#BabaeAko campaign unites women in challenging the sexist behavior of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

This article by Karlo Mongaya is from Global Voices, an international and multilingual news site, and is republished on Kodao Productions as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Women’s rights advocates in the Philippines have launched the #BabaeAko (I am a woman) campaign aimed at calling out the “anti-women” remarks and behavior of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The campaign recently mobilized social media support after Duterte was criticized for kissing a married woman on the lips amidst the cheers of his supporters in a public function in Seoul, South Korea on June 3, 2018.

One aspect of the campaign encouraged women to post a video message addressed to Duterte followed by a pledge of “lalaban ako” (I will fight back).

Government spokesmen have justified the “kissing scene” as a “light moment” that is “accepted in Filipino culture” while Duterte himself boasted that “we enjoyed it” and that critics “are just envious”. To his critics, however, the event exhibited in full view Duterte’s notion of women as mere objects of desire and entertainment.

The #BabaeAko social media campaign was launched on May 20, 2018, shortly after Duterte made a statement that the next ombudsman should not be a woman. He has cursed UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, put opposition Senator Leila de Lima in jail, and ousted Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno from office, among others.

Callamard, De Lima, and Sereno are all vocal critics of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs that has, according to some estimates, already killed over 20,000 people.

Duterte is notorious for giving rape jokes in his official speeches, having catcalled a female reporter in a press conference, and even having ordered troops to shoot female communist rebels in the genitals.

Below are some #BabaeAko posts on Facebook. This is by the Gabriela Women’s Party representative in Congress, Arlene Brosas:

I am a woman, Arlene Brosas, Gabriela Women’s Party representative in Congress. I am opposed to the macho, fascist, patriarchal, and feudal culture of the Duterte regime. I will fight back.

This is from a video by Judy Taguiwalo, a university professor and former cabinet member turned staunch critic of the Duterte administration:

I am a woman, Judy Taguiwalo, a patriotic teacher. I thought Duterte serves the Filipino people. It turns out he is subservient to [late dictator of the Philippines Ferdinand] Marcos, [former president of the Philippines] Gloria [Arroyo], [US President] Trump and China. For this just and free nation, I will fight back.

The next transcript is from a video by theater artist and activist Mae Paner, better known as Juana Change:

I am a woman, I am Juana Change, a patriotic artist. Through my art, I will continue to fight for truth and reason, justice and freedom, to the best of my ability. We will reckon with each other. I will fight back.

This is from a video by veteran journalist and press freedom advocate Inday Varona:

Babae ako, si Inday Espina Varona, isang lola. [I am a woman, Inday Varona, a grandmother.] I will not allow my grandchildren to grow up in a world without due process, where a President thinks of death and murder as the solution to social problems. Kaya lalaban ako. [Thus I will fight back.]

Here are some #BabaeAko posts on Twitter:

In response, officials at Malacañan Palace (the official residence of the president) threw shade at the #BabaeAko campaign, saying this was merely “politically-motivated” against the president. Duterte then vowed to resign if “enough women” protest his controversial kiss. A #BabaeAko protest was held on Philippine Independence Day, June 12, in major cities in the country. #

 

 

 

 

Malaysia’s new government urged to implement media reforms

By Mong Palatino/Global Voices

Civil society groups are urging Malaysia’s new government to uphold its election campaign pledge of enacting reforms in governance which include the abolition of laws that undermine free speech.

On May 9, 2018, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) party defeated Barisan Nasional (BN) which has dominated Malaysian politics over the past 60 years. BN’s defeat was attributed to the people’s clamor for a change in leadership after former Prime Minister Najib Razak was implicated in several corruption scandals. The Najib government was also accused of using repressive laws to detain opposition leaders, intimidate critics, and censor the media.

During the campaign period, PH released a manifesto which listed some of the immediate reforms it will implement if it succeeds in the polls such as the establishment of a media council made up of media leaders and the revision of all draconian laws.

Now that PH is the head of the new government, various civil society groups are reminding it to fulfill its commitment to reverse the oppressive laws, policies, and programs existing under the previous ruling party.

Amnesty International reiterated its proposed human rights agenda, which includes:

…rights to freedom of expression and association, better protections for refugees and people seeking asylum, respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples, protecting LGBTI individuals, abolishing the death penalty and ending the persecution of human rights defenders.

The Lawyers for Liberty asked the new government to unblock the websites and blogs blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). These websites were blocked by MCMC for reporting about the corruption cases of Najib.

It also joined other groups in calling for the immediate repeal of laws that were often used by authorities to attack human rights advocates and critics of the government such as the Sedition Act 1948, Prevention of Crime Act 1959, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, and the recently passed Anti-Fake News Act 2018.

So far, the initial response of the new government has been welcomed by many people.

First, it worked for the release of former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim who had been under hospital arrest on politically motivated charges of corruption and sodomy.

The PH-led government also formed a Committee on Institutional Reforms to accept proposals on reforming the bureaucracy.

Some news websites were also unblocked on May 17 such as the Sarawak Report and Medium.

The travel ban on political cartoonist and activist Zunar, a fierce critic of Najib, was also lifted on May 14.

The new home minister also affirmed that the government will quickly review controversial laws like the Sedition Act.

But a statement by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that the government will amend the anti-Fake News law by providing a clear definition of what constitutes fake news has alarmed civil society organizations because PH has earlier vowed to abolish the law.

The Sarawak Report explained why the entire law must be scrapped:

Journalists and citizens must be allowed speak freely and even be allowed to get it wrong, if they can show their intentions were to inform about something they genuinely had good reason to believe and are willing to correct and amend if found mistaken (as opposed to intended and malicious lies). These are the principles that have now evolved after much pain and argument in most modern democracies and Malaysia would do well to join them.

Around 20 civil society organizations signed a statement expressing disappointment over the “mixed messages from the ruling coalition on the repeal of the Anti-Fake News Act.” They proposed an alternative:

We believe that the more effective solution to any disinformation and misinformation is the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act at the federal level.

They also reminded PH that legislative reforms are not enough to undo what BN has done to Malaysian bureaucracy:

…legislative reform must go hand-in-hand with the restructuring of national institutions to ensure accountability, independence, and respect for human rights. Moreover, the new government must meaningfully engage civil society in a program of reform that is inclusive and participatory.

Human rights groups also criticized the police for arresting a man who “insulted”Prime Minister Mahathir on Facebook. The police said they merely responded to a complaint lodged against the suspect:

Veteran politician Lim Kit Siang asserted that this behavior of the police should change in the “new” Malaysia:

In the New Malaysia, police response must not depend of “who” lodges police reports, but “what” was in the police report, and actions where civil remedy is available should not be criminalised just because the subject-matter involves the Prime Minister or any Minister for that matter.

Mahathir said he also disagreed with the action taken by the police and said the parliament will prioritize the review of vague laws that criminalize the mere criticism of public officials.

The Centre for Independent Journalism welcomed the statement of Mahathir with regard to this incident and appealed for a moratorium on the use of repressive laws that continue to have a chilling effect in society. The group also summarized the challenge posed by free speech advocates to the new government:

It is critical at this juncture for the Pakatan Harapan coalition government to commit to defending a vibrant space for public discussion as the nation is headed towards transformation, to enable greater public participation in this process. This include clearly and unequivocally defending the right to freedom of expression, whether offline or online.

Homeless, jobless, and penniless, residents resist closure of the Philippines’ Boracay island

Residents and workers of the Philippines’ Boracay island are speaking out against the government’s order to shut down the world-famous resort destination for six months in order to carry out renovation work that includes the upgrade of the island’s obsolete sewerage system.

With the signing of Presidential Proclamation 475 on April 26, 2018, the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, placed Boracay under a state of calamity — a move which formalized the tourist island’s temporary closure, and which several groups are petitioning the court to invalidate.

Appellants at the Supreme Court questioned the constitutionality of what they deemed to be an arbitrary decision by the president. They also sought a temporary restraining order on the closure and eviction of businesses on the island.

Authorities have justified the shutdown as part of its efforts to purportedly “rehabilitate” the island amidst environmental woes. But after it was reported that the government had initially approved the construction of two mega casinos on Boracay, many people questioned this rationale.

Still, the closure has been pushed without any prior master plan for rehabilitation, or any strategy to minimize its effects on the livelihood of those who live and work on Boracay, many of whom will be forced to relocate. The massive lay-offs have already affected thousands of workers.

