Stephanie Dychiu, James Putzel, and the ethics of reportage

The primary function of language, being a social fact, is communication, and it remains operative throughout whatever other uses language may be put. The communicative function of language takes on additional weight in journalism, because the currency of that particular trade is information, and the objective is the equal distribution of wealth thereof, as it were. Whether “straight” reportage—for lack of a better term—or opinion and editorial writing, the practice of journalism necessarily involves the use of power—the power to influence the way that people look at themselves, their respective societies, and the world at large, the power to help shape values and attitudes, and the power to combat ignorance and enable everyone to “exercise their sovereign human right to decide their destinies” [1].

Bearing the foregoing in mind, I would now like to begin an examination of the series on Hacienda Luisita that was published on the GMANews.TV web site and authored by Stephanie Dychiu. As of this writing, four out of the five parts of the series, which professes to be a thorough investigation of how Senator Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III and the issue of Hacienda Luisita are intimately linked, have been made publicly available.

What I am particularly concerned with here is how Dychiu has used A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines [2], a book written by Professor James Putzel and published in 1992, in her development of the series, specifically in these articles: “Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future” [3] and “Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will” [4], which are the first two parts of the series, as well as “The Garchitorena land scam” [5] and “How the Cojuangcos got majority control of Hacienda Luisita” [6], which are complementary articles to “Cory’s land reform legacy”. I last retrieved all these articles on March 22, 2010, and I have stored copies of these for reference, given the mutable nature of hypertexts.

My choice of focus is, in some respects, arbitrary, but, as I hope to show, not entirely without merit. A Captive Land seeks to present a historical overview of agrarian reform in the Philippines, and while it contains strong criticism of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) that was begun during the administration of the late former President Corazon C. Aquino, it also offers a complex and finely nuanced discussion of agrarian reform.

Allow me to state, in the interest of transparency, that I support the bid of Senator Aquino for president, and that my decision to write this essay is partially motivated by such support. I readily admit that I do not have the necessary background to discuss agrarian reform in general or A Captive Land in particular with any scholarly competence, but that is not the intention here, in any case.

My concerns in this essay, such as they are, do not, in fact, include agrarian reform, Hacienda Luisita, or Senator Aquino and his family per se. Rather, my goal is to critique how Dychiu, herself no agrarian reform expert, as the ostensible writer of—and thus the one ultimately accountable for—the series, used the book in her work, though I do not dismiss her series wholesale.

This critique is animated primarily by the following questions:

  1. Has Dychiu used Putzel, a recognized development expert, responsibly, with due regard and care for what he is actually saying?
  2. Insofar as the Hacienda Luisita series is concerned, can Dychiu be said to have upheld the code of ethics of Philippine journalism that has been formulated by the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and the National Press Club (NPC)?

Responsible research?

As previously mentioned, Dychiu cites A Captive Land several times in the series.

In “Hacienda Luisita’s past” [7], she invokes Putzel in discussing the acquisition of Central Azucarera de Tarlac and Hacienda Luisita, as well as the conditions set by the Monetary Board with reference to how the Cojunagco family obtained Central Bank approval for the foreign loan that was secured in order to purchase the hacienda.

In “Cory’s land reform legacy” [8], while going over the stock distribution option (SDO), which is provided for in the CARP law, she quotes Putzel’s comment that the farmers of Hacienda Luisita, who favored the SDO, may not have really understood what it meant, and then refers to him to pinpoint the date for the formation of Hacienda Luisita. Linked to this article are “The Garchitorena land scam” [9] and “How the Cojuangcos got majority control” [10], which finds Dychiu citing Putzel yet again.

It must be conceded that Putzel, as earlier mentioned, is highly critical of how agrarian reform was undertaken during the Aquino administration, especially with regard to the SDO. In fact, Putzel seems to believe strongly in redistributive agrarian reform, and approves of peasant mobilization, saying in his conclusion that it is a key factor in ensuring that agrarian reform will at least remain on the development agenda [11].

Two basic tests that may be applied in order to determine how responsible a researcher has been are as follows: first, how correctly the researcher has quoted or paraphrased his or her source material; and second, how the source material so quoted or paraphrased has been deployed within the researcher’s work. To my mind, Dychiu fails both.

Note that A Captive Land is used as the source in the first article just to establish the bits of historical background for Hacienda Luisita—a version of the background, it must be underscored, that neither Dychiu nor GMANews.TV appears to have asked from Hacienda Luisita itself—while Putzel’s remark is simply repeated in the second article.

The absence of a counterpoint to Putzel, or any of the other authorities she cites, for that matter, in a piece that contrives itself as reportage, rather than opinion, is also curious, especially considering that, in the introduction preceding “After Luisita massacre, more killings linked to protest” [12], the fourth part of the series, the period over which the research for the series was conducted—three months—and the supervision that Dychiu received from GMANews.TV editor-in-chief Howie Severino are emphasized. Putzel himself, though obviously an advocate of a specific set of directions for agrarian reform, bolstered his position precisely by comparing and contrasting it with those of others.

Moreover, it does not seem unfair to say that Dychiu’s use of Putzel’s statements has less to do with the amplification of her points than with decoration: when she is not (merely) echoing his arguments, her use of Putzel is minimal, tokenistic, and, worst of all, distortive. But perhaps my charge against Dychiu is better illustrated with a few examples.

This is Dychiu explaining how the dictator Ferdinand Marcos dealt with Hacienda Luisita in “Hacienda Luisita’s past”, with key sections emphasized:

The Cojuangcos’ disputed hold over Hacienda Luisita had been tolerated by Marcos even at the height of his dictatorship. However, as Ninoy Aquino and his family were leaving for exile in the US, a case was filed on May 7, 1980 by the Marcos government against the Cojuangco company TADECO for the surrender of Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, so land could be distributed to the farmers at cost, in accordance with the terms of the government loans given in 1957-1958 to the late Jose Cojuangco, Sr., who died in 1976. (Republic of the Philippines vs. TADECO, Civil Case No. 131654, Manila Regional Trial Court, Branch XLIII)

The Marcos government filed this case after written follow-ups sent to the Cojuangcos over a period of eleven years did not result in land distribution. (The Cojuangcos always replied that the loan terms were unenforceable because there were no tenants on the hacienda.) The government’s first follow-up letter was written by Conrado Estrella of the Land Authority on March 2, 1967. Another letter was written by Central Bank Governor Gregorio Licaros on May 5, 1977. Another letter was written by Agrarian Reform Deputy Minister Ernesto Valdez on May 23, 1978.

The government’s lawsuit was portrayed by the anti-Marcos bloc as an act of harassment against Ninoy Aquino’s family. Inside Hacienda Luisita, however, the farmers thought the wheels of justice were finally turning and land distribution was coming.

[…]

The government pursued its case against the Cojuangcos, and by December 2, 1985, the Manila Regional Trial Court ordered TADECO to surrender Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform. According to Putzel, this decision was rendered with unusual speed and was decried by the Cojuangcos as another act of harassment, because Cory Aquino, now a widow after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983, was set to run for President against Marcos in the February 7, 1986 snap elections. The Cojuangcos elevated the case to the Court of Appeals (Court of Appeals G.R. 08634).

Cory Aquino officially announced her candidacy on December 3, 1985. Land reform was one of the pillars of her campaign. [13]

This is Putzel’s account in A Captive Land, again with important parts highlighted:

It became clear fairly early on that although Marcos claimed he would break the oligarchy through martial law, he needed the support of landowners and provincial political clans to enforce his rule throughout the country. Marcos’ refusal to challenge the landowners head-on was clear when he restricted reform to rice and corn lands. Even here he allowed phased implementation, which gave landowners time to take evasive measures.

[…]

What is more, Marcos himself was a large landowner and used martial law to increase his own landholdings as well as those of his extended family.

[…]

Thus, Marcos did not attempt to use the state to undermine the oligarchy as a whole, but to strike out at specific powerful opponents. Marcos’s rejection of the ‘Rules and Regulations’ for the implementation of the reform, which were drawn up by the DAR in 1972, left the programme vague and therefore more easily employed as a means to reward supporters and punish opponents.

[…]

[The Cojuangcos] did not hear from the government again until Aquino was about to leave detention for a by-pass operation in the United States in May 1980. The day before he left, the government filed a case. The plaintiffs evidently included the Central Bank (or Monetary Board), the Government Service Insurance System and the Ministry of Agrarian Reform. The case remained in its preliminary stages until August 1983 when Aquino was assassinated. It was only then that the government began to conduct hearings, but there was still no urgency to the case. However, the government’s attitude changed at the time of the snap elections in February 1986, when the Aquino-Cojuangco clan once more emerged as a major threat to Marcos. On 3 December 1985, one day after Cory Aquino filed her candidacy, Judge Pardo of the Regional Trial Court denied the appeal and ruled that the family had to transfer their lands. The judge made his ruling even before summary arguments were presented, suggesting that Marcos had intervened to ask for a quick decision. [14]

One has to wonder how Dychiu was able to say that the attitude of Marcos toward Hacienda Luisita was one of “tolerance”, considering that she does even not point to any persons or materials that could back up her claim—in sharp contrast to Putzel, who scrupulously cites his sources. It is worth noting that Putzel can hardly be said to belong to the “anti-Marcos bloc” that Dychiu claims portrayed the Marcos-initiated lawsuits as “harassment against Ninoy Aquino’s family”, and yet he himself probably agrees with the assessment of that “anti-Marcos bloc”. Why Dychiu appears to disagree is not clear.

