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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Blogging After October 3

It's an exciting day for bloggers and online citzens, because October 3 marks the day that the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 will take effect in the Philippines!

No more ruffled feathers.
(Courtesy of

Looking at practically all my posts, I will have to make a radical change in both the topics I choose to dissect, and the way I present them.

So...what topics can we discuss?

(1) The weather!

The perfect all-around conversation filler, used to dissipate uncomfortable silences. And with the number of typhoons we have, and the intensity with which we are now devouring any weather news that will affect us directly, this is the perfect topic.

Wait, isn't there a controversy with this? I mean, most scientists believe this to be naturally occurring or recurring phenomena. (Example, we know we roughly get 20 typhoons a year, based on historical records.) But some sectors insist that typhoons are a deity's way of teaching us a lesson... wouldn't we be "offending their religious beliefs" if any meteorologist would say "actually, this weather phenomena begins as a matter of physics..."?

And if anyone becomes offended, they can sue the other party for libel, on top of disrespecting another religion.

Guess I can't write about that.

(2) Best restaurant/fashion designer/lifestyle necessity/etc.!

Already done by many bloggers, maybe I should focus on things that are not bound to be...prone to incendiary remarks, or divisive opinions.

Where do I get the best roast pork? (This question alone gets thousands of answers, all of which are passionately arguing for their case. Plus, groups like PETA probably aren't too happy that such a question is even being asked.)

Which 2012 designer had the best show in this year's Fashion Week? (Again, there are at least a thousand replies to this single question. And animal rights activists are, again, staging protests against the entire industry.)

Nope, scratch this topic. Too many responses to field, many antagonistic towards each other, and other interest grops will weigh in. Possibility for libel is high, if I should declare "this" hotel has the best service or "that" store is the only place for all your grocery needs.

(3) Art scene!

We are "supposed" to be naturally artistic, so this should be a cinch to write about! The topics must be endless...wait. Wasn't there a big brouhaha about who was supposed to be National Artist? And some religious groups feel certain art is "offensive"?

Guess the saying that "art is in the eye of the beholder" means there is no agreement. If that is the case, there is no consensus, and someone/many people will have a different opinion, which will result in feelings and opinions being ruffled. Which opens you up to the possibility of libel. Who cares if you really found a piece of artwork hideous - someone was offended because you stated it online, they can call it "character assassination", boom! 12 years in the slammer.

(4) Schools to send children to!

I mean, we all are for education, right? I can't imagine anybody being brave enough to admit that they would prefer that people remain ignorant, and with the advances and new theories about childhood learning, not to mention that children are at their most "eager" and "willing" to learn new things (something to do with adults being set in their ways that makes it harder for older people to "relearn"), this is a no-brainer!

So, parents, where do you send your children to, and why?

(After this question was posed, it was reported that those with kids never bothered showing up at their high school reunions.)


(5) Showbiz!

It's glitzy, it's glamourous, everyone's smiling, so, everything's peachy, right?

A friend reminded me of the feuding wife and kabit (mistress), both in the limelight as actresses and linked to the same politician-husband/lover. There was a filmfest scandal for the night's award winners. A staring match ensued between two co-stars at a recent benefit.  A guy seen as the "ultimate hunk" is rumored to be gay, as attested to by the ex-girlfriend. And showbiz writers are routinely hauled off to court on libel charges.

So I can't write about this, either.


I write mostly about politics, secularism in a democracy, and religions. So that pretty much bleeps my usual topics, because 95% of the time, it's not a flattering write-up. Besides, those are the things that etiquette columns always suggest you steer clear from talking about in paies and social functions. I can't write about "society events" because I have mused about the propriety of having those kinds of pages in a country like ours.


What do I write about starting October 3, then?

Friday, September 28, 2012

That Nefarious RH Bill

Dear Faithful,

We write this message to you on the wings of eternal goodwill. We fervently hope that this finds you well, for the contents of this communication is anything but.

Now is the time when all that we have predicted is coming to pass...Attend now!

Yes, it also caused your baby to bawl.
(Courtesy of

Yes, we are referring to that nefarious Reproductive Health (RH) Bill!

It must be stopped! It is evil, and it is the handiwork of unearthly creatures! An unprintable document of abominable proportions, it is! Even now, its' influence and reach has found a new nesting place - do not laugh, it is not yet law yet it already has this effect, how dare you think this is a matter of levity! - it has come to Monsignor Trisngobal Narnia. (MTN - My True Nature)

Have you noticed the timing of that article in International Geographical (IG)? It imputed the good monsignor as someone who advocates the use of "a certain substance" to make religious images! How dare they imply malice on our part! We cannot help it because (1) we didn't kill the animals in the process of collecting "a certain substance", at least not firsthand! (2) we only get quality products, for worship purposes!... and (3) we will show you a way to get "a certain substance" for yourself.

We had nothing but good intentions, and a willingness to be open, but IG paints us in so devious a manner, they have deceived us! We are soiled in the eyes of believers!

