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How can we help end the negative impact of HIV?


WORLD AIDS DAY. For 2017, the World Health Organization wants to highlight the need to promote "Right to health" for World AIDS Day on Friday, December 1. Photo from Shutterstock

MANILA, Philippines – How can we end all the negative impact of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and promote the right to health to everyone?

This is the question that the whole world needs to address as it observes the World AIDS Day on Friday, December 1. Advocates around the world are expected to observe the day with the campaign called “Let’s End It.”

The campaign coincides with World Health Organization's theme for this year, "Right to health," which aims to highlight the need for all 36.7 million people living with HIV and those who are vulnerable and affected by the epidemic to reach the goal of universal health coverage. 

In the Philippines, the question is highlighted after media groups and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) struggled to handle a drug raid case involving a person living with HIV (PLHIV).

On Monday, 4 days before the World AIDS Day, PDEA disclosed at a press conference that one of the 11 men nabbed at a drug bust was positive on HIV. Some media groups ran the story focusing on the suspects' sexual orientation, the circumstances surrounding the arrests, and the HIV reference.

Netizens and advocates from lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transexuals, and queer (LGBTQ) community were quick to challenge the government agency and the media reporting surrounding the raid. They said that, by hyping on their sexual orientation and disclosing that one of them is a PLHIV, they are perpetuating the stigma attached to the LGBTQ community and PLHIV.

Ending the stigma, isolation

There is cause to celebrate on World AIDS Day if we look at the worldwide figures. 

Early in July, UNAIDS announced that, for the first time, the scales have tipped: more than half of all PLHIV – 53% – now have access to HIV treatment. AIDS-related deaths have also almost halved since 2005.

These figures show a consistent upward trend from 2016 when 19.5 million of the 36.7 million PLHIV were estimated to have access to treatment. AIDS-related deaths have also fallen from 1.9 million in 2005 to 1 million in 2016. 

According to UNAIDS, if the trend continues, the progress puts the whole world on track to reach its 2020 target of reaching 30 million people for treatment. 

Despite this significant stride on making HIV treatment more accessible, UNAIDS said that there is so much more that needs to be done. For example, stigma attached to PLHIV is still entrenched in almost all communities across the globe. (READ: 'Stop HIV shaming': When status is not the story)

Ending transmission 

Aside from that, UNAIDS also said that many countries, Philippines included, are off track from the general positive global trend of reducing HIV transmission. The Asia-Pacific region, specifically, is trailing way behind Africa in HIV treatment and response. 

In the past 6 years, the Asia-Pacific region has seen only a 13% decline in new infections, compared to a 34% decrease in the past decade. 

Philippines holds the record of the "fastest growing" HIV epidemic in Asia-Pacific, with new HIV cases among Filipinos having more than doubled from 4,300 in 2010 to 10,500 in 2016. Recently in May, the Department of Health (DOH) reported a total of 1,098 new cases of HIV infections in the Philippines.

According to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, figures from the Philippines show that the country has had a staggering 140% increase in HIV infection rates in the last 6 years. 

Most of these new infections occur in 117 "high burden areas," including the National Capital Region, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Bulacan, Cebu, Davao, Tagum, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Zamboanga, General Santos City, Koronadal, Butuan, Iloilo, Bacolod, Puerto Princesa, Tacloban, Naga, Lucena, Angeles, Mabalacat, Tarlac, San Fernando, Cabanatuan, Olongapo, and Baguio.

What can be done 

What can be done to maintain worldwide progress in promoting right to health and make sure that more and more areas are on track with the 2020 target? Here are the key messages to achieve universal health coverage, according to WHO: 

  • Leave no one behind
  • HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis services are integrated.
  • High-quality services are available for those with HIV. 
  • People living with HIV have access to affordable care.
  • The HIV response is robust and leads to stronger health systems

The "Let's End it" campaign also called on the public to use the December 1 as an avenue to raise awareness about the health epidemic. 

Zooming in to the Philippines, LoveYourself PH, with the support of amfAR and WHO, opened the enrollment for Project PrEP, a project that brought pre-exposure prophylaxis to the country in an effort to curb the rapid spread of HIV infection among men who have sex with men and transgender individuals. 

According to amfAR, results from this study can inform and guide policies aimed at scaling up the implementation of PrEP as an HIV prevention option in the country. – with reports from Raisa Serafica/Rappler.com 

Ateneo president calls revolutionary gov't a 'dangerous idea'


DANGEROUS. Ateneo de Manila University President Fr. Jett Villarin cautions the community about the dangers of declaring a revolutionary government. File photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Before calls for a revolutionary government become louder, Ateneo de Manila University president Fr Jose Ramon "Jett" Villarin SJ said the declaration of a "RevGov" is a "dangerous idea".

In a memorandum titled, "On the dangerous idea of a revolutionary government," Villarin cautioned the Ateneo community against the excessive powers that it may grant a select few. (READ: Can Duterte declare a revolutionary gov't? Here's what you need to know)

"[T]he RevGov [Revolutionary Government] proposition has a key weakness – it has a very simplistic theory of change. It contends that concentrating power in the hands of a few would give them the means to execute the key reforms necessary to move the country forward," he said on Wednesday, November 29.

"But by centralizing power in the hands of a few, RevGov directly undermines democratic institutions and the economy. Indeed our very own experience of years of authoritarian rule during martial law compels us to reject any moves to establish a RevGov," he added.


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The Ateneo president said that the Philippines needs long-term institutional reforms instead of quick ones enabled by authoritarian rule.

"The question Filipinos are facing now is whether authoritarian rule trumps incremental democratic institutional reforms. Our answer to this is a resounding 'no'. We must always preserve the democratic values and institutions we enjoy today that many before us bled and died for," said Villarin.

He noted that the government's development plan, "Ambisyon Natin 2040" is an example of a strategy "marked by building institutions and strengthening governance". (READ: Revolutionary government, yes, Duterte-style, no)

"The fundamental theory of change and progress that underpins Ambisyon remains loyal to democratic and participatory institutional reforms. It does not contemplate any moves to destroy these very same institutions when things become challenging," he said.

Villarin added that declaring a revolutionary government is reminiscent of the Martial Law regime:

"RevGov offers an old narrative that our people have endured before. Almost twenty years of authoritarian and corrupt rule under Marcos left our economy devastated. We took almost as long, if not longer, to repair and rebuild our institutions since the dictatorship was toppled."

Ultimately, he called on the youth to "preserve democracy" and embody the ideals that the country's heroes lived for: "Our youth, brimming with enthusiasm and energy for the future, beckons us to move forward, not backward. They trust us to preserve democracy, not destroy it. As we celebrate and commemorate the lives of our nation’s heroes today, let us resolve to embody in word and deed the ideals that they lived and died for."

Back in March 2016, when Rodrigo Duterte was a mere presidential candidate, he said he would close down Congress and declare a revolutionary government if legislators block the budget over the scrapped pork barrel system.

In October, Duterte again threatened to declare a revolutionary government if he senses a destabilization plot against him. On November 21, he pulled back on his threats, saying the country will "not get anything out of it". (READ: Duterte says he won't declare revolutionary gov't)

Supporters of a revolutionary government said it will address the country's problems immediately as it will give Duterte the chance to exercise "full powers".

