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Lawmaker seeks creation of department for OFWs


MANILA, Phillippines– ACTS-OFW representative Aniceto "John" Bertiz III filed a bill seeking the establishment of a department dedicated to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs): the Department of Migration and Development (DMD).

A counterpart measure of the bill filed at the Senate by Senator Cynthia Villar, House Bill 192 aims to "ensure a unified, fast, and coherent approach in extending government services to Filipinos overseas and their families," according to a press release from the party list. 

“This bill seeks to build on the President’s campaign promise to our OFWs for a separate department, and fulfill it, guided solely by the need to establish accountability and transparency, promote speedy, effective and more convenient services, and boost development through more cohesive reintegration programs and family-oriented services,” Bertiz said.

During the campaign period for the May 2016 elections, President Rodrigo Duterte promised to establish a department for OFWs and a system of banks through which OFWs could channel their remittances.

“I propose to create one government [agency] only to take care of the OFW. Lahat ng kailangan ng permit, diyan nila kukunin sa administrasyon na ‘yan (All the permits they need, they will get it from that agency). It’s going to be a department to take care of them,” Duterte said.

Bertiz said that an aspiring OFW needs to go through at least 7 agencies from the time he files his application to the actual day of his departure.

The neophyte lawmaker said that the department would not only streamline bureaucratic requirements for OFWs but also strengthen the reintegration program for OFWs.

“The responsibility for the well-being of our OFWs cuts across several agencies and departments, leading to finger-pointing in times of crisis, and worse, inaction when the life of an overseas worker hangs in the balance,” he said.

The proposed department, according to the proposed bill, will plan, develop, and manage the national migration and development agenda in consultation with various stakeholders, to promote the protection, safety, development and support of and for OFWs and their families.

In the bill, some government agencies, offices and bureaus shall be collapsed and be integrated to the DMD. However, POEA and OWWA shall be retained but will be attached to the proposed department.

 Other salient features of the measure include the following:

  • Establishment of One-Stop Migrant Assistance Centers in all major capital towns and cities nationwide;
  • Setting up of P1-billion Special Assistance Revolving Fund for both documented and undocumented workers.
  • Creation of an Inter-Agency Coordinating Council on Migration and Development that is tasked to handle death-row cases involving blood money, human trafficking and large-scale illegal recruitment, terrorism, drug trafficking and other humanitarian cases. 

Duterte was not the only candidate who proposed the creation of a separate department for OFWs during the 2016 elections.

Defeated senatorial candidate Susan Ople also said then that it’s about time the country establish a separate department that will conduct a comprehensive government review of the country’s overseas employment program.

The former vice president and defeated presidential candidate Jejomar Binay also promised the creation of a dedicated department for OFWs. (READ: 'How presidential bets plan to empower OFWs' )

But the Center for Migrant Advocacy-Philippines (CMA) and the Working Group on Migration of the Political Science Department of Ateneo de Manila University (WGM), in a piece published by Rappler last April, said that "the proposal to establish a separate Department on Migration and Development must be studied carefully and discussed by all stakeholders. " 

The two groups warned that "a separate department could send the wrong message to the public that migration-for-work is to be promoted further as its establishment signals a level of 'permanence.’"

On the practical side, meanwhile, they said that "this department can cause displacement of government employees in existing migration-related agencies.” – Rappler.com




Duterte falls in line in Malacañang buffet


President Rodrigo Duterte falls in line for a buffet in Malacañang. Photo by Presidential Communications Office

MANILA, Philippines — When President Duterte walked to the buffet table while surrounded by Presidential Security Group (PSG) officers, nobody expected that he was going to fall in line and wait his turn.

In a viral photo posted by the Presidential Communications Office, Duterte is shown standing behind a string of men patiently waiting to collect their dinner in a fellowship party at Malacañang. The post quickly gathered positive feedback from netizens lauding the 16th President of the Philippines' humility.

In a phone interview with Rappler, lawyer Lloyd del Socorro, the person being held in the shoulders by Duterte in the viral photo, told the story behind the snap.

Socorro said that the president was being stormed by the guests for "selfies," as he was walking toward the buffet table while he was surrounded by the PSG. Del Socorro just kept to his own and did not hope to get a selfie of his own because of the swarm of people.

What happened next changed his entire evening.

“I thought he was just going to pass by kasi parang hinahawi ng PSG (yung daan). Nagulat ako na nasa likod ko na siya,” he recalled. (I thought he was just going to pass by because the PSG was clearing the way. I was surprised that he went behind me.)

Wanting to show respect for the president, he asked Duterte to go ahead of him but he recounted that Duterte replied saying “No, no, no, bakit ako ang mauuna? Stay in line. Ikaw dapat ang mauna, this is a free country.” (No, no, no, why should I go first? Stay in line. You should go first, this is a free country.)

And that was when Duterte held him by the shoulders to turn him to face in front, just in time for the photograph. Del Socorro then took the chance to have his own selfie with the president.

SELFIE. Attorney Lloyd del Socorro with President Duterte. Photo courtesy of Lloyd del Socorro

“I was really surprised that he fell in line,” del Socorro shared. “Everybody expected that he would cut the line. He was very humble and down to earth.”  Rappler.com 

Rambo Talabong is a student of the Ateneo de Manila University and a Rappler intern.

Ateneo community mourns death of HS teacher


TOO SOON. The Ateneo community mourns over the death of Emmanuel Jose Pavia. Photo from the Ateneo de Manila Junior High School

MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) community mourned the death of Emmanuel Jose "Em-J" Pavia, who was shot on Monday night, July 18. 

A math teacher, Pavia taught Grade 9 students and moderated the Athletics Council (AthC). 


The ADMU community will hold a mass for Pavia at 2:30 pm on Tuesday, July 19, at the Ateneo High School covered courts. 

Citing the police, ABS-CBN reported that Pavia sustained two gunshot wounds to the head.

A witness reportedly heard gunshots from Pavia's home in Barangay Barangka, Marikina City, at around 7 pm on Monday. He was declared dead on arrival at the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center, the same report said. 

Reports circulating on social media said Pavia witnessed an armed robbery and tried to interfere, but these have yet to be confirmed.

'Too soon'

Friends and family took to social media to express their sadness and frustration over the death of Pavia, whom they described as a passionate teacher, a good friend, and a brother.

In a school-wide reflection Pavia delivered on July 1, he encouraged students to strive for excellence and never settle for less. 

"If we have the opportunity to be extraordinary, seize it, and never settle for anything less than giving our very best in whatever it is we do. Aim for the moon. That way even if we miss, we’ll land among the stars," Pavia wrote. 

Police are still investigating the incident.– Rappler.com  

Netizens dismayed with SC ruling on Arroyo's plunder case


MANILA, Philippines – Netizens expressed their disappointment on the Supreme Court's decision to acquit Arroyo of plunder as it granted her plea to drop the case against her on Tuesday, July 19.

This sets in motion her release from the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, where she has been detained since October 2012.

Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, the legal spokesman of Arroyo's husband former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, hailed the SC ruling, saying in a statement that justice has been served.

Topacio added that the ruling has validated their claim "that the charges against (Arroyo) are nothing more than disingenuous attempts at political persecution by a corrupt and inept Aquino administration intent on covering up its gross lack of accomplishments by harassing its political opponents." 

While the news came as a cause for celebration for the Arroyo camp, it triggered a flurry of negative comments from netizens who took to social media their frustration on the Supreme Court ruling. 

Many netizens also noted that the Supreme Court ruling did not come as a surprise. This is especially after President Rodrigo Duterte claimed he was ready to grant the former president pardon during the campaign season. 

Here are some tweets from netizens: 


It was President Benigno Aquino III who jailed Arroyo and subsequently led the impeachment charge against her appointed chief justice, the late Renato Corona.

Do you agree with the SC ruling that acquitted Arroyo of plunder? Share your thoughts on X– Rappler.com 

Leftist groups lament SC ruling on Arroyo's plunder case


ACQUITTED. In this file photo, former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo (C) peers from a police van after her arraignment over the electoral sabotage complaint at the Pasay City court, south of Manila, Philippines, 23 February 2012. Photo by Francis Malasig/EPA

MANILA, Philippines – Several groups expressed their disappointment over the landmark Supreme Court (SC) decision acquitting former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of plunder charges on Tuesday, July 19.

Voting 11-4, the SC acquitted and ordered the release of the former president from the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, where she has been detained since October 2012. 

The Supreme Court decision has been a divisive issue so far, heaping praises from the camps of President Rodrigo Duterte and Arroyo while triggering a flurry of negative comments from netizens. (READ: Lawmakers react to SC ruling on Gloria Arroyo case)

In a press statement, Kabataan partylist Representative Sarah Elago said that freeing Arroyo is a great blow to the country's justice system. 

“Mrs Arroyo’s eventual release casts a dark shadow over the Philippine justice system – a system that lets political prisoners remain incarcerated for trumped-up charges for decades, while letting Philippine presidents go scot-free despite being caught red-handed in raiding the public coffers,” Elago said. 