A sex case? Nonsense! There is no recording, just the whiny accounts of some imaginative and overactive bell boys! Why, they were the ones who "seduced" MTN! Besides, if it was not meant to happen, it wouldn't have happened! All is predestined! All is well!

Do you now see? The RH Bill is responsible for maligning our good name! Who will you believe...IG? The press? The government? All of them are foreign powers! They seek to destroy our national identity! They seek to inject us with...with...foreign ideas, from foreign sources of foreign lands! We must protect ourselves!...Yes, our faith is also foreign, but it is the harbinger of truth, so it is exempted from this tirade!

What? You dare to doubt how the RH Bill is doing this?

Because we said so! Kneel before us! We are the molders of your morality, we would never lie to you! We would never use an unrelated subject to distract you from what's really happening...of course not! We represent the light, the truth, and all that is good! Yes, the RH Bill is responsible for making you think that MTN has any responsibility for the things he is charged with, and the very reason why we are investigating him! It is nothing but RH propaganda!

If it is not stopped, the RH bill will bring to life your worst nightmares! Thunderstorms, why you slipped on your bathroom floor, the prices of bus fares, an accident on the highway involving 10 cars, world wars...these and so many more are the evil deeds of one thing alone: the RH Bill!

Blame it on the RH Bill!

Stand strong, oh, faithful one!

Rejoice for you now know why you have nothing to eat - yes, it is the RH Bill's fault! - and possession of this truth and knowledge will warm your insides with the force of ten hotel buffets!

We fight, we struggle against it, and we will win!

We will overcome the RH Bill and its notorious effects!

We cannot do it without you, for you are our soldiers, and we fight for righteousness!

Until we see each other again,

Your Moral Leaders.
Unassailable, and
Easily Offended.


Disclaimer: None of the people, events, places and anything else in the above post is meant to refer to anyone or anything in real life, and any similarities with real people, places, events, etc., are merely coincidental and not intentional.

In other, real news:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Watch Out, It's A Yoga Class!

Not everyone will be open.
(Courtesy of

Just ask Cori Withell, 37, yoga instructor.

She merely wanted to spread the gospel of fitness: "As a nation we have an obesity epidemic. I was trying to bring some exercise into the community."

Her class (yoga and pilates), slated to be held in 10 days at St. Edmund's church building in Southampton (UK), was cancelled, and Father Chandler, who was responsible for the cancellation, said that they were "misled" because it was first sold to them as pilates but was later advertised as spiritual yoga:

"Yoga is a Hindu spiritual exercise...We did say that yoga could not take place. It's the fact that it's a different religious practice going on in a Catholic church."

"It's not compatible."


Let's see:

(1) Yoga classes have women leaders. Say "yoga" and a fit, flexible woman comes to mind.

(2) Yoga doesn't shut out gay people from practicing.

(3) You go at your own pace, not a rigid, "follow what I say, no questions" approach.

(4) I haven't heard of yoga teachers defending child molesters, or hiding them at another yoga studio.

Father Chandler, you may just be right.

An Atrocious Response

I am referring to how the CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) "rationalized" how embattled priest Monsignor Cristobal Garcia could possibly be "forgiven", with regards to his involvement is a sex abuse case.

This should be good enough?
(Courtesy of

Garcia has been in the news as of late, thanks to a National Geographic article (in their October 2012 issue) by Bryan Christy. In it, the writer tries to trace the ivory trade route, and stumbled upon our country as a port from where ivory is then brought to other destinations. Christy is led to Cebu, where Garcia is stationed, and the priest, a collector of religious figurines, some of which are made of ivory, regales the writer on how to effectively smuggle ivory.

(See )

Now comes the news that the Catholic hierarchy has stripped Garcia of his official functions and responsibilities, and the CBCP says it has nothing to do with the NatGeo story. 

Apparently, this removal of duties stems from the fact that the Vatican is still in the midst of an ongoing investigation in Garcia's involvement in a sex abuse case. After that story broke, Garcia flew back to the Philippines. He also claimed that it was he who was "seduced and raped", and not the other way around. This is validation for Brooks Egerton, who initially reported about Garcia's case, back in 2005.


In the CBCP press conference, it was inevitable that this issue would be brought up; Monsignor Acilles Dakay, Cebu Archdiocese media liaison officer, gave this response:

"What happened in the States could be a crime. If it was also a sin on his part, it was forgiven. He had repented."


I will leave it up to you how you would view this response. The title of my post puts it clearly what I think of this: heaping atrocious indignation on top of this unimaginable atrocity. (Dakay's response is clearly an admission that it happened, otherwise, what is there to be "repented" for?) Nowhere in the article does it indicate that the priest will be turned over to civil authorities.

We've heard it all before: it's an internal matter. We'll handle it ourselves. No need to concern yourselves with this. We know how best to deal with one of our erring members. In the vernacular, kami na bahala, wag na kayo makialam. (We'll take care of it, don't interfere.)

How utterly convenient. How throughly unacceptable.

It smacks of an arrogance I am all-too-familiar with, as this country has more than its fair share of religious zealots, the kind who exact some nefarious glee in judging others, but when the moral spotlight is turned on them, steadfastly cling to a single dialogue: I will not be judged by men, only by my God.

