Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Historic fourth term for Chancellor Angela Merkel: A Triumph for Christian Democrats

The most recent German elections spoke eloquently of the work and dedication of Angela Merkel, a woman leader, elected to lead her country after having served three terms in the same capacity.
Chancellor Merkel had to surmount negativisms on the refugee policy voiced by her closest competitor, Martin Schulz, (accompanied by his exponents) representing center-left Social Democrats.
Instead of Merkel's fight for marriage equality becoming the chancellor's disadvantage, it proved how the issue was one that proved the opposite: large numbers of the electorate formidably brought out their say in voting to retain Merkel.
Just like her contemporaries in Europe, Merkel put up a struggle to contain what was identified as "surging far-right sentiments among her people," when she had to face the anti-Islam Alternative for Germany, or AfD, a new political party.
Flashback to Year 2015, when Merkel made the decision to "allow virtually uncontrolled immigration into her country." There was a mass exodus from Syria and other crisis-countries which was vigorously condemned by AfD supporters who loudly stated their "fear of a loss of German identity."
At the height of their political campaign, the AfD followers, as reported by the polls, were rated as gaining 15 percent of the proclaimed population figures of Germany.
The Merkel approach adopted a policy to deport the category of "denied asylum seekers." It illustrated how it opposed a deal made by AfD with Turkey, clearly, defined as a more hardline approach to those who entertained the thought of accommodating more refugees.
Thus, AfD's extreme right-wing views were considered as "unpalatable" to the average German voter.
What came to define the electorate's views as reported by Germany's Financial Times, was the reality of the effects of populism in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Germans, known for being "politically conscious," did not hesitate to side with "mainstays," as Merkel's record of service became her main governance tool.
Observers of the state of politics in Germany were known to favor the Merkel decision not to close the border to be a 'major humanitarian gesture.'
The ascent of populist parties in Germany and elsewhere, per geopolitical analysts, is not based on economics alone.
What comes as a raison d'etre re the role of rising political groups therefore, is less about economics, than it is about social anxieties.
Inequality has not been on the rise.
What is being translated is a common theme: there is an inevitable rise of all kinds of political parties across the Western world motivated by immigration.
Facts and figures become serious issues for the West to factor in immigration.
Analysts coming from their various research studies on geopolitics show how centrist parties might tend to recognize immigration, by citing the U.S.
For example, in 1970, foreign-born immigrants to the U.S. made up an approximately 4.5 percent of the population. Today's immigration figures show close to 13.5 percent, thus illustrating the dramatic shift.
In view of the rise in immigration, U.S.political parties on the center right and center left should be willing to have a discussion that should never commence with the assumption that a concern about immigration is automatically one which implies racism.
Yet, President Trump has been noted as focused on figuring out a way to capitalize on what he referred to as "the resentment that an older, whiter population feels about a changing country."
Isn't the aforesaid Trump interpretation a way to ward off further immigration from other countries whose nationals have already qualified to enter these shores legally?
Obviously, Trumpism has discounted what the U.S. is about.
The United States morphed into a nation of immigrants, they who came from their original homes in quest of a land where they could call it one that would represent their new horizons, where they could prove their worth as future citizens of a great nation.
In semblance of what immigrants mean to Germany, Joachim Stamp, the country's minister for refugees and integration in the North state of Westphalia said: "That is something that we can view positively, but it must also be clear that people don't automatically embark on a life of bliss the moment they touch German soil."
Interpreting the same opinion of the aforementioned German official, it does not indicate how "automatic" and how a "life of bliss" is anticipated by refugees. A great many of them are concerned with what they can do in a newly-found land where they can contribute their skills to its generosity.

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Who was Omarkhayam Maute?

Salient facts of Omar Maute’s life are still absent from internet sources. For example, we don’t have his birthday. I can guess that he was in his late 30s or early forties when he died (on October 16, 2017, US time) given that he was a teenager in the 1990s. There is no mention of children he might have had with his Indonesian wife though it’s reasonable to assume he probably did. Reports of his death surfaced in February 2017 and then in August 2017 and then now, announced definitively, hours before I write this.

