Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pulse Asia SONA Survey Was Propaganda, Just Like the SONA

After looking at the survey questions, the methodology and the purported analytical results of the July 2008 Pulse Asia Survey poll on President Arroyo's State of the National Address, I am forced to the inexorable conclusion that it was basically propaganda, not a valid scientific public opinion poll. The main numerical data are contained in Tables 1, 2, 3, and 4.

To begin with, the pollster admits that only 60% of the 1200 respondents to the survey were qualified to participate and be tallied because only that fraction of them claimed to have "heard or read about any previous SONA." Thus the proper random sample size is 720 and the one-sided statistical error is closer to 4% than 3%. But this is hardly its biggest or most egregious flaw.

If you look under a magnifying glass at the bottom of Table 4 you will discover that the first question asked of each respondent was whether they had heard or read about any previous SONA ("Kayo ba ay nakarinig na, or nakabasa na, sa anumang nakaraang Ulat Sa Bayan o SONA ni Pangulong Arroyo?"). To those who answered YES, two further questions were asked soliciting an opinion about the truthfulness of the 2007 and the likely truthfulness of the 2008 SONAs. There is a further microscopic notation that "truthful" means "mostly or completely truthful" while "untruthful" means "mostly or completely untruthful."

This is a badly flawed question because the 2008 SONA, for example, has over 4600 words, and 500 sentences spread out over many dozens if not hundreds of possibly truthful or untruthful individual assertions by the President. But the follow-on question forces the respondent to decide whether he or she thinks they were (in a previous SONA) or would be (in 2008) "mostly or completely true or untrue." Well, no wonder 46% of the 720 qualified respondents said they were UNDECIDED about the likelihood of the 2008 SONA's truthfulness, while 52% were UNDECIDED about the actual truthfulness of the 2007 SONA.

It is a rule of thumb, at least among scientific, professional pollsters that when a question elicits such large percentage of UNDECIDED responses, there is something badly wrong about the question itself, either its design, content or meaning for the respondents. Among physical scientists this is equivalent to having half of one's data set being corrupted, unreadable or unusable because we are measuring the wrong parameter or using the wrong proble. We usually throw away such tests and their resulting data sets as being unreliable or positively useless.

What the analysis keys on, as presented here and by Ana Marie Tabunda on ANC last evening, was the large percentage (40% of 720 respondents) opining that the 2008 SONA would likely be untruthful while only 14% of 720 respondents opined it would likely be truthful. It is of course not surprising that 46% thought the 2007 SONA was untruthful while 13% thought it was truthful.

With respect to the 2008 SONA, this is numerically gussied up ASTROLOGY and not statistical opinion polling. With respect to "any previous SONA", I doubt very much that any of the respondents could've made a fair mental evaluation of the totality of the President's assertions. Rather, human nature being reflexively suspicious and skeptical towards politicians (especially one as opaque and plastique as Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who truly deserves it, in my own opinion), there is a natural tendency to remember some unbelievable or untruthful statement and ascribe dishonesty to the entire speech, rather than to mentally maintain an inventory of a large number of possibly true statements. After all, when a person tells even one lie in such a forum, it's easy to believe such a person is telling many other lies.

Since the nature of the basic question asked of the respondents, requires of them to make a global judgment ("mostly truthful" or "mostly untruthful" but nothing in between) of some past or future SONA, and given that she has most verifiably lied on a number of very important and public occasions in her checkered political career, the results might've been predicted without all the trouble of a full blown statistical survey. After all, the respondents were qualified to answer these questions if they had merely read or heard about some SONA or other -- most likely from an habitually skeptical or even hostile media.

Nevertheless, two wrongs just don't make a right. This Pulse Asia Survey was what we call a setup or a "gimme" for anti-Arroyo forces. It is another example of the cynical use of science for propaganda purposes.

Deliciously malicious propaganda at that, since of course propaganda can itself be truthful or not, just like the SONAs themselves!

Tee-hee, but shame on you Pulse Asia! I bet if somebody did a survey on the surveys, the results would run against the pollsters with similar percentages being cynical and skeptical about them as propagandists.
UPDATES: Cogent discussion of the brewing bribery brouhaha in the Court of Appeals is to be found at La Vida Lawyer.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

ARMM Poll Postponement -- A Dress Rehearsal for 2010 Coup D'etat

GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO attained Malacanang Palace on the backs of a coup d'etat executed by the Armed Forces Chief of Staff (Angelo Reyes) and the Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide. (Only those utterly devoted to the dubious comforts of consuelo de bobo even bother to mutter "People Power" any more as an explanation or excuse for that singularly infamous event called Edsa Dos). How she and her evil cohorts intend to preserve themselves against the day in 2010 when they shall be fully exposed to the thermonuclear pile of Justice and Retribution is slowly becoming clear to several astute observers, such as Ricky Carandang of ABSCBN News (in Gloria Forever). In this regard, I do see the rather frantic attempts currently underway to postpone the regularly scheduled elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in the most sinister light--that of a dress rehearsal for yet another "constitutional" coup d'etat in 2010.

Remember that she had everything to gain in 2001, but in 2010 she has everything to lose!

Successfully postponing this election in ARMM, which hardly anyone seems to care about really, would be merely a confidence building measure that they could do it again in 2010, probably also with the eager help of would-be sultans and datus of a new Bangsamoro homeland --the ambuscading gunmen and warlord beheaders of the MILF. This cannot be too hard to accomplish considering how completely degraded the democratic Constitution has become under the tender ministrations of a Supreme Court and legal profession that, incomprehensibly adulates fascist theocrats and judicial putschists like Hilario Davide Jr. and Artemio Panganiban. As for the current Chief Justice, Reynato Puno, he is famously the architect of the current dogma on ancestral domain and that abomination called the Indigenous People's Rights Act. This amazing juridical superstructure, upon which the Bangsamoro Juridical entity will rise, is itself built entirely upon the sands of historical falsehoods and a national self-loathing for our adoption of constitutional democracy and the irreversible consequences of American colonialism, such as the Rule of Law and public sanitation. That we should now lacerate ourselves over the surrender of our ancestors to the Spanish Taliban in exchange for protection from the marauding caracolas and war-vintas of Rajas Mura and Sirongan and a century of Moro depredations, in order to deliver the Bangsamoro peoples back to the enslavers and the piratical raiders of the Maguindanao Confederacy, boggles the mind. But wait! Not only the Bangsamoro, but we all are now at risk of falling into dhimmitude and servility under the particularly abhorrent species of moral dwarves who are multiplying like rats and rabbits in the names of Palace, Church and Mosque.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Limbo--An Honorable Way Out for Catholic Dogmatists on Birth Control

I am obliged to reassure the good and gentle readers at Catholic and Enjoying It that my recent "strange reasoning" on birth control is not intended to cast doubt upon the evils of torture, murder, rape, or "death penalty clemency" just because there are no explicitly infallible Papal Bulls against the same. I am merely pointing out a possibly honorable or face-saving way out for Catholic dogmatists (such as our own Philippine Bishops) with respect to the incoherent and disunited teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on the preventative forms of artificial birth conrol. Limbo--or more precisely the fate of that particular hoary old teaching about the destination of unbaptized infants--is that way out. Indeed, Humanae Vitae and its entirely maculate conception in the irreformably disturbing disagreement between Pope Paul VI and his own expanded Papal Commission on Birth Control would surely qualify it far more to be consigned to the uhmm, limbo of discardable former articles of faith no longer requiring the full assent of the faithful, than the formerly long-running dogma on that Autonomous Region of Inferno that was indeed called Limbo. (By the way, there were two Limbos --one for said unchristened infants and one for the Old Testament's own unshriven Patriarchs supposedly rescued by the alleged Jesus of Nazareth when he descended to the Dead--both dogmae presumably now optional.

I should point out that along with Hell and Purgatory, said Limbo was the selling point of the commercial, if simoniac, enterprises of the former frailocratic rulers of the Philippine province. Not even the treasures of all the sunken galleons between Manila and Acapulco could compare to the hoard amassed by the Spanish Catholic Taliban hawking scapulars, rosaries and other holy trinkets and souvenirs of sanctimony allegedly exempting their souls, or those of their ancestors and progeny from the fires or desolation of all three.

But could there be any more wicked dogma than those of Hell, Purgatory and Limbo? These distinctly New Testament innovations which promise unimaginable suffering for infidels, even babies, after they die far exceed the cruel deaths, enslavement and rapine of their enemies vouchsafed by Yahweh to his Chosen People in the Old Covenant.

Actually, I suppose the teachings on condoms, pills and IUDs, may qualify, in a sense, for they do condemn millions to poverty, hunger, hopelessness and the horrors of unwanted, unplanned pregnancies, such as the half million abortions that occur for one reason or another.

There is a simple way out for the blind dogmatists: simply admit the fact that the Catholic Church has never declared the dogma infallible and consign it to Limbo. Y'all know how it's done! (Casuistry!)

