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Friday, June 27, 2008

Living with high food prices

Philippine Star
BIZLINKS By Rey Gamboa
Friday, June 27, 2008

There seems to be no end in sight to rising food prices, and with the rainy season upon us, expect price levels to go up, up and further up.

The World Bank noted during the recent world food security summit in Rome that food prices around the globe have risen by 83 percent in the last three years. Rice prices have hit a 19-year high last March.

World Bank president Robert Zoellick has predicted a sustained period of higher food costs, saying he expects prices to remain elevated through next year and stay above 2004 levels for at least the next seven years.

The food crisis, the World Bank stressed, will drive 100 million into poverty, 30 million of them in Africa alone.

We need not look far, right in our own backyards, poverty stares us in the face everyday. As early as six in the morning, the urban poor line up to buy cheap, subsidized rice at designated distribution centers of the National Food Authority. It’s amazing that the long line never tapers off even under the hot mid-day sun.

I would be curious to find out though if the long line will continue to be a daily thing once the government starts or pushes through, if it hasn’t yet, its plan to introduce a so-called better rice grade at the price of P35 a kilo.

Supposedly, the idea is to stabilize rice prices and ensure that this does not go beyond P40 a kilo during the lean months from July to September. I wonder though if the scheme isn’t a way for the government to go around the fact, that cash-strapped as it is, it can no longer afford buying expensive imported rice and selling this at a loss.

High commodity prices

Setting government rice at P35 a kilo brings more questions though. Is it importing different rice grades, and what are the price differentials? Will this policy be applied only during the lean months or will it be a permanent fixture?

Some skeptics are saying the government may have unwittingly set an unrealistic benchmark for rice prices, another misstep just like when it trumpeted to the world that the Philippines has a rice shortage – sending traders to speculate, and with prices of course, going through the roof.

Global rice prices, in part driven by soaring crude oil prices, have seen unprecedented spikes since the start of the year and have snowballed into other commodities as well.

High corn prices are also hurting livestock owners, who spend more than 60 percent of their production costs on corn to feed their cattle, hogs and chickens.

In the US which has drawn criticism for allocating a large volume of its corn production for ethanol use, some livestock owners are now faced with slaughtering parts of their herds or flocks to cope with rising feed costs, a move that will mean higher beef, chicken and pork costs later this year.

The same is true in the Philippines whose corn production is at best, erratic, often still relying on imports to fill shortages.

A leader of a local chicken growers group said many of the small producers want to increase production but are constrained because of higher production costs. They are also hesitating because they are not confident that they will be supported by demand. With prices escalating across the board and for all basic essentials, consumers’ purchasing power is fast eroding.

The supply of pork in Luzon is wanting, but there is aplenty in the Visayas and Mindano regions. The problem is that they can’t transport them to Manila because transport costs are unaffordable.

However did we get here? The World Bank said food prices have increased in response to many factors: higher energy and fertilizer prices; increased demand for biofuels, especially in the US and the European Union; and droughts in Australia and other countries.

World grain stocks are at record lows, and next year’s prices depend on the success of the next harvest in the northern hemisphere.

Zoellick made a good point when he stressed that much of what threatens to bring the world to its knees is not because of natural catastrophes, but are mostly man’s own doing. So, if the state we are in is man-made, then it is only us that could fix it or set things straight.


His push for a “New Deal” on global food policy calls for a 10-point plan for boosting developing country agricultural products and productivity so developing countries could benefit from the growing demand for food.

As part of this longer-term strategy, agricultural research could triple yields and new risk management tools would be deployed to protect poor farmers. Easing bio-fuel subsidies, mandates and tariffs, and closing the Doha trade round are part of these longer-term measures.

The World Bank has even offered assistance for agriculture and food-related activities from $4 billion to $6 billion over the coming year.

The global food crisis, while clearly daunting, can also be an opportunity for policymakers in the country for instance to once and for all come up with innovative and creative long-term solutions to help the poorest of our lot cope with high food prices.

Dole-outs and the subsidies for now should be treated as just stop-gap measures, the real cure will need to come from sensible policies.

There are no quick fixes to high food prices. But probably, the one positive thing about this crisis is that it has somehow become an equalizer for both developed and developing countries.

The rich countries are seriously rethinking the wisdom of their atrocious subsidies to their agriculture sector that for decades have distorted trade. If our negotiators in the WTO are thinking on their feet, this can be a window to boost our chances of aggressively pushing for our rich counterparts to open their door to more agricultural trade.

It can still be a win-win situation.

Cops join run for human rights

By Jeannette Andrade
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 11:50pm (Mla time) 06/26/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- In an event rarely seen, policemen and activists on Thursday staged a run to dramatize their opposition to all forms of torture and degrading acts as they kicked off celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The Basta! Run Against Torture (BRAT) had for its highlight the participation of some 200 members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), one of two organizations—the other being the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)—which has received the most number of accusations of human rights violations.

The BRAT kicked off in front of the Oblation statue at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman at around 8 a.m. Thursday and ended at the Quezon City Hall.

BRAT was launched by Amnesty International in coordination with the Quezon City local government, the House of Representatives committee on human rights, the Commission on Human Rights, the Public Attorney’s Office, the Akbayan Citizens Action Party, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, all under the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC).

Maria Edilyd Orias, Amnesty International spokesperson, said that the 200 police officers who joined the run were assigned to the PNP Human Rights Office.

The officers were led by Senior Superintendent Lina Sarmiento, who expressed solidarity with the messages that the run intended to disseminate, that “torture is abhorrent” and “torture is illegal.”

Torture, Orias said, remained widespread in the country despite strong provisions in the Constitution against the practice and despite the Philippines being a signatory of the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) since 1987.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Uncoupled" CFC battle over name

This split-up within the CFC is very interesting, the major cause of which was Gawad Kalinga's acceptance of donations from companies promoting artificial contraception. The Vatican said they should focus more on evangelization, that is values-building rather than engaging in social work. WTF! What are those values for anyway?!


