A landmark decision!

The commissioners of Commission on Elections are intellectually brilliant persons who can interpret the laws with such ease, you cannot help but wonder if their brains are actually composed of 20 Intel Core i7 processors.

The Comelec Second Division, headed by Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, with Commissioners Elias Yusoph and Lucenito Tagle as members, has just rejected for the second time the application of Ang Ladlad Party for accreditation in the next year’s party list elections because it “tolerates immorality”.

Yes, you read that right. Our intellectually brilliant commissioners disqualified Ang Ladlad, a party representing gays and lesbians, because (according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer report) the practice of homosexuality offends morals.

Absolutely brilliant! Magnificently well thought of! A decision worthy of making required reading in all law schools in the world! And every bar examinee should be tested about that groundbreaking decision! This decision will establish a lot of precedents, and debunks other precedents!

Let me explain why this decision is brilliant.

* In deciding this case, the Second Division has marvelously forgotten (intentional or not, it does not matter) that the 1987 Philippine Constitution has two provisions regarding religion.

Article II, Section 6 states “The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.”

Article III, Section 5 states “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.”

By this decision, the Comelec has reaffirmed these two provisions – except that it does not apply to Filipino citizens who are gays and lesbians. Brilliant!

* The decision is based on the Second Division’s interpretation of Article II, Section 13, which states “The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.”

By this decision, the Second Division has explicitly defined morality as to be sexual in nature. In short, there is nothing immoral in lying! There is nothing immoral in cheating! There is no immorality in stealing! Murder is not immoral! As long as what you are doing is not sexual in nature, it is not immoral!

* This decision should give comfort to parents everywhere – yes, including parents who beat and/or rape their children with impunity – that their children will be safe from moral degradation. This should give comfort to parents who beat and/or molest their children – they are not doing anything immoral! Physical abuse is not immoral since it is not sexual in nature! Molestation is not immoral as long as they are not homosexual!

* The decision liberally quotes from the Bible and the Q’uran, establishing two facts: (1) that religious literature is part of jurisprudence, and (2) that our system of government is really theocracy in bad disguise. The decision encourages the political elite to shed this hideous disguise and be upfront about the theocratic leanings of the State. But don’t panic! As long as you are moral, the Pope will bless you seventy times seven (just make sure you don’t forget to donate)!

* The case at bar is about accrediting a party for participation in the party list elections. The decision cited provisions of the Revised Penal Code in deciding to dismiss Ang Ladlad’s petition. This decision sets the precedent that the Revised Penal Code applies in accrediting party list organizations. This will have a wide repercussion going forward. But don’t panic! As long as you are moral, it should not be an issue if your party is involved in corruption!

With all these reasons, there is no doubt that this decision will withstand the test of time. It is indeed a landmark decision! Volumes will be written praising this decision! And these brilliant and intelligent commissioners will be declared saints soon!

Seriously, you might want to read the decision. Here is the PDF file of the said decision. Here it is online. Read it.


Arroyo: The world tolerated EDSA 2

“The world embraced EDSA 1 in 1986. The world tolerated EDSA 2 in 2001. The world will not forgive an EDSA3 but it will instead condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is hopelessly unstable.” – Gloria Arroyo

And by saying that, Arroyo has basically admitted that EDSA 2 was wrong; that her ascension into power was a mistake. To tolerate means to allow (something that one dislikes or disagrees with) to exist or occur without interference; to recognize and respect (rights and beliefs of others); to allow the presence of or allow (an activity) without opposing or prohibiting. So if EDSA 2 was not wrong, why would the world tolerate it?

I think yesterday’s commemoration was an overkill. Afterall, two years ago, she had told the Filipino people to forsake EDSA. Patay na’t nailibing, pinapatay pa rin. And you cannot help but be amazed at her courage to say those words with two of the instigators of EDSA 1 were present – Juan Ponce Enrile and Gregorio Honasan (Cory was lucky enough to have a valid reason to skip the ceremonies – most likely she was not invited; Fidel Ramos made a non-appearance).

