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.

 

 

 

 

Track record over words: My left-handed choice for the vice presidency


 

Bongbong Marcos, the unrepentant son of the dictator, was never in the running for my vote. Nor was failed mutineer Antonio Trillanes ever considered. Nor Honasan.

Cayetano’s a competent lawmaker. And bless him for going hammer and tongs at Marcos. But his bigotry was in full display during the Mamasapano hearings and BBL-related events. I’ve seen up close and personal the results of such bigotry. For that reason, I’ve never considered Cayetano.

For some time, it has been a toss-up between Sen. Chiz Escudero and Rep. Leni Robredo.

Before delving into the pros and cons of both candidates, here are some issues and points that influenced my decision. These are mine; I am well aware others have theirs and have no intention of forcing these on anyone.

  • You are not your father or your spouse, whether they be demons or saints. (Had Bongbong showed repentance, had he cooperated with the country’s search for justice, he would not be the candidate I most revile.)
  • Human rights are non-negotiable. So is a justice system that gives the poor a fair shake.
  • Corruption is evil. Working for transparency and systemic changes that make it harder for the corrupt to operate earn big points.
  • My socio-economic views have always leaned to the left, for inclusive governance that goes beyond dole-outs.
  • #ScrapPork
  • I have never voted based on gender. What one does for gender equality is more important.
  • “Experience” is over-rated. What one has done is what matters.

 Leni Robredo

Leni is competent. An economics degree the University of the Philippines (UP) and law from the University of Nueva Caceres. She is a member of Saligan, a national alternative lawyers’ group helping farmers. She is a lawyer for the poor. And, yes, her lifestyle is simple.

What has she done in her single term in Congress? I’ll quote Yoly Ong’s article in Rappler:

“Leni has pushed for the bills that benefit not only her constituents but the entire country such as the charter extension of the Philippine National Railway. She filed for the Full Disclosure Bill that will require all elected officials and government agencies to fully disclose any transactions, documents, and budgets of public interest. She is a champion for the Freedom of Information bill (FOI).”

Leni also backed President Aquino’s Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL.) I will give her full credit for taking on Marcos. She supports reforming the law on annulment. (No contender for the top two posts has come out for divorce.) She’s an opponent of the death penalty.

The FOI bill DIED in the House of Representatives. There were champions, yes. I think they tiptoed too much around Mr. Aquino’s aversion to FOI – even when they had accommodated Malacanang’s numerous suggestions. The timidity helped kill the FOI. The unwillingness to confront stalling House leaders helped ensure the bill would lie there and die there.

“Support for the BBL” is a phrase that doesn’t impress me. I followed proceedings. The BBL was WATERED DOWN by Mr. Aquino’s allies, Robredo among them. What it looked like after they got through with it was something the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) vowed to reject.

I won’t invoke the sainted Jesse’s fight against illegal gambling. But Leni praising the governor of Pampanga (the wife of one of the country’s biggest alleged illegal gambling lords) puts into question her commitment to fight corruption.

To invoke good governance as a reason for getting cozy with Mrs. Pineda (who represented her husband in Senate probes) totally flies before known facts:

1) Pineda was a name that surfaced during the Estrada impeachment trial – those sacks of money delivered to San Juan;

2) A falling out over the spoils of jueteng made the family embrace Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo;

3) Coming out bigger post EDSA 2, Pineda’s name once more during accounts of electoral fraud by the former President; he was allegedly among those who underwrote fraud.

 

Leni may spout anti-corruption lines. She may from time to time seem independent from this administration. But she sure hasn’t shown that independence when it comes to the heavy-handed use of government services – paid for by taxpayers – for her campaign.

Chiz Escudero

My problems with Chiz:

He’s too soft on President Aquino; they are good friends.

He justified the Iglesia ni Cristo’s shameless, extra-legal pressure to block a legitimate criminal case.

He did not come after Bongbong Marcos.

He did not banish that rapist Jalosjos from the slate’s campaign sorties. (A pardon does not change my mind about Jalosjos.)

He’s hasn’t given up on the idea of pork. (Robredo has her own DAP problems.)

He is a critic of the BBL.

Problems other people cite that I don’t buy:

Noy-Bi: Chiz was never LP; he owed Mar no allegiance. The President’s own sisters were Noy-Bi and so was the man he appointed executive secretary. There could have been no Noy-Bi without the Noy. (Don’t say, ‘didn’t he know Binay was corrupt?’ I’ll point you to PNOY and family.)

Alleged closeness to Danding — The old man is not fond of Chiz, whom he considers defiant and rebellious.

Blocking the coco levy bill — DHe’s not the only one who has serious concerns about HOW that particular bill aims to give justice to coco farmers.

