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Date : 24th January, 2017
Time : 53’ 27”(fastest time in the Pacific)
Total distance run to date : 980 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1543565190
After months of headlines here about Brexit and Trump, it was almost a relief to pick up a Filipino newspaper and see something different. The main story was about President Duterte and his threats to impose martial law to combat the country’s drugs problem and “to preserve the Filipino people and the youth of this land”.
International news coverage can be patchy in the West, but you may recall reading about Rodrigo Duterte. President Obama cancelled a meeting with him after Duterte called Obama a ‘son of a whore’. He also called the Pope a ‘son of a whore’ after being caught in a traffic jam caused by the Pope’s visit.
The controversial statements don’t stop there. Duterte told supporters at a campaign rally that, as Mayor, he thought he “should have been first” to rape Jacqueline Hamill, an Australian missionary who was gang-raped and killed during the 1989 Davao hostage crisis. Referring to the almost commonplace assassination of journalists in the Philippines (174 killed since the end of the Marcos regime) he said “Most of those killed, to be frank, have done something. You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong.”
His foreign policy pronouncements have been no less inflammatory. “Mr. Obama, you can go to hell. EU, better choose purgatory. Hell is already full. Why should I be afraid of you?” and “there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines, and Russia”.
Some have referred to Duterte as the Asian Trump. A sobriquet that, depending on your politics, you may either see as a compliment or a criticism. Whatever your views, Duterte is, by all accounts, very popular in the Philippines.
International criticism of Duterte focuses on his hard-line policy towards drugs and crime in general. He supports a shoot to kill policy with some estimating that as many as 6 000 people have been killed since he became President. Duterte even claims to have killed three criminals himself.
Caught in the cross fire – or quite possibly deliberately targeted – are the street children of Philippines. Children that I was to ‘meet’ shortly after my arrival in Manila.
I’d spent all morning and early afternoon cooped up in my hotel in Papua New Guinea (readers of my Papua New Guinea blog will know that you don’t just pop out for a stroll on the streets of Port Moresby). I’d then flown to Manila and didn’t get to my hotel until after 10pm. After a bite to eat, I badly needed to stretch my legs.
I could have sworn the pavements had been full of hustle and bustle when I’d arrived but it was now after 11 pm and everything seemed oddly quiet. I turned right out of the hotel and fairly quickly hit a major road with no obvious way to cross it. So I continued round the corner and came across a brightly lit convenience store.
And there, on the concrete steps leading up to the store front, was a mother putting her child to bed. She’d lain a thin layer of what looked like foil on the step and was now wrapping the child in a blanket.
Readers without children may want to skip the next paragraph on the grounds of its unabashed sentimentality. Those with kids will, I think, know what I mean when I say that tucking a child into bed can be a special moment. You want your child to feel safe, warm, secure and loved.
Despite the harsh lighting and concrete surroundings, there was something so universal, and so poignant, about the mother’s actions that I was tempted to take a photo for this blog. It then occurred to me that even asking permission to take a photo – let alone taking one – would have been a gross invasion of privacy.
In fact, I needed to stop staring at the scene. So I turned round and set off back to the hotel.
At the street corner I realised with a shock that there, lying on the ground, was a tiny kid wrapped round the base of a tree. I hadn’t even noticed him/her the first time I’d passed by. At the time I assumed s/he was asleep. But looking back on it, s/he could equally well have been dead. Either way, I’m not sure anyone would have cared.
I started to become aware just how many homeless people there were around me. Between the front of the hotel, and the main road, were a slip road and a raised strip a few meters wide. That strip was full of people camping out for the night. Some of them called out to me – to be friendly ; to ask for help ; to sell me something. I couldn’t tell you. (Picture below – not mine – is of Roxas Boulevard during the day.)
I retired to my (modestly priced by western standards) hotel room, looked at the two twin beds and thought about the enormous gap in sleeping quarters.
I’m not suggesting that asking the homeless to share hotel rooms with tourists is the solution. And I’m certainly not pretending I know what the answer is. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but Manila is reported to have the most homeless people of any city in the world (70 000 – just ‘ahead’ of New York City and Los Angeles). It is also, by a distance, the most densely populated city in the world. Finding the money and space to house that many homeless people is presumably difficult bordering on the impossible. However, you can’t help feeling that killing them isn’t the answer…and that at least the children need protection from the elements and the sharks that prowl the streets.
I got up early next morning after a disturbed night and looked out the window. The sky was grey, there was rain in the air, and large puddles on the street. It must have been miserable for anyone sleeping rough.
But, and this seemed extremely unfair in the circumstances, it wasn’t bad for running. Whether due to the coolness, or the more than 24 hour break since my previous run, I wasn’t suffering physically as I had in Micronesia or PNG. My legs were working properly for the first time on the trip.