On Thursday, November 30, they will stage protests in various areas in the country to support his call for a revolutionary government.

However, experts said that granting Duterte emergency powers will suffice as many have expressed fears about the return of authoritarian rule. (READ: De Lima warns of 'military takeover' if Duterte declares revolutionary gov't) – Rappler.com

'Bonifacio turning in his grave' over Duterte's revolutionary gov't


EFFIGY. Protestors lug around a Duterte effigy during a rally on November 30, 2017. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Activists sought to expose the dangers of a revolutionary government, which President Rodrigo Duterte has been endorsing one moment and dismissing the next, as his supporters planned to mobilize on Thursday, November 30, to push for the cause

Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) president Leody de Guzman said it was an injustice that pro-Duterte groups would commemorate Bonifacio Day by going against the ideals Andres Bonifacio fought and died for.

"He would be turning in his grave for such antics that would ultimately serve the interests of foreign monopolies, warlords, and political dynasties, and the lust for wealth and power of the pro-Duterte clique of the ruling elite," De Guzman said.  

He added that clamor for charter change would dismantle the constitutional limits to foreign ownership in the interest of capitalism. 

The Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan said the true agenda of "RevGov" is not to solve the major issues the country is facing. 

'Modern martial law'

Kabataan Partylist, in a statement, labeled the revolutionary government as "modern martial law," where President Duterte, like dictator Ferdinand Marcos did, cracks down on his critics to retain political control.

Citing the rising number of extrajudicial killings linked to Duterte's war on drugs, and the deliberate disregard for human rights, the group said that a Duterte dictatorship could be worse than Ferdinand Marcos'.

"The use of 'revolutionary' government branding in order to support his own coup is a mockery of the revolution itself," Kabataan said. (READ: [OPINION] Revolutionary government, yes, Duterte-style, no)

WIN THE REVOLUTION. Bayan Muna members begin their march from Fuente Osmeña to Colon Street in Cebu City. Photo by Mars W. Mosqueda Jr

What's in a revolutionary government?

In a revolutionary government, all branches of government – including the judiciary and the legislative – will be dissolved and the Constitution will no longer be in effect.

Since the leader can redo the government from top to bottom, it is highly unlikely that he would allow that institutions or mechanisms be set up for checks and balances.

Under a revolutionary government, a person or a group can express dissent through "counter-revolution," which might lead to a civil war. (LOOK BACK: When did the Philippines have a revolutionary government?)

Freedom, the activist groups said, will not come from President Duterte or any other elitist rulers. It can only come from the power of the people, led by the working class, in their unity and struggle. – with reports from Sofia Tomacruz/Rappler.com

To friends, Jo Lapira was a tiny UP activist with big dreams


UP ACTIVIST. Friends describe Jo Lapira as a tiny activist with big dreams. Photo taken from Jo Lapira for CAS Rep to the USC Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – On Tuesday, November 28, gunshots were heard in Nasugbu, Batangas, as troops from the Philippine Air Force and police clashed with suspected members of New People's Army (NPA).

One of the bullets hit Josephine Santiago Lapira, a 22-year-old former student from the University of the Philippines-Manila.

She is one of the 15 alleged members of the communist fatalities from the encounter – 5 of whom were women. According to Major General Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, Lapira died while being treated in the hospital.

Activist in UP

When news about her death broke out, many of her friends took to social media to post their tributes to Josephine, whom they described as a tiny activist with big dreams.

Jo, as many friends call her, spent 6 years in UP-Manila. She entered the state university pursuing BA Development Studies degree. After a year, she shifted to BS Biochemistry because, according to her friends, she wanted to be a doctor.

She was an active youth leader in UP.  In the academic year 2016-2017, Lapira served as the representative of the College of Arts and Sciences to the University Student Council.

Also having served as the deputy secretary general of Gabriela Youth in UP-Manila, Lapira’s favorite subjects outside of class were women’s issues and gender emancipation.

“Abante babae, palaban, militante!" she would shout during rallies in her signature pitch, according to Al Omaga, one of her friends in UP.

Omaga said that, earlier this year, Lapira decided to become a full-time activist. 

“CAS hallways bore witness to her hard work in relentlessly holding room-to-room discussions and eagerly enjoining students to come and join snake rallies,” Omaga said.

UP student 

She is a very responsible and a smart student, according to Cristina Tabag, one of her orgmates at ASAP Katipunan. 

This was echoed by Omaga when he said that "she always had answers to difficult math problems and life questions – even questions that I had difficulties answering myself."

Outside class, Jo is sweet and caring, according to Tabag. Her courage would show, however, every time she talked about the causes close to her heart. 

"Pagdating sa social issues, lumalabas yung pagiging fierce niya. And very articulate pagdating sa mga educational discussions," Tabag said in a phone interview with Rappler. 

(When it comes to social issues, her fierceness would show. She is very articulate during educational discussions.)

Read the tributes posted by Jo Lapira's friends on social media: 


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<a class="twitter-timeline" data-partner="tweetdeck" href="https://twitter.com/MovePH/timelines/936046321789689856?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">Jo Lapira - Curated tweets by MovePH</a> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>


– Rappler.com 


Briones to teachers: Open new paths, but always stick to the truth


'SUFFER FOR TRUTH.' Education Secretary Leonor Briones speaks during Rappler's public forum on November 28, 2017. Photo by Leanne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Education Secretary Leonor Briones challenged teachers to "always stick to the truth" as they "open new and exciting paths" for learners.

"Our challenge is, we open new and exciting paths, but we must always stick to the truth," Briones said on Tuesday, November 28, during Rappler's public forum, "Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls, and Bots."

She added: "Hopefully, we'll learn and know more about our country and love our country, we discover things never known before... we learn skills never had before, and we make better human beings and citizens of the country, and imbibe the ideals of truth, trust, and democracy."

During her 30-minute speech, Briones talked about truth in teaching and governance, and discussed the challenges in her department involving textbooks, equipment, budget underspending, teachers' salaries, and indigenous peoples' schools.

"Ako (As for me), I'm willing to suffer for the truth, because that is what I was brought up in. And so they're expected also to tell the truth, and we hope that teachers will tell the truth about what they're teaching and what their conditions are," she explained.

Briones said teachers' personal lives must also reflect the truth for the sake of the learners. (READ: Fake news 'not just about politics,' also impacts daily decision-making)

"Kasi paano tayo paniniwalaan ng ating mga learners? Kayong mga bata, 'di ba, idol na idol 'nyo ang teacher ninyo? So kailangan we have to have truth in our personal lives as well," she added.

(How will our learners believe in us? You children, you idolize your teachers, right? So we have to have truth in our personal lives as well.)

She pointed out that throughout history, the most well-loved and the most brilliant humans are teachers. She even cited in her speech the likes of Gautama Buddha, Muhammad, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Jesus Christ.

"And in their personal lives, all of them suffered for the truth, all of them gave up their entire lives sharing and telling the truth," Briones said.

Before ending her speech, Briones shared several quotes, from Nelson Mandela's "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world," to her own quote delivered before the United Nations, when she talked about the displacement of learners in Marawi City.

