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Bringing 'tsokolate' to the 'instant' era


IN A SACHET. Since almost everything now is instant, Harleen Jao put her tsokolate in a sachet to bring Filipinos the real cocoa goodness. Photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – It’s been said that to relive the Philippines' colorful past, one would only need to take a sip of velvety tsokolate, a traditional Filipino drink made of dissolved tablea.

The tablea, those blocks of ground cacao beans, are melted in hot water with the help of a batirol, a wooden whisk-like tool. The thick chocolate liquid is then mixed with milk and sugar.

But preparing the tsokolate takes time – time that the average Filipino can't afford to lose, especially those who wake up at before dawn to avoid the morning traffic jams on their way to school or work. The chosen breakfast would either the coffee a chocolate drink – and chances are, these are made using drink mixes in sachets.

And because of that, a young Filipina felt this is the chance to bring the tsokolate back on the table.

Harleen Jao returned to her hometown Davao City in 2010, after finishing college and passing the chemical engineer board exam. Her plan was like any other fresh graduate: to apply what she learned from university.

“And because I was an chemical engineering student, I thought of developing a product that’s agricultural-based,” she said.

She thought she can do so with cacao, one of the agricultural products Davao City produces in a large scale.

Around that time, Davao City had seen huge growth in cocoa exports. Already it was shipping to Malaysia, Thailand, Netherlands, China, and the United States.

But the Lasallista did not want to make money out of raw materials. “I’ll get more money out of our agricultural products compared to just selling it as a raw material,” she said.

Jao owns Nutrarich Nutraceutical Innovations, a company that is part of the Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao.

Her product: the classic tablea used by Filipino households for champorado and sikwate, the Cebuano term for that hot chocolate drink that usually goes with puto, the sticky rice snack steamed in coconut milk.

It’s classic, yet her tableas have been made fit for the times. Filipinos, she said, have a longing for that good old tsokolate but just did not have the time to prepare it.

And so she found a solution. “I made it so fine so it’s easier to cook.”

The tableas, she said, don’t take a long time to melt in boiling water. And it’s still the same form of chocolate, the cacao liqueur, the purest form of roasted cacao beans, minus the chemicals.

CACAO INDUSTRY. Harleen Jao owns Nutrarich Nutraceutical Innovations, a company thats part of the Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao. Photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

To be called chocolate, products should contain 100% cocoa butter. The European Union, for instance, requires that alternative fats do not exceed 5% of the total fat content.

On top of that, they just didn’t have the same nutrients that of the sikwate, she said.

Thus, hot chocolate and cocoa powder, are two different things. Yet, for the long time, we’ve come to accept that instant chocolate drinks are, well, chocolate.

And the most ironic thing: the Philippines, being a tropical country where cacaos grow well, don’t quite know about this.

“This is the real chocolate drink. The pure, the rich, and the nutritious chocolate drink,” she said.

It is not difficult to understand where this health advocacy comes from. She comes from a family who supplies medicines in pharmacies. In 2013, she joined Tzu Chi Foundation for a medical mission in New Bataan, where thousands of families were recovering from Typhoon Pablo. At the time, the foundation said it was through her help that the medical mission was realized “through adequate supplies of medicines.”

She admits, though, that as a newcomer in the industry, she will have to learn the ropes. The nitty-gritty of complying with government regulations and licenses, she said, are a challenge.

“I hope that even with this simple product of mine the Philippine cacao will be appreciated,” said Jao, who in October joined the Philippine delegation in Paris, where Davao’s Puentespina Farms was named among the world’s best cacao beans producer.

Jao’s vision is well reflected on her product, which by the look of it is gearing to grow big. Those yellow boxes that read what it contains, 100% chocolate, are also written in Chinese, Korean and Japanese.

It’s a vision that’s well defined, and something she could speak clearly: “It is a product that we can truly call our own, so I hope to inspire others.” -- Rappler.com

DOTr launches plan to reduce road crash deaths


ACTION PLAN. Transportation officials launch the Philippine Road Safety Action Plan 2017-2022.

MANILA, Philippines – Some say a person's life on the road is dependent on the driver. But studies show that several factors contribute to road mishaps that result in injuries or death.

On the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) unveiled programs to reduce fatalities on the road.

Transportation officials launched the Philippine Road Safety Action Plan (PRSAP) 2017-2022 on Sunday, November 19. It is an update of the earlier action plan launched in 2011.

According to Transportation Undersecretary Thomas Orbos, a road safety unit within the department will also be established to oversee the implementation of the plan.

"[PRSAP] is anchored on the principle that while people make mistakes on the road – [these] should not lead to serious injuries or fatalities. We also accept that road safety is our shared responsibility and not of the driver alone," said Orbos.

He added that there are about two million vehicles that could "potentially harm other road users."

Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show that 10,012 people died due to road crashes in 2015. Globally, 1.3 million people die each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). (READ: IN NUMBERS: Road crash incidents in the Philippines)

Inspection system

Orbos said the public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program of the government would play a key role in road safety.

The program aims to replace PUVs running for 15 years or more with PUVs that have safety features. The goal is to promote safer and environment-friendly transport options to the commuting public. (READ: Orbos: Phasing out of 'deteriorated' PUVs to start January)

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) will also require all vehicles to undergo the Motor Vehicle Inspection System (MVIS) by January, according to Orbos.

"All vehicles that will be on the road will have to undergo roadworthiness testing. It means that your vehicle will not only be tested for its smoke emission but about 60 items [on our list] that we have to inspect," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Those who fail the MVIS, added Orbos, will not be allowed on the road.

But while Orbos said the inspection system should be up and running by January, LTO chief Edgar Galvante noted that setting up the MVIS would take time due to the government's procurement process.

"[It] cannot be. It's not that fast. But we hope to complete because there's a need to bid that out. So we hope by that time, we have selected a winning bidder. But we're making efforts," Galvente said.

Back in July, Vera Files reported the lack of motor vehicle inspection centers (MVICs) in the country. Orbos said at least 4 MVICs should be working by January.

Speed limiters

In contrast to the traffic congestion in Metro Manila, Orbos said speeding is a problem in the provinces, leading to road crashes.

He said the DOTr is looking into strict enforcement of Republic Act (RA) No. 10916 or the Speed Limiters Act before the Christmas holidays.

RA 10916 mandates the installation of devices that would limit the maximum speed of PUVs, shuttle services, closed vans, cargo trailers, and tanker trucks, among others. (READ: What you need to know about speed limits in the Philippines)

"Ang hinahabol talaga natin, Pasko. Kasi totoo 'yun – pinakamaraming aksidente talaga nangyayari this time of the year kasi masaya lahat, nakainom, puyat (We're targeting Christmas. It's true – most accidents happen this time of the year because everyone's having fun drinking, staying up late). So definitely, we'll have it in effect before Christmas," Orbos said.

Under the law, the LTO and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will not register or issue a franchise to a new vehicle that does not have a speed limiter.

