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Persons with disabilities and the State with disabilities

The period of Nov. 10 to 16 is Deaf Awareness Week in the Philippines, while Dec. 3 is the “International Day of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the Philippines. The annual celebrations of Deaf Awareness Week and the International Day of PWDs in the country started in 1991 and 2006, respectively.

The interface of disaster and conflict in the Philippines

Last October, a series of strong earthquakes hit Central Mindanao (Region XI, Region XII and BARMM), killing and injuring people, displacing thousands of residents, and damaging and/or destroying thousands of structures. According to the group Save the Children, more than 3 million school-aged children were affected, with more than 180 classrooms completely destroyed. Kidapawan City, Davao, and Cotabato are among the areas that are reported to have incurred major damage in infrastructure.

Universities as truth-seeking institutions

In this post-truth age, institutional autonomy is the most valuable attribute that universities vigorously defend. We see more and more cases around the world of how governments have directly and indirectly challenged academic freedom. From the dwindling support of politically sensitive research projects to the closing down of universities altogether, these threats make higher education’s responsibility to engage with and for society more difficult than ever.

A separate department for OFWs: Should we?

AS OF THIS writing, more than 30 bills proposing the creation of a separate department for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) have been filed in the House of Representatives and the Senate. In this piece, I present the proposed bills and then lay out the positions of the various stakeholders, from government and civil society, as shared during a round table discussion (RTD) on Sept. 13 which I participated in. The RTD was organized by the Center for Migrant Advocacy – Philippines (CMA) and the Working Group on Migration (WGM) of the Department of Political Science of Ateneo de Manila University (full disclosure: I am affiliated with both organizations). After presenting the various positions, I add my own thoughts on what should be considered in this policy debate.

A separate department for OFWs: Should we?

As of this writing, more than 30 bills proposing the creation of a separate department for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) have been filed in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The proposal is not new. It was one of President Duterte’s campaign promises in 2016, but it was vigorously pursued until recently, in July 2019, when the President gave a directive to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to ensure that the new department is created before the end of the year. According to President Duterte, this new department was necessary “to protect migrant workers from illegal recruitment.”

Security sector governance and reform in Southeast Asia

Security Sector, according to the United Nations, is a broad term often used to describe the structures, institutions, and personnel responsible for the management, provision and oversight of security in a country. Security institutions include defense, law enforcement, corrections, intelligence services, border management, customs, elements of the judicial sector, management and oversight bodies, and other non-state actors and civil society groups.

What caring to remember means: Community Transitional Justice

Forty-five years ago, a massacre took place in the town of Malisbong, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat. Those who were children then remember their fathers and older brothers being taken to the Tacbil Mosque, never to see them alive again; they remember their mothers holding their hands as they were herded to a naval boat named Mindoro where they huddled day and night under the heat of the sun and the cold of the night -- no food, no water, no armor against the elements. They remember the elderly and children their own age getting so weak, sick, and being thrown overboard -- bodies never to be found. They remember young women making themselves ugly in order not to be taken fancy to by armed groups and ending up being raped and sexually violated.

Marcos vs Manglapus @ 30

In 1989, ex-President Ferdinand Marcos was dying. Exiled in Hawaii since February 1986, the Marcos family asked the Philippine government of President Corazon Aquino to let them to return to the country and allow Marcos to die here. Aquino refused, arguing that the return of the Marcoses would have dire consequences on political stability and economic recovery. Marcos took legal action and filed a special civil action suit for mandamus and prohibition with the Supreme Court. Made respondents were a number of senior officials of the Aquino administration led by then Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul Manglapus. The writ of mandamus would order the respondents to issue the Marcoses the necessary travel documents to allow their return while the writ of prohibition would enjoin them from implementing the president’s ban.

Remember, remember, the 9th of September: Zamboanga Siege through the lens...

It has been six years since the Zamboanga Siege took place on Sept. 9, 2016. It was an armed incursion into Zamboanga City led by a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) loyal to Nur Misuari. Fighting ensued between the MNLF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Democracy and ‘The Right to the City’

This coming Sunday, Sept. 15, the world is being invited by the United Nations (UN) to commemorate the International Day of Democracy. Since the adoption of Resolution 7 by the UN General Assembly during its 62nd Session in 2007, the UN has committed, in word and institutional deed, to “to focus attention on the promotion and consolidation of democracy at all levels and reinforce international cooperation in this regard.”

The politics of ‘no-war’ options vis-a-vis China

In view of the Chinese maritime militia’s ramming of a Filipino vessel in Recto Bank on June 9, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio proposed a number of “no war” techniques for pursuing the Philippines’ arbitral victory against China. One of the strategies would enjoin us together with Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei, to enter into a convention that would collectively voice support for the ruling against China’s dashed lines. Accordingly, this convention will “leave China isolated as the only disputant state claiming EEZs from the Spratly islands.” All but Indonesia have laid a claim in the South China Sea.

