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WATCH: How Miss Universe, CordAid helped Yolanda-hit village build back better


MANILA, Philippines – Before she passed on her crown, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach visited a far-flung Tagbanua community on January 21 in Coron town in Palawan to see how they recovered from Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

The community told the beauty queen their stories of resiliency.

Many residents in Barangay Malawig, Coron lost their homes. No one died in the village but their livelihood was crippled because the waves washed away their boats.

"When Yolanda struck, we were all panicking. We didn’t expect the winds to be that strong that night. Everyone evacuated but not everyone had a place to go to. Many went up the mountain and took shelter in cashew trees," Clemencio Carpiano, a village elder, recalled in Tagalog. 

It took 3 days before relief reached the village.

'Sustainable support'

RECOVERY. Village elder Clemencio Carpiano says Malawig has already recovered from Yolanda thanks to the help of CordAid. Photo by Jeff Digma/ Rappler

With the help of non-government and aid organizations, Barangay Malawig is back on its feet. They received help mainly from the Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid or CordAid. (READ: How Tagbanua communities in Coron recovered from Yolanda)

The organization built more than 200 typhoon-proof houses and 30 community-managed projects like bridges and schools in Malawig. CordAid also taught the community to do communal farming to help with the Tagbanua’s livelihood.

"As an organization, we believe very strongly that action, the dignity, and the ability of people to stand independently is very important. Whether it’s because they live in a fragile setting or if they are exposed to very high risks, they still need that dignity," Anat Prag, CordAid Country Director in the Philippines, said.

She added: "And so being able to invest in capacities on how the community can be stronger together is really a critical issue which is very much undermined if we just distribute aid."

According to Fr Edu Gariguez, the executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, this kind of support is what is needed to address long-term rehabilitation in areas prone to the effects of climate change.

"I think the right orientation in recovery is that we shouldn’t only focus on the immediate needs but also address long-term rehabilitation. Our indigenous peoples are among the poorest sectors in the country. Help should not just focus on relief but also on how to alleviate and empower them to face their own problems," he added.

'Symbolic visit'

The Miss Universe Organization is one of CordAid’s donors for the projects. Wurtzbach promised the support would continue.

"I hope you continue your work and ensure that you have enough knowledge so that you and your families will be safe when the next typhoon comes," she said.

Though short, Gariguez said the visit was symbolic for the public, and inspiring for the indigenous peoples. (READ: Pia Wurtzbach's Coron visit highlights resiliency, IP issues)

"So this visit is really a call for the public and the government to focus and see the success of these projects. We want to tug at people’s (heartstrings). In the church, we always tell people to have a heart for the poor, for the marginalized. Pia’s visit to this far-flung area is indeed very symbolic," he said.

As for the community, they believe they are ready when the next typhoon comes.

"Even now, our livelihood continues to grow. We are now ready so that if another typhoon comes, we already know what to do and where to go," Carpiano said. – Rappler.com

Ubusan ng lahi: An open letter to President Duterte


MANILA, Philippines – Through a poem recited in a video, award-winning poet Joi Barrios called on President Rodrigo Duterte to continue the peace talks between the government and communist rebels.

President Rodrigo Duterte scrapped peace talks with the communist rebels on Saturday evening, February 4.

Duterte made the announcement a day after he lifted the government ceasefire to match the declaration of the New People's Army (NPA). The communist rebels had wanted the talks to continue, however.

"I told the soldiers to prepare for a long war. I said [peace] will not come during our generation. I know them already," said Duterte.

He repeatedly said he sees no reason the talks could resume during his term, although later softened his stance to say he might reconsider – if there is a "compelling reason."

Below is Barrios's poem entitled "Ubusan ng lahi": 

Bukas na liham kay Pagulong Duterte

Magkaubusan na
Ito ang inyong banta
Pamilyar na panata ng magkakaaaway na pamilya
Parang matira ang matibay
O kaya’y ubusan na ng lahi pagkat magkakatunggali

Mahaba ang kasaysayan ng pangako ng paglipol ng lahat ng rebolusyonaryo
Suyurin ang bundok, sipsipin ang dagat
Bawa’t isa’y makukubkob, bawat kasapi’y malalagas
Bansagan silang bandido o aswang at nang katakutan
Tawaging terorista ang subersibo
Hanggang maging katanggap-tanggap ang pagpaslang at pandarahas

Huwag. Hindi po sa tapatan ng armas ninyo mawawakasan ang himagsikan
Walang nakibaka nang para sa sarili lamang
May katuwirang ipinagtatanggol
May layon na isinusulong
May buhay na ibinubuwis
Pagkat ang nasa puso at isip ay lupa, ginhawa, laya
Para sa nakararami, sa mahirap at api
Para sa bayang payapa

Kung tatalikod sa mesa ng pag-uusap
Walang ibang hahalakhak
Kundi ang imperyalista’t pasistang nag-aabang sa inyong pagbagsak
Sa ganang amin, iisa lamang ang gabay, sa bawat hakbang
Kung kaya’t marahil walang takot sa bantang magkaubusan
Sa masa ay maglingkod
Sukdang buhay ang kailangang ihandog

Ito ang panawagan:
Ituloy ang usapang pangkapayapaan


Here is the English translation of the poem:

"The threat to annihilate"

An open letter to President Duterte

This was your threat, Mr President:
To fight to the death
A vow familiar perhaps to feuding families
Let the last valiant one remain standing
Annihilate all enemies

This is the history we know
Always the promise to wipe out all revolutionaries
Comb the mountains, drain the sea
Trap them all, until they fall to the ground
Name them bandits and blood-sucking aswangs
Sow fear into the crowd

When subversives are repeatedly marked terrorists
Killings and violence become palatable to one’s taste
Better dead than red

Stop. Mortars and bombs will not stop the people’s revolt
No red warrior fights a solitary battle, for glory or fame
A true revolutionary defends justice
Death is sweet for the heart that dreams of land, equity, and freedom
In defense of the oppressed in the light of peace

Watch the imperialists and fascists as they celebrate and feast
Awaiting your fall from power
We know only what guides our every step
What is a threat when you know no fear?
Death is not a sacrifice for the willing

This is our call:
Let the peace talks move on.


What are your thoughts about the scrapping of the peace talks between the government and communist rebels? Write a poem or blog and post it on Rappler’s free self-publishing platform X

Surigao Sur mayor dismissed for P18-M 'ghost' pork project


MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal from service of Lingig, Surigao del Sur Mayor Roberto Luna Jr who faced administrative charges over the irregular purchase of P18.9-million worth of communication equipment, which appear to not have been delivered at all.

In a statement sent to media on Thursday, February 9, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said Luna was found guilty of Grave Misconduct and Serious Dishonesty. Morales also dismissed Jethro Lindo and Teofilo Maymay from the municipal government's Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) for Grave Misconduct.

