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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Regine Velasquez, Sarah Geronimo – 2013 World Music Awards

Together with music heavyweights from around the globe, Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasquez and pop star Sarah Geronimo are among the nominees in this year’s edition of the World Music Awards (WMA). Velasquez and Geronimo are nominated in three categories: best entertainer of the year, best live act, and best female artist.

sarah geronimo - world music awards

Regine Velasquez and Sarah Geronimo are both nominated for the 2013 World Music Awards

This year’s nominees include Adele, Beyonce Knowles, Celine Dion, Katy Perry, Mariah Carey, Psy, and many others. According to the WMA’s website, this recognition is presented based “on sales merit and voted by the public on the internet.” It further adds: “There is no jury involved and the Awards truly reflect the most popular artists as they are determined by the actual fans who vote and buy the records.”

The different national member groups of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) provide the WMA with the names of the best-selling artists from the major territories. The latter are determined “by a thorough enquiry conducted by the organization which includes sales figures and record certifications in 2012,” the website explains.

Aside from the aforementioned three, the other award categories are as follows: World’s Best Male Artist, Best Group, Best Electronic Dance Music Artist, Best Song, Best Album, and Best Video. Started in 1989 as the brainchild of Monaco’s Prince Albert II, the WMA also gives the Diamond Award (given to artists who’ve sold over 100 million albums) and the Legend Award (for artists who’ve made lasting contributions to the music industry).

Vote for Regine and Sarah in two quick steps:

1. Visit the page of the category where you want to vote:

World’s Best Female Artist
http://www.worldmusicawards.com/#!worlds-best-female-artist/c9px
World’s Best Entertainer of the Year
http://www.worldmusicawards.com/#!worlds-best-entertainer-of-the-year/clqm
World’s Best Live Act
http://www.worldmusicawards.com/#!worlds-best-live-act/c1wvu

2. Click the thumbnail of the artist of your choice. No registration needed. You may vote only once per category. After voting, you should see this:

2013 world music awards

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The Filipino Scribe’s 2nd anniversary – 1.2 million hits!

I started The Filipino Scribe on this day exactly two years ago. To date, it has already accumulated over 1.2 million page views. According to figures from WordPress.com, this site has received at least 1,000 hits from readers in 22 countries outside the Philippines. Obviously, a huge chunk of these readers must be overseas Filipino workers. Meanwhile, The Filipino Scribe has also occupied the number one spot in Top Blogs Philippines’ politics and government category for 44 of the last 45 weeks.

Achieving all these feats was not in my mind when I put up this blog two years ago. As I have mentioned before, I just wanted then to resume blogging after taking a hiatus from Multiply.com for about a year. One particular experience as a jeepney commuter provided me the impetus to write again.

Long-time readers of this blog probably noticed that I have renamed this blog for several times already, most recently as “Notes from the Philippines.” I decided to do away with it because I thought the name is too vague. Besides, I want the blog title to have a “newspaperish” name (a la Huffington Post, if you get my drift).

2012 pinoy blog awards

The Filipino Scribe is one of the ten national finalists to the 2012 Pinoy Expat/OFW Blog Awards

Last year, I gleefully noted that my blog won a national recognition merely months after I put it up. In contrast, 2012 was rather uneventful on that aspect. As I pointed out in a blog post last year, three organizations that usually give recognition to bloggers annually did not do so in 2012. The Filipino Scribe was one of the national finalists to the 2012 Pinoy Expat/OFW Blog Awards, ultimately getting the second highest number of votes out of the ten nominees. I do hope that this year will be better.

Of course, and I will never get tired of pointing this out, this blog continues to open lots of opportunities for me. In recent months, I’ve been invited to talk about issues related to the social media on many occasions. I’m looking forward for more in the coming months. Indeed, this is one of the perks of maintaining a popular blog.

media literacy forum - pup manila

Photo taken during a forum on media literacy organized by senior Communication Research students from Polytechnic University of the Philippines – Manila last March 16

Let me end this post by saying thanks to people who helped me get to where this blog is right now. First, to the thousands of readers who gave this blog their time. It’s an honor to have you here. Secondly, to all fellow bloggers who included The Filipino Scribe in their blog roll. Lastly, to those organizations who believed that invited me to address their events. Maraming salamat po!

