for Sustainable Change, Cebu Youth Ambassadors, among others, are doing several campaigns in the barangays by giving forums, going house-to-house and doing radio interviews.

“It is important to include and involve the youth in nation-building in order to create responsive and representative governance,” according to Ed Arellano of First Time Voters Network - Cebu

He also added that this will empower the youth to contribute as individuals in the nation's well-being. The SK is a sign of a healthy political system that espouses a government for all.

In the last 3 years, the SK polls were postponed thrice. It was scheduled for October 2013, but was postponed to February 2015, then moved to April 2015, until it was finally rescheduled to October 2016, in sync with the next barangay polls. – Rappler.com  

Sangguniang Kabataan logo gets a new look in time for fresh elections


REBRANDING. Policy Resolution No. 4 of the National Youth Commission institutes the new logo of the Sangguniang Kabataan. Image by Mara Mercado / Rappler

MANILA, Philippines - Freshness. Rebirth. Youthfulness.

These traits are what the new logo of the Sangguniang Kabataan (Youth Council) portrays, now that the youth institution has been given a new lease on life.

The Sangguniang Kabataan is a youth institution created by law, composed of youth councils constituted in every village, muicipality, city, provice, and region in the Philippines. (READ: What's in the new Sangguniang Kabataan?)

Youth voters can register until July 30. The election of the new set of officials will take place on October 31, 2016. 

After the signing of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Law, the National Youth Commission (NYC) approved Policy Resolution No. 4, which adopted the new logo design for the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK).

Heavy on symbolism

The new logo expresses deeper meanings.

According to the NYC, the 10-degree tilt of the letters “S” and “K” symbolizes the 10 core positions in the Sangguniang Kabataan:

  • one elected Chairperson,
  • seven elected SK Councilors,
  • one appointed Secretary, and
  • one appointed Treasurer

The letters get higher to the right, signifying a youth council that is geared to step up and take every opportunity there is to lead and be heard.

The letters also go outside and beyond the circle, mandating the SK officials to be the key persons in developing nation-building and leadership programs, and denoting the call for Filipino leadership identity.

Lastly, the soft and shallow curved line of the letters “S” and “K” show youthfulness, familiarity and that sense of ease which describes the new generation of Filipino youth leaders.

The red, blue, white and yellow colors are patterned after the colors of the Philippine Flag, in accordance with Republic Act 8491 or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.

National Youth Commission OIC Chairperson Earl P. Saavedra stated, “This new SK logo signifies not just the rebranded SK but also the government’s commitment to revitalize the SK and to achieve the transformation for better governance and a new brand of leadership.” 

New perspectives

This new face of the SK was a joint effort of the National Youth Commission, the office of Senator Bam Aquino, and Youth Vote Philippines, to complete the rebranding that the Sangguniang Kabataan has been undergoing.

“Now, it was not just the law that has been reformed, but also its [SK] logo—signifying its changes and differences [from] the previous SK,” said National Youth Commissioner JP Peñol.

The new SK logo will be formally launched in August, alongside the celebration of Linggo ng Kabataan (Youth Week), in accordance with Republic Act 10742. - Rappler.com

Putting 'half rice' on the menu


HALF RICE. Restaurants post a yellow tag  at the door indicating that they serve half rice.  All photos by Sonny Pasona

MANILA, Philippines– “Why should we offer half rice? We barely mind rice wastage. What matters more is we get more sales with full rice.” (READ: The problem with unlimited rice

In a rice-loving country, these words are what some food establishments would argue why they refuse to offer half-cup of rice in their menus. But in General Santos, the local government is turning the tables to promote responsible rice consumption.

“If I haven’t attended the meeting, I wouldn’t have known the magnitude of rice wastage in the country,” said Aizabelle Iris Mangao, a manager of a restaurant franchise that offers grilled Filipino and Asian food.

In early 2015, Mangao attended a consultative meeting organized by the legislators of the city government of General Santos about the then proposed GSC Riceponsible Ordinance.

The policy took effect on December 2015 and mandated that the city “shall adopt measures, which shall ensure responsible rice consumption and rice conservation.” It also aims to educate consumers to not waste rice to help attain rice self-sufficiency in the country.

