Mindanao journos challenge gov’t to explain details of federalism


Journalists from Mindanao has challenged the Philippine government to explain thoroughly the details of federalism for the general Filipino public, this despite the seemingly high level of awareness of Mindanaoans on the proposed form of government as campaigned by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed the presidency in July 2016.

The context of a federal form of government has been occasionally discussed by President Duterte in his public speeches but details such as sharing of powers between the national and regional government, taxation, and transition have not been fully explained.

In a seminar-workshop for media practitioners in Mindanao in Cagayan de Oro on October 8 and 9 on Understanding Federalism in the Philippine Context organized by the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) in partnership with the Pimentel Institute for Leadership and Governance (PILG) with the support of Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF), both participants and resource persons asked about the readiness of the Philippines to have federated regions and its implications on various facets such as judiciary, health care system, and natural capital, among others.

Majority of the thirty participants who attended the seminar-workshop agreed that there are gaps in communicating federalism to the public because of the weak communication planning of the government.

"On one hand, they said it's going to be costly. Talking about cost but what about its benefits?," said political strategist Malou Tiquia, founder and chief executive officer of Publicus Asia, Inc. She said that the present government failed to define federalism and explain its implications on the lives of the common Filipinos.

“Will it change my life? Will it serve better justice? Hindi ito masagot sa federalism. Only economic and political powers ang concern nila.” She challenged Mindanao journalists to communicate the Mindanao narrative.

Seasoned journalist Butch Enerio, correspondent of SunStar Cagayan de Oro, admitted the dearth of reports on federalism and acknowledged the importance of understanding the basic information about federalism in the local media so they can expound and articulate the issues to their readers or listeners.

“We need to be updated as well. You see there are various types of federalism. Journalists must study federalism so there will be minimal errors once we convey the information to the public,” Enerio said.

Rodolfo Vicerra, an expert on congressional planning and budgeting explained the comparison between the draft by the Constitutional Commission (ConCom) and the present 1987 Constitution. Vicerra said there are minimal changes in the provisions of the 1987 Constitution that were found in the ConCom draft.

“Maybe if you could multiply the Ombudsman into different regions mapapadali ang investigation sa mga cases against erring officials, but right now under the unitary system, it is now monopoly of the Ombudsman,” said Vicerra citing weak points on Accountability of Public Officers.

Former journalist and now executive director of the Center for International Law, Atty. Romel Bagares on his reaction to the salient provisions of the draft charter, observed the absence of mutual communication between the government and the public. “Right now, 75% of Filipinos are not aware of federalism. There’s an absence of mutual communication. Federalism was designed to unite and not to divide," Bagares said. "Pre-conditions should be set so it can take off but it will take time, say 15-20 years."

Another challenge that he sees is the funding source of the implementation of federalism that according to the Department of Finance (DOF) would cost P300 billion while Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) pegged it at P15 billion.

With unresolved issues surrounding the proposal to change the form of government, Mindanao journalists believed that the government should study the proposal well, identify the model of federalism suited to the Philippines, explain in details its aspects, and not rush things.

"Äfter all, only Mindanaoans can charter their own course," Enerio said in a hopeful tone.

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PPI organizes federalism seminars for journalists

Federalism Banner for Checking-10

The Philippine Press Institute (PPI), also known as the national association of newpapers, in partnership with the Pimentel Institute for Leadership and Governance (PILG) and with support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF), a non-profit association funded mainly by the Federal Government of Germany, will conduct two seminar-workshops for journalists on Understanding Federalism in the Philippine Context on October 8-10 in Cagayan de Oro City for Mindanao media and October 11-13 in Manila for Luzon and NCR media.

The workshops aim to discuss the salient points of the draft charter on federalism, significant aspects and characteristics of a federal form of government, and various issues surrounding the proposed federalism such as the allocation of authority and power between national and state governments. taxation, and management and distribution of natural resources, to name a few. The Peace Process and Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) will also be presented.

Thirty journalists for each leg are expected to participate in the two-day seminar whose program includes a group activity, a panel discussion, and a mini-press conference.

PPI executive director and trustee Ariel Sebellino said that the activity is the first ever media-initiated seminar-workshop for journalists that will focus on the draft charter. "We want to contribute to the discourse and in a way, educate the public and engage stakeholders for insightful discussion," he said. Sebellino added that there's more to it than just the pros and cons. "We are not promoting it or campaigning against it."

