Showing posts with label Social Justice & Human Rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Social Justice & Human Rights. Show all posts

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Holding the Line with Maria Ressa

When I met Maria Ressa in July 2017, I had the opportunity to briefly interview her about her views on climate change and disaster resilience.

That's part of her mission with her AGOS Project. She's deeply committed to helping Filipino people build a more resilient and prepared community.

I admired her positive outlook. She was brilliant and a champion of many things. She's not a politician, but she's a journalist whose job is to bring news and investigative journalism to the people.

Many people may not like her, but Maria Ressa continues to embrace prejudice and criticism. From online trolls, detractors, and endless attacks from the Government, she's standing still and bravely holding the line.

To hold the line means not allowing atrocities to happen in a civilized society like the Philippines. When we watch and hear about the drug war killings, attacks on journalists, and suppression of news media organizations, Ressa isn't defeated with her strong voice and stance to fight for justice and truth.

Maria Ressa had a share of attacks from the country where she serves with love. Her role in mass media is beyond ordinary since she does things extraordinarily well.

On October 8, 2021, Maria Ressa was conferred a Nobel Peace Prize. She's the first Filipino individual Nobel Peace Laureate winner. A prestigious global award-giving body for extraordinary accomplishments that have a massive impact on the community. The awarding ceremony will be a momentous event in Philippine history on December 10, 2021, in Oslo, Norway.

Maria Ressa will be my inspiration for holding the line. She will be known for her legacy of fighting against injustices and suppression of fearless journalism, press freedom, and freedom of expression. Only a few in her profession can be as challenging and bold as her. She fights with the giant bullies and the killers of press freedom and social justice.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2021, Maria Ressa, will forever be known to be on the side of truth. She's an ally to keep, a leader with a giant leap. 

©️ 2021 Del Cusay

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Baywatch at Camp Rofelio

West Coast of the Philippines. That's one of my favorite summer destinations. And the place to go is the coast of San Felipe, in the province of Zambales. A peaceful town in the North.

The waves, the blue-green waters, and the greyish-powdery sand make it a great getaway to rejuvenate and spend some pure thinking moments.

In May 2018, I discovered a newly-built camping site on the coast of Liwliwa, a town of San Felipe.

It's a serene ambiance, with several cottages and tents for an overnight stay. At first glance, I knew I would love the place, so I did.

Standing barefooted at the seaside gate of Camp Rofelio is a perfect view of the horizon. The water is clear, and the waves are relaxing. You can sit on the sand, meditate and capture the best view of the surrounding.

A great weekend retreat. Camping at the beach. A soulful moment to watch the sunset. Fresh-grilled seafood for dinner and a bonfire night to remember.

Truly a memorable and fun moment at Camp Rofelio.It's a decent weekend destination. A solemn place where you can be at peace and one with nature. When you hear the waves inside the tent at night, you'll have the most relaxing and deep sleep ever.

But, hey! I'm supposed to be bay-watching!

A Baywatch, not only to appreciate the area and the surrounding waters but the place facing the West Philippine Sea, had created controversy from unwanted intruders. The pirates of the sea had been inside our Philippine waters, causing tensions and threats to the fishing livelihood of the locals.

That's supposed to be protected by the Philippine government. To Defend our territorial seas and secure what's best for our people.

There were spotted dredging foreign vessels in the territorial waters of Zambales that threaten our territorial rights and the fishing rights of several Fishermen on our territory.

We are standing as a Baywatch. Someone who sees intruders from afar. But our local fishermen are powerless, and even the local and national governments must be more powerful to defend the territory.

I love Zambales and would love to return for the next summer season. But the best Baywatch is to see happy people and not stories of intrusion -- like thieves of the sea. Camp Rofelio is a good place for bay watching, but be mindful and have a telescopic eye for the pirates of the sea.

We dream of having great and safe tourist destinations, and we have to be aware of issues affecting the rights of our people. Hence, they will take it away from us, which might happen if we are silent.

San Felipe is a place of kind and peaceful people. Protect it, and make it a heaven-on-earth experience. Make it a paradise. And together, we can protect and become a good Baywatch. A good Filipino.

© 2020 Del Cusay

Friday, July 10, 2020

Press Freedom in The Philippines

This is another attack on Philippine press freedom. The Philippines is crippled and crushed again. The Filipino people are saddened and mourning.

Today is another history of killing press freedom in the Philippines when the country's largest television network won't be given its 25 years of congressional franchise.

This is not right and just. The Philippine Congressmen on the legislative franchise committee didn't hear the network and the Filipino people in general. That's the truth. They killed it. They killed us. During these challenging and rough times, they killed press freedom and people's access to important news and information.

While the country is currently surviving the pandemic, the government is losing its priorities. They turned around and faced the wrong enemy. They have turned the battleground against their own people.

We don't deserve this. We deserve accountability from our government for suppressing press freedom and even the freedom of speech of the Filipinos who are critical of autocratic leadership and abuse of power. 

We don't cry. We mourn! We suffer! We are not being heard and are made to be silent and not dissent. Why Can't We Speak?

