#WeWantUberGrab: LTFRB goes to war vs Uber, Grab

Two stories related to the transportation industry dominated the headlines today, July 17. First, there’s the caravan (or was it a strike?) that militant group PISTON or Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide organized to once more reiterate their opposition to the gradual jeepney phaseout plan proposed by the Department of Transportation.

Second features the apparent attempt of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board or the LTFRB to crackdown on the operation of Uber and GrabTaxi in the country as well as the public backlash against it. This article will focus here.

The principle of a free market economy tells us that companies that offer quality products and services at reasonable prices flourish because they attract lots of customers, while those who don’t fold up eventually. This system works best with minimal government intervention. Keep that in mind because later, we’ll see how that concept can be related to the situation concerning transportation network vehicle services providers like Uber and Grab.

Earlier today, LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada warned that after July 26 next week, it will be apprehending Uber and Grab drivers deemed as “colorums” – meaning, those that are operating without the necessary permit from the regulatory agency.

The thing is, there are complaints that LTFRB has inexplicably refused to process thousands of permit applications from July 2016 onwards. This is as silly as a teacher who refuses to give a student his clearance because of an unsubmitted project, when in fact, it’s the teacher’s fault for not checking the project sooner!

LTFRB rules on Uber and Grab

The LTFRB is set to launch what is tantamount to a crackdown vs Uber and Grab beginning next week

The government may not admit it, but Uber and GrabTaxi are very popular among commuters. The mobile app has made it unnecessary for Filipinos to spend too much time wait for a taxi, sometimes amidst extreme heat or torrential rains. It has also eliminated the need to negotiate the fare you’d have to pay.

Thus, the public are vehemently opposed to what they see as LTFRB’s biased actions against Uber and Grab. This online petition, for example, already has 85,000 supporters as of posting time. Also, patronizers of Uber and Grab popularized the hashtag #WeWantUberGrab throughout the day to oppose LTFRB’s moves.

Of course, Uber and GrabTaxi aren’t perfect service-providers. Every now and then, we hear horror stories featuring drivers that are rude, deceptive, etc. But come to think of it, it’s a problem that hobbles regular taxis as well.

In other words, there isn’t really a compelling reason to shackle transportation network companies except perhaps to eliminate the main competition for local taxi operators. Sadly, if LTFRB will have its way, then us commuters will have fewer choices to meet our transportation needs.

Maybe it would be good to remind the good people running the LTFRB of their agency’s mission, which says it must “Ensure that the commuting public has adequate, safe, convenient, environment-friendly and dependable public land transportation services at reasonable rates.”

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COMMENTARY: DepEd, Catholic schools, and LGBT students

(This is the second in a two-part series. The first one can be accessed here.)

Despite the noble goals of DepEd’s push for a gender-responsive basic education, this is not likely to go smoothly. At this point we will discuss two major reasons why.

1) DepEd is still in the midst of the transition to the K plus 12 curriculum. Although it was put in place back in 2013 through Republic Act 10533, it was only last year that DepEd got to formally implement the senior high school level (the pioneer batch of SHS completers is scheduled to graduate this April 2018).

Although it got little attention from the public in general and the media in particular, the roll-out of the senior high school level last year couldn’t have come at a worse time. It’s for the simple reason that the final phase of the transition to a K plus 12 curriculum coincided with the transition in the leadership of DepEd which needed to happen because of the change in Presidency. Rubbing insult to injury, the people who conceptualized K plus 12 all had to go since they’re political appointees of the outgoing President.

Up to now, DepEd is still grappling with a lot of issues related to the introduction of senior high school like the sudden explosion on the number of students in public schools, the slow hiring process of new teachers, acquisition of books and learning materials, as well as the completion of new facilities.

If DepEd is still having difficulties over how to implement K plus 12 even if it’s been staring them on their faces for the last five years, how can we expect them to deliver on their new promise to develop a gender-responsive basic education system?

catholic schools lgbt students philippines

Will Catholic schools allow their LGBT students to celebrate the Pride Month (Credits: Ef Villanueva)

2) Catholic schools are not likely to be cooperative on this new DepEd mandate. Although there is a persistent hope among many that the Catholic Church under Pope Francis would be more accepting of LGBT people, that hasn’t gone anywhere.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which sought to summarize the beliefs of the Catholic Church and was formulated during the time of Pope John Paul II, remains unequivocal that homosexuality is “contrary to the natural law.” It further adds: “They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

Given that, it is hard to see the administrators of schools like San Sebastian-Recoletos in Manila or Saint Theresa’s College in Cebu City allowing the celebration of the LGBT Pride Month in their schools every June. It is also tough to imagine class advisers in Catholic schools to tell their gay student that it is okay for them to be attracted to people of the same sex (some probably will, but without the knowledge and consent of their superiors).

