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poster by ysh cabaña

*This is the copy of a talk I gave at U of T on 23 Nov 2012 at an event held by the Philippine Press Club of Ontario…

Today is marked the “Day to End Impunity” by media organizations around the world.  This day was chosen because three years ago in the Philippines, the largest single massacre of journalists in the world took place when the politically powerful Ampatuan clan, attacked the convoy of the politically powerful Magudadatu clan resulting in 58 deaths, including 32 journalists.

We at BAYAN-Canada support this call: to end impunity, to end corruption, to end human rights violations.  But to reach this end, to truly achieve this, we need to examine why despite worldwide condemnation the climate of impunity persists.

Do human rights occur simply because of ‘evil’ people?  Because of cancerous corruption in need of a biopsy?

We don’t think so.  If this were the case this illness would not be so rampant and so global.  Changing faces cannot change the systemic roots of corruption. (more…)

*originally published by Herizons Magazine, summer 2012.  (by alex felipe)

“On march 8, international women’s day 2005, I was abducted by the military, held incommunicado for 12 days, brought from camp to camp, I was not given benefit of a council, and I was tortured…. they undressed me and sexually molested me.  And my case is only a microcosm of what is happening in the Philippines,” Angelina Bisuña Ipong who was released six years later with all charges dropped.

In early April 2012 three human rights defenders, including two women who are recently released political prisoners, visited Ottawa to testify at the Subcommittee for International Human Rights on what Canada can do to stem the human rights violations against activists that are all too common in the Philippines.  (more…)

On the occasion of the State Visit to the Philippines / 9 November 2012

ImageDear Mr. Harper,

As Filipino Canadians with strong ties to our home country, we follow closely and with much interest your visit to the Philippines. In your visit, we hope that as the Prime Minister of Canada that you will represent the Canada most Canadians want — the Canada that believes in justice, human rights, and peacekeeping.

You have declared that “Canada’s relations with the Philippines continue to grow and diversify, aided by an increasingly important Canada-Filipino community.”  The Filipino community in Canada is now the largest source country for migrants to Canada; it is the fourth largest visible immigrant community, and one of the top three sending countries of temporary foreign workers to Canada. Filipinos made up the largest group of Temporary Foreign Workers (2006 census) at 13.9 per cent nationally. As members and representatives of community groups and alliances, we would like to see relationships between Canada and the Philippines go beyond just the economic interests to include issues of human rights, sustainability, good governance and peace.   (more…)

I am not a gold person.  This didn’t start with any activism, or with any real reason other than the fact that I’m just not a jewelry person period.  I simply have never felt the desire for shiny that most people seem to possess.

Now that I know how the extractive process affects people (including those that look like me), I consider myself lucky.
(more…)

[I recieved an honourable mention in the 2009 National Magazine Awards for the photos and story below.  Originally published in This Magazine.]

Admitting that I was a Canadian has never been as difficult as when I travelled to the Philippines to photograph two Canadian-owned open-pit mining sites last winter. The fact that I am also Filipino by blood didn’t help. (more…)

Jocelyn Polborido’s family home.

It was 4am, the sun was still a long time from rising, and rain was falling when I woke up to make breakfast with the one other guy in the group.  We were in Balinak, Ligao, Bikol, a town at the end of the road—literally.

The single paved lane wove around the rolling hills of the land around Mt. Mayon, it ended at the basketball court of Balinak, a simple village that still consisted of many nipa hut homes, a village with a sad recent story.

(more…)

I did some work with an NGO called the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) on my last visit to the Philippines in Oct 2007 to January 2008.  The CRC works with children who are victims of state violence.  This set of ten images will try to tell just a small part of their current story. (more…)