To the world. To Filipinos all over the world. This is our country now. This is the country we love that is slowly being killed. The democracy that we've been fighting over the years and for centuries is now at risk of being back to its darkest Philippine history.

Stay strong. This is not over yet, and together we'll regain our voice. We'll regain our true democracy. We'll recover the absolute freedom of expression and the freedom of the press. We deserve to regain what we have lost and are about to lose. We deserve Good Governance Toward a Better Philippines. 

Be heard!

© 2020 Del Cusay

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Weekend Getaway in Boracay

I need a vitamin sea. That's how millennials or young travelers would say whenever they need a break.

The sea is medicine. Prescribed not by physicians but by none other than our very own friends, our colleagues, or people closer and special to us. We feel calm and relaxed when we are in a body of water. And so, our mind becomes clear and our soul uplifted. Our well-being is healed and rejuvenated, and that's the ultimate goal to achieve.

The truth is we want to escape reality once in a while. To live in a fantasy land where there are no pains and stresses. We pause, pack our things and go for a travel and adventure.

Dream on and go on.

In April 2016, I had a great weekend getaway on a small island on the west coast of Panay Island in the Philippines. Boracay Island. One of the world's best.

It's a hotspot for the world's beach and island lovers. A multi-cultural hub where the east meets the west.
That was my 5th time visiting Boracay in about two decades. And each time I saw it, its ecosystem and culture had undergone several transformations. I the old Island culture I missed.
I may have seen Boracay during its pristine days when it was less developed and had its Island vibe. So that brings back vivid memories worth remembering. 

Last year when it underwent temporary closure, it became like a ghost Island. Only a few tourists and businesses closed for about half a year. If we humans deserve a break, a busy Island deserves a much-needed break too.

When there is damage in an ecosystem due to commercialization, it has to clean and heal itself before serving people again. And so other more popular Islands in the country and Southeast Asian region followed suit. They also rehabilitated their Island paradise. That's a great move with great sacrifice and love. 

Take a break from the crowd. The party. The noise. The pollution.

I love Boracay. It has a different vibe among Philippine Islands and beaches. And so, I am pro-rehabilitation if needed, so it can breathe again and rejuvenate -- just like us human beings.

The Nami Resort will bring you over the hills and experience exhilarating fun from an old-style elevator reaching the hilltop. Nami resort got the best view of the Island, and it was just fantastic. The food, the music, and the ambiance are great. The experience was magical.

Boracay once again was closed just recently. This time due to the pandemic. And so, when people can travel again without restrictions, Boracay will open its paradise for responsible business owners and kind travelers.

Boracay is for everyone. One day, I may be able to swim in its water again. Witness its captivating sunset. See the sandcastles and leave footprints in the sand.

© 2020 Del Cusay

Friday, June 12, 2020

122nd Philippine Independence Day: Holding the Line

We can never attain absolute freedom if we're still a slave through the colonial mentality and feeling inferior to other races. The same thing is that we can't be free when our government is terrorizing and putting down its people. 

That may be our very own story today. The state of our current societal freedom. A prisoner of faith and hope.

That's not what our valiant heroes have fought for, just to free us from hundreds of years of foreign invasion and rule. The pain and struggle may have left an imprint on our being as passed on the blood flowing from our veins by our Forefathers.

Today, Philippine society may have evolved through the years. The new generations of young Filipinos may have been detached from history but attached to the modern living of comfort and convenience.

Today's society, however, is still struggling with defending our freedom to be free in our speech. That's the freedom of expression being threatened to be taken away.

We can be the most law-abiding citizen, but that doesn't mean we will remain to be silent and blind to what's happening in the government; how it's being run affects the way we live. We follow the rules and regulations, but that doesn't mean we will also track and have a higher tolerance for wrongdoings, abuse of power, and rampant human rights violations.

The Philippine society today is at threat of losing its voice. The voice of the masses -- the powerless and the most vulnerable.

People critical of the government are being silenced through harassment and false accusations; the worst is detention. If this can happen to political personalities and mass media, it can happen to almost anyone with the most vital voice of dissent or opposition.

I believe we have a good democracy, but what happens when the government has massive power for manipulation, tripping, intimidation, and control. Slowly, public dissent is being killed. No more voice to speak up, or you may be served a sentence without due process of law.

Democracy is what this country survived and thrived for over a century; otherwise, we may still be a colony and in control of a mighty nation. But, with our excellent resistance to put an end to foreign rule, we became a winner -- we regained our independence and freedom.

People can now discern right and wrong, what is real or just manipulation. People can express their thoughts with higher judgment and discrimination.

If the government shuts us down, let us hold the line. We know our limits. The government must know its limits too. The power vested in our leaders comes from the people, and we can take it away from them. Eventually, management has to come to an end. It's always temporary.

It's when we know how to hold the line that we can protect ourselves and uphold our freedom. The freedom that we Filipinos deserve. 

© 2020 Del Cusay

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Tulfo Justice and Why That Should Bother Us


When people's advice is "Ipa-Tulfo mo" or someone utters "Ipapa-Tulfo Kita," that would mean instant justice or the 'Tulfo Justice' people think they deserve.