It drives home the uncomfortable fact that the very open Western resource of internet articles and social media allows these subversive groups to enter and exit our world and use our openness to their own advantage while they enjoy at least some semblance of privacy. One article claimed 63 Facebook accounts sourced to the Maute group. They say he used social media for recruiting. And yet, we don’t even know his birthday.

It also brings home another already obvious fact that is often ignored: while the ruling class of the Philippines is decidedly Western-oriented, Malaysia is our closest neighbor. The Southernmost tip of Balabac Island, part Palawan province, is just over 20 miles north of the Malaysian island of Pulau Balambangan and Sibutu Island in the province of Tawi-Tawi is 8.7 miles east of Sabah, Malaysia. But in order for someone from Manila to fly to Kuala Lumpur, they would have to travel slightly more than 1500 miles, just a touch less than the distance between SFO and Pierre, South Dakota. While Mindanao does have international airports as far south as General Santos City, the capital and its Western-facing leadership are emphatically Manila-centric. In fact, until Duterte was elected, it was largely assumed that Presidents were chosen by the occupants of Southern Luzon.

A slight peer into Omar Maute’s background and it becomes apparent that the lives (and boundaries) of the Philippines do not match the imagination of its leaders. Omar Maute was educated in Egypt at the Al Azhar University in Cairo. He married an Indonesian woman and, based on the limited comments, seemed integrated into her family. In Western-facing Manila, this kind of international reach is only achievable by those who can afford the cost of PAL flights and Western tuition. Meanwhile, there exists a subculture that seems to have blended lives and identity with the Muslim world…to the extent that they are educated and conversant in Middle Eastern languages as was Maute.

If there exists within the Philippines this entirely different cultural pull, Maute and his clan are artifacts of negligent leadership. They are negligent for failing to represent this demographic and they are negligent for not recognizing the dynamic. For at least 50 years, Manila has been happy to pretend that the country does not really count beyond its borders. I witnessed this first hand as I watched (from afar) my uncles bootstrap Cebu’s recovery from Typhoon Ruping in the 1990s. Today, with the death of one of the leaders of the Marawi siege, I finally understand why Duterte was elected. It might have been about drugs, sure. It might have been a repudiation of the status quo and those who benefitted. But it was Mindanawans (and other Southerners) calling for leadership that understands them.

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30 Filipinos get HIV every day —DOH

An average of 30 Filipinos are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) every day, mostly due to a lack of information about the virus that over time causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS.
According to a report on Balitanghali on Monday, the alarming rate has lead to 45,000 persons to be infected with HIV as of October.
HIV awareness campaign Pedal for HIV said myths about HIV, made prevalent by a lack of available information, is partly to blame for the ongoing stigma against persons living with HIV.
The same stigma has also lead many persons living with HIV to forego testing until their condition develops to AIDS.
"Dun sa mga tao naman nagdidiscriminate sa mga taong tulad namin, living with the virus at natatakot magpa-test, 'wag niyo na po sanang hintayin na maging apektado kayo directly ng virus," Pedal for HIV founder Faustine Angeles advised.
"Let's be responsible to get tested regularly," he added.
Pedal for HIV conducted a fun run, Zumba classes, and free HIV tests on Sunday as part of its advocacy of erasing stigma from HIV and AIDS.
"Hindi na dapat tayo magsi-walang kibo sa HIV. Kailangan ng all of government, all of society approach," Health Asec. Eric Tayag said.
DOH Public Health Surveillance chief Dr. Genesis Samonte earlier this year said that the Philippines had the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia despite having low numbers overall.
Young adults and teens aged 15 to 24 are the most vulnerable age group due to a lack of access to sex education and services.
"Sundown" clinics are promoted as options for youths in need of HIV tests, check-ups, counseling, HIV counseling, prophylactics, and recommendations to access treatment at hospitals and other health facilities.
Minors can obtain permission for HIV testing from their parents, Department of Social Welfare and Development social workers, teachers, and of-age peers. — GMA News

