observed in Philippine elections
June 28, 2022
QUEZON CITY – The
International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP)
has completed its independent monitoring and assessment of the
Philippine elections that took place on May 9, 2022. The main
finding is that the election was not free, honest, or fair by
international standards. It was a classic ‘guns, goons, and gold’
contest and marked by a successful massive social media campaign to
rebrand the kleptocratic Marcos family’s brutal dictatorship as the
golden age of Philippine politics. The return of the disgraced
Marcos family to center stage in the Philippines is consistent with
the feudal dynastic system that is the centerpiece of political life
in the country.
Evidence gathered by the
International Observers Mission
The Philippine Election
2022 International Observer Mission (IOM) was established as a
response to Investigate PH’s independent international investigation
into human rights violations in the Philippines. The IOM has had
over 60 observers from 11 countries on the ground since April 1, who
have meticulously documented the campaign, the vote, and the
aftermath in various areas including Central Luzon, National Capital
Region, Southern Tagalog, Southern Luzon, Central Visayas, Western
Visayas, Eastern Visayas, and Mindanao. IOM observers included
members of national parliaments, lawyers, trade unionists, church
people, youth and students, educators, scientists, and human rights
advocates. At various times, the IOM observers themselves were
subjected to harassment and red-tagging by the police and military.
“The observers reported
that the May elections showed a higher level of failure of the
electronic voting system than ever before, along with a higher level
of blatant vote-buying, a disturbing level of red-tagging of
candidates and parties, as well as a number of incidents of deadly
violence. A large number of voters did not get to cast their vote,
and many had to trust that election officials would later put their
marked ballot paper through a Vote Counting Machine, thus
undermining the secrecy of the vote,” said Lee Rhiannon, former
Australian Senator and Commissioner of the IOM.
Massive fraud and failure
of the democratic process
The main conclusion of the
IOM is that the recent Philippine national elections were a failure
of the democratic process. The elections took place in the most
repressive context seen since the time of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Military and state officials openly campaigned against the
opposition by red-tagging the Leni Robredo campaign, as well as
other candidates for Senate and partylist groups. “Throughout the
election campaign, the Duterte government continued its orchestrated
campaign of state terror. As part of its war on dissent, the
government marshalled the entire machinery of government, including
the judiciary, the military and police; and government departments
of education, social services, and local governments,” said Danilo
Arao of the anti-election fraud organization Kontra Daya. The IOM
observed soldiers in Eastern Visayas up to the election day
intimidating people not to vote for Bayan Muna and other progressive
The May 9 election did not
meet the standard of “free, honest, and fair” because of these
prevailing conditions. It robbed voters of access to reliable
information, access to voting places without intimidation, and a
credible vote counting system. The IOM has reported election-related
violations of human rights since early March in the form of
political killings, shootings, abductions, death threats, political
arrests, harassment and surveillance of candidates and supporters,
large-scale red tagging, widespread vote-buying, media manipulation
and repression, fake news, and harassment of journalists by the
Marcos campaign. IOM researchers identified that the 2022 election
results were the first time in five presidential elections in the
Philippines that the number of votes garnered by an Automated
Electronic System (AES) president is higher than the number one AES
elected senator, suggesting massive fraud.
Rule of political
“The tendency towards a
one-party state evident under the Duterte regime was omnipresent in
the results of the May vote. In essence it was an exercise in para-military
democracy fused with a system of feudal dynastic rule,” said Chris
Ferguson, IOM Commissioner and former General Secretary of the World
Communion of Reformed Churches. While there remain many political
parties, most pay fealty to the Marcos-Duterte bloc. The opposition
was all but wiped out in the Senate, with only one of the 12
candidates elected not allied with the Marcos-Duterte bloc in one
way or another, and 3 political dynasties now controlling a quarter
of the Senate seats. Similarly, the partylist system has been
corrupted by dynastic politics to the point where only a shrinking
sliver of the successful groups represent disadvantaged or
marginalized sectors in Philippine society. “The partylist system
should return to its intended purpose because now it is yet another
failed attempt to democratize the Philippine political process,”
Democratic reforms needed
within the Philippine political system
The results of the May
election are the latest in a series of chronic failures of the
Philippine political system to offer the economic and social reforms
required to advance social rights and speaks to the need for major
reform. These political reforms required to democratize the
Philippine polity include removing the feudal family dynasties from
politics, reviewing the efficacy of the AES and renewing the
partylist system to give a greater voice to the marginalized and
“For the international
community and proponents of human rights, the results of the
election represent a worst-case scenario. ICHRP’s concern is that
the new Marcos-Duterte government will continue to provide legal and
legislative cover for past and future human rights violations and
crimes against humanity,” said Rev. Michael Yoshii, Commissioner of
the IOM and member of the ICHRP Global Council.
Yoshii continued, “the
return of a Marcos to the presidency and the virtual elimination of
legislative opposition represents a huge challenge for the
international community. There must be a renewed effort to
strengthen civil society and the organizations representing the
popular sectors. A renewal of the democratic foundations of
Philippine society will be essential to combating the pervasive
authoritarian tendencies in Philippine society.” This ultimately
means elimination of oppressive institutions such as the National
Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and reducing the
role of the military in public affairs, both of which played such a
strong anti-democratic role in the electoral process.
Monitoring and reporting
of the international community
“Looking forward, there
needs to be an intensified international focus on the new Marcos-Duterte
government and their ongoing human rights record. The international
community needs to strengthen the capacity of internal and external
human rights organizations to monitor and report on the situation in
the Philippines,” said Peter Murphy, Chairperson of the ICHRP Global
“At the same time, the
international community should continue to hold the outgoing Duterte
team accountable for its abysmal human rights record. This work is
underway at the International Criminal Court, and in the United
Nations Human Rights Council processes, and can be pursued in
national jurisdictions with Magnitsky-style laws. There should be no
hint of a green light for continued human rights violations under
the incoming Marcos-Duterte administration,” Murphy concluded.
A new leg and
renewed hope for a single father in Mindanao
arrived at the DJF office. He learned about the foundation
through the ICRC's social media page. (Photo: M. Lucero/ICRC)
June 6, 2022
MAKATI CITY – “My
heart is crushed each time my children ask for something that I
cannot provide because of my disability,” says Ricardo Tapican.
In July 2019, Ricardo
Tapican lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident. “I was riding
home with my cousin and nephew after a long day at work when the
brakes of my motorcycle failed,” he recalls.
Although his relatives,
who were riding pillion, emerged unscathed from the accident,
Ricardo suffered severe injuries in his right leg. “I thought I was
going to die. On regaining consciousness, my first thoughts were of
my children. I told my nephew to take care of them if anything were
to happen to me,” says the 34-year-old single father of three.
The doctors told Ricardo
that the severity of his injuries had left them no choice but to
amputate his leg. To this day, Ricardo cannot believe what happened
to him. “It’s been three years since the accident and I still cannot
fully accept what happened. My disability has made life very
difficult for me as a single father. I feel that the accident took a
big part of me. I can no longer provide for my children,” says
Ricardo, who is from Agusan del Sur in Mindanao.
The loss of his right leg
made it difficult for him to land a stable, well-paying job. And the
money he earned from odd jobs wasn’t enough to support his children,
forcing him to send them to live with their mother and other
relatives. It was a heart-breaking decision and not one that he
wanted for his kids.
“My children are only 13,
12 and 9 years old. I could not take care of them on my own,
especially with no stable income. I tried, but no one would hire me
after knowing about my disability,” says Ricardo.
He tried to go back to his
old job as a rubber tapper, but the once enjoyable job became an
intensely challenging task with only one leg. “The uneven and
sometimes muddy terrain made it difficult to move around with
crutches. Several times I lost my balance and fell to the ground,”
But Ricardo is not giving
up. He wants his children to finish school because he knows that an
education will open many doors for them in the future.
“I had made a promise to
myself not to neglect or let my children suffer just because their
mother and I separated. When I was still a student, I didn’t take my
education seriously; I want my children to finish school and not end
up like me,” says Ricardo.
Determined to get his life
back on track, Ricardo realized he needed an artificial leg. Three
years after his motorcycle accident and following months of
research, Ricardo came across the Facebook pages of the non-profit
foundation Davao Jubilee Foundation (DJF) and the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which supports the DJF. He
learned about DJF’s rehabilitation work with disabled people in
Ricardo travelled from his
hometown, San Francisco in Agusan del Sur, to DJF’s Davao City
office where, after an evaluation by the DJF staff, he was declared
eligible to receive a prosthesis. Ricardo felt that God had finally
answered his prayers.
“As a father and padre de
pamilya [head of the family], I don’t want to depend on others to
provide for my family. I can’t wait to complete my physical
rehabilitation programme here at DJF and look for a decent job,” he
rehabilitation journey started on 29 March 2022. The DJF provided
him with a physical rehabilitation programme, including a
custom-made prosthesis. He also received unconditional cash grants
from the ICRC to meet his family’s basic needs.
“I was in disbelief when I
first heard that I’d be given a new leg. It felt like a dream. But
after arriving at DJF, the reality of what is happening started to
sink in, that my dream of walking on two legs again is about to come
true,” says Ricardo.
About Davao Jubilee
DJF is a non-governmental
organization located in Davao City, Philippines, that provides a
variety of physical rehabilitation services to disabled people and
people in need of supportive braces, wheelchairs, artificial limbs
or other mobility support devices. The DJF helps all disabled
Filipinos, wherever they may be.
rehabilitation services include physical therapy, custom
manufacturing of artificial limbs, providing orthosis wheelchairs
and mental health and psychosocial (MHPSS) counselling for disabled
people. The ICRC’s close partnership with DJF has improved disabled
people’s access to comprehensive and high-quality physical
rehabilitation services, mitigating the challenging circumstances
they face in the Philippines. The ICRC also supports the
socio-economic needs of vulnerable DJF beneficiaries.
For more details, please
contact Davao Jubilee Foundation at 0975-781-7514 or message them
directly on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/DavaoJubileeFoundation).
livelihood to hobby. Twelve years ago, Mary Ann Parado starting
weaving buli bags as a source of income. Now, even when her life
has significantly improved, she continues to weave bags to bring
happiness to other people.
LYNFA A. TAN
April 6, 2022
SAN PABLO CITY –
For the longest time, creating handicrafts has been one of the major
businesses in the Philippines. Handicrafts promotes the Filipino
heritage and culture. In the Quezon Province, one of the most
popular raw products is buli or the buri tree.
Buli is a common palm
found in the Philippines and can live up to more than 30 years.
Being widely found and due
to its life span of more than 30 years, the palm tree became a
popular resource in the province. In fact, it became the inspiration
for the Bulihan Festival every April in Sampaloc, Quezon Province.
During this time, local producers and investors display their buri
Mary Ann Parado is a local
Buli weaver and microentrepreneur who used to join this festival.
She started making buli products in 2010, allowing her to sustain
the needs of her family of five members. Her income from this
business also supported the educational needs of her children.
However, Mary Ann’s road
to success was not always smooth. There was a time when she almost
lost hope. She received an order from three buyers who refused to
make payments. This almost drained her capital.
This is also the time when
she met CARD Bank, a microfinance-oriented rural bank. The bank does
not only provide financial assistance but also access to
microinsurance, business development service, marketing support and
educational support to its clients. She later on became enticed with
the benefits that CARD Bank offers. With the low interest and
flexible payments, she decided to become a client.
Her first loan amounted to
PhP5,000. Because she managed her fund well, she can now avail a
higher loan that she can use in her other businesses aside from buri
making. Her handicrafts like hats, bags and wallets are now
distributed to various parts of the country. She has also started to
customize her products to be used as gifts and souvenirs for
birthdays and weddings.
