Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Anthropology of War: Reflections after a troubled century (1914-2014)

Poster from UP Dept of Anthropology
By Chester B Cabalza

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

I thought that the invited speaker, Dr Stefano Felician Beccari, a young civilian military geostrategist from the Military Centre for Strategic Studies, Italian Defence General Staff College, would focus his talk only on war and unconventional warfare. I was hoping about the anthropological significance of the forum when the talk should be dwelling on the discourses of the anthropology of war. But I stand corrected when his presentation did enough justice on what was I expecting of him as he successfully refuted his premises and stories impliedly related to anthropology and war in a jam-packed hall.

By leveling off key concepts, three terms should be distinguished. Firstly, War Anthropology talks about the deliberate application of the discipline for fighting a war, using academic and professional credentials, expertise, institutions, and personnel directly to serve the war. Secondly, Wartime Anthropology deals with cover term for all anthropology in time of war ranging from military service to the use of anthropology as a cover for war activities like spying or espionage. Lastly, Anthropology of War or Warfare looks at the ethnography and study of battles, the life and death of combatants and non-combatants in warzone and wartime society. It also looks at the study of societies in the phase of preparation and aftermath of wars.

Dr Beccari outlined six epochs or periods in his presentation that focused about people. It should be noted that war is a man-made disaster that is innate to human nature, thus their behaviors may affect customs, traditions, and technologies of people and societies to engage in war as part of insatiable desire to secure territories and for survival. His six periods are divided into the following stages: (1) World War I (WWI) – war of the people; (2) 1918-1939 – people’s interlude; (3) World War II (WW2) – people at war; (4) Cold War – war without people; (5) 9/11 – war amongst the people; and, (6) 2014 – war at home. From the presentation, he narrated stories about Europe’s hundred years of war, which is the meat of his discussion, translated as reflections after a troubled century from 1914 to 2014.

Before WWI, he deemed that Europe experienced ‘bellepoch’ or the beautiful era, and flashed an old map showing that in 1914 there were only fewer states but many royal families in the Old World. However, two main blocks destroyed peace and order in Europe with the introduction of new military technologies and presence of multiple ambitions or rivalries from expanding states. The Franco-Prussian War occurred due to the increasing role of public opinion across Europe as people became highly educated and nationalistic. The role of the mass media also propagated that resulted to the mass mobilization of the armed forces in the troubled continent.

In his mind, he even remembered an Italian poster depicting Austrians as evil with horns devouring Italian kids. He said that every citizen can feel the war, can live the war in the frontline, and can hear the war’s effects. There were about 630 thousand casualties in Italy alone during that war.

In the second epoch, he thought WWI planted poisonous seeds in Europe. Although, there was a 20-year of “peace” or interlude, the succeeding years opened the Pandora’s Box on the shadow of totalitarianism with the introduction of Nazism and communism; and authoritarian regimes under the guise of fascism that was starting to spread across Europe. The militarization of society created a ‘public enemy’ with the aim of ultimately and physically annihilating the nemesis. Spain became the frontline of battlefields while Germany tried to counter the balance of power in Europe.

The Second World War described as people at war by Beccari. It reached the apex of “industrial war”. The doctrines were indoctrinated; it was the epoch of “command of the air” or blitzkrieg, coordinating land and air forces, or simply the synchronization of the armed forces. WWII was not a matter of choice for rulers anymore, but people were at war, even far from the battlefields. He said that even children started to be armed. The implementation of the “Final Solution’ against the Jews had sparked experiments on social engineering that caused the ‘holocaust’.

Many civilians died. In Russia, every youngster has a memory about WWII because a member of the family may have died during the war. There was strong resistance against invaders. Factories were established in the “home front”. Air power was extremely efficient to inflict mass casualties in Poland, Britain, Russia, Germany, and Japan. The end of the war marked the beginning of the nuclear war.

