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The Philippines and the crisis in Europe


Thousands of Syrian refugees are suffering and dying across Europe and the Philippine Government must play an active role in helping them. For several years, the Philippines has not known any huge role in foreign affairs aside from creating a fuss with the South China Sea. While the dispute helps concretize our sovereignty over uncertain waters and territories, we do not have an active role in aiding countries elsewhere.

Whatever the reason for the lack of initiative, whether that be a greater focus on local politics or limited government funds, we have to stress the importance of becoming an important player in global issues. The Philippines is but a dot in the world map for many countries across the world, however, by dipping our toes into the crisis in Europe, we can place ourselves at the center of world affairs as the country that has made all the difference.

The crisis in Europe shows a lack of concern by European leaders. While Germany promised to take their fair share of refugees and lobbied for its neighbors to do the same, political red tape, inaction and even racism and discrimination blocked off efforts for a coherent plan to address the current situation.

Hungary and other countries refused refugees on the idea that European has “Christian roots” and that a cultural and religious divide prevents them from taking in the migrants. However, accepting only “Christian” refugees show that there is no religious divide but instead, discrimination of those who are not “European” to begin with.

The viral photo of the drowned Syrian boy called the attention of the global community. But, no one wants to take an active role simply because of the thought that a European crisis matters to Europe only. While the distance of the crisis does alienate most countries from taking an active role, there are other ways to help aside from accepting refugees (although accepting a fair share will help a lot). States can lobby European countries to do their part in alleviating the crisis. In addition, a generous amount of aid will help those refugees struggling in camps that are in the Middle East and even in Europe. There are no excuses for inaction.

Why help

The Philippines, in its history, helped refugees in the past. We accepted Vietnamese, Russian, Jewish, and Rohingya refugees, and they repaid us back with more than what we have offered them in aid.

Illustration by Nico Villarete

For example, former Vietnamese refugees donated millions to help those affected by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Whatever acts of kindness we showed before, we have been repaid and remembered well for. Filipinos are talented in many fields such as sports, academics and the arts. But, if there is anything we need to show the world is that we Filipinos also have a heart.

Many skeptics will cite the fact that our government cannot even help all of our countrymen, so how will they help the refugees. Others will vehemently reject the idea because our taxes should only go to Filipinos and not to foreigners.

But, as a people, we must remember that before we are Filipino, Christian, Muslim or anything else, we are first human. We roam the streets crying for the separation of Church and state, asking for the abolition of the RH Law, rejecting divorce, same-sex marriage and abortion for religious reasons. But, wouldn’t it be hypocritical to say we reject our fellow brethren abroad for our own selfish reasons? The Christian faith, which a majority of Filipinos believe in, revolves around compassion for others before our own needs. Political and personal needs should be set aside.

To the president

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, if you are reading this now, I humbly ask you to participate actively in helping these refugees in Europe and the Middle East. 

The Philippines government should consider improving its foreign policy abroad by helping the refugees in Europe through 3 ways: directly accepting refugees into the country and integrating them into Philippine society, actively lobbying European governments to allow safe passage and settlement through their borders for the refugees and or providing assistance with on the spot aid workers or donating a share to lighten Europe's financial burden.

The first one is the most controversial but the one that will directly affect the lives of the refugees. Integration and financial burden will accompany them into the country – with heavy resistance, but if the government has enough initiative into caring for the refugees, this is the best option. Empirically, migrants never steal jobs of local workers and actually contribute to diversity, culture and the economy. But, common fallacies that still unfortunately prevail will wall off any efforts of this kind. However, there is no monetary value to human life.

The second option is easier to accomplish but will create a huge failure is the lobbying is weak or ineffective. The casualties resulting from failed lobbying and deadlocks from policy makers can cost thousands if not millions of lives. The greatest example of the former is the Rwandan genocide where lobbying by certain policymakers vetoed any potential efforts to prevent a massacre of almost 800,000 Rwandans. The last option is the safest and has moderate gains. The refugee crisis is forecasted to cost Germany alone 10 billion euros.

Financial aid will go along way to helping European governments shoulder these painful expenses. Whatever option the Philippine government decides, it should take preemptive action before learning from hindsight. Henry Kissinger did say that action in foreign policy should always be done before the event and not cleaned up after the mess was made. The worst the government of europe, the Philippines and we as global citizens can do is nothing.

I can go over a hundred reasons why accepting refugees will be beneficial for the economy, for our culture and even for our dignity as Filipinos. But, more importantly, I hope you realize that before you were president, before you even entered politics, and before you were even signed a Filipino, you are human like them.  - Rappler.com 

Sign the petition to ask the Philippine government to help the Syrian Refugees.

Josh Ahyong, a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC majoring in International Relations and Economics, hopes to work for the United Nations or the World Bank and help address issues such as poverty and conflict. He is from Mandaluyong City.

On Grace and patience


When I think of Senator Grace Poe’s chance of winning the coveted top post of the land, I am reminded of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who once said: “Good character is not formed in a week or a month.  It is created little by little, day by day.  Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop character."

Although I have been unforgivingly critical of her defense of the INC’s mob-rule scheme at the Department of Justice compound, I still wish her success in her life’s pursuit. 

I think she has a chance of being a good presidential material in the future if she is willing to learn by herself about something of political importance. That is, if there is one virtue that she must nurture as she considers running for a higher post, she might take to heart Heraclitus’ admonition of patience.

Why patience? Well, for two important lessons. First, she must be humble enough to honestly accept her limited experience and lack of preparation.

File photo from Poe's Facebook page

She might learn a thing or two from her friend in Bicol, Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo. Leni is an exemplary public servant and a non-tradpol senatorial material with impeccable intelligence and wit. Just like her, she also aspires for a higher position but is circumspect enough to admit her lack of experience and preparation as a contender for VP. I hope Leni runs for senator and wins.

If ever Grace slides down as VP, just imagine the on-the-job-training she will obtain, and most of all, the goodwill of a dominant party and a vast campaign moolah she’ll inherit when her time comes.

Second, as a neophyte, she cannot politically mature relying on the undue influence of another Bicolano friend – a cunning tradpol who is known to have dumped and betrayed his friend in the last national election. Needless to say that, that friend lost and broke his heart.

Grace has to mature by herself and in her own terms. I know no one can dictate her on whom to befriend and trust as a political partner.

But her unqualified adulation and uncompromising reliance to a partnership with that “man from Bicol” troubles me and should set off alarm bells. I think in the INC crisis, she listened too much to his overbearing legalese and tradpol strategizing that she bungled their conniving response to it.

I truly believe that if she relied more on the gracious and just characters of her adoptive parents that she may have learned both both in life or film, she could have expressed herself with the ease of integrity and respect for the rule of law rather than dig herself out of the quagmire of the rule of the mob that she disingenuously continue to spin in public, just like Binay. 

And to think as a kid, I used to get excited watching her father Fernando Poe, Jr. in movies defend the just cause of the “little scared guys” or beat up the “big bad guys” like Joseph Estrada, Paquito Diaz, or Max Alvarado with his signature rapid-like Pacquiao punch.  

Sad to say, she seems to be learning more from the reputations of the tradpols than her noted adoptive parents. Kung buhay pa si Da King baka papagalitan pa s’ya for the INC screw-up. (If her father was still alive, he might've scolded her for the INC screw-up)

If Grace prefers the influence of the former, she is in danger to setting her self up for a dubious political legacy. And talking about a dubious legacy, there is a lesson to be learned from the troubled presidency of George Bush Jr. in tandem with Vice President Dick Cheney. 

The good-natured and melancholic Dubya who takes a lot of ribbing for his mediocre grades at Yale University is the exact opposite of the shrewd and conniving Dick who usually has the last words of counsel to him on policies. 

Setting up the White House for a stiff-necked neocon agenda together with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, he has been characterized as the most powerful and influential Vice President in American history to the extent that pundits called him Darth Vader. And he unapologetically embraced that image.

Unfortunately, in their last days in office, their relationship soured. Dubya simply ignored Dick and basically abandoned his counsel. But the damage had been done. It’s sad state to behold. 

I understand that at the moment, Grace and Chiz are leading in the surveys as undeclared contenders for president and vice president respectively. The temptation to be swayed by this consideration is quite irresistible. However, the political campaign period is a like a seesaw. Sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down. Still, it is a long way until that day and survey results will change once the dust settles for the would-be presidents.