During the COVID-19
pandemic, she also found ways to adapt to the new normal. She
started online selling of her products, expanding her network
nationally and internationally.
“If my life would be
compared to a thing, it's definitely the buli. Producing a buli
handicraft involves twisting, criss-crossing and entwining. But
after the complicated process, it turns into a beautiful and useful
product. Same goes with my life, there might be unpredictable twists
in my fate, criss-crossing with my decision-making, and sometimes I
might get entwined with problems, but still I know, everything will
fall in their places,” Mary Jane shared.
Mary Jane has been a
client of CARD Bank for twelve years, while her husband has also
been a CARD client for four years. Through CARD financial
assistance, the couple managed to sustain their business which is
locally known as Prado Handicrafts. They have also availed
educational loans for their children to support school maintenance.
For them, the help they received from CARD is enough to keep their
business alive despite the many challenges.
More dreams, zero
January 20, 2022
SAN PABLO CITY - The number of young people, who were left with no
choice but to drop out of school, reached more than five million for
the academic year 2021-2022.
the COVID-19 pandemic left families bereft of grand celebrations.
Birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries were celebrated with small,
immediate families, more often than not, at home.
The pandemic should have crippled businesses related to food, events,
and party services, but one family in Lemery, Batangas, took the
pandemic as a challenge and came up with a way to celebrate in a
practical, fun, and safe manner.
Gracelda “Grace” Dalisay and her family were dining together, when a
portion of cooked food and camote with cheese were left untouched.
From here, they tried to sell the excess to neighbors who were more
than enthusiastic to try Grace’s cooking. As days passed, the
Dalisay family was urged to hold a small surprise for a few close
friends who were celebrating their birthday, but due to the
pandemic, this was no small feat. However, with the new seven-seater
minivan they loaned from CARD SME Bank, the Dalisay family explored
the idea of using the vehicle to hold what is now popularly known as
a car trunk surprise.
These were the beginnings of Taste of Home, the Dalisay’s food
delivery service that holds car trunk surprises for those
celebrating their birthday, anniversary, and other special events in
the comforts of their home.
A Taste of Success
The family business started in February 2020, ironically, at the
onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to cater to families who want to
celebrate special occasions without breaking the government’s
protocol, which is set to immobilize the spread of the virus.
Together with her husband and her sister, Grace cooks an assortment
of food including pasta, noodle dishes like pansit, various Filipino
delicacies including maja and puto, sandwiches, spring rolls, and
With a car trunk surprise, not only is food delivered to the
doorsteps of a family, but it also prevents families from stepping
out of their homes and risk compromising their health. It also
brings incredible joy to families in the midst of a health crisis
that affects the rest of the world.
Through word of mouth, Grace’s car surprise has reached different
parts of Batangas, Cavite, and Laguna. According to Grace, their
minivan became a big part of their lives as it brought them a steady
source of income during the pandemic.
“The car we loaned is a blessing to us. We are grateful to CARD SME
Bank for giving us a chance to own a car that we have never dreamt
of using for our business. With the grace of God, we have never
lacked anything because of this. I am really grateful,” Grace said.
Through her son, Grace and her family availed the Drive Ur Wheels
car loan amounting to P1,000,000 from CARD SME Bank, a
full-fledged thrift bank that provides financial assistance,
microinsurance, and other community development programs to
microentrepreneurs and their family.
The Journey with CARD
Grace has been a client of CARD since 2007. From CARD, Inc., she was
then transitioned later to CARD SME Bank. Therefore, CARD has been a
witness to her journey from being an overseas Filipino worker to a
cook in a small restaurant in Mahayahay in Lemery, Batangas, to
finally being a businesswoman of her own car trunk surprise service.
CARD was also present in her children’s life, particularly with her
second youngest son, Victor Manuel, who was a recipient of the
educational loan during his time at Batangas Science High School.
Aside from these milestones, Grace is also now an authorized
konek2CARD Agent in their community since May 2021. A konek2CARD
Agent is a trusted partner of CARD in bringing konek2CARD, its
mobile banking service, closer to clients in the community. Through
agents like Grace, clients of CARD SME Bank can withdraw, deposit,
pay their bills, and settle their weekly dues without going to the
Grace is currently holding 14 centers with a total of P250,000
collected payments weekly and P1,000,000 monthly. Through
konek2CARD, Grace earns an extra income that she uses for leisure
activities to bond with her husband and their children.
If there is one thing the Dalisays are good at, it is celebrating
small wins in life and sharing their family’s love and joy with
other people. With Taste of Home, Grace and her family believe that
people can still celebrate and create memories with their loved ones
even in the midst of adversities.
Braving storms; One
Paborita at a time
August 27, 2021
SAN PABLO CITY – The outpouring rain brought by Typhoon Glenda may have torn through
the Philippines in 2014, but it has also watered the beginnings of Fadullo’s Bakery and their paborita business. Specializing in soft
bread, Irene Fadullo and her husband have been in the baking
business in Lipa City, Batangas since 2008. Four years later, the
couple ventured into baking paborita crackers, but it did not become
popular in the market instantly. They lacked the necessary permits
to continue the production of the paborita.
However, opportunity stormed through the Fadullos as they weathered
Typhoon Glenda with fresh will and perseverance. As a great demand
for paborita dominated the market, the Fadullos worked day and night
through the power cut in Lipa, Batangas to produce their biscuits.
At first, they had to leave one bundle (100 pcs.) of paborita in the
market and wait for a call to retrieve their unsold crackers back to
their bakery. One day, an unexpected call came asking for more
paborita to be delivered to them.
From then on, the Fadullos started delivering 30 bundles to the
market every week. As their production grew, their need for extra
capital also intensified. They sought the help of CARD SME Bank in
growing their business, starting with a P2,000 loan which helped
them to purchase flour. To increase their production, they decided
to loan P10,000 to buy a secondhand oven. This helped them in
constantly supplying their growing market for paborita.
Now, the Fadullos have increased their capacity by employing their
relatives as well as students with their parents’ consent. This
allows them to provide a source of living to their community and
train the youth to prepare them for their future.
The Fadullos are also now using 31 ovens to help them with their
production. Now, they create 432 bundles of paborita every day.
Walking with CARD has also led the Fadullos to cross paths with
CARD-Business Development Service Foundation, Inc. (CARD-BDSFI)
which helped them improve their facility and secure their
accreditation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Aside
from this, the Fadullos were also introduced to Mga Likha Ni Inay (MLNI)
which supports underprivileged communities through the promotion of
their local products. With the Fadullo’s excellent performance and
contribution to their community, the couple became an awardee in
Pagkilala sa mga Likha ni Inay as the “Gawad Maunlad” in 2017, which
won them P50,000 and a computer package.
Because of the relationship they have built, the Fadullos also
supplied paborita to MLNI that continually promotes and sells their
products to its market. Hijos Tours also integrated the Fadullos
paborita to their travel boxes, proof that CARD has absorbed the
paborita as one of its staple products.
Irene also appreciates the programs offered by CARD to its clients.
“CARD has various programs that will help every individual grow.
Aside from absorbing our products, they also provide trainings on
financial management which helped us greatly,” Irene shared.
However, the pandemic became one more storm they had to overcome to
succeed. The COVID-19 pandemic birthed not only health-related
problems but also competitors who do not have permits but sell
paborita at a cheaper price. Because of this, the Fadullo’s
customers have set their sights on different paborita suppliers. To
counter this problem, Irene set up their own Facebook page where
customers may order paborita when not available in the market.
“As an entrepreneur, you need to know the kind of business you are
dealing with,” Irene said. She continued, “More importantly, you
should trust the product you are selling. You should not give up
easily,” Irene concluded.
With the Fadullo’s dedication and their unceasing mission to grow
their business, the Lipa-based bakery is sure to conquer storms one
paborita at a time.
For two mothers,
justice harder to reach amid pandemic
mothers share how it feels to be prisoners of misery. On top of the
uncertainties brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, Marites Asis
agonizes over how the justice system has treated her daughter and
her late granddaughter, baby River, while Barbara Ruth Angeles has
to endure the loss of a daughter to sickness while seeking justice
for her son, who’s been in jail for months.
AIE BALAGTAS SEE
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
December 2, 2020
The wheels of justice are
grinding exceedingly slow for Marites Asis and Barbara Ruth Angeles.
Marites is the mother of
Reina Mae “Ina” Nasino, an urban poor leader who was arrested in
Manila in November 2019. Ina learned she was pregnant weeks before
her transfer to Manila City Jail and gave birth to baby River on
July 1, only to be separated from her newborn after a month.
Marites became worried not
only over Ina’s freedom and safety, but also over baby River’s
health. River, who was dependent on formula milk and donations from
the milk bank, was confined at the Philippine General Hospital after
contracting pneumonia in September. Baby River’s death sparked
public outrage as Ina was not allowed to visit the hospital and was
given only six hours to say goodbye to her baby.
Painter Barbara Ruth
Angeles has a similar story. It’s been months since she last saw her
son Inno, who was arrested on what she said were trumped-up drug
charges in Quezon City in 2018. To add to her misery, Inno’s older
and only sister died of bladder problems in August.
Inno was not able to say
Barbara Ruth has yet to
properly mourn the sudden passing of her eldest child as she is busy
earning a living while finding ways to free Inno. Barbara Ruth is
also busy taking care of her 12-year-old granddaughter, who is now
Marites and Barbara Ruth
are free but mired in misery that could only be cured by the
delivery of justice.
Here are their stories, in
their own words.
Justice is heavy handed for Reina Mae
Nasino and baby River
Marites Asis (as told to Aie
I found out that my
daughter Ina was pregnant the same time Covid-19 struck. I felt the
weight of heaven crash down on me.
I couldn’t give an
interview without crying. At night, I even cry myself to sleep.
You’d think I was crazy.
I learned about my
daughter’s pregnancy in February, a few weeks before the police were
set to transfer her to Manila City Jail.
That’s why when lockdowns
were imposed, I was anxious. You need social distancing, but they’re
cramped in a dormitory that houses 111 people.
It seemed risky for my
daughter to be pregnant and at the same time detained in jail, where
she could catch the virus.
I was asleep when Ina was
arrested [on Nov. 5, 2019]. Someone went to my house at about 5 a.m.
and told me about Ina’s arrest. The person said she was taken to the
CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) office in Manila
Police District (MPD). In short, I rushed to MPD around 5 a.m.
I was hysterical.
I went to Ate Vicky, my
older sister, the woman who raised all of us, including Ina. We
consider her our mother.
Ate Vicky said we should
go to MPD. At MPD headquarters, however, they did not allow us to
see Ina immediately.
Investigators were asking
them if they really owned those guns.
I was furious.
The police planted
evidence against Ina. I know my daughter. They planted guns and
grenades. During the arrest, the cops covered their faces with
pillows. Who in his right mind would do that to our youth?
It hurts so much to see
your child in jail.
You couldn’t even go out
because of coronavirus. You’re stuck at home. Anxious and worried.
Before coronavirus hit, I
would visit her in jail every day. I never missed a visit until
visitation rights were cancelled last March.
With the lockdown in
place, I felt helpless.
I always wonder how my
daughter is doing. Is she eating well? Can she take a shower in
private or do they take showers in groups?
I pity my daughter.
Because of the virus, we
could not see each other, especially when she was still pregnant.
Covid-19 exacerbated my pain.
She said maybe I could see
her again in October.
It’s difficult. It’s
really, really difficult. I couldn’t sleep at night. I would always
think of her. She would talk to us through video calls, and we were
happy to see her tummy grow.
But I felt so guilty. I
couldn’t take care of my own daughter.