Tuesday’s landmark ruling on Mrs Arroyo came barely a month after Aquino stepped down from office and less than a week before Duterte, who favors her release, delivers his first State of the Nation Address (SONA.) (READ: Duterte ready to grant Arroyo pardon)

Aquino's fault

Elago's sentiments were echoed by Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate, describing the ruling as a "setback."

"This should not derail us from continuing our campaign for accountability and against impunity," he added.  Zarate also blamed former President Benigno Aquino III, saying that "it seems like the Aquino administration was merely contented in keeping her politically  paralyzed in the past six (6) years rather than obtaining a conviction."  

Partylist group Anakbayan called the SC ruling a "grave injustice to the Filipino people," blaming the Aquino administration for "paving the way for Arroyo's acquittal."

"This proves that Aquino, despite his posturing against corruption, was not serious in making Arroyo accountable and may have in fact brokered a deal with Arroyo. Daang matuwid was a grand lie," Anakbayan National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said in a statement.

Crisostomo said Aquino used the people's anti-Arroyo sentiment to further his own interest, citing how the former president ousted then Chief Justice Renato Corona with his being pro-Arroyo as reason.

"Aquino and Arroyo should both be jailed for their crimes against the people. Our message to President Duterte: with 'genuine change' must come truth, justice and accountability," Crisostomo said.

Evidence not weak

Meanwhile, Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin said that the SC ruling is "lamentable as it trumps justice over individual humanitarian considerations of people in high places who can have their cake and eat it too." 

Denying claims that that evidence is weak, Villarin emphasized that Arroyo's plunder charges is not about political persecution but instead of "making people accountable to the laws and constitution." 

The Arroyo camp, through lawyer Ferdinand Topacio praised the SC ruling. (READ: Arroyo camp: Acquittal proves 'political persecution' by Aquino)

"Its ruling today has validated what we have been saying for six years now: that the charges against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are nothing more than disingenuous attempts at political persecution by a corrupt and inept Aquino administration intent on covering up its gross lack of accomplishments by harassing its political opponents," Topacio said. 

The Court's approval of the Arroyo petition in effect acquits her of the P366-million plunder suit filed by the Ombudsman in July 2012 against her and 9 other former goverment officials. – With reports from Raisa Serafica/ Rappler.com 

Environmental groups, advocates to Duterte: ‘Let us talk’


'I WILL NOT FOLLOW.' President Rodrigo Duterte decries carbon emissions limitations as constrictive for developing countries like the Philippines. Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Let’s talk.

This is the message of several environment groups and advocates to President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, July 19, after his announcement that his administration will not honor the international agreements binding the Philippines to limit its carbon emissions.

“We are willing to sit down with him to discuss the comprehensiveness of the Philippine position and the Paris agreement,” Rodne Galicha of the Climate Reality Project Philippines said.

While the president failed to specify the agreement, he was likely referring to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to which the Philippines pledged support during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) held in France in December 2015. (READ: PH on Paris climate pact: Monumental feat for humanity)

Understandable, but...

For Duterte, the climate agreement, in a way, limits the economic growth of developing nations that have pledged to support it, the Philippines included. 

"You are trying to stymie us with an agreement na ganito lang kayo (that you will stay this way)...That’s stupid. I will not honor that. Sabi niya (He said), you signed. That was not my signature," said the Philippine president during a meeting with Philippine Olympic athletes on Monday, July 18.

While he disagrees with Duterte’s decision, former lead climate change negotiator of the Philippines Naderev “Yeb” Saño said he understood where the president’s sentiment is coming from. (READ: 8 reasons why PH should honor climate commitments)

“Climate change is a complex political issue that requires reflection from the point of view of climate justice. As such, since climate change was largely caused by rich countries, fairness dictates that they shall have a larger share of the responsibility in solving the problem,” Sano, who is now the executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said.

This was echoed by Francis dela Cruz, associate for Energy Policy at the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, when he said that Duterte was correct in putting the “spotlight on the hypocrisy of industrialized nations, which should carry much of the climate burden.”

"The science is in and there is no debate that countries from all over the world should unite towards full decarbonisation if we are to maintain the Earth's global average temperature well below the dangerous level of 1.5 degrees Celsius," SANLAKAS Secretary-General Aaron Pedrosa added.

Highly industrialized countries like China, the United States, Japan, India and other oil-producing Gulf nations account for almost 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions in 2011.

During the climate talks, nations most vulnerable to climate change lobbied hard for wording to limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius. Big polluters, such as China, India and oil producing-giant Saudi Arabia, however, preferred a ceiling of 2C, which would have enabled them to burn fossil fuels for longer.

PH’s important role

Advocates and groups, however, urge the president to look at the role of the Philippines in the global climate pact.

“It will be critical to continue to engage in the UNFCCC negotiating process so that the Philippines can influence the level of ambition, the targets and rules of climate action that benefit vulnerable countries most,” Dela Cruz added.

The Philippines heads the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change. While they were not a negotiating group in the Paris climate talks, the CVF lobbied hard for policies such as the 1.5-degree target, full decarbonization of the world economy, 100% renewable energy by 2050, and zero emissions by mid-century.

“In order for countries like the Philippines to survive the devastating impacts of climate change and stay below dangerous levels of climate change (stay below 1.5 C), global emissions need to be reduced. The carbon reduction commitments remain differentiated respecting national conditions, and taking into account the development needs of developing countries,” Dela Cruz added.

Development without coal

Aside from supposedly limiting the country’s economic growth, Duterte claimed that the climate change agreements are another way by which developed countries are able to "dictate the destiny" of poorer nations.

But environment groups and advocates denied this, reminding the president that development need not be dirty. Saño also claimed that the climate solutions will not constrain the country’s development.

“The 200,000 MW projected capacity of renewable energy is more than enough to sustain the needs of the Philippines for an even more sustainable development path than what industrialized countries have followed before,” Gerry Arances of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development said.

This climate agreement is a promising opportunity for the country, Arances also argued.

“Rather than follow in the footsteps of climate-hypocrites, we must walk our talk in terms of our contribution to combat climate change while pursuing our need for a more sustainable, cleaner and people-centered development path,” Arances said.

Hailed as the first universal, legally-binding agreement on climate change, the climate deal has been signed by 175 countries who pledged to reduce the amount of carbon they emit and to ensure their citizens are prepared for the effects of global warming. (READ: Full text of the Paris agreement)

By being one of its signatories, the Philippines has promised to reduce its carbon emissions by 70% by the year 2030, with aid from the international community. – Rappler.com

#SONA2016: What is the story of the nation?


MANILA, Philippines – Stories from the regions form the story of the nation.

On Monday, July 25, President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver his first State of the Nation Address (SONA). The President's speech is expected to be different from those of his predecessors. Previously described as the “Oscars of Philippine politics,” this year's SONA will be a much simpler affair: guests attending the event were advised to come in simple outfits.

The former Davao mayor himself is known to prefer casual wear. He paired his Mindanao silk barong with khaki pants on his inauguration day.

But more importantly, on that day, the President will paint the situation of the country as he views it, and present his plans in broad strokes.

Help capture and complete the bigger picture of the nation by sharing the situation and aspirations from the regions.

You can do this by posting photos, videos, and stories. Here's how:

Step 1: Identify the story

Look for a story from your immediate community – town, city, province, and region.

What motivates the people in your area? What frustrates or inspires them?

What do they want the President and the nation to know about their community? 

Record their answers and other basic details, like their name and profession.

Think about the best way to tell the story – text story, photo, video, or graphics.

Step 2: Capture, write the story

Highlight the unique issues in your story. What are the issues faced by the Ilocanos, Cebuanos, Ilonggos, Cagay-anons, Warays, Muslims, the Lumad, etc? 

If you’re taking a photo or video of your subject, it's best to take them in their natural environment or in a situation that says something about who they are.

Take note that the subjects do not need to always smile or look at the camera.

Step 3: Submit the story

You can publish the photos, videos, captions, posters, artworks, and other relevant information on X, Rappler’s self-publishing platform. Don’t forget to include #StoryOfTheNation in the tags of your story.

You can also send your entries via Facebook or Twitter. When submitting via social media, remember to use #StoryOfTheNation and make your post public. You can also submit using the Rappler app.

By Sunday, June 24, we will be producing a wrap of the story of the nation told from the different regions. Your entries could be selected and featured in a social video. – Rappler.com 

Do 'Black Lives Matter' to Filipinos? A call for empathy


As Americans come to terms with the shooting deaths of two black men by police and the subsequent killings of eight officers these past two weeks, I am once again reminded of the complicity that some of us Filipinos and Filipino-Americans have in the anti-black racism that perpetuated these deaths to begin with. 

A few weeks ago, a group of Filipinos including myself were the guests of a white couple living in a small Cajun community about an hour away from New Orleans, Louisiana.

Early in the evening, the conversation, laughter and goodwill flowed with our hosts as easily as the fried food they had prepared for us on the table. 

As the night went on, one of our hosts kept bringing up the term “swirls” in conversation, which confused me. Curious, I could not help but ask him what it meant.