AGREEMENT. The MMDA and the PNP-HPG sign a memorandum of agreement to work together in reducing road crash fatalities.

Orbos also said the DOTr will be signing a joint memorandum circular with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) as well as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to set and strictly enforce speed limits. (DOCUMENTS: Speed limit ordinances in the Philippines)

On top of this, the DOTr will also work with the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) and the Department of Heath (DOH) in populating the road crash database of the country, called DRIVERS.

Orbos said the DRIVERS platform should help determine "where exactly and why road crash incidents happen." (MAPPED: Danger zones in Metro Manila roads)

Pedestrian walkways

Ultimately, Orbos pointed out that more than the vehicles that ply the country's roads, majority of Filipino road users still walk to their destinations.

"Ang may-ari ng kalye 'yung naglalakad. Dito sa atin hindi eh. 'Yung sasakyan ang may awtoridad sa kalye. Dapat palitan 'yung sa attitude natin sa mga naglalakad," he said. (READ: On road safety and courtesy)

(Pedestrians should own the streets but that's not the situation here. Vehicles have the authority in the streets. We should change that kind of attitude toward pedestrians.)

Orbos said the DOTr will be investing about P7 billion to build walkways around Metro Manila in 2018. (READ: Education, infra to get bulk of proposed 2018 nat'l budget)

According to a WHO report, 53% of reported road traffic fatalities in the Philippines are riders of motorized two- or three-wheeler vehicles, while pedestrians make up the second biggest chunk of road user deaths at 19%. (READ: Road deaths in PH: Most are motorcycle riders, pedestrians)

In the capital region, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) recorded 109,322 road crash incidents in 2016, a 14.33% increase from the 95,615 incidents recorded in 2015. – Rappler.com

Climate groups lament lack of loss and damage finance pledges in COP 23


SUMMIT. The 23rd UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) concludes on Saturday morning in Bonn, Germany. Photo courtesy of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

BONN, Germany – The 23rd UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) wrapped up on Saturday, November 19, at Bonn, Germany. But for the climate groups, the work is far from over. 

As the summit came to an end, various civil society organizations recognized the progress in the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement but are dismayed with the lack of commitments to loss and damage finance. 

Though held in Germany, the “Pacific COP” was hosted by Fiji, underscoring the urgency for action towards the worsening impacts of climate change especially to vulnerable regions such as the Asia-Pacific.  (READ: Environmental groups urge PH, ASEAN to join global coal phase-out

Despite assertions of the Fiji Prime Minister and COP23 President Frank Bainimarama, and other developing states on the need to finance loss and damage on top of mitigation and adaptation funds, the agenda has been sidelined in the negotiations. 

The term "loss and damage" was first brought during the Conference of the Parties (COP) 19 in Warsaw, Poland in 2013. It was in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) when then Philippine lead negotiator Naderev "Yeb" Saño brought the idea of loss and damage mechanism for developing countries, defined as the irreversible losses and economics costs (such as loss of life, damaged property and land lost to rising sea levels) incurred from climate-related disasters.

Loss and damage finance

Nithi Nesadurai, Regional Coordinator of Climate Action Network Southeast Asia, echoed the ASEAN statement on COP23 and urged developed countries to commit finance to loss and damage. This appeal fell on deaf ears. 

“However, as a region that's highly vulnerable to climate impacts, we are disappointed to not see this materialize,” he added.

During the negotiations, developed countries like the US, Australia and Canada, as well as the EU, stalled the inclusion of finance in the commitments on loss and damage.

Tracy Carty, Oxfam’s head of delegation at COP 23 stated that there was a disconnect between the conditions of the poorest nations trying to survive disasters worsened by climate change and the financial support that developed countries are willing to offer.

Discussions on loss and damage financing will resume in an expert dialogue under the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) on May 2018.

Pre-2020 ambition

Despite what environmental groups called a weak outcome on loss and damage finance, climate groups said that the COP 23 still set the momentum towards the realization of the Paris Agreement. 

“COP23 set the momentum to ramp up ambition through the Tanaloa dialogue but the best results can be only achieved if deep and meaningful emission reductions take place before 2020, especially by the major industrialized countries,” according to Nesadurai.

The conference resulted in the Tanaloa Dialogue, a mechanism wherein countries will take stock on their efforts to curb emissions and assess progress against the Paris Agreement targets throughout 2018.

“The way forward is to ensure climate action at home by pushing for greater nationally determined (NDCs), transitioning away from coal to renewable energy and committing to a low-carbon development pathway within the context of just transition,” he added.

The negotiations also made progress on the implementing guidelines of the Paris Agreement mandating developed countries to "raise ambition," or disclose and implement drastic emission cuts, starting next year until 2020 and thereafter.

Climate groups from the Philippines – one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change – hope to bring these progress home. 

“The Fiji Momentum for Implementation highlights the need for drastic climate action now, pre-2020, to lay down the more viable and concrete responses to the graver impacts of climate change to vulnerable communities,” said Marvin Purzuelo, National Coordinator of Aksyon Klima, a network of around 40 NGOs in the Philippines.

“In barely two years, there is a gargantuan task of providing communities and local governments the necessary means so that they will be ready to implement the Paris Agreement by 2020 and beyond,” he added. – Rappler.com 

Mickey Miguel-Eva, a Climate Reality Leader, is the Regional Campaigns Communications Officer for Asia with the Climate Action Network, a network of about 1,100 NGOs in over 120 countries. He studied BS Geography at the University of the Philippines - Diliman.

Climate Change Consciousness Week events: 'Science, policy, and climate action'


CLIMATE ACTION. It is about time to take climate change seriously and take responsibility

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines will observe the Climate Change Consciousness Week from November 20, Monday, until November 24, Friday. 

Proclamation No. 1667, s. 2008, introduced the observance to raise awareness on global warming "through broad and intensive information and educational campaigns."

The Climate Change Commission (CCC), which was mandated to lead the annual drive, organized various activities that will tackle the science and policy behind global warming. (READ: #ClimateActionPH: It’s time for the Philippines to get serious about climate change)

Some of the topics to be discussed in these activities include policy and climate action,health concerns, best practices in local climate change action planning, and survival funding.

Meanwhile, side events will highlight the following themes:

  • Making Philippine hospitals climate smart
  • Tansitioning to a green economy
  • Making schools climate resilient
  • Climate and disaster risk financing 

The week-long clebration will be held at  Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Pasay . – Rappler.com


Why climate change is one of the biggest health threats of the 21st century


HEALTH. Studies show that climate change can undo more than 50 years of gains in global health and development work.

MANILA, Philippines – What makes climate change one of the biggest health threats of the 21st century? 

With climate change now seen as a medical emergency, the Filipino Chevening alumni community hoped to answer this question during the first ever Philippine Health and Climate Action Summit (1stPHCAS) at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health on Saturday, November 11.

Gathering all stakeholders – the government, the private sector, and civil society organizations – the event aimed to promote trisectoral collaboration to tackle the health threats posed by a changing climate.

