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Metro Manila has ‘worst traffic on Earth’ – Waze


DRIVING. The 2015 Global Driver Satisfaction conducted by the navigation app Waze shows that the Philippines is among the countries with the worst driving experiences. File photo by Kevin de la Cruz/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines — Manila, on a city level, has the “worst traffic on Earth,” according to the popular navigation app Waze.

The Philippines is the 9th worst place to drive, revealed the 2015 Global Driver Satisfaction Index conducted by Waze. The Philippines is only a little ahead of Costa Rica, and behind countries like Panama, Indonesia, and Romania. 

Meanwhile, the top 5 countries with "most satisfying" driving experience are the Netherlands, Latvia, the United States, Sweden, and the Czech Republic.

Waze surveyed the driving experience of 50 million users across 32 countries and 167 metro areas. The report, “Driver Satisfaction Index,”  is the first of its kind. Drivers were are asked to rate their driving experience from 10 (satisfying) to 1 (miserable).

The Philippines did poorly at 3.9, a big leap from the Netherlands’ 7.9 score.

The survey focused on 6 factors: traffic level by frequency and severity of traffic jams, road quality and infrastructure, driver safety, driver services, socio-economic aspect, and “Wazeyness” or the level of helpfulness and happiness within the Waze community.


The top 5 countries with the best driving experience said they had an “easy, breezy driving experience.” The US and France, according to Waze, have very light traffic due to “smaller cities with appropriate infrastructure that’s easy to navigate.”

This is a far cry from what many Filipino drivers and commuters experience every day. In the survey, an average Metro Manila commuter travels for over 45 minutes to get from home to work. Metro Manila commuters spent the most time on the road, the survey showed.

Some netizens have shared, however, that they endure even longer commutes streching from an hour or more – depending on traffic, availability of taxis and buses, MRT functionality, and the ability to use apps like GrabTaxi or Uber. (READ: #CommuterWatch)

With the country’s problematic public transportation system, many Filipinos have turned to ride sharing apps to ease their daily commute. But not everyone has access to this technology. (READ: The Filipino commuter is terrified)

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) earlier reported that the country's traffic congestion cost the economy P2.4 billion every day in 2012. The cost of traffic will continue to rise if the government fails to provide adequate solutions, JICA said.

The Philippines also ranked the lowest in the socio-economic category, which accounts for gas prices and its impact on living, access to cars, and the ratio of cars to the population.

On the upside, the Philippines ranked first in terms of the best "driver services index," pertaining to the number of gas stations, car services, and parking lots. It also ranked 4th in the "safety index," which is based on the density of accidents and hazards.

2015 Global Driver Satisfaction Index


(10: Satisfied, 1: Miserable)


(based on surveyed countries)

Driving satisfaction3.99th worst 
Traffic index.04Worst 
Safety index9.34th best
Driver services index10Best
Road quality 5.813th worst
Socio-economic index0Worst
'Wazyness' or the happiness of Waze users3.46th worst
TIGHT. Commuters pack MRT trains.

Among "big metros," Philippine cities Manila, Quezon City, Makati, Dasmariñas, Bacoor, Taguig, Valenzuela, and San Jose del Monte fared poorly with a score of 3.9, the 3rd lowest among the surveyed cities worldwide.

In an effort to ease the country's many commuting woes, the government came up with a unified ticketing system for trains. The system, however, is yet to be fully operational across all stations. 

The government also announced that it will be getting new MRT trains by January 2016 as part of its as part of its long-term rehabilitation plan. The MRT has been in use since 1999, with a less-than-amusing track record of delays, breakdowns, injuries, and derailment.

The beaten-up train system carries over 500,000 passengers per day even if it has a capacity for only 350,000. 

What is your driving experience like? Have any suggestions on how we can fix the Philippine public transportation system? Tweet us at @moveph using #CommuterWatch, or reach us at Facebook or move.ph@rappler.com. – Rappler.com

'Powerful' El Niño to cause hunger among world's poorest people – report


EXTREME WEATHER. Oxfam International warns that at least 10 million of the world's poorest will suffer hunger due to El Nino.

MANILA, Philippines – Millions of people are at risk of suffering from hunger and poverty in 2015 as one of the powerful El Niño climatic events in history continues to threaten several countries, Oxfam International said on Wednesday, October 1.

In a latest report, Entering Unchartered Waters, the group found that the world is facing a climactic event possibly “the most powerful since 1997.” It can also push at least 10 million of the world's poorest people down the hunger trap.

The risk of hunger, it added, is caused by crop failures due to droughts which “seriously disrupt” growing seasons of several poor countries.

Without proper intervention, “major humanitarian emergencies” are likely to happen. The report cited previous droughts in recent years which caused widespread damage such as in 2011 when more than 260,000 people died in Africa.

Addressing these issues are important as the high temperature recorded in 2014 is “most likely” to continue in the next years.

Poor countries most affected

El Niño is a climatic event where Pacific waters become warm and triggers either erratic rains in South America, while Australia, Asia, and Africa suffer from drought-like conditions.

The impact of El Niño – extreme weather and food security issues – is mainly specific to certain regions.

In addition, the average global yields of staples such as rice and wheat are only minimally affected. The slight loss of yields can thus be “balanced out” by increasing production levels in other countries not affected by El Niño.

However, Oxfam explained that the situation of global production is “of little consolation” to the world’s poorest countries which experience the major negative effects.

Several low-income countries are already facing a "major emergency" due to the effects, the group said.

In Ethiopia, the prolonged lack of rain in 2015 resulted in more than 4.5 million people needing food aid, while two million people in Papua New Guinea have been affected by crops loss.

'First test of commitment'

The report comes a few days after world leaders expressed their commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Key goals under the 2030 agenda include eradicating hunger, poverty, and fighting climate change, including its effects.

According to Oxfam, it is now high time for the United Nations to take action against the crisis.

The first “test of commitment” will be an agreement at the Paris climate talks in December “for the women, men, and children on the frontlines of climate change.”

“This unfolding crisis shows the scale of threat that climate change poses to its realization,” the group emphasized. – Rappler.com

Bayani Brew: Helping farming communities become 'agripreneurs'


ALL-PINOY. Bayani Brew is a Filipino-made iced tea from local leaves. Photo from Human Nature website

MANILA, Philippines – A small bundle of talbos ng kamote (sweet potato leaves) can be bought from any market for about P5 to P10 ($.10 to $.20)* but only less than half of the income goes to the rural communities who grow them.

Middle men and transportation costs cut back the profit that could otherwise help the farming families already suffering from low wages. After all, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the agricultural sector is the poorest in the country.

Bayani Brew seeks to change this thinking. A Gawad Kalinga social enterprise, Bayani Brew helps communities make the most out of what they have to get out of the poverty trap.

Highlighting innovative solutions to persistent problems, social entrepreneurship plays a vital role in bottom-up change – a much needed action in a country with high poverty incidence despite alleged economic growth.

According to Unlad Kabayan, a migrants’ social enterprise, social entrepreneurs are able to “recognize the problems in the community and then identify resources that can help address the problem.”

From nanays, with love

Bayani Brew is an "all-nutritious, all-delicious, all-Filipino beverage” that comes in several flavors such as classic and purple leaf.

Despite being an “iced-tea drinking” nation, the Philippines has to import tea leaves from neighboring countries. However, in small communities, residents make use of local leaves.

According to Ron Dizon, one of the founders, Bayani Brew traces its beginning to the nanays (mothers) in the GK communities in Angat, Bulacan who usually serve hot teas to volunteers and visitors.

“We saw the opportunity that they were able to come up with quality brews from the ingredients they could get from the farm,” he told Rappler. “We can brew up and make them more accessible.”

From one Bulacan farm in 2012, with the help of the Department of Agrarian Reform, the group now sources leaves from 4 farming communities, including Tarlac. However, getting the trust of these communities wasn’t easy.

“They were skeptical at first,” Xilca Alvarez said. “Parang para sa kanila, sino ba itong bata na ito na nagpapaasa na bibili ng maraming talbos ng kamote at tanglad (For them, who’s this kid who is trying to lead us to hope that they’ll be buying a lot of camote tops and lemongrass from us?)”

The doubt and fear did not pop out of nowhere. The community, Alvarez recalled, just emerged from a messy deal with a business which left them with almost nothing but a year full of cassavas.

“Ang hirap na kunin iyong trust kasi dati napagod na raw sila sa mga malalaking kumpanya na nagpapatanim sa kanila,” she said. “Iyong buong komunidad nila nagtanim ng maraming cassava para sa request ng kumpanya na iyon tapos isang buong taon sila kumain ng cassava kasi the company never came back after 6 months.”

(It was really difficult to get their trust because they had grown tired of big businesses who make them farm. One time, their whole community planted so much cassava at the request of a certain business and they had to eat cassavas for the whole year because the company never came back after 6 months.)