There's a word for people like that. And yes, it will "offend religious sensibilities".

The truth has certainly been getting a bad rap these days.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Serving The Public, Part-Time

Some people have noted that I have too much and too unreasonable expectations from our public officials. I disagree, but then it makes sense for me to do so, of course. I don't think I'm reaching for the stars here: my frustration with them as a whole has to do with the fact that they aren't even meeting the bare minimum.

Watching a news item about Rep. Manny Pacquiao last night just reinforced one thing I have observed with how (some of) our current officials view their positions: a part-time job, a title to add to their list of job descriptions, something "else" to do while waiting for what they really would rather be doing.

Which hat is he wearing, again?
(Courtesy of

In the report I caught from State of the Nation, it seems the representative is currently in Mexico, drumming up interest for his upcoming certain-to-be-a-blockbuster fight with fellow pugilist Juan Manuel Marquez, who hails from there.

Of course, the "Pacman" does not need any more introduction, being a pop culture phenomenon aside from being a world champion in the field of boxing. NBA players know him, Paris Hilton takes time out to watch him live. A friend who's been to Cambodia told me that the driver who took her around said "Oh, Manny Pacman, we know!" when he found out she was from Manila.

This may sound like an incredulous question to the millions of fans who follow him and his boxing matches, but here it is: what on earth was he doing there?

No, I don't have amnesia. I know what he was there for - he is "making some noise" (to use a colloquial phrase) for a professional boxing match.

I want to know how he can do that when he was elected to be the people's representative of Saranggani province.

Call me crazy, but isn't public service a...oh, I don't know...full time job?

I won't go to the fact that many comments over social media are focused on how a fourth match between him and Marquez is already going overboard in milking it for whatever pennies they can get. It's a free world, there's money to be made, and since there is an overwhelming culturally-approved support for a sport that requires you to beat your opponent into a bloody pulp while simultaneously (and hypocritically) teaching our kids that violence is wrong, let's not focus on that.

I won't even play the morality card - we've all seen him go on a religious kick, quoting the Bible, going around proclaiming his piety and having photo-ops with religious connotations, some have even (derisively) called him Pastor Manny - and ask how he can act so morally smug when he has to resort to violence to put food on the table. People in this country obviously have no conflict over him smashing his fist into another man's face and going to a house of worship after to thank a deity for helping him land that decisive punch.

I just want to know this: shouldn't you be a legislator, first and foremost?

Public service is not a "hobby". It's most certainly not something to while away the time. The late Secretary Jesse Robredo was an example of how time consuming this undertaking was, that even his last weekend was spent doing his duties, not even making it for a family event. In his interviews and stories about him, he was often the last to leave a site that had been hit by a calamity, and also often one of the first to arrive "on the scene" to do whatever he could to alleviate the condition of his constituents.

When Saranggani province was hit with floods recently, I was rolling my eyes because Pacquiao was still on a trip in the United States, and of course news organizations followed him around to see what he would do. If I remember correctly, he left his family in the USA so he could - supposedly - do his job as a public servant. But when I opened the television, the first thing he did when he arrived from the USA dance and give away money on his "show", which is part Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko (a longtime running charity show), part That's Entertainment, and all around vehicle for him to stay in touch with the masa.

During that show (I had to witness it for myself) he had a "solemn" moment for his constituents, saying something along the lines of how he cares for them, and that they should just hang on, pray to God, and he would soon be there.

Behind him, onstage, were dancers, bright lights and co-hosts nodding at his every word.

I don't get it: Are you or are you not a public servant?

I find it ethically offensive for public officials to be on television shows, after they constantly complain about how many bills they have to go over, how many deliberations they have to sit through, and how there's really just not enough time to do what they are required to do, what their job entails them to do: serve the public.

While this country is paying his salary - which is a pittance, obviously, from what he earns as a professional boxer and his endorsements - he can just go off for his "training", which takes months, flies off to fight, leaving his duties, and worse, inducing several legislators to also go to the USA to watch his show live.

This belief, this culture that says public service isn't a full time job, one that should't hamper or be a hindrance to other occupations or your social life, isn't isolated to Pacquiao.

For months I have been seeing Sen. Francis Escudero  on a morning show (as a co-host to presidential sister Kris Aquino) that comes on daily, and he apparently plans to be on the show until he files his certificate of candidacy, which would make his appearance in any show against the law, once he officially declares himself a candidate. But before that time, there apparently is no imperative (at least, none of the self-induced variety) for him to stop what I also find to be brazen campaigning in advance, giving him an unfair advantage over other people who are running for the same position.

And he also appears over television advertisements for some kind of meat company, a school, and at least thrice, I have seen his face plastered at the back of buses, this time extolling the virtues of some nutritional supplement.

Cong. Lucy Torres Gomez is a recurring judge at some talent show, I do not fail to notice this because she is "proudly" referred to as a legislator (often focusing on how pretty she is) when the host announces the list of judges for the night.

