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LOOK: Tacloban residents help stranded commuters through 'baluto' rides


BAYANIHAN IN ACTION. Residents help stranded passengers cross a flooded street using small boats. Screenshot of Larry Portillo's video

MANILA, Philippines – Nonstop rains brought by Tropical Depression Agaton has left thousands of stranded passengers in ports and bus terminals across the country. Based on initial reports, the storm has also caused flooding in several areas along its path.

Among those affected by the flooding is Larry Portillo and his family in Barangay Nulatula, Tacloban City, Leyte. 

In an interview with Rappler, Portillo said that they have been stranded on Tuesday, January 2, due to the waist-deep flood in the area that has paralyzed the operations of vans and tricycles.  He was on his way to work by then.

"Medyo malakas ang ulan. Nagmamadali kami kasi papasok ako sa office. Kaya napilitan kami na sumakay ng maliit na banka kasi mahigit dalawang oras kami stranded," he said. 

(The rain was strong. We were rushing because I was on our way to work. That is why we were forced to ride a small boat after waiting for more than 2 hours) 


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Fortunately, residents were there to help ferry stranded passengers across the flood in an admirable display of the spirit of bayanihan. 

"Siyempre natuwa kami kasi nagawan nila ng paraan upang matawid namin ang mataas na tubig baha," he said. 

(We were happy because the residents were able to find a way to ferry stranded passengers like us)

Residents used a “baluto,” a Waray term for boat. In the video posted by Portillo, residents can be seen pushing the boat, carrying at least 5 passengers at a time, through floodwaters.

The residents charged only a minimum fare of P10 for a boat ride. 

FLOODING IN LEYTE. Waist-deep flood hits the town of Dagami in Leyte. Photo by Irish Catilogo

The first storm to hit the country in 2018 is expected to make its 6th landfall in Palawan on Tuesday evening.

In its latest bulletin, state weather bureau Pagasa said Agaton is already 265 kilometers west of Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental or 245 kilometers east southeast of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, still moving west at 28 kilometers per hour (km/h).

It is expected to leave the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) on Wednesday morning, January 3. – Rappler.com

NDRRMC still on red alert even after Agaton left PAR


RED ALERT. The operation center of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) is still monitoring the effects of the tail-end of a cold front affecting Bicol, Quezon, and Northern Samar, says NDRRMC spokesperson Romina Marasigan

MANILA. Philippines — The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) remained on red alert even after Tropical Storm Agaton (Bolaven) left the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) on Wednesday afternoon, January 3.

NDRRMC spokesperson Romina Marasigan said in a press conference on Wednesday that the agency's operation center will continue to monitor the tail-end of a cold front that is expected to bring moderate to heavy rain to Bicol, Quezon, and Northern Samar. These areas should be on alert for flash floods and landslides, Marasigan said.

Marasigan also said that the alert status will enable agencies to quickly deploy help to displaced families.

"Nakataas ang red alert status dito sa ating NDRRMC Operation Center para tuloy ang pagbibigay natin ng ayuda sa ating mga kababayan na hanggang sa kasalukuyan ay nasa loob pa ng mga evacuation centers," Marasigan said.

(The NDRRMC Operations Center is still under red alert status to keep the continuous delivery of aid to those who were affected by the tropical storm.) 

Marasigan reported that 4,549 families preemptively evacuated in the province of Palawan, Capiz, Cebu, Bohol, Zamboanga del Norte, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan City, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte at Dinagat Island.

According to Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), there are 56 evacuation centers in the said regions that serve as temporary shelters to 1,435 displaced families or 5,826 persons. 

"As Filipinos welcomed the new year, evacuation and other preparedness efforts in communities were carried out," Marasigan said in a mix of Filipino and English.

The province of Bohol reported zero casualty after the preemptive evacuation of residents living near river and low-lying areas were carried out before Tropical Storm Agaton made a landfall on Jagna town. 

Tropical Storm Agaton, the country's first tropical cyclone for 2018, entered PAR on the frist day of the new year. - Rappler.com

Flooding hits Albay due to heavy rain


WIDESPREAD FLOODING. Waist to neck-deep flood engulfs parts of Legazpi City, prompting the city government to suspend classes in all levels on Wednesday afternoon, January 3. Photo by Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Torrential rain brought by Tropical Storm Agaton, aggravated by the tail-end of the cold front, caused flooding in low-lying areas of Albay province. 

Albay Public Safety Emergency and Management Office (Apsemo) Chief Cedric Daep ordered the local government units (LGUs) in 15 towns and 3 cities to enforce localized suspension of classes after non-stop rain caused waist to neck-deep flood in low-lying areas of the province. 

EVACUATION. Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara orders the evacuation of residents in areas prone to flooding, landslides, and flash floods. Photo by Rhaydz Barcia/ Rappler

At 3 pm, Bichara also ordered the evacuation of families living in areas vulnerable to landslides and floods. He also ordered local disaster risk reduction offices to strictly monitor other vulnerable areas "for appropriate and timely action for disaster avoidance."

Later in the evening, Daep called on an emergency meeting with local disaster officials to tackle disaster mitigation following the flood. 

A composite team of government forces including the Tactical Operations Group 5-Philippine Air Force, the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Navy, and the Bureau of Fire Protection also enforced the evacuation of villagers affected by flooding in the province.

Below are some posts by netizens about the flooding in Albay: 


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Albay has been  known for its excellent disaster preparation and climate change adaptation programs introduced by former Albay Governor Joey Salceda. According to Salceda, in the past 2 decades since 2014, there were only two years when Albay had disaster-related deaths.

The former governor has attributed the record to local cooperation, maps, and social media. – with a report from Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler.com 

LIST: Philippine Red Cross first aid stations at Nazareno 2018


NAZARENO. Devotees converged around Quiapo Church in Manila for the Thanksgiving Procession ahead of the feast of the Black Nazarene on January 9. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) will set up first aid stations and welfare desks near the procession route of the Feast of the Traslacion of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo Chruch on January 9.

PRC will be deploying 2,000 staff and volunteers, 44 ambulances, an emergency medical unit, 4, plastic boats, a 6x6 truck, a fire truck, and a rescue truck for devotees who will need medical attention. (LOOK: Procession route for Nazareno 2018)

Nine first aid stations and welfare desks will be positioned at the following sites:

  • Cory and Ninoy Aquino Monument along Padre Burgos
  • Manila City Hall
  • Liwasang Bonifacio
  • Plaza Mexico (Post Office)
  • Near Plaza Lacson (Sta Cruz area)
  • San Sebastian College
  • Jones Bridge
  • Near Quiapo Church
  • Near Intramuros Gate (General Luna)

According to the PRC, 11 hospitals have been identified to accommodate injured individuals:

  • Jose Fabella Hospital
  • Jose Reyes Hospital
  • San Lazaro Hospital
  • Tondo Medical Center
  • Ospital ng Tondo
  • Ospital ng Sampaloc
  • Gat Andres Medical Center
  • Justice Abad Santos Memorial Medical Center
  • Sta. Ana Hospital
  • Philippine General Hospital
  • Ospital ng Maynila

PRC Chairman Richard Gordon said 2,566 people were assisted during the Traslacion in 2017.

"Among those who were given aid were persons who suffered dizziness, hypertension, sprain or fracture, various injuries, and other assistance like looking for missing persons. We would like to remind the public to be vigilant for any unlikely situation that may occur," said Gordon.

Yearly, millions of devotees of the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno pledge to participate in the procession starting at Quirino Grandstand to Quiapo Church every year, hoping for miracles or thankful for them.

