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Plight of raped wives, pimped daughters shown in new museum


EXPERIENTIAL MUSEUM. Theater actors from Mapua show how men in positions of power can take advantage of other women. Photo by Raisa Serafica

MANILA, Philippines – Like pollution, violence against women (VAW) can be so pervasive yet invisible at the same time.

This toxic culture against women and children includes physical abuse, such as sexual harassment and rape, and the subtle yet insidious practices of victim blaming and catcalling. (READ: The streets that haunt Filipino women

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) wants to stop these forms of violence. PCW has lined up several projects to observe their 18-day campaign to end VAW to meet this goal. 

One of such projects is the 3-day "experiential museum" that PCW organized, in partnership with Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), to show the hard truths surrounding VAW. 

In a statement, PCW executive director Emmeline Verzosa said that compassion for victim-survivors and respect for the rights of women and girls are needed to achieve a VAW-free community.

"Compassion is beyond sympathizing. It is knowing and understanding the situations of victim-survivors," Verzosa said.  

Immersive experience

The experiential museum takes its audience to 4 different scenes illustrating how women are abused at home, in the workplace, on the streets, and online.

The "experiential museum" visualizes VAW through an immersive theatrical experience showing the struggles of women who are victims of abuse.

J-mee Katanyag, one of the dramaturgs of PETA, said they wanted to go beyond physical abuse and also tackle the thin line between jokes and sexual harassment.

Through the leadership of PETA, the event puts onstage UST's Artistang Artlets, Mapua Tekno Teatro, and Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts (YATTA) of Dumaguete.  

JOKE OR HARASSMENT? The 'experiential museum' tries to draw the thin line separating jokes and sexual harassment. Photo by Raisa Serafica

The scene featuring theater actors from Dumaguete showed how rape committed by husbands against their wives is normalized in society.

It also threw spotlight on how some family members can consent to pimping their own daughters or sisters – most of them underage – by passing it off as a "sacrifice" for the whole family. 

In another scene, theater actors from the Mapua showed how men in school can use their positions of power to take advantage on other women. 

While set at different backgrounds, the 4 scenes illustrate one thing in common: perpetrators come from perceived positions of power. All scenes evoke discomfort and helplessness among the viewers. 

"Feeling ko yung helplessness, damang dama ko. Meron akong puwedeng gawin...pero wala nga akong magawa kasi feel ko nga helpless ako," museum visitor Anna Maria Sotto said. 

(I felt helpless watching the scenes. I knew that I could do something to intervene, but I wasn't able to do anything because I felt helpless)

Sotto added that she hopes the scenes will change the minds of those who still deny that VAW exists. 

The problem in figures

A study by Social Weather Stations (SWS), released in March this year, showed that 3 in 5 women in Quezon City alone were sexually harassed at least once in their lifetime. 

On the other hand, 58% of respondents ages 12 to 24 said they were unsure to call Quezon City safe or not. A staggering figure of 88% of respondents ages 18 to 24 also said that they have experienced sexual harassment at least once. 

Filipino women are not alone.

According to a study published by the World Health Organization, up to 35% of women globally have experienced violence – physical or sexual – at some point of their lives. In some regions, the numbers can go up as high as 70% of women.

Worse, studies also show that, in 2012, close to half of the women killed globally were killed by either a family member or an intimate partner.

What you can do

More than recounting the plight of women who experience violence, PCW said the museum hopes to make its audience reflect on what they can do as an individual. 

According to the agency, women who are victims of abuse can start by speaking out and reporting to the authorities in case their rights are violated. "Encourage others to fight for their rights," PCW added in its statement. 

Men can help put an end to this toxic culture, on the other hand, by joining male groups promoting anti-VAW efforts and by advising male perpetrators they know to seek help. 

Below are just some of the things government agencies and barangays can do to help end VAW: 

  • Train your team to improve the services that you provide for your clients 
  • Develop a monitoring and evaluation strategy to assess your services 
  • Let people know that you provide services
  • Ensure that the barangay VAW desk works
  • Promote harmony and respect for human rights at home and in the community 

"Violence against women is no longer a private matter. VAW affects one's personhood, one's work, one's community involvement. We can all do our share to care and act," Versoza said. 

If you were there, what would you do to help end violence against women? – Rappler.com 

How climate change affects ASEAN affairs


CHANGING INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS. Climate patterns may affect international relations through humanitarian crises, migration threats, and an increasing need for greater imports of vital goods

MANILA, Philippines – Climate change is a clear and ever-present danger affecting us on many different levels – environment, economy, health, and even international affairs. (READ: Climate change: Why PH should care)

A recent study published by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) and the Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MISIS) showed that changing climatic conditions can also have an impact on Southeast Asia as a region and on ASEAN as a multilateral organization.

First, changing climate patterns may affect interstate relations through humanitarian crises, migration threats, and an increasing need for greater imports of vital goods.

According to the Global Climate Risk Index, 4 of the world's 10 countries most affected by climate change are located in the region, namely Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The authors argued that migration out of low-lying areas in the broader region is a major potential climate-related trigger of international issues in Southeast Asia. (READ: PH one of 10 most vulnerable countries to climate change)

"The effects of climate change are far-reaching and will greatly impact the region due to the humanitarian crises that it may bring, and also due to the possible displacement and migration of people, and the loss of livelihood," noted R.J. Marco Lorenzo Parcon, foreign affairs research specialist of the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) and one of the authors of the study.

Second, the reduction of carbon emissions requires international coordination and cooperation. (READ: Will countries achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050?)

The region's coal-based electricity generation has been rapidly expanding, and this runs counter to the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) which ASEAN member-states have promised themselves under the Paris Agreement. Failure to break free from fossil fuels can drastically affect ASEAN’s reputation in the international community. If ASEAN countries continue to run their economies on dirty energy, the report warned, there could be a large number of stranded coal assets in the future.

Third, the global energy transition driven by climate policy may lead to an altered geopolitical situation in the world, including ASEAN.

There is a call for global energy transition to mitigate the effects of climate change. Authors of the study observed a trend where Southeast Asian countries are moving towards increasing dependence on imports of fossil fuels from the Middle East, making them more politically vulnerable in that part of the world. This vulnerability can be counteracted by climate mitigation measures such as reducing financial aids on coal projects and by creating a bias on transition to clean energy.

Creating a team spirit in ASEAN

ASEAN has identified climate change as a priority issue since the 2007 ASEAN Summit in Singapore. All member states have signed the Paris Agreement, and only Myanmar has yet to ratify the historic global pact. At least 5 ASEAN countries reacted publicly to President Donald Trump's announcement that the United States would withdraw from the climate deal, criticizing it while reaffirming their commitment to climate action. The Philippines was "deeply troubled" by Trump's decision, while Singapore described it as "a great pity."

The study noted, however, that despite their positive stances on climate change, most ASEAN countries have not taken on prominent roles in international climate policy. As a result, they remain takers rather than makers in international climate politics. ASEAN as an organization stands to gain or lose status by following up or not following up on its member states on climate issues, and by member states succeeding or failing to meet their NDCs. The ASEAN Secretariat can fulfill an important function by promoting a team spirit around this status drive.

Parcon said that a collective voice is essential in calling for climate justice, as the effects of climate change are far-reaching and mitigating its effects requires international solidarity.

"ASEAN must also continue to emphasize the importance of strengthening partnerships and sharing of best practices between its member-states and partners, particularly when it comes to adaptation and risk reduction efforts," he said in an interview.

ASEAN moving forward

ASEAN has already institutionalized a number of mechanisms to address the threats of climate change. To move forward, the study offered recommendations for ASEAN to energize its work on addressing the climate challenge.

The study suggested that ASEAN could formulate a regionally determined contribution (RDC) by adding up the NDCs of its member states.

It said that ASEAN could as well implement several other concrete measures, such as:

  • ensuring that current and future initiatives under the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) are ambitious and detailed as to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
  • highlighting the vulnerability of Southeast Asia to climate change by publishing and sharing relevant analysis
  • putting climate change high on the agenda of every ASEAN summit
  • involving and connecting relevant civil society and academic organizations across Southeast Asia
  • promoting the accelerated phase-out of fossil-fuel subsidies.

For Edwin Estrada, FSI senior foreign affairs research specialist and a co-author of the study, ASEAN must continue to build on the progress that it has made, ensure due implementation of plans and projects, further promote cooperation and partnership between ASEAN member-states, its dialogue partners, and other relevant organizations, continue to make use of education to further disseminate information to the communities, and to conduct more relevant studies.

