Tagum shooting by alleged Lapanday guards shows land still the root of PH unrest


(Photos and video by Kilab Multimedia. Do not use without credit.)

A long-running conflict between Lapanday Foods Corporation and agrarian reform beneficiaries in Tagum City, the capital of Davao del Norte, exploded today in a shooting incident that followed a successful attempt by farmers to reclaim their land.

Renante Mantos, chairperson of  Hugpong Sa Mga Mag-uuma sa Walhog Compostela (Humawac), the alliance of farmer cooperatives from the Tagum barangays of Madaum and San Isidro, said in a phone interview that guards of Lapanday’s security agency, ACDISA, wounded seven protesters.

Jose Balucos, 42yrs old; Rico Saladaga , Jojo Gomez , Belardo Francisco, Emanuel Buladaco,46 yrs old; Taldan Miparanun,16yrs old; and Joseph Bertulfo, 58yrs old, were rushed to the Davao Regional Medical Center.

Buladaco and Bertulfo are among the 159 direct beneficiaries involved in the protest, according to Mantos, who remains with more than 200 farmers on the reclaimed land.

The others are members of Humawac cooperatives in the Southern Mindanao area, who reinforced the beneficiaries in their efforts to assert their landonwership that a regional trial court and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in 2011. He said they are waiting for medical updates on their colleagues.

The shooting came two days after some 2,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries and supporters stormed the gates of their land – forcibly taken over by Lapanday in 2011 following the DAR decision.

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Festering conflict

guards-attack-by-kilab
Documenting an attack. Farmers take out mobile phones as masked, armed guards, allegedly controlled by Lapanday Foods Corp., approach them in Madaum, Tagum City, where a long-running land conflict exploded into violence on Dec. 12, wounding seven protesters.

Mantos said armed guards of Lapanday entered the encampment past 7 a.m.

He and other protest leaders were holding a dialogue with the guards’ leader, only known by his surname, Vicente, just three meters from the main bulk of protesters when they heard gunshots.

As protesters rushed to aid the fallen, the guards retreated. The other protesters strengthened their barricades and undertook defensive formations.

After the wounded were taken off the encampment, Mantos siad, the guards returned, having replaced their guns with wooden clubs. They challenged the farmers to a brawl but were ignored, Mantos added.

The land dispute in an area barely an hour from President Rodrigo Duterte’s Davao City turf has been festering since 1996 when the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) awarded 724 farmers in Madaum nearly 570 hectates of land, mostly planted with banana export crop.

Lapanday just released this statement:

Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) denies any involvement in the reported shooting of alleged agrarian reform beneficiaries in Barangay Madaum, Tagum City this morning. Since last week, the company has been seeking police assistance to investigate the presence of armed men who were seen within the areas under Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative 1 (HEARBCO-1). HEARBCO-1 which has acknowledged its existing and valid contracts with LFC has been in conflict with a breakaway group of its former members led by Mely Yu who has been engaging armed men to inflict violence and disrupt operations in the farm. Mely Yu and her group were ousted as officers by the majority of HEARBCO-1 in 2011 and since then, her group has caused severe damage to the cooperative. This internal conflict among the HEARBCO-1 and this breakaway group may be the reason for this latest incident.

Protesters deny the claim of armed men, saying guards fired in the air when they asserted farmers’ right to the land. A Kilab Multimedia photo shows most of the protesters without shirts “to prove they were not armed.”

The timeline of the land dispute also indicates that Lapanday has waged a legal battle with the farmers — and lost its case twice.

A decade of woes

kmp-photo
Protest signs along the Madaum highway, where guards, allegedly controlled by Lapanday Foods Corp, shot farmers reclaiming the land. (Photo by Kilab Multimedia)

The DAR order was covered by Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) No.00398239, issued under Transfer Certificate of Title No. C-10527 and registered on 18 December 1996.

The mother cooperative of beneficiaries, the HIJO EMPLOYEES AGRARIAN REFORM COOPERATIVE 1 (HEARCO1), signed a Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement (BSMA) with Lapanday, owned by the Lorenzo family.

Mantos said within two years, many farmer beneficiaries expressed dismay at the low price for their products and the many supposed debts subtracted from their sales income, “kasi di nila alam saan nanggagaling ang utang at walang supporting documents.”

In the ten years, from 1998 to 2008, skirmishes between restive beneficiaries and guards cost two lives and injured several from both sides of the conflict. Farmer leaders were also booted out of work and reinstated only after years of legal battle.

When the contract with Lapanday expired in 2009, the beneficiaries undertook a referendum for future plans. Majority voted to extend the contract, while 159 voted No.

The nay-voters eventually reached an agreement with the mother cooperative, which allowed them to leave, ceding over 145 hectares covered by a document.

“They found a new buyer with better contract — $8 a box from $4 a box paid by Lapanday,” Mantos said.

The DAR ruled in favor of the benificiaries in 2010, upholding their right to the land parcel ceded by the mother cooperative.

Lapanday: no owner – but exerts control

Mantos said the 145 hectares is only one case. Other land parcels are also involved in on-going disputes between beneficiaries and Lapanday, for unjust wages and onerous practices – reminiscent, he said, of the old, feudal plantation setups in the pre-CARP era.

