Category Archives: Wealth, Poverty

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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Filed under Christian living, Religion, Salvation, social justice, Trust, Wealth, Poverty, women

Women Who Are So Loved By Their People

Filipinos have Cory as their icon of democracy. Burmese on the other look at Suu Kyi as their inspiration in their struggle for freedom and democracy. But where Cory has already succeeded (restoring Phlippine democracy), Suu Kyi is still trying for over twenty years now. In fact she is under house arrest, as she has always been.

She has another 18 months again to serve having been found guilty of violating her house arrest by allowing an ill American, who swam his way to her home, to stay. Suu Kyi, a 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has already been in detention (house arrest) for 14 of the last 20 years.

Her detention under house arrest for another 18 months is crucial for the Junta organized-elections next year. At least she’ll be out of the political scene, a move which is perceive to undemine free and honest elections in Burma.

Of course the sentence drew outrage around the world specially from Western Government and international human rights groups. Members of the Association of South-east Asian Nations is also disappointed on the said action of one of their government member tagged as the Asean’s problem child. The European Union is now considering economic sanctions against this erring nation.

Suu Kyi has always been seeking for a peaceful means to change the nature of Burmese government into democracy. Though detained (in her own home) by Burmese authorities, she’s still a potent political power to reckon; feared most by the Military Junta. The kind of supports she gets from the people places is feared most by the Military Junta.

Burmese generals know pretty well that among their ranks are young and idealistic military men who are only waiting for the right time to topple this decades long military government. Suu Kyi provides the inspiration for the transfer of power in the hands of civilian authorities.

“I hope we can all work for peace and prosperity of the country,” Suu Kyi said in a soft voice to diplomats seated nearby who attended this 90-minute court session. She’s still composed and commands great respect and authority.

Cory is gone, mourned by millions of Filipinos who admire and revere her commitment to freedom and democracy; but Suu Kyi is still alive to continue with her struggle for her country’s freedom and democracy. As Cory had the backing of people behind her, Suu Kyi too has the support of millions of Burmese people in her ideals and quest for freedom and democracy.

It’s a matter of time, no guns and cannons can stifle the resilliency of people to fight for their freedom. Suu Kyi will always be there to give them that inspiration while the Military Junta trembles upon their destruction.

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Filed under democracy, Economic Survival, government, Heroism, Justice, Myanmar Struggle for Freedom, Philippine government, politics, UN Security Council, United Nations, Wealth, Poverty, women

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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Filed under Economic Survival, education, ethical standard, government, Justice, Philippine government, politics, social justice, Trust, Wealth, Poverty, World Bank

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

Praise be with You

“Give credit to where credit is due.” I heard such statement several times from friends who had been frustrated in the awarding of special recognitions to certain individuals or groups perceived to have done great things to their society and environment although they do not actually deserve. They just don’t have the right to be awarded. A sad reality in life there are champions whose winning is questionable. There is a term for this in Filipino, “lutong Makaw.” A half-baked victory?

As far as giving credit is concerned, this is a real one. Lately Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has been praised by a lot of Filipinos from all walks of life, particularly senators and congressmen, for his refusal to accept millions of pesos as bribe for the alleged release of narcotics suspects popularly known as the “Alabang Boys.” Although he has come under fire for exposing an alleged bribery of state prosecutors handling the “Alabang Boys” drug case which was dismissed for what is termed as “mere technicality.”

Similarly a group of former government officials praised the Marine officer assigned at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for being an “exemplary public servant.”

Here is an excerpt of that news form abs-cbnNEWs.com.

“He serves as a dramatic example of the kind of selfless service the majority of government employees offer that put national interest above personal interest. May others like him continue to be living proofs that, as Ninoy Aquino put it, the Filipino is worth dying for,” the FSGO statement said.

Marcelino earlier said he was offered millions of pesos in bribes to release three scions of rich families who were arrested for peddling narcotics in Alabang, Muntinlupa City and Cubao, Quezon City. He said state prosecutors were also offered up to P50 million in bribes to drop the case against the so-called Alabang Boys.

