Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004

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@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Written for The Diplomat

A few days after Philippine President Benigno Aquino III enumerated the achievements of his government during his final state of the nation address, a UN expert issued a report which highlighted the deplorable conditions of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in various parts of the country.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons Chaloka Beyani was in the Philippines for 10 days last month to review the situation of IDPs in Tacloban, Zamboanga, Cotabato, Maguindanao, South Cotabato, and Davao.

Tacloban was the ‘ground zero’ of typhoon Haiyan which battered the central part of the Philippines in 2013. Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people and it was the strongest typhoon in recorded history.

Zamboanga, located in the southern part of the country, was attacked by armed separatist groups in 2013 which displaced about 120,000 people.

Cotabato and Maguindanao are Muslim-dominated provinces where clashes between government soldiers, private armed groups, and revolutionary forces are known to be frequent.

South Cotabato is the potential site of the country’s largest open pit mining project. Davao is currently hosting some 700 Lumads (ethnic peoples) displaced by militarization in a nearby region.

Dr Beyani’s report on the present circumstances of Haiyan victims validated the concern of grassroots networks about the inadequate assistance provided by the national government.

“Many families remain housed in collective “bunkhouses” that do not meet necessary minimum standards for the provision of basic needs and services and create numerous safety and protection challenges, particularly for women and girls,” wrote Beyani.

He praised the leadership of the government for placing “institutional and policy structures and frameworks that have proved to be effective in the immediate crisis response period” but he also expressed concern about the “financial constraints on [local] authorities that have impacted on their ability to move forward towards durable solutions.”

He was questioning the “funding shortfalls” and the “waning” attention given by the national government to the IDPs.

He also noted the lack of transparency in implementing programs that affect the typhoon victims.

“A common concern expressed to me was the need to increase the level of consultation and information flow to IDPs to ensure that their voices and concerns are heard and included in future planning and their rights respected.”

The media focused on Dr Beyani’s assessment of the Haiyan recovery efforts which is understandable because of the global significance of the issue. After all, international aid poured in after Haiyan devastated the Visayas region and it is only right to ask authorities about the utilization or non-utilization of these funds.

But Dr Beyani’s report on other parts of the country deserves to be given prominence too since it involves the peace process and mining investments. These are issues which the international community should also be aware of.

For example, Dr Beyani described the situation in some parts of Cotabato and Maguinadao as a “forgotten crisis”.

“For many in this region displacement has become the pattern of life,” he wrote.

In South Cotabato, he learned that some leaders and members of the indigenous communities have been killed over the past years reportedly due to their anti-mining activities.

In Davao, he met Lumad leaders who cited the presence of paramilitary groups as the major factor that “creates anxiety” among indigenous communities.

Dr Beyani offered some concrete recommendations. He proposed the building of permanent housing for IDPs in Zamboanga, including the delivery of livelihood assistance to displaced fisherfolk. He also endorsed the passage of a law protecting the rights of IDPs which was vetoed by the president in 2013. He noted that the failure to enact the draft law “sends a wrong signal about the commitment of the government” to ensuring the rights of IDPs.

Reacting to Dr Beyani’s report, the presidential spokesman assured the UN expert that more funds have been allotted by the government to fast track the rehabilitation of Haiyan-affected areas.

Meanwhile, the country’s vice president and opposition leader mentioned the UN report as an indicator of the incompetence of the ruling party.

Human rights group Karapatan asserted the immediate pull-out of government troops in mining communities and other ancestral domains of indigenous peoples.

Dr Beyani will deliver his complete report next year. His concluding words should alert Philippine policymakers and other concerned stakeholders about the need to protect the country’s IDPs and indigenous populations: “Displacement, whether due to conflict or development, not only destroys the homes and livelihoods of indigenous peoples, but has an incalculable impact on their cultures and ways of life that are part of the rich and diverse heritage of the Philippines that must be protected or otherwise lost, perhaps forever.”

Leading Philippine Presidential Candidate Unveils Platform

Written for The Diplomat

Who will be the next president of the Philippines? Will it be administration candidate Mar Roxas, opposition leader and incumbent Vice President Jejomar Binay, or Senator Grace Poe who is currently leading in the surveys?

Roxas is expected to continue the programs of President Benigno Aquino III, whose term will end in nine months. Binay was part of Aquino’s cabinet over the past five years but resigned his post last June and criticized the president. He vowed to lead a better government if elected next year.

