Have you ever looked at one of those tourism ads and wondered what sort of stories lie behind the spectacular sunsets, the colorful sceneries, and the sweet smiles of the people in the glossy photographs?
Are they just as happy when the cameras aren’t around? Or does the twinkle in their eyes fade when the afterimage from the last flash dies down. What secrets do they keep and what kind of lives do they lead beyond what tourists normally get to see.
In Mindanao, where years of government neglect has rendered many beautiful places inaccessible except for the truly determined, there is hope that some of these hidden gems will finally see the light.
If there is one thing that the first Philippine President from Mindanao has brought to the national consciousness, it is a greater interest in the land he calls home. While much of the focus so far has been on the political front, images and reports on the beauty of Mindanao are also starting to come out. And with them come the stories of the people.
In the next six years, Mindanao will have an unprecedented opportunity to reveal itself to the world – and the world will, for the first time, have greater access to this last pristine frontier of Philippine tourism. Hopefully this will be supported by the administration with the appointment of a Tourism Secretary who is also from Mindanao and understands its people and culture.
With Duterte and the Muslim rebels promising lasting peace, maybe the stories of Mindanao can finally be told by those who have lived them.
While we do not agree with everything that President-elect Duterte says, we do share his opinion that these are things that need to be said. Seeds of change cannot take root on barren soil. The complacency of the people with the established order must first be uprooted like weeds to allow new ideas to grow.
And like a plow ripping across the hard-packed earth, Duterte’s attacks against the leaders of the Catholic church and the media-elite force the Filipino people to question long-held beliefs about these so-called pillars of truth and virtue.
Whether you agree with him or not, it cannot be denied that he has widened the horizons of public discourse into topics that in the past were only spoken of in whispers. And even if in the process he has taken the brunt of counter-attacks, he has shown equanimity and fortitude in staying this rough and dangerous course.
But then again, even during the campaign Duterte has always declared that he will do what he has must, and his life and the Presidency be damned. These qualities, which some find shocking in the context of our old-style “pa-pogi” politicians, is just what the country needs to shake and break our rotting social order.
Once we get past the self-righteous outrage, we can see that we do need to hear what Duterte has to say. We have to remember that he was not elected to coddle us and sing us lullabies while the country burns to the ground. People chose Duterte because he is as angry as they are.
Finally we have a President that makes us move and take part in the national dialogue on what role these institutions play in public life and governance. With a few choice words, Duterte has done more to open our eyes to the reality of the abuse that we face everyday than the previous administrations has after years of being in power.
While the infantile Philippine media continues to focus on their self-righteous anger and bruised egos after President-elect Rody Duterte took them to task for failing to rid their ranks of extortionists and crooks posing as “journalists,” his cabinet-to-be has quietly begun the heavy work of righting the many social injustices left by the previous administrations.
In-coming Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary, Judy Taguiwalo visited the UCCP Haran compound in Davao City to talk to the tribal leaders of the Lumad evacuees that have been displaced from their homes because of para-military operations in their mountain homeland.
According to reports, Duterte has prioritized the restoration of peace and order in the affected communities and the return of thousands of evacuees to their homes. Says Fidel Agcaoili, a member of the panel negotiating for peace between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), “When (Duterte) said ‘bring them home,’ he meant to live and safety.”
In the meantime, also away from the media limelight, Duterte’s in-coming Secretary for the abuse-prone, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has vowed to reverse the Department’s “anti-farmer” stance and “ensured that no farmer will be displaced from his farmland.”
Duterte has made agricultural development and food security through sustainable farming practices one of the pillar programs of his administration.
On the peace and order front, in-coming Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa says that his first priority will be to implement Duterte’s order to rid the PNP of scalawags and crooks in uniform. “Uunahin ko ang mga pulis ko. Lilinisin ko ang PNP. Tatanggalin ang dapat tanggalin. (I will begin with my police force. I will clean up the PNP. I will remove those that need to be removed).
On social media, which was the key communication’s platform that brought Duterte to Presidency, reactions of netizens to the in-coming President’s pronouncements has continued to be positive. Many are even encouraging the President to by-pass traditional media altogether and instead use social media to talk direct to the people.
Now that President-elect Rody Duterte has let the cat out of the bag and called out the Philippine media for the rampant corruption that is happening within their ranks, we need to look further into this practice – not because we want to take sides in this debate – rather, as the guardians of our civil liberties, the media must be held to a standard higher than the one we hold all the other institutions of society by.
The Truth About Media Corruption in the Philippines
The irony of the Philippine media is that it is one of the free-est in the world in being able to express its opinions, and at the same time it also has among the highest number of media practitioners killed while supposedly pursuing their job.
These conflicting realities – a free and independent media able to talk about any matter under the sun and a culture of violence that has resulted in hundreds of their number killed – is almost impossible to understand using western models of the role of media in society.
Conventional wisdom says that media is the fourth estate, the guardian of the people’s welfare against the abuses of those in power, an incorruptible pillar of truth, justice, and integrity. Under this ideal concept, the tools of repression (i.e. the rampant media killings) cannot co-exist with the almost limitless freedom of expression enjoyed by the Philippine media. Either one is free or not.
In order to better understand this phenomenon, one has to look deeper into the roots and role of the Philippine media in the society. In many cases, media companies are run as a business first and an advocate of truth a far second. In these instances, bottom lines carry more weight in the boardroom than by-lines and the policy of “bank balance news, pay-first views” becomes the norm more than the exception.
