IT’S been several weeks after journalists from Asia and other parts of the world gathered in Manila for Uncovering Asia: The First Asian Investigative Journalism Conference.

In this video by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Media Programme, we look back at the highlights of the conference and thoughts from some of the leading investigative journalists in the Philippines and the world.

December 17, 2014 · Posted in: General, In the News

Most Pinoys face 2015 with hope

By Cong B. Corrales

WHILE various political and economic issues have dogged the country this year, a big majority of Filipinos still maintain a hopeful outlook for next year, a recent survey by a creditable pollster showed.

The Pulse Asia Research’s Ulat ng Bayan Survey on the Holiday season and the New Year revealed that almost nine in 10 Filipinos (88%) say they face the coming year with hope.

The survey comes on the heels of various political and economic issues which have hogged the headlines this year.

Political issues like the Senate’s continued investigation into allegations of corruption against Vice-President Jejomar C. Binay, to the approval by the House Committee on Energy of Joint Resolution No. 21 which seeks to grant President Aquino emergency powers to allow him to more efficiently and effectively address the looming energy crisis in 2015, have not sopped the Filipino’s stubbornly hopeful spirit.

This sentiment is shared predominantly across the country and socioeconomic classes.

Only one in 100 (1%) Filipinos say they see a dire year ahead while 11% could not weigh in on the matter.

GRAPHICS BY Cong B. Corrales

GRAPHICS BY Cong B. Corrales

“Essentially the same figures are recorded across geographic areas (1% and 8% to 15%, respectively) and socio-economic groupings (virtually nil to 1% and 9% to 15%, respectively),” the press advisory reads.

This, as the percentage of Filipinos who expect a poorer Christmas for their families this year declined. At the national level, the figure declined to less than 10 percentage points. The Class D also shows a decline of 9 percentage points. The Visayas also showed albeit a bigger decline in percentage points at -21.

However, five in 10 (52%) Filipinos said they expect their celebration of the Christmas season to be “no different from last year.”

This figure is virtually the same as the December 2013 figure of 54%, the Pulse Asia Research press advisory adds. The survey further shows that this sentiment is shared across the major islands, as well as across economic classes.

“This is the majority sentiment in Metro Manila (51%), Mindanao (51%), and the rest of Luzon (55%) as well as in Classes D and E (53% and 51%, respectively). Nearly the same percentages of Visayans and those in Classes ABC either share this view (46% and 44%, respectively) or expect a more prosperous celebration this year compared to 2013 (41% and 47%, respectively),” the advisory reads.

Yet, 34% of Filipinos say this year’s Christmas season will be more prosperous for their families at the national level. This is in contrast to the 14% of Filipinos who said they expect a poorer Christmas for their families this year.

GRAPHICS BY Cong B. Corrales

GRAPHICS BY Cong B. Corrales

The survey also showed that there was an increase of +12 percentage points in the percentage of Filipinos who expect a more prosperous Christmas this year when compared to the figures in December, last year.

This trend also manifested in Metro Manila (+21 percentage points), the Visayas (+16 percentage points), and the economic classes of ABC and D at +21 percentage points and +13 percentage points, respectively.

Pulse Asia Research conducted the survey on November 14 to 20, this year, with face-to-face interview as their methodology for the survey. The survey is based on a sample of 1,200 representative adults 18 years old and above. It has a ± 3% error margin at the 95% confidence level. Subnational estimates for each of the geographic areas covered in the survey (i.e., Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) have a ± 6% error margin, also at 95% confidence level.

“Pulse Asia Research undertakes Ulat ng Bayan surveys on its own without any party singularly commissioning the research effort,” the press advisory reads.

THE WORLD in 2014 has been most bloody and most cruel to both journalists and citizen-journalisis.

In all, according to Reporters Without Borders (RWB or Reporters Sans Frontieres), the numbers are most grave:

* Killed: 66 journalists, 19 citizen-journalists, and 11 media workers
* Kidnapped: 119 journalists and 8 citizen-journalists
* Imprisoned: 178 journalists and 178 citizen-journalists
* Arrested: 853 journalists and 122 citizen-journalists
* Threatened and attacked: 1,856 journalists.