Ina was supposed to give
birth on July 10 but she gave birth nine days early, on July 1.
I didn't even see her at
I was asleep. A jail
personnel called me at midnight. She instructed me to go to Fabella
Hospital as Ina was about to give birth.
I rushed to Ate Vicky once
again. Together we went to Fabella, hoping we could be by my
daughter’s side on that important day.
When we got there, the
hospital administration said visitors were not allowed because of
their Covid-19 protocols.
Anyway, the hospital said
Ina had given birth.
Ate Vicky and I went back
to Fabella on July 3 to bring diapers and water for the baby.
The security guards said
my daughter was still there. They didn’t allow us to see her, so we
asked if they could hand the package over to Ina.
On our way home, about
noontime, Ate Vicky’s phone rang. It was Ina. She said the baby was
crying because she could not produce milk. The baby was hungry.
It baffled us because we
thought she was still in the hospital. Ina said they returned to
jail on July 2.
No one told us. We just
found out. That gave us another bout of sharp pain.
The security guards played us for fools!
We attended to Ina first. When we reached the city jail, we were
told the baby was already given formula milk.
Then we stormed Fabella Hospital to confront the guards. We demanded
that they return the diapers and water. Those belong to us.
They didn’t even want to return the water and diapers, so I
complained at the hospital’s information center.
I last saw Ina when she handed the baby to us on [Aug. 13].
We barely met her. We were not supposed to see Ina. I just asked the
warden if I could have a glimpse of my daughter.
How do I feel? I’m filled with pain. I can witness the suffering of
I felt that Ina and my granddaughter did not want to be separated
from each other.
How I feel about Ina is the same with how she feels about my
I don’t know why they treated her that way. As a mother, I felt
hurt. I don’t know how to explain it. She is not convicted yet.
It was painful to watch them [policemen and jail guards] surround my
daughter. It’s okay if they made her wear PPE (personal protective
equipment) because she needed to go back to jail. But to handcuff
her? As if it’s not a wake.
I have yet to move on.
I skip social media posts that remind me of what happened because
they bring back memories of when she was handcuffed at the wake. She
was looking at her child. She was not able to come close to her
Then there’s the memory of men with high-powered guns barging in to
inspect the room and the toilet because they were afraid of getting
You see? They did not give us the chance to bond.
That day, I ran out of tears to cry. All I could do was call them
I didn’t have any tears left to cry after seeing my daughter’s
It was difficult to cry because I was enraged. I asked them to leave
the room because we didn’t need guns there.
They didn’t have to guard the burial. There were so many of them
that they outnumbered the mourners.
I tried to appeal to their hearts. I told them we knew it was an
order and we couldn’t do anything. Just the same I hoped they
realized it was a burial and a mother would be separated from her
I only wish they had thought of that.
During our last conversation at the cemetery, Ina told me: “Ma, it’s
okay to put the baby inside the niche.”
Ina held my hand twice: during the wake and during the burial.
She told me: “Ma, give me your hand.” She held it tight.
She was trying to tell me that I needed to be strong. I told her:
“Be strong, we will fight back.”
I’m okay. But it’s not easy to forget because the trauma is still
there. I can go to work now.
Ina said it’s not yet the end of everything.
I filed a legal complaint over what they did during the baby's wake
and burial. How will I attain justice if I don’t complain? This
should serve them a lesson because they must not treat other people
the way they treated us.
Baby River died of pneumonia on Oct. 9. The court gave Reina Mae a
couple of three-hour furloughs to bid her child goodbye. The first
was to visit the wake, the second was to bury her child.
Not even an inch of her skin was able to touch River’s coffin. She
was made to wear a full hazmat suit during the visits because of the
threat of Covid-19. She was in handcuffs most of the time and was
surrounded by heavily armed government forces.
Their family was never given a chance to grieve.
Legal shortcuts in the drug war: From
‘palit-ulo’ to ‘amin-laya’
Barbara Ruth Angeles (as told to
Aie Balagtas See)
My son Inno will enter
into a plea-bargain agreement. I don’t have any choice left. I have
to take him out of jail.
My son does not want it,
but I have no choice. How else are we going to set him free? That
was why we opted for “amin-laya” (plea bargain).
The advice came from
lawyers and BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) personnel.
They said it’s his first offense anyway.
I’m worried for my son, of
course, as entering into a plea bargain means having a permanent
criminal record. It’s similar to being convicted already, although
he is innocent.
But my son’s case has been
pending in court for two years. Within that period we only had about
four hearings even if the court had released a monthly schedule.
Reset. Reset. Reset.
Since my son couldn’t
prove his innocence in court, I told him that once he’s free, it’s
up to him to prove to himself that he’s not what the government had
accused him of.
Besides, the cops offered
this solution to us before, and they promised us they wouldn’t
I can take better care of
my son if he’s with me. I can tell him, “Don’t go out, don’t go with
I just want this problem
to end. We’re all suffering because of it.
Then, there’s the
pandemic. The BJMP does not tell us the exact number of inmates
infected with Covid-19. It’s difficult because it’s congested there.
Actually, I had to take
risks and buy my son a P15,000 kubol (hut) so he could have his own
space, and that’s just plywood about a quarter of a meter in size.
It is very expensive
inside city jails. You’re aware of this: If you are poor, you will
starve to death inside our jails.
Since visitation rights
are suspended, my son and I communicate with each other through
phone calls. Imagine this: to get in touch with me, he needs to buy
call cards worth P100 for P300. The BJMP asks you to buy the call
cards from them.
I won’t tell you the exact
amount that I spend on my son but his budget for a week is my budget
for two weeks.
I don’t know what else
could happen. That’s why I said, “Son, just plead guilty.”
My son was arrested on May
3 (2018). Arrests of drug suspects spiked during that period because
of the drug war “quota”. I learned about that so-called quota from
the BJMP personnel. They blamed it for their population boom.
Go back to the day Galas
police station was raided over an extortion case. That’s how we
learned Inno was there.
At first, we had no idea
that Inno had been arrested. We looked for him in barangay halls and
police stations. We reported him as missing because we couldn’t
reach his phone.
I kept crying.
My daughter and I searched
everywhere. I thought he was killed because deaths related to bike
theft were rampant those days, so we scoured hospitals and funeral
I posted about our search
for Inno on Facebook. One of my school batchmates advised me to
report it to 8888. I reported it to the Duterte hotline 8888 but it
was not able to help us.
On May 4, Galas Police
Station was raided over an extortion case involving its
A police investigator called me and said: “Go to Galas Police
Station immediately. Your son is here. Bring food and clothes.”
I was shocked. How did he
end up there?
No one entertained me at
the police station until I lost my cool.
Someone from GMA News told
me to get a good lawyer.
At that time, hiring a
private lawyer cost P300,000. Our case got delayed because we
couldn’t find one. Some were too old. His grandmother found someone
but I think he’s from Aklan.
We couldn’t grasp what was
happening. We were desperate to find a lawyer. It was mental
torture. We weren’t used to this. It was the first time someone in
the family got involved in a court case.
The most enraging part was
my son didn’t violate any law.
You know, initially, the
police didn’t even have a record of his arrest.
I talked to detainees and
some policemen at Galas. I learned that the SAID (Station
Anti-Illegal Drugs Division) cops were supposed to kill Inno as a
replacement for big fish that they’re extorting money from.
The policemen in Galas
said my son was intended for “palit-ulo.” (Palit-ulo, which
literally means head-swapping, is a scheme in which a drug suspect
gets freedom in exchange for ratting out on his or her suppliers.)
They said it was for a
“zero-zero.” You know zero-zero?
That meant they would kill
The policemen tortured my
I have evidence, including
the medico-legal report, and X-ray and CT scan results.
At the hospital, the
doctor said he had fractured ribs. They also saw a “metallic
forensic” in his left leg.
The doctor did not want
him to leave, but Galas police did not allow him to be operated on.
Despite his fractures and injuries, Galas turned him over to the
We lost the chance to have
him treated. His wounds eventually healed in jail.
You asked how I’m doing?
It’s the first time
someone asked me that question.
Well, I’m not… I’m not
okay. I try to do my normal routine but emotionally, no, I’m not
okay. My daughter died in August while my son is in jail. She’s my
eldest and the only one I could rely on to deal with this problem.
We were able to get hold
of the CCTV [showing Inno’s illegal arrest] because of her.
I still couldn’t accept
that my daughter had passed away.
Inno was not able to say
goodbye. They had not seen each other for two years.
She was sick but was not
confined. Her resistance was down and I was afraid that she might
catch the virus in the hospital.
My daughter left behind
three children. The eldest child, an 11-year-old girl, does not have
a father. I’m taking care of her.
My granddaughter is
already worried that her life will fall apart if something happens
to me. I told her, nothing’s going to happen to me because I still
have a purpose in life.
I have faith in the Lord.
I never questioned God for
everything that I’m going through. I know he will not give me these
trials if I cannot overcome them.
I’m trying to be strong
for my son and for my granddaughter. If I falter, who would be
strong for them.
But it’s difficult.
I think my daughter is
guiding me. I feel better now. I started painting again 40 days
after her death.
I used to paint with dark
colors, colors that you can associate with death. This time, I’m
using positive and vibrant colors. My artwork seems alive.
Do I have peace of mind?
No. I can only have peace
of mind when my son is finally with me. -- PCIJ, December 2020
Balagtas See is a freelance journalist working on human rights
issues. Follow her on Twitter (@AieBalagtasSee) or email her at
email@example.com for comments.
Inspired by The Marshall Project's Life Inside, Marites' and
Barbara's stories are part of PCIJ’s series on the criminal justice
system, which includes first-person accounts from current and former
detainees and their family members.
Dumagat woman breastfeeds her six-month-old baby while
waiting for their sitio’s turn to line up for relief
protection of breastfeeding practices reap rewards
ANGELICA CARBALLO PAGO
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
October 21, 2020
Exclusive breastfeeding among infants 0 to 5.9 months has nearly
doubled, from 30 percent in 2003 to 58 percent in 2019.
Women should still
breastfeed despite the pandemic, even those found to be positive for
Covid-19, according to a Department of Health (DOH) memorandum. This
shows how the government has been relentless in promoting
breastfeeding in the face of a formidable opponent – milk
manufacturing giants who have made their way into the consciousness
of Filipino mothers through massive advertising.
Despite the passage of the Milk Code 33 years ago, myths and
unfounded beliefs persist amid aggressive promotions by milk
manufacturers that claim to give a child advantage in terms of
health and IQ points.
Only 35.1 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed until 5 months
of age, according to the 2019 Expanded National Nutrition Survey of
the Department of Science and Technology – Food and Nutrition
Research Institute (DOST-FNRI), although exclusive breastfeeding
percentages have been increasing since 2003, but took a dip in 2015.
Nathalie Verceles, director of the University of the Philippines
Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, said the Milk Code was meant
to protect the interest of mothers and babies from aggressive
marketing strategies of formula milk companies. (See related story:
Milk and the pandemic: Milk Code confusion cripples LGUs response
Mothers need support, according to Save the Children Philippines
health and nutrition adviser Dr. Amado Parawan. A mother’s decision
to breastfeed, he said, predates the birth of the child and will
depend on what she believes – or is made to believe. This decision
can also be affected by the support she gets – or doesn’t get – from
home, work and community.
Mota shows the bottle used to feed baby Pia, when her family was
able to scrape a few hundred pesos to buy formula milk.
Here’s a timeline of breastfeeding policies and how they have
influenced breastfeeding rates.
May 1981 – The International Code on Marketing of Breastmilk
Substitutes is adopted by the World Health Assembly. The aim is to
protect and promote breastfeeding by ensuring appropriate marketing
and distribution of breastmilk substitutes.
