Category Archives: social justice

Condoms and the Presidential Election

This is the news, “Women activists present condoms to Philippine bishops.” What’s new? The Philippine Catholic bishops have been waging a bitter war with the government against the use of contraceptives. The Catholic church has never been weakened with its stiff stand against Family Planning and the use of artificial methods of birth control.

The Philippine Catholic Bishops have always been critical of any administration or political parties that support birth control and family planning. In fact presidential aspirants in the like of Senator Noynoy Aquino have been very careful with their stand with regards to population issues. The Bishop can always call on the Catholic faithful some 75 millions out of the 90 to 100 million Filipinos not to vote for any candidate who supports the family planning program of the government. One of the important criteria the good Bishops are looking to any politician vying for an elective position in the government is his policies and stand on the issues of family planning and birth control.

Even if President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo knows the significance of high birth rate in combating poverty problems in the Philippines, having been once a DSWD secretary, she tends to be careful with its population management program so as not to provoke the ire of the already critical Clergies to her administration. The bishops also took advantage of the government soft stand on Family Planning and birth control by calling for a ban on the advertisement of condom however the Arroyo’s administration only shrugged off their demands.

As if trying to maim the bishops stiff opposition on birth control and contraceptives, here comes Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral (former DSWD Secretary) “handing out condoms on February 13 as part of an information campaign on HIV-AIDS.” Her action may not necessarily be the collective stand of the government but nobody in the bureaucracy stood up to sanction her. She had not violated any law, she just exercised her political independence to promote actions responsive for the health and general welfare of the entire population. Yet the Bishops angrily called for her to resign.

But Health Secretary Cabral found allies on women’s health and rights advocate groups like the Party of the Workers who picketed and presented two baskest full of condoms at the headquarters of the Catholic Bishops Conference.

Judy Ann Miranda, the party’s secretary-general asked the bishops to “bless the condoms as a conciliatory gesture to unite for reproductive health and women’s rights” but unfortunately no bishop was around to receive/bless it.

As a response to the women activists action the bishops said, through spokesman Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, that they could not compromise on the church’s opposition to birth control devices. Again, a manifestation of the unwavering Catholic dogma on contraceptive devices which are perceived to tamper with the flow of nature and life. They the bishops however have no specific response on how to promote women’s reproductive health and quality of life.

“If contraceptives are immoral, nothing can change that… not even the vote of the whole country can change that,” Quitorio said. But should he not consider also immoral to see the health of women deteriorate just because couples are denied on the used of contraceptive devices. I think there is nothing more immoral than allowing spread of diseases and overpopulating the limited space we have in this country just because we can not control our rapid population growth.

And going back to politics, is the issue on contraceptives a leverage for a politician to improve his chances of winning in the presidential race? Will the good bishops support senator Manny Villar if he makes a covenant with the Catholic Church in the Philippines never to support legislative measures that advocate the use of contraceptives and other birth control devices? What will happen to the leading presidential candidate on surveys now should he decide to go against the bishops on their resistance to contraceptives and population control programs of the government?

So there we go, peace on earth and condom to all!

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Filed under Community life, democracy, education, Philippine government, Religion, Religion and sexual behavior, Reproductive Health, social justice, Wealth, Poverty, women

Index of Happiness

“Gusto ko Happy Kayo (I want you to be happy)” – Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.

It has been said that life is a combination of joys and sorrows. Life is a game, and it is up to us how to play and win. But every person deserves some kind of joy and happiness in his journey to this life. But what makes a person happy?

To be happy one should know what does it mean to by happy and the sources of human joy of happiness. The index of happiness vary from “people to people and from culture to culture.” What is treated as happiness to some may be rejected by others.

There are several school of thoughts which try to define happiness.

1. “Spiritualistic School of Thought”, which recited, that real happiness consists essentially in spiritual mode of life.
2. “Materialistic School of Thought” upholds that real happiness lies simply in the conduct of materialism.

3.“Rationalistic School of Thought” stresses that only reason/wisdom and logic can attain happiness.