Estrada also said that a dynamic interstate cooperation, establishment of feasible action plans, effective implementation of existing ones, and the creation of a sustainable long term regional strategy based on sound research are needed to fight climate change.

"ASEAN has a big role to play as a conduit for regional and global cooperation to address climate change," he added.

To be successful, however, the authors said that these climate-related initiatives will need to consider the ASEAN way of conducting business, with its emphasis on national sovereignty, non-interference, and consensus in decision-making. They argued that this kind of approach is highly compatible with the traditional ASEAN approach to interstate cooperation. – 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.

LOOK: UP unveils Oblation Christmas centerpiece 'Mulat'


WATCHING OVER PEOPLE. According to artist Toym Imao, Mulat serves as 'an entity that watches over its people and serves as an oculus to critical thought.' Photo by Iona Mendoza/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Mulat, a giant colorful eye at the center of the Oblation Plaza, was unveiled by the University of the Philippines (UP) administration on Friday, November 24, during the "Pag-iilaw para sa Pasko 2017 at Konsiyerto sa Plaza" at the UP Diliman Campus.

The lighting of Mulat and the rest of the installation was the main attraction of the event.

The masterpiece was created by Toym Imao, a member of the UP fine arts faculty. Imao said that Mulat represents diversity of visions and perspectives.

ANNUAL LANTERN. The annual lantern parade was led by the lighting of Mulat by Toym Imao. Photo by Iona Mendoza/Rappler

Imao added that Mulat represents the university as "an entity that watches over its people and serves as an oculus to critical thought."

The lighting of Mulat was accompanied with performances from the UP Staff Chorale, UP Dance Company, and alternative rock band Sandwhich. – Rappler.com

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

WATCH: This museum shows the horrors of being a woman


MANILA, Philippines – What forms of violence do women experience?  

In line with their 18-day campaign to end violence against women (VAW), the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), in partnership with the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), organized an "experiential museum" to show the hard truths surrounding this issue. (READ: Plight of raped wives, pimped daughters shown in new museum)

More than recounting the plight of women who experience violence, PCW said the museum hopes to make its visitors reflect on what they can do as individuals.

Watch this video report by Rappler's Raisa Serafica. 

JOKE OR HARASSMENT? The 'experiential museum' tries to draw the thin line separating jokes and sexual harassment. Photo by Raisa Serafica/Rappler

– Rappler.com 

Project Liwanag: Light for Aetas


TARLAC, Philippines – With natural light during daytime, everyone would go to work. But when darkness would fall in the evening, activities would come to a halt.

This used to be the day-to-day life of the Aeta Mag-Anci tribe in Sitio Caoayan. The tribe is one of the 12 Aeta communities in the mountains of Capas town in Tarlac province.

Like many upland communities, they did not have access to electricity. They would buy kerosene for cooking and lighting. When they would run out of kerosene, they would use bamboo as an energy source.

This changed when a group of young graduates visited them.

Left behind

Access to energy has always been a challenge for the tribe. According to Lagundino Tarrosa, the community chief, many of their children were not able to finish school because of their situation.

They also feel that the government has neglected them.

"Hindi po namin inaasa 'yung [buhay] namin sa gobyerno. Dahil po 'yung gobyerno, nangangako po [pero] hindi binibigay sa mga katutubo. 'Yun po 'yung mahirap sa kalagayan namin dito sa kabundukan," Tarrosa told Rappler.

(We don't depend on government support. They keep on promising to help us, but we don't get any assistance. That's the reality in the mountains.)

The community chief explained that because of this, many indigenous peoples have lost faith in the government.

"Kaya maraming katutubo na minsan nahihina sa paniniwala nila sa gobyerno kasi hindi lahat nabibigyan. Lalo na kami dito, 'pag hindi po kami nagtrabaho, wala po kaming kakainin... Kapag tamad ka, hindi ka makakakain," he said.

(Many indigenous peoples find government support isn't enough because not everyone receives help. In our case, if you don't work, you won't have anything to eat. If you are lazy, you won't be able to eat.)


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The latest government statistics show that the country's poverty incidence for 2015 declined to 21.6%, from 25.2% in 2012 and 26.3% in 2009. That means 1.4 million less poor Filipinos in 2015.

Despite the good news, Tarrosa said they don't feel it in the uplands.

"Dahil po sa layo ng lugar na ito, madalang po 'yung tulong sa amin. Hindi po katulad sa malapit sa baba na araw-araw po silang nabibigyan ng tulong. Dahil dito sa amin, 'pag wala talagang pusong katutubo, hindi sila makaabot dito," he added.

(Because our community is very far, we don't receive as much help unlike those who live near the town center where they can receive help almost everyday. Here, if you don't have the heart for indigenous peoples, you won't reach us.)

Project Liwanag

It brought the community great joy when they found out that a group called Project Liwanag would install solar panels in Sitio Caoayan for free.

The non-governmental organization, which is composed of young graduates, installs solar panels in indigenous communities without access to electricity.

This is their 3rd solar installation, according to Wellington Co Jr, a member of Project Liwanag.

The group was formed in 2015, following a 3-day immersion program for 4th year college students of Ateneo de Manila University in Sitio Yangka in Capas.


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<p style="font-family: Roboto; font-weight: 300; size: 16px;"> ENERGIZED. Project Liwanag installs solar panels in Aeta communities in Capas, Tarlac. </p>


According to Project Liwanag executive director Marlon Pia, the students' formator then, the group was the response of his students after they experienced living with an Aeta community.

Two years in, they have installed solar panels in at least 6 Aeta Mag-Anci tribal communities in Capas — in Sitio Yangka, Sitio Caoayan, Sitio Balatong, Sitio Tarucan, Sitio Bulacan, and Sitio Bilad.

Pia said they hope to improve the lives of indigenous communities by partnering with them in implementing sustainable projects that address basic needs such as power, water, sanitation, and education, among others.

"Project Liwanag is about the encounter of the indigenous and young people, and how they work together and enrich one another to come up with sustainable livelihood projects – done through grassroots transformational partnership," he said.

Community partnership

Pia noted that their group will not be with the communities they help forever, so they make sure the communities are involved every step of the way and understand the importance of the project to the people.

"In every project that we do, community involvement is the hardest. From planning to execution to monitoring and evaluation, the community is really involved," he said.

"It's very important for them to take care of the project and come up [with] ways and means of how to preserve the project," he added.

Tarrosa said the Sitio Caoayan community appreciated that they were part of the entire process. Regular meetings were held with the Project Liwanag team.

"No'ng dinala 'yung panel dito, nag-usap-usap po kami ng mga tao ng sitio. Tapos pinag-usapan po namin pa'no magkaisa na magawa... 'yung ilaw sa bawat bahay," the village chief said.

(When they brought the panel here, we discussed within the community how we could work together to help set up lights in every household.)


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<p style="font-family: Roboto; font-weight: 300; size: 16px;"> PARTNERSHIP. The Aeta community is part of the entire solar panel installation process – from planning to evaluation.</p>


Project Liwanag consulted engineers and discussed with the community how they could be of help during the installation.

"Sila na lang po 'yung nag-sketch na ganito 'yung gagawin, ganito 'yung gagawin. 'Yun na lang po 'yung sinusunod namin (They brought the sketch and told us what to do. We just followed their instructions)," Tarrosa said.

According to the village chief, it only took them a few days in April to finish the project.

"Ginawa po namin 'yan tatlong araw lang po at kalahati. Dito kasi sa amin, 'pag tulong ng ganyan, nagkakaisa po kami (We finished the project in just 3 and a half days. In our community, we unite to finish tasks like this)," he said.

Pay it forward

Tarrosa's son, Pablo, 7, shared that their community is grateful they finally have access to electricity.

A Grade 2 student, Pablo said that before, he found it difficult to study when night fell.

"Before we didn't have lights so we found it hard to read. Now that there's light, we are happy because we can finally read at night," Pablo said in Anci, a local language used by the Aeta community.


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<p style="font-family: Roboto; font-weight: 300; size: 16px;"> LIGHT. Some 16 million Filipinos live in darkness and use cheaper energy sources like kerosene to get through the night.</p>


Pablo hopes that someday, he will be able to pay it forward. "When I finish studying, I hope to help other indigenous communities," he told Rappler.

Rural electrification has always been a challenge in the Philippines, especially in far-flung areas. 