And her call yesterday wasn’t new? That’s what Cory Aquino had tried to do when she stepped down, harnessing people power to other means (in her case, in her cooperatives initiative).

Now, where are the EDSA 2-is-right people? The beneficiary of your action had just told you that what you did was wrong. Maybe it’s time to admit your mistakes and say “mea culpa?” Or maybe you are timid enough to admit that Arroyo has pushed you into irrelevance?

Anyway, is EDSA 2 wrong?


On the Reproductive Health Bill

I will not bother with the technicalities and provisions of the Reproductive Health Bill that is being debated in the House of Representatives. You can read the contents of the bill and decide for yourself. Just the same, let me express my support for the bill, with my main argument centering on the freedom of choice and the government’s duty to provide its citizens the widest choice possible when it comes to reproductive health.

First, the freedom of choice is not explicitly stated in the Constitution. Instead, it is divided into several freedoms as stated in the Bill of Rights (Article III), like (but not limited to) freedom of speech and of expression, freedom of religious worship, and the non-imposition of a poll tax.  Also, in Roman Catholic theology, free will is universally accepted and respected (there’s an “as long as” after that, but I leave that to theologians). When a man and a woman gets married, they do so on their own choice and free will (unless it’s an arranged or shotgun wedding). When a married couple choose to have children or not, they do so on their own choice and free will. Whatever mode of family planning that they choose, the Church and the government has no right to interfere with the said choice (as long as the choice is not incompatible with existing laws); nor does it have the right to deny the choice as long as it is not contrary to law. The Church may morally convince the couple to choose the natural method, but since it has lost the power to impose its will (come on, excommunication is just an empty threat), it can do no more.

Second, I have already stated this before (in the post The Church and the State), and I will state it again: “The Government must promote (not push) artificial family planning to those who are willing to use it. It should not be denied to those who need it most. I believe that the policy should be of promotion, not institutionalization.” Let me refine by saying that the government must promote all family planning methods. This is the Government’s duty.

Unfortunately, the current regime has chosen to act as part of the Catholic Taliban and made natural method its family planning policy. So a poor couple (and the woman has an irregular period) who wants to control the number of offspring cannot expect the government to hand them out condoms and/or pills. I think this policy violates the couple’s freedom of choice. This is a gross dereliction of duty by this regime.

I believe that the Reproductive Health Act (if enacted) will hopefully correct this abusive, short-sighted, and counterproductive policy. It makes the policy a law so that a tyrant cannot just arbitrarily impose his/her religious belief on everyone. The RH Bill is a step in the right direction.

But I am not that hopeful about the future of the bill. The delaying tactics by congressmen on both sides of the aisle (I am terribly disappointed with the opposition, to be honest) is working, and the bill might pass by a very narrow vote (or be utterly defeated). And what about the Senate version? The Senate is having one of its obligatory intramural, and most likely the counterpart bill would be shuffled in the recycled bin. And even it it passes the Senate, Gloria Arroyo can always veto it. Depending on how the votes go, both Houses of Congress would need more than just a simple majority to overturn the veto. So, yes, it is an uphill climb, and the future is bleak. But who knows? Divine intervention might choose to exercise divine irony.

The success of the bill’s local counterpart in Quezon City is an exception unless other local governments enact similar ordinances. It can be done, and it is more manageable.

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Cervical cancer is preventable

I had attended a forum about cervical cancer last August 29, 2008. Held at Mi Piace, The Peninsula Manila, bloggers were introduced to the facts about cervical cancer, some grim statistics, and some hope on preventing this cancer.

Dr. Ricardo Manalastas, professor at the UP College of Medicine and chief of the Infectious Disease Service in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the Philippine General Hospital, taught us the basics of this disease and told us what we can do about cervical cancer.