"Uncoupled" CFC battle over name

By Kristine L. Alave

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:34:00 06/25/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Two Catholic lay groups that sprang from a split in Couples for Christ last year are battling each other for the use of the CFC name.

The fight over the CFC brand between the CFC-Foundation for Family and Life (CFC-FFL), which is headed by Frank Padilla, and the CFC-International Council (CFC-IC), which works with Tony Meloto and Gawad Kalinga, came to a head early this month after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lifted the 2003 revocation order on the use of the name Couples for Christ Foundation Inc.

Meloto and Padilla, both founding members of the country’s biggest Catholic lay group, stepped down from the board of CFC last year over debates on the group’s direction.

The SEC issued the revocation order in 2003 after the CFC failed to comply with certain registration requirements.

Since the SEC order was issued early this month, the two organizations have issued strongly worded statements, both claiming the right to use the name on their websites.

Padilla, in a letter to CFC-FFL members, said they had the right to bear the CFC name—not CFC-IC—as CFC-FFL was the one recognized by the Catholic Church and the state.

“On June 5, the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission, on our petition, issued an order reviving the original CFC foundation established in 1984, the Couples for Christ Foundation Inc. (CFCFI). This means that we now have legal right to the name CFC and this is a prior right to that of CFC-GK-IC, with its corporation of CFCGMFI (Couples for Christ Global Mission Foundation Inc.) established in 1993,” Padilla said in his letter posted on the CFC-FFL website.

Recognized by the Church

Padilla added that many members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), including its president, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, and Commission on the Laity chair, Bishop Gabriel Reyes, recognize his group.

“Even from the moral and ethical standpoint, we can and should use the name CFC. The Church considers me the founder of CFC, and in the ecclesiology (the nature and organization of the Church) of new movements, the charism (grace given by God) resides on the founder. Where the founder is, there is the charism. Where the charism is, there is the authentic CFC,” Padilla said.

He added that the CFC-IC could use the CFC name “as long as they strive to not let go of what it means to be truly CFC.”

The CFC-IC, on the other hand, said it would continue using the name CFC “because we ARE Couples for Christ.”

The group, led by Jose Tale, stressed that it had been registered as Couples for Christ Global Mission Foundation Inc. since 1993 and thus, had every legal right to use the CFC name.

“We have not lost the name and we do not intend to lose it. We still retain Vatican and CBCP recognition as a private international association of the lay faithful. We are still mandated, by virtue of the Vatican statutes, to proceed confidently with our mission and to fulfill our role as evangelizers and missionaries,” the CFC-IC said on its website.

‘We’ll fight it’

The CFC-IC said the SEC decision was not final and executory and that it would fight for the right to use the CFC appellation.

“We have solid grounds to question the SEC decision. The CFC was not given the opportunity to be heard even if we had a continuing objection to the revival of this inactive foundation submitted to the SEC as early as July 2007. Also, the alleged bases for the petition for revival are highly questionable,” the CFC-IC said.

Tagbilaran Bishop Leonardo Medroso, chair of the Episcopal Commission on Canon Law, said it was a good thing the groups had sought legal clarification on the right to use the CFC name to settle the issue with finality.

Social work vs values

Padilla left the CFC to form his own breakaway group in August 2007 after voicing his opposition to Gawad Kalinga, a low-cost housing program which Meloto promoted.

Padilla reportedly did not approve of Gawad Kalinga’s policy of accepting donations from companies that market artificial family planning and other values opposed to CFC. He also called for more vigorous evangelization efforts from CFC members.

Meloto, on the other hand, said the CFC should be also involved in nation-building. He defended the Gawad Kalinga project, saying it has improved the lives of the poor.

In March 2008, the Vatican’s Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko stepped into the conflict and said the CFC would have to refocus its energies from social work to values-building.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Kris-Crossing Mindanao: The façade that Lagman et al. want us to see

Below is an article from the "other side". All they really do is condemn pro-choice advocates for trying to find ways to improve and uplift the quality of lives of Filipinos and their families.

Please, get off your moral high horse people and present solutions! We're tired of your "arguments" and so-called philosophies cause as far as the country is concerned, national policies should not solely be based on mere religious beliefs and doctrines but rather should find solid basis on sound, reasonable and relevant measures addressing the signs and needs of the times acceptable to people of all faiths, and even to those who don't have faiths at all!

The façade that Lagman et al. want us to see

By Antonio J. Montalvan II
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:06:00 06/23/2008

MANILA, Philippines - The Honorable Edcel Lagman, Janette Garin, Narciso Santiago III, Mark Llandro Mendoza, Eleandro Jesus Madrona and Ana Theresa Hontiveros Baraquel would have us believe that their bill respects religious convictions and is not pro-abortion. If only they knew whereof they speak. It is an established fact that the connection between contraception and abortion is not only inseparable; there is a close identity between them.

The unnumbered house bill of these honorable representatives that goes under the lengthy title of “An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development, and for other purposes,” and referred to in brevity as the Consolidated Reproductive Health Bill, quietly passed the House Health Committee in an unprecedented two minutes without any decent discussion or appearance of meeting the requirements of the legislative process. With a seeming inclination to do away with lengthy processes simply to rush its approval, the bill is expected to proceed to plenary without dragging along public controversy.

Either out of naiveté or sleight of hand, the bill declares a stance against abortion. But is it unequivocal? In a bill that avows the promotion of the “full range” of family planning methods, both natural and modern, that anti-abortion stance remains much of a lame proposition. Call it even a myth. We can hardly believe that the bill’s authors are ignorant of the inarguable fact that many contraceptives within that full range are abortifacients. And nowhere in the bill does it renounce abortifacients, at the very least.

