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US show on Filipina mail-order bride cancelled after backlash


MANILA, Philippines – A new comedy series being developed by NBC Entertainment was cancelled September 30 (Saturday, October 1 in Manila), just two days after word of its development came out. This was after loud protests from the Asian-American community.

The show, ‘Mail Order Family,’ was about a widowed father who ordered a Filipina mail-order bride to raise his children. It was going to be produced by Jackie Clarke and Ruben Fleishcer, makers of the hit NBC series, Superstore.

The concept drew widespread criticism online as netizens pointed out that it highlights negative stereotypes of Filipinos in the United States.


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">nbc is coming out with a sitcom about a white man ordering a filipina mail-order bride like there&#39;s anything funny about human trafficking</p>&mdash; gina (@wyawyd) <a href="https://twitter.com/wyawyd/status/781944539477008384">September 30, 2016</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-cards="hidden" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Really <a href="https://twitter.com/nbc">@nbc</a>, a family-comedy about the sex trafficking of Asian women? <a href="https://t.co/7YNrndEAh6">https://t.co/7YNrndEAh6</a><br><br>cc: <a href="https://twitter.com/angryasianman">@angryasianman</a></p>&mdash; mieke eoyang (@MiekeEoyang) <a href="https://twitter.com/MiekeEoyang/status/781550028204675072">September 29, 2016</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-cards="hidden" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Just when u think AsnAms are making progress, <a href="https://twitter.com/nbc">@NBC</a> does this sht <a href="https://t.co/9ynL6lI43L">https://t.co/9ynL6lI43L</a> Mail-order brides?? u fckn kidding me? This passes?</p>&mdash; philipwang (@philipwang) <a href="https://twitter.com/philipwang/status/781565279130103808">September 29, 2016</a></blockquote>
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A change.org petition to stop the show’s development was put up by Gabriela USA, saying that "exploitation and violence against Filipino women is not entertainment."

According to the petition, the show is making light of the problem created by the mail-order bride industry which "exploits and trafficks women who are economically disadvantaged and living in poverty." The petition has garnered more than 11,000 signatures as of writing. 

Blogger Laura Sirikul also criticized the show, saying that it will "diminish all the progressive work done for Asians."

“In a society where Asians are constantly whitewashed or placed in stereotypical situations, NBC should really reconsider picking up a comedy where there is human trafficking of an Asian woman into an unwanted marriage,” she wrote in her blog, Nerds of Color.

In a statement, an NBC spokesperson said that "the writer and producers have taken the sensitivity to the initial concept to heart and have chosen not to move forward with the project at this time."

"We purchased the pitch with the understanding that it would tell the creator’s real-life experience of being raised by a strong Filipina stepmother after the loss of her own mother," the spokesperson explained to NBC. – Rappler.com

6 ways my mom changed after becoming an OFW


The overseas Filipino worker (OFW) life is not new to me.

I come from a family of OFWs: my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins are scattered across the globe, from Canada, the United States, and all the way to countries in Europe.

And my mom, who is a daughter of an OFW herself, took the same path.

Being an OFW isn't a sure recipe for fortune. I've seen OFWs come home either empty-handed or rich. I've met OFWs who brought home success stories, but I've also met OFWs who came home without their arms and legs. I know better than most people that the OFW life is not all glittery. (READ: What they don't tell you about the OFW life 

But almost always, for the OFWs I've met, they come home different people. From their daily habits to their level of confidence, it's quite easy to see the difference.

Perhaps it's because of the everyday struggle of being miles away from home and family, or maybe there's something in the Italian breeze – but I've noticed some changes in my mom after she spent some time abroad. Here is a bit of what I've observed so far: 

1. She became social media savvy.

This is perhaps the most obvious change I've seen. Hip as she was before, social media wasn't exactly something she had a good relationship with. Now they're practically best friends.

Ever since she moved to Italy, I've seen my mom post, comment, like, and share on Facebook more than she ever did before. She's online almost 24/7 and my siblings and I are now used to waking up to her messages.

I'd get a video call from her at midnight (afternoon in Italy) so she can show me the exciting new things in front of her. She'd go around a mall or stroll around a park holding up her phone, taking us on a virtual tour.

2. She’s so much more open about her feelings.

My mom and I are really close but we've never been the sentimental types. "I love you" is not something we'd tell each other everyday (it was really quite a rare phrase in our household).

But after some time overseas, our mom, in millennial terms, has become much "cheesier." 

She'd tell us how much she misses us and that she's proud of us every time we talk. She’d always ask us how we are feeling. I even saw her cry for the first time in a long time.

I guess being far away from the people you love and staying in unfamiliar territory can really bring out every shred of emotion you have.

3. She's become stingy for herself, and so much more generous for her family.

When she was in the Philippines, my mom loved bags and shoes. Those were her guilty pleasures. But strangely enough, even with the boost in income that came with being an OFW, she's stopped buying what she doesn't need.

In contrast, my siblings and I have been getting so much more than what we actually need – shoes, bags, and clothes. When she's out to shop, it's almost always for me and my siblings. Now that Christmas is coming, I wouldn't be surprised if she's already started to fill up her balikbayan box.

4. She's more vocal about issues in the Philippines.

Before leaving, my mom barely had enough time to worry about anything other than what was happening inside our house. She wasn't really apathetic about current affairs but she wasn't one to waste emotional energy on them. 

But now that she's miles away, I'd find her reacting to every piece of news she'd see.

She'd worry about us whenever she hears of bad weather here, or when there's a shooting incident within a 5-mile radius from our home. She'd react to news about national affairs and rants when the economy is not taking a good turn.

Who can blame OFWs for being like this? Living miles away, they tend to worry about home a lot more. In case anything bad happens here, they can't just come home running, after all. The constant feeling of being powerless haunts many OFWs everyday.

5. She initiates more family meetings.

My mom has always been an independent woman. When she was here, we'd barely know about her struggles. She always kept her problems to herself and actually managed to get through them on her own. 

Now, every move she makes is a family decision. We'd often have family meetings online to talk about our plans. 

Being an OFW has made my mom realize that making sure her sacrifice won't go to waste requires a collective effort. Being stuck far away, my mom has found herself relying on us so much more than ever. In return, we strive to make sure she doesn't have to worry about us at home.

In my mom's absence, my older brother takes charge. All of us now have roles to play.

6. She's superwoman no more.

"If only I can go home now."

I still remember waking up to this message from her. We panicked, of course, but it didn't really take long for our mom to take it back and be her usual self again.

When she says things like this, I'm not really sure what to say. Should I tell her to go home? Should I tell her it will go away? Right now, the only answer I can really commit to is "we're all in this together."

I've always thought that my mom was as strong as a superwoman. She's raised 4 children single-handedly and managed to send us to good schools and provide for everything we need. When she was here, she seemed invincible. 

Now, she seems so fragile. My siblings and I always keep her emotional and mental state in check.

Even with this distance, we can see her feeling lonelier and more pressured every day. She's always managed to put up a front of being okay despite everything before. Not anymore.

Seeing her in this state hurts. Being unable to comfort her, more so. 

She misses home. She misses us, terribly.

Some things never change

But no matter how much OFWs adapt to their new environment, they will always miss home. Their hope to be able to come home to a better Philippines never fades. 

They may see better airports and roads, buy things they never would have been able to buy had they stayed here, and taste food not everyone gets to taste, but their love and longing for their homeland are never gone.

They'd tell you about the beautiful things they see abroad and compare them to what humble things we have in the Philippines, yet at the same time tell you how much they miss it – the heat, traffic, and pollution included.

Months, years, or decades – no matter how long they've been gone, they stay Filipino. They cook sinigang and adobo at home, go to church every Sunday, sing karaoke with friends, and care for their kababayans in need. 

But the one Filipino trait that really stays no matter where life takes them – the one we're best known for – is love for family. 

My mom may not be here beside me now, but if there's anything I've learned from observing her, it's that there are things that even time and distance can't change – her love for us and our love for her. – Rappler.com

Do you also have an OFW story to share? Send contributions to balikbayan@rappler.com.

New doctor's baptism of fire: Emergency delivery at the backseat of a car


DOCTOR MACGYVER. Newly-minted doctor Mikko Manalastas' years of medical school pays off in an instant after he performs an emergency delivery. Photo credits: Mikko Manalastas

MANILA, Philippines - It was a lazy Saturday morning for Mikko Manalastas. And he, like every med student who had just passed the board exams, was feeling chill.  

Little did the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health graduate know at that time that something special was about to happen. 

In a Facebook post put up on Satuday evening, October 1, Mikko, 27, recalled the moment a couple stepped into his building’s elevator in a rush. 

As i was going down the elevator, 2 people hurriedly went in – a very anxious father, and a mother crying hard into labor.”

After a brief moment of panic, all of Mikko’s med school training kicked his brain and body into high gear. 

