Philippines risks being lumped with North Korea, Syria

(Via Rappler)

‘The Philippine government needs to understand that their problems with the international community will not go away unless these killings stop,’ says New York-based Human Rights Watch of the Duterte administration’s drug war

DRUG WAR. Police conduct 'Oplan Tokhang' – a house-to-house campaign to make drug suspects 'surrender' – at an informal settlers community in Manila on October 6, 2016. File photo by Noel Celis/AFP

DRUG WAR. Police conduct ‘Oplan Tokhang’ – a house-to-house campaign to make drug suspects ‘surrender’ – at an informal settlers community in Manila on October 6, 2016. File photo by Noel Celis/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Would you really want to be mentioned in the same breath as North Korea and Syria?

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) official posed this question to the Philippine government as he urged the Duterte administration to understand “that there will be consequences” for the high death toll in its drug war.

“There’s a human rights commission meeting which is starting next week and the Philippines will be high on the agenda. The Philippines will be on the same category as North Korea and Syria and governments like that,” HRW Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert told Rappler, as HRW launched a report on the role of Philippine police in the killing of drug suspects.

Bouckaert added: “So do you really want to go from one of the most vibrant civil societies in Asia to being in a category with those kinds of criminals? But that’s the future and that’s the risk.”

The New York-based organization said in its report released on Thursday, March 2, that Philippine police were responsible for extrajudicial killings linked to the drug war. It also noted that police planted evidence and faked post-operation reports to justify the killing of suspects allegedly in the conduct of police operations.

“There is a tremendous interest at the level of the international community at what’s happening in the Philippines. And the Philippine government needs to understand that their problems with the international community will not go away unless these killings stop,” said Bouckaert.

Bouckaert is a veteran of fact-finding missions to Lebanon, Kosovo, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Macedonia, Indonesia, Uganda, and Sierra Leone.

In its report, HRW urged Philippine officials to suspend “buy-bust” operations, which are allegedly used as a cover-up for extrajudicial killings. They also called on different government agencies to investigate allegations of killings committed by police themselves.

President Rodrigo Duterte had suspended all police anti-illegal drugs operations after the death of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo made headlines at home and abroad. Police belonging to the anti-illegal drugs group kidnapped and killed Jee inside Camp Crame, the national police headquarters.

The suspension of the police’s anti-drug campaign was short-lived. After 4 weeks, or a few days before HRW report was released, Duterte allowed the return of police to the drug war.

Recommendations

HRW also called on the Philippines’ foreign donors to withhold “any financial assistance, training programs, weapons sales, and capacity-building programs with the Philippine National Police” until the drug war is fully suspended and investigations begin.

It also the made the following recommendations to foreign donors, including the United States, the European Union, Japan, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank:

  • Press the Duterte administration to renounce extrajudicial executions by state security forces and initiate impartial investigations into alleged extrajudicial killings
  • Revoke technical, financial, and other assistance to any security forces implicated in widespread or systematic abuses and for which the government has not sought to hold those responsible to account
  • Publicly criticize statements by Philippine government officials, including Duterte, that appear to support extrajudicial executions and other unlawful crime control measures
  • Support domestic nongovernmental organizations that provide legal or other services to families of victims of extrajudicial killings by the security forces, and those that provide rehabilitative programs to drug users, including children
  • Offer to provide support for international law enforcement assistance with investigations into alleged human rights violations
  • Fund and encourage programs, including pilot programs, emphasizing best international practices in public health approaches to drug use

HRW also called on the US, a long-time ally of Philippine police, to make the following adjustments:

