Governance, Democracy, Media: Building Better Communities

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As the country gears for a possible shift to a federal form of government, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. underscored the important role that media has to play in ensuring that Filipinos make an informed choice on the issue.

Pimentel, a member of the consultative committee tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte to propose changes to the 1987 Constitution, acknowledged that many Filipinos still do not understand the concept of federalism.

“This is why we need the media to play its role of educating our people. We need a free media to ensure that the dissemination of information is not controlled,” he said in his keynote speech during the 23rd National Press Forum of the Philippine Press Institute at Hotel Jen in Manila.

Former Commission on Elections chairman and 1986 Constitutional Convention member Christian Monsod agreed: “Media has a big role to play, especially in education campaign and in providing the people with real news, not fake news.”

Monsod said a free and vibrant press is crucial in ensuring that developments in the political scene translate into tangible benefits for all Filipinos.

“The biggest divide in our country is not culture or identity or territory but the divide between the rich and the poor...How can we best fulfill the promise of a new social order that serves the interests of the poor, who are supposed to be the center of our development?”

Monsod was cautious, though, of the proposed federal form of government, adding that in this part of the world, unitary systems such as Japan, South Korea, China and Indonesia) have proven to be successful models.

“Federalism is a risky, intricate political experiment that is vulnerable to unintended consequences,” he said.

Pimentel, however, maintained that a federal system under a presidential form of government was meant to “advance the welfare of the people, speed up their development. and hopefully dissipate the causes of rebellion in this country.”

In the same vein, but more on the political and economic aspects, Noel de Luna, founder and chairman of Kusog Bicolandia, an agenda-based regional political party that is aimed to focus more on local or domestic interests,  "resolved to serve the common interest of fellow Bicolanos by endeavoring, first of all, to be both self-reliant and dynamic."

"Can we be an autonomous state? Can we be part of a progressive unified group of islands called the Philippine archipelago under a Federalist state?", he addressed the PPI members during the fellowship dinner.

Erwin Caliba, chief of the Legal, Legislative and Linkages of the Policy Advisory Office of the Commission of Human Rights, said the quest for autonomy is also a “mechanism to address exclusion and enhance the participation of minorities.”

Cheryl Daytec-Yangot, former Justice assistant secretary and a lecturer on issues concerning Indigenous Peoples, said all stakeholders, including the media, should move to empower minorities whose voices are drowned out in the mainstream national discourse.

Although I am not really convinced that federalism is the cure, for our indigenous peoples in the country, it may work,” she said.

Gotz Heinicke, resident representative of PPI partner Hanns Seidel Foundation, underscored how the lack of free speech and assembly is “the greatest menace to freedom” today.

“Public discussion is a political duty...such openness results in better governance and better communities,” he said.

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The Call for Federalism is Not Yet Dead

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By Noel De Luna

Chairman, Kusog Bicolandia

While it first came in dramatic fashion, with then newly-installed President Rodrigo Duterte pushing for the shift to the federal system of government to help spur long-stunted development in the provinces, the idea soon fizzled out.  It is only now that we seem to be talking about Federalism once again.

With the President’s consultative body on charter change opting for a shift from the present unitary-presidential system of government to federal system, the effort seems to have not succeeded in selling the idea to the ordinary folks.  Many of these ordinary folks, especially those in the countryside, have not heard of it, much more understand it.

What is ironic is that many would have wanted it, embrace it if only we discuss about it or explain its merits to them in their own language.

Even before the proposal to shift to the Federalist form of government became fashionable, many Bicolanos had already been mulling the idea of Bicol Autonomy.

Bicol Autonomy in its all intentions, form and substance is a step away to the proposed Federal System of Government that involves all regions in the country. It is an idea that has the structure fit for federalism.

Under the proposed Autonomous Bicol Movement, a Regional Government shall be adopted, among others, for the democratic sharing of wealth, power and opportunities among the inhabitants of the Region regardless of ethnic origin, creed, sex, language, political conviction, and economic or social status.