The P18.9-million budget was sourced from the Congressional Initiative Fund of former Surigao del Sur 2nd district Representative Peter Paul Jed Falcon. Falcon had already been charged with graft before the Sandiganbayan over the same case.

His other graft case, connected to a P13.1-million pork barrel allocation mess, has been dismissed by the anti-graft court for inordinate delay.

In 2007, Luna directly contracted suppliers for radio/telephone handsets and other accessories worth P18.9 million. Investigators found that the procurement did not undergo public bidding.

Moreover, the items were not delivered even if receipts showed that Luna approved the payment.

As a result, the Commission on Audit issued two Notices of Disallowance in 2011. 

The dismissed officials face penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office. – Rappler.com

VIRAL: Lyceum alumna accuses former college dean of harassment


SEXUAL HARASSMENT. An LPU graduate speaks up about the incident in a Facebook post to raise awareness on the issue and inspire others to do the same

MANILA, Philippines – A Facebook post narrating a woman’s experience of being sexual harassed by a dean at the Lyceum of the Philippines University-Manila (LPU) went viral on Sunday, February 6, 2017.

KV Rojas, an International Relations graduate of LPU, shared on Facebook how she was allegedly sexually harassed by Reynaldo Arcilla, former dean of the College of International Relations. She also criticized LPU for supposedly mishandling the case. 

Her two-part post generated 2,300 reactions and 995 shares, as of posting.  (READ: The many faces of sexual harassment in the Philippines)


In a statement, Sandra Recto, LPU Director of Communication and Public Affairs, stressed that the university "does not condone nor tolerate any form of sexual harassment and we continue to uphold the virtues of Dr Jose P. Laurel in seeking the truth and acting with fortitude in the service of God and country."


“If you want to know the real reason behind the dean’s resignation, keep on reading,” Rojas said at the start of her post.

According to Rojas, Arcilla offered her a ride home on December 2, 2016, after they met to discuss her request for a recommendation letter. She obliged. This was when the alleged sexual harassment took place. 

Rojas enumerated a number of instances when the dean verbally harassed her by asking if she was still a virgin or if she has a boyfriend. At one point, Arcilla allegedly told Rojas that she turned him on.

Rojas also claimed that the Arcilla touched her hands, elbows, and lips a couple of times. He also reportedly threatened her that he will not write a recommendation letter if she does not give him a kiss.

Pagkatapos ng pangyayari, noong una, parang hindi totoo (After what happened, at first, it seemed unreal) – [that] the person I highly respected before could do such things,” Rojas said.

She decided to report the incident to university officials.


On December 5, 2016, Rojas wrote a letter of complaint addressed to LPU’s HR director, Myrna Reyes. Responding to her letter, Rojas said that Reyes arranged a meeting between her and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr Conrado Iñigo Jr on December 16, to verify her report.

“They told me that there will be two possible scenarios for my case: first, the Dean will admit it and he will resign; second, the Dean will deny the allegation and there will be a hearing committee composed of 7 people from different sectors within the LPU,” Rojas said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Things started looking up for Rojas on January 4, when the HR director messaged her that she arranged a meeting with Arcilla so the latter could apologize. 

On the day before the agreed meeting, however, the HR director called Rojas to postpone the meeting because Arcilla supposedly failed to see her text message. LPU echoed this in its statement. 

"As said meeting did not materialize, we informed Ambassador Arcilla on January 13 that the complaint of Ms Rojas would be forthwith referred, for purposes of investigation, to the Committee on Decorum and Investigation," the statement added. 

However, Rojas said that the HR director told her that Arcilla will be directly contacting her for a new appointment. 

“[S]he let the dean [text] me. I find it very unbecoming for an HR to let the Dean just text me, someone who sexually harassed me,” Rojas said.

This incident was followed by a text message by Arcilla on January 12, apologizing for saying, "Pangit ka siguro noon (You were probably ugly before)." He did not mention the sexual harassment case she filed against him. Because of this, Rojas sought for advice from the Commission on Higher Education. She was told to write a follow-up letter addressed to the LPU president. The following day, she was informed by the HR director that LPU president Roberto Laurel asked Arcilla to resign.

His resignation letter, however, did not mention anything about the sexual harassment Rojas had raised before the LPU administration. When she told Reyes about this, the HR director allegedly said that they no longer “have control of or cannot force him to admit on the sexual harassment” case. 

"Since Ambassador Arcilla is no longer considered a faculty member by reason of his resignation, the university, under the rules, is effectively divested of its administrative juristiction over the complaint," LPU explained in the statement. 

Until his resignation, Arcilla served as dean of the College of International Relations in LPU from April 2006. He had  also served as Philippine ambassador  to Bangladesh, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Laos, and Thailand. 

Raising awareness

Rojas sought refuge in social media to tell her story.

“Support from netizens gave me hope. I received messages and praises for speaking up. Most of those who messaged me said they experienced something similar but failed to speak up like how I did,” Rojas said in an interview with Rappler.

According to her, she spoke up to raise awareness on sexual harassment and for the school to recognize that it had mishandled her case.

Recently, the office of student affairs of the University of Santo Tomas drew flak after allegedly “victim-blaming” a student who got molested in a public utility vehicle.

About 58% of incidents of sexual harassment in the Philippines happen on the streets, major roads, and eskinitas (alleys). (READ: The many faces of sexual harassment in PH)

Sexual harassment is punishable under Republic Act No. 7877, or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act , and the provisions of the Revised Penal Code on Acts of Lasciviousness.

RA 7877 penalizes sexual harassment with imprisonment of 1 to 6 months, a fine of P10,000 to P20,000, or both. Those who commit acts of lasciviousness face imprisonment. Rappler.com

Do you have similar stories to share? Email us at move.ph@rappler.com or write them on our free self-publishing platform X.




Ex-Rizal gov Ynares charged with graft for overpriced fertilizers


MANILA, Philippines –  Former Rizal governor Casimiro Ynares Jr was charged with 4 counts of graft for the alleged overpricing of fertilizers purchased by the Rizal provincial government in 2004 and 2005.

The information filed by the Ombudsman on February 6 and released to media on Friday, February 10, finds sufficient ground to charge Ynares of the crime of graft. 

According to the investigation, in November 2004, Ynares entered into a direct contract with Feshan Philippines to provide the province with 1,266 bottles of organic fertilizers.

The contract did not undergo public bidding, according to the investigation.

Moreover, the Rizal government paid Feshan P1,500 per bottle despite the availability of another fertilizer sold for only P176. The provincial government paid Feshan P1.8 million. With the existence of a cheaper brand, the prosecutors say there was an overprice of P1.676 million. 

