Friday, November 27, 2009

Bawiin ang Teknolohiya. Now na!

Last Wednesday, November 25, 2009 was the start of TAKE BACK THE TECH (TBTT). It is a 16-Day campaign of online activism against gender-based violence.

A collaborative campaign to reclaim information and communications technology (ICT) to end violence against women, TBTT is a call to everyone, especially women & girls, to take control of the ICT tools (Internet, email, chat, web, social networking sites) and consciously use these to change power relations between men and women.

The campaign ends on the International Human Rights Day on December 10, 2009. It is spearheaded worldwide by the Association for Progressive Communications-Women's Networking Support Programme (APC-WNSP). For more information on the Take Back The Tech please click here.

Here in the Philippines, the campaign is being organized by the APC-WNSP Philippines and the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA). On the very first day of the campaign, APC-WNSP and FMA gathered feminists and communication rights advocates in the second round of discussions on VAW & ICTs: Gender, Technology and Public Policy. It was held at the Function Room of the Sweet Inspirations Cafe along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City, Philippines.

Inivited organizations include WeDpro Inc., Women's Legal Bureau, Philippine Alternative Study Center for Research and Education in Social Development, Institute for Social Studies and Action, Alliance for Progressive Labor - Women, AKBAYAN, Philippine Internet Commerce Society, Women's Feature Service and Duetscher Entwicklungsdienst, among others. Although some organizations were not able to send their representatives due to numerous events focusing on women and gender that day, the discussions were substantive and insightful.

Jessica Soto, Philippine Coordinator for the MDG3 project of the APC-WNSP discussed the highlights of her research paper on VAW and ICTs in the Philippines. Among the major points she stressed during her presentation are as follows:

The Philippine Government has ratified all international instruments that aim to promote and protect women’s and girls’ rights .

It has also enacted laws that aim to protect women from various forms of violence. These are: Anti-Mail Order Bride Act of 1990 (RA 6955), Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 (RA 7877), Anti-Rape Law of 1997 (RA 8353), Rape Victims’ Assistance and Protection Act of 1998 (RA 8505), Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 (RA 9208), Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004 (RA 9262).

The latest legislation which dealt with women’s and girls’ rights was the Magna Carta of Filipino Women ratified last August 2009. It aims to institutionalize the protection and fulfillment of all Filipino women’s human rights.

Yet in spite of the existence of these laws, a wide gap between practice and customary laws remain, resulting in discrimination against women, a violation of their human rights.

This is the backdrop of the development of information and communication technology (ICT) in the country and around the world. Unlike other countries, the policies surrounding ICTs in the Philippines lean to e-commerce and e-governance objectives.

Specific laws have yet to be defined in order to prosecute perpetrators of violence against women (VAW) through the use of ICTs or cyberspace.

Jessica Soto added that there is a lot of work to be done in developing a national policy advocacy that would eradicate VAW through the use of ICTs. She added that a collaborative effort of ICTs and anti-VAW organizations is not impossible.

Al Alegre of FMA, meanwhile, said that there is a noticeable rise of reported incidents of sexual harassment of women on SMS, email and social networking sites such as Facebook. Most of the participants agreed with Al's observation.

Al Alegre also mentioned a case of rape in Second Life, a virtual reality site. "From the 'low-tech' SMS to the 'high-tech' virtual reality space Second Life, there are new arenas that we have to look into," Al Alegre said.

One participant narrated her own experience of sexual harassment through the use of ICT. She said that an admirer of hers was sending threatening and sexually explicit messages and images to her mobile phone and email address. She, however, also used ICT tool to fight back and end her ordeal. Her weapon of choice is her blog; her ammunition is her words. She said ICT is a powerful medium and potent enough to combat violence against women.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

We will never forget November 23. We will never forget the women victims of the Maguindanao massacre

I am reposting the statement of PANDAYAN, a a democratic socialist political organization in the Philippines, on the gruesome Maguindanao Massacre. They say that we, filipinos, forget easily but this time I don't think we will. This is too much. What happened last November 23 was beyond comprehension. It numbs my mind. For a few seconds last Monday I was just staring at the screen of my laptop when I chanced upon the news on the Inquirer website.

The whole world was shocked and appalled by the barbaric killings. Once again, the Philippines is back on the world stage of notoriety and shame. CNN said that the country topples Iraq as the world's most dangerous place for journalists. How could this happen? The administration of Gloria Arroyo should answer to the Filipino people for this. For it is her administration which allows this to go on.

As a Filipino, it pains me to hear the word 'Philippines' mixed with killings, impunity, lawlessness, massacre. It is even sadder to note that as of yesterday there were 21 women who were among the victims of the atrocious crime committed in Maguindanao last Monday. These were wives, mothers, daughters, and aunts who showed courage and bravery even if they knew the risks that they were taking when they accompanied they male relatives in filing their certificates of candidacies.

Another deplorable thing was the news report that some of these women were sexually assaulted before they were killed and others were mutilated. This is simply abominable. Esmael Mangudadatu was right. We should not call the killers 'animals' for they are monsters. Evil. I have seen a lot of injustices and evil things in my life but this one takes the cake.

