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October 18 2013

PHOTOS: Hundreds Dead, Historic Churches Destroyed in Philippine Quake

@tokyodrastic: Loboc Church in Bohol collapsed front and center... Landslides around. People must be hurt. But seeing no casualties

Loboc Church in Bohol collapsed front and center. Image by @tokyodrastic

A magnitude 7.2 earthquake killed more than 150 people in the central Philippine islands of Bohol and Cebu Tuesday October 15, 2013.

The strong earthquake started in Bohol, where the epicenter was recorded at 8:12 in the morning and caused the destruction of roads, homes, buildings, and historic churches in the island.

The neighboring island of Cebu, which is the second largest urban center in the country outside of the national capital Manila, also bore the brunt of the quake with shopping malls, public markets, schools, and other buildings bearing damage.

Other provinces in the central Philippine area also felt the tremors but sustained no significant harm to people or physical structures.

Striking early in the morning during a holiday, the earthquake caught many by surprise. Hundreds of aftershocks of varying intensity also followed the main quake.

Social media users recorded their earthquake experiences through various networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram:

Social media users also took photos of the damage caused by the powerful earthquake and posted them online:

@KaiizenM More photos of damaged buildings.I do not own anything. #Cebu

Sto Nino de Cebu church. Image uploaded by @KaiizenM

@BlueGrayKimpots: Ohlala... Cebu Doctors University after the very trong earthquake. :( #earthquake

Cebu Doctors University. Image uploaded by @BlueGrayKimpots

@randelltiongson: Damaged by the earthqauke here in Ayala Center Cebu

Ayala Shopping Center Cebu. Image from @randelltiongson

Some of the most badly damaged structures by the earthquake are the historic limestone churches in Bohol. Built through polo or Filipino slave labor during the Spanish colonial era in the 1700s and 1800s, these churches have become some of the country's most prized cultural heritage.

@rod_bolivar: Saint Vincent Parish Church in Maribojoc, Bohol crumbled to the ground after the earthquake.

Saint Vincent Parish Church in Maribojoc, Bohol crumbled to the ground after the earthquake. Image by @rod_bolivar

@Huntress96: the worst church damage in Bohol. The church is now pulverized :

“The worst church damage in Bohol. The church is now pulverized.” Image by @Huntress96

August 27 2013

‘Million People March’ Against Corruption in the Philippines

Massive protests, the biggest since President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III took office three years ago, rocked the Philippines on National Heroes Day as hundreds of thousands expressed indignation against government corruption and called for the full abolition of the pork barrel.

Police estimated that around 80,000 to 100,000 gathered in Rizal Park in Manila, the national capital, while thousands more held mass actions in other cities nationwide.

Public outrage against the corruption-tainted pork barrel came in the wake of exposés on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which is allotted for legislators in Congress and Senate for use in pet projects.

The PDAF has long been the target of critics as a site of official corruption. But public uproar swelled after a whistleblower identified businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles who is alleged to have conspired with lawmakers to pocket P10 billion through the fund.

Aerial shot of Rizal Park rally. Photo courtesy of Architect Paulo Alcazaren.

Aerial shot of Rizal Park rally. Photo courtesy of Architect Paulo Alcazaren. From @muntingprinsipe

Dubbed the “Million People March,” the idea behind Monday's predominantly middle-class gathering in Rizal Park originated from social media interactions between concerned netizens on Facebook and Twitter.

The concept for a million people march against the pork barrel began with a random Facebook post by music producer Ito Rapadas.

What we need is a MILLION PEOPLE MARCH by struggling Filipino taxpayers- a day of protest by the silent majority that would demand all politicians and govt. officials (whatever the political stripes, color they may carry) to stop pocketing our taxes borne out from our hard work by means of these pork barrel scams and other creative criminal acts.

This was shared by various netizens including his friend Peachy Bretaña who suggested that the mass action be held on August 26 in time for the National Heroes Day.

Protest actions were also held in various cities nationwide, notably in Bacolod City, Baguio City, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu City, Dagupan City, Davao City, Digos City, Dumaguete City, Iloilo City, Naga City, and Puerto Princessa in Palawan.

“P1 trillion pork barrel of President Aquino, rechannel to social services”, photo from @LeanneJazul

Perhaps to deflect public outrage, Aquino promised the abolition of the PDAF and its replacement by a more transparent funding scheme last Friday. The protest action still pushed through.

During the day of the actual protest, President Aquino and his spokespersons announced that the government was on the same side with the protesters. Apparently, many were not convinced. Here were some reactions on Twitter:

Meanwhile, Pixel Offensive said that if the President is truly on the people's side against pork barrel it should manifest on the following:

1) Abolition of all pork, no exemption. Kulangot lang ito kumpara sa PORK nya. [This is minor compared to his own pork.]

2) His staff wouldn't post anti-rally tweets. This just exposes the Presidential inner circle's way of thinking

Let's raise this discussion a bit higher, shall we? Do you expect an haciendero president to serve the people?

Critics alleged that the “presidential pork barrel” consisting of lump-sum allocations the disbursement of which is left to the sole discretion of the president and his executive department is worth more than 1.3 trillion pesos.

Abolish Pork Barrel Reality

Interestingly, despite the Aquino regime's claiming to be on the side of the protesters some of his spokespersons contradicted this by posting tweets criticizing the protest action.

Hours before the anti-corruption rally, presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte tweeted a link of an article that described indignation over the pork barrel as a “nice but misplaced statement.”

The article said that while the pork barrel has been abused it isn't necessarily evil and concluded by calling those joining the protest action as afflicted by a “hypocrisy of indignation”:

Are we thinking the next step after, or like Juan Tamad waiting for someone to solve the problem for us? Anger is the path to the dark side, and this is why the hypocrisy of indignation must stop, and why we must shift gears and solve the problem of how government spends our monies.

Another presidential spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda, also tweeted a link of the same article and quipped, “Who says blogging is passé!”

For his part, Communications undersecretary Manuel Quezon III asked the Catholic Church, which encouraged the people to attend the mass action, why it remained quiet during the incumbency of former President Gloria Arroyo.

The said officials have denied tweeting against the rally. But in the end, no amount of public relations magic can suppress public outrage over the massive plunder of people's money by government officials and their cronies while millions of Filipinos suffer from hunger, joblessness, and extreme poverty.

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May 25 2013

Philippine Elections Tainted by Allegations of Automated Fraud

In spite of claims by the Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec) of a peaceful, orderly, and ultimately successful elections last May 13, 2013, poll watchdogs, civil society groups, IT experts, and netizens are alleging that the midterm polls were tainted by automated fraud, massive vote buying, electoral violence, and other various irregularities.

The 2013 mid-term automated elections has been declared by independent poll watch groups as a “technological and political disaster”:

In 2010, a significant number of clustered precincts in both provinces and cities had delayed transmissions of up to two days; as of May 17 or four days after this year’s election, 18,187 clustered precincts or 23% of the total number failed to transmit election returns affecting if not potentially disenfranchising 8.6M voters.

Hocus PCOS

Protest against the alleged automated fraud. Image from Pixel Offensive

Like in the 2010 presidential elections, the recently concluded polls used an automated election system (AES) which supplanted the manual system used in the 2007 polls and preceding years. The AES involves the use of a Precinct Counting Optical Scan or PCOS machine which records, counts, and transmits votes to a central server for canvassing and consolidation.

The AES Watch said that most of the election problems that it monitored were PCOS-related. This includes initialization errors, machine breakdown to hardware problems, ballot rejection by the machine, and transmission problems from the machine to the canvassing centers and Comelec servers.

This comes alongside observations of an improbable “pattern” of the votes obtained by senatorial candidates during the elections wherein those coming from the administration party consistently got 60 percent, the ones from the Opposition United Nationalist Alliance got 30 percent, and the independents got 10 percent of the votes.

Sorting through the tallies of the senatorial race from the first to the 16th canvass reports, Ateneo University professor Lex Muga noted the peculiar pattern. Using the election data released from the news website, the blog Radar Sweep meanwhile discovered the same pattern in all 11 intervals checked.

“Hacking Our Democracy” author Prof. Rene Azurin warned that the uniformity of the senatorial race results wherein no ranking changes occurred from the beginning to every lull in the counting pointed to the pre-programming of the automated system in order to ensure a 9-3 victory for the ruling party. Azurin cites former Comelec IT director Ernie del Rosario who said:

The progressive tallies follow some sort of deterministic linear equation devoid of the influence of any probabilistic parameter or variable. This can only mean one thing — it is a pre-designed results reporting mechanism that fits the 9-3 survey instead of a tally of the actual votes. I will call it the 9-3 Formula. Notice that the rankings of the candidates in the entire tally (1st to 33rd place) from the time the first report was published to subsequent ones are practically unchanged. What happened to the individual candidates’ known bailiwicks that should have caused some ranking movements in the tallied results? Smoothened by the 9-3 linear formula?