Over 80 representatives of small to large scale food stores learned that Filipinos waste about P23 million worth of rice a day, enough to feed nearly 2.6 million poor Filipinos. This reality awakened Mangao and her colleagues to make a conscious effort. They already started walking the talk long before the ordinance took effect. (READ: PH food wastage: Think twice before wasting your meal) 

Immediately, Mangao informed her restaurant’s owner, who also owns at least 8 food franchises in the city about the ordinance. They then talked to the head office of the franchised restaurant that promptly approved its implementation. The half-cup of rice, roughly 80 grams, were incorporated at the point of sale (POS) which is also half the price of a full cup of rice (P30) as mandated by the ordinance.

“Before we started advocating for the half rice in our store, we started with ourselves. We asked our staff to responsibly consume rice,” Mangao said.

Downscaling the policy

The year 2013 was declared as the National Year of Rice (NYR) through Presidential Proclamation No. 494. The Department of Agriculture – Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice) enjoined rice producers, consumers, and policymakers to achieve rice self-sufficiency, specifically to promote less rice wastage.

Pursuant to the proclamation, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) encouraged cities and municipalities to pass ordinances that will require the food service industry “to make a half cup of rice available and visible in their menus.”

At the time of its celebration, then Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. authored the Anti-Rice Wastage Act of 2013. It seeks to penalize those in the food industry that refuse to serve half rice orders to the customers. At the House of Representatives, Congressman Agapito Guanlao filed a counterpart bill to address food security. He proposed the Food and Food Staples Consumption and Zero Food-Wastage Management Act of 2013.

Taking off from the NYR celebration and supporting the bills filed in the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Be Riceponsible Campaign was launched to continue advocating for responsible and healthier rice consumption.

In 2014, the campaign urged LGUs to support rice consumption responsibility. General Santos City vice mayor Shirlyn Nograles zealously responded to the call of the national government.

“With the issues on rice shortage, importation, and the health of the consumers, we felt that initiatives to address these issues were direly needed,” Nograles explained.

Nograles, together with councilor Brix Tan, chairperson of the Committee of Agriculture, co-authored an ordinance that instituted policies for responsible rice consumption in their city.

The legislators made sure that the ordinance was relevant. It compelled food stores to annually record their rice wastage for a week to continuously monitor the rice conservation status in the city.

DISCUSSION. Stakeholders join the consultative meeting with representatives of food stores in General Santos City.


According to the vice mayor, the food business sector responded positively. In fact, some food establishments, including that of Mangao’s, immediately posted promotional materials given by the LGU.

However, Mangao said that the ordinance has had little impact in their restaurant. Based on their data, only one out of 10 customers order half rice, in addition to their full cup of rice. (READ: How can government lower food prices in the Philippines?)

“Right now we’re taking baby steps [to make a] gradual impact. It’s an advocacy worth pushing. We believe this remains relevant and we need to think of its long-term benefits,” said vice mayor Nograles.

Nograles added that intensifying the campaign is their top priority. “The value of rice conservation should enter the consciousness of the consumers. Only then can we see changes in their eating lifestyles,” she said.

Local legislators are looking at tapping schools to raise awareness and involve students. One activity planned is a poster making contest. 

“These posters may be used by the food establishments in their respective stores. We can also put other collaterals such as stickers so they can paste it on their menu boards,” said Ronan Villagonzalo, who works as a legislative assistant of councilor Tan.

The legislators also want to mandate the posting of information materials as a prerequisite for securing business permits and licenses in the local food service industry.

POLICY. Vice Mayor Shirlyn Nograles convening the Technical Working Group for the half-rice ordinance.

Creating synergy

Today, there are over 40 LGUs who have already passed ordinances mandating the offering of the half rice option.

The Be Riceponsible campaign is taking huge strides for healthier and food secure Filipino communities, including advocating for the consumption of healthier rice, specifically  brown rice. 

“We are now tapping major fast food chains to support our advocacies. In this way, downscaling a directive to their branches across the country can expedite its implementation,” said Hazel Antonio, campaign director.