I started at the Cultural Centre of the Philippines – pic below – and ran towards what looked like some interesting buildings on the map.
On closer inspection these turned out to be shopping malls so I turned round and ran along the Manila Baywalk to Rizal Park – pic below. (An excellent running route if you’re ever in the area.)
To see more of Manila, I ran back to the hotel along the city side of Roxas Boulevard. Much slower going than the Baywalk but I still finished in 53 1/2 minutes – my fastest 10km in the Pacific.
Time for a shower, breakfast and the 17 hour journey back to London. Where the headlines hadn’t changed but where, despite all its problems, including homelessness, it felt like there was much to be grateful for…
The Facts & Stats
The Philippines is an island country in Southeast Asia situated in the western Pacific Ocean. It consists of about 7,641 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The capital city of the Philippines is Manila and the most populous city is Quezon City, both part of Metro Manila
The Philippines’ location on the Pacific Ring of Fire and close to the equator makes the Philippines prone to earthquakes and typhoons, but also endows it with abundant natural resources and some of the world’s greatest biodiversity. The Philippines has an area of 300,000 square kilometres (115,831 sq mi),and a population of approximately 100 million. It is the eighth-most populated country in Asia and the 12th most populated country in the world. As of 2013, approximately 10 million additional Filipinos lived overseas comprising one of the world’s largest diasporas.
The arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 marked the beginning of Hispanic colonization. In 1543, Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos named the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas in honour of Philip II of Spain. The Philippines became part of the Spanish Empire for more than 300 years. This resulted in Roman Catholicism becoming the dominant religion.
As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, there followed in quick succession the Philippine Revolution, which spawned the short-lived First Philippine Republic, followed by the bloody Philippine–American War of conquest by US military force.] Aside from the period of Japanese occupation, the United States retained sovereignty over the islands until after World War II, when the Philippines was recognized as an independent nation (in 1946.).
The Philippines is considered to be an emerging market and a newly industrialized country which has an economy transitioning from being one based on agriculture to one based more on services and manufacturing.
In 1965, Ferdinand Marcos won the presidential election. Early in his presidency, Marcos initiated numerous infrastructure projects but was accused of massive corruption and embezzling billions of dollars in public funds. Nearing the end of his term, Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972.This period of his rule was characterized by political repression, censorship, and human rights violations but the US were steadfast in its support. His wife Imelda famously lived a lavish lifestyle while the majority of Filipinos remained in poverty.
On August 21, 1983, Marcos’ chief rival, opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. was assassinated on the tarmac at Manila International Airport. Marcos eventually called snap presidential elections in 1986. Marcos was proclaimed the winner, but the results were widely regarded as fraudulent, leading to the People Power Revolution. Marcos and his allies fled to Hawaii and Aquino’s widow, Corazon Aquino, was recognized as president.
The return of democracy and government reforms beginning in 1986 were hampered by national debt, government corruption, coup attempts, disasters, a persistent communist insurgency and a military conflict with Moro separatists During Corazon Aquino‘s administration, U.S. forces withdrew from the Philippines, due to the rejection of the U.S. Bases Extension Treaty. The administration also faced a series of natural disasters, including the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991. After introducing a constitution that limited presidents to a single term, Aquino did not stand for re-election.
Rodrigo Duterte won the 2016 presidential election becoming the first president from Mindanao. After winning the Presidency, Duterte urged, “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”By October 2016, one hundred days after Duterte took office, the death toll for the Philippine Drug War passed 3,000 people.
Finally, here’s the latest World Bank data for the Philippines – with the year 2000 as a comparison.
Population 100.7 million 2015 77.9 million 2000
GDP $292.5 billion 2015 $81.03 billion 2000
GNI per capita $3550 2014 $1220 2000
% below poverty line* 25.2% 2012 24.9% 2003
Life expectancy at birth 68.3 years 2014 66.7 years 2000
Primary school enrolment** 108.9% 2009 109.4% 2000
*Methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country
**Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students
In case you’d like to read more about Duterte, or street children in the Philippines, I’ve added below some related (and unedited) Wikipedia content.
Rodrigo “Rody” Roa Duterte (Tagalog: [ɾoˈdrigo dʊˈtɛrtɛ]; born March 28, 1945), also known as Digong, is a Filipino politician and jurist who is the 16th and current President of the Philippines. He is the first Mindanaoan to hold the office, and the fourth of Visayan descent. At 71 years old, Duterte is the oldest person to assume the Philippine presidency, superseding Sergio Osmeña and Fidel Ramos, respectively.
Duterte studied political science at the Lyceum of the Philippines University, graduating in 1968, before obtaining a law degree from San Beda College of Law in 1972. He then worked as a lawyer and was a prosecutor for Davao City, a highly urbanized city on Mindanao island, before becoming vice mayor and, subsequently, mayor of the city in the wake of the Philippine Revolution of 1986. Duterte was among the longest-serving mayors in the Philippines, serving seven terms totaling more than 22 years in office.