In the end there is no substitute for what is truly graceful, gracious, and patient – even in politics. Quo Vadis Grace?– Rappler.com 

Efren Padilla is a full-time professor at California State University, East Bay. His areas of specialization are urban sociology, urban planning, and social demography. During his quarter breaks, he provides pro bono planning consultancy to selected LGUs in the Philippines.

Fil-Am guard among 3 suspects in California inmate's death


Screengrab from KPIX-CBS5

MANILA, Philippines – Jereh Lubrin, 28, a Filipino American jail guard, was one of 3 arrested on September 4, after an inmate under their watch was found dead.

According to an Associated Press (AP) report, the other guards involved in the alleged crime are Rafael Rodriguez, 27, and Matthew Farris 27. The suspects are being held without bail. Authorities did not say where they're being detained.

Laurie Smith of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department identified the victim as Michael James Pipkin Tyree, 31. Smith apologized to Tyree's family, saying that “the disappointment and disgust I feel cannot be overstated.”

Tyree was found beat up last September 3 in his jail cell. An AP report said he was covered in his feces and vomit, and was declared dead by paramedics. The suspects were immediately stripped of their weapons, uniforms, and peace officer status, before they were arrested.

The victim was apparently homeless, and was sentenced to 5 days on a petty theft charge, while waiting to be transfered to a mental health facility.

A Los Angeles Times report quoted Smith as saying, "The deputies’ actions are not indicative of the values of this department."– Rappler.com 

Complaints vs overcharging recruiters on the rise in HK?


HONG KONG – There's been a recent increase in the number of OFWs lodging complaints of overcharging against employment agencies, according to the Consulate.

Vice Consul Fatima Quintin, head of the assistance to nationals section, told The SUN she's noticed the uptrend in recent weeks.

Quintin could not give an estimate of the number of complainants who go to her office for help each month, but she said that on average she was receiving 3 to 5 complaints on a weekday.

More complainants arrive on Sundays, when most domestic workers take their day off, the vice consul said. "Dumarami ang nagpa-file ng complaints ngayon. Ang nakikita ko ngayon, kahit yung mga matagal nang nandito at still working, nagku-complain sila maski sa mga previous agencies nila," said Quintin. (More of us are filing complaints now. From what I see, even those who have been here for a while and are still working are complaining because of their previous agencies.)

She said even complaints about overcharging that happened sometime back were still being accepted and addressed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the regulator of the employment agency industry.

She said the rise in complaints was a hint that the domestic workers are now more aware of their rights, with constant reminders they get from the Consulate and from the post-arrival orientation seminars.

And the claims vary in amounts. Quintin said said she knew of 3 cases where the workers were chasing their former agents for claims of under Php10,000 (about $214). "Sabi ko, why not? I mean, pera nyo naman iyan," Quintin said.

When The SUN asked labor attaché Nenita Garcia to confirm if there had been a rise in the number of complaints against overcharging, she said the volume was just normal. – Rappler.com 

This story is republished with permission from The SUN-HK, a content partner of Rappler

Online petition calls for 8 steps to ease MRT problems


INTOLERABLE. Commuting via the MRT is a hurdle thousands of Filipinos are forced to endure every day.

MANILA, Philippines - "Remove the seats!" 

This is just one of the possible ways the government can ease the congestion inside overcrowded trains of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3, according to a new petition circulating online.

Nicole Calo, a commuter fed up with crowded trains, wrote an online petition on Change.org offering 8 ways to solve what she calls an "unproductive and a highly intolerable experience."

Calo said the conditions inside the MRT-3 system were "inhumane," particularly when compared to similar train systems in Beijing. "In the Beijing rush hour, though crowded and of higher volume there is still enough room inside the train for individual people to swing their arms or turn around. In Manila, there is negative space – literally, as the people are crushing into your body, skin is in contact, and there is barely enough space to breathe." 

Quick fixes

The solutions Calo proposes are fairly simple and meant to address everyday problems encountered by train passengers: 

1. Fix theclocks. Some MRT clocks don't work or tell the proper time. "Timeliness is an essential part of the transportation experience," says Calo, who adds that placing new batteries won't even cost the government much money. 

2. Put hand rails at the center of the train. Calo writes that crowding takes place near the train doors because passengers have nothing to hold on to.

3. Instruct guards to systematically direct alighting traffic. Embarking passengers should line up diagonally on either side of the train doors, leaving the immediate vicinity of the train doors free for disembarking passengers. This will help save time.

4. Except for the first train car for the elderly, pregnant and PWDs, take out the seats on the train cars. The space taken by the seats could easily accomodate more passengers, letting more people get on the train. This easily increases car capacity and reduces passenger waiting time.

5. Optimize space by removing the doors in the compartment room at the front of each train car. Every riding passenger counts, and this fix easily accommodates at least 50 additional passengers per train.

6. Utilize extra terminal space for extra ticket booths. Tables with attendants will easily serve the public by reducing lines at the existing ticket booths. This saves time and eases tempers from flaring.

7. Improve the baggage inspection system. So much time is wasted by guards opening and poking bags, and this is an ineffective and inefficient way of securing passengers. An x-ray baggage scanner for each station would help speed the process and be much more effective.   

8. Educate senior staff on train transportation science and traffic technology. This will help develop local capacity and local expertise, which leaves much to be desired. Calo writes, "Lack of transportation science expertise is the root of our problems. Please collaborate!"

Calo does not begrudge the inconveniences brought about by the upgrading, as she writes, "We understand that the goal is to modernize the MRT-3 altogether, but the change management is poor. The sequence of improvements should be reviewed, and the short-term consequences of the these installments should be predicted and better managed."

Troubled trains

The government's management of the MRT-3 system has come under intense public scrutiny in recent months. Commuters regularly complain of long waiting lines, passenger congestion, and generally poor maintenance. The government has admitted that the system has not been well maintained, with less than the optimal number of trains operational. But news trains are scheduled to arrive in the country in January 2016. Until then, commuters will need to endure the painful commute. - Rappler.com

#StopLumadKillings trends: Nasaan ang Pangulo?


MANILA, Philippines – Thirteen-year old Lumad Shin has not heard about Facebook or Twitter, but she is grateful that strangers online are helping her get justice for the killing of her father.

Salamat at nanawagan kayo para sa amin (Thank you for speaking up for us),” Shin told Rappler when she was informed that the hashtag #StopKillingLumads has been a trending topic on Twitter in the Philippines. 

Shin said she saw her father, Dionel Campos, a Lumad leader and farmer, shot in the head twice allegedly by military and paramilitary elements on September 1 near their village in Lianga town in Surigao del Sur.

Helpless and traumatized, Shin, together with her family and more than 200 other Lumad, fled her village in the mountain, trekking for two hours to bring her dead father and another victim to the town proper. (READ: School head, 2 lumad leaders killed in Surigao del Sur)

Shin is now in Manila with other Lumad leaders to bring their plight closer to the seat of power and to the public. She is thankful that they received relief goods from the Philippine Red Cross and cause-oriented groups, but she feels they had been abandoned by the government:

"Maraming salamat. Nakatanggap kami ng pagkain at tubig, pero hindi namin nararamdaman ang tulong ng gobyerno,” 

(Thank you. We received food and water, but we didn’t get the help of the government.)

On Monday, September 7, netizens took to Twitter to condemn the recent spate of killings and violence that target indigenous peoples, their leaders, and teachers. The thread that used hashtag #StopLumadKillings generated more than 4,100 tweets as of 7:30 pm, Monday. 