Not a few contraceptives work by causing early term abortions. The intra-uterine device prevents a fertilized egg from being implanted in the uterine wall. The pill does not always stop ovulation but sometimes prevents implantation of the growing embryo. The new RU 486 pill works altogether by aborting a new fetus, a new baby.

There is a grave contradiction there. Not only is it a contradiction, it is a grievous mistake. By its failure to address abortion as an odious reality in our society, how can our elected representatives claim that they labor for the progress of that society where even new life cannot have the privilege of safety, much less of life? I am convinced that they did this not out of sleight of hand. Respect for life has become an ideological choice, not a natural moral condition for humanity. Without that moral imperative to respect life, the bill cannot even stand behind a façade of “responsible parenthood.” For that is what it is, a façade that only cloaks its pro-death capabilities.

I like the manner that Janet Smith, a professor of philosophy at the University of Dallas, argues: We need to realize that a society in which contraceptives are widely used is going to have a very difficult time keeping free of abortions since the lifestyles and attitudes that contraception fosters create an alleged “need” for abortion.

Each year, a million and a half American women seek abortion, in the land where the full range of contraceptives has been available since long ago. As the American societal experience has taught us, abortion is a necessity in the contraceptive lifestyle. Smith tells us: The “intimate relationships” facilitated by contraceptives are what make abortions “necessary.” “Intimate” here is a euphemism and a misleading one at that. Here the word “intimate” means “sexual”; it does not mean “loving and close.” Abortion is most often the result of sexual relationships in which there is little true intimacy and love, in which there is no room for a baby, the natural consequence of sexual intercourse. Contraception enables those who are not prepared to care for babies to engage in sexual intercourse; when they become pregnant, they resent the unborn child for intruding upon their lives, and they turn to the solution of abortion.

The argument against the concept, often misused by many of our legislators, that contraception is the antidote to abortions and unwanted pregnancies, is a simple one. Contraceptions have been permeating this world for the past 30 years. Within that time, unwanted pregnancies and abortions have not gone down. The argument is clearly fallacious.

Lagman et al. define full range as “Hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectables and other allied reproductive health products and supplies [that] shall be considered under the category of essential medicines and supplies which shall form part of the National Drug Formulary and the same shall be included in the regular purchase of essential medicines and supplies of all national and local hospitals and other government health units.”

Notice the term “essential medicines.” There is at once a pharmacological but social meaning. It is so very classic American contraceptivism. It is part of the pro-death lingo, so careful, polite and tame in its approach so as not to hurt religious sensibilities, yet unmasked by the realities of demographic truth.

If there is a victory that Lagman et al. would have us believe, it is that they have finally abandoned the other myth—that there is a population explosion that can only be arrested by our acceptance of contraceptives, saying that “reproductive health and population development goes beyond a demographic target because it is principally about health and rights,” but there is still another fallacy there nonetheless.

Babies are no accident of pregnancy. It is only this that we have to think of when we register our opposition to the bill of Lagman et al. Babies, not contraceptives, are the fuel to our understanding of a healthy society.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

It’s Sad

Here's an article that's worth spreading about SULU. As we have said before, SULU is among the ten (10) pilot areas under the UNFPA 6th Country Programme of Assistance to the Philippines, being the second (2nd) poorest province in the country at that time.

It's SAD

by JULKIPLI WADI, UP institute of Islamic Studies

The kidnapping of Ces Drilon and other crew of ABS-CBN including Prof. Octavio Dinampo of Mindanao State University-Sulu underscores the worsening uncertainty Muslim Mindanao particularly the Sulu Province has become these past few years. Despite government’s pontification to bring peace and development into the area while brandishing America’s aid and military assistance notwithstanding the U.S. military presence in the Sulu Archipelago, all these prove inadequate if not useless to eradicate social disenchantment and restlessness of the people as shown in the continuing presence of armed resistance including the persistence of radical group like Abu Sayyaf how unconventional they may have become.

With the kidnapping of Ces et al, it is clear what the government has simply addressed these past years were simply the surface and other peripheral issues of the Mindanao conflict – not core, the root cause of the problem, which is primarily the desire of the people to have their freedom, peace and justice. It proves once more that economic assistance including physical development poured into the area including availability of cellular phones to anyone, while they help some people including the entrenchment of political dynasties in Moro areas, can also be utilized by radical groups like the ASG to facilitate their mobility and movement including their communication in negotiating the fate of their kidnapped victims like Ces and her companions. By employing divide-and-rule tactics among Moro movements, the government has reaped what it sowed: it is severely constrained now whom to reach out in Sulu to serve as its partner of peace and development in the face of amoeba-like mushrooming of various radical groups in the area. Hence, the kidnapping of Ces and company raises the question whether it shows the continuing tenacity and resilience of the Abu Sayyaf or whether there is a policy blunder by the government or strategic failure in terms of tactics and intelligence by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in addressing the Mindanao conflict recently. Such uncertainty should have been properly understood by Philippine media.

Ironically, Ces Drilon should have been the last person to be victimized by alleged new group of Abu Sayyaf. As a friend, she has interviewed me of this subject several times in the past making her, in my view, one of the most informed and culturally sensitive TV journalists of the ABS-CBN as far as the Mindanao conflict including the Abu Sayyaf issue is concerned. While she might have the right judgment in trying to interview some people in the Abu Sayyaf in Maimbung in Sulu, despite the presence of local guide, having such judgment and guide how proper and reliable they may have been are not enough. They can hardly be relied upon since it is uncertainty that dominates the whole political and cultural make up the Sulu Province and other areas have become today. Even a native like me who was born and raised in Indanan does not just tread to unfamiliar territory of Sulu without proper coordination. The worsening uncertainty has long shocked me. Sulu today has never been like our days in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Sadly however, the media has been short in understanding the Mindanao issue including the failure to treat objectively the unconventional politics, events and movements in southern Philippines . Their treatment of Muslim issue is generally devoid of proper context and cultural sensitivity. Regrettably, some media have fallen prey into one-sided rhetoric of the government and foreign interest. It’s sad news but true. It is time for the media to check themselves.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

UN denounces rape as weapon of war

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 11:53:00 06/20/2008

UNITED NATIONS -- Diplomats from around the world on Thursday urged an end to the persistent plague of sexual violence during armed conflicts at a meeting at UN headquarters.