Lapanday denies ownership of the land. But it filed a a case against the new group, covering the lands they tilled. The corporation lost that legal battle too, with the regional trial court ruling in favor of the formers.

Mantos said the agrarian reform beneficiaries were preparing to till the land after victory when “300 Lapanday guards and goons atacked.”

“Tinutukan sila ng baril at pinalayas,” he said. (Guns were pointed at them and they were forced off the land.)

Despite the legal victories, the beneficiaries were kept out of their lands for the next six years.

After seven months of pickets at the gate of Lapanday’s local office, the farmers sought reinforcement from other peasant’s group in the region and entered to reclaim their land on December 9.

Lapanday, in a statement released to Sunstar Davao last month, said:

 

“Lapanday Foods Corporation clarifies that it does not claim ownership over agrarian reform lands awarded to Hijo Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (HARBCO) and Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative 1 (HEARBCO-1). This is in reaction to a recent gathering of members and sympathizers of these cooperatives at its offices in Davao City,” the statement read. The LFC said these cooperatives remain the absolute owners of these lands and they only want “these cooperatives honor and respect their valid and lawful contracts with LFC that mandate them to sell the bananas produced in their farms to LFC and allow LFC to manage their farms to ensure the quality of their produce.” The company also said in the contracts where HARBCO borrowed funds for its use from LFC, HARBCO and LFC entered into a banana sales and marketing agreement in 1998 and a general framework on farm handling last December 23, 2008. In these contracts, HARBCO committed to exclusively sell bananas produced in its farm to LFC and allow LFC to manage its farms to ensure the export quality of the bananas.

The Kilusang Mambubukid ng Pilipinas – Southern Mindanao said the tagum dispute “is a classic example of what Pres.Duterte refers to as Feudalism.”

The KMP urged Duterte “to walk the talk” and intervene with the farmers upholding the DAR decision.

“We hope that he understands very well that agrarian reform remains myth so long as landlords continously grabbed the lands of nameless farmers. If the farmers will not fight for their rights to survive what assurance can they get from this landlord-dominated government?” said KMP-SMR chairperson, Pedro Arnado.

Lords of the land

pr-peasant-day
A 2015 campaign poster linking the failures of agrarian reform in old and new order of leaders. (Graphic by UMA Pilipinas)

The Tagum dispute is an emblem of the struggles that face Filipino farmers decades after the passage of what was pledged to be a landmark law for a comprehensive agrarian reform program (CARP) and congress approval of a successor program, Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reform (CARPER).

Lapanday is controlled by the Lorenzo clan. Its chief executive officer, Regina Lorenzo, is the sister of Martin Lorenzo, a top executive of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, the sugar mill of the Cojuangco clan’s sprawling Hacienda Luisita.

A recent outbreak of violence also occurred in Luisita, where beleaguered land workers still have to benefit fully from a final Supreme Court ruling in 2013.

Distribution of land has gone very slowly for beneficiaries. In 2009, the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department of the House of Representatives, said CARP had a balance of 1.6 million hectares, covering 1.2 million farmer beneficiaries. The environment department, it added, also had nearly 600,000 hectares of land still undistributed to farmer-tillers.

CARPER received a P150 billion budget. But in a 2015 report, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism said DAR had still failed to distribute 726, 421 hectares and the DENR still had some 100,000 hectares to go.

Even those who have received land continue to struggle from their lack of access to affordable credit, the continued lack of support mechanisms from government and the market control exercised by agriculture dealers who are also often big landlords.

The hardships often end up with re-concentration of lands, which are then blamed on workers and not on government neglect and collusion with big landowners.

Halting an unjust cycle

uma-2016-card2In August, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, the former representative of militant party-list group, Anakpawis, received President Rodrigo Duterte’s backing on the planned executive order for a halt to land use conversion.

Mariano said the proposed EO should also cover applications for exemption/exclusion of land from the coverage of CARP and other agrarian reform laws and programs.

The practice is currently allowed by Section 20 of the Local Government Code, which authorizes municipal and city councils to reclassify agricultural lands into other uses.

It’s a long, long fight, paid for by tears and blood. Farmers formed the bulk of restive Filipinos who rose up against the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and joined the New People’s Army as big ticket development projects drove them off their lands.

Sixteen years after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, Bulatlat.com came out with a damning report on CARP: Lands are Back in the Hands of the Lords.

Read Also: Are Filipino Peasants Better Off Now?

It’s now four decades since the EDSA People Power Revolt. Farmers are still shedding blood for lands that are theirs by right.

 

 

 

 

RSF wrong to call for media boycott


Reporters without Borders (RSF) is right to express outrage over President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks on the murders of Filipino journalists. Its call for Philippine media to boycott his press conferences is dead wrong. So is the suggestion to use the law on defamation (libel or slander in this country) against Mr. Duterte.

The international organization was reacting to this particular line of Mr. Duterte: If you’re not a bad journalist, you won’t get killed. That was a line repeated thrice in his rambling harangue, each time said with greater intensity.