In March 2005, the Rizal government under Ynares did the same. It again entered into a direct contract with Feshan to buy 1,189 bottles of organic fertilizers worth P1,500 per bottle.  

Another foliar fertilizer, which was available then, was sold at P187 per bottle, bringing the overprice to P1.561 million.

Ynares, along with 9 other provincial officials, were charged of graft.

By favoring Feshan, the officials violated section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act which penalizes the “giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference.”

Because of the overpricing, the officials violated section 3(g) of the law which penalizes contracts that are “grossly disadvantageous” to the government.

Also charged are provincial accountant Cecilia Almajose, provincial administrator Virgilio Esguerra, provincial agriculturist Danilo Rumbawa, provincial legal officer Eduardo Torres, provincial engineer Danilo Collantes, department head Eugene Durusan, assistant department head Romulo Arcilla, Jr, and assistant budget officer Victorina Olea.

Feshan representative Mallyne Araos was also charged.

Bail is set at P30,000 for each count of graft, or a total of P120,000 for each of the accused. – Rappler.com

Ex-Surigao del Norte gov Barbers charged over 2004 fertilizer fund scam


Photo from Robert Lyndon Barbers' Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – Former Surigao del Norte governor Robert Lyndon Barbers was charged with graft over a 2004 fertilizer fund scam.

The Office of the Ombudsman filed the information before the Sandiganbayan last Friday, February 3, a copy of which was released to media on Friday, February 10, charging Barbers with two counts each of malversation and graft.

Barbers posted a bail of P140,000 on Friday, February 10.

According to the Ombudsman, the fertilizer purchased by Barbers in two instances in 2004 during his time as governor was overpriced by P4.43 million.

In May and December 2004, Barbers entered into a direct contract with Rosa Mia Trading and bought from them a total of 3,332 kilos of Elements Foliar Fertilizer at a price of P1,500 per kilo.

State investigators said the fertilizers bought in two tranches were overpriced by at least P1,330 per kilo.

Barbers was charged with two counts of graft for the instances of overpricing, and two counts of malversation for conspiring with the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) to approve the anomalous transaction.

Aside from Barbers, BAC chairman Vicente Madlos and members Bob Edera, Virginia Yuipco, Teresita Durero, Audie Relliquette, and Adolfo Pantilo Sr were also charged. Rosa Mia general manager Rose Marie Palacio was also included.

The charges fit into a pattern of local officials buying overpriced fertilizers in the period of 2004 to 2005, which was also when the fertilizer fund scam occurred. (READ: Ex-Rizal gov Ynares charged with graft for overpriced fertilizers)

The P728 million fertilizer fund scam was a conspiracy of officials, private suppliers and foundations to earn millions in kickbacks. It took the Department of Agriculture (DA) into the center of scandal, with former DA Undersecretary Jocelyn "Joc-joc" Bolante supposedly being behind the scheme. (READ: Joc-joc fertilizer scam and Jenny Napoles: More of the same)

Last December, the Sandiganbayan dismissed the plunder charges against Bolante for lack of evidence. The Office of the Ombudsman has filed an appeal before the anti-graft court to reinstate the charges against him. – Rappler.com

WATCH: Teaching urban poor kids the value of education


MANILA, Philippines – What is the value of education for children in urban poor communities?

In 2010, Melissa Villa was introduced to the children of Ulingan in Tondo, Manila. She was so touched by the images she saw that she decided she needed to do something to help the children.

What started initially as a feeding program in the urban poor community eventually became Project PEARLS, which stands for Peace, Education, Aspiration, Respect, Love, and Smiles.

"Ulingan is a community in Tondo where families and children make charcoals. She was really moved to see the kids there covered in charcoal. That’s when her desire to help the kids began," Project PEARLS executive administrator Monica Aclan said.

TRANSFORMED. Juvi Ann is an example of the impact Project PEARLS has had on the Ulingan community. Photo courtesy of Project PEARLS

Before the organization helped Ulingan, the children in the community did not go to school but instead helped their parents at work. After Project PEARLS' intervention, the children were given scholarships to finish school.

"One of our best scholars to emulate is Juvi Ann. She didn’t only transform physically. As you see can see in her picture before, her body was covered in coal dust. Now she’s clean. What’s more important is how her mindset changed – that it’s possible for children like her to finish their education and reach their goals," Aclan added.

Sparking change

Project PEARLS has transformed the lives of hundreds of urban poor children by making them realize the value of education. From 40 nursery scholars, the organization now supports 500 elementary and high school students

"We also have cases of kids who were malnourished when we first met them. One example is Jade, who was then 5 years old. After he attended our feeding program regularly, he became healthy. Now, he's one of our scholars," she said.

Despite the success of the program, Aclan admits that funding still remains a challenge.

"We're very active in looking for sponsors. We're always on the lookout for companies, organizations, and people who want to help us raise funds," Aclan said.

She added: "We use social media to promote all our programs, to look for volunteers, and to get scholarships for our children."

For Project PEARLS, change is a slow process that starts by changing the mindset of communities.

"In the many communities that we help, we will we will not be able to get them out of poverty overnight or in a snap. It's the little changes that we do every day. It's a collective effort," Aclan said, noting that "it’s a long process but it’s definitely worth working for." – Rappler.com

Project PEARLS is a partner organization of Rappler's civic engagement arm MovePH. For more information on how you can help Project PEARLS, check out their stories on X!

Do you want your organization to be part of MovePH's X Network? E-mail us at move.ph@rappler.com!

#EarthquakePH: Cebu Pacific suspends flights to, from Surigao


MANILA, Philippines – Cebu Pacific announced that its flights to and from Surigao will be suspended beginning Saturday, February 11.

This, after the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) restricted operations at the Surigao Airport in Surigao City due to runway damage caused by the 6.7 magnitude earthquake that struck the area on Friday night, February 10. Flight suspensions take effect today until March 10, 2017. (READ: 4 dead as magnitude 6.7 earthquake hits Mindanao)

Affected passengers may be accommodated via mounted Cebu-Butuan-Cebu flights or avail of any of the following options, without penalties:

  • Rebook flights for travel within 30 days from original departure date
  • Reroute flights to alternate stations (Cebu or Bacolod) within 30 days from original departure date
  • Opt for full refund or travel fund

To specify their preferred option, guests may call the CEB reservation hotlines (+632)702-0888 or (+6332)230-8888, or visit CEB’s ticket offices listed below:

  • NAIA Terminal 3 Sales Office – Level 3, Departure Hall, NAIA Terminal 3, Andrews Avenue, Pasay City
  • NAIA Terminal 4 Express Ticket Office – Old Domestic Road, Pasay City
  • KidZania Manila (rebooking transactions only) – Park Triangle, 3245 North 11th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, 1634 Taguig City
  • Robinsons Galleria – West Lane, Level 1, Ortigas Avenue corner ADB Avenue, Quezon City
  • Robinsons Place Imus – Level 4, Aguinaldo Highway, Imus, Cavite
  • Robinsons Place Manila – Level 1, Adriatico Wing, Pedro Gil corner Adriatico Street, Ermita, Manila
  • Cebu Airport Ticket Office – Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Lapu-Lapu Airport Road, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu
  • Robinsons Fuente – Fuente Osmeña, Cebu City

 – Rappler.com


#EarthquakePH: What to do during aftershocks


AFTERSHOCKS. Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum reminds affected residents to check for tension cracks that may have resulted from the intense shaking. Photo courtesy of DOTR Assistant Secretary Cesar Chavez

MANILA, Philippines – As of 4 pm on Saturday, February 11, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) had recorded at least 101 aftershocks following the magnitude 6.7 earthquake that hit Surigao on Friday evening.