RWB, in its latest “Round-up of Abuses Against Journalists” noted a slight fall in the number of journalists killed in connection with their work, but also “an evolution in the nature of violence against journalists and the way certain kinds, including carefully-staged threats and beheadings, are being used for very clear purposes.”

According to RWB, “the murders are becoming more and more barbaric and the number of abductions is growing rapidly, with those carrying them out seeking to prevent independent news coverage and deter scrutiny by the outside world.”

RWB said “the beheadings of US and Iraqi journalists in 2014 testified to the scale of the violence that can be used against unwanted witnesses. Rarely have reporters been murdered with such a barbaric sense of propaganda, shocking the entire world.”

The 66 professional journalists killed in connection with their work in 2014 was 7 percent fewer than in 2013.

About 93 percent of those killed were salaried journalists, and 7 percent freelancers. Ninety percent of those killed were foreign journalists, and 10 percent, local journalists.

However, RWB said two-thirds of the casualties in 2014 were killed in war zones, including Syria (which continues to the world’s deadliest country for journalists), the Palestinian Territories (especially Gaza), eastern Ukraine, Iraq and Libya.

The number of journalists kidnapped in 2014, or 119, marked a 30 percent increase from the 2013 figure of 87.

Of those abducted in 2014, RWB said 90 percent are local journalists. To this day, at least 40 journalists and three citizen-journalists are still being held hostage across the world. Of the 22 journalists currently being held by armed groups in Syria, 16 are Syrians. All of the eight journalists currently held hostage in Iraq are Iraqis.

Most of the kidnapping cases were in the Middle East and North Africa, with 29 in Libya, 27 in Syria and 20 in Iraq. The chief causes were Islamic State’s offensive in Iraq and Syria, and the turmoil in Libya, where the clashes between rival militias have not let up.

Many journalists have also been kidnapped in Ukraine, mainly in the east of the country, where the conflict continued despite the ceasefire announced there in September.

Of the 853 journalists arrested in 2014, RWB said at least 47 were working in Ukraine, 46 in Egypt, 45 in Iran, 45 in Nepal, 34 in Venezuela, and 636 in the rest of the world.

Of the 178 professional journalists in prison as of Dec. 8, 2014, at least 29 are working in China, 28 in Eritrea, 19 in Iran, 16 in Egypt, 13 in Syria, and 73 in the rest of the world. Exactly the same number or 178 citizen-journalists were recorded by RWB to be in prison worldwide as of the same date.

In the face of “such diverse forms of intimidation,” RWF said, “twice as many Journalists had fled into exile this year as in 2013.” A total of 139 professional journalists and 20 citizen-journalists contacted RWB and said they had to flee abroad in 2014 for fear of their safety. Of the total, 43 came from Libya, 37 from Syria, and 31 from Ethiopia.

RWB said two developments deserve highlighting:

* Fewer journalists were killed in countries “at peace,” notably in Mexico, India and Philippines; and

* The number of women journalists killed doubled, from three last year to six this year.

The women journalists were killed in Central African Republic, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan and Philippines. A woman citizen-journalist was also killed in Mexico after being kidnapped by gunmen.

By country, the most deadly places for journalists in 2014, according to RWB, are: Syria, where 15 journalists were killed in 2014; Palestine, 7; Ukraine, 6; Iraq, 4; and Libya, 4. In the rest of the world, 30 other journalists had been killed.

RWB said the top five countries where the largest numbers of journalists had been arrested and jailed in 2014 are: China, 29; Eritrea, 28; Iran, 19; Egypt, 16; and Syria, 13. In the rest of the world, 73 other journalists had been imprisoned.

The top five countries were the largest numbers of journalists had been kidnapped in 2014 are: Ukraine, 33; Libya, 29; Syria, 27; Iraq, 20; and Mexico, 3. In the rest of the world, 4 other journalists had been kidnapped.