Media did not misinterpret, Mr. Duterte, nor take him out of context.

Read: Lawyering for the killers of journalists

killings

Media groups, in their investigations into the 174 murders of journalists, have pointed out allegations of corruption against some of the victims and the unjust economic systems in media that make colleagues vulnerable to corruption.

There are laws that cover erring media practitioners. Murder is a crime; there is no excuse for it.

Most journalist victims died in the line of duty. It is not true that only the bad eggs are hunted.

Most victims were murdered for exposing corruption and actions threatening local communities, including human rights violations, the sale of narcotics, the proliferation of illegal gambling, illegal logging and abusive mining practices.

When state agents commit the crime – and majority of suspects in the killings of journalists are active or retired law enforces, and local officials and/or their henchmen – the situation grows worse.

Hundreds of human rights workers, judges, political activists and environmentalists have been slain for many of the same issues that journalists die for.

Defamation

There is no downplaying the gravity of Mr. Duterte’s statements.

But for RSF to suggest that Philippine media organizations bring defamation lawsuits against Mr. Duterte is mind-boggling.

“Duterte should nonetheless be pleased by the existence of these laws because without them he would also be exposed to violent repercussions, according to his own words. We urge organizations that represent the media to not overlook comments of this kind and to bring lawsuits. We also urge the media to boycott the Duterte administration’s news conferences until the media community gets a public apology.” — RSF

Hasn’t RSF kept track of our long campaign to decriminalize libel? Did it not monitor the threat represented by the Anti-Cybercrime Law, which increases the penalty for the crime?

I do not want this used on me, on citizen journalists, or the 40 million Filipinos on social media.Why would I use it against a critic, even if he happens to be the President-elect?

I am a member, formerly chairperson, of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), which campaigns to drop libel as a crime. Around the world, media groups are battling to decriminalize defamation. RSF should know that.

The late Jun Pala’s family, on the other hand, or other heirs of slain journalists, can choose this course.

Grounds for boycott?

A boycott by journalists is tantamount to a strike against both news sources and the people we serve.

A media boycott should be used only when our physical safety or ability to gather, process and disseminate the news, are in direct danger due to the actions of news sources.

The President-elect’s remarks present a general danger — especially if people with axes to grind see his views as a green light to go after journalists perceived as erring. These remarks do not yet represent a direct threat as, say, censorship does.

His catcalling and leering, however, are direct threats to well-being of women reporters — that is why there are laws on sexual harassment in the workplace.

Mr Duterte MUST apologize with no excuses for that, and pledge not to display such behavior. GMA7 reporter Mariz Umali has enough grounds to file a legal complaint. RSF did not mention her case.

Mr. Duterte uses extremely colorful language. But other chiefs of state, including outgoing President Benigno Aquino III have used similar lines. That does not excuse the President-elect. And media groups have spoken up as they always have.

The Philippine media did not boycott former Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when they directly attacked us.

The first pressured owners of one national daily into selling it to his political allies. Mr. Estrada also prodded business cronies to boycott a hard-hitting newspaper.

Mrs. Arroyo took on emergency powers, padlocking a newspaper and arresting outspoken critics. The Armed Forces and the police went around the country, providing schools and communities with a list of “enemies of the state” – which included the name media organizations, including the NUJP.

The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos closed down media, except for a few outfits owned by cronies.

Impunity’s throwback loop

Through all these years, Filipino journalists slugged it out with the powers-that-be. Even under the dictatorship, we put up underground press units and alternative media outfits.

We continued to cover Mr. Estrada and Mrs. Arroyo, not allowing their actions to cow us.

aquino

In 2014, on the fifth anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) came out with a report. I wrote a piece what perpetrates impunity in this country. I scoured files going back to the early 2000s. Here are excerpts from that article:

“It is 2014 and I’m looking at reports, articles, talks and papers from 2004. Few things have changed. Indeed, every incident of violence perpetrated against journalists and almost every official statement on the issue by the incumbent President hurl those working for press freedom into a never-ending #throwback loop….

Mr. Aquino has tried to downplay the 33 murders of journalists under his watch, insulting the victims while at it.

‘When we say ‘media killing,’ usually (we refer to) agents of the state suppressing the search for the truth . . . but many of them, we can say, were not in pursuit of the profession,’ said the President, citing love triangles and extortion as possible motives.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) notes the poor solution rate for the 33 murders under Aquino’s term, with arrests only for six of these cases. Yet here was the land’s highest official, who often presents his administration as righteous, providing an old, discredited spin to a long-festering problem.

Mrs. Arroyo and leaders of the Philippine National Police (PNP) then also repeatedly blamed media victims for the killings, hinting at “shady backgrounds,” corruption and messy personal lives.

Then and now: Top government officials refusing to acknowledge that murder has become a routine response by powerful individuals and groups who come under a harsh media spotlight.

Then and now: Top government officials ignoring the roots of the problem, instead, hinting that murders could decrease if journalists eased up on their duties as watchdogs of society.”

 

We owe the people

And now we face Mr. Duterte.