As an archipelago with vast coastlines and a tropical climate, the Philippines is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Risks facing the country include increased frequency of extreme weather events, sea-level rise, rising temperatures, and extreme rainfall. Subsequent direct and indirect health impact could include malnutrition, increased incidence of infectious diseases, and aggravated respiratory symptoms.

According to medical journal The Lancet, climate change can undo more than 50 years of gains in global health and development work. It also highlighted that mitigation and adaptation actions will have positive impact on public health and well-being.

Effects of climate change to human health

Dr Paul Zambrano of Alive and Thrive Southeast Asia, one of the speakers in the summit, emphasized that shortage of water for drinking and farming can lead to problems in food security, which can threaten human health through malnutrition and food poisoning.

"Water sanitation is one of the main determinants of malnutrition. And these are all at risk if you do not adapt or plan to adapt for climate change,” Zembrano added.

He said he has been working with LGUs to include nutritional indicators as part of the climate change adaptation plan.

Changing weather conditions can also trigger the proliferation of climate-sensitive diseases. According to Jonathan Flavier of the Philippine Center for Population and Development, the proliferation of vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria has always been viewed as a public health issue when it is actually something that concerns the environment.

“In the last 10 or 15 years, there was an upsurge in malaria [in the Philippines], and that upsurge happened in Zambales, Agusan, and some parts of Davao. And when we traced why that upsurge happened, it was mainly because of environmental degradation,” noted Ramon San Pascual of Project NOAH

Carbon emissions are the biggest contributor to climate change, and they are also the most prominent factor influencing our health. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, ground-level ozone – produced by emissions from coal-fired power plants, factories, and motor vehicle exhausts – can damage lung tissue and can reduce lung function and inflame airways. This can increase respiratory symptoms and aggravate asthma or other lung diseases. It is especially harmful to children, older adults, outdoor workers, and those with asthma and other chronic lung diseases.

Joyce Melcar Tan of the Asian Development Bank noted the importance of quantifying the potential health costs of climate change when building infrastructure projects. She suggested that instead of focusing only on the financial and economic costs of government projects, the co-benefits of public health should also be considered.

For example, coal projects might be seen as a cheap source of energy, but if their impact on health is considered, the actual costs of these projects are very high. The continuous air pollution created by the fossil fuel industry has an estimated death toll of 7 million people a year. How do you even put a price on that?

“We need to reframe the way we look at climate and health. We have to put a numerical value to these avoided health costs, so that we can ultimately decrease the overall project costs, and in that way, make these projects more affordable and more attractive for the people, the government, and the organizations that will fund them,” Tan said.

Doctors must go beyond borders

For Dr Miguel Dorotan of the World Health Organization, flexibility and efficiency are essential in leadership and command management. He argued that we should opt for leaders who know how to address disasters and emergencies, not just management under normal circumstances, and must have the capacity to shift roles and responsibilities.

He also said that different hazards entail different sets of technical capacities, so there is a need to influence actions across government, international agencies, NGOs, the academe, and the private sector.

“It is important that we have a consistent message in making sure that our actions are complementary and not overlapping. And we should have a common platform for information and resource sharing. We need to enhance our collaboration beyond coordination and start converging,” Dorotan said in his speech.

San Pasual reminded health professionals that it is also their responsibility to effectively communicate both the threats and opportunities posed by climate change to policy makers and to the people, to ensure that climate change is understood as being central to human health and well-being.

The roles and responsibilities of health professionals go way beyond treating diseases. As emphasized by Dexter Galban, program director of the summit, “Trisectoral collaboration is very important because in order to propel public health, you need all the stakeholders coming together to improve the environment and the climate as a whole.” – Rappler.com

Roy Joseph R. Roberto is a Climate Justice Fellow of Climate Tracker, one of the biggest hubs of online writers and climate advocates worldwide. He has been named as Youth Champion for Climate Action by the 2030 Project in the Philippines. He wrote this article in collaboration with the Climate Action Network.


Why passengers and bikers think Angkas matters


THANKFUL BIKERS. Bikers are thankful to Angkas for giving them livelihood that has improved their lives. Photo by Angkas

MANILA, Philippines – For many Filipinos, commuting is an ordeal they go through every day.

According to a study, the Philippines may lose up to P6 billion a day by 2030 because of worsening traffic jams.

When the motorcycle ride-hailing app Angkas broke into the market, many commuters took the opportunity to beat the traffic. As the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) ordered its closure, app users were not too happy and explained why it mattered to them.

'It saves time'

According to commuter Bianca Dalisay, Angkas helped her save time, cutting her usual 3 to 4 hours of travel.

"Kagalang-galang na LTFRB, ako po ay isa sa libo-libong commuters na nauubos ang oras sa pagbiyahe dahil sa walang katapusang traffic o kundi naman ay sa mala blockbuster na pila ng mga pasahero sa MRT," she said in a Facebook post

(LTFRB, I am one of the thousands of commuters whose time is wasted in travel due to the endless traffic or the MRT passenger lines that approximate those of blockbuster movies.)

Dalisay said she had to wake up at 4 am to avoid being late for her 8 am job in Makati City.

"Bakit? Ina-anticipate ko ang posibilidad na pagkatapos kong pumila ng napakatagal sa MRT ay ang magkaroon ng aberya sa kalagitnaan ng biyahe. Ganun din, ang traffic na susuungin bago pa makarating sa aking destinasyon. Hindi po namin puwedeng idahilan sa trabaho ang traffic at sirang MRT kaya kami na-late," she said. (READ: MRT woes: How often do they happen?)

(Why? Because I anticipate the possibility that after lining up for a long time at the MRT, there could be a glitch in the middle of the trip. [I also take into account] the traffic that I have to brave on the way to my destination. I can't cite as a reason for being late at work traffic and the MRT glitches.)

She said the app has saved her from being on the road for too long.

"Sa pagpasok ni Angkas, laking tulong at ginhawa sa aming mga pasahero ang naibigay nito. Hindi na po namin kailangang umalis ng bahay nang sobrang aga at nakakauwi na rin kami sa aming mga pamilya nang mas maaga at may oras pa kaming makipag-bonding sa kanila," she added.

(When Angkas came, it brought us passengers huge relief and convenience. We don't have to leave the house too early. We can now come home earlier to our families and have the time to bond with them.)

'You can count on it'

Many users have found Angkas truly convenient.

It helped riders like Juliane Paulene Laguilles who needed to get to the airport on time. In a post, she said it saved her last August from Manila's hellish traffic. 


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Pan Cho, another Angkas patron, said that he had to beat time to get money for his late mother's funeral services in March.

Cho said the insurance company told him he had to get to their office and get the money before they closed. Since the company was releasing a check, he had to get to the bank on time to have the check cleared and pay the funeral home also on time. 


