Monday, June 27, 2011

Will Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. Run for the Presidency of the Philippines?

Few Filipino politicians seem to fully appreciate the power of the new online social media networks like Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. In fact, Bongbong Marcos seems to genuinely enjoy the freewheeling exchange of ideas with virtual friends and virtual strangers  alike and is active on both of the leading platforms Facebook and Twitter.  Some of his recent statements bear exposing to a wider audience.  He posted the following statement on a Facebook Group page (TNM) addressing as he says, "for the first time" the question in the blog post title:
SENATOR BONGBONG MARCOS:  "[...] This is probably the first time I've answered questions regarding higher office. But I'll also have to repeat what I've been saying and its not being coy or calculating with my thoughts about it but the fact is the Presidential elections is a lifetime away as it is just around the corner. That contradiction can be explained. A lifetime away to prepare and plan to win but around the corner in as far as getting prepared for the job and I'm not going to run and use the excuse of "nobody is really prepared for the job" which is what some people use when it becomes an issue during a campaign that one is ill prepared. When I run, I will be prepared and confident of my qualifications, no ifs or buts. Or, I will not run."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Joaquin Bernas on Conception, Abortion and Sex Education

My stand on the RH Bill by Joaquin Bernas, S.J. in Philippine Daily Inquirer is the strong position and lucid explanation of it from a literal Founding Father of the 1987 Cory Constitution that was ratified to establish the present "Fourth" Philippine Republic (after Malolos 1898, Commonwealth 1935, Marcos 1972).  A previous Commentary covered the first few points in that column article.

Bernas Points No. 5, 6, and 7
"Fifth, specifically I advocate removal of the provision on mandatory sexual education in public schools without the consent of parents. (I assume that those who send their children to Catholic schools accept the program of Catholic schools on the subject.) My reason for requiring the consent of parents is, among others, the constitutional provision which recognizes the sanctity of the human family and “the natural and primary right of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character.” (Article II, Section 12)
DJB's Commentary on Bernas No.5 :

I am puzzled as to why Fr. Bernas does not assume that those parents and families who send their children to PUBLIC schools (as opposed to private Catholic schools) ALSO accept the program of the Department of Education on the subject--especially since the matter of sex education will have been debated right in the House, Senate and in the general public and presumably is appropriate and acceptable.  I for one am against "picking the SEX ED peas out of the salad" called the public school curriculum. It reminds me of how in 2002, xPGMA and Raul Roco did radical brain surgery on the curriculum and CUT OUT the Health and Science Subject in all Grade One & Two classes throughout the entire public grade school system. Here is an infographic on the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum showing the damage done. The reduction of the grade school Health and Science program by 33% also drove away into emigration, as a direct consequence, thousands of public school SCIENCE teachers.   If the suggestion of Fr. Bernas for an OPT-IN system by parents on the topic of Sex Ed were adopted, it would create an artificial barrier between that subject matter and the entire program of Health, Science and Biology of which Sex education is an integral and I daresay, inseparable part. To single out this very specific topic for parents to either join or not join, would make it hard or impossible to INTEGRATE sex ed into the rest of the public school science and health program, as really it ought to be or don't even do it!  Therefore I also oppose the so called OPT-OUT program by parents, since even that would create artificial barriers between sex ed topics and the rest of educational science.  Consider for example the matter of education on sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/Aids. Is this really a matter for which we expect parents to decide whether to opt-in or opt-out?  What would prevent a precedent being set and any one or more of the million topics IN the curriculum would become optional?  Moreover, making it optional would treat Sex Ed on par with Religion, which is a subject allowed to be taught in public schools under just such an OPT-IN program as Fr. Bernas suggests for what is in essence a topic under the Science subject.

Fr. Bernas addresses abortion and abortifacients in Point No. 6:
Sixth, I am pleased that the bill reiterates the prohibition of abortion as an assault against the right to life. Abortifacient pills and devices, if there are any in the market, should be banned by the Food and Drug Administration. But whether or not there are such is a question of scientific fact of which I am no judge.
I would love for Fr. Bernas to do a follow up piece on ABORTION and ABORTIFACIENTS after reading the following article I've been calling attention to for several months on Twitter where I am, as everybody knows, writing a lot under the handle  ((@SagadaSun)):

Is Natural Family Planning Abortion? 

Above article throws a rhetorical monkey wrench right in the middle of Humanae Vitae and the so-called "natural" family planning method of contraception and birth control. I think Fr. Bernas would find the premises and assertions made here credible and grounds for the Vatican to invoke the FALLIBILITY of its present teaching on contraception (including especially NFP!).