20 October 1986 – President Corazon Aquino signs Executive Order 51
or the Milk Code with its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).
The Code regulates advertising of breastmilk substitutes, including
infant formula, other milk products, foods and beverages, feeding
bottles and teats.
1990 – Guided by the World Health Assembly resolutions, which state
that “follow-on or follow-up formulas are unnecessary because after
six months the baby starts to take complementary foods together with
sustained breastfeeding,” improvements were introduced on the IRR,
such as the ban on follow-on formulas. This was prompted by the 1987
Wyeth's invention of follow-on milk for children aged six months and
above that undermined the importance of breastfeeding. When the Milk
Code was being drafted, follow-on milk was not yet invented.
“Complementary food” includes food that is part of the local
2 June 1992 – The Rooming-In and Breast-Feeding Act, Republic Act
(RA) 7600, is passed, provides legal basis for rooming-in as a
national policy to encourage, protect and support breastfeeding.
2003 – The exclusive breastfeeding percentage among infants 0-5.9
months stands at 29.7 percent.
2004 – The Task Force Milk Code begins discussion and debate on the
first draft of the revised IRR of the Milk Code. Among those
consulted was Swiss multinational Nestlé, who represented formula
23 May 2005 – DOH Administrative Order (AO) 2006-0014 or the
National Policies on Infant and Young Children is issued. It states
that in times of crisis, breastfeeding is the first and best feeding
option for infants and young children. It requires mothers and
babies to remain together after delivery. Support must be given for
mothers to breastfeed even in crisis or emergencies.
2006 – The Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association of the Philippines
(PHAP) seeks a temporary restraining order on the revised IRR’s
implementation. After initially denying PHAP’s petition, the court
overturns its decision and issues a TRO on the revised IRR.
28 May 2007 – DOH AO 2007-0017 or the “Guidelines on the Acceptance
and Processing of Foreign and Local Donations during Emergency and
Disaster Situations,” states that “Infant formula, breastmilk
substitutes, feeding bottles, artificial nipples and teats shall not
be items for donation. No acceptance of donation shall be issued for
any of the enumerated items.”
09 October 2007 – The revised IRR of the Milk Code takes effect
after the Supreme Court partially upholds its validity. It strikes
down certain provisions, such as the prohibition on advertising and
promotion of breastmilk substitutes and introduces sanctions not
found in the law.
01 April 2008 – The Department of the Interior and Local Government
releases AO 2008-0055, or the “Guidelines on the acceptance and
processing of foreign and local donations during emergency and
disaster situations.” It endorses DOH AO 2007-0017 to all local
2008 – The exclusive breastfeeding percentage among infants 0-5.9
months rises to 35.9 percent.
16 March 2009 – RA 10028 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Act, which
amends RA 7600, is signed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It
establishes standards for workplaces, health facilities (with the
establishment of milk banks) and public places, and calls for
breastfeeding breaks and designated facilities in the workplace.
2011 – The exclusive
breastfeeding percentage among infants 0-5.9 months rises anew, to
21 December 2012 – RA
10354 or The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of
2012 is signed by President Benigno Aquino III. It includes
breastfeeding as an element of reproductive health care and provides
a basis for breastfeeding promotion and education.
2013 – More than half, or
52.3 percent, of infants 0-5.9 months are exclusively breastfed.
2015 – The exclusive
breastfeeding percentage among infants 0-5.9 months dips for the
first time to 48.8 percent.
29 November 2018 – RA
11148 or the “Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act” is signed by
President Rodrigo Duterte. The law seeks to address the malnutrition
of infants and young and lactating women.
2018 – The exclusive
breastfeeding percentage among infants 0-5.9 months recovers
slightly to 54.9 percent.
17 April 2019 – RA 11311
or “An Act to Improve Land Transportation Terminals, Stations,
Stops, Rest Areas and Roll-On/Roll-Off Terminals, Appropriating
Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes,” establishes lactation
stations in transport terminals, stations, stops and rest areas.
2019 – Exclusive
breastfeeding improves to 57.9 percent.
11 May 2020 – DOH
Memorandum No. 2020-0237 or the “Interim Guidelines for the Delivery
of Nutrition Services in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic” states
that mothers who are asymptomatic, or those with close contacts,
suspect, probable, or confirmed case of COVID-19 who do not have
severe illness and/or who are not in respiratory distress, can
continue breastfeeding, provided that they observe strict infection
15 May 2020 – DOH
Memorandum No. 2020-0231 or the “Guidelines on the Standardized
Regulation of Donations, Related to EO 51,” provides guidelines on
how LGUs can help provide nutrition for non-breastfeeding children
under 3 years old. While donations are banned as stipulated in
various laws and orders, LGUs can procure formula milk and give them
to identified families. The memorandum still upholds the promotion
and protection of breastfeeding for infants and young children.
Food and Nutrition Research Institute for breastfeeding data
Babymilkaction.org for Milk Code RIRR timeline
breastfeeds her child, two-month old Pia, not their real
names, inside their house in Barangay Inarawan, Antipolo
City. Hazel's mother, Maryjoy Mota, posted several
comments on social media asking for help in buying
formula milk for her infant grandchild after the
enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was enforced in
March. The family's breadwinner, Ricky, lost his job as
a construction worker when the ECQ began. Hazel and her
boyfriend are teenage students with no jobs. With little
money to buy formula milk for Pia, Maryjoy encouraged
Hazel to breastfeed her infant daughter.
Milk and the
pandemic: Milk Code confusion cripples LGUs response for infants
ANGELICA CARBALLO PAGO
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
October 8, 2020
indiscriminate distribution and use of breastmilk substitutes,
especially during emergencies, can change feeding practices and put
babies at greater risk of illness.
What you need to know
about this story:
- Experts are calling for
measures to ensure the health and safety of infant and young
children, which can easily be undermined by the milk industry’s
aggressive marketing initiatives.
- The Milk Code does not
ban formula milk procurement and distribution by local government
units, provided they follow guidelines set by the Department of
- Marketing and
advertising of products within the scope of the Milk Code, however,
are prohibited. Donations of formula milk and breastfeeding
substitutes from manufacturers and distributors of these products
- Local government units
are clueless to the finer details of breastfeeding and infant and
young child nutrition laws, to the detriment of mothers, infants and
young children in need especially during the current Covid-19
- Milk companies use
disasters and crises to market their products, and DOH data show a
rise in Milk Code violations during the enhanced community
Here’s one unintended
consequence of the Covid-19 health emergency: Parents and guardians
are desperately finding ways to feed their babies, with some even
begging on the streets or on social media. With lockdowns making it
harder to provide proper and adequate food for the family, their
health and nutrition -- especially of babies -- are at risk.
attempted to solve the problem by distributing formula milk to
mothers, only to find out that donations are not allowed by the Milk
Code, a 1986 law regulating the marketing and distribution of
Worse, formula milk makers
seem to be taking advantage of the situation to undermine strict
government regulations, experts observed.
During the Enhanced
Community Quarantine (ECQ) in March, Maryjoy Mota, a 37-year-old
resident of Antipolo, posted on the Antipolo City Facebook group
that her two-month-old granddaughter needed diapers and formula
17-year-old Hazel, had just given birth to Pia (not their real
names), two weeks before the ECQ was enforced throughout Luzon in
mid-March. Maryjoy’s post drew a hundred other comments from mothers
and guardians in the same situation.
With Hazel giving birth to
Pia two weeks ahead of her due date, the doctor immediately
prescribed a formula milk brand, PreNan, developed for premature
newborns. Weighing just 1.7 kilograms, the baby had to be placed in
“We were not given any
other options or brands, nor given any instructions or assistance to
start breastfeeding,” Maryjoy said.
Even when Hazel went for check-ups at the barangay and the district
health centers before she gave birth, there were no instructions on
breastfeeding, which could have helped them save some money instead
of spending it on formula milk, she said.
Sought for comment, an official of the Rizal Provincial Hospital
System - Antipolo Annex 1, who asked not to be named, insisted that
the hospital followed breastfeeding protocols. But Pia weighed below
the 2.5-kilogram birth weight threshold and showed signs of sepsis,
the official said.
The formula milk prescribed to Pia met the baby’s caloric
requirements, which might not be sustained by breastfeeding, the
But with no income, it was
impossible to buy the 400-gram can of milk, which costs P641.
Maryjoy’s common-law husband, Ricky, lost his construction job
because of the pandemic, while Pia’s parents were unemployed
While some local leaders
were aware of the plight of new mothers like Hazel, the Milk Code
posed an obstacle. Sangguniang Kabataan Chairman Arky Manning of
Barangay San Isidro in Taytay, Rizal learned this the hard way.
The Department of Health (DOH)
gave Manning a memo for violating Executive Order (EO) 51, or the
Milk Code of 1986, by “accepting and distributing milk formula
donations” given to mothers with infants in Taytay in April and May
Manning explained that it
was part of the “Tulong Kay Baby” (help for baby) project, a
donation drive that he had organized with his friends. They bought
milk and diapers using funds given by private individuals. No mass
distribution or random donation of milk happened, he claimed.
Manning was one of the 291
violators flagged by the DOH from March 1 to July 24, largely
covering the ECQ period in Luzon. Reports of violations came from
the general public, submitted through http://mbfp.doh.gov.ph. MBFP,
which stands for DOH’s Mother and Baby-Friendly Philippines, is the
reporting platform for violations of the Milk Code and the Expanded
Breastfeeding Act of 2009 (Republic Act 10028).
The list of violators
included health workers, non-profit organizations, and local
executives such as Manning, and Mayors Andrea Henares of Antipolo
City and Marcy Teodoro of Marikina City. Also on the list were
celebrities such as Say Alonzo and Marian Rivera Dantes, who
together with Nido, a brand that Dantes endorses, and the YesPinoy
Foundation, were reported to have distributed follow-on formula.
Dantes even posted it on Instagram to her 9.4 million followers.
EO 51 issued by former
President Corazon C. Aquino, otherwise known as the Philippine Milk
Code of 1986 or simply, the Milk Code, regulates the marketing of
breastmilk substitutes, including milk formula, breastmilk
supplements and other similar products by prohibiting the
advertising and promotion, whether written, audio or visual, for
such products. It adheres to the International Code on Marketing of
Breastmilk Substitutes, adopted by the World Health Assembly in May
1981. Breastfeeding advocates have hailed the Milk Code as one of
the strongest breastfeeding protection laws in the world.
The Milk Code’s Revised
Implementing Rules and Regulations (RIRR), released 30 years after
the law was signed, prohibits the donation of infant formula and
breastmilk. Administrative orders from the DOH and the Department of
the Interior and Local Government (DILG) further disallow the
donation of infant formula milk and breastmilk substitutes in times
of disasters and calamities.
According to data from the
Food and Nutrition Research Institute, exclusive breastfeeding rates
have continuously gone up in the last 10 years, reaching 57.9
percent in 2019. The global exclusive breastfeeding rate stands at
41 percent. The United Nations targets to increase global
breastfeeding rates to 50 percent by 2025.
Marketing is prohibited, the milk is not
Maria Rosario Vergeire said the law did not bar local government
units (LGUs) from procuring formula milk.
“If local government units
procure formula milk, the law does not cover it. EO 51 is a
regulatory tool used by the Department of Health to regulate the
advertisement of manufacturers that formula milk is more important
than a mother’s milk. That’s our first objective -- we would like to
know that breastmilk is still the best for babies,” she said.
DOH Memorandum No.
2020-0231, dated May 15, 2020, laid down the guidelines on the
standardized regulation of donations covered by the Milk Code.