That would be the case for many Filipinos who would bypass due process to seek the help of an instant justice on-air; a radio show trial by publicity hosted by an influential Anchorman who has been a household name for helping thousands of oppressed Filipinos deprived of social justice and human rights.

The recent judgment of a radio show, 'Raffy Tulfo in Action,' which has gone viral and gained online outrage from Netizens, is one of the opposing sides of seeking instant justice on this popular TV show.

That episode of Tulfo's show may have gone far and caused damage to the accused's reputation through false justice with the absence of judicial process on his call to action or outright judgment.

The teacher who was judged by Tulfo and favored the parents' call for the revocation of her license is a one-sided truth, but not hearing the teacher's side is the unheard version of the truth, resulting in false judgment and false justice.

The parents who sought 'Tulfo Justice' may just be one of the thousands of Filipino who believes that the Tulfo is the modern-day 'Sumbungan ng Bayan' or the 'Barangay-on-Air' and that they feel they are genuinely heard and served justice on an instant and free of cost.

Whatever happened to our Philippine justice system? The mediation and conciliation process in the Barangay or even a simple filing of a formal complaint through a Government Agency? How about filing a lawsuit to bring justice in a judicial court? Well, that could be a thing of the past. But how come?

In today's time, people may have been tired and hopeless of a 'Justice delayed is a justice denied' system, a justice system that is costly and causes too much stress. What could have been more effective for some is to be favored by their Idol for whatever issue they may have against someone. That 'Instant justice' mentality is enough to make them feel a winner for the justice served them right.

However, the public humiliation the accused have suffered may not be erased on a digital footprint. It stays online even until both parties have reconciled through a mediation process. In the said case, the parents and the teacher have reconciled through the Department of Education Supervisor. The issue between parties may have ended peacefully, but the humiliation and shame may stay forever.

Why all of these should bother us anyway? Because people are now demanding a speedy trial. People want to be heard and favored for their complaints. And people are looking at Tulfo as the face of the Philippine Justice System not the police complaint desk, the Barangay justice system, or even the higher judicial court justice system.

Will that make our Philippine justice system obsolete? Well, one thing we can learn about the 'Tulfo Justice' is that it can shame the Philippine justice system when millions of Filipino people are already shouting out for 'Tulfo' when they seek the 'Justice and Human rights that they deserve.

However, just like the loopholes in our Philippine justice system, the "Tulfo Justice" must practice fairness and stay away from biases, unfair judgment, and treatment, for nothing lasts forever in a corrupted system.

The Philippine Judicial System may be losing appeal and trust, but one thing is certain the 'Justice-on-Air' will continue to be the voice of the poor, the abused, and the hopeless. And if one day, we are on this case one day, we might find the 'Tulfo Justice' to have saved and truly helped us in our desperate times and needs.

© 2019 Del Cusay

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Resilience of the Filipino Spirit: The People of Guimaras Island

The Island Province of Guimaras in Western Visayas, Philippines, has a natural ecosystem and booming ecotourism. This tiny island is peaceful and wonderful, and many people are attracted to its natural splendor.

I visited the Island of Guimaras for the first time in March 2014 and met a Religious Community in San Lorenzo. That was just about 2 hours of immersion, but I felt the warm welcome from the Religious leaders and the members. That was the Iglesia Filipina Independiente or Philippine Independent Church that I have served through a practical health talk as part of our WellLife Program delivered in key cities in the Philippines.

Apart from meeting with the Religious Community, I could enjoy swimming at the beach with its semi-white sand and clear waters, so I promised to return to explore the other side of the Island. In December 2014, I returned and enjoyed a day in the islet called "Tatlong Pulo" in Jordan. That was my first ever camping in a cove and my second and last visit to the island I call a paradise. 

WellLife Program in San Lorenzo, Guimaras in 2014

On August 3, Saturday, I was saddened by the news about the tragic incident of the 3 passenger boats that capsized in Iloilo Straight, just in the middle of the waters of the province of Iloilo and the Island of Guimaras. This happened despite the absence of a typhoon signal but the presence of strong wind and water currents. There were reported survivors of more than 50 passengers, but the sad part is the number of casualties and the missing passengers whose lives were not saved.

I feel their loss and empathize with the stories of some survivors and those who are mourning the loss of their loved ones. Who could have imagined the sudden death from a tragedy that could have been prevented from happening?

I remember what I learned from the AGOS forum about Disaster Resilience in July 2017 when they discussed the possibility of zero casualties by following the 3 goals to Prepare, Respond and Recover. In this case, about the boat incident, there might be a need for more preparedness on the part of the authorities when they have not suspended the boat operations despite inclement weather. 

They may not be prepared with higher anticipation and proper judgment that have caused the lives of innocent people. To have responded and recovered would be essential goals. Still, there's always one goal that we tend to neglect, which is "preparation," so this tragic event will keep repeating itself until we learn our lesson on the essence of preparation. 

This would be one of the most tragic maritime incidents in the Iloilo Strait, and we can better prepare so that this will be prevented. Accidents do happen no matter how careful we are, but there are things that we are in total control of. Hence, we can improve our proper judgment, leadership, and sense of responsibility and accountability.