Duterte’s political success has been aided by his vocal support for the extrajudicial killing of drug users and criminals. Human rights groups have documented over 1,400 killings allegedly by vigilante groups occurring in Davao between 1998 and May 2016; the victims were mainly drug users, petty criminals and street children. Duterte has alternately confirmed and denied his involvement in the killings. A January 2016 decision by the Office of the Ombudsman on the alleged death squad in Davao between 2005 and 2009 found “no evidence to support ‘the killings attributed or attributable to the Davao Death Squad much less the involvement of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte”. Duterte has repeatedly confirmed that he personally killed three kidnapping suspects while Mayor of Davao in 1988.
On May 9, 2016, Duterte won the Philippine presidential election with 38.5% of the votes, after a campaign in which he promised to defeat crime by killing tens of thousands of criminals. His domestic policy has focused on combating illegal drug trade by initiating the Philippine Drug War. Following criticism from United Nations human rights experts that extrajudicial killings had increased since the election, he threatened to withdraw the Philippines from the UN and form a new organization with China and African nations. He has vowed to pursue an “independent foreign policy”.
See also: Davao Death Squad
Duterte, who has been dubbed “The Punisher” by Time magazine, has been linked by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to extrajudicial killings of over 1,400 alleged criminals and street children by vigilante death squads. In the April 2009 UN General Assembly of the Human Rights Council, the UN report (Eleventh Session Agenda item 3, par 21) said, “The Mayor of Davao City has done nothing to prevent these killings, and his public comments suggest that he is, in fact, supportive.” Human Rights Watch reported that in 2001–2002, Duterte appeared on local television and radio and announced the names of “criminals”, some of whom were later executed. In July 2005 at a crime summit at the Manila Hotel, Duterte said, “Summary execution of criminals remains the most effective way to crush kidnapping and illegal drugs”.
Duterte has denied responsibility for the extrajudicial killings. He has also frequently announced his support for them. According to Reuters, “Duterte’s loud approval for hundreds of execution-style killings of drug users and criminals over nearly two decades helped propel him to the highest office of a crime-weary land.” In 2009 Duterte said: “If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a legitimate target of assassination.” In 2015, Duterte confirmed his links to extrajudicial killings in Davao, and warned that, if elected president, he may kill up to 100,000 criminals. After the said confirmation, Duterte challenged human rights officials to file a case against him if they could provide evidence to his links with vigilante groups. Following a December 1 phone call between Donald Trump and Duterte, the latter said Trump wished him “success,” in his war on drugs, and looked forward to his visiting Washington in 2017. An estimated 4,800 persons had been killed in the preceding six months.
The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, with 174 assassinations recorded since the Marcos dictatorship. In a press conference on 31 May 2016, Duterte said that “Most of those killed, to be frank, have done something. You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong.” He appeared to announce his support for killing “corrupt” journalists: “Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch”.
At the press conference where Duterte announced this, he wolf-whistled at a female journalist when she asked a question. At a news conference on the following day he defended his comments and refused to apologise, telling reporters, “I cannot protect you”. He has been criticized by foreign and domestic media organizations regarding his comments. The Southeast Asia representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists said: “What he has done with these irresponsible comments is give security officials the right to kill for acts that they consider defamation. This is one of the most outrageous statements we have ever heard from a president in the Philippines.”
Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom, stated in October 2016 that major newspapers and television stations have not critically analyzed Duterte’s policies, because “they fear him. They basically are afraid to be singled out.”
Main article: Philippine Drug War
In the first three months of Duterte’s term in office, according to police figures, over 3,000 killings were attributed to his nationwide anti-drug campaign. More than half were attributed to vigilantes. At the beginning of October, a senior police offi
2016, Amnesty International stated there is “little evidence” of this; according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the prevalence of drug use in the country is lower than the global average. He has dismissed the UN’s human rights concerns by dehumanizing drug users, stating in August 2016: “Crime against humanity? In the first place, I’d like to be frank with you. Are they humans? What is your definition of a human being?” Despite the controversial war on Drugs, Duterte public approval remains at over 80% as of October 2016.
On October 18–21, 2016, Duterte visited Beijing to meet with Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. While announcing his “separation” from the United States in front of Chinese and Filipino businessmen at the Philippines–China Trade and Investment Forum in Beijing on October 20, Duterte also said that he would realign himself with the Chinese ideological flow and that he might also travel to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin to “tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines, and Russia.”