By the way, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was playing fast and loose with statistics during her State of the Nation Address yesterday on this subject:
Rice production since 2000 increased an average of 4.07% a year, twice the population growth rate. By promoting natural planning and female education, we have curbed population growth to 2.04% during our administration, down from the 2.36 in the 1990’s, when artificial birth control was pushed. Our campaign spreads awareness of responsible parenthood regarding birth spacing. Long years of pushing contraceptives made it synonymous to family planning. Therefore informed choice should mean letting more couples, who are mostly Catholics, know about natural family planning.
Utterly dishonest and specious of her to claim credit for the downward trend in population growth rate that's been observable for almost half a century on her population policies. More telling is the fact that we are indeed the LARGEST IMPORTER of rice in the world--whilst our neighbors, like Thailand who merely copied a 1970 Philippine Population Management Plan, have made the demographic transition to a more sustainable regime.

Sure, sure, overpopulation per se is not the cause of poverty. No. It's the poverty of the mind and spirit and our clinging to the infantile illusions fostered by a Church long-lost in her own inutility and helplessness. Sure, sure, it's "the System" that's to blame. Unfortunately, the Philippine Catholic Church and especially its hierarchy, has long been the biggest, oldest and I daresay, often the baddest part of "the System."

Time to give up pride and hubris. The people are suffering and they are truly fed up with reverential, but inhuman and hardly divine, dogma.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's State of the Nation Address

Full Text of the 2008 State of the Nation Address by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
State of the Nation Address of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the 2nd Regular Session
of the 14th Congress of the Republic of the Philippines 28 July 2008

Thank you, Speaker Nograles. Senate President Villar. Senators and Representatives. Vice President de Castro, President Ramos, Chief Justice Puno, members of the diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen:

I address you today at a crucial moment in world history.

Just a few months ago, we ended 2007 with the strongest economic growth in a generation. Inflation was low, the peso strong and a million new jobs were created. We were all looking to a better, brighter future.

Because tough choices were made, kumikilos na ang bayan sa wakas. Malapit na sana tayo sa pagbalanse ng budget. We were retiring debts in great amounts, reducing the drag on our country’s development, habang namumuhunan sa taong bayan.

Biglang-bigla, nabaligtad ang ekonomiya ng mundo. Ang pagtalon ng presyo ng langis at pagkain ay nagbunsod ng pandaigdigan krisis, the worst since the Great Depression and the end of World War II. Some blame speculators moving billions of dollars from subprime mortgages to commodities like fuel and food. Others point of the very real surge in demand as millions of Chinese and Indians move up to the middle class.

Whatever the reasons, we are on a roller coaster ride of oil price hikes, high food prices and looming economic recession in the US and other markets. Uncertainty has moved like a terrible tsunami around the globe, wiping away gains, erasing progress.

This is a complex time that defies simple and easy solutions. For starters, it is hard to identify villains, unlike in the 1997 financial crisis. Everyone seems to be a victim, rich countries and poor, though certainly some can take more punishment than others.

To address these global challenges, we must go on building and buttressing bridges to allies around the world: to bring in the rice to feed our people, investments to create jobs; and to keep the peace and maintain stability in our country and the rest of the world. Yet even as we reach out to those who need, and who may need us, we strive for greater self-reliance.

Because tough choices were made, the global crisis did not catch us helpless and unprepared. Through foresight, grit and political will, we built a shield around our country that has slowed down and somewhat softened the worst effects of the global crisis. We have the money to care for our people and pay for food when there are shortages; for fuel despite price spikes.

Neither we nor anyone else in the world expected this day to come so soon but we prepared for it. For the guts not to flinch in the face of tough choices, I thank God. For the wisdom to recognize how needed you are, I thank, you Congress. For footing the bill, I thank the taxpayers.

The result has been, on the one hand, ito ang nakasalba sa bayan; and, on the other, more unpopularity for myself in the opinion polls. Yet, even unfriendly polls show self-rated poverty down to its 20-year low in 2007.

My responsibility as President is to take care to solve the problems we are facing now and to provide a vision and direction for how our nation should advance in the future.

Many in this great hall live privileged lives and exert great influence in public affairs. I am accessible to you, but I spend time every day with the underprivileged and under represented who cannot get a grip on their lives in the daily, all-consuming struggle to make ends meet.

Nag-aalala ako para sa naka-aawang maybahay na pasan ang pananagutan para sa buong pamilya. Nag-aalala ako para sa magsasakang nasa unang hanay ng pambansang produksyon ng pagkain ngunit nagsisikap pakanin ang pamilya. I care for hardworking students soon to graduate and wanting to see hope of good job and a career prospect here at home.

Nag-aalala ako para sa 41-year old na padre de pamilya na di araw-araw ang trabaho, at nag-aabala sa asawa at tatlong anak, at dapat bigyan ng higit pang pagkakakitaan at dangal. I care for our teachers who gave the greatest gift we ever received – a good education – still trying to pass on the same gift to succeeding generations. I care for our OFWs, famed for their skill, integrity and untiring labor, who send home their pay as the only way to touch loved ones so far away. Nagpupugay ako ngayon sa kanilang mga karaniwang Pilipino.

My critics say this is fiction, along with other facts and figures I cite today. I call it heroism though they don’t need our praise. Each is already a hero to those who matter most, their families.

I said this is a global crisis where everyone is a victim. But only few can afford to avoid, or pay to delay, the worst effects.

Many more have nothing to protect them from the immediate blunt force trauma of the global crisis. Tulad ninyo, nag-aalala ako para sa kanila. Ito ang mga taong bayan na dapat samahan natin. Not only because of their sacrifices for our country but because they are our countrymen.

How do we solve these many complex challenges?

Sa kanilang kalagayan, the answer must be special care and attention in this great hour of need.

First, we must have a targeted strategy with set of precise prescriptions to ease the price challenges we are facing.

Second, food self-sufficiency; less energy dependence; greater self-reliance in our attitude as a people and in our posture as a nation.

Third, short-term relief cannot be at the expense of long term reforms. These reforms will benefit not just the next generation of Filipinos, but the next President as well.

Napakahalaga ang Value Added Tax sa pagharap sa mga hamong ito.

Itong programa ang sagot sa mga problemang namana natin.

Una, mabawasan ang ating mga utang and shore up our fiscal independence.

Pangalawa, higit na pamumuhunan para mamamayan at imprastraktura.

Pangatlo, sapat na pondo para sa mga programang pangmasa.

Thus, the infrastructure links programmed for the our poorest provinces like Northern Samar: Lao-ang-Lapinig-Arteche, right now ay maputik, San Isidro-Lope de Vega; the rehabilitation of Maharlika in Samar.

Take VAT away and you and I abdicate our responsibility as leaders and pull the rug from under our present and future progress, which may be compromised by the global crisis.

Lalong lumakas ang tiwala ng mga investor dahil sa VAT. Mula P56.50 kada dolyar, lumakas ang piso hanggang P40.20 bago bumalik sa P44 dahil sa mga pabigat ng pangdaigdigang ekonomiya. Kung alisin ang VAT, hihina ang kumpiyansa ng negosyo, lalong tataas ang interes, lalong bababa ang piso, lalong mamahal ang bilihin.

Kapag ibinasura ang VAT sa langis at kuryente, ang mas makikinabang ay ang mga may kaya na kumukonsumo ng 84% ng langis at 90% ng kuryente habang mas masasaktan ang mahihirap na mawawalan ng P80 billion para sa mga programang pinopondohan ngayon ng VAT. Take away VAT and we strip our people of the means to ride out the world food and energy crisis.

We have come too far and made too many sacrifices to turn back now on fiscal reforms. Leadership is not about doing the first easy thing that comes to mind; it is about doing what is necessary, however hard.

The government has persevered, without flip-flops, in its much-criticized but irreplaceable policies, including oil and power VAT and oil deregulation.

Patuloy na gagamitin ng pamahalaan ang lumalago nating yaman upang tulungan ang mga pamilyang naghihirap sa taas ng bilihin at hampas ng bagyo, habang nagpupundar upang sanggahan ang bayan sa mga krisis sa hinaharap.

Para sa mga namamasada at namamasahe sa dyip, sinusugpo natin ang kotong at colorum upang mapataas ang kita ng mga tsuper. Si Federico Alvarez kumikita ng P200 a day sa kaniyang rutang Cubao-Rosario. Tinaas ito ng anti-kotong, anti-colorum ngayon P500 na ang kita niya. Iyan ang paraan kung paano napananatili ang dagdag-pasahe sa piso lamang. Halaga lang ng isang text.

Texting is a way of life. I asked the telecoms to cut the cost of messages between networks. They responded. It is now down to 50 centavos.

