Social Issues


It has been always a wholesome way of ‘giving back’ to snap photos of our photographers who would passionately capture significant moments of our training workshop.


Photographers – professional or not – are truly unsung heroes of events and occasions.

They are gallant warriors whose formidable weapons are camera lenses and right angles.


They are zealous missionaries whose lofty mission is to capture non-retractable moments and instances in our lives.


They are ardent lovers who are infatuated with imagery, enamored by panorama, and enchanted by vista. Their favorite serenade is “Ready, one, two, click!”


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Tougher to Negotiate With

The second module we had studied during the Asia-China Peace and Leadership Training-Workshop (Jinan University, Guangzhou, China, July 14-23, 2017) was about International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, and for this two-day module, we were lucky enough to have PROF. GUY OLIVIER FAURE as our facilitator or resource person.

Dr. Faure is currently a Visiting Professor at CEIBS, Shanghai, China; Professor of Sociology Emeritus, Sorbonne University, Paris; and Director of International Conflict Resolution Center, The Hague, Netherlands.

Having done extensive works in international negotiations and conflict resolution, particularly in the domains of Long-term Strategic Forecast, Terrorism, and Business Security, Prof. Faure has lectured in a number of renowned universities and institutions including the Harvard Law School and the New York University.

He has authored, co-authored and edited 19 books and over a hundred articles, and one of those books is entitled “Negotiating with Terrorists: Strategy, Tactics and Politics” (Routledge, 2008).

During the second and last day of the module, as the time for lunch was approaching and everybody seemed to be already imagining to hold a spoon, instead of ballpen, I posed a question:

“Sir Olivier, taking into consideration your wide array of experiences in negotiation, both as a theoretician and a practitioner, which do you think is tougher to negotiate with: the ISIS, or MISIS (“wife” or “madame” in Filipino)?

After an unprecedented laughter, Sir Olivier retorted, “Of course, it’s the MISIS because they personally know our soft spot!”

How I wish, Sir Olivier’s next book project will be entitled, “Negotiating with MISIS: Strategy, Tactics and Politics.”

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The Gulf between the Science and Practice of Politics

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews /3 June) – At the opening ceremony of the Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA) International Conference held last month in Cebu City, the keynote speech – “The Problem of a National(ist) Method” – was delivered by Prof. Dr. Patricio N. Abinales of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

During the Open Forum, I asked the keynote speaker, thus:

“The Asian Institute of Management is located in the Philippines, training hundreds of managers here and abroad for many decades. Now, the PPSA is celebrating more than 50 decades of its existence. On the other hand, we all know the state of political management and governance in the country. My question is: what practical steps will you advise the PPSA to continue closing the gap, or relatively closing the gap, between the science and practice of politics in the Philippines?”

Eager as I was to listen to his answer, I was surprised to receive his extremely economical response which was something like this: “I will give you the answer in a karaoke tonight!”

Amused by his thrifty remark, I just remained silent afterward.

In Panel 2B “Reframing Justice” of the conference, a young lady professor from Keio University, Japan, presented a paper entitled, “The Multiplicity of Violence and Divided Political Perceptions by the Extrajudicial Killings: Why President Duterte Could be Popular in Muslim Mindanao.”

At the outset of her presentation, my impression was that she has undergone field research in areas of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. In her presentation proper, however, she made the following points: (1) In the ARMM area, to have a rifle in every household is just normal; (2) The Muslim community is described as one which is composed of ‘Muhajirun’ and ‘Ansar’, and ‘Muhajirun’ means jihadists while ‘Ansar’ are those who help the jihadists; and (3) President Duterte’s federalism agenda is an example of political violence.

In the Open Forum, the lady moderator announced that she will only entertain two questions due to time constraint. Although I was raising my hand from the very beginning, a professor from Manila was recognized. After him, the lady moderator said that for the sake of gender equality, she will entertain a lady from the audience. But afterward, without any explanation, the moderator surprisingly broke her own rule and entertained another lady from the audience. I was about to say, “For the sake of gender equality, to entertain yet another male questioner – 2 males and 2 females – is just fair,” but I decided not to pursue.