Last year's Traslacion lasted for 22 hours which started at 5:20 am on January 9 and ended at 3:42 am on January 10. (READ: Schedule of 2018 activities of Feast of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo)

On December 31, thousands of devotees joined the Black Nazarene thanksgiving procession early Sunday. (IN PHOTOS: Thousands join Black Nazarene thanksgiving procession)– Rappler.com

10 civic actions in 2017 that can move PH in 2018



MANILA, Philippines – The virtual space in the Philippines seemed intensely polarized in 2017. For many netizens, it was the continuation of the bitter elections in 2016. Even friends and relatives unfollowed each other online because of differences in political persuasions.

But even as social media amplified hatred and misinformation, it continued to be an arena for conversations and actions that sought to build and unite communities online or in the real world.

Here are 10 digitally-fueled social initiatives that inspired civic actors and netizens to explore common ground to make an impact on their respective spheres of influence.

MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm, hopes that the social impact of these efforts that it initiated or supported in 2017 will fuel sustained action that will transform courage into action in 2018. 

1. #ReliefPH

Until New Year’s Eve, volunteers continued to respond to Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) call for help to repack relief goods for displaced persons (IDPs) from Marawi City as well as for families affected by Tropical Depression Urduja (Kai-tak) and Severe Tropical Storm Vinta (Tembin). (READ: DSWD thanks #ReliefPH volunteers)

In thanking the volunteers, DSWD Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Emmanuel Leyco said that their “time is the most precious gift” that they have given those in need this holiday season.

During disasters, Rappler’s Agos platform, powered by eBayanihan, helps in crowdsourcing and mobilizing help for disaster vicitms. Below are the latest appeals that were posted on its microsite.

AGOS. Move.PH Executive Director Rupert Ambil II talks about the Agos eBayanihan platform during the Agos Summit on Disaster Preparedness. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

2. #ZeroCasualty

This is the most elusive goal of countries that are vulnerable to disasters. Mindanao is still reeling from Vinta, which hit land just a few days before Christmas as a severe tropical storm. Vinta left at least 240 people dead. It also came on the heels of Urduja, which battered Eastern Visayas and left at least 47 people dead.

But there had been instances when the Philippines already made it through natural disasters with zero, or near-zero, casualty. MovePH has been sharing the lessons from these experiences.

Throughout the year, MovePH strove to help partners in government and civil society in spreading life-saving information through Agos, its disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation platform.

It organized the first Agos Summit on Disaster Preparedness in July, a two-day gathering of disaster management experts, responders, policy makers, and volunteers, to take stock of the lessons stakeholders have learned in dealing with disasters using uses content, technology, and crowdsourcing.

At the World Bosai Forum in Sendai, Japan in November, it shared with the international community how Agos helps in saving lives and building resilient communities. (READ: PH's lessons from disasters: #ZeroCasualty possible through social action

3. #GiftofHope

During the season of giving, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the UN Refugee Agency, collaborated with MovePH in rolling out the online donation drive “#GiftofHope” for the benefit of thousands of families displaced by conflict and violence. (WATCH: Atom Araullo shares #GiftofHope to Marawi, Rohingya evacuees)

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

The UN Refugee Agency recently called on the public to continue standing in solidarity with the people of Marawi City, sharing with them the gift of resilience as they recover from Severe Tropical Storm Vinta (Tembin), which displaced thousands in Mindanao. 

4. #ClimateActionPH

After the historic COP21, the campaign #ClimateActionPH was launched in partnership with Climate Reality to help Filipinos understand the urgent need to fulfill the terms of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. 

Through a mix of social media posts, in-depth features, and interactive content, the campaign encouraged netizens to do their part in reducing the country’s carbon emissions. (WATCH: PH's climate commissioner tries carbon footprint calculator)

MovePH has helped Rappler bring the campaign to communities through online conversations and workshops.(WATCH: Rappler Talk: #ClimateActionPH and Bataan's battle vs coal)

The workshops turned online conversations into empowering community actions. For instance, Bataan communities that were affected by coal-fired power plants took to social media to mobilize support for their plight. (READ: Coal isn’t cool: Bataan students, residents take plight to Facebook)

The campaign nabbed a Gold Award at the 52nd Anvil Awards in March. Meanwhile, MovePH received the 2017 Luntian Aligato Climate Reality Leadership Award for its sustained and innovative coverage of climate science and how to address the effects of climate change.

5. #2030Now

In the spirit of the #2030NOW vision of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the 2017 Social Good Summit challenged MovePH partners and other participants to examine the purpose of innovation with the theme, “Innovate with Purpose: Leave No One Behind.” 

Rappler has been organizing the Philippine leg of the global event since 2012. The event held in September 2017 showcased #HackSociety, an ideathon that harnessed the digital space to crowdsource “hacks” that address society’s greatest challenges focusing on the following themes: 

  • Media and democracy
  • Peace, governance, and local initiative
  • Environment and climate change
  • Public health and well-being

Out of the 4 teams that made it to the finals, LawKo, a Facebook chatbot that bridges the knowledge gap between the country's complicated legal system and the public, emerged winner. (READ: Standout solutions: The winning ideas from #HackSociety 2017)

6. #SaferRoadsPH

Rappler, together with the Global Road Safety Partnership, launched the campaign #SaferRoadsPH in May 2015 to promote the enactment and enforcement of better policies that will protect road users.

About 10,000 people died due to road crashes in 2015. Globally, about 1.3 million people die yearly due to traffic-related injuries which could have been prevented. (READ: IN NUMBERS: Road crash incidents in the Philippines)

MovePH brought the campaign to areas with a high number of road crash fatalities.

Following the #SaferRoadsPH forum held in Tuguegarao City in June 2017, the Cagayan Highway Patrol Group (HPG) kicked off an experiment on creating pedestrian lanes using chalk in front of a school. On-ground demonstrations like this seek to instill among students the good practice of crossing the pedestrian lane to avoid road mishaps and to highlight gaps in road safety measures that the government needs to address. 

7. #SharePH

In May 2017, MovePH launched the #SharePH Summer 2017 contest to support community tourism by encouraging Filipinos to share their travel experiences in communities via blogs, photos, and videos. 

All entries were posted on X, Rappler's self-publishing platform, showcasing the following themes:

  • Nature and other destinations
  • Adventure and other activities
  • Food and local products
  • History and culture

From the hundreds of entries that MovePH received, the best 3 for each category were chosen. And they were recognized as #SharePH travel ambassadors.

8. #NSPC2017

Some participants of the National Schools Press Conference (NSPC) 2017 experienced what it's like to be working in a social news network as they competed in the Online Publishing demonstration contest held in January in Pagadian City.

Teams were asked to create an online news blog using X, Rappler's free self-publishing platform. With 18 regions represented and two language categories (English and Filipino), a total of 36 teams or 252 students got to experience first-hand how they could share their stories using online platforms like X.

The next challenge is to inspire more school papers to embrace online publication as a free, fast, and efficient way to create content and to reach a broader community of readers beyond the 4 walls of their classrooms. (WATCH: Countdown to NSPC 2018)

9. #PalarongPambansa 

For the first time in the history of Palarong Pambansa, the Department of Education (DepEd), in partnership with MovePH, tapped NSPC winners to cover the multi-sports event. More than 12,000 elementary and secondary student-athletes representing the regions competed for 376 gold medals, 376 silver medals, and 487 bronze medals in 21 regular sporting events. (READ: Palarong Pambansa 2017: The future of PH sports is here)

MovePH conducted a multimedia workshop to arm the best campus journalists from 15 regions with the necessary skills and tools to chronicle the action at the 60th Palarong Pambansa.

The visual and text stories that the campus journalists produced showcased not only the talent of the Filipino youth but also their capacity to take part in building a "sustainable future" for the country, which was the theme of the games. 