"I told the United Nations that whatever happens, whether there is war, whether there is peace, whether you have earthquakes, whether you have typhoons, education must continue," she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

"And we have endeavored to do that. We have endeavored to do that for the Marawi children, for the indigenous peoples' children, and for the victims also of calamities. Education will not stop, whatever happens." – Rappler.com

Taguiwalo: You want change? Ask Duterte to reform policies, not monopolize power


BONIFACIO DAY. According to former DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, a supposed revolutionary government under Duterte's watch is as good as declaring dictatorship. Photo by Aika Rey/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – A revolutionary government under President Rodrigo Duterte is not the answer to speed up reforms in the country, contrary to what his supporters believe, according to former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.

Taguiwalo – appointed by Duterte to the Cabinet, but rejected by his allies in the appointments commission for her Leftist links – attended the anti-dictatorship rally at Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila on Thursday, November 30.

She said a revolutionary government under Duterte's watch is as good as establishing a dictatorship.

"Hindi sagot ang revolutionary government na alam nating diktadura," she said. (A revolutionary government, which we know is dictatorship, is not the answer.)

Duterte has been flip-flopping on his statements about declaring a revolutionary government. Initially, he declared that he was willing to do so if he sensed a destabilization plot against him. He backtracked a few days later, saying the country will "not get anything out of it."

In an interview with Rappler, Taguiwalo said that if the government wanted change, it would come from true reform in policies and not from granting the President "full powers" over all branches and levels of government.  

"Sa akin, hindi tugon ang revolutionary government sa actual na kahirapan at kawalan ng karapatan ng mga mamamayan. Kailangan ipatupad talaga ang totoong reporma," Taguiwalo said. (For me, a revolutionary government is not the answer to poverty and disregard for human rights. We need to implement true reform.)


Taguiwalo also slammed Duterte for reneging on his promise to hear and address the plight of the marginalized sectors in the country. He instead returned favors to serve the interests of those close to him.

"Everyone is hoping to have progressive [policies] for the good of the citizens, but when you are in Malacañang – I know it, as secretary – power can make you drunk, power can really be seductive. You forget people's grievances. You attend only to those near you," she said in Filipino.

'Duterte knows the Left'

Taguiwalo took exception to Duterte tagging the Left as "enemy of the state." She said the President would know the Left is fighting for. (READ: Duterte formally ends peace talks with communists)

"Alam niya kung para kanino yung kaliwa. Ang Kaliwa, para as ordinaryong mamamayan. Alam niya 'yon mismo sa loob ng Gabinete kung paano kami tumitindig – hindi para sa sarili naming interes," she said. 

(He knows for whom the Left is. The Left is for the ordinary citizens. He knew it, right inside the Cabinet, how we stood up, not for our own interests.)  

She said that if the President thinks Leftist groups are trouble makers, it means he is turning his back on his constituents, whom he knows the Left is also serving.  

On Thursday last week, November 23, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque formally announced the termination of the government’s peace negotiation with the communists. Duterte also earlier said leftist groups should be treated as outlaws since they are helping topple the government or promote violence. Rappler.com


Scout Rangers play Filipino games for peace


SPORTS DIPLOMACY. Scout Rangers play shatong, a traditional Filipino game

MANILA, Philippines – It's not every day that you see Scout Rangers of the Philippine Army play games. But when they do, it is to advocate for peace.

At the 67th founding anniversary of the First Scout Ranger Regiment, Scout Rangers played shatong, a traditional Filipino game similar to baseball.

Shatong is a sticks game where a longer stick serves as the bat and a shorter stick serves as the hit. The batter hits the shorter stick and as the latter is in air, the hitter runs to marked areas or bases.

Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc, 33rd Infantry Makabayan Battalion commanding officer, said he modified the game to incorporate Scout Ranger principles. 

Cabunoc said instead of playing in doubles, each team has 7 members.

"I modified it to a team with 7 members each. Scout Rangers believe in teammanship that's why I preserved the same set-up. I want to tell people that Makabayan soldiers love the traditional games played by kids," Cabunoc said in a mix of English and Filipino.


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Cabunoc said he wants to promote peace-building through sports and games. He said they played the games as part of their build up to an event they are hosting in December with the "enemies of the government."

"In December, we're hosting a peace-building activity with the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) and MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) – the 'enemies' of the government. Similar to this, we will play games," he said.

The government had signed peace agreements with both the MNLF and the MILF. 

"Through sports diplomacy, we engage with nonstate actors like the MILF, MNLF, secessionist groups, and their supporters. We need to give peace a chance. I don't have to kill more people to win against insurgents," Cabunoc said.

He said the groups have confirmed their participation. He is also trying to get the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process on board.

This is not the first time that the Makabayan Battalion had engaged in such activities. Cabunoc said they also did mud runs with the MILF in October.

"I always come up with activities to promote peace. It has considerable impact because people see that there are other ways to claim victory," he said.

"I don't define victory with the number of people who died. We are all Filipinos. If you can do it without firing a shot – that is the best way to come forward in winning the insurgency," Cabunoc added. 

He added that in Sultan Kudarat, they negotiated for the surrender of 66 members of the New People's Army (NPA).

"I want to sustain the peace efforts in the area through sports diplomacy," he added. 

Cabunoc is pursuing peace-building efforts as President Rodrigo Duterte terminated peace talks with communist rebels, and instructed military and police to "shoot" any armed NPA member they see, following his decision. (READ: How Duterte sabotaged the GRP-NDFP peace process) – Rappler.com

IN PHOTOS: Thousands of anti-Duterte protesters blocked from Mendiola


MANILA, Philippines – Thousands of activists failed to reach Mendiola to protest against the planned declaration of a revolutionary government under President Rodrigo Duterte, calling it a "return of the Martial Law period."

On the 154th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio on Thursday, November 30, leftist groups staged a protest at Liwasang Bonifacio in the City of Manila against the "creeping one-man rule" of Duterte. They were set to march to Mendiola and burn an effigy of the President there. (READ: 'Bonifacio turning in his grave' over Duterte's revolutionary gov't)

Around 2,500 protesters joined the march to Mendiola, according to police estimates.

However, they were blocked by riot police along Recto Avenue to prevent them approaching the area where the President's supporters calling for a revolutionary government (RevGov) had set up their own rally at the historic peace arch. (READ: Supporters 'grant' Duterte sole powers to write new Constitution)

REDS. Anti-Duterte protesters posed with communist signs along Quezon Boulevard on Bonifacio Day, November 30, 2017. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

TARGET. A protester wears a dart board with the face of President Rodrigo Duterte as the target. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

YOUTH. A member from the Kabataan Party list stands in front of the police barricade with a message to the President that read "Moderate Your Greed!" Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

As protesters tried to push their way to Mendiola, riot police used water cannons in an attempt to stop them – which led to a quick standoff between the groups.

Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Failing to reach Mendiola, the group burned the effigy along Recto Avenue instead. The effigy depicts Duterte as a dog of the United States with the face of a snake. 

Anakbayan chaiperson Vencer Crisostomo said it was Duterte's fault that the youth were taking to the streets to voice their concerns. The President's dictatorial tendencies and subservience to the United States had pushed young people to even join rebel groups, he said. (READ: 15 communist rebels killed in Batangas clashes)

EFFIGY. Anti-Duterte protesters burned an effigy of President Rodrigo Duterte depicted as United States President Donald Trump's pet dog with a face of a snake. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

Duterte's former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo attended the anti-dictatorship rally and said a RevGov is "not the answer" to speed up reforms in the country.