  • Published in Health
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DOH, World Vision sign breastfeeding monitoring,promotion agreement

The Department of Health (DOH) and World Vision Philippines signed a memorandum of agreement in which the two bodies would work together to monitor local government unit compliance with the "Milk Code".
The Milk Code included both Executive Order No. 51 and Republic Act No. 10028 or the “National Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, Breastmilk Supplements and Related Products."
Both EO 51 and RA 10028 encouraged workplaces and communities to provide nursing mothers access to lactation stations and support to help them breastfeed up to two years or beyond.
"The implementation of the Milk Code has really been a challenge in this country," Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial said during the signing ceremony at Luxent Hotel in Quezon City on Friday.
The DOH and World Vision monitoring effort will be enacted through a joint project - the Mother-Baby Friendly Philippines (MBFP or just MBF).
The compliance monitoring project has three platforms: an Android and iOS-based app, the MBF website, and the MBFP hotline.
The website boasts a quick and simple navigation, useful hotlines, and a user-friendly reporting scheme in addition to breastfeeding resources.
Users of the apps are afforded the same features with a unique, focused UI and with a texting mechanism can be used by anyone.
Malabon, Manila, and Quezon City are the pilot sites for the project, which is rooted in World Vision's Crowd-Based Monitoring of Milk Code Compliance (CMMCC) project.
Breastfeeding is one of the DOH's main advocacies and the first adopted by Ubial, as the first program she handled in her career was a breastfeeding program in 1989.
"On June 20 (1989), I was sent to Fabella Memorial Hospital for my 11-day training on mother-baby friendly hospital and lactation management, education training," Ubial recalled.
"Something we make a mainstream and a norm in Philippine society is breastfeeding our babies, our children is actually, supposed to be what comes natural and what should be practiced," she continued.

Don't shame, don't force
As much as the government, health institutions, and moms promote breastfeeding as the "gold standard" for infant health, breastfeeding advocate Christine Bersonala-Babao said badgering mothers would not work.
"Do not intimidate the mothers," Babao advised. "Sasabihin mo lang in a very [calm] way na, 'Uy, ito yung benefits sa akin.' Pero hindi mo siya pipilitin, 'wag mo ifo-force."
Babao said that it was very difficult to convince people at the "grassroots level" of the benefits of breastfeeding, as they were more concerned with putting food on the table, or else they would rather opt for the supposed convenience of formulas.
Aside from monitoring, MBF would also promote breastfeeding through testimonies from breastfeeding moms by infographics.
Ubial hoped that the initiative could be the start of better breastfeeding rates in the country, which remained abysmal, according to 2015 data, as "only 34% of Filipino infants younger than six months are exclusively breastfed."
"All of us need to work together in synchronizing our acts to realize our shared vision," Ubial urged. —GMA News

  • Published in Health
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Geisler's brother issues apology for QC incident

The brother of actor Baron Geisler has issued an apology for the incident on Monday evening in a resto-bar in Quezon City, according to the report of GMA News' Sandra Aguinaldo on "24 Oras."
"As family we would like to apologize for what's happening," said Donald David Geisler.
"Pero rest assured we will deal with this matter to get things right," he added.
The actor was charged with unjust vexation and alarm and scandal in inquest proceedings before the Quezon City Prosecutor's office on Tuesday for causing trouble in the resto-bar.
The actor had several skirmishes with the law in the past.
Baron Geisler figured in a vehicular accident in 2005 after he allegedly took the wheel from his driver while he was drunk, and was charged for acts of lasciviousness in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
In 2012, he was detained after allegedly punching a neighbor. Last year, he was removed from a movie and boycotted by the the Professional Artist Managers Inc. for urinating on actor Ping Medina during a movie shoot. — GMA News

