Anti-Dynasty Group: Con-Ass Disempowering and Self-Serving

Photo credit: Philstar

19 January 2018

A group actively pushing for the anti-dynasty law slammed the adoption of Resolution no. 9 by Congress that convenes itself into a Constituent Assembly. ANGKOP, a civil society group and one of the conveners of the anti-dynasty movement took a swipe at the 17th Congress for ‘railroading’ the Con-Ass resolution.

“We can NOT entrust the process to this current rubberstamp Congress. These political bullies have time and again proven to be exclusionary, draconian, and outright selfish, egotistic and bigoted. Their hitherto lackluster legislative performance, penchant for railroading measures, and their inclination to intimidate and silence dissenting voices give us an idea of the kind of outcome this Con-ass will deliver – one that robs the people of effective and meaningful participation” ANGKOP Chairperson Atty. Eirene Aguila asserted.

“The Speaker’s shameful disregard of the sense of the Senate towards Con-Ass gives us a glimpse of their disrespect for process. To expect them to listen and to hold themselves accountable for the process is thus a stretch to the imagination. We know that this Congress is not a fan of checks and balances and therefore can not be trusted to tinker with the fundamental law of the land.” she added.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez recently insisted in pushing through with the Con-Ass deliberations with or without the presence of the Senators.

“This Congress is off to a bad start. Initializing the process of such monumental proportion such as changing the fundamental law the land and will impact future generations through a process that is most exclusionary betrays the trust of the people. We have to be reminded that the overwhelming majority if this crop of legislators is, by and large, a product of patronage, pera, and pamilya politics.” Atty. Aguila said.

Journalists risk death for the truth

Daphne Caruana Galizia is a Maltese journalist, writer and anti corruption activist. Photo credit: IB Times

Fr. Shay Cullen
18 January 2018

Journalists, writers, reporters, commentators will just have to curb their passion for speaking and exposing the truth if they want to continue to live. Too many end up a corpse in a cold dark morgue, silence their only companion. That is just the way it is in the Philippines and elsewhere. More than a 146 journalists have been assassinated since 1986.

Last November 23 was the 8th anniversary of the mass murder of 58 Filipinos 32 of them journalists, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province, in 2009. This was the worse of all violent assaults on the freedom of the press anywhere in one single blow. A powerful political family allegedly carried out the killings against their opponents and killed the 32 journalists covering the elections. No one has been convicted for the brutal heinous killings.

The sheer audacity of politicians or corrupt business personalities to quell the truth and the blind power behind the greed and personal vanity that orders killings of journalists is outrageous and there is little that can be done to stop it.

Journalists are just ordinary people with a story to tell; yet to tell the truth is to risk one’s life in many cases. Exposing what is corrupt and damaging to the public, is to challenge the seat of political power and it has dire consequences. No vengeance is as fierce as that of a corrupt politician exposed, a shady business corporation laid bare, no ignorance as painful as an uninformed and uncaring public.

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Bid to shutter Philippine online news site sparks outrage

Credit: Sunstar

Media agency highly critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government has license revoked


Joe Torres,  UCANews Manila Philippines January 17, 2018

The Philippines’ securities regulatory body has revoked the license of an online news agency highly critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government, especially the deadly war on drugs.

Media and human rights groups denounced the Jan. 15 decision against news site Rappler calling it a blow to press freedom.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines expressed its “outrage” and called on Filipino journalists “to unite and resist every and all attempts to silence us.”

The group said the move against Rappler was one of many threats Duterte has made against media organizations critical of his policies.

According to the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Rappler violated the constitution in regard to foreign ownership because it received funds from the Omidyar Network of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

The Philippine Constitution states that, “ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines.”

Rappler said it would continue to operate while it takes the closure bid to the courts.

The online news site has been a target of Duterte’s ire over its reporting especially on the government’s war against illegal drugs, which has reportedly killed up to 13,000 people.

Rappler has rejected the ownership allegations, saying its foreign investors are not the owners.

“They invest, but don’t own. Rappler remains 100 percent Filipino-owned,” read the new site’s statement.

Palace washes hands of decision

The presidential palace said the SEC decision was not an attack on press freedom.

“The constitution sets restrictions on the ownership and management of mass media entities to which all must abide,” said presidential spokesman Harry Roque.

“We respect the SEC decision that Rappler contravenes the strict requirements of the law that the ownership and the management of mass media entities must be wholly-owned by Filipinos,” said Roque.

“The issue at hand is the compliance of 100 percent Filipino ownership and management of mass media. It is not about infringement on the freedom of the press,” added Roque.

Media groups slammed the decision.

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines expressed “deep concern” over the move, describing it as “tantamount to killing the online news site” and an “assault against democracy.”

The Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines said it was “alarmed at the decision,” and “strongly condemns any form of intimidation and harassment of media practitioners.”

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong said it was “appalled” by the decision, which “marks a dark day for press freedom and democracy in the Philippines.”

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand said it is “deeply concerned” by a decision that “will have profound and negative consequences for media freedom in the Philippines.”

Chilling effect on media freedom

Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the move would result in self-censorship by the media fearful of government reprisals for critical reporting.

He said the move against Rappler “suggests a sinister use of state regulatory processes to stifle critical media voices.”

Amnesty International called the SEC decision “an alarming attempt to silence independent journalism.”

James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Southeast Asia and the Pacific director said, “The Philippine government should focus on ending and investigating violations, mostly against poor communities, in the ‘war on drugs,’ not trying to silence the messenger,” he added.

Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of rights group Karapatan, said the revocation of Rappler’s license “is clearly a move to constrict press freedom.”

“It also attests to the reality that this regime is gradually moving towards a dictatorship,” said Palabay.

Luis Teodoro, former dean of the University of the Philippines’ College of Mass Communication, said Rappler can continue operations if it moves out of the Philippines.

“They are online, they can continue to operate wherever they are,” he said.

DAR document bares Cojuangco agribiz venture illegal, made farmers poor

Task Force Mapalad News Release – January 18, 2018

Credit: SunStar

Negros peasants urge Duterte to void Danding deal, install them in 5,000-hectare hacienda


About a thousand Negros Occidental peasants are calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to end Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.’s greed and deception that enabled the businessman to still control a vast agricultural landholding in the province for the last two decades even though the property should have long benefitted its tillers.

“Mr. Cojuangco has been fooling us for the last 20 years and sadly, the government, since the Estrada administration, just chose to close its eyes to the injustice. We thus urged President Duterte to end our grief by also ending Danding’s abuses by voiding his agribusiness deal with us and immediately installing us in our land,” said Noel Magan.

Magan is the president of ECJ CLOA Holders’ Association, the agrarian reform beneficiaries of the Cojuangco-controlled Negros haciendas, who are members of national peasant federation task Force Mapalad.

Magan is referring to the joint agribusiness venture arrangement (JVA) that Cojuangco forged with his farm workers right after a 4,654-hectare landholding in Negros consisting of 11 haciendas was supposedly given up by Danding to land reform in 1998 and was distributed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to Magan’s group through certificates of landownership award or CLOA.

Under the business deal, Cojuangco, through ECJ and Sons Agricultural Enterprises, would still have control over the landholding consisting of 11 haciendas planted to mango, durian, pili, banana, and other fruits by providing capital, facilities, and technical expertise to operate the farms in exchange for 70 percent equity of the JVA.

Meanwhile, Magan’s group or the CLOA holders, would assign the use of their landholding to the JVA in exchange for a 30-percent equity.

Danding biz deal illegal, voidable, has no approval from President’s council

But after 20 years since the memorandum of understanding was signed between Magan’s group and ECJ and Sons, which led to the formation of the Cojuangco-controlled South Negros Joint Venture Corporation (SNJVC) that managed and operated the haciendas the farmers’ group recently found out from the DAR that the JVA was in fact illegal as the agency did not approve of the arrangement.

The haciendas are found in the cities of Bago and La Carlota and the towns of La Castellana, Isabela, Hinigaran, Murcia, San Enrique, Himamaylan, and Pontevedra.

A memorandum from a DAR panel mandated to review agribusiness venture arrangements (AVA), a copy of which was recently obtained by Magan’s group, stated that Cojuangco’s arrangement with the CLOA holders, though already implemented, “can be considered as a voidable contract” because it did not get approval from the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), which is now headed by President Duterte.

The July 7, 2017 eight-page memo by the National AVA Evaluation Committee (NAEC) chaired by DAR Undersecretary Rosalino Bistoyong informed the PARC that while ECJ and Sons submitted the JVA for approval on August 26, 2005, the latter failed to complete the submission of documents for the PARC to act and decide on the JVA application.

“Completion of documents is the operative fact that would commence the 30-day prescriptive period,” the NAEC told the Duterte-headed PARC, referring to the number of days that the council should act from the time of the completion of the documents submitted for the JVA application.

But “since the documents…were not completed,” the NAEC said, “the 30-day period within which the PARC…is to act on the JVA did not commence.”

“Record shows the JVA has not yet been approved, in fact, it is still pending before the NAEC,” the panel said in the same memorandum.

Ariendo/Lease also illegal

The NAEC also bared that despite not having the green light to operate, the Cojuangco-controlled SNJVC placed the farmers’ landholding under “ariendo” or lease through a production management service agreement (PMSA) with Miguel Hinojales, which led to the conversion of majority of the fruit farm areas to a sugar plantation.