4. “Islamic School of Thought” states that the three types of life: the spiritual, the material and the rational are together essential elements of real happiness life. Divine Reality and the basic concept of the Oneness and Perfect Attributes of God gives real happiness and blessings.

But what is “real happiness?” For many religious believers they say it is a state of perfection attainable only in the life hereafter. Unfortunately happiness in this context happiness is not in our world. Religion tells us that real happiness happens only when people will receive eternal reward for their good deeds on Earth.

Likewise religious teachings, doctrines and philosophies “shield people from painful realities, such as human immortality, the lack of ultimate justice, and the ravages of an indifferent natural world.” Of course there are studies which support that religious believers are happier than non-believers around the world. It is because they experience a “sense of social support, as well as sense of purpose and hope for the future.” Take it from them, if you negate the egos of the heart, you will experience relative peace and happiness. That is if you agree with the religious people that happiness is not confined only to materialistic things but to the blessings and submission to the Lord Almighty God.

But at the passage of time religion and materialism now combine to induce one’s happiness now and hereafter. So Chalmers introduces three things that will make a person truly happy in this world: 1) someone to love, 2) something to do, and 3) something to hope for.

In the practical side of life, the poor believes that it’s economic prosperity that could bring happiness in this life. But this is not guarantee however for one to be ultimately happy because at the arrival of enormous wealth his life will be stressed on how to keep and make his wealth grows. Senator Manny Villar who raised from rags to riches is now haunted by the C-5 controversies. Wealth can be a source of happiness, it can also be a source of pains, sorrows and humiliations.

Yes the concepts of happiness have changed in our modern time. Happiness is not something that happens; not even a result of good fortune, and something that money can buy. It does not depend on outside events but how we interpret them ourselves. “Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person. People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives.”

Ang kaligayan daw ay nasa isip lang. Papano naman kung kumakalam ang iyong sikmura? Para sa akin ang kaligayahan ay isang bagay ng hinahangad, minsan iyong makakamtam. At kung minsan naman ay mabibigo ka. Ang kaligayahan sa isang banda ay ang patuloy mong pakikibaka sa buhay at pananagumpay. Ang tunay na kaligayahan ay bunga ng ating dugo at pawis, paghihirap, at pagpupunyagi. Wala sa kamay ng mga pulitiko at pamahalaan. Instrumento lang sila at bahagi ng pagpupunyaging iyan.

Ang umaayaw daw ay hindi nagwawagi, ang nagwawagi ay laging maligaya.

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Our Glimpse of Tomorrow of this Politically Divided Country

A year ago my students debated in the class whether or not the entry of showbiz personalities in politics is a disaster to Philippine legislature and governance. It was a heated debate which lasted for two sessions especially when former president Estrada was dragged into the scene.

The “wealthiest” (those coming from the well-to-do families) called it a disaster for Estrada to be elected president. But the majority “middle and lower class (children of OFWs, government employees, and ordinary street vendors, etc.) defended the actor who they believe is the “champion of the common tao.” But both group agreed it was Erap’s dethronement which paved way to the Arroyo’s administration haunted with accusation of human rights violations, graft and corruption, and perpetuation into power.

In view of this I asked both leaders of the debating group again: Is the entry into politics of showbiz personalities a disaster in Philippine politics, governance, and legislation? The entire class roared with different dissenting opinions.

After the class I was left laughing but deeply disturbed inside. What had just transfired is a reflection of reality in this land. This is democracy in action. This is congress in session. And this is the Philippines today… after the Americans “restored our freedom.” A country “run like hell?”

More talks less action. We have good plans but no implementation. We have all the laws to punish the corrupt and notoriously undesirable but only the little fish is caught. Is this our vision of free and progressive Philippines for the future generation?

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Smith is Acquitted; a Reason for Outrage?

The Supreme court has spoken, smith is not guilty. It was “a spontaneous, unplanned romantic episode with both parties carried away by their passions and stirred up by the urgency of the moment caused probably by alcoholic drinks they took…”

What does this mean? Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith can go back home a free man with his dignity restored and he has nothing to be ashame of. He can see friends, relatives, and people around head up; he could be called immaculate had not the court ruled he had a consensual sex with a drunk Filipina. A, smith is no longer a virgin, he proved himself a “fucker.” Perhaps there could have been a repeat performance had he properly parted with her with a word, Thank you.