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Agew na Pangasinan – April 5 2013

Pangasinenses will be celebrating the 433rd Agew na Pangasinan this April 5, Friday. The day is customarily a special non-working holiday in the province, although last year, the festivities were moved to April 11 since April 5 is Maundy Thursday. Governor Amado Espino in 2010 signed Ordinance #143 which declared April 5 of every year as the foundation day of Pangasinan.

According to a brief history posted on the website of the local government of Pangasinan, the said Northern Luzon province was organized as a politico-civil administrative unit or province by then-Governor General Gonzalo Ronquillo de Peñalosa. Don Pedro Manrique served as its first alcalde mayor.

The following activities are scheduled to be held on April 5:

  • A presentation on Pangasinan history by the Pangasinan Historical and Cultural Commission
  • Awarding ceremonies for the “Kurit Panlunggaring” Literary Contest and the Balitok A Tawir Culture and Arts Festival
  • 4th ASNA Awards Night (for outstanding Pangasinenses)

PS: Pangasinan will have another province-wide holiday … on November 13.

Map of the Philippines with Pangasinan highlighted

Map of Pangasinan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Francisco Balagtas Day in Bulacan – April 2 2013

President Benigno Aquino III has declared April 2, Tuesday, a special non-working holiday in the province of Bulacan. Literary giant and famed orator Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar’s 225th birth anniversary will be commemorated on April 2, 2013. Aquino made the announcement through Proclamation 560, which can be accessed in this link. A native of Bulacan who died in Bataan, Balagtas is best known for “Florante at Laura,” a standard reading for sophomore high school students nationwide.

According to the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Handbook on Workers’ Statutory Monetary Benefits, employees who won’t report for work are not bound to get paid on special non-working holidays unless there is a “voluntary practice or provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)” providing for payment of wages and other benefits on such days.

Meanwhile, those who report for work should get 130% of their regular salary for every hour of service rendered. The labor department also emphasized that employees “must be present or is on leave of absence with pay on the work day” immediately preceding the holiday (April 8, in this case). Read the above mentioned DOLE handbook in this link.

franciso balagtas baltazar

Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar (1788-1862)

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April 9 2013 – Araw ng Kagitingan holiday

The Philippines will be marking the 71st anniversary of the Fall of Bataan this coming April 9, Tuesday. The day is a regular national holiday as stipulated in President Benigno Aquino III’s Proclamation 459, which he signed last year. Read the full text of Proclamation 459 here.

According to the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Handbook on Workers’ Statutory Monetary Benefits, employees “are entitled to at least 100% of his/her minimum pay” even if he/she did not report for work on this day. The labor department however stressed that employees “must be present or is on leave of absence with pay on the work day” immediately preceding the holiday (April 8, in this case). Read the above mentioned DOLE handbook in this link.

On that day back in 1942, Filipino and American fighters in Bataan under the leadership of Major General Edward P. King of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) surrendered to the Japanese invaders after realizing the “futility of further resistance.” Allied forces had been fighting the Japanese for four months already prior to the Fall of Bataan, and thousands of them had already died by that time.

PS: The term “isinuko ang Bataan,” apparently rooted from the events of 1942, has gained sexual connotation in recent years. How an event commemorating the surrender of Filipino World War II combatants came to mean giving up one’s virginity is kinda perplexing.

Surrender on Bataan

Surrender on Bataan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Hataw Tabloid’s coverage of child rape

Sensationalized and porn-inspired?

“Sex sells” is already a cliché, but Metro Manila-based tabloids are still buying it. This reality is very evident in the way tabloids like Hataw are covering cases of rape involving children. The graphic language used in the narration of the said heinous crime is an ethical dilemma because it violates existing journalistic standards in the Philippines and overseas. In many ways, the reportage on child rape even borders on pornography.

Magnifying the problem is the fact that local tabloids enjoy wide circulation. According to the Asian Media Barometer 2011, tabloids can have circulations of as high as 500,000 each day. As Floyd Whaley of New York Times reported in an article last June, these tabloids far outsell broadsheets. Tabloids are also readily available to anyone, which means that even children can possibly read these rape news stories that use inappropriate language.

All persons below 18 years old are considered as children, according Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection of Children against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act. The law also added that even those over this age can also be considered as such if they “are unable to fully take care of themselves or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition.” Rape carries the maximum penalty of reclusion perpetua or imprisonment of at least 30 years.