This cancer all begins with the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is a common virus, and about 100 types, most of which are harmless. They do not show noticeable symptoms and will go away on their own. About 30 of these types infect the male and female genital areas. Even if there are no signs or symptoms, it can be transmitted to others.

High-risk types of HPV include types 16, 18, 31, and 45. If infection by these types persists, it can lead to cervical cancer and other cancers of the genital area.

Cervical cancer develops in the cervix, the part that connects the womb and the vagina. It develops when abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix begin to multiply out of control in response to HPV infection. Abnormal cervical cells can gather to form a lump called a tumor.  Benign (non-cancerous) tumors do not spread and usually are not harmful.  Malignant (cancerous) tumors, however, spread from their sources and grow into life-threatening cancer.

A WARNING ON THIS PICTURE: Graphic image. I have blurred this image. To see the clear image, clickity-click. You have been warned.

In 2002, there were 6,000 new cases of cervical cancer reported here in the Philippines, and 4,349 deaths due to this cancer were reported. Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second-most common cancer affecting women and the second-leading cause of cancer death in women.

Women who are in their 40s and 50s tend to get cervical cancer. Women in poor communities are in greater risk because they do not get to undergo cervical cancer screening like Pap smear. A Pap smear is a simple test that can detect abnormal or cancerous cervical cells. Dr. Manalastas emphasized on yearly Pap smear tests, since this could lead to less cervical cancer deaths. And since precancerous changes and early cancers of the cervix generally do not cause pain or other symptoms, a Pap test is needed detect cervical pre-cancers or cancers at a stage when they can be treated most effectively.

As the cancer progresses, one or more of the following symptoms may be noticed:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding:
    • Bleeding that occurs between regular menstrual periods
    • Bleeding after sexual intercourse, douching or a pelvic exam
    • Menstrual periods that last longer and are heavier than before
    • Bleeding after menopause
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

There are several ways to treat cervical cancer. It can be treatable, but it can get expensive at the advanced stages of the cancer. For pre-invasive stage 0 (when the cancer has affected only the outer layer of the lining of the cervix), treatment may include the following:

  • Laser surgery uses a laser beam to destroy abnormal cells.
  • Cryosurgery destroys cancerous and pre-cancerous lesions by freezing them.
  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) uses a thin wire loop (through which an electrical current is passed) to cut away an area of abnormal cells from the cervix.
  • Conization surgically removes a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix.

For stages 1-4 (when the cancer has penetrated into the cervix and possibly to other tissues and organs), treatment may include the following:

  • Radiation uses high-energy rays to shrink tumors by destroying the cancer cells’ ability to reproduce.
  • Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs which reach all areas of the body to kill cancer cells, including those that have spread to distant organs.
  • Hysterectomy can be performed two ways, depending on the extent of the cancer: 1) Simple hysterectomy is the removal of the cancer, the cervix and the uterus.  2) Radical hysterectomy involves the removal of the cervix, the uterus, part of the vagina and lymph nodes in the area.

Cervical cancer can be prevented if Pap tests are administered regularly. There is also a vaccine that prevents cervical cancer, but it can be very expensive.

Dr. Manalastas believes that the best form of prevention is keeping oneself informed. I agree.

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Life goes on except for Life itself

He was supposed to graduate last April as a Public Admininstration major.  He was a councilor in the college student council. He was planning to enter law school. To that end, he had resolved to join a fraternity. The college student council president recruited him.

One Saturday, he joined several people for initiation by the fraternity. He sent several text messages to his friends.

Then nothing was heard from him.

Early morning, three cars rushed to a government hospital. There, they deposited him, black and blue. And dead.

One doctor released the body to a funeral parlor, without having the body undergoing autopsy. His son was one of those who brought him to the hospital.

The news of his death had spread out, sparking a wave of outrage. The fraternity involved, and the men who battered him to death, including the student council president who he had considered a friend, hid like cowards while protesting their innocence.

