AGALON SANG KADUTAAN, the title of this slideshow produced by veteran journalist and PCIJ multimedia producer Julius D. Mariveles, literally translates to Masters of the Land. If the title sounds so feudal, it is because the system really is.

AGALON SANG KADUTAAN is a collection of images and information about the people who till the volcanic land of Negros Occidental for their economic and political masters. The sacadas and dumaans, those who work the cane fields of Negros, are bound, not just to the soil, but to the whims and caprices of their AGALON. This feudal relationship easily transposes itself into the political arena, since the masters who hold the lives of the sugar workers in their hands have also used this economic power to build their political base.
The photos are from the portfolio of Mr. Mariveles, a 15-year veteran of print and radio journalism in Negros Occidental before he joined the PCIJ.

 

CUARESMA, or Holy Week is the time when Filipinos reflect on the agony of Jesus Christ. It is also the time when the mamumugon – the workers in the vast haciendasor plantations of Negros Occidental – slip into a suspended state between life and death, a seeming purgatory on earth.

This is Tiempo Muerto, the dead season in the Philippines’ sugar bowl, a period between the planting and harvesting of sugarcane. It lasts from April until August, and is a season that the sugar plantation workers dread more than the typhoons that enter the country also around this period.

Cuaresma, of course, ends with the celebration of Kristo conquering death, heaven imposing its desire on earth. But Tiempo Muerto may soon last more than the usual four months in Negros Occidental with the impending implementation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) in 2015 – if some sugar industry insiders and observers are proven correct.

Should that happen, the province and many of its sugar farmers who ignored the summons of the 1985 sugar crisis to reform, innovate, and be more competitive, would be largely to blame.

AFTA will bring the tariff on sugar imported from the 10 ASEAN member-countries down from 10 percent this year to five percent next year. ASEAN includes Thailand, the second largest exporter of sugar in the world after Brazil.

Yet what could be bitter pill for the sugar industry may actually turn into a sweet treat for most Filipinos who are all consumers of sugar and sugar-based food and other products. What may be Tiempo Muerto to Negros’ sugar producers could even spellTiempo Suerte to most Filipinos who are sugar consumers.

Tariff cuts, scholars say, may cause transitory pain for some sectors but the positive overall effect is to help the economy by lowering prices for consumers, and even cutting poverty incidence by 0.285 percentage points.

In the newest offering of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, senior journalist Julius D. Mariveles writes about the politics of the economy of Negros Occidental, a land whose history, politics, culture, and economy have long remained wrapped around the sugar cane.

Mariveles is a senior journalist who has worked in both print broadcast media in Negros Occidental for over 15 years. He now joins PCIJ as one of its multimedia producers.

 

 

 

 

ON MONDAY, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission submitted to Malacanang the draft Basic Law that would create a new political entity that would take the place of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The envisioned Bangsamoro is the latest, and hopefully, the lasting solution to decades of conflict in the Southern Philippines. After a thorough review by Malacanang, the draft law will be submitted to Congress for its consideration. Once passed by Congress, the Bangsamoro Basic Law would be presented to the residents of the ARMM in a referendum. Only those areas that vote to be part of the new Bangsamoro substate would be included in the new political entity.

MILF 2

All of the various political entities created by the government since the time of President Ferdinand Marcos have generated controversy in a land that has long been afflicted by divisions and mistrust. The persistent suspicion of those who have opposed the previous autonomous regions in Mindanao is that government has bent over backwards to grant Muslim rebels their own Islamic state, one that is governed solely through Shariah or Islamic Law that is enforced by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

For today’s Data a Day:

TRUE OR FALSE: The Bangsamoro political entity will be an Islamic state.

For the answer to that question, visit the PCIJ’s Data a Day site, or come take a look at the PCIJ’s MoneyPolitics Online website for more relevant information.

 

MAGUINDANAO MOSQUE

TODAY’S DATA A DAY question would appear to be a no-brainer. The operative phrase, of course, is “would appear.”

Anyone interested in visiting the offices of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) must go to the ORG complex in Cotabato City. ORG is the acronym for the Office of the Regional Governor of the ARMM. It is a sprawling complex off the main road called Sinsuat Avenue that houses the offices, departments, and bureaus that govern the five provinces that comprise the ARMM.

With that in mind, try to answer today’s Data a Day question carefully:

TRUE OR FALSE: The cities of Cotabato and Isabela are part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM.

For the answer to that question, visit the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism’s Data a Day site, or drop in at our MoneyPolitics Online database for a healthy dose of relevant information.

 

 

 

by Ryan D. Rosauro

INDONESIA

photo from Indonesian Parliament website

JAKARTA—Indonesians troop to the polls Wednesday to elect members of the national and local parliaments, an exercise that is widely expected to shape the upcoming presidential elections in July.

