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Tuguegarao City imposes 10-day ECQ due to spike in COVID-19 cases

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Mayor Jefferson Soriano placed the entire Tuguegarao City under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for 10 days starting January 20, following an increase in COVID-19 cases in the past weeks.

Noting the spike in infections, Soriano alerted the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force and requested for the lockdown. The agency approved the request after its meeting on Tuesday, January 19.

According to Soriano, it was possible the hard lockdown issued under Executive Order No. 14  could be extended until February 3, if the caseload continue to pile up.

Health officials expected an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases after the holidays. For the past week, city officials recorded at least 21 new infections every day. 

Tuguegarao City has tallied 246 cases of the coronavirus disease as of Monday, January 18.

The Cagayan provincial government started conducting Wednesday, January 20, aggressive community PCR testing in Tuguegarao and nearby municipalities, targeting to reach 3,000 people Friday, January 22. – Rappler.com


UP community online fights DND red-tagging with humor, memes

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Once again, the University of the Philippines (UP) puts the “fight” in #UPFight.

The UP community on social media hurled jabs at the Department of National Defense’s (DND) unilateral termination of the UP-DND accord. The agreement barred the police and military from entering UP campuses. (READ: What you need to know about the 1989 UP-DND accord)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s justification? The youth needed to be protected from reported in-campus recruitment of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). This blanket red-tagging did not sit well with UP students, alumni, and supporters.

Iskos on social media fought back using the language they know best – wit and memes.

What’s more likely to happen than meeting an NPA recruiter?

To disprove the dangerous red-tagging by the state forces, a Twitter game went viral on Tuesday, January 19, thanks to Twitter user @ndrojibreel. The tweet has more than 4,400 quote retweets as of writing.

UP students and alumni had their own takes, highlighting a colorful (but tough) student life.

Through humor, netizens decried red-tagging. Let’s take a look at what really happens inside the university, according to the UP community.

Of course, who could forget the iconic crinkles UP students sell to generate funds for their organization’s projects. Have you ever sold a tub?

In case these got you so nostalgic about your student life, here’s a list you can use the next time you play “Never Have I Ever” game (versus red-tagging, of course). This Diliman edition was posted by Facebook user Amber Gonzales Quiban.

Netizens also pointed out that the military should instead consider looking at issues that concern our territory, such as the Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

There was even a suggestion to rename UP to West Philippine Sea to encourage the state forces “to stay away” from it.

Beyond memes: The consequences of trampling on dissent

UP has been on the receiving end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s threats. In November 2020, Duterte said he will cut the university’s funding after the community launched an academic strike versus government’s inaction during disasters and pandemic.

Twitter user @bro0mfknwalis hoped the internet response will not be reduced to memes as the abrogation of the UP-DND accord has harmful consequences on the UP community.

Filipinos on social media earlier condemned the abrogation of the accord, as soon as it was confirmed by the UP Office of the Student Regent on Tuesday, January 18. – Rappler.com

NUJP warns AFP for red tagging former UP students: ‘You will be held to account’

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The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines  (NUJP) on Saturday, January 23, condemned the malicious red-tagging of journalists and other former University of the Philippines (UP) students.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Information Exchange Facebook page, which is administered by the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations, posted a list of names of supposedly UP students that they falsely described as having joined the New People’s Army (NPA) and had died or were captured. 

In a statement on Saturday, NUJP expressed its dismay to the military office for “shamelessly resorting to such blatant falsehood to push the narrative of UP as the supposed “breeding ground” of enemies of the state.”

“We would normally dismiss this canard as laughably stupid. However, putting the people it names in mortal danger is no laughing matter at all. Especially since AFP units are known to spread disinformation such as this through their own social media accounts,” they added. 

NUJP also stated a fair reminder to them, “We shall not let this pass. You will be held to account.”

Among those in the list were journalists Roberto “Bobby” Coloma and Roel Landingin and several other prominent graduates of the University.

Other names mentioned in the list were late director Behn Cervantes, lawyer and former government peace panel chair Alex Padilla, former Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR) executive Elmer Mercado, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) president and ex-congressman Roan Libarios. 

The incident comes almost a week after the government moved to scrap the deal preventing state forces from entering UP campuses that triggered massive outcry from the UP community.

The list, which was posted on Friday evening, January 22, had at least 916 reactions, 58 comments, and 467 shares before it was taken down on Saturday morning. Some of the Facebook pages of military units also shared the post.

For NUJP, the mere fact that these units shared the post to their own pages is very telling that “they believe in the truth of such accusations.” 

“We all know too well of the often fatal consequences of red-tagging. It does not matter whether the accusations leveled at targeted personalities or organizations are true or not. It is sufficient that they stand accused,” NUJP added. 

NUJP was also alarmed over the real danger that this incident would bring to those accused –  from sharing the accusations to actually taking action against them.

This is especially true as disinformation against activists and journalists has since been widespread. Police officers, for one, have been posting and sharing hateful messages and “fake news,” making their targets vulnerable to online and on-ground attacks. (READ: With anti-terror law, police-sponsored hate and disinformation more dangerous

“The very real danger is how those who wield the armed might of the state can so easily and brazenly engage in such obvious and deadly falsehoods without any thought to the consequences,” they added.  –Rappler.com 

Pandemic pushes students, housewives to learn new skills at Albay farm school

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James Moraleda, a 19-year-old senior high school student of Malabog National High School in Daraga town, belongs to the first batch of students at a farm school in Albay that offers short courses on organic farming under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Moraleda and 49 others who took Organic Agriculture NCII at the El Miro de Shei Integrated Farm School graduated on Wednesday, January 20.

The course offered at El Miro De Shei Integrated Farm School is a pet project of Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda in partnership with TESDA. The owners of the El Miro De Shei Integrated Farm are Salugan village chief Shiela Dino and her husband Edmiro Dino.

Moraleda learned about organic farming during the day and attended the modular classes at Malabog National High School at night.

When asked why he enrolled at the farm school even if he was attending regular classes Moraleda said in Bicolano that while he aimed to work in the automotive industry, he “realized that farming and food security are critical during a pandemic.”

The organic farming graduates who took the 29-day course from December 13, 2020 to January 20, 2021, include senior high school students, farmers, housewives, and a call center employee. The training is free, and the students were given P160-allowance her day.

Arley Pielago, is a 41-year-old farmer who has been tilling the two-hectare rice farm of his parents for the last 6 years. He enrolled in the course to learn new techniques and environmentally sound crop production.

“We are spending at least P50,000 for a single rice planting season but more often than not, our expenses are bigger than our income as the prices of palay is very low and is aggravated by a series of disasters affecting our farming and productivity,” said Pielago.

The Bicol region was struck by strong storms in the last quarter of 2020 that claimed lives, and destroyed crops and infrastructure.

Pielago hoped that he can improve his farm’s rice yield through his new skills. He said he learned how to make “safe fertilizer” using recycled materials, fruit and vegetables peel, and animal manure.

“I enrolled in this training course not to get an NC 11 certificate but am interested in the new knowledge and techniques so farming becomes profitable but will not sacrifice our environment. With this training ,I can now make my own organic fertilizer than using synthetic fertilizer which is more expensive and harmful than organic fertilizer,” he added.

PIONEER BATCH. Some of the graduates of the short course on organic farming at the El Miro de Shei Integrated Farm School under TESDA. Photo by Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler
Photo by Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler

Jenica Antiquiera is a 29-year-old call center employee at Sutherland, Legazpi City. The class president of the first batch at the El Miro De Shei Integrated Farm School, Antiquiera said the short course has generated a new breed of farmers.

Because of the pandemic, Antiquiera has been working from home. She is on night shift, allowing her to enroll in the short course.

“I saw the importance of farming due to the pandemic that agriculture is vital that we can no longer sustain food with fewer and older farmers tilling our lands. Agriculture is important and would support us in the middle of a pandemic,” she said, adding that she’s grateful to all those behind the organic farming course led by Salceda.