Five cases marked the degree of terror that journalists confronted in 2014, according to RWB. These are the cases of:

* Raad Azaoui: An Iraqi cameraman working for Sama Salah Aldeen TV, Raad Mohamed Al-Azaoui was publicly executed on 10 October for refusing to cooperate with Islamic State, which tolerates only dead or compliant journalists. Aged 36 and a father, he was executed together with his brother and two other civilians in the IS-controlled Iraqi city of Samara a month after being captured along with around 20 other Iraqis. IS had announced its intention to execute him ever since his abduction.

* Gao Yu. Well-known Chinese journalist Gao Yu, 70, is being tried on a charge of divulging state secrets to German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle. At her first hearing, on 21 November in Beijing, she pleaded not guilty, thereby retracting the forced confession that CCTV News broadcast in May. The first journalist to receive UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Prize in 1997, Gao has already spent seven years in prison. If found guilty, she could be facing a 15-year sentence.

* Khadija Ismaïlova. An investigative journalist who has covered high-level corruption, Khadija Ismayilova has been detained since 5 December. She feared she might be arrested but nothing could convince this media freedom symbol to leave the country for which she has fought for years with rare courage and persistence. Her reporting and defence of human rights turned her into a priority target for the government. In 2012 and 2013 she was the victim of a smear campaign and blackmail attempts with a sex tape. The pressure intensified this year, when she was accused of spying, charged with defamation, arrested and prevented from travelling abroad. And now, finally, she is being held on the absurd charge of “pushing” a former colleague to attempt suicide, a charge that carries a possible sentence of three to seven years in jail.

* James Foley: On 19 August, Islamic State released a horrifying video of US hostage James Foley being beheaded. Foley, 40, was a reporter for the Global Post news website and Agence France-Presse. Posted online, the carefully staged video was designed to put pressure on the US government and included a threat to similarly execute Steven Sotloff, a US journalist held in Syria since the summer of 2013. A video of Sotloff being dispatched in the same way was released exactly two weeks later.

* Raef Badawi: A Saudi citizen-journalist and winner of the 2014 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Prize, Raef Badawi has been held since 2012 on a charge of “insulting Islam” for promoting liberal ideas on his website, the Liberal Saudi Network. Aged 30 and the father of three children, he was sentenced by a Riyadh court in September to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a heavy fine. In response to this inhuman sentence, which violates international law, RWB has launched a petition calling on King Abdullah to pardon him.

Since 1995, RWB has been publishing its annual round-up of violence and abuses against journalists that RWF “based on precise data that RWB gathers in the course of its monitoring.” It includes figures for both professional and citizen-journalists killed in connection with their reporting. RWB continues to investigate cases when it has not yet gathered enough information to reach a clear determination.

By Global Financial Integrity

A RECORD US$991.2 billion in illicit capital flowed out of developing and emerging economies in 2012, facilitated by crime, corruption, and tax evasion, according to the latest study released Tuesday by Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington DC-based research and advisory organization. The study is the first GFI analysis to include estimates of illicit financial flows for 2012.

The report, GFI’s 2014 annual global update on illicit financial flows, pegs cumulative illicit outflows from developing economies at US$6.6 trillion between 2003 and 2012, the latest year for which data are available.

Titled “Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2003-2012,” the report finds that illicit outflows are growing at an inflation-adjusted 9.4 percent per year—roughly double global GDP growth over the same period.

The report demonstrates that, “illicit financial flows are the most damaging economic problem plaguing the world’s developing and emerging economies,” said GFI President Raymond Baker, a longtime authority on financial crime.

The PH Story

Every year, no thanks to crime, corruption, tax evasion, and trade misinvoicing, the Philippines loses an average of US$9.35 billion — or about Php415.14 billion — to illicit capital flight.

According to the report, across a nine-year period from 2003 to 2012, these malefactors have cost the Philippines an indicative total of US$93.49 billion, or about PhP4.15 trillion, nearly double the general appropriations act for 2015.