And how can we shut our eyes to the eyesores that we now call epal posters? (Loosely translated as having no shame, or having a thick hide, grabbing credit.) Mayors, governors, legislators, down to the barangay captains, are fighting it out to announce to the public that "they" were "responsible" for a waiting shed, a basketball court, the reblocking of a road, or a dental mission. Lamp posts are designed with the mayor's initials, city seals are more akin to family crests since the father, mother, uncles and children practically comprise all of that city's officials, and even disaster relief goods are plastered with stickers proclaiming that so-and-so was doing this out of "kindness" and "effort".

Guess what? What you are doing runs counter to how Republic Act 6713 dictates public officials should act.


Section 7 of this Act, under "Outside employment and other activities" says that "Public officials and employees during their incumbency shall not...(b) engage in the private practice of their profession unless authorized by the Constitution or law, provided that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official functions."

Since the business of government is never done, I view this as a diplomatic way of saying "you are now a public official, act like one!" No more excuses, no more nebulous ethical situations, no more rationalizations about how your other job isn't interfering with job numero uno: serving the public.

Let's tackle one particular piece of legislation, as a stark example: the Reproductive Health Bill. This bill has been stalled for more than a decade. While you legislators are off fighting in a boxing ring, or judging a talent show, or appearing in a kilig morning gabfest, you have directly allowed this bill to languish with each passing Congress.

Vote on it already! And move on to hundreds, or even thousands of bills that need tackling!

You are on the clock with our money. If you do not wish to be tied down with obligations to the public, by all means, get out of public service. You voluntarily decided to make yourself publicly accountable, this was not forced on you. Do not run for a post and then think that you can just coast along, doing "other things" and think that we will just accept that as a given, or as our political culture, as "ganun na talaga sa atin" (that's how things have been).

Enough. Do not waste our time, money and ultimately our hopes and our very lives while you so cavalierly engage in other personal pursuits while being voted to give public service.

Is asking you to do your job a particularly "high" expectation? If you can't even be bothered to show up at your place of work, what are we even discussing this for?

And now that you know where I'm coming from, tell me again how unreasonable I'm being.


As I was just about to post this, a news item caught my attention, and in lieu of the fact that Pacquiao will be fighting Marquez later this year and possibly Mayweather next year, all I can do is shake my head and find a stack of plates to break: he will be running again.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Clause-ible Denial

Some days, you have to wonder if fact has outstripped fiction in the incredulity department just a little bit too much, that J.K. Rowling may soon conceivably be working at your local burger joint for her next paycheck.

Today, a news item I caught online made me wonder if the crop of "reality shows" we've been exposed to for years was really just a worldwide, systematic attempt to prevent the expression of anything resembling surprise.

Senator Tito Sotto denies having anything to do with the insertion of the libel clause in the recently approved (signed into law by our President) Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. (See more here:

Is the senator happier these days?
(Courtesy of

I stop dead in my tracks as I am reading this particular news on a mobile device, and find myself having to sit it out for a moment, to ensure that my eyes weren't fooling me.

In his turno en contra speech assailing the Reproductive Health Bill - or should I say speeches, since it went on for days - he made a statement that suggested that critics, especially of the online variety, would soon need to be wary in expressing their sentiments in cyberspace.

As soon as Republic Act 10175 was signed into law, netizens were abuzz - rightfully - about a specific provision in the final version approved that would penalize libel with a number of years in prison, without the possibility of parole.

If this is not a baldfaced attempt to silence critics of any public figure, I don't know what is.

Some points that I feel shouldn't be glossed over:

(1) Free speech is guaranteed by our Constitution. This covers the speech you may not want to hear - for instance, bigoted assumptions like comparing homosexuality as being akin to bestiality would be hysterically laughed at by any credible medical organization, but you are free to proclaim that as your "belief".

(2) Sotto focused on this very issue when he/his office (at this point, I'm not sure who does what when it comes to his public pronouncements) were roundly criticized for the issues of "plagiarism" and "translations", with it going so far as having Sarah Pope, a US based blogger, calling the senator a plagiarist, point blank.

(3) Raissa Robles, a journalist/blogger who focuses on political issues, interviewed Sotto's (now famous or infamous, depending on your view) Chief of Staff, Atty. Villacorta, who essentially admitted that Sotto was responsible for the imsertion of the libel clause. (See for more.)

(4) The Senate record for this particular bill has a portion entitled "Sotto Amendment" which narrates how Sotto rationalized the insertion of this clause, citing Lacsa vs. Intermediate Appellate Court (161 SCRA 427) to bolster his case for it.

Given these facts, and the senator's claim that he is a victim of cyberbullying, I cannot fathom how he can distance himself from an issue that he is clearly and unequivocally passionate about. Unless his own chief of staff and the senate secretary are also part of some "conspiracy" to have the senator appear a certain way to the public?

But given the recent statements and actions of the senator the past few months, I don't think anyone is - anymore - surprised that he denies any involvement in the inclusion of libel in this recently approved law.