The groups denounced the administrration's "crackdown" on the Leftist movement, after Duterte ended peace talks with communists and tagged them as terrorists. Taguiwalo said they are not the enemies of the state.

Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

In an act, comedian Mae "Juana Change" Paner, clad in a police officer uniform, delivered a satirical speech. Her name plate read "Verdugo" (Executioner).

"Lalaban kayo? Pupunta kayong Mendiola? Basta ako, mabuhay ang berdugong Presidente!" Paner said, alluding to the alleged human rights violations under the Duterte government. (Will you fight? Will you go to Mendiola? As for me, long live the executioner President!)

Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

Duterte has been flip-flopping on whether he would declare a revolutionary government. During the presidential election campaigns in 2016, he said he would close down Congress and declare a revolutionary government if legislators would block the pork-less budget.

Last October, Duterte again threatened he would declare a revolutionary government if he sensed a destabilization plot against him. On November 21, he pulled back on his threats, saying the country would "not get anything out of it." (READ: Duterte says he won't declare revolutionary gov't)

Supporters of a revolutionary government said the setup would immediately address the country's problems.

However, experts said that granting Duterte emergency powers under the current Constitution would suffice, as many have expressed fears of the return of authoritarian rule. – Rappler.com

LOOK: Oblation run calls to end wars, not lives


MANILA, Philippines – In its annual Oblation Run, Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity members of the University of the Philippines asked the government to fulfill its mandate of serving the people by protecting their welfare and interests first on Friday, December 1.

Known as the "Ritual Dance of the Brave", the traditional Oblation Run is a means for the fraternity to declare its stand on issues. This year, the fraternity's message was loud and clear: "End wars, not lives."

NAKED TRUTH. APO's call: Stop Killings, Bangon Marawi, No to Martial Law, Stop Lumad Killings and Resume Peace Talks. Photo by Darren Langit

During the 40th anniversary of the Oblation Run held at Palma Hall in UP Diliman, the fraternity addressed concerns over the rapid increase in numbers in extrajudicial killings, the needed rehabilitation of Marawi, declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, and the cancellation of peace talks between the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

STOP THE KILLINGS. Members of the Alpha Phi Omega hold their 40th annual Oblation Run with the theme 'End Wars, Not Lives' on Friday inside the University Campus. Photo by Darren Langit

ALL OUT. The crowd shows support for the advocacy of APO during their Oblation Run. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

The fraternity also appealed to the government to practice a brand of leadership that is open to dissent and criticism, one that recognizes debate and alternative views as necessary in a democracy. They said that there is no better approach than collaboration, consultation, and cooperation.

"It is through the collaborative efforts of organizations and institutions, consultation of constituents and communities, and cooperation despite differences that we can truly achieve peace and progress at the national level," APO said in a statement.

APO also asked everyone to work together in building a new tomorrow founded upon peace​ ​and​ ​justice.

"As men of Alpha Phi Omega, we are part of the generation that will inherit the consequences of the​ ​choices​ ​our​ ​leaders​ ​make​ ​today. We see that in order for us to secure our future, we all must commit ourselves to end wars, not lives," APO added. 

The war on drugs has resulted in at least 7,000 deaths – both from legitimate police operations and vigilante-style or unexplained killings since April 2017. (READ: IN NUMBERS: The Philippines' 'war on drugs'

END WAR, NOT LIVES. Members of APO fraternity give roses to the female spectators. Photo by Darren Langit

UNITY. Men wearing masks encourage everyone to unite and cooperate for peace. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

In the past, the Oblation Run was usually held on or before the date of the annual Lantern Parade, in UP. This often falls within the same week as the founding date of APO on December 16.

When the UP academic calendar changed in 2014, the date of the run drifted towards late November to early December. – Rappler.com

IN PHOTOS: Black Friday protest against Duterte's war on drugs


REMEMBER, Bearing photos of victims of Duterte's war on drugs and victims of Political killings, families and activist light lanterns and candles in a symbolic event to condemn the spate of killings at Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City. All photos by Maria Tan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Leftist groups staged a "Black Friday" protest to raise the issue of extrajudicial killings due to the administration's campaign against illegal drugs.

On Friday, December 1, groups Karapatan, Rise Up, and Save Our Schools Mindanao lighted candled at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City for the victims, relatives, and defenders of those who were killed.

"The horrors of the drug war continue, as [President Rodrigo] Duterte repels local and international condemnation with his idiotic hubris. Many activists, progressive organizations, and targetted communities are aware of the brutality and abuses that the State's security forces are capable of, and we see it more at an alarming rate," said Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay. (READ: The Impunity Series)

Data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) show that as of July 26, 3,451 suspected drug personalities had been killed in legitimate operations.  (READ: IN NUMBERS: The Philippines' 'war on drugs')

The Commission on Human Rights believes, however, that killings have exceeded the number the government suggests.

Here are some photos from the Black protest by Maria Tan:

– Rappler.com

Why are feeding programs important in the fight vs hunger?


LOCAL PRODUCTS. An institutionalized feeding program in the country will tap local raw materials which are safe and relatively cheap. Photo by Bong Santisteban/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Feeding programs are common in public schools where malnourished students are beneficiaries. However, these programs last only for a few months due to financial constraints. 

This is one the reason why Senate Bill 1279 or the "National School Feeding Program Act" was introduced to institutionalize school feeding programs across the country to combat hunger and undernutrition among students. 

Speaking at the End Hunger Summit 2017, Senator Grace Poe emphasized the importance of sustainable school feeding programs in public schools to address the hunger issues among students.

"I believe that hunger is inconsistent with basic human rights and dignity," added Poe, one of the co-authors of SB 1279.

In the Philippines, there are 3.1 million families suffering from hunger. That, according to the senator, equates to around 15 million Filipinos. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Ending hunger and poverty in the Philippines)

Under the proposed bill, schools and local governments will put up a centralized kitchen where the preparations of meals shall be done. 

The bill also seeks to create the National Nutrition Targeting System where all existing nutrition and poverty database will be harmonized to address the needs of every individual or group. 

The main objectives of SB 1279 are the following:

  1. Have free and sustainable feeding programs in all public schools across the country
  2. Utilize local raw products from small-scale farmers and businesses
  3. Encourage public schools to maintain the Gulayan sa Paaralan program
  4. Promote community participation in the feeding program that will also include the private sector
  5. Improve students' performance in national aptitude examinations, and in school academics, in general

Poe said that around P40 billion is needed to support the national feeding program for 240 days a year. 

"Children who are well-fed do not get sick easily," Poe stressed 

Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of Senate committee on education, also backed the bill. 

According to Escudero, the aim of the Senate is to provide enough and appropriate food to more than 1.3 million Filipino students categorized by the Department of Education as "wasted" or "severely wasted." (READ: INFOGRAPHIC: PH hunger in numbers)

Escudero urged restaurants and fast food chains in the country to give away their excess food instead of throwing them out. He also added that they are looking for ways to keep the establishments from being held accountable in case of untoward incidents stemming from the excess food given out. (READ: What causes food insecurity in the PH's poorest provinces?)

"It may be a company policy not to give out excess food but whatever it is, still it is wasted food," Escudero said. 

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, farmers and fishermen belong to the families with income below the poverty threshold, which Escudero said is ironic since they are the country's major food producers. 