The university made a hoopla, promising investigations and fire and brimstone. The police and the investigation bureau dipped their hands in his blood. The media feasted on the issue.

Six months later, nothing happened.

His birthday had passed, and nothing happened.

Almost a year after his death, nothing has happened.

Except that life goes on.

For the university.

For the police and the investigation bureau.

For the media.

For the fraternity.

For his killers. One of them graduated already.

Except for him. Because he is dead.

Except for his family. Because he is gone.

Except for justice. Because divine justice is unfathomable and works in mysterious ways.

Except for Life itself. For a life snuffed out uselessly is a blow against Life itself.

Except for History. Human memory fails all the time, but History never forgets.

In eternal memory,


The cost of peace

milfgametreerevised At the left is a modified version of Bong Montesa‘s “Game Tree” about the TROd Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the Arroyo Administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Click on the image to enlarge.

I felt that Mr. Montesa is either being clever or dishonest with his “GAME TREE” and justifications for his choice of peace, whatever the cost.

game-tree-supreme-court001 Here is Montesa’s original game tree, and compare that with the one I did above. Basically my additions are on the white side. If you notice, all choices lead to war except on HIS choice, which is actually open-ended and subject to speculation. Hence, he is being clever or dishonest.

His choice of the phrase “Game Tree” is appropriate, because for all intents and purposes, his flowchart is propaganda – he is gaming public opinion by saying that all other options will lead to war. Yet notice his choice – it is open-ended. Here, he is being clever by saying that “Hey, I am not sure what would happen after this, so…” Yet, he was certain that the other choices WILL lead to war. Here he is being dishonest. He is certain on certain options, but not on his choice?

He is gaming public opinion by not posting the possible ramifications of the results of a plebiscite, as if he is saying, “Hey, it is possible that peace could be achieved after this!” How I wish he was consistent enough to terminate his game tree by placing the word PEACE after the plebiscite.

Anyway, he is being naive if he thinks things could be that simple. What if the sovereign Filipino people (his phrase) rejects the amendments? Will MILF accept such results? No. (If they reject such results, the MILF is being very Filipino, and that would be a monumental irony, IMO.) And even if the sovereign Filipino people accepts the amendments, there will be groups of people who will oppose it, and they will take up arms.

Reading his blog is like reading someone who loves Pollyanna so much. He keeps on saying that the MoA is just a framework, a roadmap that needs approval of the Filipino people – it is not enforceable even if signed. Mr. Montesa, the MILF says it is a done deal – they mean that it is now in effect. And he keeps on harping on constitutional process even if (1) he says peace talks are unconstitutional; and (2) the MILF does not consider itself under the Philippine Constitution and under the Philippines, period.

Then he posted his First Nation BS, and how I wish he posted his proofs, not what-ifs. The problem with his First Nation is that many will dispute the notion – some will say the lumads comprise the First Nation, etc.

And lastly – he is being pretentious if he thinks the MILF represents the entire people of Mindanao. The fact that there are Mindanaoans who are opposing the MoA AD belies his illusion. He, together with the Arroyo Administration panel, should have first consulted all stakeholders before shoving the country in a corner.  The fact that he called most reactions are emotional speaks of his short-sightedness and tunnel vision. His ignorance of the total picture of the Mindanao situation has actually EXACERBATED the tension instead of easing it.

I am all for peace, but at what cost? The comparison between the MoA AD and Chamberlain’s capitulation at Munich is somewhat apt – we will not have peace and we will have war. That is the cost of peace that Mr. Montesa and the likes want to impose on us.

I do not profess myself to be an expert on Mindanao, and neither do I claim that I have solutions on the problems of Mindanao. I think I have said it before that the solution lies in the hands of the Mindanaoans themselves. And yes, the solution lies in their hands.