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Marawi siege ends

By Beting Laygo Dolor, Editor-in-Chief
MANILA – Victory, at last.
After almost five months, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) finally ended the siege of the Islamic City of Marawi in Mindanao this week by taking out Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon.
Maute was head of the ISIS-allied Maute group which took over large parts of the city, while Hapilon led a faction of the Abu Sayyaf group which joined the Maute group at the height of the seige.
On Wednesday, October 18, the government through Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno announced that “Marawi City is now militant-free and is ready for rehabilitation.”
The government allotted P5 billion for the repair and rehabilitation of Marawi this year, to be followed by P10 billion next year.
President Duterte declared that Marawi City had been liberated from the terrorist group in Tuesday, October 17, the day after the AFP confirmed the deaths of Maute and Hapilon. Photos of the two showed that they had been struck by fatal shots to the head.
As a damper to the news, however, it was learned that leaders of IS Ranao, the ISIS-affiliated group that fought alongside the Maute group, had managed to escapt to the countryside.
Hapilon was the more wanted of the two leaders, carrying a bounty of $5 million from the US for his capture, dead or alive. The Philippine government also offered P10 million for his head.
Reports said that Hapilon offered “millions” to the AFP leadership to allow him to escape, but this offer was ignored.
Omar Maute, on the other hand, was one of two sibling who led the group named after their family, which had been politically active prior to the siege, His brother Abdullah was killed by government forces last month. The parents of the Maute brothers were earlier arrested for the financial support they gave the sons, and the couple is presently detained in Manila.
Analysts say that the end of the fighting marks the beginning of a long process of rehabilitation which may take years to complete. Aside from the P5 billion set aside this year and twice that amount next year, more funds will be needed do to the massive damage to the infrastructure of the city.
President Duterte proposed the issuance of “Marawi bonds” worth P30 billion to further finance the reconstruction. The bonds will be offered to the general public and will have higher interest rates than bank deposits. They will be guaranteed by the national government, which all but erases any risks to the buyers.
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‘Kung pwede lang umatras’ –Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday denied that he wanted to perpetuate himself in power even after he said he would declare a revolutionary government amid supposed efforts to destabilize his administration.
Duterte at a speech during the Federalism Summit and PDP-Laban Oath-Taking in Camarines Sur said that he was not interested in staying in power beyond his term.
“I do not intend to perpetuate myself. I will not shame my family and all for any ambition in this world,” Duterte said.
“Sinasabi nila na mag-revolutionary government ako dahil gusto kong tumagal, anak ng—kung maari lang, kung pwede umatras lang eh, nakakahiya lang,” he added.
Duterte also implied that he would declare a revolutionary government so he could declare government posts vacant.
“Revolutionary government kasi gusto ko tanggalin na ‘yan, wala nang ano, ‘Ikaw, ikaw, ikaw. Alis diyan.’ ‘Ikaw, ikaw, ikaw. Alis.’ ‘Ikaw, judge. Alis ka.’ ‘Ikaw, Ombudsman, umalis ka na.’ ‘Ikaw, Justice, umalis ka na.’ Palitan ko na kayo ng taga-Bicol na magaganda,” he said.
Duterte repeated that he was not happy being president because of his age, the sheer volume of work, and the pressure that went with the post.
Duterte on Friday threatened to declare a revolutionary government in case destabilization moves by his critics, particularly the Left, continue and start slipping into chaos.
He said he would not declare martial law because it would require him to report to Congress.
"'Pag ang destablization ninyo patagilid na at medyo magulo na, I will not hesitate to declare a revolutionary government until the end of my term," he said in a report on state-run PTV News on Friday.
"I will arrest all of you and we can go to a full-scale war against the Reds," Duterte added.
He said he will declare the revolutionary government if he thinks his critics are "about to take over the nation" and install a new government. —NB, GMA News

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Duterte touts donated rifles from China: ‘Yun ang nakakuha sa dalawa

