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Political Dynasties in the Philippines: In My Opinion

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This year’s bar examination is yet to experience several changes. Aside from the implementation of the multiple questions type of exam, the Supreme Court chooses a new venue, and instead of September, the schedule is also moved to November.
From the customary Taft Avenue in DLSU, the exam for aspiring lawyers is moved to the 400-year old University of Santo Tomas at A.H. Lacson St. corner Dapitan Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila.

A lot of people are speculating that the bombing incident is one of the reasons for changing venues but Court spokesman Atty. Midas Marquez assured that such change was not influenced by the grenade blast which happened during the last bar exam as many have speculated.

“Blame it to the rains”, Marquez said in a press conference in Manila, reasoning why the bar exams will have to be moved to November from the familiar September schedule.

Taft Avenue, the area where DLSU was located, was heavily flooded in 2009. This perhaps is what the highest court en banc sought to avoid preventing a repeat of postponement. It is deemed favourable to aspiring lawyers to move the schedule of the exams since they will have more time to review and prepare. The month also corresponds to the end of the rainy season.

SC Spokesperson Midas Marquez stated that the bar venue is “negotiated every year” and that “location and accessibility” are the reasons for UST’s selection as the new Bar venue.

UST and SC already signed a contract assigning the former as the exam venue only for this year. Although the venues for the coming years are not sure, UST Faculty of Civil Law Nilo Divina stated that UST is sure to be considered a priority. Divina added that UST is prepared to cater the annual 5,000 or more examinees with its complete facilities and with the presence of the school’s own Santisimo Rosario Parish and hospital.

Picture Credit:

Where "art" daw?
Fbruary is not just the “love month”. Just in case you forgot, this month in the Philippines is when we celebrate the “National Arts Month”.

Let me tell you this story first. A couple of years back, MSU-IIT was visited by exchange students from the United Kingdom on a program called Global Xchange. I was a second year Political Science student then, and as part of the welcoming celebration, an intermission number was given by the world-renowned MSU-IIT-based Integrated Performing Arts Guild headed by Prof. Stephen Fernandez. It was my first time watching the said cultural dance troupe. It was astonishing.

For nearly an hour, they’ve showcased wonderful ethnic dances from the country. Immediately after the performance, only a handful of people from the audience (and that included me) stood up in ovation. All the exchange students are up on their feet and only me on the side stood and gleefully applauded the wonderful performance.

Then, a thought struck me as I stood alone in the appreciation of the performance, why is it that it seemed very few (even from us Filipinos) can appreciate our own dances, our own art, and our own culture? Why is it that only the exchange students from UK only greatly appreciated the performance?

The mere fact that most of us don’t know that we celebrate art for this month is a sign that we, Filipinos take the appreciation for aesthetics for granted. But one good question that can be raised from this proposition is: "Can art be of service to alleviate our current situation?”  


I don’t even wonder why most of today’s youngsters would rather watch Piolo Pascual than digital movies. This is depicted from the lines of the Dumaguete-based Filipino band Missing Filemon’s song Englisera:  “Bahala’g lood basta gikan sa Hollywood”. (Even if it’s a film of poor taste as long as it’s from Hollywood).

Just how many of us Filipinos know about the writings of Nick Joaquin? The music of Jose Maceda, or the golden voice of Honorata “Atang” de la Rama? Of the hundreds of people who won the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, how many of them can be understood by most Filipinos? 


Just who values culture? In this country where a lot of people are on the daily grind, the
apparent answer is NONE. No one but a blip cares.
No Filipino seem to care about it
And I pity the Filipino artists. I pray that we can do something for us to appreciate our roots through Filipino art. But before kneeling down, I have to first turn this noisy radio off.
Justin Bieber’s killing me.




 
Picture Credit:
Stills from GMA News TV’s teaser

I have often felt in my life that I am an underdog.
The underdog College of Law has to stand up, collectively.

Not that I expect myself to lose, but I’ve often perceived of myself as one who needs to do more. Through scrutiny, I’ve felt that in many ways I lag behind.

I was born in a quiet town in South Cotabato, raised by educated parents but nevertheless without a silver spoon in my mouth. Educated at public schools for all of my life up until law school. I remember when joining competitions, I often felt shrinking in the presence of my rivals who comes from prestigious (and private schools). Yes, at times, I did not falter; yet the fact remains that their education and affluence gave them edge over me.

At a young age, I was made aware of disparity between social statuses; I refer to this as my own class consciousness. I even lost interest of studying at UP when my father told me they can’t let me study there for insufficient funds.
 
After my graduation at MSU-IIT, I entered the college of law packed with a dream. As a full-time working student on my initial year at this institution, I’ve had my shares of difficult times especially in balancing my job and studies. Now, one my second year (turning Third Year next semester), my underdog mentality has always been taunting me. Full time workers can surely relate to this predicament, too.
 
But despite these, I’ve persisted; the underdog sometimes is being looked down or worst, ignored. Is being judgmental just part of the human psyche? If you’re a Mindanaoan, chances are, you’ll be labeled somebody you’re not by, say, the Manileños.
 
My brother, who also happens to be a law student in an admired private law school in Pampanga, would share to me stories such as that of the recent Bar Ops which have made me realize how different the life of a provincial bar examine is vis-à-vis a Manila-based bar exam taker is. How contrasting and I’m not telling who’s getting the better slice of the pie.

Coming from a provincial law school like ours  has been a challenge; much more when we expose ourselves outside the country. This had been our dilemma The mere fact of being a Filipino seemed to make us feel underdogs.