What I will contend is that some group of people are piggy-backing on this issue for their own ends. This is the kind of screwup that pushes Mindanao on the brink of chaos. I don’t blame some people in Mindanao if they wanted to break free.



Integrity is one of the words that is hard to define at first, yet it is a word that means positive, a value that most of us wanted to have. It is so abstract that we can’t define it on the first go.

M. Scott Peck defined integrity by contrasting it with the opposite. He cited an example called the Sunday-morning Christian (best exemplified by that Yano song, “Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo”). He said that our brain is like a cabinet with a lot of drawers, and we tend to open a drawer only when needed. He also said that maintaining one’s integrity is hard because it is a conscious effort and most of the time it causes us pain.

Integrity means sticking to what one believes; it means walking the talk. This is hard, for it can lead to inflexibility. But sacrifice it, and see your principles crumble, see your reputation crumble.

You might say that integrity can’t feed you. True, but that’s the problem, actually. Why sacrifice integrity so that you can eat? Hence we see our politicians switching parties like switching underwear just to win elections; we see officials eating their words just to save their comfortable office seats; we see religious leaders discreetly abandoning their morality to increase their church’s coffers.

And the most unfortunate part of this: we are teaching our children the same.


“The emperor is naked”

This is a DigitalFilipino.com Club sponsored post. Add your Filipino event.

I think I already have addressed this issue, but it will be good to revisit it now. I had discussed the futility of planning ahead without addressing the problems of the present. Now I want to tackle our propensity for looking for solutions.

Sure, everyone knows our problems, and some people take pleasure in pointing out these problems. Some people take pleasure in pointing out that these people can only point out problems and never propose solutions. There is nothing wrong in pointing out that the emperor has no clothes, and there’s no solution to the problem of the emperor’s delusion that he is wearing the best clothes in the empire. Well, there is, but it is most unpalatable to those people who take pleasure in calling the child a fool. Their solution would be to play along.

And that’s my beef.

It has become our pastime to point out the problems; it has become our pastime to point out that it has become our pastime to point out the problems without offering solutions; it has become our pastime to point out that it has become our pastime to point out the problems without offering solutions and yet offer solutions that really do not address the problems. Yes, it is tiring to read that past sentence, because it is a tiring cycle.

Take for example the Queen of the Enchanted Kingdom. She has been our problem for the past seven years. (Heck, some says she is not the problem, but we’ll leave that for another time.) What are the solutions being offered? Plan ahead. Correct the mistakes by plugging holes. Make sure that it will never happen again.

I have no problems with the offered solutions. It is good to take a long view and plan ahead. Unfortunately, the problem is the present. Most of the solutions being offered do not address the present, as if the present does not affect the future.

For example, most people are looking forward to 2010, and are planning ahead assuming that there will be elections in 2010, totally discounting the possibility that the current problem could derail the 2010 elections.

And forward planning assumes that the TRUE problem is known. The problem is that we can be so blind to the problem. So we think that a child who claims that the emperor is naked is the problem, not the emperor. So we deal with the education system, since it is producing people who see the emperor as naked. The solution stares us in the face, but we refuse to see.

The best way to move forward is to look at short-and long-term problems, and address them accordingly. Look at the real problems, and deal with them.

PS: The solution to the problem of the naked emperor is simple. Depose him, since he’s insane. But that would lead to instability, so the people would play along.


Lined up for NFA rice

Earlier today I lined up to buy National Food Authority (NFA) rice together with my mom. It was my first time to line up. Here are some of my observations.

When I lined up at the end of the queue, there were about 30 people before me. My mom was two persons before me, and she asked me to move behind her. But there were two persons between me and my mother, so I refused. The two women then told me to go ahead, since they were standing in for others anyway. Fine with me.

After 10 minutes, we saw several people load a tricycle, five persons each carrying five kilos of rice. Another 10 minutes, the same thing happened. My mom was surprised that “mga dayo” (those who came from much farther place) got ahead of us, who lives just across the street from where NFA rice was being sold.