A boycott is not just between media and Mr Duterte. A boycott does not just affect the incomes of media workers or the profits of our employers.

A boycott would hurt most the people we serve. Our people, RSF.

digong alabangIn this day and age, Mr Duterte can take to the Internet and record daily ramblings for the people to watch. He could very well bypass media.

But that would not be real communication. It could become a one-way monologue or he could impose a controlled platform, where only supporters get to ask sacharine questions. Filipinos know about that; we saw that during the dictatoship.

RSF is wrong. Filipino journalists owe the people our coverage of Mr. Duterte. We owe them, his fans and critics, the duty of asking the tough questions.

We cannot criticize if we abandon the task of asking those hard questions. We cannot educate, nor explain, if we stop prodding and investigating contradictions between words and actions. And we won’t be able to give Filipinos the good news – and there are many positive pronouncements and actions from Mr. Duterte – if we ignore his existence.

This is not a playground brawl. This is a fight for press freedom and free expression; a fight against impunity. This is not just about journalists, because those two rights are intertwined with other basic rights due to all citizens of this republic.

Media is a reflection of the society it serves. Where we get killed, others, too, face the guns. And they struggle on, as we in media should.

Impunity rides high when society confers too much power on select individuals and groups and imposes too little accountability on them. The murders of journalists in the Philippines will go on so long as governments continue to confound calls for transparency, so long as the corrupt and abusive wield the silence of the graveyard in response to expressions of the people’s democratic aspirations.

Opaque systems and selective imposition of justice, not to mention a weak justice system that makes sitting ducks of whistleblowers and witnesses, fueled and continue to fuel conditions that constrict press freedom – and all other freedoms — in the Philippines.

We will slug it out. We will soldier on. And while at it, we will give credit to Mr. Duterte when he gets it right even as we stand our ground when he is wrong.

Panelo as spokesman: Bad signal for seekers of truth, justice


Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the country’s next President, has appointed defense lawyer Salvador Panelo as his spokesman.

Presidential transition teams usually vet nominees. Maybe, Duterte, who got Panelo to represent him during the public lynching stage-managed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes, feels he knows the lawyer well enough to forego of the vetting process.

Mr. Duterte chose wrong. Journalists and media groups are telling him so. As have the families of the media victims in the Nov. 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre.

maguindanao-massacre

“Hindi ako komportable. Hindi tama (I am not comfortable. This is not right),” said Mary Grace Morales on behalf of other families of our fallen colleagues.

“Parang alam na namin saan patungo ang kaso (We know where the case is headed),” Morales, whose husband Rosell, circulation manager of the community paper, News Focus, died in the massacre, said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) quoted Morales as saying, “Kung sya (Panelo) na talaga, hindi na ako aasa na may mangyayari pa sa kaso na ito (If he is really appointed, I will no longer hope for progress in this case),” she added.

Duterte campaigned on the promise to rid the Philippines of criminals and abusive government officials. Few clans are more abusive than the Ampatuans of Maguindanao.

Read: THE AMPATUAN MASSACRE: BECAUSE THEY COULD (IMPUNITY IN THE PHILIPPINES)

Ampatuan-621x446
Andal Ampatuan, Jr., a principal suspect in the Maguindanao Massacre. Photo from the AsianCorrespondent

Panelo was a defense lawyer for the Ampatuan massacre principals. He withdrew as counsel for Andal Ampatuan Jr. in December last year.

The NUJP expressed serious misgivings on his appointment as spokesman. It noted the “possible implications on the trial of those accused of what is acknowledged as the single deadliest attack on the press in history and one of the worst incidents of electoral violence in the country.”

I am a member of the NUJP, one of its former chairpersons. While the statement was right on most points, a tougher call is in order.

Mayor Duterte must rethink his appointment of Panelo

paneloDo you see this quote, sir?

 

More than 50 people died, most of them hapless journalists. It was a MASSACRE of civilians.

Unarmed civilians, many of them women, one of them a lawyer who worked with the poor. A massacre, sir. The single, most vicious attack on journalists ever, worldwide. And it happened in your beloved Mindanao.

ampatuan-massacre

One can be a defense lawyer and protect suspects’ rights.

It is another thing to peddle the lies of killers, the worst of murderers.

Panelo described the charges as fabricated.

F A B R I C A T E D.

That speaks of his affinity to truth — an ocean separates him and truth.

This is the man who will be your spokesman?

There are, what… 6,000 positions? Put him somewhere where his presence does not taint the search for justice.

Other media groups have also raised opposition to Panelo’s appointment.

Philippines Graphic editor in chief, Joel Pablo Salud said:

I can already see where the Ampatuan case will be going with your choice, Mr. President, of a spokesperson. While I believe and will fight for people’s rights to have their day in court, lies like this one do not help the cause of justice. I suggest you find someone else to stand as your voice to the people because by this statement alone, this man could endanger your presidency even before it starts.

National Press Club president Paul Gutierrez said it would be difficult for journalists to work with Panelo.

“Members of the press would find it hard to interact, and work with, a press secretary whose main client are the suspects in the wholesale murder of the members of the press that has outraged the entire world,” Gutierrez said.