More farmers needed

Salceda said in a message read at the simple graduation rites that of Bicol’s nearly 60 million population, 75% are dependent on agriculture but “the irony is that only 25% of the population are into direct farming or farmers.”

“The young generation now including the sons of the farmer tend not to engage into farming. Farmer-parents usually don’t encourage their children to go farming for the reason that they know the difficult work involved in farming,” Salceda said.

He noted that young Filipinos would rather get a white collar job but “the reality is that the Philippines is still an agricultural country.”

“We cannot attain full industrialization if it is not based on agriculture. Agricultural industrialization is the major key in maximizing the full potential of the communities through sustainable development,” he said.

Salceda said the concept of the farm school is based on the the Farm Field Schools developed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization “to help farmers become competitive and seize advantage of the opportunities in the market by operating their farms efficiently and profitably.”     

“They are now equipped with technical-vocational skills that give them advantage in seeking employment for skilled works as well as the knowledge needed to start small businesses,” Salceda said.

The TESDA STEP (Special Training and Employment Program) is a community-based specialty training program that addresses the specific skills needs of communities and promotes employment, particularly through entrepreneurial, self-employment and service-oriented activities. – Rappler.com

#StoryOfTheNation: Why does the 1989 UP-DND accord matter?

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Student political groups and alumni organizations in the University of the Philippines (UP) decried the termination of the government’s decades-long accord with the University of the Philippines (UP) that prevented state forces from entering its campuses.

The scrapping of the UP-Department of National Defense (DND) agreement has drawn flak, as students and various groups slammed the administration’s red-tagging and continuing crackdown on dissent.

The UP campuses have long been a refuge for student activists since the 1980s – a result of a long history of student disappearances, killings, and police and military violence within the vicinity of the campuses.

The accord again played a crucial role especially during the pandemic and the implementation of the anti-terror law, when UP campuses were go-to safe spaces for protests defying prior government warnings of arrests. (READ: UP, safe space to protest anti-terror law, is latest casualty in war on dissent)

In MovePH’s video campaign #StoryOfTheNation, we asked UP students, alumni, and faculty to share why they think the 1989 UP-DND accord matters.

For most of them, the UP-DND accord is more than just an agreement but a symbol of a decades-long sacrifice to protect democracy and uphold academic freedom.

“With the abrogation of DND from the sccord, not to mention the continued implementation of the unconstitutional anti-terror law, this spells the continued decay and eventual doom of democracy in the Philippines,” said Josh Cezar Serilo, Vice Chairperson for Political Affairs, Partido sang Mainuswagon nga Bumulutho of UP Visayas.

Students also stressed that this matter should not only concern the UP community but all Filipinos in general.

“With the people losing their safe space to express dissent, this also opens more opportunities for the state to attack and harass critics, empowering state agents to commit injustices under the auspices of the anti-terror law,” Serilo added.

“Railroading the right to academic freedom is a move out of a dictator’s playbook — it isn’t just the rights and safety of the UP community at risk, but it is simply a manifestation of how Duterte has no qualms about endangering the Filipino people,” said Hazel Day Gil, a student leader from the UP Diliman Extension Program in Pampanga.

In this video campaign, we put the spotlight on the members of the UP community who continue to make themselves heard, calling for the defense of academic freedom during this pivotal moment in history. – Rappler.com

This video is produced by Jene-Anne Pangue.

FAQs: Fact-checking to stop disinformation online

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With the continuous spread of disinformation and misinformation online, fact-checking has become a necessary basic skill and civic responsibility for responsible digital citizens.

Indeed, being able to spot, report, and debunk suspicious claims can go a long way.

MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm, has been conducting a series of fact-checking webinars, which focus on the methodology and processes of fact-checking, as well as how the practice applies in thematic areas and issues. Since April 3, we have conducted more than 20 webinars with over 3000 participants across the Philippines and even abroad.

In these webinars, we receive a lot of questions about fact-checking, from the technical side to its practical aspect: Why does it matter that we report false claims on Facebook to its third-party fact-checkers? Keen to respect family ties, how do we properly approach a relative sharing false information?

Here are some of the frequently asked questions in these MovePH seminars:

What is the best way to report a false claim on Facebook?

Social media users may report the suspicious post directly to Facebook. They can also submit the false claim to Facebook’s third-party fact-checking partners. In the Philippines, Rappler is one of the 3 fact-checking groups deputized by Facebook alongside Vera files and Agence France-Presse (AFP). 

What happens after we successfully fact-check a false claim?

After Rappler, as one of the official fact-checking partners of Facebook, finds a claim to be false, we publish a fact-check story and rate it on Facebook. This will slow down and eventually stop the spread of the false claim.

The false claim is then downgraded in the newsfeed. Those who shared the false claim will be notified about it and will be given a link to the fact check story so they will understand better why it was rated false. 

People or pages which habitually share things that are rated false or misleading are demonetized, so Facebook doesn’t allow them to earn money from their pages. (READ: How we do our fact-check)

What can I personally do to help combat disinformation?

Making a commitment to stop sharing false information is one major step you can take to improve the situation. Sometimes, even the best of us fall victim to fake “news” and share them. By always making it a point to verify and fact-check an information before sharing it, you are on the right track to stopping the spread of misinformation.

Another thing is to respectfully call out people who share and spread misinformation. When you see someone in your network or community sharing something false, you can send them a private message and let them know politely that what they are sharing is false. 

What is the best way to call the attention of a family member, relative, or friend who shares false information?

It’s very important to remember to be respectful, calm, and come equipped with facts and proof.

It’s common to encounter people close to us (friends, relatives, parents, etc.) sharing and believing in false information. Approaching the issue calmly and with respect will help them realize that you are only looking after their well-being. You can start by saying that the information they shared may be misleading and can cause harm or offense to other people. 

Then you can explain to them specifically how the information they shared is false, and open up a discussion about the impact of spreading dubious information. It’s also good to acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes and that what you are doing is not an attack on them. Let them know that they can also do the same to you should they ever see you spreading false or misleading information. 

How do you stop the spread of false information when there are people who do this for a living?

When you spot not just a single post with false information but an organized effort aggressively pushing out the same message, it’s no longer just misinformation, it’s propaganda.

This means that, aside from just fact-checking content, you also need to monitor information operators so you can report them to Rappler. When you report them to us, we are able to monitor their activity and get social media platforms to respond.

Fact-checking is just one way to prevent the spread of disinformation. Media and information literacy is another way to prevent it, so the public knows how to protect themselves from being influenced or falling for disinformation.

Got more questions about fact-checking? Register for MovePH’s webinar to learn how to spot fake “news” online. Follow MovePH on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest updates about these events. – Rappler.com

University of Saint Louis to help students get laptops for distance learning

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A Catholic university in Tuguegarao City has stepped up its efforts to help students cope with the demands of distance learning by providing financial aid that will allow benefactors to buy laptops without interest.

Through its laptop facility program, the University of Saint Louis Tuguegarao aims to help at least 20 students facing financial difficulties to get laptops to support their online classes. The program was launched on Monday, February 1. (WATCH: #PisoParaSaLaptop campaign brings gadgets to students in need)

“We will give the beneficiaries vouchers that need to be presented to our partner-supplier once they claim their laptops,” University of Saint Louis Tuguegarao President Fr Neil Sta. Ana said in an interview.

“They will pay the price of the laptop, without interest, to the university on an installment basis, until they can afford to pay the entire amount,” Sta Ana added. 

The funds that will be collected from the project’s first installment will be used as a revolving fund that will help another batch of students in need of laptops for online learning. (READ: #WalangIwanan: College students face challenges, delays during pandemic)

“The revolving fund is very limited but we hope to increase the number of recipients in the future,” he said. 

Interested students are given until Friday, February 5 to apply for the said program. Applications will undergo screening and deliberation procedures before the expected release of the list of beneficiaries on February 18, 2021.

The university has been providing ways to support its students throughout its shift to distance learning. In September 2020, the university launched the Luisyanong Alagad ni Kristo sa Asal at Diwa (LAKAD) Tayo Facebook live sessions, where students received prepaid load and WIFI kits by answering trivia questions. 