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals include ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030. Gawad-Kalinga, one of the civil society groups advocating for sustainable feeding programs, is confident that the country will be able to end hunger with the help of the proposed measure.

In a study, the Philippines ranked 9th among countries with the highest prevalence of stunted kids.

From a prevalence rate of 38% in 1998, the decrease has not been consistent, only reaching 30% in 2013, based on the estimates of UN agencies. (READ: Addressing malnutrition, one meal at a time)

Based on Food Nutrition and Research Institute (FNRI) data as of 2015, stunting or the chronic malnutrition rate among Filipino children is now at 33.4%. – Rappler.com

Going the extra mile: How DOST’s bus bridges science teaching gaps


LAB ON WHEELS. DOST's Explorer Bus roams around the Philippines to bridge science teaching gaps especially in the far-flung provinces in the country. All Photos by Bong Santisteban/Rappler

BULACAN, Philippines – Not every student has access to science teaching aids in the country. Some schools provide them, but these are relatively old compared to modern ones, affecting student learning.

This is what the Department of Science and Technology's Explorer Bus want to address.

The Explorer Bus is a mobile interactive learning facility that features exciting hands-on learning through fun and easy science activities. The bus contains laboratory facilities, audio-visual equipment, interactive exhibits, and various learning materials that will be helpful in facilitating learning to the students. (READ: WATCH: How a barrio teacher made learning science easy)

Starting in 2010, the Science Explorer project aimed to allow students to learn science concepts in a fun and interactive way. Through this method, students remember science concepts better as they are not mere spectators but experience the learning process as well.

According to Mark Ivan Roblas, project leader of Science Explorer, the main aim of this program is to encourage students around the country to be professionals in science through interactions with real-life scientists.

“Over the years, our students get more interested in science if they actually do it,” Roblas said. (READ: 5 things to make PH a better place for scientists)


In its first year, the Science Explorer Bus reached 320 students from 5 schools in Valenzuela and Quezon City.

The following year, the mobile learning facility reached provinces in Luzon totaling to 2,405 students from 152 schools in Ilocos Norte, Rizal, Benguet, Mountain Province, and Pangasinan.

INTERACTIVE LEARNING. Inside the bus, students will learn science concepts through hands-on and interactive teaching through different modules

Since 2010, the Science Explorer has served 22,802 students all over the Philippines

The Science Explorer went further south to serve Davao Occidental, Cebu, Biliran, Southern Leyte, and the provinces in Southern Luzon and Bicol this year.

For Teacher Ronalyn Caluag, a science teacher at Marcelo H. Del Pilar National High School, the mobile learning bus is helpful in so many ways. (READ: Science is for the people)

“In classrooms, we teach science as ideas and principles, but in the Explorer Bus, they allow students to experience it which students found much enjoyable,” Caluag said in Filipino.

Caluag also added that beyond classroom-based teaching, what is learned outside through hands-on and enjoyable peer teaching is something that students will remember most.

Address research needs

EXPERIMENTS. Included in the module is a specially-designed experiment process where students get to 'play' with actual reagents and apparatus. Safety handling of these experimental materials is also being taught.

Roblas also added that they constantly update their modules to be on track with the latest trends in science and technology.

They hope to address the research needs of our country and to produce future scientists through this program as the county still needs 19,000 more scientists to be a significant force in research and development. (READ: Can the Philippines produce its own Einsteins?)

On November 28, the Senate passed the Balik Scientist Bill, which provides overseas Filipino scientists with financial benefits and incentives to encourage them to return and contribute to research that will address development gaps in the country.

When signed into law, this will significantly increase the funding for the program which currently has P25 million for 2017.

The country only has 189 scientists per million people, far from the ideal ratio. The country pales in comparison with other countries in terms of the number of scientists in the government and private sector.

A 2015 report of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics shows that among 157 countries, Israel has the biggest number of scientists per million population at 8,300. In Asia, South Korea is at the top with 6,900 scientists per million as of 2015.

Meanwhile, Singapore and Malaysia each have 6,700 and 2,100, respectively. They are the top two countries in Southeast Asia in terms of scientists. – Rappler.com  

BFP to public: Practice fire prevention measures this holiday season


ALL READY. The Bureau of Fire Protection reenact their protocols in saving civilians. Photo by Abigail Abigan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Practice fire prevention measures this holiday season. 

This is the key message of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) as they launched their "Oplan Paalala" during the BFP-NCR Regional Fire Olympics 2017 at Quirino Grandstand on Saturday, December 2.

The campaign aims to ensure the safety of the public during Christmas and New Year. It focuses on fire prevention activities such as firetruck and fireman visibility, fire safety tips dissemintion, intensification of fire crackers and Christmas lights inspections.

All BFP personnel will be celebrating the holiday season quite differently from the rest of the country. While everyone will be attending parties and reunions over the holidays, all BFP personnel will be reporting for duty at their respective stations and will be on full alert during the season, according to BFP Chief Director Leonard R. Bañago,

"Nakaready naman palagi ang ating mga firefighters, medyo nagdodoble lang talaga ang ating mga tao sa pagtratrabaho. Nasa heightened alert tayo, para just incase na magkaroon ng mga aberya, ready tayo," Bañago said in an interview with Rappler.

(Our firefighters are always on standby. They have doubled their hours this seasons. We are on heightened alert in case of any emergency)

Fire incidents are common during the holiday season. Earlier this year, a New Year fire razed at least 5 houses, including two ancestral homes in Sta. Ana, Manila. In 2016, a fire hit at least 1,000 homes in Manila, affecting around 3,000 families shortly after they greeted the New Year.

Preventing fire incidents

To avoid untoward fire incidents like these, Bañago also reiterated the proposal of Department of Health (DOH) that every local government units should have a specific common area for fireworks displays. (READ: Know what to do in case of fire

ON CALL. All BFP personnel will be reporting for duty during the holiday season. Photo by Abigail Abigan/Rappler

In June 20, President Rodrigo Duterte signed an Executive Order No. 28 which limits private citizens from using firecrackers at their own residences.  Instead, they can only display fireworks on common spaces and authorized areas by local governments.

Bañago also reminded the public to avoid buying substandard products like Christmas lights, making sure they pass the standards set by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). According to the fire chief, the public can quickly verify this by checking the Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) seals on the products. 

Here are some fire prevention tips for the holiday season from the fire department: 

  • Unplug appliances when leaving the home for an out-of-town trip or vacation
  • Refrain from overloading your electrical system
  • Buy decorations that pass the standards set by DTI
  • Never leave cooking food unattended 

BFP launched the "Oplan Paalala" campaign earlier this year to give ample time for their fire safety advocates to intensify its campaign towards a safe holiday season. 

According to them, fire incidents are more common in Metro Manila compared to other regions. The most common causes are unplugged appliances left by vacationing families who spent their holidays in the provinces.

Bañago added that BFP will also coordinate with other government agencies to effectively carry out their "Oplan Paalala" campaign and help them disseminate public safety awareness in general.

During their 26th anniversary in August this year, BFP announced that fire incidents in the Philippines have halved from from January to June 2016 to the same period this year. – Rappler.com

#GiftofHope: Atom Araullo on why Filipinos should care about the Rohingya


ROHINGYA. Atom Araullo talked to Rappler about why they should care about the Rohingya. Photo by Veejay Villafranca/UNHCR

MANILA, Philippines – Thousands of Rohingya Muslims sought refuge in Bangladesh in an attempt to flee for safety as Rakhine state burned.

