Priest asks for unwed teen mom’s forgiveness in handwritten letterBy Ivan Angelo de Lara | INQUIRER.net 1:00 pm | Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
Video taken from Jieve Frias’ Facebook page
MANILA, Philippines – After issuing a public apology for berating an unwed teenage mom during her child’s baptism, a Catholic priest in Cebu on Tuesday reached out to the 17-year-old mother through a handwritten letter.
“Allow me to express my deep regret for the painful action I’ve done to all of you and those who witnessed it. I had no intention of saying that in front of all of you. I deeply regret this and I beg you to forgive me for what I did last July 6, 2014 in the chapel of the Sacred Heart,” Father Romeo Obach of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Latin: Congregatio Sanctissimi Redemptoris – C.Ss.R) said in the letter which was written in Cebuano. The young mother received the note on Wednesday.
He wrote that he also wanted to meet the young mom again so that he could apologize to her personally.
The Commission on Human Rights visited the young mother on Wednesday. In a tweet by Cebu Daily News, she said she and her family would no longer pursue a case against the priest.
On Sunday, Obach scolded the teen mom during the baptism of her baby for “sleeping with a man who was not [her] husband.”
“Makauulaw.Magpabunyag ka og walay bana. Nakig dug ka og laki nga dili nimo bana. Wala ma mauwaw Naka dungog ba na nako, dai? Wala ka mauwaw? (How shameful. You come here to have your child baptized without a husband. You slept with a man who is not your husband. Do you hear me, girl? Aren’t you ashamed?)” Obach said. The video of the incident, which was posted by the baby’s grandmother on Facebook, quickly became viral.
On Tuesday, Obach issued a public apology for the “words [he] said and the rude attitude [he] showed” during the baby’s baptism.
“I deeply regret that I have done this. I only later realized how cruel my ways to educate and impart lessons for the said event. I am deeply sorry to the mother of the child, her relatives, the sponsors and the witness of the incident. I am sorry to the Internet viewers, to the media listeners and the viewers for this mistake. I personally admit. I am deeply sorry and I humbly ask your forgiveness. I execute this statement of apology on this 8th day of July 2014 at Cebu City,” he said. Translation provided by Eileen Mangubat, Cebu Daily News publisher and acting editor-in-chief
Zamboanga ‘conjugal tents’ seenPhilippine Daily Inquirer 12:07 am | Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
ZAMBOANGA CITY— The city government is thinking of building “conjugal spaces” for couples who lack privacy in their own tents in evacuation centers.
Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, in a press briefing on Monday, said the building of “conjugal spaces” was being considered to address a “natural” and “urgent need.”
Dr. Marcy Carpizo, director of Peace and Human Security at Western Mindanao State University, earlier suggested the construction of “a tent or a room where couples could express their sexual needs away from their children.”
“The special room or tent will spare the children from witnessing their parents’ sexual activity,” Carpizo said in an earlier interview with the Inquirer.
On Monday, Salazar urged Carpizo, who is also the national president of the Philippines Against Child Trafficking, to be part of the city’s protection cluster for the evacuees.
The idea was commendable for evacuee Isnira Jimlani, except that, she said, she would be ashamed to line up for the “conjugal space.” “What if there’s a long line?” the mother of 14 children asked.
Dr. Rodelin Agbulos, city health officer, said the idea of building a conjugal space was first brought up in October last year, weeks after Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members attacked villages here, displacing hundreds of thousands of residents.
The fighting between government forces and MNLF members left thousands of residents homeless.
But Agbulos said most of the evacuees did not see the conjugal space acceptable. “They said it would not sound and look good to see persons getting in and out of that tent,” Agbulos said.
He said another earlier suggestion was “to give coupons to couples to be accommodated in motels.”
He said some religious leaders were against the plan.
Fatima Pir Allian, program coordinator of Nisa Ul Haqq Fi Bangsamoro (Women for Justice in the Bangsamoro), said conjugal spaces could be simply described as “sex tents.”
“The local government should address the situation on sex, rape and whatnot by providing a decent home for the families,” Allian said.
“[A home] that is not shared by more than one family. A home that has division of spaces for the unique needs of children and their parents,” Allian added.
Professor Alih Aiyub, secretary general of the National Ulama Council of the Philippines, said building a conjugal tent would “not be a wise decision.”