From top to bottom corruption is rampant in the media industry, but none more so than in the unregulated community radio stations that proliferate throughout the Philippine countryside. In many of these outfits, any person can walk in, buy airtime for a few thousand pesos a month, and basically broadcast whatever they want.
While on the surface this may appear to be the very model of democracy and freedom of expression, the lack of regulation and even the most rudimentary training on journalistic ethics has turned these radio stations from a platform to expose wrongdoing into a tool for blackmail and extortion.
The way these “block-time” broadcasters practice “journalism” resembles a mafia shakedown more than anything else. Typically they would start by picking a target – a local government official or a businessman – and launch an attack against some alleged wrongdoing (real or otherwise) that they have committed. This continues for a time until either the victim sends an emissary to the broadcaster or the broadcaster himself visits the victim with a proposal to air his side of the issue. This method of double-dealing is what is colloquially known as ACDC or Attack-and-Collect, Defend-and-Collect journalism.
Sadly, this is also the root cause of many of the the killings of media practitioners in the Philippines. In a country were pride and social standing is paramount, an attack on a person’s integrity – particularly on such a public scale – often constitutes a killing offense. While this can never justify a murder, it does go a long way in explaining how these crimes come to be.
From this perspective, much of the blame should be placed squarely on the media industry itself for failing to clean up its own ranks of scalawags and crooks. By insisting on painting all media killings as an attack on press freedom, they are failing to address the real and rampant illegal activities of those criminals who are hiding under the convenient mantle of “media.” Not only does this oversight protect the guilty, it also demonizes the victims, and endangers the legitimate journalists.
Already reeling from the changes it has had to make due to the President-elect’s unorthodox style with dealing with the media, the members of the fourth estate got another broadside from Duterte when he called them out for the rampant corruption within their ranks.
Asked about the spate of media killings that has been the bane of all Presidents from even before Marcos, Duterte turned the tables by saying that many of the killings are the result of media getting paid to take sides in various disputes. Though a prevalent practice, particularly among broadcasters in community radio stations, this topic has long been a taboo for media practitioners.
“Do not expect that all journalists are clean. Marami dyan binabayaran. There is corruption on (the media’s) side,” declared Duterte, adding that “Freedom of expression won’t save you. The Constitution cannot help you kapag binaboy mo ang isang tao.”
By exposing their dirty little secret, expect traditional media outlets to once again be on the warpath against the President-elect. Paid hacks, yellow journalists, and holier-than-thou editors and columnists will have a field day hurling their venom in a vain attempt to bring him down to their level.
In this war, Duterte will once again call on his social media warriors to carry his standard into battle. Just like in the just concluded campaign where his millions of Facebook and Twitter warriors unflinchingly brought the fight to even the biggest media networks in the country, they are once again expected to take the cudgels for their idol.
The latest move by President-elect Rody Duterte, that of instructing his in-coming DPWH Sec. Mark Villar to disclose to the public all the projects of his family, and to avoid building roads that would specifically benefit their landholdings, shows just how much he is ahead of the political game.
It can be recalled that when he first appointed Villar, people questioned his judgement, saying that he was paying off political favors just like any traditional politician. It became the focal point of the attacks by his opponents, and was even the cause of concern for some of his followers. But like all his previous political moves, his plans are now becoming much clearer.
Like a general in battle, he used the appointement to cement his alliance with the Nationalista Party headed by Mark’s father, businessman Manny Villar. He needed this to secure his flank from the LP, who was rumored to have been planning to remove him from office. This was the immediate danger that he needed to solve.
But after the threat of impeachment was eliminated, Duterte was once again on the move, this time to strengthen his support from the public by demonstrating that he will not be manipulated by his friends (Pastor Quiboloy), his enemies (the Catholic Church), his allies (Villar, et al) and anyone else who thinks they can put one over him. By going back to his solid base of supporters, he is also demonstrating to the othe politicians that he has the backing of the Filipino people and any move against him will not have popular support.
So at this point in the game, he has the best position and everyone is where he wants them to be – Belmonte is gone, the LP is disorganized, the media are confused, the bishops’ influence is diminished, and his supporters are happy. As to the Villar, he can either comply and do a great job at the DPWH (which would prove that Duterte was right all along) or decline and expose themselves to public scorn.
The fact is, Mayor Duterte is one of the most – if not the most – intelligent politician in the country. His moves leave his enemies confused and his supporters in awe. And whatever he chooses to do next, the only thing certain is that it is something that no one will expect.
Old Davao Neighborhood Becomes New Haven for Budget Travelers
One of Davao City’s oldest neighborhoods, the place where the future President of the Philippine grew up in no less, is fast becoming a haven for budget travelers.
Juna Subdivision, located on the south side of the Davao River that splits the city in two, was one of the earliest residential developments to spring up after the war. The place where many of Davao’s most prominent families built their homes.
A few streets away from the Duterte ancestral home are the houses of Dominguez, Floirendo, Sarenas, Ayala, Alcantara, Dalisay, Robillo, Santos-Munda, Dela Paz, Lorenzana, and many other families that are part of Davao City’s storied past.
What makes the hotels in the area attractive to travelers, aside from the affordable rates, is the central location of Juna subdivision to many of the places you would want to visit when you go to Davao. It is quiet community that is just a walk or short ride away from malls, supermarkets, and great dining options. It is also located far from the bustle of Davao’s downtown area, and a good jump off point when you want to go to some of the city’s most famous attractions like Eden Nature Park, Malagos Gardens, Crocodile Park, and the Philippine Eagle Nature Reserve, among others.