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopLumadKillings?src=hash">#StopLumadKillings</a> 7th spot in nationwide trends as of 4:43pm. Keep on tweeting and join the campaign!</p>&mdash; John Clifford (@JCSibayan23) <a href="https://twitter.com/JCSibayan23/status/640807533507051520">September 7, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Count my RAGE in! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopLumadKillings?src=hash">#StopLumadKillings</a></p>&mdash; Alyssa Marie Mijares (@MsTalkingHippo) <a href="https://twitter.com/MsTalkingHippo/status/640809189837639680">September 7, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">Kayong mga may 10k followers and above, iretweet nyo naman ito para makarating sa Malakanyang at Camp Aguinaldo: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopLumadKillings?src=hash">#StopLumadKillings</a>!</p>&mdash; Caloy Conde (@caloyconde) <a href="https://twitter.com/caloyconde/status/640812710905573376">September 7, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Stop any form of human rights violation! End the culture of impunity! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopLumadKillings?src=hash">#StopLumadKillings</a> <a href="http://t.co/Kg1pcnKJjL">pic.twitter.com/Kg1pcnKJjL</a></p>&mdash; ⓝⓞⓔⓛ.ⓒⓤⓔⓝⓒⓐ (@totoheart) <a href="https://twitter.com/totoheart/status/640811987362910208">September 7, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Praying for everyone! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopLumadKillings?src=hash">#StopLumadKillings</a></p>&mdash; Noel Soriano (@n0els0rian0) <a href="https://twitter.com/n0els0rian0/status/640719576892768256">September 7, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}


{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Filipinos remain refugees in their own country! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopLumadKillings?src=hash">#StopLumadKillings</a></p>&mdash; The Jhaypee Naco (@jhaypeeXclusive) <a href="https://twitter.com/jhaypeeXclusive/status/640709212587225088">September 7, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}


{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="und" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopLumadKillings?src=hash">#StopLumadKillings</a> <a href="http://t.co/iXmzsmTef4">pic.twitter.com/iXmzsmTef4</a></p>&mdash; Marjohara Tucay (@marjohara) <a href="https://twitter.com/marjohara/status/640801084684931073">September 7, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}


{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopLumadKillings?src=hash">#StopLumadKillings</a> The NCCP urges government authorities to end the ongoing militarization of Mindanao and... <a href="http://t.co/RO3f4z8mgY">http://t.co/RO3f4z8mgY</a></p>&mdash; NCCPhilippines (@NCCPhils) <a href="https://twitter.com/NCCPhils/status/640801580577480704">September 7, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}


{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Military attacks on Lumad community schools in Mindanao. Save our schools! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopLumadKillings?src=hash">#StopLumadKillings</a> <a href="http://t.co/o4g9TGFwjE">pic.twitter.com/o4g9TGFwjE</a></p>&mdash; Cleve V. Arguelles (@clevearguelles) <a href="https://twitter.com/clevearguelles/status/640729948857204736">September 7, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}


Who is listening?

Journalists, bloggers, and pundits also weighed in on the situation, holding authorities accountable. The crisis has displaced nearly 4,000 indigenous peoples from Surigao del Sur, Bukidnon, Saranggani, and Davao del Norte allegedly due to human rights violations committed by the military. 

"They’re killing teachers and children, Mr President,” veteran journalist Inday Varona wrote in her blog. 

"You felt horror and rage on the assassination of your father, Ninoy. I am sure you can empathize with a 15-year old Manobo boy from Sitio Mando, Barangay Mendis, Pangantucan, Bukidnon," Varona said.

The boy’s father, 70-year-old Herminio Samia, was among the 5 Lumad accused of being rebels by the military who were killed on August 18 in Bukidnon. (READ: 5 killed in Bukidnon were civilians - NPA)

Journalist Lian Buan lamented, “the Lumads of Mindanao are desperately calling our for help, who’s listening?”

Buan continued: 

"All of us know the story of one fictional Yaya, her dashing prince charming, and the cunning but wise grandmother in a noontime series plastered all over the internet, newspapers and the airwaves. But only a few know the story of a 15-year-old Manobo boy from Pangantucan, Bukidnon”

For broadcast journalist Atom Araullo, the crisis tests the Aquino administration's political slogan:

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Justice for the murder of lumad leaders in Mindanao! Let’s see what Daang Matuwid is made of. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopLumadKillings?src=hash">#StopLumadKillings</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/impunity?src=hash">#impunity</a></p>&mdash; Atom Araullo (@atomaraullo) <a href="https://twitter.com/atomaraullo/status/640759305621237760">September 7, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

Political strategist Malou Tiquia called for accountability:

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Daang Matuwid, you need to make the AFP accountable and do something re <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopLumadKillings?src=hash">#StopLumadKillings</a></p>&mdash; Malou Tiquia (@maltiq) <a href="https://twitter.com/maltiq/status/640791813880590336">September 7, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

But the military denied it has perpetrated the killings of indigenous peoples in the region, stressing that its mandate is to protect the Lumad from the New People's Army (NPA) and other alleged anti-NPA armed groups in the area.

"Wala kaming tropa doon. (We don't have troops there). If we were there, we could have prevented it," 402nd brigade commander Col Isidro Purisima told Rappler.

Purisima added that the military assisted the police and civil society groups that conducted investigation on the killings in Lianga.

"We condemn the killing," Purisima said, adding that the military "will support the law in finding justice for the victims." 

According to Katribu secretary general Piya Macliing Malayao, 53 Lumad had been killed extrajudicially under the Aquino administration. Based on the group's documentation, the killings have intensified in 2015, claiming 13 lives as of September 1. – Rappler.com




PH to request extradition of Fil-Am murder suspect


THE TWO SUSPECTS. Images of Nno Dela Cruz and Jonathan Dwayne Ciocon Viane from Facebook.

MANILA, Philippiens – A Filipino American, who is suspected of murdering a woman in Zambales and who has fled to the United States, is set to be extradited to the Philippines.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed that the suspect was arrested in Iowa and will face trial for murder in Iba, Zambales.

De Lima said they were given 60 days to submit the extradition request to the US authorities.

Authorities earlier said Jonathan Dwayne Ciocon Viane, who is a resident of Anchorage, Alaska, may have killed Aika Mojica for telling his ex-wife, Liane, about the whereabouts of the couple’s child.

Mojica and Liane are close friends.

Viane had brought the child to the Philippines amid a custody fight with the child's mother. (READ: Arrest warrants out as suspect in Olongapo murder flees to US)  

The victim’s body was discovered in a ditch in San Felipe town in Zambales on July 25. Police said her body had been burned, sustained gunshot wounds, and may have been strangled.

Authorities recovered 3 9mm bullet shells from the scene.

Viane’s co-accused, Niño Dela Cruz, was arrested on August 12 in Metro Manila and is being held at the Zambales Provincial Jail. – Rappler.com 

#Poe2016 or #TraPOE? Netizens react to Poe's presidential bid


MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe officially declared her bid for the presidency on Wednesday, September 16.

"Ako po si Grace Poe, Pilipino, anak, asawa at ina...inaalay ko ang aking sarili...bilang inyong pangulo," the senator said at the University of the Philippines Bahay ng Alumni. (I am Grace Poe, a Filipino, a child, a wife, and a mother... I am offering myself as your president.)

In a speech that lasted for nearly half an hour, Poe cited one by one the areas she would like to focus on. The event, which was anticipated by many as early as 3 PM, began with some musical performances by supporters. 

The announcement itself began at around 6:30 PM, opening with a video montage of the senator's childhood photos, with the late Fernando Poe Jr.'s voice in the background. 

Poe is the 3rd candidate to announce her bid for presidency, following Vice President Jejomar Binay in July 1 and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas in July 31. 

Areas of focus

Poe rolled out plenty of promises, including those which are rarely touched by other candidates, such as support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights, hunger and nutrition, arts, and sports.

The neophyte senator  pushed for faster Internet connection, saying it could improve livelihoods, businesses, and education. She also stressed the need to fix classrooms and to ensure that they have access to the Internet and digital technology.

Like other candidates, Poe pushed for fostering peace in Mindanao, creating better infrastructures, fixing the traffic situation, supporting the agriculture and health sector, increasing salaries,  decreasing taxes and electricity prices, and fighting corruption, crime and drugs.

Poe also touched on complex issues like the West Philippine Seaand climate change.

Topping off her advocacies is her demand to pass the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill into law. 

'Lesser evil'

On Twitter, the hashtags #POE2016, #TraPOE, #GracePoe and #TiwalaTayo started trending as the senator was giving her speech.

Several netizens expressed their support for Poe, with some of them calling her the "lesser-evil" candidate. Some were also impressed with the senator's specific list of priorities, different from how other candidates promise blanket statements.

Since Poe promised Filipinos a lot of changes and progress, some netizens questioned whether the senator is really capable of doing all these.

Empty promises?

Meanwhile, some netizens were not impressed by Poe's speech, calling her words nothing but wishful thinking and empty promises. Some also attacked her lack of experience, seeing her as someone who feeds off her parents' popularity.

