LGBTQ-Bicol marks World AIDS Day; urges quarterly HIV-AIDS screening by DOH


In a low key but moving ceremony, members of the LGBTQ (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders and Queers) community from various organizations in Bicol Region marked the World AIDS Day with the theme “Know Your Status” as they also called on the Department of Health (DOH) to conduct the HIV-AIDS screening quarterly instead of yearly. 

LGBTQ member and registered nurse Mylene Capin said, that if the screening is only done yearly, it might be too late for the person who is infected or afflicted with the disease to recover. 

“Mas maganda na maging quarterly ang screening para maagapan pa ang sakit, kasi di ba prevention is better than cure? Sa ganitong paraan we may be able to save lives,” said Capin.

Speaking on behalf of the 179 attendees who were mostly lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders who formed the 'human ribbon' during the symbolic candle-lighting as  closer of the first Bicol-wide LGBT congress in Legazpi City on December 1, she challenged Filipinos to get tested, and for victims and survivors to avail of the government's health services. 

Rising statistics

In Bicol alone, the Health Department recorded over 200 cases of HIV-AIDS from January to September 2018.

The DOH Epidemiology Bureau recorded that the 229 cases to date were higher than 226 cases it recorded in the same period last 2017.

Philippine Red Cross (PRC) volunteer and political science student at Bicol University Sydney Joseph Torrenueva said that as a volunteer he had already undergone various seminars on HIV-AIDS.  Through his engagement with the PRC  as a concerned citizen, he is able to share his knowledge to other students in his university by conducting information drive.

“Information education talaga ang paraan para mai-iwas natin ang ating mga kabataan lalo na ang members ng LGBTQ at iba pang studyante sa sakit na ito,” said the 19-year old Torrenueva.

But Torrenueva stressed that the programs of the DoH do not reach the grassroots.  “Maaaring may malakas na campaign sa taas pero hindi ito nakakarating sa baba. Pag ako maging abogado at maging kongresista, gusto kong gumawa ng batas na ima-mandate ang LGU na seryosohin ang ganitong isyu at maglatag ng paraan para sa prevention nito." 

Pending Bill

Meanwhile, members of the LGBTQ strongly support the passage of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) bill. 

House Bill No. 4982 or “An Act Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity or Expression and Providing Penalties Therefore” is considered the first of its kind in the Philippines. Other anti-discrimination bills have been filed in the past, but these were never SOGIE-specific, lumping the lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, and queer sector with others such as the differently abled or the indigenous groups.

“It’s high time to legislate a law that will protect the rights of the members of the LGBTQ community,” said Albert Abitan, regional chairman of LGBTQ Pilipinas-Bicol during the first LGBTQ congress.

Currently, SOGIE Bill which aims to protect members of the LGBTQ against discrimination is now on the 3rd and final reading at the House of Representatives.

“Sana nga maipasa na ang panukalang batas na iyan para naman iyon sa ikabubuti ng mga katulad kong miyembro ng LGBTQ,” said Abitan who also stressed that this marginalized sector is a productive member of the society who helps in building better communities. 

Rights of all

Resource person Kate Aventajado from the Department of Justice (DOJ) emphasized during the gathering that all people have inherent human rights that the State should protect regardless of sexual orientation.

“My right is your right. We are all equal. Our Constitution guarantees our human rights. Ang mga karapatang pantao ay inherent sa atin, it is not necessarily defined by our legislation,” said Aventajado. 

Human rights do not discriminate. “That before we engage in community building, one should learn his or her rights so that we can demand them from duty bearers. When we are empowered we can make those people who are accountable under the force of law,” she added.

Portrayal in media

The law may not discriminate the LGBTQ members on the basis of basic human rights as constitutionally-enshrined. But such treatment is different in media.

Seasoned journalist Malen Catajan, a senior reporter of Baguio-based Sun.Star Baguio said that at least on her part she is giving extra caution if and when the subject of the story is a member of the LGBTQ community.

