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The Extortion Acts of the NPA

The Old Song of the Cityhood of Catbalogan

The Old Song of the Cityhood of Catbalogan

Casualties from Making a Choice for President

Money Laudering in a Change World



Redirecting Media And Communications Perceptions – A Need

May 9, 2004

"No. Not always is truth the objective of media and communications..."

Media and communications play a vital role in today’s process of getting to know the candidates. They let them talk. They let you see the candidates. They provide vivid pictures of what candidates propose to do. They help build party decisions. They provide reasons for changes in political strategies. They facilitate budgeting financial resources for a campaign ad and for running a campaign.

Those who invest in media and communications structures unwittingly carve pathways either to a lose or a victory in the final counting of votes. The more the investments, the bigger and wider those pathways become. The sturdier the pathways, the better the chances of winning.  The more pathways, the easier becomes the road to an elegant victory in the polls.

Media and communications pathways lead to the hearts and minds of voters, especially when more doors fling open to welcome frontloads moved forward on such pathways; or, close doors; or break lengths and widths of pathways.

No. Not always is truth the objective of media and communications. It may merely be the dishing out of information, or an attempt to dissuade, persuade, or condition a belief.  Unfortunately, candidates who have taken the bold step of talking about their perceptions of the role of the media and communications, as they were invited to candidates’ fora, simply settled for that unpolished objective – to enable the media to disseminate information, to enable communications to facilitate the diffusion of science and technology. Not one candidate went beyond than with another step, that towards looking through a policy of transparency.


Good for you, people of Samar. Good for you, people of the Philippines. You haven’t asked for more. You haven’t craved for the desirable high.

But don’t worry.

Few conscientious media and communications people have leaped to the right direction for the course of life that is there, defined or them and their industry. This is very unfortunate.  The rest, and they are countless, while many are emerging to join their flock continue, furtively or sans a sense of embedded profession and the twin sense of excellence in doing their supposedly patriotic and heroic job, to remain misdirected. It is their misdirection that leads voters and candidates to inopportune vainglories.

So, what will all of us do?





Stop Sex Trafficking for Children, Women

April 13, 2004

"Most of those who are usually trafficked are poor, have a little or no education at all, or are single or unwed mothers, have backgrounds of abuse at home, failed or abusive relationships..."

As we all know, children and women, especially minors, need special safeguards and care including appropriate legal protection to enable them to grow and develop in an atmosphere of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity. Every effort, therefore, must be exerted to ensure that children are accorded this special protection and the women for their sexual and reproductive health rights.

We are indeed responsible for this, especially those people holding government positions. We must see to it that in all our actions and plans concerning children and women should take full account of his or her best interests.

On March 19-21, 2004, I happened to be one of those media practitioners all over Region 8 who were invited to attend a capacity building training on child and women trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation organized by the End-Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT) held in Montebello Villa Hotel in Cebu City.

By-the-way, dear readers, ECPAT is a non-stock, non-profit, non-government organization advocating for the protection of prostituted children. The organization is also a member of a global network of organizations and individuals working for the elimination of child prostitution, child pornography and trafficking of children for sexual purposes.

My book defined Sex Trafficking as the transport, sale and purchases of women and girls for prostitution, bonded labor and sexual enslavement within the country and abroad. It often involves the use of force such as kidnapping and abduction, the use of threats, trickery, deceit and other enticements, as well as a variety of forms and practices where women are sexually exploited through brothel prostitution, sex tours, marriage matching arrangements, serial sponsorships and other work used as fronts for prostitution, sex shows and pornography.

Most of those who are usually trafficked are poor, have a little or no education at all, or are single or unwed mothers, have backgrounds of abuse at home, failed or abusive relationships, ‘stokwa’ (runaways), and come from families who rely on daughters to support their families.

Historical Roots of Sex Trafficking

Lawyer Anjanette T. Saguisag, ECPAT Philippines Cebu City coordinator said historical roots of trafficking in persons could be traced way back in the Spanish period. She stressed that during that period, girls as young as 13 years old were recruited as domestic helpers, sales girls, beauticians or laundry girls to Manila due to poverty and lack of employment opportunities from their respective rural areas. Some were given to landlords to serve households as payments for debts while those aged 16 to 17 were assigned to perform hard and dangerous labor in the construction of ships, churches, government buildings usually in places away from their hometowns.