The central matter of CONCEPTION is addressed in Bernas Point No. 7:
Seventh, I hold that there already is abortion any time a fertilized ovum is expelled. The Constitution commands that the life of the unborn be protected “from conception.” For me this means that sacred life begins at fertilization and not at implantation."
Commentary by DJB on Bernas No. 7

When Fr. Bernas says that "sacred life begins at fertilization and not at implantation" he is no longer speaking as a Constitutional lawyer but as a Catholic priest. He is expressing the religious belief that when a sperm happens to fertilize an ovum and their DNA information combines together,  an immortal human soul is created at that very moment of conception and "sacred" life begins.

But such religious belief must answer to and explain certain things before we use it as basis for interpreting  the all-important 1987 provision Fr. Bernas refers to:
Section 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.
If or when the RH Bill is enacted into Law, I am certain it will be challenged in the Supreme Court on the basis of the above provision.

What happens physically and biochemically during the stage of human reproduction called fertilization is rather well known and on that basis I would like to state my own take on what happens at the point or moment of conception referred to by Fr. Bernas and 1987 Constitution.

In my opinion when a human male's sperm cell successfully merges its DNA information with that of a female's ovum, what results is the creation of the "architectural plans" for the development of a new, individual human being.  It is essentially the creation of a new packet of INFORMATION through the biochemistry of genetic materials, which at some stage has the potential not only for independent biological and physical life but also a mental life through a self-aware consciousness.

However, not every actual fertilization event is guaranteed to result in a DNA assembly that is HUMAN. Many things could go wrong and the resulting combination of sperm and egg might contain DNA information that is not actually capable of producing a human being or any other kind of viable living being at all.

I shall reserve further commentary on this vast subtopic for the Comment Thread.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Father Bernas Takes a Stand on the Reproductive Health Bill

JOAQUIN BERNAS, SJ, weighs in on the highly controversial Reproductive Health Bill currently being debated in the Philippine Congress, in Mass Media and online in the social networks.

If and when this legislation is passed by Congress and signed by the President, the Catholic Church opposition and its staunchest allies will surely seek to have it annulled by the Supreme Court--in a case destined to be historic as far as religion, education and social policy making in the PH are concerend.

Thus the many salient points Joaquin Bernas makes in his Philippine Daily Inquirer column are likely to echo in the coming controversies and debates over the RH Bill. I hope to address them in a series of now-rare "long form" Philippine Commentaries and invite readers old and new to participate in the Comment Threads.

"First, let me start by saying that I adhere to the teaching of the Church on artificial contraception even if I am aware that the teaching on the subject is not considered infallible doctrine by those who know more theology than I do. Moreover, I am still considered a Catholic and Jesuit in good standing by my superiors, critics notwithstanding!"
Commentary on Bernas-1:

In the above, Fr. Bernas mentions a little-appreciated point about current Church Doctrine on "artificial contraception"-- that it is not one of the Churches officially designated INFALLIBLE TEACHINGS. Even though this opinion is held by  "theologians who know more than" he does, Fr. Bernas claims to nonetheless adhere to the Church's teaching on the matter.  As proof of this he notes that his religious superiors still consider him to be in good standing within the Catholic Church.  (((Whew, only a Jesuit could put it like that and thus smuggle in some Freedom of Speech wiggle room on the issue of contraception without being excommunicated or fall out of good standing!))) But I happen to agree with his assessment of the current state of the Church's teaching on contraception. Papal infallibility has not been proclaimed for its teachings on birth control -- which only means that it COULD CHANGE. In other words, the present Church teachings on artificial means of birth control are corrigible and reformable.   Upon close examination, this simple observation made in Bernas No. 2 has a severe rhetorical implication for diehard anti-RH Bill forces inside and outside the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.  They cannot claim that the Vatican won't ever change its position on artificial contraception. Indeed, the Pope could at any time allow certain forms of artificial contraception that the Church authorities could establish as definitively and technologically non-abortifacient. A hint of this possibility has already been given in Pope Benedict's recent statements condoms.

