Severino, Beleno Urge Social Media and Youth’s Role in Changing Politics

February 13, veteran journalist Howie Severino came to Ateneo de Davao University to speak about social media and citizen journalism in the Makinig, Makialam, Makiisa: a forum on the role of social media in the 2016 elections

In this photo, Atenews writers (I included) pose with Howie Severino.

This article was published at Atenews

Award-winning journalist Howie Severino was at Ateneo de Davao University on Saturday, February 13 for the “Makinig. Maki-alam. Makiisa: The Role of Social Media in the 2016 Elections” which is a forum on social media responsibility in politics and citizen journalism, organized by SINIKOM (Samahan ng mga Mag-aaral ng Sining at Komunikasyon).

The event was attended by communication students from Ateneo de Davao University, Jose Maria College, University of the Southeastern Philippines, and University of Mindanao.

The forum was organized in partnership with UCEAC (University Council of something), Blue Vote 2016, Ateneo Task Force 2016, and the Mass Communication Department of Ateneo de Davao University.

UCEAC Director Romeo Cabarde in his opening remarks said that social media can either be a blessing or a curse, and in order to maximize its potential, it should be used to campaign for good governance.

“Good governance begins with vigilant citizenry,” said Cabarde.

Howie Severino has been a journalist for print, television, and online, for more than twenty years now. After five years of heading GMA News Digital Operations, Severino now serves as GMA network’s Vice President for Professional Development.

In his lecture titled, “Cyberspace: A Revolutionary, Perplexing, and Dangerous World”, Severino cites that Philippines ironically tops surveys on internet usage despite it having one of the slowest internet connection speed in the world, and also one of the most expensive.

The implications of this, said Severino, is that social media can have a great impact on Philippines’ political sphere because of the time spent by Filipinos online. This has also paved way for citizen journalism, said Severino, referring to news that ordinary, non-media citizens post on Facebook and Twitter.

For Severino, social media has the power to change the political sphere of the Philippines. He tells the students, “You have all the power and that power is in your hands.”

“A digital device coupled with social media and political freedom creates the most empowered generation in Philippine History,” said Severino.

Social media should be used to criticize, he added. “It is our right, written in our constitution, to criticize our government and our politicians,” he explained.

Ateneo professor and political analyst Ramon Beleno III also gave a lecture in the said event. His presentation titled, “Paano ba Bumoboto si Juan?” tackled on Filipinos’ voting behaviors. According to Beleno, these behaviors such as territorial, personality, patronage, and bandwagoning, indicate the predictability of the outcome of Philippine Elections.

“Philippine elections is very predictable, even the time that weddings of politicians will be held can be predicted,” said Beleno, referring to the weddings of Chiz Escudero with actress Heart Evangelista and Mar Roxas with news anchor Korina Sanchez.

Filipinos also tend to lean towards celebrities, said Beleno, referring to the celebrities who have endorsed politicians both in the past and in the current election season.

Further, Filipinos’ territorial voting behavior, according to Beleno, leads to the formation of political dynasties when local leaders dominate the political sphere.

It can be noted that political dynasties in the Philippines is heavy. The Binays, Aquinos, Dutertes, Ampatuans, are some examples.

The speakers Severino and Beleno reiterated the role of the youth in Philippine politics at the end of the event.

There are many things that we should look out for in social media, says Severino, even hashtags. “Hashtags are meant to trend and change public opinion,” he said.

Mobile data and free Facebook plans can also work to our disadvantage, said Severino.

“When we are on free data and we scroll down news articles that are being shared on Facebook or Twitter, we cannot open it. We just see the headlines which can be manipulated,” he said.

Severino also urged the students to practice verification in reading news articles.

“Always try to verify what you see and read because it [headlines] can possibly have been manipulated”, said Severino.

For Beleno, the youth are the game-changers of Philippine elections.

“If you notice, politicians are targeting the youth kasi kayo yung pinakamarami,” said Beleno to the students.

For the audience, the forum proved to be a timely and knowledgeable event.

“Social media is more than just for selfies, but it’s an avenue for us to spread awareness to our peers, most especially on political issues on election season,” said communication student Frazn Sta. Teresa.

“Let us not limit ourselves to posting, liking, and sharing because being knowledgeable only is not enough. Be engaged. Set a good example for the youth,” she added.



Volunteers, environment group cite lapses in TreeVolution

Published at DavaoToday

DAVAO CITY – Organizers of the Mindanao-wide reforestation event in Davao last week issued a public apology after a number of volunteers and participants told news organizations and swarmed the social media about the unannounced inaccessibility of the planting sites to public transport.