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday touted the rifle donations of China, saying these were instrumental in the operations of security forces.
“China, dalawang beses na naglipad dito para sa… And ‘yung sniper [rifle] nila was of great help. ‘Yung mahaba nila na sniper [rifle]. ‘Yun ang nakakuha kay ano—‘yung dalawa ng madaling araw,” Duterte said, who was berating the New People’s Army while boasting of an upcoming Kalashnikov rifle donation from Russia when he made the remark.
“‘Yun ang nakakuha, it’s about a distance of about one kilometer. Isang kilometro ‘yun eh. Eh walang hangin pagka umaga. ‘Yun ang nagamit natin,” he added.
Duterte's remarks come a day after terrorist leaders Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon were killed by government troops in Marawi City on Monday. Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Eduardo Año on Monday said that a sniper's shot to the head finished off Maute, while Hapilon was killed by gunshots to the chest.
China in June donated P370 million worth of arms and ammunition, including units of the TY-85 7.62 mm sniper rifle, CS/LR4A high precision rifle, and CQ-A5 5.56 automatic rifle.
Philippine National Police Senior Superintendent Rolando Anduyan said cops assigned in Marawi were using at least 210 M-4 type 5.56 rifles and one Dragunuv sniper rifle from China. —GMA

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Robredo stresses importance of human rights,

Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo on Tuesday underscored the importance of human rights, and hoped that the country's current situation would not negatively affect its trading relations with the European Union.
"I am aware that human rights is currently a contentious issue in our country. I never thought I would see the day when such a universally accepted...concept can be painted as undesirable and wrong," she said before European businessmen in a speech at the EU-Philippines Business Summit in Parañaque City.
Just last Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened diplomats of the European Union to leave the Philippines within 24 hours, after a delegation of the Progressive Alliance and party of European Socialists warned that the Philippines' Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) may be affected should killings in the country persist.
The EU later clarified that the delegation was not an official EU mission.
The GSP+, currently under review by the EU, grants the Philippines zero duties on some 6,274 locally made products.
The agreement between the two parties requires the Philippine ratification of 27 international conventions which cater to human and labor rights, environmental protection, and good governance, among others.
"Every day, I worry about how this will affect our young ones and our future generations, but I hope that this will not extensively strain relations between my country and the European Union," Robredo said, adding that the Philippines values the EU's friendship and support beyond economics, trade and aid. — GMA News

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CBCP denies viral fake news that bishops condemned Maute, Hapilon deaths

The president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has denied a viral fake news report, indicating that the Catholic leaders were saddened by the deaths of bandit leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas denied that the prelates were saddened by the military's killing of the bandits who laid siege to Marawi City for months and who caused the declaration of martial in the whole of Mindanao.
"Once more, the CBCP is the hapless of fake news. Going viral on social media is a 'report' that the CBCP regrets the killing of Messrs. Hapilon and Maute," Villegas said.
"The CBCP never made such a statement," he added.
Villegas said that the Catholic leaders lauded "the gallantry of our soldiers and their heroic efforts to free Marawi."
"We will gladly join government in rebuilding the city in the measure we are able," Villegas said in a statement.
"We pray for the dead, and for lasting peace in Mindanao," he added.
A CBCP official on Monday said that the deaths in Marawi City of Hapilon and Maute didn't mean the end of terrorism in the country.
“Rejoicing in the death of these terrorists will merely be temporary. Their death doesn’t mean the end of terror groups in the country,” CBCP-Permanent Committee on Public Affairs executive secretary Fr. Jerome Secillano said in a statement released by church-run Radio Veritas.
Secillano instead urged the government to focus on the economy of Mindanao and educate its citizens properly to veer them away from terrorist ideals.
“There must be a holistic approach to thwarting terrorism. Education, employment, poverty eradication and infrastructure development should only be some of the measures that this government should undertake if only to dismantle or at least weaken the influence of terrorist cells,” he said. –GMA News

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