Sunday, September 4, 2016

iDEFEND Questions "State of Lawless Violence"

Wazzup Pilipinas!

In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) strongly condemns the Davao City Night Market bombing which resulted in the deaths of 14 people and injuries to 67 others. This calculated, deliberate, and brutal assault on defenseless civilians is intolerable, and the perpetrators of this most atrocious act should be brought to justice through diligent, affirmative, yet lawful actions by the Duterte administration.

iDEFEND commiserates and sympathizes with the loved ones of the victims of the bombing, and extends its sincerest condolences and solidarity. We strongly disapprove that the issues of terrorism, drugs and extrajudicial killings are being conflated when these are distinct issues requiring different approaches. 

Moreover, mobilizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines to become direct participants in the issue of drugs, will further escalate rights violations of various kinds. Instead of abating the Extrajudicial Killings, this will even increase its uptake. There have already been too many deaths - including those of very young children- since the President’s assumption into office. We know, being a grassroots movement, that nationwide conditions is far from the threshold of “lawless violence” as stipulated in section 18 of ARTICLE VII of the Philippine Constitution. For this reason we question the nationwide mobilization of the military. There is no widespread absence and breakdown of law, peace, conditions of disorder and chaos, despite a bombing event in one city. What warrants a nationwide red alert now when in previous years, a spate of bombings in Davao merited only a state of emergency in the city? 

What is clear, however, is that the state’s widespread and hard-lined approach on drugs, including the statesanctioned and unaddressed killings, has compromised the safety of the public. IDEFEND calls on President Duterte to act with discernment and prudence. We urge for a level- headed and well-planned government response, firmly anchored on the respect for human rights, particularly the right to life of ALL Filipinos, as well as democratic tenets and safeguards enshrined in our Constitution. 

This well- considered solution should be proportionate to what confronts us, and should be free from unnecessary excesses. We believe that an exaggerated government response will give rise to new problems such as the further escalation of violence and disregard for human rights. 

Militarization, especially in a situation where authorities have not clearly spelled out what the state of lawlessness means, will usher in a climate of fear and an overall chilling effect for everyone. We are perplexed by the fact that the President has chosen the path of militarizing the PNP mandate, publicly pronouncing that “security forces will run the country according to his specifications” and that “the military and police can really do what they want to address the problem.” Such a top-heavy response and a wanton declaration of lawlessness is perilous and misleads from what the national situation really is. 

In line with principles of transparency and accountability, iDEFEND asserts the need for inscribing formally on paper his “state of lawlessness” decree so that its parameters can be better understood and the risks it presents can be effectively checked. 

In light of President Duterte’s consistent attitudes towards human rights, we are concerned that this decision will further overstep the boundaries of law. It is lamentable that the statements of Pres. Duterte and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana attribute the bombings to democracy. Similarly, the statements of Presidential Spokesperson Peter Tiu LaviƱa attributing the bombings partially to political opposition is very irresponsible and begs explanation, and presents itself as the real threat to democratic space. 

iDefend also calls on the President to ensure that the work of all branches of government, primarily the Senate, Judiciary and all Constitutional Commissions remain unrestricted, independent and effective. We also appeal to the Duterte administration to ensure the safety of civil society groups and individuals, whether or not his views are shared by these indispensable actors for change.

Who Decides Which Species Deserve the Right to Survive and Thrive?

Wazzup Pilipinas!

During these times of extreme global warming, the preservation of marine ecology should be of utmost importance. The rich marine life has provided food for many people for the past centuries and has allowed us to live the way we do. Over-fishing and predatory decimation of ocean species by humans is a deplorable and irresponsible practice. What does it take to act on protecting marine life and not wait for an ecological collapse? 

Shark populations in the world's ocean's are the barometer by which life as we know it now sadly stands. In decline. Scientifically, sharks are at the top of food chain and they maintain a good balance of the populations of other fishes in the marine ecosystem. Take them out and you'll eventually cause an ecological imbalance. Every extinction of a species results to a damaging disturbance in life as we know it. 

