SEE?

There are social issues in the Philippines that brings us into disorder but if the transparency of the government would be established, we can easily take down, one by one, all those issues with the government and the public as one. I’m going to tackle three issues that affects everyone, not only in Cagayan de Oro City but the whole country as well. Namely, the issues about the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10175), Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) and the government’s transparency and accountability.

For decades, journalists and media advocacy groups have been calling for the decriminalization of libel but RA 10175 stooped and stifled not only the media but also our freedom of expression on the last remaining frontier of genuine democratic space—cyberspace. The Congress, over the past decades, have been acting blind and deaf with the press asking to amend the provisions on libel of the 82-year-old Revised Penal Code. Gladly, the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s (UNHRC) declared on October 2011 that the criminal sanction for libel of the country is “excessive” and violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in which the Philippines is a signatory.1 RA 10175 criminalizes specifically, cyber-crimes. This law, instead of decriminalizing libel, it just made it worse.

With the advancement of technology, we are using the cyberspace often everyday as an outlet of what we want to express. We use the internet to grab information that we want to know. Some of us even earn in cyberspace. Some of us use specifically Facebook, a free social networking website, to form groups for educational purposes and sometimes discuss current issues that everyone is free to express what they want to say but with RA 10175 being implemented, even a simple like on a libelous status on Facebook would mean that you are insubordinate of the crime and can be sued, and worse, maybe imprisoned for 6 months to 12 years depending on the legal basis of libel.

The right to information is the key for the development of the country. FOI is the government’s activities, documents, plans, and the likes, open to the public’s eye. It would eliminate government corruption and pushes genuine democratic space. Since, with the people being able to access information, together with the government, they would arrive at an intelligent and informed decisions that would be the proof of foundation of our democratic values.

The Congress, again, have been blind and deaf for the last two decades since the first FOI Bill was filed. The wanting for the government’s transparency and accountability is still a long way to go since the death of FOI in the 15th Congress. It affects all of us. Not knowing what the government’s plans and with the legislation being under-controlled by powerful individuals, leaving us wandering in the dark without having a say with what they’re going to do, we might as well gouge our eyes out and be robots and do whatever they want.

Transparency, as a principle, is when the government acts visibly and understandably for the people to participate and promote accountability. It is simply not achieved by making information available, it should be managed and published. Accountability means, either public or private officials should be responsible for their actions when their work and their commitment are not met. Transparency and Accountability coexist with each other. It enables the public to have a voice of the issues that involves them and to participate in the decision-making process and affect the development of the country.2

Being able to know what’s going on, helps the public to value information and participate in relevant issues that involves them. If FOI was implemented, transparency, accountability and good governance of the government can be grasped. With the public’s eye able to access information freely, it covers real democratic space. Awareness of the public and its participation of issues that concerns them helps the government into shaping a country to progress.

“RIGHT TO KNOW, RIGHT NOW!”

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What I want my politicians to push

Democratic space in the Philippine context is a fallacy.

Despite President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III’s pronouncement that we are his “boss,” the Aquino administration has continuously failed and disappointed his “bosses.”

Under the Aquino administration—from July 2010 to September 2012—there have been 114 extrajudicial killings, 12 enforced disappearances, 70 cases of torture, 224 cases of illegal arrest and detention, 200 victims of illegal search and seizure and 8,266 cases of forced eviction and demolition as reported by the Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights (Karapatan).

Three years after the Ampatuan Massacre (23 November 2009)—the worst election-related violence in the history of the Philippines—the case has been dragging and it is alarming to note that relatives of the victims and witnesses are harassed and hunted down faster than government could arrest the suspects of the massacre.

Instead of addressing the continuing culture of impunity in the country, the President, through his lackeys in the Palace, insensitively dismissed the rising human rights violations under his administration as mere “leftist propaganda.”

Since PNoy’s “matuwid na daan” echoed throughout the nation, the street is still a rigid curve line to progress. It has remained as it has always been—an empty rhetoric. Instead of prioritizing the Freedom of Information Bill—which could have been the cornerstone of his campaign slogan—he signed into law the now controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10175) on September 12, 2012. This law is aimed to stifle our freedom of expression on the last remaining frontier of genuine democratic space—cyberspace.

Clearly, we are not his bosses.

Here, in Cagayan de Oro City, I want the next roster of public officials to teach national government how to put into practice President Aquino’s “matuwid na daan.” A government unit that is grounded on the principles of transparency, accountability and good governance.

And this would be made possible by democratizing the access to public information.

The democratic process is not present today, not here in our city but the whole country. With the people being able to access information, together with the government, they would arrive at an intelligent and informed decisions and would support the country’s “democratic structure.” If we achieve government transparency even just here in CdeO, it would create a domino-effect throughout the Philippines until the government can be trusted again and be accountable to the people.