Formula milk and breastmilk substitutes can still be provided to
those in need, with the following conditions:
1. The local government
unit buys it using its own budget (procurement);
2. Breastmilk should still
be the first choice and the procured formula milk is given to
identified mothers/infants, not distributed en masse;
preparation and use of breastmilk substitute and formula milk must
be done under the supervision of health and nutrition workers;
4. There should be no
brand name, logo or identifiable marks of the manufacturer; and
5. No public relations,
announcement or the likes may occur.
Dr. Mianne Silvestre,
executive director of Kalusugan ng Mag-Ina (mother’s health)
Foundation, echoed Vergeire’s explanation.
“The Milk Code is there to
regulate the marketing and advertising of formula milk and
breastfeeding substitutes, and not to penalize parents who give
these products to their children,” Silvestre said. “Nobody goes to
jail for feeding formula milk to their babies.”
Sharing a similar view,
Dr. Paul Zambrano, a technical specialist at Alive and Thrive, a
private initiative to reduce child undernutrition by improving
infant and young child feeding practices, said: “Marketing (of
formula milk and breastmilk substitutes) will undermine the practice
of breastfeeding and complementary feeding with healthy food after
six months. It’s meant to save lives. It is meant to prevent the top
killers of children in that age group – diarrhea and pneumonia. ”
The problem, Silvestre
said, was that formula milk was being marketed as the first option
instead of breastfeeding. This goes against the hierarchy of infant
feeding choices laid out in the Global Strategy for Infant and Young
Child Feeding published by the World Health Organization (WHO),
which states that donated breast milk from a wet nurse or milk bank
takes precedence over formula milk.
Even for Covid-19 positive
mothers, the WHO still recommends continued breastfeeding and
rooming of babies with their mothers. Transmission of Covid-19
through breastmilk or breastfeeding has not been established.
No guidance for LGUs
What can and cannot be
done under the code does not seem to be clear to local governments,
even to the DILG. In an interview with PCIJ, Interior Undersecretary
Jonathan Malaya, affirmed that the ban extends to selective
distribution of milk to identified mothers and babies and referred
to the National Nutrition Council website for guiding policies.
Taytay’s Manning said no
guidance came from any government agency, particularly the DOH or
DILG, on how they could respond to the needs of mothers and their
During the quarantine,
local officials, such as Quezon City Councilor Ariel Inton,
repeatedly appealed to the DOH to lift the ban on milk donations.
In a Facebook livestream,
Inton, a lawyer, gave practical advice to barangay officials
planning to distribute formula milk to their constituents. “Tell
them that you are handing it out as loans or ask for coins so they
won’t say it’s a donation, so you can give the children something to
eat,” Inton said.
For Ynares, while the Milk
Code has an important purpose, it can also be a “bane during
“It poses a huge challenge
for families and the government to provide essential nutrition
required for child growth and development particularly during
extraordinary times,” the Antipolo City mayor said.
A National Nutrition
Council advisory said that LGUs should consider that some recipients
of pandemic relief goods have young children and pregnant and
lactating mothers. Families are supposed to be monitored by Barangay
Nutrition Scholars and Barangay Health Workers, who will provide
them with low-cost, one dish-meal recipes as well as recipes
utilizing their relief goods.
But Maryjoy said there
were no vegetables and nutritious food in their relief packs. The
lack of proper nutrition may have affected her daughter Hazel’s milk
supply, she said.
“The first relief pack we
received had three kilos of rice, two cans of sardines, and two
Lucky Me noodles,” she said.
There was one instance,
Maryjoy said, when her family received a few kilos of rice and 16
pieces of dried fish (tuyo). To increase Hazel’s milk, Maryjoy
bought malunggay and cooked it with noodle soup.
While the DOH had
specifically instructed that assistance should be provided to
breastfeeding mothers, Maryjoy said no one from her barangay came to
ask how her daughter and granddaughter were doing. “They only gave
me a 150-gram pack of powdered Bear Brand milk, only for her to
drink, but none for the baby,” Maryjoy recalled.
The usual relief pack
distributed by LGUs during the quarantine period contained a few
kilos of rice, canned goods and instant noodles. The nutrition
council however urged LGUs to include dark green and yellow
vegetables; root crops; legumes, beans and seeds; fruits; poultry
and eggs; meat or fish; and pasteurized fresh milk.
Only a few cities and
municipalities were able to distribute fresh produce.
shows the 150-gram pack of powdered milk she received after
lining up at the barangay hall. She believes the lack of
nutritious food affected Hazel's (not her real name) milk
“We are in a crisis
situation, and even the government’s hands are tied because of
supply chain problems. The local government units have to procure
thousands and thousands of produce to give to their constituents who
need it not now, but yesterday. That is the limitation, and we
understand when canned goods are distributed given the situation,”
said DILG’s Malaya.
Malaya pointed out that on
top of the relief packs given to households, a one-time cash
assistance was given in the form of the Social Amelioration Program
“The family can go to the
market and buy what they think is nutritious food for lactating
mothers. The government has already provided funds for them and they
can make that choice if they wish to,” Malaya said.
But for Maryjoy, the SAP
she received had to be divided among three households.
“The P6,500 is to be
divided among three families, with each receiving P2,000, but I get
to have the extra P500 because it was I who lined up for that
money,” Maryjoy said. Most of what she got eventually went to
repaying debt incurred when her husband lost his job.
Breast or bottle? This
question remains contentious. Since the Milk Code was enacted in
1986, the milk industry has taken advantage of every possible
loophole to undermine the law. When the Milk Code took effect in
1987, international milk manufacturing company Wyeth invented the
follow-on formula for babies six months old and beyond.
The Milk Code’s
implementing rules and regulations (IRR) were revised to include a
ban on advertising follow-on formula in 1990. A revised IRR was
drafted in 2006, adding further safeguards 30 years after the Milk
Code was signed, but this was challenged all the way to the Supreme
A report released in May
2020 by WHO, United Nations Children’s Fund and the International
Baby Food Action Network said that despite the pandemic, milk
companies continued to skirt laws in many countries and continuously
promoted their products.
“There is no guarantee
that these donations will occur over the long term,” said Dr.
Nathalie Africa-Verceles, director of the University of the
Philippines Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. “The intention
really is to introduce the product and to generate dependence with
the belief and the hope that women will continue to patronize the
products that they were provided for free initially.”
Studies have shown that
mothers exposed to breastmilk substitutes were highly likely to
abandon breastfeeding, and the indiscriminate distribution and use
of formula milk put infants at greater risk of illness, which might
A study in Indonesia in
the aftermath of the May 2006 earthquake in Yogyakarta and Central
Java found that the distribution and use of breastmilk substitutes
resulted in changes in feeding practices. Uncontrolled distribution
of infant formula exacerbated the risk of diarrhea among infants and
young children during the emergency, the study found.
“(The Milk Code) is very
relevant because let’s look at what the companies do during times of
emergencies, they use it to try to market the product,” said
DOH data confirmed these
observations. The health department noted that a rise in reports of
Milk Code violations from the public began to occur in the week when
the strict lockdowns began, peaking during the week of April 6 to 12
with 90 cases.
Apart from solicitations,
there were product advertisements, such as Marian Rivera-Dantes’
Instagram post. Corporate and private donations also happened
online, mostly through Facebook posts, according to the DOH data.
Zambrano pointed out that
the relevance of the Code had always been questioned during
emergencies. He recalled a situation in Cagayan de Oro after typhoon
Sendong in 2011 when distribution of formula milk became rampant.
Silvestre downplayed the
matter and said only a few mothers were unable to breastfeed their
babies due to medical or physical reasons.
“These few cases are being
hyped up to rationalize the lifting of the prohibition during
emergencies. When in fact, it is during emergencies when we should
intensify the protection of mothers to enable them to breastfeed
their babies,” Silvestre said.
Formula milk manufacturers
have been accused several times of unscrupulous means of advertising
their products, targeting mostly low-income families or those who
can least afford their product.
A 2018 report from Save
the Children Philippines revealed that baby formula brands in the
Philippines are using “aggressive, clandestine and often illegal
methods” to get poor mothers to choose their product over
Hospital staff also gave
brand-specific recommendations to mothers who had just given birth,
clearly a violation of the Milk Code. The report named Nestle,
Abbott, Mead Johnson and Wyeth as the companies who are using these
All four companies denied
the allegations in separate statements sent to the Guardian in 2018.
Cheapest, but not the best
Hazel is helping her
mother with their online selling business, earning a few extra pesos
to help augment their family’s income. She expects breastfeeding to
be temporary and will likely go back to feeding Pia formula milk.
Maryjoy said they had
begun feeding Nestogen One to Pia, the cheapest in the market at P78
per box. It wasn’t prescribed by the doctor.
“But Pia doesn’t want it,
she won’t swallow it,” Maryjoy said.
As Hazel handles
deliveries and client meet-ups for their online selling business,
Maryjoy has no choice but to give Pia formula milk.
“I need to go back to
school,” Hazel said.
Asked where they will get
the money to buy formula milk, Hazel shrugged. -- PCIJ,
Editor’s Note: The real names of Hazel and her baby, Pia, were not
used because they are minors.
piece of GI sheet is seen on top of an electrical post in
Barangay Sagkahan, Tacloban City after Typhoon Yolanda made
landfall and claimed more than 6,000 lives.
Heavy cost of coronavirus
response drains local governments’ disaster budgets
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
September 3, 2020
MANILA – The coastal towns of
Dolores and Sulat in Eastern Samar constantly battle with the impact
of extreme weather events such as storm surges, flash floods and
Early this year, the leaders of the two towns were set to conduct
training for emergency response teams, buy rescue equipment and
early warning devices from their calamity funds, but the Covid-19
pandemic got in the way and wiped out their calamity funds to
prevent the entry of the virus.
“The province was not ready to have a Covid-19 case,” said Manuel
Catuday, head of Municipal Disaster Risk Resilience Management
Office (MDRRMO) of Dolores. “We don’t have a government hospital,
only a rural health center with one doctor.”
A community hospital in Dolores has been dilapidated since last
year, and has not been repaired, he said. The next government
hospital is in Tacloban City, which is at least a four-hour drive.
Covid-19 came at a time when the localities have not even completely
recovered from the onslaught of Typhoons Yolanda and Ruby, which
struck a year apart.
While the government was still on post-Yolanda operations, Ruby came
in November 2014 and caused severe damage to homes, crops and
farmlands that were still being rehabilitated. There was not enough
public attention in the aftermath of Ruby as Yolanda was still fresh
in the minds of government officials as well as the general public.
“Lahat ng hanapbuhay namin nawala (All our sources of livelihood
were destroyed),” said Rio Caspe, 42, a fisherman from Barangay San
Francisco in Sulat whose house was destroyed by Typhoon Ruby.
His three children and wife had to rely on the meager earnings of
their small sari-sari store as massive flooding made fishing
Caspe said his neighbors were also cash-strapped because their crops
such as banana, rice and copra were destroyed by the typhoon.
“We only relied on relief goods while staying in an evacuation
center,” said Caspe.
Dolores, a third-class municipality, earmarked P8 million in
calamity funding for 2020 to prepare and protect its 42,000 people
or 12,700 families from the impact of natural calamities.
However, the funds had to be realigned to buy personal protective
equipment (PPE) for community volunteers as well as hygiene kits and
food packs for residents during the lockdown, which was imposed to
prevent the spread of Covid-19. The national government’s Bayanihan
fund gave Dolores a P14-million subsidy to respond to the Covid-19
“We are now sourcing from this (Bayanihan) fund for our response to
Covid-19 pandemic,” said Catuday.