Suddenly the moment of parting came and the Marines had to rush to the ship. In that situation, reality dawned on Nicole—what her audacity and reckless abandon, flirting with Smith and leading him on, brought upon her.

“That must have been shattering. But added to this was the mocking moment she heard from inside the van: ‘Leave that bitch!’ or words to that effect, which really broke her as she shouted back her denial: ‘I am not a bitch!’,” the court went on.

From the court’s point of view, Nicole cried rape out of shame—“dumped in a curb literally with her pants down”—upon the thought of her mother and boyfriend Brian.

“She had to hit back in the only way she could—to salvage at least a vestige of her self-esteem,” the court concluded.

So smith is the loser, he had been sentenced and jailed for sometime for an offense he did not commit at all. He has the looks every woman is looking for which they term in Filipino “makalaglag panty.” What about Smith’s compensation for a lost virginity or innocence of his manhood (if ever he had at the time he was on top of Nicole)? Maybe Nicole should even be thankful to Smith for giving her the taste of glory from a good looking guy.

But this is not so from public perception. Nicole was a victim and deserve to get justice on the shame and pain inflicted on her. It’s unfortunate, the appellate court look at it the other way around. For how could she convinced the court it was rape when it found no evidence to show “force, threat, and intimidation.” If ever Nicole was drunk, then she could not “danced non-stop to the urgent beat of rock and hip-hop music in an inebriated state for 15 minutes without stumbling clumsily on the floor.”  

She lied including the other witnesses, if I were to interpret what the court said as: 

This gap in her narration with the malingering explanation that she was dizzy and could not remember is dubiously fanciful for being what the court perceptively describes as contrary to ordinary experience of man,” the court said.

The court found the testimonies given by three persons at the Neptune Club who described Nicole’s supposed drunken state to be “rehearsed.”

The court was suspicious that the witnesses uniformly used the word “pasuray-suray” (walking unsteadily as if swaying) in describing Nicole before the court, but they never used the word when they spoke to investigators.

“The uniform description gives the impression that the testimonies were rehearsed,” the court said.

Unfortunately Nicole is no longer here and neither her mom is interested to pursue to the case to the Supreme Court. Nicole is now in the US and probably will be married soon to her boyfriend. Perhaps Smith could be invited also to the wedding and give his best wishes to the bride and groom.

But then this is not what most people think about. Not that Smith was not guilty, he may have been lucky the victim prefered to doubt if she was raped at all. Of course we respect the decision of the court. The magistrates were trained to evaluate cases based on evidences. Ours may only be a conjecture, it may not be the truth. But who has the truth, or at least closest to the truth.

To most of the Filipina women, probably Smith’s acquittal may only suggest one thing, the danger that Filipina women can be raped anywhere and may not get justice at all.

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Filed under ethical standard, government, Justice, Philippine government, rape, Religion, Religion and sexual behavior, social justice, Wealth, Poverty

The paradox for truth; World Bank versus the Philippine Senate on “bid rigging” investigation

After the senators allied to the Arroyo’s administration bashed at the World Bank during the senate hearing, accusing it of conducting a sloppy investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding Bank-funded road projects, World Bank country director for the Philippines Bert Hofman defended the Bank’s investigation process as well as the reports (about alleged bid-rigging activities of Filipino construction firms) which it shared with the Philippine government was done in a “very thorough process.”

This is in response to senator Mirriam Santiago’s accusation of World Bank of “double speak” by charging corruption in the country but does not cooperate in the probe. “How dare Mr. Hofman say that there is corruption in the Philippines (but refuse) to give us at least the original document,” Santiago said.

Likewise Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez belied reports of sitting down on the case (Word Bank’s bid rigging report) during the senate’s hearing last Thursday. She said the 9-page  World’s Bank’s Referral Report was “full of restrictions” thus making it difficult for her office to conduct the investigation. Further she claimed that she did not received additional assistance from the World Bank after receiving the report. But the World Bank in response said “it had provided additional document to the Ombudsman and even offered to assist them in their investigation.”