It shall also ensure the right of the people to participate and be equitably represented at appropriate levels of social, economic, political decision-making and in the formulation, implementation, and monitoring of local, regional, and national priorities, plans, and programs.

Moreover, the Regional Government that it shall establish shall safeguard equal opportunities to all qualified citizens of the Region to run for public office; thereby prohibiting any form of political dynasty as mandated by the Constitution and in accordance with the yet to be drafted Bicol Autonomous Charter.

In the same vein, but more on the political and economic aspects, we founded last year Kusog Bikolandia, an agenda-based regional political party that is aimed to focus more on local or domestic interests. As its Chairman of the Board, we resolved to serve the common interest of fellow Bicolanos by endeavoring, first of all, to be both self-reliant and dynamic.

Can we be an autonomous state? Can we be part of a progressive unified group of islands called the Philippine archipelago under a Federalist state?

Let me answer that question by first introducing to you the Bicol Region, my region, its natural wealth and its people.

 

Bicol Region

The Bicol Region, otherwise known as Bicolandia, comprises the southern part of Luzon. Due to its strategic location, it serves as the gateway to the Visayas and Mindanao, as well as gateway to travellers and investors from the South to the rest of Luzon that includes Metro Manila.

Bicol’s total land area is 5.9% of the total land area of the country. Around 69.3% of the total land area is alienable and disposable while the remaining 30.7% is public forest areas.

Its population as of 2015 Census is 5.79 Million scattered throughout its 6 provinces, 7 cities, 107 municipalities, and 3,471 barangays.

It is home to known political leaders and has produced iconic personalities in various fields of human endeavor, including the arts and the entertainment sector. It has produced the first Filipino bishop, Monsignor Jorge Barlin. Its more popular heroes, political giants and statesmen, then as now, include Wenceslao Vinzons, Joe Maria Panganiban, Sens. Dominador Aytona, Joker Arroyo, Raul Roco, the Albertos of Catanduanes and Espinosas of Masbate, Jesse Robredo, as well as the Fuentebellas, Villafuertes, Andayas, Imperials, Bicharas, Escuderos, and the Salcedas. No less than our Vice President Leni Robredo is from Naga City, my hometown.

The Superstar Nora Aunor is from Bicol. As well as Boots Anson Roa, Amalia Fuentes, Aga Muhlach, Gary Valenciano, Dindo Fernando,  Mary Walter, Celia Rodriguez, Miss Universe Catriona Gray, and the late Eddie Garcia, to name a few.

Since the ancient times, Bicolanos have already been mining copper and smelting iron in Masbate that were fashioned into crude weapons, tools, utensils, farm implements and ornaments.  But the mineral wealth has been barely tapped, except those in Camarines Norte, Sorsogon and Masbate. We have a geothermal reservoir of boiling water that has been harnessed into massive plants that spin giant turbines to generate electric power.

Our natural icon, Mayon Volcano has its fossil fuels supplied by abundant rainwater that keep running hot through subterranean rocks. It dominates the landscape with its perfect cone that has drawn and continues to draw thousands of tourists anytime of the year. The volcano has made the land fertile, with abaca and other fruit trees and crops indigenous to the region growing on its feet and in forests.

Bicol is also home to 13 major fishing grounds that supply fish markets as far as Metro Manila. It is one of highest producers of palay, abaca, corn and coconut. It has voluminous mineral reserves including gold, copper, silver, iron, phosphate rock, perlite, red clay, marble, guano and bentonite. Energy sources include geothermal like the Tiwi and Bacon-Manito geothermal plants that supply the Luzon Power Grid.

The list of resources is almost endless. It has hydropower plants in Buhi, Camarines Sur, and in Guinlajon, Sorsogon; wind resources in Baleno, Masbate; Donsol and Matnog, Sorsogon; higher terrains in Virac, Catanduanes and some parts of Burias Island; potential ocean thermal energy in Camarines and Catanduanes provinces; coal reserves in Batan, Albay, Cantanduanes and Masbate; and downstream oil facilities/depot in Pasacao, Camarines Sur, and Masbate, Masbate, with a total storage capacity of 87.9 million barrels.