And these schools can possibly use the Supreme Court’s ruling invalidating portions of RA 10354 or the Reproductive Health law because it punishes the so-called “conscientious objectors.” Meaning, people cannot be penalized legally for not doing things that are firmly against their religious views.

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Saying goodbye to my fluffy friend “Meow”

The past two months have never been the same again for me here at home. The feeling of loss persists, even to this day. And through this blog, I’ll share to the world my sad story.

I don’t exactly recall when and how “Meow” became part of our family. All I know is that it must have been two years ago since she decided to adopt us (I know some will find it weird, but I am among those who believe that stray cats choose the family they’ll live with).

And if I’ll be asked to share a memorable moment with her, I won’t be able to share just one because we’ve shared a lot of those. Each day is special.

Every time I come home from work, “Meow” will always welcome me at our gate. She loves to rub her belly against my legs, and that often stops me from being impatient whenever it takes several minutes for my Mom or Aunt to open the gate for me. Every now and then, I still hope she’ll suddenly appear once I knock.

And oh, “Meow” loves to follow me around all the way to the terrace whenever I’m talking to someone over the phone! She constantly does that during our time together. However good or bad my day went, I know she’ll always be at home waiting for me.

death of pet cat

The death of a pet, especially if it’s someone you’ve come to really love, is not easy to accept

Another source of amusement and annoyance is the way “Meow” makes my mom and aunt call on me frantically because she sneaked into our house and I’m the only one who can lure her out with food. A lot of times, she surprised me with her presence in my room, even though we have no idea how you got in! My cousin who lives with us is asthmatic so all pets have to stay outside our house.

And another testament to her ninja-ness is the quickness by which she steals our food, from uncooked fish to burgers and siomai! There’s no point scolding her, so ngumingiti na lang ako.

Last April, I noticing her bump in the belly and her pinkish nipples. That got me excited because my daughter will be having her own baby! I amused myself thinking that I’ll be a lolo of sorts already for the soon-to-be-born kittens.

Last April 21, she gave birth to just one kitten. I remember having to do some research on Google to make sure that it is just normal, and got reassured after reading that it is. Two days after her birth, I had to spend the most of the next three weeks on out-of-town training workshops. And so everytime I call home, I never fail to ask my mom how my cats are doing. When the trainings ended, one thing I really looked forward to is being able to spend time with them again. Sadly, it would turn out to be their final days with us.

photos of pet cats

Here’s my cat’s “I know Mark is taking pictures of me so I will pretend to ignore him” pose. 😻

Since “Meow” gave birth to her lone kitty three weeks prior, I provided a box for her and her kitty to stay. However, on the night of May 15, she suddenly disappeared. She was a very protective mom, so seeing the kitten unattended is quite disconcerting.

My heart never felt as crushed as it did that Tuesday morning (May 16). My family found the dead body of Mother Cat at the back of our house while I was away this morning. Mama said she saw her around afternoon of the previous vomiting, so she apparently ate something from somewhere that she shouldn’t have eaten.

They placed her lifeless body inside a plastic bag which I didn’t even try to open. I know I couldn’t bear it. I went to my room and the realization hit me hard. I missed “Meow” when I was away for three weeks, and now I will miss her forever.

This is “Meow” with her lone kitten. Sadly, they’re both gone now.

 A week later, her lone kitty passed away in her sleep. She was blind and just three weeks old when her momma suddenly, and she hasn’t weaned yet. Despite our attempts to give her replacement milk, she wasn’t as responsive as necessary. Making things worse, I found her dead body on the same spot where she and her deceased momma used to stay. Ang sakit-sakit isipin.

Oh, Meow! I know you’re in heaven now, probably with Lolo Daddy (who taught me how to love someone like you) and all the other cats that I’ve cared and loved through the years. Someday, we’ll be together again. For now, please keep me company from up there. 
Given a choice, I would have loved to write a feel-good article with my pet for this blog competition. However, that is not possible given my current circumstance. So instead, I decided to just use this opportunity to pay tribute to the cat that I truly loved.

Taking selfies with your fluffy friends? Which OPPO #SelfieExpert smartphone produces the best selfies?

If and when I’ll get another pet again, I would of course love to take photos with them and of them. And of all the #SelfieExpert smartphones offered by OPPO, I am particularly intrigued by OPPO F1 with 16MP front camera and 1/3.1-inch sensor and an F 2.0 aperture.