“You invite the young to imagine dirty, malicious thoughts as they watch couples come in and out of the tent. The government should instead build temporary shelters,” Aiyub told the Inquirer. Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao
Rice price hikes: No end seenPhilippine Daily Inquirer 12:12 am | Saturday, June 21st, 2014
SAN JOSE CITY—Millers have been buying husked rice (palay) from traders at P26 per kilogram, which may push the prices of commercial rice in the market even higher in the coming months.
“P26 had been the buying price offered by the traders. We are forced to buy (the palay at that price) otherwise we will run short of supply for our clients,” said Edgardo Alfonso, president of the 26-member San Jose City Rice Millers Association.
The traders, whose number surged during the peak of the harvest season from March to April, competed with rice millers in buying newly harvested grains, Alfonso said, adding that they are now selling the rice back to the millers after keeping the stocks for weeks.
The fresh palay harvest was bought at a farm-gate price of P19 to P21 a kg. In past harvest seasons, the buying price for the grains was P14 to P15 a kg.
“We were caught by surprise by the high buying price of palay that prevailed during the last harvest season,” Alfonso told the Inquirer.
He said the rice millers here bought only 70 percent of palay during the harvest season for their milling needs. The milled rice will have a high selling price because of the steep buying price of palay, he said.
“The P2 per kilogram price hike of rice now was the result of that (increased palay cost),” he said.
At the current P26 per kilogram price, the wholesale selling price of rice may increase from P39 to P45 a kg for premium commercial rice.
“Based on that simple computation, we will have an idea how much the selling price of commercial rice would be during the lean months,” Alfonso said.
Rice millers here supply about 30,000 bags of milled rice daily to their clients in Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog provinces and Cebu.
In Laoag City, the Ilocos Norte garlic growers and processors announced they would expand their garlic plantations from 2,000 to 3,000 hectares.
Mergie Selga, president of the group of local garlic growers and processors, said she believed the high price of garlic in the market was due to low supply.
Selga said garlic growers sold their remaining stocks when prices went up to a high of P260 a kilogram in Ilocos region and P300 a kilogram in Metro Manila.
Following a meeting of the National Garlic Action Team, she said the group may welcome garlic importation in July to augment supply. Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon; and Leilanie Adriano, Inquirer Northern Luzon
Pangasinan mayor killed on eve of anniversary, son’s weddingBy Gabriel Cardinoza and Yolanda Sotelo | Inquirer Northern Luzon 12:23 am | Sunday, June 8th, 2014
DAGUPAN CITY – Two armed men shot and killed Urbiztondo town Mayor Ernesto Balolong Jr., his police escort and an electrician on Saturday near an area in the town where the mayor was supposed to hold his 25th wedding anniversary party today, Sunday.
Balolong was at the back of the town’s convention center around 8:50 a.m. when armed men in a Toyota Innova drove up and opened fire, police said.
The mayor was inspecting the venue for his wedding anniversary and for the wedding of his son, Urbiztondo Councilor Voltaire Balolong, which were to take place simultaneously.
The gunmen alighted from the Innova and had calmly approached the mayor before they opened fire, according to a witness.
The witness said Balolong managed to scamper away but was felled by another shot. One of the gunmen approached Balolong and shot him at point-blank range, the witness said.
Police said Balolong and his escort, Police Officer 1 Eliseo Ulanday (not Umanday as earlier reported), were the apparent targets of the attack. Edmund Meneses, a supermarket electrician, was caught in the barrage of the bullets.
The attack also wounded Jose Vigilia, an employee of CSI Supermarket, and Rogelio Esguerra, a soy drink vendor.
Balolong was immediately taken to Elguira General Hospital in San Carlos City. But Dr. Samuel Elguira, owner of the hospital, said the mayor was already dead when he arrived in the hospital about an hour later, 9:55 a.m.
“He had 27 gunshot wounds in his chest, his back and his arms,” Elguira said.
Senior Superintendent Sterling Raymund Blanco, Pangasinan provincial director, said investigators found an abandoned dark gray Innova at Barangay Cayaoan Kiling in San Carlos City two hours after the shooting.
Balolong, a member of the Liberal Party, first served as town councilor in 1998. He ran for vice mayor in 2001 and 2004 and lost in both elections. In 2007, he was elected mayor.
