Light Network makes the shift to digital

(Photo credit: Light Network’s official FB page)

In a historic first and coming from an unexpected player, Jesus is Lord Church-owned Zoe Broadcasting’s Light Network will join the rest of the Manila-based television stations to make the shift from analog to digital broadcasting, and will be the first to cease analog broadcasts for good. It will still use channel 33 (587.143 mhz), which is being used by their analog broadcasts. 

Light Network is Zoe Broadcasting’s second TV channel and holds the franchise to Channel 11 which is being operated by GMA Network’s GMA News TV.

Light Network’s programming consists of JIL-produced programs as well as programming from other evangelical Christian sects (Good TV of Taiwan, CBN Asia, TBN), as well as films and newscasts.

We should expect Light Network’s digital signals to be received clearly in Metro Manila as their transmitters are located in Antipolo, Rizal.

This will be a truly historic moment as the DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology) has released its transition plan in a summit held last Feb. 14-15, and a majority of broadcast networks conducting test broadcasts, with analog broadcasts ceasing by 2023.

Economic factors, government regulation, and investments by broadcasters will be huge factors in realizing this transition.

Advertisements

War on drugs: Learning from experience

In an editorial piece published in the New York Times, former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria had some words for Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, that is avoiding the mistakes he committed in leading his country’s war on illegal drugs which the Philippines has done since Duterte took office in June last year.

It is noted that during Gaviria’s time drug lord Pablo Escobar was put to jail (inside a facility built in his specifications) and jailing numerous suspected drug users, which of course has led to numerous casualties and suspected human rights violations.

Days after this was published, in a televised address, Duterte who is known to shrug off any form of criticism against the war on drugs, called Gaviria “an idiot”, and said that “he will not commit mistakes” because “he is not stupid as him”. In most cases he has also noticed the contrasts between Latin America and the Philippines, with Colombia as well as Mexico and other countries in the region being flooded by cocaine (with some help from the US because the of huge consumption in the US market and supplies coming from these countries), while the top drug of choice in the Philippines being shabu (or methamphetamine hydrochloride), being sold by Chinese syndicates.

With the drug war enjoying popular support in the Philippines despite the growing international criticism, and the growing casualties (both from legitimate operations by police and vigilante killings), it is yet to be seen whether Duterte’s administration will change tack in his approach in this campaign.

The police force’s participation has already been tainted by scandal, with the death of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo in the hands of rogue policemen, as a result the duties of overseeing the drug war transferred to the military.

In the course of this campaign, we have seen (from official data from the PNP) the crime rate cut down 49% (with the murder rate going up), almost 1 million users and pushers surrendering to authorities, and the vigilante killings being blamed to syndicates trying to turn in on each other and rogue policemen trying to cover up their tracks.

In light of these criticisms, it really is hard to explain the Philippine war on drugs to the international audience, as the experience in Latin America and Thailand have shown were entirely different in what the authorities intends to do.

Coupled with the black-and-white mentality prevailing now, it really is hard to speak up on these issues. What we should do is that we focus more on rehabilitation efforts and treating drug abuse as more of a public health and poverty issue, and instead of running after the low-level users and sellers, we must focus our energies in running after the large-scale syndicates and their sources of finances. Otherwise, we will achieve nothing in this campaign.

Again, things are easier said than done and we never know what happens next, so we just wait for things to unfold.

Clarifications: The author supports the present campaign against illegal drugs although with the growing number of casualties and the prevailing corruption in our police force we must instead change tactics and focus our energies towards rehabilitation. I do not want to be tagged as some sort of a fanatic by both the “yellows” and the supporters of the administration, as I have my own set of principles and political beliefs. For our international audiences,  I know it’s difficult to justify the conduct of this campaign but we’d like to present as much as possible a full picture. We will encourage everybody to rely on research and form your own conclusions and not relying on everything we read, from news media to blogs like these.

PTV’s digitization efforts and FM2 Philippines, Chavit eyes IBC 13

Three major developments on the state-owned media entities have emerged recently.
After the inking of a deal with NEC Philippines, it has been reported PTV will roll out its digital television transmissions in Metro Manila (which will be improved), as well as in Baguio, Naga, Guimaras, Cebu, and Davao. It is a major step towards the realization of the Duterte government’s plans in putting PTV at par with its commercial counterparts. 

Recently, FM 2 Philippines has relaunched operations, used to be known as DWBR Business Radio. It has so far followed a format similar to other retro stations like 105.9 DCG FM, and others. It has also been reported that the government plans to use the 87.5 frequency for an all-youth station. 

Lastly, former Ilocos Sur governor Luis ‘Chavit’ Singson revealed plans on IBC 13 through an INQUIRER.net event where he revelaed his plans post-Miss Universe. He said he has already introduced offers to the management and will plan to introduce foreign partners to help with content.

With these developments, let’s see if the changes we’re looking forward to in regards to state media is finally realized. 