A National Bureau of Investigation probe, however, absolved state prosecutors in the bribery issue and recommended the filing of obstruction of justice charges against Marcelino.

The FSGO, which includes Cabinet members who have resigned from the Arroyo administration, also commended thousands of career public servants who are committed to strengthening the country’s democratic institutions in the service of the people.

They said these nameless government employees, particularly teachers, soldiers, and police officers, have remained true to their oath of office, defending the Constitution, protecting and promoting the public good, refusing to accept bribes of any kind, doing their jobs as best they can, even going beyond the call of duty.

“These public servants form the bulk of our country’s bureaucracy and represent our government at its best. During our stint in government, we met most of these outstanding Filipinos and remember with gratitude and admiration their steadfast integrity in the face of corruption and immorality,” the group said.

Praise be with You

Having served briefly the government in various capacities, I know how difficult it is to work in a system where you are not only overworked but under compensated too. No wonder the culture of corruption thrives in such a system because there are some employees and official who want to make money and increase their income even in illegal ways. Corruption on the other hand is not due to money and wealth alone, it is also of greed, lust, and vices. And corruption like a disease is also communicable. Young and old alike in the government service are susceptible for corruption in the same manner as those who work in the  non-government institutions.

I praise every individual who has the light and lead an honest and righteous life in the service. I praise also every citizen in this country who is willing to sacrifice himself in the quest for justice and battle against corruption. Major Ferdinand Marcelino is just one among the many Filipinos who sacrificed themselves to clean this society and government from corruption. Like the rest of Filipinos whose integrity and commitment in public service is without blemish and beyond question, I salute you!

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The Perceived Defeat of the Reproductive Health Bill, Could the Church Coerce Congress?

If we believe on what the  Roman Catholic church on Thursday that it has sufficient support in the Philippine congress to defeat a “controversial family planning bill promoting sex education and the use of contraceptives” then we expect chaos brought about by unabated increase of population in the country.

The bishops according to Maria Fenny Tatad, executive director of the church lobby group Bishops-Legislators Caucus of the Philippines, believe they have a number of congressmen in the House of Representatives who could block the passage of the Reproductive Health Care Act. Out of the 238 members of the House of Representatives only 99 congressmen do support the bill.

Only 99 members of the 238-member House of Representatives have openly said they will support the Reproductive Health Care Act, while the rest are expected to side with the church, Tatad said. Population control is a highly politicized issue in the Philippines, where more than 80 percent of the 90 million population are Catholics.

I am not sure how true is this claim but the Catholic church in the Philippines “wields considerable public influence, frowns on any artificial form of birth control and has been waging a high-profile campaign to block the passage of the bill, which is now before congress,” as circulated in the news. However recent surveys showed that most Catholics are in favor of family planning and sex education to be taught in the public school. What is the Catholic church trying to imply with this statement? Are the bishops giving the public the impression that the Catholic church maintains a strong influence in the House of Representatives? I don’t think the Catholic church has that control anymore on the people in so far as population issues are concerned. It is highly improbable for the Catholic church to make one politician lose during the next election just because he supported the Reproductive Health Bill. I still believe people vote with their conscience not on what the church says. So there is no basis of that fear for congressmen losing because the priests control the minds of their parishioners. 

Philippine Population Commission has always mentained the importance of curbing incidence of birth so as not to overpopulate the country. The Philippine population growth rate of 2.04 according to International aid agencies and economists is one of of Asia’s highest. But the Catholic church is against these International agencies supporting the Reproductive Health Bill that will curb rapid population growth but insures the health of women on reproductive ages.

Contrary to what the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life say, the Reproductive Health Bill which includes family planning program, sex education, and advice on birth control, may not necessarily immoral. It only enhances people perspectives on reproductive  health and propagate values on responsible parenthood. Liberal minded people these days may understand which is socially appropriate without necessarily being “immoral.”

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