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    (Infographics sourced from OECD report)

    Contrary to popular belief, corruption isn’t the scourge solely of developing countries like the Philippines.

    In fact, two-thirds of bribes paid by businesses to foreign public officials took place in countries with medium to very high human development index, including the most developed economies, says a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on foreign bribery released Tuesday.


    “Bribes are being paid across sectors to officials from countries at all stages of economic development,” according to the OECD Foreign Bribery Report, the first of its kind.

    The report analyzed 427 foreign bribery cases law enforcers in 17 countries have successfully concluded since the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions came into force on Feb. 15, 1999.

    Forty-one states have signed the convention, which makes bribery in international

    Read More »from PH among Asian countries listed in OECD foreign bribery report

  • By Cherry  Joy G. Veniles, VERAFiles

    Photos: UP  Outdoor Recreation Group, Ega Alcaraz, Richarcd Ongsico

    PAGSANGAHAN, General Nakar – “In 2004, during the big typhoon, the waters of the river rose beyond the top of the coconut trees. To get relief goods, we had to trek for four hours to the poblacion. It was hard because the trail was slippery, but it was harder not to have anything to eat. One by one the families left this place,” Bernie Coral, 43, recalls, speaking in Filipino.

    Bernie is recounting to members and volunteers of the University of the Philippines’ Outdoor Recreation Group (UP-ORG) the big flood that ravaged their community in 2004.

    Pagsangahan fits the criteria that the UP-ORG has set for its community program.

    The UP-ORG is a university recognized organization which engages in various outdoor activities including mountaineering. But beyond recreation it actively participates in environmental clean ups and organizes socio-economic efforts in far flung communities.

    Read More »from Mountaineers touch lives in places where few bother to go
  • Commentary

    By ELLEN T. TORDESILLAS                                         

    HEALTH Secretary Enrique Ona’s one month leave of absence ends today.

    The health community is awaiting with bated breath the decision of  President  Aquino on Ona, who is embroiled in the controversy over the P800 million purchase of a pneumonia vaccine.

    The result of the investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation on the issues raised against Ona would be an important consideration in the President’s decision.

    If the President decides  to retain Ona, that means he is cleared of all the issues against him.

    This week, another issue came up:  Ona’s  authorization of the use for the treatment of dengue and malaria of a drug that did not pass clinical trial.

    Actually, Ona is not new to controversies. When he was first appointed, there were opposition against him because of his alleged involvement in unethical kidney transplant procedures and organ trafficking during his stint as medical director of the

    Read More »from Corruption in DOH results in a sickly nation
  • Commentary

    By Ellen T. Tordesillas

     Ager Ontog, director-general of the  National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), who showed his lack of intelligence when he ordered the ban of Hongkong journalists who asked questions that displeased  President Aquino during the 2013 summit of Asia  Pacific Economic Conference in Bali, Indonesia, said  he did not regret his order that Malacañang cancelled after it was exposed in media last week.

    There are military officers who are enlightened about the role of media in a democracy but it seems that Ontog is not one of them. Which is not really surprising because even President Aquino, whose parents played a big part in Filipino people struggle to regain their freedom, including press freedom, thinks it’s media’s obligation to make him look good in public.

    Servants take their cue from the master.

    Ontog requested the Bureau of Immigration to ban the nine to cover the 2015 APEC summit to be held in Manila. BI’s Elaine Tan went one step further

    Read More »from HK journalists ban betrays Malacañang’s aversion to press freedom
  • By Jhesset Thrina Enano and Luis Hidalgo, VERA Files

    Nov. 23, 2009 was a dark day for journalists in the Philippines, and across the world. In a town called Ampatuan in Maguindanao, south of the Philippines, 58 people were gunned down and massacred by political warlords. Thirty-two were media workers who were present for an election coverage.

    Students and faculty members of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication on Friday afternoon commemorated the massacre in a protest march that slammed the slow wheels of justice.

    (VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look into current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

  •  Commentary       

    By Ellen T. Tordesillas


    Five years ago, a crime so heinous was  perpetrated  by persons in authority, in a remote village in Maguindanao in Southwestern Mindanao.

    Fifty-eight persons lay dead after Andal Ampatuan, Jr., mayor of Datu Unsay town  and his men were through with their shooting spree.  He then asked for a backhoe in the office of his father, Andal Ampatuan Sr., who was then governor of the province, to be brought to the crime scene to bury the dead bodies.