In 2015, about 5,000 villages across the country did not have access to electricity, affecting productivity. (READ: Green energy to help in 'last mile' of PH rural electrification)

The government seeks to light up 90% of homes in the country by the end of 2017, but that is still a far-fetched goal. – Rappler.com

UN Women urges people to report sexual harassment cases


FIGHT VS HARASSMENT. UN Women's Chang Jordan talks to Rappler about ending sexual harassment in the Philippines.

MANILA, Philippines – Sexual harassment against women is still a tough battle to overcome but reporting it would be a step closer to victory.

According to United Nations (UN) Women's Chang Jordan, it is about time that people, especially women, report sexual harassment and say, "Stop, that is wrong."

Jordan was accompanied by artist and feminist Nikki Luna, Quezon City Administrator Aldrin Cuña, and the Institute of Politics and Governance's Arline Santos in a Rappler Talk interview on Friday, November 24.

"Mostly when we say sexual harassment, it is a form of sexual violence, and it is violation against women's rights," explained Jordan to zero in on the vastness of what sexual harassment is.

According to Luna, the issue of sexual harassment is being heard more often now because more women are coming out, which according to her, is "a good move."

Recently, several indie music artists in the Philippines came under fire after they were accused of sexual misconduct. (READ: What's going on? A timeline of the indie music scene's sexual misconduct scandal)

Jordan emphasized that stopping sexual harassment would mean a safer city not just for women, but for everyone. (READ: The many faces of sexual harassment in PH)

"We have to realize that it is street harassment, and it is not only for women. It is for everyone," she said.

Ending sexual harassment

To eliminate sexual harassment cases in the streets, some local government units (LGUs), like Quezon City under its Gender and Development Ordinance, will fine people caught sexually harassing women in the city from P1,000 to P5,000.

"We are now scaling up the campaign to train the implementers of the law," said Cuña. (READ: The streets that haunt Filipino women)

He also differentiated public sexual harassment from violence against women.

"Violence against women happens intimately. Public sexual harassment happens anywhere," Cuña said. (READ: 'Hi, sexy!' is not a compliment)

In a 2016 study conducted by the Safe Cities Metro Manila program, 3 in 5 women said they 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 a week.

Majority of sexual harassment cases were verbal but around 34% of women experienced groping and being harassed by public exposure, or flashing of private parts by men. 

The Philippine Commission on Women launched the "18-day campaign to end VAW" in line with the UN's "UNITE to End VAW Campaign."

Globally, 16 days of activism against gender violence is being observed – November 25 (International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women) to December 10 (Human Rights Day). – Rappler.com

Legazpi gov't awarded for making city 'favorite convention destination'


GOLD. The Legazpi City government wins gold in the Performance Governance System awards by the Institute for Solidarity in Asia.

MANILA, Philippines – The Legazpi City government bagged an award from the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA) and the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) for efforts to make the city a top destination for conventions, among other programs.

Nine entities from national and local governments that went through a governance reform program by the ISA presented significant achievements in their programs and projects last Wednesday, November 22.

Through the Performance Governance System (PGS), participating agencies designed and implemented strategies to make projects sustainable in the long run. (READ: #HackSociety 2017: 5 ideas for better governance in the PH)

For 9 years, Legazpi has been part of the program with the vision of making the city part of the top 5 convention destinations in Luzon by 2020. The ISA gave the Legazpi City government a Gold Trailblazer Award for its achievements toward that goal.

According to Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, the city is now a "favorite convention destination" by many organizations.

"Almost all organizations went to Legazpi [to hold their events]. We have an average of 85 [organizations from different parts of the country]. We almost broke the one million record for tourism arrivals," he told Rappler.

For the past years, the number of tourist arrivals in the city has been increasing. In 2015, there were almost a million visitors, higher than the 700,000 in 2014 and 579,470 in 2013.

In 2015, Legazpi hosted several big gatherings such as the 1st International Convention on Children and Family, the National Information and Communication Technology Summit, and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Adventure and Travel Conference.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) also found that Bicol had the highest growth rate among regions in the country in 2015 – 8.4% – as investments poured into major economic hubs Naga and Legazpi. 

The mayor attributes these successes to the presence of infrastructure built to accommodate more people – including the Legazpi Airport, hotels, and major malls.


Despite this, Rosal said there is still work to be done.

"What is important now is sustainability. We know that many more [people] will come that is why we need [to build up] the branding of the city," he said.

Rosal added that any reform in governance is a challenge but "it will pay off" in the end.

"There are a lot of challenges but it was never really a hindrance because we do believe that the system now is in place. We have now the collaborative efforts of everyone, [even] from the lowest member of the local government of Legazpi. And really, it's a shared responsibility," he said. (READ: 'Good governance begins with us')

Rosal noted that maintaining focus is more important than executing several projects that lead nowhere.

"'Wag natin madaliin. 'Wag nating pilitin. (Let's not hurry. Let's not force it.) What is important is how we are able to accept and embrace the system [and] what will be used in the continuance of the program. It's not how fast. It's the quality," he added.

Recently, Legazpi City was recognized for earning the interior department's 2017 Seal of Good Local Governance, among 448 other LGUs. 

Aside from Legazpi, the following also participated in the ISA's governance program:

  • Navotas City Hospital
  • Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center
  • University of San Agustin
  • Philippine Veterans Affairs Office
  • Municipality of Samal, Bataan
  • Municipality of Pilar, Bataan
  • Municipality of Orani, Bataan
  • Department of Public Works and Highways

– Rappler.com 

Couple behind Albay ecotourism center sends scholars to college


ADVOCACY. It is the advocacy of the Newhall couple to send kids to school from the revenues of the Mirisbiris Garden and Nature Center. Photo by Naoki Mengua/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Visitors to the Mirisbiris Garden and Nature Center in Salvacion, Sto Domingo, Albay get a warm welcome as they enter a paradise of greenery that also offers a breathtaking view of the beach.

The ecotourism center is the brainchild of couple Chris and Glenda Newhall. Chris is a volcanologist from Northern California, while Glenda used to be a teacher in Naga City who eventually became a nurse in the United States. They met as peace corps volunteers back in the 1970s.

In 2005, the Newhall couple decided to move to the Philippines and retire in Salvacion.

They opened up Mirisbiris to the public a decade later, in 2015. Aside from building an ecotourism center as their retirement place and as an educational facility for the youth, the couple wanted to help out the community.

"When we were in the US, it had always been our dream to come back to the Philippines and have a garden and do this educational thing for kids," said Glenda.

More than that, Mirisbiris became the answer to Salvacion's out-of-school youth.

"We started sending kids [to school] from our pockets. But now that we have this, we are able to support a little bit from the produce of this camp," Glenda said.

Hobby turned blessing in disguise

"Our concept with Mirisbiris began as a combination of an interest in having a big tropical garden. Just a personal interest, a hobby if you will. And also interest in offering or making an environmental education center," said Chris.

They realized that building such a center could bring profits, which they could then use for other initiatives.

"We can earn a little bit of money that way. And we take that money and use it for scholarships for kids from Salvacion and also for livelihood for employing the staff of Salvacion to work here," Chris said.

RETIREMENT. The Newhalls retired in Salvacion, Albay in 2005 and opened the Mirisbiris Garden and Nature Center in 2015 to the public. Photo by Naoki Mengua/Rappler

Aside from having scholars, they also help mothers from Salvacion.

"One of the other projects that we have is the project of the Salvacion Mothers Society, Incorporated. They make bags out of garbage, tetra packs," Glenda said. 

As of 2017, the Newhalls are funding the education of 17 college scholars. The scholars can choose any degree they want as long as they qualify for a state university or college.

"We do not ask them to focus on particular subjects. Anything that they want to study, we will support it as long as they are going to [a] state college," said Glenda.

They have already sent at least 30 students to college since they started funding scholars. During summer, these scholars go back to the center and teach young kids who do not fare well in reading. This is their way of giving back to the Newhall couple.

"We ask the teachers to recommend 5 or more students from each class who have not mastered reading. And we help them here for 20 days. We have our scholars and also other high school students to come and help us," Glenda added.

Eco-friendly destination 

The Newhalls make sure that their place is eco-friendly. 

"The roof is made from translucent PVC plastic. We don't have to use lights during the daytime. It's very open so we do not have to use any air-conditioning," said Chris.

"All of these things are trying to minimize basically the impact on the environment and our expenses too," he added.

Students also go on field trips to Mirisbiris.