And what message can we infer out of this realization? I share this sense of belittlement with most of us at the college. Atty. Mylene Macumbal definitely gave us a whiff of fresh air and a deep sense of delight for the MSU College of Law. She is an epitome that an underdog can win and succeed.
  
The year 2008 was the college’s heyday thanks to Ma’am Mylene. Yet years after, what are the challenges at hand? I think, instead of having underclass musings, it should be underpinned by a collective achievement. 
   
We need to cut through layers of dormancy get to the very heart of what it means to be a prestigious law school. This is a collective dream to achieve together, not only as individuals and certainly not in conflict with others.
  
The best thing for us underdogs to do is to become optimist and really strive hard.  We aren’t going to pass the greatest test of our lives by being anything else.

There is a lot of work to be done. And once we have achieved this, then the substance we crave to feed our pride of coming from the MSU-College of Law-Iligan Extension will come naturally.

Picture Credit:
With his recent appointment as the Assistant Dean of the College on June 16, last year, the feisty Atty. Alizedney “Zed” M. Ditucalan talks of the challenges and his plans for the college.

The Nexus chattered with him at his cozy office at Subejano-Ditucalan-Andres Law Offices in Brgy. Mahayahay as he shares with us his passion for photography, partying, and why students should wear the prescribed dress code.

Sir, you’ve come a long way after passing the bar exams in 2005. After 3 years at PAO, you became the youngest appointed Director of MSU at Legal Services Division, and now the youngest to serve as our Assistant Dean. How do you find your current position?
Interviewing Atty. Zed at his office in SDA Law Office at Brgy. Mahayahay, Iligan City.
I love what I’m doing. Many see me as strict but for me, a liberal iron-fist style is needed on my position. There are a lot of challenges and I have to meet my dreams for innovations. That’s why during the enrolment (June of last year), I was really there.

Yes. I bet, most if not all, would affirm that they saw you observing on the enrolment.
I was there to assess, to know and to observe such process and I think it is a bit messy.

So, it seems your assessment comes from fist hand view on matters and policies here in the college.
I’ve found out our problems through personal knowledge and assessment. You see, I’ve also studied here before eventually finishing my law degree in Marawi. Problems like the conflicts of schedule that leaves students no choice and a few of those that I knew many are complaining about.

Oh, I see. Talking about “problems” in the college, as the new assistant dean, how would you assess the present situation of our college?
I believe there are points for improvement. The curriculum should be revisited as some policies of the college should be checked (i.e. stricter admission).

You’ve mentioned some things on stricter admission, sir. How do you think can this be given solution?
I believe that diagnostics for comprehension should be done. The college may classify the first year sections into two: the qualified and unqualified. Law students should enroll to electives for English language improvement.

Having finished AB English here in MSU-IIT, I believe that this profession is a writing profession. Logical sentences are needed.

On our curriculum, what do you think should be refurbished?
Our curriculum should be bar-oriented. We only have three first takers who passed in 2008 and there has been a low percentage of first takers who passed it for the first time.

Our present curriculum was based on the curriculum they’ve proposed 22 years ago! With this issue of out datedness, I believe, the criminal law, penal laws, special penal laws, and others should be incorporated.

We need to additional units of International law, environmental laws, and we need to have International Humanitarian Law. Banking, Intellectual Property, additional units for Labor subjects, Commercial, Civil procedure; while others should be broken down.

The Law on Public Office and Election laws but it should be merged with larger units. Some Shari’s subjects can be fused, too.
Posing for documentation after the interview.

Ad interim revisions shall be passed to  the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs for further study and suggestions; as some subject offerings may not appear in the TOR. But nonetheless, it’s for the students’ benefit.

On the other hand, for the faculty members, steps should be made for them to feel that they belong. Enthusiasm can also be encouraged through a fair compensation. Our library should be improved, too.

These are the challenges. It seems like “moving heaven and earth”. But all should bear the brunt here. To be honest with you, the MSU President has already received a warning from the SC because of the system’s low passing rate.

What do you think are the preliminary things to consider for the realization of those plans?
I really do have a lot in mind. But basically, law students should realize how noble the profession is. One should not be mediocre like the college students. Change should start at the simplest.

This should be seen even uncomplicated things like wearing of the prescribed uniform. It’s a simple psychology, really. A law student’s life is supposed to be “self-learning”. To be independent despite the insults of professors or even if they maybe not present on classes. Students need to have a “sense of commitment”; we have to change our image.

On the tone of your answers, sir, it shows that you really are for innovations.
Yes.  I love innovations and on the present set up, I think the environment is probably not working properly. On some concerns, our rooms are charged with a higher rate now. That’s why I believe a bigger space is needed for the offices are too small. I just hope I will not fail.

I have to affirm with that sir. I’ve witnessed our shift of classrooms from CASS, CBA, up to the tiresome 4th floor stairs of the College of Nursing.

There should be constructive existence between the MSU-IIT and the Extension class, be that as it may, our college has been serving the Iliganons. Seventy percent (70%) of Iliganon lawyers from MTC, RTC, prosecutors, and judges are graduates of our college.
 
That is a huge percentage, right there. Being the new assistant dean faced with awfully a lot of challenges, what are your visions for the MSU College of Law – Iligan Extension?
I want the students, the graduates, to be proud. Not be braggadocio but be proud that he or she graduated from the College of Law in Iligan City.

We can change. We can cater to MSU-IIT graduates, who are very qualified. I want us to be at par with other established law schools and be one of the prestigious in the South.

And that requires the students to their part, too.

