What is the Uncovering Asia conference?

UNCOVERING ASIA is the first Asian investigative journalism conference. The event will bring together top investigative reporters, data journalists, and media law and security experts from across Asia and around the world in Manila on November 22-24, 2014.

The conference is hosted by the Global Investigative Journalism Network, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, with additional support from the Open Society Foundations and more than a half-dozen co-sponsors.

The conference will also mark two important occasions: a special reception honoring the 25th anniversary of the pioneering Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and a candlelight assembly to commemorate the UN-designated International Day to End Impunity on Nov. 23.

It will be held at the Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria Hotel, Pasig City.

For attendees based outside the Philippines, please register with GIJN here.

For attendees based in the Philippines, click the image below to download the registration form.

Registration Form

Congress’ power of the purse lost in appropriation
By Julius D. Mariveles and Fernando R. Cabigao

2015 GAA

GRAPHICS BY CONG B. CORRALES

ALL SOULS’ Day is still a week away but civil society groups said Congress should hold a requiem for its “power of the purse” that appears to have been lost in appropriation for the 2015 national budget.

“We challenge the Congress to truly represent the Filipino people in addressing the salient issues in the 2015 budget,” Social Watch Philippines said as it urged lawmakers to reject “contentions provisions” in the proposed General Appropriations Bill to regain its power over the budgetting process and “(win) back its honor.”

A CHILD SLEEPS soundly in a public cemetery in Bacolod City during All Souls' Day | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

A CHILD SLEEPS soundly in a public cemetery in Bacolod City during All Souls’ Day | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

Social Watch, a network of around 100 civil society organizations and individuals, is one of the groups that had sounded the alarm over the automatic and lump sum appropriations in the proposed budget and the redefinition of the term “savings.”

Social Watch is also one of the convenors of the newly-launched Pera Ibalik sa Tao or PISO, along with Alternative Budget Initiative, #ScrapPork Network, Sanlakas, Freedom from Debt Coalition, and the #abolishpork movement.

The new meaning given to the term “savings,” PISO said in a unity statement, “subverts the collective will of the people; if this budget is passed with this redefinition of savings, then (it) can now be declared at any time of the year by the Executive for so-called justifiable causes.”

Pera Ibalik Sa TaO Unity Statement-20 October 2014) by Julius Mariveles

It added that the with this new definition of “savings,” all the debates, hearings, and consultations with the general public “will be rendered moot and useless, because the Executive Branch is now given a free hand in handling the people’s money.”

Under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the President will recommend the national budget but “the form, content and manner of preparation of the budget shall be prescribed by law.”

Social Watch, in a separate statement, also pointed out that the 2015 budget is an “election budget” and considering the fact “that it was passed alacrity by majority of the members of the House, it is very possible that the 2015 budget will be passed on third and final reading with all its overstatements, errors, lumps, and sly redefinition” of “savings.”

Requiem for Congress’ Lost “Power of the Purse”

Briones, lead convenor of Social Watch Philippines and a professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines, also pointed out that the lump-sum funds and certain provisions in the 2015 GAB will also legitimize the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Briones explained that of the proposed P2.6 trillion in the National Expenditure Program (NEP), Congress will only debate in detail the P1.3 trillion budget of government agencies but the debate will not include the P761.2 billion for personnel expenditures, which is generally accepted by Congress as presented by the Executive.

This means that only P599.7 billion will be up for scrutiny by the Congress.

CLICK ON PHOTO to read more about the redefinition of savings on “Debating over a meaning.”

CANDLES FOR THE DEAD ON ALL SOUL'S DAY. Civil society groups are saying that Congress should hold a requiem for its lost power of the purse | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

CANDLES FOR THE DEAD ON ALL SOUL’S DAY. Civil society groups are saying that Congress should hold a requiem for its lost power of the purse | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

 

Or why should we care if the term “savings” is redefined

IF THE word “savings” will be redefined once the General Appropriations Bill for 2015 passes, of what significance would it be for Juan and Juana Dela Cruz?

Should we – you and me – care?

The group Pera Ibalik sa Tao or PISO believes we should. The simple reason: if approved, only one person can decide on how our money will be spent This is against the Philippine Constitution, the bedrock of our laws, that solons have the decision-making powers and not the ones living across the Pasig River.