COMMUNITIES. Tanglad and camote leaves are sourced from farming communities in Bulacan and Tarlac. Photo from Human Nature website

It didn’t help that Bayani Brew then was completely unknown and that camote tops aren’t exactly sought-after crops. After a few months – and higher market value pay – the farmers eventually trusted them.

“What we really did is that we gave them to the market as they didn’t have any market,” Angeles said. “They’re used to planting same low-value crops at ang alam lang nila ay ibebenta nila sa middle man at ibebenta nila ito sa Balintawak (what they only know is that they’ll sell to a middle man who will sell the crops in Balintawak.)”

Organic and wiser

Bayani Brew boasts of selling organic ingredients, but the farming communities they worked with weren’t at all into organic farming.

The group provided capacity-building workshops for the farmers and their families to learn how to plant organic crops. From using only chemical fertilizers, they now make use of what’s around.

“What was only needed ay ang training at puwede pa nila presyuhan ng mas mataas ang crops nila kapag organic ito (What was only needed was training and they could price their crops higher when they’re organic),” Angeles said. “We provided end-to-end services to our farming communities.”

But it doesn’t there, Dizon said, as one of the goals of the social enterprise is to make agripreneurs out of the farmers – to make progress more steady and sustainable.

“We really want to transform the farmers to be agripreneurs,” he explained. “We want them to treat farming as a business.”

“By choosing exclusively local ingredients, we were able to provide a steady income for the farmers,” he added.

Bridging the technology gap

Social enterprises play a big role in ending poverty in the Philippines. However, the so-called “digital divide” hinders these businesses from reaching maximum potential.

In a report Unleashing Entrepreneurship, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) identified lack of physical and social infrastructure, uneven playing field, and lack of access to skill development and knowledge as some challenges that social entrepreneurs might face.

If left unsolved, these challenges may eventually lead to the failure of social enterprises.

During Rappler’s Innovation +Social Good: Social Good Summit 2015 on Saturday, September 26, Globe Telecom’s head for corporate social responsibility Bong Esguerra highlighted their engagement with social entrepreneurs who are on a “social mission” to help improve their capacity to serve communities. (READ: Telcos: Farmers, fishermen, entrepreneurs should not be left out)

Bayani Brew was able to benefit from Globe’s technology. With operations “thinly spread” in North Luzon, they had a hard time looking after production – sometimes resulting in losses.

Through technology, they were able to properly monitor and increase their productive value. The communities Bayani Brew helps also benefited.

“Those things, they seem very simple and trivial to other businesses,” Dizon said. “But for the people in the communities, it’s the first time they’re using it lalo na Internet at ang laking tulong at ease ang nadala ng Internet sa buhay nila (it’s the first time they’re using these innovations, especially the Internet, and it’s brought a lot of help and ease to their lives).”

Technology, Esguerra emphasized, is important for social enterprises to achieve sustainability. This paves the way for a constant source of income for communities that the social entrepreneurs support.  (READ: Silicon Valley Filipino technopreneur to SMEs: Master digital tech)

“We’ve helped social enterprises achieve sustainability to ensure the livelihood of the sectors they were designed to support,” he said. “And how? Through the technology that we’ve provided them.”

Social enterprises thus should supported – both by the public and the government – as it is key to “inclusive growth” the Philippines longs for.

“It’s very much linked to making inclusive growth a reality,” Dizon emphasized. “If we want to improve, I think social enterprises will play a big role in influencing economic growth and other businesses to be more mindful of inclusive growth.” – Rappler.com

*$1 = P46

To know more about Bayani Brew and its cause to help farming communities, visit their Facebook page.

Cloud Nine incident: Filipino surfers refute Australian surfer's story


IN THE WAY? A photo of a surfer appearing to be Brent Symes in the water and in the way of a surfer while a local competition was ongoing disputes his claims he was allegedly out of the way.

MANILA, Philippines – An incident in the popular surf spot of Siargao involving a foreign surfer has the Philippine surfing community up in arms over what they say are lies and false accounts of what really happened. 

On September 21, Brent Symes, a surfer from Queensland, Australia, was attacked by locals in a surfing competition held in Cloud Nine in Siargao. Alexander Haro, senior editor of The Inertia, wrote that Symes was beaten with bats and bottles after he supposedly drifted into the way of competitors.

As Symes emerged from the water after hearing an announcement, he said he “was mauled by at least five local guys with bats and bottles.” He also said his board was destroyed and he sustained cuts on his feet. On the incident he commented, “I believe I did nothing wrong and the incident was a misunderstanding by local radicals. I never impeded any competitors and I was unaware I was offending locals.”

Aside from The Inertia, the supposed attack was reported on the Gold Coast Bulletin and Surfing Life.

Witnesses from the local Philippine surfing community, however, tell a different story.

Elaine Abonal, a spectator during the competition, wrote on her Facebook page: “Newspapers in other countries, especially Australia, are getting their facts wrong and giving the Philippines a bad name.”

Violation of rules

One of the main rules of competitive surfing is that non-competitors, or free surfers, should avoid the contest area.

According to Abonal, Symes paddled out during the break and stayed there even when the announcers were asking people to return to shore. He claimed to have permission to be a water spectator during the heat so he stayed.

However, Abonal said Symes was too close to the competition area and was catching waves along with the other competitors. “So he wasn't acting as a spectator,” she added. Symes asserted that he could hear the public address (PA) system, but to him it “just sounded like [people] screaming for barrels.”

Abonal refuted this saying people could hear the announcements from the water.

Caught in photos

Surfing photographer Sky Chang said he saw the whole incident and sent photos to Rappler that appear to show Symes purposely did not leave the competition area.

"The competition started at 12:17 pm, there were three surfers take (sic) their wave and paddle back to the competition area from 12:17 to 12:22 pm. From this photo we can (see) he don't want to leave the competition area," said Chang who added that the 5 minutes had already lapsed in the competition when the photo was taken. 

Chang also said that from 12:22:55 to 12:36:58, Symes went catch some waves. "Brent Symes paddled out to the competition area not only once. Just like this photo, Brent Symes tried to paddle out again." 

CAUGHT? A series of photos from Sky Chang seemingly show Brent Symes was clearly in the competition area when surfers were competing. Photo from Sky Chang

The beating

Symes then tried to return to shore, which is when he claimed 5 people attacked him with “sawn off bamboo and bottles that were to be broken on [the] reef used as a knife [sic].” He then told reporters he was beaten, his board destroyed, and his feet scratched. “I thought I was going to die,” he told Gold Coast Bulletin.

Abonal denied any broken bottles were used to attack Symes. Dencio Dizon, another spectator, told Surfing Life that “[Symes] wiped out and his board flew away, as he wasn’t wearing a leg rope. That sparked a few local boys to jump in the water, running after him and his board. A few punches were thrown and his board ended up broken.”

The scratches on Symes’ feet which he said were from his attempt to defend himself were reef cuts which were “normal and [happened] everyday in Cloud Nine,” Abonal said. She also saw he “looked unharmed” and was also “walking around freely” in the days he said he locked himself in his room.

Reports from Mail Online and Gold Coast Bulletin said Filipino police had arrested and charged those involved in the incident, but Abonal said she received word from Sagana Resort owner Gerry Degan that the local surfers were neither arrested nor charged.

Negative light

For Dizon and Abonal, the incident and reports that followed put the local surfing scene in a bad light.

Dizon said it “kind of took away the limelight and stole the show from the finals of our national competition.” Abonal added, “To be depicted falsely in international news was shocking to me [and] everyone who saw what happened - both foreigners and locals.” – Rappler.com

Bea Orante is a Rappler intern.

Photos by Sky Chang Photography-QUBI Taiwan

Change.org petition to Aquino: Apologize over 'offensive' LP show


PUBLIC APOLOGY. The 'offensive show' at a Liberal Party event in Laguna merits an apology from its chairman, President Benigno S. Aquino III, according to a change.org petition. Photo by Lauro Montellano, Jr/Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines — Public officials getting a public lap dance? 

On Thursday, October 1, the Liberal Party (LP) held an oath-taking ceremony for members in Sta Cruz, Laguna. After the ceremony, women were brought on stage to “entertain” officials through provocative dance moves.

Videos of the public event were quick to make rounds online, leaving several netizens either angry or shocked.

change.org petition was then launched by Edna Aquino, urging LP chairperson President Benigno Aquino III to issue a public apology for the LP event’s “offensive show.” 

"This unfortunate but deplorable incident merits an apology from your office as Head of State and as Chair of the Liberal Party on whose name, this event was held," it said.

The petition also calls for an investigation into the conduct of government officials in violation of the Magna Carta of Women or Republic Act 9710. The law prohibits all forms of discrimination against women. This is includes the discriminatory portrayal of women in film, media, or shows.

The petition mentioned that former interior secretary Manuel Roxas II, MMDA Chief Francis Tolentino, and Laguna Representative Benjamin Agarao were also present at the event. (The Roxas camp maintained that Roxas was no longer at the venue when the dancers when on stage.)