Corruption — What? Where? When? How? There have never been clear facts on that. And that Napoles claim fizzled out fast.

So, yeah, never expect fire and brimstone from Escudero. He has never pretended to be an “alternative” politician. If you call him “trapo,” he’ll probably smile and and give you that silly wave.

Where it counts, however, Chiz DELIVERED on my priority issues.

He will not bash Marcos. But he was the main author in the Senate of RA 10368 – the reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime; RA 10353 – defining and penalizing enforced or involuntary disappearance; and RA 9745 – penalizing torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

Aside from laws that added many courtrooms nationwide, he authored laws that seek systemic reforms in the justice system, reforms that better the odds for those without money or ‘connections’:

RA 10389 – institutionalizing recognizance as a mode of granting the release of an indigent person in custody as an accused in a criminal case;

RA 10158 – decriminalizing vagrancy;

RA 10071 – strengthening and rationalizing the National Prosecution Service (increasing salaries of public attorneys, among other changes);

RA 9999 – providing a mechanism for Free Legal Assistance;

RA 9995 – defining and penalizing the crime of photo and video voyeurism (critical in this digital age);

RA 9946 – granting additional retirement, survivorship and other benefits to members of the judiciary

We all know how PAGASA has improved. Escudero authored RA 10692, which allowed for the modernization of the weather service. He also authored

RA 10625 – reorganizing and strengthening the Philippine Statistical System; and RA 9470 – strengthening the system of management and administration of archival records, stabling the National Archives of the Philippines. (Very important, if not really sexy laws.)

For anybody who wonders how safe are the funds we park in banks, Escudero authored RA 9576 – increasing the maximum deposit insurance coverage, strengthening regulatory and administration authority and financial capability of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp.

Transparency? Chiz is among the rare politicians with their pork allotments out there for public review. He has submitted a genuine waiver with his Statement on Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth since 2013. It’s the real thing. He just doesn’t do a big song and dance.

Among his pending bills are :

SB NO. 16 – requiring public officials and employees to submit written permission or waiver in favor of the ombudsman to look into ALL DEPOSITS OF WHATEVER NATURE WITH BANKS WITHIN AND OUTSIDE PH, including investment bonds issued by PH govt; and

SB NO. 18 – the Senate version of the FOI — implementing the right of the people to information on matters of public concern … and the state policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest. (Full disclosure in there; Chiz was main author; Poe it’s champion. The Senate passed it.)

My anti-Epal side likes SB NO. 17 – declaring as unlawful the naming of govt projects after govt officials and other persons whose name or identity may be associated with said officials.

SB NO. 118 – an act penalizing influence peddling; and SB NO. 425 – an act providing for protection, security and benefits of whistle-blowers should matter a lot to those hoping for a less corrupt country.

As a journalist, I appreciate SB NO. 127 – an act decriminalizing libel.

SB NO. 445 – amending the law on prostitution by imposing penalties on its perpetrators, and protective measures and support services for its victims – would end the current hypocrisy that penalizes sex workers while letting their users go free.

On consumers’ rights: SB NO. 123 – an act increasing the penalty for criminal negligence committed by common carriers

On OFW welfare: SB NO. 432 – penalizing the imposition of excessive placement fees against overseas Filipino workers

SB NO. 441 – magna carta of workers in the informal sector – tries to narrow the cracks in the economic system.

And, of course, it counts that he voted for the Senate version Neri Colmenares’ SSS pension increase bill.

I only have one vote and that goes to support real, tangible issues that matter. What’s been done matters.

Escudero gets my vote. It doesn’t scare me that many Filipinos are waltzing with a dictator’s son. And the argument that my vote will help him win doesn’t impress – because this administration’s record has made a mockery of the word ‘democracy.’

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.

A black hole for a heart: PH hunger games


Hunger that drives people to madness and despair is tragic. Ignoring needs of hungry folk and answering demands for food with a hail of bullets is criminal. Launching a parade of lies to defend the indefensible is obscene. It strips President Benigno Aquino’s government of legitimacy.

The President is missing in the face of crisis, as usual. His spokespersons and alter egos, and local stooges, swerve and lurch from one falsehood to another.

tudla corn darwin
The Agriculture Secretary claims drought isn’t so bad in North Cotabato. This photo by Tudla productions shows Mrgy Malibatuan, Arakan,  hometown of 22-year old Darwin Sulang, killed in the April 1 dispersal of hungry farmers’ Kidapawan City barricade.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Spokesman Wilben Mayor claimed cops didn’t carry guns. Photos show armed cops were there from the start of the protest.