Former Senator Aquilino 'Nene' Pimentel Jr., regarded as the father of the Local Government Code, in support to the Proposed Recommendations of the Constitutional Committee for the Adoption of the Federal System of Government for the Republic of the Philippines, believes that both Christians and Muslims including the indigenous peoples will benefit from the federated regions. "I am confident that law and order, leading to peace and development will follow as a matter of course,” Pimentel.

He lauded the Constitutional Committee for its recommendations that "now place the right of our people to modernize our country and develop themselves at the doorsteps of the citizens of our Republic who are residing in the proposed Federated Regions".

Among the more outstanding provisions recommended for inclusion in the new Constitution, he said, are the articles that assure our people actual and speedy delivery of justice. "For delay in the delivery of justice is one of the most pressing problems of our land. And without justice, our living lives worthy of human beings would be impossible,” Pimentel added.

Pimentel will be the pro-federalism panelist in the Manila leg. Joining him in the panel are Malou Tiquia of Publicus Asia and Atty. Romel Bagares of the Center for International Law.

Goetz Heinicke, Resident Representative of the Hanns Seidel Foundation in the Philippines said that Filipinos have to decide whether or not federalism makes sense for the Philippines. "As a foreigner and visitor to this country, I cannot and I do not have to answer this question. But I am quite proud to come from Germany, a federal country, in which Bavaria, “my federal state,” has developed from the poorest state after WWII to the best, richest and most attractive one today, thanks to the Federal System that we introduced in our new Constitution in Germany after the war," he said.

Heinicke also believes that the shift to a federal system cannot be done by somebody alone and means hard work and engagement for everyone, especially for the civil society.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has declared his intention to change our current form of government to a federal form. A consultative committee was formed to study this option and elicit public support.

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Federalism Banner for Checking-10
Is the Philippine ready for a federal form of government?
Discussions on federalism have not been fully reported in mainstream media. If there were, the public’s knowledge about it has been limited to pushing for its establishment as a new system of government vis-à-vis constitutional change. This seminar aims to examine the characteristics of a federal form of government: the allocation of authority and power between national and state governments for example. It shall explore the historical underpinnings and normative theories of federalism, evaluate federalism doctrines from other countries, and consider the role of federalism in contemporary political/social issues.

Not so much as it’s being a controversial topic but taking a hard look at its value in terms of good governance in the context of democracy. In so doing, answer some questions such as: What is the value of a federal system? Are federated regions or states in this case even necessary to securing the benefits attributed to a federal structure? What is the scope of federal power? To what extent should this original understanding inform judicial decision making today, given changes in our country (and in the international arena)? Who should be primarily responsible for safeguarding federalism? What is the relationship between federalism and individual rights? What role does federalism play in contemporary debates on issues such as (but not limited to) peace process, Bangsamoro, health care, exploitation of natural resources, and taxation?

Though the focus of the seminar is on federalism against the backdrop of charter change, media practitioners hopefully shall consider federalism in an informative (beyond pros and cons) context to broaden the discourse and enlighten the public of its intricacies.

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[Regional] As press freedom declines, so does religious freedom in Southeast Asia


Amid declining media freedom in Southeast Asia, freedom of religion or belief is also in a downward spiral.

Five countries in Southeast Asia have been named “worst offenders of religious freedom” despite belonging to the most diverse region in terms of belief.

“That should give us pause as to what is going on in our part of the world,” said the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) Ahmed Shaheed at the public lecture held Monday (20 August 2018) at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand and organized by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA).

Myanmar and Vietnam have been designated as “countries of particular concern,” where governments are “engaged in or tolerate systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom,” according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

In its 2018 report, the USCIRF documented religious freedom violations and progress in 28 countries in 2017.

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) documents the deterioration of religious freedom conditions in many countries in 2017

Religious freedom continued to deteriorate globally in 2017, noted the report released early this year. Such decline often “intersected with authoritarian practices characterized by hostility toward dissent, pluralism, independent media, and active civil society, or took place under the guise of protecting national security or countering terrorism.”

Among the “myriad religious freedom challenges the government of Burma (also known as Myanmar) confronted in 2017, the crisis in Rakhine State was the most exigent,” said the report.

“Military and security forces launched a brutal response to attacks carried out by Rohingya Muslim insurgents against border guard and law enforcement personnel in October 2016 and August 2017.”

One of the key findings on Vietnam highlighted the spate of state violations of human rights in 2017, including freedom of religion and expression. That year Vietnam hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit attended by world leaders. But instead of using the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to a rules-based international order, the government amplified human rights abuses, including against freedom of religion or belief.