“I froze for a moment. Then immediately pressed the alarm button in the elevator to inform them that there was a mother in labor and that we needed assistance. I dropped my bags and went up to them and introduced myself. What luck because I wore my Ateneo Medicine shirt today (patay haha). Before i could finish my introduction, they realized that I was a doctor – only 2 days from actually getting my license number and a week from passing the boards.” 

Despite being the youngest in the elevator, Mikko took charge of the situation. He instructed the father to get his car ready while he stayed with the wife.

Outwardly, he was calm and composed. Inside, however, he was praying that the mother wouldn’t go into full labor then and there. 

“Not yet. Please,” he said to himself as he and the husband carried the mother to the waiting car. 

Just when he thought he had done his part as a good samaritan, Mikko took one last look at the mom and his eyes shot wide open. He saw that the baby’s head was crowning. 

I asked the mother to refrain from pushing but she couldn't help it because the pain was too much, and the contractions were getting stronger and longer.” 

Med school taught him that it would be risky to try and prolong the delivery. So, instead of having them risk getting stuck in Manila’s notorious traffic, Mikko made what is probably the most bad-ass call a newly-minted doctor can make: he needed to perform an emergency delivery now. 

He asked the couple to trust him. The father was at first hesitant but eventually told him, "just do everything you can to save the baby."

After getting both parents' consent, Mikko immediately came across another problem: he was going to deliver in the backseat of a car and he didn't have the proper medical supplies. 

Fortunately, Mikko is the MacGyver of medicine. 

I didn't have the proper materials but I needed to improvise. I grabbed my bag and took out my bath towel (clean and unused) and placed it over the mother's abdomen. I used wet wipes to clean the area and used the wet wipes as makeshift gloves and waited for the baby's head to come out.”

But credit, of course, also goes to the mother, whom Mikko said was “strong and very brave.” 

She listened very carefully to my instructions and I asked her to trust me. And with just a few good pushes, the baby's head popped out. I grabbed her head and maneuvered to deliver the rest of her body.” 

The rest of the story is too good not to directly quote what happened: “She immediately cried and I gave a sigh of relief. I dried her up and kept her warm over her mother's chest. At this time, the condo personnel arrived with the first aid kit. I had to cut the cord and deliver the placenta. Luckily they had sterile gloves and bandage scissors but there was no clip. I improvised and used the mother's (sturdy metal) hair clip - the one that bends to close. I used 2 clips to clamp the cord and cut it, and then I delivered the placenta.”

1 day after the Blue Toast, on the first day of being completely on our own, you realize how much you've grown and...

Posted by Mikko Manalastas on Saturday, October 1, 2016

In an interview with Rappler, Mikko said that he breathed a sigh of relief the moment he heard the baby cry and saw her turn pink. "The mother and the father were also crying tears of joy," he added. 

After the delivery, Mikko told the parents to bring their newly-born baby girl to the hospital. The parents later sent Mikko a long thank you message and a picture of the new baby which he will cherish for life. 

“You are beautiful Baby Gabriela Ann! It was an honor to deliver such a precious gift from God,” he wrote on Facebook. 

He considers himself blessed for being able to help bring new life into the world.

Real struggle

Medical students spend long hours burning the midnight oil in the hopes of one day healing people and saving lives. 

For Mikko, who spent extra long hours pursuing a degree in medicine and a masters in business, it was a real struggle. 

“Ako'y nawasak at nadurog upang maging buo ulit. Kinailangan kong pagdaanan ang proseso na ito - na mapuyat at magutom sa walang tigil na trabaho sa ospital, na madama ang hinagpis ng may sakit na pamilya, na maisailalim ang sarili sa marahas at 'di makatarungang sistema ng lipunan,” he wrote in a separate Facebook post.

(I was ruined and destroyed only to be made whole again. I needed to go through this process - to starve and spend long days and nights working in the hospital, to feel the pain of families with sick loved ones, to experience first hand the injustice in our society.)

But, he added, it was necessary for him and for other med students to go through the hardship that is med school. 

“Bago ako makapagbibigay ilaw sa iba, kinakailangan ko munang mainitan at magalit sa pagkamulat, mapaso sa paghawak at pagkilala, at masunog sa karanasan upang maging buo at ganap ang liwanag na ibabahagi sa iba.”

(Before I could even help others, I needed to first feel the heat of my rage, be scalded by my surroundings, and consumed by my experience so I could be a true bearer of light to others.) 

All those years of hard work, sacrifice, and studying paid off in an instant.  

And at that same moment, more than any diploma or exam could signify, he became a doctor. - Rappler.com 

Want to read more stories about doctors and medical school? Check this out:

18 things they never told you about medical school

An undying respect for medical students

Why I'm willing to share my husband

A picture of Philippine medical education

Got a story about medical life to share? Write your story on X!

Do we have the right to modify our bodies?


Recently, Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canevero, announced plans to conduct the first “head transplant” on Valery Spiridinov, a 30-year old Russian man who suffers from a rare muscle wasting disease that has left him severely handicapped. In the planned procedure, Mr. Spininov’s head will be transplanted into a healthy body.

Scheduled for late 2017, this plan has reignited a conversation about the limits of medical technologies. “Will it create a new human being?” pundits have asked, with bioethicists, scientists, and religious scholars weighing in on the debate. Spirinidov himself has defended his decision, saying that he is volunteering for the sake of scientific advancement.

The head transplant debate may be dismissed as hypothetical or premature, but it strongly resonates with a broader question that is salient for our time: In this age where individuals are increasingly assertive about their rights and their autonomy in questions of their own identity, do people have the right to modify their own bodies? How far can we modify our body parts and bodily features?

Before doing a survey of body modification in our time, we must recognise that humans have been altering their bodies since ancient times. Lip-stretching in Africa and Central America, skull-moulding in the Middle East and in the Philippines, and foot binding in China, are just a few examples; some - like the wearing of neck rings in Myanmar – continue to be practiced today. Our “shock” over radically-altered bodies should be balanced with the realization that body modification is as old as humanity.

Contemporary examples of body modification, meanwhile, are at the heart of many current issues and debates. When Olympic champion Bruce Jenner revealed that she is now a woman by the name of Caitlyn Jenner, her announcement was accompanied by a completely-transformed body, made possible by hormones and surgery. Arguably, her transformation – like that of the Philippines’ BB Gandang Hari – was as much physical as it was social.

In June 2015, the parents of US civil rights activist Rachel Dolezal claimed that she was a white woman pretending to be black. A majority derided her for her masquerade – it had emerged that she had tanned her skin and curled her hair – but others defended her right to identify with the ethnicity of her choice. Importantly, however, her ability to claim a black identity was made possible by the ways in which she modified her body.

Of course there are more quotidian ways of body modification. Circumcision continues to be a rite of passage for boys in many parts of the world. Teens endure braces for several months or years to straighten their teeth; women and men in many Asian countries are applying all kinds of products to whiten their skin. Men struggle to attain “six-pack abs”, while women undergo regimens of diet and exercise for a slim, curvaceous figure. What emerges from these examples is the body as a source of distinction, aesthetic worth, and personal satisfaction.

Finally there are also instances of body modification for financial gain. In Iran, a person can legally sell his or her kidney for $2000-$4000, and though this is banned elsewhere in the world, the black market for organ trafficking spans many countries and millions of dollars.

The morality of these practices can be very contentious. Even when individuals consent to their kidneys being sold, for instance, critics point out that such a choice – often in circumstances of poverty – violates human dignity. Female circumcision has almost-universally been called a “mutilation” and outlawed in almost all the countries in which it occurs, but some circumcised women have defended the practice as part of their cultural heritage.

These debates are animated by arguments coming from various fields. Some religious scholars assert that the human body is imbued with a natural dignity that must not be tampered with. Medical experts focus on questions of safety and harm. Political economists look at the ways in which body modification practices privilege the rich (i.e. those who can afford to be “surgically beautiful”) while disadvantaging the poor (i.e. those who sell their kidneys). Finally there are transhumanists who assert that humans should embrace being cyborgs as the logical next step in our evolution. The multiplicity of voices speaks of the contentiousness of the body, and its centrality in many of the debates of our time.

Perhaps the very limits of technology will set boundaries on what we can do to our bodies. If the head transplant in 2017 fails, then it will settle the debate – at least for the time being. On the other hand, we cannot discount technological successes beyond our imagination. Just as the first heart transplant in 1967 captivated the world, a head transplant fifty years later will surely provoke a similar – if not greater – response. There is simply no precedent, save for the worlds imagined by science fiction, on the ramifications of such futures.

How far can we modify our bodies? The answer is for different societies to decide. But it is safe to say that the frontier is going further and further, pushed by technology and enabled by a moral milieu in which individual rights are increasingly taking precedence over long-held belief systems.

