Monday, December 28, 2009

Ferry Tragedy: Up to 25 Possibly Dead

A ferry sank in the waters south of Manila - near Batangas City - leaving at least 3 people dead and 22 missing.

The vessel was carrying 88 passengers and crew when it collided with a fishing boat. 60 people have been rescued.

Sea accidents are common in the archipelago of more than 7,100 islands. Full article here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A musical interlude.

Okay, it isn't a policy issue, but when you're learning about a country, it's always a good idea to know what people are talking about on the streets. And just like in the US, Filipinos love competition reality shows. The Philippines have had two different versions of US favorite American Idol - first, Philippines Idol, and then Pinoy Idol. (And it looks like a third version will be coming next year.)

Check it out.

Season 1 winner Mau Marcelo:

And Season 2 winner Gretchen Espina.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A brief note on correct usage

This may be a naive post for those who - unlike myself - knew how to spell the Philippines before this project began (I thought there were two 'l's and one 'p', rather than the other way around). However, I for one have been unclear on the correct language to use when referring to the Philippines and its people and would like to provide a little clarification. It may seem picky and pedantic, but I always find it prudent to make these clarifications in advance of visiting and working in another land, especially where a colonial legacy exists that may have produced insensitive or derogatory terminology.

the Philippines: The original (if by "original" you mean, "first European") name of the Philippines was the Archipelago de San Lazaro, so named by Magellan in 1521. In 1543, the archipelago was renamed "Felipinas" by Capt. Ruy Lopez de Villalobos after the crown prince of Spain, who later became Phillip II. Because European colonialism is responsible for organizing the peoples of the archipelago under a single flag, there is no pre-existing indigenous name for the country. However, the revolutionary events of 1896 and 1897 produced two alternative names: The Tagalog Republic or the Republic of Biak-na-Bato.

"Ph" or "F"?: The disparity between use of "Ph" and "F" when referring to the country and its people is actually a disparity between English and Spanish. King Felipe II of Spain is King Phillip II in English (also, notice the number of 'l's). After the Treaty of Paris, when the United States bought the country, the name of the republic was anglicized, while the name of its people retained its original Spanish spelling.

Or is it "P"?: Another usage when referring to the people of the Philippines is "Pilipino". The origins of this usage lie in a contested attempt to institutionalize indigenous language, which privileged Tagalog over other native tongues and was rooted in ancient script called Baybayin. The term "Pilipino" is an attempt to appropriate the term "Philippines" into an alphabet that did not contain a letter for the sound of "F". However, a 1987 constitution restored the "F" to the word referring to both the native language and the people, designating a larger alphabet that includes foreign sounds.

Philippine: The term "philippine" is an adjective, and therefore should not be confused with "filipino" (or "filipina", retaining the the gender rules of old espanol). "Philippine" may be used to refer to a person, but only as a modifier of another personal identifier, such as "Philippine congresswoman" or "Philippine boxer". It is more commonly used to refer to objects or concepts, such as "Philippine culture" or "Philippine island".

Philippino: Just wrong.

So all of this is to say that the variant spellings and usages of Philippines, Filipino, Pilipino, et al are more or less safe to use since all usages that refer to the country necessarily invoke its colonial legacy for want of common indigenous terms.

With all that said, then... carry on.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Arroyo to Copenhagen

Business World reports that President Arroyo is attending the first three days of the 15th Conference of Parties on climate change, beginning today in Copenhagen, Denmark. Environment Secretary Jose L. Atienza, Jr., told the newspaper that "We need to be coordinated [with the G-77 group of developing nations] or our lone voice will not be heard". The current Philippines delegation is calling for deep and early cuts for developed countries. According to its own estimates, the Philippines accounts for ~0.0035 global greenhouse gas emissions.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Big Day for Pacquiao

It's been two big days for Manny Pacquiao, considered to be the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world (if not ever). A day after announcing his candidacy for the Presidency, it's been announced that he'll fight Floyd Mayweather, previously considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, on March 13. We won't be in the Philippines for the fight, but it'll be interesting to see how big his celebrity is while we're there -- and if it'll help his candidacy!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Journalism and Maguindanao

To date, much of the international attention in the Maguindanao massacre has focused on the deaths of the Mangudadatu family, especially since Mr. Mangudadatu had sent his family on his behalf to file his candidacy. However, as more information has surfaced, the attention and focus has expanded. Recently, it was determined that a large portion of the troupe was composed of journalists and media members, of which 30 journalists and media members were killed (a much higher number than originally thought).
While these numbers are startling, what may be even more disconcerting is the pattern of violence and hostility towards journalists and media members within the Philippines in recent years. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) highlights this trend:

Under the current government the Philippines has become the most dangerous place in the world for media workers. At least 74 journalists have been killed during its eight-year tenure, yet the Government has not acted to end the culture of impunity. At last count, only four convictions had been secured.”

President Arroyo spent the day at the funerals of many of these journalists, but it seems that the real test for this government is if it will heed the recent calls of UN officials for a full investigation that leads to prosecutions.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Further Developments from Maguindanao

As the legal and political ramifications of last week's bloody election violence in the Maguindanao province begin to come to light, several new developments have been made by local officials and police. As noted in yesterday's post, the first charges have been brought against mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., who is believed to have orchestrated the massacre. Today, Philippine police are reporting a forensic breakthrough in the case, linking shells found at the scene to the gun of one of the militia members controlled by Andal Ampatuan, Jr. Allegedly, 100 gunmen were involved in the killings, including militiamen and local police officers, several of whom are now in police custody.

Other details that have emerged in recent days highlight the grisly nature of the killings. The New York Times reports that "most or all" of the 22 female victims of the killings were sexually mutilated.

As officials continue to investigate the massacre, one interesting aspect of the case that's relevant to the IEDP Human Rights team is how successfully the Philippine government is able to frame the violence as originating from local criminal activity rather than a widespread human rights problem. President Arroyo's strong alliance with the Ampatuans in fending off Islamist and secessionist groups will complicate that effort, but the response of the international community may help determine the context in which the violence is perceived.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Arroyo planning to run for Congress

The WSJ is reporting here that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is planning to run for a seat in Congress. There is talk that the move is a prelude to a campaign by her party (the Lakas Kampi CMD Party) to turn the presidential system of the Phillipine government into a parliamentary system.

In other Philippine-related news, Andal Ampatuan Jr., a local mayor, has been charged with multiple counts of murder in connection with the hilltop massacre of 57 people last week in Maguindanao. Ampatuan is the heir of a powerful family that has strong historical ties to President Arroyo. The Financial Times notes here that many of the victims were associates and relatives of the rival Mangudadatu family, which has also historically been strong allies of Arroyo. Ismael Mangudadatu was planning to challenge Andal Ampatuan in next year's election. Last week's surge of murderous violence might be construed as a clear signal that Arroyo is regarded as a lame duck. As noted in the FT:
"The Ampatuans and Mangudadatus are both political allies of President Arroyo, and the outbreak of violence means she is no longer able to mediate over the allocation of political posts," said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, an advocacy group.
President Arroyo is apparently facing growing criticism for her administration's policy of arming local potentates in an effort to supress Muslim insurgency. Last week's massacre, which occured in predominantly Christian areas of the island, will only heighten concerns about wisdom the policy.