Despite the harsh punishment, rape remains prevalent. Citing figures from Philippine National Police’s Women and Children Protection Center, the Center for Women’s Resources has reported early this year that one child is raped every 2 hours and 30 minutes. This explains why tabloids never fail to carry at least one rape story every day. Rape stories have human interest as its main news value, except on rare instances when the victim is a public figure even before the crime (e.g. Maggie dela Riva during the 1960s).

Maggie dela Riva

Newspaper headline about Maggie Dela Riva’s rape case (credits: http://www.video48.blogspot.com)

Hataw tabloid seems to have made it a point to present their rape stories in the most salacious manner possible. Some of its headlines are the following:

  • 3-anyos nene hinalay ng kompadre ni tatay – January 6, 2012
  • 2 menor na anak, nilantakan ng manyak – January 27, 2012
  • 9-anyos, ginahasa ng sinulsulan ng demonyo – February 12, 2012
  • 3-anyos na ampon, dinonselya ni lolo – April 13, 2012
  • 12-anyos biyak sa padyak – June 1, 2012
  • Nene, pinilahan ng tatlong totoy – June 8, 2012
  • 13-anyos ‘inotso-otso’ ni lolo, dinugo – August 13, 2012
  • 14-anyos biniyak ng stepdad (Huli sa akto ni nanay) – September 12, 2012

As women’s right activist Sylvia Estrada-Claudio noted in her 2002 book Rape, Love, and Sexuality: The Construction of Women in Discourse, the headlines of rape stories tend to emphasize the survivor’s age as well as her relation to the crime perpetrator. Terms like “nilantakan,” “dinonselya,” “biniyak,” and “pinilahan” emphasizes the gravity of the offense committed against the victims in a completely negative way. To a great extent, the said action words appear to ridicule the horrific experience that those women went through.

The body of those stories also displays extreme insensitivity toward the victims. The April 13, 2012 rape article carries this lead: “Arestado ang isang matandang lalaki makaraang gahasain ang 3-anyos niyang ampon sa lungsod ng Dagupan, Pangasinan kamakalawa.” Knowing the negative implication of being publicly labeled as an adopted child, one wonders why the reporter deemed it necessary to include this information in the report.

Meanwhile, the June 8 article begins this way: “Napariwara ang puri ng isang 9-anyos batang babae makaraang halinhinang gahasain ng kanyang tatlong kalaro sa bahay-bahayan sa bayan ng Dumanjug, Cebu.” The story implies that because of the rape, the victim has lost not just her virginity but her social standing as well.

Some stories include an extremely graphic account of the incident. The February 12, 2012 news item begins this way: “Habang kinukubabawan ng isang lalaki at umiindayog ang balakang sa ibabaw ng isang siyam na taong gulang na ay tuloy tuloy naman umano ang bulong ng demonyo sa suspek na sige tirahin mo yan.” Is this really in sync with what happened or is it just a work of imagination?

This manner of rape reportage directly violates the principles outlined in the guidelines set by the Department of Justice (DOJ) vis-à-vis reporting and coverage of children. Although the names (as well as other information that may reveal their identity) of the victims were not published, the reports violated the rule which prohibits the media from disclosing any private or graphic detail of the case. The DOJ also mandates the media to focus on the issues surrounding the case instead of bringing up the personal circumstances of the victim.

The DOJ exhorts all media outlets to respect the dignity of the child at all times. “Crimes of violence by or against children must be reported factually and seriously without passing judgment, stereotyping, or sensationalism,” the guidelines say, adding that a “child’s life should not be treated as a movie.” The justice department underscored that using sexualized images of a child “is a violation of the right of the child to dignity and self-worth.”

hataw tabloid

Hataw Tabloid postrays rape stories in a distasteful manner

This echoes the “minimize harm” doctrine of the Society of Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) Code of Ethics which states that reporters should treat sources, subjects and colleagues “as human beings deserving of respect.” Journalists should also “use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.” The SPJ Code of Ethics also tells media practitioners to “show good taste” and “avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.”

When reporters use titillating words and graphic details of the rape in their story (as in the case of Hataw), their output becomes more like a work of pornography instead of being a straight news report. In Miller vs. California, a landmark United States Supreme Court which deals with pornography, it is stated that a work that appeals to people’s prurient interest but has no serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value should be considered as an obscene material.

