Politicians As Product Peddlers

By Randy David
Philippine Daily Inquirer

It is difficult to imagine Claro M. Recto advertising a brand of soap, or Jose W. Diokno endorsing a brand of toothpaste, or Santanina Rasul lending her lovely face to a skin-whitening product. All three were once senators of the Republic, to whom the serious business of deciding what directions we should pursue as a nation had been entrusted. The high-mindedness with which they tried to discharge their duties as national leaders would have clashed with the trivial and superficial message of typical commercials. They would certainly have been stunned to see the growing list of incumbent senators who, unmindful of the effect on the public image of the institution they represent, have crossed the line to commercial modeling.

Today’s senators will, of course, vehemently object to any suggestion that they take their responsibilities as legislators lightly just because they have agreed to become product endorsers. No doubt, many of them take their job as legislators seriously. But what point are they making when they style themselves as product peddlers? If the idea is to augment their incomes by moonlighting as commercial models, then voters are entitled to tell them to make up their minds on whether they are decision-makers for the nation, or sales promoters for commercial products.

The same norm applies to movie personalities like Senators Lito Lapid, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, who were elected as legislators but have continued to work as actors. Presumably, they ran for public office because they wanted to serve in government. They could not have been unaware of the financial sacrifice this entails. To argue that there is no conflict between being a public servant and earning a living as a professional actor, model, or entertainer on the side betrays a lack of understanding of the vocation of political leadership. Political office is a full-time job. The employer is the nation, no less; that is why the holder of a public position is expected to give to it all the attention and respect it deserves. [...]

Click here to read full text.

Read also, "Lacson: Endorsement, yes; self-promotion, no", from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

This too, "
Senators as models in huge billboards", by Hern P. Zenarosa of Manila Bulletin.

And also, "Model Senators", by blogger Smoke.

The Harmful, Corruptive Influence of the Church

By Atty. Emmanuel Q. Fernando
Law & Philosophy Matters
The Manila Times

By insisting upon playing a dominant political role, the Catholic Church has set into motion harmful, corruptive influences detrimental to constitutional democracy and the rule of law. Indeed, this is precisely the reason why Philippine politics is beset by its present predicament of a nation careening towards the political status of a banana republic.

The much-lauded and highly-acclaimed intrusion by the Catholic Church into political affairs was the Edsa Uno phenomenon, when Cardinal Sin exhorted the concerned citizenry to mass at Edsa to form a protective shield around the beleaguered forces of coup plotters Minister of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile and Vice Chief of Staff General Fidel Ramos.

That intrusion averted much bloodshed. A peaceful resolution of the coup d’etat resulted, with the eventual airlifting of President Marcos out of Malacañang Palace to the joyous celebration of the millions massed at Edsa and the entire mesmerized world.

But that intrusion occasioned a chain of events which sent the Philippines reeling towards its present predicament. For succeeding governments were no better than President Marcos’ administration; human rights abuses and violations abounded, while corruption remained unabated.

What is worse, Filipinos soon saw the hopelessness of resorting to normal democratic processes in order to secure reform and became convinced that people power was again needed. Still and all, people power demonstrations came and went without success, until President Joseph Estrada and Edsa Dos. [...]

The Church, with its meddling into political affairs, is much to blame for this unique Philippine predicament. It shunned neutrality and took political sides. Rather than exposing or criticizing corruption whoever the culprit, it focused only on the wrongdoings of its enemies while quick to tolerate, if not defend, the wrongdoing of its allies.

This bias and partiality are not lost on the discerning Philippine public who accept the Church, not as a moral guide, but as a powerful political force fearful of losing political clout and influence. Church credibility thus is at an all-time low, so that its predicament is much like that of the Middle Eastern fundamentalist clergy who denounce the terrorism of the United States while turning a blind eye to the terrorism of its own. [...]

Click here to read full text.


Nakikisawsaw Lahat! Sino Pa Kaya Ang Natirang Matino?

Santiago to COMELEC: Stop Politicians' Ads
By Lynda Jumilla and RG Cruz
ABS-CBN Online News

Whether it be a product endorsement on television or an appearance in huge billboards in major roads or espousing a personal crusade or the announcement of the projects of one's agency, for Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, all these can be considered premature campaigning.