More than a Space:Ang Pulitika sa Kubeta

There has been another uproar concerning gender and comfort rooms, thanks to an incident where one who was not born female (i.e. sex; physiological), who redefined their identity as a transwoman (i.e. gender; social construction and reconstruction), decided to use the women’s comfort room in a mall. The politicized image was that of transwoman being handcuffed and paraded out -- somehow reminiscent of a scene in Game of Thrones where Cersei was paraded naked in public, with a monotone but powerful word “Shame!” echoing behind the “accused.”

eHealth and Innovation: better service for the health patient and citizen...

eHealth is described as “an innovation process rather than just a structure or technology for the delivery of better healthcare” according to Beraterbide and Kelsey (2009). In the experience of many countries in the region, innovations in eHealth did not only require the adoption of new technologies but also the accompanying organizational change that takes into consideration social, political, and economic context. Innovations in eHealth must be “usable, sustainable, and scalable” and “address population-level needs and priorities. At the same time, they should serve a broader purpose, expanding to other population groups and contexts” (Shuvo, 2015). It then becomes not just a technology and innovation challenge but a governance challenge -- one that requires long-term commitment from stakeholders and a painstaking process of calibrating technology, the existing architecture for innovation, and the end-user: the regular citizen. These technologies are considered disruptive and as such come with deployment issues but at the same time huge pay offs for both the regulatory and implementing bodies as well as the clients. It is in the “systemically organized interactions between governments, knowledge based institutions and financial arbitrageurs” (Bartels, 2013) that these pay offs (not the least of which is better quality health care) materialize.

Continuities in Philippine foreign and national policies in the maritime sector

Two Interlocking perspectives may be gleaned from the Chinese vessel-ramming of a Filipino boat F/B Gem-Ver that left 22 Filipino fishers abandoned in the waters off Recto Rank on June 9.

SONAsaan na ba talaga tayo ngayon? At hindi SONAsaan na tayo?...

During President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22 he asked: “So where are we (the Philippines) really now today?”

SONAsaan na ba talaga tayo ngayon? At hindi SONAsaan na tayo?

I admit I did not watch the State of the Nation Address (SONA) live on July 22. But I had to see it because I teach Politics and Governance in the Loyola School of Social Sciences in the Ateneo de Manila University.

Why is there a State of the Nation Address?

The State of the Nation Address (SONA) in the Philippines is an annual event that brings together all important personalities in the government -- executive, legislative, and judiciary -- under one roof, at the Batasang Pambansa. As a governmental tradition, it is a means for the president to inform the people about the current state of the nation and give recommendations to the legislature as regards to his/her agenda or priorities or proposed measures for the fiscal year. As a constitutional obligation (see Article VI, Section 15 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution), it mandates the president to deliver a speech about the state of the nation during the opening of the sessions of the national legislature (which is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives).

Seeking justice beyond The Hague

July 12, 2019 marked the third anniversary of the Philippine’s victory in its arbitration case against China over the South China Sea. Three years ago, the Philippines received the arbitral award from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that favored Manila’s maritime claims over the West Philippine Sea and legally discredited China’s nine-dash line claims to the South China (which later became a “10-dash line” then “11-dash line”). The award upheld the Philippines’ rights to a full 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea.

The fallacy of good intentions: The Philippine Independent Foreign Policy

Politics is swayed by the tempo and spirit of the times. Administrations in power, no matter how visionary, would always be compelled to act on the demands of the present. The Duterte administration, at the beginning of its term, presented itself as a cut different from past governments. The rhetoric of pursuing an “independent foreign policy” caught the attention of many, critics and supporters alike. Midway in its term, the “independence” of the country’s foreign policy remains contested.

Constructing transitional justice

Transitional justice has been one of the buzzwords in the peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), specifically, under the Annex on Normalization. True to its mandate, the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) submitted its Final Report to both panels in March 2016, providing explanations for historical injustice, legitimate grievances, human rights violations, and marginalization through land dispossession, and offering analysis as to the root causes of the Bangsamoro conflict as well as recommendations based on the pillars of Dealing with the Past.

Looking forward to the 2019 SONA

There is no shortage of anticipation in the lead-up to a scheduled 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA). The one this coming July 22 should be no exception. After all, the 4th SONA of any presidency occurs just a few months after the scheduled Midterm National and Local Elections. Any president, more so if his/her endorsed coalitions won with a comfortable margin, would take this opportunity not only to take pride in this, it will also try to build bipartisan confidence in order to pursue its agenda for the remaining three years -- unencumbered by the inflamed partisan attitudes fostered by the recently concluded fight.