Perhaps there will come a point when people will collectively agree that enough is enough. Or perhaps we will come to realisation that what is truly “natural” for us humans is the urge to modify ourselves. – Rappler.com

Gideon Lasco is a physician, medical anthropologist, and commentator on culture and current events. His essays have been published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Singapore Straits Times, Korea Herald, China Post, and the Jakarta Post.

Fil-Ams hail Paynor's appointment as PH envoy to US


CALIFORNIA, USA – President Rodrigo Duterte’s provocative pronouncements and unorthodox policies tend to polarize, but his top diplomatic appointment has won nothing but praise from Filipino Americans here.

Duterte admirers and critics alike are hailing the selection of Marciano Paynor Jr as Philippine ambassador to the United States. He is the immediate past consul general in San Francisco.

“I can think of no one more suited to guide US-Philippine relations over the next 6 years,” said Lupita Aquino Kashiwahara, whose engagement in politics spans both sides of the Pacific.

She described “AmbaP” as the “epitome of elegant civility with the diplomatic skills and demeanor to navigate a relationship which is undergoing new challenges.”

Kashiwahara summed up the collective reaction of those who had worked with Paynor: “The bilateral future of the two countries is in very capable hands.” 

“Ambassador Paynor as consul general always stressed continued love for country and respect for the flag both here and abroad,” said Daly City Personnel Commissioner Glenn Sylvester, a retired sergeant with the San Francisco Police Department and one of two Fil-Ams running for the city council in November.

“His desire to empower Fil-Ams by participation in all levels of community and government is readily apparent. It is my sincere hope to that he continues to remain available to all communities in delivering empowerment and self-worth," he added.

Paynor was the highest ranking representative of the Philippine government on the US and Canada west coast from 2007 to 2014, a period marked by turbulence in his home country and by extension the Filipino American communities. He was consul general in Los Angeles from 2002 to 2006.

The composure he displayed amid furor and division among Fil-Ams over the ouster of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, the corruption charges leading to the prosecution and hospital arrest of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the “pork barrel” probes resulting in the detention of the then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and other lawmakers, and the conflict with China over the West Philippine Sea may be attributed to his military training, according to a comrade in arms.

“He was an efficient operations officer, very particular about details in planning and implementation,” recalled retired IT systems analyst Irwin Ver, a retired lieutenant colonel with the Philippine Army and Paynor’s senior officer with the Presidential Guard in the 1970s.

The role “required frequent coordination and interaction with heads of various agencies and public officials,” said Ver. The Hayward, California, resident credited underclass fellow Philippine Military Academy Paynor’s background to the latter’s “easy transition into the diplomatic corps where he effectively forged friendly and professional relationships with foreign officials.”

An elected official enjoyed closeness with the envoy to declare him an “astute man with an eye toward the bigger picture.” 

Daly City Council Member and two-time Mayor Ray Buenaventura calls Paynor a “visionary constantly thinking about the future.” 

The private defense attorney commended Paynor for inspiring him to run for office.

“Several years ago, he asked me to join him for breakfast at a local restaurant in San Francisco,” said Buenaventura, who was born in Quezon City and educated in La Salle Greenhills before immigrating with his banker father to the United States.

“Little did I know that his purpose was to convince me to step up to more leadership roles in the community. At the time, I was not involved in politics nor did I have a desire to enter public office. He convinced me that I had a responsibility to the community. He knew then what I didn't know: that I was capable of leading. I just needed someone like him to push me. He was always looking out for the greater good of the community.”

San Francisco-born Juslin Manalo stressed the importance of connection to the ancestral homeland, which she saw while advocating for Filipino WWII veterans with Paynor during his tenure in San Francisco. 

“I hope to be able to address issues facing the community here and in the Philippines,” said the Daly City Personnel Commissioner also on the ballot for the city council. “Although many Fil-Ams consider the US home, our roots and ties to the Philippines remain ever so relevant.”

Longtime community leader Perla Ibarrientos found Paynor to be an example of traditional chivalry.

“He had a way of making you feel important,” said the board chair of the Pilipino Bayanihan Resource Center, who led a delegation of Filipino American leaders to Malacañang after Paynor had returned to Manila. “He commands respect because he is respectful.”   

Paynor had retired from the Department of Foreign Affairs, but was director general of the APEC national organizing committee under President Benigno Aquino III.  

Duterte appointed him chief of protocol prior to naming him for the Washington D.C. post. 

“His stint as protocol officer to 5 presidents gives him the ability to effectively communicate with chiefs of state,” said Ver. “His attentiveness to details, his can-do attitude and strong grasp of diplomatic protocols will serve him well as Ambassador to the US.” 

Paynor’s second-in-command during his posting in San Francisco saw the paternal side of the head of mission.

Current Deputy Consul General Jaime Ramon Ascalon, who arrived shortly before Paynor’s exit, appreciates how his family and colleagues at the consulate have “greatly benefited from Congen and Mrs. Tess Paynor's excellent and practical advice on family and other personal matters.”

Duterte’s emissary will need to be on his toes in the current administration, if his president stays true to form.

Barely had Duterte announced Paynor's appointment when the former in a news conference referred to President Barack Obama as a “son of a bitch” who has no business questioning the PH leader’s human rights record.

Those choice words triggered the abrupt cancellation of Obama’s meeting with the Duterte on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Laos.

The leader of the free world did not explain the cancellation, but confirmed he had asked his staff if it would be fruitful to meet Duterte, given his “colorful” language.

Ascalon said the community may expect Paynor to arrive in Washington DC following confirmation by the Philippine Senate. He will then present his credentials at the White House for “acceptance” by the US government. By then Paynor will meet with a new American president.

In September Philippine presidential aide Ernesto Abella called on the Filipino American press to avoid “adversarial” coverage of Duterte out of “patriotism.” – Rappler.com

Don’t want to be an OFW forever? Follow these 5 money tips


Working abroad can be really tempting, moreso when people consider living in the Philippines, where the minimum wage is low, taxes are high, and jobs are hard to come by.

It’s no surprise that a tenth of our population has chosen to walk the path of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), despite the emotional toll of being away from their family.

But the OFW life is no shortcut to success. Despite the higher wage they get abroad, many OFWs come home empty-handed, some even poorer than before they left.

Poor financial literacy is usually the cause, according to Vince Rapisura, wealth expert and president of the Social Enterprise Development Partnerships, Inc. 

Leaving without a proper financial plan, many OFWs tend to overspend and overstay abroad.

How can OFWs better manage their finances and reach their financial goals faster, thereby be able to come home sooner? Here are some tips from Vince:

Set your goals

According to Vince, economic migrants should make it a goal to be able to come back within 10 years. 

OFWs should ideally go through the following migration process:

  • Beginning stage (1-2 years) - For the first two years, the migrant should work on paying off the debts he/she incurred to be able to work abroad. (ie. money spent for plane tickets, processing fees, etc.)
  • Medium term (2-3 years) - During the medium term, the migrant’s focus should be to provide for his/her family’s basic needs.
  • Long term (3-5 years) - The migrant’s last years, meanwhile, should be spent for their financial goals like being able to buy a house, open a business, among others.

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Before you start packing your bags, it’s also important that you and your family understand why you have to leave and what you are trying to achieve.

Just as important is being able to stick with your goals.

"When they go there, initially they say, 'I only want a tricycle as a business,' and send my children to school.' After 5 years and they've already attained that, the goal would shift somewhere else. Maybe the tricycle is now a jeepney, and sending the children to school is finished and now they want to put up a house," Vince explained.

Changing goals is not necessarily a bad thing, but having no definite end-goal contributes to OFWs overstaying abroad. (READ: 'Are you an OFW? Here are bad spending habits you need to break' )

Know where you are

The next step to financial success is knowing where you are. 

Vince introduced a personal financial diagnostic test in his book entitled (L)earning Wealth: Successful Strategies in Money Management.

The test aims to describe a person’s financial practices and provide a rating scale to help you determine whether or not they are good practices.

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According to Vince, this self-diagnostic test is not meant to extensively measure your financial status but gives an idea of which spectrum of personal practices you generally belong to – from very high personal finance practice to very poor. You may take the test here. 

For a guideline, you may also follow the financial life stages explained by Vince here: 

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Budget your money

When it comes to budgeting your money, Vince suggests that OFWs follow the 5-15-20-60 budgeting rule, with 5% of income going to insurance premium, 15% to savings, 20% to investments, and 60% to expenses.

You can learn more about this formula here: 

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Filipinos also tend to mix financial decisions with emotions.

This is a problem because rationality is necessary when making these decisions – something we lack when we are in a highly emotional state.  

One of these emotions that prevents us from making rational financial decisions is fear, specifically the fear of not being loved - a common distress for OFWs. 

Many OFWs fear that their children or spouses would love them less if they fail to send remittances to buy the things they want. In some cases, some relatives threaten OFWs with emotional blackmail.

According to Vince, it’s important that we teach our family to be independent and make them understand that reaching their financial goals requires a collective effort. 