And that best sums it up as far as expectations for him is concerned.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Camsur Envy of RH Bill Advocates

The smackdown that occurred the other day between Senate President Enrile and Senator Trillanes IV could not have been missed by news followers, which had the elements of a telenovela: insults, accusations of backdoor dealings, bombastic speeches, a walkout, and the casting of aspersions on character.

Have you placed your bets?
(Courtesy of

My, my. What a show.

While social media is bursting at the (cyber) seams with commentaries on why a single senator is representing foreign policy decisions on behalf of our government (which is the gist of Enrile's speech in the Senate that day, punctuated with the never-neutral word "traitor"), I am focusing on why Trillanes IV spoke up: a bill that was not really brought to public consciousness until he did, pushing for the partitioning of Camarines Sur.

Apparently, the Lower House has approved this bill that would divide the said province, and it was forwarded to the Senate for approval.

Trillanes IV maintains that this was the handiwork of former President Arroyo, whose son is a legislator in the said province. He also brought to the fore the fact that Rep. Villafuerte has been seen "lounging" around Enrile's office, apparently lobbying for the bill to be approved. Enrile admitted as much during his interview posted at the ANC Facebook page, and considers the congressman a friend.

Which brings me to a confession: I have Camsur Envy.

I wish the Senate President felt an urgent need to discuss the Reproductive Health Bill, and bring the matter to a vote, the way Trillanes IV has described Enrile with regards to House Bill 4820: "pressured".

(See more here:

Far be it for a "mere" citizen like me to remind any senator that s/he was voted not as a local, but as a national representative. That they are supposed to give priority to measures and bills that are national in scope, that have implications for everyone in this country, that their votes have consequences that extend beyond their terms.

Comparing the scope, implications and consequences of the RH Bill with Camsur's division, and considering the latter to be more "urgent" says to me that our senators have a rather cavalier attitude towards matters like maternal deaths, but would rise up in parliamentary anger should their biases ever be questioned.

I chanced upon Enrile being interviewed by Mareng Winnie Monsod, who asked for his reaction when he is thought of as delaying voting on the RH Bill. He denied it, saying that without the amendments, the bill would surely lose.

You would think that as a staunch opponent of the said bill, he would immediately call for the period of amendments to end and to immediately vote for or against it in order did Sen. Sotto say it, get it out of their hairs.

A quote I find to be truer with each breath I take is that "people may not always believe what you say, but they'll always believe what you do." Or in Enrile's case, what he doesn't do.

This latest revelation merely proves one thing: what is deemed "necessary" to be discussed in the halls of the Philippine Senate is a matter of will, political and otherwise.

Buti pa ang paghahatian ng Camsur, napagtoonan ng pansin ng Senado. (The partitioning of Camsur fared better, because the Senate gave it due attention.)

Kawawa naman ang RH Bill. Boto lang ang kailangan para mairesolba, di pa magawa. (Alas for the Reproductive Health Bill, all it needs for the issue to be resolved is to vote for or against it, and the senators couldn't even be bothered to do so.)

And so, my Camsur Envy goes on.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Lost Lucy

Representative Lucy Torres-Gomez just showcased how our legislators have a problem differentiating their personal beliefs and their work as lawmakers in a secular democracy.

Morality's muse.
(Courtesy of

On a morning show hosted by anchor Karen Davila, she expressed her concern about the country's "moral fiber" - more specifically, what would happen to it should the RH (Reproductive Health) Bill be passed. She also mentions her faith as the force that drives her to oppose the said measure, claiming that the Philippines is a religious country and that she cannot make a decision that will go against it.

I don't know about you, but my first, instinctive reaction was to laugh out loud. (A real life LOL.)

See, the representative makes it no secret that she is devoted and loyal to the Catholic Church in the country. All one needs to do is to Google "Lucy Torres Gomez anti RH", and what comes out are articles that juxtapose the terms "RH", "CBCP", "church", "Catholic" and her name, as proof of this.

Clearly, the moral standard she is advocating or sees as "golden" is the morality as approved by the Catholic hierarchy in the country.

And let's not forget - how can we, when the CBCP reminds us every chance it gets - that a majority of this country identifies itself as Catholic, when asked for religious affiliation.

So why did I LOL?

The question is, how can anyone not laugh at the absurdity highlighted by such a devotion to the so-called Catholic "moral fiber", compared with what is happening around us? After centuries of Catholic "superiority", what moral tempertaure can be felt in this bastion of Christianity in Asia? (Full disclosure: I am not a Catholic.)

We are constantly rated as one of the most corrupt nations in the world.

We have priests - supposedly sworn to celibacy - who have sired offspring.

The pictures of priests surrounding former President Macapagal-Arroyo and former Chief Justice Renato Corona speak volumes: their eerie silence while various anomalous, highly questionable transactions happened and blatant disregard for public calls for accountability can render even the sharpest of hearing aids inutile.

We have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Southeast Asia.

You can find vendors selling concoctions that are supposed to induce abortion right outside one of the country's most flocked Catholic churches.

Hundreds of thousands of abortions are performed in the country, every year.

News reports about a dead fetus showing up in a trash can have become staples in broadsheets, they have since desensitized us from the initial shock value.