In August 2012, the provincial board slapped Balolong with a 60-day preventive suspension over an administrative complaint filed by a former town treasurer.
In March this year, Balolong was again suspended for 60 days for another administrative case filed against him in the provincial board.
But Malacañang set aside both suspension orders.
A month before he was suspended in 2012, police raided Balolong’s house and poultry farm in Urbiztondo and found a cache of firearms. But because the 14 weapons found were all licensed, no charges were filed.
In November last year, National Bureau of Investigation agents raided Balolong’s house and farm. The agents were apparently looking for the weapon used in the killing of a Pangasinan politician and his wife in Manila in 2012.
Balolong was arrested and detained at the NBI office in Metro Manila. But after a week, he was released with no charges filed against him.
Pangasinan town mayor shot dead
Power co-op to refund overpaymentPhilippine Daily Inquirer 12:07 am | Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
URDANETA CITY—The Pangasinan Electric Cooperative (Panelco) III said it would return to its consumers the excess of the generation cost it had collected in December last year and in January this year.
In leaflets given to consumers, Panelco III said the excess amount would be converted into rebates that would be reflected in the June and July billings.
But it was not clear yet how much the power distribution utility would return to its consumers. Panelco III has some 200,000 consumers in 16 eastern Pangasinan towns and in Urdaneta City.
Jeline Sales, head of Panelco III’s institutional services department, said the adjustment was being computed by the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC), operator of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market.
On March 11, the Energy Regulatory Commission voided the electricity spot market prices implemented in December 2013 and January this year. It ordered PEMC to recompute the generation charges that distribution utilities had passed on to their consumers.
Sales said about 30 to 40 percent of the generation cost would be refunded for the December billing and about 25 to 30 percent for the January billing.
In December, Panelco III increased its power rate by P5.6 per kilowatt-hour, raising its residential rate from P9.8 per kWh to P15.4 per kWh. The following month, the rate was reduced by only more than P1 per kWh.
Board Member Ranjit Shahani, a Panelco III consumer, said he was happy with the refund but noted that Panelco III might have also miscalculated previous generation costs.
Shahani and his mother, former Sen. Leticia Ramos-Shahani, had asked a local court to issue a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to stop Panelco III from implementing the power rate increase while the petition was being heard.
“This is just a partial refund. They (Panelco III) will refund more in the future,” Shahani said by telephone.
Coal plant can’t ease power woesPhilippine Daily Inquirer 12:06 am | Saturday, May 10th, 2014
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—A coal plant that is expected to ease the shortage of power in Mindanao has resumed operations, but the amount of electricity it is generating is barely enough to fill the wide power gap that continues to bring daily brownouts to many parts of the island.
The plant, owned by Steag State Power Inc. (SPI), resumed the running of one of its turbines, which has a generating capacity of 105 megawatts on Wednesday.
But as of Thursday, demand for power across Mindanao was 1,277 MW and supply was only 873 MW, or a deficiency of 354 MW, more than half of what the coal plant owned by SPI is able to produce.
In this city alone, demand is 140 MW but Cagayan de Oro Electric Power and Light Co. is getting only 35 MW, causing up to 12 hours, or half a day, of brownouts daily.
Carsten Evers, SPI power plant manager, said Unit 2 of the SPI coal facility went online around 8:55 p.m. on Wednesday, a day ahead of target.
“We are happy to announce that SPI has added 105 MW to the grid and we hope that this will provide some relief in the precarious power supply condition of Mindanao,” Evers said in a statement.
Evers also said SPI was currently rushing work on the repair of Unit 1 to be able to put it back online on June 1 or earlier.
“We recognize the necessity and urgency of bringing the units back online and rest assured that we are doing our best to restore our full capacity the soonest possible time,” Evers said.
He said SPI employees were working round the clock to complete the repair of Unit 1 to restore the power plant’s full capacity.
SPI’s coal plant went offline on Feb. 27 after its turbines suffered damage. The cause of the damage was not made known.
Evers said preventive maintenance of the plant was ongoing concurrently with repair and restoration works.
SPI’s plant in Misamis Oriental province is the first coal-powered generating facility to operate in Mindanao.
It has two identical generators, each with a net capacity of 105 MW, or a combined net generating output of 210 MW.