May the next batch of young journalists who will cover Palarong Pambansa 2018 carry the torch of excellent campus journalism with a purpose in Ilocos Sur come April. (WATCH AND READ: Rappler's Palarong Pambansa coverage through the years)

10. #FactsMatterPH


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The efforts of MovePH to train campus and citizen journalists come at a crucial time when social media and other digital platforms are being used to undermine and weaken the profession of truth-telling and verification, and ultimately, democracy. (READ: Craving for the truth': #FactsMatterPH tops local Twitter trends

In November 2017, MovePH helped Rappler, Journalism for Nation Building Foundation (JNBF), and other stakeholder groups in organizing a forum that sought to promote a better understanding of how social media and other digital platforms work. (READ: Agenda: Truth, trust, and democracy in the age of selfies, trolls, and bots)

Rappler has been at the forefront of "exposing disinformation and propaganda" in the country to manipulate public opinion. (READ: Democracy under threat: We will shine the light, we will hold the line)

Online, the forum's trending hashtag #FactsMatterPH sparked a conversation that opened minds of many netizens. "What do I feel when journalists are being attacked online? I feel the loss of freedom of speech," a Twitter user said.

How ordinary citizens can be empowered to actually take part in defending freedom of speech and democracy is the biggest civic action challenge that MovePH and other social movements in the country should take up in 2018. – Rappler.com

Surfing in Eastern Samar and balancing its many challenges


RIDING THE WAVES. Eastern Samar is known to residents as the last frontier of surfing in the Philippines. All photos by Abdel Elecho

MANILA, Philippines – In Eastern Samar, surfing pioneers are not only balancing waves. They are also riding the challenges that come with the rising popularity of the sport in their hometown.

Unknown to many, Eastern Samar is home to several world-class surfing spots, with waves ranging from rare point breaks to river mouths and beach breaks to outer island breaks.

In fact, it is known to residents as the last surfing frontier in the Philippines.

But what is the best thing about this local surfing destination?

“A world-class wave with only 3-4 people surfing at a time. That is something,” Bryan Lassiter, one of the first surfers in Eastern Samar, said. “With the long coastlines, the area has a lot of potential for surfing. Several spots remain undiscovered. For surfers, this is extraordinary.”

Surfing history in Eastern Samar

Surfing in Eastern Samar started way back in 1998 with a single surfboard rented from a foreigner and shared by many locals and surfing pioneers like Lassiter and Abdel Elecho. 

"Actually, we rented a board from a foreigner who was then stayigng here to surf.  I think we rented for P500 and that was the start and the rest was history," Lassiter shared. 


Although novel and exciting, the water activity was not immediately accepted in the province two decades ago.

“Kinakantiyawan kami noon. Umiiwas kami sa tao. Hindi accepted ang surfing dito. (They would tease us before so we would avoid people. Surfing is not accepted.) The perception of the people is that this is a Caucasian sport so it is not ordinary to see locals surfing,” Lassiter said.

Fortunately, surfing as a hobby and passion eventually grew on the locals who have always had a strong affinity with the ocean, many of them primarily making a living through fishing.

“Malaki na po yung improvement from nagsimula from one board sa ngayon po marami na pong mga surfers, 'yung mga bata, 'yung mga anak namin na kumbaga kumpleto na sila ng mga gamit,” Elecho said.

(The state of surfing has greatly improved from the time when we started with only one board shared by everyone. Now, even the younger surfers have complete surfing gear.) 

This rise in popularity, however, brought its own set of problems.

DIFFERENT WAVES. Eastern Samar is home to several world-class surfing spots, with waves ranging from rare point breaks to river mouths and beach breaks to outer island breaks.

Tourism and environment

Just like in other local destinations that attract hundreds of tourists, surfing pioneers like Lassiter and Elecho faced the dilemma of balancing the need to strengthen tourism and preserving the environment.

“Nakita na namin yung reality ng surfing na nakapunta kami sa sikat na surfing spots like Siargao, La Union, at Baler, ganoon ang nagiging problema nila. 'Yung too much crowd. 'Yung area ay crowded to the extent na talagang nagpipisikalan na ang mga tao,” Lassiter explained.

For residents like Elecho, maintaining the surroundings and charm of their hometown Eastern Samar takes a more significant meaning especially because surfing is more than just a sport or passion for him.

“It is also a form of livelihood for residents like me kasi puwede ka magturo ng surfing, puwede ka maging surf guide, puwede kang mag-repair ng surfboard, puwede ka rin mag-shape ng surfboard,” he said. (You can teach surfing, be a surf guide, and repair and shape surfboards.)

To come at a compromise and address this problem, residents said that the environment is their priority. Catering to the needs of the tourists comes next.

According to Lassiter, they keep certain surfing spots secret from visitors to preserve the pristine coastlines of the province.

“Because of that we realized the importance of protecting our spot, we really need to protect our spot. We could share some of our spots but not everything," he said.


Balancing tourism and the environment is not the only problem of the province. As surfing rose in popularity, attendance in schools also dwindled.

This is not new in surfing communities.

For example, in Gubat, Sorsogon, a surf camp is working on keeping kids at school by implementing a "no school, no surf" policy.

BALANCING ACT. Eastern Samar residents believe that life is like surfing. It’s a balancing act.

“We started a program for the children to encourage them to stay in school. At first, it went well. With the change of officers, the program, however, lost its purpose," Lassiter said in a mix of Filipino and English. 

Despite this, surfing pioneers have been keen about encouraging the younger surfers to finish their schooling.

“Advice ko lang sa mga young surfers, unahin niyo ang pag-aaral kasi 'yung alon nandyan lang 'yan pero 'yung pag-aaral, lumilipas ang panahon. tumatanda tayo,” Elecho said.

(My advice for young surfers is to prioritize their education because the waves will always be there, but the opportunity to study could pass you by as you grow old.) 

Moving forward

These are the reasons why pioneers like Abdel and Bryan believe that life is like surfing. It’s a balancing act.

Ultimately, they also hope to get the support of the local government in riding past these challenges.

For example, the local community should be trained and taught well when it comes to welcoming tourists and taking care of their area.

“Sa tourism kasi na aspect, before mo talaga i-open 'yan, dapat, umpisahan mo muna sa baba. What I mean is, dapat prepared ang mga locals diyan,” Lassiter said. “Kailangan pang palakasin ang kaalaman ng locales.”

(On tourism, before we open a place and welcome visitors, we have to start from the grassroots. Meaning, we have to make sure the locals are prepared. We need to build their capacity.) 

For now, the two local surfing afficionados of Eastern Samar will continue riding the waves and the challenges that come with it. Rappler.com

Video courtesy of Abdel Elecho

Devotees leave 15 trucks of garbage after Nazareno 2018 procession


 TRASH. Huge file of garbage were left by devotees along Quezon Blvd near the Quiapo church after the Translacion. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines - Despite constant reminders, devotees who participated in the Traslacion of the Black Nazareno still failed to keep their trash with them.

On Tuesday evening, January 9, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) collected a total of 15 truckloads of garbage along the route of the procession.

In Quirino Grandstand and Luneta alone, MMDA personnel already collected 5 trucks of garbage left by devotees who camped out days before the procession. (READ: Zero fatalities, hundreds injured in Nazareno 2018)

This figure, however, is relatively low compared to 65 trucks of trash collected in 2017 according to reports.

Collected trash were mostly plastic water bottles, styrofoam food containers, and carton boxes among others.

The EcoWaste Coalition on Saturday, January 6, reminded devotees to keep Rizal Park trash free when thousands gather for the traditional "pahalik" or kissing of the image. (READ: Why teenagers join the Nazareno procession)

“Cleaning up the mess left behind by the devotees can be a grueling task for government workers and for volunteers from various parishes, schools and groups. We, therefore, ask everyone to be considerate, mind your own discards, and assume full responsibility for their ecological management and disposal,” said Daniel Alejandre of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Manila Police District estimated over 6 million faithfuls joined the 22-hour Traslacion this year. (READ: Simplest of prayers flood Quiapo for Nazareno 2018)

"Based on our initial estimate beginning 4:57 am noong nag-start 'yung procession (when the procession started) in Quirino Grandstand and ended at 2:59 in the morning today, 6.314 million joined the procession alone,” MPD Director Chief Superintendent Joel Coronel said. (READ: 'Pahalik': The less tiring path to a Nazareno prayer come true)

In 2017, MPD noted around 5.4 million devotees joined the Traslacion.