Journalists are killed left and right in this country, making it one of the most dangerous places in the world to practice this vital profession, moreso in a democracy.

Our jails are packed to the rafters.

We have a mayor overly concerned with the supposedly "satanic" lyrics from a foreign performer, who earned revenue for the city by playing her concert in a place known for its sex dens, with permits to operate issued by the mayor's office.

We have elevated undisciplined behavior into a dubious art: public vehicles that unload passengers in the middle of the road, pedestrians who play roulette with their lives by crossing underneath a pedestrian overpass, throwing our plastic waste and cigarette butts wherever we please, motorists slapping traffic enforcers who try to do their jobs, and policemen who extort money from drivers, to start with.

And who could forget the priests who were satirically referred to as "Mitsubishops", an obvious reference to the car manufacturer, for even more obvious reasons?

Or politicians who like to claim the "high road", when they (1) run in their husband's place because the husband was disqualified from running; (2) post tarpaulins of their faces and supposed projects in public places, as if these were theirs to do so, some of whom even place pictures of their "Chief of Staff", someone who was not even elected; (3) appear in television commercials, and even host morning shows and "amazing" specials, while being a full-time legislator?

How can we not mention a special legislator who thinks nothing of plagiarism, under the pretext that it is not explicitly stated as illegal in our laws, who translates a famous American speech in the vernacular and claims no copying took place, all the while acting like some maligned defender of the "unborn" - yes, you may commence eye-rolling - and perched ever so highly secured in a self proclaimed mantle of superiority?

Given these facts, it becomes hideously indefensible - and indubitably laughable - to oppose the RH Bill on the absurd notion that its approval would cause the country's "Catholic morality" to be under attack.

Again, let me ask Rep. Torres-Gomez: what "moral fiber"?

This country that you claim as "religious" (let's not forget: most people here are Catholics) is so morally bankrupt, it surprises me that you would parade its Catholic credentials in so righteous a manner. One of your religion's recently deceased leaders has proclaimed your faith as "200 years" out of sync with the present time. I think he was even being charitable with that description.

How can a religion that has been described as misogynistic, homophobic and intolerant of any other views other than its own be considered a morality manual, at a time in the world where women are slowly catching up to the opportunities and earning potential of men (some even surpassing the men in "their own game"), where gay people are (glacially) gaining rights, denied for so long, but accorded every other human being, and where religious leaders like the Dalai Lama are saying that religion may no longer be solely sufficient to be the basis for ethical behavior?

In "I Love Lucy", the entire cast seemed to be in suspended ditziness, which is where it got its comic power, but at the end of the day, we know that it's only a show, it's just for fun, and it will end after half an hour.

It cannot be said in this case, where real lives are affected, it's called survival, and the end to suffering is nowhere in sight.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Explaining Secular Democracy To Tito

Hello, public officials of the Republic of the Philippines,

Some things to clear about us.
(Courtesy of

In recent days, there has been much intermingling of politics and religion (one in particular) in the news, particularly where the RH (Reproductive Health) Bill is concerned.

We've heard of a legislator invoking his deity should the bill pass. We've heard of another legislator saying certain provisions in the bill should be stricken out because it goes against religion (one in particular). And we've heard of a legislator aiming for a "compromise" by meeting with religious leaders (one in particular) to draft an "acceptable" version of the same bill.

Now, I realize that even though you are duly elected or appointed public servants, no one has explicitly informed you of the framework by which our government operates. Imagine my surprise when I did not see a Cliffs Notes version about this at all! (In my day - a long time ago - students who failed to write their term papers or book reviews were routinely saved by this creation, a condensed version of mostly literary works.)

Here, then, is my attempt to provide such a service.

(1) This country is a secular democracy.

For those who ran for their positions, you know this very well, having partaken of an important part in this type of government: the election of public officials.

A democracy is popularly known as a government "for, of and by the people", one where citizens have a say as to who should be running the government through elections, what bills are needed through its representatives, and an expectation of a fair hearing in disputes, through its judges. (Formally, the three branches of a democratic government.)

Ultimate power in this government lies in its citizenry, not officials, who are also called public servants. Officials are given certain powers to carry out their duties in the service of the citizens. (It was never meant to be used to enrich oneself or one's family.)

There is no requirement that says you have to belong to a religion (one in particular) to run for office or be appointed as one. This is enforced in our very Constitution, the document that gives life to our way of government. Something about "no religious test will be required", blah, blah - the lawyers can explain this better, because this is supposed to be the shorthand version, so we won't go into detail.

This also means that someone who says "I don't belong to any faith-based group" is eligible to run for public office, as eligible as someone who goes to a place of worship (one in particular) twice a day, seven days a week, and gives money to religious leaders (one in particular) when a collection plate goes by.

Secular, therefore, simply means we don't care about your religious status. A simple test for this would be: are you barred from voting based on your religion, or lack of it?

(2) It follows, then, that our laws should be secular and democratic.