Here’s how an OFW can make love and money work: 

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On helping others financially:

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Clear your debts 

Borrowing money is common among many Filipinos and OFWs are no exemptions. Many OFWs leave to be able to pay for their loans or borrow money in order to finance their move overseas. With loans hounding them, OFWs fail to save and often end up overextending their stay abroad.

As a guideline, Vince suggests you follow these cardinal rules on borrowing money:

  1. Borrow money only when you plan to use it for productive purposes. This means using the money to finance something that creates income.
  2. Income from this project should be greater than the interest you will pay.
  3. Installment amount should not exceed 20% of your regular income.
  4. Do not borrow to finance wants. To be able to buy the things you want, save for it or create an investment portfolio that will provide you with a passive income.
  5. Lastly, borrow only from formal financial sources. This way, you can take advantage of lower interest rates and establish your credit history.

Burdened by debts? No worries, it's still not the end of the road for you. Here's how you can get out of bad debts:

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But not all debts are bad. If you do it right, loans may help you reach your financial goals faster. Watch this video to find out which debts are good and which are bad:

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Invest! Invest! Invest!

Investing your money can help grow it even further and help you reach your financial goals even faster.

According to Vince, one thing that hinders many Filipinos from investing is the thinking that investing requires a big amount of money. This is not true.

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You can start investing with small amounts by simply opening a savings account. As you get more money using your active income (salary, commission, etc), you gain the propensity to invest in other investment vehicles.

While many OFWs do invest, a lot also do not invest in the right places - often falling victim to investment scams.

The key is to be patient. Carefully research before investing your money. Watch this video for tips on avoiding investment scams:

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To help even more OFWs and young professionals manage their finances better, Vince wrote a guide to financial literacy entitled (L)Earning Wealth: Successful Strategies in Money Management. Find out more about it here:

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The bottom line: The n OFW life is not a sure recipe for fortune. Whether your sacrifices take you to success or not will depend not only on how hardworking you are but also on how smart you are in managing your money. Do it right and you'll finally be able to be with your family again without financial problems haunting you every day. – Rappler.com

Cacdac is new OWWA chief


MANILA, Philippines – Former Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) chief Hans Leo Cacdac takes over as the new administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) starting Monday, October 3.

The announcement was first made by Cacdac on his Facebook page on September 30, 2016. 

On Tuesday, October 4, Cacdac made his first media appearance as OWWA chief during a press conference on the Department of Labor and Employment’s first 100 days report under the new administration.

When asked about his plans for the agency, Cacdac said that Bello’s marching orders for him is to "bring the OWWA closer to the people, especially OFWs and their families." This means making OWWA programs and services faster, more effective and accessible.

On his first week as new administrator, Cacdac said he has "embarked on a listening process" through social media and consultations with industry members and civil society groups. On his September 30 announcement, he asked for suggestions on how their programs and services can be improved. 

According to Labor Secretary Sylvestre Bello III, the Department of Justice’s prosecutor, Claro Arellano is set to take over Cacdac’s post as POEA administrator, pending finalization of his exit plan from the justice department. – Rappler.com

#ReliefPH: Catholic Church launches solidarity appeal for Batanes


MANILA, Philippines – Relief goods may have reached typhoon-hit Batanes, but the long road to recovery is just starting for residents of affected towns.

In support of the rehabilitation efforts, the Catholic Church through its social action arm, the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines, launched a solidarity appeal addressed to all the 85 dioceses nationwide.

In a letter sent to all bishops, NASSA/Caritas Philippines national director Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona said Batanes needs urgent help in the wake of recent typhoons.

"We have known Batanes to be among the most resilient provinces in the country. Through the years, they were able to adapt to the challenges and diverse effects especially of typhoons coming their way. It is only now that they have cried out for help," Archbishop Tirona said, echoing the call of Prelature of Batanes Bishop Camilo Gregorio.

What Batanes needs

Tirona said typhoon survivors need food, shelter, water, and non-food items.

At least two schools and 5 churches which were heavily damaged also need to be rehabilitated. (READ AND WATCH: Batanes faces long road to recovery after Ferdie)

Typhoon Ferdie (Meranti) had made landfall in Batanes on September 14 with wind strength comparable to that of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), one of the strongest typhoons to hit the Philippines.

Ferdie affected about 4,600 families and damaged more than 2,000 houses, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Following the typhoon's onslaught, Batanes was placed under a state of calamity on September 15. According to authorities, the initial cost of damage in the province is pegged at P369 million.

Also in September, Typhoon Gener (Malakas) and Typhoon Helen (Megi) both brought rains to Batanes even if both tropical cyclones did not make landfall.

How to help

To offer assistance to the Prelature of Batanes, donations can be deposited through this bank account:

Bank: Bank of the Philippine Islands
Branch: Intramuros, Manila
Account Number: 4951-0071-08

NASSA/Caritas Philippines is the humanitarian, development, and advocacy arm of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). It currently implements the largest 3-year rehabilitation program of the Catholic Church for the survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda. – Rappler.com

How Duterte gov't cared for OFWs in first 100 days


MANILA, Philippines – During the campaign period, presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte promised to make the concerns of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) his top labor priority

In his labor day rally in May, he promised to streamline government processes for OFWs, saying he "hated to see Filipinos lining up and waiting.” 

A month before that, he unveiled his plans to create a dedicated department for OFWs.

His message resonated among OFWs, giving him a huge following from the sector that brings in billions of dollars to the Philippine economy every year. By the end of the 2016 elections, the Mayor of Davao City topped the overseas absentee voting results.

Fast forward to October, toward his 100th day in office, the new administration has made several changes and new policies on OFWs affairs.  

Streamlining government processes

ONE-STOP SHOP. The one stop service center  serves as many as 2000 to 3000 OFWs everyday. Photo by Don Kevin Hapal

Duterte’s promise of streamlining government processes was met with optimism by OFWs, who had long criticized red tape in the government. 

In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Duterte reiterated his plan to create a department dedicated to OFWsHe said he had asked Labor Secretary Sylvestre Bello III to create a one-stop shop for OFWs.

"I asked Secretary Bello, gusto ko he will rent a building [that’s] for overseas [concerns] only. Ilagay na lahat, BIR, lahat ng something to do with clearances with police…in one building, may booths lang.... Doon lang siya mag-ikot sa isang building…ang Pilipino," the President he said.

(I asked Secretary Bello to rent a building that's for overseas concerns only. Put everything there: BIR, police clearances...in one building with booths. The Filipino will only be going around that one building.)

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Philippines Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) launched in August a one-stop shop for OFWs inside the POEA building in Mandaluyong.

The newly opened center houses representatives from agencies that offer services that are “relevant to OFWs," according to POEA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, who now heads Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration (OWWA). 

The service center aims to reduce the transportation expenses of OFWs and shorten the processing time for their documents. More service centers opened later on in Clark, Calamba, Tacloban, Palawan, and Zamboanga.

In its accomplishment report on its first 100 days, the POEA said the one-stop shop service centers have so far served a total of 88,351 OFWs since its opening.

Passports, employment certificates

Barely a week after assuming office on June 30, Duterte’s first marching orders for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was to "make sure that our overseas Filipino workers' needs and problems are specially and adequately addressed,” according to Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. The needs included the fast processing of travel documents, passports, and other documents.

In his SONA, Duterte urged Congress to extend the validity of Philippine passports to 10 years. He told lawmakers in jest: "Tutal kayo naman ang maggagawa ng batas, you're the ones who will pass the law, even if you make it good for 30 years, okay ako, bahala kayo. Basta stretch a little bit."

(Because you yourselves will craft the law, you're the ones who will pass the law, even if you make it good for 30 years, it's fine with me, it's up to you. Just stretch it a little bit.)

By August 15, the government started issuing new passports with added security features. This was announced by Presidential Communications Office (PCO) head Martin Andanar, who also said that the issuance of these new passports will be faster by 35%. A new printing system, he said, will allow the delivery and printing of a passport within only 5 days.

This move, however, was initiated by the previous administration, led by former President Benigno Aquino III.

Despite this, recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani said that new passport applications by Filipinos who want to work abroad still face delays – they still have to pass through an appointment system with the DFA which often takes almost 3 months.

Geslani also accused some DFA regional offices of unreasonably asking for different forms of identification from applicants. He urged the government to simplify the requirements for new OFWs, according to a Business Mirror report.

In the first week of October, the Senate committee on foreign relations started the hearings on the proposal to extend the validity of passports.

Two resolutions were also passed by the POEA to further make processing of documents faster for OFWs: the removal of the overseas employment certificate (OEC) and the online registration for seafarers.

Resolution Number 12 was passed on August 4 by the governing board of the POEA, chaired by Secretary Bello and vice chaired by the then POEA Administrator Cacdac. It removed the OEC requirement for vacationing OFWs who are bound to return to the same employer at the same job site. 