And even if there’s truth on Gutierrez’s claim at the senate that World Bank failed  to provide her office additional documents, former officials of the office of the Ombudsman disagreed with her that she could not effectively pursue an investigation. They said there’s “enough information in the World Bank report to  investigate alleged “collusion involving a WB-funded road project.” Other people also  believe that if the office of the Ombudsman wants to run after crooks in the government, it could do so even with a simple letter complaining about scam like what her predecessor Simeon Marcelo did with “the Major General Carlos F. Garcia case.” The Ombudsman is a special prosecuting body that handles corruption cases against government officials.

In a statement released to the Philippine media, the World Bank said it shared to the Philippine government  “an internal document, the Referral Report—one of the several it has produced over the bid-rigging issue” so it could conduct its own investigation. While the Bank initiated the investigation “to protect the funds entrusted to the Bank,” the Philippine government has the discretion to investigate if there’s any of its own laws are violated.

World Bank further explained that it conducted the investigation and banned the involved construction firms to help safeguard the entrusted funds. The Bank had conducted “its own investigations under its own administrative rules and procedures.” If a member country however received a Referral Report and intends to investigate the case it could always ask the Bank for additional information according to the World Bank. In this manner the World Bank said it even offered “follow-up assistance to the Ombudsman in conducting her investigations.”

Senator Panfilo Lacson also perceived that the hearing of the Senate economic affairs committee led by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago was “orchestrated because of some obvious circumstances.” Government television networks were hooked up in the live coverage of the senate hearing. What was even more suspicious was when First Gentleman Arroyo who was also mentioned in the World Bank report “came up with a statement which “dovetailed” with the Senate hearing’s conclusion.”

As of now the Philippine government has enough body of information from the World Bank to pursue a case according to the Bank. But Philippine authorities still insists these are only leads and hard evidences are needed to prosecute a criminal case. In this case the general public is at lost who is telling the truth.

In dealing with the issue of corruption, in the “complimentarity” of truth (between the World Bank Report and the Senate’s hearing conclusion) it is not what one says that matters here but who is saying it. In this case, it is that the World Bank which has the upper hand if public opinion is sought on who is telling the truth.  

 

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The Lost of a Hero

The world is blessed with thousands of heroes all over the World. They all have one thing in mind, to sacrifice themselves that others may live. And this is exactly what Irena Sendlers did. She saved some 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazi Holocaust by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto. She died at the ripe age of 98.

Below is a complete story from the Associated Press:

Polish Holocaust hero dies at age 98

By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press May 12, 12:35 PM ETWARSAW, Poland 

Irena Sendler — credited with saving some 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazi Holocaust by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, some of them in baskets — died Monday, her family said. She was 98.

President Lech Kaczynski expressed “great regret” over Sendler’s death, calling her “extremely brave” and “an exceptional person.” In recent years, Kaczynski had spearheaded a campaign to put Sendler’s name forward as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Sendler, among the first to be honored by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial as a Righteous Among Nations for her wartime heroism, died at a Warsaw hospital, daughter Janina Zgrzembska told The Associated Press.

Sendler was a 29-year-old social worker with the city’s welfare department when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, launching World War II. Warsaw’s Jews were forced into a walled-off ghetto.

Seeking to save the ghetto’s children, Sendler masterminded risky rescue operations. Under the pretext of inspecting sanitary conditions during a typhoid outbreak, she and her assistants ventured inside the ghetto — and smuggled out babies and small children in ambulances and in trams, sometimes wrapped up as packages.

Teenagers escaped by joining teams of workers forced to labor outside the ghetto. They were placed in families, orphanages, hospitals or convents.

Records show that Sendler’s team of about 20 people saved nearly 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto between October 1940 and its final liquidation in April 1943, when the Nazis burned the ghetto, shooting the residents or sending them to death camps.

“Every child saved with my help and the help of all the wonderful secret messengers, who today are no longer living, is the justification of my existence on this earth, and not a title to glory,” Sendler said in 2007 in a letter to the Polish Senate after lawmakers honored her efforts in 2007.