The petition demands the 3 officials to be investigated and held liable if proven guilty.

“The entertainment at a Liberal Party oath-taking ceremony and attended by government officials presented women as sexual objects,” the petition read. "Despite Malacañang (through Secretary Herminio ‘Sonny’ Coloma) and MMDA Chief Francis Tolentino's denial that the women performers were his 'gift' to the host, eyewitness accounts from the media who were present proved otherwise.”

“According to news reports, there were minors in the audience,” the petition said, adding that such “unfortunate but deplorable incident” merits an apology from Aquino himself.

The Philippine Commission on Women told Rappler that it is yet to release an official statement on the matter.

What do you think of the incident? Let us know, tweet us @moveph or reach us at move.ph@rappler.com of Facebook.  Rappler.com

DSWD launches new system for packing relief goods during disasters


Learning from previous disasters, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) launches a new mechanized production system that makes repacking of relief goods faster and more efficient during disasters.

Gwen de la Cruz reports.

When Typhoon Yolanda struck in 2013, it took days for relief goods to reach victims.

Two years later, the Department of Social Welfare and Development or DSWD, in partnership with the World Food Programme, has a new mechanized production system that has the capacity to produce 50,000 family food packs a day.

A big leap from the 10 to 15 thousand food packs per day that volunteers could put together.

These food packs, which include rice, canned goods and coffee, can feed 250,000 people in 2 to 3 days.

Machines do the tedious tasks of measuring, sorting, repacking, and storing.

This makes everything quicker, using less manpower, reducing to 30 personnel and volunteers needed during operations.

During emergencies, a truck can be filled with 2,400 family food packs in over an hour.

DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman says this new system will also lessen food spoilage.

DINKY SOLIMAN, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE AND DEVELOPMENT: In this system, we can monitor the expiration dates of relief goods. For example, you can see a card there indicating when the goods are processed and when the goods will expire.

To quickly distribute relief goods, the DSWD works with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the World Food Programme.

DINKY SOLIMAN, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE AND DEVELOPMENT: We have this, again, suggested by the World Food Programme, pre-arranged contracts that we can utilize whenever we need them - these are private 10-wheeler covered trucks. So that when disaster strikes, we don’t need to look for trucks anymore.

The whole system, according to Soliman, is one-of-its-kind, specifically designed for the agency’s needs.

By the end of the year, the DSWD will set up another system in Cebu. Two more systems will be set up in General Santos and Clark by 2016.

The Philippines is considered the third most disaster prone country in the world according to the 2012 World Risk Index.

With the new mechanized production system in place in different parts of the country, are we one step closer to a more efficient disaster management plan?

Gwen de la Cruz, Rappler, Manila

Netizens support #WhangOd, share tattoo photos


MANILA, Philippines – Do you have a tattoo made by Whang Od? Let the world see it.

Netizens shared photos of their tattoos made by Whang Od to support the call to recognize the Cordilleran tattooer as a National Living Treasure or as a National Artist.

The call for the award started with an online campaign, which soon became viral. It was Lawyer Emil Marañon III who then suggested that Whang Od deserves a "more special award." 

According to Republic Act 7355, the National Living Treasures Award is awarded to "a Filipino citizen or group of Filipino citizens engaged in any traditional art uniquely Filipino, whose distinctive skills have reached such a high level of technical and artistic excellence." 

Many netizens expressed their support for Whang-Od, saying the woman deserves all the awards since she embodies the rich heritage of the country that "most Filipinos have unfortunately forgotten."

Some netizens shared photos of their traditional centipede tattoos which represent guidance and protection. Meanwhile, others showed off their tattoo lines which, according to Whang Od, reflect the resiliency of nature.

Check out the photos below:

Do you want her to finally receive these awards? Ask your friends to snap a photo of their tattoo made by Whang-Od and share it on Facebook or tweet us @moveph using #WhangOd. – Rappler.com 

How do you solve Metro Manila traffic? You don't


Let’s be realistic. There is nothing that anyone can do to solve the traffic woes of Metro Manila, even with the ingenuity and hard work of the MMDA chairman.

Here’s why:

With its current population of more than 12 million that swells to about 15 million during the daytime, Metro Manila is the undisputed primate city in the country whose close competitors such as Metro Cebu (2.5 million) or Metro Davao (2.2 million) pale in comparison in terms of population size. (READ: Can the police fix EDSA traffic?

According to the World Bank report, Metro Manila currently houses 56 percent of the total urban land development and more than 70 percent of the total urban population of the country. Worse, three of its 16 cities – Manila‘s 42,857 people/sq km; Pateros’ 30,456 people/sq km; and Caloocan’s 27,916 population/sq km – rank as the top three most densest cities in the world respectively dwarfing Mumbai's 23,000 people/sq km; Paris’ 20,150 people/sq km; or Toyko’s 10,100 people/sq km. (READ: Our collective guilt over Metro Manila traffic

Now tell me, how do you manage that?

The incidence of thousands of commuters and motorists spending long hours stuck in a traffic jam especially after torrential rains and consequent flooding is a given. We should not have the illusion that our existing and ongoing efforts will ameliorate our traffic problem once and for all. Our state of urban affairs is like what the legendary Yogi Berra used to quip. “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

By now, we should already have learned our lesson that no amount of urban revitalization or urban renewal can remedy the unsustainable and cancerous growth of our leading primate city. Short of wiping out the entire metro area and starting from scratch, there is no other way but to find the solution for its problem somewhere else. That is, the key to solving its overdevelopment is the development of other provinces.

I share the frustration of MMDA chief Francisco Tolentino because he bears the flak despite his best efforts to solve a problem that requires a different solution. I think the undue criticism is not only unfair but also misdirected. And yet, I thought he was quite intuitive and on the right track when he intimated a political solution to depopulating Metro Manila via the creation of well-planned urban centers in central, northern and southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

I say political solution because the master planning, engineering, or architectural components to development are the easiest tasks to do. For me, it’s not difficult to plan and design a medium-range or long-range growth center plan. It’s not a problem at all. But engaging in a political solution is. And that’s an entirely different ballgame.

Both in my academic work and urban planning consultancies, I have consistently espoused the re-rooting of our development to the origins of the city-state that the classical Greeks talked about. And I advocated the role of growth points and maritime development employing innovative and sustainable urban designs consistent to the natural and social characteristics of our island nation.

What is interesting about city-state planning is that, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Already, we have successful models to learn upon. In fact, the successes of Monaco, Macau, Hong Kong, or Singapore can be traced to the application of the city-state model of development.

Unfortunately, there are people who have the planning skills and expertise like me but do not possess the motherboard of urban or town planning. In short, someone has to exercise the political will to fulfill the vision of a new development from the beginning to the end.

It’ll be interesting to find out in the coming election. Who among the political contenders – local as well as national – possess and can articulate the vision and the determination to finally implement the long overdue, serious, no-nonsense, and non-distracted development expansion throughout the archipelago?

Anyone? – Rappler.com 


Efren Padilla is a full 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. https://efrenpadilla.wordpress.com
























Advocates call for improved senior pension for Pinoys


OLD, POOR. NSCB reports that the latest poverty incidence among the country's senior citizens is 15.8% as of 2009, while the magnitude of poor is around 1.1 million. File photo by Dennis Sabangan/EPA

This is a public service announcement from COSE:

MANILA, Philippines – Do you love your grandparents?

The Confederation of Older Person Associations of the Philippines (COPAP) and the Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE) celebrate the Elderly Filipino Week from October 1 to 7 and the International Day of Older Persons on October 1.

Celebrations kicks off with the Department of Health's Walk for Life event, which calls for an improved minimum pension for Filipino senior citizens.

With many Filipinos living below or close to the poverty line, and without formal employment, the social pension has an important role in providing income security for the elderly. Yet the scheme has faced a number of challenges. (READ: Most Filipinos not ready for retirement – study)

According to COSE's estimate, only about a third of seniors currently receive pension. Eighteen percent receives a contributory pension (SSS or GSIS), while 15% benefit from the Department of Social Welfare and Development's (DSWD) social pension program for indigent senior citizens.

However, the vast majority has been missing out. These are the elderly whose income are too small to contribute to social security earlier in their lives. They also fail to meet the strict eligibility criteria for the current social pension. 

Crucial but minimal support

The 4-year review, “The Philippine Social Pension at 4 Years: Insights and Recommendations,” provides evidence for the continuing development and improvement. It was conducted by conducted by the Demographic Research Foundation, HelpAge International, and COSE.

The program shows that social pension has an impact especially on food and, to a lesser extent, medicine. Despite the modest benefit of P500 per month, pension recipients do not use the money only for their needs, but for other household members, particularly grandchildren.

“All (my 13 children) are poor. Sometimes they are even the ones asking help from me. And I also shoulder some of my grandchildren’s schooling expenses," an 82-year-old pensioner told COSE.