In a Facebook post, Center for People Empowerment in Governance IT consultant Pablo Manalastas comments:

The correct test to determine a “conspiracy” is NOT to check the national averages to see how close to 60-30-10 we can get, because this is exactly what the law of large numbers tells us that we will get. The more correct indicator of a conspiracy is if we get the same 60-30-10 figures in a precinct-by-precinct comparison, provided that the precinct figures were used to get the national canvass.

Meanwhile, Rick Bahague of the Computer Professionals Union also shared graphs showing the same disturbing pattern in all 18 towns of Bohol Province on Facebook.

Boholanos seem to have been genetically modified. They voted the same. The rank of the senators is almost the same in all the towns.

These fears of automated fraud is aggravated by the Comelec's lack of transparency in the conduct of the automated polls, as pointed out by Kontra Daya:

The Comelec failed to implement the basic security safeguards mandated under R.A. 9369 or the Poll Automation Law, particularly the review of the PCOS source code by political parties and citizen’s groups prior to the elections… The so-called PCOS “source code review” that was supposedly started days before the polls was worthless in terms of ensuring the integrity of the machines. It was nothing but a publicity stunt by Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. in a vain attempt to silence critics.

An hour after the voting ended last elections, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) which is the official citizen arm of the Comelec announced the partial and unofficial results from 1,418 precincts wherein more than 10 million of the votes were obtained by administration senatorial candidate Grace Poe.

When independent poll watchdogs pointed out that the figure was bloated, the PPCRV reportedly had Smartmatic change the script of the source code saying the data was incorrectly formatted and double counted.

The error is significant, as a maximum of 1,000 voters per precinct should only yield a total of around 1,418,000 maximum votes… That Smartmatic can change the script of the source code during the canvassing shows serious problems with the entire automated system.

Dr. Carol Araullo questions why a foreign corporation is allowed to control the country's elections.

More pernicious and fatal to our democratic processes, or the appearance thereof, is the virtual enthronement, if the Commission on Elections is to have its way, of the current automated election system designed and operationalized by a foreign multinational company, SMARTMATIC, to a seat of honor in running and controlling Philippine elections.

The Comelec's all too hasty proclamation of the first six winning senatorial candidates based only on 23 percent of 301 Certificates of Canvass also did not help win the confidence of the public.

In response to accusations, Comelec Chairperson Sixto Brillantes questioned the motives of those questioning the conduct of the polls and accused them of engaging in a “conspiracy”. He warned them to shut up or face legal charges. Various groups are calling for a manual recount as the only way to ensure the validity of the election results.

March 18 2013

Philippines: Forced to Leave School Due to Unpaid Fees, Student Commits Suicide

A 16-year old college freshman studying Behavioral Sciences in the University of the Philippines Manila committed suicide last Friday morning. She was found dead at her family residence in Tondo, Manila two days after she was forced by the school administration to stop attending her classes because of unpaid tuition.

The student was the eldest among five siblings. Her father is a part-time taxi driver while her mother is a housewife. She was assigned by the university administration under Bracket D of the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP).

UP Manila implements a “no late payment” policy wherein students unable to pay their tuition on time are forced to take a leave from the university.

Education is a Right | Photo from Pixel Offensive

Education is a Right | Photo from Pixel Offensive

Grief and sympathy poured all over social networking sites and personal blogs over her untimely passing. Many also expressed outrage over expensive tuition and school fees and the highly commercialized system of Philippine education for driving the student to her death. Here are some reactions on Twitter:

@adrianayalin: Sad, sad, sad news about UP Manila student allegedly committing suicide because of unpaid tuition.

@teddycasino: Those cold hearted bureaucrats in UP Manila should resign in guilt & shame.

@jcmaningat: The suicide of the UP Manila student is big slap on the face of @PresidentNoy who claims that life is easier under his reign #justice #fb

The Facebook status of Cleve Kevin Robert Arguelles, the UP Student Regent representing 50,000 UP students in the university's Board of Regents:

The case of Kristel Tejada was not a suicide. There was no choice – either you pay or you stop pursuing your dreams. She was killed by the system- a system that refuse to recognize that education is a right, that life is measured in your capacity to pay. A sad and outrageous day for us Iskolars ng Bayan (scholars of the people). :(

In her blog, UP Manila alumna Alyanna Morales hopes that the incident will lead to drastic changes in the university’s tuition policies:

I believe that we are an education system that prides itself on honor and excellence. But if we deny someone her rights because of money, are we not worse than the system we claim to fight and abhor? Where is the honor or the excellence in that, my beloved UP?

Candle lighting activity at UP Manila | Photo taken by Carl Marc Ramota

Candle lighting activity at UP Manila | Photo taken by Carl Marc Ramota

Jefrey Tupas compares the recent suicide of the UP Manila student to the death of a 12-year old girl in Davao City five years ago:

Those who come from grassroots families, those who are living below poverty line, are directly hit by the policy of the government on education commercialization. The yellow government–the Aquino government–is pursuing the same formula being forced on us by the previous governments.

Dean Lozarie answers those who seek to de-politicize the issue by insisting that the death was merely personal and not political.

But it certainly was, if by political we mean that it aptly describes the state of things on a wider scale and reflects the narrative of society at large. We can argue about facts, and we can argue about what was really going through her mind in her final moments. But on this we can certainly agree: barely one year into her stay at the nation's premiere university, long-standing university and government policies prevented her from continuing her studies. Repeated and reasonable pleas from her and her family to reassign her to a lower bracket in UP's financial assistance program and to consider her financial situation were rejected. This deeply affected her emotionally. These facets of society, of the contemporary history of our nation, are manifest in the biography of the UP freshman from Tondo who just wanted to go to school.

No Money, No Entry | Image from Pixel Offensive

No Money, No Entry | Image from Pixel Offensive

Former UP Student Regent Krissy Conti explains why the university’s STFAP is a smokescreen for tuition increase and forms a sinister background for the suicide.

The final tuition collection from all enrolees is right there, tallied in the government accounting. No one has dared deny that income from student fees has grown through the years. In fact it has become a reliable and liquid money source that more or less half of maintenance expenses are programmatically taken from the tuition fund

Priscilla Pamintuan comments that the suicide is a clear example of the unjust system of education now prevailing in the country.

Ano mang paghuhugas-kamay ang gawin sa publiko ng Commission on Higher Education – na kesyo may sariling kapasyahan ang bawat state university na magtakda ng mga polisiya kaugnay ng matrikula – hindi maitatanggi na may pananagutan sila sa sinapit ng estudyanteng ito.

Whatever washing of hands the Commission on Higher Education may do in public – because each state university have the autonomy to set its own policies related to tuition – it cannot deny that it is accountable to what happens to their students. Is it not that CHED and the administration of Benigno Aquino III have long pushed for the yearly cuts in the budget of state colleges and universities to make them “self-sufficient”?

In a Facebook Note, Lisa Ito writes a call to action to honor the dead student's memory.

Some have implored: suicide is not the solution, don’t give up, there is hope. I agree. The solution is to fight for one’s rights, and to see the struggle through to the end. I will never say that she failed in valor, because—whatever the reason for arriving at the point she did—her sacrifice and her family’s loss has compelled us all to finally confront the painful truth: that there is no other recourse but to act on the situation now.

January 23 2013

Philippines: US Navy Ship Causes Damage to Tubbataha Reefs

Filipino netizens, environmentalists, and nationalists are angry after a United States Navy minesweeper, the USS Guardian, caused damage to the corals of the Tubbataha Reefs in the Sulu Sea. According to the US Navy website, their ship

ran aground on Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park, a World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea, 640 kilometers (400 miles) southeast of Manila at 2:25 a.m. local time, January 17.

The Tubbataha Reefs was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. It is a protected marine area that is off-limits to ships.

However, the USS Guardian entered the marine park without prior authorization. The US naval personnel of the ship also allegedly prevented park rangers from inspecting the marooned ship. The rangers were instead told to just call the US embassy in Manila.

The US Navy claims that the ship ran aground because of “inaccurate navigation” and that it was investigating the incident.

‘Justice for Ruined Reefs', the call of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Management

Twitter Reactions

Many reactions on Twitter and other social networking sites poke fun at the US Navy.