Trump’s foreign policy, its consistencies, and how it might affect the world

Have you noticed how inconsistent the Trump administration is when it comes to foreign policy? In much of his speeches and policy, Donald Trump has been promoting cooperation with Russia in issues like terrorism (and the war in Syria) and how “he would like to get along with President Vladimir Putin” but at the same time has advocated a hawkish stance on countries where Russia has built up strong relations like Cuba, Iran, China, and others.

Trump has advocated a hawkish stance on the South China Sea at a time when the claimant states like Vietnam and the Philippines has adopted policies setting aside their differences in exchange of economic cooperation.

Trump has threatened to reverse the progress made since the Iran deal was signed and appears to be heading to a position of war, again contradicting Trump’s promises of not heading into another war and instead focus on domestic issues.

In Israel, despite criticisms over its settlement program, Trump as well as Republicans are turning a blind eye.

When it comes to the wall, Trump has proudly stated that Mexico will “pay for the wall” (Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has said many times Mexico will not pay for a wall)  when in fact should a import tariff be imposed on Mexican imports American taxpayers will pay for the wall.

Across Europe, there is widespread concern on whatever course Trump might be taking as the continent reels on an economic slowdown, migration crisis, and wave of terror attacks. In the Eastern part of the continent, the Baltic states, Poland, and Ukraine are concerned that Trump’s plans to improve ties with Russia will jeopardize their security interests, especially in Ukraine which has been embroiled in political turmoil and civil war since 2014 and renewed violence in the Donbass. On the other hand, far-right parties are taking cues from Trump’s victory and fears of a domino effect which will put an end to the European Union.

The recent immigration ban in seven countries in the Middle East (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria) has provoked backlash. Interestingly and coincidentally, Middle Eastern countries with Trump businesses were not included (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, etc.).

When it comes to North Korea, which has been quiet for some time and with its southern neighbor embroiled in political crisis, and has stubbornly refused to give up its nuclear ambitions, it is yet to be seen what Trump will do.

With these contradictions and inconsistencies in mind, it appears we’re heading for the worst and possibly head to war. But let us hope we can do something to reverse whatever damage it will bring to the world.

 

The Filipino left desparately needs a new voice

In a disturbing turn of events, the Communist Party of the Philippines’ armed wing New Peoples’ Army announced a termination of their unilateral ceasefire starting Feb.10. The stated reasons were the government’s refusal to comply with their demands of the release of more than 400 political prisoners and the military’s withdrawal from their “territories”. 

As a response, President Rodrigo Duterte announced a lifting of the Armed Forces’ own unilateral ceasefire, citing incidents involving the capture and murder of soldiers in separate incidents in Bukinon, North Cotabato, and an NPA raid in Batangas. In an apparent tone of exasperation, Duterte said “peace cannot be realized with communists at this time”.

It is truly sad to hear of these developments but if there’s one thing we should learn with this experience, it is that more moderate forces on the left must begin to be heard.

Peace talks have become impossible mainly due to the NPA’s demands to free all of their political prisoners as a condition to further peace talks when in fact it should be an outcome, numerous violations on their side (they accuse the military of committing atrocities when they shoot unarmed and off-duty soldiers, on the part of the military, if validated, they should be put into court martial). And on the so-called “encroachment of their territory”? It’s as if having a state within a state. 

Now that the mutual unilateral ceasefires have been lifted and that Duterte has ordered peace negotiators to come home, now it really is the time to rethink and a new long-term program to implement socialist-oriented reforms which the Philippines needs to truly succeed. 

Over time, the Maoist strategy of protracted people’s war has become obsolete, factors include the downfall of the Marcos regime and subsequent economic growth over the succeeding decades (though poverty and income inequality has still remained, along with a focus on service-oriented jobs instead of manufacturing and agriculture). 

Add to that is the still unresolved issue of land reform and contractualization, which if unresolved will continue to build a base of support to these Maoist guerillas. The conditions creating the roots of armed conflict must be solved through peaceful means.

The urban front groups, some of which are elected in our Congress, though they may have legitimate concerns but have instead used methods like burning effigies, vandalizing, and others have only earned them the ire of the public instead of support.

Complicating these are the still-lingering negative mindset of Filipinos towards left-wing politics, given the absence of more moderate voices and the effects of Cold War-era propaganda. 

Now, the Filipino left must reinvent itself in order to look more like social democratic or green parties in Europe, or like the movement Bernie Sanders have built in the United States.

That is engaging in people-to-people contact, engaging in social work, building grassroots community organization to earn trust and support (which I think the partylists are hopefully doing).

The burning of effigies and other disruptive stuff will do nothing. We would prefer direct action, that is actually doing something to get things done. 

To fill this void, the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas-1930 must be reinvigorated. It is the Philippines’ legal communist party (it has abandoned armed struggle in 1974 in exchange of achieving legal status after the defeat of the Huk rebellion and the ideological split of the 1960s). It’s time for us to follow the suit of Japan, Russia, and countries in Latin America and Europe, all of which have elected communist representatives in their respective legislatures. 

If we are to follow a communist path, Yugoslavia is the best example. It has supported equal rights for its various nationalities and workers’ self-management. The Maoist model the CPP-NPA-NDF and front organizations will simply won’t work in the Philippines and (sorry to say this) most likely we’d end up like Venezuela. (Even the FARC has given up arms.)