By year, the report recorded illicit capital outflows from the country thus:

* US$8.3 billion in 2003;
* US$9.2 billion in 2004;
* US$13.5 billion in 2005;
* US$10.0 billion in 2006;
* US$7.99 billion in 2007;
* US$6.9 billion in 2008;
* US$8.66 billion in 2009;
* US$8.9 billion in 2010;
* US$11 billion in 2011; and
* US$9.16 billion in 2012

“These outflows—already greater than the combined sum of all FDI (foreign direct investments) and ODA (official development aid) flowing into these countries—are sapping roughly a trillion dollars per year from the world’s poor and middle-income economies,” Baker said.

“Most troubling, however, is the fact that these outflows are growing at an alarming rate of 9.4 percent per year—twice as fast as global GDP,” said Baker. “It is simply impossible to achieve sustainable global development unless world leaders agree to address this issue head-on. That’s why it is essential for the United Nations to include a specific target next year to halve all trade-related illicit flows by 2030 as part of post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.”

Authored by GFI Chief Economist Dev Kar and GFI Junior Economist Joseph Spanjers, the study reveals that illicit financial flows hit an historic high of US$991.2 billion in 2012, marking a dramatic increase from 2003, when illicit outflows totaled a mere US$297.4 billion.

Over the span of the decade, the report finds that illicit financial flows are growing at an inflation-adjusted average rate of 9.4 percent per year. Still, in many parts of the world, the authors note that illicit flows are growing much faster—particularly in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and in Sub-Saharan Africa, where illicit flows are growing at an average annual inflation-adjusted rate of 24.2 and 13.2 percent, respectively.

Totaling US$6.6 trillion over the entire decade, illicit financial flows averaged a staggering 3.9 percent of the developing world’s GDP.

As a share of its economy, Sub-Saharan Africa suffered the largest illicit financial outflows—averaging 5.5 percent of its GDP—followed by developing Europe (4.4 percent), Asia (3.7 percent), MENA (3.7 percent), and the Western Hemisphere (3.3 percent).

“It’s extremely troubling to note just how fast illicit flows are growing,” stated Dr. Kar, the principal author of the study. “Over the past decade, illicit outflows from developing countries increased by 9.4 percent each year in real terms, significantly outpacing economic growth. Moreover, these outflows are growing fastest in and taking the largest toll—as a share of GDP—on some of the poorest regions of the world. These findings underscore the urgency with which policymakers should address illicit financial flows.”

According to the report, ‘fraudulent misinvoicing of trade transactions was revealed to be the largest component of illicit financial flows from developing countries, accounting for 77.8 percent of all illicit flows—highlighting that any effort to significantly curtail illicit financial flows must address trade misinvoicing.

The US$991.2 billion that flowed illicitly out of developing countries in 2012, the report said, was greater than the combined total of foreign direct investment (FDI) and net official development assistance (ODA), which these economies received that year.

Illicit outflows were roughly 1.3 times the US$789.4 billion in total FDI, and they were 11.1 times the US$89.7 billion in ODA that these economies received in 2012.

“Illicit financial flows have major consequences for developing economies,” explained Spanjers, the report’s co-author. “Emerging and developing countries hemorrhaged a trillion dollars from their economies in 2012 that could have been invested in local businesses, healthcare, education, or infrastructure. This is a trillion dollars that could have contributed to inclusive economic growth, legitimate private-sector job creation, and sound public budgets. Without concrete action addressing illicit outflows, the drain on the developing world is only going to grow larger.”

Country Rankings
The study by Kar and Spanjers tracks the amount of illegal capital flowing out of 151 different developing and emerging countries over the 10-year period from 2003 through 2012, and it ranks the countries by the volume of illicit outflows.

According to the report, the 25 biggest exporters of illicit financial flows over the decade are:

1. China, US$125.24bn average (US$1.25tr cumulative)
2. Russia, US$97.39bn avg. (US$973.86bn cum.)
3. Mexico, US$51.43bn avg. (US$514.26bn cum.)
4. India, US$43.96bn avg. (US$439.59bn cum.)
5. Malaysia, US$39.49bn avg. (US$394.87bn cum.)
6. Saudi Arabia……. US$30.86bn avg. (US$308.62bn cum.)1
7. Brazil, US$21.71bn avg. (US$217.10bn cum.)
8. Indonesia, US$18.78bn avg. (US$187.84bn cum.)
9. Thailand, US$17.17bn avg. (US$171.68bn cum.)
10. Nigeria, US$15.75bn avg. (US$157.46bn cum.)
11. A.E, US$13.53bn avg. (US$135.30bn cum.) 1
12. South Africa, US$12.21bn avg. (US$122.14bn cum.)
13. Iraq, US$11.14bn avg. (US$89.10bn cum.) 2
14. Costa Rica, US$9.40bn avg. (US$94.03bn cum.)
15. Philippines, US$9.35bn avg. (US$93.49bn cum.)
16. Belarus, US$8.45bn avg. (US$84.53bn cum.)
17. Poland, US$5.31bn avg. (US$53.12bn cum.)
18. Panama, US$4.85bn avg. (US$48.48bn cum.)
19. Serbia, US$4.57bn avg. (US$45.66bn cum.)
20. Chile, US$4.56bn avg. (US$45.64bn cum.)
21. Brunei, US$4.30bn avg. (US$34.40bn cum.) 3
22. Syria, US$3.77bn avg. (US$37.68bn cum.)
23. Egypt, US$3.77bn avg. (US$37.68bn cum.)
24. Paraguay, US$3.70bn avg. (US$36.97bn cum.)
25. Venezuela, US$3.68bn avg. (US$36.77bn cum.)

GFI also found that the top exporters of illegal capital in 2012 were:
1. China, US$249.57bn
2. Russia, US$122.86bn
3. India, US$94.76bn
4. Mexico, US$59.66bn
5. Malaysia, US$48.93bn
6. Saudi Arabia, US$46.53bn
7. Thailand, US$35.56bn
8. Brazil, US$33.93bn
9. South Africa, US$29.13bn
10. Costa Rica, US$21.55bn
11. Indonesia, US$20.82bn
12. A.E, US$19.40bn
13. Iraq, US$14.65bn
14. Belarus, US$13.90bn
15. Philippines, US$9.16bn
16. Syria, US$8.64bn
17. Nigeria, US$7.92bn
18. Trinidad & Tobago, US$7.41bn
19. Vietnam, US$6.93bn
20. Lithuania, US$6.45bn
21. Libya, US$5.40bn
22. Panama, US$5.34bn
23. Aruba, US$5.29bn
24. Egypt, US$5.09bn
25. Chile, US$5.08bn

The report recommends that world leaders focus on curbing the opacity in the global financial system, which facilitates these outflows. Specifically, GFI maintains that:

* Governments should establish public registries of meaningful beneficial ownership information on all legal entities;
* Financial regulators should require that all banks in their country know the true beneficial owner(s) of any account opened in their financial institution;
* Government authorities should adopt and fully implement all of the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) anti-money laundering recommendations;
* Regulators and law enforcement authorities should ensure that all of the anti-money laundering regulations, which are already on the books, are strongly enforced;
* Policymakers should require multinational companies to publicly disclose their revenues, profits, losses, sales, taxes paid, subsidiaries, and staff levels on a country-by-country basis;
* All countries should actively participate in the worldwide movement towards the automatic exchange of tax information as endorsed by the OECD and the G20;
* Trade transactions involving tax haven jurisdictions should be treated with the highest level of scrutiny by customs, tax, and law enforcement officials;
* Governments should significantly boost their customs enforcement, by equipping and training officers to better detect intentional misinvoicing of trade transactions; and
* The United Nations should adopt a clear and concise Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to halve trade-related illicit financial flows by 2030 and similar language should be included in the outcome document of the Financing for Development Conference in July 2015.

For witnesses in the Ampatuan Massacre

By Cong B. Corrales

THE CULTURE of impunity continues to reign in the Philippines.

Media organizations and human rights advocates condemned the recent attack on another witness to the Ampatuan massacre, Wednesday, as they viewed the incident as an apparent attempt to silence and intimidate other potential witnesses to the case.

On Wednesday afternoon, Akmad Baganian Ampatuan—former mayor of Datu Salibo town in Maguindanao—was wounded when unidentified group of armed men ambushed his convoy coming from Cotabato City en route to Shariff Aguak.