In an interview with Rappler, Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said that one of the strongest aftershocks, with magnitude 4.9, was felt in Surigao City, a little after 5 pm on Saturday. 

"The probability of another earthquake higher than magnitude 6.9 is low. Although, I am not saying it is not possible," Solidum added. 

Here are 3 things to do during aftershocks: 

Stay alert and avoid areas vulnerable to landslides

"People are reminded to be cautious of stuctures with signs of damage and cracks as this may be further damaged by aftershocks," Solidum said. 

The Phivolcs director added that slopes in affected areas should be checked for tension cracks that may have resulted from the intense shaking. Consequently, residents are advised to avoid areas that are susceptible to landslides. 

Surigao City public information officer Annette Villaces added that some roads and bridges are no longer passable.

Do not enter heavily-damaged structures

People are advised against entering heavily damaged structures or houses. 

"In cases of houses and buildings with damages, it is best to contact the municipal engineering offices for advice," Solidum said. 

Municipal engineers are expected to recommend appropriate action to strengthen the structural integrity of the damaged buildings and houses.  (READ: What makes houses earthquake-ready?

Many buildings developed cracks and a school collapsed, according to Surigao police chief Senior Superintendent Anthony Maghari in an interview with dzMM

Seek temporary shelter

Residents in affected areas are advised to seek temporary shelter especially when they see cracks in their homes. 

Officials assigned certains schools in affected areas as evacuation centers for residents whose houses were damaged by the earthquake. 

At least 61 people were injured and 14 were admitted to the Caraga Regional Hospital in Surigao City, OCD-Caraga said on Saturday morning.

Regional civil defense spokesperson April Sanchez said 7 people were injured in Sison town, and 5 were brought to Bad-as Hospital in Placer, Surigao del Norte.  – Rappler.com 

Family of missing teacher seeks help


MANILA, Philippines – The family and friends of missing school teacher Paul Anthony Esguerra have asked the public for help through social media to track him down.

According to his friends and relatives, Esguerra, a school teacher at the APECS School Marikina, was last seen late Sunday afternoon, February 5.

Michelle Mendoza, Esguerra's partner, said he was set to attend a birthday party and meet other friends on that day. 

"He went home first in his family residence in Project 4, Quezon City. By 5 pm, he left wearing a checkered polo, maong pants, and black leather shoes," Mendoza said.


The 26-year-old Esguerra had posted cryptic Facebook status updates before he went missing.

The posts also revealed his last possible locations: Manila Bay and Nangka, Marikina City.

The family, who could not reach Esguerra because of barred incoming calls to his cellphone, has since filed a blotter report. They also sought help from the police and local authorities in Nangka.

On the same Facebook post, Mendoza pleaded to her partner to come home.

"You know that my love for you and our family will be greater. Dad, please come out and go home. Mahal kita. Mahal ka namin. Umuwi ka na (I love you. we love you. Come home)," she said.

For any information on Esguerra's whereabouts, his family can be contacted through these numbers: 09288514531/ 09204842005/ 09164181615. – Rappler.com 

Angela Casco is a Rappler intern. She is studying at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines 

Over 500 houses damaged in Mindanao quake


DAMAGED STRUCTURE. Aftermath from the magnitude 6.7 earthquake that rocked Surigao City on February 10. Contributed photo

MANILA, Philippines – “Extensive and widespread.”

This was how Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Sadang of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and Bong Grajo of the Emergency Response Integration Center (ERIC) described the damage to houses caused by the earthquake that hit Mindanao on Friday night, February 10. 

As of Saturday night, February 11, at least 586 damaged houses – 342 totally damaged and 244 partially damaged – in Caraga region have been reported, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). 

At least 68,113 families or 268,609 people in 183 barangays across regions X and Caraga have been affected by the quake, the DSWD added.

Prepositioned relief goods

The DSWD Central Office (CO), its field office in Caraga, and the National Resource Operations Center (NROC) have stockpiles and standby funds amounting to about P1.6 billion. More than P1.4 billion has been set aside as quick response fund. 

A total of 109,501 family food packs (FFPs) worth more than P42.2 million, and food and non-food items worth more than P124 million are on standby, ready to be distributed if affected areas need augmentation. 

The DSWD Disaster Response Assistance and Management Bureau (DREAMB) and the National Response Cluster raised their respective alert levels to red at 5 pm on Saturday. – Rappler.com


WATCH: Red alert: DSWD activates disaster response teams in Caraga


DISASTER RESPONSE. The Response Cluster of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) is activated at 5 pm, Saturday, February 11. Photo courtesy of DOTR Asistant Secretary Cesar Chavez

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), through its Disaster Response Assistance and Management Bureau (DReAMB), is now on red alert status.

This means that DSWD, the lead agency for disaster response, will conduct round-the-clock monitoring of the situation in areas affected by the magnitude 6.7 earthquake that hit Mindanao, particularly the Caraga region Friday night, February 10. 

The DSWD activated the Response Cluster of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) at 5 pm, Saturday, February 11.

The agency also activated its Quick Response Team (QRT) at the regional level and its Social Welfare and Development (SWAD) teams  at the provincial level, to provide technical assistance and resource augmentation to the disaster operations of the local government units.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has deployed a search and rescue (SAR) vessel to Surigao del Norte, coming from Cebu.

"We were told that drinking water is scarce (in affected areas). The said ship can also be used for disaster relief operations and as a platform for other rescue activities," PCG officer-in-charge Commodore Joel Garcia said.

According to Garcia, the PCG has mobilized more than 150 of its personnel in the area to participate in the operation. 