Noong Hunyo, nagpalabas tayo ng apat na bilyong piso mula sa VAT sa langis—dalawang bilyong pambayad ng koryente ng apat na milyong mahihirap, isang bilyon para college scholarship o pautang sa 70,000 na estudyanteng maralita; kalahating bilyong pautang upang palitan ng mas matipid na LPG, CNG o biofuel ang motor ng libu-libong jeepney; at kalahating bilyong pampalit sa fluorescent sa mga pampublikong lugar.

Kung mapapalitan ng fluorescent ang lahat ng bumbilya, makatitipid tayo ng lampas P2 billion.

Sa sunod na katas ng VAT, may P1 billion na pambayad ng kuryente ng mahihirap; kalahating bilyon para sa matatandang di sakop ng SSS o GSIS; kalahating bilyong kapital para sa pamilya ng mga namamasada; kalahating bilyon upang mapataas ang kakayahan at equipment ng mga munting ospital sa mga lalawigan. At para sa mga kalamidad, angkop na halaga.

We released P1 billion for the victims of typhoon Frank. We support a supplemental Western Visayas calamity budget from VAT proceeds, as a tribute to the likes of Rodney Berdin, age 13, of Barangay Rombang, Belison, Antique, who saved his mother, brother and sister from the raging waters of Sibalom River.

Mula sa buwang ito, wala nang income tax ang sumusweldo ng P200,000 o mas mababa sa isang taon – P12 billion na bawas-buwis para sa maralita at middle class. Maraming salamat, Congress.

Ngayong may P32 na commercial rice, natugunan na natin ang problema sa pagkain sa kasalukuyan. Nagtagumpay tayo dahil sa pagtutulungan ng buong bayan sa pagsasaka, bantay-presyo at paghihigpit sa price manipulation, sa masipag na pamumuno ni Artie Yap.

Sa mga LGU at religious groups na tumutulong dalhin ang NFA rice sa mahihirap, maraming salamat sa inyo.

Dahil sa subsidy, NFA rice is among the region’s cheapest. While we can take some comfort that our situation is better than many other nations, there is no substitute for solving the problem of rice and fuel here at home. In doing so, let us be honest and clear eyed – there has been a fundamental shift in global economics. The price of food and fuel will likely remain high. Nothing will be easy; the government cannot solve these problems over night. But, we can work to ease the near-term pain while investing in long-term solutions.

Since 2001, new irrigation systems for 146,000 hectares, including Malmar in Maguindanao and North Cotabato, Lower Agusan, Casecnan and Aulo in Nueva Ecija, Abulog-Apayao in Cagayan and Apayao, Addalam in Quirino and Isabela, among others, and the restoration of old systems on another 980,000 hectares have increased our nation’s irrigated land to a historic 1.5 million hectares.

Edwin Bandila, 48 years old, of Ugalingan, Carmen, North Cotabato, cultivated one hectare and harvested 35 cavans. Thirteen years na ginawa iyong Malmar. In my first State of the Nation Address, sabi ko kung hindi matapos iyon sa Setyembre ay kakanselahin ko ang kontrata, papapasukin ko ang engineering brigade, natapos nila. With Malamar, now he cultivates five hectares and produces 97 cavans per hectare. Mabuhay, Edwin! VAT will complete the San Roque-Agno River project.

The Land Bank has quadrupled loans for farmers and fisherfolk. That is fact not fiction. Check it. For more effective credit utilization, I instructed DA to revitalize farmers cooperatives.

We are providing seeds at subsidized prices to help our farmers.

Incremental Malampaya national revenues of P4 billion will go to our rice self-sufficiency program.

Rice production since 2000 increased an average of 4.07% a year, twice the population growth rate. By promoting natural planning and female education, we have curbed population growth to 2.04% during our administration, down from the 2.36 in the 1990’s, when artificial birth control was pushed. Our campaign spreads awareness of responsible parenthood regarding birth spacing. Long years of pushing contraceptives made it synonymous to family planning. Therefore informed choice should mean letting more couples, who are mostly Catholics, know about natural family planning.

From 1978 to 1981, nag-export tayo ng bigas. Hindi tumagal. But let’s not be too hard on ourselves. Panahon pa ng Kastila bumibili na tayo ng bigas sa labas. While we may know how to grow rice well, topography doesn’t always cooperate.

Nature did not gift us with a mighty Mekong like Thailand and Vietnam, with their vast and naturally fertile plains. Nature instead put our islands ahead of our neighbours in the path of typhoons from the Pacific. So, we import 10% of the rice we consume.

To meet the challenge of today, we will feed our people now, not later, and help them get through these hard times. To meet the challenges of tomorrow, we must become more self-reliant, self-sufficient and independent, relying on ourselves more than on the world.

Now we come to the future of agrarian reform.

There are those who say it is a failure, that our rice importations prove it. There are those who say it is a success—if only because anything is better than nothing. Indeed, people are happier owning the land they work, no matter what the difficulties.

Sa SONA noong 2001, sinabi ko, bawat taon, mamamahagi tayo ng dalawang daang libong ektarya sa reporma sa lupa: 100,000 hectares of private farmland and 100,000 of public farmland, including ancestral domains. Di hamak mahigit sa target ang naipamahagi natin sa nakaraang pitong taon: 854,000 hectares of private farmland, 797,000 of public farmland, and Certificates of Ancestral Domain for 525,000 hectares. Including, over a 100,000 hectares for Bugkalots in Quirino, Aurora, and Nueva Vizcaya. After the release of their CADT, Rosario Camma, Bugkalot chieftain, and now mayor of Nagtipunan, helped his 15,000-member tribe develop irrigation, plant vegetables and corn and achieve food sufficiency. Mabuhay, Chief!

Agrarian reform should not merely subdivide misery, it must raise living standards. Ownership raises the farmer from his but productivity will keep him on his feet.

Sinimula ng aking ama ang land reform noong 1963. Upang mabuo ito, the extension of CARP with reforms is top priority. I will continue to do all I can for the rural as well as urban poor. Ayaw natin na paglaya ng tenant sa landlord, mapapasa-ilalim naman sa usurero. Former tenants must be empowered to become agribusinessmen by allowing their land to be used as collateral.

Dapat mapalaya ng reporma sa lupa ang magsasaka sa pagiging alipin sa iba. Dapat bigyan ang magsasaka ng dangal bilang taong malaya at di hawak ninuman. We must curb the recklessness that gives land without the means to make it productive and bites off more than beneficiaries can chew.

At the same time, I want the rackets out of agrarian reform: the threats to take and therefore undervalue land, the conspiracies to overvalue it.

Be with me on this. There must be a path where justice and progress converge. Let us find it before Christmas. Dapat nating linisin ang landas para sa mga ibig magpursige sa pagsasaka, taglay ang pananalig na ang lupa ay sasagip sa atin sa huli kung gamitin natin ito nang maayos.

Along with massive rice production, we are cutting costs through more efficient transport. For our farm-to-market roads, we released P6 billion in 2007.

On our nautical highways. RORO boats carried 33 million metric tons of cargo and 31 million passengers in 2007. We have built 39 RORO ports during our administration, 12 more are slated to start within the next two years. In 2003, we inaugurated the Western Nautical Highway from Batangas through Mindoro, Panay and Negros to Mindanao. This year we launched the Central Nautical Highway from Bicol mainland, through Masbate, Cebu, Bohol and Camiguin to Mindanao mainland. These developments strengthen our competitiveness.

Leading multinational company Nestle cut transport costs and offset higher milk prices abroad. Salamat, RORO. Transport costs have become so reasonable for bakeries like Gardenia, a loaf of its bread in Iloilo is priced the same as in Laguna and Manila. Salamat muli sa RORO.

To the many LGUs who have stopped collecting fees from cargo vehicles, maraming, maraming salamat.

We are repaving airports that are useful for agriculture, like Zamboanga City Airport.

Producing rice and moving it cheaper addresses the supply side of our rice needs. On the demand side, we are boosting the people’s buying power.

Ginagawa nating labor-intensive ang paggawa at pag-ayos ng kalsada at patubig. Noong SONA ng 2001, naglunsad tayo sa NCR ng patrabaho para sa 20,000 na out of school youth, na tinawag OYSTER. Ngayon, mahigit 20,000 ang ineempleyo ng OYSTER sa buong bansa. In disaster-stricken areas, we have a cash-for-work program.

In training, 7.74 million took technical and vocational courses over the last seven years, double the number in the previous 14 years. In 2007 alone, 1.7 million graduated. Among them are Jessica Barlomento now in Hanjin as supply officer, Shenve Catana, Marie Grace Comendador, and Marlyn Tusi, lady welders, congratulations.

In microfinance, loans have reached P102 billion or 30 times more than the P3 billion we started with in 2001, with a 98% repayment record, congratulations! Major lenders include the Land Bank with P69 billion, the Peoples’ Credit and Finance Corporation P8 billion, the National Livelihood Support Fund P3 billion, DBP P1 billion and the DSWD’s SEA-K P800 million. For partnering with us to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit, thank you, Go Negosyo and Joey Concepcion.