G7

Ampatuan is the third witness to be ambushed.

Ampatuan’s convoy, which was escorted by Army troops, figured in a brief gun battle with the armed men at the boundary of Guindulungan and Talayan towns.

The latest attack occurred on the same day the rest of the world commemorated the 66th declaration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and comes only weeks after the fifth year commemoration of the infamous Ampatuan Massacre, which claimed the lives of 58 persons, 32 of whom were journalists and media workers.

In a statement, Thursday, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the incident and attributed the continuing attacks, threats, and intimidation of witnesses and relatives of the massacre victims to the slow pace of the trial, “which has barely cleared the starting gate after more than five long years because of what have been characterized as delaying tactics.”

“Justice delayed is not only justice denied, it is proving to be fatal to people involved in the trial of those accused of the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre and to the interests of truth and justice,” the NUJP statement read.

The recently formed Altermidya-Peoples Alternative Media Network—a non-stock, non-profit network of independent, progressive, and alternative media outfits, institutions and individuals— agreed with NUJP in condemning the recent attack.

“(Five) witnesses have already been killed and this bodes ill to the attainment of justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre and emboldens perpetrators of media killings,” Benjie Oliveros, Altermidya spokesperson, said in a text message, Thursday.

NUJP chairperson Rowena Paraan lamented the continued impunity with which witnesses and others involved in the trial are threatened and attacked. She said it will only make justice even more elusive.

A GMA News report, Thursday, quoted Maguindanao police director Rodelio Jocson confirming that Ampatuan and two of his companions were injured in the encounter. Ampatuan was rushed to an undisclosed hospital in Shariff Aguak for treatment, the same report read.

It can be recalled that at about 8:45 in the morning of November 18, this year, armed men ambushed Ampatuan massacre potential witnesses Dennis Sakal and Sukarno “Butch” Saudagal in a remote village of Bagong in Shariff Aguak town, Maguindanao.

Sakal used to work as a driver for Ampatuan massacre principal suspect Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan, Jr. He was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. Saudagal was wounded.

Sakal is the fifth witness to the Ampatuan massacre killed since the case was filed in court half a decade ago.

“This shows the inutility of the Aquino administration in protecting the witnesses and its failure to clip the powers of the Ampatuan clan,” Oliveros, who is also the editor-in-chief of Bulatlat.com, added in the same text message.

Paraan posits that the recent attacks may have stemmed from an “ongoing tug-of-war” between the defense and prosecution over witnesses for the massacre case.

“That these maneuvers can have fatal consequences for one side or the other clearly proves that government’s claims of advances in eradicating the conditions that made the Ampatuan Massacre not just possible but inevitable – corruption, patronage politics, governance by political expediency, warlordism, to name a few – are just as empty as its promises of speedy justice for the victims of the worst incident of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the single deadliest attack on the media ever.”

NUJP reiterated its demand for the Aquino administration to make good on its pledge of a swift and fair trial to “fulfill its obligation to protect everyone involved in the Ampatuan Massacre trial.”

“The administration has acknowledged that this case will be a litmus test of its determination. Alas, it is a test it seems to be failing very badly,” the NUJP statement also said.

…and FPJ’s daughter are among the top five in the presidential race

By Julius D. Mariveles

AN EX-PRESIDENT convicted of plunder, a vice-president accused of corruption, the solon-daughter of an action star, a politician engaged to a movie star, and a senator known for her pick-up lines – what do they have in common?

They are among the top five probable presidential candidates according to the November 2014 Ulat ng Bayan survey conducted by the reputable pollster Pulse Asia on the May 2016 polls.

Vice-President Jejomar Binay continues to lead in the presidential race with 26 percent of the 1,200 respondents saying that they would vote for him if the May 2016 elections were held during the survey period. Senator Grace Poe, daughter of action king and defeated presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr. came in after Binay with 18 percent.