Before the resolution was passed, there had been calls for the OEC to be scrapped. During peak seasons like Christmas and graduations, the volume of OFWs securing the OEC reached up to 5,000 to 7,000 workers a day. 

LONG LINES. OFWs in Hong Kong line up for hours to obtain their Overseas Employment Certificates. Photo by Daisy CL Mandap/The Sun-HK

OFWs complained about long lines and having to wait for hours, wasting time they could have spent with their families.

POEA also replaced the Seafarers Registration Certificates (SRC) with an online seafarer registry. In a Resolution issued August 5, DOLE’s governing board instructed the POEA to implement the online registration system for seafarers starting September 15.

Bello said the online registry shall benefit around 50,000 SRC applicants per year, and remove long lines at POEA offices. 

Human trafficking and Mary Jane Veloso

In his SONA, Duterte said that he intends to intensify the war against human traffickers and illegal recruiters– a problem he considers as grave as illegal drugs.

POEA’s first 100 days report said that, from January to August this year, 35 such cases, involving a total of 59 victims, have been endorsed to the Department of Justice for preliminary investigation. Seventeen establishments have been closed down for illegal recruitment activities.

On September 1, Duterte said that he intended to plea with Indonesian President Joko Widodo for the life of Mary Jane Veloso, an alleged victim of human trafficking who is now on death row in Indonesia.

Veloso narrowly escaped execution in April 2015 after she was granted a last-minute reprieve. In an emotional video message released last August, Veloso appealed to Duterte for help in "getting justice.”

But a series of miscommunication followed Duterte’s trip to Indonesia.

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr initially said that Duterte did not discuss the case of Mary Jane Veloso with Widodo during his trip.

President Duterte, during his trip to Indonesia, talks with President Widodo. Photo by Rappler

But when the media asked Duterte himself about it, the President only said, "not for public consumption.”

Later on upon his arrival in Manila, he said he discussed the case of Mary Jane Veloso with Widodo, but did not provide details of their meeting. He said he was not at liberty to divulge details and would talk to Veloso's family first.

A couple of days later, on September 12, the country was shocked with a statement from Widodo: that Duterte told him to "go ahead" if Mary Jane Veloso "were to be executed."

"I have already spoken [to President Duterte] about Mary Jane's case. I said that Mary Jane brought 2.6 kilograms of heroin. And I also told him about the postponement of the execution. At that time, President Duterte said 'go ahead' if [Mary Jane] were to be executed," Jokowi told the media.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella later clarified Duterte's statements, saying, “his actual statement and conversation with President Widodo went like this: 'Follow your own laws, I will not interfere.' End of statement.”

President Duterte admitted on September 13 that he felt awkward about “begging” Widodo to spare Veloso’s life because of his own hardline stance against illegal drugs in the Philippines. 

President Duterte admitted he felt awkward about “begging” Widodo to spare Veloso’s life because of the his hardline stance against illegal drugs.

He also clarified that his utterance of “go ahead” referred to his support for Indonesia’s death penalty and not to Veloso’s case specifically.

“I said, ‘Mr President, so as not to apologize or anything – it’s good you have the death penalty here. At least you can bring the problem to the barest minimum.' I said, ‘Go ahead and implement the law.' We never mentioned about Veloso,” said Duterte.

But Widodo, the following day, said he stands by his interpretation that Duterte said "go ahead" with Veloso's execution.

Saudi crisis

Perhaps the biggest OFW-related challenge that the Duterte administration faces is helping OFWs affected by the global oil crisis. (READ: 'Thousands of OFWs remain stranded, unpaid in Saudi Arabia' )

The price of crude plummeted to one of its lowest in the past 12 years, pushing the government of oil-rich Saudi Arabia to cut spending and put up austerity measures, leaving thousands of jobless Filipinos, Indians, and Pakistanis stranded and destitute in Saudi Arabia.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, in response to the crisis, formed and sent a Rapid Response Team (RRT) to assist OFWs stranded in work camps in Saudi Arabia.

According to a report they submitted in June, at least 11,000 OFWs in several large Saudi contruction and maintenance companies and their sub-contractors were not paid their salaries on time, ranging from 2 to 6 months. Some were no longer receiving food allowances and were threatened with eviction from their accommodations.

Migrante International coordinator Gilbert Saludo, however, said that as many as 20,000 Filipinos could be affected.

The RRT provided immediate humanitarian assistance to these OFWs, and brought their situation to the attention of the senior officials of the concerned companies, and with the Saudi government authorities.

Secretary Bello also visited Saudi Arabia last July to check on the situation and give aid. 

In a radio interview with dzMM before leaving, Bello said he ordered the recall of two labor attachés in Saudi Arabia for failing to do their duties, a move lauded by Migrante International. 

OWWA has been giving financial assistance to affected OFWs amounting to P20,000 each and P6,000 for their families as part of the Relief Assistance Program (RAP).

But the lack of manpower and records hamper OWWA's efforts.

In a dialogue with the families of stranded OFWs on August 9, OWWA Director Emma Sinclair admitted that they were having a hard time extending financial assistance to beneficiaries due to the lack of a complete master list containing the names of stranded OFWs.

This has been criticized by known OFW advocates 

ACTS-OFW Representative John Bertiz expressed concern that the assistance that Saudi Arabia King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud pledged to give may not immediately be given because of the lack of manpower and master list of stranded OFWs.

"OWWA doesn't know how many people are on the list. The POEA's list has 8,000, but the DFA listed around 11,000," said Bertiz at the Usaping Balita Media Forum at the Serye Cafe Filipino in Quezon City.

Longtime OFW advocate Susan Ople also said this lack of a unified and accurate master list could be detrimental to the stranded OFWs.

"Once Saudi Arabia asks for the list of OFWs, my worry is that we may not be ready because, as of now, we're giving different figures," Ople said in a mix of English and Filipino.

President Duterte has ordered the “forced repatriation" of stranded OFWs in Saudi on August 12, according the Secretary Bello in an Inquirer report. Bello said that the President allocated P249 million from his own contingency fund for the repatriation.

A campaign called "Bring Them Home" was initiated by the different government agencies, bringing displaced and overstaying OFWs from Saudi home through chartered flights. 

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Duterte himself welcomed a group of 128 repatriated OFWs when they arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on August 31.

Addressing the OFWs, Duterte said he had wanted to fly to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, himself to attend to their problem, but he was advised not to because it would seem like the Philippine embassy there was not doing its job. 

'WELCOME HOME.' President Rodrigo Duterte welcomes home 128 OFWs from Saudi Arabia who were fired from their jobs in an oil and gas company. Photo by Toto Lozano/PPD

In DOLE’s first 100 days report in October, Bello said that 1,392 OFWs have been repatriated. 16,509 distressed OFWs and their families have benefitted from the RAP, amounting to a total of P433 million.

The repatriation effort continues.

According to Bello, repatriation has been a challenge because many OFWs opt to stay in Saudi. They either value the employment opportunities there or are waiting for their unpaid salaries and separation pay.

What do you think of Duterte’s first 100 days? How has he fared in solving OFW-related issues? Tell us in the comments or write on X!Rappler.com

#100DaysofDuterte: The change that came to DSWD


100 DAYS. DSWD Secretary introduces severa changes and new policy directions to the agency, 100 days since she assumed office.

MANILA, Philippines – In her speech at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) turnover rites in July, Secretary Judy Taguiwalo made sure that she drew the line between the past and present administrations, as the highlighted the Duterte administration's battlecry.

"Tunay na malasakit para sa mahihirap (Genuine concern for the poor)," she said.

“We will work towards a more transparent DSWD, and a department that will be able to maximize its resources to assist the poor not only survive but to stand on their own feet as productive members of the community,” Taguiwalo said. (WATCH: From Dinky to Judy: Change comes to DSWD)

Since then, Taguiwalo has pursued her mission largely outside the national spotlight. The only time she hogged the headlines was when she drew the ire of legislators at the House hearing on the proposed 2017 budget.

Taguiwalo earlier issued an order that sough to "weaken" endorsement letters from politicians in identifying DSWD beneficiaries. She also stressed that the directive merely upholds the High Court’s 2013 ruling that pork barrel is unconstitutional. (READ: Congressmen on DSWD's 'anti-padrino' memo: We hold the money)

At the House hearing, she clarified that her department will continue to receive referral letters from legislators, but said these would not guarantee their approval.

Taguiwalo noted that the policy was "aimed at democratizing access to services."  

Here are some of the changes and new policy directions which Taguiwalo introduced at the DSWD in her first 100 days in office.

Changes within

One of Taguiwalo’s priorities is to first change the agency "within"

When she attended her first flag-raising activity atthe  DSWD's central office in Quezon City, Taguiwalo promised to implement reforms that will benefit the 26,400-strong workforce of the agency

Taguiwalo said management will review the Collective Negotiations Agreement (CNA) with the Social Welfare Employees Association of the Philippines (SWEAP), to see how it can be more responsive to employees’ concerns, such as granting more benefits to memorandum of agreement (MOA) workers and allowing flexible working schedule, among others.