@theblue_iguana: Why did the minesweeper enter the Tubbataha restricted zone? Was it for recreation or siga lang talaga sila? [or they really just rash?]

@carloshconde: Damn you, Apple Maps! “@djstaana: US Navy: map error eyed as possible cause for USS Guardian running aground at Tubbataha Reef”

@venzie: It's the fault of the Coral Reef, they did not step aside. #SaveTubbataha #USTroopsOut


Shark at Tubbataha. Photo by Simon Hefti, Schweiz, Wikipedia

Some tweets centered on the damage inflicted by the US navy ship on the protected reefs and the environment.

@camylbee: On other news, the Tubbataha reef is bleeding. No amount of fines will bring it back to its former glory, at least in, oh say, 20,000 years.

@arnoldpadilla: after dumping toxic wastes in subic, a us ship runs aground in tubbataha reef. crimes of us troops in ph are rising

@akosiays: From minesweeper to coral-destroyer and reef-destroyer! #SaveTubbataha #Tubbataha


There are also those who condemn the violation of Philippine sovereignty by ‘arrogant' US military forces in Philippine territory.

@tonyocruz: If Filipino tourists accidentally damaged Mount Rushmore or crashed into landmarks at The Mall, there would surely be grave repercussions.

@atomaraullo: Adding insult to injury, the crew of the USS Guardian have allegedly not been cooperative with park rangers. Naman. #Tubbataha

@natoreyes: US Navy should be held liable for unauthorized entry and damage to reef


Others question the administration of President Benigno “Noynoy Aquino III for its silence on the issue and alleged puppetry to US political and economic interests in the region.

@edikdolotina: Bakit walang statements sina Valte at Lacierda re US warship stuck in our #Tubbataha ? #SaveTubbataha

@edikdolotina: Why don't [Presidential spokespersons] Valte and Lacierda issue statements re US warship stuck in our #Tubbataha ? #SaveTubbataha

@thejaqpot: Ano PNoy, NGANGA na lang? Kung maka-putak pag may incursions ang China. Pero pag US, ok lang?#TUTAmuch #SaveTubbataha

@thejaqpot: What now [President Noynoy]? How you squawk when there are Chinese incursions. But if its the US, it's just okay? #PUPPETmuch #SaveTubbataha

@tonyocruz: When Chinese ships entered PH waters off Panatag, Malacanang went nuts. When US warship crashed at Tubbataha reef, Palace became blind.


Some also point out to the need for the immediate scrapping of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows the presence of US troops in the country in violation of the Philippine Constitution.

@jc_naguit: Ang epekto ng VFA sa ating teritoryo! #SaveTubbataha! #JunkVFA! #Hypocrisy!

@jc_naguit: This is the effect of VFA to our territory! #SaveTubbataha! #JunkVFA! #Hypocrisy!

January 21 2013

Philippines: Anti-Cybercrime Law Denounced as ‘Cyber Martial Law'

More voices in the Philippines are questioning the Cybercrime Prevention Law as the oral arguments on the petitions against the law are being heard in the Supreme Court (SC) starting last January 15, 2012. The next schedule for the oral arguments will be held on January 22.

The controversial law was signed by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III last October despite massive protests and questions on its constitutionality.

Fifteen petitions were filed against the law last year, hence compelling the Supreme Court to issue a 120-day Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on its implementation. The said TRO expires on February 6 of the present year.

Hackers from the Anonymous group joined the protest against the Anti-Cybercrime Law. Photo from @chantaleco

Arguing that the anti-cybercrime legislation will curtail freedom of expression and is equivalent to “Cyber Martial Law,” critics have stepped up both online and offline actions for the junking of the law. Hackers also vandalized several government websiteslast week to protest the Cybercrime Law.

They say that the law significantly raises the penalty for libel committed online and provides the government overwhelming “draconian” powers to clamp down on critics and conduct online surveillance, as in the case of a 62-year old anti-mining activist who was arrested for a ‘libelous' Facebook post last November 2012.

Twitter Reactions

A police car was ‘painted' by protesters. Photo from @micaelapapa

Social networking sites have become venues for posts, memes, and heated discussion against the law. Here are some of the conversations on Twitter:

@tribong_upos: I am for a #cybercrimelaw, but I am against libel as a crime, warrant-less searches, and unauthorized collection of cyber data.

@bisdakpride” The internet is a powerful venue for LGBTs to freely express gender/sexual rights but not at the expense of other people #notocybercrimelaw

Alay Sining a group of artists based in the University of the Philippines, released an Infographic on the dangers of the Anti-Cybercrime Law.

Cyber Freedom Law

‘Mas Miserable' means ‘More Miserable' in Filipino. The person in the photo is President Aquino. Photo shared by @venzie

A milestone in Philippine legislative history involved the crafting of a “Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom” (MCPIF) through crowdsourcing. This is proposed by netizens as an alternative to the Anti-Cybercrime Law.

Youth legislator Raymond Palatino, also Southeast Asia Editor of Global Voices Online, also filed an Internet Freedom Bill in the Lower House last October 2012. The bill was drafted in a public consultation with netizens, IT experts, and legal pundits held at the UP College of Law last year.

The Center for Media Freedom and Response (CMFR) issued the following Question of the Week: Is it better to encourage observance of a cybercode of ethics vs cybercrime law? Here are some of the reactions to the CMFR Question of the Week:

Alfie Smith: There are aspects that need to be legally enforcable such as sexual exploitation of children at home or abroad. Also other dodgy trading on line … the bill is necessary but not in it's present form which prevents freedom of speech.

Nonoy Espina: There is no doubt about the need for a cybercrime prevention law. The problem with the one we are contesting is that it seeks to classify perceived abuses of free expression as crimes instead of what they rightly are, lapses of ethics and good manners. Personally, I see this as deliberate, part of the efforts, not just of an administration but of a whole political system notorious for its intolerance for criticism, to limit free discourse, much as the refusal to pass the Freedom of Information Act. Although the speed with which the Internet has evolved and the proliferation of social networks may seem to be overwhelming, they are, in fact, still in the early stages and the culture/s and ethics that inform our online behavior are just starting to evolve.

Julius Mariveles: The law is prone to abuse especially with the kind of government officials that we have, a substantial number of them are onion-skinned. Besides, responsibility must become a force of habit, not something that must be forced upon someone.

Len Olea: Journalists, netizens must not be punished for exercising freedom of expression and press freedom. A code of ethics is most welcome.


Meanwhile, two women legislators of the women's party Gabriela proposed amendments to the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) Law to include E-VAW or VAW using information and communications technology.

This is in response to those who justify the cybercrime law as necessary to protect women and children against online prostitution, pornography, and other forms of violence in the internet.

“Kontra pa nga sa kababaihan ang Cybercrime Law na ginagamit ang maling depinisyon ng prostitusyon sa Revised Penal Code. Tinatrato nito ang prostituted women bilang mga kriminal, at hindi bilang mga biktima ng kahirapan at iba pang inhustisyang panlipunan,” said Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus.

“The Cybercrime Law is even against women by using a wrong definition of prostitution in the Revised Penal Code. This treats prostituted women as criminals and not as victims of poverty and other social injustices,” Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said.

December 26 2012

Philippines: Catholic Church Offers Online Rituals

The Philippine Catholic Church has been actively using the internet to fulfill its evangelical mission. In recent years, it has launched several online platforms which allowed Filipinos around the world to celebrate Christian traditions.

For example, Visita Iglesia gives Catholic Filipinos the opportunity to watch and listen to Lenten reflections. More importantly, they can pray in all Stations of the Cross and listen to Pasyon, a Filipino tradition of reciting the death, suffering, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paskong Pinoy sa Mundo (Filipino Christmas in the World) was launched in 2010 for the Christmas celebrations

Paskong Filipino sa Mundo ay isang website para sa global Filipino. Ang tanging layunin nito ay makapagbigay ng pagkakataon sa ating mga kababayang magpalitan ng mga pagbati at magbahagi ng mga karanasang kapupulutan ng aral.

Sa website ding ito, mapapanood ang mga pagninilay na tugma sa lahat ng araw ng Simbang Gabi. Marahil ito ay makatutulong sa ating mga kababayang nasa pook na walang Misa o kaya’y naglalayag sa karagatan o di kaya’y kasalukuyang may karamdaman.

Filipino Christmas in the World is a website for the global Filipino. It’s only aim is to give opportunity to all Filipinos to exchange Christmas greetings and share stories and lessons in life.