  • Impose a moratorium on planned and future weapons sales to the PNP until the abusive anti-drug campaign ends and meaningful actions are taken to investigate and prosecute those responsible
  • The US-led Millennium Challenge Corporation should continue to defer grants to the Philippines on grounds relating to the rule of law and respect for civil liberties, first announced in December 2016, until the Duterte administration ends its abusive anti-drug campaign and takes action to meaningfully investigate those responsible
  • The State Department and Department of Defence should continue to vigorously vet all members of the PNP and other Philippine government officials who are involved in US training or joint US-Philippines law enforcement or military operations for possible involvement in gross human rights violations, both as legally required under the Leahy Law and as a matter of policy so that the US is not complicit in serious abuses
  • The US State Department should ensure that Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL)-funded training to PNP units neither encourages nor incentivizes high numbers of arrests for drug possession and instead emphasizes that arrest numbers are not a valid measure of law enforcement performance
  • The US military should reduce direct assistance to and cooperation with the Armed Forces of the Philippines if the Philippine government deploys AFP units to the anti-drug campaign and there are credible allegations that AFP personnel are committing unlawful killings with impunity

Expected response

The Duterte administration has been largely dismissive of the HRW probe, calling it “thoughtless and irresponsible.” Hours after the report was released, Duterte said in a public event that there will be “more killings” in his drug war.

It’s a response HRW expected. After all, Duterte, a long-time mayor of Davao City, is known for his tirades against foreign government, organizations, and even world leaders who criticize his vaunted anti-crime campaign.

“We know exactly what the response of the Filipino authorities will be. They will say that we are a bunch of foreigners trying to meddle in the affairs of the Philippines. Well, we’ve been investigating the drug war for the last 20 years. We were here during martial law. We’ve been protecting the rights of the people of the Philippines for all that time and we will continue to do so under Duterte,” said Bouckaert.

He said HRW usually provides advance copies of its reports to concerned governments, which are asked to respond “because we’re interested in having a dialogue.” This, however, was not the case in its report on the Philippines under the Duterte administration.

“We only do that when we think the government is genuinely interested in telling the truth. And in the case of the Philippines, the government right now…we don’t think it is possible to have that kind of dialogue,” Bouckaert told Rappler. Rappler.com

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Filipino Designer Tippi Ocampo Joins this Beauty Brand’s Global Campaign

(Via Inquirer)

Filipino designer Tippi Ocampo shows us that age is merely a number as she’s part of Dove’s 60th anniversary global campaign.

On her website, Tippi says she received an unexpected overseas call regarding the brand’s #RealBeauty campaign. “When I received a surprise overseas phone call about the possibility of being part of a global campaign that has long championed women’s uniqueness, diversity and authenticity (along with being the top ad campaign of the 21st century), I was thrilled!”

Next thing she knew, she was on a plane to London and was getting prepped for the photo shoot. The best part was she was shot by renowned photographer Mario Testino. Wow!

Preen has reached out to Tippi for more details on the experience and we’ll update you as soon as we get a response.

Congratulations, Tippi!

 

Photo by Mario Testino for Dove

Source: Inquirer

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Kupuna Pono program deals with hard-to-broach elder-care topics

(Via Star Advertiser)

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Ron Matayoshi and his mother Mary jokingly sparred at her Kahala home. The Matayoshi family participated in the Kupuna Pono program with the Mediation Center of the Pacific.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Ron Matayoshi and his mother Mary jokingly sparred at her Kahala home. The Matayoshi family participated in the Kupuna Pono program with the Mediation Center of the Pacific.

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                “I think the main thing here is that we heard her voice. We captured in her words what she wanted,” said Ron Matayoshi, pictured with his mother, 86-year-old Mary Matayoshi, left.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    “I think the main thing here is that we heard her voice. We captured in her words what she wanted,” said Ron Matayoshi, pictured with his mother, 86-year-old Mary Matayoshi, left.

In her 33 years as a social worker, Susan Michihara has seen close-up how a medical crisis can tear at the fabric of family life.

“We would hope ideally that crisis brings families together, but many times that’s not the case,” she said. “For lack of a better word, it rips them apart.”

That’s why she’s an advocate of Kupuna Pono, a little-known program developed by the Mediation Center of the Pacific to help kupuna (elders) tackle tough issues early with family members and plan for their care needs.