In hopes of one day uniting the children with their families — most of whom perished in the Nazis’ death camps — Sendler wrote the children’s real names on slips of paper that she kept at home.

When German police came to arrest her in 1943, an assistant managed to hide the slips, which Sendler later buried in a jar under an apple tree in an associate’s yard. Some 2,500 names were recorded.

“It took a true miracle to save a Jewish child,” Elzbieta Ficowska, who was saved by Sendler’s team as a baby in 1942, recalled in an AP interview in 2007. “Mrs. Sendler saved not only us, but also our children and grandchildren and the generations to come.”

“I kept silent. I preferred to die than to reveal our activity,” she was quoted as saying in Anna Mieszkowska’s biography, “Mother of the Children of the Holocaust: The Story of Irena Sendler.”

In 1965, Sendler became one of the first so-called Righteous Gentiles honored by theYad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem for wartime heroics. Poland’s communist leaders at that time would not allow her to travel to Israel; she collected the award in 1983.

Despite the Yad Vashem honor, Sendler was largely forgotten in her homeland until recent years. She came to the world’s attention in 2000 when a group of schoolgirls from Uniontown, Kan., wrote a short play about her called “Life in a Jar.”

Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said Sender’s “courageous activities rescuingJews during the Holocaust serve as a beacon of light to the world, inspiring hope and restoring faith in the innate goodness of mankind.”

Zegota, an underground organization helping Jews, paid a bribe to German guards to free her from the prison. Under a different name, she continued her work.

After World War II, Sendler worked as a social welfare official and director of vocational schools, continuing to assist some of the children she rescued.

“A great person has died — a person with a great heart, with great organizational talents, a person who always stood on the side of the weak,” Warsaw Ghetto survivor Marek Eldeman told TVN24 television.

Anyone caught helping Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland risked being summarily shot, along with family members — a fate Sendler only barely escaped herself after the 1943 raid by the Gestapo.

The Nazis took her to the notorious Pawiak prison, which few people left alive. Gestapo agents tortured her repeatedly, leaving Sendler with scars on her body — but she refused to betray her team.

There Will Always be a Sendler

Irena Sendler has now rested in peace but her memory will continue to inspire young people today. There were always be an Irena Sendler to come. At the opportune time some brave people will just do what she did, to risk her life that others may live. With all the global problems the world is experiencing today, we are still blessed with inspiring stories like this. 

 

 

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Clipping the Source of Embarrassment

Had not been of electronics devices with video recording capabilities inside an operating room, there could have been no uploaded clip of a rectal procedure on the internet which elicited much controversy after thousands of You tube users had viewed it. This video clip,  had been picked up by network stations and other media and broadcasted it around the world.

The controversial video has brought embarrassment to the Department of Health and the medical community. The video which appeared in You Tube (internet video-sharing site) showed nurses and surgeons laughing and cheering while a canister was being removed from male patient’s rectum in an operating room.

Because of the extent of the moral damage it had created, particularly to the patient, the Commission of Higher Education now prohibits the use of cellphones and videocams in clinical classes. CHED chairman Romulo Neri, (a controversial personality also because of his refusal to disclose what he knows about the ZTE broadband scam controversy during the Philippine Senate’s investigation) banned medical students from bringing in these video- recording capable devices such as video cameras, mobile phones with camera features and other similar equipment in their clinical classes. The objective is to prevent similar incident to happen again in the future –uploading surgery procedure in the internet. Apart from this, medical students in the Philippines are now banned from videotaping any form of surgeries.

Neri, on his part, also explained that his order was only meant “to ensure that the integrity of all activities concerning the exercise or practice of related learning experience of nursing and other medical students are properly supervised and monitored.”

Ethical Standards in Medical Practice 

Neri’s action is just one little step to impress upon the minds of medical/nursing students the importance/ significance of observing professional ethics and discipline. With growing number of cases of medical malpractice in the Philippines now witnessed in the Philippines, the most critical and practical area of intervention is in the school. How serious are medical schools in doing their part? 

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