However, the low benefit level means the social pension scheme is unable to ensure older people have a basic level of food security. Almost 40% of respondents, regardless of their pension status, had less than 3 meals a day  felt hunger after a meal, or had 3 meals yet still felt hungry.

Missing out?

The low budget prioritization for the social pension is seen as one of the limitations. The scheme should cover all 1.2 million indigent senior citizens who are 60 years old and above, as defined by the DSWD and mandated by Republic Act 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.

This budget was, however, limited to only cover those age 77 and above.

In 2015, the budget was expanded to cover those 65 years old and above, but still falls short of the law. There are also signs that the proportion of seniors who are indigent has been underestimated.

There have been major challenges in identifying the indigent. Local social workers and the Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) may have a difficult time measuring one's economic status and disability.


The study revealed the lack of a defined system of enrolling and prioritizing pension grantees. 

“Even if you are 80 years old already, if you won’t personally go to OSCA, it won’t come to you. You should personally come to OSCA so that you’ll see for yourself what I have been telling you about,” said a pensioner from Quezon City.

Some feel no filing of applications is unnecessary because the power to select the beneficiaries simply rests in the hands of the barangay captain. This also leaves them aware that there were others equally eligible in their community, leading some to speculate why they were selected.

These issues suggest the need for a universal non-contributory pension, which can provide greater rewards in terms of reduced administrative complexity, greater coverage, and compliance with internationally agreed upon social protection standards.

Evidence from the implementation of universal pensions in other countries shows how they have contributed to reducing poverty and inequality, promoting better skills and livelihoods of people of all ages, dynamism in local economies and ensuring a dignified old age.

“Other countries like Thailand, has recognized already the limitations and challenges of targeting, that’s why they opted for universal,” said Emily Beridico, COSE executive director.


A central question is, of course, whether the government could fund such a commitment.

The price tag, however, is lower than people might think. For example, a universal pension of P750 for all Filipinos aged 60 and over would cost P69 billion or 0.5% of the GDP. Put in context, this is only a little more than the P56 billion government subsidy to only about 500,000 of military and uniformed pensioners under the General Appropriations Act of 2015.

“How could they fully cover 60 when they know for a fact the budget allocated is obviously insufficient?” Beridico added.

“We are aware there is money for fully covering the 60 years old indigent and expanding it further to all older Filipinos," said Dioscorro Benalla, president of COPAP. "If government has allotted 56 billion pesos for a miniscule population of pensioners, we find no reason to deny us with this entitlement that will benefit the entire older people population. Besides, who paid taxes?” 

“We have been paying taxes since we were born and has been contributing to pension. We deserve every cents of it from the moment we turn 60 until we die,” Benalla stressed. – Rappler.com

The Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE) helps the elderly to continue living in and contributing to their communities. COSE has organized 402 Older People’s Associations throughout the Philippines and helped them established community-based income-generating activities, home care, community pharmacies, social activities and disaster risk reduction and management programs. 

Miriam: Wang-od Oggay and Ligaya Amilbangsa, national living treasures


MANLILIKHA. Ligaya Amilbangsa and Wang-od Oggay.

If Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago had her way, noted Igorot tattoo artist Wang-od Oggay and traditional dance advocate Ligaya Fernando Amilbangsa should be considered "national living treasures."

“The admirable contributions of these two women cannot go unnoticed. In an era where distractions abound thanks to information technology, they successfully raise awareness on traditional art forms that are otherwise dying,” said the senator. 

She filed Senate Resolution 1602, expressing the sense of the Senate to nominate Wang-Od and Amilbangsa for the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (National Living Treasures Award), which is "conferred on Filipinos who are at the forefront of the practice, preservation, and promotion of the nation’s traditional folk arts," according to the official government portal, www.gov.ph.

Republic Act 7355 provides the framework for their recognition, and provides for an initial grant of P100,000, as well as a monthly provision of P10,000 for life, in addition to a plaque or medal.

13 recipients have been given the Gawad sa Manlilikha sa Bayan, including Tboli princess Lang Dulay, for producing intricately patterned T’nalak cloth from abaca; Iloilo epic chanter Frederico Caballero, and artist and poet Ginaw Bilog from Oriental Mindoro. – with a report from Lou Gepuela/Rappler.com





‘Understand needs of communities to reduce disaster risks’ – climate change expert


DISASTERS. Manila Observatory executive director Antonia Loyzaga discusses the role of NGOs and CSOs building resilience among communities. Photo by Aika Rey/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – How can civil society organizations (CSO) and non-governmental organizations (NGO) help communities in reducing of disaster risks?

“Disaster risk reduction is not a humanitarian question. It is a development priority,” Manila Observatory executive director Antonia Loyzaga said on Thursday, October 1, during a forum on the role of CSOs and NGOs in building resilience.

Loyzaga also stressed the need to have science-informed disaster risk reduction measures, as well as the importance of understanding every community's needs.

“We need to understand the needs of coastal communities, for example, because they will not evacuate. Rather, what need to be in the area are safe buildings,” she explained.

Safe buildings are structures that are able to withstand disasters. Among coastal areas, these are designed to have the first two floors empty in order to accommodate flooding and tsunami.

These are investments that the government should make, according to Loyzaga, as a huge percentage of the population live in low-lying areas.

Moreover, she emphasized the need to embed science in local governments’ land use policies and infrastructure planning to mitigate disasters. “DRR is a question of nation-building. Resilience needs to be looked at different perspectives,” she added.

Mainstreaming science 

Currently, the Philippines ranks second next to Vanuatu in Costa Rica in the 2014 World Risk Index report, which traced risk patterns to increased urbanization.

Clarifying that natural hazards do not necessarily equate to disasters, Dr Loyzaga explained that disasters occur when hazards impact vulnerable people.

"Hazard maps are not the problem, it is vulnerability. We should have an exposure map,” Loyzaga said. Factors that increase risks include population density, socio-economic pressures, and infrastructure, among others.

HAZARDS, EXPOSURE, VULNERABILITY. Disasters happen when hazards impacts exposed vulnerable groups. Table from Dr Antonia Loyzaga's presentation last October 1, 2015. Graphic by Alejandro Edoria/Rappler Meanwhile, Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan executive director Fr Xavier Alpasa called for the mainstreaming of science among CSOs and NGOs. “We cannot act without science," he argued.

Better coordination

As community preparedness is vital to resilience, Office of Civil Defense director Liza Cañada stressed the need to enhance the capacities of communities with the help of CSOs and NGOs. (READ: LGUs, NGOs unite for disaster risk reduction)

“We need to capacitate the community,” Cañada said. “That is why we have a community-based DRRM approach.”

The civil defense director acknowledged that there are ongoing engagements with CSOs and NGOs in terms of preparedness and prevention. When asked to zero in their role in the advent of disasters, Cañada said that the organizations need to enhance capacities for response.

"We are sometimes left to reactive approach. That is why it is really important to prepare the community," she said. "If we wait for the national government to respond, it will take time," she added. – Rappler.com

Thoughts of a woman who had an abortion


Whenever I pass by this man's office, I paint a picture of me strangling him, kicking his groin, and eventually stabbing him to death. I also imagine bumping into him inside a mall and asking him, while his wife is watching, "Kumusta ka na? Alam na ba ng asawa mo na nagsusugal ka at nambababae? Na nakabuntis ka ng di lang iisang babae bukod sa kaniya? (How are you? Does your wife know that you gamble and cheat on her? That you impregnated more than one woman that’s not her?)”

But I don't hate this man as much as I hate myself. All because I know I did something wrong and tried to change it by doing something that is even worse.

I engaged in casual sex with a married man – this man I wanted to strangle – whom I thought would fill the emptiness I used to feel. And because I was careless, I allowed myself to get pregnant. 

Scared of the consequences of unwanted pregnancy – having to tell my ailing parents, being banished and disowned, excommunicated by my church, rearing a human being by myself, setting aside my career which is about to take off — I decided to have an abortion.

I regret that decision. Moreover, I regret having casual sex in the first place. No excuses. I know I did something wrong. But more importantly, I resent every accolade and praise I received for almost everything after that. 

No, I'm not a good Christian. No, I'm not the best daughter. No, I'm not the most humane person in the world. 

This is how society wants every woman who committed abortion would like to think. We cannot hold our heads up high because we're constantly being judged. We cannot look in the mirror and be proud of our reflection because all we see are the words: Sin. Crime. Killer. (READ: Is it time to legalize abortion in the PH?)

Move on, move forward 

There are nights when I dream of a sonogram of a growing fetus with a beating heart. There are days when I fear that I would have blood gushing out of me and that I wouldn't know how to explain myself. There are times when I just want to be dead so that I don't have to go over and over the memory of what I did. 

I constantly and consciously have to be the best in everything I do, career-wise and all. I have had this idea that maybe, if I cover up this activity with success, that I would be able to offset my mistakes. But being successful isn't everything.