This prompted Santiago to write to Commission on Elections (COMELEC) chair, Jose Melo to ask the poll body to stop the advertisements and endorsements and call it illegal.

"That is what they should do now so that we can stop all this pretense that they are not campaigning but they’re already inflicting pain and boredom on the TV and radio audiences by campaigning so early… Some of them just do not deserve to inflict their faces on the TV audience," said Santiago.

Santiago also junked the argument of some of her colleagues that the ads are not campaign materials since they are not candidates, and have not filed any certificates of candidacy.

Santiago also frowned on the argument that some political leaders are only trying to make a living from the ads.

"Give me a break! A senator’s total remuneration that is to say total income in addition to his very basic salary which I think is only about P45,000 is more than handsome. So they cannot claim that they are indigent or that they need to raise money," said Santiago.

Sen. Loren Legarda said she is willing to follow if she is barred from making any endorsements. Legarda is currently endorsing a whitening supplement.

Legarda said however that the focus should be on politicians who appears on ads using government money and cited her rival, Vice President Noli de Castro who has ads about his projects of his agency, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council.

"’Yan ang maliwanag. Daan-daang milyong piso ang ginagastos… Ilang milyong bahay na sana ang natustusan ng TV ads na ‘yan," said Legarda.

Senate President Manuel Villar for his part is unfazed as he said it is his crusade to make life better for Filipinos overseas.

"Ewan ko kung sino apektado doon. Siyempre kung sino apektado siya ang mamumrublema doon. Ako naman hindi ako nakikitang apektado," said Villar.

Click here to read full text.

Read also, "On premature campaigning through commercial advertisements", by Senator Santiago.

It's so disgusting and unbelievable that even some good-standing senators who are planning to run for president/vice-president in the next election are indulging in the exploitation of the loopholes in our election law concerning political advertisement.

Corruption has a component of this type of negative trait. It stems from the mindset of "impunity by legalism". Because even if they know that the act is improper, but since it is not covered by any law, they do it nevertheless.

When will we change? How long will our politicians continue doing this improper act. When will our advertisers stop conniving with these "mapagsamantalang mga plotiko"?

Maybe the reason why these senators are not crafting bills that could plug the loopholes in our election law concerning political advertisement is because of conflict of interest.

What they are doing tells something about their character -- mapagsamantala! What they have done creates a negative impression on the minds of many people. They practice what they condemn and thus they set a bad example especially to the young minds.

They are shaming themselves because of this.
"Parang kumuha [sila] ng bato at ipinokpok sa [kanilang] sariling ulo." - Dolphy


"Failed Coup?": Like Gov't Like Meralco

No Management Change at Meralco
By Donnabelle Gatdula
The Philippine Star

The bid of Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) president and general manager Winston Garcia to oust the Lopezes from the management of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) fizzled out yesterday after the power firm ignored an order from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to stop the stockholders’ meeting.

Meralco’s annual stockholders’ meeting started at 9 a.m. After a quorum was declared by Meralco corporate secretary Anthony Rosete, a cease-desist-order (CDO) was served by Hubert Guevera, SEC compliance and enforcement department director.

The Meralco board temporarily stopped the meeting and reviewed the order reportedly signed by SEC Commissioner Jesus Enrique Martinez.

After a few hours of deliberations with lawyers, Rosete, speaking for the board, announced that they had decided to go on with the meeting as they have deemed the order void. [...]

Garcia vowed to bring to court the Lopez group for defying the SEC order.

“Today is the beginning of the end of Mr. Manolo L. Lopez,” Garcia said.

“I see the light at the end of the tunnel because I firmly believe whatever Meralco has accomplished this morning will not last long. Truth and justice is on our side.”

Garcia told reporters after the meeting he is confident that he will succeed in changing the management of Meralco.

“And once we do that, we assure you that power rates will go down,” he said. [...]

Click here to red full text.