"Rape is a crime that can never be condoned. Yet women and girls in conflict situations around the world have been subjected to widespread and deliberate acts of sexual violence," said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

She was chairing debate in the UN Security Council to demand an immediate end to the use of rape and all acts of sexual violence against women as weapons of war.

The day-long debate, at the initiative of the United States, which chairs the 15-member council this month, was to adopt a resolution that "demands the immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians with immediate effect."

"Today's resolution establishes a mechanism for bringing those atrocities to light," the US chief diplomat said.

She stressed the text directs that the UN secretary general prepare an action plan for collecting data on the use of sexual violence in armed conflict and then reporting that information to the council.

Rice cited the example of Myanmar where she said "soldiers have regularly raped women and girls even as young as eight years old.

"What is tragic also in that country is that instead of being allowed to take the office as the elected leader of Burma's government, [opposition leader] Aung San Suu Kyi is marking her [63rd] birthday this very day under house arrest," the US chief diplomat said.

"We cannot forget as we examine this issue other women activists who struggle for freedom under violent environments," she added.

Rice also referred to widespread acts of sexual violence in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan.

Human rights groups have repeatedly denounced the horrific cases of rapes and other brutal acts of sexual violence against women by all parties in the conflict in DRC, particularly in the Kivu region.

Rice also highlighted acts of sexual violence perpetrated by UN peacekeepers in several countries around the world.

"As an international community we have a special responsibility to punish perpetrators of sexual violence who are representatives of international organizations," she noted.

In his remarks, UN chief Ban Ki-moon stressed the world body was "profoundly committed" to its zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation or abuse by our own personnel."

"Violence against women has reached unspeakable and pandemic proportions in some societies attempting to recover from conflict," he said.

"We have to view this problem in the broader context of women's empowerment ... We must do far more to involve women in conflict prevention, peace negotiations and recovery after the guns fall silent," he said.

France's secretary of state for human rights Rama Yade said those responsible for sexual violence amid armed conflict should be hunted down and brought to trial even before the International Criminal Court.

UN urges RP youth: Plant a tree every year

By Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:01:00 06/21/2008

MANILA, Philippines--A high-level United Nations official on biodiversity called on the Filipino youth Friday to ride "the green wave" and take part in global efforts to protect all life on earth as the world counts down to 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity.

Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), also called on more Asian leaders to agree to a plan to end deforestation by 2020 to slow down the destruction of plants and animals.

Djoghlaf called on Filipino school children to plant a tree every year on May 22, the International Day for Biodiversity, and join the billion-signature campaign to protect the global ecosystem.

"All schools of the world will be planting trees at 10 a.m. every 22nd of May of every year. A tree is the most beautiful symbol of nature. It provides enough oxygen for a family of five," he said.

About 80 percent of the world's known biodiversity could be found in forests, where about 1.6 billion people also depend for their survival, Djoghlaf told a news conference at the Dusit Hotel in Makati City Friday.


"The project to stop deforestation by 2020 is feasible, it's doable," he added.

The UN official said the world was losing around 13 million hectares of its forest cover every year, about the size of 36 football fields a minute. About 95 countries have totally lost their forests, he added.

Launched by the CBD secretariat in a biodiversity summit in Bonn, Germany last month, the Green Wave is "a multi-year tree-planting campaign" that engages children and students around the world to plant important tree species in their campuses, said the Asean Center for Biodiversity (ACB).

The ACB called the Green Wave a "fun and exciting way... for children and the youth to make a difference one step at a time."

"We hope all schools in the Philippines will take part in this and unite the new generation to bring nature into schools," Djoghlaf said.

He also encouraged Filipinos to sign up online in a campaign for a billion signatures to support the green wave. The document will be presented before world leaders attending the 2010 Conference of Partners (COP) of CBD's 191 signing countries in Nagoya, Japan.

The event is expected to bring heads of states together in drafting a goal for the protection of the world's plant and marine species in the coming decades, among them a goal for "zero net deforestation by 2020," said Djoghlaf.

"What is lost in the Philippines, what is lost in the Asean is lost for the world. One square meter of tropical forest in the Philippines, or Indonesia, or Malaysia has the biodiversity of the entire United Kingdom," said the UN official, emphasizing the importance of the country's natural habitat.

ACB Executive Director Rodrigo Fuentes also said the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia were among the world's top "megadiverse" countries. At the same time, the three Asean nations were also among 25 biodiversity hotspots or places at risk of species loss.

Fuentes said Southeast Asia could "have three-fourths less forest cover and 42 percent less biodiversity by 2010" at the current rate of logging, forest fires and problematic land use, among others.

Djoghlaf said forest fires destroyed about 10 million hectares in Southeast Asia between 1997 and 2006.

Today, more trees are being felled due to shifting agricultural practices, illegal lumber trade and large-scale mining.

Global warming and climate change are environmental phenomena intertwined with the world's decreasing biodiversity, according to the UN official.

"The loss of biodiversity is making climate change more complicated... The melting of glaciers liberated tons of CO2 (carbon dioxide). Because of [this], icebergs, the poles in general, oceanic composition will change... There will be more fresh water than marine water," Djoghlaf said, explaining the risks that climate change poses on the planet's marine and plant life.