What are your thoughts on Poe's presidential bid? Let us know, tweet us at @moveph, message us on Facebook, or email us at move.ph@rappler.com. – Rappler.com

Understanding APEC and disaster preparedness


On September 22-23, 2015, Senior Disaster Management officials of member economies to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) will meet in Iloilo City in order to discuss disaster concerns and issues on disaster management to explore ways for cooperation.  

The project “Scaling Up Resilience in Governance” (SURGE) offers this helpful background on the role of APEC on disaster preparedness in the Asia Pacific Region.

The Origin of APEC

The formation of APEC as an economic body in the Asia Pacific Region was an idea developed by then Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke in 1989. There were 12 economies that participated in a meeting held in Canberra, Australia, which was intended to create the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation or known today as APEC.

The meeting was attended by ministers from the 12 nations and discussions were led by Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Gareth Evans.

The APEC is primarily an economic cooperation cluster. Hence, members to APEC are referred to as 'economies' instead of states, because APEC, is above all, a cooperation platform with a predominant focus on trade and economic issues. Members engage with one another as economic not as political entities. This is in contrast to many regional or geographic trade and economic blocs in the world today. 

There were some nations that expressed opposition to the formation of APEC yet the formation materialized and continues to operate 26 years after it was established.

APEC Members

From the twelve 12 members that originally composed APEC, its membership expanded to 21 economies.

The first 12 nations that composed APEC were Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Republic of Korea, Thailand and the United States.

In the span of nine years, the APEC broadened membership to include Chile, People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russia, Chinese Taipei, and Viet Nam bringing its membership to 21 nations today.

There were dozen more nations who had submitted their intention to become a member of APEC. The APEC, however, issued a moratorium on membership expansion citing various reasons geographical consideration up to economic factors that affected members of the bloc following the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997.

APEC and disaster management

Given the geographical location and the presence of all the known hazards in the world, emergency preparedness has become one of the key elements of APEC's human security agenda, along with countering terrorism and pandemics. The agenda is also a recognition of the potential impacts that disasters can bring from one member to the other and which can deliver significant spillover effects in other economies.

Among the major catastrophes that hit the region in recent years were the following:

  • The Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004
  • The earthquake in China's Sichuan province in 2008
  • The earthquake in Chile in 2010
  • The earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan in 2011
  • Typhoon Haiyan in Micronesia and the Philippines (2013).

These disaster events served as a critical reminder of the importance of APEC's emergency preparedness work.

In 2005, APEC Senior Officials established the Emergency Preparedness Working Group (EPWG) as APEC's Task Force for Emergency Preparedness (TFEP). Originally called the Virtual Task Force for Emergency Preparedness, the TFEP carried out much of its work via electronic communications. Pursuant to its terms of reference, the Task Force was mandated to coordinate and facilitate emergency and disaster preparedness within APEC.

In 2009, APEC Leaders reaffirmed the importance of enhancing human security and reducing the threat of disruptions to business and trade in the Asia-Pacific region. Recognizing the importance of its work, in 2010, the TFEP was upgraded into a working group status.

Now, the EPWG continues to play its constructive role in enabling the region to improve preparedness and response to emergencies and disasters by helping reduce the risk of disasters and by building resilient businesses and communities. By sharing expertise and collaborating on emergency preparedness issues, APEC members showed commitment to strengthen their capacities to mitigate emergencies and step up disasters preparedness program.

As a member economy to the APEC, the Philippines contributes to the attainment of its general aspiration by working closely with member economies to help facilitate trade and plan for emergency preparedness. 

This year, the Philippines serves as host to member economies for a senior disaster officials Meeting with the theme: “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World." The upcoming meeting in Iloilo City will provide primary focus on inclusive growth and in building sustainable and resilient communities.

The APEC meeting signals a new phase for commitment to inclusive development. The plans and programs that will be decided by senior disaster officials have to contend with the growing challenges of natural and human-induced hazards that affect its asset base and the population - that currently contribute to or have the potential to contribute to the development of the region.

The Iloilo City gathering of senior disaster officials from APEC member economies is crucial for its peoples because the policies and programs that will be derived from the meeting are expected to focus on building resilient communities that can adapt to the demands of the changing climate especially to archipelagic nations like the Philippines.

It is the first time for Iloilo City to host numerous cluster meetings on the road to the APEC Ministerial Meeting in November. This is the second time that the Philippine government will serve as host of an APEC meeting. - Rappler.com

Ted Aldwin Ong is a Rappler mover and Project Agos partner in Iloilo.

The SURGE Project aims to increase resilience of high risk communities in the Philippines. It is implemented by a consortium composed of Christian Aid, Handicap International, Oxfam and Plan International and with a funding support by the European Union Humanitarian Aid.


Ending hunger and malnutrition in PH is possible in 15 years but...


SATING HUNGER. Children line up at a feeding program for informal settlers in Quezon City. File photo by Rolex dela Pena/ EPA

MANILA, Philippines –  The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030. But given the state of nutrition of Filipinos, what can the Philippines achieve in 15 years?

The country does not need to look far to see proof of how hard work can help end hunger and malnutrition despite limited time, according to Save the Children country director Ned Olney.

The “dramatic change” in Southeast Asian countries, he said, can also happen in the Philippines.

“We have neighbor-countries that were able to end or even reduce malnutrition within a few years,” Olney emphasized. “In 15 years, if you really attack, you would be able to achieve these goals."

Zero hunger and improved nutrition fall under SDG #2. Also known as the Global Goals set by the United Nations, the SDGs include 17 targets touching important issues across countries. (READ: Sustainable goals: From MDGs to SDGs)

Despite what seems to be an unchanging face of malnourishment, Olney and other nutrition experts remain optimistic that the Philippines faces a future of zero hunger and malnutrition. (READ: What’s next for hunger and poverty after 2015?)

Elusive peak

Data from the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) show that there has been no significant change in stunting – a sign of chronic malnutrition – in the Philippines for over 20 years. (READ: State of PH nutrition: The last 5 years)

Meanwhile, the latest NNS showed that two out of 10 children under 5 years old are underweight, while 7 in 10 Filipino households do not get the right amount of nutrients. (READ: More Filipinos eat less – survey)

Action Against Hunger (ACF) Nutrition coordinator Dr Oscar Fudalan stressed that efforts need to be improved among sectors if the country wants to change.

“We've been on status quo for a long time on malnutrition,” he said. “We've been asking ourselves, why is it that kind of peak, a significant decrease, is so elusive?"

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that ended in 2015 included the target of halving malnutrition and hunger rates by half. Although the country “nearly” achieved this, the latest nutritional statistics show there is more to be done. (READ: Poverty, hunger still threaten MDG)

“It is not a hopeless case,” Dr Amado Parawan, Save the Children’s Health and Nutrition advisor said. “If we focus and come together, we can definitely end hunger and malnutrition by 2030.”

PHILIPPINE SITUATION. Filipino food scavengers eat 'pagpag' (recycled food) meal collected from the Payatas dump site ahead of Pope Francis' visit in Quezon City in January 2015. File photo by Dennis Sabangan/EPA

Grassroots approach

It is important, Fudalan said, that programs and policies the government implements should reach communities.

“We need to put this down to the barangay levels so that they can benefit,” he said. “If we want to end hunger and malnutrition, we need to make sure help goes to those who really need it.”

Assistant Secretary Gerardo Bayugo gave assurances the Department of Health – through the Barangay Health Workers and Barangay Nutrition Scholars – makes sure that communities are taken care of when it comes to health and nutrition. (READ: Who are your barangay nutrition scholars?)

“The DOH has taken a comprehensive, proactive, and holistic approach in dealing with the mandate of reducing malnutrition,” he explained. As a department, it has been our policy to address the problem even before the child is born by implementing effective maternal programs.”

Programs on pregnant women and children are key to a malnutrition-free future. Effective implementation of these programs is key to ending the intergenerational problem of malnutrition. (READ: Filipino ‘shortness’ more than a ‘racial trait’ – report)

“Good nutrition of pregnant women and prevention of pregnancy complication can greatly decrease risks,” Bayugo said. “By decreasing it, we are effectively addressing the problem of child malnutrition at one of its many roots.”– Rappler.com

Ending malnutrition and hunger falls under the 17 Global Goals! How can the Philippines achieve this by 2030? Join the conversation at Rappler's Innovation +Social Good! Register here.

Netizens on President's Marwan speech: Annoyed


INSTANT FEEDBACK. Netizens were quick to weigh in on President Aquino's televised statement this afternoon.


MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III addressed the nation live on television on Thursday afternoon, September 17, to release results of an investigation into the death of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan in Mamasapano on January 25. 

The President sought to disprove 'alternate narratives' alledging that Marwan was not killed by Special Action Force (SAF) troopers. 

"Ibig sabihin din po, lahat ng iba pang salaysay ukol sa sinasabing alternatibong naratibo ay wala ng basehan at wala na ring saysay (This means that all the other narratives about the so-called alternative narrative have no basis, and are also pointless)," the President said in his address, after presenting photos proving that the SAF killed Marwan.


Reactions to the speech from netizens were varied. Some heaped praise while others expressed their irritation at the President for interrupting their regular afternoon television shows. 



<a class="twitter-timeline" href="http://go.rappler.com/https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom/timelines/644404047772913664" data-widget-id="644414357216976896">Aquino on #SAF44</a>

<script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");</script>



Paz Rubio Juco commented on the Gov.PH Facebook page, "Closure to this issue will not happen until after 2016 elections. Watch out: opposition candidates will definitely use the issue as black propaganda against the administration. And shld Roxas/LP win, expect the opposition and militant groups to resurrect it just to destabilize the govt. Haaay...phil politics, so predictable!

Also on Facebook, Charles Yao observed, "This is too little too late. Totoo man yan, wala nang naniniwala (Even if it's true, no one believes you)."

Not all netizens were opposed, however.

Nelia Jardin commented on Facebook, "Let's move on," while Alfredo Lachenal Santos bid the President well.

Those killed in the Mamasapano clash are long dead but this is one issue that refuses to rest. - Rappler.com

#StayNegatHIVe: We need to talk about HIV/AIDS


MANILA, Philippines - The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a growing epidemic in the Philippines. 

This is supported by data from the Department of Health (DOH), which reported in June 2015 that new HIV cases in the Philippines have grown by as much as 1,038% in as little time as 6 years.

At present, 21 Filipinos are reported to be infected with HIV daily. 

There are many factors contributing to this problem. For one, the DOH recorded low condom usage among Filipinos, with over 13% of Filipinos unaware that “using condoms reduces the risk of HIV.” 

“Condoms, when used correctly and consistently, are highly effective in preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,” the World Health Organization (WHO) stressed. 

It’s a problem that cuts across the different sectors of the country. While men having sex with men (MSMs) are the most prone to contracting the disease, the number of Filipino babies infected with the disease is on the rise.  

“Virtually every other country in the world, it's going down, the number of babies that are infected with HIV. The Philippines is one of the few where it's actually going up,” World Health Organization (WHO) country representative Julie Hall earlier told Rappler

According to the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), only 2% of women have ever been tested for HIV in the Philippines. An HIV-positive mother could transmit the virus to her child during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding. (READ: What you need to know about children with HIV/AIDS)

From the cities to the shores

From June to August 2015, Rappler’s civic engagement arm, MovePH, went around the Philippines to recruit and train citizen journalists and advocates in a series of workshops. 

During the workshops, movers were asked to determine problems in their areas that they want to solve through storytelling and online-to-on-ground campaigns. While we got the usual answers - corruption, transportation, and the negative effects of urbanization - one problem consistently came up in all our communities - HIV/ AIDS.

Most of our movers expressed their concern on the growing number of HIV/AIDS infected individuals, that seldom undergo the right treatment, in their areas. 

Major cities like Iloilo, for example, lead with the most number of registered cases of AIDS, with 254 infected individuals from 1984 to July 2015. Our mover from Iloilo, Russel Mendez, reported that HIV/AIDS cases continue to rise Western Visayas, with one person getting infected every 24 hours.

In Angeles City, where most of our movers in Pampanga reside, is listed by the United Nations AIDS Organization as a “high priority area for HIV intervention” due to its still booming red light district. (READ: [Dash of SAS] Prostitution or negotiable affection?) 

In rural areas like Tawi-Tawi and Basilan, the problem gets more complicated. New HIV/AIDS cases remain undocumented because of the lack of testing centers in their areas. 

“You have to go to Zamboanga to get tested. Imagine, you have to take a plane ride, if you’re from Tawi-Tawi, and a ferry trip, if you’re from Basilan just to get HIV testing?” Maria Theresa Gonzalez, Rappler’s lead mover in Tawi-Tawi, said.

This, plus the general stigma against the LGBT community in conservative communities like Tawi-Tawi, add to the problem. 

Join the campaign!

Responding to the concerns of our communities across the country, MovePH has partnered with LoveYourself and DM9 JaymeSyfu to launch #StayNegatHIVe, a campaign that aims to raise awareness on the issue of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines. This is a concerted effort with all our movers in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Here’s how you can participate in the campaign for its first phase:

Read up. Rappler has plenty of stories and data about HIV/AIDS. Everything to know from how one can get infected with HIV to how to get tested discreetly is available online. Raising awareness and telling people about it are the first steps to countering this epidemic. With every share and every post, we can influence more people to become conscious of the issue. (WATCH: HIV testing walkthrough) 

Get tested and encourage others to do so. You can get tested in many clinics for free and in confidentiality. LoveYourself has discreet testing centers you can visit. We are going to publish a map of testing centers particularly in rural areas. You can help us by locating the HIV testing centers in your area!

After getting tested, encourage your friends, especially those who are sexually active, to get tested. It’s been said before: testing positive for HIV is no longer a death sentence. In fact, it is already considered as a “chronic manageable disease” by the UN AIDS Center for Disease Control and Prevention. With treatment and care, people with HIV can live healthy and full lives - and getting tested is the first step. (READ: Thinking about taking an HIV test? Be brave!)

Spread the word. Use the hashtag #StayNegatHIVe to share stories and posts on social media. We’ll be creating infographics in different local languages for this campaign to reach more people in the provinces. You can also participate in a series of online conversations that we will conduct. Just follow the hashtag!

The DOH reported in April 2015 that 6 cities in the country may already reach “uncontrollable” HIV rates. Through this campaign, we hope to prevent more people from getting HIV and stop the epidemic.

What happens next after getting tested? What will you do if you test positive for HIV? These will be answered when we launch the second phase of our campaign in October.

Let’s #MovePH and #StayNegatHIVe! - Rappler.com

Interested to partner with us for this initiative? Send us an e-mail at move.ph@rappler.com and at david.lozada@rappler.com!

How 'mindfulness' helps us deal with high-stress jobs


MANILA, Philippines — Doing humanitarian work can be dehumanizing, so how do aid workers cope? 

“There are lots of cases of burnout in this sector,” said Hitendra Solanki, mindfulness and wellbeing adviser of the international humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger (ACF). 

Stress levels are high, said Solanki, due to heavy workload, tight deadlines, and organizational and management issues. “They are doing so much with limited time, money, and resources. The timescale can be inhuman,” he added.

When disasters happen one after another, aid workers and resources are also stretched.

Such scenarios apply not only for those in the field, but also those at the office.

Most humanitarian workers are exposed to hostile environments, suffering, and traumatic events. In fact, a 2011 Harvard University study found that “relief workers experience significant trauma,” possibly resulting in post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.

Some also turn to negative coping habits like alcohol, drugs, bad relationships, and social withdrawal. (READ: Post-Yolanda, community support key to mental health)

Stress, after all, can take a toll on anyone.

In 2012, the Antares Foundation and the Center for Disease Control advised non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to alert humanitarian workers of the risks associated with the job; to provide psychological support during and after deployment; and to provide a supportive work environment, manageable workload, and recognition.

In times of conflict and disasters, humanitarian workers are always there to respond to the needs of survivors. But who takes care of them?


Even after 14 years in the humanitarian sector, Jing Pura sometimes still finds herself crushed by the nature of her work. 

"I was doing a situation report for Typhoon Yolanda. During day two, there were only 100 casualties. I slept and when I woke up, there were already 1,000. I was shocked," shared Pura. "I wasn’t in Tacloban, I was in Manila. Imagine those who were actually there."

“Humanitarian workers have to accept that they aren’t Superman or Wonder Woman,” Pura told Rappler, “For you to help, you need to take care of yourself first.”

Pura also emphasized the need for managers to accept their "duty of care" for their staff. "Only a few human resources departments focus on wellbeing. Mostly it's on recruitment, salary, and organizational development," she observed. 