Furthermore, based on the dates, Dychiu provides a different—a reversed—sequence of events, saying that Cory Aquino filed her candidacy after the Regional Trial Court had ordered the transfer of Hacienda Luisita, while Putzel states that Cory had done it before.

It must be admitted that Putzel has the date wrong, as Cory did file her candidacy on December 3. The report that follows below, available on TIME.com, is just one of several identifying the date, although, as can be seen, the release of the order was timed to come after the filing.

[Corazon Aquino] also charged the President with “political harassment,” claiming that for years Marcos has tried to confiscate a sugar plantation owned by her family. Aquino revealed that on Dec. 3, the day she announced her candidacy, a regional court ordered the government to seize the property. [15]

Putzel does also say that the order to transfer “was actually dated 2 December 1985, the same day that General Fabian Ver, Marcos’ chief of staff, was cleared of all charges in connection with the assassination of Benigno Aquino” [16]. Could this be the reason for the disparity between the accounts of Dychiu and Putzel?

In “The Garchitorena land scam”, Dychiu refers to Putzel yet again. I have highlighted an interestingly worded sentence, which indicates another disparity:

In his 1992 book A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines, American development studies expert Dr. James Putzel also mentioned that Father Bernas had informed President Aquino about the Garchitorena deal on April 1, 1989. Aquino then met with the DAR and Land Bank heads on April 5, 1989. Then, Sharp petitioned the Supreme Court to enforce the P62.7 million payment. Juico subsequently stopped the payment order, but the scam had already been exposed in Congress. [17]

This is Putzel’s account in A Captive Land, with my emphasis:

The President was informed about the deal on 1 April 1989 by Fr. Joaquin Bernas, and she met with [Land Bank of the Philippines President] Vistan and [Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary] Juico on 5 April. Sharp then had the audacity to petition the Supreme Court to order DAR to pay the P62.7 million for the land. Subsequently, Secretary Juico stopped the payment order and began an investigation of the deal. However, Vistan revealed the overpricing agreemtn to Congress and on 13 May 1989, Rep. Edcel Lagman told a joint House-Senate Committee the details, unleashing a scandal that brought the DAR’s work virtually to a halt. [18]

Observe that Dychiu states the scandal “had already been exposed” even as Juico stopped the payment order, which is very, very different from Putzel’s narration. Where Putzel shows one event following another, Dychiu claims that Putzel points to a confluence. Is this not a misrepresentation of Putzel? Why does Dychiu again change the timing of events—and, in this instance, purport to be simply repeating Putzel?

Let me now move on to how Putzel is used by Dychiu in “Cory’s land reform legacy”. His opinion regarding the SDO is presented toward the middle of the article:

In his 1992 book A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines, American development studies expert James Putzel expressed doubt that the farmers understood the choice that was presented to them. “The outcome of the vote was entirely predictable,” he wrote. “The balance of power in the country favored families like the Cojuangcos. The problem was not really that the farm workers were denied the right to choose . . . it was rather that [they] were denied an environment that would allow them to identify what their choices were.” [19]

He is again cited by Dychiu a few paragraphs later in “Cory’s land reform legacy” this way:

In his book A Captive Land, Putzel also noted that Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI), the company formed by the Cojuangcos to operationalize Luisita’s SDO, was incorporated in August 1988—nine months before the farm workers were first asked to choose between stocks or land in May 1989.

This bred suspicion that the SDO was considered a done deal early on, and the two rounds of voting with the farmers were only organized to give an appearance of transparency. [20]

If the early incorporation of HLI indeed “bred suspicion”, the vague phrasing and the passive voice of Dychiu’s last paragraph in the immediately foregoing quotation should breed suspicion in turn: who were the ones doing the suspecting against the SDO, when the farmers concerned voted overwhelmingly in favor of it? Does this not seem to be a passive-aggressive attack on the Cojuangcos?

Such a sentiment is not expressed by Putzel—opining that “the farmworkers, tenants, and the landless rural poor continued to be denied an environment that would allow them to identify what their choices were” [21] is not the same as insinuating that there was a conspiracy within the Cojuangco family “to give an appearance of transparency”, as Dychiu does. In this regard, Dychiu’s stance actually seems closer to that of Assembliya ng mga Manggagawang Bukid ng Hasyenda Luisita (AMBALUS), the peasant organization whose view on the SDO vote Putzel disagrees with [22].

Incidentally, Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, himself an advocate of land redistribution, wrote that, with reference to the majority vote for the SDO, “It could be presumptuous of me to tell the farmers what is good for them […] It is not easy for a distant observer to question the wishes of the beneficiaries directly involved” [23]. Bernas, unlike Dychiu, maintained a specific position on the matter but acknowledged its complexity, especially with reference to the choice that over 90% of the farmers made.

As a final example, here are two paragraphs from Dychiu’s “How the Cojuangcos got majority control”:

Those who have studied HLI’s books say the non-land assets seem to have been overvalued to increase the Cojuangcos’ share, while the land assets were undervalued to limit the farm workers’ share.

In his 1992 book A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines, American development studies expert Dr. James Putzel showed how the non-land assets were inflated. [24]

Just like the previous example, Dychiu appears to be making a disingenuous move: who, besides Putzel himself, are the parties (“those”) that have independently studied the books of HLI and believe that its non-land assets were inflated? Why are neither these persons nor their studies mentioned by name? Do they exist at all, or is Dychiu making a hasty generalization based on the statement of a single person—an authority, to be sure, but a single person nevertheless?

It could be argued, of course, that Dychiu must use her sources selectively, a fate that befalls any other writer, but, vis-à-vis the aforementioned excerpts, the judiciousness of her selections must be called into question.

Ethical journalism?

It is worth pointing out that, in his introduction to A Captive Land, Putzel acknowledges that there are advantages and disadvantages in writing about CARP so soon after its passage and early stages of implementation—ultimately, Putzel looks at his own book as a contribution to “what must be an on-going process of study about agrarian reform”, believing that it “will need to be amended, or even revised as other information becomes available” (xxiii) [25]. He certainly does not assert that his work is in any way definitive, which is indicative of his integrity as scholar.

A common practice among academicians is to avoid, as much as possible, invisibility—that is, the researcher generally takes it upon himself or herself to reveal his or her his or her interests and investments in a given project so as to establish not only the scope and limitations of the study itself, but also the scope and limitations of the specific subject-position from which the study is shaped. Claims to omniscience or absolute knowledge are recognized as acts of epistemic violence, and ought to be explicitly denounced and avoided.

Such an ethical stance finds equivalents in the realm of Philippine professional journalism. Two provisions from “Journalist’s Code of Ethics“, a code jointly formulated by the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and the National Press Club (NPC), seem especially germane: one is, “I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts or to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis. I recognise the duty to air the other side and the duty to correct substantive errors promptly”; and the other is, “I shall not let personal motives or interests influence me in the performance of my duties; nor shall I accept or offer any present, gift or other consideration of a nature which may cast doubt on my professional integrity” [26].

As regards these provisions, of course, an admission must be registered: to the extent that journalism requires arranging data in particular ways, at particular times, for particular purposes, under the auspices of particular actors both within and without the profession—editors and publishers on the one hand, for example, and advertisers and readers on the other—and given that facts themselves are inherently value-laden, non-distortion and the elision of personal motives or interests are, at best, nearly impossible tasks.

Nevertheless, the importance of clarity, completeness, and contextualization in the presentation of information cannot be emphasized enough. While the 1987 Philippine Constitution certainly protects the freedoms of expression, of speech, and of the press from abrogation, laws against obscenity, libel, slander, intellectual theft, and sedition, among others, also exist in order to ensure that such freedoms are exercised with responsibility.

The “Journalist’s Code of Ethics” [27] is but an extension of or complement to such laws, and its very existence indicates a recognition within the field of professional journalism that words, because they are capable of material effect, can be dangerous. This is not a newly discovered or recognized property of words.  Even the most cursory examination of history will show that many reputations, relationships, and regimes have been reared and razed by words.  In Christian theology, the world was brought about with words, and later saved by the Word.  And of course, just waiting to be summoned is the platitudinous comparison between the pen and the sword. Therefore, it behooves anyone who uses words to be ever aware of—and to be equal to—the great burden he or she bears—even the most reclusive diarist must realize that he or she is writing for someone else, if only someone other than his or her present self.