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"In short, lumabas ako sa insurance nang mangiyak-ngiyak at laking pasasalamat ko sa rider/Angkas app. Laking ginhawa lang na yung biyahe ko, buong kumpyansa ko na aabot ako nang 1 pm na hindi nag-aalala sa traffic at hindi nahihirapan pa mag-commute," he said.

(In short, I left the insurance (company) teary-eyed and grateful to the rider and Angkas app. It was a relief that I could be confident I would get there by 1 pm without worrying about the traffic and the long commute.)

Changed lives

The service has also helped improve the lives of some bikers. Roderick Manabat is one of them.

In a Facebook post, he said that his earnings have allowed him to sustain his family.

"Salamat laging naka-ngiti misis ko dahil may inaabot ako na pangtustos sa mga gastusin....Salamat dahil nakakatulog na 'ko nang mahimbing dahil may budget para bukas," he said.

(I am grateful because my wife is happy when I hand her money for our expenses. I am grateful because I can now sleep soundly because we have enough money budgeted for the next day.)

Angkas operations manager Menard Umali said he was "proud" that the app has had a direct impact on the lives of drivers and passengers.

In a Facebook post, he said he met Ferd Llaguno, a working student who recently graduated with a degree in Criminology in Cebu. According to Umali, Llaguno dropped by their office to give his thanks.

"Because of his Angkas driving, he dreams of being able to get his transcript of records and eventually take his board exam. A minimum wage job will not do, as this will not be enough to support a family and pay off debts," he said in a post.


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"He is one of many that Angkas is able to help in achieving their dreams. One day, he dreams of passing the board exam and who knows where his dreams will take him," he added.


On November 9, the LTFRB ruled that the services offered by the ride-hailing app are illegal. (READ: Why Angkas is illegal)

According to Republic Act 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, motorcycles can only be registered as private or government vehicles.

Hence, they can't be used by their owners to make money. The only way for Angkas to operate legally is to amend the law. (READ: LTFRB tells Grab, Uber: 'We will not succumb to pressure')

Angkas has since said they are open to regulation. – Rappler.com

P24B in salary hike awaits qualified gov't workers in 2018


Q&A. DBM Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno talks with media during "Breakfast with Ben" at the DBM Executive Lounge in Manila. File photo from the DBM

MANILA, Philippines – The 3rd tranche of the pay adjustment for government workers will be out by January 2018, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno announced on Wednesday, November 22.

According to the budget chief, the government has set aside P24 billion for the 3rd tranche of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) and would benefit about 1.2 million government workers.

Diokno said that aside from the increase in pay, government employees will also receive midyear and yearend bonus. (READ: These gov't workers will get P40B in yearend bonuses, cash gifts)

In 2015, former President Benigno Aquino III pushed for the SSL which mandates a 4-year salary increase to the basic salaries of government employees, arguing that government pay is only 55% of market rates. The last tranche will be out in 2019.

Budget, tax reform

Diokno also said he's hopeful that the 2018 national budget will be approved by December.

"We are optimistic that the fiscal year 2018 budget will be signed on time. We expect it to be approved on the first week of December," Diokno told reporters.

The second national budget crafted under the Duterte administration, the proposed P3.77-trillion budget is 12.4% higher than last year. The figure represents 21.6% of the projected gross domestic product (GDP) for 2018.

Under the proposed national budget, education and infrastructure departments receive the lion's share of the pie. (READ: Education, infra to get bulk of proposed 2018 nat'l budget)

Diokno also said "he is confident" that the tax reform bill will be passed into law around the same time. (READ: How will the proposed tax reform package affect Filipinos?)

If passed into law, workers get to have a bigger take-home pay under the proposed tax reform package, but the prices of several commodities will increase.

In an earlier statement, Socioeconomic Secretary Ernesto Pernia also said he is optimistic that the implementation of the tax reform package can begin by January 2018. – Rappler.com

Students urge undecided senators to back proposed tobacco tax hike


LETTERS TO SENATORS. Students from various universities write letters to senators who have yet to decide on the tax reform bill. Photo by Danielle Nakpil/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Students from different universities and organizations gathered on Wednesday, November 22, in the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman to launch a campaign that urges legislators to back a proposal to increase tobacco tax. (READ: EXPLAINER: Senate, House versions of the tax reform bill)

They wrote letters to undecided senators, hoping to convince them to support the move to raise the levy on so-called “sin” products, especially tobacco. In October 2017, Senator Manny Pacquiao filed Senate Bill No 1599, which seeks to amend Republic Act 10351 or the Sin Tax Reform Act of 2012 aimed at generating more government revenue. The young people went to the Senate on Wednesday afternoon to hand their letters to the legislators.

"For the past months, we went to the Senate building, knocked at the senators' offices, and used the reach of social media to deliver our appeal," Joel Estoesta of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila Economics Society said.

Pass bill in haste

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier vowed to overhaul the country's tax code as part of his economic program. He called on the Senate to "support the tax reform in full and to pass it with haste." 

The bill proposes to increase the present unitary excise tax rate to P60 from P30 per pack. The annual excise tax will also be increased from 4% to 9% (READ: Pacquiao wants to increase cigarette tax to P60 per pack)

Senate Committee on Ways and Means chair senator Juan Edgardo Angara has not yet expressed commitment to back the bill, according to the young advocates. Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros has included tobacco tax increase in her proposed amendments to the proposed measure. The rest of the senators are still undecided on the issue. 

"It is of utmost importance that this measure be included in the first package expected to be passed this year. Failure to do so is tantamount to blocking this reform altogether," UP Economics Towards Consciousness president David Baldivia said.

Better health, more revenue 

Pacquiao said that the passage of the measure will at least add P60 to P70 billion to government revenues.

The student leaders also highlighted the benefits of increasing tobacco tax aside from saving lives. (READ: Senate files version of tax reform bill seen to exempt 3.2 M Filipinos from income tax)

According to UP Economics Towards Consciousness president David Baldivia, adding tobacco tax into the package will generate around P50 billion in additional funds "that can be used by the government to improve healthcare in the country.

"The evidence is clear. There is no excuse not to prioritize the passage of this measure. The ball is now in the Senate's hands to choose the welfare of the people over the corporate interests. One thing is for sure, the youth is watching," he added. 

"One of our movement's main calls is to include tobacco tax in the current tax reform package being discussed in the Senate.

'No-vote media campaign' 

The group Youth for Sin Tax also launched a zero vote media campaign to "reject and give zero votes to senators running in 2019 elections who will block the proposal to include tobacco tax increase in tax reform bill."

The 2019 senatorial elections is fast approaching and according to UP Diliman University Student Council chair Benjie Aquino, "those who side with corporate interests over the welfare of the youth do not deserve the votes of the youth in 2019." Incumbent senators who are eligible for reelection include Francis Escudero, Gregorio Honasan, Loren Legarda, Aquilino Pimentel III, and Antonio Trillanes.