Families typically put that off until they are forced to react in an emergency, and that can be the worst time, with emotions high and no time to reflect.

Perhaps a fall sends grandma to the hospital. Or a daughter breaks under the strain of caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Long-seated resentments or disagreements that could be held in check under normal times bubble up in times of crisis, in times of vulnerability,” Michihara said. “Ultimately the patient is the one that really feels the pain.”

Kupuna Pono brings family members together on neutral ground to focus on the needs of kupuna and how to meet them in the future. Impartial facilitators make sure each person — especially the elder — has a voice in the discussion.

The sessions are free for the needy, with support from the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. A collaboration with Kaiser Permanente waives the $250 fee for its members.

The three-hour family conference covers a range of issues, including how to handle in-home care, medical needs, finances and end-of-life care. A plan is developed, with bullet points and responsibilities spelled out. For families already in strife, mediation is available.

“This forum allows for families to come together and hash out the hard stuff,” Michihara said. “The way they do it is really priceless. They start by having families identify their strengths.”

Mary Matayoshi, a lively 86-year-old widow who loves to travel, thought she had her future pretty well figured out. Her children are well established in their careers and she has a comfortable, independent lifestyle. But she found her family conference enlightening.

“I think I was the guinea pig,” she said with a giggle. “When they first called me, I said I’ve already planned for any eventuality, so maybe one hour would be enough. I thought three hours is awfully long. But we used every bit of the three hours.

“They had so many questions and concerns that we needed to talk about. It was a very thorough, much more intensive inquiry than I had expected and I was grateful for it.”

The meeting covered practical questions such as what would happen when she can no longer drive and how to pay for long-term care. And there were deeper questions as well: What would she prefer when the end is near? What are her hopes and dreams for her kids?

Matayoshi’s son, Ron, a faculty member at the University of Hawaii School of Social Work, said people need to take the time to broach such questions, which are largely overlooked in the bustle of daily living.

“I think the main thing here is that we heard her voice,” he said. “We captured in her words what she wanted.

“The facilitators were unbiased, very kind and quiet people,” he added. “They weren’t saying a lot. They simply asked leading questions: What would you do, why would you do that? That put us at ease.”

Tracey Wiltgen, executive director of the Mediation Center, created the program a couple of years ago to address common breakdowns in communication involving elders: Adult children making decisions without input from parents. Elders reluctant to ask for help for fear of being a burden. Disputes over assets like the family home. Divergent views on end-of-life care.

“They figure if they don’t talk about it, maybe it will go away,” Wiltgen said. But she knows that productive conversations can forestall problems and illuminate solutions.

She vividly remembers one session where a kupuna was asked what she wanted most. Her answer was: “For my kids to stop fighting.”

Kupuna Pono staffers talk to each family member before the conference to set the agenda. Then everyone gathers for a three-hour session at a convenient location — at the center, at home or even in a park. A facilitator asks questions and a note-taker keeps track. A plan is developed.

As Hawaii’s population ages, the need to take stock and prepare is growing. In families that are struggling financially, the potential for strain is greater. But few people know where to turn, and even fewer take action.

“Our elder population has grown tremendously,” Wiltgen said. “The Boomers are now old, and everybody has a caregiving story. Although the professionals see the value in Kupuna Pono, and even the family members, getting people to actually access it has been the challenge.”

Some local folks are shy about discussing sensitive issues with strangers. Mary Matayoshi said they shouldn’t worry about that with Kupuna Pono, which is confidential.

“Actually it’s easier in many ways to speak to strangers, because sometimes friends know too much about you or might be opinionated,” she said.

Her daughter-in-law, Aleza, an internist at Kaiser, has seen the value of Kupuna Pono in her daily work, which focuses on the care of elders in nursing homes.