As our fellow journalist and writer Carmen N. Pedrosa while in Bicol only a few years ago has observed: Bicolandia’s aspiration for autonomy is distinctly economic. “They hope to answer the question if Bicol is so rich with natural resources, why is it so poor?”

 

Bicol Autonomy

Many believe that with greater autonomy, the Bicol Region as a federal state will definitely be something much better than today.

Accordingly, the creation of autonomous regions nationwide would serve as the transition for the federal set-up from the prevailing unitary system of government.

At this time, we need to discuss more with our people what autonomy and federal system of government are all about. We shall explain its advantages, as well as open for discussion and debate its disadvantages, perceived or otherwise, so that as early as now we may tell them that there are ways to hurdle such flaws and disadvantages. These debates and wider information dissemination campaign may be conducted in small town hall meetings, barangay consultations, through radio programs, fora, classrooms, the social media, and even in the homes. And as I said, they must be explained in layman’s tongue, in the language that ordinary people understand so that they can embrace the noble idea with their whole heart.

Our campaign for Bicol autonomy shall be focused on the economic aspect and how solutions can be arrived at to ease poverty in the region and bring progress and improved standard of living to everyone.

Such massive campaign shall likewise require strong political will as we seek to eventually shift to federalism.

The next time some of us may cry that the call for Federalism is now dead, I might as well invite you to see its relevance to Bicol as an emerging economy that under a new system of government will become less dependent from Imperial Manila.

Presently, we need to see the early completion of our international airport and the expansion and modernization of two existing domestic airport, such as Daet and Naga. We also need to rehabilitate the long dormant South Luzon end of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) and the improvement of our seaports in various provinces. These, I believe, will be hastened under a Federal System of Government where we shall earn enough revenues from trading and commerce because of our rich natural resources, say for example from our geothermal resource, abundant agricultural and maritime products, and the manufacturing and processing of these natural minerals and resources.

And may I say that while some Bicolanos as of now avoid using the term federalism, they are not actually averse to following the federalist principle. Such federalist principle, as we now see, is closely inspired by our favorable sentiment toward greater regional autonomy for Bicol.

Salamat po.

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PPI hails Civic Journalism Community Press awardees

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As the print industry continues to face challenges brought about by disruptive technology and innovation and a changing consumer landscape, the Philippine Press Institute shone the spotlight on the best of the best among the community newspapers across the country.

Cebu Daily News bagged three of five major awards for the daily newspaper category for the 2018 Civic Journalism Community Press Awards, namely the Best Edited Community Newspaper, Best Editorial Page, and Best in Photojournalism.

Edge Davao, on the other hand, garnered the Best in Business and Economic Reporting and Best in Environment Reporting awards for the daily newspaper category.

Baguio-based weekly newspapers Herald Express and Baguio Chronicle were awarded the Best Edited Newspaper and Best in Environment Reporting, respectively, for the weekly newspaper category.

Other winners were The Bohol Chronicle for the Best Editorial Page; Cagayan de Oro’s Business Week Mindanao for Best in Business and Economic Reporting; and Dumaguete’s Metro Post for Best in Photojournalism.

“The industry is being buffeted by dizzying winds of change. Today – as in the past – any technology that accelerates information has the power to disrupt; so it is with the internet and social media...We must adapt to the technology sooner or later if we are to survive. We have to be realistic that this world has changed and adapt to the reality on the ground,” newly-elected PPI chairman and Manila Standard publisher Rolando Estabillo said.

Despite the challenges, Estabillo said newspapers, especially community papers, have the responsibility, more now than ever, to continue reporting on issues that have direct impact on Filipinos.

Speaking on behalf of the winners, Dexter See of Baguio’s Herald Express acknowledged as much: “It takes hard work, and involves pure sacrifice and passion for the job. That’s why we are here.”

The board of judges for the press awards was composed of Joyce Babe Pañares, PPI trustee and news editor of Manila Standard as chairperson; Nickel Asia Corporation vice president for corporate communication Jose Bayani Baylon; Science and Development Network Asia Pacific Coordinator Joel Adriano; University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication dean Arminda Santiago; and Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines member Angelo de Silva.