Antonio added that they are partnering with other policymakers, meeting with hotel and restaurant owners, and promoting the campaign at various food festivals.

The elusive goal of achieving rice self-sufficiency is every Filipino’s riceponsibilityWith strong political will, multi-stakeholder collaboration, and responsible rice production, consumption, and conservation, we’ll surely get far and reach the finish line. Only then can we achieve a rice secure Philippines. – Rappler.com 

Sonny Pasiona, 24, is a development communicator at the Philippine Rice Research Institute – Central Experiment Station


Should telcos charge 911 calls? Netizens weigh in


MANILA, Philippines – Should telecommunications companies (telcos) charge calls made through the 911 hotline?

On Thursday, July 28, netizens criticized Globe Telecom over it’s announcement of charging an additional P5 aside from the regular voice charges for subscribers calling the planned Philippine 911 hotline, an idea suggested by the government to discourage prank callers. Other telcos may also levy a charge.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar earlier announced that a 24-hour hotline for citizen complaints and an emergency hotline, one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promises, will go live in the Philippines in August.

The move scales up Davao City’s world-class 911 emergency response system on a national scale.

Filipinos took to Facebook and Twitter to express their disappointment about the decision saying emergency calls to the hotline should be free.

How to deal with prank calls

Commenters argued that emergency calls should not be charged and suggested ways to deal with prank calls.

“An emergency is an emergency. Prank calls or not, no one should charge extra for emergency calls”, said David Christopher Castillo commenting on a Facebook post. “Though it is a given fact to be prepared, it is, at most times, inevitable that there will be a time that you won't be”.

Another Facebook user, Danilo Mangila Adiao, suggested the implementation of a law requiring the registration of sim cards in order to easily identify prank callers.

According to Globe General Counsel Froilan Castelo, the idea was originally suggested by the government to discourage prank calls.

"As suggested by the government to discourage prank calls, we would also like to inform our customers that those calling the hotlines will incur regular voice charges plus an additional P5/call for those calling the 911 hotline," Castelo said in a statement, July 27.

Twitter users also expressed their sentiments against the issue. 


Meanwhile, some netizens agreed with the additional charges but suggested that emergency calls should only be charged when a person has load.

“It's okay if there is a charge. Although, hopefully, the public can still call the hotline even without load," Yuphie Cuanco said in Filipino on a Facebook post. “Then they could charge when the next time the person loads up his or her mobile phone.” 

Facebook user, Achilles James expressed a similar sentiment but suggested that prank callers should be fined afterwards.

“Don't charge the call immediately. Let the operator decide on whether the call is legit or otherwise," he said. “Charge the prank caller P1000 and a court summon."

Here are the Twitter posts on this issue: 

As mandated by the government, Globe said they are prepared to relay voice calls for the 911 and 8888 hotlines starting August 1.

The emergency hotline proved effective in Davao City, with fast response times of police, firefighters, and medical personnel during emergencies. – Rappler.com

Tessa Barre is a student at UP Diliman and a Rappler intern.

Call for entries: Sorok Short Film Festival


This is a press release from the Sorok Uni Foundation, Inc.

MANILA, Philippines – Sorok Uni Foundation, Inc. is a humanitarian organization that started to work for persons affected with leprosy (PALs), but has extended its services to social and economic inclusion of other forgotten neighbors – the homeless urban and rural poor, and the displaced families due to calamities.

In line with its mission, the Sorok Short Film Festival (SSFF) was launched in 2014 to use films in raising social awareness and serve as an avenue for Filipinos to exhibit their skills in acting, directing and writing, with its theme, “Kapwang Gawa – the act of reaching out to other people.” This was followed by the second SSFF in 2015 with the theme “Tubig Ng Buhay."

This year, the foundation will be launching the third SSFF with the theme “OFW: Lakbay-Puso”, aiming honor the bravery of our modern day heroes, the Overseas Filipino Workers.