Students of the same university also initiated Project Walang Iwanan, a campaign providing prepaid load credits to students in need of internet connection for their online classes in June 2020.

The project raised over P65,000 and helped at least 200 students for the first semester of SY 2020-2021. 

Months before the nationwide resumption of classes, many Filipino students sought help on social media through the #PisoParaSaLaptop campaign to raise funds for gadgets. Others continue to find means to support their education. – Rappler.com 

‘There is more to the province than Yolanda’: Leyteño tops 2021 medtech licensure exam

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It was a dream come true for Fred Lawrence Samante when he ranked 1st in the January 2021 Medical Technologist Board Examination

A graduate from St. Scholastica’s College Tacloban (SSCT), Samante got a rating of 91.40% and bested 2,835 examinees nationwide.

“It felt like a dream…because the exam was hard. I had expectations that I [would] possibly fail, or that I [would] pass but [wouldn’t] make it to the top. I couldn’t imagine that I would make it to Top 1,” Samante said.

The 21-year-old hails from the municipality of Leyte in Leyte province, and is the older of two siblings. His father works as a farmer and barangay captain while his mother is a public school teacher.

He graduated valedictorian in high school and won various regional science quiz competitions. He then became a member of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and learned to love research in college.

More than just disaster survivors

Back in 2013, his family suffered a major loss after Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) took a toll on their agricultural farm, which was one of their sources of income. 

Super Typhoon Yolanda was the most devastating disaster to hit the Philippines in recent history, leaving more than 6,000 people dead and bringing massive damage to Eastern Visayas.

“Our house was partially destroyed, [and] the agricultural damage had a massive impact [on] us, because my father is a farmer and we had a lot of coconut trees. So when all the crops were gone, our source of income also declined. It was devastating. We had difficulty coping after Super Typhoon Yolanda,” Samante said in a mix of English and Filipino.

But the lessons he learned from the disaster also shaped the goals he wanted to pursue: “We were so thankful that God protected us from physical harm, though the devastation was great. I came to realize how fragile our life is, and therefore we need to find ways to protect and preserve it,” Samante said.

He decided he wanted to pursue medical technology and eventually medicine so he could help protect and preserve the lives of others, especially in times of need.

To support his education, he secured full tuition from his school by being a working scholar. 

As the lone topnotcher from Leyte, he hopes he could inspire other kababayans with his recent milestone, and that he could show that Leyte is more than just a province struck by a super typhoon. (READ: Medtech board topnotchers: Hard work is key to success)

“Whenever Leyte is mentioned, they’d immediately think of Typhoon Yolanda. And it makes me sad because Leyte has a lot more to offer,” he said.

“I hope that this achievement [makes] people see that Leyteños are also hardworking and excellent – hindi lang po ‘yung mga taong natamaan ng Yolanda (not just those people who were survivors of Yolanda),” Samante said. 

Samante draws inspiration from previous Leyte board topnotchers who made great contributions in the field of medicine, as well as his college professors who did research work and joined competitions abroad.

In fact, some of his mentors in the field were also among those who pushed for a coronavirus testing center in the province back in March 2020, to ensure public health and safety in Leyte amid the pandemic. This COVID-19 testing center was the first accredited molecular laboratory in Eastern Visayas.

Determined to pursue his dreams

Like any other journey to success, it wasn’t all smooth-sailing.

Samante recalled how he felt intimidated during his board exam review in Metro Manila, since most of the students came from big universities and colleges.

“Pagdating ko na sa review center, around 300 na ata po kami doon and saka magagaling po [yung mga students from other schools], and yung mga scores nila talagang ang tatataas. So parang napressure po ako doon, but at some point I [felt] motivated to study,” Samante said. 

(When I got to the review center, there were around 300 of us, and the students from other schools were really good, and their scores were very high. I felt pressured because of that, but at some point I felt motivated to study.)

But what became more challenging for him was when the government imposed a nationwide lockdown in a bid to control the spread of COVID-19, thus suspending the licensure exams that were supposed to be a few days away.

“I felt like I couldn’t do anything but review. [But it was hard to focus], because [I kept thinking there was] a chance that [the exams] might get canceled again. But a major lesson I learned here is that it’s important to really stick to your goal or your dream,” Samante said.

Hopes to be a doctor

One of the things he did to encourage himself was to recall the importance of medical technologists’ work, most especially now that they are at the forefront of the COVID-19 battle.

Samante added that he wants to pay his success forward by teaching aspiring medical technologists, leading information seminars within his own community, and pursuing research. He also hopes to earn a scholarship to study medicine.

He dedicates all these efforts to his grandfather, with whom he was very close since his parents were often out working.

“When my grandfather became sick, I felt so sad. From that time on, I really told myself I needed to find a way to help him. Then, he passed away. I realized it was too late but I knew I still needed to pursue my dream,” Samante recalled. 

“There are times when I would feel like my achievements are pointless knowing that my grandfather is no longer here, but I’d also think that maybe, by helping others, I can make him proud,” he added. 

Although he still has a long way to go to fully accomplish his dream, he said topping the board exams means a lot to him, especially as it is a way of expressing gratitude for the hard work and sacrifices of his family, professors, and mentors.

“Roman statesman Marcus Cicero once said that the higher we are placed, the more humbly we should walk. And I think, we should always look back and show gratitude to those people who are instrumental in achieving our goals,” he said. –Rappler.com


Despite delays, Cebu graduate becomes topnotcher in 2021 medtech licensure exam

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Samar native Salvador Cabrigas Sampayan Jr wanted to take the medical technologist licensure exam (MTLE) right after he graduated from Cebu’s Southwestern University PHINMA, but he only managed to do this two years later.

Despite personal and health problems – and amid the COVID-19 pandemic – Sampayan placed 6th in the January 2021 MTLE with a score of 89.50%. He was also the sole topnotcher from a Cebu-based college.

The results released on Monday, February 8, showed that 1,919 out of 2,835 exam-takers passed the MTLE.

‘Prince of Delays’

Calling himself the “Prince of Delays,” Sampayan encountered several hindrances to passing the MTLE – a stepping stone to his ultimate dream of becoming a doctor.

Originally from Samar, Sampayan moved to Cebu to study under a medical technology scholarship at Southwestern University PHINMA, where he graduated magna cum laude and received several other academic and student leadership honors in April 2019.

The journey was not entirely smooth-sailing for the Samar native, who struggled to maintain the scholarship’s required grade point average. He eventually lost his scholarship. Caught in the middle of family and financial struggles, Sampayan managed to get a Commission on Higher Education (CHED) scholarship to continue his education.

Sampayan was adamant in taking the MTLE in September 2019 and get a high enough ranking that will help secure him a medical scholarship.

Unfortunately, he was forced to put off the exam when he was diagnosed with diverticulitis – he developed small pouches in his colon walls. He also had to undergo dental surgery for an acute irreversible pulpitis, an infection that develops at the root of a tooth.

More than a year later, Sampayan was once again forced to put off taking the MTLE in March 2020 when it was postponed due to the pandemic.

Sampayan said that he was “caught off-guard” when it was announced that the MTLE will instead be held in January 2021 after several postponements throughout the pandemic. While he said he felt he wasn’t ready when he took the exam earlier this year, he also admitted that he had long hoped to be in the top 10 of the MTLE passers.

“I honestly wasn’t even looking for my name in the list of topnotchers because I really found the exam very hard,” he said, adding that he prayed as he searched for his name in the list of passers. 

Worth the wait

Sampayan said that he persevered so that can achieve his ultimate dream of becoming a doctor. Because of his high ranking in the 2021 MTLE, he got a medical school scholarship at the Southwestern University PHINMA. 

With medical school starting in August, Sampayan said that he intends to work as a part-time instructor at his alma mater and as a review center lecturer to “give back and share my knowledge.”

To aspiring medical technologists, Sampayan offered this advice: “Your dreams are always valid especially if they don’t jeopardize the people around you. Do not limit yourself based on the standards established by society!”

He also urged others to stay strong in pursuing their dream despite the setbacks that they may face.