SWEAP is the workers’ union at the agency while the CNA is an agreement which ensures that the rights of the DSWD employees are protected and the right benefits are accorded to them.

Hanggang kaya natin na maibigay ang mga dagdag na benepisyo ay gagawin natin sa pagtutulungan ng management at unyon(As long as we are capable of giving these additional benefits, we shall do these with the joint effort of the DSWD management and the employees’ union),” she said.

Staying true to her promise, the DSWD and the SWEAP signed a CNA on August 26.

The agency’s move to empower its workforce is also connected to its bigger vision of ensuring that DSWD stays true to the secretary’s marching order: serve the people.

Even before her stint as DSWD Secretary, Taguiwalo was a champion for the rights of workers. She is the founder of the All UP Academic Employees Union.

4Ps a ‘stop-gap measure’

Under her leadership, Taguiwalo dismissed the idea of institutionalizing the 4Ps program, a move which her predecessor, Dinky Soliman, endorsed before she left the agency.

Taguiwalo allayed fears that the program will be totally scrapped, but said there will be no new beneficiaries under 4Ps, instead.

Her vision is to complement the program with “initiatives that will help the poor stand on their own through jobs, asset reforms, and other pro-people economic and social reform initiatives."

“We are also looking at the reports – a number actually. [A] relatively big number has graduated already because their children have [finished] college,” she said.

El Niño victims, Yolanda rehabilitation

Taguiwalo also gave assurances that victims of past natural calamities – like El Niño and the Super Typhoon Yolanda – will receive what they deserve.

Coming on the heels of a Commission on Audit (COA) report that a total of P907.56 million in Yolanda funds were misused by the Tacloban City government, Taguiwalo promised that the agency will review the projects and services related to the rehabilitation of communities affected by Yolanda in 2013. The report has since been denied by former mayor Alfred Romualdez.

"We also want transparency in all our programs. DSWD will review the COA report and validate the information provided. Any anomalous action or neglect on the selection of beneficiaries or on the overall implementation process will be dealt with appropriately," Taguiwalo said in August.

The DSWD-Field Office X (DSWD-FO X) met with an estimated 4,000 El Niño-affected farmers from Bukidnon in July 2016 to discuss their request for rice assistance. They agreed on an outline of provision for rice assistance for the farmers. 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.

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Support for recovering drug dependents

DSWD proposed the operationalization and implementation of the “Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Transformation Support for Recovering Drug Dependents,” the third component of the National Drug Rehabilitation Program.

On instructions of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, the DSWD submitted the proposal to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for consolidation, and to the Department of Budget and Management for approval.

The proposal is for a total fund allocation of about P 1.4 billion for the period October 2016 to December 2017.

The target participants are 37,916 drug surrenderers from October to December 2016.

“What we want is to help the drug users and pushers who have surrendered to rehabilitate themselves and return to the fold of society as productive members,” she said.

"Our country's drug problem has to be addressed through interventions that go to the root causes: poverty caused by lack of social support for many Filipinos, corruption in various levels in the various agencies of government, and lack of sustainable, productive employment for the poor," Taguiwalo added.

Changes still to come

The agency’s other priorities, Taguiwalo said, include the following:

  1. Continue to extend financial assistance and other forms of immediate assistance and relief to marginalized and vulnerable sectors
  2. Ensure timely and adequate response to emergencies and calamities
  3. Improve and strengthen the capabilities and facilities of DSWD-run centers and institutions
  4. Exert full effort to address and remedy the impact of military operations on the livelihood, safety, security, schools and welfare of farmers and Lumad; provide for the needs of evacuees; and help displaced Lumad return to their ancestral land
  5. Develop and strengthen among DSWD personnel an ethic of service to the people which has no room for corruption

Given these lofty promises, the public has a reason to expect for more changes from the agency. Will Taguiwalo deliver? The public will see if such changes will happen in the next 6 years. – Rappler.com

Can a maverick gadfly like Teddy Locsin Jr last in the United Nations?


NEWLY APPOINTED. Teodoro Locsin Jr is the new Philippine representative to the United Nations. Photo from Locsin Jr's Twitter account

NEW YORK, USA – Maybe you can say the same thing about Teddy Locsin Jr that Barack Obama said about Rodrigo Duterte.


Locsin Jr. was a spokesperson for then President Corazon Aquino and went on to represent Makati in the Lower House from 2001 to 2010.

An acerbic columnist, no one could ever accuse Locsin Jr of being dull.

Hitting the ground running after his appointment as ambassador to the UN, he seems to have adopted the persona of Duterte as far as antagonizing whole groups of people are concerned.

The tweets by Locsin were perceived by most to be defending the tactics used by the Nazis, including adoption of the “Final Solution” in solving some of the problems faced by the Philippines.

Many were deleted later on, with Locsin half joking that his daughters had told him to stay away from Twitter.

Rappler tried to get in touch with people close to Locsin to see if it would be possible to talk to him about what happened. The request was politely turned down.

The whole episode raised the question whether he is the right person to be the Philippine ambassador to the United Nations.

The presidential system the country functions under gives very wide latitude to the choices the chief executive makes.

By long tradition, the President appoints many of his political supporters to be the ambassador in the major diplomatic posts around the world – from Washington to London, the Vatican to the UN in New York.

Those are the perks of being close to the president, qualified or not.

Would it be ideal to appoint someone from the ranks of the career diplomats who have worked their way up in the system? Yes. But it never works out that way.

Still, the tweets sent out by Locsin have raised misgivings for some members of the Filipino-American community. Several demurred when asked for their reaction to the controversy.

“I ignored the initial reports of Locsin’s tweets because I thought to myself ‘Surely, these are just doctored social media images. No way would he actually say that’,” said Steven Raga, a community leader in Queens who had won his first run for public office there.

Lumen Castaneda, a retired teacher, added: “I am disgustingly disappointed with what he is posting in twitter. I was asking myself, is this the Teodoro Locsin Jr who I admire? Is he the same one saying those f...... words in social media? Is he following the boss of the country? Now I have my doubts that he is suited to the job given to him. But I still want to give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Merit Salud, another community leader in New York, feels Locsin should eventually be able to get past his Nazi-themed tweets once the furore recedes into history.

“I think (his) appointment is simply timely and appropriate. President Duterte needs someone with the right credentials and temperament not quite far from him, who passionately loves the Philippines,” he said.

The background of Locsin could also help a government that has been slammed for its cavalier approach to human rights in a drug war that has claimed 3,000 lives and is willing to slaughter 3 million more.

“He is from the elite society of the Philippines, educated in Ateneo and Harvard. This means he could very well saunter effectively within the high-brow milieu of the international society of the UN. We have seen his sharp wit in writing and his probing mind on matters that count. His connection with Harvard will be of good help to him and for the people and country when he performs his job and executes his duties as our representative to the UN,” added Salud.

Castaneda also expressed her respect for Locsin.

“Long before Duterte, I was an admirer of Teddy Boy Locsin. He is a good writer, and he was a silent worker to my knowledge in the sense that I did not hear a lot of controversies about him,” she said.

“When he refused a cabinet position offered by the president, I gave him a 9 and when he accepted the position of Ambassador to the UN, I said YES. I have high regards to our ambassadors to the UN beginning with (Hilario) Davide, Libran Cabactulan, and now Yparaguirre.”

Salud hopes Locsin “will be circumscribed by his love for country and his desire to keep the legacy of his father and the Locsin family.”

“We need the Fil-Am community here to air responsible criticisms so as not to push them into on an overly defensive corner. And that could be one of the purposes why he was appointed in the first place.”

The misgivings are there though.

Raga said after verifying the accuracy of the tweets, “I was both confused and embarrassed. ‘Confused’ because you would think that being a former Philippine congressman and journalist sufficiently trains you to say the right thing at the right time.”

“The embarrassment is self-explanatory. Filipinos and Filipino Americans in New York have contributed much to the cultural and social fabric of America, while still heavily involved in philanthropy and advocacy efforts in the Philippines, many of which are through the United Nations itself. Either we deserve Mr. Locsin to better represent us, or we deserve a better Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations.” – Rappler.com

Rene Pastor is a journalist in the New York metropolitan area who writes about agriculture, politics and regional security. He was, for many years, a senior commodities journalist for Reuters. He founded the Southeast Asia Commodity Digest. He is known for his extensive knowledge of international affairs, agriculture and the El Niño phenomenon where his views have been quoted in news reports.

Success stories from the 8888 hotline


MANILA, Philippines – Aside from his fight against illegal drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte has also vowed to eliminate corruption in government. Among his plans is to reduce processing time or "red tape" and set up a grievance hotline that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

On August 1, President Duterte launched the 8888 citizen complaints hotline. It is currently handled by the Civil Service Commission (CSC), which is also in charge of the 1-6565 "Contact Center ng Bayan" hotline that has been active since 2012.