NDRRMC ON RED ALERT. Representatives of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) member agencies led by Social Welfare Sec Judy Taguiwalo hold an emergency meeting to discuss their disaster response plan on Saturday, February 11, a day after the magnitude 6.7 earthquake  hit Mindanao. Photo courtesy of DSWD

Local disaster response

In a report on Saturday morning, DSWD-Caraga regional director Mita Lim said she met with the regional disaster focal person for disaster response, and Surigao City Vice Mayor Alfonso Casurra to discuss the effects of the earthquake. 

She added that upon request of the Surigao City government, the DSWD-Field Office has prepositioned 900 food packs in the city.

Lim also reported that she visited Barangays Nueva and Taft, and assigned teams to conduct a rapid assessment of damaged houses.

As of Saturday afternoon, February 11, the DSWD said they had received reports there are over 500 damaged houses in the Caraga region. 

The DSWD-Field Office Caraga is still validating the total number of affected families and persons. 

Available resources 

The DSWD Central Office (CO), its field office in Caraga, and the National Resource Operations Center (NROC) have stockpiles and standby funds amounting to about P1.6 billion. More than P1.4 billion has been set aside as quick response fund.

A total of 109,501 family food packs (FFPs) worth more than P42.2 million, and food and non-food items worth more than P124 million are on standby, ready to be distributed if affected areas need augmentation.

At least 28 barangays in Surigao City, Mainit, San Francisco, and Sison have been affected by the quake, according to the DSWD.

Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo reiterated her call for residents to remain calm and be attentive to warnings and advisories from their local authorities. – Rappler.com


#SchoolPatrolPH: DepEd seeks info on quake-damaged schools


MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Education (DepEd) is calling on the public, particularly those living in areas affected by the February 10 earthquake, to report the condition of schools in their area.

The crowdsourcing campaign, dubbed #SchoolPatrolPH, is meant to provide education officials with a quick snapshot of school buildings damaged due to the magnitude 6.7 earthquake. (READ: Aftershocks rock Surigao days after strong quake)

The public can send photos and post status updates on their Facebook and Twitter accounts using the hashtag #SchoolPatrolPH. The posts should be set to public.

Reports can also be sent via SMS to 2929 for Smart and Talk N' Text subscribers.

Text Format:<Name>, <Location>, <Name of School>, <School address>, <Condition of school building> #SchoolPatrolPH
Sample Text:Juan de la Cruz, Mainit, Surigao del Norte, Mainit Elementary School, 23 Rizal St. Mainit, One collapsed wall in high school, 4 shattered windows, all teachers and students safe #SchoolPatrolPH

Rappler's Agos platform will map all #SchoolPatrolPH reports on agos.rappler.com and relay the information to the authorities.

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School principals are also required to send flash reports to their district superintendents and to the DepEd central office. The DepEd's Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Service (DRRMS) is gathering all reports.

The DepEd is also calling on volunteer civil engineers or structural engineers in quake-hit areas to assess the school buildings in their area and to give a report to the school principal or local government official. 

BROKEN. Education secretary Leonor Briones inspects a school damaged by the 6.7 magnitude earthquake that struck Northern Mindanao on February 10. Photo by DepEd

Volunteers can sign up using the Agos-eBayanihan volunteer management platform.

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Education Secretary Leonor Briones accompanied President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday, February 12, to assess the damage from the earthquake. Initial reports peg the damage to school buildings at P7.6 million.

The DepEd said standby funds are available to set up temporary learning spaces and to clean up classrooms.

UNICEF has also prepared learning and teaching kits for schools in need. Rappler.com

Kythe marks 25 years of helping kids with cancer


FOR THE KIDS. Girlie Lorenzo (2nd from right) and Rudy Labata (rightmost) talk to volunteers during the Kythe Kite Flying event at the Ateneo de Manila University on February 11, 2017. Photo by David Lozada/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – It's been almost 10 years but Rudy Labata still remembers that fateful day of October 15, 2007. That day, at 13 years old, he was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), a cancer that targets the lymphocytes in the bone marrow.

"I underwent chemotherapy for 8 months. Then for 1 year and 6 months, I was an outpatient taking medicine and some chemotherapy sessions," Labata said in Filipino.

The cancer was difficult for Labata's family, who did not have any means to pay for his treatment.

"That was my struggle. My mom and dad had to ask for help from many people. Mom is a househelp and dad is a tricycle driver. I also have a younger sibling," he said. 

That's when the family encountered Kythe, an organization that caters to kids with cancer and chronic illnesses. Kythe provided medicines and some financial support for Labata's treatment. Beyond the financial support, the organization also gave Labata psycho-social support through play therapy in the hospital. 

"They didn't just help financially but they also had events that helped lessen the anxiety of us kids. We forget the stress of being in the hospital and we feel normal like other kids when we are playing," Labata recalled.

Healed and flying kites

Now 22 years old, Labata has been fully healed of his cancer. The 3rd year Hotel and Restaurant Management student became a cancer survivor in 2010, and he was declared free from relapse in February 2015.

"The doctors declared me cancer-free because the chance of relapse is now only 2%. It's a very small possibility but I still take care of my body," he added. 

On Saturday, February 11, Labata joined hundreds of cancer survivors and current patients of Kythe at the Ateneo de Manila University for the organization's annual Kite Flying event. This year, Kythe is also celebrating its 25th anniversary of providing psycho-social support to kids with cancer. 

According to Girlie Lorenzo, Kythe co-founder, the event has always been symbolic of the organization's mission to uplift the spirit of children and their families. (READ: 'Seeing kids fly' – battling cancer with a smile)

"Kythe means to manifest oneself and we manifest our love for children with cancer and chronic illness through simple sharing and togetherness. Because of our interventions we have increased the compliance of the children for medical procedures and because of that we now have survivors," Lorenzo said. 

For the past 25 years, the organization has been practicing and advocating the Child Life Program, a method that uses play therapy and education to alleviate the anxiety of patients with chronic illnesses like cancer, heart conditions, kidney disease, and blood disorders. 

Kythe has helped around 60 survivors like Labata nationwide.

Healthcare in PH

In February 2014, a UN report said 3,500 new cases of pediatric cancer had been recorded yearly, around 70% of which were diagnosed in the late stages.  

Despite this, the number of survivors has increased in the past 10 years. According to the Department of Health (DOH), around 82% of children with cancer reach adulthood. This is a significant improvement given that, a decade ago, the survival rate was only at 16%.

"The state of healthcare in the Philippines has improved because of the previous administration which really put money and effort in PhilHealth…For me the hope of healthcare in the Philippines is PhilHealth so we have to put our resources, the talents, and expertise in there," Lorenzo said.

SIMPLE JOYS. Some of Kythe's kids make arts and crafts during one of the organization's events. Photo from Kythe

She added: "Kythe is a founding member of the Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO) so we are pushing for universal healthcare for all patients. We are pushing access for cheaper medicine, and to institutionalize psycho-social care in healthcare."