The Rohingya migrants are Muslim minorities who speak the ethnic Rohingya language – an Indo-European language associated with Bengali. They live in northern Rakhine state (formerly called Arakan), a coastal village in Myanmar.  (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Human Rights Watch on Rohingya)

However, Myanmar does not consider the Rohingya people as citizens nor an ethnic group. Only about 40,000 were recognized by the government and given citizenship.

In a Rappler Talk interview with MovePH editor Voltaire Tupaz, journalist and United Nations High Commission for Refugees advocate Atom Araullo urged Filipinos to care about the Rohingya crisis.

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

Our struggles are not different

Araullo noted that the Philippines currently experiences several problems such as the recently concluded war in Marawi, leaving thousands of evacuees waiting for their city to be rebuilt.

He said that the struggles in the Philippines are not different from what the Rohingya experience – Filipinos are resilient and courageous after going through challenges.

"Ang mga Rohingya, 'yung karanasan nila hindi kaiba sa mga karanasan ng mga kababayan natin na binagyo, naging biktima ng labanan, ng karahasan," he said.

(The Rohingya's experience is not different from the experience of our countrymen who were battered by typhoons, became victims of war, of violence.)

Emphatize with the Rohingya

Araullo also said that Filipinos should emphatize with the Rohingya.

He said that despite having problems in the country, he believes that Filipinos have the capacity to care.

"I just think that we have the capacity to engage in those issues and not necessarily to shut ourselves out from what is happening around the world," said Araullo.

He also said that the Filipinos have "big hearts." (READ: Unspeakable tragedy as Rohingya refugees flee to safety)

"Just trust in our capacity to care. Ang mga Pilipino, malaki ang mga puso niyan. Puwede nating suportahan ang mga kababayan natin dito habang sinusuportahan ang mga mamamayang nakakaranas ng karahasan at pambubusabos," he added.

(Just trust in our capacity to care. Filipinos havebig hearts. We can support our fellow citizens while supporting other citizens who have experienced violence and persecution.)


He emphasized that the problems in the Philippines, such as terrorism, is part of a larger context. (READ: Duterte confirms Maute terror group's ISIS links)

This kind of perspective helps us understand our own problems, he said.

"It’s important to understand what is happening around us and not just the Philippines – so we have an idea of why things are happening and how they are interconnected. It gives an understanding of our own problems," he added.

Araullo also noted that while there is a need to address the problems in the country, a Filipino can also think about helping others as well. "Definitely, we have to address our problems in the Philippines first but we have a large enough capacity to think and help that we can do that while still keeping in mind the plight of others who were persecuted elsewhere."

Giving back

Ultimately, Araullo said helping the Rohingya is one way of paying it forward to foreign communities who helped the country in times of disasters. (READ: The Rohingya and the port of last resort)

"Nakita natin kung paano tumutugon 'yung buong mundo. Sa mga pagkakataong ganito, makiisa tayo sa iba pang mga inaapi bilang laam natin ang pakiramdam (We have seen how the world responds [to our plight]. In times like this, let's be one with those who were oppressed because we know how it feels)," he said

"Para maresbakan natin ang isa’t isa. Kung may mangyaring mang ganito sa Pilipinas sa hinaharap, sana hindi naman, maaasahan natin ‘yung tulong ng mga mamamayan ng mundo," he added.

(This way, we have each other's back. If something like this happens in the Philippines in the future, hopefully it doesn't happen, we can count on the help of other citizens of the world.)

PH action

In 2015, Filipinos expressed solidarity with the Rohingya when no other country wanted to take them in.

The Philippine government was the first to offer shelter and protection to thousands of refugees whose lives were at risk while drifting aimlessly at sea.

Earlier this March, President Rodrigo Duterte donated $300,000 (P15 million) for humanitarian assistance to the marginalized Rohingya people in the Rakhine region.

The UNHCR is working round the clock in Bangladesh to support the thousands who continue to arrive, often exhausted, hungry, and deeply distressed. (READ: Myanmar has failed to protect Rohingya from atrocities – UN). – Rappler.com

In this season of giving, UNHCR or the UN Refugee Agency, is asking the public to help thousands of families displaced by conflict and violence. Support can be given through its donation drive Share the #GiftofHope.

Paris climate deal bound to fail with current commitments


STEP UP EFFORTS. In this file photo, negotiators await the final announcement during the COP21 in Paris, France in 2015. Photop by Arnaud Bouissou/MEDDE

MANILA, Philippines – The climate battle is an uphill trek. With our current commitments to reduce our carbon emissions, we are not on track to achieve the principal aim of the Paris climate agreement: keeping global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This is according to a recent report entitled Equity and the Ambition Ratchet, which was produced by a broad coalition of civil society organizations, groups and social movements worldwide. For the Philippines, signatories of the report include Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Catholic Stewards of Creation Incorporated, Gitib Incorporated, and Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ).

According to the study, real cooperation among all nations is necessary in realizing the goals of the Paris Agreement. This will not be possible without equity on both the mitigation and adaptation fronts of the climate challenge.

According to the report, the first round of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – the proposed reductions in domestic greenhouse gas emissions that countries presented at the Paris climate summit in 2015 – implies at least 3 degrees C of warming.

Fortunately, the Paris Agreement offers ways of securing increased ambition, while taking due account of “means of implementation and support” and being conducted “in the light of equity.” (READ: Fighting climate change: What is the Paris Agreement?

In June 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the climate deal, saying that it would have been unthinkable that an international agreement could prevent the United States from conducting its own domestic affairs. The Philippines' Climate Change Commission (CCC) is deeply troubled by Trump’s decision.

“The US, as the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and more importantly, one of the world leaders, would have played a key role in creating the much-needed global paradigm shift towards a more climate-resilient and climate-smart future,” said CCC in a statement.

Despite the Trump administration’s chilling threat to abandon the Paris Agreement, the report continued, the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue – a key part of the agreement’s ambition ratcheting mechanism – has to be more than a meaningless talk shop.

The reality is that, if the Paris temperature limits are not to be breached, all countries need to take on more mitigation than currently pledged.

Current commitments not enough

The COP19 outcome most relevant to climate impacts was the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM). It was largely considered a milestone, but there is still so much work to be done to commit finances to aid countries suffering from the consequences of changing climatic conditions. (READ: PH leads call for innovative climate finance for vulnerable countries)

It was not until COP21 that another milestone was reached, which is of course the Paris Agreement. While the language of this deal was politically strong and has been considered a historic victory by participating member states, the present shape of these commitments is not enough to meet those targets. To put it simply, we are not reducing emissions fast enough.

Earlier this November, diplomats gathered again for COP23 in Bonn, Germany. This was considered by many advocates as the perfect opportunity for our leaders to be reminded of our global climate goals, particularly on climate adaptation, and push for higher ambitions.

The first COP hosted by a Pacific Islands country, Fiji, highlighted the need for negotiators to stand up for the climate-vulnerable by realizing the mandate of the WIM and committing to a 5-year work plan and adequate finance for loss and damage.