On a personal level, one lesson would be a need for enhanced survival skills like swimming to avoid drowning, and this could be part of our preparation for a possible maritime incident. We can't always play the victim for something which we can do. Nowadays, we can't predict or anticipate an accident to happen, but one thing is that specific survival skills and techniques will go a long way if we value life and become a survivor. 

The people of Guimaras and Iloilo and those families affected may not be able to recover quickly and may need our deepest sympathy and prayers. I have known them to be deeply spiritual people, and they will remain strong and rise again from this sad fate.

As Filipino, we will always rise up from tragedies... we can rise up from natural calamities. Our resilience remains amidst sorrows and pain. But one thing is sure we may be able to recover but not cover the pain. We can live again with the best learnings and wisdom we can gain.

© 2019 Del Cusay

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Thursday, June 20, 2019

World Refugee Day: In Memory of President Quezon

Photo courtesy of America Public Television 

A striking and heartfelt statement was uttered by President Manuel L. Quezon during the Philippine Commonwealth Period in the early 40s. And he said, 

"The people of the Philippines will have in the future every reason to be glad that when the time of need came, their country was willing to extend a hand of welcome."

That statement was in response to the firm intent of Quezon to accept thousands of Refugees during the Nazi Germany Holocaust, where millions of European Jews were persecuted under the powerful command of their leader, Adolf Hitler.

Although physically weak and dying due to a pulmonary disease during that time, Quezon chose to be a humanitarian to give social justice to those persecuted. Of the potential 10,000 refugees that Quezon would want to accept, about 1,200 refugees were given shelter. We have opened our doors and welcomed them wholeheartedly. They were given a piece of land and a livelihood for security and survival.

Quezon was right, after all. Fast forward to that future which is our present day. In 2018, a film was produced in his honor entitled "Quezon's Game," which was shown to the world in December and in the Philippines in May 2019. The film showcased our solidarity and compassion to others that we have an open-door policy in accepting refugees.

I watched the film this month, and it gave me a sense of pride as a Filipino that we are indeed a Nation of kind-hearted people with a sense of humanity and social dignity.

When the world turned down those refugees, only one nation embraced them with open arms: the Filipinos. We gave them not only shelter, but we have helped them regain their identity and sense of humanity. That goodwill was recognized by the Jews when a statue of Quezon was built in Tel Aviv, Israel, in his memory and the friendliness of the entire Filipino nation.

When some of our present-day leaders would utter words of killing his own people, President Quezon was different and indeed a gentleman with the highest regard for human life by saving more than a thousand lives.

Today, we need a leader who is tough and values and upholds the sanctity of human life. Hundreds of millions of stateless people are currently seeking refuge due to wars, armed conflicts, persecution, and even economic downfall. They are sick, dying, and unwanted by their own people. However, they are still hopeful for a miracle for the second life they deserve.

Today, June 20, is World Refugee Day and a celebration for Filipinos of our dignity and pride. May our sense of humanity be upon us all for those who are abandoned, unwanted, and persecuted. We are Filipino and a life-saver from our past and forever.

© 2019 Del Cusay

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Sunday, February 24, 2019

Social Commentary: Universal Healthcare for All Filipinos

It was in August 2018 that I fell in line to pay for the annual Philhealth contribution of my sister and her family. I was glad to see hundreds of people who were there to invest in health insurance in exchange for good Healthcare benefits offered by the agency.  As a healthcare worker, I have pledged not only to the healing of sick people but also to become an advocate for health promotion and prevention. That time as I was seated on a chair to wait for my priority number to flash on the screen, I had a realization that people, no matter their economic status, are now becoming more aware of the advantages of having a healthy family that is free of illnesses and diseases and becoming a productive contributor in the society. 

But how about those individuals or families without access to primary healthcare due to economic hardship? They may feel ineligible and intimidated by their Healthcare rights, and they remain vulnerable to health crises and threats. 

I'm glad that on February 20, 2019, the Universal Healthcare Act was finally enacted into law, granting all Filipinos access to affordable and better healthcare. This is a positive and perhaps the most significant measure towards healthier citizens leading to productivity and wellness. 

Talking about the agency that has the mandate for its implementation, the Philippine Health Insurance Company or Philhealth will have to ensure the automatic eligibility and membership of all Filipinos regardless of social and economic standing, more excellent service for our less privileged families and individuals. 

The Fight for Universal Healthcare

This new law is not just an achievement of the legislative and executive body but an outstanding achievement of all Filipinos who have long been hoping for this initiative.

Just imagine how Western countries could give Universal Healthcare to their citizens that started several years or decades back, and why couldn't our government do the same? This has been a puzzle to other Filipinos who had a glimpse of the Healthcare status in a foreign country and me. 

Now our time has come, but the implementing rules and regulations of the new law are yet to be laid, and we have to be aware of the Healthcare coverage, how we can truly benefit from it, and when shall we start to benefit from it. 

Benefits of the Universal Healthcare Law

Philhealth can guarantee essential Healthcare services to exist, premium contributors, indirect contributors, or indigents like our Senior Citizens and Persons with disabilities and non-indigent or non-premium contributors. That would mean free consultation, laboratory tests, and diagnostic tests are among the essential services covered by everyone. Almost all scope of health includes preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative care, giving everyone holistic health and wellness. 