“It’s those children of niggers who marry white women so they can get more money and have better lives,” he said matter-of-factly. 

My breath seemed to come to a standstill as his words hung in the air. 

“Do you think 'nigger' is still the right thing to call African-Americans today?” I managed to respond.  

“You know, my father was a slaveowner back in the day,” our host said. “He never mistreated his slaves; he gave them food and shelter. It was a good thing for them.” 

“But they were still his property and they could never be free. Just because they were dark-skinned,” I said. “What if we became your slaves?”

The man insisted that we were Filipinos and not blacks, two completely different things.  

Throughout this exchange, my Filipino companions – all of whom are well-educated and high-achieving citizens – stayed silent. 

At some point, a Filipina lady tried to explain our host’s position on the advantages of slavery for blacks, as if I didn’t fully understand the argument. As if – in helping him better elucidate its nuances – she might gloss over its ugliness and take comfort in the thought that slavery wasn’t all that bad. 

I found her attempt to side with our warm, hospitable, and yet racist host absurd. I know we were guests in his home – and Filipinos consider such hospitality sacred – but certain basic human rights are worth sticking up for.    

Later, on our way home, another one of my companions admitted that she did not want to challenge people like them because they would “never change their minds.” 

Plus, she pointed out, even though she genuinely liked certain black people who worked hard, many whom she had met were “rude” and tried to “take away jobs” that she and her husband had felt they deserved more than they did. 

“I just don’t like some of them,” she said. 


About two weeks later, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were shot dead in two separate incidents by white police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota.

Their deaths were the spark in a powder keg of racial tensions that have been simmering in America since the 2013 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, along with countless other black men across the country who have died at the hands of police. 

BLACK LIVES MATTER. A small group of Black Lives Matter protesters meet on the Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge in Dallas, Texas, USA, July 10, 2016. Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA

Once more, the same resounding outcry of injustice - “Black Lives Matter!” - reverberated throughout all corners of American society and even managed to cut across color lines. But nowhere was the silence more deafening than in swathes of the Filipino-American community.  

Except for the usual suspects - the young and educated, the artists, the academics and intellectuals who voiced solidarity with the movement - there was radio silence from our elders. 

The indifference toward the plight of black Americans may have originated from the racial attitudes we were forced to adopt when Spain colonized the Philippines in the early 1500s. 

The Spanish - and later on, the Americans - inculcated the mentality among us Filipinos early on that “white is right.” Over time, the brown skin of our ancestors became associated with poverty, lack of education and hard, physical labor. (READ: 'After I moved abroad, I learned to love my brown skin' )

Now, our preference for whiteness manifests in the multi-million peso industries of skin whiteners and plastic surgery, the bleached-white stars that dominate our screens and billboards, and our unquestioning love for Western culture. 

It should come as no surprise that the northern, mountain-dwelling Agta tribe – one of the earliest inhabitants of the Philippines – continues to suffer widespread discrimination because of their dark complexion and kinky hair. Foreigners of African descent who visit the Philippines today are often called “negros,” “nog-nogs” (the Tagalog translation for the n-word), or “balugas” (Agta-like).   

This attitude seems to have persisted long after we immigrated to America. Now, after seeing countless media portrayals of African-Americans as deadbeats or thugs, our elders think of them as a no-good, lazy, and violent people, save for a few exceptions. 

Some even believe that blacks harbor antagonism toward Asians in general because of our relative socioeconomic success in America.

After all, despite the rampant anti-Asian racism and discrimination at the turn of the last century, we rolled up our sleeves and eventually managed to get a piece of the American Dream. Why should others get special treatment?

As they rise to the top of the minority pecking order, our elders believe they can rest on the laurels afforded to them as the “model minority” in America. A desire to remain insulated from the racial realities of black and other brown people, including their deaths, has followed. 

Racial prejudice

It doesn’t matter how many awards or degrees you’ve gotten, how much money you’ve saved, how big your house is, or how many cars you have. It only takes one comment to remind you that you are and will always be a foreigner in America.   

This was a Facebook message that I received from a resident of Theriot, Louisiana, one of the isolated Cajun communities I used to cover for The Houma Courier and Daily Comet as a crime reporter.    

CLIMATE FRONT LINES. Filipino activists and domestic workers actively participate in the People's Climate March in New York. Photo by Ayee Macaraig/Rappler

As I recounted my frustrations to another Filipina, she essentially told me to grow up because there were harsher ills in the world. She tried to comfort me with the idea that the man was an uneducated bigot who did not deserve my time. It was good advice coming from someone who had experienced her fair share of tribulations in this country, but it did not help with the ensuing self-doubt that shook me to my core. 

While these situations are hardly representative of my interactions with white Americans - and indeed, I have been in a loving relationship with a puti for almost five years - it’s the spectre of difference that always hangs over your head. It’s this spectre that drives small-minded comments regarding the validity of your immigration status, the quality of your English, and the level of your education. 

Excellence does little to protect us Filipinos and Asians from the spectre of racial prejudice in America, which continues to lurk in the background even as we nest in our cocoons. 

Call for empathy

As America pushes to bridge the rift between black and white communities, amid a rapidly diversifying society in which minorities are poised to become the majority, Filipino-Americans cannot pretend we are insulated from the effects of racism any longer

Instead, we should come together in solidarity and realize that we have a responsibility - for better or worse - as the “model minority” to bridge the growing divide between blacks and whites in America. In general, we are in a unique position to benefit from the favorable treatment of whites. Let’s make use of it for something bigger than ourselves. (READ: 'Filipinos in the US: A hundred years of migration' )

As for us Filipinos in the Philippines, it’s important to recognize the inherent diversity within our culture and pay respect to all of our ancestors, no matter the color of their skin. We can do better than succumb to the colorism and the “white-is-right” mentality brought on by centuries of Western colonialism and imperialism. 

It’s about time. – Rappler.com


Born and raised in Manila, Maki Somosot is a 25-year-old journalist who has lived and worked in the U.S. for the last 8 years. She is currently searching for her next reporting gig after covering crime and courts in south Louisiana's Cajun Country for nearly two years. 


Peace caravan troops to Manila to present Mindanao issues to Duterte


CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – A contingent of 3,900 farmers and sectoral representatives from Mindanao are making their way to Manila by road for the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte on July 25, 2016.


The group spent the 2nd day of their Lakabayan para sa Kapayapaan or “Peace Caravan” in Tacloban City on Wednesday, July 20. More than 100 buses and support vehicles left Cagayan de Oro on Tuesday, July 19.


Datu Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of Kalumbay Lumad Organization said over the phone that peace caravan aims to raise awareness about the plight of the people of Mindanao ahead of the SONA.


Guaynon added that they will voice out the issues raised by the different sectors of society in Mindano, including peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines, agriculture, rights to self determination of the indigenous peoples, education, and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States government which includes the use of Lumbia Airport for US military equipment.


“This is part of our campaign to push for change, which are aligned with President Duterte’s promises during the campaign season,” Guaynon said.


Change is coming


In Tacloban, multisector representatives and interfaith groups – many of whom survived super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) welcomed the caravan.


The caravan will be in Legazpi City, Albay on Thursday July 21 and will spend the night in Naga City at the Robredo Coliseum before moving on to the University of the Philippines - Los Banos, where farmers from Southern Tagalog will join them.


The caravan will then depart for Metro Manila on July 23, two days before the SONA.


Ireneo Udarbe, regional spokesperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas - Nortern Mindanao (KMP-NM) said one of the hotly contested issues they want to raise is the plight of peasant workers and the “flagrant disregard” for their rights. They also say workers also need to contend with the massive expansion of industrial plantations, the dry spell, and the destruction of the environment.


“We are one for genuine change, we wanted to raise this issues before the president because this issue needs genuine change to uplift the plight of the peasant workers,” Udarbe said.


Jade Etucas, chairperson of Anakbayan Northern Mindanao said that the government needs to address the concerns of 13,000 out-of-school youth (OSY) who were unable to enroll for Senior High School.


Etucas said that, while they support the administration of President Duterte, they want the government to deal with the problems caused by the implementation of the K-12 program.


Etucas believes the program will not raise the quality of education in the country and wants the government to repeal the program. – Rappler.com

WATCH: 100 student organizations start publishing on X


X USERS. About 200 student leaders gather at the Rappler headquarters on July 16, 2016 for the launch of the publication feature of X, Rappler's free self-publishing platform. They  represent the first 100 organizations to open their own domains on X and use the newest feature

MANILA, Philippines – Gabay (Guide), despite being one of the oldest organizations in the Ateneo de Manila University, easily embraced, on Tuesday, July 19, a new platform to share their advocacy of tutoring public elementary students was 

In a post on X,  Rappler's free self-publishing platform, Gabay external affairs vice president Veronica Baguio introduced the organization, sharing their desire to link up with other organizations that have similar causes.

"May mga proyekto ang Gabay na nakatuon sa pagpapayaman ng mga iskolar bilang mag-aaral at tao para sa kapwa, tulad ng mga tutoring sessions, sample exams at book-lending, seminars at formation sessions.”