He said that the Cold War was described as a cooperative mood between new superpowers. It was Walter Lippmann who coined the ‘Cold War’. There was lack of confidence of the Allies and in the ‘Far East Asia,’ as Korea was divided horizontally. There was a new form of confrontation. Instances of insurgencies, decolonization, and conflicts occurred in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. A new kind of ‘soft’ war was developed courtesy of the ghost of the nuclear war in WW2. The ‘hearts and minds’ and ‘proxy’ turned to be the ideological and political confrontations; and information gathering, espionage, and intelligence strengthened. 

In his analysis, the horrific September 11 or 9/11 processed the ‘peace-crisis-war-resolution-peace’ epoch of the troubled century, according to him. Terrorism became the new frontline of asymmetrical warfare between freedom fighters versus non-fighters.

In 2014, Beccarri predicts, as a year called ‘war at home’. There’s a new wave of global terrorism, a war that is coming home, courtesy of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or some would call, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. They are the new radicalized generation of fighters. In this case, there’s a new trend of insecurity stemming from traditional to non-traditional.

            In the end, he concluded that people and war are evolving and transforming in the spectrum of anthropological, political, ideological, technological, and social trends.          

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Talking about Human Rights in The Philippines

By Chester B Cabalza

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

Human Rights Centered Development: Theory and Practice is authored by Filipino historian and human rights advocate Dr Maria Socorro I Diokno. The book is published by the University of the Philippines Press in 2004. It has six (6) chapters and seven (7) annexes with a total of 286 pages.

The author has worked in the field of human rights for the past thirty years. She is the Secretary General concurrently of the Free Legal Assistance Group, the oldest and the largest human rights and lawyers’ organization in the Philippines, and the Regional Council on Human Rights in Asia, a regional human rights organization with consultative status with the United Nation’s Economic and Social Council. She also pioneered capacity-building efforts on the rights-based approach to development for the United Nations Country Team and various government agencies.

In her book, she quoted her late senator-father Jose W Diokno, who also advocated for the alleviation of human rights in the mainstream and called for street protests under the Marcos’ Martial Law. According to his father, “No cause is more worthy than the cause of human rights. Human rights are more than legal concepts: they are the essence of man. They are what make man human. That is why they are called human rights: deny them, and you deny man’s humanity.”  

The book tries to level off key concepts in the discourse of human rights centered development. She deems that human rights centered development is an integrated, multi-disciplinary and trifaceted framework for the formulation, articulation, and implementation of development policy, planning, and programming. She has articulated that at the heart of the framework is the conviction that the human person is the central subject, active participant, owner, director, and beneficiary of development.

She proposes three interwoven components of human rights centered development, which are the following: (1) human rights principles, (2) normative content of human rights; and (3) coherence with the nature and levels of a state’s human rights obligations.

The first component includes accountability, transparency, people’s participation, legislative capacity, independence of the judiciary, good governance, nondiscrimination, attention to the vulnerable groups, empowerment, universality, interdependence, interrelatedness, and indivisibility. The second component looks at the scope of the rights, articulation of freedoms and entitlements that arise from each human right, the corresponding obligations, and violations thereof. Lastly, the third component calls for the coherence of the human rights obligations of the state transcending human needs and aspirations.

Human rights are legitimate claims that are immutable and universal; claims made by individuals on the conduct of individuals, society, and the state, and claims on the design and implementation of social, political, and economic arrangements needed to facilitate or secure freedoms and entitlements.

In my disposition, human rights is innate to every person of whatever nationality, creed, and ideology. It is a universal right that is not generally mandated by any constitution since it is innate to any natural and juridical persons, of which these rights and freedoms are entitled to all humans.

In the human rights discourse, the human rights law has strong foundations gauging from the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which are adopted by the General Assembly in 1945 and 1948, respectively. This has expanded to encompass specific standards for women, children, persons with disabilities, minorities, migrant workers, and other vulnerable groups who possess rights that protect them from discriminatory practices that had long been common in many societies.

What is interesting about the book is how it has related to human and cultural rights of the indigenous peoples (IP). Since human rights are the totality of civil, cultural, economic, political, and social freedoms and entitlements, human rights goals are holistic, comprehensive, interrelated, indivisible, multifaceted, and multidimensional.