Yes. I need your maximum tolerance for changes in policies. I need them, you, to fulfill and realize the mountains of challenges ahead. We should have sheer determination, too.

Very well said. You seem so very serious in your profession, sir. Aren’t you?
In the profession: Yes. Real life: no.

At work, I have this “I-don’t-care-if-you’re-my-brother” mentality. That’s probably why some are not happy with my policies but I am not “me” at the college. Outside the college, I am different.

Amiable, happy-go-lucky, and I love going out to party at night. You see, there’s a big gap between me and my profession. The profession can be tiring sometimes that’s why I go do photography on my spare time. I am a proud member of Iligan Camera Club.

On a lighter note, last question ladies at the college would definitely want to know: Are you still available, sir?

Yes. But work is my priority [laughs].
The heavy congressional inquiries finally took its toll as Sec. Angelo Reyes killed himself in front of his parents’ tomb.

Angelo Tomas Reyes (March 17, 1945 – February 8, 2011)
According to the medical reports of the Quirino Memorial Medical Center, Reyes was already dead upon arrival. They’ve tried to revive him but after 45 minutes of doing so, at 8:32 in the morning, he was officially pronounced dead. There will be no autopsy as requested by the family.

At eleven o’clock in the morning, his body was wheeled to Arlington Funeral Homes.

Contractors at the Loyola Memorial Park have seen him silently kneeling before his mother’s tomb before finally squeezing the trigger of his .45 pistol directing straight to his chest.

In an interview with Reyes’ family by GMANews, there are three things that are close to Reyes’ heart: his whole family, the Philippine Military Academy, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Lt. Colonel Rabusa, was in shock when interviewed by the media for his reaction. Rabusa was one of the people who exposed the send-off monies given to high military officials in the January 27 congressional investigations.

Reyes can best be remembered after his defection to the forces that had gathered at the EDSA Shrine on Jan. 20, 2001, together with the chiefs of the major service commands, and then defense chief Orlando Mercado sealed the ouster of Joseph Estrada and installed Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in power.

From Estrada’s Chief of Staff from 2000 to 2001, he was in the National Anti-Crime Commission Anti-KFR Task Force in February 2004. He also served as the DILG Secretary from 2004 to 2006. In 2006, he was in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. He ran for Congress under the United Transport Coalition (1-UTAK), on the 2010 party-list election but was dropped by his party without his consent that led to litigation.

Reyes had a colorful military career and his brilliance can be seen in his early education. He graduated valedictorian in high school. He was also school debater and a campus journalist. He was a member of the PMA Class 1966 where he graduated top seven.

On the later part, Former Armed Forces chief Angelo Reyes allegedly received P50 million in “pabaon” (send-off) money when he retired as part of a military tradition going back decades, a former budget officer told a Senate panel on January 27, 2011. Reyes then did not show up in subsequent hearings in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Yesterday, he appallingly ended his life.

“In spite of what happened in EDSA Dos, I still remember him as my AFP chief of staff who played a great role in our all-out war against the MILF”, Estrada in a statement. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was among those who came very early at the wake.

Picture Credits:
http://ph.yfittopostblog.com/2011/02/08/family-asks-reyes-critics-not-to-send-flowers-condolences/
The MSU College of Law- Iligan Extension, spearheaded by the Assistant Dean Alizedney Ditucalan, held a first-ever luncheon forum between students, admin, personnel, and faculty assessing the college and strategic planning at Gazpacho’s Place, on November 29, last year.

The forum was attended by twenty-five people*, more than half of it composed of the professorial lecturers. For the first part, it was suggested that there be a clear recording of financial matters. The event was graced with the presence of the Dean of the MSU College of Law Basari Mapupuno while Prosecutor Joselita Augusto was there to serve as the meeting’s secretary.

“There’s a need to earmark our collections”, said Asst. Dean Ditucalan, who presides the luncheon meeting. Judge Arassad and Atty. Mylene Macumbal also voiced out concerns regarding the collections while Atty. Andres seconds that there be a budget proposal in every flow of collection.

It was also agreed by everyone that there’s a need to improve and revise the current curriculum. Judge Oscar Badelles, who teaches Remedial Law, says that there are no Torts and Damages subject in 4th year or Corporation law. He stated that those are pre-requisites to his subject.

Assistant Dean Ditucalan reaffirms the need to reevaluate the curriculum. As the Law on Public Officers is in conflict with Political Review, he adds. “The University would evaluate Shari’a courses, too. Maybe Election Law should be merged into three units together with Administrative Law and Law on Public Officers as the Labor Standard should be raised from two units”.

Atty. Sadat Datu disclosed that some subjects should be taken earlier such as Labor Standard. Legal Accounting as well as social legislations should be added. Special penal laws should be a new subject while international humanitarian law and environmental laws must be incorporated to the prospectus. Professors also suggested adding the Intellectual Property Code, the enforcement of Corporate Governance, and Corporate Rehabilitation. Atty. Saidali Gandamra also showed support to the possibility of ad interim changes to the curriculum.

But it was the short yet forthright comment of Former Judge Paguio that awakened the spirits within the room. “We should have quality graduates. And with the current status of our students, some should even be brought back to high school judging on their English proficiency!” he added. Professors all agree that more than half of the students have poor command of English.

Atty. Pasilan concurred to former Judge Paguio’s sentiments that the school must produce “quality and Bar material” graduates and suggested doing a school-to-school campaign and not just wait for new enrollees. “There should also be standard number of students per section”, he appended. Atty. Hariz Jabbar Disocor, who graduated from Xavier University says that the College may follow the “3-strike rule” for the students to be mindful of their grades.