Going back to the news items discussed above, one can’t help but notice the apparent lack of necessity for the journalists to use words like “nawasak ang puri,” “biniyak,” and “dinonselya” in their reports. They can report about the rape without using salacious descriptions. Clearly, Hataw tabloid reports cases of child rape cases in a way that is intended primarily to stimulate their readers’ imagination instead of raising awareness about the prevalence of the said crime.

According to the website JusticeJournalism.org, reporters should ask themselves the following questions whenever they are tempted to frame their stories in a sensational way:

  • Is this graphic detail necessary to tell the story?
  • Will this detail help the community at large?
  • Will readers or viewers be offended by such details?
  • Will the victim suffer more because of the details?
  • Will this detail help police in solving the crime? And is it your duty to help?

Many things can be done to reverse the trend of sensationalized reporting about rape. Editors and their superiors have to be extra careful in scrutinizing news stories based on existing ethical standards. Writers, for their part, should be made to undergo continuous trainings regarding coverage of sex crimes. The 2011 Asian Media Barometer noted that “low salaries and the lack of skills and training often lead to poor writing and reporting.”

Reporters should also go beyond their typical template in reporting about rape. They should strive to provide more depth into their reportage instead of treating each story as a mere he-said, she-said narrative based on what the victim, the suspect, and the authorities say. This must be done so that readers can see the bigger picture (for example, the high number of rape cases in the country, etc.).

News consumers have to be more proactive as well. If they think that a particular story has been reported in an offensive manner, they should not hesitate to speak out through whatever means. This can be done by contacting the concerned media organizations, filing a formal complaint before the National Press Club, or by simply sharing their views online. The families of news subjects also have to be more forceful in asserting their rights as indicated in the DOJ guidelines for media coverage.

*This paper was presented during the 2013 Journalism Research Conference last March 5.


Gina Lopez, anti-mining advocate

Renowned Filipina environmentalist Regina Paz Lopez still recalls the unique experiences she had during her missionary work in Africa during the 1980s. She remembers living in the slums, sleeping on the floor, falling in line to get water, and not having a toilet during those years of community immersion in nations such as Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania.

“It gave me an exposure and appreciation of how poor people live and survive,” the managing director of ABS-CBN Foundation said during an interview at her Quezon City residence in early March. Lopez’ brainchild involves the television network’s long list of educational shows the past two decade as well as pioneering initiatives like the child welfare program Bantay Bata 163 and the advocacy group Bantay Kalikasan.

Clad in all-green attire and a floral-printed scarf, the 58-year-old Lopez explained that her pro-environment advocacy is linked to her spirituality. “You cannot love God without loving the environment. God is everywhere. You can see his hand in everything. From the plants to the stars,” Lopez said. At one point during the interview, the scion of the famed Lopez clan from Visayas excused herself to personally serve wine and wheat crackers to her guests.

Lopez is the lead convener of anti-mining group Save Palawan Movement, a multi-sectoral coalition of concerned environmental, legal religious and other civic groups that opposes mining activities in the said southern Luzon island province. The situation in the province gained national attention when radio broadcaster and staunch mining critic Gerry Ortega was shot to death in January 2011.

mark madrona - gina lopez

Gina Lopez during her interview with the writer

A few weeks after Ortega’s murder, Lopez together with Puerto Princesa City mayor Edward Hagedorn, “running priest” Fr. Robert Reyes, as well as pro-environment organizations like Alyansa Tigil Mina,  Conservation International, Environmental Legal Asistance Center, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation, and many others launched the “No to Mining in Palawan” signature campaign.

The effort aims to get ten million signatures. This, according to the initiative’s website, aims to deliver a strong message to both the local government of Palawan and the national government that people oppose mining in Palawan and that they are standing up “to protect one of the Philippines’ last remaining treasures.”

Nearly seven million people have already signed the petition. Lopez considers this as her advocacy’s biggest accomplishment to date. According to her, it is a sign that Filipinos are finally taking a stand for the environment. “It’s an awakening of the people,” Lopez said.

“I feel that mining in the Philippines has been badly done the past 70 years,” Lopez said. She added: “There is no such thing as responsible mining in an island ecosystem. Companies should not break the beauty of agricultural places.” She also warned against the continued proliferation of large-scale mining operations in the provinces. ”Why don’t they clean up the mess they left in abandoned mining sites first? They have to prove to us that they are capable of rehabilitating those areas,” Lopez said. She cited Bagacay, Samar and Atok, Benguet as examples of these places.