Bernas No. 2

Father Bernas was a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission appointed by President Cory to draft the later ratified 1987 Constitution.  He addresses  certain essential operating principles Freedom of Religion at those who oppose the RH Bill's passage into law on religious grounds--that such a law would allow behavior contrary to Catholic doctrine and faith.
"Second (very important for me as a student of the Constitution and of church-state relations), I am very much aware of the fact that we live in a pluralist society where various religious groups have differing beliefs about the morality of artificial contraception. But freedom of religion means more than just the freedom to believe. It also means the freedom to act or not to act according to what one believes. Hence, the state should not prevent people from practicing responsible parenthood according to their religious belief nor may churchmen compel President Aquino, by whatever means, to prevent people from acting according to their religious belief. As the “Compendium on the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church” says, “Because of its historical and cultural ties to a nation, a religious community might be given special recognition on the part of the State. Such recognition must in no way create discrimination within the civil or social order for other religious groups” and “Those responsible for government are required to interpret the common good of their country not only according to the guidelines of the majority but also according to the effective good of all the members of the community, including the minority.” [italics and bolding by DJB]

DJB Commentary on Bernas No. 2

Having first expressed his adherence to Church teaching and continued "good standing" within it, Father Bernas here in Point No. 2 makes crystal clear, his take on Freedom of Religion and I congratulate him for the lucid expression of it above.  For it is a stunning statement if you look at it more closely and mine it for all its panoply of rhetorical and constitutional implications.

For example, Father Bernas is surely indirectly chastising public persons such as Rep. Manny "The Pacman" Pacquiao and Rep. Pablo Garcia who invoke their belief in God and the Church's teachings in  opposing the RH Bill.  As with the most conservative among the Catholic Bishops  they declare that their opposition to the Reproductive Health Bill is based on a strict interpretation of, and adherence to the Church's teachings and is essentially an exercise of their Freedom of Religion. But Father Bernas' point above challenges such Catholic  because their right to exercise Freedom of Religion depends on recognizing an equal right by others to practice their religion, and most importantly, "to act or not to act" according "to what one believes."  

Fr. Bernas is saying that even if Catholics believe (as some of them certainly do) that "human life begins at fertilization and not at implantation" they may not prevent others from believing that "conception" of human life begins at some other earlier or later stage of the reproductive process. Moreover such Catholics have no right to prevent others "to act or not act" upon such different belief. 

I agree with this characterization of Freedom of Religion. It presents the radical anti RH Bill wing of the Catholic Church with an ethical dilemma as follows. In the crafting of laws and public policies by Congresses of Catholic majority composition, how are conscientious officials what is the that some Catholics may deem as going against Catholic doctrinal teaching in one way or another. 
The 1987 Constitution contains the following provisions in  the Bill of Rights which many regard as a definition of the Freedom of Religion in the PH (with obvious Anglospheric roots): 
Section 5. [1] No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. 
[2] The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. 
[3] No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.
 Of these three I think the last contains a relevant and material point to the RH Bill as follows. While the No Religious Test provision is conventionally interpreted as covering only the idea that anyone otherwise qualified can run for political office regardless of his Religion, I think it can be given a much wider interpretation and applies to far many more situations involving questions of Freedom of Religion and Separation of Church and State.

For example,  who will deny that getting married and having children is both a CIVIL and HUMAN RIGHT protected by the Constitution and the Civil Code? We can surely assert that, "No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil and political rights," such as the right to get married to have children. Or NOT to have children at a particular time in a couple's life and relationship."

I don't see why "No religious test" should be restricted in interpretation to "a test of what is a person's religious affiliation." I think the provision actually means something much more. I think that "No Religious Test" means that the Congress may not pass laws or craft social policy based on some particular THEOLOGICAL consideration. The "public morality" enforced by the Laws, in my opinion, cannot be based on any theology at all for that would violate the absolute neutrality towards Establishments of Religion that Separation of Church and State demands.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

On the Resignation of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez

With less than two weeks before the start of her Senate Trial, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez suddenly resigned on Friday, 29 April 2011 after she had been impeached by the House of Representatives on six counts of BETRAYAL OF THE PUBLIC TRUST.

In her letter of resignation presented personally to President Benigno Aquino III, the resigned Ombudsman said (among several even more self-serving things) “the President needs an Ombudsman in whom he has complete trust and confidence.”

Without a doubt, the President never had any reason to trust or have confidence in Ombudsman Gutierrez, a holdover from the previous administration seemingly installed to undertake a rear guard holding action against any significant investigation into graft and corruption under Gloria Arroyo.  This objective lack of trust and confidence in her  ought to have been enough for her to tender her courtesy resignation out of delicadeza on Day One of the Aquino administration. 

Indeed, when the House of Representatives began to consider impeaching the Ombudsman last September, she was able to quickly get an astounding "Status Quo Ante Order" from the Supreme Court (which as everybody knows is populated by 14 out of 15 Justices appointed by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo). 

But the House stood its ground and finally did impeach her in plenary after months of exhaustive investigation by the House Justice Committee led by Reps. Niel Tupas and Rudy Farinas who I hope will carry out a threatened  impeachment of the Supreme Court Justices for "betrayal of public trust" in the manner that they issued above mentioned SQA Order. 