Somehow, in the deepest, deepest part of my being, I would like to be accepted. (READ: Death by stigma: Problems with post-abortion care)

I didn't want the abortion I had to become the reason for my lover to break up with me. I wanted to feel that the choices I make do not make me good or evil. And that I, like the others, have a right to be granted a second chance, a fresh start, an opportunity to improve myself.

Right now, I take comfort in knowing that I have friends who understand me fully. Among them are also women who have had abortions in the past. There's Nina, who is now in grad school; June, who is now a mother to a beautiful 4-year-old girl; and Annie, who just received a fellowship abroad.

A week ago, a Twitter hashtag went trending worldwide. It said, #ShoutYourAbortion. I kept thinking about whether I should come out and come forward with it. 

Abortion is a reality worldwide. Even if it is illegal in the Philippines, it happens every day, inside abortion "clinics", households, hotels, hospitals, among others. Worse, sometimes, it is the only option available for victims of rape, incest, and those women with problems with their reproductive health.

Are Nina, June, Annie and I the worst persons in the world? I don't think so. 

We all take responsibility for what we did and we all decided to move on and move forward. I don't want us to be regarded as victims and to blame it all on the men we slept with. 

Some of the women who had an abortion just weren't ready to become parents. Some of us just didn't think parenthood is something we could do that time, today, or maybe ever. Some of us aren't financially secure to let a human being live in risks of poverty. Some of us just cannot take the judgment the kid would experience if people knew that he or she was conceived out of wedlock, and his or her father has another family. And some were victims of sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence.

I didn't join the Twitter campaign. But I would like to write in behalf of those who have had an abortion in the Philippines. We're probably your sisters, daughters, nieces, aunts, lovers, or friends. 

Yes, we have had an abortion. We're trying to live like the rest of you, normally and in peace. But we don't deserve to be treated like outcasts of society. We have rights too. — Rappler.com

April Salazar* is an alias. The author chose not to disclose her real name for privacy reasons. She is a communication graduate student in Metro Manila.

Remembering the Delano grape strike


LABOR LEADER. Larry Itliong is among several Filipino American leaders of the farm labor movement in California. Photo courtesy of Melissa Aroy

CALIFORNIA, USA – Half a century ago, leaders of Filipino farm workers agreed to escalate their clamor for better wages and working conditions by walking out of their jobsites and sparked what would be the Delano Grape Strike of 1965.

Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz on September 7, 1956, voted to strike and on September 8 led their Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee in reaching out and locking arms with their Latino counterparts under Cesar Chavez – the National Farm Workers Association – to launch the California farm labor movement.

That act was historic for multiple reasons.

The collaboration defied growers' divide-and-rule philosophy and stirred a groundswell of support throughout and beyond the central valley of the Golden State. Faith groups, civil rights activists, students and politicians, notably US Senator Robert F. Kennedy, joined the upsurge of protesters and brought national attention to the cause.

Inspired by Gandhi, the peaceful movement headlined a 300-mile march from Delano to Sacramento that highlighted the abject plight of the farm workers. The movement spurred a boycott on table grapes until 1970 when the table grape growers signed the first union contracts and brought social justice to the heart of western farm country.

Public records and even Hollywood hail Chavez as the hero of the successful movement, all but ignoring the contributions of the actual strike masterminds.

Filipino Americans are correcting the omission.


In 1992, Craig Scharlin and Lilia Villanueva published Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement. They had met the icon 20 years before as volunteers building Agbayani Village retirement housing for farm workers.

Last year, director-writer Marisa Aroy debuted The Delano Manongs, her valentine to the "forgotten heroes" of the strike.

Early this week California Assembly Member Rob Bonta (D -18th) stood on the floor of the Assembly and heralded the civil action and its leaders.

“AWOC successfully invited the mostly Latino farm workers union, the National Farm Workers Association, to join the strike – ushering in one of the most significant events and collaborations in California history, launching the California farm labor movement, and leading to the creation of the now world-renowned United Farm Workers of America, and ending decisively, growers’ historical attempts to pit them against each other,” Bonta said, paying tribute.

While honoring the collective leadership of the movement, Quezon City-born Bonta – the first and still the only Filipino American elected to the California State Legislature – has made it his responsibility to give due credit to his forebears.

Next month, California will mark Larry Itliong Day, the result of AB7 or the Bonta Bill to establish a state day of recognition for the farm labor organizer.

October 25 is Larry Itliong's birthday.

The Filipinos walked out on September 8, 1965, and the Latinos joined them on September 16, Mexican Independence Day.

Bonta had a ringside view of the strike, toddling along with his parents Cynthia Arnaldo and Warren Bonta, religious education students advocating for unionization.

Social activists

In 1993, Cynthia Bonta hosted Itliong's comrade Vera Cruz and his wife Deborah in her home to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Filipino Fiesta in Sacramento, which Cynthia Bonta organized.

“With the enactment of AB 7 and AB 123, the contributions of Filipino Americans to the farm labor movement will become a more commonly known part of California’s rich and vibrant collective history," Bonta said of the milestones. 

"A central piece to that story is the pivotal role Filipinos played in sparking the Delano Grape Strike of 1965. Larry Itliong played a critical role in that transformative evening 50 years ago. And his subsequent collaboration with Latino leaders, including Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, demonstrated his visionary leadership in understanding the importance of uniting behind shared goals and refusing to be divided.”

The strike and boycott are deeply imprinted in Assembly Member Bonta. One of his first acts was to introduce AB 123 requiring schools to accurately account for the Filipino American contributions to California's farm labor movement.

Its enactment touched two generations of social activists.

"Since 1975 a group of activists and I had wanted to make changes to the inaccuracies, distortions and omissions in social studies textbooks in the way they have treated the mention of Filipinos and the Philippines – and finally someone from our children’s generation succeeded in making the first of the many changes that yet needed to be made," Cynthia Bonta shared with author in an earlier interview.

"I knew it would be emotional for the son of Larry Itliong, Johnny, who has been crusading to give his father the honor that he so deserves, whom Rob asked to meet with, not the other way around."


On September 5, Bonta returned to Delano and bonded with Johnny Itliong at the doorway of the Filipino Community Hall, for a golden anniversary reunion.   

“It is my hope that all of us working together in this house will be informed by the brave vote those individuals took 50 years ago," Bonta reiterated two days later at the Assembly.

"The unprecedented collaboration that was forged during the Delano strike of groups that had been historically divided was critical to its success and it is that commitment to collaboration and progressive change that is essential to our ongoing pursuit of racial, social, and economic justice for all.”

Bonta's district covers Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro. He chairs the Assembly Health Committee and the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color in California. – Rappler.com 

#KeepUsInTheRoom: Civil society protests lockdown of Bonn climate negotiations


KEEP US IN THE ROOM. Civil society organizations stage a protest after being banned from joining the climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany. All photos by Renee Juliene Karunungan

BONN, Germany – Civil society organizations (CSOs) staged a protest Wednesday morning, October 21, during the 3rd day of the climate negotiations in Bonn.

The CSOs were locked out from the climate negotiations on Tuesday, October 20, with only negotiators and delegates allowed inside the conference center.

On the first day of negotiations, most countries rejected the original draft of the text presented by the negotiation co-chairs. A new draft was then created after additional insertions were allowed. For many, the insertions were crucial for the negotiations to move forward. 

Negotiating blocks such as the G77, Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Africa group, and the Like Minded Developing Countries have called the original text “lopsided,” “imbalanced,” and only serves the interests of rich countries like the United States.

After the insertions, developing countries saw loss and damage, human rights, and gender equality back in the text. Elenita Daño, Asia Director of Erosion, Technology and Concentration said developing countries were finally “reclaiming the text." (READ: PH pushes for gender rights in climate negotiations)

Lock out 

The decision to keep civil society out of the negotiations was supported by Japan, saying that “real negotiations never happen in front of the public.” The United States and the European Union (EU) also supported the move. Meanwhile, developing countries were disappointed with the closed-door negotiations.

“Observers have invested great deal of time, money, and intellect. On what basis do we exclude them?,” said Malaysia. 

Accredited CSOs are usually allowed inside negotiations where they can observe the process and listen to the negotiators as they speak. This process allows for transparency of the negotiations, said CSOs.

“This is integral since climate change involves the whole world and not just diplomats. It concerns humanity at large. Why aren’t observers allowed in spin-offs? We don’t need to be afraid of civil society. We are accountable to them,” Malaysia added. 

G77 and China also requested for the spin-off groups to be open to observers. Spin-off groups are parallel meetings tackling specific parts of the negotiating text.

As the third day of negotiations begin with civil society still not allowed inside, the issue was brought to social media with a protest petition called #KeepUsInTheRoom.

“Our presence signals an atmosphere of openness and willingness to stand up to public scrutiny.  Blocking us shows the opposite.” said Gita Parihar of the CSO Friends of the Earth International. 

“We are disappointed. There is historical reminder that the UN have been created on the basis that transparency is needed to achieve a democratic world. Secret negotiations is harmful for democracy,” stressed Anabella Rosemberg of the International Trade Union Confederation.