"Individually, we may seem small compared to these corporate giants, but together our voices will be the key towards changing the political landscape in the country into something better," he said. – Rappler.com 




'Do not panic in accidents,' says medical intern who helped MRT victim


DON'T PANIC. Medical intern Charleanne Jandic helped saved a victim from an MRT accident. Photo by Aika Rey/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – When faced by an emergency, do not panic.

Chinese General Hospital medical intern Charleanne Jandic, 27, said she was nervous at first when she heard that a woman got into an accident at the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3). But her instinct from her medical training took over.

"I was alarmed. I didn't see what happened but I was assuming the worst. With a fast-moving vehicle like that, you would take into consideration the possibility that the victim is already dead. But I heard somebody shout from the stairs asking for help for the woman," Jandic said in a mix of English and Filipino on Wednesday, November 22.

The medical intern was about to exit the MRT3 Ayala Station then, but she went back.

"To some extent, medyo kinabahan din ako. 'Siguro enough lang naman 'yung alam ko.' (I was quite nervous. I thought to myself, 'Maybe I know enough what to do.') So I went back to see what could be done. I found her in better condition than I expected," she added.

On November 14, 24-year-old Angeline Fernando was caught in between train cars after she felt lightheaded. She fell onto the railway tracks after. Her right arm got severed, but doctors were able to reattach it after hours-long surgery.

Fernando's arm wouldn't have been saved if Jandic did not perform first aid on the victim.

"It could have been [fatal]. But fortunately, the arm wasn't too damaged. In medical perspective, it was a clean cut," said Jandic.

"When somebody gets dismembered, your goal is to stop the bleeding. You want to avoid loss of blood," she added.

Jandic emphasized the importance of not panicking in such situations.

"'Wag mag-panic. More often than not, panicking causes more harm than good. Actually, kinabahan ako. Nagpanic ako. Pero kasi mas inisip ko 'yung alam ko rin naman kahit papaano 'yung gagawin," she said.

(Don't panic. More often than not, panicking causes more harm than good. Actually, I felt nervous. I panicked. But I thought more about the fact that I know enough about what to do.)

Emergency services

Kabayan Representative Ron Salo, who previously filed House Bill 4955 seeking to create a national emergency medical services system, said he would move to rename the proposed law's short title after Jandic.

Salo said it would be renamed to the Dr Charlie Jandic Emergency Medical Services System (EMSS) Act of 2017 once the House committee on health tackles the measure.

Jandic said she was humbled by the gesture but "it puts pressure" since she has yet to take the licensure exam.

She acknowledged that there are other medical practitioners who save lives out of the limelight. "It's okay even if they don't name it after me. I don't have any self-serving motivation," said Jandic.

She also emphasized the importance of learning basic first aid to be able to respond to emergencies.

"You don't need to have a medical or health sciences background. It can be tricky since it's a case to case basis. But if you think you can do more good than harm, I don't think there's anything wrong," Jandic said.

"While you're waiting for the emergency personnel, you can do something. It can spell a difference [in] the outcome," she added.

Should the bill become a law, all local government units (LGUs) will be required to create a dispatch center that residents can call in case of emergency. The dispatch protocols would be crafted by the health department and the EMSS council.

The bill would also create a single national emergency number, similar to 911 in the United States. – Rappler.com

What happened to the centennial Bonifacio monument in Taguig?


MANILA, Philippines – They paved a monument to put up a new road. 

More than a week before the commemoration of Bonifacio Day on November 30, the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) toppled the centennial monument of Philippine hero Andres Bonifacio in Taguig to give way for a road project linking the bustling business districts of Taguig and Ortigas.

In a photo taken by Inquirer, the monument was seen plucked from its podium and tied to a post.

According to news reports, however, DPWH did not consult or seek approval from the National Historical Council of the Philippines (NHCP) prior taking down the statue.

DAKILA, a group aimed at sparking “social consciousness formation towards social change,” condemned the move, saying that it is telling of how “our government honors our heroes who fought for our freedom.”  The artist-activist group also said that monuments like that of Bonifacio’s do not only serve as mere decorations but also as a reminder of their historical significance in the country’s fight for its freedom.

“This is why we keep on striving to remind the public especially the youth, of the importance of learning about our history and our heroes. Our heroes’ stories are not fables or fiction but are living examples of how to live our lives especially at these times of social unrest and repression,” DAKILA Communications Director Cha Roque said.

The monument was inaugurated in 1997 as a state memorial for the centennial death anniversary of the supremo of Philippine Revolution, Andres Bonifacio. 

'It will be taken back'  

According to Anna Mae Lamentillo, the Chairman of the DPWH Build Build Build Committee, the Bonifacio statue will be restored at its exact position after the completion of the road project. 

"The construction of the BGC – Ortigas Center Link Road Project is on full blast and may damage the statue of Andres Bonifacio so we had to protect it," Lamentillo said. 

She added that the project would reduce travel time from Fort to Ortigas from 1.5 hours to only 20 minutes. She also said that DPWH is already coordinating with NHCP with regards to the safekeeping of the statue. 

As the governemnt agency that is primarily responsible for the conservation and preservation of the country's historical legacies, NHCP set definite guidelines on relocating monuments of heroes and other illustrious Filipinos. A monument cannot be relocated if it falls under any of the following conditions:

  • relocating a monument will mean its destruction;
  • there was no prior consultation or due process;
  • the site to relocate the monument is still uncertain, and
  • the new development plans conflict with those of the existing plans

DPWH unveiled the P1.6 billion project early in July 2017 and announced that it involves the construction of a 4-lane Sta Monica to Lawton Bridge across Pasig River connecting Lawton Avenue in Makati City and Sta. Monica Street in Pasig City and a viaduct structure traversing Lawton Avenue onwards to the entrance of Bonifacio Global City.

“Once completed by March 2020, travelling between the central business districts of Taguig and Pasig Cities will only take 12 minutes and traffic congestion at EDSA and C-5 Road particularly along Guadalupe Bridge and Bagong Ilog Bridge will be alleviated by about 25 percent,” DPWH Secretary Mark Villar earlier said.  – Rappler.com

FORUM: Truth, trust, and democracy in the age of selfies, trolls, and bots


MANILA, Philippines – Digital technologies have allowed everyone who has access the ability to publish their own content and choose what matters to them.

In so doing, they gave the ordinary citizen a voice in the global conversation, obliterated the gatekeeping powers of traditional media, and in the process, significantly changed journalism and the public space where democracy operates.

But as algorithms that can't tell fact from fiction took over the critical editorial role of deciding what people see in the new public conversation spaces, they fostered the rise of a disinformation ecosystem that distributed falsehood: from the simply misleading to the outright fabrication. (READ: 'Fake news' is not journalism

In many democracies, systematic online campaigns aided by bots and trolls have triggered hate mobs to discredit critics and silence legitimate dissent.

What can be done to prevent the use of these digital platforms to undermine and weaken democracies? How can ordinary citizens take part in this effort? 

These are some of the questions that the public forum called, "Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls and Bots" intends to answer.