With a report from Reuters

Media groups hail release of Drilon et al

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:07:00 06/20/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued statements welcoming the release of ABS-CBN news anchor Ces Drilon, her two cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama, and Mindanao State University Prof. and peace advocate Octavio Dinampo.

Drilon, Encarnacion and Dinampo were released Tuesday night while Valderama was released on June 12 after their abduction by lawless elements in Kulasi village, Maimbung town in Sulu province on June 8.

“Their abduction is a terrible reminder of the dangers journalists face covering dangerous assignments in every part of the world,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.

NUJP chair Jose Torres Jr. and secretary general Rowena Paraan expressed “great relief” at the safe release of the captives as well as gratitude to those who helped bring it about.

They said the kidnapping highlighted “a continuing problem” that added to the external dangers and threats to press freedom.

“Even as we welcome back our colleagues, we also urge everyone in our profession to reflect on this incident as a sober reminder of the risks we constantly face as we go about our work,” they said.

Torres and Paraan also said it was the responsibility of media owners and outfits “to ensure the safety and welfare of those they send into the field, even into the line of fire, to deliver the news to our audience.”

They added: “We urge everyone in the industry, from correspondents to media owners, to soberly reflect on this problem and come together to address this issue. We owe it to ourselves, to our families and to our audience.” Jerome Aning

Media watchdog urges Vietnam to release blogger

here's a rather interesting article about a blogger and the mainstream media....

Media watchdog urges Vietnam to release blogger

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 16:51:00 06/19/2008

HANOI--A media rights watchdog on Thursday urged Vietnamese authorities to free a blogger arrested before the Olympic torch relay who the group said was being targetted for his political views.

Nguyen Hoang Hai, who blogs under the pseudonym of Dieu Cay, was arrested April 19 for tax fraud. Authorities accuse him of not paying taxes for 10 years on a property that he owns, said the group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

"Tax fraud was just a pretext to prevent Dieu Cay from demonstrating when the Olympic torch went through Ho Chi Minh City and from criticizing the communist party online," RSF said in a statement received Thursday.

The Beijing flame was dogged by protests against China's rule of Tibet and other human rights issues on several stops on its global journey.

Dieu Cay's arrest came 10 days before the torch passed through the former Saigon. The blogger is known for his opposition to Beijing's claim of sovereignty over the disputed Paracel and Spratleys archipelagos in the South China Sea -- island chains that Vietnam also claims.

"Dieu Cay had posted articles on his blog about protests worldwide during the Olympic torch's progress through various cities, along with articles critical of China's policy in Tibet and the Parcel and Spratly archipelagos," RSF said.

"He had called for demonstrations as the torch passed through Ho Chi Minh City," the group added.

In Vietnam, anti-Chinese sentiment had flared in rallies since late last year over the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos, and the issue was hotly debated on unofficial weblogs ahead of the torch relay.

Vietnam initially allowed peaceful demonstrations outside Chinese diplomatic missions last December but later deployed police to stop repeat rallies.

The Spratly and Paracel island chains have been flashpoints for years.

The Spratlys are claimed in full or part by China and Vietnam as well as the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, and the Paracels are claimed by China, which now occupies them, as well as by Vietnam and Taiwan.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Bagong Simula sa Bayan ni Juan

Watch the video below and be proud to be a Filipino!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Journalists as bloggers - David Dizon


Friends, Spartans, brothers in the blogosphere, lend me your clicks. I come to praise the blog and not bury it. As sources of commentary, blogs provide a smorgasbord of opinion that mines the collective experience of their authors, whether they are students, bankers, techies or, yes, journalists.


A few weeks back, an article by reporter Carmela Fonbuena "Journalists urged to blog, set examples online" caused an upheaval of sorts in the Pinoy blogosphere. The perceived fault line and source of all the hubbub was the comment of UP professor Luis Teodoro who encouraged "journalists to consciously go into blogging to set examples."

"Many of those who post information online are irresponsible," Teodoro was quoted as saying. "Sometimes, it becomes damaging. It disrupts the democratic dialogue."

Finally, he also proposed that there should be self-regulation in blogs. "Journalists should be models online," he said. Be it a blog on political opinion or personal lifestyle, "the principles of journalism should apply."

Days after the story came out, one blogger (Talk About Kettles Calling the Pots Black) virtually pilloried Teodoro by calling him a CPP-NPA front man and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility leftist. Another blogger (Confessions of a "New Media" Heretic (or, the jester-in-exile throws yet another gauntlet before the MSM "priest caste")) asked Teodoro to "get off your high horse and tell your peers to clean up your stables before you come online and tell us how to live our lives." And finally, one blog (Challenge of the blogs) castigates the professor "for not finding anything good to say about blogs except that they pose a challenge to mainstream media."

Other blogs that jumped in on the conversation can be read here (Si Prof. Luis Teodoro at ang pananagutan sa blogging at peryodismo), here (Luis in the Sky with Dean Bocobo), here (Blogging and journalism) and here (Sounds like Hitler).

Old debate

Friends, Spartans, brothers in the blogosphere, lend me your clicks. I come to praise the blog and not bury it.

There is nothing new about the debate on blogging vs journalism, the old media vs new media and such. As sources of commentary, blogs provide a smorgasbord of opinion that mines the collective experience of their authors, whether they are students, bankers, techies or, yes, journalists. The immediacy of the blog, its lack of editorial constraint and interactive component are just some of the things that make the new media endlessly fascinating.

Bloggers can actually engage in random acts of journalism whenever they report on events that they actually witness first-hand or offer analysis, background or commentary on a newsworthy topic. Some bloggers have posted news items that were later used as leads in our news reports such as Gang Badoy's first-hand account (Tired Brave Heart?) on Senate witness Jun Lozada taking refuge after his NAIA abduction and the defacement (Internet Hacking and Warfare (IHAW)) of local Web sites by local hackers.