“We understand certain debts owed during the election season need to be paid, but for a candidate who won overwhelmingly on a promise that change is coming, this is not the refreshing wind of change our clients sorely need now,” said Romel Regalado Bagares, Executive Director,Center for International Law.

“The choice is uninspired, to say the least. But it is clear it does not really understand the gravity of what happened on Nov. 23, 2009 on a hill in Sitio Masalay, Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Sadly, it is a choice that does attack not impunity decisively but rather, perpetuates it,” the lawyer and journalist said.

 

 

 

 

Look who’s trolling


We’ve seen a gazillion fake news, fake memes, fake announcements this #Halalan2016 season.

There will always be trolls. That’s the downside of the Internet and social media.

Trolls thrive on manipulation, on lies, on scamming gullible folk.

This isn’t hard to do. People will believe most stuff – even embrace conspiracy theories — that validate their own beliefs.

Every professional who conducts workshops on social media will tell Netizens to be wary, to check the original link, to go independently to news websites or accounts allegedly responsible for the suspicious posts. It also helps to check rival news websites.

Even professional journalists have been had. Remember that Oprah comment in the wake of Shamcey’s heart-breaking loss at the Miss Universe pageant? Yeah, some news websites ran that. Even international media outfits have fallen for fake news about the Iraq and Syria conflicts, hurricane Sandy and other big events.

In this last election, even “responsible” elders have deliberately shared fake news, malicious plants that have nothing to do with the errors that come with the 24/7 news cycle.

I remember the hilarious post Vice President Jejomar Binay stash of money found behind a wall. Some friend on Twitter, someone I actually respect, tagged several journalists on a photo post that opened to … nothing. This was during the time when the Mar Roxas camp was gunning for Binay. There was another similar post, dubious even to the untrained eye. But was my friend apologetic? Nah. She said, well, it’s up to you investigative journalists to investigate.

You can understand some kid asking… “ma’am I stumbled on this; is it true?” It’s disappointing to see a communications expert spouting this line.

We’ll save the other trolls for another post.

Let’s focus on communications specialists who show no compunction planting fake news.

Let’s not even talk about such communications specialists blindly scooping up the funny D’ Strafford surveys and passing this on as gospel truth.

It’s the deliberate spread of false news that should set off alarms at the Paris-based Publicis Groupe. Especially false news that drag the country’s Catholic bishops into the fray.

Matec Villanueva, the chief executive officer of Publicis Manila, the local agency of the Publicis Groupe, shared at least two memes with false claims to back up her verbal jabs at Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte’s followers — especially those of the Marcos-loyalist bent — have been responsible for many false plants on social media.

You’d think an advertising CEO would be more discriminating.

There are a million and one charges on can hurl at Duterte, without involving the bishops. It’s not like Netizens live in a vacuum where they can’t check what’s happening on the other side of the bubble.

There’s no understanding such a lapse, unless it’s a matter of, well — friendship — with Mar Roxas.

Here’s what she’s been sharing.

bloc voting 1111

While Catholic bishops have no love lost for Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, they’re not exactly embracing Roxas. In fact, they’re not embracing anyone.

They’ve advised against tendencies by some candidates. Mayhem could be a pointed dig at Duterte. On the other hands, the bishops have also spoken out against the terrible violence unleashed by state forces on the Lumad.

They also warned against crimes against the environment.  Roxas has praised some dudes as exemplars of good practices in total contradiction of a Supreme Court decision; he also okayed tax perks on their planes while he was still transportation secretary.

A communications specialist like Villanueva ought to know enough to double check – the website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has contact details. A communications specialist could have scanned news outfits to double check the claim.

It’s not just an issue of ethics but of professionalism. Aren’t these ad executives supposed to review  even their clients’ claims? Aren’t they held to standards of truth in advertising? She’s supposed to be a lecturer in marketing in some hot-shot Catholic university. What does she teach the kids?

I guess some incentives trump ethics and professionalism.

Overreach will always unbalance you. Is Villanueva the ad agency version of Trillanes?

Talk is, Roxas isn’t amused – as her efforts have just opened him up to more ridicule. The saner of his campaign staff are bristling.

And I guess our bishops won’t be pleased  either– to put it mildly.

D’ Strafford levels up: ‘Proving’ the upwardly mobile phantoms of the elections


You have to give the guys from D’Strafford credit for cheek, for cobbling a parallel #Halalan2016 universe.

You have to give them credit, too, for causing very respectable and decent folk to hyperventilate with joy.

d strafford

Never mind that the morning after, the equally respectable Manila Bulletin had to take down the   news item about Mar Roxas “sustaining” his lead over rival wannabe-presidents Rodrigo Duterte, Grace Poe, Jejomar Binay and Miriam Santiago.

TAKEDOWN2

I guess it’s hard for professionals to ignore the reality of D’Strafford’s latest press release. Guess it’s hard to defend a survey firm’s credibility when their release mentions candidate Poe twice, under different rankings.

poe twice

It’s also hard to keep a straight face when the Sun Star — whose editor got into a tussle with social media critics after its report on Strafford’s debut — placed in ”      ” project manager JM Balancar’s defense of their methodology.