The Philippines' marine biodiversity is one of our most precious resources that we must protect. Not too many countries can boast of having the same. Marine conservationists have been calling on the international community to include Thresher sharks in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) this coming September. CITES, an international agreement between governments, aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Though Daanbantayan has declared its municipal waters as a protected area through an executive order of Daanbantayan Mayor Augusto Corro specifically declaring Monad shoal and Gato islet a shark and ray sanctuary last June 2015, the Thresher shark population continues to be hunted, fished, and traded at other locations in the country. This will eventually cause the rest of the marine eco-system to be destabilized and potentially collapse. Shark finning should be recognized as a barbaric practice and should no longer exist except as an ugly footnote in history books. These Thresher sharks need to be protected to ensure a healthy balance in our oceans.

If we continue to purge the oceans of the Thresher sharks, this would disturb the marine ecology of the country, bringing forth unforeseeable consequences in our way of living. Please take a stand regarding this. Protect this species and support its listing on CITES to stop the international trade of its fins and meat. 

Please take note that the Thresher sharks are worth far more alive to the local economy than dead. A Thresher alive supports Filipinos through tourism income throughout its lifetime, a Thresher dead makes only ~$2 from meat. Sharks also put human consumers of shark meat and fins at a health risk. Since sharks are predators, living higher up in the food web, their tissues tend to accumulate and concentrate toxins. It makes no sense to continue to treat these sharks as a food commodity. 

"A pound of shark meat sells for only Php 50 in the market (although their fins fetch much higher when exported to HK and Taiwan for shark's fin soup) while a live one generates millions in revenue through ecotourism, like in Malapascua. In the Philippines, the heart of the coral triangle, only the Oceanic Manta (Manta birostris) and Whale shark (Rhicodon typus) are protected."

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has to acknowledge that the Filipino people will also greatly benefit if Thresher sharks are protected in the Philippines. The government should have an intensive campaign to stop the fishing of these species. 

Atty. Chad Estela of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources office of Cebu said, “It is the logical obligation of the Philippines to call on the world to include thresher sharks in the Appendix II as we are the only country in the world that can boast to having an established thresher shark dive tourism industry. Scuba divers at Monad Shoal off the coast of Malapascua Island, Daanbantayan can see these sharks in the early morning hours, almost everyday.”

"This September 24 through October 5, we will have an opportunity to protect the Thresher as well through trade regulation. The Conference of Parties (CoP) 17 in Johannesburg, South Africa seeks to include three species of thresher sharks in the Appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). For that to happen however, our delegation headed by BFAR and DENR, has to vote yes. If they do and this passes, all trade of Thresher sharks will be required to be sustainable in nature."

Tourists visit Malapascua Island of Cebu to experience scuba diving at the "cleaning station" located at Monad shoal to witness the beauty of the pelagic Tresher sharks as they get cleaned by cleaner and moon wrasses.  You'll be smitten with these unbelievably graceful creatures with their sweet, dark-eyed faces. These majestic creatures, distinguished by their white mottled abdomen and relatively small eyes, don't deserve the brutal hand of human devastation. 

Contrary to what others believe, they are absolutely not life-threatening. They are the ones who are being threatened. Trading of Thresher sharks must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.

To learn more about Thresher Sharks, you may visit and watch the videos located at
Let the Philippines be a conservation leader in Asia as it was for the whale sharks and the manta ray. Continue to give the tourists a reason to keep coming back to the Philippines. Let's do everything to guarantee that Thresher sharks not only survive, but thrive. 

You may also want to do the same so that we can encourage more to participate in this movement that aims to keep our marine eco-system intact.


More information can be found here:
Save Thresher Tala

CITES Proposal

IUCN says Yes

Their Future Our Future

Thresher sharks in the PH (press coverage)

All photos taken by Noel Guevara in Monad Shoal, Malapascua.

#SaveThresherTala #StoptheThresherHunt #PHsayYes

The Extraordinary Story of an Unlikely Hero in the Philippines

Wazzup Pilipinas!