We are encouraging everyone to join our festival for a cause. Film Fest Entry Forms and Guidelines are downloadable on our websites at www.sorokuni.org and www.sorokuni.org/ssff3 and on our Facebook pages, fb.com/sorokunifoundation and fb.com/sorokshortfilmfest. – Rappler.com


#CarinaPH: Areas in Northern Luzon, Visayas prone to floods, landslides


MANILA, Philippines –  The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Saturday, July 30, warned residents of areas affected by Tropical Storm Carina of possible floods and landslides.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has directed its regional directors to activate their teams and carry out preparedness measures based on its Oplan Listo alert system.

LGUs, especially in Northern Luzon, that are prone to floods and landslides are advised to conduct preemptive evacuation by Sunday morning, July 31, before the storm makes landfall.

Flood-prone and Landslide-prone areas

The vulnerable areas were determined by mapping the topography or elevation of the land, as well as the slope of the mountain. (READ: Learn how to use hazard maps)

PAGASA said moderate to heavy rains are expected within the 400-kilometer diameter of the tropical storm.

Signal number 2 has been raised in Isabela as of 5 pm, Saturday.

The following provinces, meanwhile, are under signal number 1:

  • Cagayan including Babuyan Group of Islands
  • Apayao
  • Ilocos Norte
  • Aurora
  • Catanduanes
  • Camarines Sur
  • Albay
  • Sorsogon
  • Northern Samar

Carina is expected to leave the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) on Monday, August 1. – Rappler.com 

Cagayan residents told: Prepare before Tropical Storm Carina makes landfall


CAGAYAN, Philippines- Disaster managers advised residents in Cagayan Valley to prepare for Tropical Storm Carina.

Carina is expected to make landfall in Cagayan province on Sunday, July 31, according to the latest forecast of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). The provinces of Cagayan and Isabela have been placed under signal number 2 on Saturday, July 30.

The regional disaster agency warned residents in areas affected by Tropical Storm Carina of possible floods and landslides.

On Saturday afternoon, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) advised local government units of vulnerable towns in Northern Luzon to conduct preemptive evacuation by Sunday morning, July 31, before the storm makes landfall. (READ: #CarinaPH: Areas in Northern Luzon, Visayas prone to floods, landslides)

Norma Talosig, regional civil defense chief, said her office is in close coordination with the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Councils (PDRRMCs) and the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Councils (MDRRMCs).

Talosig also coordinated with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine National Police (PNP), and Philippine Air Force (PAF) for disaster risk reduction measures.

Meanwhile, Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba has mobilized the Task Force Lingkod Cagayan, and formed a Quick Reaction Team (QRT) and Rescue Team in the towns of Lal-lo, Tuao, Sanchez Mira, and Buguey.

Mamba said first responders and their emergency vehicles, ambulance, quick reaction teams (QRT), and heavy equipment have already been prepositioned. 

He also urged the fisherfolk in coastal areas to avoid sailing starting Saturday until the storm is out of the Philippine Area of Responsibility.

Residents can report emergency situations using the following hotlines:







Meanwhile, liquor ban and no-sail policy are also in effect in Isabela province.

The 1991 Local Government Code and the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 mandate local government units to be at the frontline of emergency measures during disasters. – Rappler.com

LOOK: Forms of corruption in government, daily life


MANILA, Philippines – The fight against corruption takes center stage once again.

In his first State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte himself vowed to go after corrupt officials and individuals: "Those who betrayed the people’s trust shall not go unpunished and they will have their day in Court."

As we do our part and increase our vigilance to stop the menace of corruption, it pays to be aware of what these corrupt acts are.

Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act lists down unlawful deeds that should be avoided not only by public officials but also by persons and groups transacting with government.

Below are illustrations of some scenarios where corruption is bred and carried out.


Pangongotong, mulcting, or bribery takes place when a person who violated a rule gets away with penalty by giving a law enforcement agent or a public officer a bribe or kotong, usually in cash.

The "kotong" is usually sought by the law enforcer upon apprehending the violator, but can also be initiated by the bribe-giver himself or herself. Both parties will be held liable under RA 3019.


Another punishable form of corruption is getting a "kickback" or an illicit payment for facilitating the approval of government deals.

Usually, the kickbacks are incorporated in the "overpriced" government contract itself.