Still in Spanish period, as early as 1932, internal trafficking in young Filipina girls was being carried out by “employment agencies” who brought them from rural areas to cities, particularly Manila, apparently as servants, but, sad to say, they were instead lured into dance halls and houses of prostitution.

In the mid-1949, or during the American period, the demand for hospitality girls had increased due to the presence of the American servicemen in the Philippines. Some children  served as mortgage while Ifugao and Negrito children were sold like a commodity to people who could afford to buy them. It is also in this year when several cases of moving children through Hong Kong to the US using fake passports were uncovered by Philippine authorities.

Atty. Saguisag, a known advocate for the protection of prostituted children said, sex trafficking flourished during the Vietnam War’s first catering to soldiers and then for Japanese, American, Canadian and European men in Southeast Asia when number of brothels, KTV bars and massage parlors were established in different ports of said places.

During the time of the late dictator President Ferdinand Marcos (1970-1980s), the Philippine government used sex tourism infrastructure as a means to promote tourism. It did not outlaw or prohibit prostitution but instead used it to advance the tourism industry in the country.

In 1980 to 1990s, rural-urban migration and out-migration continued to increase during the Aquino administration. The ‘Mail-to-Order’ brides who always ended up as sex slaves in the brothels of Northern Europe and in the outback of Australia also increased.

In 1990, and even until today, overseas employment became more attractive to Filipinos because of the economic crisis, and this created a labor gap in the rural farms, plantations and industries. The child laborers filled the gap, again, and our present government officials seemed to be blind, deaf and mute about this reality in the Philippines. No one from our government officials today had the courage to show sympathy to the plight of these innocent Filipino children.

One good example of this is the story of Karen, 16 years old; single that left their home in western Samar because of her bitter experience at home.

Karen would have wanted to finish her studies but her older brother and sister were given priority to attend high school and vocational school so they could help the family. But her brother left home as soon as he finished and they have not heard from him since then. Her sister on the other hand got married even before finishing school. All this time, her mother depended on her to help in household chores, including looking after her grandfather. It was then that she thought it was her turn to go back to school as also a way of finally escaping from  the unwanted attentions of her grandfather.  “I was 13 years old then, my Lolo would come to me once my parents had left for the market to sell our vegetables and I was left to attend household chores. He threatened me and said something bad would happen to my parents if I told them and that it was my duty to serve him anyway. I was scared and felt bad. The last time he did it, it hurt so much because he was doing all kinds of things and I felt dirty,” the girl said. She felt she had no one to turn to except her two best friends. For her, she was better off staying with them even if it means working at the nightclub. At the bar, she was forced by the bar owner to serve 10 clients a night until she was rescued by the police in recent raid.

Another horrifying story was that of Gina, 23, who were promised to work as domestic helper (DH) in abroad but landed in a brothel in Japan. At first, Gina thought she was lucky when got the chanced to work abroad. She thought the money she would earn would be a boon to her family left in Samar and can help in the education of her younger siblings.

She relates, “Things were fine for me until my employer started making sexual demands on me. I was scared but I could not let it go on. So I told my employer’s wife.” But for complaining, Gina was sold by her employer to a friend and became a sex slaves for years. Until recently, when she was caught by the immigration and sent back to the Philippines. She thought she would never see the Philippines again.

The shared experienced of Karen and Gina tell us how government has fallen short of protecting and promoting women’s health and well-being. Their situations and problems result from their being denied access to information and services, the cultural restrictions created by fundamentalist and anti-women views, and poverty.

These women are just two examples of the thousands of women who suffer from the health effects of social, economic, political and cultural inequities.

There is much more to be said about the stories of Gina and Karen. The inhuman and degrading treatment they received at the hands of their transgressors and health care providers violated these women’s rights to life, health, liberty and security of person. Their experiences illustrate how government’s failure to provide essential laws to go against sex trafficking in the countryside. The lives of these innocent women were put at risk simply because our government officials had no clear manifestation of support, or interest to solve, or to address all forms of sex trafficking, care about the sexual and reproductive health matters of the Filipina women. We should therefore evaluate what kind of government policies we have today so as not the situation becomes more tragic in the near future.

Sex Trafficking Situation in the Philippines today

Data’s obtained from the Institute for Social Studies and Action (ISSA) with main office located in Quezon City disclosed that the Philippines has an estimated 400, 000 to 500, 000 women in prostitution. Out of the 200, 000 or so street children, some 60, 000 sell their bodies. While up to 600, 000 women and children are trafficked through the Internet in at least 50, 000 websites. 