During the fourth annual blogging summit at UP Diliman, journalist Luz Rimban even said that come the 2010 elections, traditional media will not have enough manpower to cover the whole archipelago, which would create a void in the reportage of events - a void that bloggers may very likely step up to fill. Columnist Manolo Quezon said citizen journalists would have a greater effect at a much later date, in the 2016 elections.

Citizen journalism

So has blogging made mainstream news media obsolete? Maybe not soon unless we see all 2.3 million Filipino bloggers (Study: Philippines has 2.3 million bloggers) realize the full potential of the new media and start reporting on the news as it happens. The success of OhMyNews in South Korea and ABS-CBN's own Boto Mo, iPatrol Mo election watchdog campaign in the 2007 polls shows that citizen journalism CAN be done here. As bloggers report on news events with increasing accuracy, they gain credibility as a source of information the same way that a journalist gains credibility through the strength of his reportage.

Can journalists become bloggers? Of course they can because no one's stopping them yet.

Here in ABS-CBN, we have several reporters and news anchors who maintain blogs including Julius Babao (Julius Babao's Multiply Journal), Ricky Carandang (Ricky Carandang's Website), RG Cruz (RG Cruz's Website) and Adrian Ayalin (Adrian Ayalin's Blog). All bring with them the usual commentary found in other blogsites with a unique twist - it lets readers in on the workings-on in their respective coverages in an insightful manner unhindered by the constraints of a three-minute news clip.

Some of their recent posts on the abduction and eventual release of fellow ABS-CBN reporter Ces Drilon and others give a human touch to these reporters who are often seen giving the cold, hard facts on primetime TV.

As commentary, the journalist who blogs may have a slight advantage by having more access to information that isn't available to other people. On the other hand, some bloggers may have an even greater understanding of the story simply by his proximity, experience or even personal advocacy on the topic.


Can we then say that journalists will make better bloggers? Maybe. But only if they bring the same standards of responsible reportage in the newsroom to their blogs without losing the flavor and dynamism that makes the blog so exciting in the first place.

Should there be self-regulation in blogs? Only if the journalist-blogger wants it especially since by identifying himself and his media organization, he has an even greater responsibility to ensure that his stories or comments are grounded in fact and do not violate a journalist's ethics.

This does not mean that every blogger should follow the principles of journalism. In the end, it is still the blog's author who determines what standards he will adhere to in writing his posts and it is these standards that will be used as a gauge by his readers to determine the relevance of the blog as a source of news, opinion, information or even entertainment.

Editor’s Take, written by editors of, focuses on media issues. It’s our way of letting you, dear readers, in on how a media organization works. Comments to this article may be sent to

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

AP, blogging group to discuss standards for quoting AP news stories

Here's an interesting article showing the clash between mainstream media and bloggers...

NEW YORK - The Associated Press, following criticism from bloggers over the organization's efforts to make one blogger remove AP material, plans to meet this week with a bloggers' group to help form guidelines under which AP news stories could be quoted online.

Jim Kennedy, the AP's director of strategic planning, said Monday that he planned to meet Thursday with Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association, as part of an effort to create standards for online use of AP stories by bloggers that would protect AP content without discouraging bloggers from legitimately quoting from it.

The meeting comes after AP sent a legal notice last week to Rogers Cadenhead, the author of a blog called the Drudge Retort, a news community site whose name is a parody of the prominent blog the Drudge Report.

The notice called for the blog to remove several postings that AP believed was an improper use of its stories. Other bloggers subsequently lambasted AP for going after a small blogger whom they thought appeared to be engaging in a legally permissible and widely practiced activity protected under "fair use" provisions of copyright law.

In response, the AP indicated it would seek to create guidelines, though even that idea triggered further protests. Michael Arrington wrote on his TechCrunch blog Monday that AP "doesn't get to make its own rules about how its content is used, if those rules are stricter than the law allows."

Wendy Seltzer, a legal scholar and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, said it was encouraging that AP wanted to find an arrangement with bloggers to facilitate a mutually agreeable way for them to use AP content.

But she cautioned that the news organization, a not-for-profit cooperative owned by its member newspapers and broadcasters, should not try to go beyond what's legally permissible.

"If they take those guidelines and start using them to refine the way they make complaints, and if they closely match the law, then it's helpful — it's a restraint on their own legal department," Seltzer said.

"If they were on the other hand to say, you may use 10 words only and any time you use 11 we'll send a takedown notice, that wouldn't be helpful," Seltzer said.

Kennedy said the AP had no intention of making such strict rules or setting any kind of legal standard. He also said AP was reconsidering how and when to send legal notices to bloggers in hopes of giving them "a little more leeway."

Kennedy also said the AP felt Cadenhead had complied with AP's request to take down the offending material and didn't plan any other legal action.

Kennedy said the AP had both a journalistic concern about preventing AP news from being quoted out of context and also a business concern about protecting the value of AP's news from being diluted if its key elements are made available from places that aren't licensed.

"We need to protect our content, no matter who's using it, but we also recognize that the bloggers perform a really important function on the Internet in terms of increasing the engagement of the audience online, and we want to facilitate that," Kennedy said.

Cadenhead, the author of several computer books who also publishes a sports blog, said he was eager to get more clarity about what constitutes permissible use of AP or other news stories online so as not to trigger further legal action.

Short quotations of copyrighted material are allowed under the "fair use" provision of copyright law, but the law can be murky, Cadenhead said. "It's not like a small fish like the Retort is going to be able to hammer through its case in court."

Cadenhead said he was glad the meeting between AP and the blogging group was happening and was "guardedly optimistic at this point about a positive outcome."

Cox, the head of the bloggers' association, said there needed to be a clearer understanding among bloggers about what kinds of use of AP stories would or would not trigger legal complaints.