The committee noted that the PMSA “entered into by the SNJVC was not presented” to Magan’s group and other agrarian reform beneficiaries “nor was it approved by the PARC.”

NAEC added that since the SNJVC’s “primary contract is not approved, the subsequent auxiliary contracts” or the agreement with Hinojales, “are devoid of legal existence.”

If JVA was approved, it still has to be revoked because farmers remain poor

Moreover, the NAEC said that even if the PARC had approved the JVA, the same “can be revoked” because Magan’s group’s joint venture scheme with Cojuangco did not improve their economic status because each farmer/landowner only received P10,000 as yearly dividend/profit sharing or P833 monthly.

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Key Issues on Federalism: A Policy Action Conference

The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)  invites the public to a Policy Action Conference on Federalism to be held at the Conference Area of UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies (CIDS), Ground Floor, UP Balay ng Alumni, UP Diliman, Quezon City, on February 7, 2018. Registration starts at 8:00 am and the conference will be from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  Former UP President Jose V. Abueva will deliver the Keynote Address.

Duterte’s Cha-Cha is a Self-Serving Recipe for Term Extension, Enrichment and Dictatorship

Statement by the Movement Against Tyranny


January 15, 2017

As Congress resumes it’s session today, it is poised to fast-track Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s supposed agenda for a shift to a federal system of government through Charter change.

At this point, the Movement Against Tyranny is ringing the alarm bells on what is turning out to be a plot to skirt term limits and extend the terms of office of President Duterte and other incumbent public officials, enrich themselves through various perks and increased powers, and impose a one-man dictatorship by giving the President blanket executive and legislative powers during an unspecified transition period to the new federal system.

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The youth of today

Teenagers are better behaved and less hedonistic nowadays

But they are also lonelier and more isolated

Photo credit: The Economist

The Economist | Jan. 10, 2018 | Los Angeles

At the gates of Santa Monica College, in Los Angeles, a young man with a skateboard is hanging out near a group of people who are smoking marijuana in view of the campus police. His head is clouded, too—but with worry, not weed. He frets about his student loans and the difficulty of finding a job, even fearing that he might end up homeless. “Not to sound intense,” he adds, but robots are taking work from humans. He neither smokes nor drinks much. The stigma against such things is stronger than it was for his parents’ generation, he explains.

Young people are indeed behaving and thinking differently from previous cohorts at the same age. These shifts can be seen in almost every rich country, from America to the Netherlands to South Korea. Some have been under way for many years, but they have accelerated in the past few. Not all of them are benign.

Perhaps the most obvious change is that teenagers are getting drunk less often (see chart 1). They start drinking later: the average age at which young Australians first try alcohol has risen from 14.4 to 16.1 since 1998. And even when they start, they sip rather than chug. In Britain, where a fifth of 16- to 24-year-olds do not drink at all, the number of pubs is falling by about 1,000 a year, and nightclubs are faring even worse. In the past young people went out for a drink and perhaps had something to eat at the same time, says Kate Nicholls, head of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, a trade group. Now it is the other way round.

Other drugs are also falling from favour. Surveys by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction show that the proportion of 15- to 16-year-olds who have tried cigarettes has been falling since 1999. A rising proportion of teenagers have never tried anything mind-altering, including alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, inhalants and sedatives. The proportion of complete abstainers rose from 11% to 31% in Sweden between 2003 and 2015, and from 23% to an astounding 61% in Iceland. In America, all illicit drugs except marijuana (which is not illicit everywhere) have become less popular. Mercifully, the decline in teenage opioid use is especially steep.

Nor are young people harming each other as much as they used to. Fighting among 13- and 15-year-olds is down across Europe. Juvenile crime and anti-social behaviour have dropped in England and Wales, and with them the number of juvenile convicts. In 2007 almost 3,000 young people were in custody; by 2016 the number was below 1,000.

Teenagers are also having less sex, especially of the procreative kind. In 1991, 54% of American teenagers in grades nine to 12 (ages 14-18) reported that they were sexually experienced, and 19% claimed to have had sex with at least four partners. In 2015 those proportions were 41% and 12%. America’s teenage birth rate crashed by two-thirds during the same period. As with alcohol, the abstention from sex seems to be carrying through into early adulthood. Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University in California, has shown that the proportion of Americans aged 20-24 who report having no sexual partner since the age of 18 rose from 6.3% for the cohort born in the late 1960s to 15.2% for those born in the early 1990s. Japan is a more extreme case. In 2015, 47% of unmarried 20- to 24-year-old Japanese men said they had never had sex with a woman, up from 34% in 2002.