Since 1986, some 55, 000 Filipinas entered the United States and Japan as mail-order brides. And of the 959 cases of human trafficking in the Philippines, 65% were women, 53% were sent to various Asia-Pacific countries, 25% to the Middle East and 19% to Europe. An estimated 47% of the victims were deceived while 51% were recruited with consent.

In 1998, at least 47, 017 Filipino “entertainers,” a euphemism for prostituted women, were in the countries of Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Saipan and in Japan, accounting for 95% of Filipino “entertainers” in Asia. Entertainers constituted 28.4% or 43, 092 of women new hires.

This figure is so alarming and as a true Filipino, we need to be involved on this scenario. This is a case that we need to address simply because sex trafficking is not only the concern of the victims but should also be my concern, your concern and everybody’s concern. Because sex trafficking systematically violates women’s human rights, including the right to life and security of persons. It places women in danger of physical abuse and deprives them of bodily integrity. These women are constrained of their right to travel and to freedom of movement, as those who wish to travel abroad are at risk of being victimized by traffickers. Women who are sold to prostitution are kept in brothels and prevented from leaving and communicating with their families back home.

Another is, their freedom from slavery and abuse is violated. A trafficked woman who is prostituted becomes the slave of any man who “buys” her, and she loses her right to legal protection. Because a trafficked woman is often a victim of illegal recruiters or travels through illegal channels, the laws of the country of destination do therefore not cover her either.

The Philippine government is a signatory to the three international instruments like the 1997 Commission on the Status of Women and the General Assembly Resolutions on Traffic in Women and Girls initiated by the government of the Philippines; 1995 Beijing Platform for Action; and, the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development Declaration yet the government has done nothing, and there is no Philippine law that squarely address this problem.

Then, what must be done?

Senator Rodolfo Biazon, a long advocate for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, who is the lone guest speaker of the 1st Visayas Media Practitioners training seminar on Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Health and Rights held at the Nature’s Village Resort in Talisay City last March 26-29, 2004 said there is a need for a political change. “We need to change our political, economic and socio-cultural structures that create inequities for women – whether as citizens, members of civil society organizations or government workers. The non-government organizations and all sectors of civil society must contribute to these efforts.

The absence of the concrete solution made by the government is a shame for the world. We have to do everything that is possible to stop sex trafficking. Why is there not more action to help the helpless women and children, and to prevent them from further suffering and dying? If we could act together it would be possible to save so many precious lives.  We must fight for all these victims of discrimination. We must speak not only for women and children, but also for all men, women and children everywhere. Unless we act a fundamentalist view of life will prevail. Let us become the moral majority. I hope and pray the Philippine government will wake up its mind and review its policy.

(For reactions and comments please send it to the Underfire c/o The Samar Reporter Newsweekly, 2nd Flr. Abesamis Bldg., Allen Avenue, Catbalogan Samar or email it to, or send feedback to





Counting the Cost of Corruption in the Philippines

March 12, 2004

            “…Elections are like a sponge, it sucks up all the money, most of it from corruption.”

            Among the very first lessons in business is that "THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH". Somebody is bound to pay, Always. Especially when it comes to corruption. So how does corruption get to us? Let's count the ways.

1. Loss of Government Revenue

            The first victim of corruption is government revenue. In a developing economy like the Philippines, this can be extremely debilitating. The continuing budgetary deficit of the government results into cutbacks in expenditures for much needed social services.

2. Education

            The gap of classrooms in public elementary schools is estimated to be about 40,000 this coming school year. The case is even more pathetic, as the lack of qualified teachers further confound the problems. While student population keeps on growing year after year, these gaps in classroom, books and teachers is widening. What do these lead to? Poor quality education of the future citizens of the Republic further undermining their prospects of contributing to nation building. THAT IS A VERY HIGH PRICE TO PAY FOR CORRUPTION.