Being a proud Ibanag, I have enjoyed rights and privileges in cognizance of my identity and human rights as a member of the indigenous peoples’ community. Hence, the book also covers checklist for human rights principles that determine both the essence and modes of conduct of development which includes empowerment, equality, equity, nondiscrimination, attention to vulnerable groups, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness, universality, accountability, people’s participation, and transparency.

The international community, through the United Nations, enacted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 61st session at the UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007. Although, the said declaration is not a legally binding instrument under international law, it does recognize the rights of the IPs and represent the dynamic development of international legal norms and commitment of all UN member-countries to set the agenda for the standardized treatment of IPs that will undoubtedly be a significant tool towards eliminating human rights violations.

Furthermore, the UNDRIP codifies indigenous historical grievances, contemporary challenges, and socio-economic, political, and cultural aspirations of the IPs to secure recognition of their will and to generate support for their political agendas.

The book collates official records in its annexes of the nature and levels of state obligations where it highlights the core obligations to ensure that the minimum and essential requirements of each right are implemented. In other words, the state is mandated to recognize its powers to exercise the obligation to respect, obligation to protect, and obligation to fulfill its mandate to human rights.

Although the book’s strength is to emphasize and persuade readers of the different human rights, using various methods and designs at the latter part of the chapters, the book is a good reminder of the extent and content of individual rights, highlighting state obligations, including those of cultural rights of the indigenous peoples.

The good intention of the book is to institutionalize human rights in the mainstream. It has closely used claim-holder analysis and entitlement mapping, which analyzes special characteristics and circumstances of those affected by the problem including policy-makers and development planners. It has cited constitutional rights of the people ranging from national laws and jurisprudence, international human rights law, international treatise ratified by the state, interpretations and concluding observations of treaty monitoring bodies, official reports, nongovernmental reports, news reports, academic researches and studies, reports by international institutions and bodies, and public opinion polls and surveys.

In the end, in the factors that contribute to the effective exercise of state obligations to human rights, the author deems that affecting the enjoyment, exercise, and realization of all human rights is the extent to which the state effectively exercises its human rights obligations. Factors that affect the effective exercise of state obligations include the regulatory framework, legislative capacity, budget and other resources, independence of the judiciary, institutional capacity, capacity of government officials and public servants, and the external environment.

Hence, in my view since human rights carry with them the force of law, development efforts centered on human rights should also consider all potential, unintended, or unanticipated harm or threats that may result from a development effort.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Media Killings and the Culture of Impunity in the Philippines

By Chester B Cabalza

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

The Philippines, having the most transparent and dynamic press freedom in Asia, is oftentimes tagged as a cradle of crimes committed against journalists. Given the country’s democratic values and traditions, how come some disciples of the right to communicate are unjustly maltreated?

Press freedom is anchored on democratic ideals and civil liberties, primarily upholding international human rights such as freedom of expression. It recognizes the need for checks-and-balances in the government to avoid abuse by those in power (Mehra, 1981:1).

The watchdog power of the press, a concept that has been in existence for more than two centuries exist in most democratic societies because of the institutional structures that is alien to countries under authoritarian rule. Schulte (1982) cited how the press, as an institution, has been regarded as the “Fourth Estate” in Britain and France, “the fourth power” in Spain, and “the fourth branch of government” in the United States. Thus, it is in that power in which the press has the ability to give or withhold publicity and from its informative capacity (McQuail, 2009: 168). 

According to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), under President Benigno S Aquino Jr, the Philippines has scored steadily dipping ratings in recent years from international groups monitoring the state of human rights, media freedom, and freedom of expression such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Asia, and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance.[1]

Weak Criminal Justice System

One of the most pressing issues in media-killing cases is linked to the country’s weak criminal justice system. The horrendous bureaucratic system between the judiciary and law enforcers is also not strong causing a turtle pacing in the investigation phase alone.  