The radicals might not like this but we have to accept this fact. It really is the time for more moderate voices of the left to rise up. You may think we already have Duterte, but he’s only a catalyst for things to come (as his administration also has it flaws, i.e. the war on drugs). 

We rest our case. (In case being tagged as ‘revisionst’, we’ll tell them they’re no different to fascists. Their failure to adapt and their treatment of socialist concepts as if it were religious dogma are making them become what they have hated.)

(photo credit: cprf.ru)

Embracing language diversity in the Philippines

(Note: The post should have been published during the Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa last August 2016 as part of a two or three-part series. Apologies for the delay.)

The Philippines at present uses Filipino and English as official languages. However since then, it has become the topic of various debates, on whether Filipino is just another branch of the Tagalog language instead of being a amalgamation of all Filipino languages as originally intended, and why the use of English is more prominent than the use Filipino in various discourses, and the never-ending stigma of calling non-Tagalog languages as dialects, which earns the ire of non-Tagalog people especially the Cebuanos. (We have already debunked that in the first part of the supposed series.)

Now, how should we correct this? 

It’s time for us to enact a new policy in embracing this reality, that is declaring the most common languages as co-equals (Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Ilokano, Pangalatok, Kapampangan, Bikol, Tausug, Chavacano) and recognizing and protecting the rights of the minority languages (Akeanon, Kinaray-a, Ibaloi, Kankana-ey, Maranao, others). We must also protect them by having a national language institute regulating and protecting them.

There should also be a promotion of the use and proficiency in English (promotion of global competitiveness) and Spanish (to rekindle ties with our cultural cousins in Latin America).

We should also encourage our children to know at least 3-5 languages aside from their mother tongues.

Filipino languages must also be taught since elementary with the option of further studies in college.

Lastly, we must also launch a campaign promoting and encouraging multilingualism to end the still-lingering stigma that all Filipino languages are “dialects” (through schools, media, others).

For us to have a true sense of unity, we have to embrace diversity. We are one nation of many distinct cultues and tongues. 

Proposals for a federal government

(image courtesy of CNN Philippines)

With the Duterte administration yet to fulfill its promises of shifting to a federal system, and the never-ending debates on whether we should initiate such a shift, please let us lay out own proposals for reform.

A ceremonial presidency with some reserve powers

The president will remain the nominal head of state. The president will be elected to a six-year term with no limits. He will remain to appoint judges, cabinet members, and other officials, sign bills into laws, and grant pardons. He will also remain commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president will set his agenda through the state of the nation address. 

The presidency is largely ceremonial but will largely maintain some emergencg powers including the imposition of martial law (to be approved by parliament) and states of emergency, rebellion, or others. 

A strong premiership

The president will appoint a prime minister which shall come from the largest party forming the majority. The prime minsiter has an indefinite term limit but could be removed by a no-confidence vote, a replacement appointed by the president, or direct elections.

The prime minister makes sure the agendas set by the president are carried out and responsible for the inplementation of government policies. The prime minister will have the power to recommend the state budget to the president. 

He will also make sure there is a proper coordination between the federal and state governments. 

A bicameral legislature

We envision a bicameral Batasang Pambansa to serve as our legislature. The lower chamber (Batasang Bayan or assembly) will be selected from the constituent states and representatives of various sectors. They will be responsible drafting bills which if passed will be recommended to the speaker, then the prime minister, then the president. 

The upper chamber (Sanggunian or Council) will be responsible for decisions for the federal level (national defense, taxation, foreign policy, and other matters). It will be made up of the 18 leaders of the different federal subjects, with a rotational chairmanship.

Federal subjects

The Philippines will be divided into 19 co-equal federal subjects (or if you may, republics):

  1. Metro Manila Special Administrative Region (composed of Metro Manila and Rizal)
  2. Ilocos
  3. Cordillera
  4. Sierra Madre and Batanes (Cagayan Valley)
  5. Central Luzon
  6. Southern Tagalog
  7. Bicol
  8. Mimaropa
  9. Panay
  10. Negros (both Negros provinces and Siquijor)
  11. Cebu (composed of Cebu and Bohol)
  12. Eastern Visayas
  13. Caraga
  14. Davao
  15. Cotabato
  16. Northern Mindanao
  17. Zamboanga
  18. Bangsamoro
  19. Federal Capital Area (Baguio City shall be the new capital)

They will have their own legislatures and own laws or systems but at the same time federal law shall remain supreme.

Court system

The court system will largely remain the same: Supreme Court, Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan, Court of Appeals, the Regional and Metropolitan Trial Courts, and others, but initiate reforms to make it more effective and less prone to corruption.

Other areas of reform

There will be a federal police force, federal armed forces, progressive tax system, a new public broadcaster, making the major languages of the Philippines (Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Kapampangan, Tausug, Bikol, Waray, Pangasinan, Ilokano, Chavacano, etc.) official alongside English and Spanish, among others. There are many areas where the Philippines has to reform but these are the most fundamental, basic reforms we are proposing. In the end, however, it is still up to them to decide.