ON TOP OF THE HEAP. The top five probable presidential candidates according to the Pulse Asia Ulat Ng Bayan November 2014 survey | Graphics by Julius D. Mariveles

ON TOP OF THE HEAP. The top five probable presidential candidates according to the Pulse Asia Ulat Ng Bayan November 2014 survey | Graphics by Julius D. Mariveles

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who was made more famous recently by her pick-up lines, got 12 percent while former President Joseph Estrada and Senator Francis Escudero came in fourth and fifth places with 10 percent and seven percent, respectively.

Santiago ran but lost in 1992 against former Armed Forces chief of staff Fidel Ramos who won the elections. She accused the former general of massive cheating. Estrada, on the other hand, was convicted of plunder while Escudero grabbed the headlines recently with his engagement to screen idol Heart Evangelista.

PA_2016 presidential pref

Interior Sec. Manuel Roxas II was in the second five with Senators Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and Alan Peter Cayetano, rehabilitzation czar and former Sen. Panfilo Lacson, and Senate President Franklin Drilon. Also making it to the list of 14 probable presidential candidates were Sen. Ramon Revilla, Jr., former Defense Sec. Gilbert Teodoro, former Sen. Richard Gordon, and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr.

Senator Grace Poe is the top vice-presidential bet for the May 2016 elections with 33 percent or one in three Filipinos saying they would vote for him. Escudero came in second with 20 percent while Cayetano was third at 13 percent. The other names who came up during the survey were those of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Drilon, Marcos, Estrada, Revilla, Representatives Leni Robredo, and Sherwin Gatchalian.

PA_2016 vp pref

Of the 59 individuals in the senatorial electoral probe, Pulse Asia reported that 14 have a “statistical chance” of winning in the May 2016 elections if it were held during the survey period. All of them are either incumbent or former government officials.

PA_2016 senatorial pref_01

Sharing the top spot are Senator Vicente C. Sotto III (54.7 percent) and Presidenital Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery Panfilo Lacson (52.9 percent). Both have a statistical ranking of first to third place. They are followed by Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis N. Pangilinan (49.2 percent), who occupies 1st to 6th places.

Three probable bets are in third to eight places – former Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri (45.5 percent), Senator Ralph G. Recto (45.1 percent), and Senate President Franlin Drilon (44.9 percent). Former Senator Richard Gordon, on the other hand, is in fourth to ninth places with a rating of 42.9 percent and nearby is Senator Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.

PA_2016 senatorial pref_02

The other probable winners are: Senator Sergio R. Osmeña (37.8 percent, 7th to 12th places), former Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros (35.4 percent, 8th to 14th places), former Sen. Jamby Madrigal (34.9 percent, ninth to 14th places), Department of Justice Sec. Leila M. de Lima (33.8 percent, ninth to 14th places), Senator Teofisto Guingona III (31.8 percent, 10th to 15th places), and Taguig City Rep. Lino Edgardo S. Cayetano (31.3 percent, 10th to 15th places).

Pulse Asia said in its media release that the survey field work was conducted from November 14 to 20, 2014 using face-to-face interviews with 1,200 representative adults 18 years old and above. The survey has a margin of error of plus / minus three percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

Among the issues that dominated the headlines during the conduct of the survey were:

the continuing investigation of the Senate on the alleged corruption against Vice-President Binay;
the cancellation of a debate between Binay and Trillanes on the alleged anomalies involving Binay;
the Senate probe into the reported overpricing of the Iloilo Convention Center involving Drilon;
the participation of President Aquino in the leaders meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference;
global efforts to stop the spread of the Ebola virus; and
the commemoration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day and the first year of Typhoon Yolanda, among others.

HUMAN RIGHTS, freedom of expression, and media freedom: these values remain the great unfulfilled demands of the people of Southeast Asia.

Corruption, bad governance, and impunity: these problems remain largely pervasive across the region, however.

On the occasion of two important global events — International Anti-Corruption Day (December 9) and International Human Rights Day (December 10) — 11 independent media organizations that are members of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) issued a vigorous call for governments in the region to protect and respect human rights, freedom of expression, and media freedom.

Gathered for their general assembly in Thailand on dec. 9-10, the SEAPA members averred that, “the fulfillment of human rights, particularly the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the practice of good governance in Southeast Asia, are still a far reality in the region.”

