The Inbox
  • 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

    By Norman Sison, VERA Files

    HONG KONG — Anywhere you look, the street has shades of yellow. Yellow ribbons are pinned on the lapels of passersby. They are on fences and lamp posts. Stickers with yellow ribbons printed on them are plastered on the steps of an elevated pedestrian walkway.

    But this is not a scene from the 1986 People Power Revolution, the peaceful uprising in which thousands of Filipinos faced down armored vehicles sent to quell a mutiny and eventually toppled the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. This is downtown Hong Kong.

    This is  the 2014 Umbrella Movement.

    It isn’t exactly a revolt. Unlike the so-called “color revolutions” that sprung up across the world beginning in the late 1980s, however, the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren’t out to bring down the government.

    That is one thing that they want to make crystal clear to Beijing. Although the yellow umbrella is a symbol of their aspiration, the protesters don’t want to give the Chinese government an

    Read More »from HK protest echoes 1986 People Power revolt
  • Commentary

    By Ellen T. Tordesillas

    After Vice President Jejomar Binay  backed out  of the scheduled debate, which he himself suggested, with Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, many asked if he is also reconsidering his announced presidential bid in 2016.

    Binay immediately shut down the idea re-assuring his allies that there is no backing out of his ambition to be the next president of the Philippines, something that shudders many who imagine the level of corruption would it be under his presidency.

    Binay gave the reason why he is pursuing his presidential plans despite the perception that he is  severely damaged: “Napakalaki ng lamang ko. Never in the history na may ganun, hindi naman ganun kaagad ang lamang” (I keep a wide lead in surveys. Never in history that someone is leading the race by a wide margin).”

    Which is true.

    Despite the huge drop in  voters’ preference for  the 2016 elections for him - from 41 percent in the May 2014 survey to 31 percent in last September’s poll, he  is still

    Read More »from Binay 2016 scenario: The worst is yet to come

    RICE is the staple food for more than half the world’s population and one-fifth of the world’s population, more than one billion people, depend on rice cultivation for their livelihood.

    Such is the importance of rice to mankind.

    In the Philippines, November has been declared National Awareness Month to “heighten  public awareness on rice and its interrelationship with malnutrition and poverty in order to sustain the attainment of global food security.”

    November was chosen as Rice month because it coincides with the anniversary of the Philippine Rice Research Institute, which undertakes research and development on rice farming systems, technology and policy-making.

    Yet, scanning Philippine mass media, rice-related stories are  more in the negative: the abused unlimited rice promos in restos; the criminal ring brought about by cartels; the dieters’ shunning of rice as though it were poison; the hoarding of sacks of rice.  And worst, the precious grain

    Read More »from Celebrating the blessings of rice
  • By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    Ballet has a freak history in the country even as Manila saw the world-famous Russian dance icon Anna Pavlova as early as 1922.

    While no one was looking, Russian dance teachers managed to find their way in Manila and in the provinces in the 40s which also saw the 1948 Manila visit of English ballerina Alicia Markova and distinguished British danseur Anton Dolin who were last seen at the FEU Auditorium in the 50s, the decade an influential figure in the Philippine Catholic clergy temporarily banned ballet in the country.

    In the 60s and early 70s, the country has recovered from the ballet ban and produced its first prima ballerina in the person of Maniya Barredo who for some time was the Queen of Dance of Atlanta Ballet.

    In the 80s, first rate Filipino danseurs emerged starting with Nonoy Froilan (Ballet Philippines), Nicolas Pacana (Boston Ballet and later, Atlanta Ballet) and Rey Dizon (Les Grands Ballets Canadiens).

    Froilan danced with Dame Margot

    Read More »from Dance docu relates travails of the Filipino danseur
  • Commentary

    By Ellen T. Tordesillas


    It took only ten minutes under the chilly air at the lakeside garden in the suburb of Beijing to thaw the two-year frosty relationship between the Philippines and China.

    President Aquino and Chinese President Xi Jinping pulled aside during the tree-planting ceremony last Nov. 11 at at the Summer Garden of the International Conference Center at Yanqi Lake, where 21 leaders of the Asia pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) met the day before, talked briefly, both expressing the desire for relations between their the two countries to improve from a severely strained connection that it is now.

    Aquino described the 10-minute talk which was pre-arranged (they did not have a formal meeting which usually lasts 25 to 30 minutes) as “Medyo extensive” reflecting the importance he attached to it and what the brief meeting achieved.

     “We are very happy in the sense that it’s the first time that we’ve had—well, number one—direct contact with them after I met with

    Read More »from 10 min Aquino-Xi talk paves way for major policy shift towards China
  • Commentary

    By Ellen T. Tordesillas

    No one is really surprised that Vice President Jejomar Binay backed out of the Nov. 27 debate with Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV which he himself suggested to the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas.

    When the debate was starting to take a life of its own after he mentioned it to KBP President Herman Basbaño  last October and Trillanes accepted the challenge, Binay was just waiting for an opportunity to back out.

    The opportunity happened yesterday during his  72nd birthday  celebration at the Philippine Marines headquarters.

    He was asked about Trillanes’ statements that he was going into the much-publicized activity fully aware that the vice president, a lawyer, has an advantage as far as debating skills are concerned.  But the senator, who was formerly a Philippine Navy officer said, he is on the side of truth.

    Binay said, “Huwag na natin ituloy. Ayoko na kung ganyan sinasabi niya. (Let’s not push through with it. I don’t like if that’s what he is

    Read More »from Will Binay also withdraw from 2016 presidential race?
  • childrenChildren in Sagkahan are not allowed out of the bunkhouses past 9pm.

    Text and photos by Avigail M. Olarte, VERA Files

    Tacloban City—On the bed is where she could end it, she thought. She’s 16, he’s six months old.

    Alyssa (not her real name) was sold for sex one night last year. On board a docked ship in Leyte, in a locked room, a Japanese repeatedly raped her. Her pimps paid her P200. She walked away with not a cent, with a baby.

    A girl with many dreams, Alyssa is among the thousands of children abused and trafficked in the Philippines each year. Here in Leyte, she’s one among many others, and after Supertyphoon Yolanda, authorities fear there are countless, faceless more.

    “There are unverified reports that more minors are now being trafficked, recruited to work in bars, and probably forced into prostitution in the entire region post-Yolanda,” said Asther Dadulla, regional focal person on recovery and reintegration program for trafficked persons of the Department of Social Welfare and

    Read More »from Sex traffickers prey on ‘Yolanda’ children
  • Commentary

    By Ellen T. Tordesillas

    President Aquino today is in the lakeside resort in Yanqihu, 50 kilometers from Beijing, for the 22nd summit of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC.

    This is the first time that Aquino and Chinese President Xi Jinping will have a chance for greetings more than just hello and goodbye.

    Aquino has announced there is no scheduled bilateral meeting between him and Xi during the two-day Beijing summit.

    The Department of Foreign Affairs was working on a pull-aside meeting (about 10 to 15 minutes) on the sidelines of the Summit but if even that is not possible they see a chance “to break the ice” in the frosty relations between the two countries during the turnover of the hosting Leaders Meeting towards the end of the meeting on Tuesday.

    Sources said during the turnover, Aquino will thank Xi for the invitation to the Beijing meeting and will extend to him the invitation to the Manila APEC summit in November 2015.

    If there’s a chance for a pull-aside,

    Read More »from APEC summit: an opportunity for renewal of PH-China ties


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