Combating involuntary disappearance
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - February 21, 2013 - 12:00am

After 16 long years of concerned citizens’ hard-fought struggle to criminalize enforced disappearance in the country, there is now a law against Enforced Disappearance in the Asian region with the passage of RA No. 10353, otherwise known as the “Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012.” What’s more, its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) have been recently crafted and signed. 

To make this special penal law an effective tool to combat impunity, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED) and the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) in partnership with the Embassy of Canada and the UP Asian Center, are organizing a forum on “Effective Implementation of RA No. 10353: A Collective Endeavor” on March 6, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the GT Toyota UP Asian Center Auditorium at UP Diliman. This is part of continuing efforts to disseminate to various stakeholders and to the general public the issue of enforced disappearance and the value of this new law to address it.

One of my favorite legislators, Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, is the principal author of the law. He will speak on the objectives, the underlying principle and the salient provisions of the law. Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and Human Rights Commissioner Loretta Ann Rosales will share their respective institutional roles and responsibilities in the effective implementation of the law.

Ambassador Christopher Thornley of Canada will give the welcome remarks, and Dr. Carol Sobritchea, dean of the UP Asian Center, will speak on the gender perspective of the human rights issue. 

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President Aquino had to cancel his trip to Dumaguete Tuesday due to bad weather conditions. All the commercial flights were canceled except the chartered plane of Team PNoy that bravely landed at the Dumaguete airport. “I admired the courage of the pilots for their ‘judgment call,’ without compromising the safety of the Liberal Party senatorial candidates and their campaign manager, Sen. Franklin Drilon,” Neg. Or. Rep. Josie Sy Limkaichong told me. Josie is the LP candidate for governor of Neg. Or.

The senatorial candidates who braved the weather were Bam Aquino, Jamby Madrigal and Grace Poe, and Tootsie Angara (representing her husband, candidate Sonny Angara), and Gwen Pimentel (representing her brother candidate Koko Pimentel).

The inauguration of QUALFON 2 pushed through with Sen. Drilon reading the President’s speech. The facility is a big boost to the economic growth of Dumaguete City, said Josie. Almost 3,000 people are directly employed by Qualfon 1 and Qualfon 2. An expected 7,000 jobs are to be generated by Qualfon, making Qualfon the biggest single employer in the entire province of Negros Oriental. The host and owner of the two BPO sites is Link SY It. Park.

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Speaking of senatorial candidates, media people who attended Tuesday’s Bulong Pulungan session which featured Tarlac Governor Victor Yap as resource person, sprang a surprise with the result of an informal survey on senatorial candidates. Dick Gordon topped the list, followed by Ed Hagedorn, Sonny Angara and Migz Zubiri. Jun Magsaysay came next, then Loren Legarda and Cynthia Villar tied for sixth place. Chiz Escudero and Bam Aquino came next, followed by Koko Pimentel. JV Ejercito, Mitos Magsaysay, Gringo Honasan, and Grace Poe got the same number of votes. 

Bulong Pulungan will be holding surveys as election day nears. Next week, the survey will be on the contenders for the Manila city chief executive seat — Mayor Fred Lim, and Erap Estrada. Abangan. 

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After reading my column on senatorial candidate Sonny Angara’s bill seeking to increase teachers’ salaries, a reader in Finland, PjMorales, looked for a back issue of The Union Tribune of San Diego, California. He fished out a story written by Andres Oppenheimer regarding Finland’s secret for climbing to the top spots in key international rankings measuring economic, political and social success.

Finland ranks first among 179 countries in Transparency International’s index of the least corrupt nations in the world; No. 1 in Freedom House’s ranking of the world’s most democratic countries; No. 1 in the world in 15-year-old students’ standardized test scores in science, and is among the 10 most competitive economies in the World Economic Forum’s annual competitiveness index.

Oppenheimer wrote that two decades earlier, Finland was the poorest country in northern Europe. But it now boasts itself as the headquarters of the world’s biggest cell phone maker — Nokia — and cutting-edge paper and pulp technology firms. 

Wrote Oppenheimer: “The Finnish success story has triggered curiosity around the world, especially in Latin America, where most countries have yet to make the transition from exporters of raw materials to producers of high-tech goods that sell for much higher prices in world markets.

‘How did you do it?” he asked Finnish President Tarja Halonen in an interview.

“I can sum it up in three words: education, education and education,” she said.

“And what is the secret of your education system,” I asked. Among other things, highly trained elementary school teachers, she said.

“We have a long queue outside our ministry of education with all kinds of experts from different countries who would like to learn more from our system, ” Halonen said. “But what they don’t normally believe is that the answer is as simple as having good teachers.”

Oppenheimer opined: “Indeed from what I saw during my five-day visit to Finland, teachers are relatively well-paid and enjoy great social respect. You need at least a master’s degree to teach in elementary school, and a college degree to teach in kindergarten. Only one of every 10 applicants is admitted to the Finnish universities’ teachers colleges.”

“The profession of teacher is becoming increasingly  popular especially among women,” said Ossi Airaskorpi, principal of the Juvanpuisto school, nearly an hour’s drive from Helsinki. “In the 1980s and 1990s everybody wanted to go into business. Now, they want to be teachers. They can do part of their work at home, get a relatively good salary and have a two and-a-half month vacation.”

Oppenheimer observed one-on-one sessions between teachers and students to help them understand something they had missed. These sessions “help narrow the gap between good students and those lagging behind.”

In addition, Finnish schools use a special commuter program where parents can log in every night to get the latest news about their kids — whether they missed school, were talking on cell phones during class, or need to do extra homework.

“Finland could be an excellent example for Latin America commodity exporters who want to become high-technology producers. They could help themselves by remembering this country’s three little secrets: education, education and education.”

The Philippine school system can learn a lot from the Finnish system. With DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro doing his darn bit to turn things around, and up, there is much hope for our system to become highly globally competitive.

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My e-mail:dominitorrevillas@gmail


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