“When I was in San Beda, we have 15 sections in the first year classes but this will be trimmed down to two or four sections in the final year” Judge Badelles said. Atty. Khaliquzzaman Macabato also suggested that the screening in admission be made stricter while the freshmen would subsidize the senior students.

Salary increase was also brought out because the basic 200 pesos/unit was too minute. Administrative Officer Naomi Grageda says that the usual issue of late submission of grades should be resolved. She suggested that there be probations proportional to the units of the professor’s load. Representatives from the studentry; from SLSC and The Nexus.

The meeting was successful under the helm of the new assistant dean. Changes should come after the day’s talk and work. 

* Thank you so much to Mr. Anonymous in pointing out this typographical error.
In the local condiments business arena, a battle between a Goliath and David has been taking place. Last year, the TV was flushed with commercials of Datu Puti’s new product, “Pinoy Kurat” endorsed by the actor, Randy Santiago. For Iliganons, the product definitely rings a bell with the small-scale the nonetheless, highly successful, Suka Pinakurat.




Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Development, said his committee will probe how one of the giants in the condiments industry has allegedly been allowed to strangle a small, Mindanao-based vinegar manufacturer.

"Here we have a case of a big player copying the successful brand of the small player and eventually trying to kill the small player. SAFI used its market power to undermine GGGFI and the Intellectual Property Office acting as an accomplice," adds Casiño.

It can be noted that Southeast Asia Foods, Inc. (SAFI) has been lording the condiments market. SAFI is listed as the manufacturer and distributor of Datu Puti Lines, Mang Tomas, Golden Fiesta Cooking Oil, and Nelicom Lines, among others.

Casiño said he has filed House Resolution 577 to investigate the violations committed by the former, the makers of Datu Puti Pinoy Kurat Spiced Tuba Vinegar, of the tradename and trademark of Green Gold Gourmet Foods, Inc., original maker of the Suka Pinakurat brand.

GGGFI, owned by the Stuart del Rosario family in Iligan, is a small suka manufacturer based in Iligan City. Its main product is the Suka Pinakurat, which they registered with the Philippine Intellectual Property Office in 2006, Australia’s Intellectual Property Office in 2008 and the United States Patent Office in 2009.

Rep. Casiño says that it is high time for Congress to look into unfair practices of big business corporations that unduly infringe on the successes of small enterprises.

The broadminded legislator averred that “Datu Puti Pinoy Kurat” appears to violate Section 123 of the Intellectual Property Code (Republic Act 8293) which states that “a mark cannot be registered if it is identical or confusingly similar to an already registered mark. As such, it may be considered a trademark infringement, which is a form of unfair competition.”

“What perplexes me is while the Philippine Intellectual Property Office has yet to act on the application for registration of the Datu Puti Pinoy Kurat brand, SAFI is already flooding the market, resulting in lost sales and other detrimental effects on the original Suka Pinakurat. Government has yet to do something to protect our small players in the face of this clear case of unfair and illegal competition," said Casiño.

"It is only right that we hear this to come up with new policies that will prevent big businesses from eating up the success of small corporations”, added Casiño. He said the DTI should prohibit Datu Puti Pinoy Kurat from selling their version of Suka Pinakurat until the matter is resolved.

References:

Picture Credits:
 “If this is the kind of hostile, belligerent attitude we bring to our debate, then all of us should resign immediately!” – Senator Miriam Defensor – Santiago, in a televised senate session in late 2009.
A bill to be passed costs 105 million pesos.
It can be said that the Senate is one of the most respected institutions in the country. It is the venue where legislators, majority composed of lawyers, debate, make, and pass laws. By far, ten of our presidents which apparently includes the current President Noynoy Aquino, came from the Senate.

But on a closer look, one can infer that there seems to be a problem on this pillar institution.
I remember a broadcasted senate session months before the Presidential election last year. While it should have been a discussion on making laws, there existed a personal verbal wars between Pimentel and Roxas largely about the “insertion issue” on the C5 road.  A lot of investigations also, were marred with controversies such as that of the investigations on Fertilizer Scam and the ZTE Broadband Deal, yet

While it is indeed the job of senators to investigate, Mon Casipe, the Executive Director for the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, believes that the investigations were becoming more and more politicized. Back in the glory days of Martial Law, statesmanship can be seen with the powerful speeches of the late Sen. Pepe Diokno and Sen. Ninoy Aquino.  They came in prepare as compared to most of today’s speeches filled with ad hominems.

In an interview by GMA News to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, he says that the reason for the alleged long sessions is due to the allocation of time for investigations and hearing. This article does not simply asks if the Upper House is a waste of time, but also if they waste time. But true enough, I believe they got too indulged with sensationalized issues that they fail to prioritize other bills. (Did I mention the CARPER bill which was deliberately ignored by the Congress for numerous decades, now?)

On the other hand, the process in making a law sure becomes so expensive. Way expensive. According to the Department of Budget and Management, on the General Appropriations Act, a total of 3.8 billion pesos was spent for the 13th Congress while the past 14th Congress has a whopping 5.7 billion-peso budget.

1 Bill passed into law = 105 Million pesos

According to the Senate Legislation bills and Index Service, there were almost four thousand bills filed last year. But out of this number, only 54 were enacted to law. Imploring the aid of a little division, one can infer that a law to be passed costs P105,000,000. No wonder the pork (Priority Development Assistance Fund) is porkier than ever.