Vote-Shaming in the Midterm Elections

Yung mga boboto sa mga taong ’to, paki-unfriend ako please. Wala akong kaibigang bobo.” (Those who will vote for the following candidates, please unfriend me. I have no stupid friends.)

Why the opposition lost in the 2019 Midterm (Senatorial) Elections

The opposition lost. Not one of the Liberal Party (LP)-dominated “Otso Diretso” senatorial contenders made it to the 12 Senate seats up for grabs. Not even its frontrunner candidate Bam Aquino who was a reelectionist or Mar Roxas who topped the 2004 senatorial race (15 years ago!), both with outstanding legislative track records to their credit, made it against the other reelectionist senators and political newcomers who ran under the President’s ruling party The Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP–Laban) or under Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio’s regional party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP). To date, questions about the integrity of the 2019 midterm elections remain in public discourse.

Why we (don’t) vote

Political decision-making is usually the territory of those in power. What electoral democracy affords us is a window of opportunity to improve status quo: to elect representatives who will protect our values, our political aspirations, and our hope for the future. It is the key feature of our political system.

The ‘new cold war’ in the US-China trade wars: Application to...

The United States government’s ban that led Google to discontinue its software dealings with Huawei and other firms as part of the US-China trade wars has led key Philippine businesses to revisit their dealings with Huawei, a crucial partner in 5G development on the front lines of the Philippine government’s bid for telecoms modernization.

‘What is your opinion of your President?’

The Myanmar Colonel was smiling as he asked me this publicly -- it was an earnest question. Majority of the Myanmar Tatmadaw (military and police) present in the gathering are supporters of President Duterte, or at least they approve of what he’s doing as regards peace and order. I answered, “I didn’t vote for him, but he was voted by our people. So, he is my President.” The subtext of my answer is that democracy, imperfect as it is, is still my chosen political system for the Philippines. The officers nodded approvingly, including the Major General in front. Myanmar is in its beginning journey towards democratization; they look at the Philippines for lessons.

The battle for the 12 Senate seats!

Come 13 May 2019, 61,843,750 or 57.4% of the total 107,795,964 Philippine people will select among other political positions 12 new senators -- it is The Battle for The Twelve Philippine Senate Seats.

Elections do not make democracy

Three weeks from now, Filipinos will be casting their votes for the country’s midterm elections. According to the Commission on Elections, there are around 60 million registered voters for the upcoming elections, 2.5 million of whom are new voters. We also have a relatively high voter turnout -- 84% in 2016, considering that voting is not compulsory unlike in other countries such as Australia, Brazil, and Singapore.

Child Soldiers

A few years ago, a 16-year-old boy was killed in an armed encounter. UNICEF called to task both the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) and the military for violating the rights of the child -- the NPA for recruiting him and the military for shooting him. Explaining its side, the military said that in a firefight, the general rule to survive is to neutralize anyone holding a weapon in a firing position. In the mayhem of an armed encounter, differentiating if the opponent is a child or an adult, especially if he is firing at you, is very difficult.

The UHC Law and LGUs

Beyond the mandates, requirements, powers and prerogatives granted to local government units (LGUs) by the universal health coverage law or act (UHCL or UHCA), it is hoped that LGUs, through their Sanggunians and Local Chief Executives will look beyond what the law provides and find innovative and creative ways to achieve the objectives of the law. In building partnerships with other health stakeholders in their given jurisdictions, LGUs will need look beyond being facility ‘owners’ towards a more critical role of being the primary enablers of the UHCA’s success.

Responsible Mining: Planet, People, Profit, Policy

Mining is highly extractive. From the vantage point of environmental protection, “responsible mining” may seem like an oxymoron given the obvious toll of mining on natural resources, especially arable land, water and forests. The nature of this industry thus goes against the principle of preserving and cultivating land and nature for present and future generations.

2019 elections: A litmus test of Duterte’s foreign policy

Three years after his election on May 9, 2016, the Philippine midterm elections this year will serve as a litmus test of President Rodrigo Duterte’s actions, including his decisions to recalibrate Philippine treaty relations with the US and pivot to China. In 2016, Duterte downplayed the ITCLOS arbitral award and entered into a policy of economic rapprochement with China. Three years thereafter, how do we assess Duterte’s foreign policy choices? Here, I seek to explain the hedging strategies of the Duterte government towards China by examining relevant literature on weak states’ hedging strategies and Great Power competition. It is also my objective to frame Duterte’s foreign policy as an outcome of the uncertain post-cold war unipolar environment, and of the interplay of domestic and state preferences in foreign policy.

Our country’s quest for universal health care

The Philippines lies at the threshold of universal health care. By learning from the successes and failures of the last 50 years, capitalizing on its growing economy and its vibrant millennial generation, the Philippines must seize the opportunity to truly transform its health system and ensure the health of all its citizens.