Since its full commercial operation in November 2006, SPI has delivered more than 10 billion kilowatts per hour of electric power to the Mindanao grid, accounting for about a fifth of the island’s total power supply. Bobby Lagsa, Inquirer Mindanao
Mindanao power crisis: Crime spike tied to brownoutsPhilippine Daily Inquirer 12:04 am | Friday, May 9th, 2014
DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Police are seeing a link between the power shortage that is gripping this city and other parts of Mindanao and a spike in the number of crimes in areas plagued by outages that last up to more than seven hours a day.
In this city alone, Senior Supt. Vicente Danao Jr., city police chief, said the number of crimes that police have recorded has increased by 45 percent, or nearly half, in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period last year.
The city and other parts of Mindanao started to be plagued by brownouts in March as a result of a shortage in electricity that was made worse by the reduced output of two hydropower facilities—Angus and Pulangi—that supply 60 percent of Mindanao’s power.
Danao said by March, when the outages started being more frequent and longer, police started to record at least 58 crimes a day up from the 32 crimes reported daily in the same period last year.
He said in the first three months of the year alone, 4,000 crimes have been committed mostly against persons and property.
Danao said he believed the rotating brownouts are to blame for the spike in crimes.
For instance, he said, the outages are rendering CCTV cameras, which help in crime prevention and investigation, useless.
“Zero visibility,” said Danao. “You cannot see in the dark even if you have a generator,” he added.
He said police had to resort to extra effort, like increased visibility, to fill the gap that anticrime measures being crippled by the outages have left.
“I myself go on patrol,” said Danao.
Col. Casiano Monilla, head of the anticrime Task Force Davao, said soldiers, too, have been deployed to strategic areas in the city to help police fight crime amid the brownouts.
He said 17 members of the task force are to roam the city aboard motorcycles as a crime prevention measure.
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said the city government plans to hire at least 1,000 watchmen to help law enforcers keep peace and order.
Each watchman would be paid P6,000 per month and get training on peacekeeping, said Duterte. They may also be issued firearms, he said.
“We have to give them more police power,” said the mayor.
In Cotabato City, police and military authorities said they were also bracing for a surge in criminality, particularly kidnappings, because of the outages.
“This is a united effort to quell lawlessness and terrorism that may occur at night while we are experiencing brownouts,” said Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division.
Hermoso said Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin, Cotabato City police chief, agreed to conduct weekly meetings on the anticrime campaign to keep authorities updated.
Ramil Masukat, head of the Radio Emergency Communication Network (Recon), an anticrime watchdog, said his group would help authorities fight crime in Cotabato City.
Recon members are armed with VHF radios that they can use to report crimes, he said.
The outages are also disrupting the ongoing registration of new voters in Kidapawan City, which is being plagued by up to six hours of brownouts daily.
Diosdado Javier, Kidapawan election officer, said the outages are slowing the processing of voter applications.
Javier said his office has requested for a generator from the Commission on Elections main office in Manila but there has been no response yet. Reports from Allan Nawal, Williamor Magbanua, Charlie Señase and Eldie Aguirre, Inquirer Mindanao
Kurds claim advances in Iraq as Britain joins frayAssociated Press 4:43 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
SALHIYAH, Iraq — Kurdish officials said Tuesday their fighters recaptured a key Iraqi border crossing into Syria from Islamic State group militants in intense fighting, as Britain joined the U.S.-led international air campaign against the extremists, carrying out its first strikes in Iraq.
Kurdish fighters, known as peshmerga, said they saw their heaviest fighting yet against the Islamic State group as the Kurds waged a campaign to recapture territory lost to the extremists over the past months.
Peshmerga spokesman Halgurd Hekmat told The Associated Press that peshmerga seized the border crossing of Rabia, which the extremists had captured over the summer. Kurds wounded in the fighting who were brought to a makeshift clinic in the town of Salhiya described savage battles, with militants sniping at them from inside homes and from the windows of a hospital in Rabia.
“They’re such good fighters,” said one peshmerga fighter, who was uninjured but was resting outside the clinic on a rock surrounded by blood-soaked bandages. He refused to be identified because his not a senior officer. “They’re fighting with weapons the Iraqi military abandoned — so, American weapons really.”