Upland development benefits farmers through agro-forestry initiatives. Rubber is especially strong in Zamboanga Sibugay and North Cotabato. Victoria Mindoro, 56 years old, used to earn P5,000 a month as farmer and factory worker. Now she owns 10 hectares in the Goodyear Agrarian Reform Community in Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay, she earns P10,000 a week. With one hectare, Pedro and Concordia Faviolas of Makilala, North Cotabato, they sent their six children to college, bought two more hectares, and earn P15,000 a month. Congratulations!

Jatropha estates are starting in 900 hectares in and around Tamlang Valley in Negros Oriental; 200 in CamSur; 300 in GenSan, 500 in Fort Magsaysay near the Cordero Dam and 700 in Samar, among others.

In our 2006 SONA, our food baskets were identified as North Luzon and Mindanao.

The sad irony of Mindanao as food basket is that it has some of the highest hunger in our nation. It has large fields of high productivity, yet also six of our ten poorest provinces.

The prime reason is the endless Mindanao conflict. A comprehensive peace has eluded us for half a century. But last night, differences on the tough issue of ancestral domain were resolved. Yes, there are political dynamics among the people of Mindanao. Let us sort them out with the utmost sobriety, patience and restraint. I ask Congress to act on the legislative and political reforms that will lead to a just and lasting peace during our term of office.

The demands of decency and compassion urge dialogue. Better talk than fight, if nothing of sovereign value is anyway lost. Dialogue has achieved more than confrontation in many parts of the world. This was the message of the recent World Conference in Madrid organized by the King of Saudi Arabia, and the universal message of the Pope in Sydney.

Pope Benedict’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est reminds us: “There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love for neighbour is indispensable.”

Pinagsasama-sama natin ang mga programa ng DSWD, DOH, GSIS, SSS at iba pang lumalaban sa kahirapan sa isang National Social Welfare Program para proteksyonan ang pinaka-mahihirap mula sa pandaigdigang krisis, and to help those whose earnings are limited by illness, disability, loss of job, age and so on—through livelihood projects, microfinance, skills and technology transfer, emergency and temporary employment, pension funds, food aid and cash subsidies, child nutrition and adult health care, medical missions, salary loans, insurance, housing programs, educational and other savings schemes, and now cheaper medicine—Thanks to Congress.

The World Bank says that in Brazil, the income of the poorest 10% has grown 9% per year versus the 3% for the higher income levels due in large part to their family stipend program linking welfare checks to school attendance. We have introduced a similar program, Pantawid Pamilya.

Employers have funded the two increases in SSS benefits since 2005. Thank you, employers for paying the premiums.

GSIS pensions have been indexed to inflation and have increased every year since 2001. Its salary loan availments have increased from two months equivalent to 10 months, the highest of any system public or private—while repayments have been stretched out.

Pag-Ibig housing loans increased from P3.82 billion in 2001 to P22.6 billion in 2007. This year it experienced an 84% increase in the first four months alone. Super heating na. Dapat dagdagan ng GSIS at buksan muli ng SSS ang pautang sa pabahay. I ask Congress to pass a bill allowing SSS to do housing loans beyond the present 10% limitation.

Bago ako naging Pangulo, isa’t kalahating milyong maralita lamang ang may health insurance. Noong 2001, sabi natin, dadagdagan pa ng kalahating milyon. Sa taong iyon, mahigit isang milyon ang nabigyan natin. Ngayon, 65 milyong Pilipino na ang may health insurance, mahigit doble ng 2000, kasama ang labinlimang milyong maralita. Philhealth has paid P100 billion for hospitalization. The indigent beneficiaries largely come from West and Central Visayas, Central Luzon, and Ilocos. Patuloy nating palalawakin itong napaka-importanted programa, lalo na sa Tawi-Tawi, Zambo Norte, Maguindanao, Apayao, Dinagat, Lanao Sur, Northern Samar, Masbate, Abra and Misamis Occidental. Lalo na sa kanilang mga magsasaka at mangingisda.

In these provinces and in Agusan Sur, Kalinga, Surigao Sur and calamity-stricken areas, we will launch a massive school feeding program at P10 per child every school day.

Bukod sa libreng edukasyon sa elementarya at high school, nadoble ang pondo para sa mga college scholarships, while private high school scholarship funds from the government have quadrupled.

I have started reforming and clustering the programs of the DepEd, CHED and TESDA.

As with fiscal and food challenges, the global energy crunch demands better and more focused resource mobilization, conservation and management.

Government agencies are reducing their energy and fuel bills by 10%, emulating Texas Instruments and Philippine Stock Exchange who did it last year. Congratulations, Justice Vitug and Francis Lim.

To reduce power system losses, we count on government regulators and also on EPIRA amendments.

We are successful in increasing energy self-sufficiency—56%, the highest in our history. We promote natural gas and biofuel; geothermal fields, among the world’s largest; windmills like those in Ilocos and Batanes; and the solar cells lighting many communities in Mindanao. The new Galoc oil field can produce 17,000-22,000 barrels per day, 1/12 of our crude consumption.

The Renewable Energy Bill has passed the House. Thank you, Congressmen.

Our costly commodity imports like oil and rice should be offset by hard commodities exports like primary products, and soft ones like tourism and cyberservices, at which only India beats us.

Our P 350 million training partnership with the private sector should qualify 60,000 for call centers, medical transcription, animation and software development, which have a projected demand of one million workers generating $13 billion by 2010.

International finance agrees with our progress. Credit rating agencies have kept their positive or stable outlook on the country. Our world competitiveness ranking rose five notches. Congratulations to us.

We are sticking to, and widening, the fiscal reforms that have earned us their respect.

To our investors, thank you for your valuable role in our development. I invite you to invest not only in factories and services, but in profitable infrastructure, following the formula for the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway.

I ask business and civil society to continue to work for a socially equitable, economically viable balance of interests. Mining companies should ensure that host communities benefit substantively from their investments, and with no environmental damage from operations.

Our administration enacted the Solid Waste Management Act, Wildlife Act, Protection of Plant Varieties, Clean Water Act, Biofuels Act and various laws declaring protected areas.

For reforestation, for next year we have budgeted P2 billion. Not only do forests enhance the beauty of the land, they mitigate climate change, a key factor in increasing the frequency and intensity of typhoons and costing the country 0.5% of the GDP.

We have set up over 100 marine and fish sanctuaries since 2001. In the whaleshark sanctuary of Donsol, Sorsogon, Alan Amanse, 40-year-old college undergraduate and father of two, was earning P100 a day from fishing and driving a tricycle. Now as whaleshark-watching officer, he is earns P1,000 a day, ten times his former income.

For clean water, so important to health, there is P500 million this year and P1.5 billion for next year.

From just one sanitary landfill in 2001, we now have 21, with another 18 in the works.

We launched the Zero Basura Olympics to clear our communities of trash. Rather than more money, all that is needed is for each citizen to keep home and workplace clean, and for garbage officials to stop squabbling.

Our investments also include essential ways to strengthen our institutions of governance in order to fight the decades-old scourge of corruption. I will continue to fight this battle every single day. While others are happy with headlines through accusation without evidence and privilege speeches without accountability, we have allocated more than P3 billion – the largest anti-graft fund in our history – for real evidence gathering and vigorous prosecution.

From its dismal past record, the Ombudsman’s conviction rate has increased 500%. Lifestyle checks, never seriously implemented before our time, have led to the dismissal and/or criminal prosecution of dozens of corrupt officials.

I recently met with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US agency that provides grants to countries based on governance. They have commended our gains, contributed P1 billion to our fight against graft, and declared us eligible for more grants. Thank you!

Last September, we created the Procurement Transparency Group in the DBM and linked it with business, academe, and the Church, to deter or catch anomalies in government contracts.

On my instruction, the BIR and Customs established similar government-civil society tie-ups for information gathering and tax evasion and smuggling monitoring.

More advanced corruption practices require a commensurate advances in legislative responses. Colleagues in Congress, we need a more stringent Anti-Graft Act. Sa pagmahal ng bilihin, hirap na ang mamimili – tapos, dadayain pa. Dapat itong mahinto. Hinihiling ko sa Kongreso na magpasa ng Consumer Bill of Rights laban sa price gouging, false advertising at iba pang gawain kontra sa mamimili.

I call on all our government workers at the national and local levels to be more responsive and accountable to the people. Panahon ito ng pagsubok. Kung saan kayang tumulong at dapat tumulong ang pamahalaan, we must be there with a helping hand. Where government can contribute nothing useful, stay away. Let’s be more helpful, more courteous, more quick.

Kaakibat ng ating mga adhikain ang tuloy na pagkalinga sa kapakanan ng bawat Pilipino. Iisa ang ating pangarap – maunlad at mapayapang lipunan, kung saan ang magandang kinabukasan ay hindi pangarap lamang, bagkus natutupad.