The Friends of Boracay Facebook page highlighted the negative effects of the shutdown on people’s lives — and livelihoods. These online testimonies have been included in the statements gathered by civil society organizations during a fact-finding and solidarity mission they conducted in and around Boracay and Aklan province between April 16-19, 2018.

Some of these organizations include Bayan-Aklan, Friends of Boracay, Tabang Aklan Action Center, Gabriela Panay-GuimarasThe Center for Environmental Concerns, the Iloilo Pride Team, and the National Union of People’s Lawyers.

One tour guide shared how the closure of Boracay will affect his family:

Photo by Friends of Boracay, used with permission by Global Voices.

“I am a Boracay tour guide. I have been in Boracay for 11 years. What’s happening to us is very painful; there are 2,000 of us tour guides. We have no regular wages because we work only on a commission basis. I went to the Labor Department because of the closure. I have social security, which I have been contributing to for six years. I asked if I can apply for a calamity loan, just so I have a budget for food. I live in a cardboard house in the Wetland. Our question is, will there be alternative employment? We are idle, yet we need to eat every day. I have three children and I send them money in Bacolod. We need financial assistance.”

A resident recounted the aggressive behavior of authorities who were sent to issue eviction notices to small businesses and resort owners on the island:

Photo by Friends of Boracay, used with permission by Global Voices

Sir, we would like to tell the story of what they did to us here. We were served [by the government’s environment ministry] a Show Cause Order and Notice to Vacate. When they came, they were accompanied by five policemen in fatigue uniforms carrying long firearms. We were panicking because there were children. They went back and forth among the houses. They gave us 15 days to vacate our homes.

A single motor operator had a similar experience with the police:

Photo by Friends of Boaracay, used with permission by Global Voices.

“People already don’t have work, yet they still do things through intimidation. Which leads us to ask, are we included in the demolition? There are no more passengers; we go round and round but get no income. Will we be bulldozed like dogs and left to sleep on the ground? Of course, we will not resist if we are demolished, they are heavily armed. We have nowhere to go. We have feelings and we are very afraid because they are armed.”

Sand artists insisted that it is the government’s own actions that created the problem in the first place:

 

“We cousins have been making sand art for four years. We are from Boracay. We are not destroying the island. Those building the big buildings who were given permits by the [government’s environment ministry] are the ones destroying Boracay.”

One Facebook post echoed the views of many who are concerned about the plight of the displaced:

“As an advocate for the environment I want it rehabilitated too… BUT I BLEED MORE for the people who are affected by the closure because of lack of planning and foresight on the part of the government in ensuring that safety nets are in place prior to closedown.”

According to the initial fact-finding and solidarity mission report, 40% of the island’s population have received notices to self-demolish and vacate their residences. These notices came from state employees who were accompanied by heavily-armed policemen, over 600 of which have been deployed to the island days ahead of its scheduled closure.

In response to the outcry, President Duterte has threatened the permanent closure of Boracay — but workers, residents and their supporters are not backing down. They continue to defend their livelihoods, and oppose the entry of big casinos into the island. # (Karlo Mongaya/Global Voices)

(This article was originally published by Global Voices. Kodao is a Global Voices’ Philippines partner.)

Armed detainees engage in hostile takeover of Indonesian high security prison

A prison riot involving forty convicted terrorists is currently unfolding in Depok, a West Javan city adjacent to the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

The riot began on Tuesday evening local time at Mobile Brigade Command Headquarters (Mako Brimob), a high security prison whose inmates include those convicted of terrorism.

According to official reports, a standoff occurred as a result of a simple misunderstanding over food between one inmate and a member of Densus 88, Indonesia’s counter-terrorism squad. The situation escalated quickly as the inmate incited others to action, took officers hostage, and managed to access the prison’s arms reserves.

Five Densus 88 officers were reported dead, while one was released after being taken hostage for more than 24 hours.

Detainees’ questionable motives

Through its propaganda outlet, the group ISIS claimed involvement in the incident. The Indonesian police have denied the group’s claim.

Most of the detainees belonged to JAD, a group designated terrorist by the US government.

Analyst Sydney Jones from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflicts (IPAC)was quoted as saying that pro-ISIS detainees have constantly caused trouble at the high security prison.

According to Indonesian terrorism analyst Al Chaidar, the riot wasn’t premeditated, but the motive could be vengeance against the authorities, who raided cells to conviscate smuggled mobile phones and copies of the Koran.