On the GMANews.TV web site, the Hacienda Luisita series by Dychiu is classified under “Special Reports”, a section of the site that contains what appear to be specimens of that could be called straight reportage. The “specialness” of the reports collected under this rubric probably derives largely from their sustained length and relative depth. At the level of categorization alone, Dychiu’s series is already problematic. Consider how the first part of the series, “Hacienda Luisita’s past”, opens:

Senator Noynoy Cojuangco Aquino has said he only owns 1% of Hacienda Luisita. Why is he being dragged into the hacienda’s issues?

This is one of the most common questions asked in the 2010 elections.

To find the answer, GMANews.TV traveled to Tarlac and spoke to Luisita’s farm workers and union leaders. A separate interview and review of court documents was then conducted with the lawyers representing the workers’ union in court. GMANews.TV also examined the Cojuangcos’ court defense and past media and legislative records on the Luisita issue.

The investigation yielded illuminating insights into Senator Noynoy Aquino’s involvement in Hacienda Luisita that have not been openly discussed since his presidential bid. Details are gradually explored in this series of special reports.

A background on the troubled history of Hacienda Luisita is essential to understanding why the issue is forever haunting Senator Noynoy Aquino and his family. [28]

The use of phrases such as “being dragged”, “one of the most common”, “troubled history”, and “forever haunting” [29] would seem to be inappropriate and should have been excised from a piece of straight reportage. Not only are they tonally charged, they also pivot on undisclosed assumptions about how Senator Aquino is bound up with and implicated in the issue of Hacienda Luisita.

The announced intention of discovering why Senator Aquino is “being dragged” into the issue, for instance, is, at bottom, predicated on a spurious hyperbole: because the issue is supposed to be “forever haunting” him, though it was previously stated that this same issue is the root of “one of the most common questions asked in the 2010 elections” [30]. The pentapartite series, then, seems to be based on a question for which the author already had a kind of blueprint or outline of answers before even beginning the research process, which may explain why it is seriously flawed, as I have already shown.

What is most significant about the excerpt above, however, is the third paragraph: GMANews.TV pointedly did not interview anyone from the Cojuangco family or any Hacienda Luisita official, preferring instead to consult old court documents, media reports, and legislative records, despite, as earlier mentioned, the fact that three months’ worth of research was supposedly put into the series.

This is a strange decision for at least two reasons: first, farm workers, union leaders, and union lawyers were directly consulted; and second, Dychiu does not make the conventional statement that the Cojuangcos or the officials of Hacienda Luisita refused to be interviewed, which implies that they may have been willing, had they been asked. Did Dychiu, or anyone from the GMANews.TV team, even attempt to interview these people? If so, how did they respond? Why are their responses not noted?

Moreover, after three months of research—research that was conducted under the supervision of Severino, a veteran journalist, to boot—it is unbelievable that Dychiu could only find one scholarly tome on the subject—a tome, I might add, that is nearly two decades old. Equally unbelievable is her seeming lack of initiative or interest to investigate the extensive list of references at the end of A Captive Land, when the list could have pointed her toward resources with which her study could have been deepened and enriched.

What is most difficult to accept about Dychiu’s work is that it presents itself as reportage—a type of journalistic writing that ideally seeks to put forward facts corroborated by reliable primary and secondary sources, as well as a balance of multiple viewpoints—when, upon close examination, it deliberately imparts only one perspective.

That nothing can or should stop Dychiu from taking up and defending a position that is at odds with CARP, with the SDO, with the handling of Hacienda Luisita, or with Senator Aquino and his family should be obvious enough. This, however, does not give her, or GMANews.TV, for that matter, the liberty—at least from a professional, ethical perspective—to declare that her work is reportage when, from the very beginning, it is obvious that she is determined to be one-sided, even at the cost of distorting and misrepresenting her sources, such as Putzel’s book.

What is the purpose behind her insidious insinuations? Why, when she could come clean about her biases instead—a move that would indicate an openness to dialogue, a willingness to be challenged—does Dychiu avoid showing her true face?

While I do not think that this piece will be met with unanimous agreement, I believe that I have given the astute reader enough material such that he or she will at least entertain a healthy skepticism about the work of Dychiu and the standards of GMANews.TV sets for itself as a media organization.

If, as I mentioned earlier, the currency of the trade of journalism is information, dare any critical, ethical reader have faith in and use the information that has Dychiu provided, particularly when she cannot even report the smallest details accurately? How can her larger claims be trusted when she cannot perform the simple act of quotation properly, instead willfully warping data—including data from her chosen expert—to suit her prejudices, which she has conveniently failed to disclose?

I began this essay with two questions, which I will repeat here:

  1. Has Dychiu used Putzel, a recognized development expert, responsibly, with due regard and care for what he is actually saying?
  2. Insofar as the Hacienda Luisita series is concerned, can Dychiu be said to have upheld the code of ethics of Philippine journalism that has been formulated by the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and the National Press Club (NPC)?

I am sorry to say that my answer to both questions is a resounding, “No”.

*

Notes

  1. Luis V. Teodoro, ed., “About the Site”, Eye on Ethics, n.d., Center for Media Responsibility and Asia Media Forum, http://www.eyeonethics.org/about, accessed 18 March. 2010.
  2. James Putzel, A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines, Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila U P, 1992.
  3. Stephanie Dychiu, “Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future”, GMANews.TV, 18 January 2010, GMA Network, Inc., http://www.gmanews.tv/story/181877/hacienda-luisitas-past-haunts-noynoys-future, accessed 22 March 2010.
  4. Stephanie Dychiu, “Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will”, GMANews.TV, 22 January 2010, GMA Network, Inc., http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182195/corys-land-reform-legacy-to-test-noynoys-political-will, accessed 22 March 2010.
  5. Stephanie Dychiu, “The Garchitorena land scam”, GMANews.TV 22 January 2010, GMA Network, Inc, http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182211/the-garchitorena-land-scam, accessed 22 March 2010.
  6. Stephanie Dychiu, “How the Cojuangcos got majority control of Hacienda Luisita”, GMANews.TV, 22 January 2010, GMA Network, Inc., http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182212/how-the-cojuangcos-got-majority-control-of-hacienda-luisita-under-carp, accessed 22 March 2010.
  7. Dychiu, “Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future”, op. cit.
  8. Dychiu, “Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will”, op. cit.
  9. Dychiu, “The Garchitorena land scam”, op. cit.
  10. Dychiu, “How the Cojuangcos got majority control of Hacienda Luisita”, op. cit.
  11. Putzel, op. cit., p. 382.
  12. Stephanie Dychiu, “After Luisita massacre, more killings linked to protest”, GMANews.TV, 11 February 2010, GMA Network, Inc., http://www.gmanews.tv/story/183662/after-luisita-massacre-more-killings-linked-to-protest, accessed 22 March 2010.
  13. Dychiu, “Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future”, op. cit.
  14. Putzel, op. cit., pp. 146-8.
  15. “World Notes: Jan. 13, 1986”, TIME.com, 21 June 2005, Time Inc., http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1074933,00.html, accessed 18 March 2010.
  16. Putzel, op. cit., p. 148n222.
  17. Dychiu, “The Garchitorena land scam”, op. cit.
  18. Putzel, op. cit., p. 315.
  19. Dychiu, “Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will”, op. cit.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Putzel, op. cit., p. 335.
  22. Ibid., p. 335n119.
  23. Joaquin G. Bernas, SJ, “More on Hacienda Luisita”, A Living Constitution: The Cory Aquino Presidency, Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, Inc., 2000, pp. 215; 218.
  24. Dychiu, “How the Cojuangcos got majority control of Hacienda Luisita”, op. cit.
  25. Putzel, op. cit., p. xxiii.
  26. Philippine Press Institute and National Press Club, “Journalist’s Code of Ethics”, Eye on Ethics, n.d., Center for Media Responsibility and Asia Media Forum. http://www.eyeonethics.org/journalist-code-of-ethics-in-asia/journalists-code-of-ethics-philippines, accessed 18 March 2010.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Dychiu, “Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future”, op. cit.
  29. Ibid., italics original.
  30. Ibid.

Works Cited

Bernas, Joaquin G. “More on Hacienda Luisita”. A Living Constitution: The Cory Aquino Presidency. Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, Inc., 2000. 214-9.

Dychiu, Stephanie. “After Luisita massacre, more killings linked to protest”. GMANews.TV. 11 Feb. 2010, GMA Network, Inc. 22 Mar. 2010. <http://www.gmanews.tv/story/183662/after-luisita-massacre-more-killings-linked-to-protest&gt;.

—. “Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will”. GMANews.TV. 22 Jan. 2010, GMA Network, Inc. 22 Mar. 2010. <http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182195/corys-land-reform-legacy-to-test-noynoys-political-will&gt;.

—. “The Garchitorena land scam”. GMANews.TV. 22 Jan. 2010, GMA Network, Inc. 22 Mar. 2010. <http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182211/the-garchitorena-land-scam&gt;.