On September 30, 2016, Duterte appeared to compare the killings of suspected drug addicts to the Holocaust saying: “Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there are 3 million drug addicts. … I’d be happy to slaughter them.” His remarks drew international outrage particularly from the Jewish Communities. World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder condemned the statement, as did the Anti-Defamation League. Israeli Foreign Ministry also condemned his remarks while the German government slammed Duterte’s comments as unacceptable, and called in the Philippine ambassador to the Foreign Ministry over the matter. On October 2 he apologized to the Jewish community. When listening to the full conference, he was in fact referring to the accusation of genocide by lawyers of the European Union who wanted him to face the International Court of Justice and, as Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella explained, that it “was an oblique reflection of the way he has been pictured as a mass murderer, a Hitler, a label he rejects”.
In September 2016, Duterte said that the United States has not even apologized to the Philippines for its atrocities during the Philippine–American War. In October 2016, Duterte continued his tirade against the US and the European Union saying in Tagalog that “Mr. Obama, you can go to hell. EU, better choose purgatory. Hell is already full. Why should I be afraid of you?”
Homelessness & Street Children in the Philippines
Manila, Philippines has the highest homelessness rate in the world. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights reports that this city has 70,000 dispossessed people on its streets. The commission also reports that the entire country has a distressing 1,200,000 children living on the streets. These children are faced with numerous problems including the abuse of drugs such as marijuana, shabu and cough syrups, health problems due to the deplorable conditions in which they live in, child prostitution by pedophiles and foreign sex tourists, and the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Recently, when the pope was visiting the country, numerous street children were rounded up and locked in cages. Authorities supported the inhumane act arguing that it was done to prevent gangs of beggars from approaching the pope.
The approximate numbers of street children in the different districts[clarification needed] of the Philippines are: Manila (3,266), Quezon (2,867), Caloocan (1,530), and Pasay (1,420). Regional numbers are:
- Luzon regional totals: 1,557 (highly visible), 22,728 (estimated total)
- Visayas regional totals: 5,291 (highly visible), 40,860 (estimated total) and
- Mindanao regional totals: 22,556 (highly visible), 138,328(estimated total).
Approximately 70% of the children are boys.
Defining Filipino street children
According to the “A Better Life” foundation, there are three different categories of street children:
- Children on the streetsmake up approximately 75% of the street children in the Philippines. They work on the streets but do not live there. They generally have a home to return to after working, and some even continue to attend school while working long hours on the streets.
- Children of the streetmake their homes on the street. They make up 25%-30% of the street children in the Philippines. They often create a sort of family with their fellow street children. Some of them still have family ties, but may either rarely tend to them or view them negatively.
- Completely abandoned childrenhave no family ties and are entirely on their own for physical and psychological survival. They make up approximately 5%-10% of the street children in the Philippines.
Problems facing street children
The most common substances are inhalants, such as solvents, rugby (a toluene-based glue) and cough syrups, followed by marijuana and shabu. Marijuana and shabus in particular are shared with friends whenever one of the group has enough money to buy them. Some street children take drugs as often as once a day.
Street children are generally thin, untidy, undernourished, and hardly equipped to survive the hazards of everyday living and working on the streets. Some of the hazards they face include sickness, physical injuries from motor accidents, street fights, harassment from extortionists and police, sexual exploitation by pedophiles and pimps, exposure to substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases.
Summary execution of street children
Many street children were in danger of summary execution during the Marcos Government era. In 2005, a report found that 39 children in Davao City had been killed by vigilante groups since 2001, most after having been released from police detention cells.
Human rights groups said the killings have become an unwritten government policy to deal with crime, largely because of an ineffective criminal justice system and the tendency of the authorities to take shortcuts in the administration of justice. The execution-style killings are openly endorsed by local officials, strengthening the long-running suspicion that the death squads were formed by the government.
Child prostitutes are used by foreign sex tourists and pedophiles, as well as local people. Many street children are lured into prostitution as a means of survival, while others do it to earn money for their families. A variety of different factors contribute to the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines.[further explanation needed]
Rooted in poverty, as elsewhere, the problem of child prostitution in Angeles was exacerbated in the 1980s by Clark Air Base, where bars employed children who ended up as sex workers for American soldiers. Street children are at particular risk because many of the 200 brothels in Angeles offer children for sex. According to 1996 statistics of the Philippine Resource Network, 60,000 of the 1.5 million street children in the Philippines were prostituted.
Angeles Police had to rescue 36 children as young as six from Fields Avenue. Myrna Latorre, Chief of the Women’s and Children’s Section of the Angeles Police, said that the rescued children were brought to the City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD), and that most of them were sent to the Bahay Bata Center, an institution taking care of orphans and abused children. The rest, she said, were taken to Haven, a government rehabilitation center in Magalang, Pampanga, run by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). A 13-year-old child was trafficked into a brothel in Angeles where she had to service up to 15 individuals every night. 
HIV/AIDS and STDs
There is no HIV testing for children in the Philippines, but approximately 18% of the street children contract sexually transmitted infections (STIs).