He added that the increase in the number of devotees contributed to the delay of the image reaching Quiapo church. The thick crowds slowed down the carriage (andas) bearing the image as it passed through narrow, winding roads around the Quiapo Church. – with a report from Rambo Talabong/Rappler.com

Baguio high school basketball coach accused of sexual harassment


TEAM PHOTO. Josiah Weihman (bottom left) and other kids pose for a photo with coach Leo Arnaiz (top right) after a basketball camp in Baguio City. Photo from Adidas Basketball Camp

MANILA, Philippines – For many aspiring basketball players, getting close to their coach is a special relationship developed on the hardcourt.

One coach, however, allegedly took a different approach in nurturing his relationship with his "favored players" – all minors. He fawned over them and showered them expensive gifts, but this supposedly came with a hefty price tag that has scarred them for life.

In a Facebook post on the second day of 2018, Fil-Am Josiah Weihman, 28, shared his experience involving his former basketball coach, Leo Arnaiz, when he still played for the high school team of Christian Legacy Academy (CLA) in Baguio City. 

Weihman told Rappler that Arnaiz, who insisted on being called "kuya" or big brother, had a habit of giving out expensive gifts and inviting players for sleepovers at his place, depending on his personal favorite at the moment. It was the "norm", Weihman recalled. (READ: The many faces of sexual harassment in PH)

One Saturday morning, Weihman, then 14, trained at Arnaiz's house with the rest of the team. After a day of exhausting training, Arnaiz brought Weihman to the teen's home to get clothes, then headed back to his place for the planned sleepover.

At Arnaiz's home, the coach reportedly showed Weihman a website containing graphic images and videos of people being tied up, raped, and beheaded. They viewed the violent content on Arnaiz's computer for hours. "Don't share this with anyone," Weihman recalled his coach telling him then. It was supposed to be their secret.

As Weihman continued to use the computer, Arnaiz sat on the bed and asked the boy to massage his wrist as it was supposedly painful from that day's basketball practice. The teen obliged. Arnaiz rested his wrist, palm up, on the boy's leg. 

In his Facebook post, Weihman said his last memory of that night was the airconditioning being turned full blast, even though they were in Baguio City, where the chilly weather didn't require it. He said in his post that when he woke up the next morning, the front of his shorts was soaking wet. 

In his interview with Rappler, Weihman recalled what happened. "He masturbated me," he said.

(Rappler repeatedly tried to get the side of Arnaiz – on Saturday, January 6, we reached out to him via Facebook, he read the message on Sunday, January 7, but did not respond. We sent another follow-up message on Monday, January 8, but the message was left unopened. On Tuesday, January 9, we sent him messages and called him but these were also unanswered. He has yet to respond to phone calls and messages as of posting.)


In retrospect, Weihman said that "Kuya Leo" gives the impression of being a generous, loving "big brother" and not an authority figure. He is a friend whom you can share secrets with. He gives his favorites new jackets and new shoes.

He is also a very sweet guy. He loves telling his favorites how he loves them or how he missed them. He likes giving hugs. All these acts, Weihman said, are apparently part of Arnaiz's strategy to draw kids closer to him and earn their trust. 

Apart from being a sports coach, Arnaiz is also a pastor. At the time that Weihman was part of the team, Arnaiz was known as a disciplinarian who ordered the boys on the CLA team not to have girlfriends.

KUYA LEO. Basketball coach and pastor Leo Arnaiz speaking at an event. Screengrab from Nic Lopez's vimeo

"It's like you have to push your doubts aside. But everything's calculated. He's selective of what he does and when he does it, he is setting it up. Everyone wants to be close to him because you get to ride in a good car, get to be somebody," Weihman said.

Arnaiz made sexual advances on Weihman twice. "He doesn't touch everyone. It's a select few. It's like 'flavor of the month' – some are longer than the others," he said.

It took him half his lifetime to break his silence on his experience. "I was keeping it inside forever," he said.

Weihman is currently residing in the United States. In 2016, when he went back to the Philippines, he finally got confirmation for himself that he was sexually harassed and that the same thing happened to others as well.

"Confirmation didn't come until 2016. No one to talk to. Who do I talk to?....Unless somebody makes a formal complaint, it's just dismissed as rumors," he said.

The others

After Weihman came out with his story on his Facebook page, several others messaged him – some said they weren't molested, while others shared the same unfortunate experience.

Those who had the same experience recounted stories that follow the same pattern: as the boys became the "favorite" kid in the team, they received gifts from "Kuya Leo" and were invited to dinner and sleepovers after practice. It was every player's "dream" until the morning after the sleepover.

Nenuko (not his real name)*, 13 at that time, wasn't especially skilled in basketball. He was considered short for a basketball player and very shy, but he had good grades. He was a "bench boy" and the designated sender of text messages informing the team of practice schedules.

When Nenuko was invited for a sleepover, he thought it was his chance to be Arnaiz's favorite. Kuya Leo was known to be generous. Before they headed to his house, he bought him a Walkman discman mp3 player at the local mall. Nenuko recalled it cost around P9,000 at that time. 

Arnaiz's generosity didn't end there. He brought Nenuko to a jewelry shop and got him a 24-carat gold necklace, worth around P20,000. "If he gives you a necklace, it's a sign that you're now his favorite. All of his favorites have that. We all have cross pendants but in different designs," he told Rappler.

After their shopping spree, Arnaiz brought him to his room and asked him to sit on his lap as they viewed graphic images of violence on his computer. Hours later, he asked Nenuko to take a shower and offered him his loose clothes so that the boy could wear something to sleep.

Nenuko said Arnaiz then told him that it was unhealthy to wear briefs while sleeping. At 13, Nenuko thought it was true. The boy came out of the shower wearing only Kuya Leo's oversized shirt and boxer shorts.

That night, as he slept, he felt the man touching his private parts. The boy, ashamed and shocked, pretended to be asleep. He was supposed to be considered lucky during that first sleepover since Arnaiz only touched him. In the following sleepovers, however, the coach started masturbating him as the boy "slept."

"He was masturbating me. I was pretending to be asleep because I was scared to leave...If I try to run away, how do I come home?" asked Nenuko.

It went on for more than a year. Nenuko said he started making excuses, and finally asked Arnaiz to first seek the permission of his father for the sleepovers.

"My parents didn't know. There's a part of me that feels ashamed. As a male, it's humiliating to reveal such experiences," said Nenuko.

In the case of ND (not his real name)*, he had dinner with Arnaiz and other kids from the team. He recalled having wine because his coach had it too. "Drink as much wine as you want," he remembered Kuya Leo telling him.

When they arrived at his house, ND was still buzzed from all the wine he drank, but he had a sense of what his coach wanted to happen. As they viewed violent images on the adult's computer, the teen tried to stay awake and managed to stay away from Arnaiz. He took his time using the coach's computer.

Arnaiz thought ND was having a hard time falling asleep, so he offered him a "sleeping pill." ND stayed still on the bed when the coach started to touch himself.

"He grabbed my hand and wanted me to touch him. He tried touching me but I moved his hand away. Then he went back to touching himself," ND told Rappler. He said he couldn't remember if he was touched while asleep.

Like the other boys, ND also got a gold necklace with a cross pendant. Arnaiz also bought him a Sony Ericsson P800 phone. After a couple of months, the coach replaced it with a Sony Ericsson P900.

Expose him

Weihman has reached out to his former high school to report Arnaiz's acts.