“Dito kami magkaiba ng DOJ, kasi special ang kanilang sector. Nagiging maingat kami. Nagsimula ang isyu sa kaso ni Jennifer Laude, kung ano nga ba ang itatawag na prounoun sa kanya 'he or she' ba. Kinalaunan, naging politically correct na ito at tinawag na siyang 'she' ", said Catajan.

She stressed that it is not necessary for the media to mention sexual preference in the news. And that there is a need to create media  guidelines for stories involving LGBTQ to protect them against discrimination and further public humiliation. 

“Pag ang isang studyante ay na bully sa school on the basis of sexual orientation at panlabas na anyo kailangan bang banggitin ang pangalan ng bata? Hindi. Kasi lalo siyang mabu-bully,” she said.

Access to LGU health programs

Bacoor City Mayor Lani Mercado-Revilla on the other hand, shared the local policies they implemented for the protection of the rights and welfare of the LGBTQ community in her city.

“Masarap kayong kasama. No dull moment. You’re very creative. Mahusay sa lahat ng aspeto. Talo nyo lahat ng babae at lalaki because you have both worlds. Kayo ay masipag, determinado at gagawin ang lahat matupad lang ang pangarap,” said Mayor Revilla in her speech, boosting the morale of the participants while putting emphasis on their capacity to rise above adversities. 

In Bacoor City, Mercado established the Social Hygiene Clinic (SYC) that caters to all residents who want to be tested with HIV-AIDS.  She wants it replicated in other cities in the province of Cavite. "If I'm not mistaken Bacoor has high incidence of HIV cases but these people get to access our health programs and participate visibly in the affairs of our city." 

Meanwhile, Maricel Banzuela from DOH-Region V discussed the health services that the government is offering for the adolescents who members of the LGBTQ in the region. "They are the most vulnerable and need to be educated the most," she said, citing alarming cases which are in the ages 15-24 bracket.  "Pabata nang pabata ang mga na-iinfect." 

Giving a platform

The first LGBTQ Congress was organized by Kusog Bikolandia (KB)  founder and chairman Noel De Luna and facilitated by the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), to address issues and concerns of the LGBTQ community.  "We need to send a strong message across and that is to inform them of their rights and privileges under the law," said De Luna who also challenged legislators and prospective advocates to champion LGBTQ causes and advocacies. 

The other highlight of the event was the group activity which required the participants to propose programs and interventions for their sector.  "You are not a special lot but you deserve to be heard. It's only you who can charter your own course.  And that is your right," said Joenald Rayos, PPI trustee for Luzon and publisher of Batangas-based Ang Pahayagang Balikas.  (Lottie Salarda and Ariel Sebellino, PPI)

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PPI facilitates LGBTQ Congress in Bicol


In an unprecedented effort, and for the first time in its long history of conceptualizing and conducting training programs for its members and the media in general, the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), also known as the national association of newspapers since 1964, will help facilitate the first congress of the LGBTQ community on December 1 in Legazpi City.

The PPI has been tapped by local organizer Kusog Bikolandia to help facilitate its landmark event that will cater to and be attended by members of the LGBT sector. Titled "“Engaging LGBTQ for Community-Building and in Nation-Building Through Narratives” will put to the fore the challenges and interests of the vulnerable community in terms of knowing their legal rights, access to health services, and portrayal in media.

Around 300 participants from the LGBT community all over Bicol Region invited by Kusog Bikolandia, are expected to attend the first congress to address various issues surrounding LGBT. "It's high time we convene them and give them a venue to raise their concerns that our leaders should take cognizance of," said Noel De Luna, founder and chairman of Kusog Bikolandia.

Kusog Bikolandia is a new breed of regional political party formed in Bicol by businessmen and former government officials as an alternative political party that seeks new and young leaders in the region. "In this congress of the so-called marginalized and highly vulnerable sector and community, various issues and challenges confronting them will be put to the fore, whereby giving them a platform to express their sentiments and aspirations for themselves and the country," De Luna said.