Sustainable Healthcare development 

Although we welcome the extraordinary Healthcare measures, we are yet to experience how they will be delivered. The funding source has been determined, and the implementation of this new law will be gradual, considering that the funding will come from a pool of different agency funds. 

The new law is very promising. However, we would also like to see its more tremendous success and development from now and in years to come and not be exploited and mismanaged by our people in the Healthcare authority. 

Issues in the Philippine Health Insurance

Our National Health Insurance Company, Philhealth, and private Health Management Organizations (HMO) have been delivering their healthcare services in partnership with our Healthcare institutions, hospitals, clinics, and health centers nationwide. They have always been to the rescue whenever we seek medical help. However, their insurance coverage needs to be more comprehensive as they do not cover all health conditions and other health services. This has been a challenge for those who couldn't afford or have financial difficulty seeking medical attention. 

While working at The Medical City in Iloilo, I learned about issues like non-payment or delay of payment of Philhealth for hospital claims to several member hospitals in the country. This would also cause a delay in the hospitals paying their medical providers. This has led to another issue: some medical providers would charge their clients an additional cash payment for a professional fee already covered by Philhealth. This issue happened to my sister, and she asserted her rights against the double charging of her provider.  This scenario will lose the confidence of other Philhealth members if such a case happens to them, which is against the primary goal of Philhealth its mandate to lessen the financial burden of Filipinos upon seeking medical treatment. 

Continuous Healthcare reform 

The Universal Healthcare law is a good start in providing Healthcare access to All Filipinos, a measure that no one will be excluded and left behind in Healthcare services due to poor economic status. 

However, challenges in Government and corporate social service are still something Filipinos must fight to achieve better healthcare. 

For Philhealth, may the agency uphold good governance and update its policies and coverage to package benefits that are not selective to a particular medical condition. This is a burden to the Filipino people because we do not choose the kind of disease once it strikes just to be covered by our insurance provider. We need to decide when to get sick and when to get treated. We don't select the end of our physical suffering and the end of our life. 

We don't have control over our health crisis, but we can do something for its promotion and prevention so we will not suffer and pay for its consequence. We must take good care of our health to avoid illnesses and diseases. Though inevitable, we can help ourselves, our families, and our communities by choosing a healthy lifestyle away from too much stress and vices to achieve health and longevity, leading to the productive citizen we can be.

As we continue to contribute towards nation-building, we have to be respectfully assertive of our healthcare bill of rights and, at the same time, be supportive of our Government's mandate to provide better healthcare to All Filipinos so we can achieve wellness can live our most extraordinary life.

© 2019 Del Cusay

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Social Commentary: The Voice of the Filipino Farmers

Philippine Agriculture was once an up-and-coming sector in its excellence in providing good agricultural products to every Filipino through an active and strategic partnership between our farmers and the Government. 

We were an agricultural leader in Asia back then, and our Agricultural Scientists used to share their expertise in rice farming with other Asian countries like Vietnam and Thailand.

I remember back in the late '80s when we used to play by throwing mud in the newly plowed rice field just after the harvest season when rice farming was the primary source of livelihood for most families in our town. Whenever we visit other barangays from the town center, we get to breathe in the fresher air passing through the green field of newly planted rice during the planting season, while during the dry season, just before the harvest in March or April, the field turns into a beautiful golden brown grain of rice.

Those days were when rice farming was a robust industry and highly profitable for farmers and traders who bought and sold rice. Those were also the busy days for my parents to make a living as rice traders in our town, lasting about 2 decades.

As a kid, it was hard to compete for attention with our parents on some busy days when they bought hundreds of sacks of rice from our local farmers, but that was also a good time for play whenever it was already stacked in our warehouse; the kind of play that some kids of today may not relate. Those were the past and one of the happiest moments worth remembering.

Challenges in the Agriculture 

Starting in the new millennium, several challenges emerged in our Agricultural sector, especially in the rice industry. There were corruption issues with the Agriculture Department and the National Food Authority, a Government agency that regulates and maintains sufficient rice supplies for the staple food of Filipinos. Other problems include a lack of government support for farming machinery like pre and post-harvest facilities, conversion of agricultural land to residential or industrial, and the low trade price of rice production from the farmers due to the proliferation of rice cartels.

In recent years, our Government faced even more challenges, like increasing the price of commercial rice due to artificially low supply against its high demand to feed millions of Filipinos. With the lack of agricultural facilities, we cannot produce the best quality and quantity of rice leading to lesser productivity and profitability for our rice farmers.

The Rice Tarrification Law

Fast forward to 2019, just recently on February 15, when the Rice Tarrification Bill was enacted to deregulate rice importation by private businessmen and individuals from countries like Thailand and Vietnam. The law also made some restrictions on the power of NFA for regulation and importation of rice, and they will just maintain enough stocks of rice for calamities. One of the best promises in the revised law is the annual 10 billion peso Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund for 6 years. It will be assessed whether to continue or change the measure. The RCEF is a common fund that will come from the rice import taxes that are said to be given to farmers to address the existing challenges in rice production, like the purchase of farm machinery, to provide credit or loan service to farmers for skills development in farming.

The effect on our rice farmers

This new law has a short-term goal of addressing the current inflation when our poor families can't afford to buy expensive rice. However, this could also affect our local rice farmers when they cannot sell their produce at a reasonable price making them helpless and leaving no choice but to continue rice farming as a means of livelihood.

The flooding of cheaper commercial rice in the market will benefit Filipino consumers. However, the promises of the newly enacted law would be less promising than they seem. We must remember the alleged agricultural scams like the fertilizer fund scam, the diversion of farming funds to fake NGOs, and the present-day 'bukbok' rice or the insect-infested imported rice despite its lower price. Hopefully, this RCEF will not be another corruption in the making.

If there's an existing corruption in the Agricultural sector that remains a culture, the new law shouldn't be at the expense of our local farmers. Although we can give a new direction a chance for its benefits, I still feel for the unheard voices of our farmers. I am a rice farmer's son, and I have seen the hardship of our farmers who sweat it out under the sun even though the rain gives us a staple food to eat on our table. Our farmers deserve to have a better life through the full support of our government from laws and programs that would help improve their most significant source of livelihood.

We want to see something other than one day, our farmlands, previously owned by ordinary farmers, will become a gated community or townhouse owned by an oligarch. We want our country to retain agricultural scientists who prefer to work abroad for a greener pasture. We want our future children to be interested in farming studies and activities. And we want to avoid seeing our farmers dying because they need something to eat. After all, the government killed the rice farming industry.

As I return home to our hometown, another previously farmland townhouse might rise, and another hectare for private houses along the road might be built. This happens when farmers sell their land to real estate developers for residential or industrial development.

In a few years, our next generation might not be able to enjoy the greenfield and the golden brown rice harvest that we used to enjoy. Those years of pure happiness away from modernity and technology that the present time has embraced. In a few years, we will gradually be shifting from agricultural to industrial, and the vast farmland and lush greeneries will be a thing of the past.

Let us help save our Agricultural sector by hearing the voices of our farmers, who are the source and significant producers of our food on the table. Let us patronize local produce and learn to appreciate and embrace agriculture in our modern way of living to help our farmers thrive and live the decent and comfortable life they deserve.

© 2019 Del Cusay

Friday, February 8, 2019

Social Commentary: Lessons from Vaccination Scare and Disease Outbreak

On February 6, 2019, the Department of Health declared an outbreak of measles in the National Capital Region, including regions in Luzon, Central Luzon, and CALABARZON. Just a day after, it was reported that the outbreak expanded in the Visayas, Central, Eastern, and Western Visayas.

The disease outbreak is just a year after the controversial Dengvaxia scare, with several deaths of children linked with Dengvaxia: a vaccine for Dengue.

Although it was not medically proven through studies and investigation by the Department of Health, still the Public Attorney's Office, headed by its Chief, Persida Acosta, defended the human rights of her clients when she insisted that it was indeed the Dengvaxia vaccine that caused the death of children who received it.

How the deadly controversy started

It was revealed late last year by Acosta that the President himself ordered her office to pursue filing a criminal complaint against several personalities of the past administration who are allegedly involved in the Dengvaxia controversy, and that includes former President Aquino, Former Department of Health Secretary Garin, and the present DOH Secretary Duque.

Since then, Acosta has actively pushed for public information on the dangers of  Dengvaxia and the vaccination program, and this controversy led to discouragement and fear against vaccination. 

Dr. Acosta is interested in fighting for her client's rights and following his excellency, the President. As a Doctor of Social Development, she has the expertise and advocacy for human rights and legal aid; that is where she comes from.

From Advocacy to Disaster 

Apparently, Acosta's advocacy went wrong when her allegations about the Dengvaxia-related deaths caused a sudden drop in immunization records of the DOH starting in 2018 until the present. Parents are scared to have their children vaccinated by Dengvaxia and even other vaccinations, including MMR vaccines (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) which have caused an epidemic of measles in several regions in the country and were reported to be thousands of cases and several deaths already. 

Disinformation and fake news can kill

With the Dengvaxia scare, over 2 million Filipino children are currently at risk of contracting measles, a highly infectious airborne disease-causing respiratory complications that can be lethal. 

This would not have happened if there had been no mass hysteria coming from several personalities from broadcast media and social media. The disinformation easily spread and was accepted by their followers to be an absolute truth. 

Nowadays, thousands or millions of Filipinos are victims of fake news or disinformation with social media. Social media influencers have to be responsible for their words or statement to not create confusion, and also for followers and the general public to learn how to decipher real news from fake ones.

Turnaround of circumstances.

With the rising number of measles cases across the country, the Department of Health and President Duterte has stepped up to lead a campaign on national television for families to have their children vaccinated against diseases. The public call was followed by Vice President Robredo and now, the Chief Public Attorney, Persida Acosta, who seemed to be remorseful when she expressed to the public not to be scared of vaccination to spare children from getting measles considering its alarming rates: a step she made just after the call for her resignation by our Senators and some people. 