Here in CdeO, the street is still not that straight. There are a lot of anomalies that have been occurring since Mayor Emano took over the city. In Mayor Emano’s Piso-piso housing program, the residents in the relocation area in Calaanan were promised to receive the title of the lot that was given to them but until now, none of them have actually received the title.1

Another thing was the permits of the those foreign organizations that have been mindlessly cultivating our resources through mining without even thinking about the environment and how it would affect the people. With the press asking for those permits if it really exists, to expose the truth out, the local government still did not release it to the press even though it is a public document. All these anomalies defines PNoy’s “matuwid na daan” to be hokum.

There are 3 LGU’s in a city, the legislative, the judiciary and the executive unit. The legislative is the one formulating plans and considered as the mouthpiece of the people. It should be what the people need that the legislature should focus on but in the city, the legislative unit is weak. Even though it must be equal with the executive unit, it is under control by the Mayor. Ergo, the dissemination of public information is manipulated by the Mayor.

The cases in point, starting with the infrastructure projects of the city is “gradually improving.” Mayor Emano’s “majestic” fly over with its initial purpose to lessen the traffic problems of the crossroad of Velez street and the highway did not really help. Actually, for me, it is not a fly over, its merely a big ramp. Maybe if the funds used to build that “ramp” was focus into other problems of the city, it would have been very helpful and not just a wasteful decoration or just to brag about the city’s “development” that here, we have a fly over.

The respect of patrimony is not applied. Since, until now, mining barges are still operating in the city. Local environmentalists and reporters had found 6 mining barges operating in one of the upland barangays of this city while boarding two choppers of the Philippine Air Force’s Technical Operations Group, last September 21. Environmentalists and civil society groups, together with the Roman Catholic Church led by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, agree that mining operations in the hinterland barangays of the city contributed much to the destruction wrought by tropical storm Sendong, late last year.2 Sendong was a wake up call for us to stop the abuse of nature and to take action for the heritage of our land.

This coming 2013 midterm elections, whatever the outcome may be, it will either make or break the republic.

Scrap Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012!

Justice for the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre!

Pass the Freedom of Information Bill!

 

…Simple truth that nothing is more important to a democracy than a well-informed electorate.” – Will McAvoy (character played by Jeff Daniels in A U.S. TV series “The Newsroom”)

Is government in the Philippines honest?

In my research, I found out the horrible truth. The government only tells us partly of  the truth and partly of the lie almost all the time, from rigging up elections to extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances. Whenever they release a press conference about something that is very sensitive like certain issues occurring from the past until now, like in the Philippines, the “Hello Garci controversy” that was exposed in 2004, where former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo alleged wiretapped conversations with Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, where they discussed vote rigging.[1] On November 23, 2009, in the Amputuan massacre in the Philippines,  58 men and women, of whom 32 were journalists and media workers were killed while on the way to file an electoral certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, in upcoming gubernatorial elections for Maguindanao elections.[2] They tend to cover it out, burying the details that would endanger their position to power. But then the people whom they are obliged to serve are hungry for information and dug those things for the welfare of the country. We only knew these things because someone discovered and exposed it to the masses. Without these people seeking for the truth, we wouldn’t know what’s the truth behind these issues.

The government is the group of people given authority to govern a country or state. A body of people that manages public, and exercise executive, political, and sovereign power through customs, institutions, and laws within a state.[3] The government is like the father of the people of a country that whatever the he say, his children obey. Government officials are public servants yet nowadays they are the ones who are served by the people. They are the ones who must serve the people for the people are the ones put and gave them the authority to govern. That if anything happens without the masses knowing it, they would simple demand for the truth about it.

Sometimes the government withhold information for the said “safety” and “security” of the people. For example, in the National security of the country, they can only let out half of the story for diplomacy reasons. National security and the people’s right to access information are sometimes seen as going on opposite ways. Sometimes there are tensions between the government that wants to keep information secret on national security levels and the people’s right to know held by public authorities but recent happenings dictates that lawful national security interests are shielded when the public is aware about the government’s activities, involving those that protects the national security. Since national security should be publicly released to the public, a little degree of secrecy is right in some other circumstances.[4]

Do you ever wonder how come they have gigantic mansions when their salaries are just enough to sustain day to day needs? They have livable amount of money yet they acquire more. In the case of Supreme Court’s former Chief Justice Corona is one example of the government’s deceit. He was convicted because of his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net-worth (SALN) and the Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC) data on his dollar deposits.[5] Another example is the plunder case of former President Estrada. He was convicted of plunder since he received P545 million in illegal gambling and P189.7 million as commission from the billings of the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS of Belle Corporation shares worth P744.61 million and P1.102 billion.[6] They used their power to earn more for their own desires.

Some of the government officials are abusive of their power, like when a government official goes and makes a business. There are many processes and requirements to be passed to a certain government office, but then, using their political power, they can easily find loopholes to get through the processes without complying all the requirements. Some politicians employs their relatives even without passing through the process of employment in a government office, that even if the said person doesn’t attend and work, the person would still received a monthly salary.

Information is very vital to our life as thinking beings. The honesty of the government is plainly ideal. Since they have the power to restrict or keep those information away from us and on the other hand, they have the power to give out the real information to us. For when they own the information, they can bend it all they want, keeping us wandering in the dark. The government can never be honest until we reach its complete transparency letting us trust and support them with their activities which we can able to access.

