UP bids goodbye to Final Four, seniors

Text by Luisa Morales

Photo by Mark Kevin Reginio

Time has come for the curtain call.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Maroons close their season with a loss, bowing down to the Far Eastern University (FEU) Lady Tamaraws in three sets, 16-25, 16-25, 25-27, at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan, Wednesday.

In a heartbreaking loss, the Diliman squad failed to book a final four ticket; finishing the season with a 7-7 win-loss card.

UP kept it close at the start of the match, playing at pace with the Tamaraws. By the middle of the set, State U only trailed by 2, 16-14.

However, the Lady Tamaraws gained steam coming from the technical timeout. A dominating 9-2 run at end the set gave FEU a 1-0 lead, 25-16.

It was another neck-and-neck start in the second set, both teams scoring back and forth. The Lady Tamaraws held a single point advantage over UP, 8-7.

But another huge run from the Sampaloc-based squad helped them pull away from the struggling Lady Maroons. At one point of the set, FEU was up by 10, 21-11.

Despite a late run from UP, the deficit proved too big to overcome.

FEU took a commanding 2-0 lead, 25-16.

Trailing by two sets, the Diliman squad looked out of the fight. It was a slow start for State U at the beginning of the third set, with FEU up 4-0.

But a crucial run brought UP back into the set. Scoring six straight points, the Lady Maroons held a three-point advantage by the first technical timeout, 8-5.

Eager to extend the match, the Lady Maroons battled to keep themselves alive.

FEU was at match point, 24-21 but UP wasn’t going down just yet. Late game heroics from veterans Kathy Bersola and Nicole Tiamzon powered the Maroons to extend the set.

The whole arena was on their feet with the teams tied at 25-all. But questionable calls from the officials gave FEU the match, 27-25.

The loss signaled the end of the season for the Lady Maroons. And for veterans Bersola, Tiamzon and Princess Gaiser, everything has come to an end.

The match was the culmination of the trio’s career in UP.

Despite the disappointing loss, Tiamzon remains grateful for the opportunity to play for the Lady Maroons for five consecutive years.

“Wala kaming ibang masasabi kundi thank you sa limang taon na binigay niyo rin sa’min na pagtitiwala, sa limang taon na privilege to play for UP, ” she said.

Bersola, who regrets not being a hundred percent in the 14 games they played, believes that they were able to re-establish UP as a Final Four contender team, especially after they were able to enter the Final Four last season after missing the semifinals for 12 years.

“Siguro yung pinaka legacy namin is sinubukan talaga namin ibalik yung winning ways sa UP, the former skipper said.

Gaiser, who is now recovering from a torn ACL, takes pride in the fight her teammates showed.

She kept reminding her teammates to “play with passion and pride and play because you want to.”

The final games of the elimination on Saturday will feature a battle for the top seed between the Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) Lady Eagles and the De La Salle University (DLSU) Lady Spikers, while the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses will try to hang on to the third spot and eliminate the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs.

UP falls to UST in three sets, puts Final Four spot on the line

Text by Luisa Morales

Photo by Mark Kevin Reginio

Diliman fans are holding their breaths for the Final Four.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Maroons failed to cement their spot in the Final Four in their first attempt, as they bowed down to the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses in straight sets, 20-25, 21-25, 16-25, at the Mall of Asia Arena, Sunday.

The game started out tight, with both teams going at it. Neither team was giving up any ground, and the ecstatic crowd was at the edge of their seats with every rally.

It was neck and neck until the second technical timeout with UST up only by a point, 16-15, but the España squad pulled away late in the set with blocks and costly errors from the Lady Maroons to draw first blood, 25-20.

Things looked brighter for State U in the second set. Starting out strong, the Diliman team held a five-point cushion in the middle of the set, 11-6.

However, a barrage of attacks from the Tigresses proved too much for the Lady Maroons. UST dominated the rest of the set to take a 2-0 lead against UP, 25-21.

By the third set, the Maroon squad looked out of steam. Riding on the momentum of their 2-0 lead, UST pounded State U leading at one point by 10.

Despite a mini-run from State U courtesy of veteran Nicole Tiamzon, UST’s lead proved too big to overcome.

The Tigresses eventually won the match, 25-16.

Sophomore Tots Carlos led State U with eight points while Isa Molde and Tiamzon contributed seven markers each.

Ennajie Laure powered UST with 15 points, while skipper Cherry Ann Rondina followed closely behind with 14.

“They [UST] really played well, and it was, again, our errors that killed us,” UP Captain Ayel Estrañero said.

State U ended the match with 26 errors, five more than UST’s 21.

The Lady Maroons are set for a do-or-die match for a Final Four spot against Far Eastern University (FEU) on Wednesday at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.

“There is no time to be down after this game. Kailangan namin bumawi, kailangan gandahan ang training to gain some confidence going into Wednesday’s game,” the captain said.

Fight for holistic UP education continues for concerned faculty, students

By Nacho Domingo

In condemnation of the University Council’s (UC) approval of the General Elective (GE) reform, the Sagip GE Alliance, composed of faculty and students opposing the reduction of minimum required GE units from 45 to 21, held a press conference March 28 at the Palma Hall steps to fight for holistic UP education.

Speakers hailing from different college faculties in UP united in the belief that the GE reform will deny UP students a well-rounded education and instead, will funnel them into employment for international corporations.

