Monday, January 17, 2011

The Monotheistic Republic of the Philippines

On one side of all debates about Separation of Church and State in the Philippines, the most quoted provision of the 1987 Philippine Constitution is its Preamble:
We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.
For example former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban (now a regular newspaper columnist) in a public address to seminarians of the Royal Pontifical University of Sto. Tomas  (Feb. 19, 2002 UST Martyrs Hall and reproduced in his book Saving the Constitutional System) defends his creation and imposition of The Centennial Prayer of the Courts which precede every Philippine Court session [sic!] :
Many people, including some men and women of the cloth, are surprised why the Supreme Court has an official prayer. They ask: is this not a violation of the separation of church and state? The answer is "no." Let me explain.

The Philippines is theist, not atheist, not even agnostic. In fact, it is monotheist; it worships one God.  [emphasis DJB's]
That is why our Constitution begins with this significant first phrase: "We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God x x x." You may want to know that both houses of Congress and the Cabinet also preface their sessions with prayers.
So there you have it folks! The Monotheistic Republic of the Philippines. From the pen of no less than its distinguished former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. My rebuttal after the jump...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kudos Maria Ressa

Philippine Commentary is pleased to link to Maria Ressa's new blog Brave New World.  Formerly Senior VP of News and Current Affairs at ABSCBN News she has gone independent and will apparently be writing a new book on terrorism in Asia as Author in Residence at Singapore's International Centre for Political Violence & Terrorism Research

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Toast to Conviviality?

President Noynoy Aquino offered a toast to the New Year at an annual Palace event for the Diplomatic Corps in Manila the other day.

[Delivered at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall, January 7, 2011]
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to propose a toast to the New Year that we usher in today. It is a year in which record numbers of Filipinos anticipate with optimism that their lives undoubtedly will improve.
Their optimism will be validated. This year, businesses will invest more in this country, creating new jobs for families. This year, government resources will be spent to uplift the lives of the poor. This year, the Philippines will once again be a voice in the world for freedom and fairness.
There will be challenges ahead—from an uncertain outlook for the global economy, to a noisy minority who want to rekindle the malicious practices of the past.
But if we work together, we will overcome the challenges and fulfill the promise of the year ahead. We have much to look forward to.
Your Excellencies, may we lift our glasses to a prosperous and peaceful New Year for all of us in 2011.
Happy New Year to all.

It contained the sentence, "There will be challenges ahead—from an uncertain outlook for the global economy, to a noisy minority who want to rekindle the malicious practices of the past." which has generated some controversy. What do you think of this? 

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Unattributed Biblical Quotation in the New Philippine Currency

For a while there, it looked like the Dept. of Finance's launch of newly designed Philippine paper money might go the way of Tourism's ill-fated Pilipinas Kay Gandah slogan.  In fact, only the timely intervention of Christmas holidays may have saved it considering the gathering storm of chatter on the social media nets over inaccuracies in scientific nomenclature and geography and nitpicking over the color and depiction of native animals in the newly announced money.  I suppose for most these we can simply accept and endure the President's own hand-waving explanation, attributing these deficiencies to the vagaries of "artistic rendition."

But I simply cannot accept a feature that is apparently found on ALL denominations of the new money. Emblazoned top and center right under "REPUBLIKA NG PILIPINAS" is an unattributed Biblical quotation of Psalms 33:12:
(( Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord. ))
 Because the source of this clearly religious quotation of a Jewish Psalm by King David which is also found in the Christian Bible's Old Testament, is not all indicated, reveals perhaps a knowingly guilty conscience on the part of the bill's progenitors. For how can they fail to ignore the following provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution's Bill of Rights which are wantonly violated by this?
Section 5. 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.
I agree with the statement by Filipino Freethinkers that the Bangko Sentral immediately remove this violation of the provisions guaranteeing religious liberty in the Bill of Rights.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Education's Big Budget and Even Bigger Agenda

For fiscal year 2011 the Dept. of Education gets a budget of over 207 billion pesos,  a substantial increase of 19% over 2010, and a signal that the Aquino administration intends to fulfill campaign promises to fix perennial problems in public education left unsolved by Gloria Arroyo.   These include the need for over 152,500 more classrooms and twice the current number of half a million teachers, in order to achieve more effective class sizes and student to teacher ratios of about 25:1.

But these logistical and human resource problems have plagued the public schools since before xPGMA's time.  That they have been treated merely as a resource allocation matter bespeaks of the overall lack of vision about the role of education in national development. What ails Philppine education is of a more systemic and structural nature where we are trying to cram 13 or 14 years worth of study in ten years.

Thus, there is the ambitious plan to expand the current ten year public education program to thirteen years by installing universal kindergarten for five year olds, prior to the current six year Elementary school program,  and a  two-year "Senior High School" at the end of the present 4 year Secondary school program.  Deped's K12 Discussion Paper contains the details of this proposed expansion of the public school system.  A successful implementation would bring the Philippines up to the present international standard of a 13-14 year public school system before College education.  PH would be the last to do so in the region.

Deped Secretary Armin Luistro laid out the overall Education Agenda in a First Hundred Days Message last month.

(1) the 12-year basic education cycle,   
(2) universal preschooling for all,
(3) Madaris Education,
(4) technical vocational education,
(5) “Every Child a Reader” by Grade 1,
(6) Science and Math proficiency,
(7) assistance to private schools as essential partners in basic education,
(8) rationalization of the medium of instruction,
(9) quality textbooks, and 
(10) partnering with Local Governments to build years more schools.
Each item above represents the material for an active public debate and discussion for years to come.

Universal Kindergarten or pre-school for five year olds is reportedly set for inauguration in the 2011-2012 school year.  The public should be interested and involved in the development of the academic and activity package of Kindergarten, since the critical nature of such early childhood education has become widely recognized.  In my opinion Universal Kindergarten can be the proper antidote to an early childhood education regime completely dominated by religious indoctrination of defenseless human minds.