KILAB MARCH 31 Screen Shot
Kilab Multimedia staff took this photo of the police line in the Kidapawan protests on March 31, the day after cops shot at protesters. Their negotiators says the armed cops, contrary to national officials claim, were stationed very near the rallysts from the first day of the protest. 

Then the PNP said armed cops were sent because of the reported presence of rebels. They got a search warrant against the protesters’ church-owned sanctuary, but came out of the United Methodist Church compound with only one sports cap.

Manila officials cringed when the regional head of the Commission on Human Rights came out to say that cops had fired at kneeling and fleeing protesters.

KILAB SHOOTING2
Still image from Kilab video, “Bullets for Rice” (see below)

It didn’t surprise anyone who’d already seen video footage of the dispersal. The (pleasant) surprise was to find that some government officials remain committed to truth-telling.

Watch: Bullets for Rice by Kilab Multimedia

Suddenly, functionaries who had demanded the public wait for a government probe decided CHR Region 12 Director Erlan Deluvio. was not a person of authority.

 

The government ignored Deluvio and turned right to focus on a new tack:  communists were to blame for “duping” the farmers.

Farmers didn’t know why they were there, said these spokespersons.

mar-roxas-1Who fed them? demanded Malacanang factotums and lapdogs. There would have been no protest if nobody fed and encouraged these poor farmers, they said.

Liberal party standard bearer Mar Roxas has joined the chorus, as if he didn’t see the outpouring of support for the Lumad he and his patron refused to help.

Filipinos responded to the callous spin with an outpouring of rice donations for the farmers.

donation
Donations roll into the United Methodist Church compound after an embarrassed government ordered the lifting of a food blockade. These 400 sacks of rice from the Kilusang Mayo Uno. Photo by Kilab Multimedia

Officials staged more tantrums. The donations were aimed at embarrassing the government, they said.

donate2

Cops barred food from reaching protesters. They also tried to bar lawyers, rights workers and kin from access to the wounded, even to the dead.

National Union of People’s Lawyers Edre Olalia said cops kept arrested protesters in a gym way beyond the legally prescribed time — and then, in the absence of a lawyer, made them sign away their rights.

Every right had to be fought for. In the city of Kidapawan, the Philippines has its first display of urban hamletting — mass illegal detention and denial of the most basic needs.

The government even tried to scare off local businesses. Tudla Productions reported on April 5:

Kidapawan City Councilor Lauro Taynan, Jr. recieved a call from a trader that 300 sacks of rice to be donated to farmers were held up in the warehouse for the police refused that the sacks be taken out. The sacks were purchased by Becky Vidanes, Robin Padilla’s manager.

The persistent outcry and appalled statements from multilateral agencies and international groups and most media outfits prompted an about face that finally allowed the flow of aid today.

But not before the most obscene act opened.

The budget secretary, responding to reports that it had slashed P2-billion off requested El Nino mitigating funds, said agencies had been told to source whatever was needed from the budgets for other programs.

It truly needs people living on a different plane of reality would think it is right to cut an urgent request in half, and then stealing funds from allocated programs to cover up.

That’s a shell game, pure and simple, using people’s money – and you wonder what they’re covering up because they’ve been throwing money left and right to their pet legislators and local government officials.

National government started an outpouring of technocratese to numb the debate. But one of the ruling coalition’s most powerful members decided spice things up by suddenly becoming a security spokesman for the government.

alcalaProspero Alcala, President Aquino’s untouchable agriculture secretary – a slew of graft charges, his congressional slush fund ending up in ghost NGOs that used farmers without ever giving them the benefit of taxpayers’ monies – told media:

Things aren’t so bad; the communists only want it to sound bad, because they wanted a big shebang to celebrate the March 29 anniversary of the New People’s Army. The entire protest, says Alcala, was just a show. There wasn’t much hunger. There was, in fact a bumper crop.

That made for a collective puke heard around the country.

And that’s how you know it’s over, when the government starts botching up even the simplest rules of logic.

Government neglect and inefficiency and hubris were responsible for the Kidapawaan tragedy. Everything else that follows is just proof that this is a government without soul and, thus, without legitimacy. #30

READ Nat’l Food Authority workers say govt neglect led to Kidapawan Massacre

 

 

 

 

 

GRACE POE and how NOT to damage control (UPDATE on who did it)


UPDATE: A a citizen volunteer for Sen. Poe has owned up on the error of that video. Leon Flores, former chair of the National Youth Commission (NYC), co-convenor of the Good Governance Pilipinas (GoGracePoe), a citizen volunteer for Sen. Poe. He takes full responsibility for the error. His note below, unedited. My views on her statements stand.