Since its launch up to September 18, the 8888 hotline has handled 11,347 calls, or an average of 232 calls a day. The CSC hired 10 more personnel, bringing to 23 the total number of agents who receive and process these calls. They work on rotation for 3 shifts to meet the hotline's 24/7 demand.

The top 3 complaints reported to 8888 are related to slow processes, failure to act on requests, and unclear procedures. (READ: 8888 hotline: Most complaints lodged vs SSS, LTO)

These complaints are then forwarded to concerned agencies for immediate action. By creating a channel where citizens can air their specific grievances regarding government services, the CSC gets agencies and offices to respond to citizen complaints. 

Here are some of the success stories from the 8888 hotline from the past 3 months, as shared by the CSC to Rappler.

Follow-ups on pending requests

Over-the-phone transactions prove to be a convenient way to track the status of requested services. For instance, senior citizens have used the 8888 hotline to follow up benefit claims from government offices.


More information on unclear procedures

It pays to ask for clarifications to get what we are looking for. See how the queries below on services by the Social Security System (SSS) and the Philippine Postal Corporation (PHLPost) have been acted upon via the 8888 hotline.


Coordination with offices in government

With many national and local offices in government, information sometimes gets lost along the way. This can be troublesome, especially for overseas Filipino workers. The 8888 hotline has helped them get in touch with the correct offices for their concerns.


With the complex bureaucracy embedded in government, red tape is not necessarily a product of corrupt practices but a weak infrastructure to support government operations. 

A service hotline like 8888 can help ease these systemic and administrative problems. – Rappler.com

Source: Contact Center ng Bayan Report of the Civil Service Commission - Public Assistance and Information Office

Reporting corruption gets you better government service. Chat with us via Facebook Messenger or visit www.fightcorruption.ph to tell us about your experience.

'Sunday Beauty Queen': Film seeks new take on foreign domestic workers


An undated handout photo released on October 10, 2016 by Manila-based producer Chuck Gutierrez of Voyage Studios shows a still from the documentary 'Sunday Beauty Queen', directed by Baby Ruth Villarama which has premiered at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) in South Korea. Chuck Gutierrez/Sunday Beauty Queen/handout/AFP

BUSAN, South Korea – A documentary that takes an intimate look at the daily dramas of foreign domestic workers has premiered at Asia’s largest film festival, with its director pushing a fresh perspective on the millions employed in homes across the globe.

"So much of what we hear and see about them is sensational or negative," said Baby Ruth Villarama on the sidelines of the 21st Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.

"I wanted to show them living their daily lives, with their own hopes and dreams, and hopefully that will open up a dialogue about who these people are the role they play in the world today," she said. 

Villarama's quietly engaging Sunday Beauty Queen is in the running for the major documentary prize in Busan and follows a group of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong as they prepare to take part in an annual beauty pageant.

By shadowing their preparations for the event, while also getting a close-up look at their daily work routines and the interaction they have with their employers, the film gives rare voice to the worries the women have over such issues as job security, pay rates and the distance between them and their families back home in the Philippines.

"They work 6 days a week and yet they spend their only day off preparing and training for this annual event –- I wanted to know why," said Villarama.

"The truth is that this event gives them a sense of identity. It's about this dream to be happy, despite their struggles, and we are all looking for a happy ending in our lives."

Although exact numbers from individual nations are hard to come by, the International Labor Organization estimates there are around 50 million overseas domestic workers employed globally.

They are a vital part of the Philippine economy, sending an estimated US$26 billion home each year – or around 10% of the country's GDP.

Hong Kong employs an estimated 300,000 foreign domestic workers – the majority from the Philippines and Indonesia.

Villarama's film comes at a time when there is unprecedented attention on their lives – both in that city and beyond – due to a number of high-profile cases of abuse by employers, including one that resulted in a six-year prison sentence.

But the Manila-based director said she was determined to avoid such controversies when charting her documentary's narrative arc.

"I think audiences are looking more for stories that feed their soul a bit, and the best way to do that is to go into people's individual stories and try to understand their journeys, rather than simply look for sensations," said Villarama.

"I think that this is a way we can understand each other more. My own dream is that people everywhere can understand the situation migrant workers everywhere find themselves in, working a long way from home."

The winner of BIFF’s Wide Angle documentary competition will be announced when the 10-day festival comes to a close on Saturday, October 15. – Rappler.com

MovePH's #StayNegatHIVe campaign wins bronze at Boomerang Awards


BOOMERANG AWARDS. (L-R) LoveYourself volunteers Paul Junio and Kurt Silvano, MovePH editor Voltaire Tupaz, and Rappler's strategy team members Krista Garcia and Mia Gaviola receive the Bronze trophy for the digital campaign #StayNegatHIVe at the Boomerangs on October 12, 2016

MANILA, Philippines – One of MovePH's campaigns captured a Bronze at the Boomerang Awards that was held at the Philippine International Convention Center on Wednesday night, October 12.

The Boomerangs, which is regarded as the “Oscars” of digital advertising in the Philippines, honored the campaign #StayNegatHIVe under the NGO and government institutions advocacies category.

The campaign sought to raise awareness on human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in the Philippines.

The country has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world. According to the World Health Organization, around 25 people get HIV in the Philippines everyday. If the epidemic is not curbed, the number of people living with HIV (PLHIVs) may reach 133,000 by 2022, the Department of Health said, 

MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm, initiated the digital campaign in partnership with the advocacy group LoveYourself and advertising firm DM9 JaymeSyfu. #StayNegatHIVe ran during the last quarter of 2015 in a concerted effort of Movers and citizen journalists from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Campaign impact

From June to August 2015, the MovePH team went around the Philippines to recruit and train citizen journalists and advocates in a series of workshops that discussed issues that matter to their communities. Many workshop participants expressed their concern on the growing number of HIV/AIDS infected individuals who seldom undergo the right treatment in their areas. (READ: #StayNegatHIVe: We need to talk about HIV/AIDS)

As a result of the digital campaign, the number of people who availed themselves of HIV testing services through LoveYourself increased by 60%. The group said that the award will inspire advocates to scale up the information drive.

"There are still so many people who have not been reached and must be encouraged to get tested. That is why we will continue our HIV awareness initiatives in the digital space," LoveYourself volunteer Paul Junio said.

DM9 JaymeSyfu also won Bronze for the same campaign under the awareness category.

The Boomerangs, which was introduced by the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP) in 2008, honors Philippine advertisers and agencies whose campaigns and programs exemplified digital marketing effectiveness. – With a report from David Lozada/Rappler.com


OFWs in peril of 'drug war' killings – Human Rights Watch


This is a press release from Human Rights Watch.

"Spare vacationing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from extrajudicial killing."

That's the stark plea of OFW rights advocacy groups to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's government. The United Overseas Filipinos Worldwide and the OFWs for Peace Coalition made that request following the torture and killing last month of Mark Culata, a 23-year-old Saudi Arabia-based worker visiting his family in Cavite province, south of Manila. Culata's death followed his detention at a checkpoint manned by "police operatives."

The groups expressed concern that the circumstances of his death indicate that "Culata was a victim of extrajudicial killing." They criticized the Duterte government's "war on drugs" by declaring that "killing is not an acceptable crime control" and warned that Culata's death may have a "chilling effect" on workers, who may decide not to come home for Christmas in fear for their lives.

Such fears aren't unjustified. Since Duterte took office on June 30, he has declared a "war on drugs," resulting in an alarming surge in killings of alleged criminals. The most recent Philippine National Police data show that from July 1 to September 30, police killed an estimated 1,323 suspected "drug pushers and users," nearly 20 times the 68 such police killings recorded between January 1 and June 15.

Police blame the killings on suspects who "resisted arrest and shot at police officers," but refuse to investigate the deaths. The most recently released police data on killings by "unidentified gunmen" indicates that there have been 1,067 such killings of alleged drug dealers and users between July 1 and August 21.

Duterte has praised the killings as proof of the "success" of the anti-drug campaign and urged police to "seize the momentum." The national police chief, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, has slammed calls for investigations as "legal harassment" and said it "dampens the morale" of officers. Duterte's top judicial official, Solicitor-General Jose Calida, has defended the legality of the killings and said the number was "not enough." In September, the Philippine Senate ousted the chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, Senator Leila de Lima, in an apparent reprisal for her inquiry into the killings.

Unless the Duterte government rethinks its abusive war on drugs, Filipinos living outside the Philippines won't be much safer than those living in the country. – Rappler.com

#NotOnMyWatch Cebu: Improper use of time, money is corruption


#NOTONMYWATCH. Rappler went to University of Southern Philippines Foundation in Cebu City as part of the #NotOnMyWatch caravan. Photo by Raisa Serafica/Rappler

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Corruption may be an abstract concept to some but it can take on various forms.