“This is a slap in the face for us who believe UN is a place where fair deals can be achieved,” she added.

Noelene Nabulivou of the Women and Gender Constituency said, “I am from Fiji and in the frontlines of climate change. It’s absolutely imperative that I would like to have access as much as I can in the negotiations."

Nabulivou also emphasized the importance of having women, youth, and indigenous people inside the negotiating rooms. "This is a climate agreement for all the peoples of the world by all the peoples all the world. In order for us to have a climate change agreement that is just, we have to be inside the rooms," she said.

Negotiating blocks AOSIS, Least Developed Countries, and the Africa group have since showed strong support for civil society participation and a transparent process. Seyni Nafo of the Africa group said they will make a proposal to the G77 to stop the negotiations until civil society are allowed back inside the negotiating rooms. – Rappler.com

Renee Juliene Karunungan is the Communications Director and climate campaigner of Dakila. Dakila is an organization that has been working on climate justice since 2009. She is also a climate tracker for Adopt A Negotiator.

Behind the scenes: Task Force Ground Zero formed in Casiguran


GROUND ZERO. Local residents watch as boxes of relief goods are downloaded from the first C-130 that landed in Casiguran, Aurora, following the landfall on October 18 of severe Typhoon Lando. Photo by Voltaire Tupaz/Rappler.com

MANILA, Philipines – On October 21, the first C-130 of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) carrying cabinet officials and relief goods from the national government reached Casiguran, Aurora. The aircraft almost did not make it to ground zero of Severe Typhoon Lando (international name Kuppo).

When the national officials landed in Baler for their first stop, local authorities dissuaded them from flying to Casiguran because the weather was bad and the town’s runway was not ready to receive the C-130.

Air authorities recommended travel by land, a 4-hour trip on bumpy road. This disappointed Interior Secretary Mel Sarmiento, who was with Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman and national disaster management chief Alexander Pama. 

“Our order yesterday (Tuesday) was clear. Prepare the runway,” the new interior secretary reminded air authorities in a mix of English and Filipino. 

LET'S GO TO GROUND ZERO. DILG Sec Mel Sarmiento, DSWD Sec Dinky Soliman, and NDRRMC executive director Alexander Pama decide to fly to Casiguran, Aurora to hand over relief goods despite bad weather on October 21. Photo by Voltaire Tupaz

The national officials were determined to reach Casiguran because the stakes there were high. Their first attempt to reach the devastated town was aborted on Tuesday, October 20, 72 hours after Lando made landfall – a critical time for the national government to augment local relief goods in times of disaster. 

The officials wanted to personally see the situation on the ground and to hear concerns needing their attention, according to Pama. They were also setting up a task force that would assist the local government units in Aurora in their recovery efforts. 

The officials decided to proceed despite the risks. In the cockpit, Sarmiento and Pama closely watched as the aircraft approached the runway. A tree blocked the landing view.

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">VIDEO: Touchdown <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LandoPH?src=hash">#LandoPH</a> ground zero. Maj Ramil Daet (PA) maneuvers through a tree blocking runway view <a href="https://twitter.com/boulder6">@boulder6</a> <a href="https://t.co/GORF4LVLSm">pic.twitter.com/GORF4LVLSm</a></p>&mdash; Voltaire Tupaz (@VoltaireTupaz) <a href="https://twitter.com/VoltaireTupaz/status/656771501538979841">October 21, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}


But after the pilot, Philippine Air Force’s Maj Ramil Daet, successfully maneuvered through the obstacle for a safe and smooth landing, the officials broke into applause and shared a high five. 

“Now we know we can deliver relief goods,” a relieved Pama blurted out. 

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">DILG Sec shares a high five w/ NDRRMC chief as C-130 carrying relief goods makes safe landing in Casiguran <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LandoPH?src=hash">#LandoPH</a> <a href="https://t.co/cezBiIFjX0">pic.twitter.com/cezBiIFjX0</a></p>&mdash; Voltaire Tupaz (@VoltaireTupaz) <a href="https://twitter.com/VoltaireTupaz/status/656774970031235072">October 21, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

Waiting for relief

An old woman, her grandchild and a few other typhoon survivors were at the peripheries of the runway waiting for relief goods when the first aircraft landed in Casiguran Wednesday morning.

It carried 500 boxes of relief goods that can feed hundreds of families for three days. Another C-130 brought in at least 1,500 boxes of blankets, hygiene kits, mats and clothes. More goods are on the way, according to Soliman.

{source}<blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-version="5" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50.0% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"></div></div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="https://instagram.com/p/9E9Wo1urq7/" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">#LandoPH Si DSWD Sec @dinkysunflower sakay ng C130 kasama ang Task Force Ground Zero patungong Casiguran, Aurora upang maghatid ng relief goods at magtayo ng operation center.</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A photo posted by Voltaire Tupaz (@voltaire_tupaz) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2015-10-20T23:15:08+00:00">Oct 20, 2015 at 4:15pm PDT</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>{/source}


(WATCH: Lando-hit Aurora receives relief goods)

Cops and volunteers were packing relief goods when the national officials arrived at the municipal hall, where they met with local officials, including Aurora province Governor Gerardo Noveras and Casiguran Mayor Ricardo Bitong.

The LGU has been distributing prepositioned food packs, but supply has dwindled and some of the residents have not yet received assistance. 

{source}<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_jPYUH-K4Eo" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}

Outside the municipal hall, a Dumagat tribal chieftain and his family were hoping to get help. About 50 indigenous families who are staying in makeshift shelters in Barangay Cozo need food and shelter assistance, he said.

As of posting, Rappler is trying to reach the LGU to know whether it distributed relief goods to the indigenous peoples after the cabinet officials left. 

There are about 5,000 families in Casiguran that were affected by the typhoon, according to Aurora province Governor Gerardo Noveras. 

The local officials stressed that aside from relief goods, affected areas need shelter and livelihood assistance. About 80% of the town’s infrastructure and 90% of its agriculture were devastated by the typhoon based on Pama’s initial assessment. 

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Devastation on ground zero <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LandoPH?src=hash">#LandoPH</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Casiguran?src=hash">#Casiguran</a> <a href="https://t.co/QIB1s3z8jY">pic.twitter.com/QIB1s3z8jY</a></p>&mdash; Voltaire Tupaz (@VoltaireTupaz) <a href="https://twitter.com/VoltaireTupaz/status/656781852099788800">October 21, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

Task Force Ground Zero

While in Casiguran, the national government formed a group called Task Force Ground Zero. It is composed of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), and the Department of Health (DOH).

“Its main function is to provide the LGU with the necessary humanitarian assistance as augmentation,” said DSWD Director Tess Briones, who heads the task force.

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Task Force Ground Zero formed to assist in early recovery efforts in Casiguran <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LandoPH?src=hash">#LandoPH</a> <a href="https://t.co/yAQlPSQkvS">pic.twitter.com/yAQlPSQkvS</a></p>&mdash; Voltaire Tupaz (@VoltaireTupaz) <a href="https://twitter.com/VoltaireTupaz/status/656787969492168704">October 21, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

Humanitarian groups like the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the private sector's Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF) joined the take off of the team in Casiguran.

Task Force Ground Zero will initially operate for 15 days, assisting not only Casiguran but also the rest of Aurora, where a total of more than 16,000 families or 68,000 people have been affected by the severe typhoon. – Rappler.com

Programs for women have 'stronger' impact vs malnutrition


LIVELIHOOD. Women organic farmers are taught on the many ways they can earn from their gardens. Photo from SARILAYA

MANILA, Philippines – Social protection programs that are targeted at women have a higher chance of effectively addressing food insecurity and malnutrition, a recent report by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said.

The 2015 State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report found out that maternal and child welfare are enhanced if the programs are "gender-sensitive, lessen time constraints of women, and strengthen their control over income."

By empowering and giving women these opportunities, the intergenerational cycle of poverty – which leads to another cycle of malnutrition – is prevented. (READ: Ending the malnutrition cycle)

According to the UN Research Institute for Social Development, social protection refers to programs and policies that seek to decrease poverty.

Coming in various forms, including social safety nets and social welfare, these programs also help lessen the vulnerability of people to poverty and the hunger trap in the face of risks such as natural disasters.

Existing inequality

The effectiveness of social protection programs was seen prior to the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals, the 2015 State of Food Security in the World (SOFI) revealed.

A 2014 study by the World Bank, meanwhile, said that these programs should be included in the post-2015 agenda to prevent approximately 150 million people from falling into the poverty trap. However, focusing on women would have a greater impact on the problems of food insecurity and malnutrition. (READ: Social protection programs vital to fight vs hunger)

According to the FAO report, gender inequality persists in the aspect of decision- making and control over household income across countries – even in the distribution of social protection programs.

Since men are more likely to have access to productive access such as livelihood, they are given more attention when it comes to investments and projects.