In the study done by PCIJ, they identified impediments that would lead to faster litigation process of media-killing cases. It suggested the following mechanisms: (1) the dire need to upgrade the training and capability of police investigators assigned to gather evidence, process witnesses, and build cases against both gunmen and masterminds; (2) the need to ease the case load of public prosecutors assigned to prosecute media murder cases in court; (3) the need to strengthen the Witness Protection Program (WPP) to encourage more witnesses to come forward and testify against perpetrators; and, (4) the need for the President himself to demonstrate political will and declare a clear and unequivocal policy to promote and protect press freedom, and to abate cases of harassment and murder of media workers.[2]

The rules of court should be ironed conscientiously that must be in favor to the aggravated media people; especially when those implicated in high profile murder cases of journalists are officials and law enforcers. There should be a hotline or independent government agency that must look for the security of good media people, or a multi-sectoral quick response team that would safeguard the interests of truthfulness. 

Media Ethics

In the profession of media, there are good and bad media practitioners. However, if journalists practice their profession in good faith and in proper way, they will be protected by the people. In case journalists will be killed while doing their job in the right way, people will uphold truth and safeguard the rights of these good media people.  

In other words, media ethics should be included in the curriculum of mass media colleges. It should be properly taught among students and practice them by heart in the field. This is very important because it will reflect the kind of media culture that we want to empower in our society. Although media ethics could be complex; it should still be inculcated among media practitioners. Truthfulness, conflicts of interest, sensationalism, authenticity and appropriateness of photographs, and media control should be upheld.

Human Rights

In the profession of media, there are good and bad media practitioners. However, if journalists practice their profession in good faith and in proper way, they will be protected by the people. In case journalists will be killed while doing their job in the right way, people will uphold truth and safeguard the rights of these good media people. Human rights are innate to all of us. It should be protected with utmost respect.

In the Philippines, media people are robed with such human rights and often robed of these rights. They seek assistance from the police and demand that the police take the murderers to court; however, they can be even stripped of their rights to report such crimes because oftentimes the perpetrators are the leaders of the police themselves.

Security Issue

The killings of journalists and media people can be qualified as a national security issue especially that the media is touted to be the ‘fourth estate’. The absence of safety and security to credible group of people who uphold truth and clothed with various human rights, should be protected by the state in sustain check-and-balance in various branches of the government and systems in our society.

Media people working in regional or provincial fields are more prone to attacks of media killings, thus, the local government and local law enforcers need to ensure their safety and security for the sake of upholding truth and freedom.

More frustrations are felt because this kind of security, be it in local or national environments, that are not addressed adequately. Laws should be properly implemented to prosecute the perpetrators and adherence to strict policies on the security of media people should be secured.  

Way Forward

To sum it all, extrajudicial killings of media men and women should be addressed well based from various flaws that are seen as social ills in our society. The flaws on weak criminal justice system, not so strong media ethics, non-observance of human rights, and security threat among journalists are signs of lapses from our government and other sectors.

There is a need to protect people who uphold the truth and fairness which is one of the roles of the media. They should be granted with certain rights to defeat the culture of impunity and media killings in the country.    

[1] The news article can be downloaded from, accessed last September 18, 2014. 
[2] Ibid.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Filipinos in Diaspora: Tropical Transplants in Iceland

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

The H. Otley Beyer museum talks on “Tropical Transplants: Transnational Practices of Filipinos in Iceland,” held last September 11, 2014 in Palma Hall, CSSP AVR, by Icelandic anthropologist Unnur Dís Skaptadóttir, is enriching both on the discourses of transnational human migration and ecological adaptation.

  In the said talk, there are many common issues discussed by the speaker about Filipinos in Iceland and when compared to other Filipino diasporic communities abroad in her cross-cultural observations. But what interest me most about the recent dialogue, is the fact that, Filipinos in Iceland are starting to make waves in terms of their identity and culture manifested through labor skills, food and business, and their imagined community.

Surprisingly, given Iceland’s remote location for Filipino diaspora, it is no joke that Filipino community is omnipresent even in this Nordic country between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. Filipinos are the newest tropical transplants in the cold and frigid country of Iceland. But what are the transnational practices of Filipinos in Iceland that may create unity or disparity among the multi-layered and multi-sited transnational social fields embedded in Iceland’s society?