Dear Sen. Grace Poe,

You’ve mostly talked sense — not all the time, but mostly — since you campaigned for your current post. During that campaign, when thrown questions on popular issues, you were studied — this part right, but other parts need to be studied. You did very well chairing the Senate probes into the MRT mess. You did even better in the Mamasapano investigation — your committee report is as good as can be expected from the limits of your task.

But you were dead wrong in your statements on the Iglesia ni Cristo protest. And you got well-deserved flak for that. READ: Pandering to the INC 

Now, your PR people, whoever they are, are compounding that mistake. I’m not sure if these are professionals or close friends, but your son is apparently one of them.

Tell them this:

grace poe damage1Stop sending a truncated video — labelled “FULL Grace Poe response.” when it is actually only a portion of your remarks. 

It is a representation. The actual youtube video says “clip” but your social media label is unethical because it leads people to believe the “clip” if the “full response.”

Worse, it is being used to tell journalists that reports on your reactions are wrong. And it is being used as the basis of memes aimed at “correcting” news reports.

It is not just an error of fact or a tactical miss. It is an UNETHICAL act. It tries to mislead the public when we journalists were emailed a FULL transcript of that interview by your good office. Why don’t you just release as a note the transcript you sent us so that people can judge — based on the right information?

Just to jog your memory, here’s what your office sent. I am reproducing full transcript and highlighting the portions pertaining to the INC case.

SEN. GRACE POE AMBUSH INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

August 28, 2015

Sen. Grace Poe: ….mga estudyante marami pa talagang kailangang gawin sa kanilang mga adhikain, mga pangangailangan nila. Saka iba talaga ang enerhiya kapag mga bata kasama  mo. Yun nga edukasyon ay napakahalaga kasi nga naniniwala ako na ito ang sektor na yaman ng ating bayan. Pero hindi naman sila magiging produktibo na mamamayan kung hindi sila bibigyan ng sapat na tulong ng gobyerno. Yung unang bill ko kasi libreng pananghalian sa public schools. Hanggang ngayon ay tinutulak natin yan, sana naman ay matuloy na.

Question: Dun sa ibang interviews sa inyo, you emphasized, you always replied pagdating doon sa issue ng citizenship. Is this your way of reaching out to more audiences to explain to them ‘yung issue, rather than holding a presscon?

Poe: Oo, kasi alam mo lahat ng tao curious talaga. Ano ba talaga ang buhay nitong taong ito? Pilipino ba talaga siya? Tama lang na suriin nila ang aking pagkatao. Kaya mabuti na nanggagaling na mismo sa akin dahil hindi naman ako nagtatago ng katotohanan sa kanila. Ngayon sa batas dadaan naman tayo sa tamang proseso at hindi naman po tayo nagtatago ng kung ano pa mang kailangang malaman.

Q: Is this your way to gather more public support po?

Poe: Actually, I don’t really. Going around, I’ve been expecting people to ask me that question. But that it’s not really my intention. Hindi ko naman intensyon. Pero curious talaga sila. Yun talaga yung gusto nilang matanong kasi yun ang napapabalitaan nila na ibinabato sa akin, na ako raw ay hindi Pilipino. So at least nandito ako para ikwento sa kanila na bakit nila sinasabi na hindi ako Pilipino. Dahil hindi nila alam ang kadugo ng, kung sinuman ang biological parents ko.

Q: Ma’am, ngayon po nag-iikot po kayo sa maraming lugar ngayong linggo, bahagi na po ba ito ng paghahanda ninyo?

Poe: Kung saka-sakali malaking bagay ito kasi katulad niyan, galing ako ng Zamboanga. Kinausap natin mismo doon ang mga tao, business sector at mga internally displaced person tungkol sa BBL kung ano ang palagay nila diyan. Kasi mahirap naman na nakaupo ka sa Senado, hindi mo nakakausap yung mga taong direktang naapektuhan. Dito sa Nueva Ecija at sa Pangasinan halimbawa, apektado sila ng tagtuyot, El Niño, ano’ng kulang natin? Imprastraktura ng mga dam, ng mga water entrapment facilities. So dapat ay saksi ka sa tunay na pinagdadaanan ng iyung mga kababayan.

Q: So bahagi na po ito ng inyong paghahanda?

Poe:  Bahagi. Kasi naman pag ako ay natuloy, kapag natanong ako, ano ba sa palagay mo ang solusyon sa mga problema na yan? Eh baka hindi ko alam.

Q: Ma’am bakit dun sa mga pag-iikot mo, this week ma’am, bakit puro mga estudyante, puro bata?