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PPI Elects New Board of Trustees

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Manila Standard publisher Rolando Estabillo was elected as the new chairman and president of the Philippine Press Institute.

Estabillo took the helm from former Ang Pilipino Star Ngayon editor-in-chief Al Pedroche, who described the PPI as the "most untainted media organization" in its 55 years of existence.

Estabillo, who was elected unanimously by representatives of print publications from Mindanao, Visayas, Luzon, and Metro Manila, thanked the members for their trust and confidence in his leadership.

Former Corporate Secretary Amelia Cabusao (Mindanao Times) was elected Vice President, while Joenald Rayos (Pahayagang Balikas) was reelected Treasurer and Dexter See (Herald Express) was elected as Corporate Secretary.

Reelected as Regional Trustees were Rayos and See for Luzon; former PPI Vice President Alex Rey Pal (The Dumaguete Metropost), and Dalmacio Grafil (Leyte Samar Daily Express) for Visayas; Cabusao and Adrian Michael Amatong (The Mindanao Observer) for Mindanao.

Pedroche, during the annual membership meeting of the national organization of newspapers at Hotel Jen in Pasay Thursday, commended the secretariat of PPI, led by Executive Director Ariel Sebellino.

He likewise thanked PPI's partners, especially Nickel Asia Corporation (NAC), for continuously supporting responsible journalism, especially the community press.

In his reported presented to PPI members, Sebellino said the organization has consistently pushed for its advocacy to fight disinformation through its scholastic outreach program. It likewise organized three workshops on federalism with the support of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

PPI will host a National Press Forum today (Friday) with the theme " Governance, Democracy, Media: Building Better Communities.” Former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. will serve as keynote speaker.

Guest speakers include Erwin Caliba, the Chief of Legal, Legislative and Linkages of the Policy Advisory Office of the Commission on Human Rights to talk about autonomy as a mechanism that addresses the exclusion of cultural communities and Christian Monsod to discuss the Puno Federalism.

HSF Resident Representative Gotz Heinicke will also deliver a message.

Cheryl Daytec-Yangot, a lecturer on Indigenous Peoples issues will deliver her reaction while Romel Bagares will synthesize the session.

PPI will cap its 23rd National Press Forum with the 2018 Civic Journalism Community Press Awards.

Vying for these awards are dailies Edge Davao, Cebu Daily News, Sun.Star Davao, Sun.Star. Cebu, Sun.Star Pampanga, Sun.Star Baguio; and weeklies The Mindanao Cross, BusinessWeek Mindanao, The Bohol Chronicle, Metro Post, Herald Express, Baguio Chronicle and Northern Forum.

The board of judges is chaired by Manila Standard News Editor Joyce Panares, AIJC President Ramon R. Tuazon, and NAC Vice President for Communications JB Baylon.

 

Photos by Kurt Zubieta and Rogine De Mata Rogelio

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IT SHALL NOT DIE.

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On the 55th anniversary of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), also known as the national association of Philippine newspapers, established in 1964, we do not only celebrate its longevity but remind ourselves of its relevance and mandate in both national and community affairs as the fourth estate and watchdog.

While the organization remains steadfast and committed to upholding the legacy of the media workers who initiated its creation 55 years ago, and all efforts by individuals and groups in safeguarding and fighting for a free press to this day --- we shall continue to regard the principles and values of professional and ethical journalism as fundamental to serving the public and keeping up with the evolving media landscape.

Our positions on several media issues, in solidarity with other media groups remain the same: unite against and condemn any form of violence towards media workers.

The print is not dying. It will not die. It is - being and will be - challenged by other platforms, news or otherwise.

Newspapers have survived the test of times.

There's nothing like -- the smell of ink used to weave words, turning pages, headlines jumping out from the frame, sharing the paper to the next reader, fancying a menagerie of contents, running the fingers across a tapestry of creative visuals, and being part of history as it unfolds.

We thank all our partners, major and minor, for journeying with us and providing the needs for our programs. There are no small contributions. We treasure old and current partnerships, and welcome those with well-meaning efflorts and values that are congruent with PPI's.