KB also aims to champion genuine social equality, where every Bicolano shall be given access to the same basic needs: quality health services, education, livelihood, emergency assistance, pension and shelter (HELPS).

The PPI believes that being tapped to help conduct this initiative is well withing its mandate and flagship of "building better communities". "I see this as a stepping stone to coming up with guidelines on reporting on the LGBT which we actually don't have yet. We need to be inclusive. To write about them is even necessary to erase age-old problems of discrimination and perceived bad portrayal," said Ariel Sebellino, PPI executive director.

He further added that there was a discussion years ago about coming up with a training program for this kind of reporting. "Hopefully the local organizers will find it necessary to partner with the PPI for a media training to be able to craft the guidelines, adding to what we already have on children and women."

Culminating the one-day congress is a workshop that will require the participants to write and present recommendations and programs that will benefit them. Resource persons will be from the Department of Health, Department of Justice, LGU, and media. ###

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Visayas media on federalism: there must be strong public awareness


Journalists from the Visayas recognized the challenges they face when it comes to informing the public about the proposed federalism by President Rodrigo Duterte because of the insufficient information they are getting from the government on it.

In a seminar-workshop in Cebu City, the participants from various regions in the Visayas called on the government to have a strong public engagement and information campaign if it seriously wants federalism in public consciousness.
The journalists who attended the last leg of the seminar-workshop on Understanding Federalism in the Philippine Context  conducted by the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) with support from Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) and in partnership with the Pimentel Institute of Local Governance (PILG) last November 12-13, admitted that they have limited information about federalism.

Wala akong masyadong maisulat about federalism. Uninformed media is an uninformed public. Kaya kung wala kaming nalalaman paano kaya ang publiko?” said Rachel Arnaiz, a correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer in Northern Samar.

While it is the role of the journalists to make any topic such as federalism interesting for the readers, it is imperative for the  government, especially the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to strengthen its efforts for massive information dissemination up to the grassroots.

They challenged President Duterte to take a definitive stand and endorse a draft on federalism which he thinks will be good  for the country.  "Every provision in the draft charter that he is supposed to endorse matters a lot to every citizen in this country," said Jon Amio from Iloilo-based Panay News.
The participants proposed that every barangay must conduct a forum on federalism and not sugarcoat the pros and cons of various issues surrounding it in order for the public to have an informed vote during the plebiscite.

They noted that the seminar provided them the basic concepts on federalism that included decentralization of powers, judicial structures, equalization of funds, and taxation, to name a few.

Secretary Jesus G. Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process  highlighted the importance of knowledge of the journalists on federalism as are duty-bound to inform the public on national affairs and matters involving governance.

“If you are a real journalist, you go for the truth. If what you are quoting is accurate but your interviewee is not telling the truth, kaya may responsibility din tayo na alamin ang katotohanan,” Dureza said. “You also have to check the other side as much as possible. Yung expertise natin is something we have to work on.” Dureza.

PPI executive director Ariel Sebellino emphasized again that PPI is in no way promoting or campaigning against federalism.  "This is our way of educating our colleagues on the matter.  We find it important to bring this matter to the public since there are already efforts to disseminate information about this," he said.

The PPI, PILG, and HSF will conduct a short version of the program for the academic and communications sectors on December 10 at the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in cooperation with the Philippines Communication Society (PCS).


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National effort to address safety of journalists in the Philippines off to good start

From left to right: Ramon Tuazon, Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication; Luis Teodoro, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility; Red Batario, Center for Community Journalism and Development; Melinda Quintos De Jesus, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility; Asec. Lila Ramos Shahani, Philippine National Commission for UNESCO; Lars Bestle, International Media Support (IMS); Henriette Borg Reindholdt, IMS; His Excellency Jan Top Christensen, Ambassador of Denmark to the Philippines; Enrico Stampelli, Head of Development Cooperation Section, EU Delegation to the Philippines; Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya, IMS; Helle Wahlberg, IMS; Nonoy Espina National Union of Journalists of the Philippines; Rowena Paraan, ABS-CBN Corporation; Ariel Sebellino, Philippine Press Institute; Usec. Severo Catura, Presidential Human Rights Committee; Usec. Joel Egco, Presidential Task Force on Media Security

The first national multi-stakeholder consultation on the crafting of a Philippine plan of action on journalist safety took place in Manila on 7 November where civil society, government officials, media and academia gathered to improve the safety of journalists in the Philippines.