The “undeniable" benefit when women have more influence on economic decisions within a household isn’t maximized due to inequality and ultimately, the lack of resources. (READ: Why many of the hungry are women)

As opposed to men who focus on "long-term investments," women tend to allocate more income – and even their savings – to basic necessities such as food, health, education, and child nutrition. They take on a very decisive role in food security and welfare of their children as opposed to men, the FAO report added.  

In order to maximize this, the international organization said that social protection programs should empower women more by enabling them to access the same resources and employment through the development of their skills.

Ultimate end                                                                                          

This notion is often overlooked when designing social protection programs for the poor. In order to be effective, FAO suggests that the designs of these programs should consider the role of women in the household.

MOTHERS. A Filipino mother (L) with her baby begs for money at an elevated pathway in Paranaque City, south of Manila on August 15, 2013. File photo by Francis R. Malasig/ EPA

Women, in the traditional sense, are responsible for caring for the family – preparing meals, bathing the child, and cleaning the house, among others. In rural areas, they also do work in the farm with the men of the family.

Filipino women, according to a report by the International Labor Organization (ILO), provide 84% of their time in the household to care for children.

This can be seen in the programs implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), including the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and the Sustainable Livelihood Programs (SLPs).  

A family-beneficiary that has 3 children may receive up to P1,400 ($30)* a month or P15,000 ($331) a year. However, they have to follow the conditions set by the DSWD, such as regular health center visits and improved class attendance of the school children.

It is often the mother who makes sure the children comply with conditions set. To utilize this, the welfare department provides livelihood workshops for them through the SLPs. (READ: Struggling out of the poverty trap)

It also provides mothers – even solo parents– an avenue to augment the family income without leaving their children unattended while their husbands work, a common scenario among Filipino families.

The initiative of the DSWD paves the way for mothers – a total of 4,436,732 families in 2015 – to have an active role in ending poverty and food insecurity in their families without compromising their roles in the household.  (READ: Where in the PH are the Pantawid beneficiaries?)

This is vital as social protection, according to the 2015 SOFA report, only reduces – not eradicates – hunger and poverty. – Rappler.com

Japan’s dirty coal in PH


  In Bonn, Germany, the fourth day of negotiations started with protesters chanting “Sekitan, Yamato, stop coal finance!” hitting on Japan, the world’s largest provider of coal finance.

Between 2007 and 2014, Japan’s export credit agencies provided $17 billion of public finance for coal projects around the world.

“Japan is already notorious for its position in coal finance. The data shows that Japan is the biggest contributor, and those exported coal power plants are not clean or efficient,” says Kimiko Hirata, International Director of Kiko Network.

Coal is the biggest source of man made carbon in the atmosphere. In order to ensure that global warming will be kept below 2 degrees celsius from pre-industrial levels, 80% of the world’s coal reserves should not be burned.

Talks of a long term goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 have been ongoing at the climate negotiations and is deemed as a crucial solution to the climate crisis.

However, Japan has argued that building coal power plants can help in climate finance contributions. Climate finance is meant to help poor countries reduce emissions or adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.

“There’s no way to claim it’s a climate solution. It’s time to shift away from coal,” Hirata added.

CRUCIAL SOLUTION. Talks of a long term goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 have been ongoing at the climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany and is deemed as a crucial solution to the climate crisis.

Many countries such as Ethiopia have committed to a shift from dirty energy to renewable energy. Ethiopia, a least developed country that only contributes 0.3% of global emissions and with 76% of its population with no access to electricity, has committed to 64% emissions reduction.

Japan, on the other hand, is the world’s fifth biggest emitter of carbon and has only committed to a 26% emissions reduction target.

Japan’s target is inadequate according to Climate Action Tracker.

“If all countries adopted this level of ambition, global warming would likely exceed 3-4 degrees celsius in the 21st century,” they said in their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) analysis. The INDC is a set of mitigation commitments and adaptation plans of all countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“Japan is getting failing grades for its climate action. Its continued investment of scarce public resources in overseas coal projects is a major reason it is viewed as a climate laggard,” Jake Shmidt, International Program Director of Natural Resources Defence Council, said.

Leaders including those in the US, France, and the UK have already made commitments to end or strictly limit coal finance. Most recently, China has also committed to taking steps to strictly control its public support for coal plants both locally and overseas.

“This funding needs to end if Japan wants to be a credible part of the Paris agreement,” Shmidt added.

Japan’s investment in the Philippines 

Japan’s coal investment can also be seen in the Philippines. In 2014, Team Energy, a joint venture between Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) and Marubeni launched an expansion coal power plant project in Pagbilao, Quezon. The project is said to begin operations in November 2017 and will have a total power of 3,500MW.

This planned expansion has been met with protests by communities in the nearby area. There had been Church-led protests in the province, with activists demanding that the government withdraw its support for the plant expansion.

The Aquino administration has been aggressive in approving new coal power plants. At least 59 new coal power plants for construction have been approved in 2015.

Coal has been seen by the Philippine government as the solution to the growing energy needs of the country despite the fact that the Philippines is also considered as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

Coal power plants have also been approved in the guise of “job generation” for poor families in the community.

Pressure and protests 

In the Philippines, many communities continue to protest against the construction of new coal power plants in different parts of the country. Recently, the Philippines also submitted a 70% carbon mitigation in its INDC but without clear plans on how to achieve this mitigation given the number of coal power plants the government has approved.

The protesters at the conference called Japan’s actions as “an embarrassment to the people of Japan who want to end coal finance.” They vowed to continue putting pressure on the Japanese government until it agrees to meaningful and strict limits on coal finance.  Rappler.com

Renee Juliene Karunungan, 25, is the Program Manager for Advocacy for Dakila, a group of artists working for social transformation. Dakila has been working for climate justice with Oxfam International since 2009 and currently has a Climate Revolution program.


Davao takes the #PHvote challenge using social media


#PHVote Davao. About 800 students and advocates of good governance attend the election forum '#PHVoteChallenge: Davao's #TheLeaderIWant' on October 23 at the Philippine Women's College of Davao, which has partnered with Rappler for the 2016 elections. Photo courtesy of Raisa Serafica/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The election forum organized by MovePH and the Philippine Women's College of Davao (PWC) in Davao City on Friday, October 23, emphasized the power of social media to empower the Filipino youth in choosing the leaders the country deserves.

“I want you to know how much power you have…and to use it to do as much good as you can,” Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa said in the forum dubbed "#PHVote Challenge: Davao's #TheLeaderIWant.

The presentation started with her drawing attention to the online influence that any organization can build, regardless of its intention.

For instance, Ressa cited the ability of terrorist organizations like ISIS, which exploits social media and Twitter hashtags as a means of targeting young people throughout the world. 

“ISIS posts 200,000 pieces of social media content every day…they are some of the most effective users of social media.”

However, to contrast this, she highlighted the social good that can emerge when these online outlets – Facebook, Twitter, et cetera – are used to counter such forces of evil and hate.

She cited how community members of #AlDub, which Twitter Asia-Pacific Vice President Rishi Jaitly called 'a global phenomenon,' began to tweet earlier in the day that it's time to fight ISIS' posts with love. 

“In a single 24-hour period, there were 26 million tweets that used the hashtag #AlDub.”

The fun duo of Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza known as #AlDub has a massive online community that consistently pushes #AlDub-themed hashtags to the top of Twitter trend charts.

She also cited how the most influential accounts during the #SaveMaryJane campaign, which successfully lobbied the Indonesian government to stay the execution of a Filipina, were not those of official news outlets, but accounts of ordinary netizens here and abroad. (READ: How the viral petition to save Mary Jane Veloso reached Jokowi)

“Just because you don’t have a lot of followers, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot of power,” Ressa said.

Ressa then proceeded to demonstrate the enormous effect that Rappler's disaster information platform Agos had on helping save lives. Agos allows people to post warnings and requests for rescue and relief. (READ: Calls for help in Central Luzon surge)

“Our role as journalists is to give communities the information they need to become communities of action,” Ressa said.

With the 2016 elections looming on the horizon, Ressa stressed the important role social media will play next year. 

“These will be the first social media elections,” she said. “And these elections will change our lives. It may not seem that way, but they will.” 

Voters – 40% of whom are young people – are now widely connected because of technology, the Internet, and social media. This is the power each voter holds in his or her hand, and it can determine the outcome of the elections, Ressa suggested.

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="und" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/maria_ressa">@maria_ressa</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/PWCDavao">@PWCDavao</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PHVote?src=hash">#PHVote</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/IAmAce?src=hash">#IAmAce</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PWC2point0?src=hash">#PWC2point0</a> <a href="https://t.co/6aKjG61CNN">pic.twitter.com/6aKjG61CNN</a></p>&mdash; LJ Fajemolin (@LJFajemolin) <a href="https://twitter.com/LJFajemolin/status/657453166816919552">October 23, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

Change in behavior 

Ressa also emphasized the extent to which social media can affect behavior. She cited how traditional media only results in 14% of information being retained, unlike the 94% retainment rate when something is posted on social media.