Complaints include alleged injuries and fainting due to exhaustion and lack of water provisions while walking for more than six kilometers to the planting site in Barangay Magsaysay in
hinterland Marilog District.

The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), one of the organizers of the event along with the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, issued the apology on Tuesday.

“We offer our sincerest apologies to those who went through such physical challenges,” their statement said.

The statement added that volunteers were asked to disembark from their vehicles due to the difficulty of the terrain.

“In some planting sites, it turned out that reaching the area by several kilometers walk rather than by trucks was the safest mode given the circumstances. It was a decision made on that instance to principally avoid possible catastrophic pitfalls from slippery terrain,” their statement said.

The TreeVolution reforestation drive held last September 26 Friday, wanted to snatch a world record from India for planting the most number trees in an hour in multiple sites in Mindanao.

The MinDA statement said that the number of volunteers for the Marilog planting site more than doubled from the target of only 600, with as many as 13,000 volunteers, mostly students and teachers.

Volunteers from Ateneo de Davao University told Davao Today of their difficult ordeal.

Kelly Serenio, a mass communication student, said she fainted due to fatigue and dehydration. “I can’t breathe,” she said.

Her classmate Karyn Asure said she saw high school students begging police officers for a ride in their vehicles, but were told to move on. “Sige lang, gang, kaya pa nimo (It’s okay, you can do it),” the officers told the students.

Paolo Rosello said when they were about a half-kilometer near the planting area, they already heard the public announcement that the event was over.

MinDA said they are now coordinating with schools to assist the students for further medical attention.

They also announced they will conduct more forums with the schools.

”A series of fora will be done in the next few weeks in those schools to endeavor reflections among students, and communicate on the next steps of nurturing the trees they planted.

MinDA reported that the tree planting event surpassed the record held by India in the Guinness Book of World Records. They reported a total of 3,517,489 seedlings planted in 260 locations in the six regions in Mindanao by some 189,755 volunteers.

The feat, however, is still to be verified by Guinness.

Professor Kim Gargar said the organizers would also need to apologize to the public “for touting the TreeVolution as a reforestation event when they only planted cash crops such as cacao, rubber and coffee”.

“The apology should not only focus on the accidents. They should apologize for the deception. They should admit that the Treevolution will not address climate change, will not address food security, and will only worsen threats to biodiversity and ecosystem balance in Mindanao,” Gargar said.

Gargar says that the standard reforestation requires at least 30 species of native trees to be planted to ensure biodiversity conservation. “This TreeVolution will not pass the international standard for forest reforestation,” he reiterated.

He noted that at least 250,000 hectares of land need to be reforest in Mindanao to restore just 1% of lost forest cover.

PDAF is alive – ex-solon

Published at DavaoToday

DAVAO CITY – Former Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Teodoro ‘Teddy” Casiño said that the controversial pork barrel remained tucked in the budget of national government agencies.

Casino said the two forms of pork barrel, the Disbursement Acceleration Fund (DAP) and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) “still exist, hidden in various government agencies” despite the Supreme Court ruling that the pork barrel was unsconstitutional.

The Department of Health, for instance, he said. has its Medical Assistance for Patients, which would require applicant patients to be indigent. He said the MAP funds will be managed by the congress representatives of their respective districts where the patients reside.

The congressman,  Casino said, “will be the one to decide who is indigent or not”.

There is also the Commission on Higher Education which he said is not also scot-free. “CHED’s scholarship system has a lot of requirements, that even CHED’ chairperson Patricia Licuanan acknowledged pork’s presence in the agency”.

The other favorite agencies to tuck in the discretionary funds, Casiño said, included Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Labor and Employment.

He said the pork barrel is hidden in the government’s “wrong concept of savings.” Savings in government “is officially defined as funds intended for projects that have not been used”,. he said. “One reason is abandonment of projects. If the proposed project was not pushed through, the funds intended for the said project would be declared as savings and would go to the president”.

“Hindi na iyan savings, kupit iyan” (That’s not savings anymore, that’s stealing), said Casiño.

Casino held his Teddy Talks forum on the Philippines’ national situation on Thursday at the Sangguniang Panlunsod.

Kit Iris Frias, former College Editors Guild of the Philippines vice president for Mindanao, said the PDAF should be removed  “but it’s a decision to be made by the citizens .

Frias said that “there is hope for the Philippines, but it lies in the masses”.

“History has always been theirs,” she said. (