“Kailangang pagtibayin pa ang GE program, pagyamanin at di ito mapapayaman sa 21 units,” said UP Professor Vlad Gonzales of Tanggol Wika.

Currently, the university follows the Revised General Education Program (RGEP), which was first implemented in 2012. It requires students to take 15 units each of Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences and Philosophy, and Math, Science and Technology subjects.

According to journalism professor and member of Sagip GE Alliance Danilo Arao, the importance of GE units lies in providing students with a broad skill set, rather than one that only focuses on subjects directly related to the career paths offered by a degree.

“Ang layunin nito ay mapalawak ang ating isipan. Kailangan natin ma-expose sa iba’t ibang disiplina anuman ang ating spesyalisasyon,” said Arao.

On the other hand, Professor Mico Panis of the Industrial Engineering department defended the reduction of units, saying it will allow engineering programs to be completed in four years instead of five.

“In my opinion, this allows us to stay competitive and attractive with other engineering universities,” Panis said in a separate interview.

Panis also said, “[The] GE reform also removes redundancies ng ibang subjects na natuturo na dapat sa K-12,” adding that GE units are not the only ones to be reduced but also major and cognate subjects.

In contrast, Arao believes that part of what Sagip GE calls “Tatak UP” is how the program develops students’ critical thinking and interrelational skills.

Despite many of the students branding these subjects as unnecessary and a burden to enlist, he said, Arao believes in the values that these develop in the students.

“Ang kailangan lang natin tandaan nung nangyari noong March 20. Nagwagi ang pro-21 proposal para bawasan itong sinasabi nating hybrid general education program,” Arao said.

This was in reference to the poll held among UP professors on March 27. During this meeting,  302 members of voted for, 31 voted against, and 41 abstained the implementation of the reform.

He also said the votes in favor of the reform coming from the Colleges of Science and Engineering played a big hand in its approval, as they account for over 46 percent of the UP student population.

Nevertheless, Arao believes that despite the decision, the fight for a well-rounded education is still ongoing.

“Tuloy-tuloy ang laban, at sa kasaysayan ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, malaki ang posibilidad na marereverse ang mga desisyon lalo na’t mayroong malinaw na public pressure mula sa estudyante at alumni,” added Arao.

Meanwhile, USC Chairperson Bryle Leaño described the reform as a neoliberal attack on education that continues to exploit the students.

“Sabi pa nga ni Chancellor Michael Tan na tayo ay narerestructure ng GE reform upang matapos ang ating pag-aaral sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas,” said Leaño.

“Tayo ay matutulak na maghanap ng trabaho sa mga malalaking korporasyon hindi man sa loob ng Pilipinas kundi sa labas.”

Leaño then described how GE program’s restructuring does not suit the needs of a country like the Philippines, which is heavier on agriculture than science and engineering fields.

He concluded his speech by stating the importance of instilling an educational program that suits the needs of the country.

“Dapat alamin natin kung ano ba ang pangangailangan ng Pilipinas upang tunay na mailapat natin ang ating kagalingan at tunay na magspecialize tayo para sa sambayanan,” said Leaño.

The official approval of the GE reform will take place in a Board of Regents meeting at Quezon Hall on April 5.

Along with progressive student groups, Sagip GE has called for another mobilization to take place in protest of the reform’s implementation.

Sakadas continue fight against labor violations, seek support from government

By Ara Nacario

Three months after being rescued from Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, Bukidnon-based migratory cane cutters—more commonly known as sakadas—filed their third labor exploitation complaint March 20, against recruiter Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative (GLSC) and principal employer Agrikulto Inc.

The 17 sakadas filed their most recent formal complaint at the National Labor Relations Commission Regional Arbitration Board (NLRCB) in San Fernando, Pampanga, while their first two filed in the Cagayan de Oro city branch of NLRCB two months ago.

“Ang habol namin [sa pagtatrabaho sa Tarlac] ay yung malaking sweldo na pinangakong maka-700 sa isang araw,” one of the sakadas said.

“Isipin mo yung 700 kada araw, tapos libre pa lahat, sino naman hindi sasama dun.”

National progressive group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) rescued and brought the sakadas to the Department of Agrarian Reform in Quezon City after traveling from Tarlac.

The sakadas were all recruited from Brgy. Pangantucan in Bukidnon Province. The recruiter rented a bus to bring all the sakadas to Hacienda Luisita in November 2016.

A few weeks into their five-month work contract, the sakadas escaped Brgy. Mapalacsiao in Tarlac City after suffering from exploitation under the hands of their recruiter in the 6453-hectare hacienda.

‘Tarlac package’

According to UMA, Cojuangco-led firm Agrikulto requested recruitment agency Greenhand Labor Service Inc. to produce around 1,000 cane cutters to work in Hacienda Luisita.

Currently, Agrikulto Inc., a Filipino company that farms and markets sugarcanes and leases land for these purposes, is the biggest owner of the illicit leaseback system in Hacienda Luisita. A leaseback is an arrangement where the buyer of a property leases it back to the seller.

Davao-based sakada Edmond Prayon recalled how a certain Greenhand recruiter “Bong” promised daily P450 to P700 in wages, additional cash, benefits including hospitalization, PAG-IBIG, PhilHealth and SSS and P1500 worth of groceries, along with free hotel accommodation, clothing and workwear.

The victims said they were previously given an initial payment of P2,500 and told it was all part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “livelihood program.”