The town also has to spend for at least 900 LSIs or locally stranded
individuals who arrived in Dolores from March to June.
Dolores, Sulat, and seven other towns in Samar were placed under
state of calamity in May when Typhoon Ambo, the first typhoon to
visit the country this year, pummeled the province. As usual, the
storm destroyed crops and damaged houses, displacing more than
Most houses in these towns are made of light materials.
“Matagal bago kami makabangon, hirap kasi ang pagpapagawa (It takes
a long time to recover because we don’t have enough money to repair
our houses),” said Catuday.
Charlie Rosaroso, head of the Sulat MDRRMO, said at least P1.5
million or 30 percent of the P5.1 million calamity fund for 2020 was
spent to provide emergency assistance to families affected by
Typhoon Ambo. The remaining funds were depleted by the Covid-19
He said he was only able to spare P300,000 to continue the training
for volunteers on emergency response.
Provinces and cities get 5 percent of the Internal Revenue Allotment
(IRA), the local governments’ share of national tax collections, for
disaster risk resilience (DRR) under Republic Act 10121 or the
Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.
Of the total calamity fund, 70 percent is allocated to prevention,
mitigation and preparedness, and 30 percent is set aside as a Quick
Response Fund (QRF).
“What is left of our calamity fund is now being used for our
Covid-19 response,” said Rosaroso. These include relief goods, PPE
for volunteers, hygiene kits, food packs for residents, as well as
LSIs and ROFs (returning overseas Filipinos) undergoing quarantine.
Sulat has hosted close to 200 LSIs since March.
A fourth-class municipality with a population of close to 16,000,
Sulat does not have a hospital, but there is one doctor in each of
the rural health centers in 18 barangays, said Rosaroso.
As of Aug. 10, there were eight confirmed cases of Covid-19
infection in Eastern Samar and most of them came from Metro Manila.
Both Catuday and Rosaroso said there were no confirmed cases in
their towns, as they work even on Sundays to ensure health and
hygiene protocols are properly implemented.
Mario Candelaria, chairman of Barangay San Francisco in Sulat, said:
“An infection here is a nightmare because we don’t have a hospital.”
“Noon 'pag galing Maynila sinasalubong ng mga taga dito, ngayon
nilalayuan na (Before, those who arrived from Manila got a welcome,
now people avoid them,” said Candelaria.
He said the P110,000 calamity fund of San Francisco has also been
used for food packs, hygiene kits, and for disinfecting public
Exposed and vulnerable
The Philippines ranked second in terms of exposure and vulnerability
to climate-related risks in the Global Climate Change Risk Report
for 2020 of Germanwatch, the environment think tank. Japan topped
Red Constantino, executive director of the Institute for Climate and
Sustainable Cities (ICSC), said the report showed that "Those who
are least responsible for the problem, are the ones who are
suffering the most. This is unacceptable."
“The pandemic has largely revealed systemic weaknesses that would
have just taken more time to uncover otherwise,” said Constantino.
The German report noted that strong tropical cyclones such as Bopha
(“Pablo”) 2012, Haiyan (“Yolanda”) 2013 and Mangkhut (“Ompong”) 2018
have been recorded in the last 10 years, affecting mostly the poor
and vulnerable population.
At least 74 percent of the country’s population is susceptible to
multiple hazards, including coastal hazards such as typhoons, storm
surges and rising sea levels, according to the 2018 World Risk
Report. The report ranked the Philippines third among countries most
vulnerable to disaster risks.
The catastrophic impact of Tropical Depression Ondoy in 2009 cost
Marikina and Pasig cities P22.54 billion, of which Pasig accounted
for 90 percent.
Rich city gets more money
This time around, Pasig City had to let go of critical spending for
disaster risk resilience programs due to the pandemic response, said
Bryant Wong, the city disaster risk reduction and management
officer. These included reducing the number of fire engines and
rescue vehicles to be purchased.
“We did not expect Covid-19 pandemic to affect us all, but we need
to respond to it the best way we can,” Wong said.
Unlike Sulat and Dolores, however, Pasig City Hall has deeper
pockets and generous donors.
Of the P600-million calamity fund for 2020, the city government has
spent half for the Covid-19 pandemic response, Wong said.
It also managed to utilize an additional P200 million from the P300
million DRR savings in the last five years.
Other funding sources for Pasig City’s Covid-19 response included a
P1.2-billion supplemental fund for the Social Amelioration Program
(SAP) and another P1.2 billion for tablets to be used by students
for online classes, from the Special Education Fund.
The city also received P136 million from the Bayanihan fund,
equivalent to one month of its IRA.
Wong said private donations of beds, PPEs, hygiene kits and rapid
testing kits worth P50 million boosted the city’s pandemic response.
The private sector also donated 100,000 food packs to Pasig.
In the case of Sulat and Dolores towns, there are no big corporate
donors, which meant that the money for food packs distributed to
locked-down residents came from their calamity funds.
Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad of the Office of Civil Defense, also
the executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and
Management Council Council (NDRRMC), told local government units (LGUs)
in a webinar in July to learn “to adjust, transform and adapt
strategies to manage response to Covid-19 pandemic and prepare for
multiple hazards from natural calamities.”
During the webinar, John Aries Macaspac, a director of the
Department of Budget and Management (DBM), enumerated funding
sources for the Covid-19 response, including the Special DRRM Trust
Fund or the savings from DRR funds in the last five years, a month’s
worth of IRA from the national government and realigned funds from
the General Fund. LGUs may also use 20 percent of their development
funds for the purchase of PPEs, rapid test kits, vitamins,
medicines, accommodation and expenses of health workers,
construction of rental quarantine facilities, mobile testing labs,
tents, shelters for the homeless, and training for pandemic
response, under guidelines issued by the DBM and the Department of
the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
The “Bayanihan to Heal as One” or Republic Act 11469 allocated P37
billion for the emergency Covid-19 response of LGUs. It allocated
P12.4 billion to all cities; P18.39 billion to municipalities and
P6.2 billion to provinces.
Constantino said responses to the Covid-19 pandemic and climate
emergency should go hand in hand, as both require the expertise of
scientists and policies and actions based on evidence.
Scientists, he noted, advised physical distancing to prevent the
transmission Covid-19 while waiting for a vaccine to be developed.
Scientists have also stressed the urgency of limiting the rise of
global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid the worst
impacts of the climate crisis.
“We do not have the luxury to choose whether we need protection from
the deadly fevers induced by the novel coronavirus or from an
increasingly feverish planet. Just as climate change is not an
environmental problem but a development crisis, so is Covid-19 not
merely a human health crisis but an ecological problem,” said
About the Author:
Estrella Torres is a journalist who has worked for major English
dailies in the Philippines for 20 years. She is now the Head of
Media and Communications of Save the Children Philippines. Save the
Children implements a program on improving the quality of disaster
response and preparedness in the typhoon-stricken municipalities of Sulat and Dolores in Eastern Samar.
increase amidst the crisis
July 15, 2020
MAKATI CITY – 2020,
is it the best year yet? Well, not for the younger generation. The
recent restrictions on travel and other leisure activities affected
the tourism industry everywhere. Far from happiness, most of Region
8’s micro entrepreneurs who fall under the sector of tourism support
were greatly affected. These are businesses who support the local
tourism by offering a handful of sweet native delicacies.
Leah Hiangnan, a young
traveler and entrepreneur/owner of Todoc’s Special Native
Delicacies, is already experiencing success from her thriving
business selling chocolate moron (chocolate sticky rice pudding). It
is a well-known native delicacy usually introduced and loved by
visiting tourists, and pasalubong from every kababayan in Eastern
Visayas. Her brand- Todoc’s, is known to originate from Abuyog,
Leyte, the true home of this delicacy.
Prior to the threat of the
COVID-19 pandemic, her product was top-selling, she also has
shipments to Manila, Cebu and Bohol.
For Leah, success is on
her side, until recently she experienced unfortunate events in her
life. Her father died this year, then comes the pandemic. Sadly, her
orders for the Holy Week and Summer were cancelled due to low demand
in tourism-support products and logistical concerns.
Everything seems to stop
in her life. “Nahulop ko Maám, asa ko pamilngon an akon ibayad
monthly sa akon loans para sa business operation,” says Leah who
emotionally shared her struggle on how she can pay her loans used to
expand her business when their operations stopped. She also shared
how her family is financially affected by the hiatus, especially
that she gave birth to her first born. Good thing the financial
institutions imposed moratorium for loan payments.
She was also concerned of
the employees who depend their livelihood on hers. Twenty (20) of
her employees instantaneously lost their jobs, and she could not
support them either.
For some time, she paused
and started to think of ways how she can advance forward. She was
determined to move on and learn to navigate the unknown paths of the
“new normal”. With internet and a social media account, she started
posting photos of her product online. It was a positive step, a few
Exactly May 1, 2020, she
called out 7-10 employees and started the production of chocolate
moron. They started to work twice a week. Though far from her daily
production and 20 employees working for her, it was a good start.
Soon enough, she will gain back her monthly income of
Leah noticed that most
orders are coming outside of the region. She searched further and
found out that there is a high demand for native delicacies in
Now how would she deliver
her products? Again, through online searching, Leah found a way.
“Pasabay” services are the trend for micro entrepreneurs. Small
logistics player in the region offer door to door delivery of
products from small businesses to their linked businesses in Manila.
“Naghahanap ako Maám ng
paraan para maka-kuha ng orders, mag-produce kami at maka-deliver,”
says Leah who was determined to seize every opportunity of getting
bulk orders outside the region and delivering them.
Talking about disaster
resilience, she is coping with the crisis by establishing a broader
network and strengthening business ties with her partners while
finding ways “paraan/diskarte” to make sure her business goes
Usually she sends her
products in Cebu, Bohol and Manila, now, a door opened for Dumaguete
with an initial order of 60 packs of chocolate moron.
Despite the spiking prices
of raw materials for the production and the limited supply of sugar
and milk, Leah will be producing 12,000 pcs of chocolate moron this
week and expects more to come in succeeding weeks.
Leah will also process the
delicacy in the water retort facility at the Food Innovation Center
by DTI and DOST to extend the shelf life of her product. She
considered the possible delays in logistics, and so, she wanted to
ensure the consistency of her product’s quality.
“I will always find ways
to make sure that our business will always run by building new
business linkages and stepping in for every opportunity I find,”
says Leah Hiangnan with full determination to keep her business at
the middle of a crisis.
entrepreneur’s bounce back story amidst the COVID-19 pandemic
July 14, 2020
MAKATI CITY – The
coronavirus disease or COVID-19 has greatly affected many lives and
the country’s economy. As entrepreneurs struggle to adjust their
business strategies, it has become a challenging situation for them,
most especially the micro and small enterprises. Nonetheless, for
Harley Dave Beltran, owner of Handcrafted by Harl’s, every cloud has
a silver lining.
Known as the only micro
social enterprise in the country, Handcrafted by Harl’s in San
Pedro, Laguna started its business in 2014. This homegrown brand is
known in their innovative and unique genuine leather products such
as bags, coin purses, cellphone cases, gadget organizers, clocks,
stools, bow ties, belts, sandals, slippers, key chains, tags,
wallets, and other customized items.
With the aim to promote
local artistry, Harl’s produces crafts valuable to the community,
coinciding with its social responsibility to provide employment to
people with disability and underprivileged craftsmen. They train
aspiring artisans to produce products that would qualify in the
While some companies use
machines in certain phases of the manufacturing process, Harl’s
takes pride with their products that are purely and skillfully
handmade. What sets them apart from other leather brands is how they
use waste materials and genuine “rugged” type full grain leather to
create upcycled products. Their products have visible natural
leather markings on them such as a few scratches, discoloration, or
burn marks to give more character and uniqueness to the products.