—. “Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future”. GMANews.TV. 18 Jan. 2010, GMA Network, Inc. 22 Mar. 2010. <http://www.gmanews.tv/story/181877/hacienda-luisitas-past-haunts-noynoys-future&gt;.

—. “How the Cojuangcos got majority control of Hacienda Luisita”. GMANews.TV. 22 Jan. 2010, GMA Network, Inc. 22 Mar. 2010. <http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182212/how-the-cojuangcos-got-majority-control-of-hacienda-luisita-under-carp&gt;.

Philippine Press Institute and National Press Club. “Journalist’s Code of Ethics”. Eye on Ethics. n.d., Center for Media Responsibility and Asia Media Forum. 18 Mar. 2010. <http://www.eyeonethics.org/journalist-code-of-ethics-in-asia/journalists-code-of-ethics-philippines/&gt;.

Putzel, James. “Agrarian Reform in a Captive Land”. Introduction. A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines. By Putzel. xix-xxiv.

—. A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila U P, 1992.

Teodoro, Luis V., ed. “About the Site”. Eye on Ethics. n.d., Center for Media Responsibility and Asia Media Forum.  18 Mar. 2010. <http://www.eyeonethics.org/about/&gt;.

“World Notes: Jan. 13, 1986”. TIME.com. 21 Jun. 2005, Time Inc.  18 Mar. 2010. <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1074933,00.html&gt;.

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Crunching the DSWD numbers, part 2

This is a continuation of my post, “Crunching the DSWD numbers“, in which I examined two of the records that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) had made available on its web site. While I discovered several disturbing discrepancies, I was unable to get to the heart of the issue that had been brought up by blogger Ella: the inefficiency of the DSWD.

Two factors have been cited to account for the sluggish pace at which relief operations have been proceeding: first, a lack of volunteers, which has been validated by firsthand accounts such as “Flooded with relief” by Manolo Quezon, “Are relief goods from abroad gathering dust in DSWD warehouse?” by Dementia, and “Been there done that DSWD!” by Deviliscious, and while DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral has vigorously denied that the lack of volunteers has been an impediment, the fact that she did call Gang Badoy of RockEd Philippines to ask for assistance is telling; and second, a release system that, apparently in the interest of security, is dependent on incoming requests from DSWD regional offices and local government units.

In addition to the tally of in-kind donations received and the tally of released donations, I consider a third record: the tally of cash donations received. As with my previous post, the time frame I consider is from September 27 to October 27, 2009 only, although I retrieved the last document on October 31.

Let me begin with a slightly different presentation of the cash donations received:

Many donors have still not been issued official receipts, but that is somewhat understandable—for those who have yet to be identified, at any rate. Exponentially less understandable is the reason that varying entities were issued the same receipts. Take a look at the transactions on October 22, for instance: the Ateneo Grade School Community Association, the Department of Public Works and Highways Regional Office XI, Estrella Brigole and Erlinda Daycan, Editha Tugap, the Department of Natural Resouces Regional Office XI, PHRMO Davao del Norte, and the Deparment of Education Davao del Norte were all given Official Receipt Number 1921132. What is that supposed to mean?

A summary of cash donations received follows. Kindly note that I took the exchange rates directly from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

Based on the above data, the DSWD has received a total of PhP115,222,984.72 in cash donations.

Here, again, is a summary of the in-kind donations received, which was generated from the error-riddled DSWD record:

Seeing that the total based on Actual Monetary Value (PhP54,563,321.50) would seem to be the most accurate—it is closest to the Reported Grand Total of PhP59,426,418.75, if nothing else—the total combined value of donations that the DSWD has received, excluding unmonetized donations, is PhP169,786,306.22. How has that value been utilized? Below is a comparative analysis of donations received and donations released. I have also indicated the cumulative value of donations that remain unutilized.

Here is the accompanying chart:

Cabral has stated that:

It is true that the warehouse is still filled with relief goods and that is thanks to the generous hearts of individuals and organizations both here and abroad…Just because the warehouse is full does not mean there is hoarding. We have to have calibrated release. When we receive requests from the regional office or evacuation center or local government unit, then we release goods to them. Every day we release goods and every day we receive donations.

Relief response is not just emergency assistance. There will come a time when we have to do recovery work and rehabilitation work and when that time comes there will not be many volunteers left. There will be large NGOs that we usually work with but mostly it will be the government that will provide relief to these people who are starting to recover and who need to be rehabilitated. We need to keep some resources for them because when that time comes, there will be no more donations coming in.

Some [of the goods] will be reserved. It depends on whether we’ve fulfilled the emergency needs. If those goods are required for emergency release, then it will all be released for emergency relief. If some goods are left behind, then they will be used for recovery and rehabilitation.

Does an average non-utilization rate of 74.63% constitute a “calibrated release”? How was such a calibration arrived at, and how effective has it proven to be? Consider also that on October 25, the utilization rate was the same as the day before, because there was no release of donations whatsoever.

In view of what I have found, it seems fair to say that transparency and ineptitude are not mutually exclusive. While the DSWD is to be lauded for undertaking relief operations in what seems to be as honest a manner as possible, that does not excuse what is clearly incompetent documentation—and which could be symptomatic of graver problems. At the very least, DSWD should strive to make its records accurate and easily “cross-referentiable”, as this is the easiest way to earn the trust of the general public. If the DSWD cannot be relied upon to produce correct documents, what can it be relied upon to do?

I have raised several important questions in this entry, but let me reiterate and expound upon them here:

  • How does the request-based release system work? While security is certainly a valid concern, is it worth giving up rapid relief delivery? How much time elapses between the filing of a request and the correspondent release of relief goods, anyway? Does the DSWD do need-matching between victims and available donations? If so, how long does that take?
  • How long does it take to identify a donor and issue a receipt to said donor? Why are different donors being issued the same receipt? How have the cash donations been used?
  • What does “calibrated release” mean, exactly? What is the rationale behind the low utilization rate of donations? Is this based on historical data or projections for future needs? Where can such data or such projections be found?

Meanwhile, the DSWD still needs help. Sign up as a Rock Ed volunteer, or proceed to the DSWD warehouse directly—walk-in volunteers are welcome.

Crunching the DSWD numbers

Much has already been made, both in cyberspace and in meatspace, of the entry entitled, “Aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo? (A special report from a volunteer)” by blogger Ella. If the controversial entry, which questions the efficiency of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in conducting relief operations, is more strident and more provocative than absolutely necessary, especially toward the end, when Ella speculates that the goods thus far unreleased might magically surface during campaign season or in flea markets, the fact that many people assumed the worst—and behaved at their worst, should the comments that I have read on the issue be any indication—is a clear demonstration of at least two things: first, the despair and outrage at the devastation caused by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, which have not found an outlet for sufficient expression and catharsis; and second, the low regard in which the government in general, and the present dispensation in particular, is held.

Given such, working honestly and competently in government could well be a Sisyphean task—when everyone is determined to be cynical and hostile, what point is there in trying to do, or even intend, any good? Still, DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral seems willing to take on the challenge. As she stated in an October 25 letter to Philippine Daily Inquirer editor-in-chief Leticia J. Magsanoc,  “Our Department is not perfect, but I can assure you that the overwhelming majority of us are competent at what we do and that we do our jobs with integrity.

A recent development bears this assertion out: the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) ranked the DSWD first among 109 agencies in terms of compliance to the requirements of the Integrity Development Action Plan (IDAP), the government’s anti-corruption strategy—a rank it has held since 2007. The IDAP consists of 22 different measures to address corruption, and covers four areas: prevention, education, deterrence, and strategic partnership. (Below is a presentation on the IDAP for reference.)

One of the more notable signs of the commitment of the DSWD to transparency and accountability is to allow the public access to its records of donations received and released via its official web site, a list of which follows below:

That DSWD made these records available apparently without prompting or pressure is a move worth recognizing. Cabral, in the same letter to Magsanoc quoted above, made a good point when she said, “We could have very well kept the information to ourselves and you will likely be none the wiser.”

That said, there is certainly plenty of room for improvement. On the question of rapid action, for instance, which was the main bone of contention for Ella, Manolo Quezon remarked in his column that:

The blunt answer is, the DSWD could be moving faster, and it took the public outcry caused by the blog for the government to start sounding a call for more volunteers, which sidesteps the question of whether it’s a wise or even necessary policy to rely on volunteers for a line agency to fulfill its functions. The DSWD has done a lot, as it is; so the public interest lies in figuring out how it could do better—which it can’t do, without the public participating by means of criticism and helping in problem-solving.

He also stated in his supplement to the column that, while the records as such appear to indicate that the DSWD is indeed being a responsible steward of the donations, they are rife with inconsistencies. It is therefore difficult to make any firm conclusions, though it is not from a lack of trying: one need merely take a look at the number of ways that he and a few online volunteers were able to present and re-present the data.

What follow below are my own attempts at crunching the DSWD numbers. Obviously, my findings are in no way definitive or exhaustive.