In the case of the Philippines, migration to Iceland has been extensive as it maintained export of labor to sustain its economic development strategies since 1970s. What is supposed to be a temporary solution to the economic woes of the country back then became profitable in the succeeding decades for our government that even today the welfare of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), proclaimed as the new heroes, is institutionalized through a government agency (POEA/OWWA) overseeing them. Hence, the welfare of OFWs worldwide has been one of the core interests of our country when it comes to national security. One of their rights is to allow them to acquire dual citizenship and the right to suffrage, in which Filipinos in Iceland are enjoying since diplomatic ties between the two countries formally established in 1999.
Photo from Google

Given the economic and political scenarios of Filipino migration to Iceland, now that they are part of the larger multi-cultural Icelandic society, what were the cultural differences between Filipinos and the Icelanders based from my reflections to the talk of Dr Unnur Dís Skaptadóttir?

Below are some of my understandings about the clash of cultures between the Filipinos and Icelanders:    

1. Historical particularism (colonial experience) - decades ago, only few people live in Iceland had foreign citizenship. It used to be a poor country colonized by the Danish, Norwegians, and Germans. In spite of colonization, it maintained its ‘individualistic’ and westernized European image. Since then, there has been a large increase of immigrations from Europe but only recently from Asia.  However, one participant in the forum compared the colonial experience of the Philippines from western countries including Spanish and Americans to Iceland, and wondered how come Filipinos did not become like Icelanders (i.e. individualistic)? The speaker tried to compare the differences of Northern Europeans to southern Europeans which would tell about the nature of societal and cultural differences. But for me, even if the Philippines were colonized by western powers, it remained Asian in norms and customs; communal in orientation in various social and cultural patterns manifested in the organizations of family, society, and people.   

2. Familistic Orientation (padala/remittance system and the Filipino upbringing) – the concept of the remittance or the padala system among the Filipino community sounds strange for many Icelanders. They couldn’t believe that Filipinos are working so hard and send partial or whole of their savings to their nuclear or extended families in the Philippines. Since Iceland is an individualistic society, they have certain western values. On the other hand, there are cultural differences when it comes to upbringing. Since most of the times, sunlight is prominent even at night, Filipino parents would impose curfew to their adolescent sons and daughters, while adolescent Icelanders are liberal when it comes to their time management. It also goes with ecological reason because at midnight the air and weather is swift that’s why Icelanders usually play or hang out until midnight. But for Filipino families, they would still impose the same kind of time management they have acquired in the Philippines with their adolescent sons and daughters transplanted in Iceland. 

3. Identification Card – Filipinos at first had mistrust in the use of identification card or ID when they migrated in Iceland. But the use of ID is intended for national security in Iceland given to their citizens with many perks alongside, especially in their day to day lives for subsistence used in transportation, groceries, and schooling. That’s why when they go back to the Philippines, they find strange that many Filipinos in the Philippines are not amenable to the implementation of the national identification card system for safety and security. 

4. Effects of Economic Recession to the Filipino Community – in 2008 until 2011, Iceland suffered its heaviest economic woes. The financial crisis that involved the major collapse of its banks has caused the government to slash employment due to budget deficit. Recruitment of OFWs in the health sector like nurses and medical doctors were halted. But right after recuperating from the financial crisis, OFWs were sent again to Iceland, mostly in mining and health sectors.

5. Open Migration – Filipinos are the largest Asian population and the sixth largest among foreign nationalities in Iceland. Filipino migration in Iceland is spread through word of mouth, especially among first generation Filipinos who are diplomats, nurses, and doctors. Some live in the capital city but most reside in rural places operating their own businesses like restaurants and groceries. Although they have food businesses, Filipino food is not prominent unlike Thai, Japanese and Korean deli; or sometimes they own Asian restaurants. There are some Filipinos who are also now popular in the Icelandic society given their contributions to its intellectual, economic, and socio-cultural make-up.