Rappler asked CLA about Weihman's allegations against Arnaiz through the school's official Facebook page. In response, CLA said in a statement that it treats allegations "seriously".

"CLA as an institution has always treated any allegations seriously. This allegation, which transpired 14+ years ago and not brought to our attention then [and] which cannot be proven to be true or untrue, throws us off-guard and introspection is the order of the day," the statement said.

"But for the sake of those who are not privy to the whole scenario, preventive measures are effected," it added.

Rappler asked the school to list these preventive measures, but CLA has yet to respond as of posting.

Weihman said that he himself sent a message to Arnaiz to confront him about his actions. Weihman said Arnaiz apologized for mentally "tormenting" him.

"He apologized for 'tormenting me and others mentally' and for the 'effect' of what he did to 'make (me) and others feel used and taken advantage of,'" Weihman said, quoting Arnaiz's reply.

"I asked him directly, 'Are you still touching kids?' His answer was he was focused on charity and all the good things he has done and how he's found forgiveness in God. He's a pastor anyway!" Weihman added.

"Multiple times, he asked me: 'What did I do to you?' I told him, you touched me, you masturbated me, you held me that night, and I just wanted morning to come."

Healing process

For Weihman, it's important to share his experience not only to help other victims but also because this is part of his healing process.

"Today, I now have two boys. They are my world. As a parent, it hits me on a whole different level. I am broken for these children. I would do anything to protect my own sons," he said.

Weihman extends his support to other victims who have to bear a stigma, especially if they come out. "There's a stigma that you are just tainting his reputation or that you are lying. But what have I to gain?"

HARASSED. Josiah Weihman, now 28, shares his story of sexual harassment involving his former basketball coach, Leo Arnaiz. Photo from Weihman's Facebook

"The sad thing is, it's still happening – whether he's moved platform from basketball or soccer or hopped churches or cities even. The fact is, it's still happening," Weihman said, adding that he received reports of other allegations against Arnaiz. (READ: Everyone is talking about sexual harassment and this is why you should, too)

Currently, Arnaiz has several engagements in CLA and in other schools and ministries to preach and train poor students in basketball and soccer.

Weihman said he came out with his story so that other kids would be empowered to share their stories as well. "Current victims can come out and be heard," he said.

"As a community, we were betrayed. Baguio is tiny. We are a family. Your friends of friends or kids, they grew up together. As a community, we were fooled," he said. (READ: UN Women urges people to report sexual harassment cases)

Weihman, Nenuko, and ND invited other victims to share their stories. Weihman reminded others that Arnaiz was the one at fault.

"You are not in any way at fault because he’s at fault for manipulating and betraying your trust. It’s a lot to process. Give yourself time to grieve, be patient for yourself and others. We all process in a different way. I'm here to listen and support you. There's a big difference between forgiveness and trust. You're not alone," said Weihman.

Sexual harassment in the PH

In the Philippines, Republic Act No. 7877, or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, classifies sexual harassment as an act committed in a work-related or an educational environment.

In a school setting, sexual harassment involves a person of authority – a teacher or a coach – who may demand or require sexual favor from a student in exchange for passing grades, a scholarship grant, a stipend, allowance, or other benefits.

Sexual harassment can be punished under RA 7877, and under the provisions of the Revised Penal Code on Acts of Lasciviousness.

Offenders can be penalized with imprisonment of one to 6 months, a fine of P10,000 to P20,000, or both. Acts of lasciviousness can be punished with imprisonment under the Revised Penal Code. – Rappler.com

*Names were changed upon request.

All quotations were translated to English.

'Kwarta sa Basura' as source of livelihood for 4Ps beneficiaries


EDUCATE. Pantawid Pamilya partner-beneficiaries listening attentively during the discussion of 'Kwarta sa Basura' project. Prhoto from DSWD

MANILA, Philippines — For this community of housewives in Siquijor, getting rid of garbage is not a problem. In fact, they have found a way to turn their trash into cash.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), through its field office, partnered with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the local government of Siquijor to implement "Kwarta sa Basura" in Barangay Caticugan and Dumanjug in Siquijor.

The project's aim is two-pronged: to provide a source of livelihood for poor families and to promote solid waste management by upcycling trash to various products. 

Ayaka Ishikawa, a volunteer from JICA, introduced the process to Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) partner-beneficiaries in their Family Development Sessions (FDS). The workshop revolved arould solid waste management and decreasing the volume of waste in their communities.

Beneficiaries of the program constructed their own Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) to collect garbage and other residual wastes from their community like plastic bottles and cellophane. One beneficiary is Cheryl Jumamil. 

Jumamil, a resident from Brgy. Caticugan, said that the project helped her earn income for her family. Her husband was the family breadwinner until he was paralyzed in 2016. 

"Dako gyud ang ikatabang niining training sa pag-gama og pitaka gamit ang materyales gikan sa basura. Labi na kay ako ra ang nangita sa pagkakaron kay naparalyze man ang akong bana niadtong 2016" Jumamil said.

(This training on how to make wallets out of trash materials helps us a lot since I am the only one earning a living. My husband has been paralyzed since 2016)

Jumamil has so far earned P20,000 from selling wallets made from upcycled materials.

"Dili lang sa economic aspect kini makatabang sa among mga benepisyaryo, paagi usab kini sa pag-minos sa problema sa basura aron mapreserbar ang atong kalikopan," she added. 

(This project not only helped us beneficiaries economically but also helped address the reduction of trash leading to the preservation of our environment).

Other partner-beneficiaries were also able to sell flower lanterns made of 1.5-liter soft drink plastic bottles and other tossed materials.

The municipality of Siquijor is the only town in the province that uses a sanitary landfill to isolate solid wastes disposal from the environment.

Livelihood and climate change

With the DSWD's assistance, Siquijor town is in the process of procuring construction materials to build a storage facility for the upcycled products.

DSWD Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Emmanuel A. Leyco asked the public to take part in conserving natural resources.

"We, in the Philippines are very aware of the vast damage brought by climate change to the lives and livelihood of the people so it is important that we help contribute to minimizing its impact by conserving our natural resources that greatly assist us to mitigate the impact of climate change," Leyco said.

Leyco also reiterated that DSWD will improve its module on climate change and disaster preparedness and ensure that it will be widely disseminated and discussed among members of the 4Ps.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will also help in educating local communities to act on climate change. — Rappler.com

The effects of sexual harassment on children


MANILA, Philippines – Breaking your silence after being sexually harassed takes a lot of courage.

Fil-Am Josiah Weihman took 14 years before he broke his silence on his experience of sexual harassment involving his former basketball coach Leo Arnaiz during his playing days in high school. (READ: Baguio high school basketball coach accused of sexual harassment)

All those years, he felt he had no one to talk to. "I was keeping it inside forever," he told Rappler.

Clinical psychologist Karina Therese Fernandez, executive director of Ateneo Bulatao Center for Psychology Services, explained that stories of sexual harassment or abuse are devastating.

"If it's somebody you trust, you know, or is part of the family, the effects are more devastating," Fernandez told Rappler. (READ: The many faces of sexual harassment in PH)

She further explained that the effects are more damaging than being harassed by a stranger. In the case of Weihman, she said it's more scarring because the perpetrator is his coach.

"It's more devastating than some stranger in the dark because to begin with, when you abuse a child, it's trust that you break," she added.


The effects on a child as he grows up can vary. Fernandez said the most common long-term effect of sexual abuse is depression.

In some cases, Fernandez also said social problems can arise from the experience. She said a person can have trust issues growing up or have problems in developing deeper interpersonal relationships.

Some victims also have problems maintaining intimate relationships. Fernandez explained that some are indisposed during sex. (READ: Rappler Talk: How do we end sexual harassment?)