"We are partners in education. We have a project right now with the Bicol National High School. It's to partner with their senior high school program in agriculture. They're focusing on agriculture and we can help them with organic gardening and horticulture," said Glenda.

The Newhalls hope more tourists and students would visit Mirisbiris, not just to learn about nature but also to help with the couple's advocacy for education.

"We would like to invite people to come and help us make this Mirisbiris garden grow. Help us with our advocacy so that we can send more kids to school." – Rappler.com

Meet this 11-year-old advocate against Manicani mining


YOUNG ADVOCATE. At his young age, Fidelina Atregenio Jr. is witness to the bad effects of mining to Manicani and its residents. Photo courtesy of Roy Roberto

MANILA, Philippines – While other kids of his age are hooked on computer games or school work, 11-year-old Fidelino Atregenio Jr. instead chooses to join his father in rallying against giant mining companies, which he described as “walang kaawa-awa” or merciless.

At his age, he could be the youngest anti-mining advocate in the Philippines.  (READ: Fast Facts: Mining in the Philippines

His parents used to live in Manicani, a small island in Eastern Samar, but later decided to stay in Manila for good.

His father began tagging him along in anti-mining rallies in the city as early as when he was only two years old. Even if he did not grow up in the island, young Fidelino personally visits the area with his family almost every year.

At such a young age, he has already seen the bad effects of mining to Manicani and its residents. He lamented how the people of Manicani are dying because of the air and water pollution caused by mining activities.

“At the end of the day, they [mining companies] just destroy God’s creation and not loving it. Mining kills the people, the animals, and the water source. If mining continues in Manicani, the water source will be damned. A lot of trees are destroyed, which are good sources of food for the people,” Atregenio Jr. said in a phone interview.

He also noted how mining operations have forced some of the residents to leave the place and settle in another town or city. “They are just moving people away from their mines. Even if it’s just a small island, it’s going to be a big disaster for the world,” he continued.

He further noted that he wants to follow the footsteps of his father, and he wants to help him fight for Manicani and its people, regardless of his age.

“I just want to say that Manicani should be protected from mining. I want to help my Dad to fight for Manicani and its people. Even if you’re just 5 or 6 years old, as long as you fight for what is right, age really doesn’t matter. It is always nice to fight for what you stand for,” he added.

Climate change and mining

Manicani is a small island with a land area of 1,165 hectares and a population of more than 3,000 people scattered across four barangays. It falls within the territorial jurisdiction of the Municipality of Guiuan, Eastern Samar.

In 1992, the national government granted a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement(MPSA) to Hinatuan Mining Corporation(HMC) to mine nickel ore in the island. It practically covers almost the entirety of the Manicani, excluding only less than a hectare in its area of operation.

The 25-year contract should have expired last Oct 27, but to the dismay of anti-mining groups and residents, the LGUs in Manicani and the legislative bodies of the Municipality of Guiuan and the Province of Eastern Samar issued separate resolutions supporting HMC’s application to renew its MPSA covering the area.

However, another quarter of a century of harmful mining activities in Manicani destroys not only the island’s rich ecosystem; it also aggravates the effects of climate change in the small island.

Glenny Ymata from the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) noted that the Philippines is among the top most vulnerable countries to climate change impacts, and with an average of 20 typhoons hitting the country each year, hundreds to thousands of lives are being lost and billions of pesos of properties and infrastructures are getting damaged beyond repair.

When supertyphoon Yolanda (internationally known as Haian) barreled through the Visayas in 2013, it made its first landfall in Guiuan. This left a massive trail of destruction in the islands of Manicani and nearby Homonhon—leaving a death toll of over 6,300.


“Mining is responsible for making our communities weak and susceptible to climate impacts. Thus, addressing climate change crisis would necessitate in renewing our lands, forests, and seas,” said Ymata in a statement.

Lawyer Avril De Torres from Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) added that the Philippines should completely prohibit mining operations within its territory. “Mining exacerbates our vulnerability because it removes our natural barriers to typhoons, floodings, landslides, and droughts,” said De Torres.

As a response to the renewed threat to pursue large-scale mining operations in Manicani, Manicani residents under Protect Manicani Island Society (PROMISI) and Save Manicani Movment (SAMAMO) staged protest actions supported by the Diocese of Borongan and other support organizations. 

Early in November 7, around 30 Manicani and Homonhon residents staged a four-day caravan from Guiuan to Metro Manila, which culminated in a camp out at the DENR Central Office in Quezon City, heightening the protest against large-scale mining in Guiuan and the lifting of the ban on open pit mining.

According to Jaybee Garganera of Alyansa Tigil Mina(ATM), another 25 years of large-scale mining operations in Manicani would be catastrophic to both the people and the environment because of the long-time resistance from the island folks and the threat of heightened natural calamity caused by climate change.

Garganera also added that changing climatic conditions can only worsen the hell hole that Manicani has now become. – Rappler.com 

Roy Joseph R. Roberto is a Philippine Youth Ambassador of Goodwill to the 42nd Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Program (SSEAYP). He recently participated in Climate Tracker's Southeast Asia Workshop on Climate Journalism. Climate Tracker is one of the biggest hubs of online writers and journalists globally, advocating for climate action and clean energy.

‘Why are we so gullible?’ Netizens speak up about truth, trust, democracy


MANILA, Philippines – How much do facts matter to the Filipino netizen? 

They are clearly top priority, going by the responses to Rappler's callout during the public forum "Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls and Bots", 

Rappler encouraged both netizens and the participants at the forum on Tuesday, November 28, in Makat City, to tweet their thoughts and observations using the hashtag #FactsMatterPH. 

The hashtag trended nationally on Twitter a few hours into the event:

So what were the concerns voiced in these tweets? Quite a lot:

{source}<a class="twitter-timeline" data-partner="tweetdeck" href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom/timelines/934967803567681536?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FactsMatterPH - Curated tweets by rapplerdotcom</a> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

What do you have to say about truth, trust, and democracy in this day and age? Share your thoughts on the publishing platform X! – Rappler.com 


Netizens call out media outlet for baring suspects' mugshots, HIV status


MANILA, Philippines – Netizens and advocates from the lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transexual, and queer (LGBTQ) community slammed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and a media outlet for baring the mugshots of suspects arrested in a drug raid, and disclosing that one of them tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

According to them, such actions violate Republic Act 8504 or the Philippines AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, noting that they revealed the identities of the suspects while “creating a media frenzy around their sexual orientation,” and implying that one of them is a person living with HIV.  (PODCAST: There's an HIV law in the PH?

This comes only three days before the world observes the "World AIDS day" on Friday, December 1. (READ: 11 nabbed in drug bust operation at BGC hotel)  

On Monday night, November 27, News5 posted on Facebook the mugshot photos of the suspects involved in a drug raid, adding in the caption that one of them tested positive for HIV. It later edited the caption to remove the note about the HIV reference. (READ: Orgies and Tinder: Millennials are having sex, some with a deadly price

On Tuesday morning, November 28, News5 took down the Facebook post.

Netizens argued that by revealing the suspects' identities and exposing one of them as HIV-positive, News5 and PDEA only helped reinforce the stigma attached to the LGBTQ community and PLHIV. 

Dinagat Island Representative Kaka Bag-ao also weighed in on the issue and slammed the media outlet and PDEA for disclosing one of the suspect's HIV status. 

"Huwag nating ipagpatuloy ang pagbibigay ng stigma sa pagkakaroon ng HIV...Napakarami pa ring misconceptions at misinformation ang kumakalat. Binigyan pa ng mga ulat na ito ng pagkakataon ang mga taong kulang sa kaalaman na husgahan kaagad ang mga PLHIV sa social media,"  Bag-ao said in a statement. 

(We should refrain from reinforcing the stigma attached to PLHIV. There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation spreading everywhere. The reports also gave those who know little about the issue an opportunity to judge those with PLHIV on social media.) 