(Gabay has projects focused on developing scholars both as students and men for others like tutoring sessions, sample examinations and book-lending, seminars, and formation sessions.)

Gabay is one of the first 100 student groups that have opened up publisher accounts on X using the platform’s publication feature, a premium service for school publications and organizations, and civil society organizations. The publication feature for X users was launched on Saturday, July 16 at the Rappler Newsroom in Pasig City.


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">We&#39;re here at <a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> HQ to witness the launch of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RapplerX?src=hash">#RapplerX</a> with other student organizations in the country. <a href="https://t.co/VeEf1ipH5W">pic.twitter.com/VeEf1ipH5W</a></p>&mdash; The Benildean (@TheBenildean) <a href="https://twitter.com/TheBenildean/status/754125269229711361">July 16, 2016</a></blockquote>

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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Tell us your story. Tell us what moves you. We listen. Ever heard of X? <a href="https://t.co/4q9SLYGCPA">https://t.co/4q9SLYGCPA</a> <a href="https://t.co/EggCoUNGw3">pic.twitter.com/EggCoUNGw3</a></p>&mdash; Voltaire Tupaz (@VoltaireTupaz) <a href="https://twitter.com/VoltaireTupaz/status/754253653850984449">July 16, 2016</a></blockquote>

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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/MovePH">@MovePH</a> Executive Director Rupert Ambil to students: We are here to promote your advocacy. MovePH is the Uber of goodwill.</p>&mdash; David Bryan Lozada (@iamdavidlozada) <a href="https://twitter.com/iamdavidlozada/status/754119754839838724">July 16, 2016</a></blockquote>

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The feature is given for free to partners of MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm. It enables organizations to create their own domains and allows them to invite writers and artists to post content under their site's banner on X. 

The platform incorporates social media analytics and Rappler's patented user engagement model to help build the authors' online communities. It also authors to map their network using Reach, Rappler's propriety network analysis and data tool.

"It’s easy to use,” said Baguio, adding that they are going to amplify their advocacy through the platform and link up with other similar organizations to scale up their initiatives. – Rappler.com

Want to know more about Rappler X? Email move.ph+x@rappler.com and create your X account today. 



#ThinkPH: Man must learn to dance with machines – Van Geest


FORWARD THINKING. Yuri Van Geest, the co-author of " Exponential Organizations" discuees the lessons from his book and the coming singularity to kick off #ThinkPH 2016 on July 21. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – “We are entering a new world. It's not an era of change, it’s a whole new era.”

Futurist and New York Times bestselling author Yuri Van Geest on Thursday, July 21, opened Rappler's #ThinkPH event at the Resorts World Manila with a challenge to individuals and organizations who continue to use old mindsets to make sense of the changes brought about by technology.

"It’s the most fascinating time to be alive, but to enjoy it you have to change,” said Van Geest, co-author of "Exponential Organizations," during Rappler's annual event, which this year tackled the theme "Back to disruptive basics." (Check the stellar lineup of speakers here)

Van Geest likened the tech explosion to a tsunami. He warned that people who get caught up in extraordinary sight of the wave rolling in from a distance will only realize it will sweep them away when it's too late.

Many people see new technology through lens from the past, Van Geest said.

But the trends are clear, he stressed. To succeed, organizations have to be more flat and nimble and produce a lot without having to spend more. To maximize the talents of millennials, companies have to talk about meaning and purpose, which is what drive the tech-savvy youth today, Van Geest added. To have a future in a world where 80 percent of jobs will be "impacted by technology," students have to be strong on the liberal arts – and learn to create, to imagine, to empathize, to have emotional intelligence, to hone their instincts, Van Geest said.

“Liberal arts will be very important. If you digest the arts, you will have different ways to look at the world and that makes people more imaginative. And that will help  them direct the future,” he said.

Man and machine

Machines have been able to outcompute humans for ages now, but the real change is that they are now better at learning as well as shown by an AI beating the world’s best GO player earlier this year.

“We saw for the first time that software could make intuitive decisions because GO is much more complex than chess. AI can analyze pattern, and ask its own questions. It’s gotten to the point where people cannot distinguish what is created by  a human,” Van Geest said.

This, along with the rise of robotics, will cause a big shift in the labor market in the next 5 years, according to Van Geest.

“You have to learn dance with the machine and if you don’t you’re in trouble,” Van Geest emphasized. "This is the symbiosis of man and machine."

Exponential organizations

The situation has created a new type of economic force, the exponential organization.

Also called Unicorns in tech circles, some of these firms – Google, Facebook, along with newer ones, tesla, Snapchat, Uber and Oculus Rift – are what people are already familiar with.

Van Geest defined these firms as those whose impact or output is disproportionally large – at least 10x – larger compared to its peers because of their use of new organizational techniques that leverage exponential technologies.

“You can see this in the the time it takes to become a billion-dollar company. Where it used to take 20 years on average, 20 years ago, today it's less than 9 months as proven by the corporate messaging firm Slack,” he said.

Another reason, he added, is that the global economy is moving from a scarcity model, wherein the goal was to corner the market on goods, to an abundance model to wherein creating value and sharing is the new norm.

“If you have scarcity you have to own things to have a competitive advantage, but with abundance, it's not about ownership its about access, which has led to the rise of the sharing economy,” he explained.

This also compels rethinking in how organizations are structured.

“Nobody uses mobile phones from 15 years, so it doesn’t make sense to use systems of organization from a century either,” Van Geest pointed out.

Transformative purpose

Beyond being lean, these exponential organizations have another key factor in their favor. They have, as Van Geest put it, "massive transformative purpose."

“It’s the glue that holds the organization together,” he explained. "The new generation wants purpose, meaningful work because just making money will become less important with time as wealth is created at an unprecedented rate.”

Thus, the best and the brightest will be attracted to work that allows them self-expression and provides meaning, he added.

Singularity University

Van Geest is the founder of the Singular University in the Netherlands, a satellite of the Singular University started in Silicon Valley by NASA and Google’s Larry Page among others.

It focuses on emerging exponential technologies and aims to figure out how to create startups that affect a billion people by tackling the world’s biggest problems; water, food, energy, healthcare, education, poverty, and climate change.

One of its products is Made in Space, the first firm that allows 3D printing of spare parts in space, the first time humans have ever produced anything outside Earth.

The organization is named after the wave that’s coming – singularity, to describe an era where humans basically use technology to transcend natural barriers.

At its extreme, it denotes the end of the current era and brings about a new one where artificial intelligence (AI) and technological advancement runs at a rate that isn’t comprehensible.

“Half a year ago we developed a new quantum computer that was 100 million times faster than a conventional computer, think of the implications then for AI, optimization problems,” Van Geest said.

“But the real news," he added,” is that within the next 2 years, the next computer will have the computational power of all the computers combined on Earth.”

“You have to learn dance with the machine and if you don’t, you’re in trouble,” Van Geest emphasized.

Access to all

Naturally, the singularity deals with technology that is at the very cutting edge as well as that which is on the fringes of what’s possible; artificial intelligence, biotech, nanotech, neuroscience, 4D printing, and block chain.

“All of these fields have double in capacity, some faster some slower,” Van Geest pointed out, but most importantly, "they are converging to create a new world."

But the real reason it's doing so is that all these advancements are becoming extremely accessible. Van Geest pointed out the fact that it used to take $10 million to sequence an individual’s DNA  whereas today it only costs $100, that opens almost limitless possibilities for personalized medicine.

He also predicted that in the next 5 years wearables like the Apple watch will use advanced sensors to be able to diagnose cancer.

All tech that not too long ago seemed avant-garde has been brought to the mass-market: drones used to cost $100,00 average while its around $700 now. The price of industrial robots that used to average $500,000 in 2008 averaged  $22,000  by 2013.

Solar energy is widely tipped to change the world and the reason for this is that where it used to cost $30 per kilowatt hours (kwh)r in 20 years ago, it averaged $0.14 per kwh in 2014 led by a steep decline in solar panels.

The key to thriving in this new environment, he said, is to disrupt yourself constant viewing life as a permanent museum.

“Start tomorrow, don’t delay. You don’t want to be that person watching from the shore not realizing that the wave is upon him,” said Van Geest. – Rappler.com

Thousands of OFWs remain stranded, unpaid in Saudi Arabia


LONG WAIT. OFWs in Saudi Arabia. File photo by AFP/Fayez Nureldine

MANILA, Philippines – 36-year old Julius Camarce braved life as an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to provide for his wife and 5 children living in Iloilo. 

Like many other OFWs, Camarce felt leaving the Philippines was his only choice.

Hindi naman po mataas ang pinag-aralan ko. Diyan po sa Pilipinas, para maging cost controller, kailangan pang may lisensya ka. Sa Saudi, basta alam mo work, hindi nila papansinin kung ano man background mo,” Camarce said.  (I didn't receive a high education. In the Philippines, to work as a cost controller, you need a license. In Saudi, they don't care about your background as long as you know how it's done.)

He is now on his 9th year in the kingdom and his 2nd year working for Saudi Oger, a private construction company. 