If only given the chance to ask, I would have raised the following points:

Rifle in every household

“A cousin of my wife lives in Mamasapano (Maguindanao) and I know for a fact that there is not a single rifle in her house, nor in any of the five houses surrounding hers! Is your claim based on a reliable study? Have you really gone to every house in the whole ARMM area?

“If your claim is really true, then Babu Monera (an old lady resident of Mamasapano who momentarily became popular due to her interview by GMA News TV) could have used her rifle against the SAF heroes who enjoyed looting her small sari-sari store!

“Have you contemplated on the logical consequence of your claim in terms of loose firearms? Can you imagine the huge quantity of such hypothetical loose firearms and how the Philippine government could deal with it?”

‘Muhajirun’ means jihadists

“Madame Professor! Please show to us any Arabic-to-English dictionary which defines ‘Muhajirun’ as ‘jihadists’ or ‘those who perform jihad’.

“’Muhajirun’ means ‘emigrants’ and please do not confuse it with the word ‘mujahidun’ (those who perform jihad)!”

The fact is that the Muslim citizens of the Islamic State in Madinah were composed of the ‘Muhajirun’ – the emigrants from Makkah who were driven away from their homeland – and the ‘Ansar’ – literally, the ‘Helpers’ which refers to the Muslims of Madinah who helped and gave shelter to the oppressed ‘Muhajirun’.

Federalism equals political violence

“As I see it, federalism can be considered a form of political violence if and only if it is arbitrarily imposed on the entire nation without any referendum or similar process or processes. But it is not so, in the case of the present government’s federalism agenda.”

Besides, my take is that to view federalism as a form of political violence has the unintended tendency to overstretch the meaning of the word ‘violence’, and chances are, if everything is a form of violence, then the word ‘violence’ itself would be reduced to meaninglessness – a situation which may be regarded by some people as linguistically ‘violent’.

So is the concept of security in International Relations. When everything is securitized, this state of affairs renders empty elegance and unmeaning futility to the word ‘security’ itself.

In the closing session in which the names of the ten newly elected PPSA board of directors were announced after a secret balloting, I was imagining the crucial role of the association – the largest group of political scientists in the country – in trying to close the gap between the science and practice of politics.

The fact that blatantly inaccurate information such as ‘muhajirun equals mujahidun’ is disseminated in its annual international conference shows that closing this gap is indeed a herculean task on the part of PPSA.

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Mediating Negotiation, Negotiating Mediation


MAKATI CITY (20 September) – Following ‘Id al-Qurban last week, some 30 Moros from various sectors – revolutionary fronts, legal profession, civil society organizations (CSOs), local government units (LGUs), and the academe – gathered not to form a political party or anything of that sort, but to attend a four-day training on negotiation and mediation at Waterfront Insular Hotel, Davao City.

In partnership with the Clingendael (Netherlands Institute of International Relations) and UNDP Philippines, the Bangsamoro Study Group (BSG) and the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) organized the “Training-Workshop on Negotiation and Mediation as Instruments for Conflict Settlement” with the aim of providing the participants with the necessary skills sets that could “hopefully help them identify, discuss, and achieve common grounds on various issues confronting the Moro society and negotiate better”.

As his opening salvo, one of the two training facilitators introduced the Onion Model of Negotiation and Mediation, which identifies three essential elements that a negotiator or mediator should know. They are ‘positions’ (outer later), ‘interests’ (middle layer) and ‘wants’ (core). As Wilbur Perlot of Clingendael, a world renowned think-tank involved in the training of diplomats and negotiators the world over, was explaining each element of the Onion Model, I cannot help but look at it through IR theoretical lenses – both positivist and post-positivist.