“Pinangako nila sa amin na bibigyan nila kami ng P5,000 tapos yung P2,500 muna yung ibigay nila sa amin para may maiwan sa pamilya,” Prayon said. “Ngayon, ang sinabi nila, yung natirang P2,500 po, pagdating ng Tarlac, saka na nila ibigay.”

On a normal day, sakadas earn P200 a day for their labor in Mindanao. They also had to pay for their own food, provide food for their own families, and transportation.

Parang ‘selda’

Sakadas coming from different provinces including Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Koronadal, Pampanga and South Cotabato arrived in batches in Tarlac.

They stayed in poorly-ventilated, constrained compounds they described as “selda,” with windows obstructed with metal bars. Their compound was located near the sugar mill Central Azucarera de Tarlac.

They had to endure the heat, bad smell coming from the main plantation and poor facilities. They were guarded with armed security men and were not allowed to leave at night. The sakadas slept on the floor with only carton sheets.

“Nung nag-umpisa na kaming magtrabaho eh walang tubig kasi malayo yung pinagtrabahuhan namin tsaka yung pagkain, kaunti lang. Kaya yung iba, medyo nagkasakit na dahil sa sobrang init at sobrang pagod,” Prayon said.

There were many nights when they had to make do with what little amount of food that they were given.

“Sampu kami, isang kilo lang ibibigay sa isang grupo. Tapos limang piraso ng sardinas, tapos, limang pirasong noodles. Hindi naman magkakasya ‘yun,” another sakada, Bernie Caha said.

They said they were also forced to work from 4 a.m. until 5 p.m. even with empty stomachs. For their labor, the agency only provided panapas or bolo used to cut canes.

“Pangako rin ‘yang [mga helmet], wala nga kaming dalang jacket kasi ang sabi ‘wag na kaming magdala dahil libre lahat doon (sa Tarlac). ‘Yung helmet, gwantes, botas, wala. Yung panapas lang po ang binigay,” Prayon said.

These conditions led to the cane cutters suffering coughs, fever and colds, which eventually left one dead.

Based on the payrolls UMA reported, the sakadas received weekly wages from P 66.21 to P 898.20 a week, which ranges from P 9.46 to P 128.31 per day. In Central Luzon, the supposed minimum wage for plantation agricultural workers is P 334 a day.

UMA organizer Angie Ipong said victims were even offered a pakyaw rate (group rate).

Based on UMA’s consolidated reports, cutting and hauling cane costs P220 per ton. Victims were also given a quota of 18 tons a day which is physically impossible for a 8-13 team of cane cutters given the additional work of hauling canes.

On the night of Dec. 25 last year, the sakadas left the compound while the others were enjoying a small party prepared by GLSC. Unnoticed, one sakada jumped at the opposite side of the wall to gather all their bags while the rest told the guards about buying cigarettes.

“Wala po silang bag na nakita sa amin. Kasi yung bag, hinagis na po namin sa bakod, kaya po nakita nila, wala naman po kaming dalang bag, pumayag sila,” Caha said.

“Ang paalam namin, bili lang kaming sigarilyo.” he added.

The sakadas travelled on foot to the bus terminal going to Cubao, and again by foot going to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Elliptical Road, Quezon City.

Andronel Campo, 20, previously rescued by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) called Edmond Prayon to inform Prayon’s group what to do next.

“Siya po ang tumawag sa amin na, para tayo makauwi ng Mindanao. May tumulong sa atin taga-DSWD, pumunta kayo rito para pag-usapan natin yung dapat natin gawin,” Prayon said.

To the present, UMA is assisting the sakadas to avail government assistance and file appropriate charges before returning to their hometowns.

Call for government support

Ipong said the government should provide financial support to local farmers.

According to her, without support service, rent is the only way farmers can gain from their lands.

Support service includes irrigation, machineries, inputs, seeds, fertilizers and other chemicals for farming.

“Hindi pwedeng lupa lang kasi ibebenta ‘yan, ipapa-renta ‘yan, kasi anong gagawin sa lupa kung walang gagamitin?” Ipong said.  

“Support system ang palalaguin ng industriya natin dapat, ‘yun ang kailangan ng ating agriculture,”she added.

UMA demands for a full-blown investigation on the trafficking of sakadas, stopping the operations of Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative and the status of land reform in Hacienda Luisita.

Prayon said his fellow sakadas are determined to push the charges against the recruiter. For now, some sakadas consider staying in Quezon City to work as laborers.

“Support system ang palalaguin ng industriya natin dapat, paano magkaroon ng machinery, traktor, irrigation, yun ang kailangan ng ating agriculture,” Ipong said.

“Doon mapupunta yung sinasabing national industrialization. Mai-industrialize lang ‘yun at dapat naka-focus sa agrikultura natin,” she added. #

(Image grabbed from Luisita Watch’s Facebook page.)

 

Student groups denounce Duterte regime’s state fascism, GE reform

By Abigail Zara

Progressive groups from University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman staged a protest at Palma Hall, Tuesday, condemning all fascist attacks under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

The groups also decried the University Council’s decision to reduce UP Diliman’s General Education units from 45 to 21 starting 2018.

Expressing their rage, the students slammed repressive government actions such as counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, the recent bombing operations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Abra, and the eviction of urban poor groups from housing projects in Pandi, Bulacan.