Poe: Doon sa pag-iikot ko, nakakataba sa puso ko yung assurance na marami sa mga kabataan ay alam ang nangyayari sa ating gobyerno. Let us not underestimate the youth. Huwag natin silang maliitin. Huwag natin apihin ang kanilang oportunidad at pagkakataon. Katulad nga niyan, nagkaroon ng pag-uusap sa CHED. Bagama’t tumaas ang budget nila, binawasan nila ang pera para sa scholars. Eh yun ang pinakaimportante. More than other items in the budget, kailangan ay mag-invest tayo sa mga kabataan at education is the best equalizer. Nagbibigay ito ng oportunidad. E kung babawasan mo yung P300 million, sa halagang iyon parang ipinapahiwatig mo na hindi ka masyadong seryoso.

Q: Sa pag-iikot po ninyo ma’am, were you encouraged sa pagdedesisyon ninyo?

Poe: Para sa akin, ang pag-iikot kong ito, naramdaman ko ang pagmamahal. Hindi lamang nila sa akin kundi, ako sa kanila. Alam mo nakikita ko, ito yung mga pinaglaban noon ni FPJ. Kaya nga kapag sinasabi nilang inclusive growth, it means more than just, it’s not just a buzz word. Ito ang totoo na wala tayong iiwanan dapat sa ating mga paggawa ng tulong sa gobyerno. Dapat lahat ay kasama, hindi yung pipili ka lang ng sektor na uunlad.

Q: Ma’am do you have timeline po before you decide?

Poe: Before October 16.

Q: On INC

Poe: Kasi alam mo unang-una hindi ba ako’y nakikiramay sa marami nating mga kababayan.  Alam ko lalo na ‘yung pinagdadaanan nila. Kasi sa hustiya natin sa atin, marami ang nakasampa ngayon sa DOJ. Ihihingi pa natin ng resolusyon. Alam ko hindi madali. Kaya pati na rin sa SAF44 na ngayon hinihintay natin. Siguro mas makakabuti, dahil alam ko naman si Sec. De Lima, sabi nga niya ginagawa niya yung kanyang trabaho, ay humarap siya sa mga tao na nagra-rally. Mahinahon at i-eksplika, kung ano ba’ng sitwasyon bakit nangyayari ng ganun. Kasi after all, kami naman ang nasa gobyerno ang responsibilidad naming ay maipamahagi ng maayos sa ating mga kakabayan, bakit ganun ang aming mga hakbang sa pamunuan. 

Q: Pero sa tingin niyo po ba dapat hawakan ng DOJ ang kaso?

Poe: Alam mo sa totoo lamang, maraming inaasikaso ang DOJ. Para sa akin hindi ko alam talaga lahat ng detalye tungkol diyan. Siyempre magtataka ka rin bakit ang tutok doon, samantalang, halimbawa yung ibang mga kaso ng gobyerno wala naman silang witnesses pa, na naka-hold. Halimbawa, tinatanong ko mayroon na ba kayong nakuha doon sa Mamasapano massacre? Mayroon na raw mga inimbestigahan pero wala pa namang naka-witness protection at least, sa pagkakaalam ko. 

Q: Mayroon po bang fallback ang Liberal Party in case Grace Poe decides to run for president?

Poe: I’m sure naman lahat ng partido ay naghahanda sa kahit na ano’ng contingency.

Q: Ma’am yung sa INC, even if may kidnapping issue dapat ba hindi makialam ang DOJ?

Poe: Depende kasi sa lakas ng kaso. Pagdating kasi, I think dapat transparent. Ang pagkakaalam ko ng issue, ito’y isang saksi sa taong nakidnap. Pero  yung tao nakidnap diumano ay nandoon naman. Hindi ba free? So ako kasi hindi ako parte ng DOJ, gusto ko rin malaman. Kaya nga sinasabi ko, tama yung sinabi ni secretary kung ginawa niya ang kanyang trabaho. I-eksplika niya sa taumbayan kung anong merits ng case. Pero alam mo, huwag rin nating mamaliitin ang importansiya ng relihiyon. Para sa akin ang mga tao na yan ang dinidepensahan nila ay ang kanilang paniniwala. Nirerespeto natin yan at kailangan pangalagaan din ang kanilang mga karapatan. Thanks guys. #

That last paragraph is the pits. And here’s why.

Photo from Net25 TV's Facebook page
Photo from Net25 TV’s Facebook page

Ang pagkakaalam ko ng issue, ito’y isang saksi sa taong nakidnap. Pero  yung tao nakidnap diumano ay nandoon naman. Hindi ba free? So ako kasi hindi ako parte ng DOJ, gusto ko rin malaman. (You don’t know, but you throw out, “Hindi ba free?” You want to know — how do you want to get at the truth? On the streets? Coffeeshop gossip? A meeting with De Lima? You’re a lawmaker and should know better. This is a criminal complaint, filed with prosecutors. You get the truth — or what passes for it — from a formal inquiry into the complaint.)