The turnout of the polls will determine which of the 12 parties running for the 560 seats in the House of Representatives will be able to field a presidential candidate in the July 9 presidential polls. Under Indonesian law, only the parties that get 20 percent of the parliamentary seats or 25 percent of the popular vote are allowed to field presidential bets.

Some 186 million are eligible to vote, or about 74 percent of the close to 250 million Indonesians. At least 88 percent of Indonesians are also Muslims, making the country the seat of the largest number of followers of Islam in the world.

According to Tri Agung Kristanto, a senior editor at Kompas, one of the country’s top newspapers, only two parties “have the capacity to reach the (25 percent) threshold.”

Kristanto said that based on their latest survey, these are Partai Golongan Karya or Golkar, the party of deposed president Suharto, and Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) led by Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of the country’s first president, Sukarno.

Suharto led a 1965 coup that deposed Sukarno from power, installing himself to the presidency until 1998 when he was kicked from office by a popular uprising known here as the reformasi.

Analysts expect the chances of PDI-P winning more seats in the national parliament to increase with the announcement mid-March that it will be fielding the widely popular Jakarta governor Joko Widodo for president.

Kristanto explained that in Indonesia, personality is the principal driver of a party’s chances in the ballot.

Kompas has declined to give the recent survey figures. But in mid-January, a Kompas survey showed that Widodo, more known as Jokowi, could garner 43.5 percent of the vote.

Although Golkar is in the running as a party, its bearer, party chair Aburizal Bakrie, also a declared presidential aspirant, is showing poorly. A far second to Jokowi in popular appeal is Prabowo Subianto, of the Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), a splinter of Golkar.

Kompas estimates Gerindra’s vote-drawing capacity in the April 9 polls between 10 to 13 percent.

Given the frontrunners of the parliamentary polls, veteran activist Tedjabayu Soedjojono considers the recent polls as “most important for Indonesia’s future.”

Tedjabayu said that the polls is about “continuing the momentum of democratic reforms or sliding back to the Suharto era.”

“We have to give the presidency to a generation which has no connection with the past,” Tedjabayu stressed.

Called the New Order, Suharto’s rule has been marked by massive human rights violations, repression, and curtailment of civil liberties.

Anti-corruption activist Danang Widoyoko said the new battleground in this election is the youth vote.

An estimated 30 percent of total registered voters in Indonesia are first-time voters. But surveys showed that “they are skeptical of the polls,” said Anita Rachman of the Alliance of Indonesian Journalists-Jakarta (AJI-Jakarta).

Danang attributed youth skepticism to the problem of official corruption “which has been making headlines almost every day.” Five days before the polls, the English daily Jakarta Post reported the indictment of former health minister Siti Fadilah Supari for graft.

The case stemmed from an alleged anomalous medical procurement transaction that led to state losses amounting to US$1.33 million. Fadilah is currently an advisor of outgoing president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Not only are the youth unhappy about corruption. Since the first post-Suharto elections in 1999, general voter turnout has consistently declined. In 1999, turnout was 93 percent. By 2004, it dropped to 84 percent, and further decreased to 71 percent in 2009.

Veri Junaidi of the nongovernment group Association for Democracy and the Elections (Perludem), said they will be happy with a 75 percent turnout. “At least the decline is arrested and we begin to seriously make the elections a key battleground for continuing the democratic struggle.”

Several young professionals in Jakarta, who have not been voting since they turned 17, said they are sorry for not being able to vote on April 9. Many of them relocated from the provinces for work but have not transferred their voter registration in the city.

“But I’ll surely make it to the voting center come July 9 to elect the president,” said 37-year old accountant Harry Palapa, an entrepreneur who also works as interpreter on the side.

(Ryan is part of a four-member team organized by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) to cover the 2014 Indonesian parliamentary elections. The PCIJ is a founding member of SEAPA.

 

 

 

WOMEN OF PEACE

THE NAYSAYERS said they couldn’t do it, but in the end, the women negotiators in the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) showed that they had what some of their male counterparts didn’t – grace and steel.

Peace advocates and civil society organizations on Tuesday paid tribute to the women who fought for peace – and won it – in a forum on The Women at the Peace Table at the Ateneo de Manila University. The forum highlights the role played by women in an arena long controlled and dominated by men – conflict, and conflict resolution.

The job certainly did not come easy for Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, head of the government peace panel that clinched the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the MILF last March 27. Ferrer, appointed by President Benigno S. Aquino III in December 2012 as panel chairperson, had to confront doubts not just from her counterparts in the MILF, but also from within.

Director Ilona Gracia Jalijali, head of the government peace panel secretariat, recalled how the MILF panel appeared to have “a problem” with Ferrer’s appointment at the start. However, the MILF panel indicated to the Palace that they would respect the President’s decision to appoint Ferrer. Both panels would eventually recognize the importance of earning that respect during the tough negotiations that lay ahead.