As I was suspecting from the beginning, the model is indeed based upon liberalism and its basic assumptions on cooperation and drive for gains, as can be deduced from the facilitator’s answer to a lawyer participant who asked about the place of ‘motives’ in the model – ‘motives’ being equated with ‘wants’ which constitutes the ‘core’ in the model.

Contrary to the positivist liberalism which identifies ‘wants’ as the element on which the ‘interests’ and ‘positions’ depend, social constructivism – a midway post-positivist tradition – introduces an ‘inner core’ element – that is, ‘identity’. It propounds that one’s positions and interests are not dictated by his wants but rather by something which is continually shaping his wants. That is his ever-changing identity. Accordingly, not only one’s positions and interests that can be negotiated, but also his wants, provided that his identity also changes accordingly.

As Alexander Wendt would blurt, “Positions and interests are what negotiators make of them!”

Interestingly enough, the lecture sessions were interspersed with mind-bending exercises that simulate actual negotiation and/or mediation, while the refreshment breaks were peppered by spontaneous narration by MNLF and MILF negotiators of critical episodes of actual experiences negotiating with the Philippine government in the past.

The exchange of pleasantries and laughter among the participants, and at times, with the two facilitators as well as members of the secretariat, would remarkably defy the wide age disparity among the participants – from mid-20s to over 70 years old.

As part of the debriefing on “bargaining on the merits,” the other facilitator and mediation expert in both theory and practice, Mark Anstey of South Africa, told us the tale of two donkeys who finally found a win-win agreement on how to deal with two separate fodders. Instead of simultaneously consuming their respective fodders which is impossible to do given their being tied together, donkey A and donkey B agreed to consume together fodder A first and then fodder B. Within the framework of liberalism, it is as simple as that – the two parties agree together to come up with a win-win situation for them both.

But it is not so with structural realism which, like liberalism, is also a positivist tradition, but at the other end of the spectrum. Structural realism does not only settle with an apparent agreement but also questions the intention of each party and even entertains the possibility of deception on the part of one or both parties. Accordingly, after the two donkeys agree to consume together the two fodders, it is not unlikely that after consuming together the fodder A, donkey B is deceiving its counterpart as it intends to kill it so that it could consume fodder B by itself alone.

After undergoing the last exercise which was a simulation of tedious multilateral negotiation involving a concerned citizens’ group acting as the mediator, a central government, a regional police, a group of old protesters with specific constituencies, and a group of young protesters with particular constituencies, one realization I had is that mediating is doing a sort of negotiation while negotiating is undeniably inseparable with mediating works.

In short, mediating is negotiating, and vice versa.


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Media Studies 2.0 in Presidential Debate 2.0

Media Studies 2.0

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews / 28 March) – Not too long ago, the study of media would deal with the post-Gutenbergian mass communication through a small number of key forms like the printed books, newspapers, cinema, radio, and television. It was characterized by the writer or reporter shaping the ideas and opinions of the recipient or reader about the events.

This is what mass communications students call ‘Media Studies 1.0’.

With the advent of the computer technology and the paving of the information superhighway, there is now a murky distinction between the news producer and receiver. Gone are the days when the news production owners had the sole monopoly of the creation and production of the events’ narratives.

Through social networking sites, for instance, the ‘conventional’ news receiver could easily react to the news, thereby shaping the opinion of other ‘receivers’. Most often, the news of an event would shape the trend and even the outcome of that event.

In a speech a few years ago about the moral burden of the journalists or media people whom I described as the ‘modern-day poets’, I cited the case of a septuagenarian wife whose fellow septuagenarian husband was reported in the main news outlets to be missing. After sometime, the missing old man was found through the voluntary efforts of young netizens who had helped in locating him throughout Metro Manila and the surrounding towns.

This ambiguity concerning the news producer-versus-receiver and event-versus-news divide is dubbed ‘Media Studies 2.0’.