Another issue that is worth inspecting is the misrepresentations at the Senate. As  laid down by Convenor, Leonor Briones of the non-governmental organization called Social Watch, 82% of the Senators are from the NCR and Luzon.  Seventy-four (74%) are from political clans. This can be affirmed with a similar study indicated on the book The Rulemakers: How the Wealthy and the Well-Born Dominate Congress (Coronel, et al., 2007), while most Senators are first generation politicians, 13% are 3rd Generation Politicians, and 8% are second-generation politicians.

To make useful laws is the primary concern of our Senators that would alleviate the thousand and one problems we have in this country. Is the Senate and its members a waste of time (and money)? History will be the one that will judge the performance of the Senate in the coming years.


Photo Credits:
We’ve already traced the brief history of reproductive health in the Philippines on my preceding article. Invariably, the lack of a clear and solid population program has impacted on the government’s ability to provide basic services.

3,000 Filipino babies are added to the population everyday.

In the face of the unstoppable opposition of the Roman Catholic Church, the Philippine population is one of the fastest growing in the world. It is even estimated that 3,000 Filipino babies are born every day, 100,000 every month, which balloons to 1,000,000 babies a year.

The Philippines is reported the 9th most populated country in Asia. Our country is the 12th most populous nation in the world with a country size as big (300,000 km² or 115,831 sq miles) as Arizona where the latter’s population has only 6 million people.

It simply means that more people means more mouths to feed, more food to produce, and more government money allocated for the welfare of these people At this rate, the population was forecast to double in two decades. Worse, the economy has been growing at a rate that could not sustain the increase in the number of people. It consequently compromises the quality of life of the Filipinos.

On Rep. Lagman’s article [1], he noted that according to the National Statistics Office, the large families are prone to poverty with 57.3 percent of families with seven children mired in poverty while only 23.8 percent of families with two children are poor. Recent studies also show that large family size is a significant factor in keeping families poor across generations. The National Statistical Coordinating Board projected that a replacement fertility of 2.1 children per couple could be reached only by 2040. Moreover, despite a reduced population growth rate, the effects of population momentum would continue for another 60 years by which time our total population would be 240 million. The Filipino state simply cannot accommodate such an exponential growth in its children, which, according to a 2007 Philippine Daily Inquirer article is about 15% faster than our ASEAN peers.

What this population control debate boils down to is a simple supply and demand dynamic. Supply and demand is the basic law in economics that argues on the rickety balance of supply and demand determines prices. Now, what does this mean? As long as there is plenty of supply, say in a huge population like ours, in a country with fluctuating economic growth and therefore unreliable job creation and job market, Filipino wages will always be kept at a bare minimum. This is because the slow growth in Philippine economy simply cannot keep up with the number of people who need jobs. In a climate of heightened competition, there are always plenty of people willing to work for less.

Since 2004, there has been a sharp decline in the use of government-provided contraceptive services in the Philippines so that more and more Filipino women have no choice but to forgo contraception primarily because of the cost, in a country whose population is exploding.

According to a study conducted by the New York-based Guttmacher Institute and the Manila-based Likhaan, a nonprofit reproductive rights NGO, supplies of public-sector contraception services dropped from 67 percent in 2003 to 46 percent in 2008. As pointed out on my previous article on RH Bill, aid coming from the US was finally brought to a halt in 2003 that left the state to fund its own family planning programs. "Access to contraceptives for poor women now depends mostly on the ability and willingness of local government offices to support these services. Local governments can purchase contraceptives and include family planning services at their discretion as part of their public health functions if and when their limited budgets allow for such spending," the institute said. The problem is, it added, "to date, few have done so."

According to the SWS Survey [2] conducted in 2008, 71% of the Filipinos are in favor of the bill’s passage. The 2009 study [3] also revealed that 88 percent of the 600 respondents agree that Manila should have a policy on reproductive health, while 95 percent said that city health centers should further improve their services.

But well, the bill in the country drew flak among faith-based organizations (most especially The Roman Catholic Church) for its key proposal that state funds would be used to subsidize artificial family planning methods where groups say it merely liberates promiscuity. They say that sex is a thing that teens will later on learn thus, does not necessitate some kind of “formal education”. Teaching it would lead to promiscuity, they say. The Church claims that it is the parents' responsibility to educate their children on these delicate issues. Obviously, this claim is based on the assumption that every parent in the country is already educated, well-informed and updated, as well as emotionally and mentally prepared to discuss such information to their children. But the opposite holds true. In my article about sex education entitled, “Let’s Talk About Sex (Education) in the Philippines”, we can infer some significant pieces of information:
UNESCO’s International Technical Guidance on Sex is a review of a total of 87 sex education programs worldwide: 47 in the United States, 29 in developing countries (like the Philippines). The following are the signifant findings: 1. 37% in all of the sex ed programs had delayed initiation of sex; 27% in developing countries. How about hastened initiation? 0%. 2. In the frequency of sex: 31% in all 87 programs had lower frequency; there was a 3% percent increase BUT there was a 44% lower frequency of sex in developing countries. 3. 44% in all sex education programs had decreased number of partners; 38% in developing countries, and ZERO percent had increased number of partners.

A great number of our people, especially those less fortunate people, who did not have the opportunity to learn, much less discuss anything about sexual health. The Church, according to this Associated Press report, insists that sex education "should be the primary responsibility of parents. If it is taught to students, it should not start in grade school but in college". But according to studies, most teenage pregnancies start before turning 14 years old (just one or two years after the start of puberty). Also, risky sexual behavior often starts when they are already in college, as this study show. The bill’s age-appropriate sexuality education for Grade 5 to 4th year high school students seem timely and truly makes sense.