Our leaders have the most significant role to play in all of these circumstances affecting the state of health of Filipino children. They may have reflected on their shortcomings and are now doing their part to correct the mistakes they have caused. For the Chief Public Attorney, her sudden active campaign for vaccination may not be an admission of guilt, hence taking responsibility for her actions if her advocacy to fight for her clients led to our country's health crisis. 

Our Call to action 

May this health crisis call other media personalities and social media influencers to do the same thing and stop disinformation campaigns causing trials by publicity and untoward events? The worst is the loss of lives. We have lost the confidence of our people in our Government's immunization campaign, and it might take time for others to regain their trust.

Full immunization is essential in developing immunity against highly communicable diseases. Imagine if all children received full immunization; we would be closer to eradicating diseases like measles.

We have already eradicated diseases like polio and maternal and neonatal tetanus. Hence we can also achieve a measles-free country and eliminate other conditions through full immunization. It may be a challenging task for our healthcare workers, but with our government's active campaign and the public's cooperation, the goal can be achieved. 

As a Healthcare advocate, I want to protect my family and the public through health education to live the best life they deserve. Whoever we are, we can become health advocates, and our advocacy can create a ripple effect toward a healthy citizenry and community. 

© 2019 Del Cusay

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Social Commentary: Terrors of the Bangsamoro People

I have never visited the Island of Mindanao, but I always look forward to seeing and exploring its beauty and hidden gems. The entire Island has many beautiful wonders to offer visitors amidst the chaos and wars that tainted the place's reputation.

Since the 'Battle of Marawi' in 2017, where hundreds died and thousands were left wounded and homeless, I am one of those who condemn the barbaric act and inhuman activities of the terrorist groups responsible for the attacks. The battle may result from a challenge from the country's most powerful man who showed no restraint in his words, but the collateral damage was the thousands of victims of the war.

The peace process in Mindanao may be endless due to the conflicts resulting in bombings in many places in Mindanao, from Zamboanga City to Davao City, and just recently, the twin bombings in Jolo, Sulu, when a Roman Catholic Cathedral was blasted with improvised explosives that killed more than 20 innocent lives and others wounded. This time it may be due to the result of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, where the Sulu province voted for 'NO,' which means they wouldn't want to be included in the new Bangsamoro region.

Islamic state-inspired groups have claimed the attack, but this is about the religious attack. I condemn it because, as a Catholic, I feel attacked by my faith. I also think I am wounded in spirit. I can't imagine how people have lost their lives in a sacred place. I also can't imagine how I can be a potential victim when visiting cathedrals anywhere in the country or celebrating religious festivals.

Our Catholic faith has been a target of verbal attacks by the current President himself. We have endured several insults against our faith and the church's leaders. Our Pope and Bishops have been mocked, and even our God has been insulted. These verbal attacks may be why terrorist groups could quickly destroy us. The President has to protect their people, but we are being prosecuted in his words and deeds as we suffer the consequences. This may not be the first religious attack, but there may be more unwanted attacks in the future; it could be in a church in my hometown, in a minor basilica that I usually visit, or in a simple Chapel full of people.

As a Catholic faithful, I strongly condemn any form of terrorism that takes away the lives and properties of anyone, regardless of faith  may be Christian or Muslim. I have known some people from the Islam faith, but I believe they are the good ones. This world wants to eradicate the radical Islam ideology, which aims to create chaos and wars among non-Muslims.

I believe God is good, but could there be A Violent God in Our Time when we are experiencing violence, religiousA Violent God in Our Time when we are experiencing violence and religious attacks, and not-so-Godly activities by those who belong to a particular faith.

We are now in the 21st century, and 2 years from now, the Philippines, which is predominantly a Christian country, will be celebrating its 500th year of Christianity. It will be a joyful celebration of a massive flock of faithful devotees. It will be a peaceful and joyous celebration for everyone when that time comes.

We can achieve lasting peace between Muslims and Christians, especially in Mindanao, if leaders set aside personal and selfish political interests and abandon radical Islam ideologies. It's not about the Moros, but Mindanao is for everyone, regardless of religion. The time when Mindanao attained peace is an outstanding achievement for those who worked hard for peace. It will be the time when we see more Christian churches in the predominantly Muslim state of Mindanao where people solemnly express their faith and will not be fearful for their lives.

© 2019 Del Cusay

Monday, June 26, 2017

Eid'l Fitr: A Moment of Peace

After a month-long battle between the Philippine Government forces and the local terrorist group, finally, our Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters in the city of Marawi in Mindanao have a glimpse of a peaceful hour for today's celebration of Eid'l Fitr, or the end of Ramadan a meaningful religious festival to break the 30-day fasting. Though a short ceasefire, it may have given them hope to escape and live peacefully away from their devastated city. 

As I reflect on the significance of this religious celebration, we are in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters who sacrificed their lives to achieve a peaceful life. Islam, as a religion of peace, brings hope and does not instill fear and terror among fellow Islamic faithful; it may be the opposite of the current events where fearful people cry for the justice, unity, solidarity, and peace they deserve. As a Christian in faith, I condemn the evil acts of terrorism and wars brought by greed and selfishness. Even the religion of peace would have condemned the same adversity they have experienced for a long time. A never-ending conflict and war in the region resulted in political instability and has affected the social and moral welfare of the people. The psychological traumas in children and even adults will forever leave a permanent scar on their being. Unless they rise to adversity, they will continue to suffer until the end of their days. 