Kaya nga sinasabi ko, tama yung sinabi ni secretary kung ginawa niya ang kanyang trabaho. I-eksplika niya sa taumbayan kung anong merits ng case. (Excuse me? De Lima referred it — a bit late, if I say so; ask the lawyers of the complainant — to prosecutors. That is where the merits of the case are scrutinized and resolved.)

Pero alam mo, huwag rin nating mamaliitin ang importansiya ng relihiyon. Para sa akin ang mga tao na yan ang dinidepensahan nila ay ang kanilang paniniwala. Nirerespeto natin yan at kailangan pangalagaan din ang kanilang mga karapatan. (Good god, I don’t care what religion you or anyone professes. This is not about religion. This is about a criminal complaint on a very serious charge. I am hoping you do not believe that HOW “discipline” is meted out is a purely internal faith matter even when such allegedly violates the laws of this land.)

As lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles notes:

Dear Ms. Grace Poe: Sec. 3 of the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act states:
3. Corrupt practices of public officers.– In addition to acts or omissions of public officers already penalized by existing law, the following shall constitute corrupt practices of any public officer and are hereby declared to be unlawful:
(a) persuading, inducing or influencing another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulations duly promulgated by competent authority or an offense in connection with the official duties of the latter, or allowing himself to be persuaded, induced or influenced to commit such violation or offense.
Now could you repeat your spiel about how the Justice Secretary needs to focus on other cases and not to take cognizance of the case for serious illegal detention filed by one Isaias Samson, Jr?

Again, you are dead wrong. Don’t add to your misery. People, including myself, respect people who promptly acknowledge mistakes and explain their new-found wisdom. This is beneath you.

HERE IS AN UPDATE: It was sent by Leon Flores, former chair of the National Youth Commission (NYC), co-convenor of the Good Governance Pilipinas (GoGracePoe), a citizen volunteer for Sen. Poe. He takes full responsibility for the error. Here is his note, unedited
Inday, I sought out the interview from Nueva Ecija because somehow I got a feeling that the words from Sen. Grace Poe were just taken out of context. I was able to get hold of a clip and uploaded it on our group’s Youtube account, Good Governance Pilipinas (GoGracePoe). GGP is a volunteer citizen-led group supporting Sen. Poe and egging her to run. We were lead and co-organizers of the #TakboNaPoe event last Aug. 16. I was uploading the interview video clip while I was in the middle of a speech contest yesterday. At first I titled it “Full video…” thinking that it was. I shared it on FB and asked others to share as well too. I asked for a transcript of the video thereafter and that was when I realized that it was only a partial clip. So I changed the title right away to “Clip of Grace Poe…” on our Youtube channel. Apparently when the FB post gets shared and reposted, it retains the original title “Full clip..”. Not much of a techie but my hunch is that it is a mere technological limitation. THERE WAS NO INTENTION TO BE UNETHICAL ABOUT IT. Second, it was my intention to be transparent about the whole transcript so I also posted it wholly on the video description. This effort to clarify things for Sen. Grace Poe and to seek out the clip was borne out of the request of some GP supporters (and yes even questions from the other camp). I also wish to clarify that while I do know Brian Poe, her son, he has nothing to do with our actions. GGP is a group of willing, eager, and able volunteers who believe in Senator Grace Poe. If you wish to know us more, we will be happy to have coffee with you soon. I hope this clarifies the issue on the video. All other issues pertaining to the INC case, you may officially seek from Mam Poe’s office.

Elegy for Freedom of Information Law


When the Right to Know Right Now (R2KRN) coalition proclaimed the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill dead in the 16th Congress, I wondered if the declaration was premature. Could renewed clamour prod President Benigno Aquino III to finally declare the bill urgent? READ: R2KRN 2010 Letter to PNOY on FOI

Another paragraph also raised my brows. The coalition said it would be unfair to continue giving House FOI champions the burden of taking political risks in order to overcome the leadership’s refusal to push for FOI.

“Champions are expected to take political risks,” was my thought bubble. But I come from a more militant point of view than other folks in the R2KRN coalition and so decided to ask co-convenor Nepomucena Malaluan some questions. There’s always room for enlightenment.

I’m going to share Nepo’s replies verbatim. Before that, however, let me acknowledge the very hard work the coalition has done in more than 15 years of campaigning for the passage of the FOI Act.