Through this website, Simbang Gabi (Midnight Mass) video homilies can be watched. This can be helpful to Filipinos living in places where there is no Mass or travelling in the seas or currently suffering from an ailment.

Church in Bohol Island. Photo from Flickr page of besighyawn

Simbang Gabi is another Filipino Catholic tradition which is celebrated a week before Christmas Day. The Inquirer Group, a mainstream media network, has offered an Online Simbang Gabi service. The church of Monsignor Rolando Dela Cruz is a partner of this initiative:

The Web coverage of the dawn masses will be good for those who don’t have a chance to personally go to church as well as for the Filipinos all over the world

It will be appropriate for the people who don’t have a chance to go to church, or if there are no churches in countries where Christians are a minority

We are providing them with the avenue by which they can still participate and spiritually prepare themselves for the coming of Jesus on Christmas day

The online Filipino can participate in the Simbang Gabi but the frequent mall shopper can’t, warns the Archdiocese of Manila

Simbang Gabi may not be celebrated in malls or shopping centers, unless there is a chapel in the establishment, where the Holy Eucharist is celebrated with frequency and duly approved by us. We do not allow Simbang Gabi to be celebrated in corridors and hallways of shopping malls where the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is needlessly exposed to shoppers that are indifferent to the celebration.

Archbishop Ramon Arguelles delivering a homily

Catholic bishops and priests are also blogging to spread the Faith. Junjun Faithbook reflects on the meaning of the Christmas celebration:

I drove passed the city this morning and I can see how busy the streets are. I can see Christmas signs and symbols everywhere, but it made me wonder, is Christmas in everyone’s hearts. It made me wonder what really is our motivation of celebrating Christmas? Is it because it is a holiday? Is it because of the time catching up with friends and relatives? Is it because of the presents we give and we receive? Or is it because of our faith in God-Incarnate, the God who chooses to be personally identified with our humanity in order to save us and lift us up from our fallen humanity?

Fr. Amado Picardal asks if it’s still meaningful to celebrate Christmas amid poverty, destruction, and violence everywhere:

Is it possible to celebrate Christmas amidst tragedy, suffering, poverty, violence, etc? Can we have a Merry Christmas when we do not have enough money? When we do not have enough food? When we are sick?

Christmas is for people who are in the dark, for people who are suffering, for people who are looking for hope. Christmas tells us that God has given us the greatest gift — his only Son who brings salvation into the world, who will overcome all evil — all darkness.

Undas is another important Filipino Catholic tradition when the faithful visit cemeteries and offer prayers for their dead loved ones on November 1. The Catholic Church launched Undas Online to help Filipinos abroad in commemorating this event:

This project has materialized with the following in mind: a) Filipinos who are homebound and have no way of visiting the cemeteries: b) Filipinos who are far from their love-ones, such as those in other countries; c) Filipinos who are seafarers.

Catholic Filipinos can even request for masses:

For those who cannot make it to your parishes, especially Filipinos in other countries or the Seafarers, you may request for masses to be celebrated for your beloved dead. Kindly list down the names of the souls that you wish included in the masses that will be celebrated at the CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) Chapel

Aside from Timor Leste, the Philippines is the only Catholic-dominated nation in Asia.

October 30 2012

Philippines: Online Shame Campaign Against “Epal” Politicians

With less than a year into the 2013 national elections, netizens launched an online shame campaign against the common practice of Filipino politicians to attach their names to government projects that are funded or assisted by their office.

These politicians are labelled “epal,” a Filipino slang term meaning “attention grabber,” for using public funds and programs to promote themselves through tarpaulins and other publicity materials.

The campaign initiators encourage people to submit photos that expose “epal” politicos to the #epalwatch blog. An Anti-epal Facebook page has over 33,000 likes and dozens of submissions by concerned netizens.

They've also partnered with local IT company Kwan Initiatives for the integration of a new anti-epal feature into the smartphone mobile application Instapatrol.

Through this new feature, Instapatrol users can now only easily share photos of floods, traffic, potholes, and other everyday inconveniences but also photos of “epal” politicians.

The examples of “epal” images submitted in these sites range from the brazen to the ingenious. Here's a billboard by an alleged political dynasty in the southern Philippine province Davao del Sur described by posters as a “family portrait.”

Walls along main thoroughfares and side streets, like those of Manila below, are common victims.

So are government vehicles.

There's a Happy Halloween tarpaulin complete with the faces of government officials.

Disaster relief goods are meanwhile utilized for “early campaigning.”

The virtual spaces of Facebook and other social networking sites have also been invaded. This is President Noynoy Aquino's cousin who is also a senatorial aspirant:

Even peanut butter is not spared.

October 25 2012

Philippines: Anti-Mining Activist Arrested over Facebook Post

The arrest of a 62-year old anti-mining activist in the Philippines for a Facebook post spawned fears of a clampdown on dissenters through the recently enacted anti-cybercrime legislation.

Critics of the cybercrime legislation won a tactical victory when the Philippine Supreme Court issued a 120-day Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the law as it deliberates on at least 15 petitions calling for the junking of the law.

However, they claim that the case of Esperlita “Perling” Garcia is a preview of how the law could be used to suppress the people's freedom of expression and right to expose and criticize government abuses online.

Garcia is President of the Gonzaga Alliance for Environmental Protection and Preservation which is opposed to magnetite mining operations in Gonzaga town in Cagayan Province. The Cagayan provincial government authorized mining by Chinese and Taiwanese corporations in the area.

Gonzaga Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr. charged Garcia with libel for a Facebook note posted last April 2011. The note condemned Pentecostes for harassing community leaders planning an anti-mining demonstration.

Environmentalists and internet freedom advocates has setup the “Cyber-Perling” Facebook page to draw attention to Garcia's plight. The page has gathered more than 800 likes as of this writing.

A factsheet on her October 18 arrest can be read on the said page. ‘Cyber-Perling' was released on bail last October 19 after a day in detention.

Activist youth group Anakbayan warned that the incident is a strong indication of an impending E-Martial Law once the cybercrime law becomes effective:

“This is a preview of what to expect once the TRO lapses: the Cybercrime Law will be unleashed by the Aquino regime against its countless critics and opponents” said Vencer Crisostomo, national chairperson of Anakbayan.

He said it was not surprising that an anti-mining activist is the first victim of ‘e-Martial Law’, considering the intensifying resistance nationwide against foreign, large-scale, destructive mining operations, and President Noynoy Aquino’s bias in favor of those.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, however, insisted that the arrest did not in any way arise from the Cybercrime Prevention Act:

This is not a Cybercrime case. This is a case of libel filed. In fact, if you notice, the bail posted was P10,000. The penalty for online libel is prision mayor, which is higher than the penalty imposed under the Revised Penal Code. Obviously, this is a case filed under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code. So this is not a case of e-libel.

The youth activists answered Lacierda by pointing out that Facebook, blogs, and social networking sites are not included in the Revised Penal Code, which limits libel to printed and broadcasted materials.

Lacierda has now morphed into an e-Martial Law spokesman who is also lawyering for those who want to stifle internet freedom and free speech. He knows very well that libel under the law currently only applies to print and TV, making the case vs Perlie baseless, and yet he twists and spins to justify repressive and fascist acts.

They reiterated that it is “a preview of how rights will be curtailed once the Cybercrime Law is passed.” Lawyers also reaffirmed this observation. Atty. JJ Disini points out in a Facebook post:

“Well, someone should tell Atty. Lacierda the fact that this is not even a proper case of libel because public officials, as a rule, are not allowed to sue for criminal libel. This is clear from the landmark [United States Supreme Court] case of New York Times v. Sullivan cited with approval by our Supreme Court in the recent case [decided in 2005] of Guingging v. Court of Appeals.”

PITIK-B(u)LOG said the case is a wakeup call for everyone to take action against the cybercrime law.

Ilang ESPERLITA GARCIA pa ba ang dapat hulihin para maniwala ang sambayanan na ang R.A. 10175 ay inilalagay sa panganib ang ating freedom of expression? Kailan natin maiintindihan na sa ating pagsasawalang-kibo ay unti-unti rin nating kinakatay ang ating mga karapatang pangtao? Hindi lang ang R.A. 10175 ang dapat sisihin sa pagkitil sa ating freedom of speech, kasama na dito ang mga taong nagkibit ng balikat at nagsawalang-kibo. Apathy kills.

How many more Esperilta Garcia should be arrested before the people believe that R.A. 10175 will put our freedom of expression in danger? When will we understand that our indifference is slowly killing our human rights? R.A. 10175 is not the only thing that should be blamed for the curtailment of our freedom of speech, alongside this are the people who stay on the sidelines and do not care. Apathy kills.