The Filipino people need empowerment through education so they may know what is going and what to do not just with regard to their bodies, but in the state which is supposed to give them the maximum welfare. Next to the issue of “promiscuity” (that according to the critics would arise if the bill will be passed), is the issue of the artificial contraceptives. They say it’s abortifacient. Although if you will only read the full text thoroughly, you will see that it gives greater weight to the physical well-being of women and children.

It clearly states that abortion will remain a crime, but caring for women who underwent post abortion will be given in a humane and compassionate way. This bill shows that the country is clearly headed in a progressive way in enforcing the rights of women isn’t it? According to Rep. Lagman, RH bill will not lead to the legalization of abortion. It is not true that all countries where contraceptive use is promoted eventually legalize abortion. Many Catholic countries criminalize abortion even as they vigorously promote contraceptive use like Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Paraguay and Ireland. The Muslim and Buddhist countries of Indonesia and Laos respectively, also promote contraceptive use yet proscribe abortion. According to studies, correct and regular use of contraceptives reduces abortion rates by as much as 85 percent and negates the need to legalize abortion.

I think it is a “double dealing” of the Church to promote so-called natural forms of family planning but not allow other forms. If natural forms of preventing conception are acceptable, I don’t see why there’s something wrong with so-called artificial forms. The intention is virtually the same: prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg. So if the artificial form is reprehensible, the same treatment should be given to artificial forms. If one is acceptable, so should be the other. The Vatican’s Humanae Vitae is not an infallible doctrine as Lagman pointed out.
 
In 1963, Pope John XXIII created the Papal Commission on Birth Control to study questions on population and family planning. The Commission included ranking prelates and theologians. Voting 69 to 10, it strongly recommended that the Church change its teaching on contraception as it concluded that “the regulation of conception appears necessary for many couples who wish to achieve a responsible, open and reasonable parenthood in today’s circumstances.

However, it was the minority report that Pope Paul VI eventually supported and which became the basis of Humanae Vitae. Even 40 years ago when the encyclical was issued, theologians did not generally think that it was infallible. Monsignor Fernando Lambruschini, spokesperson of the Vatican at the time of its release, said “attentive reading of the encyclical Humanae Vitae does not suggest the theological note of infallibility… It is not infallible.” Five days after the issuance of the encyclical, a statement against it was signed by 87 Catholic theologians. It asserted that “Catholics may dissent from … noninfallible Church doctrine” and that “Catholic spouses could responsibly decide in some circumstances to use artificial contraception.”

However, church theologians whose opinion were disregarded by Pope Paul VI in his Humanae Vitae praised artificial contraception as a step for people to plan their families better. The church’s stand is based on the order of nature that humans should not intervene in the natural process of reproduction. But I for one would argue based on order of reason that people also have the capacity to improve the quality of their life through their God-given intelligence.

I remember in a BBC documentary there was an official Catholic Church campaign in South Africa saying that condoms cannot prevent HIV spread because of holes. An investigation by the WHO found that the holes in the condoms are at the molecular level and no virus known to man can get through. Think about it: How many lives should have been saved by the Catholic Church if only they were candor about this? So what’s the end result? The Catholic Church in South Africa currently allows condoms to be used between married couples. I sneer at some provisions of the Bible that are even warped to serve some of the Church’s doctrines. I believe that the verse in the Bible that says “Go forth and multiply” isn’t applicable in the Philippine setting. (And yet some would still state that as a “moral” basis).

I’ve never been a fan of Pres. Noynoy Aquino but I definitely am pleased when he personally endorsed the use of contraceptives and the promotion of reproductive health programs especially among poor folks. Women must be given their choice because it’s their body and it is about time that we control the population. And to me, population control is not abortion because you just prevent the contraception – and that’s it,” the president said in an interview. But because of Aquino’s positive opinion on the reproductive health, he is now faced with the Church’s threat of excommunication. The greatest punishment the RC can give for its member. With excommunication, one can still attend mass BUT can’t join the communion or the liturgy. And furthermore, because of one’s deprivation of the Sacraments, one cannot definitely go to heaven anymore. (Well, I was just misquoted, Bishop Ochimar said). If ever that would happen, Pres. Noynoy will have a bigger star status being at par with Fidel Castro, King Henry II and VIII, French King Theodoseus, Emperor Henry IV, King John of England, Joan of Arc, Napoleon the First, Juan Peron, and Martin Luther. Wow. I’ve got a simple question: what made the act of supporting the RH bill so grave that by doing so would spend his eternity in the lakes of fire?

To quote from Davao Vice Mayor Rudy Duterte, “the state is not empowered by any law to dictate upon any couple how they should plan for their family. But the government has an obligation to educate its citizens”. Sen. Biazon quotes that, the State must respond to the needs of the people. If the teachings of the Church are against the use of modern artificial contraception, the Church should touch base with their flock. They should go to the pulpit, and teach. I hope they’re fair when they do this.”

The RH bill does not interfere with family life. In fact, it enhances family life. The family is more than a natural nucleus; it is a social institution whose protection and development are impressed with public interest. It is not untouchable by legislation.

Looking at our present population of 9-million-short-to-become-a-hundred, it seemed that “leave-it-to-the-parents” technique wasn’t so effective. I don’t see any “other” solution that the Church can offer. So let us allow the state do its duty. To each his own. Let us give the people choices.