Ed Chua, country chairman of Shell Companies in the Philippines and a trustee of Makati Business Club signs www.change.org/TayoNaParaSaFOI at a UP event
Ed Chua, country chairman of Shell Companies in the Philippines and a trustee of Makati Business Club signs http://www.change.org/TayoNaParaSaFOI at a UP event

It has has held forums, issued statements, ran pooled editorials, participated actively in the legislative process – the latter not a task for the faint-hearted and the sensitive. It has also launched mass actions signature campaigns — more than 17,000 signatures on this Change.org petition and 20,000 more on the paper version. It also organized advocacy runs, filed its own bill by way of Indirect Initiative, produced information materials, initiated dialogues, and coordinated work with allies in Congress and the executive. READ: 38,000 signatures submitted to Malacanang

This is the coalition’s sad conclusion:

“We confront the reality that our institutions, particularly the Presidency and Congress, are not ready to overcome their selfish fears and take the side of public interest on the issue of FOI.”

Sounding the death knell for the FOI bill isn’t a full retreat. Nepo explains it as an alternative course of action and one started even as the coalition pushed for passage of the FOI Law.

This is what the coalition said in its statement:

“While the FOI bill again meets its death in the hands of a President and a House leadership reluctant to redistribute power or too arrogant to heed our call, our fight for an effective, working, and living FOI, lives on. It may take a different form, emphasis and strategy, but its essence will remain the same: we assert the right to information as a fundamental mechanism in the struggle for a rights-based governance with greater transparency and accountability, less corruption, broader and informed peoples participation, and development outcomes that are sustainable and just.”

Here are Nepo’s answers to my queries. I just broke down the pargraphs for easier reading:

1) Why is the coalition issuing the death certificate this early?

It is not early.

There is hardly any more time if we go by legislative calendar. Session adjourns October 10 to November 2, and resumes session again from November 3 to December 18. It adjourns again December 19 to January 17, and resumes session from January 18 to February 5. Then a long break for the elections, to come back on May 23 mainly for the canvassing of votes and proclamation of the new president.

This is where prioritization by the highest leadership is important, and the declared top priorities are BBL and the budget. All others in the “priority list” are really secondary.

Can we get them to give FOI equal priority, such that they will take it up alongside/at the same time they take up and approve BBL and the Budget?

freedom-of-information-law-aquino

2) Have there been clear indications — other than (Deputy Speaker Neptali Gonzales ) Boyet’s remarks; say, from the Palace — that it is going nowhere?

It’s not like we are demanding such high prioritization only now. We demanded it from day one of this administration. We did not see it for the past five years (other than lip service).

You can google how after taking his oath PNoy changed his tune by raising ever-mutating concerns early in his term. He created a study group, which we painstakingly engaged for a year to arrive at a balancing of concerns (which our friends in Makabayan reduced to calling a watered-down Malacanang bill). READ: FOI Bill ‘defanged’ — Makabayan

READ: Coalition responds to Makabayan criticism

Nepo adds:

PNoy’s supposed endorsement in Feb 2012 was not accompanied by push on the ground, unlike in other measures such as sin tax and even RH. His allies saw it as mixed signals, allowing Evardone and House leadership to dribble FOI to death in the 15th Congress.

At the start of the 16th it was not included in the priorities. It took PNoy to be cornered by a question from Ramon Del Rosario at the Daylight Dialogue in Malacanang before the 2014 SONA, to for the first time in his term personally say something positive about FOI passage. It was only after the 2014 SONA that it was included in the list of Malacanang’s priorities, even if he still did not mention it in the SONA itself.

For what it’s worth, the statement at the Daylight Dialogue provided some Malacanang close allies who are supportive of FOI to join the push at the House (particularly Reps Dina Abad and Leni Robredo, and Usec Manolo Quezon, which provided political counterweight to allow Committee chair to move positively). “Added to the coalition and House champions (those pushing independently of Malacanang) work, the Bill passed through the committee.

I could tell you there was really hard work behind the scenes that went into that — coordination meetings that goes from substantive unities to the specific motions and manifestations to be made, and mustering the votes. The Makabayan opposition is the easy part, although they did contribute to the slow process at the TWG level, and also undermined the integrity of the bill through conclusions that are attractive to those who don’t have the time to objectively look at the fine print.

The biggest hurdle was the counter-signals from Speaker and Boyet, and we confirm the account by Walden. I can give you details if you’re interested.

Here is a passage from Walden’s op-ed article on FOI:

The problem, however, lies not with Belmonte but with Malacanang. As everyone in the House knows, Belmonte is a pliant ally of the president, and whatever may be his public statements, if Malacanang does not want a bill, it won’t go through. Thus, Aquino’s silence on FOI last Monday spoke volumes to Belmonte and other members of Congress.