Legislators create/amend laws, executives enforce it, and judges interpret it (and hand out punishments for those who go against it). That is how it works in a democracy. (For those who think this is too simplistic - condensed version, hello. I highlight the big things, don't worry.)

Since our rights as citizens are not in any way hampered by our choice of religion (one in particular) - see above example on voting - then the laws we have governing everyone should also be equally unhampered by any religion (one in particular), and should be applied equally regardless of religion.

In this respect, in a secular democracy, government laws trump any religion's (one in particular) beliefs. A simple test would be: since citizens are guaranteed the right to happiness, can a religion (any which one) get away with, say, raping a virgin, since it is "demanded" by its religious rules? Obviously no, the government can press rape and assault charges on those who claim that raping a young maiden is their "religious right".

And that goes for all so-called "religious rights".

I often hear rebuttals from theists about how they "answer to a higher power" and that they "will be judged in an afterlife". That is a personal call, guaranteed by our secular laws, our freedom to each choose our own religion. If it makes you feel "superior", kindly gloat in your own home, and wait until after your last breath to do so - the freedom to choose my own religion also means I don't have to believe in your specific interpretation of a higher power or your version of an afterlife.

Anyone can create a religion, just to prove that point.

(3) Religious leaders (one religion in particular) should stay out of formulating secular laws.

Time to drill the point home: public officials are not required to belong to any religion (one in particular), and laws cannot be made with any religion (one in particular) in mind.

It stands to reason, then, that anyone affiliated with any particular faith as its leader cannot be "in charge" of making laws in a government that allows you to choose your own religion. That would contravene - go against - the principle of being able to freely choose your own religion,  because that particular leader would make into secular law what he personally believes as a matter of faith.

Thereby, forcing a person of a different faith to follow that particular leader's religious rules.

As an example: vegetarianism is self imposed by some faiths because they believe that animal cruelty is heinous. (I find that reasoning odd - what about cruelty to plants, then? - but we'll save that for another time.) If a leader of such a faith became, I don't know, Secretary of Trade and Industry, would that person, based on his or her religious beliefs, be allowed to ban livestock trading because it "offends" his or her faith?

(4) It cannot be a numbers game.

One particular religion is saying that since they claim the most number of adherents in this country, "majority wins".

Aside from the reasons already stated, here's another one: what if that particular religion became number two in terms of claiming their "number of sheep"? If laws were enacted and made to suit that particular religion, should we overhaul these laws and repeal them if they aren't "top dog" in terms of membership?

Already, this one particular religion is losing members - just Google the statistics - because of its flock losing faith in its human leaders, child molestation cases, inability to follow their own advice to members about frugality and the temporary nature of earthly riches, and so many more reasons. It is not at all farfetched - maybe not in this country but worldwide - to think that they will soon be toppled off their supposed vaunted position and standing.

As my friend who voiced this out said, ano to, magririgodon tayo depende kung anong relihiyon ang inaangkin ng mayorya? (what's this, will we go on a carousel depending on which is the most "popular" religion?)

Secular laws - by definition free from any religious bias - should be able to withstand on its own regardless of where the faith-based winds may howl.

(5) Secular democracy is essentially agreeing to disagree.

Since we all have different "views" about beliefs, to each his or her own. Secular laws are the ones we all agree upon regardless of religious affiliation.

I hope that this very short primer on our way of government will help you conduct yourself in matters of the State.

While I do not claim to be an expert who can make perfect arguments, as a reasonably intelligent member of this country, I feel it is my duty to let you know how I think and feel.

Any mistake in my interpretation of our existing laws and social systems can be traced to the fact that I am not a lawyer or a social scientist by trade. It does not mean that I cannot participate in legal matters or cannot be a social observer, in the same way that not all our senators are lawyers, or how astute observations can come from the unlikeliest of sources.

It only means that I care for the direction that this country is headed.

A Citizen of a Secular Democracy (known as the Republic of the Philippines)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Using Guilt As A Weapon

(Or how you become a topic for a blogpost.)

One finger out, four fingers back at you.
(Courtesy of

After my breakfast in Greenbelt, I decided to take the less frantic route back to work (read: through the mall, and not the pedestrian walkways) since the mall would be open by the time I finished my meal.

As expected, there was a "sleepy" feel walking through Greenbelt, as shops were just beginning to open. As I got closer to the escalator, I noticed that some people were frozen in their spots. (About less than half of the people in my range of view.) Everyone else was either strolling through or getting to their shops for work.

Curious as to why some people were rooted where they are, I became cognizant that something was blaring through the mall speakers: a prayer that was asking for blessings for the day's shoppers, and the mall workers. Since there is a Catholic chapel in the midst of Greenbelt, I concluded that this was a Catholic prayer. I proceeded on my way to the escalator as originally planned.

Fortunately for my blog, I had to pass a group of "rooted" middle-aged ladies. Their heads were supposedly bowed down, but they would look furtively from side to side to see what everyone else was doing. In my mind, I described them as not really being that deep in prayer if they had time to survey their surroundings while going through the motions and appearance of being "prayerful", but that's their life, not mine.