“To those people who have experienced several delays, always remember that real success is not based on the timeline made by society. We have different pacing as we go through our own journeys…. Just focus on your lane and stop comparing your progress with others. Clap for them in their success, and when the time is right, you’ll be the one that they’ll be clapping for,” he said.

Southwestern University PHINMA was ranked as the 3rd best-performing school at the 2021 MTLE, with a first-timer passing rate of 94.12% and an overall passing rate of 89.09%. – Rappler.com

Worried Filipinos open up after viral tweet on health emergencies

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How do you feel that with just one hospitalization due to a major sickness, you could lose all of your hard-earned money – including your life savings?

This was the discussion on Saturday, February 13, after Twitter user @claudiopoy posted about the cause of his anxiety in his Twitter thread.

As of posting time, the series of tweets garnered more than a thousand retweets and over 8,000 likes, with netizens sharing the same worries about financing medical emergencies.

As Filipinos were left to fend for themselves, some netizens said they got health insurance for when a medical emergency arises.

But what happens to poor Filipinos who cannot afford to pay for a safety net once they get sick?

Poor health care system

This personal but collective anxiety emanated somewhere, according to the discussions.

Systemic problems in health care caused this stress – from inadequacies of the Philippine health care system to the alleged corruption involving officers of government health institutions, such as in the case of the state insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

The coronavirus pandemic added fuel to the fire, as it is now more costly to undergo treatment once an individual gets sick with COVID-19. (READ: Getting treated for coronavirus comes with a hefty price tag

Read more sentiments on this issue below.

In the Philippines, COVID-19 cases have reached 547,255 as of February 13, 2021 – with 11,507 deaths and at least 500,781 recoveries. – Rappler.com

Eastern Samar surf club gives mentorship, equipment to young surfers in Borongan

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Aspiring surfers in Borongan City, Eastern Samar, received early Valentine gifts on February 13: P150,000 worth of surf equipment from the Surfriders Club of Eastern Samar (SCES) and local surfboard shaper Pokdaw Surfboards.

Six brand new surfboards and accessories were given to groms – young people who enjoy surfing – in Borongan City on on February 13. The beneficiaries were chosen based on their potential to enhance their skills, as well as their perseverance.

TURNOVER. Surf mentor Junder Bazar turns over board accessories to the kids.
Photo by Rupert Ambil

But there’s a catch. The recipients have to follow 4 conditions for using the equipment. These are:

  1. Staying in school and studying well
  2. Helping their elders in the household
  3. Being productive and law-abiding members of their community
  4. Not having vices

“We set these conditions to emphasize to these kids that education and good values are important to the surfing community. We want to train not just skilled groms, but also law-abiding surfers that care for their community,” SCES president Rupert Ambil said. 

Surf champs and “kuyas” of the SCES also agreed to mentor the next generation of surfers by overseeing the use of equipment for the young athletes. The club thanked the members and friends of the organization who pooled resources to acquire the needed equipment for the mentorship program. 

TEACH. Local surf champ Totoy Rosel teaches the kids how to take care of the board.
Photo by Rupert Ambil
Next in line

As they received new equipment, the young surfers passed their junior boards to the next generation of surfers.

One recipient of a new surfboard turned over his old board to a new grom. Because boards were made for them at a young age, they outgrow the size of the equipment as they get older. Although this particular surfboard was handed to its 3rd owner, it is still in good condition. It was one of the very first boards donated by surfboard shaper Brandale Balid.

Shaper Brandale Balid has been sponsoring members of the surf club since he learned how to make boards. Almost all of the boards used in the Surf in the City Festival in Borongan City in 2019 were shaped at his shop, and sponsored by him. 

Surfriders Club of Eastern Samar, the oldest surf club in Eastern Samar, organized the festival with the City Government of Borongan. The event gathered almost 100 of the best surfers in the country.

Surf in the City served as the final leg of the Philippine Surfing Championship Tour (PSCT) where they recognized the top surfers in the country including the surfers who represented the country in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. 

The event boosted tourism opportunities for Borongan City as the 5-day festival hosted various sporting competitions aside from surfing, evening concerts featuring local bands and talents, and a product expo featuring of some of the best products from the province. 

“Whenever I see my boards being used by surfers and getting stoked on what I made, I feel as if I am the one using it,” Brandale said.

Outreach programs

This is not the first time the surf organization held outreach programs like this. When the lockdown began in March 2020, SCES was the first to produce face shields in Eastern Samar. What started out as a small project with a target to create 100 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE), eventually rose to 1,000 pieces. 

These PPE were distributed to medical health workers and uniformed personnel who are on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19. 

Because of this, the Borongan city government recognized the Surf Riders Club of Eastern Samar as “local heroes” on June 30, 2020.

After the success of the first-ever Surf in the City Festival in December 2019, partners from different surfer groups around the Philippines contributed to support local surfers in Eastern Samar economically affected by COVID-19.

To alleviate the economic effects of COVID-19, the United Philippine Surfing Association (UPSA) , the Philippine Surfing Championship Tour (PSCT), and the Surf Riders Club of Eastern Samar (SCES) came together to provide aid to local surfers in Eastern Samar.

Around 80 surfers from Borongan City, Maydolong, Llorente, and Taft in Eastern Samar received relief packs containing 5 kilograms of rice, 3 cans of sardines, 3 cans beef loaf/corned beef, and 3 packs of noodles.

The United Philippine Surfing Association, through Luke Landrigan of PSCT, facilitated the fund to support the surfers of Eastern Samar. Ambil activated the club’s quick response team and provided a counterpart fund for this project.

As the pandemic stretches on, Surfriders Club of Eastern Samar continues to support its local surfing community and to put Borongan City on the map as a surf city. – Rappler.com

How you can help detained Lumad teachers, students, and elders in Cebu City

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Several Lumad are in need of help after they were taken into custody by members of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Central Visayas office (PRO-7).

On Monday, February 15, 26 Lumad teachers, students, and elders taking refuge at the University of San Carlos–Talamban (USC) campus were captured by the Central Visayas Police, with the help of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Police called it a “rescue operation,” while human rights advocates called it a “raid.”

A video posted by Save Our Schools Network shows children staying at USC screaming as police forcefully take them away.

Police have turned over the custody of the 19 detained minors to the City Social Welfare and Development Office of Cebu, while the 7 adults, including University of the Philippines alumnus Chad Booc, are still in the custody of the Central Visayas Police.

The 7 detained adults have so far been sued in Davao del Norte for serious illegal detention and kidnapping on Wednesday afternoon, February 17. Rappler has been unable to get a response from the Cebu police if the complaints were filed by the parents or other individuals from the province, where most of the Lumad school members came from.

The Save Our Schools Network (SOS) has launched a donation campaign to provide for the needs of the captured Lumad students, teachers, and elders.

According to the network, the detained Lumads were still not given provisions since Tuesday, February 16.

SOS is accepting in-kind donations like food, water, clothes, sleeping materials, and hygiene kits for the detained Lumad.

You may drop off your in-kind donations at:

UCCP-Western Visayas Jurisdictional Area, CENDET, Osmeña Boulevard, Cebu City.

Look for Jophet or Karen.

You may also send your monetary donations through the following channels:

BDO
Account Name: Lea Celine Lagundi
Account Number: 007680256591

BPI
Account Name: Claire Obejas
Account Number: 4499113264

GCash
Account Name: Jhonn Isidor Supelanas
Account Number: 09453813059

Paypal
E-mail address: supelanas@gmail.com
Link: paypal.me/supelanas

– Rappler.com

Cebu student’s story tackling mental health shines at UK literary contest

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When the Philippines imposed quarantine measures starting March 2020, many Filipinos found themselves forced to stay at home to keep safe against COVID-19.

As a way to cope with the uncertainty and isolation caused by the pandemic, 21-year-old student Christian Andrei Laplap found comfort in writing stories. (READ: During these days of solitude, consider these books)

Laplap, a third year psychology major at the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu, said he wrote “stories floating around my head” to help him get through the pandemic. 