British warplanes carried out their first strikes in northwestern Iraq, supporting Kurdish fighters who have been battling the Islamic State group along a long stretch of territory. The Tornado jets struck a heavy weapons post and a vehicle mounted with a machine gun being used by the extremists who were attacking Kurdish fighters, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said in London.
The U.S. and its allies have been carrying out airstrikes in Iraq since last month, trying to push back the militant forces that overran large swaths of Iraq and neighboring Syria. American warplanes and those of several Arab allies began strikes against the group for the first time in neighboring Syria last week.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power noted the British strikes, saying the Netherlands has also sent planes and that Denmark plans to as well, once it has a parliamentary debate. “So every day has seen new contributions,” Power told reporters.
On the Syrian side, coalition jets struck around a beleaguered Kurdish town near the Syrian-Turkish border that the militants have been attacking for days. Despite the strikes, the militants have pressed their offensive on the town of Kobani, also known by its Arabic name of Ayn Arab, and surrounding villages near Syria’s border with Turkey.
The fighting has created one of the single largest exoduses in Syria’s civil war, now in its fourth year: More than 160,000 fled the area into Turkey the past few days, the U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said.
“Their fear is so great that many people crossed heavily mined fields to seek refuge,” she told the U.N. Security Council.
The U.S. Central Command said U.S. fighter jets and drones conducted 11 airstrikes Monday and Tuesday in Syria, including three near the Syria-Turkish border that destroyed one artillery piece, damaged another and knocked out two rocket launchers. It said another strike northeast of Aleppo destroyed four buildings occupied by Islamic State militants. Two strikes destroyed vehicles, artillery and a tank in eastern Syria and near the Iraq border.
Kurds and militants battled Tuesday on Kobani’s eastern edge, said Ahmad Sheikho, an activist operating along the Syria-Turkey border. He said that members of the local Kurdish militia destroyed two tanks belonging to the Islamic State group. Militants have been hitting the town with mortars and artillery shells.
A day earlier, fighting around Kobani killed 57 fighters, including both Kurds and militants, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The situation in Kobani was “very difficult,” said Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria’s leading Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD.
Just outside Kobani, Islamic State militants captured the deserted Kurdish village of Siftek on Tuesday and appeared to be using it as a headquarters from which to launch attacks on Kobani itself.
The fighting could be seen from a hilltop on the Turkish side of border, in the Karacabey area. From there, spectators — mostly Turkish Kurds — watched the fighting, some using binoculars and cheering on their Syrian Kurdish brethren.
“Long live YPG, long live Apo,” shouted one woman, referring to Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, whose group has been fighting Turkey for Kurdish autonomy. Apo is a Kurdish nickname for Abdullah.
In neighboring Iraq, heavy fighting erupted between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants in the town of Rabia on the Syrian border,
Hadi Bahra, the head of the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group, said the U.S.-led coalition’s strategy against the Islamic State group should include aerial assistance to moderate rebels, to help them push into areas controlled by the extremists.
“We want two things from the world: Logistical support, training and arming, in addition to aerial coverage of these areas,” Bahra, the head of the Syrian National Coalition told the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat newspaper.
Washington and its Arab allies opened the air assault against the extremist group in Syria on Sept. 23, striking military facilities, training camps, heavy weapons and oil installations. The campaign expands upon the airstrikes the United States has been conducting against the militants in Iraq since early August.
Also Tuesday, an international human rights group said Lebanese authorities are failing to protect Syrians, most of them refugees, living in Lebanon from attacks by individuals or groups. Such assaults have intensified since the Aug. 2 cross border attack during which Muslim militants captured 20 Lebanese soldiers and policemen, said the Human Rights Watch. Since then, three soldiers have been killed by their captors.
The attacks against Syrians are taking place in a climate of indifference and discrimination by officials, the New York-based group said, adding the violence appears in some cases to be attempts to expel Syrians from specific neighborhoods or to enforce curfews, it said.
Wildlife populations plummet for 3,000 speciesAssociated Press 4:36 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
GENEVA — About 3,000 species of wildlife around the world have seen their numbers plummet far worse than previously thought, according to a new study by one of the world’s biggest environmental groups.
The study Tuesday from the Swiss-based WWF largely blamed human threats to nature for a 52 percent decline in wildlife populations between 1970 and 2010.