    Among the dead was Genalyn Mangudadatu,  wife of the political rival of the Ampatuans, Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, who was supposed to file the certificate of candidacy of her husband challenging  the position of the Ampatuan patriarch.

    Of the 58 victims, 32 were members of media, who were supposed to cover the political event.

    Five years have passed and the families of the abominable crime are still in search of justice.

    The National Union of Journalits in the Philippines has produced a moving video

    Read More »from Prayers amid dismay for justice for victims of Ampatuan massacre

    By Norman Sison, VERA Files

    Think of Spain and you will most likely think of bullfights, paella, jamon — and, of course, flamenco.

    The Spanish embassy in Manila delighted guests during its cent national day celebration with the performance of one of Spain’s most prominent artists in contemporary flamenco, Isabel Bayón, at Meralco Theatre.

    To the cheers of “olé!” and palmas or handclaps from the audience in sync with the lightning-fast footwork that characterises flamenco, Bayón, a recipient of a Spanish national dance award last year,  gave a performance that was a celebration of Spanish culture in all its richness.

    Manila was the last stop of Bayón’s four-city Southeast Asian tour that also took her to Hanoi, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. A stop in Manila made perfect sense as the Philippines was Spain’s only presence in Asia for 300 years.

    Among the audience at Meralco Theatre was Philippine Star lifestyle section editor Therese Garceau, who started taking flamenco lessons four

    Read More »from Filipino-Spanish ties move in step with flamenco
  • The reign of the idiots



    By Ellen T. Tordesillas

    I’m staggered by the justifications of Health Acting Secretary Janet Garin and Armed Forces Chief Gregorio Pio Catapang, Jr  of their visit to the quarantined peacekeepers in Caballo Island in Cavite which Malacañang approves.

    Garin and Catapang have drawn flak for what many see as violation of the idea of quarantine.

    The peacekeepers from Ebola-stricken Liberia are on 21-day quarantine, an international procedure to prevent the deadly virus from spreading.

    More than 5,000 have died from Ebola which is raging in West African countries notably Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Several cases of the disease manifesting after persons, mostly health workers ,from West Africa have returned to their countries like the United States.

    Garin and Catapang went to Caballo Island Sunday (Nov. 16), with a photographer, not wearing Personal Protective Equipment.

    Anthony Leachon, president of the Philippine College of Physicians said, ““It was a breach of protocol

    Read More »from The reign of the idiots
  • By Jake Soriano, VERA Files

    The Global Slavery Index Report 

    LONDON, United Kingdom—The Philippine government’s efforts to address modern slavery despite a lack of resources has placed it among the top three countries in Asia Pacific addressing the issue.

    The 2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI) named the Philippines the No. 3 country in fighting modern slavery, after Australia and New Zealand.

    The GSI has been dubbed the most accurate and comprehensive measure of modern slavery, which includes trafficking in persons and forced labor.

    Released this week by the global human rights organization Walk Free Foundation, the report also noted that the Philippines is “taking strong efforts to respond to modern slavery with limited resources,” along with Georgia, Macedonia and Jamaica.

    A total of 167 countries are covered by the GSI.

    Governments were assessed in their response to modern slavery based on five key benchmarks: support to survivors; criminal justice system; coordination and accountability mechanisms; attitudes,

    Read More »from PH government response to modern slavery third best in Asia Pacific – report

    By Ellen T. Tordesillas, VERA Files

    Photos by Ace Esmeralda and  Ellen Tordesillas

    Manicani today hardly bears signs of the havoc wrought by supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) a year ago.

    Color is back on this 11.7-square-kilometer island of 3,000 people in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, which was a harrowing picture of destruction only 12 months ago after Yolanda ferociously battered it for straight four hours.

    The roofless or flattened houses, destroyed concrete structures, uprooted trees and toppled posts are almost gone. In their stead are houses painted green, yellow, blue, red and pink, many with vegetable and flower gardens.


    The houses were built by the homeowners themselves, courtesy of the cash for work program of the mining company Nickel Asia Corp. (NAC). Berthed on shore near many homes were new fishing boats, which the islanders requested from NAC officials when asked after Yolanda what they wanted aside from a decent shelter.

    A 25- to 30-minute boat ride

    Read More »from Manicani: A tough little island


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