When one student aired her frustration with the political process during the open forum afterwards, Ressa responded with a reminder of the importance of exercising the right to vote.

“You can change the way we elect leaders. You can actually work for #TheLeaderIWant … When you opt out, you let someone else determine where your life is going to go.”

Ressa ended her presentation with a challenge to all young people in the country.

“Let’s take Al Dub and move it into elections. Go to #PHVote.” (Visit #PHVote, Rappler's election microsite)

The event aimed to engage voters to get their sentiments on issues they want to raise in the upcoming elections. Below were the highlights of the forum in tweets and photos: 

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">&quot;We are here to organize so we can get the leader we want.&quot; irenesantiago <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PHVote?src=hash">#PHVote</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TheLeaderIWant?src=hash">#TheLeaderIWant</a> PWCDavao <a href="https://t.co/AI0jipP4I0">pic.twitter.com/AI0jipP4I0</a>&#10;&#10;— Mari…</p>&mdash; rick (@rickrick888) <a href="https://twitter.com/rickrick888/status/657444063587803136">October 23, 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">&quot;The leader we want should embody our dreams and hopes, not the other way around&quot; Wise words <a href="https://twitter.com/irenesantiago">@irenesantiago</a> &#10;<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TheLeaderIWant?src=hash">#TheLeaderIWant</a>&#10;<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PHVote?src=hash">#PHVote</a>&#10;<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/IamACE?src=hash">#IamACE</a></p>&mdash; Nal (@vimeenal) <a href="https://twitter.com/vimeenal/status/657439414365229056">October 23, 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">&quot;<a href="https://twitter.com/PWCDavao">@PWCDavao</a>&#39;s 3-way Test for Ethical Leadership: Holostic, Inclusive and Powerful.&quot; ~<a href="https://twitter.com/irenesantiago">@irenesantiago</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PHVote?src=hash">#PHVote</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TheLeaderIWant?src=hash">#TheLeaderIWant</a></p>&mdash; Julius Piala (@jneilpiala) <a href="https://twitter.com/jneilpiala/status/657439979363106816">October 23, 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">Mr. Alex Arevalo discusses the role of ICT for Creative Leadership in this <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/selfie?src=hash">#selfie</a> generation. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PHVote?src=hash">#PHVote</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/MovePH">@MovePH</a> <a href="https://t.co/gpHPnwmVQ1">pic.twitter.com/gpHPnwmVQ1</a></p>&mdash; PWC of Davao (@PWCDavao) <a href="https://twitter.com/PWCDavao/status/657465156830556160">October 23, 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">Mr. Arevalo: &quot;The people who you thought would benefit from your system are the first to resist it.&quot;&#10;<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TheLeaderIWant?src=hash">#TheLeaderIWant</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PHVote?src=hash">#PHVote</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/IamACE?src=hash">#IamACE</a></p>&mdash; PWC Equivox (@pwcequivox) <a href="https://twitter.com/pwcequivox/status/657468517277704192">October 23, 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">Abella says that change in Davao didn&#39;t happen overnight and it required discipline from the community <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PHVote?src=hash">#PHVote</a> <a href="https://t.co/7qStHfUTT3">pic.twitter.com/7qStHfUTT3</a>&#10;&#10;— …</p>&mdash; rick (@rickrick888) <a href="https://twitter.com/rickrick888/status/657466467026341889">October 23, 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">Do you have questions for the student leaders in Davao? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PHVote?src=hash">#PHVote</a> <a href="https://t.co/oGiAw6lWl3">pic.twitter.com/oGiAw6lWl3</a></p>&mdash; MovePH (@MovePH) <a href="https://twitter.com/MovePH/status/657458979849662465">October 23, 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">Thank you to everyone who joined <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PHVote?src=hash">#PHVote</a> Challenge: Davao&#39;s <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TheLeaderIWant?src=hash">#TheLeaderIWant</a>!! <a href="https://t.co/SLN70C7DmD">pic.twitter.com/SLN70C7DmD</a></p>&mdash; Raisa Serafica (@RaiMarielle) <a href="https://twitter.com/RaiMarielle/status/657494552270344192">October 23, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

In May 2015, Rappler launched #PHVote: The Leader I Want, the theme of our 2016 elections coverage.

About 54 million Filipinos will vote for at least 18,000 officials from president to councilors in May 2016. – with a report from Lorenzo Benitez/Rappler.com

Take the PHVote Challenge today. You can also share your thoughts on social media with the hashtag #PHVote and #TheLeaderIWant.

Lorenzo Benitez is a Rappler intern. He is an incoming Cornell University student.

Youth representative seeks probe on military 'surveillance' in UP Diliman


MILITARY SURVEILLANCE. Kabataan Partylist Representative Terry Ridon, a former member of the University of the Philippines (UP) Board of Regents, denounces the alleged surveillance conducted by the military in UP Diliman.

MANILA, Philippines - Kabataan Partylist Representative Terry Ridon denounced on Friday, October 23, the reported surveillance that took place in the UP Diliman campus earlier this week.

As part of the incident, the UPD Police (UPDP) apprehended 6 military agents allegedly doing “surveillance work.” The news was reported by the Philippine Collegian in a Facebook post on Wednesday, October 21.

Ridon said that he would file a resolution on Monday, October 26, calling on the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education and the Committee on National Defense to further investigate the intrusion.

MANILAKBAYAN. About 700 Lumad from militarized indigenous communities in Mindanao arrive in Bicol en route to Manila. Photo courtesy of Bayan-Bicol

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the recent incident in UP Diliman, wherein the UP police apprehended military surveillance officers for illegally entering the university and snooping on students,” he said.


Ridon, a former UP student regent, highlighted the intrusion to be a violation of a 1989 pact between the Department of National Defense and UP, which precludes military and police entry into the university without the prior approval of the UP administration.

“There is great suspicion that this military surveillance incident is connected with the preparations for the Manilakbayan camp-out next week,” according to Ridon.

UP, among other schools, will hold “Youth Solidarity Camp-outs,” hosting more than 700 Lumad who travelled from militarized communities in Mindanao in a caravan dubbed #Manilakbayan. (READ: TIMELINE: Attacks on the Lumad of Mindanao)

The solidarity campout will last from Monday, October 26, to Saturday, October 31.

Ridon also noted that student leaders of UP Diliman were reportedly harassed via text message.

Despite threats from the military, youth and student leaders from various schools will welcome various sectoral groups who are now travelling from Mindanao to the country’s capital. – Rappler.com

Lorenzo Benitez is a Rappler intern. He is an incoming Cornell University student.

'Abused' OFW in Saudi Arabia dies – migrants' group


'HEADS MUST ROLL.' After being in coma for weeks, overseas Filipino worker Rina (not her real name) dies. File photo courtesy of Migrante-Middle East

MANILA, Philippines – The Filipina worker in Saudi Arabia who has been in a coma after allegedly being physically abused and raped by her employer has died, according to migrants' rights group Migrante-Middle East.

"Rina", whose real name is Rehana Lusay Bayan, died around 3 pm Friday, October 23, according to Riyadh-based Migrante leader John Leonard Monterona, citing Bayan's cousin, a certain Henry.

In a statement released Saturday, October 24, Monterona said Henry, who is also based in Riyadh, received a phone call from an official of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Agency (POLO-OWWA) bearing the bad news.

It was Migrante that called on Filipinos working in the region to donate blood and help save Bayan's life. A blood clot was found in her brain and was removed, but she needed blood donation since her platelets were running low.

But Monterona alleged their group was "barred" from entering the intensive care unit where Bayan was confined.

"We were told that the [Philippine] embassy and POLO-OWWA gave an instruction to the hospital and staff not to allow us get any information and that all her medical bulletin must be coursed through embassy and POLO-OWWA officials," he added.

He said Henry was assured by Philippine authorities Bayan was on her way to recovery.

Group seeks probe

25-year-old Bayan is from Kabuntalan, Maguindanao. When she was still able to talk, she reportedly told other wards at Saudi's social welfare agency (SWA) that she was only 17 when she began working in Saudi Arabia.

According to Monterona, Bayan was brought to the SWA on September 19 but was already very weak. Five days after, the group was told the Filipina worker was already in a coma.

Migrante believes Bayan is a "victim of brutality and inhumane treatment."

Monterona on Saturday called on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Labor and Employment to investigate what happened and "punish its officials who have been remiss in providing protection and immediate assistance" to Bayan.

He also said, "We, and on behalf of her family in the Philippines, demand justice to be served. It is now in the hands of the [Philippine] ambassador and POLO-OWWA officials to pursue a case" against those responsible for Bayan's death.

The group also urged the Philippine Congress to start its own probe.

"It is also high time for the [Philippine] government to proactively initiate a review of its bilateral agreement with the host government in the hiring and deployment and protection of Filipino household domestic workers," Monterona added. – Rappler.com

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