"Sometimes sex becomes disgusting for them, or they feel numbed like they're emotionally dispensed during sex. Sometimes they feel that it's inappropriate. They have problems in sexual intimacy," she said.

TEAM PHOTO. Josiah Weihman (bottom left) and other kids pose for a photo with coach Leo Arnaiz (top right) after a basketball camp in Baguio City. Photo from Adidas Basketball Camp

Developing post-traumatic stress disorder is another common effect of sexual abuse. Victims may tend to experience physiological effects such as migraine while others tend to be forgetful: "There's some who don't remember parts of it or sometimes the actual experience itself. They repress it or sometimes it appears in their nightmares as flashbacks."

Fernandez adds the victims tend to be vigilant so they can prevent such occurrences from happening again.

Fernandez also said sexual harrassment also affects how victims view themselves.

She explained, "They sometimes feel that the experience was their fault it happened to them. There could be issues with self-esteem and of feeling ashamed of it. They feel bad enough for themselves: 'Am I dirty? Am I a bad person?'"

The experience could also result in body issues. There are cases that some develop eating disorders but Fernandez said that this is more common in women.

Moving forward

To counter these effects, Fernandez said having a safe environment that enables victims to share their experiences can help them move forward in life.

"You have to create a positive environment for the individual to feel safe and talk about it – that they don't feel afraid, vulnerable, or that someone will mock them or tell them they are not telling the truth," she said. (READ: Everyone is talking about sexual harassment and this is why you should, too)

"The space has to be accepting, emphatic, and validating. It's important to process the anger they feel and know that it's not their fault," she added.

Fernandez further explained that guiding victims will also help them establish trust again.

"Guide them and help them that people can still be trusted and have intimate relationships as well," Fernandez said.

According to a study by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in 2016, one in 5 children are sexually harassed in the Philippines. (READ: Most child abuse cases in PH happen at home – study)

The study showed more males were sexually abused in school and the community. Unwanted sexual touching was the most common form of sexual violence manifested, and this was done either verbally, through the giving of gifts or favors, or through attempts to drug or give a victim alcohol. – Rappler.com

[Right Of Way] The fault in our signs, part 1


Welcome to Right Of Way, a vlog about traffic, transport and road safety.

Road safety advocate Vincent Lazatin talks about faulty road signs in the metro and how they could be improved.

Have you seen any other faulty road signs in and out of the metro? Send them to rightofway@rappler.com – Rappler.com


Christmas Carmageddon?

What will happen to the dedicated bicycle lane in UP Diliman?


ROAD SAFETY.  To prevent 'road accidents,' UP Vice Chancellor Nestor Castro said they are planning to distinguish the bicycle lane from the jogging lane. Photo by Dennis Lopez

MANILA, Philippines – On a typical Sunday, joggers and bikers would fill the 2.2-kilometer Academic Oval at the University of the Philippines - Diliman.

Due to its wide lane and the cool shade that the big acacia trees provide, joggers and bikers consider UP Diliman a haven. The university, in fact, is one of the few areas in Metro Manila to have a dedicated lane for joggers and bicycles. (READ: Transforming universities into sustainable campuses, one pedal at a time)

On Thursday, January 11, however, the white paint separating the car and jogging lanes was removed.

This sparked a question online: What is happening to the bicycle and jogging lane in UP?


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UP Vice Chancellor Nestor Castro of the Community Affairs Office clarified that the road marking activities were not yet done. To douse rumors and end worries the road-marking activities have ignited, Castro said that they were planning to paint a total of three lanes around the oval.

“This is to distinguish the bike lane from the joggers lane para maiwasan accidents which happened in several instances,” Castro added. (This is to distinguish the bike lane from the joggers lane to prevent accidents which have happened in several instances.) 

According to the Castro, the move was recommendated by the Non-Motorized Mobility Committee of the state university. (READ: What happens when you build protected bike lanes in cities?

Road safety advocates have been calling for the building of protected bicycle lanes around Metro Manila. From 2005 to 2013, 1,127 people on bicycles have died in crashes. – Rappler.com 


Netizens say sexual abuse is 'not a laughing matter'


MANILA, Philippines – Many netizens showered support for Fil-Am Josiah Weihman for breaking his silence on sexual harassment.

In a Facebook post on January 2, Weihman, 28, shared his experience involving his former basketball coach, Leo Arnaiz, when he still played for his high school team 14 years ago. (READ: Baguio high school basketball coach accused of sexual harassment)

When the story was published on Wednesday, January 10, netizens shared their thoughts on the issue of sexual harassment and abuse. While many lauded Weihman for being courageous enough to share his story, there are some who seemed to disregard the issue:

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Netizens were quick to call them out for blaming the victim:

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In a post, Giul Sanchez slammed netizens she identified as "victim-blamers" and said that the issue is not a laughing matter:

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Another netizen condemned Arnaiz's abuse of authority.

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Others saw Weihman's act as an opportunity for others to come forward and share their stories of sexual harassment as well. (READ: The effects of sexual harassment on children)

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– Rappler.com

Marine scientist calls for stronger action to protect Philippine seas


FISH SCARCITY. Due to illegal and irresponsible fishing in the country, fish supply in many Philippine wet markets are starting to decrease. Photo by Gregg Yan/Oceana

MANILA, Philippines - A team of marine biologists on Friday, January 12, called for stronger action to conserve and protect Philippines' marine resources. 

“We cannot let fishery resources continue to be overfished. This endangers our food security, both in the short term and in the long term, because overfishing also demolishes the ecosystems within which these resources are embedded,” the group, led by fisheries scientist Dr. Daniel Pauly, said. (READ: Why we must protect our seas)

Pauly shared his lectures on marine biodiversity conservation with stakeholders from the government, academia, and civil society groups. The lecture included how to manage fisheries and conserve the country’s vast but threatened marine ecosystems.

Threatened biodiversity

Blessed with 36,000 kilometers of coast, nearly 30,000 square kilometers of coral reefs and about 1170 square kilometers of mangroves, the Philippines is among the world’s richest countries in terms of marine biodiversity.  In fact, the country is considered as the "center of the center" of marine biodiversity.

In 2014, it ranked eighth among the top fish producing countries in the world, with total production amounting to 4.7 million metric tons of seafood. (READ: Every Filipino has a role: Taking care of our oceans and seas)

However, overfishing, illegal fishing, pollution, climate change and the destruction of critical marine habitats are taking a toll on the country’s ability to produce food. 

The supposed "misleading" statistics provided by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on fishing does not help with the problem of overfishing, according to Pauly. Marine scientists usually depend their work on these numbers.

"The FAO data (with a few exceptions) are strongly biased downaward because most countries do not report the catch of their small-scale fisheries, nor discarded fish, nor fish that is caught illegally," Pauly said. 

This is the reason why their team has undertaken a project to "reconstruct" the image of industrial, artisanal, and recreational fisheries around the world. 

Their report has shown that the catch of fisheries across the globe is not only much higher than what is being reported – the catch has also been declining in the past two decades. 

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) reported that 10 out of 13 fishing grounds or about 75% of the country’s fishing sites are overfished.

The University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute and the Biodiversity Management Bureau further revealed that less than 1% of Philippine coral reefs are in excellent condition – an alarming fact, taking into account that many species of fish and invertebrates live and breed in coral reefs.

Government actions

To address these issues, the Philippine Fisheries Code was amended in 2015 to strengthen enforcement efforts such as requiring fishing boats to adopt vessel-monitoring technologies.

“These alarming wake-up calls should compel all of us to work together to finally stop and eradicate illegal and destructive fishing,” Oceana Philippines Vice President Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos said. (READ: Focus: Marine riches of South China Sea)

She also added that coastal local government units and national agencies like the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the police and armed forces must ramp-up enforcement efforts to protect the marine resources we still have.