Once again, Media Studies 2.0 can be gleaned from the second round of Presidential Debate held in Cebu on March 20, 2016. Liberal Party Presidential Candidate Mar Roxas’ “Muslim na mananakop” (“Muslim invaders”) remark provoked various reactions from the social media.

For instance, immediately after the debate, Iyyah Sinarimbo, a young Muslim netizen posted at 10:41 pm (March 20) her “Open Letter to Mar Roxas” in her Facebook page. And it has instantly gone viral. So far, the post has already earned at least 500 ‘Likes’ and 6,796 ‘Shares’.

Then the social media reactions soon turned into another news item in both the print and online media platforms: “Pro-BBL Roxas Hit for ‘Muslim na Mananakop’ Line in Debate” (Rappler, March 21, 2016), “Mar Roxas Hit for ‘Trumped’ Muslim na Mananakop Remark” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 21, 2016) “Roxas Blasted, Defended for ‘Muslim na Mananakop’ Term in Presidential Debate” (Kicker Daily News, March 21, 2016), “Roxas Defends Self Over ‘Anti-Muslim Slur’” (Sun Star, March 21, 2016), “Mar Hit for ‘Muslim’ Remark” (Bandera, March 22, 2016), and “Must Read: An Open Letter from a Muslim Netizen For Mar Roxas Goes Viral on Social Media!” (Cebu and Davao Journey, March 22, 2016).

In a nutshell, Media Studies 2.0 deals with a news story (by the news ‘producer’) that may incite reaction (of the ‘receiver’) which may become another news story (news ‘receiver’ becoming ‘producer’) which, in turn, may elicit yet another reaction (by another ‘receiver’ to the news ‘product’ of the earlier ‘receiver’).

Be that as it may, the Election Day will tell if this online reaction would turn into an offline vote.


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Newly-wed Couple’s Travel Provision


Allow me to open this short message by quoting Chapter 30, verse 21 of the Qur’an, which lays down the philosophy of marriage:

WA MIN ĀYĀTIHI AN KHALAQALAKUM MIN ANFUSIKUM AZWAJĀ – “And among His signs is that He created mates for you from among yourselves…”

LITASKUNŪ ILAYHĀ – “…so that you may dwell in tranquility with them”

WA JA‘ALA BAYNAKUM MAWADDATAWWA RAḤMAH – “…and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts).”

From this short Qur’anic passage, certain principles could be derived:

1 – Man and woman are of the same nature – KHALAQALAKUM MIN ANFUSIKUM AZWAJĀ – they only differ in functions as well as duties and responsibilities
2 – One purpose of marriage is to find peace of mind and tranquility of the heart – LITASKUNŪ ILAYHĀ
3 – Under the bond of wedlock, love and mercy are put into our hearts. What is interesting here is that the Arabic word for ‘love’ in this passage is not ‘ISHQ or ḤUBB which also means ‘love’. Instead, what is used here is MAWADDAH, which means ‘mutual love’; that is, a two-way traffic love.

After quoting this passage, let me leave you these reminders:
• Marriage is a religious-social contract which must be abided by both parties in letter and spirit as much as we can.
• Marriage does not mean union of identical personalities, but a celebration of differences and living together with those differences.
• To be in love does not mean looking at each other eye-to-eye, but to look toward the same direction.
• The best way to have the ideal wife is to try to be the ideal husband yourself; in the same manner, the finest method of having the ideal husband is to strive to be the ideal wife yourself.
• Lastly, as you are the earth and moon to each other, don’t forget to revolve together around the same Sun – which is your Ultimate Beloved.

We wish you the best of luck in your new stage of life journey!

RABBANĀ HABLANĀ MIN AZWĀJINĀ WA DHURRIYYATINĀ QURRATA A‘YUN, WAJ‘ALNĀ LIL-MUTTAQĪNĀ IMAMĀ (Our Lord! Grant us comfort in our spouses and descendants, and make us imams of the God-wary). (Q 25:74)

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