October 22 2012

A Maligned Law to Protect the Philippines from Cybercrime

This post is part of our International Relations & Security coverage.

Protest against the Cybercrime Law. Photo shared by Tudla Productions on Facebook

The majority of Filipino internet users and media groups opposed the passage of the Philippine Cybercrime Law because of provisions that potentially curtail media freedom and other civil liberties. But prior to the insertion of online libel and other last minute amendments, the bill was actually quietly supported by many people.

In fact, it remains popular among business groups, computer security experts, and advocates of safe cyberspace, even after the Supreme Court issued an order to suspend its implementation for the next 120 days.

The Department of Justice - the main agency in charge of implementing the law - insists that the measure is necessary to stop global cybercrimes:

Precisely the purpose of the law is to protect our citizens from unscrupulous and abusive actions of misfits and the wicked in society. We see massive cyber fraud, state-sponsored terrorism, telecommunications hacking, credit card scams and consumer schemes that the State is mandated to investigate and prosecute. There is no doubt that cybercrime is a global crime that requires immediate and adequate response.

According to the agency, the hacking of government websites is another reason to use the law against “transnational organized crimes and criminal syndicates”:

The number of incidents and the ease of hacking government websites only show the vulnerability of our country's ICT framework and prove the necessity of a cybercrime law to protect us against criminal syndicates and transnational organized crime.

But it also emphasized that the agency opposed the inclusion of online libel in the original bill:

The IT industry knows that since 2007 when the Department of Justice (DOJ) first crafted the consolidated cybercrime bill, internet libel was never a part of any versions. The main purpose of the legislation was to cover acts committed with new technologies that were not included or could not have been anticipated by the Revised Penal Code or special penal laws. The DOJ will protect and defend the freedom of expression and freedom of speech in whatever form by going after transnational organized crimes and criminal syndicates who abuse the openness of social media.

Letter from a young woman

Letter from a young woman asking the government to use the Cybercrime Law to stop the online circulation of a sex video

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda echoed the arguments of the DOJ:

The Cybercrime Prevention Act was enacted by Congress to address legitimate concerns about criminal behavior on the Internet and the effects of abusive behavior

We would therefore like to point out that no government entity has moved to deprive anyone of access to the Internet or to suppress civil liberties as exercised online. In fact what has taken place is that hackers who claim to be aligned with critics of the Cybercrime Act are the ones who have engaged in online vandalism, depriving the broader public of access to much needed government information and services online.

The Business Processing Association of the Philippines, the umbrella organization of business process outsourcing companies in the country, identifies the advantages of having a Cybercrime Law:

The Cybercrime Prevention Act will help sustain and enhance investor confidence and strengthen our position as one of the world’s top locations for high-value IT-BPO services.

The Cybercrime Prevention Act is meant to provide the resources and legal framework to identify, prevent, and impose punishment for Internet-based crimes and safeguard users’ online information from unauthorized data collectors. Because IT-BPO firms utilize the Internet and computer technology as the principal channel for communication processes, the industry will benefit from provisions covering system and data protection, device security, and penalties for computer-related offenses.

Outsourcing is touted as a sunshine industry in the Philippines. It employs more than half a million young workers and contributes about $13 billion to the local economy.

Responsible Internet Users for Social Empowerment (Cyber RISE) appeals for the implementation of the law [fil]:

It is saddening that the law intended to curb evil acts in social networking today is the focus of attacks by groups which claim that human rights are going to be violated.

Give a chance by implementing the law to realize its positive intent. We have long clamored for a strong law to apprehend ‘cybercriminals'.

Even Senator Teofisto Guingona III, the only senator who voted against the law, recognizes the necessity of having a Cybercrime Law:

A Cybercrime Prevention Act is necessary, but must not be oppressive.

Republic Act 10175 is oppressive and dangerous. It demonizes the computer user and extends its tentacles to a computer user’s freedom of expression and speech. In an age when decriminalization of libel is the trend, this law makes a fatal step back, toward the vault of archaic policies that cannot be made to apply to the modern man operating in a modern world.

Let me just point out the fact that we need a Cybercrime Prevention Act. Except for certain problematic provisions, this law is necessary.

ISN logoThis post and its translations to Spanish, Arabic and French were commissioned by the International Security Network (ISN) as part of a partnership to seek out citizen voices on international relations and security issues worldwide. This post was first published on the ISN blog, see similar stories here.

October 04 2012

Philippines: Anti-Cybercrime Law Sparks Online Protests

Filipino netizens are stepping up protest actions online for the repeal of a cybercrime law that has been dubbed as “E-Martial Law.” Alluding to the lack of civil liberties under martial law of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the quip sums up the fears of netizens that the said law could be used to repress internet rights and freedom of expression.

Users of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites turned their profile pictures, cover photos, and even status updates black as a sign of protest on October 2, the date the Supreme Court was supposed to hear several petitions against the cybercrime law.

Facebook comments and tweets now come with black shades that render phrases and sentence incomplete to demonstrate how online censorship of social networks under the cybercrime law might look like.

Some websites also voluntarily blacked out their websites in solidarity with the anti-cybercrime law campaign.

The high court failed to act on the petitions because of the absence of some justices and instead decided to tackle the matter next week. Without a temporary restraining order secured from the court, the cybercrime law takes effect this week. Meanwhile, one of the petitions lodged in the Supreme Court, has also been posted in the Internet as an online petition. It has gathered more than 70,000 signatures as of this writing.

The cybercrime law and its proponents have also become the targets of ridicule online. Here are some of the images circulating online:

Meanwhile, a senatorial candidate for the 2013 mid-term elections under the ruling Liberal Party and a cousin of President Noynoy Aquino, has not been spared from virulent comments on Twitter:

Here is a video on the cybercrime law uploaded by Red Ants Productions on YouTube:

Filipino netizens also enthusiastically noted the support for the call against the cybercrime law from various quarters of the world. The popular file-sharing website The Pirate Bay, for example, posted “Junk the Cybercrime Law” as its homepage header.

Last week, several government websites were also attacked by hackers who called themselves “Anonymous Philippines” to express their objection to the cybercrime law:

The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is the most notorious act ever witnessed in the cyber-history of the Philippines, and the language of the bill is cunningly designed to make you think it only applies to individuals who are deep in cyber-technology and doesn't apply to everyone, but some part of the bill basically says it can imprison anyone who commits libel either by written messages, comments, blogs, or posts in sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or any other comment-spaces of other social media in the Internet.

This is part of the message posted in the websites of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc., Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team, Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Region III, Smokefree Philippines of the Department of Health, and Institute for Development and Econometric Analysis.

A screenshot of the hacked website.

All of the affected websites except for that of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc have been restored.

#NoToCyberCrimeLaw is now the top trending hashtag in the Philippines. Here are some twitter reactions from Filipino netizens:

@missychua: grabe kaya natutulong ni pnoy. tignan nyo mga priorities; Wang-Wang,Corona,& #CyberCrimeLaw pinakaproblema yan. wag na edukasyon,poverty db

@missychua: P-Noy [President Noynoy Aquino] has great contributions. Look at his priorities: Wang-Wang, Corona, & #CyberCrimeLaw are his biggest problems. Not Education, poverty

@EJuankosayo: Status mo na, nilike mo pa tpos ikaw din nagcomment. Makakasuhan ka nian sa CyberCrimeLaw #EPIC hahahaha

@EJuankosayo: It's your status, you liked it, and you commented on it. But you can be charged under the CyberCrimeLaw. #EPIC hahahaha

@arcicatalan: #CybercrimeLaw shld protect d netizens frm hackers.Bt if ur acct IS hacked,posted smthng libelous,u cn b sued&burden's on u 2 prove hacking.

@thepbaologist: Protest vs anti-cybercrime law mounting.Concerned citizens now knocking on SC door. Let us keep democracy going.Let us continue to be heard.

@themarkgamboa: Kung maguupload ba ko ng nakahubad ako makukulong nako? #NoToCyberCrimeLaw

@themarkgamboa: If I upload a picture of myself naked will I be jailed? #NoToCyberCrimeLaw

@dafnyduck: Senators who passed the cybercrime law, you will feel our vengeance on election day. #NoToCybercrimeLaw

September 23 2012

Philippines: TEDxDiliman Trends on Twitter

On September 15, 2012, more than a hundred attendees flocked the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman to witness TEDxDiliman 2012. This was the second time that CANVAS (Center for Art, New Ventures, And Sustainable development) staged a TEDxDiliman event, which carried the theme, “The Future”.