But little did he know that his pandemic-inspired piece would earn him an international literary achievement.

Laplap’s “The Oddities That is Them,” is among the short stories selected to be on the Editor’s Choice winning list under the 2020 International Hammond House Literary Prize.

Hammond House Publishing’s International Literary Prize is an annual literary competition based in the United Kingdom. The University Centre Grimsby sponsors this contest, awarding the winners with cash as well as the publication of their submissions.

Behind the winning peace

Laplap has been a freelance writer since 2013. As he wrote stories during the pandemic, mostly revolving around the flaws of being human, the Cebu City resident began to look for literary contests online.

This was how he found out about Hammond House Publishing’s 2020 International Literary Prize, and he submitted his short story on May 23, 2020.

His story revolved around a sidewalk chance encounter of two luggage-carrying protagonists, who collided and subsequently engaged in a life-changing conversation.

The young writer then edited one of his pandemic-inspired outputs,  “The Oddities That is Them,” to suit the competition’s “survival” theme.

Laplap said his tale was inspired by the power of social interaction and finding oneself by talking to others, which he himself had realized during the quarantine. “Human connections are important,” he said.

Laplap also explored emotional baggage and discussed about “personal issues – heavy luggages – that stick with us, and how traumas are a part of us and can be healed by us.” 

The writer said he wanted to convey through his writing how “the breadth of mental health issues is under-recognized” during the pandemic. (READ: Mental health toll of pandemic ‘devastating’ – WHO)

Laplap decided to focus his narrative on mental health because he noticed how people, both online and offline, are left to face their own issues, especially because of the long-term social isolation that the health crisis brought about. 

More stories to come

Laplap said he wasn’t expecting much from his piece, as he’s not a native English speaker and that there was a large volume of submissions worldwide. He said that he felt stunned and grateful to receive Hammond House’s email informing him of his win. 

He said the recognition is an opportunity to improve his writing, allowing him to explore different writing styles and themes to relate to a diverse audience. (READ: ‘Diary of a COVID-19 Patient’: A Baguio doctor’s journey)

Hoping to pursue his passion and inspire others with his stories, Laplap shared that he looks forward to joining other literary contests in the future.

“As long as there’s a story to tell, I will continue to write and send in entries,” he said.

He encouraged other aspiring Filipino writers to focus first on what they’re passionate about, research on that subject, and then write to inspire others, without looking at the incentives that they may earn. 

“The writing journey is a discovery of self, of what you’re capable of, and the tales you’re able to tell…. That journey is enough of a reward,” Laplap said. 

The UP Cebu student is set to join the competition’s online awards ceremony on Saturday, February 27.

The nonprofit organization and publishing company is also scheduled to release all shortlisted pieces, including Lapap’s, in its 2021 poetry and short story anthology later this year. — Rappler.com  

Guno Kem Ye: A halfway maternity home for T’boli mothers

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In the town of Surallah, South Cotabato, members of the T’boli tribe continue to struggle with access to maternal health services.

Aside from living far from the town’s center and having few modes of transportation, T’boli mothers are averse to the idea of giving birth in hospitals. They prefer giving birth at home to practice their traditional rituals such as having a hilot (midwife) present during delivery and using malong (Filipino wraparound skirt) so as not to expose their private parts.

This is why 30-year-old Emmanuel Hope “Emman” Gruzo, a private sector accountant from the town, dreamt of bridging health and cultural divides in the community. Together with the T’boli community, he built Guno Kem Ye (T’boli translation for Mother’s Home), a culturally sensitive halfway maternity home where T’boli mothers can stay for free a week before their scheduled delivery date.

A NEW START. Emmanuel Hope Gruzo speaking during Guno Kem Ye’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Photo by Dexter Calawigan

“As much as IP communities have things to learn from us, we have also so much to learn from them. They have grounded knowledge in health. If we can merge science and tradition, we might be heading to the next innovation in maternal health practice,” Emman said in an interview.

Halfway maternity home

Since 2009, Emman and his family have owned the Gruzo Maternity Clinic (GMC), the only lying-in clinic in Surallah town located in Barangay Colongulo at the outskirts of the población.  Even though GMC offers very low-cost services to indigent mothers, T’boli women rarely go to the GMC to give birth.

When he became a fellow of the Asian Institute of Management’s (AIM) Future Bridging Leaders Program (FBLP) in 2019, Emman began to explore further the problem of maternal health in his community. With guidance from his AIM mentors and its partners, and from consultations with the T’boli tribe, Emman came up with the idea of putting up Guno Kem Ye within the GMC compound as his change project for the fellowship.

REST. Datu Fedil Ditan sitting at the veranda of Guno Kem Ye.
Photo by Ryan Vidanes

Guno Kem Ye encourages T’boli mothers to be prepared for childbirth within a culturally sensitive environment. During their stay in Guno Kem Ye, T’boli mothers are regularly visited by midwives from GMC to check their vital signs and if they are nearing labor.

T’boli mothers who have low-risk pregnancies and are bound for normal spontaneous deliveries will be brought to the GMC. Those who have high-risk pregnancies will be referred to the provincial hospital.

Guno Kem Ye has partnered with the municipal government of Surallah for the use of am ambulance in the transportation of pregnant mothers. They have also secured from the government a supply of one sack of rice every month for the food of T’boli mothers.

“The team behind Guno Kem Ye are people who do not only think of themselves, but also the benefit of humanity. We are very fortunate here in the LGU (local government unit) to have individuals like them,” said Vice Mayor Pinky Divinagracia during the ribbon-cutting ceremony last February 2.

Integrating culturally sensitive practices

The interior of Guno Kem Ye was designed in consultation with T’boli traditional midwives Ye Carmen Fiang and Monding Ditan. The T’boli community created 4 units of bayog, a traditional bed made of bamboo, for use of pregnant mothers in Guno Kem Ye. T’boli musical instruments called Hegelung are also displayed inside to make T’boli mothers feel at home.

BED. 4 units of bayog, the T’boli traditional bed, inside Guno Kem Ye.
Photo by Ryan Vidanes

During normal spontaneous deliveries at GMC, a malong will be used to cover the mothers’ private parts so they will feel comfortable. The T’boli mothers can also bring with them their chosen hilot who will be present during their delivery and attend to them after they have given birth. Emman and his team are exploring traditional medicinal herbs to be given to mothers to speed up their healing.

Engaging the community online

The collective efforts of the community within and outside Surallah made Guno Kem Ye possible. When the project was just at its initial phase, Emman was sent by his company to Papua New Guinea in October 2019 which was extended to December 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions. But it did not stop him from pursuing the project.

Emman’s family members and GMC staff helped him conduct face-to-face consultations with members of the T’boli tribe. For his part, Emman communicated online with local government officials, businesses, civil society organizations, and individuals who are interested in supporting the project.

When he got the chance to return to the Philippines for two weeks in January 2020, he spent most of his time visiting the T’boli community and talking to tribal leaders instead of going on vacation.

Back in Papua New Guinea, Emman maximized the use of Facebook to launch an online crowdfunding campaign for Guno Kem Ye’s construction. In a public post, he bared a list of the construction materials needed and their corresponding costs, along with labor fees. Interested individuals could comment “mine” + “name of construction material” to pledge financial support for the project.

By the end of the crowdfunding campaign, Emman was able to raise a total of P72,398 in cash donations, on top of in-kind donations, for Guno Kem Ye’s construction.

Support from other bridging leaders

Other Bridging Leadership fellows from AIM helped Emman throughout his journey with the Guno Kem Ye project.

Ryan Vidanes, executive director of the RD Foundation and AIM Bridging Leaders’ Initiative for Climate Resilience (BLICR) fellow, provided a cash grant and donated medicine cabinets and bedside tables for Guno Kem Ye. Emman’s co-fellows from the FBLP also gave cash and in-kind donations, along with emotional support and continuous encouragement.

“Dream, co-dream, and co-create for attaining a better life for the community – Guno Kem Ye provides a venue for collaboration,” Maria Luz Go, social entrepreneur and AIM Mindanao Bridging Leaders Program (MBLP) fellow, said about Emman’s project.