“Daan-daan na mga mamamayan ang dini-displace sa kani-kanilang mga komunidad at ilan-ilan ding mga lehitimong aktibista at mga progresibong organisasyon ang kinukulong at dinadakip,” said League of Filipino Students (LFS) member Renz Pasigpasigan on Oplan Kapayapaan.

Also known as Development Support and Security Plan Kapayapaan, Oplan Kapayapaan is the AFP’s security strategy to supposedly reduce terrorist groups to a “minimal strength” within six months, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

In the same interview, AFP Chief General Eduardo Año said 51 battalions were deployed in Western Mindanao and parts of Central Mindanao to fight terrorist groups such as Abu Sayyaf, Maute Group, and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Contrary to its purpose, Oplan Kapayapaan is being used to spread fear among communities where communist groups express their dissent, said Pasigpasigan during the protest.

According to the LFS member, the program is intended to suppress those in the countryside who oppose the government and to breed terror within civilians as well to discourage them from joining the fight.

“Malinaw kung ano ang isinusulong ng ating administrasyon at rehimeng Duterte sa kasalukuyan,” Pasigpasigan said.

“Naghahasik siya ng takot sa hanay ng mga mamamayan para tayo ay tumigil sa ating paglaban, para tayo ay magpasupil,” he added.

The protesters also denounced AFP’s bombing operations in Malibcong, Abra , following a firefight between members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and the AFP on March 15.

A day after, Imelda Tabiando of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) confirmed that the AFP dropped 14 bombs over the town, causing a forest fire and the suspension of elementary and high school classes in the area.

A take over for rights

Student groups also condemned the recent eviction of urban poor groups from idle housing projects in Pandi, Bulacan.

Led by urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), thousands of homeless individuals from Taguig, Navotas, and Malabon cities occupied more than 5,000 unused units in Villa Elise, Pandi Village 2, Villa Louise, and Padre Pio housing projects in a campaign known as Occupy Bulacan on March 8.

Kadamay member Elizabeth Aguirre said in an Inquirer interview that the movement was done because of NHA’s refusal to provide them with “decent homes,” despite many dialogs.

“We were willing to pay [for government housing which] we could afford, yet, we were always told that there were no vacant houses. But based on our inspection, all these houses were unoccupied,” Aguirre added.

The National Housing Authority (NHA) issued eviction notices for the informal settlers on March 20.

According to NHA data, the 52,341 idle houses nationwide were intended for members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and AFP, but only 13 percent or 8,327 of these were being used.

The eviction efforts are further proof of the government’s continuous deprivation of rights to basic social services like shelter, according to Anakbayan CSSP member Kiko Caramat.

“Sapilitan silang pinapadaan sa mga burukuratikong proseso gaya ng napaka-mahal na mga fees, kaya sa pinaka-matagal na panahon din ay wala silang sariling pabahay,” Caramat said during the protest.

Caramat said that because of this deprivation, Filipinos all over the country are asserting their rights through collective action.

“Kaya naman sila na ang mapagpasyang kumilos para angkinin ang higit limang libong tiwangwang na pabahay sa iba’t ibang relocation sites sa Pandi, Bulacan,” he added.

Call for critical, holistic general education

Further worsening the issue of these fascist state attacks is the implementation of the General Education (GE) Reform within UP Diliman, according to the student groups.

With votes of 302 for, 31 against, and 41 abstain from members of the UP Diliman University Council in the GE Reform Conference on Monday, the minimum number of GE units was lowered from 45 to 21 beginning 2018.

Supporters of the GE Reform insisted during the conference that the reduction of GEs will alleviate the academic burden of students by lessening tuition fees and the number of years of certain degree programs, like Engineering courses, which would go down from five years to four.

Institute of Mathematics instructor Ma. Cristina Bargo said in a Facebook post that the curriculum of Engineering and Science majors requires taking service courses before major subjects, allowing for too little room for students to take GEs.

The professor refused to be interviewed further on the issue, as of press time.

However, student groups acknowledged the reform as a scheme to produce graduates in a shorter time in order to further fuel the cheap labor pool demanded by the global market.

“Ang reporma sa GE na ito ay magsisilbing daluyan, magsisilbing balon, magsisilbing poso ng murang lakas paggawa ng mga kabataan,” Anakbayan CAL member Alix Matute said during the rally.

Moreover, LFS Engineering said in a Facebook statement that reform would further expose graduates to unfair and abusive labor policies.

“The influx of fresh graduates would only limit the number of jobs available for them, creating conditions that would make them more vulnerable to low wages, contractualization, and poor working conditions,” LFS Engineering said in a Facebook statement.

UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan joined the protest to express his opposition of the GE Reform.

“A true UP product is not for the existing distorted job market. A true UP student will question the job market,” the chancellor said in his solidarity message during the rally.

Tan, who served as chair in the conference, expressed his dismay because the discussion in the event failed to tackle the wider issues surrounding the reduction of GEs, like its connection to neoliberalism and struggles under the Duterte regime.

“We tried to get things discussed. Umaasa pa ako na magkakaroon ng kompromiso dito, pero mainit na ang ulo ng mga tao dito,” the UPD chancellor said.

“Basta nahirapan na ako mag-ano dito ng malayang talakayan. And I’m very disappointed,” he added.

Student groups agreed that limiting GE subjects will also lead to the lessening of the holistic quality of UP education and reducing subjects that teach students to think critically and act in the face of these issues under the Duterte Administration.