"Up until now there hasn't' been a concrete articulation of what they expect," Cox said. "I think that would go a long way to pre-empting problems," he said, adding that "I think the desire is there on both sides to get this sorted out." - AP

Corruption preys on RP poor: UN study


Petty corruption is taking a toll on poor people in the Asia-Pacific, including the Philippines, by curbing economic development in the region, according to a United Nations Development Program study.

The report, "Tackling Corruption, Transforming Lives," said small scale corruption is draining economic growth across the Asia-Pacific region and affecting people's access to basic services. It called on governments and citizens across the Asia-Pacific to tackle corruption together by focusing on areas that impact daily life such as health, education, the police and natural resources.

"Corruption undermines democratic institutions, retards economic development and contributes to government instability. It attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existence is the soliciting of bribes," said Hafiz Pasha, director of UNDP's regional bureau for Asia and the Pacific.

"Economic development is stunted because outside direct investment is discouraged and small businesses within the country often find it impossible to overcome the ‘start-up costs’ required, because of corruption."

The report cited a global study which shows that corruption tends to slow the income growth for the bottom 20 per cent of the population. It said corruption slows down poverty reduction by lowering growth rates and reducing the effectiveness of social programs.

The report said corruption often hinders the delivery of many of the goods and services targeted for the poor. Instead, the goods often finish up in the hands of well-off and connected households who can afford to bribe the officials. It also said that the rice and powerful get the best deals when there is a general shortage of services, public or private.

Politicians, police least trusted

According to the report, politicians are seen as the most corrupt group in government followed by the police, with the judiciary running a close third. Nearly one in five people claim to have paid a bribe to police during the previous year. Other sectors also tainted by corruption include tax collection, education, medical services, utilities and registry or permit services.

The report cited a 2005 study commissioned by the Asian Development Bank that showed that power projects in the Philippines are more expensive than international norms due to delays, heavy reliance on international consultants and contractors, corruption and extensive use of foreign currency loans.

It said corruption was involved in almost all phases of a project, from tendering and bidding to operation and maintenance as well as in privatization and the awarding of independent power-producing contracts.

The report warned that corrupt policemen could extort, abuse or even rape suspects and force them to pay for their freedom. It added that police can also seize people they know to be innocent, threatening them with arrest and demanding payment for release.

On the other hand, the report cited a number of studies that found that two-thirds or more of the Asian population consider their court system to be corrupt and admit that they consider it wise to pay bribes.

The report said governments should ensure that complaints against the police are dealt with by a truly independent body while making changes on police structures and operations
to make them more efficient and responsive. Other solutions include applying rigid recruitment criteria, reallocating individuals across tasks, modifying transfer patterns, and carrying out ethical evaluations of those who are up for promotion.

For corrupt justices, the UNDP recommended that governments ensure that judges are appointed by independent bodies, serve fixed terms, have salaries that match their experience and qualifications and are offered all necessary protection. The judicial system should also require judges to give written reasons for their judgements – making greater use of information technology to offer easier access to court documents.

Strong civil sector involvement

The report also noted the strong involvement of civil society groups in fighting corruption in the Philippine government.

Several of the anticorruption initiatives and groups cited were:

- The Action Program for Judicial Reform initiative, which monitors the selection of the chief justice, ombudsman and election commissioners

- The Transparent Accountable Governance project, which monitors textbook procurement and delivery in the Philippines

- The Concerned Citizens of Abra Good Government, which monitors government projects in the Abra region

- The Transparency and Accountability Network, which monitors road-building in the country.

The report also cited the role of journalists in reporting cases of public interest. It said the Philippine press has helped create public pressure for reform even as some reporters admitted receiving bribes.

Here’s to women’s health

PENNYLANE By Rebecca C. Rodriguez
Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In the 1990s, the all-girl British pop group the Spice Girls coined the term “girl power.” It aptly described the cultural phenomenon of women empowerment through ambition, assertiveness, and individualism. As the first to leave the group, Ginger Spice, a.k.a. Geri Halliwell, continued to spread the word. As United Nations’ goodwill ambassador to the Population Fund, she visited the Philippines in 1999 to speak about women’s rights and issues, particularly reproductive and sexual health.

“Ever since I entered the media arena, I’ve always stood for the empowerment of women and that’s what the UNFPA is about, and I’ll be promoting the empowerment of women in developing countries,” Halliwell said. Spoken like a true woman-warrior, indeed.

With this in mind, women should be aware of the seriousness of reproductive health — the basis for having healthy children, intimate relationships, and happy families. Because women, both rich and poor, have the right to access health care services that will enable them to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth, and provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant.

To help educate women on health and wellness concerns, Bayer Schering Pharma recently invited members of the press to the “Women in Sight” media camp at Sonya’s Garden in Tagaytay.

Guests were encouraged to participate in mind, body, and spirit activities like a creativity workshop by Dr. Antee Bass-Hernandez, UP head of the Speech and Drama Department, a capoiera demo and lessons from Escola Brasileira de Capoeira and, of course, a “From Burnout to Work-life Balance” workshop by Hazel Ancheta Jover of Business Maker Academy. Plus, there was bossa-nova cover-girl Sitti’s not so ever-changing performance, a series of talks on women’s health issues and Bayer’s reproductive health programs.

National chairwoman of Pilipina and trustee of several NGOs and health care associations Rina Jimenez-David admits that she is not a women’s health expert although she writes a lot about it. Because women haven’t been heard enough, Jimenez-David hopes to make women’s health a political issue and that reproductive health would have popular public support.

“It’s about time we focused our efforts on promoting reproductive healthcare for women,” says Jimenez-David. “It is something that everyone in the community should be involved in.”

It’s certainly good to know that Bayer Schering Pharma has an information and education campaign for women’s health led by ob-gynes. Known as Coffee in the City, this program features a series of lectures on reproductive health for those working in call centers.