We were lucky enough for the seller to sell maximum of five kilos per person; last Monday, it the limit was only two kilos.

Then we noticed that people ahead of us who got their rice were carrying their load using the same green plastic bag. We were told that the seller required every buyer to get their plastic bags from them for one peso per bag – no exemptions, even if you have a plastic bag with you. Not only it meant more non-biodegrable material to bring home, it also meant that the seller is making a profit out of those bags.

And a kilo of NFA rice costs twenty five pesos; the eighteen-peso is not available. Mom has been buying NFA rice for several weeks now, and she hasn’t bought the cheapest variety ever since.

The sister of my father’s sister-in-law asked my mom to buy NFA rice for her. Funny thing is, this woman is very well off. Maybe this SWS survey result is no longer surprising.

And then my maternal aunt also asked my mom to buy NFA rice for her. Irony: my aunt buys NFA rice to bring to the province.


Collective forgetfulness and freedom

We Filipinos suffer from what I call collective forgetfulness: we tend to easily forget what had happened before. We easily forget those memories that are rather impersonal to us – those events that we have no personal involvement, only a peripheral knowledge of what had happened. We easily forget those events that have no relevance in our lives. This collective forgetfulness is, I think, an extension of our “walang pakialam” attitude, a manifestation of our inherent apathy with regards to our duties as citizens.

If we keep on complaining about this regime moving holidays haphazardly, without any discernible or logical pattern, we only have ourselves to blame. Our Congress – composed of legislators that we have elected, our representatives – passed a law allowing the president to move the holidays.

What are holidays for? The word holiday is a contraction of the words holy and day, giving it a religious significance. Later on, the word holiday also meant a day for celebration or commemoration of certain events; for example, Rizal Day is a holiday commemorating the martyrdom of Jose Rizal. National holidays are instituted to commemorate significant events in history.

Holidays are declared primarily to give citizens a chance to commemorate significant events. In current usage, however, holidays are for days of rest, an excuse to go to the malls or whatever. The commemoration part has lost its significance, no thanks to holiday economics.

They say that you can only appreciate freedom once you lost it. That’s why I think we commemorate Independence Day – to appreciate the fact that we are free, that this freedom came at a cost, and that we must do our duty as citizens to safeguard this freedom. But like the haphazard moving of holidays, we take freedom for granted, like any other things (water, air, electricity). Only when it is gone (or severely threatened) we take action, and by then, it will be too late. Just look where we are now.

Gloria Arroyo came to power in January 2001 via the so-called People Power II. It should be a glorious event (oooppss, sorry), but we don’t even commemorate it. The supposed reason was that the said event was divisive (several months after EDSA Dos, there was a counter-revolt called EDSA Tres); the actual reason was that Arroyo, her husband Mike, and her minions piggy-backed (ooopppss again) on the people power aspect of the event. In short, she hijacked it for her personal gain, and she wanted no one to even think about it. The hallmark of this regime is to bury the truth, as long as this truth will be a threat to her hold to power.

How can we commemorate our Independence Day when this regime had moved the holiday to a day where there were no commemorative events? All events commemorating Independence Day will be held on June 12, a working day. It is as if Gloria Arroyo is telling us that we should work instead of commemorating our Independence Day. She is right. We are not free anyway. We are not free to elect a President. We are not free to make her accountable via impeachment. So what’s there to commemorate?

We are not free because we forget that we are free. We forgot the events of 2004, the actuations of the House of Reprehensibles in 2005, 2006, and 2007. We forgot that there are Oliver Lozanos and Roel Pulidos and Jocjoc Bolantes and Virgilio Garcillanos and Lintang Bedols. We forgot that we have the power to hold the president accountable. We are like slaves to politicians who are in power, when it should be the other way around. We are mired to this mess because we forgot that we have the power to make things happen.

We need to be free. We can start by remembering.