“Yung edukasyon natin ay nagsisilbi hindi para paunlarin yung kakayahan ng mga kabataan, kundi para supilin ang ating kakayahan upang mag-isip nang kritikal, upang gamitin ang ating abilidad upang baguhin ang lipunan,” Matute added during the protest.

Because of these ill effects, Chancellor Tan urged for a stronger campaign to oppose the GE Reform.

“We will create new niches that serve the country, not serve the interest of others,” Tan said.

The chancellor also called for the students to exhaust more actions and venues to counter the GE reduction aside from the existing protests.

“Kailangan din may discussions na kung bakit may posisyon kayo, tayo, tungkol sa GE, at ano ang implications nito para sa buhay ng mga estudyante afterwards… Pwede pa tayong mag-meeting para ma-plano kung ano ang pwedeng content dito,” Tan added.

The chancellor agreed with the students’ call to seek accountability from the Duterte Administration and its fascist attacks.

“Ang hamon sa atin ay patuloy na ipanawagan ang paniningil sa rehimeng Duterte at ipagpatuloy ang pakikipag-kaisa natin sa iba’t ibang mga organisasyon sa ating pamantasan,” Pasigpasigan said. #

UP CMC ISA fields new bet for CMCSC chair

Arjay Torno has replaced Andrea Andres as the UP CMC Independent Student-Centered Activism (ISA) candidate for chairperson of the CMC Student Council (CMCSC).

By Beatriz Zamora

Arjay Torno has replaced Andrea Andres as the UP CMC Independent Student-Centered Activism (ISA) candidate for chairperson of the CMC Student Council (CMCSC).

As per the hearing held by the College Student Electoral Board (CSEB) yesterday, Andres’ withdrawal of candidacy and Torno’s appeal were considered valid.

The party filed an appeal for former vice chairperson candidate Torno to replace her on March 20.

According to the CSEB, the replacement of a candidate by another person in the original lineup does not violate election rules.

UP CMC ISA’s appeal to peg Andrea Duldulao as vice chairperson candidate of the CMCSC was denied.

In a statement issued earlier today, UP CMC ISA said that Andres can no longer campaign her candidacy for chairperson due to personal matters.

Journalism wins 2017 CMC Cup

For the first time since 2013, the College of Mass Communication’s Journalism Department has reclaimed the annual CMC Cup.

Journalism clinched the title after amassing 353 points, followed by the Broadcast Communication Department with 310. The departments of Communication Research and Film rounded out the last two spots with 298 and 211 points, respectively.

Meanwhile, the college also awarded four exceptional students for their participation and dedication in the Cup’s games.

Denver del Rosario, Angela Buensuesco, Arjay Torno and Rocky Morilla were hailed most valuable players for Journalism, Broadcast Communication, Communication Research and Film, respectively.

The three-day-long, points system sporting event among CMC’s departments consists of a variety of games that tests students’ motor skills such as modified relay and running games. The tournament is then capped off with traditional basketball and volleyball matches.

With the goal of fostering “camaraderie, friendly competition, and sportsmanship among Maskom students, faculty, and personnel,” this year’s CMC Cup rolled out with a gaming theme, with matches named after well-known apps such as Angry Birds and Pokemon Go, among others.

(Photo grabbed from the CMC Cup Facebook page.)

Bloggers, journalists react to proposed social media policy

By Frances Josephine Espeso

Bloggers and media practitioners expressed concerns and criticisms Thursday at a town hall forum presenting the initial draft of the social media policy proposed by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).

These concerns included the accreditation of “social media publishers” for coverage of Malacañang events, possible content regulation, the parameters for defining “social media publishers,” and the policy’s contribution to the overall discourse on social media.

In the forum held at the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Bahay ng Alumni, blogger Arpee Lazaro suggested a few more benefits beyond what Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Kristian Ablan mentioned during the presentation of the policy.

“Magkaroon sana ng national registry of accredited bloggers or social media users,” Lazaro said, suggesting check marks appearing next to names of accredited Facebook pages.

Benefits for accredited social media publishers—those with at least 1000 followers and subscribers and have been publishing original news and information consistently and regularly for at least 12 months—include on-site access to PCOO events and activities such as news briefings, interviews and inclusion to the mailing list for PCOO press releases.

The policy also grants social media users—people who maintain social media accounts and communicate and share news, information and opinions online using these accounts—eligibility for PCOO social media volunteer programs and trainings.

The blogger also mentioned the proposed policy’s condition of accredited social media pages sharing all press releases sent by the PCOO, among others.

“Kung accredited ka, sana bigyan ka ng pagkakataon na mamili kung anong press releases yung gusto mong ilabas,” Lazaro said.

“Hindi ka naman pupwedeng maglabas ka nalang ng press release kahit hindi naman relevant sa blog mo,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rey Joseph Nieto of political blog Thinking Pinoy said PCOO should define an arbiter who would validate the truthfulness of the news and information published by accredited social media publishers.

According to the social media policy, one of the responsibilities of accredited social media publishers is to “validate the truthfulness of the news content that they generate, publish and share.”

“While it’s true po that we have to exert every effort para siguruhin na tama at walang sablay ang mga pina-publish natin sa ating mga platforms, hindi po malinaw rito kung sino ang magdedecide kung na-validate ba o hindi ang isang posting,” Nieto said in a video presented during the forum.

He also asked if this responsibility is also required of the Malacañang Press Corps(MPC), a group of accredited media practitioners who regularly cover Palace events.

