Blog Posts by VERA Files

  • People’s SONA: Boss ‘fires’ PNoy

    (Photos by Mario Ignacio IV and Mario Espinosa)

    As the rains poured on Monday, sentiments of discontent from the protesters also poured when President Benigno Simeon Aquino III delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the House of Representatives.

    “If we were his ‘boss,’ then he’s fired,” 18-year-old Yurie Leigh Lim said.

    Lim, a first-time protester in SONA, said he did not feel Aquino’s efforts to address the basic needs of the citizens, pushing him to join about 8,000 others at the “People’s SONA.”

    “I did not see his ‘tuwid na daan (straight path).’ This is evident in the slow rehabilitation efforts after typhoon Yolanda hit. In day-to-day situations, we can feel this when prices of basic commodities increase,” he said.

    According to Lim, also a member of the youth group Anakbayan, he sees joining the SONA as an avenue to let the government hear the demands of the masses.

    “Being a member of the youth is not an excuse not to see that

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  • Philippine Ambassador to Japan Manuel Lopez.By Norman Sison,VERA Files

    Last July 1, the cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe revised its interpretation of the country’s pacifist constitution. Article 9 of the charter, imposed by the United States during its occupation of Japan after World War II, limits the Japanese military to a purely defensive role.

    Under its new policy of “collective self-defense”, Japan may now defend an allied country that is under attack even if Japan itself is not under attack. The decision was welcomed by several countries, including the Philippines and the United States while China raised concerns that the shift would move Japan away from the previous policy of “ peaceful path of development.”

    Ambassador Manuel Lopez, the Philippines’ envoy to Japan, answered questions from Vera Files via email on how the defense policy will affect Philippine-Japanese security ties.

    How do you see the shift in Japanese policy?

    The Philippines, like the United States, has long manifested its support for the

    Read More »from PH envoy to Japan: Policy shift strengthens Japan’s role as regional balancing force
  • Philippines in global radar due to high HIV infections

    By Diana G. Mendoza, VERA Files

    Delegates to the 20th International AIDS Conference walk past a giant condom replica at the exhibitors area.Melbourne – “I feel and sense that the Philippines may be the next Africa.”

    Dr. Jose Narciso Melchor Sescon, president of the AIDS Society of the Philippines (ASP), made this conclusion at the International AIDS Conference being held in this city after the Philippines figured prominently in the global forum where scientific experts singled out the countries exhibiting high numbers of new HIV (human immunodeficiuency virus) infections in 2013.

    The Philippines was identified as one of only three countries alongside Indonesia and Pakistan as having “worryingly-high” numbers of new HIV infections in 2013 while the rest of the world is experiencing a lessened pattern of HIV transmission and deaths from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

    “While new infections continue to decrease globally, we are unfortunately seeing a very different pattern in Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines with increasing numbers of new infections in 2013,” Prof. Sharon

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  • Dani Girl: Test of faith

    Dani and Marty

    By Yolanda L. Punsalan, VERA Files

    Dani Girl, the musical, will melt your heart.

    On its last weekend run (July 24 to 27, 8:30 p.m. Matinee, 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday) Dani Girl is good respite from the toxic political bickerings.

    Sandbox Collection’s latest offering at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza in Makati City  revolves around nine-year leukemia stricken Danica Lyons in a pediatric oncology hospital room in Pittsburgh.

    Only four actors –Dani; Raph, the guardian angel; Marty, her imaginary roommate; and the  mother. Too young to have watched the theater showing of the 1977 epic space movie, Star Wars (frequently referred to in the play), the actors deliver performances of pain that inspires, of suffering that uplifts.

    At the Talkback portion after the musicale, a question was raised as to whether the group sought a spiritual adviser to help them get through the difficult, painful scenes.

    Director  Christopher “Toff”  de Venecia, a little bit embarrassed

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  • Representatives of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources inspect the dead turtles found aboard a Malaysian vessel near Pangutaran Island, Sulu on April 22, 2012. Photo by BFAR Tawi-Tawi provincial chief Faisal Nahul/VERA Files

    By Joseph Arnel Deliverio, VERA Files

    Jolo, Sulu—Twelve Vietnamese fishermen detained here for stealing endangered marine animals two years ago have yet to be formally charged in court simply because no interpreter has showed up to help get the case moving.

    The 12, who are detained at the Sulu provincial jail, are being held for illegally entering Philippine territory and for violating Republic Act 9147, the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

    “For lack of an interpreter, they still have to be arraigned in the two major cases,” said Jail Officer Mohammad Sangkula.

    “Actually, a representative from the Vietnamese embassy came to Zamboanga City to look into their case,” said Marciano Damih, chief of the provincial office of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). The Embassy has made no follow-ups since then, he added.