Instead, SEAPA said. “the crackdown on free media and expression is taking place amid a regional trend of concentration towards politicized (state and party-owned) and crony business media ownership – particularly in the broadcast media industry – that makes media more vulnerable to manipulation and censorship.”

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism is a founding member of SEAPA.

The full text of the SEAPA General Assembly’s statement follows:

WORK FOR MEDIA FREEDOM TOWARDS THE FULFILLMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

DECEMBER 10 – We, members of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), gathering in Kanchanaburi, Thailand for our General Assembly, mark International Anti-Corruption Day (December 9) and Human Rights Day (Decemer 10) with the resolve to reorganize and strengthen the alliance to make it more capable to meet regional press freedom and freedom of expression challenges.

These two commemorative days provide a meaningful backdrop to the issues we discussed in our meeting. Also, these point to the bigger contexts of our goals as an alliance of media freedom advocates in our respective countries and in the region as a whole.

The fulfillment of human rights, particularly the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the practice of good governance in Southeast Asia, are still a far reality in the region.

In Cambodia, there is an ongoing continuing crackdown on activists, human rights defenders and opposition party members seeking to express legitimate socio-economic and political issues. We wish to express deep concern not only about the crackdown but also the role of the judiciary in legitimizing these restrictive actions.

In Malaysia, a crackdown on free expression has targeted activists and journalists using the Sedition Act, making the simple act of speaking out a crime against the state. The government has not only reversed an earlier promise to abolish the outdated law, but has even recently pledged to strengthen it.

Impunity for violence against journalists is also a rising problem, not only in the Philippines and Indonesia, but also increasingly in Cambodia and Myanmar. State and non-state actors intimidate and target activists and journalists, who are increasingly becoming targets for exposing human rights abuses and corruption.

Moreover, victims of violent acts are seldom able to receive justice from the state, escpecially in cases involving security officials. New procedures are also being introduced to protect state officials from prosecution.

The crackdown on free media and expression is taking place amid a regional trend of concentration towards politicized (state and party-owned) and crony business media ownership – particularly in the broadcast media industry – that makes media more vulnerable to manipulation and censorship.

New laws regulating mainstream, online and social media are being enacted to extend to criminalize the discussion of ‘sensitive’ topics even for self-expression.

Set against the backdrop of setbacks in democratic accountability caused by political monopolies of entrenched parties and militaries, the spaces for media freedom and free expression have drastically reduced.

We take special note of the situation in Thailand, where the media are under direct orders from the coup makers to refrain from disseminating any criticism of the new regime, including prohibiting interviews of certain sources. These are other restrictions create an atmosphere of repression in Thai society, encouraging self-censorship in the mainstream and social media, and beyond.

We remind governments that the fulfillment of human rights and the practice of transparency and accountability is an obligation to their consituents. Furthermore, the increasing role of ASEAN in member-governments’ common objectives for regional integration makes these goals also a mutual imperative.

In the struggle for human rights and against corruption, the role of free, diverse and vibrant media is crucial.

As journalists and freedom of expression advocates, we are aware of the need to expand the ranks of committed organizations and individuals working to advance our goals.

We affirm the role of online citizens as part of the journalistic community, who have the responsibility to access and disseminate information on behalf of and to articulate positions and analysis with different communities.

As a network, we will advocate, campaign and forge greater solidarity for press freedom, and the rule of law. We will also assert our rights to push the boundaries of press freedom by creating and practicing good and critical journalism.

We challenge our governments, ASEAN and the ranks of media as well to work together towards the fulfillment of human rights and the end of corruption.

SEAPA members:
Aliansi Journalis Independen Indonesia (AJI Indonesia)
Burma News International (BNI)
Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)
Center for Independent Journalism – Malaysia (CIJ Malaysia)
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility – Philippines (CMFR)
Institut Studi Arus Informasi – Indonesia (ISAI)
Myanmar Journalists Network (MJN)
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)
Thai Journalists Association (TJA)
Timor Leste Journalists Association (TLJA)