‘For whom the sisterhood calls’

March, the women’s month...and this is a last “hurrah.”

Why should there be election debates?

To many people, ‘election debates,’ is a means to inform voters of how the issues of the day are framed and discussed by candidates. The exchange of ideas that happens between opposing candidates is supposed to reveal information that voters need especially in knowing and evaluating candidates -- what they stand for, what their plans are, among Pothers. Equipped with this knowledge, voters are said to be more capable of making informed decision of who to vote for or not.

An interventionist Senate in Philippine foreign policy

Foreign policy is often an eclipsed subject in electoral campaigns. By its nature, it is reserved to the remit of the agents of the Foreign Affairs department, particularly the Chief Executive, who acts as its main architect. Despite this, there has been an increasing demand for transparency on foreign policies, particularly by members of the Senate, a body that is not directly involved in negotiations.

What’s at stake for us in the 2019 midterm elections?

In most democratic societies, midterm elections are seen not only as a referendum on the performance of a sitting government/political party. It may also determine to what extent can the current administration move forward unencumbered with its agenda -- or whether it will need to begin building bipartisan confidence in order to govern with its symbolic authority intact.

Is charter change the game changer in the next Congress?

On 18 January 2019, three days before the January 21, 2019 plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), President Rodrigo R. Duterte alluded to pursuing charter change once the BOL is ratified. If ratified, the BOL creates the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and replaces the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Now that the BOL was ratified on 25 January, the path to charter change seems clear. Is it or is it not?

Challenges to regional security: Territory and terrorism

The two major issues confronting Southeast Asia today are (a) the dispute between and among claimant states for the control of resources in the South China Sea and (b) the rising threat of armed extremist groups. These two issues are the major stimulus for the military buildup happening in the region today.

Some more musings on Philippine urbanization

Around four years ago, a friend would ask me questions as we go our way back home to Quezon City from our five-day immersion stay with a fisher-folk community in Calatagan, Batangas. As we struggled through urban traffic, my friend and I would keenly observe the peri-urban, built-up areas of Laguna, Cavite, and Batangas -- three of the provinces constituting Calabarzon, which in the 1990s was imagined, and made to be an urban development beltway -- and the arguably (hyper-)urban zones of the National Capital Region (NCR). Then he would ask, among other questions: Who lives in the gated (horizontal) communities and vertical developments that pepper the areas?

Runaway trains

I had the opportunity to revisit Japan last Nov. 16-19 for the 2018 Philippine Studies Conference in Japan (PSCJ) in Hiroshima University. While I could have taken a direct flight to Hiroshima (give or take a layover to another country), circumstances compelled me to land in Kansai International Airport (KIX). From there, I took multiple train line transfers (including the Shinkansen) from KIX to my hotel in Hiroshima.

The Belt and Road Initiative and ASEAN:Cooperation or Opportunism?

It is more than five years now since China’s President Xi Jinping introduced the Silk Road Economic Belt in Kazakhstan in September 2013 and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road in Indonesia in October 2013. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or the One-Belt-One-Road (OBOR) officially became China’s national development strategy in November 2013 and was included in its 13th five-year plan in March 2016 as part of the strategy to deepen China’s reform and opening as well as to establish new mechanisms for economic development.

Women, Peace and Security in the Philippines: Localization or Indigenization?

Women, Peace and Security (WPS) in the country has been a political project for both civil society and government. Taking off from the global agenda of advancing women’s human rights in the context of armed conflict and conflict transformation, commitment to WPS has been institutionalized through several National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security (NAP WPS): the first generation covering 2010-2016, the second generation that introduced amendments in 2014, and the third generation that includes the period from 2017 to 2022.

Where’s the ‘local’ in federal?

“All politics is local,” so the saying goes. This may give the impression that only the distribution of local goods and services matter to the regular voter. However, the person this is attributed to, the late American Speaker of the House Thomas Philip “Tip” O’Neill, was animated by a larger world view -- appealing to local concerns in order to advance a national economic policy agenda.

The Philippines and the Anthropocene

Is there a way for us to radically reframe what we think about how human beings relate to our environment that allows us to properly respond to the challenges of today’s rapidly changing geopolitical and ecological landscape? While the concept is not necessarily novel, nor the term formally recognized, the Anthropocene is a proposed new geological epoch that marks the point in Earth’s history when the actions of humans had permanently and radically impacted the functioning of the Earth’s geological and ecological systems. A group of scientists, including American chemist Will Steffen and Nobel Prize for Chemistry winner Paul Crutzen, describe the Anthropocene as the epoch when “the human imprint on the global environment has now become so large and active that it rivals some of the great forces of Nature in its impact on the functioning of the Earth system.”