For the organization's next decade, Lorenzo said they want psycho-social support to be the norm in all hospitals.

"Now we are moving toward providing child life services, psycho-social services in private hospitals. So we are going to create a demand that private paying patients will now have [the] Child Life Program... It's not only the indigent patients [who need] psycho-social support but private patients as well," she added.

New life

Labata sees his present condition as his new life. Now, he's giving back as a volunteer for the organization that helped him beat cancer.

"While I cannot yet give financial support, I help motivate other people and other kids. I tell newly diagnosed patients that it's possible to overcome cancer even if you don't have the resources. I tell them that prayer is powerful," Labata said in Filipino. 

He added: "The most important thing Kythe taught me is that we should always be ready to fight in whatever situation, that being positive goes a long way. God always has a purpose."

As it celebrates its 25th year, Kythe will continue to champion for psycho-social support for children with chronic illnesses. It's all about spreading the love, said Lorenzo.

"The public can help the organization by being volunteers – that is the most significant participation. Because we want you to feel, we want you experience being with the children and once you are moved by their experience, then you can share your resources, your skills, and whatever you may be able to offer." – Rappler.com 

For more information, visit Kythe's website.

WATCH: Phivolcs explains strong Surigao quake


CRACKS. Motorists pass a building damaged by the strong earthquake that struck Surigao City on February 10, 2017. Photo by Erwin Mascariñas/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said aftershocks continue to rock Surigao City, two days after the strong earthquake that left at least 6 people dead.

The epicenter of the tremor was located 16 kilometers (km) offshore, northwest of Surigao City, Surigao Strait at a depth of 10 km. It was generated by the movement of the Surigao segment of the Philippine Fault.

But what exactly is the situation in the affected areas? What can we expect from the aftershocks? What should the residents do to keep their families and communities safe?  (READ: #EarthquakePH: What to do during aftershocks?

On Sunday evening, February 12, Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum talked to MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm that operates the disaster platform eBayanihan, to discuss the science behind the earthquake and how the quake-hit areas should deal with the disaster.

Below is a primer that Phivolcs prepared to explain this latest quake to the public.

What is happening in Surigao del Norte?

Based on preliminary intensity reports, the strongest ground shaking was felt at Phivolcs Earthquake Intensity Scale (PEIS) VII (Destructive) in Surigao City. Furthermore, the municipalities of Pintuyan in Southern Leyte, and San Francisco and Malimono in Surigao del Norte experienced the ground shaking at PEIS VI (Very Strong), while the municipalities of Mainit and Placer in Surigao del Norte, Libjo and San Jose in Dinagat Island, San Ricardo, Limasawa and San Francisco in Southern Leyte and Manduae City felt the shaking at PEIS V (Strong). This earthquake was felt PEIS IV to I as far as 250 km away (Butuan City, Ormoc City, Tacloban City, Catbalogan City, Bislig City, Cebu City, Cagayan de Oro City, Dumaguete City, and Tagbilaran City) from the epicentral area. The strong ground shaking near the epicentral area resulted to damage to some buildings, roads, and bridges.

Large earthquakes have affected Surigao del Norte in the past.

On July 1, 1879, a magnitude 7.4 earthquake was generated by the movement of the Surigao segment of the Philippine Fault. This earthquake was considered to be the largest historical earthquake in this area. During this event, strong ground shaking was felt in Surigao del Norte and caused significant damage to churches, buildings, and roads. A surface rupture, as well as widespread liquefaction and landslides, were also documented.

Why do earthquakes occur in Surigao del Norte?

Eastern Mindanao, including Surigao del Norte, is one of the seismically active areas in the country because of the Philippine Fault and Philippine Trench, which are the main earthquake generators that can affect the area. In addition, there are other local faults which can be sources of small- to large-magnitude earthquakes.

Can these present earthquakes indicate volcanic activity?

No. There are no active volcanoes in the epicentral area.

What can we expect from the current earthquake activity?

The current seismic trend indicates that the magnitude 6.7 earthquake on February 10, 2017 is the main shock, which caused the strong ground shaking. The succeeding small-magnitude earthquakes are the aftershocks. The aftershocks may continue to occur for several days to weeks, some of which may be felt. However, the probability of an earthquake higher than magnitude 6.7 to occur is low.

Aside from strong ground shaking, what other seismic hazards are life-threatening?

Landslides, rock falls, and other types of mass movements may occur in mountainous or hilly areas. Liquefaction, manifested by sand boils or lateral spread may affect low-lying, water-logged, sandy areas at the banks of rivers. Tsunami is not expected from the kind of movement of the Philippine Fault - Surigao segment. The tsunami threat for Surigao del Norte would come from the movement of the Philippine Trench, located east of the province.

What should be done by the affected communities?

People are reminded to be cautious of structures visibly weakened or with signs of damage, as these may be further damaged by aftershocks. In case of houses and other buildings with visible damage, it is best to contact the Municipal/City Engineering Office for advice. Engineers from the local government, other agencies, and organizations should inspect buildings and other infrastructure to determine their integrity, and recommend appropriate actions to concerned affected groups or individuals. Slopes should be checked for tension cracks that may have resulted from the strong ground shaking. Tension cracks may make slopes more susceptible to landslides. These areas should be avoided.

The best course of action is preparedness. In case of another felt earthquake, it is recommended that people protect themselves by doing the "duck, cover, and hold." In homes and offices, heavy furniture should be strapped to the walls, and appliances be secured to prevent them from toppling and causing injuries to persons.

What is the role of Phivolcs?

Phivolcs operates and maintains a network of 92 seismic stations spread across the Philippines. Data from the seismic stations are used to determine the location, magnitude, and other characteristics of the earthquakes generated.

The closest seismic stations to Surigao del Norte are the Surigao City (Surigao del Norte) and Bislig (Surigao del Sur) staff-controlled (manned) seismic stations, and the Maasin (Southern Leyte), General Luna (Surigao del Norte) and Butuan City (Agusan del Norte) remote-telemetered seismic stations.

Aside from monitoring the occurrences of earthquakes, Phivolcs also conducts hazards analyses and assessments, and makes this information available to the public. Phivolcs works hand-in-hand with other government agencies in mitigating the damaging effects of earthquakes.

Please visit the website of Phivolcs at http://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph, and its Facebook and Twitter accounts for earthquake bulletins, volcano updates, hazard maps, and other information on earthquakes and volcanoes. Earthquake observations may also be reported to Phivolcs at telephone numbers (02) 929-9254 and (02) 426-1468 to 79, local numbers 124 and 125. – Rappler.com

CA affirms ruling vs ex-PCGG chair for failing to remit money to gov't


LIABLE. The Court of Appeals affirms the Ombudsman's decision that former PCGG chairman Camilo Sabio is administratively liable for failing to remit money to the government from sequestered companies.

MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the decision of the Ombudsman, which found former Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) chairman Camilo Sabio guilty of dishonesty and grave misconduct.

The CA's 10th Division denied Sabio's petition, which sought the reversal of the Ombudsman's decision issued on July 28, 2011.

"As chairman of the PCGG, he had no blanket authority to do as he pleased with the money and property of the government," the CA ruling stated.

"As holder of a public office he must observe honesty, candor and faithful compliance with the law; nothing less is expected. Instead of demonstrating a conduct that is beyond reproach, respondent Sabio abused his power and position to the detriment of the government and the public as a whole," it added.

The Ombudsman earlier found Sabio administratively liable for failing to pay excess telephone charges amounting to P25,594 from 2006 to 2008; for failing to remit to the government the cash advances and partial remittances from sequestered corporations, amounting to P10.3 million; and for failing to liquidate P1,555,862 of his cash advances from 2005 to 2008.

Since Sabio was no longer in office in 2011, the Ombudsman ordered the forfeiture of his retirement benefits and privileges.

In 2013, the appellate court also upheld an Ombudsman ruling that found Sabio and 4 others guilty of administrative charges over the anomalous lease of vehicles worth P5.3 million in 2007.

Sabio filed his certificate of candidacy for president in the May 2016 elections but was disqualified.

In December 2016, the anti-graft body also formally filed 2 counts of graft against him for allegedly attempting to influence his younger brother, the late CA Justice Jose Sabio, involving the case filed by Manila Electric Company against the Government Service Insurance System before the CA. – Rappler.com

Veteran bloggers push criteria for Malacañang accreditation


ACCESS. Bloggers Noemi Lardizabal Dado and Jane Uymatiao, and Press Secretary Martin Andanar

MANILA, Philippines – The recent decision of Malacañang to give bloggers access to President Rodrigo Duterte and allow them to cover presidential events within and outside the Palace has sparked an online debate, with veteran bloggers weighing in on the issue. 

Noemi Lardizabal-Dado or Momblogger, one of the co-founders of Blog Watch, said giving bloggers access to the President was nothing new. The Aquino administration welcomed bloggers in the beginning of its term.

She suggested the following criteria to be used in accrediting Palace bloggers: 

  1.  They must have a blog site that writes on politics, social issues or advocacy
  2. They must have an About Us page that offers description of the blog
  3. The blog must be at least one year old with archives of at least 52 articles.
  4.  There must be a contact page where the editor or bloggers are identified and where readers can contact the blogger
  5.  Submission of duplicate copy of an ID during the application
  6.  A disclosure page that lists the blogger's political affiliation, sources of funding, and feedback mechanism for readers to hold the blogger accountable.

Blog Watch was formed in 2009 by a group of bloggers to conduct a voters education campaign. They have since become an advocacy group on a number of social issues.  

Jane Uymatiao, a co-founder of Blog Watch, clarified that bloggers like her are not interested in covering the President's activities daily. They prefer event-based accreditation instead. 

I did not find the need to cover everything about the President. It was more important that the government listen to citizens and open avenues to engage and get feedback. If they accepted our request to be accredited, then it is all good,” also wrote Lardizabal-Dado in her column. 

Press Secretary Martin Andanar agreed that a set of criteria is needed to determine which bloggers to involve in Palace coverage, but he said it is a challenge to come up with one that's mutually accepted by accredited journalists and bloggers. 

Under the current rules, journalists who are assigned to report from Malacañang must belong to a news agency and get accreditation from the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC).

Officers of the MPC have objected to media accreditation for bloggers on the grounds that bloggers lack accountability.

Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility board member Vergel Santos argues that bloggers are not subject to the “rules of practice and ethics and tradition” that bind professional journalists. Santos cautions that accrediting bloggers will blur the line "between legitimate journalism and pseudo journalism."

Pro or anti

Then there is the question of fairness by giving presidential access to bloggers who are openly supportive of President Duterte and denying those who are critical of the President and his policies.

But Andanar said the criteria apply to all bloggers, whether they are pro- or anti- administration.

“If you’re a blogger for the opposition or if you’re a plain blogger, neutral, or a blogger for Duterte, if you’re a blogger for kalaban (the enemy) then you’re free, we’ll look at your application,” he said. 

Tonyo Cruz, a blogger and a columnist for the Manila Bulletin said Andanar, as press secretary, cannot play favorites. "Andanar is not doing bloggers any favor with his displays of preference and discrimination in favor of bloggers favoring his principal," said Cruz referring to Andanar's personal live podcast where he had two prominent pro-Duterte bloggers as guests. 

“Whether a media practitioner is a journalist or blogger, Andanar cannot pick only those who favor his principal,” Cruz added.  Rappler.com

#ReliefPH: Donate to provide water for quake-hit Surigao


MANILA, Philippines – Families in Surigao del Norte who were affected by the strong earthquake on Friday, February 10, badly need water.

“The water system of Surigao City and neighboring municipalities San Francisco, Malimono, Mainit and Sison has been severely damaged, and because of this, people are having a very difficult time accessing water for their daily needs. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is formally asking for donations to buy water for Surigao residents," Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo announced on Monday, February 13.

The DSWD is now accepting cash donations which will be used to buy water sourced in Butuan, Taguiwalo said. Cash donations can be deposited to:

DSWD Dollar Saving Account para sa Foreign Donation
Account Number: 3124-0055-81
Bank Address: Land Bank of the Philippines
Batasan Branch, Constitution Hills, Quezon City

Peso Current Account
Account Name:      DSWD DONATION
Account Number: 3122-1011-84
Bank Address: Land Bank of the Philippines
Batasan Branch, Constitution Hills, Quezon City

Donors should notify DSWD-Finance Management Service (FMS)/ Cash Division (CD) of their donation through phone or email. They should send the validated deposit slip together with basic information (name, nationality and address) to finance@dswd.gov.ph and cash@dswd.gov.ph or fax to 931-8127.

“We need to continue the provision of relief assistance to the citizens of Surigao, and this includes water. There is no way that people can function well and survive without a steady supply of water for drinking and for other household needs. Filipinos who want to help our kababayans in Surigao can donate cash to the DSWD and we will immediately purchase more drinking water which we will distribute to communities,” Taguiwalo said.

The DSWD Field Office has earlier bought and delivered to Surigao City 3,500 pieces of 6.6-liter bottled water and 500 pieces of 4-liter bottled water, estimated at P1,554,471. There are also 3,900 family food packs ready for distribution to affected families in Surigao City amounting to P 1,324,611.

“There is a likelihood that the water system repairs will not be completed soon so we must prepare contingency plans to ensure that people in Surigao still have water to drink,” Taguiwalo said.