This could also help retain staff, said Pura.

If humanitarian workers are healthy – not only physically but also emotionally and mentally – they become more productive and effective in their jobs. This is why mental and emotional wellbeing are important elements of disaster response. 

In 2013, the British government published a review on its humanitarian emergency response, which led to Britain’s Disaster Emergency Preparedness Program. It established the “Start Network,” a consortium of 24 NGOs focused on emergency response and civil society capacity building. 

As humanitarian workers continue to help build resilience and preparedness among communities, the question to ask, according to Solanki, is: “What are we doing as agencies to actually better support and build the resilience and preparedness of our own crisis-affected staff?”

The common practice among NGOs is to only provide treatment when the problem is already there. This needs to change, argued Solanki. “We need to shift the emphasis to prevention.” This approach supports workers to "effectively manage their own stress, anxiety, mental health and well-being," he said.

Such preventative treatment can be done through mindfulness, said Solanki. This is also now part of Start Network’s advocacies, with a pilot project dubbed as the “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction."

In implementing the project, launched in August 2015 with Christian Aid and ACF,  Solanki led the 5-week training of 65 humanitarian workers in Manila and Tacloban.


Image from Shutterstock

But what exactly is mindfulness? (READ: Mindful eating)

"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally."

This most commonly used definition of mindfulness is by Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor and founder at the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts.

On Thursday, September 17, Solanki conducted his final workshop before heading home to the UK. The participating humanitarian workers learned how mindfulness could be used to deal with their stress and work-related problems.

"Mindfulness is becoming self-aware of your feelings and thoughts," explained Solanki. "It's training the attention." He also stressed that mindfulness is a secular approach, and can be done by anyone regardless of religion.

The more you're self-aware, the more you're aware of your surroundings, said Solanki, adding that mindfulness helps people know themselves better.

Possible benefits of mindfulness according to the UK Mentalh Health Foundation:
1. 70% reduction in anxiety.
2. Fewer visits to your general physician.
3. Increase in disease-fighting antibodies, suggesting an improved immune system.
4. Decrease in negative feelings like anger, tension, depression.
5. Improved physical condition.

For Pura, mindfulness can build up one's internal strength. How? By allowing a person to recognize what they are thinking and feeling. 

"Take time to sit, step back, and process it. You don't judge yourself for feeling those because it's normal," she continued. "The fact that you labeled it, you can detach from it. It helps."

In the process, people can find insights from their own emotions.

Mindfulness can help individuals become more aware of her or his habit patterns, tendencies, and thinking process, Solanki suggested. Such awareness could help people manage stress better.

Solanki also advised not only humanitarian workers but anyone with stressful jobs to live "moment by moment," allowing yourself to be free from the past and to stop worrying about the future.

In an exercise, participants were asked to close their eyes and to sit upright in a relaxed position. The goal was to focus on one's breathing. Is this possible? One's mind might wander elsewhere during those few solemn minutes. 

It is important, said Solanki, to take note of what you are thinking of. Some participants admitted wandering off to thoughts about work, deadlines, and even terror bosses.

Once distracted by such thoughts, Solanki advised the participants to return their focus on their breathing.

"Focus on the here and now," said Solanki. "Be more attentive to the present, to being alive, and participate in it."

For Solanki, the key lessons from mindfulness are:

  • Being aware of the workings of your mind.
  • Stay steady, but learn to stand back a little.
  • Recognize that you have choices other than slipping back to old patterns.
  • Learn to take a kinder, more gentle attitude to yourself.
  • Refine the capacity to recognize warning signals and take helpful action,
  • Put less effort in "fixing" things.
  • Focus on the "here and now."

The idea may sound quite hippy and vague, but people in high-stress jobs like humanitarian work may find it helpful. Rappler.com

Will PH be the biggest carbon emitter in 35 years?


2013 was the most devastating year in recent Philippine history in terms of natural disasters. It was the year we experienced something we had never experienced before. 

Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the strongest typhoon to make landfall in recent Philippine history, battered the Visayas region, leaving more than 6,000 people dead. Almost two years after, communities are still being rebuilt; people in the Visayas region are still coping with their losses. Many have left their homes and have learned to fear the water.

Catastrophic events like Haiyan are linked to the changing climate. Climate change as we know today is human-induced, much of it due to human activities that involve burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas.

According to Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, “Many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change.”

“We saw heavier precipitation, more intense heat, and more damage from storm surges and coastal flooding as a result of sea-level rise – as Typhoon Haiyan so tragically demonstrated in the Philippines,” Jarraud said in a press statement.

This brings us to a most important question: What will our future look like as we face the changing climate, and what can we do about it?

The Conference of Parties, a yearly meeting of countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, will be having its 21st year of negotiations in December in Paris, France. (READ: What's happening in the Paris climate talks?)

Many have been looking forward to this year’s COP as it hopes to bring about a climate agreement among nations. After 21 years of negotiations, overwhelming scientific evidences, and catastrophic events proving that climate change is indeed happening, are we finally ready to take climate action?

During the 16th year of negotiations in Cancun, countries agreed to a long term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius,  based on pre-industrial levels. So far, the world has warmed by 0.8 degrees Celsius.

Is PH ready?

But while countries have started committing to zero carbon emissions by 2050, the Philippines doesn’t seem to be ready with this commitment. 

The government has approved more than 50 coal power plants to be built in the country in the next few years. This will supposedly answer the country’s energy needs. Given that an average coal power plant has a life span of 40 to 45 years, this means the Philippines will certainly continue to emit carbon when the rest of the world has committed to zero carbon emissions.

Congo – a country in Central Africa with only 15% of the population with electricity – just committed to decrease ots carbon emissions by 17% by 2030. Ethiopia also committed to an ambitious 64% carbon emission reduction. The Philippines, for its part, seems to be lagging behind in its climate commitments. Instead of emission reduction, the Philippine emissions per capita will rise by over 31% from 2010 to 2030.

Imagine our country, one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, being the biggest emitter of carbon in the next 35 years. With the rate we are going in investing in coal instead of renewables, who can say that this is impossible? Are we really digging our own graves? Do we really want to pursue a path where we will be the cause of the suffering of our own people?  

The future

As countries negotiate to keep global warming below 2°C, countries are also looking at the long term goal of having zero carbon emissions by 2050. Even the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and the United States) responsible for much of the carbon emissions, have made a statement about phasing out fossil fuels.

Yes, we are planning for the next 35 years. While some may say that this is looking too far ahead into the future, having this long-term goal is important to ensure that countries are on the same page when tackling climate change.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), if we are to at least have a 50% chance of staying within the 2°C target, countries need to limit carbon emissions to 36 billion tons. However, according to the London School of Economics and Political Science, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions submitted as of July 2015 “would lead to annual global emissions in 2030 of 56.9 to 59.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.” This is much higher than what the UNEP says our targets should be.

While 35 years is still a long way ahead, all countries should start working now towards the long term goal of zero emissions. The Philippines is not an exception. Our carbon emissions historically may be less than 1% but this does not give us an excuse to continue investing in coal today.

We have one goal ahead of us and that is zero carbon emissions. Will the Philippines commit to this or will it be the biggest carbon emitter in 35 years? – Rappler.com

Renee Juliene Karunungan, 25, is the Advocacy Director of Dakila. Dakila has been working for climate justice since 2009. She is also a climate tracker for Adopt A Negotiator.

Is it time? Netizens react to Roxas' invitation to Robredo


TANDEM? Archbishop Rolly Tirona prays over Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo and administration standard-bearer Mar Roxas in Naga City on September 18, 2015. Photo from Mar Roxas' Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — Administration standard-bearer Manuel "Mar" Roxas II formally asked Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo to be the ruling party's vice presidential candidate on Friday, September 18, according to reports.

MovePH asked netizens how they feel about the possible tandem. 

Some netizens expressed their support for Robredo, stressing how different she is from traditional politicians.

Others were not as pleased with the Mar-Leni tandem, asking the latter to switch running mates. Some netizens were wishing for a Poe-Robredo tandem instead. 

However, not all netizens were supportive of the lawmaker. Some were discouraging Robredo from runnning for higher office for now. 

Right time?

Robredo, the widow of former interior secretary Jesse Robredo, has said she would carefully think about the offer before making her final decision. Robredo’s statement comes two days after Senator Grace Poe announced her presidential run.