Here are some social media posts surrounding the issue:


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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">To publicly expose one&#39;s HIV status - through mass media - is blatantly irresponsible. Isn&#39;t this covered by the Philippines AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998? Isn&#39;t it against the ethics of journalism?</p>&mdash; Gaks (@psychokenetics) <a href="https://twitter.com/psychokenetics/status/935196231445254144?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 27, 2017</a></blockquote>

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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I submit to fact that having sex under the influence of alcohol or drugs remains a risk factor. But like our approach in HIV educ, this should not be used to degrade or judge, rather a learning point. Educate and empower - with sexual positivism and unconditional positive regard.</p>&mdash; Gaks (@psychokenetics) <a href="https://twitter.com/psychokenetics/status/935201566436376579?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 27, 2017</a></blockquote>

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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I hope News5 will be responsible enough to take down the pictures of these suspects. That is a violation of their dignity and the presumption of their innocence and smears their name and reputation.</p>&mdash; Juan Miguel (@one_migs) <a href="https://twitter.com/one_migs/status/935198908677885952?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 27, 2017</a></blockquote>

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On media disclosure 

Who has the right to expose the a person’s HIV status?

While there is a law primarily aimed at protecting the rights of people living with HIV (PLHIV) that was enacted in 1998, advocates argue that the country needs new and updated legal provisions in light of the current epidemic faced by the Philippines

Earlier in August 2017, the Department of Health (DOH) cited the latest data from the UNAIDS Report on global HIV epidemic states and announced that the Philippines has the "fastest growing" HIV epidemic in Asia Pacific.

According to the report, the new HIV cases among Filipinos more than doubled from 4,300 in 2010 to 10,500 in 2016. 

Article 6 of the HIV law states that "all health professionals, medical instructors, workers, employers, recruitment agencies, insurance companies, data encoders, and other custodians of any medical record, file, data, or test results are directed to strictly observe confidentiality in the handling of all medical information, particularly the identity and status of persons with HIV." (INFOGRAPHIC: How is HIV transmitted?

However, the law does not clarify any prohibition in media on HIV disclosure. 

Pending bills filed by Bag-ao and Senator Risa Hontiveros seek to address this gap by strengthening the confidentiality clause of the current HIV law. 

The bill prohibits media from disclosing "the names, pictures, without the prior written consent of their subjects [PLHIV] except when the persons waive said confidentiality through their own acts and omissions" under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and the National Privacy Act of 2012.  – Rappler.com 


Schools 'responsible' for making sure graduates can detect fake news


ROLE OF ACADEME. Educators discuss how the academe is combatting the proliferation of fake news. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – With the proliferation of fake news nowadays, educators recognize that they have an important role to play in producing graduates who can discern what's real from what's not.

During Rappler's public forum called "Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls, and Bots" on Tuesday, November 28, educators from both the public and private sector discussed what the academe is doing to combat fake news.

"The education part for this I think is not so much just fake news and disinformation, but also it is the responsibility of universities and in fact all education institutions that we graduate students who are responsible citizens in a democracy," said Clarissa David, a professor at the University of the Philippines' College of Mass Communication.

"On a day-to-day [basis], dapat kaya mong maintindihan kung ano 'yung real, ano 'yung hindi (you should be able to understand what's real and what's not)," she said, adding that this has a "real impact" on a graduate's job prospects, since employers also look at their applicants' Facebook accounts.

David's co-panelists Cheryll Ruth Soriano and GH Ambat agreed.

Soriano, chairperson of De La Salle University's Department of Communication, said the rise of fake news made her ask the question of how many of their graduates "could've been agents of disinformation, whether as producers or as people sharing…or liking disinformation."

"And this made me really ask about the role of the academe – us educators who plan the curriculum – [on] how our graduates should come out when they leave the university, that despite education and teaching them, it's possible that people come out of the classroom and educational systems still not knowing how to discern good quality information from poor quality information," she explained.

Soriano said it's time to rethink how an outcomes-based school curriculum can produce students who can be critical, can "falsify what's fake," and can create and produce credible information.

Ambat, the Department of Education's assistant secretary for public affairs, said knowing fake news is part of the K to 12 curriculum because it's important that public school graduates who will enter the workplace can determine "what's true, what's false, what's a parody, [and] what's a satire."

The K to 12 curriculum, Ambat said, equips students with the following 21st century skills: learning and innovation skills; information, media, and technology skills; effective communication skills; and life and career skills.

"It's not just in formal school – those in your normal classes – where we are implementing or teaching all these," she explained.

"In the Alternative Learning System (ALS), for out-of-school youth – we have enhanced the curriculum so that they can also catch up and be able to have the skills and to be able to avail of the 4 exits and be able to determine what fake news is, what disinformation is."

The ALS is considered the "centerpiece" of basic education under the Duterte administration.

Soriano believes online communities can help battle fake news by targeting people who don't have access to formal education anymore.

"People who have graduated but did not take thorough media literacy discussions in the classroom, for example. In my research in a lot of low-income communities,I realized that people have a lot of active access on YouTube and Facebook but without thorough access to how they can discern credible from non-credible information," Soriano explained.

She added: "I think joining online communities, and these communities also extending their reach beyond your usual interlocutors and online media…I think this is a genuine possibility for people who are not in the classroom…to join in the conversation and at least discuss, first, what motivates people to create fake news, because only when you understand what motivates the disinformation producers would you understand how to avoid that."

The panel "Fake news and democracy: What educators and the academe can do" was moderated by Vince Lazatin, executive director of the Transparency and Accountability Network. – Rappler.com

Fake news 'not just about politics,' also impacts daily decision-making


FAKE NEWS. Professor Clarissa David of the University of the Philippines discusses the importance of fighting fake news in a 'post-truth' world. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Why should we all care about fighting fake news?

For Clarissa David, a professor at the University of the Philippines' College of Mass Communication, fake news is a real problem that needs to be addressed because it's "not just about politics."

"A lot of the fake news in the Philippines, many are about politics, but when you look at the environment, when you open your Facebook feed, many of the fake news are about health, about class suspensions – things that impact your own daily decision-making, that can really change your life," she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

David was one of the panelists during Rappler's public forum called "Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls, and Bots" on Tuesday, November 28.

Two other educators joined her in the panel: Department of Education (DepEd) Assistant Secretary GH Ambat, and Cheryll Ruth Soriano, chairperson of De La Salle University's Department of Communication.

David said people have to think about fake news not just from a political lens, although in politics she said it is "extremely important...to discern what's fact from opinion."

"But at the same time, fake news is bigger than that. Fake news is, are we able to tell from a story that crosses your Facebook feed if this is true? What if it's not about politics? What if it really impacts your daily decision-making?"

Take for example the DepEd's recent experience when a class suspension announcement from Facebook page "Walang Pasok Advisory" spread quickly on the social networking site.

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"Their first announcement on a Sunday was shared 80,000 times. It said, 'Walang pasok (No classes), November 23, 24, and 25.' There were only a few who asked DepEd Philippines through Messenger if this is true. By morning, we addressed it, and we said there's no such thing, we didn't announce anything, and please, for announcements, go to verified sources of information," Ambat shared.

"If it's unverified news in the context of DepEd, we have 27 million students, 640,000 teachers, so when people...come up with things like that, the impact on us is huge," she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Both David and Ambat said it's important for people to call out others who share fake news.

"If you have a friend who shared fake news, you call them out. You point it out and you tell them, because you probably are sharing the same friends, and by you pointing it out, people will take down something they shared, or they will correct it in the comments, and that somehow fixes whatever that fake news has reached," David said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Ambat does the same with DepEd officials, especially regional directors who have access to teachers and other officials on the ground.

"This is our shared responsibility. If we don't like fake news, we should be doing something about it as well. It's easier to allow them to just look crazy or uneducated, but we're the Department of Education, let's bring in the word 'education' even in the way we post, even in the way that we spread information," Ambat said.

For Soriano, the recognition of one's responsibility on social media "doesn't stop alone in creation" but continues "up to liking and sharing what you see."

"Ethics is at the center of media creation, but dissemination is different, and I think the problem is that people feel because we're all here as a mass audience, people feel that they are not responsible for anything as long as it's just liked or shared," she noted.

In this post-truth world, David said it's the role of universities to protect the truth. (READ: Schools 'responsible' for making sure graduates can detect fake news)

"We need to instill back to people that facts matter, that the truth matters, and that ultimately in universities, our role is also to make sure that we protect the truth, that we can study it, we can capture it, we can spread it, and we can groom people who will take care of what is true and what is not," she added.

The panel "Fake news and democracy: What educators and the academe can do" was moderated by Vince Lazatin, executive director of the Transparency and Accountability Network.– Rappler.com

Activists heckle Briones over Lumad schools issue


TRUTH IN TEACHING. Education Secretary Leonor Briones talks about truth-telling during Rappler's forum on Tuesday, November 28. Photo by Leanne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Activists on Tuesday, November 28, heckled Education Secretary Leonor Briones after she gave a speech at Rappler's public forum, "Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls and Bots," at a hotel in Makati City.