Dr. Anthony Ancheta, head of the reproductive endocrinology and infertility unit and gynecologic endoscopy unit at the department of obstetrics and gynecology of Medical City, discussed the issues involving women’s reproductive health. He explained the different methods of contraception, effectivity ration, and health benefits.

When it comes to the pill, myths and misconceptions are difficult to separate. Women often get conflicting information, whether it is good or bad. If you are not sure, the answer is quite simple: Get your information only from reliable sources that include doctors and health-care practitioners.

To set the record straight, Ancheta explains, “The effects of pills vary from one woman to another. That is why you need to be under the care and supervision of a physician before you start any regimen.”

Another women’s reproductive health care advocacy of BSP is the Let’s Talk campaign. Here, the reproductive health program includes the launch of the women’s healthcare website, online community and public service drive, and well-being hotline.

Dr. Lyra Chua, head of the women’s health care clinic at the new Medical City, gave updates on oral contraception like trends and benefits.

Chua explains, “Aside from the traditionally known benefits of oral contraceptive pills or OCPs, there are other emerging benefits that women need to know. There is a reproductive healthcare plan suited for every woman. It is always important to consult with an ob-gyne before using oral contraceptives.”

With a company like Bayer Schering Pharma that focuses on women’s reproductive health and well-being, at least the modern woman can have medical options, from contraceptives to individualized menopause management and even treatment of gynecological disorders.
“Continuous research on oral contraception has now led to much improved products like Bayer’s Yasmin and Diane 35,” says Raul Lasquety, BSP women’s healthcare group product manager. “This is what Bayer Women’s Healthcare aims to do — empower women by advancing the healthcare we provide them.”

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's the Opening of Classes...

With classes opening tomorrow, uhmnnn later as it is 2:40am as I write this, a lot of articles related to education are written. It must be noted that one (1) of the eight(8) Millennium Development Goals or MDGs targeted to be achieved by 2015 is "Achievement of Universal Primary Education", which actually means that all boys and girls must be ensured to complete a full primary course of schooling.

Below is an article re: DEP ED's achievements consistent with the abovementioned goal. What I like about the article is its last note -- connecting population to the problems of our education system. =) It bears stressing that these are all interrelated. The Dep Ed's efforts are quite commendable. I am in fact managing a foundation's project in partnership with Dep Ed.

However, my advocacy for RH and population management issues firmly remain. This blog continuously exist in order to keep the media advocates trained under the program committed in the advocacy.

Unless the government take all things into account, particularly the population issue, efforts undertaken will simply be band-aid solutions.

Leapfrogging basic education quality into global standards

By Fernando del Mundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:30:00 06/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines—He has a reputation as a crisis manager, one who thinks out of the box to solve problems.

No less is required of Jesli Lapus as he confronts a task that requires the perseverance of Sisyphus ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain.

Since he was named secretary of the Department of Education in August 2006, Lapus has done more than his five predecessors under the 7-year-old administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

To accomplish his mission at DepEd, Lapus has used every bit of the experience he has amassed as an accountant, banker, congressman, Cabinet member in two previous administrations and UN diplomat.

“We’re seeing a lot of convergence of support because when I came in I went to town,” he says, catching his breath, wiping sweat dripping down his red shirt with letters in white saying “Brigada Eskwela.”

Lapus, 58, had just returned from two launchings of the Brigada project, which mobilizes communities, non-government organizations and business groups to clean schools in preparation for the opening of classes.

“I told the businessmen this is where you have the highest return on investment. We have to show that in deed, not just lip service.”

He gave the Philippine Daily Inquirer a 12-page summary report of what the DepEd had accomplished over the past decade, including record achievements in the one year and eight months he had been its secretary.

Lapus says that in the last year, the business community alone had donated a record P4 billion to the government’s “adopt a school program.”

He has wangled from Congress, where he was once deputy chair of the powerful appropriations commission, the highest budgetary outlay for DepEd in the last two years, reaching P149 billion this year.

Fair share

“We’re getting a fair share of what is available,” says Lapus. “What’s available is defined as the limits of government in revenue generation.”

As a representative of Tarlac province in Congress, where he served for nine years, Lapus spearheaded fiscal reforms that had resulted in budget savings, a credit upgrade, low interests and strengthening of the peso.

In the last two years, he has built 20,102 classrooms, appointed 5,890 head teachers and principals. Before 2006, about 58 percent, or 26,644, of the nation’s public schools were “headless,” Lapus says.

He also added 7,237 teachers in 2006 and 16,334 in 2007, bringing the total to over 471,000 attending to the needs of 17 million students in public schools.

Assistance to private high schools hosting students subsidized by the government went up to P625,083.

Beneficiaries of the DepEd’s feeding program soared by over 300 percent in 2006, costing the government P2.7 billion last year. Hunger and malnutrition are keeping children out of school.

Upward curve

There has been a slight upward learning curve, still depressing but nevertheless welcome in a regime of steady decay in the past decades.

National achievement test results for Grade 6 and fourth year high school students have increased slightly, although way below passing standards, but Lapus is upbeat that with all the combined initiatives of the DepEd and the private sector more improvements will be forthcoming.

Lapus has initiated innovations in the procurement of textbooks and other supplies, earning commendation from the World Bank. He has also lowered the cost of textbooks and “unbundled” the bidding process, so that contracts are separate for content, publishing and delivery.

All of his activities are directed at achieving objectives laid out in the basic education sector reform agenda or BESRA. The idea is to “leapfrog the quality of basic education into global standards” by tightening system governance and enhancing “school-based management.”

“I’m just passing by this department,” Lapus says. “What I try to do is to institutionalize internal controls.”

But with a burgeoning population, four babies born every minute that translate into one classroom every 10 minutes, education is a mind-boggling catch-as-catch-can task.