Considering that the DSWD records are Google Documents, which are meant to be easily changed and updated, I uploaded the records on which I based my study to my Scribd account: the tally of in-kind donations received here, and the tally of released donations here. The inclusive dates are September 27 to October 27.

Findings on Donations Received

(Note: The yellow columns in the spreadsheet are ones that I added to the record. Everything else either appeared as is or was rearranged for clarity.)

  • With regard to donations received, the DSWD was tracking five basic variables: (a) date received; (b) donor; (c) goods/services donated; (d) quantity of units donated; and (e) monetized unit value.  Upon multiplying the latter two, a sixth variable, (f) the total monetized value of the donation, would result. Producing (f) is easy enough; with a spreadsheet program, all one has to do is copy the formula to the relevant cells. As can be seen toward the bottom of the first page, which reflects all the donations received on September 27, 2009, there are significant differences between the figures in the Reported Monetized Value (RMV) column, which appeared as is on the DSWD record, and the figures in the Actual Monetized Value (AMV) column, which were generated simply by multiplying quantity of units donated with the monetized value per unit. The DSWD received goods from the UNICEF which had monetized unit values, but were nevertheless marked “For monetization”, leading to a discrepancy of PhP396,550.00.
  • Another discrepancy lies with the Reported Total of the Day (RTD), which also appeared as is on the DSWD record. The RTD for September 27 is PhP2,369,440.00, but the figures that contributed to this specific total cannot be found. In truth, this RTD conflicts both with the Total RMV and the Total AMV. Inexplicably, there are three different totals for the same set of donations received.
  • The record for the next day, September 28, shows no difference between the Total RMV and the Total AMV, but the RTD is smaller than either by PhP804,900.00. It is only on the third day, September 29, that the RTD, the Total RMV, and the Total AMV are finally the same figure. From September 30 onwards, however, the RTD is no longer recorded.
  • On October 5, the World Food Program donated 50 kilograms of National Food Authority (NFA) rice, but the value of the donation was recorded as Php0.00.
  • On October 13, General Santos (care of Aboitiz) donated 26 boxes of noodles. Each box contained 72 packages of noodles. The unit value per package is recorded as PhP540.00. Then, the RMV for the entire donation is recorded as PhP5,400.00. Evidently, both values are suspect, but if the unit value is accepted for what it is, then the AMV of the entire donation is PhP1,010,880.00.
  • Added on October 31: Note that the immediately succeeding entry, which is also a donation of 900 packages of noodles from General Santos, has no reported value. Is this second set of noodles different from the first?
  • At the very end of the record, the Reported Grand Total of donations is PhP59,426,418.75. This figure does not seem to be based on any of the totals that could be derived from the available data.

Here is a summary that shows the discrepancies between and among the various totals:

As I note in the summary, the actual figures—when these are finally determined—should be much larger than they are, as so many donations still remain unmonetized:

I have included the UNICEF donations that arrived on September 27 because of the “For monetization” remarks.

Findings on Donations Released

  • Unlike the previous record, there seem to be no discrepancies as far as computing the value of the donations is concerned.
  • One strange thing that I did observe was that, on October 7 and 8, assorted donations were released without being monetized.
  • As the donations are also tracked by area, it might be useful to compare this record of releases to situation maps, such as the Typhoon Ondoy Situation Map, in order to determine how strategic the DSWD is in its relief operations.

As the first column of the above document indicates, I tried to come up with a broad classification system for the recipients of the donations so as to be able to get a rough picture of how the distribution went. (I assumed that “VIBES Inc.” is a charity of some kind, but I could not find any information about it.) This is the resulting chart:

A significant majority (80.89%) of the released donations went from the NROC to the various field offices of the DSWD, which should be reassuring. I do not know, however, why PhP774,528.00 worth of noodles was released to an unnamed entity—is this a clerical error?

Because Cabral vowed a “politico-proof” the distribution of relief goods, a statement that was later questioned by the Inquirer in its editorial last Sunday, it might be interesting to see the list of government officials to whom goods were released:

Here is the corresponding chart:

At the risk of sounding utterly ignorant, a question I find pertinent is: Who is Atty. Maramba, and in what capacity or under whose authority is he or she receiving donations?

Uncoordinated disaster: The first 48 hours of Ondoy (Updated)

To say that the government, as specifically embodied in the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), missed the boat as far as the Typhoon Ondoy (also known as Ketsana) disaster is concerned would be an understatement—if popular consensus is any indication, it missed many, many important boats. The tide of recriminations, then, has only begun to build, as it should. Philippine Daily Inquirer points out in its October 4 editorial that:

If in recent weeks the nation has been united in remembrance, it is now united in grief and – we do not think it’s an exaggeration to say – anger. All of officialdom, on whichever side of the aisle, in whatever office, is in the dock. As the public demands accountability, we won’t be surprised if officials react by finger-pointing, dodging the issues, or fudging the facts. The public needs to know who did their duty, did it well, or did it badly; and what can be done, institutionally and operationally, to improve disaster response and rehabilitation efforts.

This entry represents my own attempt to think through the manner in which Ondoy was handled, particularly within the first 48 hours, which I believe was the critical period for action.

My primary sources of information have been the situation reports of the NDCC, which I have cross-referenced with other material when I thought it necessary. I focus on Situation Report Nos. 1 to 9.

Although I obviously assume that these situation reports are more or less accurate, it should be said at the outset that they fail to inspire confidence. At absolute best, they were incompetently executed. Updates in one report are still recorded as updates in succeeding reports, which means that the newer a report is, the greater the amount of padding. One possible implication of such a practice is that there was little progress worth recording.

I do not know if revisions have since been made to the documents, but I have uploaded copies of the reports I used for writing this entry to my Scribd account.

Timeline

In constructing this timeline, I have only taken the highlights from the situation reports, excluding redundant information.

As much as possible, I have quoted the reports verbatim et literatim. Occasional editorial changes are enclosed between brackets.

September 25 (Fri)

1700H

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) issues an advisory saying that Ondoy has intensified into a tropical storm.

Catanduanes, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, and Polillo Island in Quezon are placed under Storm Signal No. 2, while Albay, Burias Island, Quezon, Marinduque, Rizal, Bulacan, Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, and Isabela are placed under Storm Signal No. 1.

September 26 (Sat)

1000H

According to NDCC Situation Report No. 1, the following have been accomplished:

NDCC Advisory was disseminated to regions concerned through SMS and facsimile for further dissemination to their respective local disaster coordinating councils from the provincial down to the municipal levels.

OCD Regional Centers concerned have been continuously disseminating weather advisories/bulletins to the Local Disaster Coordinating Councils and monitoring of possible effects in their respective areas of responsibilities.

1137H

GMANews.TV reports that Ondoy has made landfall somewhere on the boundary of Aurora and Quezon.

1400H

According to NDCC Situation Report No. 2, the following have been accomplished in the past four (4) hours:

NDCC-OPCEN has been continuously coordinating with AFP Command Center and emergency responders of respective areas for the conduct of immediate search and rescue operations in various flooded/critical areas in Metro Manila: Manila City, Marikina City, Malabon City, Muntinlupa City, Quezon City, Makati City, Pasay City, Pasig City, Valenzuela City and San Juan City; Central Luzon (Bulacan); and Region IV-A (Rizal Province particularly San Mateo, Cainta, Tanay, Angono, Taytay, Baras, Montalban and Antipolo City).

Requested Olongapo Rescue and SBMA Emergency Responders to assist AFP in the conduct of search and rescue operations in Metro Manila.

Major AFP units such as 48IB, 7th ID deployed and respective DRRUs to render assistance.

GHQ and HSC DRRUs lead by LtC Docil, PA (GSC) assisted stranded commuters in the vicinity of EDSA-Santolan area.

As of this report, 1,318 people, mostly from San Mateo, Rizal, have been evacuated from their homes.

1800H

According to NDCC Situation Report No. 3 the following have been accomplished in the past four (4) hours:

The Secretary of National Defense and Chairman, NDCC in a Press Briefing this afternoon, declared a State of National Calamity in the following areas in view of the extensive effects of Tropical Storm “Ondoy”:

  • The whole of National Capital Region (NCR)
  • Region I: Mt. Province, Ifugao and Ilocos Sur
  • Region II: Isabela, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya
  • Region III: Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Tarlac and Bataan
  • Region IV-A: Mindoro (Occidental and Oriental) and Marinduque
  • Region V: Catanduanes, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur

MMDA and NCRCOM emergency responders, Civil Defense Action Group, ARESCOM [have been deployed].

Activated all DOH CHD’s operations center 24 hours/7days with continuous coordination with the LGUs concerned and prepositioned drugs and medicines in all areas affected.

Assets deployed to the flooded areas in Metro Manila by AFPDRTF (HSC, SEG and MP, GHQ, PN, PMC, PAF, 525Ebde, PA and NCRRCDG); PNP; PCG; VCRC, 5IDRC, ICMOTF, 75th CG- NCRC; AFPRESCOM; PMC.

No data on persons affected/evacuated are available. A total of 5 persons are reported dead.

Later in the evening, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issues a brief message on Ondoy, exhorting everyone to “pull together and look out for each other in the finest Filipino tradition of caring and sharing”:

September 27 (Sun)

0100H

According to NDCC Situation Report No. 4, the following have been accomplished in the last five (5) hours:

Secretary of Department of National Defense and Chairman, NDCC issued an NDCC Circular to Chairmen of RDCCs I, II, III and CAR directing them to undertake necessary response measures to avoid loss of lives and destruction of properties.

NDCC established an Advance Command Post (ACP) at Katipunan Avenue cor. Araneta Boulevard, Marikina City. The over-all commander is Hon. Mayor Maridel Fernando while the Incident Commanders are Mr. Robert Nacenciano and Mr. Ramon Santiago of MMDA.

MMDA also deploys assets to the flooded areas in Metro Manila.

PCG, KN, SOG and CGETC teams rescued 200 residents in Brgy Hagonoy, Taguig near Laguna Lake. At St. Peter, MH Amoranto, Quezon City, more than 20 persons have been rescued from rooftops. Afterward, some teams proceeded to Araneta and Del Monte, Quezon City.

One (1) SOG team on board MRT with rubber boat and another SOG team which just finished operations in Parañaque now en route to Marikina.

Six (6) more teams with rubber boats and trucks formed with PBRC to proceed Marikina shortly after logistical fill-up and four (4) more rubber boats are expected to arrive from Subic early tomorrow morning for dispatch to other flooded areas to be assigned by NDCC.

MMDA rescued 60 stranded commuters and 40 stalled vehicles at EDSA Santolan Northbound; 80 persons in Marikina were brought to higher grounds.

SBMA – 15 personnel of SBMA Fire Department and SWAT (IED) proceeded to PNRC National headquarters to augment rescue operations in the flooded areas in Metro Manila with one (10 rescue van, 1 rubber boat and 2 dump trucks.

NOLCOM 503rd conducted rescue and retrieval operations in the landslide areas.

Donations Received

Dr. Rafael Rodriguez of Medical Plaza donated 1 unit rubber boat to NDCC which was turned over to the AFP.

Aileen Lawigan, friends of Executive Secretary Ermita donated ready-to-eat food packs for stranded passengers.

As of this report, the partial total of people affected in Metro Manila, Bulacan, and Pampanga is 21,896 families (106,180 persons), while the partial total of evacuees is 624 families (3,114 persons) in 12 evacuation centers. There are also 15 casualties, 21 missing, and 3 injured.

0110H

GMANews.TV reports that Ondoy has begun to move out of Philippine territory.

Zambales remains under Storm Signal No. 2, while Metro Manila, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Bataan, Rizal, Cavite, and Lubang Island are under Storm Signal No. 1.

0500H

According to NDCC Situation Report No. 5, the following have been accomplished in the last four (4) hours:

DSWD’s on-going interventions are activation of the Quick Response and Social Welfare and Disaster (QR/SWAD) teams to provide technical assistance to the disaster-affected local government units (LGUs) on disaster operations; provided PhP635,056.00 worth of relief goods consisting of food and non-food commodities to the affected families; and prepositioned stand-by funds, family food packs and stockpile of relief commodities composed of food and non-food amounting to PhP19,981,158.35 by the field offices concerned along the typhoon path, ready for additional augmentation/assistance whenever necessary

PNRC rescued 282 persons and provided relief assistance to the victims.

National Grid Corporation of the Philippines is conducting power restoration in various damaged sub-stations (S/S) in Region III (Botolan, Zambales (77.18%), Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija (79.51%), Concepcion, Tarlac (12:66%), Cruz na Daan. Bulacan (0%) and Limay, Bataan (40;0%); Region I (Labrador, Pangasinan (48.48%) power restored.

DSWD will start massive relief operations to augment local capacities in Metro Manila.

The NDCC facilitated the release of 1,300 sacks of rice to the PDCCs of Cavite (200), Laguna (200), Batangas (200), Rizal (200); Quezon (100); CDCC Calamba, Laguna (200); and CDCC Sta. Rosa, Laguna (200).

Donations Received

CEISSAFP coordinated with SMART Telecom re: Installation of GSM900 repeater at NDCC Operation Center to enhance smart mobile phone signal inside the OPCEN building.

As of this report, the partial total of people affected in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga, Batangas, Laguna, Rizal, and Camarines Sur is 54,891 families (279,763 persons), while the partial total of evacuees is 8,388 families (41,205 persons) in 92 evacuation centers. There are also 51 casualties, 21 missing, and 3 injured.

1100H

PAGASA cancels all storm signals in the country, saying that Ondoy has moved out of the Philippine area of responsibility. More rains are expected, however.

1200H

According to NDCC Situation Report No. 6, the following have been accomplished in the last seven (7) hours:

The NDCC Technical Working Group met on September 26, 2009 to map out available resources for rescue operations and to prioritize the heavily flooded areas for rescue operations.

Another meeting was held at the NDMC Conference Room to determine the immediate needs and requirements in the flood-stricken areas in terms of Water, Sanitation, and Health (WASH), medicines and medical supplies, food and non-food items.

In Region IV-A, no power in the following Districts of Quezon: 4th District except Gumaca and 3rd District except Unisan, Agdangan, and Padre Burgos both due to Quezelco 1 problem, 1st District except Lucban and Infanta breaker 51FY4 Famy Infanta 69kV line under patrol and Tayabas, Sampaloc and Pagbilao Meco portion lateral Line cut-out still open, subject for patrol by MECO and 2nd District has power except in the municipalitis of Tiaong and San Antonio but MECO portion lateral Line cut-out still open, subject for patrol by MECO.

Acceptance of Relief Goods (Drop Points):

  • DSWD Dromic: Batasan Complex, Quezon City / Tel. Nos. 951-7119 / 0918-421-9780
  • DSWD National Capital Region (NCR): 389 San Rafael corner Legarda, Quiapo, Manila / Tel. Nos. 734-8635 / 0915-291-3722
  • DSWD National Relief Operations Center (NROC): Chapel Road, NAIA, Pasay City (back of ATO) / Tel. Nos. 852-8081 / 734-8622
  • PETRON Corp (All Stations)

The NDCC facilitated the release of 1,800 sacks of rice to the PDCCs of Cavite (200), Laguna (200), Batangas (200), Rizal (200); Quezon (100); PDCC Bulacan (500); CDCC Calamba, Laguna (200); and CDCC Sta. Rosa, Laguna (200).

Donations Received

Globe Telecom temporarily lent four (4) hotlines at NDCC OPCEN to augment the communication capability of NDCC in providing emergency calls in the calamity areas during the entire TS “Ondoy” Operations, with the following hotline numbers: 0917334193, 0917334256, 0917334263, and 09155316719.

As of this report, the partial total of people affected in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga, Batangas, Laguna, Rizal, and Camarines Sur is 59,241 families (294,555 persons), while the partial total of evacuees is 9,601 families (47,261 persons) in 101 evacuation centers. There are also 52 casualties, 23 missing, and 4 injured.

1800H

According to NDCC Situation Report No. 7, the following have been accomplished in the past six (6) hours:

Cluster meeting among cluster leads with IASC representative was conducted to address the gaps and needs in the affected areas.

DSWD established donations drop-off points as follows:

  • National Resource Operations Center, Chapel Road, Pasay City | Francia Favian: 852 8081/0918 930 2356
  • Disaster Resource Operations Monitoring and Information Center (DROMIC), DSWD Central Office, Quezon City | Rey Martija or Imee Rose Castillo: 951 7119/951 2435 | Assistant Secretary Vilma Cabrera: 0918 9345625
  • DSWD-NCR Office, San Rafael corner Legarda Streets, Quiapo, Manila | Director Thelsa P. Biolna or Director Delia Bauan: 734 8622/734 8642

NDCC established additional Advance Command Posts (ACP) in various strategic areas in Metro Manila:

  • Alpha base 8th Floor, Pasig City Hall with telephone number 643-0000. the over-all commander is Mayor Roberto Eusebio.
  • Club House, City Hall of Cainta City headed by Mayor Ramon Ilagan, with telephone numbers 0927-2204744 and 665-0846
  • Department of Public Order Safety Hall Quezon City. The over-all commander is Mayor Sonny Belmonte while the incident Commanders is Ms. Teresa Amarillo with telephone number 0921-6555262

Issued NDCC MEMO Order [No. 18] on the suspension of classes at all levels in Metro Manila [and Rizal] on 28 September 2008.

BFP’s emergency responders were dispatched to the flooded areas along the thoroughfares of Metro Manila areas covering Districts I, II, III, IV and V.

DPWH conducted damage assessment in all affected areas. Based on assessment, all are passable except Cabagan Sta Maria Concrete Overflow due to swollen river. Deployed 1 unit dump truck to Pasay City.