She earlier expressed her hesitation saying it was "too soon" for someone like her, a neophyte lawmaker. But in September, her supporters launched a "one million signatures" campaign to convince her to run in 2016. 

Robredo first joined the House of Representatives in 2013, putting an end to the Villafuerte dynasty in Camarines Sur. She graduated from the University of the Philippines-Diliman in 1986 with a degree in economics. In 1992, she earned her law degree at the University of Nueva Caceres in Naga City.

Prior to entering politics, Robredo had a law practice. She is also active in civil society organizations – she is the founder of Lakas ng Kababaihan ng Naga (Strength of Naga’s Women), former president of the Naga City Council for Women, and a former member of Federacion Internacional de Abogados.

Robredo is the vice chairperson of the House committees on good government and public accountability, and revision of laws. She has authored a number of House measures, including the Full Disclosure Bill, which proposes to require government agencies to disclose all their budget and financial transactions.

She also filed and co-wrote bills on improving the tax system, the right to information, citizen participation in the budget process, the benefits of barangay health workers, mental health policies, and food security.

What do you think – should Robredo run or not? Tell us the kind of leaders you want using #TheLeaderIWant. Reach us through move.ph@rappler.com, Facebook, or tweet us at @moveph. – Rappler.com

#StayNegatHIVe: Netizens show support for HIV/AIDS advocacy


MANILA, Philippines – Netizens and advocates came together on Friday, September 18, to break the silence on HIV/AIDS, as MovePH launched its #StayNegatHIVe campaign.

The Philippines has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in 2015. In March 2015, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 667 new cases, bringing the cumulative cases since 1984 up to 24,376. 

Most netizens encouraged fellow Filipinos, especially the youth, to make themselves aware of the issue. Adults and teachers, however, should also be educated on the topic so they can help stop misinformation.

Another issue highligted is the importance of getting tested. There is no shame in getting tested, HIV/AIDS advocacy group LoveYourself said. At the same time, one's privacy must also be respected when visiting treatment hubs. 

Fighting the stigma

The biggest battles fought in the HIV/AIDS advocacy is not the disease itself but stigma, advocates said.

For a long time, HIV/AIDS has been called the "gay cancer," with many Filipinos believing that it is only lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals who can acquire it. This, however, has been proven false by statistics and scientific studies.

Whatever the result may be, the person needs to be loved, accepted, and supported, the netizens agreed.

Institutional support

Awareness is the first step, but having a legislation and supportive government could help keep the advocacy rolling. The Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD) joined the conversation, urging the government to increase its allocated budget for HIV/AIDS.

The DOH National HIV/STI Prevention Program has a 2015 budget of about P500 million ($11.21 million), 60% of which will go to the treatment of patients. But the PLCPD argued that more funds are needed.

Stay informed

Contrary to what many Filipinos think, it is not only men who have sex with men (MSM) who are vulnerable to acquiring HIV, but anyone engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors such as unprotected sex.

HIV-positive pregnant women may also pass it down to their children during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding. But this may be prevented through treatment, which is why it is important for women to also get tested. 

Some Filipinos also still fall prey to HIV/AIDS myths like: 

  • You can get HIV from toilet bowls
  • You can get HIV from sharing food
  • You can get HIV from mosquitos

But such scenarios are not exlusive to the Philippines. HIV remains a "major global public health issue," according to WHO.  In 2014 alone, 36.9 million people living with HIV were recorded. In the same year, more than a million people worldwide died from HIV-related causes. So far, HIV has claimed over 34 million lives.

#StayNegatHIVe is the first part of MovePH's HIV/AIDS campaign, a concerted effort between all of MovePH's communities nationwide, LoveYourself and DM9 JaymeSyfu. We will be bringing in more groups in phase 2, especially those who cater to people living with HIV (PLHIV). Rappler.com

Climate change, the Syrian refugee crisis, and PH governance


A deluge of climate refugees will be yet a new challenge, if world leaders fail to forge an ambitious, robust, and binding global climate deal in Paris this December. 

This was how European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker set the mood during his first annual State of the Union speech. He emphasized that climate change is “one of the root causes” of the ongoing refugee crisis springing from Syria. 

Junker’s statements linking climate change to Syria may have been inspired by a report from theProceedingsoftheNationalAcademyofSciences, which argued “that drought, in addition to its mismanagement by the Assad regime, contributed to the displacement of two million in Syria.” The report links a long drying trend in the region caused by human interference with the climate. This contributed to social unrest which, in turn, precipitated the civil war. 

The Philippines itself is no stranger to long periods of drought. Earlier this year, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned that the country is likely to face up to 6 straight months of drought from July to December. PAGASA also noted that there can be more than 60% rainfall reduction in some areas.

According to the weather agency, latest data show that the El Niño phenomenon could intensify this year and persist until early 2016.

Climate commitments not enough

Unless the UN climate talks agree to make sharper short-term goals, we may risk soaring over the 2-degree mark. 

Analysts fromClimateAnalytics at 15 different national plans to cut emissions by 2030. These included the US, the EU and China, which together account for 51% of global emissions. What they found is that a recent trend for countries to submit emissions reductions targets for 2030 could inadvertently lead us down a dangerous path.

“It is clear that if the Paris meeting locks in present climate commitments for 2030, holding warming below 2 degrees could essentially become infeasible, and 1.5°C  beyond reach,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics. They argue that the UN urgently needs to step in and enforce a 2025 target that would allow countries to revise their emissions reductions plans.

Professor Kornelis Blok ofEcofys noted that “with current policies being insufficient to limit emissions…by 2025, it is clear that ramping up greater policy action needs to be encouraged as part of the Paris Agreement”.

There needs to be a concerted effort at the UN talks in December to ensure that the current levels of emissions reductions are not locked in until 2030, opening up a window for increased action in 2025.

PH gov’t should be serious, sincere

No less than the Department of Energy (DOE) invited companies wanting to get involved in the Philippine coal sector “in a major way” to consider putting up coal-fired mine-mouth power plants in the country's major undeveloped coal areas. This will be done through joint ventures with existing holders of coal operating contracts.

According to DOE’s official website, “the Philippines has a vast potential for coal resources just awaiting full exploration and development to contribute to the attainment of the country's energy self- sufficiency program.” 

It further said that “recent upswing development in the coal industry encouraged increased interest in coal exploration. To date, there are 36 coal operating contracts, 16 of which are under exploration stage to verify potentials of the coal fields, and 43 small-scale coal mining operators.” 

In fact, under the current Coal Operating Contract (COC) system, coal power plant operators are even given incentives such as exemption from all taxes except income tax, exemption from payment of tariff duties and compensating tax on importation of machinery required for the coal operations, allowing entry of alien technical personnel, right of ingress to and egress from the COC area, and recovery of operating expenses. 

Despite the efforts of Filipino environmental champions – Senator Loren Legarda, chair of Senate Committee on Climate Change, and Naderev Yeb Saño, the Filipino diplomat who became the face of UN climate talks in Poland last year – the Philippines continues to make a bizarre spectacle of itself when it says it wants a strong global climate deal but continues to allow the proliferation of new coal-powered plants.

Decarbonize the economy

Disruption in climate patterns poses threats to the economy, public health, and even national security. 

Being one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, it is puzzling how the Philippines can champion a strong global climate deal and at the same time continue to fuel its economy through burning coal. 

Our government should be more serious in achieving its goals of reducing dangerous greenhouse gases by promoting renewable energy and by eventually decarbonizing the economy.

If we continue to allow the operation of coal power plants in the country, then we can expect even drier and longer droughts in the next few years – and ultimately a wave of refugee crises in the future. 

The millions of refugees displaced in Syria should be enough a lesson to shock the Philippines into climate action. – Rappler.com

Roy Joseph R. Roberto is an engineer. He is a Climate Tracker in the Adopt a Negotiator Project – a worldwide online writing campaign for Climate Action.

Bangsamoro gov't should be able to stand on its feet – Iqbal


OPTIMISTIC. MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal remains optimistic the BBL will be passed but says Congress should respect the proposed government's autonomy. Rappler file photo

MANILA, Philippines – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is still “open for improvements and enhancement” but the “essential elements of a real autonomous government” should be included in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal explained.

Both chambers of Congress submitted their own version of the proposed law – different from the draft of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and reviewed by President Benigno Aquino III.

The substitute bills, known as the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBARs), carry differences mainly on the exercise of autonomy in the proposed region.  