In short, young people are less hedonistic and break fewer rules than in the past. They are “kind of boring”, says Shoko Yoneyama, an expert on Japanese teenagers at the University of Adelaide. What is going on?

‘They tuck you up

One possible explanation is that family life has changed. A study of 11 countries by Giulia Dotti Sani and Judith Treas, two academics, found that parents spend much more time on child care. In America, the average parent spent 88 minutes a day primarily looking after children in 2012—up from 41 minutes in 1965. Fathers have upped their child-care hours most in proportional terms, though they still do much less than mothers. Because families are smaller, the hours are spread across fewer offspring.

Those doted-upon children seem to have turned into amenable teenagers. In 28 out of 34 rich countries surveyed by the World Health Organisation, the proportion of 15-year-old boys who said they found it easy to talk to their fathers rose between 2001-02 and 2013-14. Girls found it easier to talk to their fathers in 29 out of 34 countries. The trend for mothers is similar but less strong. And even teenagers who do not talk to their parents seem to listen to them. Dutch surveys show that teenagers have come to feel more pressure from their parents not to drink. That is probably the main reason for the decline in youthful carousing since 2003.

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Dialogue between state, church leaders a better option

Philippine government and the country’s bishops need to remember they serve the same flock

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, listens as Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, addresses families of victims of a fire in Davao City in December. (Photo courtesy of the Presidential Communications Office)

Melo Acuna, Manila | Philippines January 15, 2018

The Philippines’ Catholic Bishops’ Conference, established 73 years ago, has raised the ire of some people in government over statements and exhortations that were classified controversial, and at times disturbing.

Previous and present Philippine government leaders have downplayed the bishops’ statements by saying priests and religious leaders should instead exert extra efforts in responding to people’s spiritual needs.

These political leaders, through their media allies, said politics is best addressed by elected and appointed officials, not by priests and bishops.

At the height of martial law in the 1970s, while most bishops remained silent on human rights abuses committed by state agents, one of the social action arms of the Catholic Church, the National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace, and the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines attended to the needs of human rights victims and their kin.

A priest from Lucena Diocese, on the main island of Luzon, said when people fail to be helped by elected and appointed officials, they go to their parish churches for redress and assistance.

One of the most controversial statements came from the then archbishop of Cebu, the soft-spoken Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, who was then president of the bishops’ conference. He spoke of the bishops’ assessment of the 1986 snap elections that led to the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos.

“In our considered judgment, the polls were unparalleled in the fraudulence of their conduct. And we condemn especially the modes of fraudulence and irregularities,” read the bishops’ statement.

In just a matter of days, then Manila archbishop Cardinal Jaime Sin rallied Catholics to Manila’s main thoroughfare, Edsa Avenue, which resulted in strongman Marcos’ departure for Hawaii.

The bishops later focused on other issues including the toxic contamination of former US military bases in the country and even made urgent appeals for peace in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao.

Even before the 2016 national elections, then Davao city mayor and presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte issued a mouthful of expletive-laden statements against the Catholic Church and its leaders.

President Duterte accused priests and bishops of corruption, womanizing and other excesses. The president’s expletives against the church were made amid the bishops’ continuing commitment to the work of social justice, rule of law and due process.

In 2017, Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi called on his priests to ring church bells at nine every evening as a symbolic call for an end to drug-related killings in the country.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila also rallied his priests to ring their church bells at eight in the evening to remember those who have died in the government’s relentless war against drugs.

A priest from Manila said his parish has regularly seen three to five unexplained killings every so often. Asked how he knew of these killings, the priest said the victims’ relatives come to him requesting funeral Masses and prayers for the dead.

While observers believe Duterte appears incapable of accepting criticism especially about his relentless anti-drug campaign, there are opportunities for dialogue.

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, a friend of Duterte, now leading the bishops’ conference, is looking forward to continuing engagement with the government and its leaders by keeping communication lines open.

The 66-year old prelate said the manner of conveying one’s message greatly matters.

Archbishop Valles said the country’s bishops are expected to submit suggested topics for dialogue in their plenary assembly later this month.

The prelate said the difference between the bishops’ conference and political organizations is that the former is a collegial body where issues are discussed and decided. He said it is unlike how political organizations work.

The Davao prelate said he is in a way fortunate to have come from the southern Philippine city and that he and Duterte know each other personally. He, however, downplayed media accounts of his close association with the president.

He also said that no leader, including Duterte, could ignore the fact that at least 83 million, or 79.5 percent of the Philippine population, is Catholic.

It is in the best interest of both the government and the church to keep the communication lines open because both institutions have to serve the same flock.

Melo Acuna has worked as a broadcast journalist for the past three decades. He has spent time with faith-based groups in various dioceses in the Philippines through his work as reporter, and later as station manager of church-run radio Veritas 846