To the victims of November 23, we will never forget you. To the women who suffered and were killed just because they wanted to show their support to the people whom they believed in, we honor you.


The Pandayan para sa Sosyalistang Pilipinas (PANDAYAN) condemns in the strongest terms the brutal politically-motivated massacre in Maguindanao of women, lawyers, civilians and journalists.

Under the current administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Philippines has become the most dangerous place in the world for media workers. According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), at least 74 journalists have been killed during its eight-year reign, yet this regime's response to end this culture of impunity is barbarically inept and ineffectual. This is unacceptable.

Forming a 14-member legal team to handle the Maguindanao massacre case is not enough. The regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should take firm and decisive actions and ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous crime will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.

We also call upon the PNP to completely revamp their ranks in the province to ensure that their people are non-partisan. Once perpetrators are positively identified, we urge that they be immediately arrested and put to jail.

Pandayan appeals to all parties concerned to restrain themselves from retributive acts of justice, and we condemn the pervading climate of impunity, coercion and terror to maintain or secure elective positions, that give rise to warlordism and further violence.

We urge the dismantling of all private armies and the confiscation of their firearms, starting with known warring factions not only in Maguindanao but also in places that historically are considered hot spots every election.

We call upon the COMELEC to impose the total gun ban now and not wait until January 2010. We call upon the PNP to strictly implement the ban to prevent further violence as we approach the 2010 elections.

We call upon the PNP to expedite the investigations and resolution of past incidences of violence against elected officials and political rivals, to have the will to prosecute the perpetrators of the crime regardless of political positions and connections. We urge both the AFP and the PNP to ensure their non-partisanship especially on the ground.

Pandayan also calls upon the Filipino people and on its volunteers nationwide to strengthen their ranks, exercise vigilance, and in their own respective areas lead in identifying and monitoring potential threat to the security situation.

Pandayan supports the COMELEC and encourages the PNP to fulfill their tasks to ensure the holding of a truly credible and peaceful elections in May 2010.

The Filipino people and the whole world are watching and will continue to watch this case. Pandayan will make sure that we will never forget November 23. Finally, we extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the families and colleagues of all those killed in Maguindanao.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Setting the record straight

The United Nations Security office is now on the offensive. There is an Associated Press story that says UN has a policy against commercial sponsorship and has a no poster policy. Duh. The ONI / book reception is not for commercial purposes. We were not even selling the book then as the book is yet to be published.

If the UN really has a no poster policy then what the hell was this banners doing there at the main hall. This was taken Tuesday morning by one of the IGF delegates.

I am cross-posting Ron Deibert's points of clarification on the ONI poster confiscation incident that happened last Sunday.

1. We were told that the banner had to be removed because of the reference to China. This was repeated on several occasions, in front of about two dozen witnesses and officials, including the UN Special Rapporteur For Human Rights, who asked that I send in a formal letter of complaint.

2. Earlier, the same officials asked us to stop circulating a small invite to the event because it contained a mention of Tibet. They even underlined it in showing it to me. Because the event was just about to start, we said that we would not be distributing any more of these invitations so it was a moot point.

3. We asked repeatedly to see any rules or regulations governing this act. They did not give us any, only referring to the "objections of a member state."

4. There were in fact many posters and banners in many of the rooms that I attended, including others in our own. The video itself shows us, at one point, taking one of the other posters we have and offering to cover up the original one. They objected to that and told us this banner must be removed.

On another matter of clarification:

The UN officials did not throw the banner on the ground. They asked us to remove it and one of our staff placed it on the ground for us to consider what to do. That's where we had the discussion. When we refused to remove it, their security guards bundled it up and took it away.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Controlled: Anti-censorship and surveillance group censored at the Internet forum in Egypt

November 15, 2009
Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
See video of the incident

The, a research and advocacy network which monitors cyberspace practices in Asia, and fosters respect for human rights online, deplored the 'censorship' act committed by the United Nations Security Office during its book reception event at the 4th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt.

Members of the group, who come from the academia and non-governmental organizations all over Asia, were shocked when a United Nations security officer confiscated the poster at the entrance of the venue for the's reception event for its forthcoming book, Access Controlled. The group tried to reason out with the officer but were unsuccessful in convincing him in allowing them to display the poster which shows a sentence allegedly in violation of a United Nation's policy. The sentence in question reads, “The first generation of Internet controls consisted largely of building firewalls at key Internet gateways; China’s famous “Great Firewall of China” is one of the first national Internet filtering systems.”

Apparently, the reason for the disapproval of the United Nations Security office is that it might displease the Chinese government officials who are attending the IGF meeting.

“We condemn this undemocratic act of censoring our event just because someone is trying to impress or be in the good graces of the Chinese government. It is ironic that while people are allowed to gather here to discuss freedom of expression online, censorship and surveillance practices on the Internet we are being restricted and controlled in expressing our views,” said Al Alegre of the Philippine-based Foundation for Media Alternatives, a member of the network and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC).

According to Ron Deibert of The Citizen Lab and Open Net Initiatives (ONI) Principal, one of the organizers of the book reception, he will file a complaint against the 'censorship' of their event and send it to the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights.