Monday, December 22, 2014

Pinoy Top Thinkers Today! (2014)

By Chester B Cabalza

(Copyright @ 2014 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

#pinoytopthinkerstoday is an annual gallery and listing of living Filipino thinkers, movers and shakers, and shapers of the Philippines who excelled in their respective field of endeavors. They are admired for their insurmountable contributions and great impacts to Philippine society and Filipinos worldwide given their unique talents, skills, and intellect. This online ranking which started in 2008 is an affirmation that the Philippines can definitely produce world-class thinkers, artists, scientists, sportsmen, industrialists, nationalists, globalists, and great leaders.    

This year’s theme is all about recovery and resilience.

The wrecking supertyphoon Haiyan last year certainly made us stronger and resilient that caught the eye of the international community because of our sense of community and indomitable spirits. As another tropical storm Ruby clouded with strong magnitude hit the Philippines in early December before the year ends in 2014, the international community has lauded the national government and its sub-governments for our preparedness and consciously setting the standard of lessened casualties or modern human survivorship amidst impinging catastrophes.

We emerge even stronger. The Philippines has remained the darling of investments by continuously positioning itself as the economic leader in South East Asia as we hosted the World Economic Forum this blessed year.

Given the scenario, the Philippine economic environment propounded by relatively good business climate and sturdy government fiscal expenditures has solidified several market fundamentals to place the country in the world map of investments today.

Signs of economic recovery inspired by the Philippines continuous rating upgrade from reputable global credit rating organizations affirm the current administration’s structural reforms as demonstrated by the significant improvement of the country’s position in international governance and competitiveness surveys. With these significant economic reforms, the government focuses on improving transparency and accountability in line with the goal of promoting economic growth and poverty reduction.

Hopefully these economic and political momentums would not be spoiled hence it will translate into inclusive growth. Rest assured that the Philippines will remain relevant today and the government shall continuously sustain the economic boom!

Behind this recovery and resiliency are top Filipino thinkers who have excelled and contributed in big ways to their respective field of endeavors to make the Philippines a success story today in spite of broad issues that need to be reformed to become a developed nation-state.  

As the Philippines welcomes 2015, the Argentinean-Italian Jesuit Holy Father Pope Francis will visit Manila to bless Filipino survivors of supertyphoon disaster-stricken faithfuls in Tacloban City. Other Catholics in and out of the country will pay homage to one of the friendliest popes of post-modern times, as Filipinos did welcome the late Pope John Paul II when he visited Manila in 1995 who has become Filipinos favorite saint in recent times.

Below is the list of my roster of Filipino top thinkers today, the movers and shakers, and future shapers of the country, with their surnames in alphabetical order:

Benigno S Aquino III - (Philippine president) – he is consistent in my list by having the most number of citations in my annual ranking. This Atenean economist is best in surprising his Filipino constituents as he continuously paves a way for brighter future to many poor families by alleviating them from poverty and punishing corrupt politicians with his economic and political reforms. Even if he has rift with the judiciary by making his prerogative pork barrel as unconstitutional, still the international credit rating agencies upgraded the Philippine sovereign debt to investment grade. Majority of the Filipino people still believe in him and put trust in his governance. His ‘Aquinomics’ approach in making our economy reemerge has become his magic wand to help the country turn-around from the curse of being tag the ‘sick man of Asia’. With his recent pronouncement that he will no longer run for reelection as president in 2016 is a living testament of his parents’ true legacy of democracy.  
Nora Aunor (actor’s actor, people's superstar) – she definitely deserves to be bestowed with the National Artist award. But for many Filipinos, this petite yet talented Filipina actor shall remain as the people’s superstar of Philippine movies. Her great and stellar filmography and musicology elevated her into an iconic “transmedia artist” when Nora C Villamayor was awarded with UP Gawad Plaridel in the University of the Philippines. This distinguished award is the highest honor by UP to media practitioners who excels in two media platforms and embodies the lofty ideals of nationalism. While accepting the award, she said that her dream seem to have come true as a graduate of the university. Multi-awarded and critically-acclaimed actor, recording artist, and producer whose films she starred in are studied in film schools and universities. La Aunor is best remembered in her iconic films such as Himala, Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, Bona, The Flor Contemplacion Story, and Thy Womb in which she has received numerous acting awards locally and internationally.

Henry Bensurto Jr (maritime lawyer) – the Philippine Daily Inquirer has this to write about this prime Filipino maritime lawyer: a career diplomat and is one of the Philippines’ leading experts on maritime security and the West Philippine Sea issue. He was part of the Philippine team that filed the arbitration case against China on the West Philippine Sea dispute, which is now pending before an Arbitral Tribunal in the Hague. This UPian (political science) and Bedan (law) alumnus has been recognized several times for his groundbreaking work on Philippine maritime security and the territorial disputes within the West Philippine Sea. He received the Presidential Order of Lakandula (rank of Grand Officer), one of the highest honors given by the Philippine Government, for his foreign policy contributions toward the Philippines’ approach to the West Philippine Sea disputes. Likewise, he received the Presidential Award of Gawad Mabini (rank of Commander) for his leadership and contributions to the passage of the Philippine Archipelagic Baselines Law in 2009. He pursued further studies overseas, graduating from Oxford University in 1996, under the Chevening Scholarship, with a Distinction in Public International Law and Merit in International Trade. He also has a Diploma on the Law of the Sea at the Rhodes Academy of Oceans Law and Policy in Greece.

Darlene Marie Berberabe (PAG-IBIG fund president) – the ex-wife of basketball legend Samboy Lim is not your typical love adviser because she works for PAG-IBIG but she’s the 1999 class salutatorian of the UP College of Law who was appointed as the chief executive officer of the Pagtutulungan sa Kinabukasan: Ikaw, Bangko, Industriya at Gobyerno who became a game changer at PAG-IBIG Fund who implemented innovative programs and reforming the once problematic organization. In 2012 she won the CEO Excel Award from the International Association of Business Communicators. In 2013, she became the first woman to win the Outstanding Chief Executive Officer in Asia and the Pacific. This year, she received the Silver Award as Female Executive of the Year in Government or Non-Profit from Stevie Awards in New York. PAG-IBIG, under her adminisration, also received the Senior Management Team from the same prestigious award-giving body.  

Antonio Carpio(senior associate justice) – he has lambasted China’s controversial 9-dashed line claim in the South China Sea when his powerful and provocative public lectures being held in various academic institutions are jam-packed. When he lectured his “Historical Facts and Historical Lies in the West Philippine Sea” which I moderated at NDCP, his captured audience included SND Voltaire T Gazmin and AFP Chief of Staff Catapang. He noted that China has yet to present specific historical evidence to support its claim. While he clarified that the Philippine claim is based on international law and historical maps that could debunk China’s claims. Justice Carpio obtained his law degree from the University of the Philippines where he graduated valedictorian and cum laude in 1975. He placed sixth in the 1975 Bar Examinations. He earned his undergraduate degree in Economics from Ateneo de Manila University in 1970. He also became the Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Philippines Law Journal of the UP College of Law; Editor-in-Chief of the Guidon, the school paper of ADMU; and Managing Editor of the Philippine Collegian. 

Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr (AFP Chief of Staff) – he may be named after two generals Gregorio del Pilar and Pio del Pilar, sill Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr is destined to be the top honcho of the Philippines armed forces. After graduating from the Philippine Military Academy, he pursued graduate courses in the University of the Philippines and National Defense College of the Philippines. Prior to his promotion as the Chief of Staff of the AFP, he was the Vice Chief of Staff and former head of the AFP Northern Luzon Command and 7th Infantry Division. He took up international short courses in Australian Defence College and China’s National Defence University. In some web accounts, he is credited in the normalization of Northern and Central Luzon from a hotbed of communist insurgency to peaceful area ready for further development. His mantra calls for “Kawal Disiplinado, Bawal Abusado, Dapat Asintado,” is a mission-vision for men in uniform to become proficient in fire and maneuver and be able to avoid collateral damage; be respectful of human rights; adhere to international humanitarian law and rule of law, as well as, the rules of engagement of the IPSP Bayanihan. Given the many challenges of the globalized 21st century in the armed forces, he wants to equip military officers with adequate knowledge as they confront the many challenges this century will bring on and commands his men and women to be alert to mother nature’s wrath with natural disasters as one of the security threats they need to combat.

Charo Santos-Concio (president of ABS-CBN) – she’s the empress and queen of Philippine broadcasting media. In 2010, I cited her in my roster as the fifth yet first woman President of ABS-CBN. But with her palpable and unstoppable achievements to date in one of the most influential industries in the country, she has all the reasons to be thankful due to her solid ingenuity and contributions to Philippine mass media. An alumna of Harvard University for advanced management course she has earned; this versatile and multi-awarded Filipina actor and host of the longest-running drama anthology, recently awarded the Female Executive of the Year in Asia, Australia or New Zealand and Woman of the Year – both from the prestigious Gold Stevie Awards in New York. She was recognized and awarded because of her stand out triumphs and leadership manifested through ABS-CBN’s continued high ratings, increased company revenues, Star Cinema’s box office success, successful 60th anniversary and the network’s public service initiatives for the victims of various calamities in the Philippines.       

Rodrigo Duterte(city mayor of Davao) – they call him ‘the punisher’ or the ‘next president’. He is noted for transforming the City of Davao from the murder capital to ‘the most peaceful city in Southeast Asia’. Attorney Duterte obtained his law degree from the San Beda College and his baccalaureate degree from Lyceum of the Philippines University. During his stints as mayor of Davao since 1988, 1998, 2001, 2004, and 2007 – some of his political reforms led him to champion certain advocacies and made him win several awards for Davao including the National Literacy Award. He amended liquor ban, speed limits for all vehicles, aid for Visayas, and emergency response. Although he has been criticized by human rights groups for tolerating extrajudicial killings of alleged criminals, many Filipinos like his feisty approach just like in many action movies. Under his leadership, he made Davao one of the most livable cities in Asia.  

Karen Davila (broadcast journalist) – her credible stint as a moderator during the World Economic Forum in Manila has enlivened cable news channel. She was in her natural element as a smart and multi-awarded broadcast journalist surrounded by high-profile intellectuals and business people during the said forum. She is a pro and adequately trained as one of the news presenters of ABS-CBN’s Bandila and an anchor in her own morning program Headstart on ABS-CBN News Channel, aside from being heard of on her DZMM program. This UPian mass communications alumna and frustrated fashion designer found her edge in TV broadcasting and won numerous awards both locally and internationally in her career, including two awards from the prestigious New York Festival. In 1999 she received an award for Best Medical Report in the CNN World Report Competition and the 2005 UNICEF Child Rights award. She was awarded the 2008 Ten Outstanding Young Men Award for Broadcast Journalism. In 2010, she was chosen as one of the “Young Global Shapers” of the World Economic Forum. In 2013, she was cited as one of the Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service.

Miriam Colonel-Ferrer (peacemaker, political scientist) – this no non-sense and unassuming lady peace negotiator is a University of the Philippines political science professor. She has been with the government peace panel since 2010 before assuming the lead role in 2012 as the successor of Justice Marvic Leonen, formerly the head of the government peace panel. She is the first woman to chair the said post and was considered as one of the 27 Filipinos nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Under her leadership as the chief peacemaker, she already submitted the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to the leaders of the Philippine Congress that would bring the peace panel to the next crucial stage in the roadmap to the Bangsamoro political entity which is the formal legislative process. She graduated cum laude from UP Diliman with a philosophy degree and a master’s degree in Southeast Asian Studies from the University of Kent at Canterbury while finishing her doctoral program in political science at the University of Helsinki. She juggles her roles as wife, mother, professor, negotiator and peace advocate according to her interview with Inquirer Lifestyle. Achiever of the same league, Prof Miriam Colonel-Ferrer is also the sister of equally cerebral woman Sheila Colonel, now the dean of academic affairs of Columbia University’s School of Journalism. Prof Ferrer has mentored me with other UP scholars when we study-toured Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore in the second Southeast East Asian Regional Exchange Program.
Gilas Pilipinas and Philippine Azkals (best Filipino entertainers) – they made us believe that Filipino basketballers and footballers are world class! That our dreams are reachable and can become a reality! The talent and skills they exuded and executed during the FIBA World Cup in Spain and AFF Suzuki Cup co-hosted by Singapore and Vietnam in 2014, are signs that sports science in the Philippines must synergize the optimal youth and energy of this country. Basketball is a unifying sport to many Filipinos while football is getting the same attention what basketball had in the past. Both sports now are becoming favorites past time and can draw huge following for a lot of young and hip Filipinos. Stand out players in Gilas Pilipinas and Azkals are becoming household names, same as true with the national teams of the Philippines they represent in basketball and football – the Gilas Pilipinas and Philippine Azkals! With the biggest breaks they are getting in the international arena of world sports, there’s no reason why our Filipino sportsmen will nonetheless pursue excellence and honor. Truly, the Filipino athletes are world class and talented. I hope that the government and private sectors will continuously pour in more support because they definitely entertain Filipinos worldwide. You are the badge of honor and inspiration to myriads of young Filipino people globally and virtually! Because of our ballers’ success, the Philippines is proposing to host soon the FIBA World Cup in Manila. This year we also saw the prowess and world-class talents of Philippine Army Dragon Boat Team as the best peddlers in the world. The Philippines’ youngest ice skating icon Michael Christian Martinez wowed us with his defying stunts one to the top figure skaters to watch for from a land where it does not snow but blessed with talented people.   

Joey Salceda (governor, green economist) – his provocative and controversial policy for married couples to check-in to motels during natural disasters to avoid scandals in evacuation centers irked some moralists yet his pragmatic reforms are well-applauded by policy-makers. Recently, President Aquino himself approved his appointment as director and Asian representative to the Board of the Green Climate Change of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Asia.  To cite his blog, he was named UN global champion for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction for his novel ideas implemented in his province which became a standard for many local government units around the country. This progressive and multi-awarded governor was once a presidential economic adviser and three-term congressman in Bicolandia.

Mahar Lagmay (disaster scientist, professor) – the iconic ‘Project Noah’ of the Department of Science and Technology widened Lagmay’s clout as one of today’s reliable scientists when he spearheaded the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH), aimed at helping the Philippine government and the Filipino people in disaster preparedness and response efforts to have a more accurate, integrated, and responsive disaster prevention and mitigation system particularly in high-risk areas in the country. The said project will harness technologies and management services for disaster risk reduction activities. As a UP professor of National Institute of Geological Sciences, he debunked the viral 14-minute Youtube video about the ‘Microwave theory’ of supertyphoon Haiyan which explains that the microwave pulses observed in the West Pacific caused a heavy rotation to develop that created large storm which was man-made. Dr Lagmay’s research interests include theoretical and experimental research on the reciprocal influence of volcanoes and their basement. He has done studies on landslides, lahar and flood disasters in the Philippines including the 2006 Guinsaugon rockslide debris avalanche, 2006 Mayon lahars, 2009 Ondoy and 2011 Sendong floods. He is an active netizen in social media with a mission to disseminate information about the science of disasters in layman’s terms.

Antonio Meloto (social entrepreneur) – his wisdom on business social entrepreneurship is part of ADMU’s brand of build philosophy. This brand merges social business and rural development. It is a patriotic fervor of rebuilding or itayo the nation-state and not the other way around of pulling it down or ibagsak!  As the father and founder of Gawad Kalinga, a non-government social organization known for building houses for the poorest of the poor; another pet project called GK Enchanted Farm is Gawad Kalinga’s platform to raise social entrepreneurs, help local farmers, and create wealth in the countryside. Most of his volunteers in the farm are rich kids who graduated from top private universities in Metro Manila (ADMU and DLSU) and who received degree and pedigree from their respective Alma Mater, but mostly are half-Chinese or half-Indians. Most foreign working students and volunteers in his farm come from France and the United States. They are the Proof of Concept as they sell the farm’s mission because of their successful testimonials. As an economics degree holder through a Far East Bank scholarship and being a US-educated for his MBA course, he became a successful professional that led him to his Utopian dream of a better Philippines by 2024 where there will be no squatters or informal settlers in the country. He is one of the most trusted Filipinos according to Reader’s Digest and a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee.

Manny Pacquiao (pound-for-pound king, evangelist, congressman) – this reformed Filipino ring icon and post-modern Pinoy Hercules is back with a vengeance. From a pound-for-pound-king by knocking Mexican, American, and British gladiators, he became a serious politician, actor, entrepreneur, producer, recording artist, evangelist, basketball coach-player, commercial endorser, host and family man. He’s an icon of his own league who is looked up to by A-list Hollywood stars. His rags-to-riches story has inspired many Filipinos but some envy him and aspire for what he has achieved. He has even been awarded with honorary degrees by academic institutions because of his contributions to world sports and for his various socio-civic activities. He could even become the next Philippine senator or Vice President of the country with his undisputable popularity. But Pacman knows well his game and strategy. As a young achiever, he has no more things to prove to himself but to face Floyd Mayweather as his foremost nemesis in the pound-for-pound king title in the ring and his future political ambitions.    

Manny Pangilinan (tycoon, visionary) – MVP as he is fondly called in the business community is a cum laude Atenean economist with MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who controls conglomerates ranging from telecommunications, television, mining, toll ways, rail transit, hospitals, electric and water, housing, properties, sports teams and more. A single yet serious business-minded billionaire; yet this media mogul, industrialist, philanthropist and visionary is a leading advocate of public-private partnerships. There was a time he even wanted to forge oil drills with the Chinese in the contested West Philippine Sea. Through him, Manila was able to host the FIBA Asia Championship in 2013 and now he aspires for Philippines to host soon the World FIBA Championships.   
Grace Poe (senator) – she might be the third female president of the Philippines if the bright stars will align with her political destiny and the voice of the Filipino people will continuously support her in 2016 and beyond. As the daughter of FPJ, she will get vindication of her father’s once desired seat of power. But in all fairness to her, this debater from UP Manila and US-educated petite senator is most likely the woman to beat, emerging with freshest name to recall, and could carry herself with oozing credibility to run for presidency or vice presidency come election time. Major political parties welcome her in their line-up and would like to forge alliance with her. She needs to be smart and strategic as more Filipino people will expect much from her. 

Miriam Santiago (senator) – she’s the queen of Philippine memes and pick-up jokes. Her cerebral attributes is legendary being a magna cum laude back in college at UP Visayas and cum laude in the UP College of Law at Diliman with master of laws in University of Michigan. She’s a debater and editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian, at the same time. But this feisty senator and Asia’s original iron lady walk her talk. After nearly three years being elected a judge at the Hague-based International Criminal Court, she stepped down and deferred taking her oath citing her lazy bone marrow health condition. But her electrifying legal career and public service as the youngest regional trial court judge in Manila, commissioner of the bureau of immigration and deportation, secretary of agrarian reform, former presidential candidate, party leader, being popular and no non-sense senator, and a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee prove her worth as a true public servant in contemporary Philippine politics.

Chito Sta Romana (award-winning journalist, sinologist) – every time he lectures at NDCP, I would introduce him by reading his prolific profile: he’s an Emmy award-winning, former ABC News Beijing Bureau Chief and China expert was a student activist who went into political exile in Beijing starting in the 1970s martial law era. A LaSallian where he became a student council president, took graduate courses in development economics in UP Diliman, and earned his master’s in international relations at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Massachusetts. He has covered many historic events in modernizing China for ABC News, from the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations, the 2001 US-China crisis over Hainan plane incident in 2001, the Sichuan earthquake, the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2009 Beijing summit meeting of US President Barrack Obama and then China president Hu Jintao. He also worked with ABC anchors like Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, Diane Sawyer and Bob Woodruff when they reported from China.

Michael Tan (UPD chancellor, medical anthropologist) – he’s known for his commentaries on various social, political, cultural, and medical issues in his column ‘Pinoy Kasi’ for the Inquirer since 1997. This medical anthropologist, professor and former chair of anthropology, former dean of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy started to make a name for himself in non-government organizations with his notable and numerous research and publications on sex and sexuality, reproductive and sexual health, pharmaceuticals, health policy, and indigenous medical beliefs. He obtained his PhD in social and political science from the Medical Anthropology Unit of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands; a master’s in anthropology from the Texas A&M University in the US and finished veterinary medicine in UP Diliman. He was also schooled in Xavier. Previously elected as a member of the country’s National Academy of Science and Technology in 2012, citing his contributions on “sustained outstanding scientific research, teaching, advocacy and development work particularly in his consistent efforts to revitalize scientific research on and in the use of traditional medicine, develop rational drug policies, and understand the social and behavioral dimensions of HIV/AIDS prevention and of reproductive health promotion.” As the current chancellor of UP’s flagship campus, he envisions “a UP in terms of a shared culture of academic citizenship built on collegiality, a sense of justice and fairness, and ethics.”

Friday, December 19, 2014

Citizen Journalism: The Right to Communicate and Social Change

By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2014 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

Citizen journalism is a democratic, guerilla, participatory, public, and street journalism where an individual or groups of people are enjoined to play active and greater role in the process of analyzing, collecting, disseminating, and reporting news and information. Furthermore, it is an alternative and activist form of newsgathering and informing that function outside mainstream media institutions. 

To me, I would like to call it as a “selfie newscasting,” a layman’s jargon in which citizen journalism can take a new form of personal reportage from the “I” standpoint using phones, emails, and new apps via new media and/or various platforms provided by phenomenal social media to any wrong doing or irregularity.

Obviously it is social media that paved way to citizen journalism as a necessity to the right to communicate in its evolving terms and conditions. The social media introduced and widened the scope of citizen journalism that has created, mobilized, and demonstrated waves of consciousness and action that reach much more people than traditional industrial media.

With the expanding sphere of influence of social media through the cyberspace, this has led many governments and individuals to acknowledge the power of social media by engaging its citizens to participate in state-owned and personal social activities such as elections and policy-making.

It is apparent now that citizen journalists can establish wide readership through blogs or micro-blogs in which some bloggers and online writers can even emerge as “stars” with large pool of follower netizens under the political sphere of blogosphere by developing an established network of contacts and readers. These citizen journalists can draw wide readership that are untapped by traditional media.

Democratizing the playing field of media

In my view as a social scientist, citizen journalism has leveled off the playing field for professional journalists and wannabe journalists. In the process of leveling off the playing field, it has also offered alternative platforms for the media industry to challenge professional and institutionalized practices of the mainstream media. In other words, this called for reawakening in the sense and sensibilities of concerned citizens to participate in a rapidly changing cultural landscape the world has never witnessed before.

Democratizing journalism away from the social ills of the political economy of traditional media propounded by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky has been defied now by the emergence of citizen journalism as an unconventional way of disseminating information and the right to communicate.

This phenomenon has certainly bridged the wall of the elites and the masses whereby elite domination of the media as manifested in their dominating choices and interpretations of “objective” news and arrangement of professional news values can be disputed by new actors or manufacturers of information. Therefore the subjectivity of information and reliance of sources can break the monopoly of mainstream networks because the playing field is starting to be leveled off and democratized.

In spite of democratizing the process, new and natural forms of monopoly are in the offing that would take place as the hegemony for ownership of technology and broadband will be the next frontiers in the media industry.

For example, the diversification and geographic spread of traditional media companies and outfits are strengthening. The clout of their network is globalizing. This phenomenon is also happening in the Philippines through the ever expanding regional networks of major TV companies. The partnership of radio-TV-cable networks war in partnership with major newspaper dailies and biggest telecommunication companies are mushrooming and highly encouraged in essence of diversification. Therefore, ‘quadmedia’ – print, radio, television, and the internet are fused and merged together to compete for the ‘content’ and ‘context’ of historical, current, local, and global events.

Inadvertently, the advent and propagation of social media sites and latest applications has led in an interesting time of people engagement and participation. In my own understanding, citizen journalism is a people power movement in the information age. Much of the activities in these platforms revolve around the ideal currency of power. Hence, power is an ideal as social actors eventually gain more and more either materially from interactions of people. Empowerment has been circulating and rapidly advancing in information technology through an increased degree of personal and group ability to access online resources and interact with other social actors.    

Case study: media ninja as agents of social change

       One of the interesting, if not a successful form of citizen journalism would be Brazil’s media ninja which reached the peak of its popularity in the information superhighway last year. Based from pop culture, ninjas are perceived to be strategic, smart and sneaky. However, in a techno-driven and globalized world, becoming a media ninja is open to all concerned global citizens. For media ninjas, they also plan and choose strategic battles, change game and experiment, and they feel no one is alone in the virtual community. They become media agents and independent citizen journalists.

In Brazil, media ninjas were hailed as the newest ambassadors when Argentinean-Italian and the most technology-savvy pope so far, Pope Francis visited the largest country in South America. The Brazilian citizen journalists used social media to plan, broadcasts, and deliver blow-by-blow accounts of the papal visit as they addressed to the pope and to the Brazilian authorities the many social issues their country were facing at that time.

Although, they were confronted with the many perils in embracing this calling as citizen journalists and media ninjas; they risked their lives covering major news events and street protests to get first-hand information and be a witness of the current events as they write and broadcast the highlights of events in the purview of balanced social media.   

Case Study: The Philippines experience during #Yolanda

The Philippines also learned from Brazil’s media ninjas. As our global village decongests, there is now increased interactions among people from all continents of the world to create, share, and exchange rapid information and ideas via virtual community.

Our country has not been left behind in this genre but sometimes it is a leading source of citizen journalism. Major Philippine networks like ABS-CBN2, GMA-7, and TV-5 launched their own segments of citizen journalism programs to bandwagon with this trending media platform. Through citizen journalism, it empowers people to express their opinions since the wide webspace offers virtual activists an important degree of information and communication independence from the mass media.

Also a year ago, the #help PH flooded twitter when super typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan struck the country. Help from different parts of the country and the international community started pouring in. Pictures and videos during and about the aftermath of the strongest storm have become viral that caught the attention of our fellowmen and global citizens. From hashtags, statuses, memes, selfies and other forms of self-expression in social media, these media developments have influenced how we feed and get quick information. 

It is very observable that many netizens are using social media in expressing not just their personal concerns and experiences, but also in verbalizing their thoughts about various political and social issues in the country. The strong presence of technology becomes the avenue to vex their angst and share of opinions; thus, they can also be mobilized for common goals depending on their own interests and advocacy.

As myriads Filipino netizens today have the power to change the world by entering the realm of cyberspace, people have become more critical to social commentaries of national, regional, and global importance. These new forms of empowerment can truly aid us to converge together and present real stories in the virtual community. Therefore, it is our mission to foster the values of responsible citizen journalism in our deterritorialized world.

Ethical issues and social responsibility in citizen journalism

Admittedly, most of practitioners of citizen journalism are not professional journalists. Most run their own show in the forms of blog, videos, and social media accounts, out of curiosity and for fame. One study says that the contribution of professional journalism to democratize citizenship is well-established but the proliferation of online user-generated news begs the question of whether citizen journalism plays a similar role.

Ethical issues escalate as to whether citizen journalists have the right to communicate; their role is contested among their circles including professional journalists. The dichotomy between professional and amateur journalism is soaring because of ethical standards being raised by academics, journalists, and citizens themselves. Trust and reliability become another issue in the discursive constructs of news gathering and news reportage. But the role of citizen journalism through social media is unprecedented; though raw and unedited, it brings the message to its true essence as long as the content is honest and true.

For instance, the Philippines managed to experience people power ‘revolutions’ or protests using digital and online forms from text (SMS) messaging in EDSA II and in social media through facebook and twitter in Luneta’s Million People March. The Philippines has been used as a template in some other movements in other parts of the world including the Arab Spring, in which the world watched dissidents in the Middle East as Arab citizens used the power of social media as they organize together to dethrone their dictator-king.

Although, the lines separating culturally and socially held conventions have blurred; and people and the digital have become one in the new online estate – the sum of interactions, the network of communications among social actors have become porous. 

Some would even accuse citizen journalism as a PR strategy. But the rise of information technology, the network of communications among social actors now takes place at a global stage and real-time state. 

The power dynamic among social actors has now become more inclusive, at times more asymmetric. People now do politics across borders and beyond peoples. Its chilling effect in communication and how that translates to society’s formation of culture has produced a dual effect. 

One on hand there are longstanding cultures that have become trenches of resistance and on the other is the homogenizing undercurrent, a vision of a cosmopolitan society, that comes with a global platform for interaction.  The attempt to unify cultures online under commonalities and then singularities however has not fully manifested. 

What has pervaded in this new order for the present time is the idea of fragmentation following historically different cultural identities.  Supporting this fragile dynamic is the rise of both tolerance as well as individualism as more and more cultures interact. Differences are preserved in an environment that recognizes diversity and upholds fair representation. 

Irresponsible citizen journalism can also escalate controversies and mistrust among citizen journalists. Therefore, there is a need to impose ethical standards to avoid abuses and misconstructions about the medium.  

This leads to responsible citizen journalism. There is beauty in citizen journalism for it can actually benefit traditional journalism. With the many natural and human-induced or man-made disasters around the world, citizen journalists are able to document the scene better than actual news outlets using android and smart cellular phones. The viewers in YouTube and other social networks are first account witnesses to it and able to give insights to others from their point of view.

In the end, citizen journalism has positive and negative effects. Technology has definitely contributed to its proliferation because we are now connected as universal netizens in just few clicks. The world has become a global village and citizen journalism allows more opinion-based approach to solving or managing transnational issues; it has allowed vast opportunities for those who spread information, although trust and credibility is still debatable in this context; but generally it has empowered people and leveled off the playing field to all people to the right to communicate. 

Citizen journalism may be a threat to national security

The media has long been considered as the “fourth estate” in Britain and France, the “fourth power” in Spain, and the “fourth branch of government” in the United States. It is in that power in which the press has the ability to give or withhold publicity and forms its informative capacity. With the dawn of the dotcom era, obviously wars has evolved asymmetrical – from territorial, naval, aerial, space to cyber which is called as the fifth domain.

Since warfare has become asymmetrical with the emergence of non-state actors and individuals, truth in information has also become subjective. A restriction sought to be justified on the ground of national security becomes legitimate if the genuine purpose is to protect interest unrelated to national security. For instance, to protect the government from embarrassment or exposure of wrongdoing, concealing information about the functioning of its public institutions and entrench a particularly idea or to suppress industrial unrest are being practiced.

One classic example in which the fourth estate has challenged the fifth domain or cybersecurity in accessing freedom of information would be the ‘Wikileaks’ in 2009 where it posed a video of US military personnel’s jubilation after the launching of airstrike that killed a dozen of Iraqi civilians including two Reuters journalists.

That incident transgressed the Rules of Engagement in many war and it is certainly a human rights violation. The Pentagon had initially forbidden Reuters News Agency to obtain the video on the grounds that it would breach American national security. In that security saga, Wikileaks director Julian Assange leaked the video and the US has since released an arrest warrant for Mr Assange.

The appalling side of new media is the quiet emergence of hundreds of uncensored websites and social network sites that cling to rampant disinformation that may entice millions of netizens. Given the scenario that the information superhighway may trespass a country’s sovereignty, and that there is little regulation on the internet; hackers and irresponsible citizen journalists may mete out wide-scale reparations and malicious information damaging the integrity of the webspace.

            On a bigger note, the fluidity of the cyberspace absorbed by the virtual regional and global community of citizen journalists could succumb to further tension and deep international debate, respective of each beliefs and creed, caused by escalating schism among conflicting political, social, and religious groups. This will create a new online forum for worldwide information warfare and a novel force in transforming today’s virtual geopolitical space in a fast deterritorializing world.

In the Philippines, one of the many reasons why the various authored bills on the Freedom of Information or FOI is not yet signed by the bicameral Congress because of the contention that it would pose threat to national security. Although there are exceptions on the type of information whether or not the documents are classified or unclassified to be disseminated, and this remains to be a battlefront for politicians and policy-makers.

Considering that this is related with citizen journalism, if by hypothetical instance that classified documents are obtained by so-called citizen journalists, how could we then contain the security of our country? Or what if security leaders themselves violate rights and privileges given to citizen journalists, what would be their stake?

The overall picture at the moment may be grim since there are no jurisdictional laws that would regulate the practice of social media vis a vis citizen journalism. Ethics on social media should be crafted and discussed to effectively combat online bashers under this emerging domain. 

A community of citizen journalists

The voice of the people is the voice of God. This is affirmed in the age of the dotcom era when people host different ways to communicate factual message and information. Citizen journalists, documentary filmmakers, and reporters may be amateur using their mobile phones that are posted online, however, most contents are powerful and understood – that becomes citizen journalism is in good hands. 

We have seen the ‘Occupy Movements’ in New York, Istanbul, HongKong and Manila – these incidents and more are definitely changing the way we look at the world today. We want social change and the technology has been in the forefront of cutting-edge change sandwich with sensible information.  The creativity and innovative reporting is changing the cycle of traditional media.

There are also times when mainstream media were unable to reach areas of conflict and disaster-stricken areas or there is media blackout, citizen journalists are resourceful and alert in reporting first-hand these current events. They can gather and deliver the news instantly, sometimes raw, reality, and unedited as it may - as long as the content or message is rich. With only one click to social media it can become viral and informative to others – hence social media can become the fastest news online in the virtual community. 

Furthermore, social media in the form of citizen journalism is sometimes used as an aid because of break news through trending topics. This may even be interesting for the online community in terms of online discussion and disseminating the information with netizens. The concept of ‘to easily get connected’ is a strong repertoire of the current century to make information a living thing and alive. Connectedness is the buzz word today that marks the current generation survives the social perils and challenges the world can offer.  

On the other hand, there are personal biases when citizen journalists, given unwanted situations, they often become emotional than straightforwardly report the event and squarely deliver the news.  Many professional journalists tend to criticize the poor quality and delivery of news written and produced by citizen journalists – and hence the latter are not seriously taken and become disadvantageous on their part. Some facts are even sensationalized, untrue, and no factual which create lessened credibility to some citizen journalists. Often than not, they can even be sued for libel cases in court. 

In the end, citizen journalism should be taken seriously as an alternative form of media because it breaks away from the monopoly of traditional media. Ordinary citizens who want change can influence the society through their thoughts and ideas, news and stories, virtually spread in borderless and deterritorialized world of today and tomorrow. Along the way, ethical and legal issues must be addressed and any breach to national security should be safeguarded. The world has become a global village and because of citizen journalists every corners of the world shall have its own news and stories accessible to the public world because of unprecedented evolution of technologies shared with great content and information that makes the knowledge economy of the dotcom era more engaging and powerful. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Reading the minds of Robert Kaplan, Ruth Benedict and Mario Miclat

By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2014 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

(Asia’s Cauldron, Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Secrets of the 18 Mansions

The fighting spirit in me to read a number of books this semester challenged me as a working graduate student. Although the books are easy read if it really interests me. But as I reflect, even if I keep on acquiring books, I oftentimes forget to browse or even read it. Because of my World Ethnography class, I have been encouraged to smell the pages of my books and read the texts of some classic and current paperbacks locked inside the drawers of my mini-library at home.

Three years ago, I had invited Dr Mario Miclat to lecture in my module at the National Defense College of the Philippines, and as a gesture of his kindness, he gave me a copy of his novel, Secrets of the Eighteen Mansions. I have known him as a China expert on society and culture in the academic community, although, I had no chance to enroll in his subject back when I was finishing my masters at UP Asian Center. After inviting him in my class to lecture about China with military officers as my students, the more his memories reverberated about the Middle Kingdom. All the while, I started to fall in love with Chinese culture and society, especially that China has become one of my research interests.

On the other hand, since my college days, I had been hearing about how prolific a writer anthropologist Ruth Benedict was. I am told that I need to read her ethnographic masterpiece, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture, most especially that I work for the National Defense. Some says it is considered a classic book. And to better review it, I might as well to read it, to know whether or not the ethnography is truly excellent. Given the culture at a distance context of the writing, the ethnographic research is truly superb in narrative. I am thinking in the future, when I will be writing later on a dissertation about China, given my limited travel and studies in China for a short period of time, it may not be considered as a fieldwork in its full scale, perhaps, I can use the same methodology as what Ruth Benedict had done in her best-selling book about the Japanese culture and society.      

With the success of 2012 Jacques Martin’s provocative testimonial on When China Rules the World, a new book published this year is making some noise about Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific by Robert Kaplan. It talks about the security environment of the world and the change of fulcrum of power from Europe’s landscape to Asia’s seascape. With my current interest on the South China Sea vis a vis West Philippine Sea issue, perhaps this western narrative can help me understand deeper the impacts of defense and security architecture of the Asia-Pacific region.

Given the backgrounds of these three great selection of books, Mario Miclat’s story is based from his personal life’s struggles about the commune and secret society in China and the Philippines, disguised as a novel, as a literary license he can think of to freely express his narratives about communist China. On the other hand, the ethnography of Ruth Benedict should be viewed from a historical particularism context because Japan during World War II became the prime foe of the Americans inspired by archival research and key informant interviews without the support of actual fieldwork in Japan. What interest me about the book is that it was used for intelligence and espionage by the Americans using the methods of the anthropology of war and war anthropology. Lastly, journalist Robert Kaplan’s latest book discusses hottest maritime issues in the 21st century and analyzes the use of maps as flashpoints of conflicts from the multi-disciplinary perspectives of history, anthropology, international relations, and strategic culture.    

Content wise, Miclat’s 251 pages novel, published by Anvil in 2010, has a prologue and epilogue divided into ten chapters. The story starts in Manila and ends in Beijing. The novel is also long listed in the 2009 Man Asian Literary Prize. Whereas, Benedict’s ethnography has thirteen chapters, written in 1964 and published by World Publishing Company in 1967, containing 324 pages including acknowledgements, glossary, and index. It is considered one of the best-selling ethnographies of all time. Meanwhile, Kaplan’s book, published by Random House in New York, has 209 pages with eight chapters, also has a prologue, epilogue, acknowledgements, notes, and index. Among the three, Benedict’s work has the most number of reviews because of its timeless theme, more than five decades of presence as a classical literature; though, there are few reviews for Miclat’s book, mostly from the local readers; while, Kaplan’s research is starting to get good reviews from the international critics.

Context wise, the strength of Miclat is his power to narrate stories and his literary prowess that would compel his reader to compare Chinese and Filipino culture and society. The period of the novel should also be understood in order to better understand the setting and soul of the account – it tackles stories from the first quarter storm of student activism and the formation of the New People’s Army in the Philippines, including fragments of back stories about China’s Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s and early 1970s. On the other hand, Benedict is swollen with a mission to profoundly tell a story about the ideology of the Japanese as it is reflected in the daily manner and customs of their life. It outlines the multi-faceted Japanese society, ethics, political, religious and economic life. Lastly, Kaplan dissects contested perspectives in the South China Sea as he renders the importance of geography and maps, discusses China’s Caribbean referring to Southeast Asia, frames concert of civilizations referring to major powers across the region, and pushes the Unites States role in the security environment of the region. It gives us a view on how geography determines destiny. He has a poignant thesis on how to construct the imperative roles of economics, military strategy, maritime power, Sinitic culture, and geopolitics.

In trying to flesh out important details of thinking from the thinkers of the three chosen books, Kaplan’s account in Asia’ Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, describes the contested South China Sea as (p9), “the throat of the Western Pacific and Indian oceans – the mass of connective economic tissue where global sea route coalesce. Here is the heart of Eurasia’s navigable rimland, punctuated by Malacca, Sunda, Lombok and Makassar straits. More than half of the world’s annual merchant fleet tonnage passes through the choke point, and a third of all maritime traffic worldwide.” In Kaplan’s musing into understanding the concert of civilizations in Asia, he was helped by the late anthropologist Clifford Geertz to understand a bigger picture, in which he said to him (p73), “while the reality of a foreign culture is not simply a prejudice on the part of the observer, at the same time, there was such a thing as the ‘basic unity of mankind’. Thus, too much of an emphasis on culture and civilization could obscure the reality of human reality itself.” And as Asia’s Cauldron connotes in his book, he points out that (p49), “domination of the South China Sea would certainly clear way for pivotal Chinese air and naval influence throughout the navigable rimland of Eurasia – the Indian and Pacific oceans both. The South China Sea is now a principal node of global power politics, critical to the preservation of the worldwide balance of power.” In his mind, China thinks out it has the right to tight belt Asia’s maritime territories using the controversial cow’s tongue or nine-dashed line concept because (p166), “the South China Sea and its environs are Chinese near-abroad, where China is harmoniously reasserting the status quo, having survived the assault upon it by Western powers,” Kaplan believed.

Reading the mind of Ruth Benedict in her influential ethnographic book, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, it brings me to her thesis on the concept of hierarchy, as she wrote (pp56-57), “such a bald statement of hierarchy in the Japanese family does not, when Americans read it with their different standards of interpersonal behavior, do justice to the acceptance of strong and sanctioned emotional ties in Japanese families. There is considerable solidarity in the household and how they achieve it is one of the subjects of this book.” Thus, as a substantial example of wartime ethnography, she was commissioned to write the book and explain the Japanese culture including their psychology of militarism and patriotism since WWII, as she shares her thought (p1), “conventions of war which Western nations had come to accept as facts of human nature obviously did not exists for the Japanese. It made the war in the Pacific more than a series of landings on island beaches, more than an unsurpassed problem of logistics. It made it a major problem in the nature of the enemy. We had to understand their behavior in order to cope with it.” Unable to undergo the Malinowskian model of fieldwork due to the wartime situation, Benedict furthermore had relied much her data at that time from US-based Japanese translators, by reading and watching Japanese propaganda books and movies, and by using comparative method to better understand the contradictions in Japanese traditional culture. With that, her work received harsh criticisms among anthropologists, and other critics slammed her method something as not so different from what historians do; however, it remained influential in shaping the minds of American policy-makers during the WWII.      

            Meanwhile, Mario Miclat’s Secrets of the Eighteen Mansions, claimed by critic-readers as disappointing, uninspired, a narrative of the author’s misadventures in his youth, a black propaganda, life of a communist cadre in China during Martial Law in the Philippines, a tale of an underground Filipino expat in China, and the book is incoherent as its chronology. However, it can be inferred that the form of the novel maybe considered as an art too, given his poetic license, to articulate his thoughts in such a form. Regarding the title of his novel, the eighteen mansions refer to the buildings in a secret compound in Beijing where the Chinese Communist Party in 1960s and 1970s housed delegations of Communists parties all over the world to facilitate its secret aid to their own insurgencies. The Mansion No. 7 is where the author, as a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines, stayed with his family since 1971. He lived and worked in that mansion at Radio Peking. In his novel he has vivid memories of the mansion, as he writes (P108), “twenty-meter-high skyrocketing poplar trees at 10-meter intervals within the cypress hedges hemmed in the cemented two-meter-wide driveway fronting our mansion. But the Chinese describe most everything in precise mathematical terms and one gets to used to their system after a while. Meanwhile, the back and southern side of the house was an orchard of walnut, plum blossom and apple trees.” He returned to the Philippines in 1986 and felt disillusioned with the party he help founded it with Jose Ma Sison aka Amado Guerrero.  In the novel he continued by writing (p109), “we constantly discussed how to weaken the dominant superstructure – ideas, customs, habits, culture – all the institutions that supported, strengthened and consolidated the economic basis of US imperialism, the law, the authorities, the military, the police, and Washington apples.” Roberto Tiglao (PDI: 2010) in his column, strongly deems that Miclat’s book is not a fictional novel, rather a personal and political memoir of his nearly two decades as one of Sison’s earliest recruits who worked as an editor and translator in Beijing. In Tiglao’s words, since the novel is overtly titled, Secrets of the Eighteen Mansions, he views that secrets range from the personal to the political. To quote from one of his examples, there’s an instance where CPP’s founder Joma Sison found him womanizing and bearing an illegitimate daughter and even physically abusing his wife – it is trivial yet shocking for many readers like me. 

Each book has its strong points in terms of genre and style of story-telling. Miclat’s book is a novel but documents his personal life since some characters in his story are real like his own family members and other personalities used pseudonyms in his organizations in China and the Philippines. Benedict’s book is an ethnography based from her research assignment as Head of the Basic Analysis Section of the Bureau of Overseas Intelligence of the United States’ Office of War Information (OWI) who later on advised then US president Theodore Roosevelt by the time Japan lost the war in WWII to the emerging superpower of the late 20th century, the United States, not to dethrone the emperor of the Japanese to allow continuity of his divine monarchy in the Rising Sun. Kaplan’s book is the latest book on how to understand the security dynamics around the South China Sea as he tries to mine important historical narratives as to why China is behaving as a hegemon robed by its Middle Kingdom mentality in the East Asian region which has parallel comparison to the US when it was emerging as a superpower in the Atlantic region. Security interests as a hegemon requires dominance over resources and other important strategic defense and security dynamics. Kaplan even foresees the fate of the disputed seas which cover the hottest sea lanes of communications (SLOCS) in the globalized world as all cargo ships and goods from various continents worldwide pass through these high seas.

            As an avid researcher and observer of Asian security, foreign relations, and clash of cultures – these books are like bibles for me to better understand nations and societies. It gives me structures to think systematically on how and why these countries behave based from the ethnographic account, storyline of the novel, and current issues discussed in the book, to help me read the minds of these prolific writers, and to give meanings to the contexts about their valuable writings. Regardless of their disciplines and writing styles, their accounts are definitely true and stimulating as they tackle various cultures, different ethics and values, strong and weak people, and histories of nations. It reveals impliedly and expressly the strategic cultures of various nation-states as interpreted by these great writers and narrators in their highly credible ethnographies.       

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Canberra, Australia

Photographs by CBCabalza. Copyright © 2014 by Chester B. Cabalza. All Rights Reserved.