Organized by the Journalism for Nation Building Foundation (JNBF), Rappler, and other stakeholder groups, the forum aims to promote a better understanding of how social media and other digital platforms work. 

It aims to shed light on the nature of disinformation and misinformation online and to highlight the role of a free and independent press in preserving a healthy democracy. It also aims to stimulate a conversation around opportunities and threats to democracy in the age of selfies, bots, fake accounts, and trolls.

The forum will be held on Tuesday, November 28, at the Green Sun Hotel in Makati City. Program starts at 9:30 am. Registration opens at 8:30 am. 

Tickets to the public forum are free, but seats are limited. Register below to secure your tickets now. 


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Below are some of the topics to be tackled at the public forum:  

  • Teaching as truth-telling
  • Are you living in a filter bubble?
  • Bots and trolls and their influence on contemporary society and politics
  • Are machines editing and shaping our perceptions of reality? What can be done?
  • Making facts matter 
  • A world without gatekeepers: what are the limits of free speech?
  • Gender and cyberbullying: what can be done? 
  • Journalism in the age of information plenty: Championing the people’s right to know
  • Restoring trust in the age of filter bubbles: Challenges for newsrooms today
  • Hate speech and democracies: where do you draw the line on free expression?
  • Fake news and democracy: The role of the academe

This whole-day event will gather up to 500 campus journalists, student leaders, educators, bloggers, and other stakeholders in journalism to help them understand the nature of digital platforms and how they affect public opinion. – Rappler.com 


LOOK: Art group holds a human dignity exhibit in Mandaluyong


ART. Active Vista Human Rights Festival opens with Moving Pictures: Artists for Human Dignity Exhibit in Shangri-la Plaza in Mandaluyong City. All photos by Iona Finlay Mendoza/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Human rights group Active Vista launched a photo exhibit in Mandaluyong ahead of Bonifacio Day (November 30) and the International Day of Human Rights (December 10).

"Moving Pictures: Artists for Human Dignity" showcases the reality of human dignity in the country amid abuses against social justice through art.

The exhibit is ongoing and will continue until December 10.

Cha Roque, part of the organizing team, told Rappler that each photo tells compelling stories and issues that need to be addressed. (READ: Things to know: Human rights in the Philippines)

"The goal is like to bring them together so that it has more impact so that when the viewers will see it, they care about the current political situation," Roque said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Art for advocacies

Art have been used by many organizations in the Philippines in helping them express their advocacies.

Moving Pictures: Artists for Human Dignity serves as visual aid for its audience in such a way that it tells stories that words simply cannot.

Fourteen visual artists and photojournalists contributed to the exhibit. Among them are:

  • AG Sano
  • Efren Ricalde
  • Eloisa Lopez
  • Geloy Concepcion
  • Hannah Reyes Morales
  • Jes Aznar
  • Luis Liwanag
  • Nana Buxani
  • Neil Daza
  • Nikki Luna
  • Raffy Lerma
  • Ricky Rocamora
  • Veejay Villafranca
  • Xyza Bacani

For Roque, Filipinos are very visual and not easily engaged through oral stories only.

"But, if you have photos or film, it is easier, as it affects [the] emotions," she shares. (READ: A rare time a human rights issue captivates PH social media)

Art and its creators have a big role in advocating different social issues because of it power to engage, said Roque. For her, art is a different way of showing support for a cause and it tells stories without forcing others what to do and how to act.

"It is told in narratives through creatives expression and aside from that, it showcases Filipino talent," said the organizer.

Societal change through art

Roque called on artists to continue their craft in helping change society.

According to Roque, being an artist who supports an advocacy is a challenge given the current political situation. (READ: Hate human rights? They protect freedoms you enjoy)

"Hindi siya madali, it will take time. It will take hundreds of artwork pero sana hindi sila mapagod," she said. 

(It's not easy. It will take time. It will take hundreds of artworks but I hope they don't get tired.)

Roque added one artwork may not immediately change one's perspective, as changing a person's perspective takes time.

Explained Roque, "I want to encourage them, that [their art] affects what is happening, pero hindi ganun lang kabilis. (I want to encourage them that their art affects what is happening but it takes time)."  – Rappler.com

Iona Finlay Mendoza is a Rappler intern

VIRAL: Drunk driver hits vehicles along Commonwealth Avenue


DRUNK. A viral video shows a Nissan Patrol hitting a UV Express along Commonwealth Avenue. Screenshot from Crisdale Aguilar Pasion

MANILA, Philippines - A Facebook post showing a Nissan Patrol hitting a UV Express along Commonwealth Avenue has been making the rounds online. 

The driver of the Nissan Patrol – identified to be 39-year-old Niño San Gabriel – sped off, trying to escape, after he rammed into the UV Express.

This incident happened last Tuesday, November 21 at around 9:30 pm. 

The owner of the viral post, Crisdale Pasion, was one of the passengers inside the UV Express.

"[After being hit], our driver decided to chase the Nissan Patrol and was eventually able to block him in front to prevent him from escaping again. Upon stopping, I told the other passengers to get off the van because we were not sure what would happen next," Pasion told Rappler in an interview.

Pasion added:, "While the rest of the passengers were getting off the van, the Nissan Patrol started to bump the van again, causing the other passengers to scream in fear because the van was actually dragged forward by the Nissan Patrol." 

According to Batasan police station commander Superintendent Rossel Cejas, a barangay enforcer even chased and blocked the driver. San Gabriel, however, did not submit to the enforcer and even hit the enforcer's motorcycle just to escape. 

During the chase, San Gabriel also hit a bus and a private vehicle, which were trying to help chase and block him.

Authorities then decided to shoot at the vehicle's tires to make it stop. They were finally able to catch San Gabriel when his tires burst along Holy Spirit, Don Antonio.

Cejas said enforcers were forced to smash the window of San Gabriel's car because he still refused to get out of his vehicle after being caught.

Two firearms were discovered inside his vehicle: a caliber .38 and a caliber .40. He also tested positive for alcohol.

San Gabriel is currently detained at Batasan Police Station 6, facing charges of reckless imprudence, damage to property, illegal possession of firearms, resisting arrest, and drunk drug driving. – Rappler.com

Rappler Talk: How do we end sexual harassment?


Bookmark this page to watch Rappler's interview on Friday, November 24, at 4 pm

MANILA, Philippines – According to a 2016 study by the Safe Cities Metro Manila program, 3 in 5 women have experienced sexual harassment at least once in their lifetime.

The same study also showed that one in 7 women experience it at least once every week.

Majority of sexual harassment incidents experienced by women were verbal but around 34% of women experienced groping and being harassed by public exposure, or flashing of private parts by men. (READ: The many faces of sexual harassment in PH)

Despite the alarming figures, many women remain silent for fear of being called a "whore" or being told that "she enjoyed it anyway."

Limitations in the law make it hard for women to report sexual harassment cases. Republic Act No. 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 classifies sexual harassment as something "committed in a work or education-related environment."

How do we end sexual harassment?