It’s the “proving” question, dudes, Balancar told journalists in  press conference following the release of their April 13-18 alleged survey.

He was asked why their press release had nothing to back up the claim that Roxas surged because Duterte ‘s rape joke scared off some fans. He said other things, of course. Feel free to read the quotes.

SUNSTAR

Unlike other survey firms, D’ Strafford sends out a press release, instead of a detailed report that includes mechanics and sub-topics.

We still haven’t seen the actual “proving” question. So we don’t know if voter-respondents got lost in the racing syntax of D’ Strafford’s pollsters. It’s a trademark.

Read: Ro-Ro and the Funny Survey

Maybe Balancar’s just exciteable. Maybe its ecstasy. Hey, you can actually “feel” them breathless with admiration whenever they tweet about Roxas.

It’s the kind of wide-eyed wonder that gals and guys fall for. They’d be lovely in front of the television cameras, yes?

Except it’s also hard to get a handle on these guys. They are virtual phantoms. Read Thinking Pinoy’s latest report.

All that money spent for this reported un-commissioned major survey by a “family-owned corporation with five members” — if the SunStar got the details right.

I got some names during an earlier interview with an incorporator named Mark Lim.

But D’ Strafford dudes go through names as fast as Balancar rushes through his sentences.

Lim said their in-house, corporate survey lead was a Jeffrey Concio, credentials a top secret.

The SunStar story said it was in-house consultant Ralph Fuentes who did the honours of presenting results of the first survey.

ralph Fuentes

But they seem to have levelled up fast, if we can trust the tabloid Abante, another eager chronicler of D’ Srtafford.

They apparently now have a “survey director” by the name of John Stevenson. 

ABANTE

When I clicked the share button on that story, here’s what came out.

WHEN I SHARED

So I googled John Stevenson.

And, hey, these dudes must be real movers and shakers!

Imagine that, a Conservative British MP for survey director?

stevenson mp

Or so Abante claims. You would think they’d bring a photographer to a press con announcing the results of a major survey. You would think any reporter these days would have a mobile phone with a still and video camera.

Instead, we get a file photo and a leap of faith on the part of the editors. The story actually sounds lifted from yet another wacky press release — though I’ll lay the blame for the photo on Abante.

I was tempted to write to Mr. Stevenson but suddenly thought of the embarrassment that could bring Roxas, the man who would be President. But I will. Tomorrow.

Meantime, let us rejoin in the miracle! And let us enjoy the cosmic tweets from the phantoms of this election.

 

Ro-Ro and that funny survey


“Takot sila sa akin,” Mar Roxas, Liberal Party standard-bearer said in March after the second debate among #Halalan2016 presidential bets. He also said surveys didn’t matter and that rivals were ganging up on him because of fear.

But a certain survey does matter a lot to the Liberal Party and its followers.

A minor Twitter stir occurred on April 20. Accounts linked to Roxas loyalists erupted in jubilation, sharing  headlines on a miraculous survey surge that had President Benigno Aquino III’s candidate tied with Sen. Grace Poe at first place.

daang matuwid

 

The day before, Pulse Asia released the results of the ABS-CBN commissioned survey, showing Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte extending his new front-runner position, from 30% to 32%.

Pulse Asia said Duterte managed to capture “a sizeable plurality of Filipino registered voters.”

 

READ: Duterte extends lead in latest ABS-CBN survey

Had one of the two other big survey firms like the Social Weather Stations (SWS) or Laylo released the April 20 report, it would have been major news.

Both firms have displayed similar rankings, though with different percentages and margins of error.

The catcalls that followed were louder than the hosannas. Many Roxas supporters were too embarrassed to join the chorus, for good reason.

Only a few tabloids carried the momentous announcement. One report, credited to the Philippine Star, actually comes from its Filipino-language tabloid, and has since been taken down.

published Curious website

A simple Google search brings you to the website of  D’ Strafford Research & Strategies, Inc.

The firm claims it uses the language of the business elite.

Its site looks sleek but turns out to be a skeleton – no profile, projects, no clients. Not even an address.

When I visited mid-afternoon of April 20, it didn’t even have anything about an election survey. 

D’ Strafford’s first appearance on email accounts of newsdesks was after it got a deluge of phone calls from curious Netizens.

I called up two numbers. Several tries on the first only got a recorded voice saying Extension 6138 was not available.

A man named Mark Lim answered the other number. He gave their office address as Unit 1, Penthouse, on the 35th floor of EcoTowers on 32nd St., BGC. He said a JM Balancar presented the survey results during “a press conference for tri-media at the Shangri-la Fort.”

Who is Mr. Balancar? What are his credentials?

Lim described Balancar first as “project manager” then as “project director”.

When asked for the name of the CEO – the website does not list company officials –Lim pointed to Balancar. Prompted for the names of other company officials, he mentioned a Mark Tan and Anthony Seno.

I asked if any of them were statisticians. No.

He also said the survey was done in-house and not commissioned.They interviewed 2,800 respondents face to face from April 13-18, he added. The outcome has a +/-1.9% national margin of error.