It says improved methods of measuring populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles explain the huge difference from the 28-percent decline between 1970 and 2008 that the group reported in 2012.
Most of the new losses were found in tropical regions, particularly Latin America.
WWF describes the study it has carried out every two years since 1998 as a barometer of the state of the planet.
“There is no room for complacency,” said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini, calling for a greater focus on sustainable solutions to the impact people are inflicting on nature, particularly through the release of greenhouse gases.
The latest “Living Planet” study analyzed data from about 10,000 populations of 3,038 vertebrate species from a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London. It is meant to provide a representative sampling of the overall wildlife population in the world, said WWF’s Richard McLellan, editor-in-chief of the study.
It reflects populations since 1970, the first year the London-based society had comprehensive data. Each study is based on data from at least four years earlier.
Much of the world’s wildlife has disappeared in what have been called five mass extinctions, which were often associated with giant meteor strikes. About 90 percent of the world’s species were wiped out around 252 million years ago. One such extinction about 66 million years ago killed off the dinosaurs and three out of four species on Earth.
In the new WWF study, hunting and fishing along with continued losses and deterioration of natural habitats are identified as the chief threats to wildlife populations around the world. Other primary factors are global warming, invasive species, pollution and disease.
“This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live,” said Ken Norris, science director at the London society. “There is still hope. Protecting nature needs focused conservation action, political will and support from industry.”
No images of Hong Kong protests in China’s mediaAssociated Press 4:31 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
BEIJING — China’s government has cut off news about Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests to the rest of the country, a clampdown so thorough that no image of the rallies has appeared in state-controlled media, and at least one man has been detained for reposting accounts of the events.
By contrast, media in semiautonomous Hong Kong have been broadcasting nonstop about the crowds, showing unarmed students fending off tear gas and pepper spray with umbrellas as they call for more representative democracy in the former British colony.
The contrast highlights the differences in the “one country, two systems” arrangement that China’s Communist Party agreed to when it negotiated the 1997 return of Hong Kong. It also reflects Beijing’s extreme sensitivity about any possible sparks of pro-democracy protest spreading to the mainland.
“The authorities see this as a matter of life and death,” said Shanghai-based columnist and independent analyst Zhao Chu. “They don’t see it as a local affair but a fuse that can take down their world.”
In Hong Kong, broadcasters NOW and Cable TV have carried wall-to-wall coverage of the unfolding events, including student leaders storming government headquarters Friday and the running clashes with police over the weekend. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy newspaper, the popular Apple Daily, has run its own live Internet feed that features aerial images of the crowds captured by a drone.
Beijing clearly has not been pleased with the unfettered coverage and has appeared to lump the Hong Kong media outlets in with foreign ones.
“Several Western media are making a big fuss, and some even have done live casts,” said an editorial on the party-run news site of the People’s Daily.
While Hong Kong enjoys civil liberties unheard of on the mainland under the “one country, two systems” arrangement, the situation is vastly different in Beijing’s official media, through which the authorities can largely control the narrative on any outbreaks of unrest in the mainland.
The coverage of the Hong Kong protests has been confined in mainland China to TV anchors reading brief statements with no video and text reports with no photos. The reports have mostly mentioned illegal gatherings in Hong Kong and the efforts of authorities to disperse them.
The Hong Kong-based China Media Project counted only nine articles in Chinese newspapers Tuesday about the protests, six of them stemming from a news release by the official Xinhua News Agency saying the protests had hurt Hong Kong’s economy and misquoting a high-profile university administrator as saying students should disperse.
The other three pieces appeared in the nationalistic newspaper Global Times, which called the gatherings illegal, disruptive of social order and harmful to the economy.
Censorship of microblogs — including phrases such as “tear gas” — has kept online discussion muted. The image-sharing Instagram service was shut down in China over the weekend.
“The clampdown has been most thorough, covering all media — traditional or new, central or local, governmental or market-oriented,” Zhao said.
Some images from Hong Kong’s streets have seeped into the mainland via cellphone messaging services. Many users have converted words into images to avoid having searchable text that can be easily caught by censors. Still, users are complaining of posts being deleted, including in private chats with friends.
Activist Wang Long in the southern city of Shenzhen, who reposted news about the protests on the instant messaging service WeChat, was detained Monday by police on suspicion of causing trouble, his lawyer friend Fan Biaowen said.