Due to climate change, pollution, and human pressures, scientists predict that over 90% of the world’s coral reefs will vanish by 2050 – robbing people of one of the richest food-producing systems on Earth. (READ:Climate change: Why PH should care) - Rappler.com

'Rappler now, who's next?' – netizens


MANILA, Philippines – The decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke Rappler's registration for allegedly violating the Constitution has sent chills throughout social media on Monday, January 15.

"Rappler now. Who’s next? Everyone is not safe unless you play along, but what happens to democracy if and when everyone plays along to whoever is in the administration," Twitter user @_LittleRedShoe said in a post.

As of posting, the word "Rappler" topped the trending topics in the Philippines, racking more than 17,000 tweets. 

The SEC’s kill order revoking Rappler’s license to operate is the first of its kind in history – both for the Commission and for Philippine media. (READ: Stand with Rappler, defend press freedom

In SEC's order, it focused on the company's Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR) from Omidyar Network, saying that it violates constitutional restrictions on ownership and control of mass media entities. 

"The En Banc finds Rappler, Inc. and Rappler Holdings Corporation, a Mass Media Entity and its alter ego, liable for violating the constitutional and statutory Foreign Equity Restriction in Mass Media, enforceable through laws and rules within the mandate of the commission,” the order said.

For netizens, this move is a blatant effort to silence the press for its critical reporting against the government. 

"Like Hungary’s populist PM Viktor Orban, Duterte is waging a war against critical journalists. The attack against #PressFreedom is escalating," UP Manila Prof Cleve Arguelles said in a Facebook post.  

Meanwhile, the arts and media alliance Let's Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) held President Rodrigo Duterte accountable for what they described as "an open attack on the people's rights to free expression and to a free press."

"Who is next, Mr President? ABS-CBN? The community journalists tagged as communistsd? The artists who expose your bloody drug war?" the group said in a statement posted on social media.

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The order came after President Duterte himself blasted Rappler in his second SONA in July 2017.

Below are some of the Twitter posts which used the hashtags #IStandWithRappler, #SupportRappler, and #DefendPressFreedom: 


<a class="twitter-timeline" data-partner="tweetdeck" href="https://twitter.com/MovePH/timelines/952797843936436224?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">&#39;I stand with Rappler&#39; - Curated tweets by MovePH</a> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>


Bloggers, school organizations, press groups, and journalism youth groups also rallied behind Rappler, posting statements of solidarity with the company. 


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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I stand by Rappler. This is about defending press freedom. I will write about this on <a href="https://twitter.com/blogwatchdotph?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@blogwatchdotph</a></p>&mdash; Noemi L. Dado (@momblogger) <a href="https://twitter.com/momblogger/status/952806411255169024?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 15, 2018</a></blockquote>
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In its statement, Rappler said it will go through all legal processes available to the company to fight the kill order. 

Journalists' organizations, as well as lawmakers, also issued statements of support for Rappler, all condemning  the SEC decision as an attack on press freedom. – Rappler.com 

Memes help spark movement to defend press freedom in PH


MANILA, Philippines — Memes are often funny, but these captioned online images can also inspire dissent. 

Memes expressing support for Rappler spread online after netizens, advocates, and personalities took to social media to condemn the decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke the social news network's registration on Monday, January 15.

The controversial kill order has sent chills throughout social media. It is the first of its kind in history – both for the Commission and for Philippine media. 

For the creators of the protest signs, the SEC order curtails press freedom and freedom of expression, rights which are guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution.

"Taking away press freedom is taking away democracy and justice," read a Facebook post that included a meme showing Lois Lane, the journalist and love interest of Superman in comic books published by DC Comics.

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Pinoy Ako Blog author Jover Laurio also posted a cartoon on her page with the caption: "He started killing the poor to instill fear. Now they are killing the press to kill our voice."

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Here are other memes that called on the public to be vigilant and take action to defend press freedom:

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Rappler said in a statement that it will 'continue bringing the news, holding the powerful to account for their actions and decisions, calling attention to government lapses that further disempower the disadvantaged.' (READ: Stand with Rappler, defend press freedom— Rappler.com

SEC closure order vs Rappler a move toward dictatorship - activists



MANILA, Philippines – They experienced and fought repression under the Marcos regime and other administrations with dictatorial tendencies. Activist groups now see shades of tyranny in the decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke Rappler's license on Monday, January 15.

“The Duterte regime’s revocation of Rappler’s SEC registration, after months of articles about the Duterte regime’s anti-people drug war campaign, is clearly a move to constrict press freedom, targetting media platforms exposing the brutality and inhumanity of the government program. This also attests to the reality that this regime is gradually moving towards a dictatorship,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on Tuesday.


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Other sectors said that the SEC order sent a “chilling effect" to human rights advocates and activists, noting that it is reminiscient of the crackdown against the press more than 3 decades ago during the darkest chapter of Philippine history. From 1972 to 1981, about 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 tortured, and 3,240 killed, including journalists, according to Amnesty International. 

“Such move carries with it the political message that this regime can gag reportage that runs counter to its wishes, a hallmark of dictatorial rule,” Gabriela Women’s Party said in a statement.

On Monday, “Rappler” trended worldwide on Twitter as thousands of Filipinos expressed their support for Rappler and press freedom after SEC revoked the license of the social news network to operate.

The SEC focused on the company's Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR) from Omidyar Network, saying that it violates constitutional restrictions on ownership and control of mass media entities. 

Rappler has long debunked this allegation. It explained that the PDR is a financial instrument used by several large media companies and that it does not translate to investors’ control in the day-to-day operations of the company. (READ: Stand with Rappler, defend press freedom)

Ironic and selective

According to the progressive groups, the SEC decision, which was triggered by an order from the Office of the Solicitor General on December 14, 2016, is both ironic and selective.

“The Duterte regime is targeting Rappler for allegedly being owned by foreigners when it is clamoring to do exactly the same with our land and resources by ridding provisions in our constitution that limit foreign ownership,” Palabay said. (READ: Amnesty International slams 'alarming attempt' to silence Rappler)

Gabriela Women’s Party and Kabataan partylist echoed this, citing the administration’s push for Charter Change (Cha-Cha) that will supposedly ease restriction for foreign owner ownership.

President Duterte and his allies in Congress are currently pushing for Cha-Cha and a new Constitution within 3 to 4 years, focusing on shifting the political structure of government to a federal form.

Meanwhile, civil libertarians under the Movement Against Tyranny pointed out the supposed irony in the government’s effort to build a “constitutionality” case against Rappler.

“For a government that violates the multiple constitutional provisions on territory, checks and balances, separation of powers and the Bill of Rights, the Duterte regime is fooling no one...Duterte has no credibility on constitutionality,” MAT said in its statement.

Other groups said that the SEC order only proves how the Duterte administration is hell-bent in clamping down on dissent.

“What the SEC and the Duterte government did to Rappler can be replicated and applied to other media outfits, non-governmental organizations, and institutions critical to Duterte. The crackdown is extending to legitimate entities considered adversaries of Duterte,” Militant farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said in a statement.


SEC as a political weapon

Environmental activists also condemned SEC's decision, calling on the commission not to allow itself to be used as a "political weapon" of the Duterte administration.

"Closing down Rappler means one less independent media through which environmental advocates can stand up to the oligarchs and corporations that seem to run the Duterte government’s agenda nowadays," Kalikasan said in a statement.

Rappler has published a number of Kalikasan's investigative features and opinion pieces on forest conservation, mining, coal, climate change, and the plight of environmental defenders over the past years.

"Rappler, especially through its civic engagement arm MovePH, has been an effective platform for us environmental advocates to raise issues on ecological protection and natural resources conservation," Kalikasan said.

Meanwhile, Kabataan partylist urged the public, especially the youth, to speak up and defend press freedom.


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“Rather than be silenced, this is an opportunity for us to expect he wickedness of the Duterte administration,” Kabataan said.