Sama-sama tayo sa tungkuling ito. May papel na gagampanan ang bawat mamamayan, negosyante, pinunong bayan at simbahan, sampu ng mga nasa lalawigan.

We are three branches but one government. We have our disagreements; we each have hopes, and ambitions that drive and divide us, be they personal, ethnic, religious and cultural. But we are one nation with one fate.

As your President, I care too much about this nation to let anyone stand in the way of our people’s wellbeing. Hindi ko papayagang humadlang ang sinuman sa pag-unlad at pagsagana ng taong bayan. I will let no one – and no one’s political plans – threaten our nation’s survival.

Our country and our people have never failed to be there for us. We must be there for them now.

Maraming salamat. Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat

Sunday, July 27, 2008

No End But Victory--But What Constitutes Victory?

What constitutes victory in Iraq?

I think this is an important conceptual question for many Americans because I believe that most of them, myself included, do not want to leave in defeat, as it would not only be dishonorable, but dangerous to ourselves, our country and the world, in the long run.

Indeed, a major bone of contention in the 2008 US Presidential election is what to do about Iraq. Should we go or should we stay? Surely, the answer to that question would not be a matter of controversy at all if America believed that it has already won, that it has already achieved "victory" in Iraq. Which leads back to the first question: what constitutes victory in Iraq?

While the original goal of overthrowing the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein was achieved long ago, and Iraq is no longer a threat to its neighbors, several violent insurgencies against the Iraqi government are ongoing and most certainly pose a threat both to Iraq itself and the coalition forces still present there. It would seem therefore that merely overthrowing Saddam Hussein and neutralizing any malevolent intentions he had against other countries, including America, would be an insufficient quantum of victory, if upon our exit, there were not a viable, independent democratic state to replace the Baathist fascist dictatorship we overthrew with so much American blood and treasure.

And so, what constitutes victory in Iraq at this stage becomes crucial to any decision involving troop withdrawals and disengagement.

The US Army Counterinsurgency Manual [via the Federation of American Scientists], one of whose two principal authors is General David H. Petraeus, presently the commander of US forces on the ground in Iraq, contains a rather sensible definition of the long-term goal of a counterinsurgency operation which is what US and UK presence in that country presently represents.
"The long-term goal is to leave a government able to stand by itself. In the end, the host nation has to win on its own. ... Eventually all foreign armies are seen as interlopers or occupiers; the sooner the main effort can transition to Host Nation institutions, without unacceptable degradation, the better."
Both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates have had a lot to say about Iraq lately, but I must say, Democrat Barack Obama scored a lot of points in this regard in a major foreign policy address just before going on his recently concluded visits to Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Germany, France and the United Kingdom when he said:
"...true success in Iraq - victory in Iraq - will not take place in a surrender ceremony where an enemy lays down their arms. True success will take place when we leave Iraq to a government that is taking responsibility for its future - a government that prevents sectarian conflict, and ensures that the al Qaeda threat which has been beaten back by our troops does not reemerge. That is an achievable goal if we pursue a comprehensive plan to press the Iraqis stand up."
Now, I still agree with John McCain that we ought to stay in Iraq for a hundred years if that is what it takes to achieve what General Petraeus and Barack Obama call a government that can stand by itself and win on its own against threats to its own democratic constitution and future. (After all, it took them almost a half a century in the Philippines, the First Iraq!). But I hope John McCain soon gets over the notion that Iraq is "the central front in the War on Terror," because it just ain't true and even George W. Bush and US Military seem to know it!

In that struggle, victory is still a long way off, and the enemy won't be decisively defeated in the suqs and slums of Baghdad.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Like Limbo, Birth Control Teachings Are NOT Infallible Ex Cathedra

Here is a fact little-understood or appreciated by even devout Catholics: not everything the Catholic Church teaches is considered by it to be infallibly true. From the Code of Canon Law one may deduce the following table which shows that "non-infallible" teachings do not require the full assent of the faithful, but only "religious submission" or "obsequiium religiosum".
BishopsOrdinaryNON-INFALLIBLEReligious Submission
PopeOrdinaryNON-INFALLIBLEReligious Submission
Bishops dispersed, in union with PopeOrdinary and universalINFALLIBLEFull assent of faith
Bishops and Pope in General CouncilExtraordinary and universalINFALLIBLEFull Assent of Faith
Pope ex cathedraExtraordinary and universalINFALLIBLEFull Assent of the Faith

A good recent example of a fallible teaching that has in fact fallen lower and "need no longer be believed in" is the old doctrine of limbo which used to be part of Hell but is no more. There were actually two types of limbo, one for the Patriarchs of the Old Testament--folks who were never baptized but were allegedly rescued from there when Jesus "descended to the dead", and the one for infants who died before baptism but before they could be guilty of personal sin. What once was piously described by priests and nuns to terrified young charges in convent schools as limbo, can now be chucked out as fairy tales and ghost stories, though limbo was once the stuff of learned disquisitions and theological debates.

I hope that the same fate will befall the disastrous, wrong-headed and cruel teaching of the Philippine Catholic Church on modern contraception and birth control, which their surrogates and spokesmen have been dishonestly portraying as abortion, or even, as in the case of the lying fruitcake, Linda Valenzona, with straight-faced ridiculousness as "genocide"!

PAPAL INFALLIBILITY was first defined dogmatically by the First Vatican Council on July 18, 1870, under Pope Pius IX (Pio Nono) in Pastor Aeternus (the Dogmatic Constitution of the Roman Catholic Church):
We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable. So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema. (see Denziger §1839).
However, the incantation formula prescribed for proclaiming an infallible teachings has not been applied to birth control and contraception, certainly not in Humanae Vitae, which does not contain the witch-doctor's curse in the last line above.

The doctrine of infallibility makes the quite amazing claim that the Roman Church is not only protected by God from any actual error, but even the possibility of error, whenever it practices its "teaching magisterium". But the Catholic doctrine of infallibility is in fact a dangerous two edged sword. While it may serve to silence opposition to its dogmatic pronouncements on the part of nominally faithful and devout Catholics, it also binds the Church forever to uphold and defend its infallible pronouncements. It sets up a potentially embarrassing vulnerablity in an epoch when scientific culture that has swept human civilization teaches human beings what would seem to be a superior virtue and mental habit--to seek after the truth based on facts, evidence and reason. This poses a constant threat to any allegedly infallible teaching. Inherent to the scientific attitude and the scientific method is the notion that most truly worthwhile ideas about nature -- including human nature -- are ideas that can be tested against the facts and are therefore at least falsifiable if not in fact verifiable.

A claim to infallibility is not only a radically unscientific attitude. It is a rhetorically weak and vulnerable position to take. I think it is a special kind of mental weakness, a sign of institutional intellectual impairment, decrepitude, the sign of a deepening lack of vitality and vigor at the very roots of the Roman Catholic Church, a signal that a kind of ideological sepsis has set in.

When Pope Benedict warned the youth of the world in Australia last week against entering into a spiritual desert, he may inadvertently have put his finger on his Church's own problematic malaise, which the doctrine of papal infallibility makes so palpable. What they cannot teach by reason and clarity of logic, they would force into the hearts and minds of the sheep.

The Philippine Catholic Bishops even sponsored a "mass protest action" yesterday against Reproductive Health bills being considered in Congress on the anniversary of the promulgation in 1968 of HUMANAE VITAE POPE PAUL VI, an outline of which follows for the convenience of my readers...
New State of Things
New Questions
Interpreting the Moral Law
Special Studies
The Magisterium's Reply
God's Loving Design
Married Love
Responsible Parenthood
Observing the Natural Law
Union and Procreation
Faithfulness to God's Design
Unlawful Birth Control Methods
Lawful Therapeutic Means
Recourse to Infertile Periods
Consequences of Artificial Methods
Limits to Man's Power
Concern of the Church

Nota bene: I have already discussed the fallacy of false distinction between "natural" and "artificial" contraception in a previous post.

Value of Self-Discipline
Promotion of Chastity
Appeal to Public Authorities
Seeking True Solutions
To Scientists
To Christian Couples
Recourse to God
Family Apostolate
To Doctors and Nurses
To Priests
Christian Compassion
To Bishops
A Great Work
Given at St. Peter's, Rome, on the 25th day of July, the feast of St. James the Apostle, in the year 1968, the sixth of Our pontificate. PAUL VI.

Nota bene: After Pope John XXIII died, his successor, Pope Paul VI "confirmed and expanded" the Papal Commission on Population and Birth Control. Composed of 15 cardinals and bishops and 64 lay experts, the Commission's work is addressed by Paul VI in "Special Studies" above. But the cardinals and bishops voted 9-6, and the lay experts, 60-4, for the Catholic Church to change its position on contraception and birth control.