According to Iqbal, he respects the power of Congress to legislate but is worried the deleted provisions may affect the region.

“The autonomous government should have powers that would really allow that entity to stand on its feet,” he said during a forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP).

Out of distrust?

The various amendments on the proposed law, chief government peace negotiator Professor Miriam Colonel-Ferrer lamented, were made “out of distrust and fear that the Bangsamoro will secede.”

She cited examples such as the word “territory” replaced with “area” to identify the geographic scope of the proposed region despite the use of “territorial jurisdiction” for local government units (LGUs) in the Local Government Code.

Ferrer also pointed out the iterations in the amended Senate bill which emphasize the Bangsamoro as “an inalienable part of the Philippines.”

While protecting the powers of LGUs is legitimate, she clarified that these should not hinder the establishment of a genuine autonomy for the region – pointing out that both local and regional autonomy are mandated by the 1987 Constitution.

Allocation of powers, she noted, should be balanced and objective.

"The autonomous region plays an integrative role over the LGUs,” Ferrer emphasized.

The BTC, however, continues to build trust and counter fear with peace process stakeholders.

“A personal approach is really helping building trust,” he said. “What is important is you need to open communication.”

“There is some improvement in this regard, especially in the Lower House” Iqbal added.

Not giving up

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP) Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles emphasized there is no giving up on the BBL as the Bangsamoro aspiration for genuine autonomy and self–determination is “within grasp.”

“For the sake of those communities and especially their children, we dare not give up now,” she declared. “After all the tests and trials that this peace process has gone through, we do not give up now.”

Despite the deferred passage of the BBL, they remain “confident and cautiously optimistic” that it won’t take too long anymore and their commitment remains “firm towards completion.”

“Where we are now, I must insist that we are returning to a better place,” Deles said. “With all peace activists left standing – and we are stronger now and joined by far-seeing pillars of society – we are steadfast in laying claim that this dream will not be deferred for long.” – Rappler.com



Pinoy-dominated ‘Saturday Night Fever’ revives '70s in Kuala Lumpur


DISCO FEVER. The Filipino-dominated cast of Saturday Night Fever: The Musical got the audience in Kuala Lumpur off their seats and dancing to the hits of the Bee Gees. Photo provided by ATEG.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – It was a night of bell bottoms, sparkly outfits, big hair, and dancing shoes. A night of great music that transcends time and generations. 

The closing show of Saturday Night Fever: The Musical in Kuala Lumpur was a well attended event – not just by people who spent their own Saturday nights in a disco during its heyday, but people in their early 20s as well.

The predominantly Filipino cast brought '70s disco back to life on stage not just with their impressive vocals but with their dance moves as well.

Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia J Eduardo Malaya, who was among the audience, admitted enjoying every bit of the musical. “It brings a back a lot of memories,” he said, smiling.

“I am thoroughly impressed with the Filipino cast – they did so well. It’s like actually being back in the '70s. Their talent is truly world-class,” he added.

Seasoned American theater actors Brandon Rubendall and Jenna Rubaii, who play the lead roles of Tony Manero and Stephanie Mangano, say working with Filipinos – both actors, musicians, and production crew – is one of their favorite things about the whole show.

IMG_0826: CHEMISTRY. Seasoned theater actors Brandon Rubendall and Jenna Rubaii have undeniable chemistry on stage. Photo provided by ATEG.

“They just have so much passion. They put their heart and soul in everything that they do and we admire them so much for that,” Stephanie added.

“I really love the Philippines,” Brandon quipped. “Every time I meet a Filipino, I tell them, ‘You’re my people!’ I just love them. They [Filipinos] embrace us like we are family and we’ve been all over the world and you don’t get that anywhere else.”

Notable Filipino theater actors such as Mikkie Bradshaw (Annette), Jamie Wilson (Monty/Frank Manero), and Carla Guevara-Laforteza (Club Singer/Flo Manero) together with the ensemble, grooved to Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever, Tragedy and the rest of the hits of the Bee Gees – songs that defined "disco" but survived other music trends.

Saturday Night Fever is based on a movie of the same title which catapulted John Travolta to fame. Back then, the movie was hailed as a well-made film that defined a generation and tackled social issues among young adults.

Tony Manero, the main character, lives in Brooklyn and works at a dead-end job. While his future seems pretty bleak, he escapes all his worries every Saturday by stepping into a discotheque where he is known as ‘the King of the dance floor."

A series of life-changing events happen when he decided to join a dance contest in 2001 Odyssey and persuades the graceful Stephanie Mangano to be his partner.

Saturday Night Fever: The Musical, a production by Filipino company Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group (ATEG),  is directed by Bobby Garcia who has also worked on the Filipino production of Carrie, the Broadway Asia tour of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and Hairspray, to name a few. 

IMG_8537: FILIPINO PRIDE. The cast of Saturday Night Fever: The Musical with Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia, J Eduardo Malaya (Middle, Second Row), Minister and Counsellor Ma. Antonina Mendoza-Oblena (8th from R, Second Row), and Third Secretary and Vice Consul Alvin Malasig (5th from R, Second Row). Photo by Carol Ramoran.

Garcia is also a 3-time winner of the Aliw Awards.

The set design of the show is straightforward – it tickles the memory of anybody who has been to Brooklyn. The costumes, designed by Gawad BUHAY nominee Eric Pineda, are as vibrant and colourful as the era they represent.

After successful runs in Manila and Kuala Lumpur, the show is set to make its way to Singapore. Opening on the 25th of September, the cast will bring '70s disco to the Marina Bay Sands.

With all the impressive talents on stage, it was no surprise that the crowd in Kuala Lumpur ended on their feet, dancing along towards the end of the show. 

If you plan to catch any of their future shows in Singapore, do remember to wear your dancing shoes and to practice that John Travolta pose. It would be quite hard to resist doing it during the encore. – Rappler.com

ABS-CBN News apologizes to UPLB for inaccurate report


In response to an online clamor demanding an apology from the news network over inaccurate reporting,  ABS-CBN News apologized to the students of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños, on Saturday, September 19.

The incident involved a news report that quoted UPLB students as chanting “Trapo (traditional politician)!  Trapo!” at Vice President Jejomar Binay during a forum at the university on Tuesday, September 15.

The students, however, shouted “Sample! Sample!” They were teasing Binay, the guest at the UPLB “Forum on Governance, Transparency and Social Transformation"  to show a sample of his dance moves when he appeared on stage.

At the time, some faculty members had just performed an intermission number.

At the UPLB event, students roasted Vice President Jejomar Binay in a no-holds barred forum, where they asked him about the informal settlers in Makati, corruption allegations against him, and his stand on agrarian reform, labor, political dynasties and human rights violations.

Inaccurate reporting

ABS-CBN News had reported that the crowd heckled the Vice President with the “trapo" chants. In a separate story, the news agency reported that the Vice President “felt disrespected” at the forum.

Later that day, the news network changed the title of their story to “VP Binay: I enjoyed UPLB forum.” (READ: Binay: I enjoyed UPLB forum, no offense taken)

The inaccurate reports prompted the UPLB University Student Council to post an open letter on its official Facebook account, directed to ABS-CBN News, within the first hour of Saturday.

“These acts of unethical journalism by ABS-CBN have inflicted a negative perception on UPLB students, with misinformed netizens and readers treating and tagging UPLB students as ‘unmannered,’ and of ‘low breeding,'" the UPLB USC said.


Following the online clamor using the hashtag ABSCBNsaysorrytoUPLB, which trended on Twitter on Saturday, ABS-CBN News issued the public apology on its official site.

"ABS-CBN News expresses its sincerest apologies to the students of UP Los Banos for the errors committed by ABS-CBNnews.com in 2 articles about the forum of UP Los Banos students with Vice President Jejomar Binay last September 15," it said.

“In our effort to provide a more comprehensive coverage of the forum, one of our writers mistook the word 'sample' for 'trapo.' We immediately corrected this right after we were alerted about the mistake on September 16, 2015,” it added.

It also gave its assurance that it will be "taking disciplinary steps against those responsible for the oversight."

Check out some of the tweets on the issue:


Shortly after the event, #BinayVisitsUPLB began trending on Twitter, followed by satirical tweets of Binay's statements with the hashtag BinayBwisitsUPLB. – with a report from Raisa Serafica/Rappler.com