DepEd reported that 15 schools were damaged: 7 elementary schools 1 high school and 8 secondary schools were damaged in Regions CAR, NCR Regions III and IV-A amounting to PhP6,520,000.00. There are 36 school buildings used as evacuation centers occupying 1,650 families and 1,366 individuals.

The NDCC facilitated the release of 4,400 sacks of rice to the following:

  • Region IV-A – PDCC Cavite (200), PDCC Laguna (200), PDCC Batangas (200), 1st District Batangas (1,000); PDCC Rizal (200); PDCC Quezon (100); CDCC Calamba, Laguna (200); and CDCC Sta. Rosa, Laguna (200)
  • Region III – 1st District Bulacan (100) and PDCC Bulacan (1,000)
  • NCR – CDCC Taguig (1,000)

PNP dispatched various SAR equipment such as: NCR SRU Van, Squad EMS-NHQ, SOD-NHQ, engines, water tanker, mini-pumper rubber boats, jaguar, fire trucks and others for SAR operations in Regions I, III, IV-A and Metro Manila.

The 51st Engineering Brigade, PA organized and dispatched a Disaster, Rescue and Relief Operations team composed of 6 Officers and 60 enlisted personnel led by Commander Simoy with 2 loaders, 2 dump trucks, 3 Canter Elf and 1 backhoe loader.

The US Contingent: 1 Officer and 17 EPs, with night capability equipment, 2 rubber boats and 1 chopper (Bell 214) arrived this afternoon at NDCC OpCen to support SAR operations. Six persons have been rescued from Ever Gotesco, Cainta and two hundred packs of assorted goods (five kilos each) were distributed to the affected families.

Donations Received

The Manila and Subic Yacht Clubs lent rubber boats to the NDCC for use of response teams in the conduct rescue operations.

San Miguel Corporation and Petron Corporation donated 20 pieces 2.7 kg cylinder with gasoline lamps for use in the evacuation areas.

PHAP Cares Foundation thru Executive Director Glecy C. Cuenco donated 5 boxes of assorted medicines.

Ms. Cynthia Rodriguez and Family of Corinthian Gardens, QC provided relief goods such as: 5 boxes noodles, 8 packages skyflakes crackers; 4 bottles Coco Jam, 5 cans pork & beans, assorted clothing, blankets and 16 cups noodles.

As of this report, the partial total of people affected is 69,513 families (337,216 persons), while the the partial total of evacuees is 11,967 families (59,521 persons) in 118 evacuation centers. There are also 73 casualties, 23 missing, and 4 injured.

September 28 (Mon)

0600H

According to NDCC Situation Report No. 8, the following have been accomplished in the past twelve (12) hours:

DOH Donations Drop Off Point: MMD-DOH Central Office | Engr. Dave Masiado: 0917-816-3400.

DOH has provided initial 50 pieces of cadaver bags and six (6) boxes of assorted drugs and medicines.

All NGCP transmission lines are on normal operation; waiting for normalization of load systems from distribution utilities (Meralco for Metro Manila area) and electric cooperatives.

Philippine Coast Guard has rescued 2,784 persons in San Juan, Manila, Quezon City, Marikina City, Pasig City, Taguig City, Parañaque City, Rizal and Laguna.

The NDCC facilitated the release of 3,900 sacks of rice to the following:

  • Region IV-A – Cavite, Laguna Batangas, 1st District Batangas; PDCC Rizal; PDCC Quezon; CDCC Calamba, Laguna; and CDCC Sta. Rosa, Laguna (a total of 2,300 sacks of rice)
  • Region III – 1st District Bulacan, and PDCC Bulacan for a total of 600 sacks of rice
  • NCR – CDCC Taguig (1,000)
  • A total of PhP2,108,041.60 assistance was provided by DSWD (PhP1.4 M) and LGUs (PhP0.670 M)

Summary of assets deployed: 12 ambulance, 33 M35 trucks, 59 rubber boats and 112 other vehicles, 6 officers, 5 companies, 137 EPS and 13 platoons, 20 US Servicemen, 2 US watercraft, 1 US Chopper, 8 Island Cruise.

DSWD had distributed the following items at the Rosario Sports Complex: 5 big boxes of doughnuts, 146 small boxes of doughnuts, 52 bags of hotmeal, 4 boxes of bottled water, 12 bags of used clothes, and 2 bags of blankets.

As of this report, the partial total of people affected is 86,313 families (435,646 persons), while the partial total of evacuees is 23,126 families (115,898 persons) in 204 evacuation centers. There are also 86 casualties, 32 missing, and 5 injured.

0639H

U.S. Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, along with representatives from the U.S. contingent that arrived yesterday, appears on Unang Hirit. Kenney says she sees no need to duplicate relief efforts already underway. Instead, she plans to divert resources already in the Philippines to hard-hit areas. She is also coordinating with the U.S. Marines to move up a military exercise slated for next month in Clark. Ideally, the troops and the equipment should arrive by the night of September 30 (Wednesday).

When asked how many Marines would be arriving, Kenney dodges the question, saying that the medical team will consist of 30 persons, who will then team up with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Philippine Daily Inquirer will later report that five heavy trucks, five Humvees, one bulldozer, two forklifts and 30 US medical personnel had already arrived in the country to help in flood relief. Kenney will still be unwilling or unable to state the number of personnel arriving.

0818H

ABS-CBN reports Secretary of National Defense and NDCC Chairman Gilbert Teodoro as having asked for international humanitarian assistance: “We’re appealing for more donations of food, water and warm clothes.”

1116H

Anthony Golez, officer-in-charge for the Office of Civil Defense, is quoted as saying that “the system is overwhelmed, local government units are overwhelmed…Our assets and people are spread too thinly.”

1200H

According to NDCC Situation Report No. 9, the following have been accomplished in the past six (6) hours:

NDCC on-site coordination has been established at the Incident Command Post in Ever Gotesco, Ortigas to support relief efforts.

DOH activated all DOH CHD’s operations center 24 hours/7days with continuous coordination with theLGUs concerned and prepositioned drugs and medicines in all affected areas; has provided 150 pieces of cadaver bags and six (6) boxes of assorted drugs and medicines. DOH-HEMS augmented 350 boxes of bottled water (8,400 bottles) for NCR and same quantity for CHD IV-A.

National Grid Corporation of the Philippines conducted power restoration in various damaged sub-stations (S/S). All lines are on normal operation except San Jose, Bulacan and CND-San Miguel (Bacnotan, San Miguel, La Union).

The NDCC facilitated the release of 3,900 sacks of rice to the following:

  • Region IV-A – Cavite, Laguna Batangas, 1st District Batangas; PDCC Rizal; PDCC Quezon; CDCC Calamba, Laguna; and CDCC Sta. Rosa, Laguna (a total of 2,300 sacks of rice)
  • Region III – 1st District Bulacan, and PDCC Bulacan for a total of 600 sacks of rice
  • A total of PhP4,005,832.80 assistance was provided by DSWD (PhP2,068,685.50) and LGUs (PhP1,937,148.30)

PGMA Sagip-Tulong Activities by PAGCOR:

  • 1000H 27 September 2009, deployed three (3) teams and distributed bread and water to various evacuation centers in Malanday, Marikina and at Brgy. Tatalon, Quezon City
  • Set-up of a medical mission with eleven (11) doctors and distributed medicines, bread and water at the Santolan Elementary School, Pasig City and Brgy. Tañong, Marikina City
  • Deployment of PGMA/PAGCOR buses to bring evacuees and stranded to people to various evacuation centers
  • Continuously coordinating with PNP and AFP for the transport and distribution of relief goods
  • Distributed Five Hundred (500) packs of rice and additional ten (10) cavans of rice for the three (3) evacuation centers in Marikina and four (4) in Pasig City
  • Continuous distribution of relief goods to evacuation centers

Two (2) DRRUs with two (2) units rubber boats from Philippine Navy – Poro Point, San Fernando, La Union proceeded to Bulacan to augment the rescue operations.

Donations Received

28 September 2009, donation of three (3) motorized rubber boats to NDCC, [courtesy of PGMA Sagip-Tulong].

As of this report, the partial total of people affected is 89,953 families (451,683 persons), while the partial total of evacuees is 23,147 families (115,990 persons) in 205 evacuation centers. There are also 100 casualties, 32 missing, and 5 injured.

NDCC Assets Deployed

Each NDCC situation report came with a table showing the assets that had been deployed for rescue operations. As previously stated, however, the reports tended to be padded, and thus confusing to read. In seeking to understand what the movements of the NDCC were, therefore, I decided to put together the following table, which I hope clarifies matters:

The units deployed came from the Armed Forces of the Philippines  (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Fire Department and SWAT. There was also a small contingent of U.S. troops.

Where details were not given, I placed a question mark in between parentheses. Otherwise, the data is practically unchanged.