“Isa po rin yan sa issue sa equal protection. Kung ano po ang karapatan o pribilehyo na ineenjoy ng MPC, dapat po ay ineenjoy din ng mga taga-Malacanang Social Media Press Corps,” Nieto said. “Otherwise, undue discrimination po iyon na as far as I know, hindi po siya constitutional.”

The blogger also saw as undue discrimination the prohibition of accredited social media publishers to commercially endorse or promote any product, service or publication, saying that mainstream media are allowed to do so.

Meanwhile, Stella Estremera, editor-in-chief of Mindanao community daily Sun.Star Davao, said the policy is well-intentioned; however, its regulatory nature is unnecessary, especially when it comes to the social media publisher’s content.

“Look, what you can control is how a blogger…will comport himself in an event,” she said, citing required dress codes in government events as example.

“But whatever ang susulatin niya, yung behaviour niya outside your event, [hindi] niyo na hawak,” she added.

Section 7C of the draft policy prohibits accredited social media publishers to post sexual content, foul language and false information, among others.

“Pero yun ang role ng blogger. Magmura para sa mga tao,” Estremera said, prompting cheers from the audience.

On the other hand, University of the Philippines Journalism professor Teresa Congjuico criticized the riskiness of using social media to disseminate news and information as social media can fall victim to “paid hacks or bots” or be used as propaganda tools.

“News reporting, fact-based story-telling, and the dissemination of vetted and fact-checked information are journalism functions which only organized newsrooms could accomplish,” Congjuico said in a Facebook status.

In PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar’s keynote speech, he said that while he acknowledged the “seasoned experience” of mainstream media in covering matters of public importance with accuracy and fairness, the policy also considers other interest groups and stakeholders in the coverage of Malacañang events.

“I have been vocal about wanting to allow social media personalities to witness and cover for themselves some of the administration’s events that would be of interest to the general public,” Andanar said.

He also said in a meeting early this month that President Rodrigo Duterte greenlit a group of bloggers’ request to access Palace events.

“With the many problems that beset the country, from illegal drugs to criminality to corruption… all forms of media are tasked to let the public know what is going on,” Andanar said.

Both Andanar and Ablan told the audience that having a social media policy is not a sole Philippine initiative.

Andanar mentioned Garrett Graff, an American blogger and former editor-in-chief of Politico magazine. Graff was the first US blogger to be accredited by the White House in 2005.

“Ang social media policy ay hindi po bago sa mundo,” Ablan said.

“Marami pong mga gobyerno, marami pong mga korporasyon, pati mga eskwelahan, ang may social media policy,” he added.

References included in the policy document come from New Zealand, United Kingdom, the US Department of Interior and the State University of New York.

The Presidential Communications assistant secretary also reiterated that the policy discussed is just an initial draft and would still be subject to changes.

According to the PCOO’s press release after the town hall forum, the office will be announcing the results of the forum and its next step. #

(Photo grabbed from Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Kristian Ablan’s Twitter account.)

NDFP hopeful peace talks will not cease – Philippine Peace Center director

By Tessa Barre

The peace talks may be stalled but will not cease, said Rey Casambre, executive director of the Philippine Peace Center (PPC), on the status of the halted peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Speaking at a forum held at the UP College of Mass Communication, Feb. 22, he said the peace negotiations will continue as long as the government returns to the negotiating table.

“Gobyerno naman ang umayaw,” he added. “Ang NDFP hindi umaayaw sa peace talks.”

The peace negotiations, which began September last year, are currently put on hold after President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the talks and declared the NDFP and its political and armed counterparts, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorist groups Feb.4.

However, without support for the termination of the peace talks from high-ranking government officials and the formal cancellation of the agreement of immunity guarantees, Casambre is certain the government is not determined to end the negotiations.

“Wala pang nag-e-express significantly ng support para sa terminasyon ng talks kahit sa loob ng gobyerno,” Casambre said.

“Kahit sa Kongreso nag-pass ng resolution na ipagpatuloy ang peace talks at sa isang hapon lamang, mahigit 100 kongresista ang pumirma doon.”

Earlier this week, the House committee on peace, reconciliation, and unity approved House Resolution No. 769 voting 8-0-0, garnering 130 signatures from representatives calling on the president to resume the negotiations.

Moreover, Casambre commented on the vagueness of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) termination sent by the administration to Jose Ma. Sison, founder of CPP and current NDFP political consultant.

“Walang kalinawan kung ano yung attitude ng gobyerno sa termination ng JASIG,” the PPC executive director said.

“Yung [NDFP] nagdeklara sila na hindi nila kinikilala yung notice of termination dahil lacking in form and substance,” he said.

The official termination of the JASIG, a document signed in 1995 ensuring the safety and immunity of negotiators and consultants from both parties during the peace talks, will also mean the termination of the negotiations itself.

According to Casambre, the notice was only sent through email instead of courier or at least fax.

However, the NDFP has affirmed receipt of the termination notice Feb. 7 and has since started the 30-day grace period run to effectivity.

Two days after the JASIG termination, Aries Arbitrario, a peace consultant, together with two of his companions were arrested by the Philippine military Feb. 6 at a checkpoint in Davao City.

Breakthroughs

Nevertheless, Casambre remains optimistic that the peace talks will eventually resume, citing the breakthroughs achieved during the first three rounds of the talks as well as the president’s self-identification as a leftist.