The simple logic is this: if you can’t sustain your children, then you better be prepared to stop having children. It is as clear as ice. We need to manage our population; health and economic conditions before the impending population implosion kill us all. Unless we do something, our women will continue to be at risk for harassment as servants, entertainers and playthings elsewhere, families will continue to be torn apart, and the wages for many hard-working and persevering Filipinos will never be enough for what they deserve. Morality is an affair of several economic, political, and social dimensions. Denouncing this bill with the simplistic argument about a new "world war" is not logically tenable. There is already an ongoing war, and that is the complex and intertwined problems faced by our country brought about by overpopulation. It is better to properly plan for the number of kids than to just "multiply and multiply" without assurance of good life to ones children.

Reproductive health is an act of self-preservation. It’s a requisite to maintain life. Those who oppose it will lead us to self-destruction…to doom…and to well, the most of the religious people call “hell”. In another light, it seemed that CBCP have not experienced the hardship of raising a family since they never had one. They have not experienced how to live in slum areas. They have not experienced looking for a job with an empty stomach. They have not felt how difficult it is for parents to see their children go hungry. Their playing field is different than most of us. And come these right-wingers manage to make rules where they are not playing the game anyway?
 
Kaya dumarating ang napakaraming kalamidad! Tinatangkilik ng mga nasa gobyerno ang mga erehe laban sa ministro ng Dios! – Padre Damaso, in Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere.

References:

Picture Credits:
One of the hottest topics one of these days is on the issue of the Reproductive Health Bill. With that you’ve got to agree that it’s bringing the country to a square off. But of course, it became more controversial and provocative when political affairs such as this are mixed with the Roman Catholic Church.
Family "Planting".

Before we go to crunch time, before I disclose my view on this, let us first examine our national policy on population vis-à-vis the current Reproductive Health Bill (which, the one most noteworthy was that bill authored by Rep. Edcel Lagman). I will give my opinion in the second part of this series.

House Bill No. 5043 authored by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has yet to be approved on second reading and is currently under interpellation in the chamber. Also known as the proposed Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2008, the bill promotes the use of both artificial and natural means of family planning.

History buff as I am, let us first look into its brief history. As what is stated by the Senate Policy Brief Promoting Reproductive Health, the issue on reproductive health dates back to 1967 when the Philippine Government signed the United Nations Declaration on Population by which countries agreed that the population problem be considered as the principal element for long-term economic development. Therefore, the Population Commission (Popcom) was created to push for a lower family size norm and provide information and services to lower fertility rates. Starting in 1967, the USAID started shouldering 80% of the total family planning commodities (contraceptives) of the country, which amounted to US$ 3 Million annually.



Our population problem has been aggravated by the fact that across various administrations since 1969, the government’s population control thrusts have been inconsistent. This was noted by the study of Dr. Alejandro N. Herrin, an Economics Professor at the University of the Philippines who specializes in demographic economics and population and developmental issues.

In the study entitled, “A Review of Population Policy and Program in the Philippines, 1969-2002,” he noted that the administration of Ferdinand Marcos (1965-1986) emphasized the negative consequences of rapid population growth, and saw the need for government intervention to manage it through information, services, and advocacy. In 1973 FPOP( Family Planning Office of the Philippines) freely gave out contraceptive pills and condoms, they also performed IUD insertions, performed vasectomies and tubal ligations even to far-flung rural areas to control population explosion.

But the succeeding government of Pres. Cory Aquino (1986-1992), did not prioritize population issues. It has also placed more emphasis on couple’s right to determine the number of children, and a family planning program that focused on maternal and child health.

The Ramos administration (1992-1998), meanwhile, renewed efforts to address rapid population growth. The government also promoted family planning in the context of reproductive health by shifting from population control to population management. I remember Sen. Juan Flavier’s “Family Planning” efforts.

On the following administration of President Joseph Estrada (1998-2001), efforts to promote reproductive health were recognized. But greater emphasis was placed on assisting couples achieve their desired family size, as well as introducing a mix of contraceptives.

Under the Arroyo administration, Mr. Herrin noted that the Department of Health had spelled out a national family planning policy. “In this policy statement, family planning was seeing mainly as a health intervention, specifically as an element of reproductive health. In implementing the program, emphasis was placed on the promotion of the natural family planning method,” he said.

In 2000, the Philippines signed the Millennium Declaration and committed to attain the MDG goals by 2015, including promoting gender equality and health. Three years after, USAID started its phase out of a 33 year old program by which the free contraceptives where given to the country. Aid recipients such as the Philippines faced the challenge to fund its own contraception program.

Mr. Herrin, on his paper, said that the President had been quoted as saying that if foreign donors stopped funding the purchase of contraceptive supplies for distribution to public health centers, she expected local private groups – and not the government – to continue the financing.

With various administrations having pushed different policies, Mr. Herrin said it was about time the present government clearly stated its position on a long-term population management program.

“The family planning program has been characterized by shifting objectives of fertility reduction, upholding reproductive rights, and promoting maternal health. In more recent policy statements, it appears that the fertility reduction objective of family planning has been downplayed, if not rejected,” he said.

Aiming for improved quality of life through a “consistent and coherent national population policy”, this is where the current RH bill comes to play.

Reproductive Health is espoused to guarantee universal access to reproductive health care services, supplies and information. There are four bills relating to RH. These are: the House Bill No. 17 authored by Rep. Edcel Lagman, House Bill No. 812 authored by Rep. Janette Garin, Senate Bill No. 40 authored by Sen. Rodolfo Biazon and Senate Bill No. 43 authored by Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Reproductive Health, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) is a state of physical, mental, and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system at all stages of life. Reproductive health implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so. Implicit in this definition are the rights of men and women to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable, and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice, and the right to appropriate health-care services that enable women to safely go through pregnancy and childbirth.