They do not use linings and make only one of each product,
especially with their bags. Every batch produced has different sets
of leather choices and, these same items are not produced again. All
these are crafted proudly and dexterously by differently-abled
workers who are either mute, deaf, or cripple.
For the past years, Harl’s
handcrafted items are staple products at the regional and national
trade fairs and bazaars of the Department of Trade and Industry
(DTI). In 2018 at the DTI’s Sikat Pinoy National Trade Fair and
National Arts and Crafts Fair, differently-abled workers from Harl’s
conducted a leathercrafts workshop where guests can create their own
wallet, coin purse, and other leather goods.
But like any other
businesses, Harl’s was caught off guard when the pandemic happened.
“I had to unload the ship
for it to sail further. To put it simply, I needed to let go one of
my stores. I needed to prioritize what’s best for the company and
for my employees,” said Harley.
“We were not prepared for
the pandemic, but what can we do about it? Instead of constantly
thinking of problems and feeling dejected, I use my time during this
quarantine period to become more productive by thinking of new ways
for my business to survive and to sustain the needs of my
employees,” added Harley.
With these in mind, Harl’s
started crafting face masks made from leather and ticog mat, and
they call it maska. Ticog is harvested by an Abre Linea weaving
community in San Miguel, Leyte.
According to Harley, maska
doesn’t just provide safety but also comfort and durability because
of the materials used. One purchase of maska will not only feed one
PWD family but will also support San Miguel’s weaving community.
Moreover, through the
donations of customers and friends, Harley conducted the “Harl’s
COVID-19 Response” by distributing relief packages to several
underprivileged and PWD families in their area.
“Harl’s bounce back story
is very remarkable. We hope that his experience will help our MSMEs
to be inspired to move forward and start the process of putting
their businesses back on track. We, in the DTI, and with our
programs and activities for our MSMEs want them to be ready to
embrace the new normal,” said DTI CALABARZON Director Marilou Q.
DTI, through the Regional
Operations Group headed by Undersecretary Blesila Lantayona, has
been responsive to help MSMEs across the regions cope with the
pandemic through provision of various programs that will gear them
up as they face the new normal.
“Harl’s is here not to
have business; we’re here to inspire and survive. We continue to
serve our purpose by helping others,” said Harley.
Harley believes that your
action matters, so act now.
Quarantine curbs access
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
June 5, 2020
IS FREEDOM of information
one of the casualties of Covid-19?
Since April, the staff of
the Digital News Exchange (DNX), a community-based news site in
Bacolod City, has had zero success in getting a response to its
requests for information on Covid-19-related procurement and cash
They’re not the only ones.
Journalists around the country say both national and local
government agencies have either delayed or denied their information
requests. Officials, they said, were particularly reluctant to
release information that would hold them accountable for their
So far, only one in 10 of
the Covid-19 requests filed in the government’s eFOI portal between
March 13 and May 27, 2020 has been granted. Most of these requests
were for information on Covid-19 spending and financial assistance,
according to data from the Presidential Communications Operations
Office (PCOO), the manager of the eFOI platform where information
requests from national government agencies in the executive branch
The PCOO has so far
received 1,332 requests from journalists and the public for
Covid-19-related information. More than half of those requests are
still being processed while about a third have been denied
supposedly because they were lodged in the wrong agency, the
requester did not provide his/her complete details, or the
information is already available online. (See Charts 1 and 2.)
Most of the denials were
requests for Covid-19 spending or Social Amelioration Program (SAP)
data from the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, Labor
and Employment, Interior and Local Government, and Budget and
Management. The PCOO refused to entertain these requests; instead it
advised requestors to ask their local government unit or call a DSWD
hotline number. (See Table 1 below.)
Like many journalists
around the country, DNX was particularly interested in how funds
allocated for Covid-19 relief have been spent. It is working on a
project called Money Watch to monitor how money from Bacolod City’s
P100-million calamity fund was allocated.
It’s been eight weeks
since the DNX staff sent the city government and its Department of
Social Services and Development a request for data on
pandemic-related spending. But up to now, they have not heard back.
City officials were not
always so stingy with information. In mid-March, as the lockdown
started, they responded promptly when DNX reporters asked about
Covid-19 preparations. This positive response prompted DNX reporters
to forego filing formal information requests for the time being.
They also feared that formal requests would be processed only when
the quarantine was already over. But in April, when DNX asked for
spending details, city officials were no longer as open as before.
“Finding sources is as difficult as catching a greased pig let
loose,” said Julius Mariveles, DNX’s executive editor.
Like city officials,
barangay officials, who are responsible for releasing cash
subsidies, delivering relief goods, and keeping the peace in their
communities, were also unwilling to give information. Mariveles says
being “out on the field” has become a common excuse for these
officials’ inability to provide data.
DNX has so far released
just one Money Watch story. It revealed discrepancies in the number
of targeted and actual beneficiaries of the city’s Covid-19
financial assistance, as well as the lack of reports from several
The national government
has allocated at least P500 billion to address the impact of the
pandemic that has killed nearly a thousand Filipinos and placed
millions out of work because of the lockdown. This amount does not
include emergency funds that local governments can tap in addition
to any revenue and savings that they may also decide to use for
DNX’s small team of four
reporters tried their best to report on how Bacolod apportioned
public funds for coronavirus projects. But they were at their wit’s
end: With limited access to data and sources plus pandemic-related
constraints on field reporting, there was only so much they could
In Metro Manila, Cebu, and
other parts of the country, journalists who shared their experiences
with PCIJ encountered varying levels of difficulty, depending on the
type of information they were requesting. While information about
the national government’s plan and budget to fight the virus are
readily available online, getting more detailed information on how
the plans are being implemented and the money spent is another
Obtaining details about
Covid-19 spending at the local level has been especially difficult.
Unlike frontline agencies at the national level, local governments
do not proactively publish data on their websites. Moreover, with
press briefings now online, officials and their PR staff often
screen questions from the media, making it harder for reporters to
Since March, when
government offices were wholly or partly closed, most routine
requests for information have not been processed. The Philippines is
among many governments in the world that had to suspend the
processing of freedom-of-information or FOI requests because of the
The PCOO has so far issued
four advisories notifying offices in the executive branch of the
suspension of FOI processing. The advisories apply only to agencies
covered by Executive Order 2, s. 2016, which laid out the Duterte
administration’s FOI guidelines.
On June 1, PCOO lifted the
suspension of FOI processing, except in areas under Enhanced
Community Quarantine (ECQ). But it said agencies with sufficient
capacity can go ahead and process FOI requests despite quarantine
The other branches of
government – Congress, the judiciary and local governments – were
not covered by the suspension, but their responses to information
requests were understandably slowed down because offices have not
been in full operation for at least 10 weeks. Although the ECQ in
Metro Manila was lifted on June 1, government offices still follow
alternative work arrangements, which means shortened hours or
suspension of certain services.
These measures have
exacerbated delays in the release of information crucial for holding
government accountable. For example, for over a year now, PCIJ’s
longstanding request for the statements of assets of national
government officials has been pending because the Office of the
Ombudsman has yet to issue guidelines for releasing such documents.
To be sure, a number of
national agencies, particularly those at the frontlines of Covid-19
response, have published records proactively, without the need for a
formal information request. Some departments, despite operating on a
skeleton staff, continue to accept and respond to requests by email.
But things were better
last year. From October 2018 to September 2019, the PCOO received
18,036 eFOI requests or an average of 347 requests per week. Nearly
half of these requests were granted. During the ongoing quarantine
until May 27, an average of 318 requests were lodged in the eFOI
portal every week but the success rate was just 17 percent.
According to Republic Act
6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public
Officials and Employees, public-records requests must be addressed
within 15 working days. Executive Order 2, s. 2016 gave executive
agencies more time -- not longer than 20 business days -- to respond
to such requests.
With the lockdown,
however, government agencies could not meet these deadlines. PCOO
Assistant Secretary Kristian R. Ablan says PCOO suspended the
required processing time because of the “justifiable concerns” of
FOI officers that they may be held liable if they fail to address
requests within the prescribed period.
FOI officers working from home said they lacked internet connection,
office equipment such as laptop computers and scanners and digital
copies of files. They also found it difficult to coordinate remotely
with record custodians.
The health and safety of the FOI officers were also factored in. “We
didn’t want to put their health at risk during ECQ,” he says.
Jenina Joy Chavez, co-convener of the Right to Know, Right Now!
Coalition (R2KRN), acknowledged these difficulties. Speaking at an
online forum on May 27, she said suspending FOI operations may be
necessary, but she also asked whether the government has done
anything to help agencies respond to information requests even
during a lockdown.
“Whether or not we’re in quarantine, the importance of the right to
information remains the same,” said Chavez. During the quarantine,
citizens yielded or entrusted power and resources to government, she
said. Transparency measures are needed so the public is able to seek
accountability and protection.
On March 29, R2KRN asked the inter-agency task force and departments
implementing the government’s Covid-19 action plan for a copy of the
plans and structure of the task force as well as for specific sets
of documents and data held by the departments of health, social
welfare, agriculture, labor, and budget, and the Philippine
Government Electronic Procurement System.
The status of this request is being published online and updated
weekly by the coalition members, including PCIJ. Most of the
information requested has been partially fulfilled, but most of the
releases are in PDFs, not in open-data or spreadsheet format that
make the numbers easier to analyze.
R2KRN publishes weekly reports on the quality of information being
provided by frontline agencies. Its May 5 report said that the
health department is perhaps the only government agency that
collects, processes, posts, and updates information on a regular
The coalition also raised questions about the completeness of the
data. For instance, the daily Covid-19 case counts do not give a
full picture of how the virus is spreading. Moreover, only 1,782 of
more than 23,000 registered health facilities have submitted details
on health capacity and needs. “With incomplete information, it is
not clear how capable the health system really is to deal with the
Covid-19 emergency,” R2KRN said.
In its May 12 report, R2KRN noted the sparse data released by the
DSWD’s Disaster Response Operations Monitoring and Information
Center (DROMIC), where updates on Covid-19 assistance are posted.
The DROMIC provides data broken down by province and city, but does
not say how many families have received assistance. It also does not
disaggregate new from cumulative data, which would have been helpful
in determining the rate of response by government and private
The attempt to publish the list of SAP beneficiaries was
commendable, said R2KRN.
However, most of the links are down. The list is also partial and
only includes areas that have reports from the DSWD’s field offices.
Information can be downloaded but only as PDFs.
Ryan Macasero, Rappler’s Cebu Bureau reporter, says he has been able
to obtain Covid-19-related information but the process has become
more laborious. Getting answers from officials, who may only be
reached through virtual press briefings or call and chat, has taken
more time and effort.
“It makes their lives easier, but our jobs more difficult,” he says.
What seems to work, Macasero says, is when many reporters ask the
“We back each other up in the agencies’/office’s official media
group chats and say we have the same question to try to emphasize
that it’s important they answer us regarding these questions,
because it’s information the public needs to know.” (With additional
research by Arjay Guarino, PCIJ, June 2020)
Philippine jails already a death trap
Human rights advocates
believe that numbers will still increase and the full force of
Covid-19 is yet to be felt. They also call for transparency in
releasing death and infection rates to help craft policies and
mitigate the spread of false information.
AIE BALAGTAS SEE, Philippine Center for Investigative
May 5, 2020
AN AVERAGE of 50 to 60 prisoners have died in the New Bilibid Prison
(NBP) every month for the past six months but only one death in
April has been attributed to Covid-19.