Duterte started his administration in 2016 with Leftist activist groups as alies. This alliance collapsed during the president’s second SONA when he announced his decision to end peace talks with the revolutionary Left. (READ: Civil libertarians launch Movement vs Duterte’s ‘acts of tyranny’)

On Tuesday, Malacañang downplayed the SEC ruling against Rappler, saying that things could have been worse.

If the President really wanted to shut down Rappler, he would have "sent the Armed Forces to their offices and padlocked them," according to Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque. (READ: Malacañang: At least Duterte didn't order military vs Rappler) – Rappler.com


Campus journalists say press freedom is everyone’s battle


MANILA, Philippines – What does the decision of the  Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke Rappler’s license to operate mean to campus journalists, school publications and student organizations?

Various school publications, student journalism groups, and student organizations, from across the country have expressed their support for Rappler following SEC’s kill order of the online news organization. (READ Rappler's statement: Stand with Rappler, defend press freedom)

 Their united stand: We should all help defend press freedom.

According to school publications and student journalism groups, press freedom is a pillar of democracy. Thus, fighting for press freedom should be everyone’s battle. (READ: 'Rappler now, who's next?' - netizens)

In its statement published on Monday, January 15, the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UP CMC) student council said that shutting down media institutions “is an attack to journalists and all attacks against the press is an attack against democracy.”

This was the same sentiment shared by several school publications like the Visayas State University’s Amaranth, St. Scholastica's College Tacloban’s Sulog/Binhi and Ateneo de Manila University’s The Guidon.  They all said that this was not Rappler’s battle alone.

“All media organizations – from mainstream media to the student press – must take a stand against this attack on journalism. Bowing down to intimidation will only embolden those in power,” The Guidon said. 

School publications also criticized the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte and pointed out its consistent effort to silence all groups that are critical of the government and, at the same time, empower its supporters, regardless if they are purveyors of fake news.

In its statement, The Guidon listed the several cases of intimidation of the media by the Duterte administration, including the threats to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise and criticisms hurled at  Philippine Daily Inquirer’s (PDI) supposed “slanted” reporting.

For UP CMC student council, these tactics show hints of a dictatorship and are reminiscent of what the Filipino press have experienced under Martial Law.

This is also the reason why they have collectively urged the public to take a stand against this attack on press freedom. 

"We call on everyone: the student press and media practitioners who rally their constituents in the pursuit of truth; the student leaders who are determined to represent the voices of their peers; and anyone who has been previously forced to silence," The Crusader of the Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro said in it statement. 

STOP MEDIA REPRESSION. UP Diliman College of Mass Communications students holds a protest against the oppression of media by the Duterte government. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler  

On Tuesday, January 16, the UP CMC student council urged students to join a protest against the attack on press freedom at the University of the Philippines Diliman from 10 am to 12 pm. 

Below are some of the statements of support released by school publications and student journalism groups:


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In its order, SEC zeroed in on a clause in the company's Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR) from Omidyar Network, saying that it violated constitutional restrictions on ownership and control of mass media entities.

Rappler has long debunked this allegation, explaining that the PDR, while a financial instrument, does not translate to investors’ control in the day-to-day operations of the company.  – Rappler.com 


Oldest alliance of college editors urges PH media to unite for press freedom


DEFEND PRESS FREEDOM. Campus journalists from CEGP protest to defend press freedom in front of the Mendiola Peace Arch on January 17, 2018. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

MANILA, Philippine – Did you know that the first political prisoner to die in detention during martial law under the Marcos regime was a campus journalist?

Her name was Liliosa Hilao, an associate editor of the campus publication in Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM). Findings of the autopsy showed that the 23-year-old editor was tortured and possibly sexually abused.

In a rally on Wednesday, January 17, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) shared the story of Hilao and her historical role in defending press freedom and democracy in the Philippines. (READ: Stand with Rappler, defend press freedom)

“She’s really a Martial Law hero not only to the campus press but also to the rest of the Filipino people,” CEGP President Jose Mari Callueng said.

Members of CEGP, the oldest alliance of college editors, condemned recent actions of the government against the press, particularly the decision of the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke the registration of news organization Rappler.

A day after the news about the SEC revocation came out, President Rodrigo Duterte accused Rappler of being a “fake news outlet.” Malacañang has also downplayed the SEC ruling, saying that the President would have "sent the Armed Forces to their offices and padlocked them” if he really wanted to shut down Rappler.

In the past, President Duterte has also threatened to block the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise. Meanwhile,  after the President's relentless attacks against the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Prieto family has allowed the government to take over its Mile Long property and has sold its shares in the Philippine Daily Inquirer to businessman Ramon Ang, a friend of the President.

These attacks are reminiscent of the crackdown against campus and mainstream journalists more than 3 decades ago during the darkest chapter of Philippine history, according to CEGP.

"The move is straight out of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ textbook on building a ruthless and totalitarian dictatorship. Duterte is slowly putting death to press freedom, silencing those exposing the fully unveiled brutality of his regime that is leading to a dictatorship," CEGP said.

UNITE. Campus journalists from CEGP urge media practioners to unite and defend press freedom on January 17, 2018. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Alternative media also under attack

CEGP also noted that the Duterte administration has also been attacking members of the alternative media.

"Many alternative media journalists are tagged by Duterte himself as communist or members of the New People’s Army," CEGP said.

In December 2017, Sherwin de Vera, an environmental journalist from Ilocos Sur who writes a column for Northern Dispatch Weekly, was arrested by the police while on his way home.

"He is still detained until now in Abra Provincial Jail for trumped-up charges of rebellion," CEGP said.

Meanwhile, Kathyrine Cortez of media outfit Radyo ni Juan has been consistently harassed and tagged as a supporter of the Communist Party of the Philippines, according to CEGP.

Student publications are also being targeted through "various forms of harassment and military surveillance," CEGP said. 

"One of our member publication in Camarines Sur reported last September 2017 that they received a message from the Armed Forces of the Philippines that they are part of the watch list of Duterte’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan," CEGP said.

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'Black Friday Protest for Press Freedom'

During the protest in front of the Mendiola Peace Arch in Manila on Wednesday, the campus journalists called on the press to unite and fight for press freedom.

"Magkaisa tayong lahat para sa kalayaan nating makapagpahayag at sa paglaban para sa ating demokrasya na minsang nang nawala sa atin. 'Wag na nating hayaang mawala pa ito muli," Callueng said.

(Let us all unite and fight for press freedom and for our democracy, which was once taken away from us. We can't lose our freedoms again.)

CEGP urged concerned citizens, campus journalists, and media practitioners "to unite and combat state-perpetuated violence and all forms of repression that target press freedom and the people’s democratic rights."

CEGP, together with the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Altermidya, and Let's Organize for Democracy Integrity (LODI), will stage a protest action on January 19 dubbed "Black Friday Protest for Freedom."

There are two ways to support the action:

  • Wear black shirts or black arm bands to school or your place of work.
  • Join the protest at the Boy Scout Circle, the roundabout at Timog and Thomas Morato intersection in Quezon City at 6 pm.

– Rappler.com


Rappler Talk: How serious is the Mayon Volcano threat?


MANILA, Philippines – The province of Albay was placed under a state of calamity on Tuesday, January 16, amid the threat of a "hazardous eruption" from the Mayon Volcano. 

What are the hazards and risks that Mayon, one of the 6 most active volcanoes in the Philippines, pose? What should the affected communities do to prevent casualties?

Dr Renato Solidum Jr, Phivolcs chief and Department of Science and Technology (DOST) undersecretary for disaster risk reduction and climate change, addresses these questions on Rappler Talk anchored by MovePH editor Voltaire Tupaz.

Watch the interview on Wednesday night, January 17, day 5 of Mayon's volcanic activity. – Rappler.com