Read also, "Lopez Group 'Wins' But War Isn't Over", By Malaya

The Lopez group and the GMA group were once partners in the "illegal" ousting of Erap from power then, but now they are bitter foes over "power" -- a power struggle.

With the same measure you measure it will be measured back to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. (Luke 6:38)

Meralco started acting like what the government administration did -- denial of coverage, suppression of information. Meralco seems to be non-transparent with the people. If they continue with their suspicious conduct, proxies of the government such as Winston Garcia could take advantage of the people's distrust of Meralco that could develop.

This issue has already started to overshadow other pressing issues of the nation, so if nothing good will come out from this squabbling that will bring real benefit to the people, then what a waste of time for the nation to have paid considerable attention of the matter.


Lowering the Price of Local Rice

Yes we can!
By Leonor Magtolis Briones
The Business of Governance
Views & Analysis - ABS-CBN Online

Produce the rice we need without importing from abroad, that is. These are bold words coming from former UP President Emilio Q. Javier, president of the National Academy of Science and Technology, leading scientist on plant breeding, and former senior official of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. He IS also former Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology.

One view which has emerged out of the debates on rice is the contention that the Philippines cannot produce all the rice that it needs. This is due to our geographical characteristics, climate which is prone to typhoons, accelerated conversion of rice land to other purposes, and so on. Importation of rice is inevitable, advocates of rice importation say.

Not so, says Javier, who spearheaded Philippine Agriculture 2020, the long term plan for sustainable agriculture. In the Philippines, the current yield per hectare is 3.2 tons. In Thailand, it is 2.8 tons per hectare. Javier points out that the latter has more land devoted to agriculture and fewer Thais to feed.

The Philippines is already producing 90% of its rice requirements. There is no reason why the Philippines can’t cover the 10% deficit with sufficient financing, modern technology and good governance.

At present, only 30% of irrigable areas are actually irrigated. Javier emphasizes that the government strategy should be to invest in irrigation systems. Less hectares will be needed for rice as long as the country has well managed, irrigated farm lands.

As for rainfed, low rice yielding farms, these should be switched to other food crops like corn which is eaten by large numbers of Filipinos from the Visayas and Mindanao. Javier proposes that the UP Los Banos Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB), Central Mindanao University and University of Southern Mindanao be given substantial research funds for research on white corn.

The challenge is also to produce sufficient corn for Filipinos who prefer it.

Yes, we can do it, says Javier. Government must invest in repairing damaged irrigation systems, as well as in building new ones, pour research funds into the development of high yielding varieties of white corn, send out extension workers to help farmers, and make credit available for other inputs.

For once, government has to give agriculture the attention that it deserves. I once wrote that the Philippines has been importing rice since 1901. Javier says that we imported rice also during the Spanish period. It is time to change history. [...]

Click here to read full text.

Why not subsidize local millers instead of rice imports?
By Dodolfo Plopino
Letter to the Editor - Philippine Daily Inquirer

Reading two articles in the Inquirer’s April 19 issue, “GMA job on the line” and “Planting rice is never fun,” made me wonder whether the billions of pesos the government has budgeted to respond to the rice crisis would be put to good use.

Please allow me to put forward some food for thought for Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and other policymakers. Why will the National Food Authority subsidize the 2.1 million metric tons of imported rice by P21.75 for every kilo in order to bring down the selling price to P18.25 from the purchase price of P40 per kilo? Why would the government not just use this subsidy to support the rice millers of Nueva Ecija whose breakeven price is P31.39?

By subsidizing rice millers, the NFA would just need to shell out P13.14 per kilo instead of P21.75 to bring down the selling price to P18.25. This translates into a savings of P17.3 billion for 2.1 million metric tons. Added to this, local rice production would be given a boost making the country less dependent on imports and thereby, less vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the international market. [...]

Click here to read full text.


Meralco's Predicament is Testing ABS-CBN's Independence & Integrity

We Are Journalists First
By Maria Ressa
Editor’s Take - ABS-CBN News Online

How independent is ABS-CBN News & Current Affairs?