Go has mentored Emman throughout his leadership journey with AIM and provided funding for the installation of solar panels in Guno Kem Ye.

Embrace from the T’boli community

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Jocelyn Labrodo, Indigenous People’s Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Barangay Little Baguio (near Barangay Colongulo), expressed her gratitude to project proponents.

“Thank you very much to those who came up with this project. Finally, someone remembered us. We can hardly express the joy that we feel,” Labrodo said.

T’BOLI CELEBRATION. Jocelyn Labrodo, IPMR of Barangay Little Baguio, and Ye Carmen Fiang, T’boli traditional midwife, dance in front of Guno Kem Ye during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Photo by Dexter Calawigan

The IPMRs in the barangays in Surallah and nearby municipalities Tboli and Lake Sebu committed to encourage T’boli women in their community to schedule their stay in Guno Kem Ye. They will serve as coordinators for the women’s arrival and departure from the facility.

Ronald Taplan, IPMR of the Surallah municipal government, plans to set meetings with the Sangguniang Bayan and other IPMRs to advocate for the training and deployment of T’boli health personnel who can assist in Guno Kem Ye.

Emman is working towards his next goal of giving formal training and licenses to T’boli traditional midwives so they themselves can facilitate childbirth for their women without facing legal consequences. He also hopes to replicate Guno Kem Ye in other parts of the country to spread further his advocacy of bridging health and cultural divides in IP communities. – Rappler.com

Pamela Mendoza works as a Research and Training Associate at the AIM TeaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership. 

IN PHOTOS: Surigao del Sur flooded due to Tropical Storm Auring

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Although Tropical Storm Auring (Dujuan) has yet to make landfall, parts of Surigao del Sur were already massively flooded on Sunday, February 21, due to the Philippines’ first tropical cyclone for 2021.

Surigao del Sur’s capital of Tandag City, especially, has been struggling with the heavy rain brought by Auring.

Some houses in Tandag City were submerged in floodwater on Sunday, prompting the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to send response groups to help in evacuation and rescue operations in coordination with local government units (LGUs).

To help provide relief, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), through its field office in Caraga, has given initial assistance of P179,000 worth of food and non-food items to affected LGUs in the region as of Saturday, February 20.

Based on a report by the DSWD Caraga field office, a total of 3,858 families or 14,233 individuals from various areas in the region were affected by Auring. Most of the affected families or at least 12,081 individuals have sought refuge in evacuation centers set up by LGUs, according to the DSWD.

The DSWD Caraga field office also reported that at least 142 houses were damaged by the disaster.

Surigao del Sur Governor Alexander Pimentel advised the public to coordinate with local authorities for evacuation and other emergency instructions.

Those in need of rescue or evacuation assistance in Surigao del Sur may also coordinate with PCG District Northern Mindanao via any of the following numbers: 0953-397-6127 or 0951-091-4219.

Auring is expected to make landfall in the Dinagat Islands-Eastern Samar-Leyte area on Monday morning, February 22.

Below are some of the photos of the flooding in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur:

HIGH WATER. Flooding in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur, caused by heavy rain from Tropical Storm Auring on February 21, 2021.
Photo by Governor Alexander Pimentel
Tandag City
Photo by Governor Alexander Pimentel
Tandag City
Photo by Governor Alexander Pimentel
THE VIEW ABOVE. Aerial photo showing the massive flooding in Tandag City caused by Tropical Storm Auring.
Photo by Governor Alexander Pimentel
HELPING OUT. Members of the Philippine Coast Guard help affected families in Barangay San Agustin, Tandag City, Surigao del Sur, evacuate on February 21, 2021.
Photo from The Philippine Coast Guard
FLOODED. A view of some flooded houses in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur. The 36th Infantry Battalion deployed disaster response teams to help those affected.
Photo from 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army

– Rappler.com


Journalists, educators urge student press to fight disinformation in campuses

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How important is the role of campus journalists in the fight against disinformation?

In an online national conference on democracy and disinformation hosted by the University of the Philippines (UP) Visayas on Monday, February 22, media practitioners and educators highlighted the significance of campus journalism in preserving democracy given the current online landscape. 

At a time when red-tagging has been used to attack universities and campuses, UP Diliman journalism professor Ma Diosa Labiste said there was a need for “counterspeech.”  

“We have to create counterspeech or a speech that refutes hate speech, disinformation, fake news, or dangerous speech,” Labiste said. 

The Duterte administration has a long track record of red-tagging universities and its students. Since 2018, the government has accused without providing proof at least 18 universities as being recruitment grounds of communists.

This is also despite the fact that it is not illegal to be a communist or to hold beliefs under that ideology after the Anti-Subversion Law, which previously made it a crime to be a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines, was repealed nearly 3 decades ago.

The government has also used state-owned platforms to attack the media, released statements and actions that undermine the concept of academic freedom, and even posted an erroneous list red-tagging alumni of UP.

Campus pubs as “counterspeech”

“By allowing the government to choose words to say, or ideas we may engage with, stifles academic freedom and freedom of speech, which are essential to one’s education, and for democracy,” Labiste said. 

In order to combat red-tagging as a form of disinformation, Labiste said student publications can use campus journalism as a counterspeech: “Be brave. Engage in counterspeech. History is on your side.”

“When Marcos shut down the press, campus publications were also shut down. It was only years later when they were allowed to operate. So there’s this tradition of campus press of asserting press freedom,” Labisted added. 

Labiste also stressed that campus journalists can do better than other mainstream media because they are not tied to corporate sponsors and commercial investors. 

“Campus publication fills the gaps left by mainstream media. We call it counter reporting. Some news are not so sexy for commercial media or in mainstream media to cover but campus press have been covering the issues,” Labiste said. 

While journalism has evolved, UP Diliman College of Mass Communication professor Yvonne Chua echoed Labiste citing how fact-checking done in the digital era is also a form of counterspeech. 

“It [fact-checking] is more complicated, however, [as] it necessitates a plethora of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques,” she said, emphasizing the importance of implementing educational interventions to combat disinformation. 

In a research she conducted, Chua’s findings showed that there were still individuals who misclassified news that were critical of the state or the president as fake. Authoritarian leaders have cultivated this sentiment .

“One of the things that we need to remember as journalists is to never abandon our duty to verify information,” she said.

In 2019, UP and its partners from other universities and several media organizations established “Tsek.ph,” a website consolidating claims they’ve fact-checked in connection with the May 2019 Philippine elections.

“As long as your sanity can take it, let not disinformation be the reason for you to break down, because should you let disinformation break you down, disinformation experts would have won today,” Chua said.

Preserving democracy in campuses

For UP Visayas Chancellor Clement Camposano, academic institutions need campus journalists who are not only good at reporting but are also “generous with their opinion and will not shy away from hot button issues.”

“We should stop thinking of campus journalism as some kind of an embellishment, something like an extracurricular activity. It’s way more than that. You have to think of how campus journalism is an essential ingredient in maintaining the spirit of discourse inside campuses. They play a very important academic role,” Camposano added. 

Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist John Nery said that campus journalism should not be seen as “as practice journalism.” 

“We need to think of campus journalism right side up. We may have thought before that campus journalism is prior to real journalism, practice for real journalism. Instead, we should look at it as part of a continuum of very real  and sometimes very necessary journalism,” he said.

He added that campus journalism, in fact, can be used not only as a loudspeaker for campuses but also as a megaphone to reach other citizens worldwide.

“We use our campus publications to discuss school concerns but at the same time, we also have to realize that we occupy a position of privilege and that our campuses are surrounded by what we can call as communities of risks. And that we can very easily turn our campus publications into community megaphones,” Nery said. 

Nery added that campus journalists can not only utilize digital technology to redefine journalism but to also explore ways on how this could be used to serve as a platform for the public.

This webinar focusing on campus journalism is the 1st of the 3-day national online conference organized by UP Visayas in partnership with MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm. More than 220 participants from various schools and organizations joined the event.