Reproductive health care is the constellation of information and services designed to help individuals attain and maintain the state of reproductive health by preventing and solving reproductive health problems. Reproductive health care includes a variety of prevention, wellness and family planning services as well as diagnosis and treatment of reproductive health concerns.

Positive reproductive health means that individuals can manage their own sexuality and have unrestricted access to the full range of reproductive health care options. Implicit in this understanding of reproductive health is the right of all women and men to be informed, to have access to safe, effective, affordable, and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice, and to have access to appropriate health care services that enable women to safely go through pregnancy and childbirth.

Reproductive health is a critical component of women’s general health. Reproductive health care is a prerequisite for women’s social, economic and human development. When women lack access to safe, comprehensive reproductive health care, the consequences can be damaging.

For more information, please take a jiffy to read the full bill (Click here):

Rep. Lagman enumerated some facts (as well as fallacies on his column LINK). Here are the bill’s salient features. Firstly, the bill is national in scope (Sec. 3,d.; Sec. 21) and therefore, comprehensive, rights-based and provides adequate funding to the population program. It is a departure from the present setup in which the provision for reproductive health services is devolved to local government units, and consequently, subjected to the varying strategies of local government executives and suffers from a dearth of funding.

The reproductive health (RH) bill promotes information on and access to both natural and modern family planning methods (Sec. 10; Sec. 11,f; ), which are medically safe and legally permissible. It assures an enabling environment where women and couples have the freedom of informed choice on the mode of family planning they want to adopt based on their needs, personal convictions and religious beliefs. The bill does not have any bias for or against either natural or modern family planning. Both modes are contraceptive methods. Their common purpose is to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Promotes sustainable human development (Sec. 2; Sec. 3;k; Sec. 5;l; Sec. 6 and 8)

The UN stated in 2002 that “family planning and reproductive health are essential to reducing poverty.” The Unicef also asserts that “family planning could bring more benefits to more people at less cost than any other single technology now available to the human race.”

Strengthening of Popcom (Sec. 5)

The existing Population Commission shall be reoriented to promote both natural and modern family planning methods. It shall serve as the central planning, coordinating, implementing and monitoring body for the comprehensive and integrated policy on reproductive health and population development.

Capability building of community-based volunteer workers (Sec. 12)

The workers shall undergo additional and updated training on the delivery of reproductive healthcare services and shall receive not less than 10-percent increase in honoraria upon successful completion of training.

Midwives for skilled birth attendance

Every city and municipality shall endeavor to employ an adequate number of midwives and other skilled attendants.

Emergency obstetrics care (Sec. 16)

Each province and city shall endeavor to ensure the establishment and operation of hospitals with adequate and qualified personnel that provide emergency obstetrics care.

Hospital-based family planning (Sec. 13; Sec. 4,e,2; Sec. 4,g.; Sec. 6,d.; )

Family planning methods requiring hospital services like ligation, vasectomy and IUD insertion shall be available in all national and local government hospitals.

Contraceptives as essential medicines (Sec. 11,g.; Sec. 19,c.; )

Reproductive health products shall be considered essential medicines and supplies and shall form part of the National Drug Formulary considering that family planning reduces the incidence of maternal and infant mortality.

Reproductive health education (Sec. 4,e,7.; Sec. 4,i.; Sec. 6,e,1., Sec. 10; Sec. 11; )

RH education in an age-appropriate manner shall be taught by adequately trained teachers from Grade 5 to 4th year high school. As proposed in the bill, core subjects include responsible parenthood, natural and modern family planning, proscription and hazards of abortion, reproductive health and sexual rights, abstinence before marriage, and responsible sexuality.

Certificate of compliance

No marriage license shall be issued by the Local Civil Registrar unless the applicants present a Certificate of Compliance issued for free by the local Family Planning Office. The document should certify that they had duly received adequate instructions and information on family planning, responsible parenthood, breast feeding and infant nutrition.

Ideal family size (Sec. 13)

The State shall encourage two children as the ideal family size. This is neither mandatory nor compulsory and no punitive action may be imposed on couples having more than two children.

Employers’ responsibilities
(Sec. 15; Sec. 19,c)

Employers shall respect the reproductive health rights of all their workers. Women shall not be discriminated against in the matter of hiring, regularization of employment status or selection for retrenchment. Employers shall provide free reproductive health services and commodities to workers, whether unionized or unorganized.

Multimedia campaign (Sec. 17)

Popcom shall initiate and sustain an intensified nationwide multimedia campaign to raise the level of public awareness on the urgent need to protect and promote reproductive health and rights.

To sum it up, the Lagman-authored House Bill No. 17, also known as the proposed "Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008," covers the following areas:

    * information and access to natural and modern family planning;
    * maternal, infant and child health and nutrition;
    * promotion of breast feeding;
    * prevention of abortion and management of post-abortion complications;
    * adolescent and youth health;
    * prevention and management of reproductive tract infections, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs);
    * elimination of violence against women;
    * education and counseling on sexuality and sexual and reproductive health;
    * treatment of breast, gynecological disorders, and reproductive tract cancers;
    * male reproductive health;
    * male involvement and participation in reproductive health
    * prevention and treatment of infertility and sexual disorders;
    * and adolescent reproductive health.





Picture Credits:
http://archive.wn.com/2009/10/04/1400/globalwarm/