Several recognizable personalities stood as speakers this year, including former Philippine senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani, film director Jose Javier Reyes, and controversial cultural activist Carlos Celdran.

Opening remarks by Gigo Alampay of CANVAS

Opening remarks by Gigo Alampay of CANVAS

The Future of the Past, by Carlos Celdran

The Future of the Past, by Carlos Celdran

Particularly, Leticia Shahani explored the diplomatic history behind the territorial dispute between China and the Philippines over Bajo de Masinloc (also known as Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Shoal) and the Kalayaan Group of Islands (also known as Spratlys). She emphasized that despite the obvious lack in technological capability of the country's military and navy, the Philippines should ready itself for the future, and to continually push for the protection of the seas and resources that surround it.

"We've been left behind", reckons Leticia Shahani, when the Philippine armed forces is stacked up against neighboring countries in Asia

“We've been left behind”, reckons Leticia Shahani, when the Philippine armed forces is stacked up against neighboring countries in Asia

Meanwhile, netizens eagerly awaited and followed the entire occasion via livestream. On Twitter, the hashtag #tedxdiliman gathered a huge following, and quickly became a trending topic in the Philippines.

#TEDxDiliman trended on Twitter. Photo by Joseph Ubalde, used with permission.

#TEDxDiliman trended on Twitter. Photo by Joseph Ubalde, used with permission.

@seph_ubalde: #TEDxDiliman trends on Twitter! Kudos to everyone and media partner @interaksyon

@cheriemercado: inspiring talks from expert speakers :) based on TED in the US. Check it out on you tube

@mikkahipol: A country of passionate citizens is not far from progress. #takehome #TEDxDiliman

@klaraiskra: That was so much fun and enriching! Hope I get to attend again next year! #TEDxDiliman

Due to this year's success, Gigo Alampay of CANVAS promised a larger, bolder TEDxDiliman by next year.

@lookingforjuan: Next year ulit! Babalik kami, puede na mas marami! #TEDxDiliman

@lookingforjuan: See you next year! We'll be back, and we will accomodate more people! #TEDxDiliman

More photos are available from the official Facebook page of TEDxDiliman.

A number of local TEDx initiatives in the country have sprouted and gained attention over the last few years, owing to the movement's liberal and ambitious ideologies. Last June 16, nearby Ateneo de Manila University became the cradle of the first TEDxKatipunan; it strongly resonated among netizens on Facebook and Twitter. Last April 13, TEDxMakati was also held. Meanwhile, big plans are brewing for TEDxManila 2012, which is scheduled to take place on December 7.

August 08 2012

Philippines: Criticism of Government's Response to Major Flooding

As heavy rains and massive flooding continues to hit the Philippines' national capital and nearby provinces, online media has been used to document the worsening situation on the ground and to coordinate relief operations.

Netizens are now also using online media to raise questions about President Noynoy Aquino's government's response to the disaster and the lack of preventive measures that might have mitigated the effects of the bad weather.

Viral memes

Here are some of the photo memes regarding the president now going viral on Facebook and other social networking sites:

Image by Pixel Offensive on Facebook.

Image by Pixel Offensive on Facebook.

From the Facebook of Jerry Ocampo.

From the Facebook of Jerry Ocampo.

2010: We just inherited this problem from the previous administration. We have been in office for less than a year only.2011: We just inherited this problem from the previous administration. We have been in office for one year only.

2012: We just inherited this problem from the previous administration. Ate Vi acts well in The Healing. Watch it!

Scrapped flood control projects

Get Real Philippines explains that the Philippine Peso (PHP) 1.9 billion for flood control projects that was scrapped by the Aquino administration could have saved Metro Manila from the destruction it has witnessed:

Add to that regrettable opportunity cost in 2011 the Php 12.5 billion damage caused by Typhoon Pedring on that year and now the still-to-be-ascertained cost of this year’s nameless flooding disaster — all because key infrastructure projects were summarily killed by President BS Aquino, perhaps simply because they were projects associated with his personal nemesis, the eeevvvvillll regime of GMA.

'In mainstream media, the masses are always accused of being "hard headed" if they don't evacuate. But if government scrimps on flood control projects, they just ignore it.' Image by Pixel Offensive on Facebook.

‘In mainstream media, the masses are always accused of being “hard headed” if they don't evacuate. But if government scrimps on flood control projects, they just ignore it.' Image by Pixel Offensive on Facebook.

Placing the blame

In a Facebook status, Gerry Lanuza questions the prevailing discourse of blaming the poor for the disaster; the president recently criticized the public in a press conference organized at the height of the flooding for not taking flood warnings seriously and for “just adding risk to rescuers”:

Two major causes of flooding: (1) Metro Manila alone continues to generate some 8,600 tons of garbage daily (2) Informal settlers along esteros, creeks, and waterways. What is the common denominator? Most of them are poor and squatters! Solution? Demolition, penalizing the poor who dump garbage indiscriminately, and population control. Why not sustainable employment, better education, and mass housing? Because it is better to believe in common sense myths against the poor than confront the real problem. For it will expose the blatant discrimination and neglect of the urban squatters!

Meanwhile, a business process outsourcing company has also taken a beating for requiring its call center agents to go to work despite the floods. Its internal email message has been spread on various social network sites and subjected to criticism:

The Business Processing Association of the Philippines has requested the government to exempt call center companies from its work suspension order. The BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) company in question has released a damage control statement that offers a 30% holiday pay premium to employees who still go to work:

While we encourage our employees to come to work, we ask that they only do so if it is safe for them to travel.

Progressive youth group Anakbayan on its blog page condemned the Aquino government for allowing BPOs to get around the work suspension order.

In essence, the Aquino administration has abdicated its responsibility and primary role of ensuring the safety of Filipino workers. There are no guarantees that employers will actually ensure the safety of their employees, and there are no government measures to make sure that employers will actually do that. No amount of ‘premium pay’ will justify putting the lives of BPO employees and other workers in danger.

Ultimately, the Aquino administration reveals its true ‘bosses’: not the Filipino working class and the millions of other hard-working Filipinos, but the greedy corporations and capitalists.

A Radical's Nut meanwhile slammed the corporate greed of oil and power companies that hiked pump rices and electricity rates amidst the disaster and the government's inaction in stopping them:

Petron, owned by presidential uncle Danding Cojuangco, and other oil firms increased their pump prices despite the calamity because the Oil Deregulation Law, which President Aquino has staunchly defended amid criticisms and allegations of overpricing, gives them the right to automatically hike their prices without a public hearing.

Meralco, also owned by Danding and known presidential allies Manny Pangilinan and the Lopez family, increased its generation charge despite the calamity because the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), whose full implementation is being pushed by Aquino despite strong opposition from Mindanao and other sectors, allows it to automatically increase its generation rates without a public hearing.

July 27 2012

Philippines: Horse Fights

Heritage interpreter, tour guide, and blogger Ka Bino Guerrero writes and posts pictures about horse fights in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental in the Philippines.

April 28 2012

Philippines: Demolition of Urban Poor Village Sparks Indignation

At least one person was killed and scores were injured after police forces fired on protesting residents of Silverio Compound in Paranaque City defending their homes from being demolished.

The Silverio Compound is home to at least 28,000 urban poor families. The residents contend that a total of 4 individuals were killed. The violent demolition has sparked a wave of indignation online.

Billionaire Henry Sy's SM Development Corporation (SMDC) owns the 9.7 hectare lot which it plans to clear for the construction of condominiums and commercial establishments.

This is not the first time that Henry Sy's SM shopping mall entered into controversy. Protests against SMDC also erupted against the planned removal of pine trees for one of its mall expansion program.

The police confirmed the killing of Arnel Leonor, 21 years old. Residents said that Bodging Isaias, 16 years old, Rodman Ortega, 16 years old and Raymond Aquino, 36 years old were also killed by police gunfire.

Youth activist leader and blogger Vencer Crisostomo shares a comprehensive narrative account of the bloody incident:

News video footages and documentation by citizen media groups showed members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) armed with M16 rifles firing indiscriminately as they dipersed residents who formed a human barricade to try to stop police and demolition teams. Also shown were scores being arrested, bloodied and beaten up even as they were already in the custody of the police.

After several rounds of volley gunfire, Arnel Leonor Tolentino, 21 was confirmed dead by gunshot on the head and several others also shot in vital areas are in critical condition. Not a few residents have gunshot wounds in their arms and legs, some as young as 15-16 years old.

SMDC has repeatedly denied any connection with the brutal demolition. But government documents obtained by residents indicate the company as a “housing development partner.”