The other sessions of the national conference will tackle more about “Clickbait: Media and the Rise of Disinformation” and “Power of the People and the Press” on February 24 and 26, respectively.

The conference is free and interested participants must register through this link or visit 2021 Democracy and Disinformation by UP Visayas Facebook page – with a report from Ysabel Vidor/Rappler.com

LIST: Protests, activities in commemoration of 35th EDSA anniversary

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More than 3 decades ago, Filipinos ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos and restored democracy in the country through the historic People Power Revolution.

February 25, 1986, was the rapture that ended the tyrannical Marcos rule which was marked by rampant human rights abuses, shameless raids of the country’s coffers and the ironfisted suppression of dissent.

In commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the People Power Revolution, several groups have lined up activities and protests to emphasize the importance of keeping democracy alive . The activities come as the Philippines goes through the high-handed rule of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Here are some of the activities happening:

Galing Pook’s ‘TBH: May Sense pa ba sa Mga Kabataan Ang EDSA?

To engage the youth in politics and help highlight the importance of democracy, non-governmental organization Galing Pook will stage a webisode on Wednesday, February 24 from 5-6:30 pm.

The discussion features Executive Director of Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking Rafaela David, community organizer and activist during the Martial Law years Dinky Soliman, Sangguniang Kabataan Chairperson of Bay, Laguna Roy Padrid, and SIKLAB Pilipinas founder Saje Molato for Galing Pook’s webisode titled “TBH: May sense pa ba sa mga kabataan ang EDSA?”

Those interested to watch the episode may watch through Galing Pook’s Facebook page.

Active Vista’s exclusive screening of The Kingmaker

Active Vista will host an exclusive virtual screening of Lauren Greenfield’s acclaimed documentary The Kingmaker starting Thursday, February 25. The documentary centers on former first lady Imelda Marcos, and takes an in-depth look at the legacy left behind by the Marcos regime, as well as how their dynasty continues to assert power in today’s government.

Interested viewers may pre-order their tickets at a discounted price of P150 each by filling out this form. The ticket’s regular price is P200. The exclusive virtual screening is available only for viewers in the Philippines.

FSUU Political Science and Economics Society’s ‘The People’s Power: Then and Now

Father Saturnino Urios University (FSUU) Political Science and Economics Society will hold a webinar titled, “The People’s Power: Then and Now” on Thursday, February 25 from 1-4pm.

The webinar will tackle the Filipinos’ historical revolution to topple dictator Marcos, and how the youth can take inspiration from it to improve the country’s situation. The webinar features Loretta Rosales, chair emeritus of the AKBAYAN Citizens Action Party with an opening message by Rep. Lawrence Fortun, representative of Agusan Del Norte (1st District).

Interested attendees may watch the webinar through Facebook live or Zoom. To join the webinar, people may register through: https://forms.gle/QNesMYgWtGt98wP48

UST Department of History’s ‘Ano Ang Ating Narating?

After conducting a series of webinars tackling historical events in the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas Department of History will stage its 7th webinar now focused on the People Power Revolution. The webinar titled “Ika-35 Anibersaryo ng EDSA People Power Revolution: Ano ang ating narating?” will tackle the Philippines’ current political climate after the historic revolt.

Professor Jose Torres and Professor Van Ybiernes from the Department of History of De La Salle University, Manila will be speaking in the webinar on Thursday, February 25 from 10 am to 12 pm. 

Interested attendees may register through this link: bit.ly/USTDeptHist7thWebinar-REG

March to People Power Monument

Groups such as the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, League of Filipino Students, Anakbayan, and Student Christian movement of the Philippines will be marching to the People Power Monument on Thursday, February 25 to condemn the authoritarian rule of the Duterte administration. The march will start at the Department of National Defense EDSA Gate at 10 am. – with reports from Ysabel Vidor/Rappler.com

35 years after People Power, groups say fight for democracy ‘not over’

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Although 35 years have passed since the historic People Power Revolution that resulted in the ousting of a dictator, several groups asserted that the fight for democracy is not yet over.

During the 35th anniversary of the People Power Revolution on Thursday, February 25, groups raised how Filipinos must continue to fight for the country’s democracy, especially during President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

35 taon na ang lumipas mula nang palayain ng nagkakaisang hanay ng masa ang buong sambayanan laban sa diktadurya at pang-aabuso ng rehimeng Marcos. Ngayong patuloy na lumalala ang krisis na kinahaharap ng bansa…Hindi pa tapos ang laban para sa pambansang demokrasya at pantay-pantay na karapatan,” said Anakbayan Nueva Ecija.

(35 years have passed since the people fought against dictatorship and the abuses of the Marcos regime. Now the country’s crisis continues to worsen…The fight for the country’s democracy and equal rights is not yet over.)

Authoritarian rule

Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), an organization of victims and survivors of Martial Law, pointed out how the actions of the Duterte administration closely mirror the authoritarian rule of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“Eerily, 35 long years after People Power, we feel like it’s 1970s all over again…The government is again focused on spreading fake information and creating its own demons in the guise of ‘counter-insurgency programs’ and outright red-tagging. The judiciary and legislative bodies are again dominated by the administration’s allies and pawns. More importantly, all lead to one common denominator: another dictator is threatening our democracy in the name of Rodrigo Duterte,” SELDA said. 

SELDA emphasized that the implementation of the Anti-Terror Law showed how Duterte legalized a witch hunt against activists and critics, similar to what Marcos did during Martial Law. The nearly decade-long period of the nationwide martial law from 1972 to 1981 was marred by thousands of killings, disappearances, and persecution of critics of the Marcos regime.

Alternatibong Katipunan ng mga Mag-aaral sa University of the Philippines said that the anti-terror law is used to stifle dissent and not to counter terrorism, as the administration claims. 

Hindi makatarungan ang anti-terror law kasi kami mismo nakaranas ng pangigipit nang nagprotesta kami noong July. Kung terorista ka sa mata ng kapulisan, yung ang paniniwalaan nila,” shared Renella Pineda, League of Filipino Student’s-Cagayan Valley spokesperson, and one of the arrested activists in Tuguegarao City at the height of the nationwide State of the Nation Address protests in 2020. 

(The anti-terror law is unjust, we know this because we experienced its wrath when we got arrested in July 2020 during a protest. When the police see you as a terrorist, that’s what they will believe in.) 

Groups also raised the high number of extrajudicial killings under Duterte’s term, with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency recording 5,526 deaths during anti-drug operations by the government from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2019.

Rights groups, however, estimate the drug war to have claimed as much as 27,000 lives, including the victims of vigilante-style killings.

“There remain a myriad of circumstances that mirror the grim turn of events during Marcos’ regime, some of which include the unlawful killings that is made visible by thousands of unclassified extrajudicial cases, red-tagging of progressive groups and individuals, evasive campus militarization, suppressing the media through threat and intimidation,” Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista said.

Groups also pointed out another similarity: curtailment of press freedom through the ABS-CBN shutdown, among others. The College Education Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) said that the situation of campus journalism hasn’t changed in either administration too, adding that several campus publications and journalists are still vulnerable to harassment and surveillance, especially when they dissent. 

CEGP described their plight as “different situations, times, and names, but only in one form.”

“What’s Martial Law back then is the Anti-Terrorism Law today, the red-tagging of NTF-ELCAC, the railroading of Charter Change, the endless corruption schemes, the Oplan Tokhang, the continuous price hike of basic commodities and privatization of services, the shutdown of ABS-CBN,” said Girls for Peace.

‘Not just another holiday’

Remembering the essence of the People Power Revolution on its 35th anniversary, groups called on Filipinos to help preserve democracy and demand accountability from the government on various issues. 

“The pandemic has made our futures appear bleak, but we must not cease in the fight for a society that is grounded on social justice, genuine development, and the empowerment of all its sectors,” Kilos Ko Youth said in a statement. 

Kilos Ko Youth added that the martyrdom of the previous generation should inspire Filipinos to prevent another authoritarian rule from happening.

The Ateneo Professional Schools Community, in a joint solidary statement, asked the Duterte administration to effectively strategize and follow evidence-based recommendations from medical societies, academic institutions, and other groups in implementing the vaccination phase.