Like many other OFWs, Camarce (R) felt leaving the country was his only choice.

Makikipagsapalaran ako dito, maitaguyod ko lang pamilya ko." (I will face the challenges here to provide for my family.)

All was going well until the price of crude plummeted to one of its lowest in the past 12 years, pushing the oil-rich kingdom’s government to cut spending and put up austerity measures.

By 2015, Camarce and his colleagues were already feeling its impact. According to him, their salaries then were delayed by 2 to 3 months. 

Since January 2016, he had stopped receiving even a single cent from his employer.

This is the same case for all his colleagues who were supposed to received 5,000 SR and below every month. Those whose salary amounts to more than 5,000 SR, meanwhile, haven’t been paid for 9 months now, he said.

The reason remains unclear. "Ang dami nilang dahilan kung bakit hindi daw kami nakakasahod. Kesyo hindi daw nagbabayad ang gobyerno ng Saudi, kesyo mismanagement daw,” Camarce said. 

(They give so many reasons for not giving us our salaries. They say the government of Saudi is not paying, sometimes they blame mismanagement.)

Because of this, many of his colleagues have already resigned from Saudi Oger. Even so, they remain stranded in Saudi because they cannot afford the airfare and are yet to receive their end-of-service benefits.

Violent protests

Chaos ensued in the camp as employees started protesting in their camp, according to Camarce. Some protests turned violent, with protesters burning company vehicles and vandalizing office properties. 

CHAOS. Some of the protests against Saudi Oger turned violent. Photo by Julius Camarce

Camarce says he and other Filipinos, despite their frustrations, opted not to join these protests. “Alam ng mga Pinoy na bawal, mas lalo po kaming malalagay sa alanganin,” he said. (Filipinos know that's not allowed, it will only put us in worse situations.)

According to Camarce, the protesters are mostly employees from other countries such as Senegal and Pakistan.


Receiving no salary for months, Camarce worries about his family back in the Philippines. His wife’s salary as a teacher is not enough to sustain their children’s needs, 3 of whom are already studying. 

"Lugmok na rin po kami sa aming mga pinagkakautangan kung buti sana po ang aming mga sahod ay nagiinterest din na kagaya ng mga utang naming dyan sa Pilipinas,” he shared.  

Thousands of other OFWs in Saudi are facing similar problems.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, in response to the crisis, formed and sent a Rapid Response Team (RRT) to assist OFWs stranded in work camps in Saudi Arabia. 

According to a report they submitted last month, at least 11,000 OFWs in several large Saudi contruction and maintenance companies and their sub-contractors were not paid their salaries on time, ranging from 2 to 6 months. Some were also no longer receiving food allowances and were threatened with eviction from their accommodations.

The DFA said the RRT already provided immediate humanitarian assistance to these OFWs, and brought their situation to the attention of the senior officials of the concerned companies, and with the Saudi government authorities.

Meanwhile, Migrante International also identified the following problems:

  • Non-payment of salaries and benefits affecting thousands of OFWs
  • Expiration of Iqamas (residence permits for expatriates)
  • Lessening or withholding of benefits and ‘idling’ of workers
  • Extensive retrenchment
  • Extortion of Philippine posts 

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, in a radio interview with dzMM, said he ordered the recall of two labor attachès in Saudi Arabia for failing to do their duties.

“We laud the bold move of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello. The recall of the two Labor Attaches in Saudi Arabia is a good step to resolving the problems of stranded OFWs in Saudi and attaining change in the ill-treatment of migrant workers,” said Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International.

On Thursday, July 21, Bello is also set to fly to Saudi Arabia to check the situation and give aid to the stranded OFWs.

A day before his flight, Migrante International and #SaudiOFWsforChange, a network of returned Saudi OFWs and their families, organized a send-off for the labor secretary, wishing him luck and sharing their issues and problems. 

The group raised the following demands: 

  • Negotiate with employers for the payment of salaries and benefits, and issuance of exit visas.
  • Emergency mass repatriation for stranded OFWs. Government to shoulder immigration penalties and other repatriation related costs.
  • Provide legal assistance and other support (free translations fees, transportation expenses) for distressed OFWs who filed labor cases against their companies, and facilitate the provision of subsistence allowances through the OFW’s recruitment agencies.
  • Ban the deployment of workers to bankrupt and crisis-ridden companies.
  • Emergency financial assistance to returned OFWs and families of distressed OFWs.
  • Speedy resolution of cases of repatriated OFWs lodged at the POEA and NLRC.
  • Comprehensive reintegration program for returning OFWs.

DFA Secretary Perfecto R. Yasay Jr, also just recently approved the release of funds for the repatriation of 171 OFWs stranded in Dammam, Saudi Arabia and promised to provide them with legal assistance.

Camarce and his colleagues see the labor secretary’s visit as their last hope. 

"Umaasa po kami na sana malutas na ng gobyerno ang aming suliranin dito sa Saudi Arabia hindi lang para samin [in Saudi Oger] kundi para sa lahat,” he said. (We sill hope that the government will solve our problems here in Saudi Arabia, not just for us, but for all.)

He still doesn’t know what the future holds for him, his family, and his fellow OFWs. But one thing’s for sure: he badly wants to come home. – Rappler.com

#ThinkPH: Country has to solve ‘real world' problems first


LOCAL INNOVATORS. Local tech founders (from left) Paul Rivera, Maria Ressa and Nix Nolledo. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler.

MANILA, Philippines – Technology is changing the world every day and at a pace never seen before, but in the Philippines, local problems still hold the future back.

“There is transformative technology happening all over the world, but you still have to localize to your market’s challenges in the real world. [These are] challenges that developed market counterparts don’t have, ” Xurpas founder and CEO Nix Nolledo said at a morning session of Rappler's #ThinkPH event on Thursday, July 21, at the Resorts World Manila. 

One obvious real world challenge is the slow internet in the Philippines. So one has to figure out ways to work around  that. Nolledo said most popular games now are social multiplayer ones and slow internet is especially difficult for tech firms focused on games such as Xurpas.

Xurpas thus invested in an innovative firm, Nemesis out of Singapore, that allows user’s devices to send keystrokes rather than app data to each other, thus eliminating the need for a fast internet connection to play, according to Nolledo.

Nolledo was speaking at Rappler’s #ThinkPH event as part of a panel discussing digital trends in the country where he was joined by Kalibrr founder and CEO Paul Rivera and Rappler founder and CEO Maria Ressa. (READ: #ThinkPH: Man must learn to dance with machines – Van Geest)

All 3 startup founders agreed that the real world challenges the country presents aren’t all bad, however, as they also force firms to think creatively, innovating out of necessity.

Nolledo cited one example of transformative technology: blockchain – the key to making bitcoins works.

Block chain, and bitcoin technology is particularly suited to the Philippines because of remittances. The promise is that an OFW can send $1000  in remittances from Saudi Arabia to a province in the Philippines without losing any money through middlemen.

But the challenge is that the OFW’s relative has to get the digital currency in hard cash. That’s not a problem in small volumes but not when sums get bigger, especially in the provinces, according to Nolledo.

“If you don’t have enough liquidity in the local market to do that, whatever savings you saved using blockchain will be lost because you’ll have to change it again through a bank," he said.

Slow pace of investment

In Asia, arguably no industry has been as disruptive to the real world economy as ecommerce and the rise of Alibaba, the world’s largest ever IPO.

But ecommerce also illustrates how the lack of liquidity affects the pace of industry transformation.

While ecommerce has grabbed a small foothold in the Philippines, it pales in comparison even to neighboring Indonesia with traditional retail firms and their malls still very much the dominant force.

“This is a function of the small amount of venture capital, or investor money, flowing into tech startups in the country as whole,” Nolledo said.

In 2015, not counting Xurpas investments, there was about $30 million invested into local startups while about $800 million flowed into Indonesia.

That is particularly troubling if one is an ecommerce startup. Nolledo explained that the playbook for online retail is 80% goes into customer acquisition, advertising and marketing, to get customers to make that first transaction.

As it gets more money, ecommerce can really upend traditional retail by subsiding prices to offer consumers bargain deals. They can do so because they don’t have far less fixed costs that traditional stores have such as rent.

Without that seed money, they cannot grow. But, Nolledo pointed out, “the reality is the growth of venture capital is going to happen in the Philippines and  will be coming so suddenly

“So if I were an incumbent, a traditional retailer, I would be using the opportunity to look at the disruption that has happened in other markets and prepare for it, ” he said.

Kalibrr's job matching

Rivera pointed out how the booming BPO industry in the Philippines has created a situation wherein half of the people on Kalibrr’s job matching platform are local firms while the other half are international firms looking to scale.

This has created a situation wherein we are now tapping a rather finite number of skilled people, he said. Put another way, what do you do when you have the Ubers and Googles coming in, he said.

The way to stay competitive for local firms then is to innovate, and his firm has helped transform recruitment by using algorithms that provide ideal matches between jobs and jobseekers based on big data.

The process works like Netflix. When you watch, it automatically suggests other shows you might like through smart algorithms. Kalibrr does the same for jobs and people, Rivera explained.

Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa pointed out that a firm such as Rappler could have started anywhere in the world, but the Philippines was a compelling choice precisely because of its perceived weaknesses, its disorder.

"We chose the Philippines, partly because it was the social media capital of the world and partly because it's very young with a median age of 23. Most importantly, we felt that there  was a real hunger, a real zeitgeist for change here," Ressa said.

“When you’re in a more developed country, maybe cynicism is much more prevalent. But in the Philippines, with all its problems and its youth, there’s a sense that real change can be made here,” she added. – Rappler.com

DILG tests 911 emergency hotline


911 TEST. The emergency hotline, which is proven to be effective in Davao City in ensuring the speedy response of police, firefighters, and medical personnel during emergencies, will be launched nationally in August

MANILA, Philippines – Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ismael Sueno conducted a test of the 911 emergency number on Thursday afternoon, July 21.

Sueno called 911 and requested police assistance at the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) building, where he was having a meeting with representatives of telecommunications companies, the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

Cops were able to respond within 10 minutes, while members of the BFP were able to respond within 20 minutes. 

Members of the public were also able to use the 911 emergency number but were routed to the Patrol 117 emergency contact center.

The 911 emergency number, which is scheduled to be launched on August 1, will replace 117, currently the official national emergency number. The 24-hour service would be manned by officials of the Presidential Action Center (PACE). 

The hotline had proven effective in Davao City to ensure the speedy response of police, firefighters, and medical personnel during emergencies. President Rodrigo Duterte, the city's former mayor, has wanted to replicate the same system all over the country. – Rappler.com



Bata, bata, paano magbasa?


JOY OF READING. The children of Barangay 174 in Caloocan City regularly gather to play and learn how to read together. Photo by Fritzie Rodriguez/Save the Children

MANILA, Philippines – What was your favorite book as a child?

While many of us still vividly remember our favorite stories, there are Filipino children who grow up without books in their homes.

Although the Philippines has a high literacy rate, not all children are able to read and write. This deprives children of the opportunity to travel across new worlds through reading.

The mere exposure to books could already encourage a child to learn, however, many kids are not given enough chance.

As of 2013, 1 out of 10 Filipino children ages 6 to 24 are out of school, government statistics showed. 

That’s around 4 million Filipinos. That’s one child too many. (READ: The children who can’t enter kindergarten)

Outside of school, these children have even less access to appropriate reading materials. But this can be changed, one book at a time.

Reading in my mother tongue

THE READER. Bianca reads with her mother and brother. Children are encouraged to start reading at an early age to prepare them for lifelong learning. Photo by Ella Carino/Save the Children

Mahilig akong magbasa (I love to read),” said a 7-year-old girl named Bianca.

Sitting on the corner of the barangay (village) basketball court, Bianca read a book called Ang Mahiyaing Manok (The Shy Chicken)

In between giggles, Bianca would sometimes act out the scenes from the book. From a little girl, she transforms into a little chicken and back. Other times, Bianca remains serious, with only the sound of the pages turning to break the silence.

The stories Bianca read are written in Filipino and are accompanied by colorful drawings. This helps her absorb stories better, Bianca said.

On top of her class since first grade, Bianca not only regularly studies her school textbooks but also enjoys reading Filipino stories. “Paborito kong subject ang Filipino (Filipino is my favorite subject at school),” she said. “Masarap kasi magbasa (Because it’s fun to read).”

She reads although not required by teachers.

Her mother, Bernadette, is happy to see her daughter read stories aloud to younger children. “Tinuturuan niya rin ‘yung kapatid niyang 5 years old kung paano paano magbasa (She also teaches her 5-year-old brother how to read),” the proud mother said.

Aside from improving children’s language skills, reading also teaches children practical knowledge and values such as personal hygiene, friendship, respect, and proper nutrition.

Fascinated with science, Bianca dreams of becoming a doctor someday.

Bianca, however, cannot always afford books. The same goes for her playmates at Barangay 174, an urban poor community in Northern Caloocan.

Joy of reading


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ggQ_3mJen9g" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>


Reading is perhaps one of life’s greatest pleasures. It’s one of the best ways to learn.

Bianca and the kids of Barangay 174 get their books through the First Read program, an initiative developed by Save the Children in partnership with Prudence Foundation and Adarna House.

First Read is an innovative early childhood development project which aims to improve the reading and math skills of Filipino children ages 0 to 4 years old.

 MOTHER TONGUE. These are children's books written in various Philippine languages published by Adarna House through Save the Children's First Read program. Photo from Save the Children

The program currently runs across barangays in Metro Manila and South Central Mindanao, but with further support, it could expand to other parts of the country in the future. At present, the program reaches over 37,000 children.

The books published by Adarna House are written in various Philippine languages to ensure that all Filipino children get a chance to enjoy and relate with the stories. 

ART. Children from Barangay 174 in Caloocan enjoy their play and art time. Photo by Fritzie Rodriguez/Save the Children

Stories are illustrated by Filipino artists, hopefully inspiring young children to also delve into art. The books also teach children about Filipino culture and diversity. In fact, some stories are set in indigenous communities.

Meanwhile, parents volunteer as storytellers, reading not only to their own child but to dozens of kids in the entire barangay. The books are distributed in the barangay’s Bulilit Corner, a reading and play space for kids.

At the same time, parents and barangay health workers are trained on positive discipline and responsive parenting. After all, learning starts at home.

 After reading her book about a shy chicken, Bianca wanders off to a box of books, in search of her next story.

Will other children be given a chance to do the same? – Rappler.com

Fritzie Rodriguez is a development writer for Save the Children. She is a former journalist who covered issues on LGBT, women, and children’s rights.

PH 'superheroes’ urge Duterte to scrap Marcos burial at Heroes’ Cemetery


HEROES' CEMETERY. Wearing Filipino superhero costumes, activists stage a protest at the Liwasang Bonifacio on Saturday, July 23, denouncing President Rodrigo Duterte's plan to bury the late dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes' Cemetery). Photo by Akbayan

MANILA, Philippines – 'Darna', 'Volta', 'Captain Barbel', and 'Lastikman' have joined forces for a common cause: to stop the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery).

Wearing Filipino superhero costumes, Akbayan members staged a protest at the Liwasang Bonifacio on Saturday, July 23, denouncing President Rodrigo Duterte's plan to bury the late dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Showcasing the Filipino comic book heroes appeals to the imagination of the young and the millennials, according to the protesters.

Ang superheroes, kahit alam natin na kahit fictional, ay tinitingala ng taongbayan at ng indibidwal na Pilipino. Si Marcos, ni sinong Pilipino, ay walang pagtingin na siya ay totoong hero,” explained Akbayan representative Tomasito Villarin.

(The superheroes, even if they are fictional, are admired by the Filipino people. Not a single Filipino considers Marcos a genuine hero.)

“Let them look at what heroes should be. If you look at Darna, Captain Barbell, and Prinsesa Urduja; all of them fought for what is right,” said former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Loretta “Etta” Rosales, who was a political detainee during martial law.

Duterte, a friend of the Marcoses, first promised to give the late dicator a hero’s burial last February while campaigning in Ilocos Norte.

Various groups and individuals oppose the plan, including relatives of those buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. 

Alam natin na ang kasaysayan ay hindi pwedeng baguhin. Alam natin na ang kasaysayan ay pwedeng bumalik sa atin,” said Villarin. (We know that history should not be revised. We know that history can be repeated).

Amnesty International (AI) has estimated that during martial law, 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured, and 3,240 were killed. The AI mission,which visited the Philippines from November to December 1975, found that 71 of the 107 prisoners interviewed alleged that they had been tortured. 

“We call on the Duterte administration to scrap plans to allow the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani," said Akbayan spokesperson Paeng David, adding that Duterte should "focus the energy of his administration towards the recovery of all ill-gotten wealth and the pursuit of justice from the Marcoses instead.” – With a report from Rambo Talabong/Rappler.com

Senate bill: Restaurants must donate excess food to charities


URBAN HUNGER. A Filipino couple tries to feed their children as they share a bowl of rice at a roadside in an urban poor district of Quezon City. File photo by Rolex Dela Peña/EPA

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV filed a bill aiming to prevent food from going to waste in the Philippines. 

Senate Bill No. 357, or the Zero Food Waste Act, seeks to "ultimately end the cycle of having food end up in the trash instead of stomachs."

Aquino's measure requires food establishments to donate their excess food to charities involved in the distribution of meals such as food banks. 

This move, he said, may not just lessen food waste but also improve the state of food security of the poorest Filipino families.

"Sa taas ng presyo ng bilihin at presyo ng pagkain ngayon, hindi makatarungan na maraming nasasayang na pagkain," Aquino added.

(With the high prices of food and other commodities nowadays, it's unjust that so much food go to waste.)

A family of 5 would have to set aside P439 ($9.78) a day to be able to eat adequately, based on the guidelines set by Pinggang Pinoy of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI). (READ: Is the minimum wage enough for a day's worth of nutritious meals?)

Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey for the first quarter of 2016 also found that an estimated 6.9 million families or 31% considered themselves "food-poor" or barely have enough food to eat.

Food banks 

The proposed law highlights the use of food banks and the creation of a community-based food distribution system for families who are food insecure.  

Food security, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), happens "when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life."

The 2015 Global Food Security Index (GFSI) ranks the Philippines 72nd out of 109 countries when it comes to food security. The index also rated the country's efforts against food insecurity as "moderate performance."

The proposed law, according to Aquino, will reduce food insecurity.

It will create a so-called National Anti-Food Waste Scheme, with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) acting as a coordinating agency between businesses and food banks. The DSWD will set guidelines regarding the collection, storage, and distribution of edible food donated by businesses to food banks. 

Aside from ensuring the food's good condition, food-related businesses, such as food manufacturers, supermarkets, and restaurants, will shoulder the costs of sending the food to food banks' warehouses or point of distribution. 

Penalty for wasting food

Establishments which "deliberately make food waste unfit for consumption" will be penalized, Aquino said.  

Hindering redirection of the excess food to food banks and inedible ones to waste management centers is also prohibited under the proposed law. 

The senator added that the Zero Food Waste Act will "push private individuals and their local governments to participate in a segregation campaign to have food waste readily available for recycling into fertilizer or compost." – Rappler.com

$1 = P46

Netizens to Duterte: Fight drugs but uphold rights


MANILA, Philippines - Drugs, crimes, and human rights are among the hottest issues that Filipinos expect President Rodrigo Duterte to tackle in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25.

Netizens who joined Rappler’s recent online conversation about SONA said they want Duterte to give an update on his war against drugs and address the growing concerns on the extrajudicial killings of alleged drug pushers. 

About 57% of the netizens who took Rappler’s Twitter poll said that they are eagerly looking forward to hearing Duterte's first SONA.

Duterte, who ran and won in the 2016 elections on a platform against drugs and criminality, enjoys a high trust rating of 91%.



<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PresidentDuterte?src=hash">#PresidentDuterte</a>&#39;s first-ever State of the Nation Address is this Monday! Are you looking forward to it? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SONA2016?src=hash">#SONA2016</a></p>&mdash; Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) <a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom/status/756005903250239488">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>

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Analysts have attributed Duterte’s victory to the rise of populist politics, saying that Filipino voters rewarded candidates offering simple solutions to complex problems.

"People want some kind of change. They want to break from the past. They are exasperated, aggravated," said Earl Parreno of the Manila-based Institute for Political and Economic Reform in an interview with Agence France-Presse.


According to analysts and supporters, it was because of Duterte's simple solutions to drugs and criminality, coupled with the President's masterful social media campaign, that prompted almost 40% of the voters to elect him as the 16th President of the Philippines.  

Duterte made big strides during his first month as president, threatening cops who are allegedly involved in drug trade with death.

Barely a week into office, he also named at least 5 generals who are allegedly connected with drug syndicates. There are more names left to be mentioned, said Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa.

Thousands of alleged drug addicts have also surrendered.

Data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) also showed that 702 anti-illegal drug operations were conducted nationwide from July 1 to July 20.

Netizens expect the President to reveal more names and update the public on the status of the campaign.


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> di na masyado mahalaga kung ano o gaano karaming pangako bibitawan ni <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PresidentDuterte?src=hash">#PresidentDuterte</a> kita nyo nman sa AKSYON nya SOLVE na</p>&mdash; Aladdin Richards Jr. (@riainefaul) <a href="https://twitter.com/riainefaul/status/756034139631923200">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>

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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> I expect that it wud be long because of his numerous achievements against drugs and corruption even a short period of time.</p>&mdash; francoiscoqz (@FCoquilla143) <a href="https://twitter.com/FCoquilla143/status/756026517788893185">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>

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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> Since the audience include the Congress and Senate, he will name senators and congressman involved in illegal drugs. =)</p>&mdash; Mark Myword (@crislayug) <a href="https://twitter.com/crislayug/status/756021097737297920">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>

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Uphold human rights

The rise of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug peddlers and users, however, has sparked a growing clamor for Duterte to uphold human rights in his fight against drugs and criminality. 


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> That thousands of &quot;suspected&quot; drug pushers have been killed. Hopefully, a slight percentage of whom are innocent?! (cringe)</p>&mdash; Bato Bituka (@BatoBituka) <a href="https://twitter.com/BatoBituka/status/756049491153686528">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> Alarmed. What about the families of victims of human rights violations? Surely, we can&#39;t be a numb society.</p>&mdash; JazzyJean Rey (@JazzyJean8) <a href="https://twitter.com/JazzyJean8/status/756019785243033600">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>
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Based on reports, more than 400 people have died in drug- and crime-related killings since May 10, the day after elections. The number continues to rise.

The president of De La Salle Philippines, a network of educators running 16 Catholic schools across the country, earlier slammed the spate of killings, saying that the "absence of a significant public outcry against the blatant contempt for the human life and the rule of law" is even more troubling. 

Catholics in the Archdiocese of Manila will gather for Mass on Monday to pray for victims of the killings since Duterte's election. "Huwag kang papatay" (Thou shall not kill) is the theme of the gathering.

Simple SONA?

Netizens also looked forward to seeing legislators and guests in simple outfits.

Davao del Norte First District Representative Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez, the new Speaker of the House, urged his fellow lawmakers to dress simply for the annual event that has, in years, somehow evolved into a fashion show.

Meawhile, others questioned whether the services of critically acclaimed director Brillante Mendoza was necessary


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> I do expect a far better SONA than before, no ostentatious dresses shall be noticed. &amp; of course I anticipate the simple SONA</p>&mdash; Patx ღ (@LoverEngot) <a href="https://twitter.com/LoverEngot/status/756059285746962432">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> when the press release is not to have an Oscar feel like Red carpet during SONA, but there&#39;s a Director. What differs?</p>&mdash; JC (@jeyczi) <a href="https://twitter.com/jeyczi/status/756009824190509056">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> What is there 2 direct, the flow of d <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SONA2016?src=hash">#SONA2016</a>?Ah, narcissists like grandiosity w/ a huge audience. Simple food was a bait.</p>&mdash; JazzyJean Rey (@JazzyJean8) <a href="https://twitter.com/JazzyJean8/status/756018908377645056">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>
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Other issues 

Commenters also expect Duterte to discuss his plans for the other promises that he made during the campaign. This includes his specific plans for public transportation, foreign policy, and labor contractualization. 


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> I am hoping more for the economic program, foreign policy. But, I have a hunch he&#39;ll yap about drugs and crime.</p>&mdash; Sarcastic Trapo (@TraPoAko) <a href="https://twitter.com/TraPoAko/status/756018008481419265">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> Hope he speak on traffic problem</p>&mdash; JULIAN MENESES (@meneses_yan) <a href="https://twitter.com/meneses_yan/status/756035949679620096">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SONA2016?src=hash">#SONA2016</a> on how he will give a resolution to the problem of the country for unemployment and for the sector of education?</p>&mdash; Jhon Ray S. Manayan (@jhonray_05) <a href="https://twitter.com/jhonray_05/status/756028627611856896">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> Full disclosure of his economic agenda for our country. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SONA2016?src=hash">#SONA2016</a></p>&mdash; JazzyJean Rey (@JazzyJean8) <a href="https://twitter.com/JazzyJean8/status/756015662661636096">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> Better Public Transport for EveryJuan. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ChangeStartsWithJuanAnother?src=hash">#ChangeStartsWithJuanAnother</a></p>&mdash; pauskhiepau (@Lilyuanskhie) <a href="https://twitter.com/Lilyuanskhie/status/756003294531559426">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> I hope he&#39;ll provide us with concrete mechanisms regarding the issue of contractualization.</p>&mdash; Joanne Constantino (@joannagitera) <a href="https://twitter.com/joannagitera/status/756039995358531584">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> Hopefully, AFP modernization and true agricultural development.</p>&mdash; I.J. Capin (@SiAyVan) <a href="https://twitter.com/SiAyVan/status/756050614916780032">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>
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What do you want to hear from the President? Tweet your thoughts using #SONA2016 or write them on X– With a report from Raisa Serafica/Rappler.com 


Duterte Fil-Am supporters see change for better


President Rodrigo Duterte has won the support of Fil-Am groups. File photo by Jay Rommel Labra/EPA

CALIFORNIA, United States - President Rodrigo Duterte will guide the Philippines to a new era marked by decisiveness resulting in the supremacy of law, say the new leader's admirers in the United States. 

While the former mayor of Davao City polarized his country with his take-no-prisoners policy against drug lords and his declarations of war against graft and corruption – not the least his willingness to joke about rape, Duterte has won fans even in the most progressive region here.

Filipinos here – Philippine passport holders and dual citizens alike – expressed optimism for the next 6 years.

"With his leadership, I expect drastic changes in law enforcement in the effort to curb criminality and drug addiction quickly," Chito Patricio, a community service provider in Daly City, told Rappler. 