    The Philippine Coast Guard caught the 12 Vietnamese fishermen aboard a Malaysian vessel carrying black corals and 87 dead hawksbill turtles

    Read More »from Lack of interpreter stalls case of 12 Vietnamese poachers in Sulu
  • Sign language interpreters in Baguio. (Photo by Ofelia Empian)

    By VERA Files

    In various offices of the Commission on Elections nationwide, the same story played out as the country marked Sunday the National Registration Day for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs): Only a handful showed up to register as voters, and in some places none at all.

    The low turnout was blamed on poor information dissemination by the poll body, the destruction wrought by typhoon “Glenda” in many parts of Luzon earlier in the week and heavy rains spawned by typhoon “Henry” that came on the tail of Glenda.

    But election officials said they were optimistic that more PWDs will register in the weeks ahead as the continuing voter registration will end on Oct. 31, 2015. Others said a number of PWDs had registered before Sunday.

    The National Council on Disability Affairs earlier asked the Comelec to conduct special registration for PWDs on July 20 to coincide with the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week.

    Registration for new voters and those reapplying for

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  • By Vince Nonato, VERA Files

    Despite the Philippine government’s efforts to combat human trafficking, the United States’latest global Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report said it its overall number of convictions remained low.

    “The Government of the Philippines does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking;however, it is making significant efforts to do so,” the United States’ Department of State said in the TIP Report 2014.

    As of April this year, 2,359 cases in violation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act law have been filed since the law was enacted in 2003, according to data from the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).

    Only 127 of these—or 5 percent—resulted in convictions as of April 2014. There would be two more convictions made since then. A total of 549 are undergoing trial, while 372 have been dismissed.

    Meanwhile, data from the Philippine National Police also show that child trafficking is on the rise.

    A total of 130 child

    Read More »from Philippines poor in prosecuting trafficking cases—US gov’t
  • Darrell Ang prepared to astonish Manila

    Singaporean conductor Darrell Ang, who headlines the Mostly Mozart 2014 Festival, meets the press.

    Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

    “Compelling podium authority (with) authoritative readings of the core symphonic repertoire, especially the great masterpieces by French and Russian composers” –this is how fast-rising conductor Darrel Ang is described in a bionote.

    He leads the Manila Symphony Orchestra in the “Mostly Mozart 2014 Festival” that also headlines tenor Arthur Espiritu and pianist Cristine Coyiuto on July 11 at 8 p.m. at the Philippine Stock Exchange Auditorium, Exchange Road, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.

    In a press conference organized by the Manila Chamber Orchestra (MCO) Foundation to which Ang is donating his talent fee for its young artists’ development program, he said he approaches Mozart the way he does with any other score. “My viewpoint is making the most out of the music, letting the music speak for itself. You can’t overdo Mozart. Otherwise, you degrade it. You must let its simplicity speak.”

    He said, “One must be aware of certain details that

    Read More »from Darrell Ang prepared to astonish Manila
  • Rosabella Sulani: A tough woman for a dangerous job

    Rosabella Sulani (left) and members of the Tawi-Tawi Provincial Police Office's Women and Children Protection Desk escort potential victims of trafficking to the ferry going to Zamboanga City. (Photo by Jake Soriano/VERA Files)

    By Jake Soriano, VERA Files

    Bongao, Tawi-Tawi – Inside a small room at the Tawi-Tawi Provincial Police Station, leaders of the local anti-trafficking task force had been trying to pry information out of five women who had just been intercepted by the police getting off a boat from Zamboanga City.

    The five, all of them new faces in Bongao, stirred the suspicion of authorities at the port when they huddled together and made phone calls, uncomfortably waiting for someone to fetch them.

    The women were a tough group to crack. Their ages ranged from mid-twenties to early thirties, and they were not at all related to each other, yet they insisted they were in Bongao for a vacation.

    But Rosabella Sulani, focal person of the Bongao Inter-agency Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons (BIATFAT), has seen and heard it all before. Every year, the BIATFAT intercepts hundreds of potential victims of human trafficking, sometimes up to 40 persons a week, mostly undocumented ferry passengers bound

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  • By Elizabeth Lolarga,VERA Files

    Conductor Darrell AngThe Mostly Mozart 2014 Festival comes while the music world mourns the recent death of Maestro Oscar Yatco who did much to raise the country’s musical standards.

    Pianist Cristine Coyiuto, who will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 K. 488 and Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony with the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO) which Yatco honed in its early years, said of the late violin prodigy-conductor, “It’s sad that we have lost a very fine musician. I met him in the ’80s when he wanted to do a Beethoven concerto with me. It didn’t materialize. We both got so busy. I had to return to Canada. Helen Quach died last year. I did the Grieg concerto with the MSO and the Schumann concerto with her and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra. We miss her terribly.”

    The groundwork for the July 11 concert at the Philippine Stock Exchange auditorium, Textite Tower, Ortigas Center in Pasig was prepared more than three years ago. Joseph Uy, one of the concert organizers,

    Read More »from The journey to realize the star-studded Mostly Mozart Festival


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