They also called upon local leaders to continually provide the necessary mental and financial support that will capacitate its people, especially those from the vulnerable sectors. 

CEGP, meanwhile, magnified its call to junk the anti-terror law and expressed its continuous fight to defend press freedom and academic freedom. 

“With rampant attempts to distort our history through mis- and disinformation, we are challenged to remember and be inspired by the real stories of revolution in our history,” said the We the Future PH, a non-partisan movement of Filipino youth. 

“To combat this, we have to engage in discussions to keep the conversation going, join organizations that aim to protect democracy, and exercise our right of suffrage,” it added. – with reports from Vincent Verzola/Rappler.com

On #EDSA35, netizens urge Filipinos to register for 2022 elections

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Filipinos online revisited the lessons of the EDSA People Power Revolution as the whole nation commemorated its 35th anniversary on Thursday, February 25.

On February 25, 1986, millions of Filipinos from all walks of life marched as one to topple dictator Ferdinand Marcos, paving the way for the return of democracy in the country.

Six presidencies later, democracy in the Philippines has come under threat as human rights abuses, attacks on the media, and assault against academic freedom persist under the Duterte administration.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesperson James Jimenez and other netizens said Filipinos can best commemorate the EDSA anniversary by registering to vote.

https://twitter.com/JerriAC/status/1364891470960812032

Others called on Filipinos to reject historical revisionism.

Netizens also said that the EDSA People Power Revolution should serve as a constant reminder for Filipinos to stand up against threats to democracy, including the controversial anti-terror law.

Former University of the Philippines Student Regent Raoul Manuel believes that if Filipinos can topple a dictatorship 35 years ago, they can certainly do it again.

Some netizens said the EDSA Revolution serves as reminder of the power of united Filipinos to stand up against tyranny and injustice.

Other netizens said that the 1986 Revolution was not entirely “bloodless” as many lives were lost during the Marcos years, and that upholding the vision of EDSA is a way to honor these people.

Here’s what other netizens had to say:

– with reports from Eala Nolasco/Rappler.com

In St. Luke’s webinar series, health leaders tackle changes needed in health sector

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“What is the future of health in the Philippines?”

This is the central question that the webinar series “The Future of Health” aims to answer. The webinar was launched at the St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) College of Medicine through its new Planetary and Global Health Program that convened health leaders from the Philippines and abroad.

In order to envision the future of health in the post-coronavirus era, doctors must first arrive at a working diagnosis of the health condition. The same is true of the Filipino nation.

Shermon Cruz , vice president of the Philippine Futures Thinking Society, pointed out the gaps in the healthcare system. “We created a healthcare system that is inaccessible, inefficient, expensive, and elitist,” he said.

For Cruz, the health sector has also rendered patients powerless, which should not be the case.

“Patients are also capable of providing the solutions. We must empower patients to become the new healthcare decision makers. Healthcare must aim to personalize and not generalize. We also want health promotion rather than mere treatment of disease,” said Einstein Rojas, a board member of the Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations.

Importance of prevention and community

“Medicine has also become too much focused on cure. The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the importance of preventive health services,” said SLMC College of Medicine Dean Dr. Susan Pelea-Nagtalon, citing the need to provide solutions through a patient-centered approach.

Dr. Jeremy Lim, director of the Leadership Institute for Global Health Transformation based at the National University of Singapore, shared Singapore’s experience in moving from healthcare to health creation.

“Over the years, our government increased the budget for health promotion. We pay Singaporeans a few dollars to walk a certain number of steps per week. Fundamentally, we pay people to be healthy. Paying a couple of cents today will save us hundreds of dollars 20 to 30 years from now,” he said.

Lim also challenged the hospital-oriented and specialist-centric model of healthcare not only in the Philippines but across Asia. 

Nagtalon said there is a need to reorient health services, asking, “Do we serve only those who come to the hospital, or those who do not come to the hospital?”

She acknowledged that medical schools such as St. Luke’s will need to be at the forefront of this necessary shift in healthcare. In recent years and especially during the pandemic, the college introduced innovations including new course offerings in community and global health.

Essential primary care

To bring health to the communities, a functional primary care system is also essential. 

“Primary care requires a team of healthcare providers – more than just a physician – that is taking care of families and communities,” said Dr. Beverly Ho, director of the Health Promotion Bureau of the Department of Health.

Austere Panadero, executive director of the Zuellig Family Foundation – which works with mayors to strengthen local health systems in rural areas – cited the importance of improving the skills of barangay health workers. 

“We must value most especially the barangay health workers – we must ensure they are able to develop the right competencies so they can perform what they are expected to do,” said Panadero.

These multiple shifts that need to happen in the health sector –involving patients in coming up with solutions, focusing on prevention instead of cure, reorienting health services in communities, establishing functional primary care system – are critical not only because of COVID-19 but also because of other existing and emerging health challenges.

Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Special Advisor to Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Public Health, highlighted that COVID-19 is not a pandemic on its own, but a “syndemic” of multiple epidemics such as noncommunicable diseases like heart disease and diabetes, as well as the mental health crisis.

Panadero also cited the hidden epidemic of stunting, which affects Filipino children especially in impoverished areas, as this will affect future generations.

These problems, according to Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman, are the “fruit of several generations of misprioritization, lack of political will, and oftentimes neglect.”

She was particularly concerned about the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act of 2019, which has been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. “UHC is not only a funding issue, but also a governance one,” Roman said.

Last year, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) announced the delay in the implementation of UHC Act due to shortfalls in the collection of premiums during the pandemic. (READ: House ‘ready to review’ UHC law provisions on PhilHealth contribution hikes)

Digital and global

To address healthcare problems, health leaders stressed the need to go digital and global. Panadero said that the digitalization of healthcare can play a critical role in improving healthcare access – provided that mobile devices and internet connectivity are made available especially to those living in remote areas.

“Without digital health, we cannot move forward fast…. Technology must be harnessed more effectively to make services more accessible to the last mile,” he said.

Nagtalon also noted that exponential growth of the use of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic, so medical schools like St. Luke’s must ensure that they are producing tech-enabled health professionals.

“I don’t think we will go back to the situation where doctor’s offices are overcrowded with waiting patients,” Nagtalon added. 

It is also important to remember that the health issues of the Philippines are not detached from regional and global realities. Mahmood stressed the importance of engaging with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which the Philippines is a member. 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, I saw missed opportunities…. We could have strengthened ASEAN, leveraging on the capacities and knowledge of all 10 member countries,” Mahmood said.

For instance, she said that ASEAN could have negotiated with pharmaceutical companies as a regional bloc to ensure that there is equitable sharing of vaccines and no one will be left behind. 

Mahmood also encouraged Filipinos to advocate for the establishment of an ASEAN Center for Disease Control (CDC), which will coordinate disease control efforts across the region – similar to the ones in the European Union and African Union.

She also cited the inextricable link between COVID-19 and the climate crisis. There is growing evidence that climate change increases the likelihood of future pandemics, among other diseases.

“Our ongoing COVID-19 response is also adding pressures to our ecosystems…. In Malaysia for example, we anticipate 10 million masks a day are being released to the environment…. We need not just a public health, but a planetary health approach.” she added. 

Revitalized movement

To turn these ideas into action, Roman pushed for a National Blueprint for Healthcare Development. 

“Such plan will lay down our short-, medium- and long-term health objectives, budgetary requirements, and clear-cut assignments of all stakeholders,” the lawmaker said. 

Drawing from the Malaysian experience, Mahmood suggested that the Philippine health community must “find champions from different levels of society” to drive this much-needed health transformation.

Panadero, moreover, suggested the need to “mobilize a national process that will involve not only our leaders but also our communities.” -–Rappler.com

Dr. Renzo Guinto is an Associate Professor of the Practice of Global Public Health and the inaugural director of the Planetary and Global Health Program at the St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine-William H. Quasha Memorial. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians and the Lancet-Chatham House Commission on Improving Population Health Post-COVID-19.

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