"I also expect resistance from organized criminals and opposition from political organizations, but that is normal part of a change. His life may be in danger because of his aggressive approach." 

As supervisor of a program that connects underserved populations to public and private resources, Patricio works closely with elected and appointed officials. His experience here magnifies the problems in his home country, which he believes will be corrected in the new administration. 

"This one may take more time but I also expect the restoration of values in our citizens, public officials and a sense of fairness in the society," said Patricio, who came to this country to reunite with his permanent resident wife some five years ago. He is undecided about becoming a US citizen, even if he knows the Philippines recognizes dual citizenship.

Patricio was among nearly 17 million who voted for Duterte.

A native of Capiz, Patricio said defeated presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II, who is also from Capiz, did little for his province.

Capiz - its capital is Roxas City - has yet to sport the physical and economic infrastructure enjoyed by its neighbors, according to Patricio. "Roads in our town, Sapian, are impassable," he bewailed.   

"Duterte was the best candidate because of his track record as mayor of Davao City," Patricio pronounced. "Corruption, criminality and drug addiction have pushed our country into a state of hopelessness and it was only Duterte who appears to have a concrete and decisive solution. Our country needs a leader who will be respected not only by the citizens and  the public officials/leaders but will be feared by criminals as well."

People's state of the nation

As Duterte delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25 in Manila, his supporters gathered in San Francisco to herald the new day. (READ: 'Live: President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2016' )

The Northern California component of Bayan USA held a rally on July 24 at the Center for Political Education on Valencia Street here.

Organizers called the event the People's State of the Nation Address, built on cultural performances "addressing the people's agenda for change for President Duterte."

The group spelled out its prescription for "CHANGE: Comprehensive social economic reform, Human Rights, Advancing the rights of OFWs and migrants, National Sovereignty/Anti-U.S. intervention, Genuine Agrarian Reform/Indigenous Rights, Education is a Human Right! No K-12 Program and Stop Public Private Partnership."

"'The Filipino people have been clamoring for change and with the inauguration of the new President, Rodrigo Duterte, there have already been significant changes and shifts in this president’s overall direction for the Philippines," the organization said in a statement.  The group delivered their action plan to Duterte June 29 at his inauguration in Malacanan. 

BAYAN USA was among the first U.S.-based Philippine advocacy groups to applaud the Duterte victory. 

"'With the inauguration of Rodrigo Duterte as President of the Philippines, we look forward to an opening to push for positive changes needed in the government and its policies," Bernadette Ellorin, BAYAN USA chair, said June 29 with a caveat.  "But no matter who is president, it is the people, united in collective action, that are the true agents of change. We must work to unite with and engage the incoming administration to truly depart from traditional Philippine politics and walk a pro-people, pro-sovereignty path.” 

Ellorin cited what she called Duterte's "pro-people policies" and opposition to "U.S. intervention in Mindanao" as basis for their endorsement.

"'We especially welcome Duterte’s push to renew formal peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Philippine government," Ellorin stressed. "These negotiations, which have been the target of sabotage by both the Aquino and Arroyo administrations, aim to address the roots of the armed conflict--poverty, landlessness, and joblessness.

Bayan USA praised Duterte's appointment of Rafael Mariano as Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform, Dr. Judy Taguiwalo as Social Welfare Secretary, and Joel Maglunsod as Labor Undersecretary.

“These are exciting times for the Filipino people, and everywhere around the world people are watching closely at what this president will do," Ellorin said. "The demonization tactics of the Western media is proof that he is already ruffling the feathers of the U.S. government, which could be a prelude for destabilization if Duterte pushes through with an independent foreign policy.”

Duterte also received commendation from Gabriela USA.

“Women in the Philippines suffered unemployment, landlessness, violence and state sponsored repression for six long years under the previous Aquino administration and we are hopeful that President Duterte will address the concerns of women and their communities,” said Irma Bajar, chair of the worldwide movement. 

Its USA chapter lauded Duterte's appointment of former Gabriela chair Liza Masa as head of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, a new body convened to "defend and uphold the interests of women and of the Filipino people in general."

“This is an exciting time for our 'kababayan' not only because there are progressives serving in important roles in the new administration but because of the resumption of peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,” said Bajar.

“We must continue to support the peace negotiations because through those talks, the roots of our people’s suffering can be addressed and we can build a truly independent Philippines where people can have decent livelihood and where the rights of the people are upheld.”

Neither Gabriela nor Bayan USA addressed Duterte's earlier comments on rape and behavior toward women.  

While campaigning he joked about regretting that he did not get to participate in the rape of an Australian missionary who was murdered.  As presidential-elect he branded his daughter a "drama queen" when she disclosed she  had been raped.  He ogled and wolf-whistled at a female journalist interviewing him.

Duterte downplayed the statements as street humor belied by his pro-women policies.

But those jokes are inappropriate at best, Elizabeth Angsioco, national chair of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, told Agence France Presse:  “His words and actions reinforce looking at women as second-class citizens."

Duterte's first marriage was annulled. He is in a relationship with a businesswoman by whom he has a daughter, and has publicly bragged about his mistresses. – Rappler.com

San Francisco Bay Area-based Rappler contributor Cherie M. Querol Moreno is editor at large of FilAm publications Philippine News and columnist of Philippines Today US.

Are you an OFW? Join Rappler's online community, BalikBayan.

#SONA2016: March to Batasan a ‘breath of fresh air’ for activists


REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES. Unlike previous SONAs, no police barricades were put up to prevent the demonstrators from reaching its destination, making this year's rally peaceful. Photo by Katrina Artiaga / Rappler

MANILA, Philippines - “It’s a breath of fresh air na ‘di na tayo gaano ka-nirepress ng mga pulis.” (It's a breath of fresh air that we are not that repressed by the police)

This was how Josiah Hiponia, 20, a student from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, described this year’s mass actions during the State of the Nation Address (SONA). People from various sectoral groups and advocacies annually troop from the UP Diliman campus to Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City, usually in protest against the current administration's programs. 

This year, however, the demonstrators gathered to express their support for President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Also this year, they were able to reach Batasan Pambansa freely and without the use of force, unlike in previous SONAs where protestors were always stopped at Ever Gotesco Mall in Commonwealth Avenue by a line of policemen armed with truncheons and shields, container vans, and barriers with barbed wires.

The police stayed at the side and just watched the demonstrators, even as the groups approached Batasan Hills, the seat of the Lower House where President Duterte delivered his first SONA.

When the demonstrators settled down and began their program, some of the police rested, drank juice, and conversed with demonstrators and residents of the area.  

CONVERSATION. A citizen discusses matters with members of the Philippine National Police near the House of Representatives. Photo by Katrina Artiaga / Rappler

John Vincent Gonzales, 20, from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers – Philippine Normal University, said that aside from the peaceful rally, this year’s SONA was also “very welcoming” because thousands flocked Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City to join the protest, with a Mindanao contingent joining for the first time.

‘Yung SONAng [rally na] ito, hindi para tumuligsa sa Pangulong Duterte kundi suportahan ‘yung mga makamasang polisiya niya atsaka ‘yung mga plano niya para sa bansa,” he added.

(This State of the Nation rally is not to oppose President Duterte but to support his pro-masses policies and his plans for the nation.) 

Portraits of peace

Demonstrators did not burn any effigy of the president for the first time in 15 years. Instead, a six-panel mural portraying themes from the People’s Agenda for Change served as the main attraction.


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The murals, called “Portraits of Peace,” were made by artists from progressive groups and were meant to convey a positive message to the Duterte administration that the multi-sectoral groups welcome his presidency and that they are hopeful of the change he has promised.

The main themes in the mural were natural industrialization, progressive social policy, national sovereignty, human rights and peace, people’s governance, and genuine land reform. These were encompassed in the People’s Agenda for Change, a 15-point agenda made by participants of the National People’s Summit 2016 held at UP Diliman on June 29.

NATIONAL ISSUES. The 'Portraits of Peace' replace the effigies being burned down during SONA protests, a first in 15 years. The murals were an expression of support for the Duterte administration's promise of change.  Photo by Katrina Artiaga / Rappler

Vigilance to continue

Ryan Alcarde, 20, of Alay Sining, said that despite the progressive groups’ expression of support to the Duterte administration, they will continue to be vigilant of his policies and actions.

‘Yung tunay na batayin natin na tunay ang pagbabago sa gobyerno ay kung mapapatunayan niya [na magagawa niya] ‘yun [People’s Agenda for Change]. Pagpapakita na rin ito na may isa siyang antas ng sincerity sa pakikipagtulungan sa mga progresibong grupo sa pag attain ng pagbabago,” he said.”

(The true guidelines for authentic change in government is if they can prove that they can accomplish the People's Agenda for Change. This will show that they have a level of sincerity in helping progressive groups attain change)

Alcarde tells critics of progressive groups that if they are really for the masses, they should join the movement to understand what it is fighting for. - Rappler.com

What do you think of these demonstrations during President Duterte's first State of the Nation Address? Tell us on X!

Katrina Crista M. Artiaga is a student from the University of the Philippines Diliman and an intern at Rappler.