For the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) the death toll in February,
March, and April was still within the range of monthly deaths in the
last quarter of 2019 to early 2020. The pandemic has ravaged the
country since March, with local transmission of the coronavirus
taking place as early as February. Humanitarian groups have since
warned of its catastrophic effect on the country’s prison system.
“It still falls under our average death rate for the past six
months,” Bucor spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag said in a phone
The high death rate, Chaclag said, was proportional to Bilibid’s
huge population, currently at 28,000. The population could create
from 11 to 14 barangays. Chaclag claimed that if they have lower
population, then they will have fewer deaths.
Bilibid is one of Bucor’s seven facilities for convicts. It had
recorded one to three deaths daily from October 2019 to April 2020,
noted Chaclag. Most came from the maximum-security compound, which
was designed for 6,000 but currently holds 19,000 men. Chaclag said
that the cause of these deaths varied, citing illnesses such as
cancer and heart failure as major ones.
“Loneliness, nightmares, and accidents” were also seen as reasons
for these deaths according to Chaclag.
Prisoners in extremely congested jail facilities live in deplorable
conditions, lacking proper health care, hygiene, and nutrition.
Human rights advocates have called for the early release of elderly
and sickly detainees. They have also pushed for making available
information on death and infection rates.
With Covid-19 breaching Bilibid walls, the deaths are sowing panic
and paranoia among disgruntled detainees who, according to an
insider, fear that the virus has already exploded within prison
The lone Covid-related death from NBP was reported on April 23.
There have been no confirmed Covid-19 cases in Bilibid since, but at
least 44 inmates have been in quarantine, Chaclag confirmed. Four of
them were tested for the virus, with results yet to be released.
Health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in a phone interview,
said that only one NBP inmate had tested positive for coronavirus as
of May 4.
A prison insider said bodies were piling up in NBP’s old isolation
ward called Dorm 1D. In late April, at least “20 bodies emitting
foul odor” were stacked there. On May 1, the insider added, three
men died after the NBP hospital ran out of oxygen.
“The inmates plan to hold a noise barrage but Bucor guards
threatened to shoot them,” the insider said.
Chaclag denied this, saying those “who have agenda” should stop
weaving stories that sow paranoia, which could lead to a riot in NBP.
Bodies were not piling up, he said. There were days when the funeral
parlor could not retrieve them because the cause of death was
unknown. “We had to wait for the crematorium personnel to pick them
up,” he explained.
Guidelines issued by the Health department stated that deaths with
unknown causes shall be treated as Covid cases and the corpse
cremated within 12 hours.
Six to five NBP inmates who died in their dormitories were cremated
last month. This is not a known practice in NBP. Bodies without
cause of death were usually autopsied and kept by funeral parlors
until someone claimed them.
Chaclag said that unclaimed bodies in the past were either buried in
the NBP cemetery or were taken advantage of by funeral parlors who
sold them to operators of “sakla,” a form of illegal gambling
carried out during wakes to help families raise funds for burial
expenses. In the case of unclaimed inmates, the earnings simply went
to the pockets of the syndicates.
Old conditions and new virus, a lethal mix
Inmate deaths is a decades-old problem at the New Bilibid Prison.
The global pandemic merely reopened the old Pandora’s box.
The national penitentiary was already in the spotlight last year
because of the alarming number of deaths there. Henry Fabro, the
Bilibid hospital chief, said one prisoner there dies each day.
Humanitarian groups have long blamed overpopulation, poor hygiene,
lack of proper food, and limited access to health care for the
lamentable condition. The calls to depopulate jails have only grown
louder with the coronavirus now part of the equation.
Rights advocates have called for the release of vulnerable inmates,
saying infections in detention areas might risk jail staff and
visitors, and can potentially lead to the reinfection of the general
One of these advocates, Raymund Narag, an associate professor at
Southern Illinois University and expert in Philippine jails, told
PCIJ that there should be transparency in dealing with these
“It is their moral and legal obligation to be transparent. It is the
only way to mitigate the spread of false information. It is also
helpful in crafting policies if information are timely and
accurately provided,” Narag said.
Death and infection rates in detention facilities have always been
difficult to obtain. Like Narag, Human Rights Watch has called for
transparency after learning that one detainee dies every week in
Quezon City Jail since the coronavirus hit the facility last March.
Paul Borlongan, chief doctor of the Bureau of Jail Management and
Penology (BJMP), which supervises city jails, also claims that
BJMP’s death statistics is still “acceptable.”
In recent years, from 300 to 800 detainees have died in BJMP
annually. “So far, I can say that our death statistics is still
acceptable,” Borlongan said, adding that, “we expect 20 to 40 per
week and sometimes 60 to 80 per month.”
Clash of statistics
Transparency is not the only problem. A clash of statistics among
government agencies, and between the local and national governments,
is adding to the confusion.
According to Usec. Vergeire, there were 249 Covid-positive inmates
in jails and prisons as of May 3. Of these, 187 were in Cebu City
Jail, 49 in the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong, 12
in Quezon City Jail, and one in Bilibid.
The facilities that appear to be the hardest hit are the most
congested. Cebu City Jail is overpopulated by 1,000 percent and has
the highest number of inmates at 6,237. Quezon City Jail is the
third most crowded with 3,821 inmates as of March 2020.
As far as BJMP is concerned, only nine inmates – not 12 – from
Quezon City Jail are considered Covid-positive patients. Borlongan
surmised that the three other inmates in DOH’s list were those whose
deaths were considered “possible Covid” cases because they had
flu-like symptoms or pulmonary problems.
As of April 27, BJMP has recorded a total of 195 inmates and 34 jail
staff who tested positive for Covid-19. Five jail personnel had
recovered while none of the inmates have yet to be cleared of the
illness. BJMP also documented cases in Mandaue City Jail, Marikina
City Jail, Pasay City Jail, and Mandaluyong City Jail. These jails
are not in the DOH list.
The City Reformatory Center in Zamboanga City was also reported to
have Covid-positive cases. BJMP’s Borlongan said he has not received
the official report about these cases.
Infections were also reported in the Cebu Provincial Jail, which is
managed by the local government.
A Bucor official, who requested anonymity, also complained of slow
and unreliable test results from the Health department. “We have to
repeat the test each time they release results to us. It’s a waste
of resources. Once, our staff tested positive but when the
Philippine Red Cross rechecked it, the results were negative.”
The World Health Organization, International Committee of the Red
Cross, and the Health department are working alongside Bucor and
BJMP in setting up quarantine facilities for infected detainees.
DOH Undersecretary Vergeire said they also plan to “conduct targeted
testing, provide treatment and management of cases, and ensure that
infection control measures are in place to prevent the spread of
Covid-19 in penal and correctional facilities.”
Prisoner release and other urgent calls
From March 17 to April 29, almost 10,000 inmates have been released
as bid to curb the spread of coronavirus in jails. The Supreme Court
has also allowed the release of pre-trial detainees in jail for
crimes punishable with six-month incarceration and below. A
reduction of bail has been recommended for non-convicts facing
charges punishable with jail time of six months to 20 years.
Petitions seeking temporary freedom for the sick and elderly are
still pending approval.
Last March, Interior secretary Eduardo Año rejected calls to release
vulnerable inmates, saying jails were the “safest” place for them.
The growing number of Covid-19 cases now appear to disprove this
“If many people – prisoners, guards, their families, the people i[n]
neighborhoods around jails – die because of Covid-19, the massacre
is squarely the responsibility of government,” Human rights advocate
and Ateneo de Manila University professor Antonio La Viña said.
Narag and La Viña believe the numbers will still increase and the
full force of Covid-19 is yet to be felt. “I believe that there will
be multiple bombs that will explode. Many PDLs [persons deprived of
liberty] had been dying from many jails… only that it is not
reported as such. But once the news report will catch up, I will not
be shocked,” Narag said.
Warnings about the coronavirus being a bomb that could explode in
jails and prisons were made in early March. These fell on deaf ears
until infections began to manifest, with jails and prisons fast
becoming the next epicenters of the virus. “Our prisons will be
ground zero unless we decongest now,” said La Viña.
Narag and La Viña are urging the government to take swift actions,
stressing that the disease’s spread is a public issue and not only
the problem of the corrections and prison system. “We are already
faced by a problem that can kill us all,” Narag said. –PCIJ, May
Aie Balagtas See is a freelance journalist working on human rights
issues. Follow her on Twitter (@AieBalagtasSee) or email her at
firstname.lastname@example.org for comments.
informal sector workers in Sogod get P4.3M livelihood aid
Norma Rae Costimiano,
July 17, 2019
TACLOBAN CITY – The
Department of Labor and Employment Regional Office VIII through its
Southern Leyte Field Office has successfully awarded livelihood
assistance to some three hundred forty skilled and informal sector
workers from six barangays of Sogod last 27 June 2019 at Sogod
Gymnasium, Sogod, Southern Leyte.
The amount of livelihood
projects awarded during the turnover ceremony totaled to
P4,357,135.00 charged under the DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP)
funds of the regional office.
The approved livelihood
projects under the said funding include the following: Rice
Production Tractor with Machine Thresher and Blower amounting to
P200,000; Abante San Jose Para sa Kauswagan amounting to P967,430;
Micro Livelihood Project for Skilled Workers of Barangay Pandan
amounting to 782,585; Dugang Negosyong Panginabuhian para sa
Concepcion I amounting to P284,970; Starter Kits para sa Proyektong
Panginabuhian sa Barangay San Roque amounting to 1,065,050;
Sustainable Livelihood Development Project of Barangay Milagroso
amounting to 447,905; and Micro Livelihood Project of Barangay Rizal
amounting to P609,195.
Different tools, equipment
and materials were released to the beneficiaries for the
implementation of the micro livelihood and diversified projects
which include Dressmaking, Vulcanizing, Welding, Mini Carenderia,
Haircutting & Cosmetology, Barber Shop, Dried Fish Vending, Fruits &
Vegetables Vending, Painting Services and Rice Production, among
Present to grace the
significant occasion were Atty. Cecilio I. Baleña, DOLE RO VIII OIC-Assistant
Regional Director, Ms. Marites Z. Viñas, DOLE-SLFO Head, Honorable
Jose Ramil Golo, Vice-Mayor of Sogod and Ms. Velma O. Duguil, Sogod
Also in attendance to
witness the simple ceremony were the chairpersons of the recipient
barangays, namely: Jeffrex R. Gan of Brgy. San Jose, Reynaldo A.
Paloguer of Brgy. Pandan, Lyn T. Guias of Brgy. Concepcion I,
Adelina P. Tadtad of Brgy. San Roque, Antonio S. Tagoon of Brgy.
Milagroso and Corneila M. Telin of Brgy. Rizal.
Atty. Baleña in his
message happily congratulated all the beneficiaries for their
starter kits. He likewise thanked the local government unit of Sogod
for being an active partner of DOLE RO VIII in delivering its
employment and livelihood programs in the municipality.
“Allow me to congratulate
all our beneficiaries for their new sources of income. I hope you
will do your best to be successful in your respective businesses.
And of course to our officials of LGU-Sogod, thank you for always
being supportive to our programs especially our livelihood program”,
said Atty. Baleña.
Vice-Mayor Golo in
response thanked DOLE RO VIII for all the help it extends to the
“We are so blessed to have
DOLE as our strong partner in uplifting the lives of our
constituents here in Sogod. These livelihood assistance that our
workers received is a proof of how serious our government is in
serving the people especially those in need”, Hon. Golo said.
All the beneficiaries
present were happy and elated after receiving the livelihood aid.
The smiles on their faces were beaming, a sign of new hope and
determination to live better lives.
The six recipient
barangays were all first timers in availing livelihood assistance
from DOLE RO VIII.