We are unsure what the future will bring to the people of Marawi, but we are one in prayers for their rehabilitation  their hopeful journey to recovery. It may be a spiritual test, but part of the recovery is understanding the nature of the Divine. A Violent God in Our Time would punish his people for the greater good and eventually achieve a heaven-on-earth life. Everyone can become a victim and a sacrifice for the future of humanity. It may be unjust, but that's the present reality in this world. People can kill others for wealth, power, and influence; a dictator can order a massive killing of his people; countries may bomb a non-allied nation. There's really evil in this world that is trapped in the hearts and minds of the radicals. 

People are getting anxious, fearful, and powerless. Nations are getting upset and always on fire. The world is getting so chaotic that we sometimes ask, Is There A Divine Light in A troubled Nation? This might give clarity and answer to the untoward events happening everywhere. In situations like this, we remain steadfast and faithful to the most powerful force in the universe. When a human being has lost its divinity, we again go through the process of purification to regain the divinity that is lost. With perseverance and faith in God, we can become whole again if there's a belief that There's A Certain Holiness in Us. Humanity must regain the lost being, so we can live in harmony and camaraderie with our brothers and sisters with a different faith. We are one nation that belongs to one world with universal feelings and emotions. We can always make a difference in other people's well-being through our loving and compassionate nature. No matter what race you and I belong to, our spiritual nature guides and directs us toward our purpose  to live and reign peace and harmony in our hearts forever.

© 2017 Del Cusay

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Where is The Divine Light in a Troubled Nation?

Just recently, President Duterte declared martial law in the entire Island of Mindanao, the southern Philippines, due to clashes between government troops and the local terrorist group "Maute," identified as an ISIS-linked group. That was a late evening of May 23rd, this year, when the news brought anxiety and fear among many Filipinos, especially those who remembered the adverse effects of the 1972 martial law imposed by late President Marcos. 

Widespread violence and violation of human rights triggered the memory from the distant past, a horrible fate experienced by our countrymen on this kind of rule where there is an absence of due process in a civil disobedience act.

Every year as we commemorated the People Power revolution in 1986, it flashes back to the kind of life Filipinos have lived under the martial rule; freedom of expression was suppressed, and thousands were victims of cruelty and summary executions under the hands of the military people. 

That was history! And now history repeats itself. This time the cause of the declaration is different. Martial law was imposed due to massive civil disobedience back then. Still, now the declaration is due to the rising power and terrorism of the local terrorist group called "Maute," which is gaining popularity in the country and getting recognized by the international terrorist group -- ISIS, which is known to be behind deadly attacks in major cities in the world. To date, thousands have been killed, including the lives of innocent people; children heavily injured and killed due to conflicts and wars. People get sick and experience post-traumatic stress symptoms that they will perhaps carry on for a lifetime. Their life was totally hell on earth. Some would have wished to die than suffer. 

In times of chaos and war, our government's primary goal is to restore stability, peace, and order by protecting its citizens from harm and adverse effects. It is a tough challenge, and putting it in the hands of our national defenders would make a difference in resolving the conflict. However, isn't it that martial law was declared to protect our people? Or is it a disguise for a hidden ulterior motive? We may never know the truth.

It's been centuries-long of the battle against terrorism in the Southern Philippines, but it hasn't been totally resolved until the present time. Martial law may be extended to a year or declared in the archipelago. However, it will not be the ultimate solution to end this national problem. 

Where is God at these times? Evil forces gain strength when people pray for peace and spread the darkness. Is God an absolute good? Or Is There A Violent God in Our Times? No one is spared, but anyone could be the next victim of this darkness, even those who may bring the light. In moments like these, we need Divine inspiration -- a Divine light to shield us from evil forces in this world. But why does God allow his people to suffer? Despite economic development, the Philippines is a troubled nation, and the invasion of darkness makes us blind.

We have been fighting for different kinds of war; the drug war already killed thousands of suspected drug users, including dealers. It is suitable for the government to protect the good versus the evil; eradicating them all has never been easy. Instead, we co-exist with these evil forces throughout our lifetime. While terrorism can't be trounced, we desperately call for points of Divine light to shower on us and to protect our loved ones and the entire nation. We can't pass on to the next generation of Filipinos the suffering we live in. We can't imagine our offspring blaming us for their inherited problem. 

Looking forward to 2025 or 2030 and beyond, what will be the fate of our nation? How will we live as Filipinos? Will there be a peaceful Philippines in years to come, or are we about to start living in our darkest era?  Let there be light on our people, the defender of our democracy -- our leaders and the chosen ones. Let there be Good Governance Towards A Better Philippinesand indeed we will see the light after the long tunnel of darkness we're going through. I believe that where there is darkness, there is light! There's healing in every pain and injury, and there's a happy ending in eternity as long as we keep fighting, for goodness' sake, while unleashing the Divinity from within.

© 2017 Del Cusay