On Friday, November 24, at 4 pm, Rappler social media producer Marguerite de Leon will talk to Quezon City Administrator Aldrin Cuña, the Institute of Politics and Governance's Arline Santos, artist Nikki Luna, and UN Women's Chang Jordan on ways to end sexual harassment.

Participate in the conversation by tweeting with #SafeCities or #FreeFromFear– Rappler.com

Bicol grade school students trained in disaster response, resilience


TRAINING. A representative from the Office of Civil Defense Bicol demonstrates to pupils at the Bacacay East Central School in Albay how to administer first aid. Photo by Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler

ALBAY, Philippines – The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Bicol is teaching the next generation of Bicolanos to be prepared should disaster strike in the region.

Edriel Burac, a student at the Bacacay East Central Elementary School (BECS), along with his classmates, checked on disaster equipment during the static display of government responders here.

Burac said that they’re happy to learn new things regarding disaster risk reduction methods, basic response, and emergency preparedness through the resilience caravan.              

At least 1,000 elementary pupils from various public schools in Bicol, specifically in Albay province, joined the resilience caravan spearheaded by OCD-Bicol. 

The resilience caravan 2017 is a series of 3 events aiming to educate young people on protective mechanisms and actions available to save lives and protect people’s livelihood during emergencies and disasters.

Retired general Claudio Yucot, the new OCD-Bicol regional director, said that the target participants for the caravan from different schools in Bicol was 800 from grade 4 to 6, but the total number of participants swelled to 1,000.

Yucot said that educating grade school students on disaster risk reduction capability would also help them learn to become resilient in times of natural calamities.

“We want our children to be educated, equipped, ready and resilient for them to know what needs to be done in times of natural disasters even without disaster responders. So in this way, they can pass on their knowledge to the members of the family and save lives,” Yucot said.   

He said that disaster readiness should start at home and should be ingrained in every Filipino, particularly the youth.

Bicol is a pilot area for the OCD's "resilience caravan." Yucot said that similar events will also be held in Regions 6  (Western Visayas) and 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) in partnership with OCD regional offices.

He said that resilience starts with awareness on hazards and risks which threaten communities, but people should also learn how to protect themselves from such threats.

This includes information on what to do before, during, and after disaster strikes a community, such basic safety and life-saving response. This information will be shared through creative presentations, exhibits, and demonstrations to promote better understanding, Yucot said.

“At the end of the sessions, we expect that the participants understand the basic concepts of safety and emergency preparedness, know the concepts of giving first aid and other basic response actions thus demonstrate the basic protective measures during earthquakes and fire,” the OCD official said.

The caravan focused on “4K: Kaalaman sa Kahandaaan, Takumbas ay Kaligtasan” to reinforce the message of the National Disaster Resilience Month observance.   

Aside from resilience caravan held at the Ibalong Centrum for Recreation in Albay, the OCD is also set to conduct a regionwide earthquake drill on December 15 in consonance with the simultaneous disaster drill in the country. – Rappler.com 

Minor dies after crashing motorcycle into truck in Muntinlupa


CRASH. The 16-year-old motorcycle rider was reported to be drunk when he rammed into the oil tank truck last November 23. File Photo

MANILA, Philippines - A 16-year-old motorcycle rider died after ramming into a old tank truck in Barangay Putatan, Muntinlupa City, past midnight Thursday, November 23. 

According to a report from the Muntinlupa Traffic Investigation office, the truck was making a turn when the motorcycle crashed into its tank.

The teenager, identified as John Mark Navarro, died on the spot.

Authorities initially arrested Tedy Gotis, the 48-year-old truck driver. However, Gotis was released after settlements were made between the victim's family and the truck driver and his company. 

According to Rolando Estupin, chief of traffic investigation, the minor was the one at fault. Aside from riding the motorcycle without a helmet and license, he was also reported to be drunk. Witnesses also said he was riding very fast. 

Estupin said the truck driver is not detained for now because the teenager's family has not filed charges against him. According to an Inquirer report, the siblings of the victim admitted that the teenager was drunk driving. 

He added that the camp of the truck driver will provide financial assistance to the victim's family.

To prevent incidents like this from happening in the future, the police urged motorists to pay more attention to traffic rules and reiterated the dangers of drunk driving. Estupin said a big factor in these crashes is the lack of knowledge among motorists about road safety.   

Under Republic Act 10586 or the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013, motorists should not drive if they are under the influence of alcohol, dangerous drugs, or other inebriating substances. (READ: What laws help keep road users safe in the Philippines? )

Motorcycle riders are also required to wear helmets on the road under the Motorcycle Helmet Act of 2009. Violators of this law will be fined P1,500 for the first offense, P3,000 for the second offense, P5,000 for the 3rd offense, and P10,000 plus the confiscation of driver’s license for the succeeding offenses. – Rappler.com

Sud, Jensen and the Flips out of UP Fair lineup after sexual misconduct claims


DROPPED. The organizing committee of the annual UP Fair decides to drop two Filipino bands involved in various allegations of sexual misconduct

MANILA, Philippines – Unlike in the previous years, Filipino bands Sud and Jensen and the Flips will not be performing at the University of the Philippines Fair scheduled for February 13 to 17.

The UP Fair organizing committee and its organization night handlers unanimously decided to drop the two bands from their lineup after allegations of sexual misconduct against some members surfaced. (READ: What's going on? A timeline of the indie music scene's sexual misconduct scandal)

"We do not tolerate this culture and behavior in our university, and we hope that we continue to embody UP's values of honor and excellence as we showcase Filipino talent to a wide audience" the UP Fair organizers said in a statement relesed Thursday night, November 23. 

Aimed at celebrating Filipino culture through a music festival, the UP Fair is the student-led week-long concert held annually at the Sunken Garden in UP Diliman. The music festival gathers up to 8,000 to 12,000 concert goers every night.


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UP Fair is held to raise funds for specific advocacies or beneficiaries. For its 2018 run, proceeds will be given to rehabilitation and recovery efforts in Marawi City, where a war with local terrorists has just ended after 5 months.

Netizens welcomed the statement shared by UP Fair organizers on their social media accounts.


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Suds and Jensen and the Flips have since responded to the allegations. Jensen and the Flips apologized for their actions, and acknowledged that an apology would not be enough.

“An apology will never be enough to make up for all of the things that have been done in the past. We know the things we did wrong; rest assured we have and will continue to work on being better individuals moving forward to ensure that such situations will not happen again,” they said.

On Facebook, Sud also apologized for actions of members while also noting that some of the allegations against them were not true.

“We are sorry. It was never our intention for our actions to come across the way they did. We recognize we have no say whether they were violated by our actions and we put them in a position they were not comfortable in, and for that we will accept the repercussions of what we did,” they said.