The Freedom of Information (FOI) is an act to give members of the public rights of access to official documents of the government and public authorities and to provide for connected matters. It will give us the right to information and achieve political transparency in our nation. Access to information, by enabling public scrutiny of government action, not only safeguards against government abuse and abuse by government officials but also permits the public to play a role in determining the policies of the government and thereby forms a crucial component of genuine national security and democratic participation.[7]

If I’m going to ask you, is the government honest? well, what do you think?

The whole truth can never be out here in the Philippines unless FOI is implemented.

Pass the Freedom of Information Bill now!

 

Half of my life

On August 24, 1994, the day that I was born, is where my story begins. Since I can’t remember my early years when my mother was breastfeeding me or when I took my first step or when I uttered my first word, let’s jump to the time when I was nine, where I learned how to value time. The time where things were so slow, fun and exciting. The time where dreams were formed and acknowledged. Also, It was the first time I held a guitar. I remember it just like yesterday. It was my tito Omar’s guitar. It was a black coated lumanog acoustic guitar. In that time, I didn’t know how to play it but when I strummed randomly, without even minding the time signature, I realized that music was calling me in a way where I would formulate melodic tunes inside my head that only I can hear and couldn’t express it out.

It was a warm summer evening, not minding what time it was or if we already ate, me with Aya—my electric guitar—and my father with Aico—his acoustic guitar—were jamming, exchanging pentatonic scale based leads, singing, trying to play all the songs in his music book, in our living room.

 

“Gregory House, M.D.” (played by Hugh Laurie) a recently famous series that we watch together. In one of the episodes, Dr. James Wilson (played by Robert Sean Leonard)–House’s best friend, kidnapped his guitar, my father always jokes and says the dialogue of the two in every jamming sessions we had.

 

The joke went like this:

House: “Where is she?”

Wilson: “So, IT is a she?”

House: “Of course it’s a she. Would you caress a neck of a dude?”

 

Because of this, I named my guitar “Aya” my favorite girl anime character.

Ever since I was little, I could remember hearing different songs with different genres every day and still even today. From Ludwig Van Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” to Jimi Hendrix’s “Bold as love.” I was able to adapt to my father’s ear in music. Being open-minded not just in the different genres of music but also in real-life applications.

From then on, I was determined to learn more about music and playing guitar.

My father used to be a folk singer. He got a lot of gigs, from performing in bars to singing at weddings. He was one of the best folk singers here in CdeO. Knowing this, I did not hesitated to take the opportunity and asked him if he could teach me.

He asked me “unsa imung gusto El, makabalo lang ka ug gitar o gusto ka na makabalo jud ka ug ayo?” (What do you want El, do you want to learn just a little about playing a guitar or you want to master it?) I answered him that “pa, gusto ko na pareha sa imu ka maayo.” (pa, I want to be as good as you.) He smiled and told me to get his guitar. I was very excited to learn how to play guitar because I wanted to be as good as him.

Before anything else, we must start with the basics.” he said.

The instrumental guitar piece “Forbidden games” by Eva Vivar and a chromatic scale from F until my fingers reached the higher octave note of it and then do it backwards were the first lessons that he taught me. The piece was for developing my timing and for maintaining a concise inner metronome and the scale was for my fingers to be calloused enough for me to make sweet and clear notes with less tension on my fingers.

Practicing every morning before I prepare for school and every night before I sleep, my fingers ached for weeks. “Before you taste sweetness, you must suffer in bitterness,” he said.

 

Convinced that I perfected his training, I asked him for futher lessons but he would just watch me do what he taught me and then say “kulang pa na El, balik-balika lang na hangtud mahasa na ka ana, pa tan-awa dayun ko pagkuha na kaayo nimu, haya pa dayun taka tudlu-an ug chords ug uban pa.” (It’s not enough El, just keep on continuing until you mastered it fully and then let me see you play it then I would teach you the other chords.)

 

I was very excited and I admit that I got bored by doing the lessons over and over again that I did not follow his instructions and jumped into learning through songhits with illustrated basic chords in the last page.

I never knew at that time why he wanted me to practice those boring lessons but after he discovered that I disobeyed him, he said that he was just trying to test my patience.

 

Patience, other than musical lessons, is one of the virtues that I gained from his teachings.

 

After that, he stopped giving me lessons and let me explore music on my own.

 

Music, eversince I began to develop my sense of hearing, has been the greatest thing that ever happened to me.

 

My father, Cong B. Corrales, taught me how to play and further encouraged me to dig deeper into my inner music. It is in every moment that when I jam with him, I really hear music.

Now, half of my life is music. I can’t say that I mastered the guitar but now, I know how to play it and express what I feel through music.

As a Development Communication student, I want to use my music as a form of communication for the progress of out nation.

I know it will take years or even impossible for me to surpass your level of playing music Pa but from now on, every note that is coming out of my guitar is for you and I just want to tell you that I consider you as my hero for giving me this oppurtunity to know, learn and love the “bridge between heaven and earth”—music.