With the current emission reduction targets set us on a pathway to 2.7-3.1 degrees Celsius, the report illustrated the urgent need for country leaders to step up their ambition and adopt robust low-carbon pathways and long-term decarbonization strategies.

Higher ambition pushed for 2018

Raising ambition means different things to different counties. The study noted that it is essential that wealthier countries urgently and dramatically deepen their domestic mitigation. And, if they are to contribute their fair shares of the responsibility, they must also support additional actions outside their own borders.

While many developing countries meet or exceed their shares, they still have to do much more: the 1.5 degrees Celsius objective requires profound action in developing countries that cannot realistically, or fairly, be expected without meaningful levels of international support.

According to the report, the challenges here are expected to crystalize around the 2023 Global Stocktake, but the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue will set important precedents. Thus, it must pioneer a process for assessing the adequacy and fairness not only of collective ambition, but of individual country contributions as well.

Senator Loren Legarda, head of the Philippine delegation to COP23, made a strong call for climate justice to empower and enable the most vulnerable countries to fight back through capacity and finance.

"This necessitates not just enhanced ambition, but the steely resolve to act now. The window of opportunity on achieving the 1.5ºC goal of the Paris Agreement is fast closing and any delay will result in the irreversible," the senator warned. – Rappler.com

Roy Joseph R. Roberto is a Climate Justice Fellow of Climate Tracker (CT), a group of online writers and climate advocates globally. He was named as Youth Champion for Climate Action (SDG13) by the 2030 Project in the Philippines.

Mickey Miguel-Eva is the Regional Campaigns Communications Officer for Asia with Climate Action Network International (CAN), a global network of over 1,100 NGOs in over 120 countries working to promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels.

IN PHOTOS: Relatives of political prisoners run for freedom


RUN FREE. Relatives and friends run to resist Duterte's 'slow death for political prisoners' at the University of the Philippines - Diliman Quezon City. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Hundreds of joggers crowded the academic oval at the University of the Philippines-Diliman on December 3, a typical Sunday scene. But for a number of joggers that morning, the run was more than just a physical activity but also a statement, calling for the freedom of 449 political prisoners in the country.

Wearing orange shirts and carrying banners, friends and relatives of political prisoners ran around the state university to make a political statement. 

The symbolic run, titled “Run Free,” condemned President Rodrigo Duterte's supposed crackdown on activists in the country. It is organized by progressive groups Selda and Hustisya. 

According to human rights group Karapatan, there are 449 political prisoners in the country – 121 of which were arrested and detained under the Duterte administration. 

One of the runners is Gloria Almonte, wife of a political prisoner and a former political prisoner herself.

“We will not run away from Duterte's tyranny. Nobody among us believe that his orders to shoot-to-kill terrorists are only directed at armed revolutionaries...Duterte’s mad spree is running after people who fight for their rights," Almonte said. (READ: Duterte orders police, military to shoot any armed NPA member

To make a statement in time for the International Human Rights Day on December 10, political prisoners also started their fasting on Sunday.

Here are some photos from the run:

FREEDOM. The 'Run Free' is organized by progressive groups Selda and Hustisya. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

POLITICAL STATEMENT. Carrying banners, relatives and kins of political prisoners run around the academic oval to make a political statement. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

POLITICAL PRISONERS. According to Karapatan, 121 of the 449 political prisoners were detained under the Duterte administration. Photo by Maria Tan/ Rappler

FREE THEM. Several relatives of political prisoners jog on Sunday, December 2, to call for the freedom of political prisoners in the country. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

– Rappler.com

Netizens hail #HIVPolicyNow: 'Fight continues at Senate'


#HIVPOLICYNOW. Netizens celebrate the passage of the House Bill 6617 or the 'Philippine HIV and AIDS policy act' on Monday, December 4.

MANILA, Philippines – Three days after the world observed the World AIDS Day, netizens praised the approval of House Bill 6617 or the "Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act" in the House of Representatives on Monday, December 4. 

Twitter users made hashtag #HIVPolicyNow trend in the Philippines with over 2,000 tweets as of 5 pm on Monday.

The landslide win – 188-0 votes in favor of the measure –  came a week after the public 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).(READ: Netizens call out media outlet for baring suspects' mugshots, HIV status

The controversy also resurrected the clamor to pass an updated law on HIV/AIDS in light of the current epidemic faced by the Philippines

Below are some tweets that netizens posted after the House passed on 3rd and final reading the measure that seeks to protect the rights of persons living with HIV:


<a class="twitter-timeline" data-partner="tweetdeck" href="https://twitter.com/MovePH/timelines/937601482467053568?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">HIVPolicyNow - Curated tweets by MovePH</a> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>


The proposed measure seeks to introduce the following reforms into the existing “Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998”:

  • The restructuring of the legal framework on HIV and AIDS by harmonizing it with evidence-informed strategies and approaches on prevention, testing, screening, treatment, care, and support, making the HIV response flexible and relevant to the characteristic of the HIV epidemic facing the country;
  • The clarification of the roles and responsibilities of state institutions involved in the HIV and AIDS response, from government agencies to local governments, thus ensuring the effectiveness and efficiency of the structure governing the response;
  • The establishment of the National Multi-Sectoral HIV and AIDS Strategic For the netizens who celebrated the victory at the House of Representative, the fight to pass #HIVPolicyNow continues at the Senate floorPlan, thus creating a road map on HIV and AIDS that has clear strategies, targets, operationalization framework, and funding; and
  • The strengthening of the information dissemination, education, and stigma reduction mechanisms of the law, which guarantees that the country’s HIV and AIDS response is premised on the respect, recognition, and promotion of human rights and dignity.

In a speech after the voting on the measure, Dinagat Representative Kaka Bag-ao, one of the champions of the bill, thanked civil society organizations who pushed for its passage.

Advocates vowed to push the passage of the counterpart measure in the Senate. – with reports from Raisa Serafica/Rappler.com 

'We will win this': Advocates call to end HIV, AIDS stigma


 END STIGMA. With a vote of 188-0, the proposed House Bill No. 6617 passed the 3rd and final reading. The measure aims to prevent spread of HIV and AIDS

MANILA, Philippines – Advocates called to end the stigma on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) as House of Representatives passed the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy bill on Monday, December 4. 

With a vote of 188-0, the proposed House Bill No. 6617 passed the 3rd and final reading. The measure aims to prevent spread of HIV and AIDS.

Advocates and those living with the virus brought to Twitter their stories in a bid to end discrimination in the country, as many of those of who are positive with HIV chose to remain anonymous. (INFOGRAPHIC: How is HIV transmitted?)

Meanwhile, advocates also extended their support on Twitter:

In a statement, the Liberal Party also pushed for the right to health for everyone.

"No one should be left behind, especially the youth, not only in the fight against HIV [and] AIDS, but in access to health care and in ensuring a healthy environment for all," the statement. (READ: Orgies and Tinder: Millennials are having sex, some with a deadly price)

Let's talk about HIV, AIDS

Friday, December 1, was World AIDS day. In the Philippines, LoveYourself, a community of volunteers, organized a charity event to celebrate the day and to support organizations that pursue life-saving initiatives.

Advocates urged people to further discuss issues about HIV and AIDS to remove the misconceptions about the virus and to prevent it from spreading.

Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach called on the public to make HIV testing as part of their health and wellness routine. (READ: StayNegatHIVe: We need to talk about HIV/AIDS)

"Let us work together to normalize HIV testing, so that it’s viewed just like a regular medical check up. Because knowing our own HIV status is the first step in our battle to end AIDS," said Wurtzbach.

LoveYourself also honored individuals who made impact in spreading HIV and AIDS awareness and helping fight the stigma in their respective communities.

Among those who were recognized as "Ripple Awardees" were Senator Risa Hontiveros, Health department spokesperson Eric Tayag, Victoria Court managing director Angelina Mead King, designer Fautine Angeles, blogger M.A. Buendia, and advocates Sherwin Baniqued, Jebsen Go Gamido, Doctor Katerina Leyritana, Elena Felix, and Roberto Figuracion.

"The HIV epidemic can be won through greater awareness and education, and these Ripple Awards winners have used their voices and influence to spread the right messages to the people who need to hear them," said Ronivin Pagtakhan, LoveYourself executive director.

Days before the World AIDS day, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and some media outlets were criticized for disclosing the HIV status of one of the suspects in a drug bust operation. (READ: [DASH of SAS] Better police handling, media coverage of drugs and HIV needed)

According to the Department of Health, cases of HIV in the Philippines is the "fastest growing" epidemic among Asia Pacific countries.

DOH reported that more Filipinos acquired the virus from 4,300 in 2010 to 10,500 in 2016. The figure is estimated to hit 142,000 by 2022 and 313,000 by 2030.– Rappler.com

Get tested for HIV, end stigma and discrimination, youth urged


NO STIGMA. Senator Risa Hontiveros undergoes HIV testing to raise public awareness and prevention of the disease. Photo by Abigail Abigan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – As more young Filipinos get infected by HIV/AIDS, Senator Risa Hontiveros challenged the youth to help overturn the epidemic during the "Test Yourself" event at the Rizal Technological University on Monday, December 4.

Hontiveros herself underwent voluntary testing to show the public the importance of being informed about the disease, and to care more about one's health status.

“It is an opportunity to defend ourselves by getting ourselves educated," she said.

Hontiveros also urged Filipino youth to stop the stigma and instead show support for people living with HIV (PLHIV).

"Whatever the reason behind a person getting HIV, what is undeniable is that this is a person who needs help, and while there is time, this is a person who deserves just as much of a chance to live a dignified life," she said. (READ: #2030NOW: Best cure for HIV/AIDS stigma? Love and acceptance)

Hontiveros also expressed her gratitude to her co-senators for showing their support in this campaign.

"Natutuwa ako kasi sa naunang HIV screening na ginawa namin sa Senado, marami po sa mga kapwa senador ko, kung hindi man sila personally nagpascreening din ay inencourage ang marami sa mga staffer nila, at yung iba naming kasamang senate employees ay lumahok sa screening bilang sama-sama naming pagdemonstrate," the senator said in an interview with Rappler.

(I am happy that during our first HIV screening in the Senate, my fellow senators encouraged their staff, if not themselves, to get tested. Even other Senate employees had themselves tested.)

PDEA incident a 'lesson'

Last week, netizens slammed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and a media outlet after they disclosed the HIV status of one of the suspects during a drug bust operation in Fort Bonifacio. (READ: StayNegatHIVe: We need to talk about HIV/AIDS)

Hontiveros said she appreciated PDEA's apology and hoped that the incident taught everyone a lesson. (READ: PDEA says sorry for disclosing HIV status of drug suspect)

"The right to confidentiality of every individual must be respected, hindi lang dahil nasa batas siya (not just because it's the law)but also because revealing very personal information to the public can carry serious unintended consequences that we can’t forsee or address," she said.

Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said that the Philippine has the “fastest growing” HIV epidemic in the Asia Pacific, with a total of 46,985 HIV positive cases from January 1984 to August 2017. 

Around 85% of the PLHIV are Filipino males who have sex with males, with ages raging from 15-24 years old. - Rappler.com

*Editor's note: In a previous version of this story, we referred to PLHIV as victims. We apologize for this error. The correction has been made.

LIVE: Filipino climate champions join Al Gore in '24 Hours of Reality Broadcast'


MANILA, Philippines - On December 4 to 5, former US Vice President Al Gore hosts The Climate Reality Project’s seventh-annual 24 Hours of Reality broadcast - 24 Hours of Reality: Be the Voice of Reality - a live event that seeks to empower millions watching worldwide to use their voices to speak up for solutions, science, and truth at this decisive point in history. It will be carried by broadcast partners globally, and streamed live online at 24HoursofReality.org.

Celebrities, musicians, elected officials, and thought leaders will join the broadcast to highlight the importance of climate activism around the world.

The Philippines will be featured in the 8th hour of the 24 Hours of Reality on December 5 at 2pm, which will tackle discuss climate justice with invited Filipino thought leaders including Republic of the Philippines Senator Loren Legarda, Manila Observatory Executive Director Dr  Antonio La Viña and, at 4pm, with Greenpeance Southeast Asia executive director Naderev Saño.

  • Special performances by:
    • Multi-Grammy award-winning, international superstar Sheryl Crow previewing “Long Way Back,” from the Front and Center Music Series debuting February 8 on public television
    • Ryan Tedder and Brent Kutzle of OneRepublic performing their hit song “Truth to Power” as featured in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
    • Indian music sensation Shaan, premiering his video “Janiye,” an ode to the beautiful Kashmir, which is under threat from climate change
    • K-pop star Jay Park, premiering the English version of his song “Yacht”
    • Now United in their first televised performance.
  • Musical guests: Annie Lennox, Alli Simpson, Sandro Cavazza performing Avicii ft. Sandro Cavazza ‘Without You’, Belinda Carlisle, Billy Bragg, Christy Altomare, Ellie Goulding, G.E.M., The Hives, Iggy Pop, Jason Mraz, Jean-Michel Jarre, The Killers, Levi Hummon, Maná, Midnight Oil, Minzy, Nile Rodgers & CHIC, Phe Reds, Rag’n’Bone Man, Shawn Mendes, Shye Ben Tzur & The Rajasthan ExpressSpencer Ludwig, Tall Heights and Young Paris.
  • Celebrity appearances: Patrick Adams, Ed Begley Jr., Mariah CareySam Champion, Nikolaj Coster-WaldauTim Daly, Helen Hunt, Téa Leoni, Jonathan Scott, and Calum Worthy.
  • Elected officials and thought leaders: President of Chile Michelle Bachelet, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, California Governor Jerry Brown, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Bonn Lord Mayor Ashok-Alexander Sridharan, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, Tshwane Executive Mayor Solly Tshepiso Msimanga, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Philippines Senator Loren Legarda, and World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab.

This year’s 24 Hours of Reality will explore the extraordinary climate activism happening all across the planet, highlighting inspiring stories of politicians, businesses, communities, and everyday people standing up and illustrating how we can all make a difference, right now, right when our planet needs us most.

The program will begin on Monday, December 4 at 6:00 PM EST and will be broadcast live from New York City’s Roosevelt Island. The broadcast will travel around the globe highlighting stories of climate activism in six regions: North America, Oceania, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, Europe, and Central and South America. Al Gore will also share stories and statistics from the iconic slideshow presentation featured in the film "An Inconvenient Truth" and the recently-released "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power." - Rappler.com