Section 67 of the general provisions of the 2015 GAB redefines the definition of savings and augmentation in section 68 of 2014 GAA. Section 68 of 2014 GAA defines savings as portions of balances of any programmed appropriation in the 2014 GAA that are free from any obligation or encumbrance and which are:

Still available from the completion or final discontinuance or abandonment of the work, activity or purpose for which the appropriation is authorized;
From appropriations balances arising from unpaid compensation and related costs pertaining to vacant positions and leaves of absence without pay; and
From appropriations balances realized from the implementation of measures resulting in improved systems and efficiencies and thus enabled agencies to meet and deliver the required or planned targets, programs and services approved in this Act at a lesser cost.

KNOW MORE IN THIS VIDEO CLIP of former national treasurer Leonor Briones. Video by PCIJ deputy producer Cong B. Corrales

In Section 67 of the general provisions of the 2015 GAB, the phrase “free from any obligation or encumbrance” was changed to “which have not been released or obligated.” Also, the following clause were changed or added in the new provision:

Discontinuance or abandonment of the program, activity or project (P/A/P) for justifiable causes, at any time during the validity of the appropriations;
Non-commencement of the P/A/P for which the appropriations is authorized within the first semester of FY 2015, unless the implementing agency shows that the P/A/P may still be undertaken or accomplished in FY 2015. For this purpose, non-commencement shall refer to the inability of the agency or its duly authorized procurement agent to obligate an allotment within the first semester of FY 2015;
Decreased cost resulting from improved efficiency during the implementation or after the completion by agencies of their P/A/Ps to deliver the targets and services approved in the Act.

The definition of augmentation was also changed. Also contained in section 68 of 2014 GAA, augmentation is defined as the existence in the 2014 GAA of a program, activity, or project “with an appropriation, which upon implementation, or subsequent evaluation of needed resources, is determined to be deficient. In no case shall a non-existent program, activity, or project, be funded by augmentation from savings or by the use of appropriations otherwise authorized in this Act.”

However, in Section 67 of 2015 GAB, a particular clause was added which will make it easier to augment funds as long as it is included in the 2015 GAA. The clause “(t)he existence of a P/A/P regardless of the availability of allotment class/es is sufficient for the purpose of augmentation. The allotment classes referred to herein may either be Personnel Services, MOOE, or Capital Outlays” was added.

October 18, 2014 · Posted in: General, In the News

What are the do’s and don’ts

IN COVERING CHILDREN IN THE NEWS

TODAY ON OUR JOURNALIST’S TOOLBOX: Children in the news by the Center for Media Freedom and Reponsibility

This article was first published on the CMFR website on June 29, 2006. We are reprinting it today with the hope that it would serve as a valuable resource for journalists covering children in the news.

By Rachel E. Khan and Elena E. Pernia

ACCORDING to the National Statistics Office, children below 18 years old comprise about 43.4 percent of the estimated population of 84 million Filipinos.

At the same time, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) country report dated October 2005 noted that the problems facing Filipino children today are “considerable and pressing.”

It noted four core threats to the well-being of children related to health, nutrition, education, and protection. In fact, the country report ventures to say that out of 100 Filipino children: eight will most likely die before their fifth birthday, 30 will suffer from malnutrition, 26 will fail to be immunized against basic childhood diseases, 19 will lack access to safe drinking water and 40 to adequate sanitation while more than 10 suffer from some physical or mental disability or developmental delay, and 17 will never go to school.

CHILDREN search for what remains of their belongings after fire gutted scores of houses on November 1, 2009 in Bacolod City. Seventeen people were killed, most of them children | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

CHILDREN search for what remains of their belongings after fire gutted scores of houses on November 1, 2009 in Bacolod City. Seventeen people were killed, most of them children | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

Yet, despite these pressing issues, news items about children revolve around only two themes: children as “victims of abuse” or “in conflict with the law.”

Covering children
Last January, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) conducted a study to assess the coverage of children in the local print and broadcast media. A content analysis was made of two nationally circulated dailies and two regional newspapers as well as two evening news programs and three public affairs programs on national television. The content analysis was augmented by focus interviews conducted among media practitioners in six provinces spanning the country. Coverage period for the study was Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, 2005 for print and October to December 2005 for broadcast.

CMFR chose to use the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) “Guidelines for Media Practitioners on the Reporting and Coverage of Cases Involving Children” as basis for measuring the media’s awareness of the need to protect the rights of children. Even if the guidelines do not have the force of law, the responsibility to adhere to it is the test of ethical journalism.

This responsibility falls on both the reporter covering the story and the editor or producer who opts to use it.

CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO CONTINUE READING THE ARTICLE ON THE CMFR WEBSITE.

A CHILD WATCHES as adults wait in line at a relief goods distribution center in Tacloban City. This photo was taken a week after Typhoon Haiyan struck Eastern Visayas | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

A CHILD WATCHES as adults wait in line at a relief goods distribution center in Tacloban City. This photo was taken a week after Typhoon Haiyan struck Eastern Visayas | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

Of its social and environmental safeguard policies

By Cong B. Corrales

International human rights groups have sounded alarm bells over a leaked draft of the World Bank’s proposed revision of its safeguard policies since it is seen to endanger local communities affected by the bank’s funded projects—specifically indigenous people’s communities.

The World Bank is currently revising its social and environmental safeguard policies. These are policies designed to prevent people and the environment from being harmed by Bank-funded projects.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed concern over the leaked draft policy because it includes a provision that would allow governments to “opt-out” of applying specific protections for indigenous peoples if the latter believes such requirement would raise ethnic conflict or contravene constitutional law.

“(It is) essentially rendering protections for indigenous peoples optional,” the HRW said in a press statement.

Human Rights Watch is a non-profit, non-governmental human rights organization made up of roughly 400 staff members around the globe. Its staff consists of human rights professional including country experts, lawyers, journalists, and academics of diverse backgrounds and nationalities.

While the intention of the World Bank in revising its safeguard policy may be good, it is the lack of consultation that has generated concern among local indigenous peoples.

In an online interview, National Anti-Poverty Commission for Indigenous Peoples Basic Sector Council Member Bae Rose Undag told PCIJ that she sees no problem with the World Bank revising its safeguard policy but it could have conducted consultations with the stakeholders.

“I think their intention is good, in particular with Land Bank because they mentioned that they respect the FPIC (Free, Prior, and Informed Consent) mechanism. But it would have been better if we were included in the consultations so that we could discuss collectively arrive in a more transparent process,” Undag said in the dialect.

However, she added that she will consult her members regarding the World Bank’s intention in revising its safeguard policy so they can come up with a collective stand on the issue.

A MOUNTAIN STILL STANDING GAZES at what could be its fate should mining operations resume in Sipalay City. At the foot of the mountain is the old millsite of the Maricalum Mining Corporation. What seems to be a lake is a former mountain, levelled then dug up by MMC. It is the open pit of the mine that has now filled with water. Estimated to be more than 20 hectares wide and more than a kilometer deep, this open pit mine is the source of copper of the mine for decades until its closure in the 90s. Image taken May 2011 in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental.

A MOUNTAIN STILL STANDING GAZES at what could be its fate should mining operations resume in Sipalay City. At the foot of the mountain is the old millsite of the Maricalum Mining Corporation. What seems to be a lake is a former mountain, levelled then dug up by MMC. Estimated to be more than 20 hectares wide and more than a kilometer deep, this open pit was the source of copper of Maricalum for decades until its closure in the 90s. Image taken May 2011 in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental.

“As far as I know this has already starting (revision of World Bank’s safeguard policy). This was one of the issues we discussed during the WCIP (World Conference on Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations) last September,” she said in the dialect.

Undag represented the country in the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples which was held in New York City, September, this year.

The meeting was designed for delegates to share their perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples. The discussions also included engaging the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

World Bank-funded projects in the Philippines include the Post Typhoon Recovery Loan, Cebu Bud Rapid Transit (BRT) Project, Philippine Rural Development Project, and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Implementation Project.

HRW also cited the Bank on Human Rights reiteration of the World Bank and its member countries’ obligation to ensure that investments in dams, roads, or other projects do not result in forced evictions, labor abuses, or other rights violations.

“Instead, the Bank appears to be moving to a blank-check system, where communities will have no clear protections and little ability to seek recourse if their rights are violated,” Gretchen Gordon, Bank on Human Rights coalition coordinator, said in its

“The release of the new draft safeguards has caused considerable concern. Despite some improvement, the new framework proposes to remove much of the procedural requirements and enforceability of the current safeguards, including critical protections for indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities, and communities which may be resettled because of development,” the Bank on Human Rights said in its separate statement on the World Bank policy draft.

Bank on Human Rights is a newly formed global coalition of social movements, civil society organizations, and grassroots groups working to ensure that all development finance institutions respect human rights.

The HRW advisory quoted Forest Peoples Programme Director Joji Carino as saying that the indigenous peoples’ recommendations to strengthen World Bank standards and bring them into line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples have fallen on deaf ears.