During both the 15th and 16th Congresses, Malacanang tried to waylay the advocates by playing a double game. On the one hand, it would send Undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III to assure them that Malacanang was willing to assist in framing a law that it could support. On the other hand, other emissaries would float the word that the president had major problems with the bill, giving ammunition to opponents of the bill.

In both Congresses, advocates bent over backwards to accommodate Malacanang’s legitimate national security concerns while ensuring that there would be no blocks to full transparency. In both Congresses, Malacanang’s representatives registered no objections to the versions that finally passed the Committee.

What has prevented people like Belmonte and Aquino from following through on their promises to pass FOI?

I think their strong hesitation stems from the generalized fear of many politicians that the legislated transparency of FOI may work against them in some undefined way at some point. In the case of the House leadership, it is probably a case of generalized fear. In the case of President Aquino, however, it is probably more than generalized fear. It probably stems from his desire to prevent access to documents and other material that may give him an image different from that he wants to leave behind, if not make him and some of his subordinates vulnerable to criminal and civil charges for felonious deeds committed while in office. – See more at: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/530402/opinion/commentary-freedom-of-information-bill-in-its-death-throes#sthash.G9UCdGXw.dpuf

FOI cebu by foi youth initiative

Nepo expounds on the process of shepherding a bill through Congress:

However, getting the bill out of committee is one thing; getting it even calendared in plenary and much more voted on with sufficient time is another. And this is where a mention of FOI at at last SONA would have been critical, and I’m sure PNoy and Malacanang know it.

He did not mention it. Instead, his spokespersons point to the budget message, which to me is just a cover. PNoy could also certify it urgent; he says he wont because the constitution requires an emergency but you very well know it’s a political discretion, as it is used when convenient

3) Is the coalition making it too easy for the Palace? It could die, of course, even with another wave of mass campaign. It would, at least, give some discomfort for those responsible. In bowing out this early, isn’t the coalition encouraging similar behavior from whoever succeeds Mr. Aquino?

We are making it too easy for the Palace by declaring the FOI Bill dead?

On the contrary. What will be too easy is if we allow ourselves to be strung along up to the point when any cry of betrayal is already moot since the elections is done.

We did not just declare the FOI Bill dead; we unequivocally put the responsibility for killing it on PNoy and Belmonte. We gave up on PNoy. We gave up on the House of Representatives. We gave up on the institutions. Certainly it is not our intent to give those responsible comfort.

4) On ‘unfair to continue to burden our House FOI champions with the expectation to take political risks’… It’s a strange phrasing. Don’t major, urgent causes also come with political risk? Does this passage have anything to do with the champions’ political future with the administration’s coalition come election period? Is this linked to the early death certificate?

No, we did not mean political future with the administration’s coalition. We mean the readiness to do what it takes — such as scuttling BBL or budget deliberations to compel the House leadership and PNoy to negotiate on FOI passage. Is there anyone ready to do that? (During the 14th Congress what it required towards the endgame was for someone to scuttle the Presidential canvassing to force a negotiation on FOI.)

We recognize the work of our allies, but how far they will take it is a leadership call and not for us to demand. We can only offer our full support should they do so.

There may be other engagement nuances that I do not see. I’d appreciate if you could expound on these. I’m sure the numerous other supporters of the FOI would also appreciate your insights.

Nepo then discusses the alternative:

What is lost in your questions is the other side of the statement — FOI Practice. We are serious about this shift in focus, and this will be something we will pursue systematically and doggedly.

The serious gaps in FOI that can be comprehensively addressed by legislation, which was the path we took for more than 15 years, we can alternatively struggle to address by FOI Practice. (We did have occasional conversations on Direct Initiative, but this is another very difficult route.)

There are trade-offs. This alternative focus on FOI Practice allows for incremental changes, rather than a one-off big change through legislation. But this can also be rewarding, and can give as much discomfort to the centers of power.

You mentioned earlier another wave of mass campaign directed at the legislative push. That is no small matter; it requires much time and resources. This is time and resources that we can put to FOI Practice, and we are ready to show this can have great impact as well.

In the 14th and 15th Congress we fought the legislative route up to the very end. We may not have done enough, but we also felt the institutions failed us. We are prepared to go a different route this time, and it is not a matter of whim.

The coalition does not see our legislative efforts lost. We would like to think that we have developed a strong and broad coalition. Whatever shortcomings we have, and there would be many, we would like to think as well that we were able to reach some people.

It is from these foundations built from our legislative advocacy that we take the road of FOI Practice.