CONGRESS is coming back, albeit slowly, from the debacle handed to it by GMA, Hilario Davide, Angelo Reyes and the Supreme Court during Edsa2001!  

The IMPEACHMENT POWER will again be the SOLE and EXCLUSIVE power of the Congress of our people! Beware ye now UNELECTED JUDGES!

Friday, April 8, 2011

UNILEVER Pulls Ads On Willie Revillame and All Live Game Shows

FROLAN GRATE via Facebook reports on a Press Release by UNILEVER, Philippines announcing the company's temporary withdrawal of all advertising in live game shows on Philippine television networks in connection with a controversy involving Willie Revillame and the Willing Willie Show.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Procter & Gamble Suspends Advertising on Willing Willie

Procter and Gamble suspends advertising on Willing Willy (via the Pinoy Buzz Blog)  In an email from  Sol Liboro, Consumer Relations Manager, Procter & Gamble Distributing Phils, reportedly said:
 We would like to let you know that P&G always strives to advertise on programs that align with our values as a company and with our purpose to touch and improve life.  We routinely monitor the media in which our brands' messages appear and make advertising decisions that meet our policies and achieve our goals. As what we have mentioned in our first email, we are taking the Willing Willie case seriously and have been working closely with TV5 on the incident that happened in the said show last March 12, 2011.  We would like to inform you that we have suspended advertising on the show beginning April 7, 2011 while the incident is being reviewed and investigated by authorities.
Advertising & Marketing can easily survive even the permanent loss of a genre of television like The Willing Willie Show with Willie Revillame.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Life of the Mother and the Life of the Unborn

1987 upholds as a State Policy in Article II Section 12 the following provision:
1987 ART II Section 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.
I believe that the controversial Reproductive Health Bill currently being fought over in Congress and far beyond it, in places like Ayala Alabang Village,  if passed into law, will be questioned before the Supreme Court for being violative of the above State Policy.

As with much of the 1987 Constitution, this passage contains words of Biblical proportions and importance which even reasonable men might have trouble agreeing upon the true meaning of, particularly in the bolded sentence above.

I would ask Philippine Commentary readers comment on what they think this provision means.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Infamous Willie Revillame and the Sexy Macho Child Dancer

The Willing Willie Show starring Willie Revillame is a daily 2-1/2 hour television "variety" show that airs a prime time (6:30-9:00pm) and used to be ABSCBN's top rated Wowwowee. The show host has recently been embroiled in charges of child abuse and exploitation. Follow the latest development on Blogwatch TV  

The latest atrocity from Mr. Revillame has to do with the above episode of the show and subsequent developments that have seen a firestorm of criticism against him from UNICEF Philippines, the Commission on Human Rights, the Dept of Social Welfare and Development and many in the Private Sector.  Even commercial sponsors are abandoning what appears to be a sinking SS Willie.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The False Expertise of Bishops on Human Love

OSCAR CRUZ, Bishop Emeritus of Lingayen, derides SEX (along with Methods & Number) --
Sex divorced from the human person becomes but a piece of meat. It is then made to stand as but the carnal means to enjoy and delight on—without relevance to the dignity of the human person and to the fundamental Ethics that governs human acts. Withdrawn from its human premise, sex becomes but an instrument of instinctive satisfaction proper of irrational beings devoid of responsibility and beyond accountability.
In my opinion, only someone who has never actually experienced human sexual love and been in a loving relationship between two human beings, could possibly be this theoretical about the subject matter! But the bishop blogger is in earnest about the moral hazards inherent in an activity which however, he himself could not possibly have any experience, much less, expertise. And he continues along the same vein:
Methods on how to enjoy and delight in sexual acts without its inherent significance and import—this is the central concern and main preoccupation of the Bill. What to wear and to drink as well as what will be subjected to surgical intervention—these are the main means forwarded by the Bill in order to separate the right to copulate from the obligation appended to copulation in terms of possible conception.
It is clear from this that Oscar Cruz does not want even married couples to enjoy GUILT-FREE or WORRY-FREE sex. In his book the "Right to Copulate" must always be mentally burdened by the actual possibility of getting pregnant as a deterrent to pure enjoyment.  In other words he denies the right of couples the most basic right involved in the Civil Right of Marriage: which to decide if and when they will try to procreate a new life to which they will commit their own lives to bring forth, to nurture and to support.