In the Magisterium's Reply, Paul VI ignored the Commission's recommendations, noting only that it was "divided" over the moral principles involved, and reaffirmed the Church's steadfast opposition to contraception and abortion. It is ironic of course that in countries like the Philippines, the lack of access to simple contraceptive materials such as pills, IUDs and condoms have led to an estimated 400,000 to 800,000 induced abortions annually, according to the World Health Organization and numerous independent studies.

There is a heartlessness about the Catholic Bishops that belies any of their claims to leadership, piety or even fealty to the Gospel message of love and good will.

Pope Paul VI, speaking always in the royal "WE", rejected the Papal Commission's findings on the basis of a "Minority Report" (authored by the future Pope John Paul II) which reveals the true reason for the Catholic Church's intransigent position:

Minority Report of the Papal Commission: “If it should be declared that contraception is not evil in itself, then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit had been on the side of the Protestant churches in 1930 (when the encyclical Casti Connubi was promulgated). and in 1951 (Pius XII’s address delivered before the Society of Hematologists in the year the pope died).

“It should likewise have to be admitted that for a hall a century the Spirit failed to protect Pius XI, Pius XII, and a large part of the Catholic hierarchy from a very serious error. This would mean that the leaders of the Church, acting with extreme imprudence, had condemned thousands of innocent human acts, forbidding, under pain of eternal damnation, a practice which would now be sanctioned. The fact can neither be denied nor ignored that these same acts would now he declared licit on the grounds of principles cited by the Protestants, which popes and bishops have either condemned or at least not approved” (page 170).

Catholic theologian and historian August Bernard Hasler remarked that, “Thus it became only too clear that the core of the problem was not the pill, but the authority. continuity, and infallibility of the Church’s magisterium.”

It is quite evident from the fact that a majority of the cardinals and bishops on the population commission wanted to allow non-abortion type contraception, that the Pope and the episcopacy are NOT united, universally or ordinarily in their opinions on the issue. This disagreement is also to be seen in the fact that European and South American bishops have adopted a more liberal attitude towards birth control

Only the Philippine Bishops are militantly in support of the old doctrine. It's heartless, cruel and not at all in the best interests of the Filipinos, Catholic or not. The Philippine Church must change, or it will surely perish.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Exploration of Inner Space

I keep up with the latest in science and technology news primarily through podcasts. Here is one I really want to share with my readers...

OCEANOGRAPHER ROBERT BALLARD delivers an eye-opening presentation on the most ignored frontier in the world--the oceans--at the TED Talks Conference.

For low bandwidth readers, you may wish to listen to MP3 audio version of the above:

Some of the most juicy bits:

(1) NASA's annual budget is 1600 times larger than that of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
(2) Only about a tenth of a percent of the oceans has been explored.
(3) Fifty percent of the United States is under the ocean, and we have better maps of Mars than that unexplored territory.
(4) The greatest mountain range on earth is under the ocean, running around the planet like the seam of a baseball. It covers 23% of the earth's surface, but men did not actually visit the Mid-Ocean Mountain Range's rift valley until after the first man on the moon!
(5) This largest planetary feature is unlike any other mountain range we know about, for it is a mountain "under tension" unlike all of the ones on dry land. In fact, oceanographers call it the "boundary of creation" since it drives the process of plate tectonics which creates those mountains that we do see on land! But the mid-ocean ridge is apparently also a source for potentially unlimited geothermal energy as well as vast stores of commercial grade ores of chromium, zinc, gold and other valuable materials.
(6) Most of the ocean is in total darkness but there are tens of thousands of active volcanoes along the 42,000 mile length of the Mid-ocean ridge. There are millions of submarine hot springs full of life forms based on bacterial chemosynthesis, which mimic photosynthesis but without light!

Lots, lots more in Dr. Ballard's talk. Watch or listen to it all!

What I take away from this talk is the awareness that vast stores of energy and material resources appear to be waiting for humanity in the ocean. At the end of the Age of Oil may be dawning the Age of Water. There is even the suggestion that humanity ought to move into the oceans.

A related site to bookmark is the Inner Space Center at the University of Rhode Island where Dr. Ballard is based.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Lying Church is a Dying Church

UPDATE: Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral told radio station DZMM this morning that she was supporting the reproductive health bills being opposed by Catholic Bishops. Although the proposed laws would merely provide education to citizens and make pills and condoms available to the public, bishops and priests have been dishonestly disseminating disinformation saying they legalize abortion when they clearly do NOT. Secretary Cabral could lose her job like the SSS administrator.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS writes in the superb book, God Is Not Great (How Religion Poisons Everything)--
"There still remain four irreducible objections to religious faith: [1] that it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, [2] that because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism, [3] that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and [4] that it is ultimately grounded on wish-thinking.

I do not think it is arrogant of me to claim that I had already discovered these four objections (as well as noticed [5] the more vulgar and obvious fact that religion is used by those in temporal charge to invest themselves with authority) before my boyish voice had broken. I am morally certain that millions of other people came to very similar conclusions in very much the same way."
Our own José Rizál clearly experienced the same epiphanies about the Spanish Taliban in the Philippines, and exposed the "vulgar and obvious facts" of that dark and oppressive rule in all of his writings, especially the Noli Me Tangere, which the frailocracy correctly interpreted as a kind of Filipino imitation of Martin Luther's postings on the church doors at Wittenberg. Indeed, it had been the constant Spanish colonial policy to withold from the indios the knowledge and practice of the Spanish language in order to forestall the spread of dangerous ideas and scientific knowledge. Thus, his own Jesuit mentors at the Ateneo de Manila murdered him with absolutely no compunction once he had awakened the sleepers of the centuries. For they unerringly knew that the fell hand of their temporal authority had been irreparably destroyed by his devotion to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth--which is the Poetic Justice of the Enlightenment.

I think it important to bear in mind this essential relationship between political, temporal power, and the ability of the Catholic Church to fool most of the people most of the time with its religious doctrines and allegedly infallible dogmas in the current controversy over "reproductive health" bills and the militant intransigence of the Catholic hierarchy to them.

For it is the only way to actually understand why bishops and priests can LIE with straight faces about the true content of the proposed legislation, why they can proclaim that preventing conception with sex education, pills, condoms and IUDS is equivalent to aborting babies, even as their holy noses seem visibly to lengthen. What they are protecting is NOT the "life of the unborn" or the "sanctity of marriage" -- but their own sanctimonious position of authority and the temporal power to access the vaults of the Philippine Gaming Authority (Pagcor) with conscienceless impunity and the help of a "devout" Catholic president.

They don't care anything about the greater evil of poverty and despair to which they've condemned their flock, at least the poor, ignorant majority, so long as the rich, educated minority (who certainly do secretly use artificial means of birth control contrary to and in direct violation of their own teachings) continues to support their schools, churches and archbishops' palaces and invite them to opulent parties and grant them their share of government power and authority.

They care nothing about the fact that desperate young mothers are throwing babies out of high rises and taxicabs, or that foetuses fathered by parish priests are showing up in Chiz Whiz bottles, or that, as the World Health Organization estimates, between 500,000 and 800,000 illegal abortions occur in the Philippines anyway as a result of their irrational obfuscations and rationalizations.

If, as I believe, the epidemic of abortions now occuring is the moral disease that needs a pound of curing, how in heaven's name can the Catholic Bishops oppose the ounce of prevention that non-abortive birth control methods represent?

In tens of thousands of Catholic churches throughout the land last Sunday, stentorian homilies that Padre Damaso would've been proud of, blared out the brazen lie that these proposed laws encourage or legalize abortions, when a plain reading of them clearly show that they do not, and in fact that they uphold the illegality of aborting viable pregnancies (as I do.)

How then can men of God live with themselves for spreading such lies as will indeed be loudly proclaimed in the upcoming July 25 celebration of the anniversary of Paul VI's Papal Bull, Humanae Vitae?

I believe they can do it because of a well-honed ability and predilection for self-delusion, whose roots lie in subtle but well-exposed FALSE DISTINCTION that is at the heart of the encyclical itself, between what is "artificial" and what is "natural."

John Nery, a senior editor at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and a self-proclaimed devout Catholic trained by the Jesuits, makes a valiant attempt to expose this false distinction in his column today entitled Worrying Humanae Vitae. John detects a "mistake in its reasoning" after being prompted by the "virtual fatwa" of Archbishop Jesus Dosado last week, enjoining his priests to deny the giving of divine crackers to "anti-life politicians" who support "artificial means of birth control" or even "sex education."

Nery: "If, to quote the encyclical’s first sentence, “God has entrusted spouses with the extremely important mission [‘munus’] of transmitting human life,” and if both the unitive and procreative dimensions inhere in the conjugal act, why should spouses perform the act during infertile periods?

The absolute nature of this mission requires an absolute rule. Thus, “each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life.” Why, then, engage in the act at those times when there is no possibility of transmission? Shouldn’t the Church call for abstention from sex during infertile periods?"