The meeting saw active participation of more than 80 representatives from 48 civil society, research agencies, media organizations and government institutions, indicating broad support for solving the challenge of safety of journalists.

“This meeting provided us with an opportunity to break down walls between our respective sectors – between civil society organizations, media and government – toward working together on a joint Philippine plan of action on the safety of journalists,” said Ramon Tuazon, president of the Asian Institute of Journalism Communication (AIJC), which organized the meeting with International Media Support (IMS).

The need for a joint national effort is underscored by the Philippines’recent ranking as fifth in the 2018 Global Impunity Index by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Since 1986, 157 work-related journalist deaths have been recorded by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), and there are constant reports of cyber bullying, online hacking, and verbal threats. Moreover, a climate of impunity for crimes against journalists exists despite both government and civil society initiatives to address the situation.

“What makes journalism such a dangerous profession in a country like ours, with our long history of relatively stable--if not always democratic--governance, facing a few comparatively minor attempts at sustained insurrection, is impunity,” said Lila Ramos Shahani, secretary general of the Philippines National Commission for UNESCO in her opening address.

“Our justice system remains perpetually clogged with pending cases. Indeed, impunity arguably remains the greatest challenge in fighting for a free and pluralist media landscape in the Philippines,” Ramos Shahani said.

The meeting was an opportunity to have an overview of the many individual initiatives taking place to address the safety of journalists across the country within areas such as advocacy and policymaking, monitoring and reporting journalist violations, building the safety skills of journalists, and mapping existing research and data on journalist safety in the Philippines.

“It is these single initiatives that now must come together to complement another to form a holistic approach in the shape of a national Philippine action plan. And they should address not only protection, but also prevention and prosecution,” said Lars Bestle, IMS head of department for Asia.

From left to right: Ramon Tuazon, Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication; Luis Teodoro, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility; Red Batario, Center for Community Journalism and Development; Melinda Quintos De Jesus, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility; Asec. Lila Ramos Shahani, Philippine National Commission for UNESCO; Lars Bestle, International Media Support (IMS); Henriette Borg Reindholdt, IMS; His Excellency Jan Top Christensen, Ambassador of Denmark to the Philippines; Enrico Stampelli, Head of Development Cooperation Section, EU Delegation to the Philippines; Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya, IMS; Helle Wahlberg, IMS; Nonoy Espina National Union of Journalists of the Philippines; Rowena Paraan, ABS-CBN Corporation; Ariel Sebellino, Philippine Press Institute; Usec. Severo Catura, Presidential Human Rights Committee; Usec. Joel Egco, Presidential Task Force on Media Security

In 2017, IMS released a global study Defending Journalism on best practices of national safety mechanisms in seven countries. Among other issues, the study emphasizes that the real impact of a national safety mechanism relies on the commitment of a broad coalition of media stakeholders from across sectors, from national and international civil society organizations to media and government.

Such commitment was demonstrated at the Philippine plan of action consultation meeting on 7 November, according to several participants who commended the positive attitudes displayed by fellow participants from government, law enforcement and media and press freedom organizations.

“I believe this meeting was important for both the career officers of the law and journalists who attended, as they were exposed to one another in a new and different setting and listened to one another’s perspectives,” said Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director of CMFR, also speaking as a representative of the Journalist Safety Advisory Group (JSAG) that advises the national safety plan process.

“On a daily basis, interaction between these two groups is adversarial. This meeting allowed both parties to [show] a positive attitude toward working together to improve the safety of journalists and will thus ease the way of developing partnerships as the process moves forward. Now, however, the most important thing will be to ensure proper follow-up of the consultations by all those involved,” de Jesus said.