I am truly offended--on behalf of my own parents whom I know loved and cherished each other body and soul whenever they could with seven children running around--that Bishop Cruz ascribes such great evil in human beings for human experiences of which he apparently knows absolutely nothing about personally.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Blogger's New Dynamic Views

Trying out the new Blogger feature for remixing this blog.

Flipcard, Mosaic, Sidebar, Snapshot & Timeslide modes. Very interesting Blogger!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Where Zucchettos Reign There Are No Barong Tagalogs

The Catholic Bishops have issued a Pastoral Letter: Choosing Life, Rejecting the RH Bill declaring, "This is our unanimous collective moral judgment: We strongly reject the RH bill." The Bishops summarize their position quite succinctly:
(1) Human life is the most sacred physical gift with which God, the author of life, endows a human being. Placing artificial obstacles to prevent human life from being formed and being born most certainly contradicts this fundamental truth of human life. In the light of the widespread influence of the post-modern spirit in our world, we consider this position as nothing less than prophetic. As religious leaders we must proclaim this truth fearlessly in season and out of season.

(2) It is parents, cooperating with God, who bring children into the world. It is also they who have the primary inalienable right and responsibility to nurture them, care for them, and educate them that they might grow as mature persons according to the will of the Creator.
The Bishops opened this Pastoral Letter by promising to present a position based "not on specifically religious teachings" but on "the basis of the fundamental ideals and aspirations of the Filipino people." ( A promise they immediately violate in the above two points. )

This is to be expected. The Bishops have their zuchetos on, not their Barong Tagalog. But I do not understand why the CBCP should be COY about presenting their most powerful THEOLOGICAL arguments, since their Clerical Slips are much in evidence beneath the thin Secular Disguise.

Nonetheless, the Bishops have put forward a STRONG position that doesn't beat around the bush very much. They go right for the JUGULAR!

In Finger #(1) the Bishops are sanctimoniously insinuating  that everybody involved with Condoms, Pills, IUDs are MURDER or HOMICIDE suspects. The crime and weapon of choice? Premeditated Murder of Zygotes using lethal abortifacients.

In Finger #(2) the Bishops reveal what their most PRECIOUSSSSS possession actually is: the Freedom of Indoctrination! The sacred Right to teach Theology in Kindergarten and Grade School so that Organized Religion may guarantee its survival into the next generation of urban and rural poor idolaters--in the name of Morality.

Two underlying principles may be gleaned from the Pastoral Letter:  
(1) SEX must never exclude the possibility of PREGNANCY.
(2) Contraception must never include the possibility of HOMICIDE. 
What are the Catholic Faithful to make of this Pastoral Letter?  Here is the Free Choice they are offered by the Catholic Bishops:
You may have WORRY FREE SEX with Artificial Abortifacients like condoms pills and IUDs, or you may adhere to Mother Church's approved method of Vatican Roulette--the Rhythm Method--to assure that you get GUILT-FREE SEX. (( This form of Accidental Family Planning is completely NATURAL and not ARTIFICIAL. ))
This leads me to observe that the Sin of Artificial Contraception contains a MOTIVE that is completely identical to the MOTIVE behind the Grace of Natural Family Planning: SEX without making a baby.

In most cases, I do believe it can also be shown that the MEANS employed cannot in any metaphysical or moral sense be differentiated along the lines of what is NATURAL vs. ARTIFICIAL.

Natural Family Planning--and whether or not it is in any moral, legal or philosophical sense different than Artificial Contraception--is the weakest link in the Catholic Bishops' rhetorical position on Reproductive Health public policy.

The matter of CONDOMS is occasion of great consternation and confusion for the Catholic Bishops, nonetheless for the undeniable fact that the Vatican itself and Pope Benedict XVI have apparently come around to the 1987 position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In 1987, the administrative committee of the US Catholic bishops' conference argued that limiting sex to marriage was the moral and most effective way to stem the spread of AIDS. But they went on to "acknowledge that some will not agree with our understanding of human sexuality." As a result, in "The Many Faces of Aids" they said that public education "could include accurate information about prophylactic devices or other practices proposed by some medical experts as potential means of preventing AIDS."
The above quotation is from an article by Thomas J. Reese, S.J. in the Washington Post, Sex and the Fifth Commandment which is required reading for anyone who wants to understand the recent comments of Pope Benedict XVI on Condoms.  Here what we find is that the Pope allows condoms to uphold "Thou shalt not kill!" -- but the Sixth and Ninth Commandments still stand!

(( Forgive me gentle Readers of Philippine Commentary. But lately I've been having problems doing the LONG FORM of blogging.  Kindly follow my attempts at nano-blogging @SagadaSun on Twitter ))

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.