Then, unprompted, Lim attributed the lead to Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial joke about the rape-slay of an Australian missionary in 1989.

Professional style

I asked for the education and professional credentials of Balancar and their survey leader.  Lim said their in-house, corporate survey lead was a Jeffrey Concio, but he was mum on credentials.

Mum on clients. Mum on most everything, except that the firm’s owners were businessmen with ages ranging from the 30s to the 40s. Lim said he’s 38 years old. He would not give me his education background.

D’ Strafford incorporators don’t come up on Facebook or even Google. They must be very, very private men.

Balancar’s email to news desks was a gem . Will share it as is:

balancar email

 

Nothing in their press release backs up the claim that Roxas surged because Duterte scared off some fans. Analysts say he may have lost some number of “soft voters;” but we’ll have to wait for the next surveys.

But Pulse Asia places Roxas fourth among voters’ second choice, with 14%, compared to Sen. Grace Poe’s 29%, Vice President Jejomar Binay’s 17% and Duterte’s 16% — though that category is premised on the condition of a favored bet not able to continue contesting the presidency.

pulse 2nd choice better

D’ Strafford’s press release shares the press release’s quirky writing style, especially the unique use of punctuation.

Even more curious was the passage on the undecided:

“Of the 4.2% undecided, 1.5% goes to Poe, 1.3% for Roxas, 1% to Duterte and .4% for Binay.” 

You make try to decipher that.

Discoveries

Roxas’ official Facebook account did not share the story. His vice presidential bet, Leni Robredo – D’ Stafford claimed she had a rating 32%, leading r Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (25%) and Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero (23%).

leni on d'strafford

After chatting with Lim, I called up Balancar. He was busy and just asked for a text query. I asked about the firm’s SEC registration.

He replied: “We will have another round of press conference this coming Friday. We will be sending invites. Thank you.”

A follow up text from him said: “All are invited even Duterte supporters, of GP and ke Binay. Thank you.”

Netizens Mariah Sanchez and Jae Manuel Sta Romana did separate searches and discovered that D’ Strafford’s website was registered only on April 14, a day after the claimed start of their survey.

website
Screengrab photo posted by Mariah Sanchez

It only registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 11.

Sta Romana also found out that the firm borrowed i’s entire website template from a Chicago-based company. Unlike D’ Stafford, Omotosho and Associates details a range of services.

borrowed

So a very young firm of mysterious men decided to spend a caboodle of money for a nationwide survey because of the goodness of their hearts.

Don’t let those inconvenient truths divert us from this sure-fire reality, says an undersecretary.

Roxas will win, according to Malacanang, because the government has the most organized force.

This administration has a genius for twisting the meaning of words. Let’s parse out organized in the next installment, starting with the Palace downloading voters’ personal data stolen from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) website.

Duterte’s contradictions


What’s the difference between a joke and a dirty slip showing? How do you distinguish hyperbole from a person’s genuine worldview?

In the case of the Davao strongman Rodrigo Duterte, the offensive comments come too regularly to be dismissed as careless witticism.

Credit Duterte for defending indigenous peoples hounded by henchmen of corporations out to wrest their ancestral lands. Credit him for condemning the massacre of hungry folk in Kidapawan. Praise him for wanting to expand agrarian reform to ensure farmers get the support they need. Hail his commitment to resume stalled peace talks with communist rebels and provide meaningful autonomy to the Bangsamoro.

But do not ignore Duterte’s record in justifying the killings of people he considers social pests – juvenile delinquents, addicts, pushers. 

The Davao mayor has not admitted to any extrajudicial killings. He claims the criminals killed under his direct supervision were all gunned down in battles with law enforces.  No case has been filed against Duterte for these extra-judicial killings.

His supporters stress this to debunk charges of selective justice. But there is no doubt that people have been summarily executed under Duterte’s watch.

Duterte applauded these killings, encouraged these, defended these, verbally attacked and threatened those who rang alarm bells. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has doggedly reported on this for years; its country researcher Carlos Conde has received threats for his efforts.

Duterte may not have actually pulled the trigger. But speech after speech – to cheers and ovation – Duterte, a lawyer, spits on the nation’s laws, including the Constitution, presenting murder as legitimate law enforcement policy.

Who judges the innocent?

In his April 12 rally at the Amoranto stadium, Duterte said he has never killed an innocent person. But who judges innocence or guilt? The courts do, not the mayor, not the President. To deny suspects a chance to defend themselves in court does not solve the problem of injustice.

In the same rally, Duterte expressed sympathy for the plight of the Bangsamoro.

“I have to swear to the flag. My duty to the republic is to protect everybody, including the Moro people,” he promised disappointed leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

That’s impressive. But government officials swear to protect the rights of everyone, including people suspected of committing crimes.

The military routinely tramples on these rights where suspected militants are concerned, including the Lumad fighting to keep their lands free of abusive extractive industries. Officials of the Aquino government routinely justify these abuses. They are wrong. And so is Duterte in his equally selective notion of human rights.