For one, the president’s initial reaffirmation of all previous agreements made during the seminal peace talks during the Ramos administration made the recent peace talks possible, said Casambre.  

Moreover, the current administration acknowledged documents such as The Hague Joint Declaration, the JASIG and the Comprehensive Agreement on  Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which previous administrations “disregarded,” making peace negotiations improbable.  

Meanwhile, the third round of the peace talks saw the signing of the supplementary guidelines for the Joint Monitoring Committee under CARHRIHL, which ensures a venue for victims of human rights violations due to armed conflict to file complaints.

The third round of the talks also produced an agreement on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms’s (CASER’s) preamble and first few articles affirming the need for agrarian reform.

The CASER, which some say is the heart and soul of the peace process, is a document containing the most contentious issues of agrarian reform and national industrialization among others which the NDF deems to be the solution to the root cause of the conflict in the Philippines.

Through these we’ll see the unity of the two reciprocal committees on the free distribution of land, said Casambre, which again is a welcome change from the previous administration.

“Of course malaki pa yung kailangang takbuhin. Pero andun sa nakita ng dalawang panel malaki na ang pagsasalubungan,” Casambre concluded, citing that this was already significant progress compared to the last administration where land reform had not even been discussed.

Beyond the armed conflict

The communist insurgency waged by the CPP-NPA-NDFP since the late 1960s is the longest-running in the world with clashes between the NPA and the Philippine military resulting in almost 400 cases of atrocities and deaths at the height of the Aquino counterinsurgency program.

Code-named “Oplan Bayanihan,” the “internal peace and security plan” was launched in 2011 and ended December last year to give way to the peace talks.

However, others see beyond these decades in their analysis of the armed conflict in the Philippines.

Ben Te, University of the Philippines Diliman University Student Council councilor, traces a longer history of insurgency starting from the Spanish colonization.

“Hindi nagsimula ang armed conflict sa Pilipinas noong itinayo ang CPP-NPA-NDF. In fact, sa matagal na panahon meron ng armed conflict sa Pilipinas mula pa sa panahon ng mga Epanyol hanggang sa kasalukuyan. Meron laging tunggalian,” said Te.

Due to this centuries-old absence of peace in the country, Te said, it is time for Filipinos to understand how to attain peace outside the government’s use of force and to address the root causes of the conflict.

“Dahil itong bansa natin ay napakahaba na ng karanasan sa armed conflict, nakikita natin na nauugat lang naman ito doon sa pangunahing krisis na kinakaharap ng ating lipunan sa ating ekonomiya, sa ating pulitika,” Te said.

Meanwhile, Casambre entreated the students for help with calling for the resumption of peace talks.

“Idagdag niyo ang inyong tinig sa mga panawagan na ipagptuloy yung talks…Dahil yung kinabukasan niyo ng inyong mga anak ay nakasalalay sa usapang ito,” Casambre said.

With the termination of the peace negotiations, non-government organizations (NGOs) like the Tanggulan Youth Network continue raising awareness on the peace process and its necessity through fora, protest actions and campaigns.

The Network, a youth alliance of civil liberties and human rights advocates, remains open for volunteers and members. #

(Photo taken by Inna Cabel.)

Project NOAH comes home to UP

by Krysten Mariann Boado

The University of the Philippines (UP) Board of Regents (BOR) approved Feb. 23 the adoption of Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) under the Office of the UP President, according to the university’s official website.

During their 1325th meeting, the board welcomed the program to UP upon the Department of Science and Technology’s termination of its administration.

According to UP President Danilo Concepcion, the project’s benefits extend beyond its research value.

“It has literally been a lifesaver for millions of Filipinos threatened by natural disasters like floods, landslides, and storm surges,” Concepcion said.

“It deserves a new lease on life, and UP is happy to welcome it into its fold.”

Project NOAH was designed with a main mission to help “warn” Filipinos of imminent natural disasters, particularly floods. Subsequently, the project also aids Filipinos in responding to these natural phenomenon to ensure their safety, according to Project NOAH Executive Director, Alfredo Lagmay.

Project NOAH has been recognized 15 times and has earned nine awards in its four-year existence.

 

(Note: This photo was taken during a forum on Project NOAH at the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences, Aug. 23.)

Student groups stage cultural protest for human rights

By Inna Christine Cabel

As justice remains elusive for victims of different human rights violations in the country, University of the Philippines – Diliman (UP) student groups filled Palma Hall Feb. 17 with songs and poetry of protests.

“Rage Against Repression,” a cultural protest calling for the end of state fascism, was held to relaunch human rights youth network Tanggulan.

“Ito ay isang paraan ng pagpapakita na mulat ang kabataan sa kawalan ng hustisya na laganap sa mga pananamantala ng mga may kapangyarihan,” said Sachi Samaniego, member of the Union of Journalists of the Philippines – UP (UJP-UP).

UJP-UP, along with Himig Maskom and Alay Sining dedicated revolutionary songs such as “Rosas ng Digma” and self-written spoken word pieces to the victims of the Ampatuan and Kidapawan massacres.

On Nov. 23, 2009, 58 individuals including 32 media workers accompanying Esmael Mangudadatu on his way to file his certificate of candidacy for governor during election season were slain in an ambush in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Out of 197 accused, 112 have been arraigned. Andal Ampatuan Sr., one of the main suspects, died in July 2015.

The victims were tortured, killed and disposed in mass graves by men allegedly from the Ampatuan clan, a political rival of Mangudadatu’s and one of whose sons was incumbent Maguindanao governor at the time.