Jensen and the Flips has also been removed from the lineup of the yearend gig "The Rest Is Noise" following claims by several women that some band members showed sexually inappropriate behavior.  Rappler.com

Student journalists on Maguindanao massacre: ‘We will never forget’


REMEMBER. Young student journalists remember those killed in the Ampatuan Massacre 8 years ago. Photo by Iona Mendoza

MANILA, Philippines – Mark Kevin Reginio and John Reczon Calay were still high school students 8 years ago, when news about the worst case of election-related violence broke out. They had a vague understanding of the significance of the incident.

In 2009, Esmael Mangudadatu challenged Andal Ampatuan Jr, a member of the powerful Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao, for the position of governor. Mangudadatu's supporters, family, and members of the media were on their way to the provincial capitol for the filing of his certificate of candidacy when their convoy was attacked. 

Of the 58 individuals who were slain, 32 were media practitioners or employees of media companies.

On Thursday, November 23, it had been 8 years since what the Committee to Protect Journalists calls the single deadliest attack against the media.

Eight years later and with a renewed understanding of the significance of the tragedy, Reginio and Calay, now studying journalism at the University of the Philippines, attended the "Break Free 2017: Press Conference."

The press forum organized by the Union of Journalists of the Philppines (UJP) called for an end to the culture of impunity and state violence in light of the 8th anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre.

Unity in the journalism profession

Nearly a decade since the the killings, there has yet to be a conviction. None of the 188 officially accused is serving time. Even Sajid Islam Ampatuan, one of the main suspects, was released on bail.

For UP students Reginio and Calay, one way to improve the proceedings of the case is to end the culture of impunity in the Philippines, wherein people within a group feels entitled that they are exempt from punishment. This can be done, according to the students, through asserting human rights and social justice.

They said that campus journalists play an important role in raising awareness about the issue by continuously reporting the developments of the case and sharing how the gruesome crime still affects the victims’ families 8 years later.

“Unity among us in the profession is a very vital step toward attaining justice,” said Calay, an active member of UJP-UP.

The best way to engage people and remind them about the massacre, according to the journalism students, is through social media.

Candle lighting in Bacolod

Aside from the commemoration activity organized by the campus journalists, a nationwide commemoration by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

In Bacolod City, members of the Negros Press Club and NUJP Bacolod held a torch parade and candle lighting by the families of the victims, students, and various groups.

"Just as important as convicting those responsible for this most gruesome of crimes is the need for state accountability,” said NUJP national director Nonoy Espina. – with a report from Marchel Espina/Rappler.com 

Iona Mendoza is a Rappler intern. She is studying journalism at the University of Santo Tomas.  

Rappler Talk: Atom Araullo shares #GiftofHope to Marawi, Rohingya evacuees


Bookmark this page to watch the Rappler Talk interview on Saturday, November 25, at 2 pm. Use the hashtag #GiftofHope to join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

MANILA, Philippines - In this season of giving, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the UN Refugee Agency, invites you to share the gift of hope and empowerment to thousands of families displaced by conflict and violence.

The fighting in Marawi City in southern Philippines from May to October 2017 has displaced nearly 360,000 people. Meanwhile, more than 600,000 stateless Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh to escape escalating violence in Myanmar since late August 2017.

What are the stories behind the moving images of the evacuees? How can you help displaced families from Marawi City and the Rohingya refugees?

Voltaire Tupaz, editor of Rappler's civic engagement arm MovePH, speaks to multi-awarded journalist and UNHCR advocate Atom Araullo on Rappler Talk on Saturday, November 25, at 2 pm.

Araullo has recently visited Bangladesh to shoot his documentary on the plight of the Rohingya refugees. Araullo's first "i-Witness" documentary will air on GMA-7 on December 2. -Rappler.com


AGENDA: Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls, and Bots


Social media and digital platforms have been both a blessing and a curse.

While these have helped disseminate critical information as well as give the ordinary citizen a voice, these have also fostered the rise of a disinformation ecosystem that distributes falsehood, from the simply misleading to outright fabrications.

What can be done to prevent the use of digital platforms to undermine and weaken democracies? How can ordinary citizens take part in this effort?

All these will be tackled in a public forum called "Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls, and Bots" on Tuesday, November 28, from 8 am to 5 pm, at The Eye, Green Sun Hotel, Makati City.

This forum will gather campus journalists, student leaders, educators, bloggers, and other stakeholders in journalism to promote a better understanding of the nature of digital platforms and how they affect public opinion.

It also aims to stimulate a conversation around opportunities and threats to democracy in the age of selfies, bots, fake accounts, and trolls.

Here is the program for this public forum. You may click or hover on the names of speakers and panelists for more information.



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Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of 
Selfies, Trolls, and Bots: A Public Forum

November 28, 2017 • Tuesday • 8 am to 5 pm
The Eye, Green Sun, Makati City

Natashya Gutierrez, Rappler
Lourd de Veyra, TV5

9:30 amNational Anthem
9:35 amOpening Remarks
Maria Ressa
CEO and Executive Editor, Rappler
10:00 amTeaching as Truth-telling
Leonor Briones
Secretary, Department of Education
10:30 amExercise: Are you living in a filter bubble?
10:45 amDigital forensics: Bots, trolls, memes and their influence on global politics
Graham Brookie
Deputy Director and Managing Editor, Digital Forensic Research Lab, Atlantic Council
11:15 amInterview - Are machines editing and shaping our perceptions of reality? What can be done?
Carly Nyst, Privacy International
- Nick Monaco, Oxford Computational Propaganda Project
11:40 amInterview - Gender and cyberbullying: What can be done?
Julie Posetti
Head of Digital Editorial Capability, Fairfax Media
12:00 pmLunch Break
1:30 pmExercise: Truth or Falsehood?
1:40 pmInterview - Making facts matter: Dimensions of disinformation
- Claire Wardle, First Draft Network
1:50 pmPanel - A world without gatekeepers: What are the limits of free speech?
Ed Lingao, TV5
Carlos Conde, Human Rights Watch
- Tonyo Cruz, blogger and columnist, Manila Bulletin
- Lisandro Claudio, De La Salle University
2:40 pmJournalism in the age of information plenty: Championing the people's right to know
Free Press Unlimited
3:00 pmPanel - Fake news and democracy: What educators and the academe can do?
Clarissa David, University of the Philippines - Diliman
- Dr. Cheryll Ruth Soriano, De La Salle University
3:30 pmInterview - Hate speech and democracies: Where do you draw the line on free expression?
David Kaye, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
3:40 pmPanel - Restoring trust in the age of filter bubbles: Challenges for newsrooms today
- Ging Reyes, ABS-CBN News
John Nery, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Chay Hofileña, Rappler
Yvonne Chua, Vera Files
Melinda Quintos-De Jesus, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
4:20 pmClosing Remarks
Gemma Mendoza
President, Journalism for Nation Building Foundation

This event is organized by the Journalism for Nation Building Foundation (JNBF) and Rappler, in cooperation with Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the US Embassy in the Philippines, Green Sun Hotel, PLDT, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Blogwatch, the Philippine Association of Communication Educators (PACE), the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), and Blogapalooza. – Rappler.com