“Often, as a physician, I find that when people are seriously ill, that person’s wants and needs get lost in the history that all families have,” she said. “We lose sight sometimes of what’s important to our mother or father, or our auntie or uncle.”

Kupuna Pono “is really centered on the loved one and it’s not the agenda of everybody else,” she said.

Ron Matayoshi, 63, thinks more people should take advantage of the program, reflecting on the challenges faced by some of his high school classmates as their family members aged.

“I wish they had an opportunity to have a family conference while their parents still had their wits,” he said. “Because right now, it’s just too late.”

Source: Star Advertiser

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House speaker wants city to help fund rail

(Via Star Advertiser)

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / JULY 2016
                                House Speaker Joe Souki said he will not support Gov. David Ige’s proposal for increases in the state gasoline tax, vehicle weight tax and registration fees to help funding for statehighway maintenance and construction.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / JULY 2016

    House Speaker Joe Souki said he will not support Gov. David Ige’s proposal for increases in the state gasoline tax, vehicle weight tax and registration fees to help funding for statehighway maintenance and construction.

House Speaker Joe Souki says he supports plans to make the half-percent excise tax surcharge for the Honolulu rail project permanent, and wants to use money from the surcharge to extend the rail line to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, but only on one condition: Souki says the city must contribute its own funding to help pay to build the project.

State lawmakers reconvene next week for the 2017 session of the Legislature, and Souki said in an interview that money from the excise tax surcharge on Oahu should be used only for construction, and not to cover the cost of operating the 20-mile rail system.

Souki also said he supports reducing the 10 percent administrative fee the state charges the city for collecting the excise surcharge to 5 percent. The state has earned hundreds of millions of dollars from that fee since the surcharge went into effect in 2007.

Souki stressed that he is speaking only for himself because his fellow Democrats have not yet agreed on a formal position on the rail excise tax. However, at 83 years old, Souki is a veteran political operator who has served as speaker twice, and has a history of getting his way on some important political issues.

The excise tax surcharge was originally supposed to be a temporary source of funding for rail but was extended once already to cover the skyrocketing cost of the project. The surcharge is scheduled to expire at the end of 2027, but it will not cover the cost of rail unless it is extended.

Total costs for the rail line could now reach $9.5 billion, according to the latest financial plan, and the surcharge currently provides about $230 million a year for the project.

Souki declined to say exactly how much money he thinks the city should contribute toward rail construction, but said he believes thus far the city has gotten a “free ride” on the project because none of the funding for construction is coming from Honolulu property taxes.

If the city contributes some its own funds, that will make the tax surcharge extension more palatable to legislators when it is time for them to vote on it, Souki said. He also suggested the city can afford to help with the construction costs, noting the city has enjoyed a property tax windfall from the new condominiums that are popping up in urban Honolulu.

Jesse Broder Van Dyke, spokesman for Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, said in a written statement that Caldwell met with Souki to discuss the issue and agreed to find more city revenue sources for operations and maintenance of bus and rail. Broder Van Dyke did not make any reference to Souki’s proposal that the city help fund construction of the rail project.

On another subject, Souki said he will not throw his support behind Gov. David Ige’s proposal for increases in the state’s gasoline tax, vehicle weight tax and registration fees to boost funding for state highway maintenance and construction.

“That won’t be one of my recommendations, because every poll shows that the public doesn’t want the registration tax increase and the gasoline tax increase,” Souki said. “If the governor can push it, good and well.”

In describing the attitude of the public, Souki said, “Traffic is the major concern, but they don’t want to pay for it.”

Ige proposed increases in the gasoline tax, weight tax and and registration fees last year, but lawmakers rejected them all. The governor says he will again ask lawmakers to approve those tax increases this year because he sees few alternatives for funding highway construction.

Ige has said that his administration will defer almost all major new projects to increase highway capacity and reduce traffic congestion on state roadways because the state Highway Fund does not have enough money to finance the large-scale projects.

Source: Star Advertiser

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