Parañaque Mayor Florencio Bernabe have confirmed plans to use the lot for commercial purposes for the city government. There is also a plan to build a medium-rise housing project but this will only occupy a small portion of the property as shown by the project's master plan.

The violent demolition reminded Like a Rolling Stone of the 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre where striking farm workers were shot by military and police forces.

I feared that a whitewash would take place given the statements of the Mayor. In the Luisita massacre, the authorities claimed that farmers were armed, that violence started from the ranks of the farmers and that the farmers were infiltrated by “outsiders” who were agitating them.

The same storyline is now being repeated by the authorities even before an investigation into the incident has taken place. Authorities are saying that residents were armed too, that they started the violence and that they were infiltrated by “outsiders”. The idea here is simple. Blame the victims and problem goes away.

Citizen media writer Kenneth Roland Guda believes that the Noynoy Aquino government should also be held accountable for the massacre in Silverio Compound.

Hindi lamang usapin ito ng command responsibility. May direktang pananagutan ang administrasyong Aquino sa paggamit ng dahas sa mga sibilyang tumututol sa demolisyon. Kinalinga ng administrasyong ito ang patuloy na pagsasanay at pag-aarmas sa malulupit at brutal na mga yunit ng militar at pulisya na may masasamang rekord ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao.

This is not just a matter of command responsibility. The Aquino administration is directly accountable for the use of violence against civilians opposing the demolition. This administration nurtured the continued training and arming of vicious and brutal military and police units that have a bad record of human rights violations.

The official statement and appeal of the residents of silverio compound, Paranaque was also posted online.

The policemen are supposed to serve and protect the people but why send more than 300 policemen and demolition teams to destroy our ranks and the whole community and kill us?

We strongly oppose the massive demolition of our community. The demolition of our public market is only part of the continued plan to demolish the whole 9.7 hectares of Silverio Compound to give way to the business center of Henry Sy and to wipe out all small vendors in favour of the HYPERMARKET of the Sy family.

A Radical's Nut is encouraging support for what he calls a “fight for the right to live.”

While the residents of Silverio Compound remain undaunted by oppression and brutality, they need all the support that they can muster to ensure that justice will be served. At the same time, they also need assistance – medical, legal, etc. – to help them cope with the tragedy inflicted on them by institutions that are supposed to uphold their rights and promote their interests.

Some reactions on Twitter:

@ellacolmenares: SM: Silverio Massacre

@Ralpipay: @piabisikleta Re-watched the footage of Silverio massacre and Red some articles eto ba ang tinatawag nating #PinoyPride #ItsMoreFuninPH

@Ralpipay: @piabisikleta Re-watched the footage of Silverio massacre and read some articles is this what we call #PinoyPride #ItsMoreFuninPH

@mobilemaui: Massacre: “To kill people in numbers, especially brutally and indiscriminately” Yun ang ginawa sa #Silverio compound. #justice

@YourConnoisseur: OMG! Silverio compound massacre! And it happened under the administration of #PNoy.

@jaellao: Today was a bloody hell day for residents of Silverio Compound. It's also the 29th month since the Ampatuan Massacre.

A video documentation of the resident's barricades and the bloody dispersal:

Photos and video via Tudla Productions. Some rights reserved.

Philippine Education Prior and During Spanish Colonization

Red-ayglasses blogs about the state of Philippine education during pre-colonial times and under Spanish colonial rule.

Philippines: Counterinsurgency Primer

Karapatan, an alliance working for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines, uploaded a PDF copy of its comic book entitled Oplan Bayanihan for Beginners. The book is an introduction to Oplan Bayanihan, the government's counterinsurgency campaign which is being linked by human rights advocates to the continuing spate of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and other human rights violations in the country.

April 03 2012

Philippines: Students Prevented from Graduating Over Facebook Bikini Photos

The Saint Theresa's College, an exclusive all-girls Catholic school managed by nuns in the central Philippine island of Cebu, sparked public outrage when it barred five high school students from joining the graduation ceremony because of photos posted on their Facebook accounts showing them wearing bikinis.

This despite a ruling issued by the Cebu Regional Trial Court ordering the school to allow the students to join the graduation ceremony. The affected students and their parents complained against the lack of due process and the arbitrary imposition of harsh sanctions. The school simply claimed that the court order was deficient.

The students decried the the school administration's alleged verbal assault on their persons with accusations of having “loose morals,” of being “sluts,” “drunks,” and “drug addicts.” They said that the photos were private and that the school accessed the student's Facebook account without permission.

Administrators said that the photos violated the student handbook by being “obscene, sexually provocative, and revolting to the sense of any decent person.” While the 5 students were barred from joining the ceremonies, the school has officially declared them as graduates.

Some “loyal” alumni of the school have stepped into the fray to protect what they perceive to be “biased” attacks against the reputation of their alma mater.

Contrary to what the complainant has stated, the school said to have given due process to these five young ladies. First step was that they asked the five to write, in their own words and penmanship, what had conspired in the said photos. These written accounts were then read and assessed. The school then called the parents to tell them what had happened; they explain the violations made by their children and the corresponding consequences of their misconduct. The parents, after the explanation, were then asked to sign if they were to conform to the said sanctions, to which they did.

But Momblogger, also a STC graduate, said that while her alma mater has the right to prescribe its own proper behavioral requirements, she said this standards should consider recent developments like the rise of social media.

In this age of social media, this will not be the last instance of STC students posting comments , pictures in Facebook or other social media sites. It might be time for STC Cebu to accept certain realities and adjust to them in a positive and constructive way. Why call them out with abusive language as “easy, drunks and addicts”? Name calling will not result in constructive engagement. shares the summary of the school's defense of its actions in a press conference called for immediately after the controversial graduation.

STC did not hack the facebook accounts of the girls, contrary to the insinuations of many news articles. Some STC students who didn’t like the photos reported the matter to the school admin. The school has always reminded the girls to uphold responsible use of social networking sites for their own protection and security. To ensure the students’ adherence to this, the student handbook prohibits “posing and uploading pictures on the internet that entail body exposure.”

The student press alliance College Editors Guild of the Philippines condemned the school for barring the students from joining the ceremony, saying this constituted a violation of students rights.

We commend the court ruling of Judge Wilfredo Fiel Navarro of the Cebu Regional Trial Court (RTC) for giving justice to the case of the students. The judge, more than the mentors in the school, saw that the concerned were still minors and the rash judgement and punishment would do more harm than good.

We condemn STC’s defiance to the court order. Adding to the unjust treatment to the students, they also did not allow them to go inside the school gates during the graduation day. They were treated like personae non gratae, they were denied even an entrance to the school they have been studying in since elementary school.

Raul Pangalangan, former College of Law Dean at the University of the Philippines, pointed out that the school may have intruded into the privacy of the students.

The photograph was apparently posted on the girl’s Facebook account whose privacy settings allowed access only to her friends. The school officials were not her Facebook friends, and were kibitzers into the child’s zone of privacy. Indeed, if indeed the girl’s privacy settings gave access only to her friends, the girl’s Facebook posts are technically hearsay vis-à-vis the school officials because they were not privy to her posts.

In a Blog Watch piece, youth leader Vencer Crisostomo said that the incident is indicative of the generally repressive and reactionary character of the Philippine educational system.

These incidents show only the tip of the iceberg. Repressive and fascist-like acts of the same nature are being implemented in most schools in the country. There are numbers of reports of students being punished and even expelled from schools due to exercise of freedom to expression, organization and association, and are being punished for their political advocacies or religious beliefs.

There should be a thorough review of the state of campus and student rights in the country. Basic rights and civil liberties are not waived nor nullified once a student enrolls or enters a school. In the same light, “academic freedom” or “autonomy” could never mean that a school is exempted from respecting human rights.

Twitter Reactions

Reactions on social networking site Twitter were aghast at the “harsh” treatment of the girls:

@vincecinches: Hail the STC Bikini 5! #wth

@Tito_Ces: Admonish the girl for breaking the rules but beyond that is being morally hypocritical when bishops keep quiet abt pedos.

@TheDoraism: Unreasonably strict, conservative nuns.

@francesdoplon: On the STC bikini incident: Religious school or secular, admin should limit their jurisdiction to campus and leave parenting to parents.

@janram49: St. Theresa's College, let the punishment fit the crime. #STC

But there were also some, especially loyal alumni of the school, that expressed sympathy for the besieged school officials:

bonjustin8: I wonder why many people are bent on lynching the admins of St. Theresa's College - Cebu. Is it wrong for a school to uphold its standards?

