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Philippines

Killed Bill: Freedom of Information in the Philippines

Antonio Lambino's picture

Global Voices, a website that aggregates news and information from an international community of bloggers, recently posted an obituary entitled “Philippines: Congress Fails to Pass Freedom of Information Bill.”  In my mind, this failed reform is but a lost battle in the larger war waged between patronage politics and good governance.  Winning the war entails much more than enacting a new law; it requires transforming the country’s political culture from one dominated by a web of patronage relationships to one characterized by transparency, accountability, and participation.

I was in Manila during the bill’s final days, and monitored the news with deep interest as a coalition of local and international advocates launched a public campaign in support of the bill’s ratification.  On May 24, 2010, ABS-CBNNews.com and the front page of The Philippine Star, an influential broadsheet, carried a piece entitled “World awaits RP’s (Republic of the Philippines) Freedom of Info Act” by veteran journalist Malou Mangahas.  Here’s a snippet:

“Today starts a series of mass actions by journalists, workers, students, professionals, business and church leaders, and civil society groups in their vigorous push for Congress to ratify the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.  But the world waits and watches, too.  More than just a Philippine story, the 14-year advocacy of Filipinos for Congress to enact the law has become a serious concern of freedom of information advocates, scholars, and members of parliament across the globe.”

Murder and Impunity

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The issues of journalism and a free press come to mind these days. With a significant number of journalists attacked in, among other countries, Russia, just in the past few months, we clearly see the dependence of the media system on the political environment in a country. Journalism training is the major form of media development - how to use new technologies, how to write a good feature, how to sniff out a corruption scandal - but is anyone thinking about what happens to reporters in countries where the rule of law is weak? This year alone, 16 journalists have been killed in the line of duty, as the Committee  to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports. Last year: 71. Since 1992, more than 800 journalists have been murdered as a direct consequence of their reporting. Iraq, the Philippines, Algeria, and Russia are the four deadliest countries for journalists.

The Road to Issue-Based Politics is Very, Very Short

Antonio Lambino's picture

Many years back, a reporter asked a respected senator running for reelection in the Philippines why he remained in the opposition when most members of congress had joined the president’s party.  The answer he gave was memorable: “I stay with the opposition because I believe our country’s party system needs to be strengthened.”

I’m not sure what he meant exactly, but I suspect it may have had something to do with the role of ideology in politics.  As we know, dominant political parties in the developing world are deeply deficient in formulating and advocating coherent policy positions.  There are, of course, notable examples of ideologically grounded parties that have risen to prominence in Argentina, India, and South Africa.  But these are relatively rare occurrences.

Looking at the future: Will mobile social media fuel improved governance in developing countries?

Tanya Gupta's picture

A free and independent media plays an important role in monitoring public servants and holding them accountable for their actions.  In this way they promote transparency and accountability within a country.  The role of media in good governance is widely acknowledged.  The Worldwide Govern

Cracking the Entrenched System of Corruption

Fumiko Nagano's picture

Last month, I had the pleasure to meet again with Shaazka Beyerle, Senior Advisor at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, during her visit to Washington. Sina and I first met Beyerle in Doha and were impressed by her research on civic campaigns to fight corruption; I had the chance to speak with her by phone in December and was happy to continue our conversation in person in February. Having examined a multitude of non-violent grassroots campaigns against corruption around the world for her own research (for those interested, here is the link to her research description), Beyerle shared with me not only numerous interesting cases for CommGAP to look into in our research, but also her observations about the factors that contribute to the success of civic efforts to fight corruption.

Managing Emigration: A Growing Priority for Migrant-Sending Governments

Neil Ruiz's picture

When I recently traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I spoke with several government officials in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs who told me about the many problems encountered by their migrant workers in the Middle East.  As more Ethiopians, especially women, have been migrating to the Middle East as domestic workers, the embassies and consulates have received many complaints about false contracts being issued, passports of their nationals being taken away by their employers, and abuses in the work place.  In order to tackle these problems, the government created the Overseas Employment Service, which is modeled after the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration.

Similar to the Philippines, the office regulates the private recruitment agencies to ensure that the migrants are not signing false contracts.  All private recruitment agencies are required to obtain a 300 Birr (USD$30) license from the Ministry to recruit workers for one year (renewable), report the status of their workers, and are subject to auditing by the office to ensure that the workers are not being cheated by the agencies or their employers abroad.  The office also provides pre-departure orientation seminars to educate Ethiopians about the rules of their employment contracts, how to send remittances, and the culture and work conditions in the destination country.  This three hour orientation is conducted in the Ministry offices in Addis Ababa and the government has started 3 years ago to make it mandatory for those departing the country on overseas contracts. 

Recovering from storms Ketsana and Parma in the Philippines: the importance of people's voices in recovery and reconstruction

Dave Llorito's picture
A recently released Post-Disaster Needs Assessment tells of big numbers: total damage and losses following typhoons Ketsana and Parma was US$4.3 billion.  (Photo by Nonilon Reyes)

My mind raced back to the remote town of Balangiga in Eastern Samar, as the Philippines government, development partners and the private sector were discussing the findings of the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) in a recent dialogue in Makati City.

The PDNA—prepared by a team of local and international experts from the government agencies, private sector, civil society and development partners—tells about big numbers: total damage and losses following two typhoons, Ketsana and Parma, was US$4.3 billion. And resources needed for the Philippines to pick up the pieces and eventually get back on its feet is equally big—more than US$4.4 billion (pdf). There were discussions about how the PDNA could serve as a framework for recovery and reconstruction, but my mind kept telling me that one of the key principles to effectively address floods and disasters in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon—on top of the required resources, processes, and governance reforms—lies in the experiences of residents of that remote town in the Visayas Islands.

Empowering adolescent girls in East Asia and the Pacific to protect, build human capital

Emmanuel Jimenez's picture
Some recipients of a scholarship given to young girls in Cambodia at the end of primary school. The program has had a significant effect on girls’ secondary enrollment. (photo by Deon Filmer)

Those of us who have had the pleasure of raising an adolescent girl – and survived the experience – might blanch at the thought of a program to stimulate education that gave her, rather than the doting parent, a grant equivalent to 3% of the family’s average per capita monthly consumption. And yet, that’s exactly what a policy experiment, conducted by my friend Berk Ozler and other researchers, did in Malawi. What’s more, they found that raising these girl-targeted cash transfers increased school attendance much more than raising those given to parents.

Empowering women with resources has long been recognized as a powerful weapon to safeguard investments in human capital. Research has shown that transfers to women have a more powerful effect than to men in raising school attendance and ensuring that kids are immunized. But more recent research, like Berk et al.’s, is showing that policies aimed directly at adolescent girls and young women may have an even greater effect, not only in encouraging schooling but in ensuring reproductive health. Pascaline Dupas’ policy experiment in Kenya showed that simply giving young women information showing that older men were more likely to be HIV-positive led them to eschew partnering with ‘sugar daddies’.


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