On the other hand, the 2016 Kidapawan massacre involved the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) violent dispersal of about 3,000 protesters who blocked several roads in Cotabato April 1 calling for the immediate release of calamity aid from the local government.

The incident left two farmers dead and 40 protesters injured.

The province was placed under a state of calamity on Jan 19. According to North Cotabato’s Crop Damage Report Summary, around 36,915 farmers were affected by the drought.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, Kidapawan Mayor Joseph Evangelista along with various local government officials and officers of the police and military were criminally charged for the dispersal.

Meanwhile, students also condemned the recent declaration of an all-out war by the government against communist rebels, citing it as a manifestation of state fascism.

According to UP Diliman University Student Council Councilor Ben Te, the need for the continuation of the peace process is essential to achieve just peace.

“Hinding-hindi po natin masasabi na mapayapa ang ating bansa, dahil sa iba’t ibang paraan nagdidigma ang ating estado, pinapatay ang kanyang mga mamamayan,” Te said.

“Gine-gyera niya ang mismong mamayang Pilipino na nabuhay, nahihirapan, para sa ating lipunan,” he added.

The armed struggle of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), established in 1968, is Asia’s longest-running communist insurgency.

Founded by Jose Maria Sison, the CPP aims to create a new democratic state headed by the working class, and is free from imperialism. The NPA is its armed unit while the National Democratic Front (NDF) represents the CPP to the Philippine government.

The first formal peace talks under the Duterte administration and the NDF started Aug. 22, 2016 in Oslo, Norway. On Aug. 25, Duterte also declared ceasefire with the CPP-NPA.

According to Kapayapaan, the meetings resulted to an agreement strengthening the joint monitoring mechanism for human rights and humanitarian law, the approval of several provisions on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and an exchange of drafts on political and constitutional reforms.

Duterte scrapped the peace talks Feb. 4, accusing the CPP-NPA of violating the ceasefire and finally terminating the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and ending the peace process on Feb. 7.

“It is an all-out war because they are already considered by the president as terrorist[s],” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a press briefing Feb. 9.

Both parties were supposed to meet on Feb. 22 to 27 to discuss the government’s proposal for a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

The CPP in a statement last Feb. 19 urged for the resumption of peace talks, reiterating their support for the agreement.

Peace advocates such as National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) chair Liza Maza and Sen. Loren Legarda, also urged the president to resume the peace process.

A peace talks forum also organized by Tanggulan will be held on Feb. 22. The events are part of the build-up campaign for the National Day of Walkout for Free Education, Human Rights and Just Peace to be held on Feb 23. #

National Space Agency proponent: PH space program will benefit the country

By Jeuel Barroso

Space development is essential to the Philippines for its progress and the growth of its societal sectors, said National SPACE Development Program Leader Dr. Rogel Sese in a forum at the University of the Philippines Diliman National Institute of Physics Feb. 13.

Sese, an astrophysicist, said the national space agency, which is currently still a program, will contribute “unquantifiable benefits” to the Philippines including more efficient agriculture and fishing methods, better communication services, better disaster reactions, and national and regional economic growth.

“Most people will look at this development of space mainly for contemporary impacts such as the launch of a satellite or a new launch facility, but what is more important are the enduring impacts of space,” Sese said in his ‘Crafting the Philippine Space Agency’ talk, citing the smartphone’s GPS as an example of space technology.

Aside from being Sese’s personal dream, the National SPACE Development Program was founded to “establish the necessary frameworks and foundations necessary for the future National Space Agency.”

Upon establishment, the Philippine Space Agency will be the country’s sole agency responsible for addressing all space-related matters and issues.

Established in 2013 as a business institution called Regulus SpaceTech, the project is now funded by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD).

According to the astrophysicist, the program can provide technology for the monitoring of crops and fisheries, as well as forests, seas, mountains and their pollution levels.

Communication applications of the program include global scale communications and satellite television.

In fact, the program’s Satellite Development Roadmap (SDR) is planned to provide free satellite data available for government agencies and the public.

Long-term research on Philippine climate as well as faster and more precise reactions to weather disasters can also be attained.

Incidentally, because of inadequate funding, President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration terminated Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) on Feb. 2. Project NOAH is a national disaster prevention and mitigation system crafted since 2012.

Moreover, the space agency will be the means to further develop the status of Philippine space development, which Sese claims is currently behind neighboring Asian countries.

“We are very dependent on foreign satellites… the Philippines only has one, which is the Diwata-1 microsatellite,” he said.

The astrophysicist further emphasized that the country lacks space scientists and engineers, has no ability to launch rockets to outer space, and is only signatory to one out of five international space treaties.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sese recognized the high cost of sustaining the space agency — a government-provided budget of at least P 24.4 billion as well as 800 trained space scientists and engineers for the next 10 years.

Nevertheless, the program seemed to have it easy through the legal process as two senate bills and four house bills were passed from September to December 2016 to legalize the agency.

The four were approved Jan. 31 by the House Committee on Government Reorganization and Science and Technology on its first reading.

“Frankly speaking we are told by people from the Congress and Senate that the rate that the space program is being pushed is very fast,” Sese said.

Likewise, a similar proposal to President Duterte on Jan. 9 was approved with an executive order currently awaiting signature.

“We need it for national development… having a space program is costly, but not having a space program is even costlier for the country,” Sese concluded. #