Lastly, salute to the PPI members! You are the reason for its being.

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PPI at 55: Building Better Communities

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This year marks the 55th anniversary of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), also known as the national association of newspapers. This milestone serves as a testament to the enduring two-pronged vision of PPI: 1) To defend press freedom; and 2) to promote ethical standards within the ranks of its member-publications.

“We do not only celebrate its longevity but remind ourselves of its relevance and mandate,” said Alfonso Pedroche, outgoing PPI chairman-president and retired former editor-in-chief of Pilipino Star Ngayon.

As in previous years, PPI is holding yet another edition of the National Press Forum on July 4 and 5 in Manila, not only in celebration of its founding but, more importantly, to bring together the members in a once-a-year opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion on an issue that matters to the public and all of the Philippine media. The publishers and editors from the member-newspapers will be joined by guests from the academe, government, embassies, and civil society organizations.

The theme for this year is “Governance, Media, and Democracy: Building Better Communities,” around which the PPI aims to have a discussion that, among others, will highlight the role of media in both local and national affairs as the fourth estate and watchdog. “Building Better Communities” is the slogan for PPI’s flagship program which is civic journalism.

“We couldn’t stress enough the role of the print media. PPI in fact has been a witness and participant in the evolving media landscapes which also saw the growth of community press since the inception of the organization fifty-five years ago,” said PPI executive director Ariel Sebellino. He also attested that newspapers have survived the tests of time.

Alex Pal, a publisher of a Dumaguete-based community newspaper and PPI vice-chairman said that it is even more challenging for a small paper to sustain its operations despite difficult times. “The last time they said print was dying, we’re still here, active in our role as catalysts for change and a platform for civic engagement.” His weekly newspaper MetroPost is a finalist in this year’s Civic Journalism Community Press Awards.

 

 

 

The PPI Board took note of this year’s conference theme as timely and relevant “as we also try to have an insightful look at a new system of government that has been a subject of discourse for the longest time”.

Senator Aquilino ‘Nene’ Pimentel, Jr., considered as the father of local government code and a staunch advocate of federalism will share his take on it. Atty. Christian Monsod will discuss the (proposed) Puno Federalism in relation to preserving democracy and promoting press freedom. “Social justice and economy are just two of the major shortcomings of the Puno Constitution,” said Monsod in response to the PPI invitation. Atty. Erwin Caliba will talk about autonomy as a mechanism to address exclusion of minorities. Atty. Cheryl Daytec-Yañgot, a staunch advocate of IP issues, will react to all three presentations.

This year’s event is being supported again by Nickel Asia Corporation as its principal partner for the conference and awards, and in part by Kusog Bikolandia and Hanns Seidel Foundation as major sponsors, SM Investments Corporation as minor sponsor, Smart Communications, PAGCOR, Ayala Corporation, Land Bank of the Philippines, San Miguel Corporation, PAGLAS Group, McDonald’s, PCSO, and Hotel Jen.

PPI’s current program partners, led by Nickel Asia Corporation will take center stage in the Industry Forum as they talk about “engaging communities” in relation to their programs and advocacies in the communities they serve.

The Civic Journalism Community Press Awards, now on its 23nd season will highlight the two-day event. There are six dailies and 7 weeklies vying for five major categories, namely: best in photojournalism, best in environmental reporting, best in business and economic reporting, best editorial page, and best edited paper.

The finalists are: Baguio Chronicle, MetroPost, The Mindanao Cross, The Bohol Chronicle, BusinessWeek Mindanao, Herald Express, and Northern Forum for the weekly category; and Sun.Star Baguio, Cebu Daily News, Sun.Star Davao, Sun.Star Pampanga, Sun.Star Cebu, and Edge Davao for the daily category.

The awards program, the only one of its kind by far, is being managed by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC) and supported by Nickel Asia Corporation (NAC).

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

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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

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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

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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.
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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 safeguardingpressfreedom@gmail.com and visit www.mediasupport.org.

PHOTO CAPTION: screenshot

 

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