At the #NotOnMyWatch caravan on Friday, October 17, at the University of Southern Philippines Foundation in this city, Analyn Lumactod of G-Watch–Bohol said that the improper use of time and money is also a form of corruption.

#NotOnMyWatch is a campaign that promotes accountability and transparency by organizing reports and visualizing them real-time to show the public where corruption occurs most frequently and what form they usually take.

"It doesn't matter how big or small an amount is, if it is not used properly, it is corruption," Lumactod said at a panel discussion.

Wasting time, money

According to Lumactod, in San Miguel, Bohol, the department heads are very strict with time. "If there is excessive use of time, there is corruption," she said.

G-Watch or Government Watch is a social accountability program of the Ateneo School Goverment. In Bohol, Lumactod and other members of G-Watch help monitor delivery of services in agriculture, water systems and infrastructure.

Aside from Lumactod, Cebu City Councilor and Deputy Mayor for Finance Margot Osmeña and National Confederation for Transport Workers’ Union-Cebu President Allan Tapia were also part of the panel.

According to Osmeña, corruption starts with gaps in documentation. Citing one medical assistance program by the city government, the councilor said that documentation concerns delayed the delivery of the service. "What does it mean? Others cannot get assistance. That is corruption," the councilor said.

In curbing corruption in the city, Osmeña asked the audience to be more proactive. "You have to make us accountable. Ask the questions because we have to give you answers," she said.

Helping national government

Fighting corrupt practices is not only the job of the government but of everyone.

Jonji Gonzales, chief of staff of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Visayas, shared with the audience President Rodrigo Duterte's vision for the island. He quoted the President as telling Secretary Martin Dino: "I only want you to do two things: one, stop corruption; and two, stop drugs."

Spotting acts of graft is not easy.

According to Commission on Audit Region VII Director Alicia Malquisto and lawyer Amy Rose Soler-Rellin, Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer of the Office of the Ombudsman-Cebu, another challenge that they face is the lack of manpower.

Malquisto said that the ratio of auditees to auditor in 2015 is 12:1 in Cebu. Rellin said that there are only 20 lawyers handling cases and 10 prosecutors for the entire Visayas.

To answer this, COA rolled out Citizen Participatory Audit in 2012 in Metro Manila and was only recently implemented in Cebu. Malquisto said that the citizens were of great help in terms of speeding the audit.

Rellin also invited the audience to be part of the Office of the Ombudsman's Junior Graft Watch program to empower the youth sector in graft prevention.

Reporting corrupt acts 

Civil Service Commission Chief of Public Assistance and Liaison Division Prolaine Daclan said that feedback is important in fighting graft and corruption.

She shared that the CSC has a feedback mechanism, the Contact Center of Bayan (CCB). Before the President announced 8888 as the official hotline for government complaints, the CCB had already received about 175,000 complaints since 2012.

Just recently, Rappler also launched a bot where netizens can easily report corrupt acts or commend good practices through Move PH's Facebook page. (READ: #NotOnMyWatch: Pledge to fight corruption)

Rellin said they welcome initiatives that take advantage of technology in the fight against graft. She reminds those who report corrupt practices to give sufficient leads that will result in case buildup. "You report to the office. Do not be afraid," Rellin said.

Cebuanos pledge to fight corruption

Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa said that the discussion on corruption should also involve an examination of our values.

Cebuanos responded to the challenge, pledging to fight acts of graft and promising to stop corruption in small and big steps. 


<a class="twitter-timeline" data-partner="tweetdeck" href="http://go.rappler.com/https://twitter.com/MovePH/timelines/786835526816890880">#NotOnMyWatch pledges - Curated tweets by MovePH</a>


– Rappler.com

#WalangPasok: Class suspensions, Saturday, October 15


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 areas where classes have been suspended for Saturday, October 15. 

  • Cavite - afternoon classes in all levels

On Saturday morning, Typhoon Karen (Sarika) intensified further as it moved closer to Catanduanes.

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

NDRRMC on red alert over Typhoon Karen


Background image from Weather Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) went on red alert starting noontime, Saturday, October 15, as Typhoon Karen (Sarika) threatened to bring storm surges, floods, and landslides.

Red alert means all agencies under the NDRRMC and its offices in affected areas must report to their headquarters 24/7.

At the national level – even before red alert is declared – the NDRRMC also conducts pre-disaster risk assessment (PDRA) meetings to identify possible hazards and their effects on communities.

State weather bureau PAGASA has reminded areas in Karen's path to be on alert. The typhoon is expected to make landfall in the Quezon-Aurora area between 5 am and 7 am on Sunday, October 16.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Director Allan Tabell told Rappler that preemptive evacuations are ongoing in Quezon, Aurora, and Benguet, among others.


<blockquote class="twitter-video" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">DILG Dir Allan Tabell urges LGUs w/ high to very high susceptibility to floods to conduct preemptive evacuation <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/KarenPH?src=hash">#KarenPH</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> <a href="https://t.co/BPrp5kZvgj">pic.twitter.com/BPrp5kZvgj</a></p>&mdash; Voltaire Tupaz (@VoltaireTupaz) <a href="https://twitter.com/VoltaireTupaz/status/787151874273095680">October 15, 2016</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>



The NDRRMC added that several provinces in the Bicol Region, including Catanduanes, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur, and Camarines Norte, have been conducting preemptive evacuations. As of posting, 111 families or 447 people have evacuated in the 4 Bicol provinces.

The disaster management council also called on mining companies to suspend operations and ensure the safety of their workers, as Karen could bring landslides.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has also prepositioned items and equipment, according to the NDRRMC.

Meanwhile, some 4,000 passengers are stranded in various ports in the country. – Rappler.com

#WalangPasok: Class suspensions, Sunday, October 16


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 (UPDATED) – Here is a list of areas where classes have been suspended for Sunday, October 16.

Local government units


Meanwhile, the city government of Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, announced on Saturday, October 15, that classes in all levels will be suspended on Monday, October 17.

As of 11 pm Saturday, Typhoon Karen (Sarika) strengthened again just a few hours before its expected landfall in Aurora.

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

#KarenPH: LGUs evacuate residents in areas prone to floods, landslides


FLOODING IN CATANDUANES. Flashfloods are reported in San Andres town in the island province of Catanduanes as Typhoon Karen hammered across the Bicol region Saturday, October 15. Photo by Gerard Solsona

MANILA, Philippines – Local officials conducted preemptive and forced evacuation in areas prone to flooding and landslides as Typhoon Karen (Sarika) intensified further early Saturday evening, October 15, ahead of its expected landfall in Aurora province early Sunday morning, October 16.

Karen has prompted the evacuation of about 16,000 people across affected regions as of 6 pm Saturday, including 8,648 in Catanduanes, 5,762 in Albay, 1,316 in Camarines Sur, 110 in Sorsogon, 78 in Camarines Norte, and 57 in Naga City. 


Aurora province conducted preemptive and forced evacuations in high-risk areas in the following towns beginning Saturday afternoon.  

  • Baler 
  • Dinalungan 
  • Dingalan 

Guests in seaside hotels and inns in Baler were included in the preemptive evacuation order due to the threat of a storm surge, the Philippine Information Authority reported.


Quezon Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) head Henry Buzar recommended the forced evacuation of residents living along coastlines and riverbanks. Some areas in the province are prone to flash floods and storm surges.

The Provincial Social Welfare and Social Welfare Office (PSWDO) is conducting hourly monitoring of communities.


At least 25 families with 96 people were preemptively evacuated to the Digumased Conference Hall in Dinapigue town in Isabela.


At least 5 families with a total number of 14 people from Barangay Mapaso in Irosin located at the foot of Mountt Bulusan were evacuated fom their homes in anticipation of lahar flow due to heavy rains.


At least 66 families or 186 individuals in Jomalig, Quezon, were moved to evacuation centers.


Authorities advised residents living in low-lying areas to monitor the water level in nearby rivers and those living in landslide-prone areas to evacuate. 


Disaster management officials on Saturday placed the entire National Capital Region (NCR) under Alpha Alert.

Under Alpha Alert, local governments shall make efforts to advice and warn residents in their respective areas regarding the typhoon.

Social welfare officers and emergency rescue personnel were also placed on standby for immediate action.


The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) placed LGUs in affected areas on various LISTO alert levels Saturday morning, according to DILG Director Allan Tabell.

LISTO is a set of critical preparedness actions that local governments should take following Oplan Listo (Operation Plan Alert). It provides mayors and other local government disaster management agencies a checklist of what should be done before, during, and after typhoons.

The alert system corresponds to 3 phases of critical preparedness actions – Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie. 

Alpha alert

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Bravo alert

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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

Check if your mayors are taking these minimum preparedness activities that LGUs should be enforcing in areas expected to be affected by Typhoon Karen. Tell us how prepared your LGUs are through email (move.ph@rappler.com) or Twitter (@moveph).


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