The controls have been largely effective.
“The majority of the Chinese public does not know what’s going on in Hong Kong. Only a handful know,” said Beijing-based journalism professor Zhan Jiang.
While Hong Kong is outside China’s “Great Fire Wall” that blocks mainland access to many foreign Internet news and social sites, authorities could conceivably shut down the Internet there — as they have done in the country’s restive ethnic regions — because of their control of telecommunications companies.
For now, that seems unlikely because the move would dent Hong Kong’s image as an open financial center.
Nevertheless, rumors of that possibility have fueled a rush to download Firechat, a messaging service that can send and receive messages without an Internet connection. Instead, the handsets can message each other in a daisy-chain fashion that creates a cloud-like network.
Beijing is on edge because it fears the social movement in Hong Kong and its appeal for democracy could galvanize members of the Chinese public, said Zhao, the analyst from Shanghai.
“It must be tightly controlled so it will not infect the mainland,” he said.
‘PUVs only’ on Edsa? Let’s get real–MMDABy Maricar B. Brizuela | Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:19 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
MANILA, Philippines–The idea is apparently heading straight toward a dead-end street.
A proposal made by an official of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to allow only public utility vehicles (PUVs) on Edsa during the morning rush hour failed to gain traction at the very agency tasked to untangle the daily traffic jams in the metropolis.
The scheme, broached earlier this week by LTFRB member Ariel Inton, was practically shot down Tuesday by Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Francis Tolentino, who said the scheme “may not be realistic.”
“We expect many people not to favor this scheme as individuals buy their own cars because of the lack of a modern mass transit system in the country,” Tolentino said. “The main problem is really the sheer volume of people in the metropolis, with Edsa operating at overcapacity.”
He doubted if PUVs alone—mainly buses, taxis and the Metro Rail Transit—could accommodate the number of private car owners who would be barred from using their vehicles on Edsa under Inton’s plan.
Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for example, the MMDA recorded more than 240,000 private vehicles taking the major thoroughfare, Tolentino said.
In an interview Tuesday morning on Radyo Inquirer, Inton clarified that he only made a “personal” suggestion and not an official proposal from the LTFRB. He was appointed board member by President Aquino in June.
He only came up with the idea after a meeting with public transport groups, Inton stressed. “They wanted to be given priority since they serve the bigger part of the Metro Manila population,” he added.
Under Inton’s proposal, private vehicles would be barred from using the 24-kilometer Edsa from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on four weekdays, an arrangement that would require changing the current number coding scheme implemented by the MMDA.
For CBCP exec, gov’t needs 6-day workweek–not 4By Tina G. Santos | Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:18 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
MANILA, Philippines–An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has urged the government to look for other ways to ease heavy traffic in Metro Manila instead of implementing a four-day workweek scheme in some government offices.
According to Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the new work schedule may affect employees’ productivity and performance.
“How effective will the people be if they spend longer hours at work? Longer hours at work also means more pressure for them,” he said.
“It’s hard to transact with the government as it is and with longer office hours, the more public service delivery [may] be affected,” Pabillo, head of the CBCP Public Affairs Committee, said in an interview on Tuesday.
“Why reduce the number of working days when some people who go to work on weekdays find it hard to go to government offices to [transact business]? Instead of reducing it to a four-day workweek, I think it’s even better if government offices operate also on Saturdays to accommodate those who have work on weekdays,” he added.
Pabillo urged the government to look for another solution to traffic congestion such as improving the mass transport system as he did not think reducing the number of workdays could address the problem.
The four-day workweek scheme approved recently by the Civil Service Commission would mean longer working hours for government employees—from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a one-hour lunch break—either from Tuesdays to Fridays or from Mondays to Thursdays.
For an agency to qualify for the scheme, however, it should have a one-stop shop and its frontline services should be accessible through the Internet.
Instead of being welcomed, the new work schedule has been criticized by various organizations, including the labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno, which said that longer working hours would put the health of government employees at risk.
The Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees, or Courage, also said that the new work schedule would have a bad effect on “work-life balance” as the workers would end up spending more hours at the office than with their families.
At the same time, it may result in a decrease in productivity and leave workers more vulnerable to criminals as they would be coming home late from work, Courage added.