A caveat regarding the PCG: As of SR No. 3, the PCG had deployed four units, while as of SR No. 4,  the PCG had deployed six units. Of the six units in SR No. 4, however, four are deployed to exactly the same areas as the four units in SR No. 3. Also, it is only the latter six units that are recorded in succeeding reports. Therefore, it is possible that the PCG only deployed an additional two units, rather than six. I have decided to give the PCG the benefit of the doubt.

Here is a map approximating the deployment of units. Please note that the reports lack location details, so the map merely provides a very rough idea of the deployment.

Preliminary Findings

While I have yet to come to any conclusions, these findings may serve as starting points for further dialogue or investigation.

Reportorial errors

Personal finickiness could well be the informing spirit here, but the following errors are significant if the reports served to drive actions and decisions:

  • The Globe hotlines in SR No. 6 are mistyped, and thus could have exacerbated communication problems. The first three numbers each lack one digit, while the last number should be 09175366719, at least starting from SR No. 8. A total 18 hours may have elapsed before corrections were made to the report.
  • A discrepancy of 500 sacks of rice becomes apparent upon comparing SR Nos. 7 and 8. Per SR No. 7, a total of 1,100 sacks were released to Region III, with 100 going to the first district of Bulacan, and the rest going to the Bulacan Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council. Per SR No. 8, however, only a total of 600 sacks were released to Region III.

Time mismanagement

  • There appears to be a significant gap—up to 17 hours—between the establishment of the first Advance Command Post (ACP) in Marikina (see SR No. 4) and the establishment of the other ACPs in Pasig, Cainta, and Quezon City (see SR No. 7).
  • Per SR No. 6, a meeting was held to “determine the immediate needs and requirements in the flood-stricken areas in terms of Water, Sanitation, and Health (WASH), medicines and medical supplies, food and non-food items”. If this objective is taken at face value, should it be inferred that the NDCC is not aware of what flood victims need? Or, if the allocation of supplies was the purpose of the meeting, what does it say about the actual state of coordination when data regarding evacuees was available as early as 0100H?

Questionable moves

  • About an hour and half before Ondoy made landfall, all the NDCC had done was monitor developments and send advisories.
  • There is little evidence that the NDCC and its member agencies were communicating or coordinating with each other efficiently.
  • While the DSWD had begun accepting donations as of SR No. 6, it is only in SR No. 7 that specific persons are identified and made accountable for any donations that come in. How donations that arrived in the interim were handled cannot be determined from the reports.
  • The deployment of assets over the critical 48-hour period seems merely sporadic rather than strategic. There are entire blocks of time in which there was very little deployment or, per SR No. 9, no deployment at all.
  • The initial number of rubber boats sent out was a paltry 12. It seems the majority of the rubber boats used for rescue only became available after the Manila and Subic Yacht Clubs lent an unspecified quantity to the NDCC on the afternoon or evening of September 27 (see SR No. 7). On a related note, it has been claimed that certain government agencies were unmindful of proper maintenance and storage for such boats.
  • The Philippine National Police (PNP) was recorded as having mobilized significantly only on September 28. Why was it not able to do so earlier, despite its apparently significant resources? Consider, for instance, that the Special Action Force (SAF) of the PNP was scheduled to move to a 368-hectare camp in Baras, Rizal from Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig to the tune of PhP100 million. And whether the SAF has moved or not, that it was recorded as having arrived on the scene only on the morning of September 28, per SR No.8, is curious.

A primer on plagiarism

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism, derived from the Latin plagiarus (literally, “kidnapper”)—which in turn is derived from plagium (literally, “kidnapping”)—may be defined as follows: an act or instance of stealing and passing off the ideas or words of another as one’s won; using a created production without crediting the source; committing literary theft; or presenting as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source (“Plagiarism”; “Plagiarize”; “Plagiary”).

Irving Hexham, a professor at the University of Calgary, provides a definition specifically for an academic context:

Plagiarism is the deliberate attempt to deceive the reader through the appropriation and representation as one’s own the work and words of others. Academic plagiarism occurs when a writer repeatedly uses more than four words from a printed source without the use of quotation marks and a precise reference to the original source in a work presented as the author’s own research and scholarship. Continuous paraphrasing without serious interaction with another person’s views, by way [of] argument or the addition of new material [and] insights, is a form of plagiarism in academic work. (emphasis added)

Based on the foregoing, deliberateness, as a condition of plagiarism, is determined not by the intention of the author per se, but by how the author appropriated and represented his/her own work and the work of others. While one may not desire to commit plagiarism, the mere fact that one did not act to prevent it still renders one culpable. Willful blindness does not exempt one from accountability.

Plagiarism is the kidnapping—and mutilation—of ideas. It is akin to kidnapping the child of another, hacking off its limbs, and sewing these limbs onto one’s own already horribly deformed infant, creating an even worse monster than what one had to begin with.

Plagiarism is considered a heinous violation of ethics in the academe, as well as in fields like journalism. It is not the same thing as copyright infringement, though the two are often conflated. Obtaining permission from the originator of an idea is not an impediment to plagiarism, which in any case is not a legal issue.

How is plagiarism committed?

When one lifts information or material from a source without the appropriate quotation marks, off-setting, and/or documentation, one has already committed plagiarism. Even should one completely paraphrase or rewrite information or material from a source, one still needs to cite said source. Paraphrasing, however extensive, is still a form of lifting.

Only information or material derived from common knowledge or one’s personal experience may be lifted with relative impunity.

It is difficult to provide an exact definition of “common knowledge”, but it may be said to be composed of ideas or concepts that (a) require little or no specialized knowledge to be understood; (b) are easily confirmed by an exercise of sound judgment or through unaided human experience; and (c) are widely held to be true.

According to Purdue OWL:

Generally speaking, you can regard something as common knowledge if you find the same information undocumented in at least five credible sources. Additionally, it might be common knowledge if you think the information you’re presenting is something your readers will already know, or something that a person could easily find in general reference sources. But when in doubt, cite; if the citation turns out to be unnecessary, your teacher or editor will tell you.

Take note, however, that when one lifts substantial information or material from artifacts of personal experience, such as diaries, letters, transcripts of discussions, and online postings, among others, such sources should be cited.

What are the types of plagiarism?

There are many ways of classifying acts of plagiarism, but for the purpose of this primer, these types will be discussed: incidental plagiarism, substantial plagiarism, and self-plagiarism.

  • Incidental plagiarism pertains to the minor lifting of information or material from a source without the appropriate quotation marks, off-setting, and/or documentation.
  • Substantial plagiarism pertains to the considerable lifting of information or material from a source without the appropriate quotation marks, off-setting, and/or documentation (Ehrlich). The most egregious cases involve at least one of the following: (a) copying a text in its entirety and passing it off as one’s own work; (b) purchasing a text and passing it off as one’s own work; or (c) the hiring of someone to prepare a text and passing it off as one’s own work (Ehrlich). [This last act is actually part of Ehrlich’s definition for “fraud”, but for purposes of this primer, it has been included as part of “substantial plagiarism”.]

The above distinctions are predicated on these operational definitions, which have been formulated based on material from Ehrlich, Hexham, and Purdue OWL:

  • Lifting – the act of copying, inserting, paraphrasing, summarizing, downloading, translating, or otherwise utilizing information or material from a source
  • Minor lifting – the lifting of more than four words, but less than three sentences—or the substantive equivalent thereof—from a source
  • Considerable lifting – the lifting of three or more sentences—or the substantive equivalent thereof—from a source
  • Off-setting – the indention of quoted material, a formatting convention that is applied to long quotations
  • Documentation – the proper acknowledgement of sources of information or material, in adherence with the prescribed documentation style

Self-plagiarism, also known as recycling fraud, pertains to the disguising of a work that one has previously written as an entirely new work, as when a student submits essentially the same paper to different courses (Hexham). While it is acceptable to redeploy one’s ideas and opinions from an older work to a newer one, the writer must ensure that the works are clearly distinct from each other in terms of examples, arguments, and/or conclusions presented (Hexham).

How does one avoid committing plagiarism?

One can avoid plagiarism by undertaking the task of documentation with due diligence. A good rule of thumb would be: When in doubt, cite the source.

A caveat: One must ensure that information or material lifted from sources does not constitute the bulk of one’s work, such that one’s work is essentially a collage of ideas without a clear, individuated perspective. Why bother writing anything otherwise?

*

Works Cited

Ehrlich, Heyward. “Plagiarism and Anti-Plagiarism”. Heyward Ehrlich, English Dept., Rutgers-Newark. 20 Mar. 2008. Rutgers U. 26 Jun. 2008.

Hexham, Irving. “Academic Plagiarism Defined”. Irving Hexham’s Home Page. 2005. U of Calgary. 26 Jun. 2008.

Plagiarism”. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. Merriam-Webster Online. 25 June 2009

Plagiarize”. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. Merriam-Webster Online. 25 June 2009

Plagiary”. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. Merriam-Webster Online. 25 June 2009

Purdue OWL. “Avoiding Plagiarism”. The Online Writing Lab at Purdue. 10 May 2008. Purdue University Writing Lab. 07 Sep. 2008.