Duterte talks about the evils of corruption, of how top leaders have made a rich, small segment of the population more equal than the rest.

digong alabang
There is no denying Rodrigo Duterte’s popularity. Whether he campaigns in Metro Manila or the provinces, the Davao strongman draws huge, ecstatic crowds.

His followers also cite the same – criminals coddled by lawmen, judges, other officials – as a reason for their impatience with legal niceties and their support for death penalty sans any check and balance, except a leader’s righteousness.

I will not disabuse them of the belief that injustice stalks the land. It does; my Facebook page is filled daily of examples, from tragi-comedy to full-blown horror.

Nor will I try to paint Davao City as the country’s crime capital. It isn’t.

But there is no excuse for murder. There is no reason on earth that justifies state-sanctioned murder.

My rights are everybody’s rights

Dutere asks, “anong mawala sa inyo kung patayin ko ang criminal?” (What would it cost you if I kill criminals?)

I have seen state security officials kill people on simple suspicion of being criminals. I have seen friends die, seen them arrested and tortured. I have seen people languish in jail even when the courts have cleared them of alleged crimes.

I cannot agree that others do not deserve the same rights I fight for, the same rights government officials are sworn to defend.

Duterte isn’t a neophyte politician. He  has had decades as local chief to provide an alternative to instant-gratification, vigilante justice.

He offers higher wages for law enforcers. They certainly need it – like the rest of the country needs it.

But Duterte should be detailing steps needed to ensure that cops and soldiers do their job right, like trainings to lessen their use of shortcuts that then lead to lost cases.

He could list steps he’s done and will do to ensure the poor – defendants and plaintiffs – are guaranteed legal aid by efficient and honest government lawyers.

He could talk about workable rehab programs for young people who fall prey to drug abuse. He could talk about imposing harsher penalties for corrupt prosecutors who throw cases, or work with citizens’ groups to keep watch on hoodlums in robes.

It’s not that he hasn’t helped drug addicts. He has, as witnessed by  Clarisse Le Neindre, who know runs a rehab facility after recovering from addiction with Duterte’s help.

Watch Le Neindre’s testimony https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fforwardwomen2016%2Fvideos%2Fvb.1671955399731080%2F1690853824507904%2F%3Ftype%3D3&show_text=0&width=560

Why then stress shortcuts as solutions to problems? Duterte is doing people a disservice by pandering to the worst of our instant gratification tendencies.

He presents the sona – the whole-scale round up of suspected addicts and community pushers – as the swift response to the scourge of drugs. That blueprint misses the fat cats who control the entry, the manufacture and the deliveries of drugs to affected areas.

Double standards, too

duterte contractualizationDuterte says poor Filipinos will come first under his presidency. He opposes contractualization.

Yet he promises to create an enclave where foreign investors can stay safe from the reach of the country’s laws.

 

He personally commits to keep them safe from inconvenient truths – like the fact that workers have the right to unionize.

For all Duterte’s talk about the poor’s right to prosper, he sees the struggle for economic rights as an enemy of development. And, indeed, in his first official campaign speech, he threatened to kill labor leaders who would not heed his “appeal” for a moratorium on union work.

He banners his credentials as a dear friend to the LGBT community. By all accounts, he treats them well.

Yet he uses the word “bakla” as an insult, a synonym for “coward”.

Some gay friends who support him say they see nothing wrong with it.

If he uses it as an adjective that reflects your self-identity, there is nothing wrong with it. If you slam others for using bakla as a slur, why is Duterte suddenly exempt from those standards? His use of the word only encourages the bitter, hateful homophobia that have harmed so many of your peers.

And then there’s rape and his attitude towards women. He and his wife have a unique relationship and I will not impose my standards of fidelity on them. I must also acknowledge that, unlike ousted president Joseph Estrada, no one has charged Duterte with stealing public funds to subsidise his womanising activities.

Davao also has many pro-women policies.

And yet, he opens his mouth and something else comes out.

Duterte recently shared this tale of criminals in detention twice grabbing hostages. The second incident involved a bunch of Christian prayer warriors, including an Australian woman who was raped and then had her throat slashed, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.

Duterte used the anecdote to stress how incorrigible some criminals are and also to show his willingness to risk life for the sake of victims.

Then he debased everything that mattered. His anger towards rape was almost secondary to dismay that criminals used the woman first before the mayor did.

He was joking? Maybe. But he also used the same line earlier in his talk.

Cops who commit crimes for personal reasons deserve to be punished, he said. He made an example of a cop who kills his mistress – especially a pretty one — and implied  the mayor should have first dibs on the beauty.

It’s not the first time he used that anecdote on the hostage-taking, ending with a similar line. Watch Noemi Dado’s video at the 38:43 marker.

You can slog through the entire Duterte speech, including some moving performances by Freddie Aguilar here.

 

And this admittedly moving paean to change. Which, indeed, this country needs.

We all should be outraged that the haves in this country get away with all kinds of abuses while the rest of us suffer indignities daily.

Yes, innocent people get killed and innocent people rot in jail. Hungry people are left to starve; when they protest, they die.

We all should rage.

But in cheering for Duterte’s warped logic, in playing blind to his contradictions, we might just visit more of the same on this nation.