To quote Winston Churchill, “It has been said that Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

In politics, perception matters. Voters elect the newbie when they are hopeful, but fall back on the familiar when they are afraid. Crafty political consultants employ tricks of the trade to convince voters to elect a candidate. They are creatures from the darkest recesses of the political system, not averse to doing terrible things for terrible reasons for even, potentially, terrible candidates. We're coaxed into applauding a candidate we're supposed to loathe. The mere agreement to work in politics is akin to selling one's soul.

Yet, President Rodrigo Duterte already had a lethal yet effective charm delivery system. He doesn’t need to do much to win the public over since an amusing persona is inherent in him. Duterte is one tough, cynical and angry politico. He is a highly disreputable character who does not care how he looks or comes off especially in his home turf, Davao. All those curses and slurs during his crass and grimy campaign made him stand-out among his opponents who all did the tried and tested formulas.

He may not be one who splurged on fat cigars and a gilded lifestyle, and was known more for an assortment of dead civilians cluttering his past. Thus, it’s hard to know whether to marvel or weep to his rise to Presidency. It boggles many on how an unlikely hero managed to win the highest form of leadership in the country.

However, spin-doctors are battling down in the Philippines to swing and sustain a tricky, off-putting Presidential ploy to a public who would probably want none of it if it hadn't for his traditionally packaged competitors who all failed to enchant the voting public with the usual appeal.

The process of “framing” Duterte to look like something he isn’t could be the stuff of a rambunctious comedy. Duterte;s communication team should be astute enough to deviously work around the people’s conscience. They should continue to do a menacing Nosferatu of a spin - give the sickening issues its moral center and let the people thrive on "esprit de corps."

His campaign was already a precursor to an impending tragedy. But they had the numbers to emerge as the winners of the election. The political strategists who did a bang-up job of getting the wrong man elected are like agents of catastrophe.

I have expressed my exasperation several times over how voters are so easily duped by manipulative candidates.

I gasps with disappointment at how ordinary civilians parrot the Duterte’s crisis-branded message—tickled that he has steered this desperate country away from the charismatic younger candidates with the message of change.

Only a nihilist would not be alarmed by the endless reverberations of extrajudicial killings masqueraded as a war on drugs — and by its suggestion of a systemic separation of modern politics and the national good.

Let me now be your shrewd guide to the chicanery of politics, at least until things get really serious, and the spectre of real-world fallout emerges from the woodwork. I'll be there for the love of the game. I could imagine now all that planning and scheming, the pulse-quickening, pawn-sacrificing brinkmanship as circumstances develops.

We'll soon spend reels or so languishing in helpless fits of nausea and vomiting into waste-paper baskets.

I can't help it if I feel the incidents are merely casting a skeptical eye at the gospel of lawless violence that’s preached by Duterte’s team. My outrage is more directed at my cynicism. This loathing is really foreplay. Politics is sex for those who want to keep their clothes on.

Crisis is an invaluable buzzword for geeing up all kind of dark-horse campaigns, but is the last thing any of us, and even the most slickest operators or "fixers," can deal with in full discreet.

How does one succeed to manipulate via crisis? Just make sure you have enough of an anchor of truth, then insert the hopefully believable fabricated tangents and detours designed to ultimately serve your purpose.

There’s nothing new about this political smoke-and-mirrors. This is a labored but unoriginal play on political black arts whose ending is blind panic pretending to be measured redemption – not a total nosedive on an otherwise worthwhile trip, but more of a bumpy landing that would ultimately shake us into submission.

What comes next is for them to scare us into believing that we are in a full-blown crisis to effect Martial Law, or anything remotely close to it but branded with a different name, and that only Duterte could manage to save us. Their ultimate piece of political wisdom: "Deaths are unavoidable if we want this country to finally be free from its shackles." In reality, we're being beheaded to follow blindly like fanatics all willing to sacrifice each other just to feel safe in the midst of a chaos.
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