John is here referring to the fact that the Church does allow a thing called "natural family planning" (aka Vatican Roulette) and wonders how this is any different in its intention to prevent conception ("the transmission of life") from pills, condoms and IUDs (distinct from abortion after conception.)

Indeed, the false distinction involved between what is artificial and what is natural becomes obvious when one looks at the highly "artificial" technology that is employed in serious implementations of the game of Vatican Roulette.
All these "natural family planning methods" involve highly scientific and technical activities that might otherwise be characterized as "artificial" as they employ temperature measurements of a woman's sexual apparatus, the measurement of the viscosity and consistency of her vaginal mucus, the careful graphing and calendaring of her menstrual periods, not to mention the various mechanical refinements of the fine art of coitus interruptus, supplemented perhaps with Kama Sutric variations and permutations of oral sexuality with which many priests and bishops are anecdotally well familiarized!

But the false distinction that is involved here, "the mistake in its reasoning" as John Nery puts it after re-reading Humanae Vitae, is not sufficient to explain the Catholic Church's irrational and basically immoral stance, which has led to untold miseries for hundreds of of millions of Catholics.

A more satisfactory explanation belongs to John M. Swomley in his tracing of the provenance of the encyclical, of Pope Paul VI's decision to ignore the recommendations of Vatican II to allow modern birth control:
A Roman Catholic historian and theologian, August Bernhard Hasler, tells the story in his 1979 book, How the Pope Became Infallible. He provided the following quotation from that minority report, which actually was the one accepted. It clearly sets forth the basis or reason for the current Catholic crusade against birth control and family planning:

“If it should be declared that contraception is not evil in itself, then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit had been on the side of the Protestant churches in 1930 (when the encyclical Casti Connubi was promulgated). and in 1951 (Pius XII’s address delivered before the Society of Hematologists in the year the pope died).

“It should likewise have to be admitted that for a hall a century the Spirit failed to protect Pius XI, Pius XII, and a large part of the Catholic hierarchy from a very serious error. This would mean that the leaders of the Church, acting with extreme imprudence, had condemned thousands of innocent human acts, forbidding, under pain of eternal damnation, a practice which would now be sanctioned. The fact can neither be denied nor ignored that these same acts would now he declared licit on the grounds of principles cited by the Protestants, which popes and bishops have either condemned or at least not approved” (page 170).

Dr. Hasler concluded: “Thus it became only too clear that the core of the problem was not the pill, but the authority. continuity, and infallibility of the Church’s magisterium.”

In conformity with this minority report, Pope Paul VI issued his 1968 encyclical, Humnae Vitae, in which he condemned every form of contraceptive birth control. Hasler wrote: “After the promulgation of the encyclical. . . the Church conducted a massive purge of its key personnel wherever it could” (page 283).

In other words, the problems associated with countries that are overpopulated and the political campaign in the United States to deny reproductive freedom to women are all due to the papal decision to protect the authority and "infallibility" of the papacy.
The Catholic Church has painted itself into a corner of Hubris and Pride. As a result there is this condemnation from the Catholic theologian, Hans Kung:
Hans Kung, arguably the world’s leading Catholic theologian, wrote: “This teaching [against contraceptive birth control] has laid a heavy burden on the conscience of innumerable people, even in industrially developed countries with declining birth rates. But for the people in many under-developed countries, especially in Latin America, it constitutes a source of incalculable harm, a crime in which the Church has implicated itself” (cited in Stephen Mumford, The Life and Death of NSSM 200, page 203).
Indeed, a lying Church is a dying church, a fact I sincerely mourn, because infallibility literally means incorrigibility--the surest mark of a Beast destined for extinction.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Moral Suasion My Arse--It's Governance by Deception

ANGELO REYES is a really terrible liar, though that's nothing compared to his sheer incompetence made even worse by a terminal case of arrogant conceit based entirely on the fact that it was his mutinous coup d'etat that put the most unpopular President in power in 2001 at Edsa Dos. Five cabinet positions later, we are saddled with his risibly ineffectual handling of of the now all important Energy Department. Someday, he must be brought to Justice (preferrably of the poetic kind) along with Hilario Davide, Mike Arroyo and the overstaying Moral Dwarf in Malacanang Palace.

Tonight he was really pulling the leg of Tina Monson Palma with the claim that it was his patroness' powers of moral suasion that got Petron, over which the government happens to have far more than moral control, and one of the Big Three in the country to roll back its diesel pump prices by P1.50. This after it had just raised the price by P3 last week.

SONA MORO-MORO With the Petite One's State of the Nation Address scheduled for next week, it's more likely a case of immoral coercion, or should I say, a moro-moro deception which no one is buying because word is already out that the buck and half given away will be taken back this coming weekend. Like all that talk of a no-ransom policy for kidnappers which has been exposed as a brazen lie by three successive kidnappings in as many weeks since the Abu Sayyaf terrorists got 20 million for Ces Drilon and her two cameramen and that mysterious peace advocate Prof. Dinampo, even that business of a Moro homeland and "peace talks" with the MILF, is tainted with a suspicious dhimmitude that is all about setting the stage for the President's big speech next week.

It certainly does little for the credibility of the oil company's pricing behavior for the public to wonder whether the original P3 increase last week was justified at all given that oil prices on the global market have dropped almost 15 dollars per barrel in the last two weeks. How stupid or obsequious can they afford to be? By acceding to the President's "moral suasion" the oil companies have made their price increases look capricious and arbitrary and not based on global market conditions as they have claimed. More likely, they are factoring in the recent drop in global oil prices anyway, and have probably gotten a promise of no more "moral suasion" sessions with the president in the upcoming price increases. If they aren't careful this could persuade many sectors and lawmakers to re-establish oil price regulation!

BEWARE OF MERCURY IN CFLS Talkback with Tina Palma also tackled the energy department's "Switch" program which aims to get so-called lifeline electricty users (those who use 100 kilowatt hours or less per month) to switch from standard incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps.

It's really too bad that Tina Palma didn't make the ADB representative that Angie Reyes brought along to explain the full implications of the little-discussed but significant drawback involved with CFL lighting: the presence of enough neuro-toxic mercury in even a single compact fluorescent light bulb to exceed the US Environmental Protection Agency's limit for exposure to mercury! I'm all for making this switch, but people should have been made aware by Sec. Reyes of the care that must be taken should a CFL be damaged in a residential environment and expose human beings to the mercury in it. Indeed, unless there are effective waste and disposal handling measures adopted and enforced nationwide for CFL's we could be facing major mercury pollution problem in a few years as millions of CFLs reach the end of their lifetimes, or are accidently damaged in use. By the way, the Wikipedia article linked to above suggests that new technology being developed by General Electric could soon produce incandescents that are at least as energy efficient as CFLs. In his desire to make himself and PGMA look good, Angie Reyes is being disingenuous about lots and lots of things.

DIM BULBS President Arroyo and her administration are now dealing from the bottom of the deck and running the country by deception and dissimulation because they are out of political capital with the people and are hanging onto to power by the skin of their teeth. They are lucky to have survived this long, thanks of course to a pusillanimous and equally unprincipled Opposition with even less moral leadership than them.

The country is being led into a valley of darkness by dim bulbs like Angie Reyes who should have been retired from government service years ago for being the incompetent bootlicker that he truly is.

No to Bangsamorostan! No to a Moro Taliban!

Today's post begins with one I wrote just three weeks ago (Lincoln's Message Also Applies to Mindanao) and before the recent announcement of a so-called breakthrough in peace negotiations between the government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front. After this introduction, I shall take up the issue of a partial plebiscite which is the addle-pated center-piece of the selling job Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will do in the forthcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA) for her desperate claim to be leaving a "peace legacy" for Mindanao. But first Abe Lincoln at the start of the American Civil War:
ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, 1861, Abraham Lincoln addressed a Special Session of the American Congress. I think his words are as fresh and insightful today in respect of our own problems in Mindanao. His demand that secession is conscionable only "for a just cause" is equally applicable to the warlords, terrorists, and politicians of our own South, who would re-enslave the Bangsamoro People to the "sanctified inequality" of theocratic Islamic sultanates that they have nonetheless successfully disguised as a glorious past and harnessed for restoration through a movement of "national liberation":
It might seem at first thought to be of little difference whether the present movement at the South be called "secession" or "rebellion." The movers, however, well understand the difference. At the beginning they knew they could never raise their treason to any respectable magnitude by any name which implies violation of law. They knew their people possessed as much of moral sense, as much of devotion to law and order, and as much pride in and reverence for the history and Government of their common country as any other civilized and patriotic people. They knew they could make no advancement directly in the teeth of these strong and noble sentiments. Accordingly, they commenced by an insidious debauching of the public mind. They invented an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly logical steps through all the incidents to the complete destruction of the Union. The sophism itself is that any State of the Union may consistently with the National Constitution, and therefore lawfully and peacefully , withdraw from the Union without the consent of the Union or of any other State. The little disguise that the supposed right is to be exercised only for just cause, themselves to be the sole judge of its justice, is too thin to merit any notice.
Perhaps the only difference is that their disguise is not so thin and is abetted by so-called peace advocates in our own polity, and by historians who ignore and paper over the brutality and cruelty of those ancien regimes now glorified and glamorized by pundits. So before any grand ransom for a whole nation hostaged to a false history is once more paid by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, such as a homeland for the MILF/MNLF/ASG warlords and politicians, we must insist on a free, fair and internationally supervised referendum. The Constitution may not simply be cast aside so she can have her "peace legacy" in exchange for the electoral "favors" she got in Lanao (2004) and Maguindanao (2006). The utter disaster and failure of the ARMM since 1996 only proves that those with whom the government is negotiating today also do not have the full support of the people of Mindanao and are only the latest in a series of extortionists and pretenders, acceding to whom would not lead to peace but further instability and war, mostly among themselves.