3. Infrastructure

            With tightening sources of funding for infrastructure development, government has to resort to partnership with the private sector. A public good like roads, bridges, ports and airports will necessarily be charging user fees to be able to earn profit and recover capital. Nothing wrong with because he who benefits should share the cost. But a lot of these projects require performance undertaking from the government to be financiable to lenders. This results into the contingent liabilities of the national government burgeoning the levels no one wants to even find out. Remember the NAIA III Terminal? an edifice that can't be operated until now. The MACAPAGAL BOULEVARD which can easily enter the Guiness Book as the world's most expensive boulevard? THE SMOKEY MOUNTAIN PROJECT where almost a billion of OFW's money was invested and has not been repaid until now? Last count in 2003, it stood to over P500 Billion. That’s about over 30,000 pesos per household. THAT IS NO LOOSE CHANGE TO PAY FOR CORRUPTION.

4. Environment

            Because government resources are constrained, environment protection programs are neglected. We passed the Clean Air Act and yet we cannot put our acts together in ensuring clean air. The law is toothless because the government has no money to invest in monitoring equipment. Even garbage it cannot collect. Remember the PAYATAS TRAGEDY? Meanwhile, to be able to generate power and run our heavy industries, less desirable Plants are allowed to be established. ASK THE PEOPLE from CALACA, BATANGAS, PAGBILAO QUEZON, and SUAL PANGASINAN, all sites of COAL FIRED POWER PLANTS that contribute to withdrawals from our deposit of breathable air, potable water and liveable communities. The resource balance of our children's future is rapidly depleting, A COST OF CORRUPTION THAT WE MAY NEVER BE ABLE TO ACCOUNT FOR.

5. Government Debt and Poverty

           Again due to budget deficit, government keeps on accumulating debt, which at end of 2003 stood at over 2.4 trillion pesos. That’s over 30,000 pesos for every Filipino man, woman and child. At an average interest cost of 10% per year for both short and long term loans, that is equivalent to a staggering P240 Billion in interest payment alone every year. That’s the amount of money taken away form the mouth of the poor, who account to more than half of the Philippine population. TURNING OUR BACKS FROM OUR MARGINALIZED CITIZEN IS A STEEP PRICE TO PAY FOR CORRUPTION.

6. Political Patronage

            Corruption doesn’t prosper without protection. Those who practice realize that to keep themselves in their lucrative posts, somebody politically powerful should be able to stop any attempts to cut him from illicit money flow. In return, he lavishes his patrons with gifts. Gifts in no small terms, which further corrupt him and his patron. His patron, in order to accumulate more gifts has to increase his influence. To increase his influence, he needs to milk his corrupt benefactors. And it goes on deeper and deeper.

            Elections are like a sponge, it sucks up all the money, most of it from corruption. Election in the Philippines are nothing but patronage politics. How else does one explain the millions spent in a campaign in exchange for a few measly thousand pesos in the salary of a public servant? There is only one explanation I have, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH, SOMEONE IS BOUND TO PAY FOR IT.

            How do campaign contributors expect to recover their investments? In the form of political protection to allow them to continue with their illegal activities. In the form of rigged government contracts. In the form of economic rents taxpayers eventually pay for.

7. Crime

            Corruption corrupts and the deeper one gets into the mire, the more desperate one becomes in defending the well from where he draws his booty. He will be prepared to use trick, treat and threats to keep his business. And since corruption, like stale food attract flies and worms, criminal syndicates are not very far from them. So do their violent means of doing business.

            The problem with the proliferation of illegal drugs can be linked solidly to corruption. How else do drug lords and pushers do their business under the noses of law enforcers and local government officials except that they pay-off this public servants or work in cahoots with them. Remember Mayor Mitra of Quezon Province? He was caught red handed transporting a ton of shabu using the town ambulance.

            This social ill has led to the commission of many a heinous crime is prospering and multiplying in every Barangay of this country because of corruption. RAPES, MURDERS, and KIDNAPPING FOR RANSOM ARE TOO MUCH TO PAY FOR CORRUPTION.

8. High Cost of Doing Business

            It is sometimes beyond our imagination for a businessman to spend three full days in the crowded city hall of a highly urbanized city trying to get a business license. And he was just going to buy and sell eggs. How much more if he wants to operate a industrial project. If there are 20 government offices he needs to go through for various permits, licenses, certificates, approvals and signatures, he needs an entire army of fixers to handle them. Precious hours are lost among senior officers of the firm who have to wine and dine to the whims and caprices of government officials. Remember the stinking IMPSA and PIATCO deals?

            Those companies whose code of conduct does not permit them to provide bribes and pseudo-bribes end up spending tons of money just to end up deciding to leave the country in exasperation.