Taguiwalo flew Sunday morning to Surigao City with President Rodrigo Duterte. She also coordinated with DSWD Field Office Caraga and officials of other government agencies tasked to address calamities.

DISASTER RESPONSE. Social welfare Sec Judy Taguiwalo briefs President Rodrigo Duterte on the emergency responses for the quake-affected areas in Surigao province. Photo by Robinson Niñal/Malacañangl photo

Relief operations

The social welfare secretary reported that a total of 60 barangays have been affected, and 1,685 families with 8,425 persons need assistance. A total of 130 houses have been totally damaged, while 1555 are partially damaged, she added.

As of posting, local government offocials of affected municipalities were meeting with DSWD Region 13 executives in Surigao City to discuss relief operations in greater detail.

Taguiwalo appealed to local officials to help the DSWD in delivering assistance to earthquake-affected residents as quickly and efficiently as possible.

"We should not let anything hinder the delivery of aid to those who need it. Let us work together to ensure that no one who is need of assistance is turned away or denied help,” she said.

In Surigao City, the field office has a total of 900 family food packs that were prepositioned. There were also 900 family food packs that were prepositioned in Libjo, Dinagat Islands; 300 in Loreto, Dinagat Isalnds; 1,058 in Dapa, Siargao; 500 in Tandag City; and 2,700 in Pantin-ay, Agusan Del Sur.

There are also 17,437 family food packs readily available at the field office in Caraga warehouse in Tiniwisan, Butuan City. – Rappler.com

Agos eBayanihan is helping response agencies in crowdsourcing reports. If you want to donate, you can reach the team by using the hashtag #ReliefPH on Twitter. Smart and Talk N' Text subscribers can send their messages to 2929 for free.




Farmer killed by gunmen in Capiz land dispute picket



LAND DISPUTE. Farmers occupy a part of the 198-hectare Nemesio Tan Land Holding in Pilar, Capiz. Photo courtesy of Atty Cecilia Maquirang

MANILA, Philippines – On Monday, February 6, Orlando Eslana joined some 60 other farmers in occupying part of the 198-hectare Nemesio Tan Land Holding in Pilar, Capiz in protest. The camp-out was supposed to be an exercise of their right over the property granted to them through the Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) they received 20 years ago.

Owned by Nemesio Tan, the property is currently being administered by Culilang village chief Ferdinand Bacanto. 

Eslana wasn't able to last even a week at the picket. Five days into the protest on February 11, Saturday, the 49-year old farmer was killed. At least 5 men opened fire at the 68 agrarian reform beneficiaries who had set up fences in the area. 

Five others were injured, including Ana Bocala, Nida Amo, Adel Vergara, and Melinda Eslana Arroyo. The last one remains in serious condition after sustaining a gunshot wound in the head.

Land dispute

In an interview with Rappler, Cecilia Maquirang, the lawyer for the agrarian reform beneficiaries, said the farmers initially did not know they were granted CLOA in 1997.

They only learned about the value of the document they were holding when, in 2013, a non-governmental organization visited their area to conduct a livelihood beneficiaries orientation for those who survived Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

CLOA is the document that the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) releases to its beneficiaries. It is proof of their ownership of the awarded land. According to Maquirang, a total of around 100 farmers were granted CLOA over the disputed land in 1997.

In 2000, landowner Nemesio Tan filed a case to cancel the farmers’ CLOA. The case, which is still pending before the office of the secretary in the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), has been preventing the official installation of the farmers on the disputed land.

The Tans also filed a just compensation case with the regional trial court against Landbank and DAR, claiming that the value of the land for agrarian reform was higher than what was paid to them.

“The legal battles started in 2015 because we started to send in our comments regarding the cancellation case,” Maquirang explained. 

Who started the violence?

There are conflicting sides to the story.

According to Maquirang, the violence erupted when the protesters noticed that a tractor rammed through the fences that they had set up in the area.

"Other beneficiaries, mostly women, tried to block the tractor using their bodies. Some took pictures.  And then at that point, the shooting incident began," Maquirang said. 

This version of the story was contradicted by Ferdinand Bacanto, a nephew of Leopoldo Lachica, one of the suspected gunmen in the incident. 

In an interview with Inquirer, he insisted it was the farmers who started the violence. According to him, Eslana “tried to hack my uncle."

The incident occurred a little past 4 pm on Saturday, February 11.

Maquirang added that, days before the commotion, unidentified assailants also attempted to burn the area where the agrarian reform beneficiaries camped out. This was captured on video posted on Facebook. 


Agrarian reform

"This is the height of brutality against poor farmers who were only demanding what is due them," said Lanie Factor, deputy national coordinator of Task Force Mapalad (TFM).

Following the attack, TFM urged DAR to immediately address the issue and expedite the distribution of the land to the agrarian reform beneficiaries.

According to news reports, Bacanto also said that the ongoing conflict would have been avoided if DAR properly executed the awarding of the CLOA to the beneficiaries.

Following the incident, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano ordered the DAR Region VI office to seek police assistance and immediately conduct an investigation. He also expressed his condolences to the families of the victims as he condemned the shooting incident. "Necessary steps must be done to prevent further injuries," he said.

The DAR secretary also instructed Regional Director Gideon Umadhay Jr and the provincial agrarian reform officer to probe the land dispute in the Nemencio Tan landholding to prevent bloodshed and more injuries in the agrarian reform-covered land. Rappler.com


#UPFair2017 Tuesday: Mabaya


MANILA, Philippines – Rappler's civic engagement arm, MovePH, and the University of the Philippines (UP) University Student Council partnered for a fun and equally engaging #NotOnMyWatch booth at this year’s Valentine-week UP Fair.

The theme for this year’s anticipated fair “Sabayan Ang Beat” is a play of words. "Sabayan" means patronizing mainstream and indie original Pinoy music (OPM) while expressing one’s self. "Sa Bayan," on one hand, means looking back at the advocacies uniting the university as a free community. 

The official poster using the colors red, yellow, and blue, symbolize the most important beat of all – the beat for the people.

Here's the line up of performances for Tuesday, February 14.

Help us fight corruption!

This same beat will be championed at the #NotOnMyWatch photo booth, a part of MovePH’s advocacy campaign to commend good governance, and to fight corrupt practices and activities in government agencies.

UP Fair participants will be informed of MovePH’s anti-corruption movement and will be encouraged to contribute pledges to fight corruption.

Pledge participants will also have the chance to win smart phones and #NotOnMyWatch shirts.

"Hope in a Bottle" will also be available for purchase at the booth. The funds will donated to help fund the construction and improvement of classrooms in various locations around the country.

See you at the UP Fair! – Rappler.com