Jay C. De Castro, legal consultant of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), was also of the opinion that the meeting had great value in bringing together media stakeholders.

“It was helpful to share information and to receive suggestions on how we can boost our efforts in PTFoMS, for example with a hotline for journalists. This joint process will be an opportunity to strengthen the work already being done by PTFoMS. I hope that we can meet again soon with all stakeholders to thresh out a joint plan of action on the safety of journalists,” he added.

Plans for driving the process forward in developing the envisioned “Philippine Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists (PPASJ)” are already in the pipeline. Regional consultations with media stakeholders across the country will take place over the next 12 months in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The aim is for all consultations to feed into a draft plan of action on safety which will be presented at the second national consultation towards the end of 2019 for enrichment and validation.

The Philippine Plan of Action would be the first of its kind in ASEAN.

The multi-stakeholder consultation meeting was organized by AIJC and IMS.

For more information on the Philippine journalist safety action plan consultation process, email and visit

PHOTO CAPTION: screenshot


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Culture-sensitive federalism fit for PHL – Luzon journos

Journalists from Luzon and the NCR agreed that a Filipino or Filipinized type of federalism that acknowledges the country's diverse cultures, traditions, religions, and regional dynamics will be applicable to the Philippines.
Amidst differing beliefs and apprehensions over the proposed federal form of government during the two-day seminar-workshop on Understanding Federalism in the Philippine Context conducted by the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) in Manila on October 11-12, with support from Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) and in partnership with the Pimentel Institute of Local Governance (PILG), thirty publishers, editors, and reporters expressed support for good governance no matter the form of government.
"Let's look at the CAR experience. We"ve been talking about autonomy for the longest time. In fact, our different tribes up there are the ones very much affected with all these issues on having an autonomous region," said Sonia Daoas, PPI trustee for Luzon and director of the Cordillera News Agency (CNA), one of the eight participants from Baguio.
Former senator and senate president Aquilino 'Nene' Pimentel Jr., regarded by many as the Father of Local Government Code and PILG Chairman, a proponent of the draft charter on federalism, explained the context, logic, and aspirations of the measure that seeks to decentralize the power of the national government and share its resources to the regions. "Outside Metro Manila, our provinces get measly shares which I think is not fair," Pimentel said.

Worries on the rise of political dynasties and nepotism if there will be federated regions, were clarified by Atty. Barry Gutierrez, a law professor at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, who discussed the salient provisions embodied in the draft constitution.

“Sa 1987 na Saligang Batas, nakasaad lang po doon ang probisyon na nagbabawal sa political dynasty pero subject pa rin siya ng batas na dapat maipasa ng Kongreso. Pero sa bagong draft, sa probisyon palang ay nakasaad na kung sinu-sino ay hindi pwedeng kumandidato sa pamilya. Sa ngayon po ang nakalagay ay nasa up to 2nd degree ng kapamilya ng isang politiko,” said Atty. Gutierrez.
Senator Pimentel who was one of the reactors to Gutierrez's presentation, said that the explicit provision on political dynasty seeks to end the commonplace dynastic politics and give chance to other candidates who are also qualified to run for any elective position.
After an intensive discussion on the pros and cons on federalism as presented by the speakers and panelists, the participants during the group activity and writeshop listed story ideas such as economic benefits to the regions, delivery of basic social services, shortening of bureaucratic processes, swift delivery of justice, ridding multi-party system, taxation, police, electoral reforms, among others. "These are more of questions waiting and wanting for answers. The public needs to know all these things," said Janet Valdez, a journalism professor at the Bulacan State University whose family partly owns Mabuhay, a multi-awarded community newspaper. Valdez who presented her group's output stressed the need for better understanding for better reportage.

The challenge now, according to her, is to echo the information to the grassroots, with local government units, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, academe, and media organizations doing their fair share in informing and educating the public about federalism. "The role of the media is to inform, educate, and stimulate critical thinking."

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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.

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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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