Cats are oftentimes uncooperative when taking photos, and it would be good when both sides of the phone are usable. Also, won’t it be good when the pictures you take are in really high-definition? Just by looking at the photo you took, you can already feel as if you have your cat in your arms! And why else am I going for the F1? Because I’m a big fan of Sarah G. (proud Popster here)! <3

COMMENTARY: DepEd’s push for gender-responsive education

(This is the first of a two-part series.)

Late last month, the Department of Education (DepEd) rolled out its newly-developed framework for a gender-responsive basic education or GRBE.

This move came a week after the United States-based Human Rights Watch released a report noting that Filipino lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students remain vulnerable to discrimination and that their respective schools oftentimes do not do enough to be of help to them.

Here are some pertinent features of DepEd’s new mandate, as reported by The Filipino Scribe in a previous post:

“Under DepEd’s new framework on gender-responsive education, the LGBT Pride Month will be celebrated in schools every June. It also calls for the establishment of a VAWC or Violence Against Women and their Children desk in each school.

DepEd likewise mandated the creation of the following in all levels of DepEd governance, from the national down to the school-level: a Complaint or Grievance Committee, a Committee on Decorum and Investigation, and a Child Protection Committee. This is necessary because as HRW pointed out, “Many students were not aware of anti-bullying policies or did not know where to seek help if they were persistently bullied.”

catholic schools lgbt students philippines

DepEd seeks to strengthen protections for LGBT students, but it is likely to meet challenges (Credits: Ef Villanueva of De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde)

For advocates of stronger LGBT rights in the Philippines, this is definitely music to their ears. First of all, it’s a fact that young people try to explore many aspects of themselves, including their sexual side, during puberty. It won’t be surprising to find students who say they discovered their sexual orientation during high school.

And sadly, this is one thing that are sometimes not openly discussed at home – as with other topics related to sex. Given that, the schools have an obligation to step up to fill in the vacuum although it doesn’t always happen for various reasons like the conservative attitudes of teachers and school administrators and the inadequate number of guidance counselors.

Secondly, while it is true that all students can be victimized by school bullying, gay students are more vulnerable to it. How many times have we heard of students being bullied for talking softly or being effeminate or mahinhin? Making things worse, when they try to report this to their parents or teachers, they might even be told that if they only spoke or acted more manly (“Magpakalalake ka kasi!”), then they wouldn’t be bullied. Talk about blaming the victim!

It’s a painful reality that LGBT students often have to deal with many personal issues on their own because no one truly understands what they are going through. This initiative of DepEd is a very good step in the right direction, but it is not likely to happen without serious bumps along the way.

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July 15 2017 declared holiday in Cordillera Region

The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) will be celebrating its 30th foundation anniversary this July 15, Saturday.  The theme for this year is “CAR @ 30: A Celebration of Unity.”

The day is a special non-working holiday in all provinces under the region as mandated by President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation 247, which Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea signed on his behalf last July 5. The full text of the proclamation can be downloaded here.

There are six provinces under CAR: Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mt. Province plus the chartered city of Baguio. The region was created in compliance with Executive Order 220, which was signed by then-President Corazon Aquino on July 15, 1987.

 According to a report from the Philippine Information Agency, the activities for the month-long 30th Cordillera anniversary celebration include the traditional Cordillera Unity Gong Relay which will kick off on July 8 and will travel to the different Cordillera provinces. It will be back to the province of Benguet, which is the host of this year’s celebration, by July 15 in time for the Cordillera Day.

july 15 2017 holiday cordillera

July 15 2017 is a holiday in all Cordillera provinces to celebrate the region’s 30th foundation anniversary

The Cordillera Day program will also feature the Cordillera Coffee Pavillion and Trade Exhibit at the Benguet Sports Complex and the Shayoney Fashion Show at the SM City Baguio.

Meanwhile, the 2nd International Conference on Cordillera Studies will be held from July 12 to 14 at the Camp John Hay Convention Center in Baguio City. A cultural summit titled “Celebrating Cordillera Heritage” will be on July 28 at the Benguet Provincial Capitol.

The Cordillera region experienced rebel insurgency during the 1970s and 1980s. Shortly after the removal from power of Ferdinand Marcos, the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army, decided to stop their armed struggle and instead engage in peace talks with the administration of President Aquino.

Three years ago, several House solons from the region filed a bill proposing the creation of a Cordillera Autonomous Region, which will be patterned after the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. However, it didn’t go anywhere.

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