During the open forum, RJ Perez, a member of the audience, introduced himself as a "volunteer professional educator" of a Lumad school in Mindanao.

He asked for Briones' reaction to what he called "misinformation and disinformation" about schools serving the Lumad children.

"They have been called rather baselessly as NPA (New People's Army) schools, as prefix for shutting or burning them down. Is it not the responsibility of the Department of Education (DepEd) to protect and promote education, especially for national minorities?" Perez asked.

Briones agreed that it is the responsibility of DepEd to defend schools, adding that the agency had defended schools "under our jurisdiction, under our regulation."

As followup, Perez asked Briones for her statement regarding Lumad schools that have permits to operate but "patuloy at araw-araw na binobomba (are continuously and daily bombed)." 

"Ilang beses na pinapatay ang aming mga mag-aaral, at isa po ako sa harapan ninyo ngayon na ilang beses na tinutukan ng militar ng kanyang mga baril at bala upang ako ay palayasin at paalisin sa eskuwelahan upang makapagbigay ng serbisyo sa mga kabataang Lumad."

(Our students are being killed, and I'm one of those who have been repeatedly held at gunpoint by the military to kicked me out of the school that serves the Lumad children.)

Briones explained to him that the DepEd does not bomb schools, and that the department has already declared "schools as zones of peace."

"Ngayon, nagpipirmahan ang lahat ng mga ahensya, kasama na ang militar, kaya ngayon, makikita ninyo, nagpirma rin ang mga militar. Makikita ninyo na ang mga eskuwelahan, hindi na ginagawang tulugan ng mga sundalo, dinala namin 'yan sa United Nations, dinala namin 'yan sa militar," Briones explained.

(Now, we're signing an agreement with other agencies, together with the military, so now you can see that soldiers no longer camp out in schools, we brought that issue to the United Nations, to the military.)

She added: "Huwag ninyo kaming sisihin sa mga bagay na hindi naman ginawa ng Department of Education. Siguro sa ibang opisina ninyo dalhin ang inyong mga hinaing."

(Do not blame us for things that the Department of Education did not do. Maybe you should bring your complaints up with other [government] offices.)

OPEN FORUM. RJ Perez (2-R) asks a question for Education Secretary Leonor Briones. Photo by Leanne Jazul/Rappler

A small group of young people showed up near the stage while Perez was asking his questions. They were carrying small posters with protest messages. (READ: Why Lumad groups are camping outside DepEd)

The Save Our Schools Network, which led protests outside the DepEd Central Office in Pasig City days earlier, also went live on Facebook with the caption: "WATCH: Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones met with protest in a forum."

A Philippine Collegian video shows another member of the group, shouting: "Kung hindi kami magsasalita dito, saan niyo po kami pakikinggan? (If we don't speak out here, in which venue will you listen to us?)"


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">WATCH: Lumad students and teachers protesting in the forum <a href="https://t.co/NvoS3PxNcI">pic.twitter.com/NvoS3PxNcI</a></p>&mdash; Philippine Collegian (@phkule) <a href="https://twitter.com/phkule/status/935412043724623872?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 28, 2017</a></blockquote>
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Briones pointed out that it's not part of the indigenous peoples' culture to shout or curse at people who are older, as what the activists were doing. 

At this point, a few activists were heard heckling the secretary from another part of hall.

"Ang hinihingi ninyo ay permit, ang lahat ng schools. Wala akong kapangyarihan na pigilan 'yung sinasabi ninyo dahil hindi naman opisina ko 'yan," she added.

(You're asking for permits for all schools. I have no power to stop what you say is happening in the schools because that's not under my office.)

Schools must be registered under DepEd so enrolled students will be assigned an official learner's reference number. This number is needed for academic credit, for a student to be able to advance from primary school to secondary school, and so forth.

During the incident, Briones tried to explain DepEd's side on the issue.

"Ako ay magpapakumbaba, 3 probinsya: ang Davao may temporary permits, Cotabato, tinatrabaho [ang] permits, sa Surigao, doon talaga kailangan ayusin," she explained.

(I humble myself, there are 3 provinces: Davao schools have temporary permits; in Cotabato, we're working on the permits; in Surigao, this is where we really to work on it.)

After the exchange, protesters were escorted out of the hall. They left the building after a brief discussion with the organizers. 

On November 22, Briones already called for a press conference to answer the allegations being hurled against DepEd by Lumad groups camped outside the DepEd building in Pasig City.

During the press briefing, she announced that she had signed DepEd Department Order Number 57, series of 2017, which "supersedes" DO 221. The document was signed on Tuesday, November 21.

The new department order no longer contains guidelines in the conduct of military activities in the premises of a school or a hospital, and lists down "grave" child rights violations.

Education Undersecretary Alberto Muyot, meanwhile, said the DepEd already vowed to assist interested Lumad schools in processing their permits.

"In fact, we committed to the 3 divisions that want to build schools in their area, that we will provide them with technical assistance so that they would be able to comply with the requirements," Muyot earlier said in Filipino. – Rappler.com

Freedom of speech ‘limits the power of government to lie’


FREEDOM. Blogger and columnist Tonyo Cruz laments the power of free speech in a democracy. Photo by Leanne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The spread of false information online cannot be addressed by simply disabling the comments section.

This was the sentiment shared by blogger and Manila Bulletin columnist Tonyo Cruz, veteran journalist Ed Lingao, De La Salle University professor Leloy Claudio, and Human Rights Watch researcher Caloy Conde in a panel discussion at Rappler’s “Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls, and Bots” forum on Tuesday, November 28. 

Panel moderator Lourd de Veyra asked them if the current “troubles” on false information could be solved by disabling comments online. 

Cruz argued speech is about power, one that can be harnessed to make the government accountable. (READ: Should governments regulate freedom of expression?)

“Free speech is about power, whether a government is fascist or populist like Duterte’s or seemingly democratic like other governments. Free speech is our weapon. It limits the power of government, especially to lie,” said Cruz.

He added President Rodrigo Duterte and “his army are out to defend power and to capture more power.” (READ: State-sponsored hate: The rise of the pro-Duterte bloggers)

“And they use deception and trolling, and hate speech to divert attention from issues and to portray Duterte as the savior. There’s always a political question between us and government,” he said.

Conde conceded there are issues when it comes to free speech, as it tends to be abused. But he does not believe in hampering the freedom of person who is abusing the online platform. 

Tingin ko, hindi long-term solution yong pagbawalan ang mga comments, na pagbawalan ang mga tao na magsalita. Ang solusyon diyan ay hikayatin pa sila na magsalita to the point na  dumating yong panahon na maging mas matino yung pagsasalita nila,” he said.

(I think disabling comments, stopping people from speaking up, is not a long-term solution. The solution there is to encourage them to keep on talking to the point that a time would come that they would say something decent.)

Fake news and government

THE PANELISTS. From L to R: Lourd de Veyra, Tonyo Cruz, Leloy Claudio, Ed Lingao, and Caloy Conde during the Rappler forum on November 28. Photo by Leanne Jazul/Rappler

Lingao, meanwhile, brought up the Senate hearing on fake news online held in October.  

The TV5 reporter said senators were working on a false premise when they called for the hearing, which happened after the “Silent No More PH” blog called out 7 senators for not signing a resolution urging the government to stop the killings of children and minors. 

The 7 senators claimed they were not asked by minority Senator Francis Pangilinan to sign the document. But Pangilinan’s office took screenshots of their e-mail exchange with senators’ offices, asking them to sign the resolution. 

“So it was not fake, it was not news, and they were deliberating fake news with that in mind. Wrong premises, wrong assumptions, wrong direction. And they were going after people who were just expressing their griefs,” said Lingao. 

He also called out senators for aiming to create a law against fake news. 

“They were trying to craft a law against fake news, which to me is certainly disagreeable. Who will you trust to enforce a law against fake news? Government?” asked Lingao. 

“Government, as far as government is concerned, everything government says is true, and all your criticisms and exposés against an official is false. So, automatically, anything that you write as critical can be labeled as fake news,” he added. 

Lingao argued that, online, “everybody has the right to be wrong, but everybody has the responsibility it get it right.” 

As for Claudio, he hopes online users would have a sense of virtù, a concept theorized by philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli.

Sabi niya, important sa politics yong meron kang sense of virtù, which is not the translation of virtue, but what it really means is the kind of security sa paniniwala mo or sa paninindigan mo. Ito yung kailangan natin in the age of social media,” said Claudio. 

(He said it’s important in politics for you to have a sense of virtù, which is not the translation of virtue, but what it really means is the kind of security you have in your beliefs and values. This is what we need in the age of social media.)

He said it becomes easy to erode a person’s values when he or she is flattered online. “Stick to your guns. Don’t fall for flattery. Just keep evaluating yourself and have that sense of virtù,” he said. – Rappler.com

Social media users advised to be critical of trolls


THE PANELISTS. From L to R: Lourd de Veyra, Tonyo Cruz, Leloy Claudio, Eg Lingao, and Caloy Conde during the Rappler forum on November 28. Photo by Leanne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Be more critical of comments online, do not stoop to the level of trolls. 

This was among the advice that participants in Rappler’s “Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls, and Bots” forum got from journalists, bloggers, and academics on Tuesday, November 28. 

Blogger and Manila Bulletin columnist Tonyo Cruz said online users should not take trolls’ comments personally. 

“Most probably they were written to annoy you, just to annoy you, and to put you at their level. Nagmumura sila, magmumura ka rin. May gano’n silang objective (They’re cursing at you, so you curse them back. That’s their objective),” said Cruz. (READ: Freedom of speech ‘limits the power of government to lie’)

At sana mas maging critical tayo about how we react, kasi for the longest time you’ve been patient, respectful, friendly, and then just because of the comment that you read, nagbago na yong persona mo online, [then] successful yong troll, successful yong commenters,” he added.

(I hope we become more critical about how we react, because if, for the longest time you’ve been patient, respectful, friendly, and then just because of the comment that you read you will change your persona online, then the troll is successful, the commenters are successful.)

Cruz was responding after Human Rights Watch researcher Carlos Conde shared why he had stopped reading comments on his social media posts. (READ: Bots, paid trolls are 'purveyors of artificial ignorance’

Conde said the atmosphere got too toxic for him at one point that he got “distressed” and decided to deactivate his Facebook account for weeks. 

Ang problema kasi sa comments pag binabasa, naapektuhan ka talaga. And if you are in a profession such as mine – researching this sordid reality ng Pilipinas – then nagbabasa ka pa ng comments, talagang it’s like you’re being victimized yourself in the comments,” said Conde.

(The problem is that you read comments and they affect you. And if you are in a profession such as mine – researching the sordid reality of the Philippines – then you will also read the comments, it really feels like you’re being victimized yourself in the comments.)

He realized, however, that his line of work compels him to have a Facebook account, so his “compromise” was just to ignore comments. 

‘Fight back’ 

De La Salle University professor Leloy Claudio said journalism teachers in the United States, whom he had recently spoken to, told him journalists are already banned from reading the comments. This is to lessen the chances of the journalists being influenced by the comments.

Instead, a special staff is assigned to read these comments and flag those that contain real threats against the journalists. 

“I think we should consider that for some journalists [who are] having a hard time now because it really influences [some]. Sometimes, because they are afraid of trolls, there are certain things that they don’t say or can’t say. And what that does, that just rewards the trolls,” said Claudio in a mix of English and Filipino. 

“Again, this is not censorship, but these are ways through which opinion-makers and decision-makers, like politicians and journalists, can isolate themselves from the effects of trolling. Because [it has] psychological effects,” he added.

This view, however, was not shared by veteran journalist Ed Lingao of TV5.

He said he keeps his Facebook profile public because he wants people “to discuss, converse, debate, even fight.” 

Lingao is known for tirelessly replying to commenters, who swarm his posts that are critical of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

“You can have a contrary opinion, that’s fine with me. commenters. Wag mo lang akong babastusin, tatawaging langaw, bayaran (But don’t disrespect me, call me a pest or someone being paid off), and so on down the line. That, to me, is the limit…. If you go in that direction, I’ll hit you back and I’ll put you out [of my wall],” said Lingao. 

He noted that, while a good number of these Facebook accounts are bots or trolls, some are real people, too. 

“You have to engage these people because to ignore them would be to leave the online world to people like them and have them lord it over. You have to engage them and fight back,” he said. – Rappler.com

‘Black propaganda’ under Duterte admin reduced trust in media


DEFENDING THE MEDIA. CMFR executive director Melinda Quintos-de Jesus discusses the effort to discredit Filipino journalists. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – There is an ongoing campaign to discredit the media and journalists must work to regain the people’s trust back.

This is the consensus among veteran journalists Melinda Quintos-de Jesus, Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza, and Yvonne Chua as they lamented Filipinos’ lower trust in journalists during Rappler’s “Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls, and Bots” forum held on Tuesday, November 28.

De Jesus, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility executive director, said the “black propaganda” against journalists during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has affected public perception towards the media. (READ: Propaganda war: Weaponizing the internet)

Journalists and newsrooms’ mistakes – from erroneous reports, misquoted sources, to bribery allegations – were magnified by government propagandists. Duterte himself had even said corrupt journalists deserve to die

“But being subjected to black propaganda – and that is exactly what has happened – yes, a lot of people have said, ‘Yes, I get irked by this’ or ‘It’s so easy for them to insult others.’ There really are faults that were then magnified to institutionally present a community that is all about lying, that is all about bringing out the news about the President,” said De Jesus in Filipino. 

So makikita naman natin may effect din ‘yong pagkampanya against us, sa propaganda against us, sa pagsabi na presstitute ‘yang mga ‘yan; bayaran lahat sila. Hindi naman po totoo,” she added.

(So you can see that the campaign against us really has an effect, the propaganda against us, calling all of us presstitutes; they're on the take. But this isn't true.) 

Chua, Vera Files editor, cited the 2017 Philippine Trust Index which showed that 80% of Filipinos trust the government, which is 30% more than in 2015. Meanwhile, trust in the media stagnated. 

Chua said the numbers pose a challenge to newsrooms to do some self-regulation.

“We have to address [it]; it’s a perception war. But then it also indicates to us that there’s something wrong with the profession in general….These are vulnerabilities that are being used by a highly popular government,” Chua said in Filipino.

“So a lot of self-examination needs to be undertaken, self-regulation and when I mean self-regulation, within the newsroom, not just peer regulation of press associations. That’s not enough,” she added.

Transparency in newsrooms 

PANELISTS. Other panelists with Melinda Quintos-de Jesus in the Rappler forum are journalists Yvonne Chua (left) and Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

According to Chua, newsrooms need to be more transparent about their news processes, especially when a mistake has been committed.

Mendoza, Rappler’s research and content strategy head, said this is exactly what Rappler is doing through its corrections policy. Stories with erroneous information are not only corrected, but the correction is noted at the end of the article. A separate corrections page compiling the mistakes for the month is also released for transparency. 

Mendoza said this was also the reason why Rappler had organized the forum. 

“The connecting tissue is social media, [which] is allowing us to communicate in a more engaging way with our audience… [but it] has been co-opted. There’s a filter out there that’s dominating this new conversation space,” said Mendoza.

“What we have been doing actively is coming up with engagements like this, venues like this, where we’re really talking to our people, to our audience,” she added. 

For De Jesus, however, regaining public trust in the media is not the journalists’ job alone. She said readers themselves must be willing to be part of the conversation to determine where the media go from here.

Itatapon ba natin lahat ng mga ginawa ng ang tawag natin na mainstream journalism dahil nga merong maraming nagalit sa mainstream journalism? Or is this an opportunity to collectively, basically ask ourselves, 'Kayo, ano ba talaga ang gusto kong makuha sa news, sa balita?'” asked De Jesus.  

(Are we just going to throw away everything that mainstream journalism has done just because some people are mad at us? Or is this an opportunity to collectively, basically ask ourselves, ‘What do you want to get out of the news?’) – Rappler.com

DSWD gives 'homecoming packages' to Marawi families


COMING HOME. Residents of Marawi City are coming home after the clash. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) provided "Kambalingan" packages – a Maranao term for "homecoming" – to internally displaced persons (IDPs) of Marawi City, as part of the government's early recovery efforts. (READ: Marawi rehab prioritizes clearing of buildings, residents' return)

The Marawi siege erupted on May 23 as clashes began between terrorists and government forces. President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city's liberation on October 17 after top terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed on October 16. Combat operations officially ended on October 23.

The packages distributed to the families contained food packs good for 17 days, hygiene kits, kitchen kits, and P5,000 in financial aid. (READ: What evacuees can expect from gov't when they return to Marawi)

Based on the latest data from DSWD Field Office (FO) XII, a total of P112,008,964 worth of assistance has been provided to returning IDPs from barangays Basak Malutlut, Marawi Poblacion, East Basak, Luksa Datu, Matampay, Tampilong, Datu Saber, Bo. Green, Panggao Saduc, Lumbaca Toros, Bacolod Chico, Toros, Tuca, Poona Marantao, Dayawan, Pindolonan, Bangon, Fort, and Amito Matrantao.

The DSWD also said a total of P102,266,000 in cash-for-work (CFW) assistance has been released to some 51,133 beneficiaries across Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Caraga, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to provide a temporary source of livelihood for the IDPs.

"We are consistently coordinating with agency members of Task Force Bangon Marawi to ensure that the needs of our affected kababayans (countrymen) are addressed,” said DSWD officer-in-charge Emmanuel Leyco.

The DSWD also aims to create a team with the Department of Health (DOH) and the local government to provide psychosocial care for freed hostages and their families which will be spearheaded by Maranao-speaking staff from the DSWD field office. 

"Social workers are currently conducting case management and social preparation which include evaluation for needed services and interventions for our vulnerable sectors such as PWDs, elderly, and children," Leyco added.

In addition, a DSWD satellite office will be established to meet the needs of the returning families.

"Our goal here is to show that the families are not just mere numbers affected by the incident. They have their own stories to tell. They have their own rich culture before the conflict. They have their own lives. What we need is to listen to them and work with them as they rise from their current condition," Leyco said. – Rappler.com

LIST: Bonifacio Day activities, protests


BONIFACIO DAY. In this file photo, youth leaders observe Bonifacio day in 2016 through an anti-Marcos protest action at the Peoples Power Monument. Photo by Rob Reyes/Rappler

(Bookmark and refresh this page for the latest updates on the Bonifacio Day 2017 activities) 

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Various cause-oriented groups will hold activities and mass protests across the country on Thursday, November 30, to commemorate Bonifacio Day.

November 30, 2017, marks the 154th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, father of the Philippine revolution against Spanish colonizers.

Civil society groups and activists will stage these activities scheduled during this holiday, the same day supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte are set to hold rallies, also nationwide, to declare support for the Chief Executive's proposal to establish a "revolutionary government." (OPINION: RevGov will destroy democratic and economic gains)

Here is a running list of activities for Thursday:

Metro Manila

  • 11 am, Liwasang Bonifacio: Anakbayan is organizing a protest action here, then will march to Mendiola by 12 pm. The group aims to celebrate the heroism of Bonifacio and condemn the “fascist regime” of President Duterte.

  • 3-6 pm, Novotel Hotel in Cubao, Quezon City: Dakila will gather more than 300 Filipino youth leaders for the “Heroes Hub: Youth empowerment summit.” The summit aims to start the discussion on how Filipino heroes like Andres Bonifacio fought for the country’s freedom. Through this discussion, Dakila hopes to help the youth identify the existing challenges our nation faces today and determine how the lessons of history may help build a nation anchored in a culture of heroism.


  • 8:30 am, Northwalk in San Fernando: Kilusan and Workers for People’s Liberation (WPL), with the Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator na Tutol sa PUV Phase-Out (Stop), will converge here to voice out their various demands for President Duterte. The protest caravan will then head to the following stops: Pamintuan Mansion, Plaza Miranda, Balibago, and Salakot in Clark.


  • 2 pm, Fuente Osmeña in Cebu City: Bayan Muna Central Visayas Chairman Jaime Paglinawan said that the protest will start from Fuente Osmeña and then end at the historic Colon Street.

We are updating this article as more advisories come in. – with reports from Mars Mosqueda/Rappler.com 

‘Stop HIV shaming’: When status is not the story


MANILA, Philippines – When agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) arrested 11 men in a drug bust at a hotel in Taguig City on Monday, November 27, the agency revealed more information than necessary during its press conference the following day. 

Aside from announcing the raid yielded P387,000 worth of party drugs, PDEA showed mug shots of suspects and even mentioned that one of them is positive for HIV. 

Immediately, mugshots photos of the suspects and keywords like “gay men,” “orgy,” and, “HIV” appeared in headlines and social media posts referring to the raid.

Netizens and advocates from the lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transexual, and queer (LGBTQ) community slammed the PDEA and media outlets that carried the angle for baring the mugshots and the disclosure of one's HIV status. They argued that, by doing so, PDEA and the media outlets only helped perpetuate the stigma attached to the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV.

Unfortunately, this incident took place only 3 days before the world observes the World AIDS Day on Friday, December 1.

Guidelines for authorities

Disclosing to the media that one of the suspects tested positive for HIV was unnecessary, according to Senator Risa Hontiveros and several LGBTQ rights groups and advocates, like Dakila, Red Whistle, Pedal HIV, and UP Babaylan.

Their appeal to government authorities is the same: Stop HIV shaming. 

While the use of prohibited drugs is illegal, their sexual orientation and HIV status are unimportant and should have been treated with utmost sensitivity and respect,” UP Babaylan said in a statement.

While PDEA has since apologized, Hontiveros said in a statement released on Wednesday, November 29, that PDEA and law enforcement agencies should train themselves on the ethics and protocols in the proper handling of persons living with the human immunodeficiency virus (PLHIV).

“I welcome PDEA's apology, but we cannot ignore the mental and emotional damage already inflicted on the said person. Living with HIV is not a crime. Whatever legal and criminal charges he is facing, testing positive for HIV has nothing to do with them," Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros added that government agencies like PDEA should be at the forefront when it comes to fighting the stigma attached to PLHIV.

“Our authorities should help in telling the public that the HIV-AIDS epidemic can be effectively addressed and that persons living with HIV should have their rights protected. Our authorities should not aid the further stigmatization of those living with the disease," she added.

Media reporting

Advocates, on the other hand, chided media groups that carried the angle for their unethical and sensational reporting. According to them, media groups that unnecessarily highlighted the HIV reference violated the confidentiality clause stated in the Republic Act 8504 or the Philippines AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998.

Article 6 of the HIV law generally aims to promote confidentiality in handling all medical information, particularly the identity and status of PLHIV. (INFOGRAPHIC: How is HIV transmitted?)

In the Philippines, there are no clear guidelines and prohibition in media on HIV disclosure. Bills filed by Dinagat Island Representative Kaka Bag-ao and Senator Risa Hontiveros seek to address this gap by strengthening the confidentiality clause of the current HIV law.

Globally, groups observe the following ethical guidelines and principles in reporting about HIV and AIDS:

  • Accuracy is critical.
  • Misconceptions should be debunked.
  • Clarity means being prepared to discuss sex.
  • Balance means giving due weight to the story.
  • Journalists should hold all decision makers to account.
  • Journalists should ensure that the voices and images of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS are heard and seen. 
  • Journalists should respect the rights of people with HIV and AIDS.
  • Particular care should be taken in dealing with children.
  • Discrimination, prejudice, and stigma are very harmful.

These guidelines were echoed by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), a media watchdog.

In a phone interview with Rappler, CMFR editorial manager Lawrence Idia said journalists bear the responsibility of discerning which information to report to the public. 

“On the part of the media, when you obtain information, you should also make sure that it does not cause any harm or violate privacy. In this case, the stigma should not have been reinforced,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Idia said setting guidelines for the media on reporting sensitive issues like HIV and AIDS would be good starting point in helping break the stigma. 

Fighting the stigma 

Advocates agreed that the actions of PDEA and some media groups greatly affected the country's fight against the stigma attached to PLHIV and against the health epidemic in general. 

Last August, the Department of Health (DOH) cited the latest data from the UNAIDS Report on global HIV epidemic states, and announced that the Philippines has the "fastest growing" HIV epidemic in Asia-Pacific.

According to the report, the new HIV cases among Filipinos more than doubled from 4,300 in 2010 to 10,500 in 2016.

“Just reading the comments from the articles about the buy-bust is disheartening. This stigma against the LGBTQ+ Community and people with HIV/AIDS should not be tolerated," Dakila communications director Cha Roque said. 

In any case, this drawback did little to dampen the spirits of advocates who are at the frontlines in the goal to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. 

"We need to be constantly talking about how our society deals with the LGBTQ+ community. Dakila believes that as much as we celebrate that 'love wins,' we shall also remember that with love comes the right to express yourself, and not to be discriminated for it,” added Roque. Rappler.com