Mining activities in the Philippines is currently governed by Republic Act 7942 or more commonly known as the Mining Act of 1995. Enacted during the term of then-President Fidel V. Ramos, the law gave the government the right to grant different types of mining rights to interested entities, including foreign ones. In January 2004, the Supreme Court struck down certain provisions of the law for allowing 100% foreign-owned companies to engage in mining in the Philippines.

The 1987 Philippine constitution bars fully-foreign owned entities from doing business in the country. The high court reversed itself eleven months later, citing the potential of role of mining in the nation’s economic progress. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Philippine president at that time, is a known proponent of mining. Efforts to have the 1995 mining law amended or repealed are still pending before the Congress.

gina lopez - mark madrona

In photo, from left: Mark Pere Madrona, a freelance journalist and blogger and one of the book’s contributing writers; Dr. Nina Galang of Green Convergence; Gina Lopez; Amparo Miciano of Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan; Jayvee Garganera, National Coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina; and Edel Garingan, Media & Communications Officer of Alyansa Tigil Mina.

Going up against mining giants have proved to be the most daunting challenge for Lopez’ advocacy work. A week before this interview, Lopez had a heated argument with Manuel Pangilinan, owner of TV5 broadcast network and chairman of PhilEx mining, the largest mining firm in the country. The exchange was caught on national television. Lopez disputed the claim made by mining entities in a full page newspaper ad last March that they have collectively paid billions of pesos in taxes to the government.

“For all these billions, what do we get in return? Think about the damage done by mining corporations to our biodiversity, to agriculture, and to the health of those living in the area. They don’t pay for these damages,” the woman who called herself the “worst nightmare” of large-scale miners pointed out. Despite her high visibility in environment activism, Lopez said that she has never received any death threats because of her work.

According to an April 2012 study released by the Philippine National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), mining and quarrying contributed just 2.7 percent to the economy of this Southeast Asian nation from 1998 to 2010. The average annual employment in the said industry for the same period is 130,000, or just 0.4 percent of the total employment in the country.

She also rebutted the argument that mining helps solve poverty. “Wherever large-scale miners go, the communities are damaged. They remain poor. The so-called economic benefits do not benefit the people,” Lopez said, stressing that large-scale mining is not labor-intensive because its operations are automated. “Mining does not translate to community development. We don’t need these investors. They only rape the country,” Lopez declared.

Lopez, who starts her day by meditating, works in close contact with fellow environment advocates. During the course of this interview, two environmentalists were waiting for their turn to speak to Lopez regarding their activities in Sibuyan, Romblon, where a number of mining operations are taking place.

She also read a complaint from a concerned citizen about the mining activities in Rapu-Rapu, Albay. “What the miners do to nature is very gruesome. I visit mining places and I see huge holes everywhere and red liquid flowing to the sea. Awful!” she said. She then showed a video of a polluted waterway in Compostela Valley.

Lopez referred to greed and selfishness as the biggest obstacles in her environment advocacy. She also cited the need for a “paradigm shift” in how Filipinos value the nation’s biodiversity. “At the end of the day, they have to face the reality. What difference are these mining companies causing them?” Lopez said.

The key to fighting mining, according to her, is to show people that there is another way of earning without damaging the environment. She suggested further boosting eco-tourism on one hand while promoting local products on the other as an alternative. She is not hesitant to use her family’s media conglomerate to push for these advocacies, reiterating repeatedly that “(her) strength is marketing.” Lopez added: “People do not have to risk their lives in mining.”

Lopez does not see herself taking a backseat in the fight against mining anytime soon, saying that she “will always have the love for the environment.” She added: “I am in a position to make a difference.” She said she’ll only be able to say ‘mission accomplished’ once all Filipinos “have taken a truly environmental stand.”

As the 2013 national election approaches, Lopez urged Filipinos to vote only for politicians who care for the environment. “We have a beautiful country. Let’s not allow greed and selfishness to rape it,” Lopez exhorted her countrymen. Lopez’ unrelenting passion for her advocacies underscore the fact that the task of defending the environment never ends. #

*A condensed version of my article can be read in the book Story from the Mines – Of Struggle, Sisterhood, and Solidarity by Alyansa Tigil Mina and Haribon Foundation (Quezon City, 2012)


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