Jalijali praised the MILF for “their willingness, even though they were uncomfortable with the prospect of having a woman as a chairperson (of the government panel), their willingness to accept it and to adjust to it.”

“We knew that they (MILF) had a problem with it internally, but they found a way to communicate to Malacanang that they would respect the choice of the President whether she is a woman or not. That was a kind of professionalism, a willingness to open yourself up to goodwill and good faith negotiations,” Jalijali said.

DELES AND IYE

Ferrer proved to be a tough negotiator, with the aggressiveness to push when needed, and the grace to pull back when necessary. Ironically, Ferrer indicates that it was she who had to push her male colleagues in the panel to be more aggressive.

Government peace panel member Senen Bacani, for example, was described as the “coolest” in the group. Bacani relates that sometimes, he would have to remind Ferrer of the need to soften her position. During one heated round of negotiations, Ferrer recalls, she felt Bacani tapping her under the table to urge her to soften up.

“We needed our men to also be more aggressive than (they have been),” Ferrer said, drawing cheers from the forum participants.

Ferrer said the presence of women in the government negotiating panel was part of “an opening up process” that showed both panels the need to have a broader view of gender and women’s issues.

“This is one of the opening up processes,” Ferrer said. “At the end of it, I would say that they now have a better appreciation of what we have been trying to put forward in terms of women’s issues and gender issues, but with all the sensitivities, all the cultural and religious sensitivities.”

Peace Process adviser Teresita ‘Ging’ Deles however said this does not mean that the gender barrier had already been broken – more likely, it was the women who had the perseverance, determination, attention to detail, and persistence to get things done. In the long history of the quest for peace, Deles said she noticed how it was always the women in civil society who held the course steadily while the men came and went. It was a kind of dedication that bore fruit last March 27 when government and the MILF signed the peace deal.

Deles pointed out that since the fall of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, the issue of peace had become “a very seasonal issue.”

“When there is a problem, people would come to the meetings. When it is quiet, they do not come,” she said. All throughout this time, Deles said three women held the fort – Risa Hontiveros, Karen Tanada, and herself.

“That is how, in the peace movement, the women became the mainstays. It is a cause where you have to be there in good times or bad. You do the housework of the peace movement, you do the leadership. In the beginning, women were not so confident about issues on security. But since we were always there, we stood up and took on the role,” Deles said.

Undersecretary Zenonida Brosas, head of the technical working group on normalization, relates how the women members of the panel had to work with a conservative rebel group dominated by men. For example, Brosas related how they were nervous at the start when they were tasked to engage MILF senior and battle-hardened commanders in the discussion on normalization. Normalization is the process of having rebel groups lay down their guns and embrace a peaceful process.

In the end, the women found common ground with the warriors by talking about family and home. These were issues that everyone could relate to, whether warrior or peacemaker. After all, family and home had to be the only real reasons why people go to war in the first place.

 

But the female panel members had just as much difficulty with their own side, with the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. “These are all men who are used to the chain of command,” one panel officer said. “You need to have a lot of grace and steel to keep them on the line.”

PANEL 2

But there were light moments too to highlight the intricacies of the gender issue in the peace talks. When both the government and the MILF finally agreed on the wording of the peace agreement, Ferrer went up to MILF negotiating panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal and asked him: “No hug?”

“After (that agreement), Iye (Ferrer) offered Chairman Iqbal: No hug?” related Jalijali to the cheers of the forum participants.

“That is how you see that things have progressed,” Jalijali said. “Because now I think he is comfortable hugging.” This last remark drew loud applause from the audience. However, it is still unclear if Iqbal agreed to a hug from Ferrer.

By the last leg of the peace negotiations, however, it appeared clear that things were also changing from the side of the MILF.

Jalijali said it came to a point when the MILF started bringing in an alternate MILF panel negotiator who is also a woman. “In the previous tables with the MNLF and in the beginning with the MILF, you don’t see women in their group. But they were able to bring in women, and you can see they also respect women, and the important role that they contribute,” Jalijali said.

MEILING AND GING

After the forum, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process also launched the magazine Kababaihan at Kapayapaan, a bi-annual magazine on the role of women in the peace process. The magazine, edited by Paulynn Paredes Sicam, will highlight the role of women as peacebuilders, not just in negotiations, but in the field where peace matters the most.

 

NO ONE likes spam, unless it comes from a can.

That being said, spamming, or the transmission of unsolicited commercial communications, was included in the list of offenses in Republic Act 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

However, the Supreme Court promulgated its ruling on the constitutionality of certain provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act last February. Other controversial provisions in that law include articles on cyber libel and child pornography.

For today’s Data a Day:

Is spamming considered a cybercrime?

For the answer to that question, visit the PCIJ’s Data a Day site, or go straight to the PCIJ’s MoneyPolitics Online database.