@ohyesitsTIFF: St. Theresa's College is a HIGHLY CONSERVATIVE EXCLUSIVE SCHOOL. There's a reason why parents and students are given student handbooks.

@ArianneJuanillo: St Theresa's College is a Catholic school governed by the teachings of the Catholic Church.They are expected to form the values of children.

A similar incident also happened in another Catholic high school in a city in the country's capital wherein six students were not allowed to graduate and receive their diplomas after they uploaded photos of themselves simulating a kissing scene.

March 27 2012

Philippines: Government Fails to Stop ‘Noynoying'

What started as a substitute to the now banned planking protests is now the latest hit sensation in the Philippines. As a protest pose, ‘Noynoying' simply involves sitting around, lying on the ground, or staring on empty space, and doing nothing.

Activists first coined ‘Noynoying' to describe Philippine President Noynoy Aquino's inaction on the soaring prices of oil, tuition and other school fees, and other basic goods and services, rising inequality, and poverty, among others.

Government Fails to Stop Noynoying

Government efforts to stop the growing popularity of ‘Noynoying' all failed miserably. The term became even more popular after the Palace released several photos showing the President supposedly “at work” to counteract the charges of ‘Noynoying'. These were quickly photoshopped and uploaded online as internet memes.

The latest ‘Noynoying' images showed the President together with Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) officials who also became notorious last year after they edited photos of themselves to make it appear that they were “working” on a Manila Bay wall destroyed by a typhoon.

Here are some samples of noynoying memes now circulating in the internet:

‘Noynoying' now has its own entry in Wikipedia, which has expanded from a simple one short paragraph description to a lengthy treatise on the origin of the term.

On Noynoying's Growing Popularity

Taken from the President's nickname Noynoy, ‘noynoying' has been widely embraced by the public to mean doing nothing in the face of pressing matters that need action. Filipino netizens have been discussing why ‘Noynoying' gained its present popularity.

A member of the Aquino regime's cabinet called noynoying an “annoying” publicity gimmick by government critics.

It is a sub-plot to a more prolonged campaign against the government by its political enemies. Because these people are having a hard time attacking government policies, they resort to ad hominem attacks on PNoy, stooping so low as to question his mental condition.

Blogger Teo Marasigan replies that the rise of noynoying is not just the work of a few activists.

Pumatok ang Noynoying dahil sapul nito ang sentimyento sa pangulo ng mga mamamayan. Sa likod ng masasayang ngiti at masasarap na pangako ng pangulo, ramdam ang pagtindi ng hirap at gutom ng mga tao.

Noynoying became popular because it summed up the sentiments of the people about the president. Behind the happy smiles and sweet promises of the president, the worsening poverty and hunger are felt by the people.

John Marcel Ragaza meanwhile blogs that ‘Noynoying', annoying as it maybe for the president and his officials, is not just an attack on the president's person.

Noynoying is a symbolic protest that goes beyond criticism of the president's character. The public and even Malacanang should not misconstrue Noynoying, and any act of creative protest for that matter, as a plain assault to person of Aquino. Rather, it is an insult directed at the kind of governance that is being espoused not only by Aquino but even by his predecessors, to the elite rule that has long dominated the country, to a leadership that sadly contributes to the suffering of marginalized Filipinos through the protection of elite interests. Noynoying is just a catchy verb, but it nevertheless pierces and offends because it is truthful.

The bottom line for the endurance of ‘Noynoying', Like a Rolling Stone observes, is the Aquino government's willful disregard for people's issues.

It is Aquino and his officials who appear to be living in a different world, a place where there are only happy mall-goers, rosy stock market indices and busy construction sites that point to economic growth. In this world, oil prices are not a problem no matter how high they get. Poverty is just a state of mind and unemployment is fiction.

Be thankful Mr. President that today’s protests are still tinged with humor. There might come a time when there will only be anger over your government’s inaction.

Lastly, youth activist leader Vencer Crisostomo lists down some concrete steps that the Aquino regime can do, instead of mere photo releases and denials, to stop accusations of noynoying:

Stopping oil price hikes, implementing genuine land reform, significantly raising wages, imposing a moratorium on tuition and other school fee increases, ending impunity and human rights abuses, standing up against US intervention, and ending foreign plunder and mining of the country's natural resources, among many others.

March 18 2012

Philippines: Noynoying is the New Planking

Once fashionable and popular, planking has been eclipsed by a new sensation that has gripped many Filipinos around the globe. Planking was last year’s standard pose in youth and student protests against education budget cuts. Noynoying is the new planking in the Philippines.

Introduced in response to the President Noynoy Aquino regime’s inaction on oil price hikes, Noynoying is derived from the root word Noynoy, the nickname of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. It is described as “doing nothing when in fact you have something to do.”

The pose first hit the public in last Thursday’s anti-oil price hike protest after government officials threatened to arrest those who will do planking during the protest actions. Despite efforts by the Palace to shrug off noynoying by saying it won’t have any effect on the public, it has in fact now gone viral online.

It has inspired a Facebook fan page which gained over 800 likes in a day and various internet memes. The hashtag #noynoying, Chantal’s Doodle points out, was top 9 in the Philippines trends in Twitter the day the pose came out in public.

To counter the notion that the President is not doing anything on people’s concerns, the Philippine government Official Gazette released a photo of the President supposedly busy at work.

But netizens like the Momblogger has pointed out discrepancies, like the presence of TV and DVD remote controls, in one of the photos supposedly showing the president at “work.” user Ian points out that President Noynoy has no one to blame for the growing popularity of noynoying but himself.

Portrayal of Noynoying made me remember the not so distant past. Partying while half of the nation is being ravaged by Sendong and reacted only when the public noticed of such inaction was making him the push-button president. He is the man who had written or worked the least while he was still in the Congress or the Senate. Being a chain smoker is not a good example and making a promise to stop when he’ll win the presidency but then finally broke it is a worst one.

Blogger Pat Mangubat of the New Philippine Revolution describes noynoying as the new form of governance.

What better way to describe what this government is doing than parody the very popular photo of Noynoy in a pensive mood? That photo, which was used during the 2010 elections, became somewhat a symbol, an attraction if you wish, to convince the middle classes that Pnoy is the “one”, a some sort of Pinoy Obama, who has the skills and the wherewithal to push this country into progress. Now, two years and a half into office, and nothing seems to move at all, except perhaps the cash registers of Big Business who is now cashing in on the somewhat catatonic state of this government.

Some tweet reactions on noynoying:

@ang_mungo: A word for not responding until after 10 days from a disaster or crisis, e.g. a super typhoon or a hostage crisis. What is…?

@vhongcrimson: lacierda: #noynoying di bebenta~ ~hellow? bentang benta kya ang #noynoying hahaha~ mura lng ksi to eh, at di pa nag tataas ng presyo~ ^^v

@vhongcrimson: [Presidential Spokesperson] Lacierda: #noynoying will not sell–hello? #noynoying really sells hahaha — its cheap, and does not yet increase its price

@chriscahilig: In fairness, “noynoying” is a self-explanatory word. The first time I read “noynoying” in a sentence, I knew right away what it meant.

@momblogger: Indeed @PresidentNoy is a working president. Question: for whom? Whose interest is this President interested on fulfilling? Big Oil firms?

@gangbadoy: That's funny, yung “Noynoying” sa amin, verb din na ang ibig sabihin ay “date ng date ng date, pero hindi nagpapakasal.” #VocabHomework

@gangbadoy: That's funny, with us “Noynoying is a verb that means “always dating but not proceeding with marriage”

@MangPandoy: That's a good idea. Today, I will go #noynoying! May hostage crisis ba kamo? Kakain lang ako. May bagyo? Pa-party ako! [There's a hostage crisis? I'll just eat. There's a storm? I'll party!]

@dee_knees05: It is not just “noynoying” that young Filipinos are adopting from President Benigno Aquino III's known habit. More young Filipinos smoking.

@dudeinterrupted: Just like Imeldific, the word #Noynoying will soon find its way to the LEXICON.

The youth activist group Anakbayan has released a guide on “how to do The NOYNOYING” and called for more pressure on the Aquino government to act on people’s issues like the oil price hike.

How to do The NOYNOYING:
1. Get a group of people
2. Find a busy public space
3. Sit down/lie on the floor and act like you're doing nothing, lazy, stupid, and like Noynoy
4. Take a picture or video and post in Twiter using #noynoying, or upload and post at

Here's one of the noynoying memes making the rounds online:

imgAll pictures are from Facebook page of Noynoying and from youth group Anakbayan.

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