“World Bank pledges on ‘no-dilution’ of existing policies are being broken with this proposed ‘opt-out,’ despite advances made in other substantive areas of the new proposals,” HRW quoted Carino as saying.

Forest Peoples Programme was founded in 1990 in response to the forest crisis, specifically to support indigenous forest peoples’ struggles to defend their lands and livelihoods.

October 17, 2014 · Posted in: General, Investigative Reports

#HackAgainstEbola

This article was first published on indiegogo.com.

Help African journalists to develop prototypes against the epidemic

EPIDEMICS create panic, irrational information, dangerous rumours and uncertified facts, which can all generate chaos. Journalists must be prepared to fight all collateral damage associated with Ebola. Unfortunately journalists on the ground don’t have the necessary resources and tools that match the responsibility they have to inform local communities. This is why the Global Editors Network has decided to gather local journalists to empower them with the expertise to develop new applications and online tools that can save lives. New technologies and social networks will be crucial for covering and preventing the epidemic from spreading. Please help us to develop new prototypes!

Ebola Deaths in West Africa

Why Ghana?
Ghana’s proximity to extremely infected areas makes it a high priority location to intervene. Media in Ghana need to be ready with the right tools to fight Ebola. Ghana’s media is one of the most liberal in Africa, ranking 27th in the World Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders, which makes it the 3rd in Africa.

20141008075437-3E580E29-3ED9-4A88-BB73-093054533E03_w640_r1_s
Over half of Ghana’s population of 26 million (2013 figure) have access to the Internet. Social media is booming. Facebook counts more than 5 million Ghanaians. Over 90% of the population have cellphones, yet few of these are smartphones. Ghana’s rapid technological progress urges the support from a broader more resourced journalism community to help local media.

Click HERE to continue reading the report.

 

Reporters Without Borders condemns new cases of censorship and self-censorship

AS THE Occupy Central movement continues its pro-democracy demonstrations, local and foreign media whose coverage angers the government are suffering consequences.

Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily is paying a high price for supporting Occupy Central.

Members of a counter-movement have been surrounding the headquarters of the newspaper, which announced its pro-Occupy Central position on 11 October. For three days, the paper’s activities have been disrupted, with delivery trucks prevented from entering. As a result, distributors have not been fully supplied. Delivery of the International New York Times, carried by the same trucks, was also affected.

During the third day of the anti-newspaper action, the demonstrators – most of them women wearing face masks – defied a High Court order of 14 October that they lift the siege. But police did not proceed to arrest them, effectively allowing the delivery truck blockade to continue.

On 15 October, the BBC website suffered blocking as well. It was taken down for several hours after it ran a video showing Hong Kong police beating pro-democracy protester Ken Tsang Kin-Chiu.

Click HERE to continue reading the report.

Reporters Sans Frontieres: Why Indonesia should release two detained French journalists

HELD since early August, Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois are to go on trial next week

After holding French journalists Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois in the eastern province of Papua for 70 days, the Indonesian authorities announced yesterday that they will be tried on a charge of misusing an entry visa, which carries a possible five-year jail sentence.

The authorities decided to go ahead with a trial in Papua’s capital, Jayapura, on 20 October despite many international calls for their release, including a petition launched by Reporters Without Borders and the Bourrat and Dandois support committee that has been signed by more than 8,000 people worldwide.

Reporters Without Borders appeals to the Indonesian justice system, now responsible for their continuing detention, to release the two journalists and dismiss all charges.

Click on the photo to continue reading the RSF communique.

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on August 28, 2014, arrested French journalists Thomas Dandois (R), 40, and Valentine Bourrat (L), 29, from Franco-German television channel Arte are photographed at the Indonesian immigration office in Jayapura city in Papua province on August 28, 2014. The two French journalists arrested in Indonesia's Papua while reporting on the separatist movement are likely to go on trial, their lawyer said September 2, 2014, with the pair facing up to five years in jail.  AFP PHOTO / FILES / From RSF website

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on August 28, 2014, arrested French journalists Thomas Dandois (R), 40, and Valentine Bourrat (L), 29, from Franco-German television channel Arte are photographed at the Indonesian immigration office in Jayapura city in Papua province on August 28, 2014. The two French journalists arrested in Indonesia’s Papua while reporting on the separatist movement are likely to go on trial, their lawyer said September 2, 2014, with the pair facing up to five years in jail. AFP PHOTO / FILES / From RSF website