Who is Grace Poe? She topped the senatorial race in 2013, which many attributed to the popularity of her parents: actress Susan Roces and actor Fernando Poe Jr. The latter ran for president in 2004 but lost to former president Gloria Arroyo.

As a neophyte senator who championed good governance and transparency, Poe’s popularity surged and many urged her to run for president as an alternative candidate. Even Aquino acknowledged her potential and even asked her to run as the administration’s vice presidential candidate. She politely refused the offer and instead declared her bid for the presidency last September 16.

“No one man or group holds a monopoly on ‘Tuwid na Daan’ (straight path)”, Poe said in reference to the political slogan of the ruling party. But Poe also hinted that she will not join the opposition when she praised Aquino’s anti-corruption campaign: “He has done much to curb corruption and I am thankful that it has restored the people’s faith in an honest leader.”

Poe also outlined her governance program. She affirmed some of the policies of Aquino, like the conditional cash transfer. But she also indirectly tackled the perceived failures of Aquino such as solving the heavy traffic in Metro Manila and improving the country’s public infrastructure.

“We will make infrastructure development our priority, whether in terms of streets, trains, airports, seaports or the internet. We should build more roads and trains not only in Metro Manila but all over the Philippines. We should ensure that our train project is awarded to a contractor with strong capability and track record in long-term maintenance,” Poe said alluding to the botched train contract signed by the government.

Poe vowed to increase the annual infrastructure budget to seven percent of GDP.

Furthermore, she also mentioned several issues that affect both consumers and businesses, including her commitment to reduce individual income taxes, lower the power rates, and apprehend criminals.

Poe also stated her position on the maritime dispute between the Philippines and its neighbors – specifically China – in the Asia-Pacific. “The West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is ours. We will protect our right through peaceful means, and according to international law. We will beef up our Coast Guard and armed forces so that we need not be intimidated by other countries.”

Poe said her government will draft an industrialization and information technology (IT) plan as part of an effort to encourage greater domestic production to create jobs. To combat corruption, she emphasized the need to pass the Freedom of Information bill. She also vowed to pursue peace talks with all armed groups operating in the country. She advocated the establishment of a separate Emergency Management Department that will focus on national preparedness, climate change and geo-mapping.

The following day, Senator Chiz Escudero was introduced as Poe’s running mate. Both will run as independent candidates. Escudero is seen as Poe’s mentor; in charge of expanding political and electoral machinery. During his acceptance speech, Escudero christened the candidacy of Grace Poe as GP or “Gobyernong may Puso” (“A Government with Heart” in the local Tagalog language). More importantly, he specified how the duo, if elected, will implement its election agenda.

“The next president will appoint and delegate over 5,000 people in government who will fill positions in 500 agencies, and will spend 18 trillion pesos over a six-year term,” he said.

The Poe-Escudero tandem will face tremendous obstacles, especially since they are running as independents. Poe is also facing a disqualification case since her citizenship is being questioned by some petitioners.

To be sure, Poe is a popular candidate. But this is not a guarantee of electoral victory or effective leadership. Now that her agenda for reform has been made public, one hopes that it will lead to more conversations and debates about the respective programs of all candidates. That will then provide an opportunity for the public to challenge or critique the visions and track records of all political parties.

3 Responses to “Philippines Must Protect Internally Displaced Persons, Warns UN Expert”

  1. Pleae say something about the discrminatory remarks of Carpio againts foundlings. HE IS NOT JUST !HE SHOULD BE IMPEACHED .

    LAMONLAMON

  2. We are big supporters of grace poe for president in 2106 election. we believes on her advocacies .she is the best candidates out there .if she will be disqualified ,the 20 millions votes she had last senatorial elections will be useless.

    LAMONLAMON

  3. AQUINO GOVT .ARE UNDERSPENDING THIS YEAR ,WHY? YOUR GUESS IS GOOD AS MINE. BAKA PABAON KAY PENOY AND ABAD. OR THEY ARE SAVING FOR THE CAMPAIGN KITTY OF MURAMAR. THE TUWAD NA DAAN .

    WE WANT GRACE POE IN MALACANNG. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH OF THIS CORRUPTION .WE THE PEOPLE ARE TIRED OF THIS EVILS OR CANCER OF THE GOVT.
    WE CAN STOP THAT BY NOT VOTING THE LIBERAL PARTY ,UNA AND DUTERTE TEAM .

    VOTE FOR GRACE POE IN 2016.

    LAMON LAMON

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