Perfectly content with not minding them, I was not returned with the same courtesy.

The lady standing in the middle started giving me the evil eye, and nudged her companion to her left, shaping her mouth like an aardvark's towards me. And as I was about to step on the escalator, they both lifted their heads to audibly say, "Bastos. Di nagdadasal." (So rude, not praying.)

I smiled back, and said "I'm not Catholic."

As my ride was getting higher, the one on the left tried to have her parting shot: "Dasal parin to. (This is still a prayer.) You should have prayed."

In one fell swoop, she has outlined the problem with organizations like the CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) in the current RH Bill debates: they don't care if you're Catholic or not, they have to get their way.

I could hear the prayer still being said over the speakers. And since writers should have the last word, I motioned my finger to my ear, and hollered back:

"You're a Catholic, why aren't you praying?"

That shut them up.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Have You Seen Etiquette?

I haven't seen her lately.

This is the new norm?
(Courtesy of

1. Taking the escalator upwards, we noticed a family in front of us: two adults and three teenagers. They looked excited to be having a meal, animatedly discussing options for their gustatory adventure. 

Reaching the top landing of the escalator, they decide to hold a family meeting right then and there: should we go left or right, asked the mom. Maybe we should try Japanese, quips the younger daughter.

Of course, we bump straight smack into them because the escalator doesn't stop operating just because you decide the mall is your "personal" space. And for something we couldn't help, both parents look at us and deride us as bastos.

"You decide to stop here because of your cluelessness and we're the ones who are rude? I'm sorry, is it Opposite Day?"

It went right over their heads. I was right: Clueless. And I mean in life.


2. A public bus driver decides that since he is on EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue), he can swerve from the rightmost lane where he just picked up passengers, to the leftmost lane because it is the "fast lane", which is precisely the reason why I'm on it, so I don't have to deal with the homicidal driving techniques of those directly in charge of public transportation and the riding public's safety.

I slam the brakes so hard, the screech could rival the wail of an ambulance siren, and I feel the rear part of the car slightly elevate, almost causing me to slam my face into the windshield despite my seatbelt.

And just for fun, the bus driver decides to go right back to the rightmost lane, as his "birthright", because we all owe him the right to pick up passengers whenever and wherever.

If looks could kill, a dozen private car owners/drivers would have been charged with first degree murder.


3. In my usual coffee shop, there is a long mirror that is accessible only from a seated position. (Or if you're willing to curve your spine to the point of stooping. Or challenging your core after your first Pilates class.)

 A lady dressed in her power suit enters, sits at the table in front of me, decides it's a good time to do her makeup and her hair while everyone is eating. For good measure, she also takes out her appliances (cellphone, tablet) and charges them simultaneously with her extension cord. 

When one of the cafe personnel approaches her (after waiting for 15 minutes to assess her) to tell her that she should at least order something so she can be considered a customer (a nice way of saying hello, you think all this is for free?!?) she has the audacious gumption to reply back, "Hello! I'm a potential customer! So rude! Just because of that, I won't order anything. You can blame yourself!"

We all thought she would leave in a huff. She stayed on charging her appliances, for thirty more minutes, without ordering anything. I guess we can at least say that she's true to her word?


4. While walking along a narrow sidewalk, a bunch of call center agents (you could tell by the identification cards and the out-of-workplace twang in their accents) were on the sidewalk across the street, all four of them practically occupying the entire width of the walkway because they insisted on walking side by side. I assume it's because they only share a single brain and it only functions in that specific lateral position.

They come across a construction worker (carrying his tools with him) on the same sidewalk but in the opposite direction, walking towards them. There was no room to budge towards the street because the jeepneys in Makati have appropriated it as their personal parking space - any comments, Mayor Junjun Binay? - and are parked front bumper to rear bumper so I thought the best solution was bigayan (giving way) among pedestrians.

Maybe the call center agents have a better solution, which was to disregard anyone else who passes by from the opposite direction, and claim the sidewalk as their own. They proceed to run smack into the construction worker, and they all gasp in American expressions, with the loudest of them going, "Oh my gosh! That is so rude! Hello, we were, like, walking here! Can't you see?!? Are you blind? Couldn't you just, like, move? I mean, like, hello! There's only one of you and four of us, duh! Do you have to take up so much space? Gosh!"

Maybe they were trying to finish their English requirement for examples of irony?


5. Fil, a friend who has moved to Singapore, relays this occurrence on social media. Apparently, being a resident of a First World country doesn't automatically mean you have manners.

Well known for their efficient public transport system, Fil takes the buses on a daily basis. On one such trip, his bus came to his stop and so he already positioned himself near the bus door so he could exit quickly. When the door opens, a nun is waiting to get on. Seeing Fil by the entrance/exit of a crowded bus, she sarcastically says: "Would you like to move?"

To which Fil replies, "Would you like to wait for the passengers to alight?"

You can also see this on a daily basis here. Just check out the MRT train stations. Watch how incoming passengers push their way in the moment the train doors open, preventing passengers who want to disembark from doing so.


If you've seen her, tell etiquette she's desperately needed.