“The government’s crackdown on religion, expression, association, and assembly was nationwide, suggesting a concerted effort to silence critics and peaceful activists while the world was watching.”

Indonesia, Laos, and Malaysia were included in the second category, or “countries where the violations meet one or two, but not all three” of these respective elements.

Other forms of FoRB violations observed in specific countries were coercion; unjustified or disproportionate limits on manifestation; discrimination, repression, and persecution; gender inequality and gender-based violence; corporal punishment; and hate crimes, noted the rapporteur.

“When a state suppresses press freedom, it’s a part of suppressing freedom of expression. It suppresses therefore forms of expression based on religion. It’s not an environment in which FoRB could thrive,” said Shaheed, who also rued the shrinking of civic space globally.

Southeast Asia is no exception. All ten member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations landed in the bottom third of the 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Shaheed said promoting and protecting FoRB could help advance other human rights and have implications for state efforts to provide space for the enjoyment of freedoms, including freedom of expression.

“All human rights are interdependent, universal, and interrelated,” he added.

Freedom of religion or belief overlaps with numerous other human rights

He said empirical studies conducted over an extended period of time show that  countries which had restrictions on FoRB were prone to have high levels of conflict than those that did not. Thus, having space for FoRB was a way to minimize conflict over time, he said.

“When you respect human rights, when you respect FoRB rights, we have better prospects for peace (and prosperity),” he said.

Shaheed shared that Southeast Asian states have a very low engagement with mechanisms to alleviate the FoRB problems and issues in the region. He said his office is currently exploring potential mechanisms that be could be effectively used to address such challenges in the region.

“The whole idea of human right is to promote human agency. Human rights is about increasing the ability of each person to enjoy his or her life to the full without harming other people,” he said.

Adding that a commitment to strengthen freedom of religion or belief enhances other rights: “The individual has to have the space for pursuing life plans” without coercion and discrimination.

Original post here.

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PPI elects four officers and six regional trustees


01. Alfonso Gomez Pedroche, Pilipino Star Ngayon - Chairman-President (Re-elected)
02. Alex Rey Pal, MetroPost (Dumaguete City) - Trustee for Visayas and Vice-Chairman
03. Amalia Montecillo Bandiola, Mindanao Times (Davao City) - Trustee for Mindanao and Corporate Secretary (Re-elected)
04. Joenald Medina Rayos, Pahayagang Balikas (Batangas) - Treasurer and Trustee for Luzon (Re-elected)
05. Sonia Daoas, Cordillera News Agency (Baguio City) - Trustee for Luzon (Re-elected)
06. Adrian A. Amatong, Mindanao Observer - Trustee for Mindanao (Re-elected)
07. Dalmacio Massey Candido Grafil, Leyte Samar Daily Express (Tacloban City) - Trustee for Visayas (Re-elected)

Manila Trustees (are Representatives from):
08.The Philippine Star
09.. Manila Standard Today
10. Malaya Business Insight
11. Journal Group
12. Philippine Daily Inquirer

13. Ariel C. Sebellino - Executive Director (Ex-Officio)


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Alfonso Pedroche at PPI NPF 2018

By Alfonso Pedroche, PPI-Chairman

The supply of newsprint runs short as the number of trees, from where paper is derived dwindles fast. As a result, the cost of newsprint rises to an exorbitant proportion even as the prices of other wherewithals in newspaper or magazine production (such as ink) are turning almost prohibitive.

Advertisers are fast shifting to other effective platforms in the cyber space in lieu of the newspapers or magazines.

The print media is first of all a platform to pursue various advocacy paramount of which is truthful information, but just like any other endeavors, it needs money to keep going. Without the mainstream press, the people’s right to truthful information is at stake.

The social media in cyber space may offer a potential venue to inform but it hasn’t reached the point of being dependable, as any Tom, Dick and Harry have an easy access to propagate brazen lies and unconfirmed reports that can deprive the people of their opportunity to shape correct and reasonable opinions on different issues.

Our country is in such a dilemma. Fake news on social media is so rampant and is even used as propaganda armaments of certain people to malign the reputations of others.

Sadly, some people subscribing to the social media can be so gullible to embrace disinformation, hook, line and sinker. There is yet no better replacement for the print media in conveying factual information. It may not always be perfect but should there be anything amiss, there is always an opportunity to correct what is wrong, not to mention that the accountability is readily determinable.

Though there are great hurdles along the way resulting from the vicissitudes of the modern times, print media shall continue struggling to survive.

22nd NPF Graphics Final-01

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