The pork barrel scam that unraveled in 2013 contained many testimonies of kickbacks for congressmen and their "agents." (READ: Pork Tales: A story of corruption | How It Works)

'Padrino' system

Republic Act 3019 specifies many forms of corruption that fall under the "padrino" or patronage system.

Here is one scenario: Relatives, friends, and allies of public officials having their requests approved faster than perceived political opponents and ordinary citizens.

This is unlawful under RA 3019.

With the help of friends and acquaintances working in government, some are also able to get licenses and permits, even if they failed to pass a requirement or skipped an exam.

There have also been many cases where relatives and friends of public officials get undue advantage in securing contracts for government projects, sometimes through sham public bidding. 

Despite the presence of more qualified groups and proposals, or the obvious conflicts of interests, corrupt officials award contracts to their allies anyway.

And we bet you've seen this before: a person or a group cutting long lines and going ahead of others, because they know someone inside the office or agency. 

A simple act like this breeds a culture of corruption that could eventually find its way into transactions involving money and government funds.

Tokens of appreciation: Good or bad? 

When a public officer helps us in getting through procedures in a lawful and honest way, we sometimes can't help but express our gratitude by offering a small amount of money or a simple gift.

But is it OK to give such a token of appreciation, or a simple "Thank you!" is enough? We posed this question on Facebook.

Some argued that it is fine as long as it's given freely. An online user commented, "The customer shouldn't have to pay extra for a great service, but when we know that you have raised the bar and exceeded our expectations... then it is up to us to show appreciation." However, she drew the line on employees blatantly asking for a tip.

On the other hand, many netizens said that it is already the government employee's job to provide fast and efficient services to the public. One online user even noted that even a small token is still considered bribery.

"They are doing the job they chose and [they are] getting paid, so why do we pay them again?" asked another user. Rappler.com

How do you think can we stop corruption in government? Write on X or share your thoughts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #CorruptionPH. 

Have you seen an act of corruption first-hand? Have you ever been asked to pay a bribe? Let us know by leaving a comment below, by sending us a direct message or e-mailing to research@rappler.com using subject line: #CorruptionPH. 

#WalangPasok: Class suspensions, Monday, August 1


What's the weather like in your area? Report the situation through Rappler's Agos or tweet us at @rapplerdotcom.

Please refresh this page for updates.

MANILA, Philippines – Here is a list of schools and areas where classes have been suspended for Monday, August 1, due to Severe Tropical Storm Carina.

  • Northern Cagayan (Sta. Ana, Gonzaga, Sta. Teresita, Buguey, Aparri, Lal-lo, Camalaniugan, Allacapan, Ballesteros, Abulug, Pamplona, Sanchez Mira, Claveria, Sta. Paxedes, Calayan, Lasam, Gattaran at Rizal) – all levels
  • Rest of Cagayan – preschool to high school   
  • Isabela – preschool to high school
  • Mankayan, Benguet – all levels
  • Abra – all levels
  • Dagupan City – preschool to high school

Not on the list? Help us crowdsource class suspensions by posting in the comments section or tweeting @rapplerdotcom.

For more information: When are classes cancelled or suspended?  Rappler.com

'University of Pila’: Online registration system fails in UPLB


CAMP OUT. UP Los Baños enrollees hold an overnight camp out as the university's new online registration system suffers downtime. Photo courtesy of UPLB University Student Council

MANILA, Philippines – The new online registration system of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) conked out about 3 days before classes start on Wednesday, August 3. 

On Saturday night, July 30, about 500 UPLB students camped out in the UPLB campus to enlist in subjects using the Student Academic Information System (SAIS).

Many students criticized the failure of the new system, claiming that is is inefficient and inaccessible.


<center><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The Women&#39;s Residence Hall is also being used for enlistment. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JunkSAIS?src=hash">#JunkSAIS</a> <a href="https://t.co/3DLv2R5c4j">pic.twitter.com/3DLv2R5c4j</a></p>&mdash; UPLB Perspective (@uplbperspective) <a href="https://twitter.com/uplbperspective/status/759434223178485760">July 30, 2016</a></blockquote>

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SAIS is a comprehensive data management system that covers the entire student lifecycle: from admission, registration, to enrollment, to graduation and alumni tracking.