These two audio recordings are my readings from Thomas McKenna, Muslim Rulers and Rebels (Everyday Politics and Armed Separatism in Southern Philippines, Chapter 3), Anvil Publishing House, Copyright 1998, Regents of the University of California.

Islamic Rule in Cotabato (read by Dean Jorge Bocobo)

European Impositions and the Myth of Morohood (read by Dean Jorge Bocobo)
Although the establishment of a so-called Bangsamoro Juridicial Entity (BJE) is not technically a secession, the effect would be the same and I vehemently oppose it for the exact same reason that the United States Civil War was fought to preserve the Union: it would be historically unjust not only to the entire Filipino people but most especially to the Bangsamoro People themselves, who would be thrown to the wolves of political Islam, a theocracy in the southern Philippines that was even more brutal and unenlightened than the rule of the Spanish Taliban.

I argue by analogy that such an establishment of Bangsamorostan, ruled by the leaders of such groups as the MNLF, MILF and the Abu Sayyaf Group, would be the moral equivalent of secession by the Southern Confederacy in the 1860s and the continuation of the institution of slavery in the antebellum South. For it can hardly escape the notice of reasonable citizens that the political system sought by the Moro insurgent separatists is not a peaceful and prosperous democratic state within a wider Republic, but the restoration of an ancien regime based upon slavery, human trafficking, piracy and the "sacred inequality" of brutal, autocratic sultanates which historically oppressed both Muslims and lumads in Mindanao and Sulu, as well as terrorized the Visayas and Luzon for centuries. In those days, political and economic power was not based on geographic domination or even land, which was plentiful and bountiful, but on the ownership and vassalage of the human beings needed to create the surpluses of food, forest products and servitude that were the foundation of twin Sultanates along the Pulangi River as well as a succession of potentates in Sulu.

The "glorious past" of the Bangsamoro people, which is adulated and glamorized by "peace advocates" and "culturally sensitive" pundits, is in truth a brutal and unjust reality that we could not in good conscience today allow to be restored because it would threaten not only peace and security within the country and in the Southeast Asian region, but would condemn the Bangsamoro people to once more suffer under the heel of modern-day datus and sultans, imams and warlords all claiming direct descent from the Prophet Muhammad via the legendary founder of Islam in the Philippines, Sharif Kabunsuan, a fugitive of the old Moluccan sultanates overthrown by the Dutch in the 15th century.

Indeed, a foretaste of such a throwback to the inglorious past of "sacred inequality" which enslaved the vast majority of Muslims to the Sultanates of Maguindanao, Buwayan and Sulu, can already be seen in the utter failure of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to lift up the Moro people. Instead, because the peace treaty signed with the Moro National Liberation Front in 1996 did not insist upon DISARMAMENT of its standing armies and full integration into the Philippine Military, the MNLF is still involved in belligerent, even terroristic activities against the citizens of the Republic, both Muslim and non-Muslim.

Now a much larger territory is about to ceded to the likes of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which had broken away from the MNLF because of disagreements with Nur Misuari by its own "leaders" like Hashim Salamat and the various "lost commands" of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. But since neither MNLF nor the MILF actually control the situation on the ground, nor to do they command, I suspect, the loyalties and allegiance of any significant fraction of the Moro people themselves, it would not be surprising to find the MNLF, or various parties to be left out of the big new deal, to renew hostilities as soon as a "final peace treaty" with the MILF is signed! Perhaps we shall yet see the formation of the NMLF, or the "Next Moro Liberation Front" to take up the same tactic of raising an insurgent army (both uniformed and in weapons-raising formation for the Mass Media's videographers and photographers, as well as flitting in and out of Abu Sayyaf kidnap for ransom gangs) and holding the entire country hostage yet again to get their own version of a "Moro homeland."

The Imbecility of a Partial Plebiscite. I do not believe that most Filipinos consider it to be a just or equitable thing for the government to give in to the demands of the MNLF/MILF/ASG for a separate Bangsamoro homeland, which is often justified by pundits and anti-colonial ideologues as a way of redressing certain alleged historical injustices. After all, it is an accepted fact that all inhabitants came under heal of the old colonial powers, Spain and America, for over four hundred years, so why should the Moros be treated any differently under the present independent Republic and its democratic Constitution? Why should there not be a separate homelands for example for the Ilocanos, the Tagalogs, the Pampangos, the Cebuanos, the Samarnons, etc? All these northern and central Philippine ethnic groups and many, many others ("lumads") in Mindanao suffered from "glorious rule" of the slave-raiding Moro Sultanates for centuries, so why now should the alleged direct descendants of Mohammed and Sharif Kabungsuan be rewarded with a restoration of their ancient tyrannical theocracy? There is of course, very little public debate or understanding of the whole ancestral domain concept, whose political and juridical foundations I addressed in a long series of posts last year as being basically the result of a national guilt trip inspired by the anti-colonial writings of such as Renato Constantino, Jose Maria Sison, Nur Misuari and an assortment of so-called "historians" -- whose distortions and self-serving purposes obscure the true nature of the history of Islam in the Philippines.

The sheer contentiousness of the issue of a Bangsamoro homeland has forced the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to suggest that the principles of self-determination and Constitutional democracy would not be violated by the establishment of Bangsamorostan if the Filipinos, the majority of whom are NOT Bangsamoro, but living in the five provinces (Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga-Sibugay and Palawan) that would be included in the new theocratic juridical entity, would approve of the same in a plebiscite--a PARTIAL plebiscite that would not include the rest of the citizens of the Republic.

I would argue by analogy that this is just as fallacious as if the US Congress in 1861 had agreed for Southern states to secede from the Union if they held a plebiscite in those states and got "approval" to do so.

But because such an argument might not sit well with the ideological anti-Americans, let me put forward a different argument which I call the Pound of Flesh argument against Bangsamorostan, which seems to me particularly apt inasmuch as the whole proposal really has to do with the idea of repaying some kind of debt to the "oppressed" Islamic southern sultanates for having abolished their slave-raiding-and-trading empires. My argument is based on William Shakespeare's play, The Merchant of Venice (Act IV, Scene 1):
A pound of that same merchant's flesh is thine:
The court awards it, and the law doth give it.

Most rightful judge!

And you must cut this flesh from off his breast:
The law allows it, and the court awards it.

Most learned judge! A sentence! Come, prepare!

Tarry a little; there is something else.
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are 'a pound of flesh:'
Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh;
But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed
One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate
Unto the state of Venice.
How DO you cut a pound of flesh out without getting any of the blood?

How DO you cut out a Bangsamoro homeland from the body of the Philippine Republic to satisfy the demands of the insurgents and separatists, without shedding the blood of Christians, lumads and low-ranking Muslims who constitute the vast majority of any given area in Mindanao?

It is a logical and unavoidable impossibility for the simple reason that the post-colonial establishment of the Philippine Republic and the adoption of its democratic constitution, abolished theocracy by proclaiming the principle of the separation of church and state, of religious and political freedoms, of nondiscrimination on the basis of religious belief, gender, race or ethnicity.

Bangsamorostan represents the irreconcilable anti-thesis of Philippine history in the post-colonial era and would represent a grave injustice to all Filipinos. It is the giving in to the biggest kidnap for ransom crime perpetrated on the country by insurgents and separatists riding high on a national guilt trip that needs to be exposed and demolished.

Not surprisingly, the legislature of one of those provinces--North Cotabato under Gov. Manny Pinol--has already passed a resolution rejecting its inclusion in the proposed Bangsamoro homeland.

However, given the skill and expertise of the President and her political operatives to engineer miraculous elections in Mindanao (such as those of 2004 and 2007!), I have no confidence whatsoever that if the partial plebiscite idea is allowed to go forward, that the true will of the people would be reflected in it and not PGMA's desire for a peace legacy.

Next I shall revisit the whole issue of ancestral domain and the Indigenous People's Rights Act and address some interesting comments from Manuel Buencamino (who also writes the Unifors blog) about the mischievous role of Malaysia in the ongoing crisis in Mindanao.