            On the other hand, many of those who stay to do business have gotten used to government people scratching their heads as they show up in their offices asking for all sorts of gifts for every known relatives of a mayor, congressman, senator, department secretary, bureau director or chief of police. What does the businessman do? He just passes on to his customers this extra cost incurred in doing business in the Philippines. Remember the Power Purchase Adjustment (PPA)? This is one bloody scheme that sucks us dry!!!

9. Loss of Investor Confidence

            As Judge W.H. Heath said, if we cannot manage our money and assets, how can we be expected to manage other people’s money? Investors demand that there be a reasonable level of assurance that they will get their investment back. That their investment will in fact make money. And that it will not be taken over by political forces.

            It becomes extremely challenging to attract investors to do business in a country where a fugitive from the FBI and convicted pedophile gets elected in Congress. Or where tax evasion case with very clear outcomes is lost to technicalities.

            Multilateral donors find it hard to give us loans and technical assistance grants when they know that a large portion of their money will be used to line up the stomachs of politicians. They will have to invest in additional personnel, incur additional costs just to watch us spend their money. Every time we submit receipts they spend thrice the time just verifying whether they are genuine or not. This is the only country in the world whose AUTHENTIC DOCUMENTS (as declared and sealed from Malacanang) has one year expiry date. Believe me it can be tiring to do these things.

            When many in the International community considers your country as corrupt, it does not feel good. It does not buy you goodwill. Jeers and sneers YES. But respect? NO!!! Just look at how we PINOYS are treated in foreign airports. Who would forget Senate President DRILON being forced to remove his shoes in a US airport despite showing his Diplomatic Passport. I myself had a very disgusting experience in SCHIPOL airport in the Netherlands (CARLO BUTALID & GRACE CABACTULAN MAY NOT AGREE WITH ME) and at Charles de Gaulle in France. But can we blame them? Of course not. There's simply too much Pinoys who are going out of the country with spurious documents, escorted and facilitated by no less than BID personnel from NAIA. THAT IS WHAT WIDESPREAD CORRUPTION IS COSTING US.

            We have only just began counting the cost of corruption. It cost us the prostitution of our political institutions. We have now hoodlums in uniforms and hoodlums in robes. It costs us many lives and honor lost to crime. It costs us our self respect. And it costs us lost opportunities for a better future of our children.

            If you ask me, THAT'S TOO MUCH TO PAY FOR FREE LUNCH!!!





The Joke of Economy

January 30, 2004

            “…For the record, this is the first time that the government is administered by an economist. The peso went to its lowest under this economist.”

            The value of peso has now reached to an all-time low in the history of Philippine economy closing at P55.90 to $1 the other day. Prior to that, it even reached to P56.50 to $1 before closing at P56.75 to $1 after the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas finally came to its rescue.

            According to BSP Governor, Rafael Buenaventura, almost all currencies around the globe have actually suffered but of all, it’s the Philippine peso that plummeted the most. Although he made positive remark, on the other hand, he also hinted that the Filipinos should prepare for the worst.

            Region 8 will not be affected directly with this, at least not in the next few days or weeks. But economic observers have already expressed fears on the rise of prices on commodities. Not long from now, if the peso-plunge trend continues, definitely will affect each and every Filipino including you.

            In other words, this is not just a concern for stockholders and businessmen who basically serve as the gauge of Philippine economy but for every Juan de la Cruz.

            In the midst of this worrisome economic situation, the Government, under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has been quick to speculate that this is due to political instability in the country especially now that National and Local Elections is forth coming. Just very timely, the peso went puff days after the Commission on Elections junked the disqualification case against Presidential bet Fernando Poe, Jr.

            So far, this has been the easiest scapegoat of the people in the government; Poe could have been the reason of peso melancholy.

            But what puzzles everyone is the fact that the Philippines, now being ran by an “economist,” continually experience these miseries despite it, being governed by “experts and experienced” (that’s what PGMA claimed when she delivered a speech among businessmen sometime this week.) For the record, this is the first time that the government is administered by an economist. The peso went to its lowest under this economist. What a joke!!! A joke that is serious. A joke that definitely is unbearable to every Filipino. An ain’t funny joke.

            When a time such as this comes, why are these experts and experienced easy to blame other people and circumstances? Why not blame themselves? In fact, they should be blamed. Stop playing games with the Filipinos. This is too much.

            To us Region 8 folks, make sure we make the right choices come May elections. We don’t want to hear those jokes again, do we?

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