It was introduced by UP President Alfredo Pascual with the promise to obtain, process, retrieve, and update student, faculty, and alumni information, as well as academic master data such as curricula and course information. 

However, according to UPLB students, SAIS has even made their ordeal during the enlistment period even more difficult.

“For the past few days, students have experienced troubles with the supposed smooth-flowing SAIS registration. This included crashes, a discriminatory 'caste system', and non-permission of students with holds-to-enroll, among others,” said UPLB University Student Council chairperson Merwin Jacob Alinea on Sunday, July 31.

"While failing to come up with a contingency plan, this is clearly a manifestation that this system, one of eUP’s core components, is doomed to fail,” Alinea added.


Other UPLB enrollees took to Twitter to express there disappointment over the new system, which was supposed to improve the enlistment process for the first semester of the incoming academic year 2016-2017. Poor internet connection made their ordeal even worse, they said. 

Sympathy for the students who camped out in the campus spread online, pushing their call #JunkSAIS to the top of the trending topics list in the Philippines past Saturday midnight and into early Sunday, July 31.


<center><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HappeningNow?src=hash">#HappeningNow</a> <br>Students forced to camp out to enlist subjects through SAIS. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JunkSAIS?src=hash">#JunkSAIS</a> <a href="https://t.co/J7C2FRl32P">pic.twitter.com/J7C2FRl32P</a></p>&mdash; UP Los Baños USC (@UPLBUSC) <a href="https://twitter.com/UPLBUSC/status/759418629377052673">July 30, 2016</a></blockquote>

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<center><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">From University of Pila to University of Problema real quick. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JunkSAIS?src=hash">#JunkSAIS</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WhatIsWork?src=hash">#WhatIsWork</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoodMorning?src=hash">#GoodMorning</a>  <a href="https://t.co/6eEi3hkG9K">https://t.co/6eEi3hkG9K</a></p>&mdash; Professors of UPLB (@uplbprofs) <a href="https://twitter.com/uplbprofs/status/758816000720592897">July 29, 2016</a></blockquote>

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<center><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">&quot;I hate this part right here...&quot; <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JunkSAIS?src=hash">#JunkSAIS</a> <a href="https://t.co/6sZgzUAa1b">pic.twitter.com/6sZgzUAa1b</a></p>&mdash; myrra (@myrrazenkate) <a href="https://twitter.com/myrrazenkate/status/758694472985088000">July 28, 2016</a></blockquote>

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<center><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I hope this SAIS issue gets fixed as soon as possible. Stay safe UP friends!! Keep fighting for what you deserve!! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JunkSAIS?src=hash">#JunkSAIS</a>!!!!!!!!</p>&mdash; #JunkSAIS (@MillennialOfMNL) <a href="https://twitter.com/MillennialOfMNL/status/759447367263236096">July 30, 2016</a></blockquote>

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<center><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">WHAT THE FCK? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JunkSAIS?src=hash">#JunkSAIS</a> <a href="https://t.co/eHtXDXR2Ul">pic.twitter.com/eHtXDXR2Ul</a></p>&mdash; #JunkSAIS Juan (@Iamnumberjuan_) <a href="https://twitter.com/Iamnumberjuan_/status/758694921540820992">July 28, 2016</a></blockquote>

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<center><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">A mom sent me this message earlier. Now I&#39;m sure we&#39;re doing the right thing. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JunkSAIS?src=hash">#JunkSAIS</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SystemOneMoreChance?src=hash">#SystemOneMoreChance</a> <a href="https://t.co/lTKyluwVFn">pic.twitter.com/lTKyluwVFn</a></p>&mdash; Jason del Rosario (@fauxillustrado) <a href="https://twitter.com/fauxillustrado/status/758901623372455936">July 29, 2016</a></blockquote>

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The SAIS and eUP teams apologized and gave assurances that the UPLB administration and ePLDT "are all doing our best to resolve issues in the system as soon as they are detected and reported."

"We are also continuously attending to all support requests received through our official channels.” 


<center><iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FeUPproject%2Fposts%2F1114591335279467%3A0&width=500" width="500" height="501" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true"></iframe></center>


– Rappler.com