Hashtag solidarity on Twitter

On Twitter, Indonesians are using the hashtag #KamiBersamaPolri (We’re supporting the National Police) to send condolences to the relatives of the fallen officers and encourage the nation to stand firm against terrorism.

Image from Global Voices report.

(Juke Carolina/Global Voices)

Marvia Malik, Pakistan’s First Transgender Newscaster, Wants to Change Societal Attitudes Toward Her Community

By Anas Saleem

Marvia Malik has made history in Pakistan’s media industry by purportedly becoming the country’s first transgender news anchor.

The 21-year-old from Lahore, who has a bachelor’s degree in journalism, applied to work at Kohenoor News, a private news channel. The chief executive officer of Kohenoor News, a private news channel, says Malik was hired on merit, and Malik made her on-air debut on 23 March. Read more

Rice Fields and Carabaos: A Glimpse of Rural Life in the Philippines

Text by Mong Palatino / Global Voices Southeast Asia Editor

Photos by Lito Ocampo

Listen, can you not hear the song of a new life coming from the fields and the mountains? Photo and caption by Lito Ocampo, used with permission.

Veteran photographer and activist Lito Ocampo has been making frequent visits to his hometown of Pampanga, located in the central part of Luzon Island in the Philippines, to escape the noise and dirt of the capital region Manila.

His visits allowed him to recall his childhood while enjoying the quaint beauty of his birthplace.

Through photos he shared with Global Voices, Ocampo captured not just typical scenes in a lowland farming village, but also, perhaps unintentionally, the state of Philippine agriculture.

For example, the continuing prevalent use of carabaos reflects the backward condition of the country’s agricultural sector in general. The use of roads for drying crops indicates the lack of facilities available to farmers.

Beyond highlighting idyllic countryside life, Ocampo reminds young photographers to take in the plight of rural residents, especially farmers, who are among the country’s poorest people and suffer health risks due to the backbreaking work they undertake in the fields.

With urbanization continuing to spread, many farming villages and green habitats like the hometown of Ocampo can be instantly converted into commercial land or tourism centers. Thus, Ocampo’s photos can also be used to educate the public about problems regarding land use, the status of the land reform program and the pressing need to protect the environment.

Take a virtual tour of Sta. Rita town in the province of Pampanga:

Global Voices Inks Partnership with the Philippines’ Kodao Productions

Global Voices has signed a content partnership with Kodao Productions, an alternative media company based in the Philippines.

Established in 2000, Kodao is recognized as one of the oldest existing alternative news groups in the country. The word ‘kodao’ refers to an indigenous calendar used in southern Philippines to mark social events in a tribal community.

Kodao, through its video and community radio programs, is known for its coverage of social issues that affect the grassroots such as land reform, labor relations, climate change, corruption, human rights violations, mining activities, and urban poor policies.

Last February 2018, its website was hacked which was quickly linked by media groups to the “government’s efforts to silence critical media.” The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemned the attack “coming as it did when other media organizations are also under relentless attacks from enemies of press freedom and other human rights.”

Screenshot of Kodao website after it was hacked

Despite the cyberattack, Kodao continues to publish and broadcast stories through social media.

Its website will be relaunched soon and it will feature Global Voices stories on its main page.

Raymund Villanueva, director of Kodao, shares his enthusiasm about the partnership between Global Voices and Kodao:

Kodao’s reportage is strong on human rights, basic sectors and grassroots communities, environment protection, and conflict resolution, among other social justice issues in the Philippines. It hopes to contribute these kinds of stories to Global Voices in order for the international community to better understand the hopes and aspirations as well as the struggles of the Filipino people for a genuinely free, democratic, and just society.

Below is an example of Kodao’s work which highlights marginalized voices in society. The video report is about the impact of a proposed lakeshore expressway in Muntinlupa and Laguna which are located in the south part of Manila, the country’s capital.

‘Monarchy Restored’? China Set to Remove Two-Term Presidential Limit from Constitution

The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee proposed on February 25 to remove term limits on the presidency and vice presidency of the People’s Republic of China, which would pave the way for Chinese President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely.

Specifically, the committee suggested deleting a line from the country’s constitution that states the president and vice president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms.”

The two-term presidential limit was put in place by former CPC leader Deng Xiaoping in 1982 to restrain internal power struggles within the party by establishing the collective leadership of the CPC. The decision signified the end of Mao Zedong’s era of individual dictatorship.

But the proposed constitutional amendment would end collective leadership and open the door for power to once again officially rest with an individual, and in this case with President Xi, who is also the CPC’s general secretary and military chief. Xi will finish his second term in 2023.

CPC mouthpiece Global Times described the proposal as a consolidation of the party’s “Power Trinities” and urged people to follow the party. But oppositional voices see the move as an imposition of an absolute monarchy system on top of China’s single-party political system.

Public discussion on the constitutional change is censored on mainland Chinese social media. Outside China, a statement co-signed by more than 40 public figures against the amendment was circulated widely online. The statement (via Chinese exiled activist Wang Dan’s Facebook) said:

We believe that the amendment is the foundation for the establishment of a tenure system of top leaders. In the future, China may [develop into a political system that has] an emperor without calling it an emperor and a monarchy without calling it a monarchy. The abolition of the two-term limit is another version of [early 20th-century Chinese emperor] Yuan Shikai’s [short-lived] restoration of monarchy and a de facto manifesto of a new monarchy system against the very idea of a republic. This is a historical regression and a denial of 40 years of China’s reform effort. This is about China’s future and we, and all Chinese people, should stand up to express our outright objection to such historical regression since the 1911 Xinhai revolution [which led to the downfall of the Qing dynasty and the end of monarchy in China].

In addition to sharing the statement, Wang Dan also signed it. He commented further on Twitter:

中共正式提出修改憲法,國家主席可以連選連任,至此,習近平準備重新恢復最高領導幹部終身制,當永遠的統治者的個人野心,已經昭然若揭。
習近平大開歷史的倒車,硬把中國拉上了倒退回封建皇權時代的專制舊路。這樣的舉動,只能用瘋狂兩字來形容。但是我相信,物極必反,中共必將在他手中,成為歷史。

The CPC has officially suggested a constitutional amendment. The country’s presidents will be able to hold their office without limit. Now it is clear that Xi Jinping is set to restore the tenure system of top leaders. His ambition to become a lifetime ruler has been revealed. Xi Jinping is riding backward and forcing China to return to the old path of despotic feudal monarchy. Such an act can only be described with the word “crazy”. But I also believe in dialectics, the extreme will bring about change and he will turn CPC into history.

While some believe that such a “crazy” act will eventually end the “people’s democratic dictatorship” under the CPC, others are more pessimistic. Under Wang Dan’s Facebook post, one commenter said:

Unfortunately, the majority of Chinese people would support emperor’s rule. After the shock, people’s attitude would change from “what has gone wrong” to “this is it and we have to accept the reality and carry on”.

Another comment in response to Wang on Twitter said:

Actually, the constitutional amendment is not that surprising. The amendment is just turning “party dictatorship” into “party dictatorship led by an individual for his lifetime”. If it doesn’t work out, they can shift back to “party dictatorship”.

There are also some pro-Xi comments on Twitter. This one attempted to rationalize  Xi’s decision:

If Xi Jinping just wants to become a lifetime dictator, he does not need to continue in the office of president, he just needs to continue acting as the head of the military committee. That’s why the abolition of the two-term limit is not paving the way for lifetime dictatorship, but to prepare for reform — to buy more time for reform. After that, the constitution can be amended again. This is just a temporary tactic. We can foresee that a thorough political reform will begin soon.

Many Chinese netizens were shocked to see the constitutional amendment proposal as it clearly deviated from Deng Xiaoping’s 1982 reform effort. However, search terms related to the online discussion like “Xi Jinping”, “shameless” (不要臉), “long live the emperor” (萬歲萬歲萬萬歲), and “Yuan Shikai” (袁世凱) have been blocked on social media platforms in China.

Under the constitutional amendment proposal, Xi’s thoughts on “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era” would also be incorporated into the country’s constitution. Moreover, the to-be-established anti-graft Supervision Commission, together with the administrative, judicial and procuratorial commissions, would be listed as official organs of the state. The Supervision Commission would merge the party’s Discipline Inspection Committees with the anti-corruption powers of the procuratorates (responsible for investigation and prosecution) and be the only agency focused on graft. The creation of the Supervision Commission has been interpreted as a strengthening of party control over the government. # (Oiwan Lam/Global Voices)