In the past week, several people have alluded to Lopez control of the news agenda on ABS-CBN. On May 14, Secretary Eduardo Ermita hinted that an ABS-CBN story on the NBN-ZTE deal was being used as a "diversionary tactic" by the Lopezes, who are also the majority shareholders of Meralco. He said, "it is highly probable given players of issue which is electricity." That was followed by strong words by presidential son and Congressman Mikey Arroyo effectively questioning the integrity of ABS-CBN News. Over the weekend, the Philippine Daily Inquirer ran a quote from an anonymous source who said that the prize for a dialogue between President Arroyo and Meralco Chairman & CEO Manuel Lopez would be "ABS-CBN’s cooperation." How independent is ABS-CBN News & Current Affairs? [...]

I point to our track record: let’s look at our coverage of the Ultra Stampede. On that day, our reporters asked us, "How do we handle the people angry with ABS-CBN? How do we deal with those who are grieving and blaming ABS-CBN?" I said, "put them on air." We asked our journalists to go after the most critical voices and to get the worst evidence against ABS-CBN they could find. Treat the story as if we aren’t ABS-CBN because we are journalists first. [...]

Click here to read full text.

Read also, "Santiago says ABS-CBN out to sabotage bid for ICJ seat", by Dona Pazzibugan of PDI.

The rainy season has started. Remember that when it rains, it pours. Therefore always be rooted on solid foundations and avoid sandy grounds.

And also keep in mind that when the kettle heats up, the water boils, then it whistles as it gives off hot steams.


Buffer Stock or "Qualified Hoarding?"

Govt Says Rice Self-sufficiency a Tough Goal
By Reuters

The Philippines, the world's biggest rice importer, may not be able to be self-sufficient in rice by 2011 as planned, but it aims to boost production substantially, the country's agriculture chief said. [...]

"The world is blaming us for pushing prices up," Yap said. "But the only reason we are the biggest buyer is because we decided to be safe with our buffer stock."

Yap said the Philippines would have a rice inventory of more than 30 days worth of consumption in government warehouses by the start of the lean production season in July.

The government paid an average of about $1,136 per ton of rice, cost and freight included, at its last successful National Food Authority (NFA) tender in April, up 60 percent from an auction the previous month.

It scrapped a May tender for 675,000 tons of rice and said it would let the private sector import its own requirement.

An auction for the right to import 141,440 tons rice is set for Tuesday for private traders.

Yap said the government would go back to the market to boost the state buffer stock when prices settled down.

"It's just a question of trying to buy at the right time and at the right price," he said, adding the government was closely monitoring domestic production. [...]

Click here to read full text.

It is not bad to stock rice that will last for 3 months - that is, if you are the NFA, because it is called "buffer stock", otherwise it is called "hoarding" or "panic buying" in some sense.

We are the world's biggest rice importer because NFA buys and "hoards" rice in order to maintain its x-month buffer stock.

Tracing back and analyzing the many years of NFA's operation, one would wonder if this old policy really helped the government? Or has it become one of the sources of corruption by some government officials (large commissions from importation) as alleged by Ka Jimmy Tadeo?

Maybe it would help the government if NFA's role in food security will be limited or minimized in some ways.

The Limits of Political Moralizing

By Randy David
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:46:00 05/24/2008

Having seen, in the past seven years, the kind of behavior our top political leaders are capable of, what I am going to say here may sound counterintuitive if not plainly wrong. I believe that if we continue to confuse political moralizing with political analysis, we will remain blind to the systemic nature of our political crises. We will forever be ousting leaders and putting in new ones, without ever making a dent on the mass poverty and social inequality that have plagued our nation since its founding.

The words “good” and “evil” pervade nearly every form of human judgment. As residues of a dominant moral code, these terms have remained particularly potent in present-day Philippine society. Thus, it is not surprising to find so much moral labeling and, in contrast, so little intelligent political debate on policies and programs. We see this clearly in the ongoing blame-game between the government and the power distributor Manila Electric Co.

As societies become modern, people will be less inclined to be judgmental. It doesn’t mean they become less moral. It only means they become more cognizant of the plurality of moral perspectives in a complex society.

This plurality comes not just from the moral diversity brought about by the communion of individuals raised in various cultures. More importantly, this is the result of the internal differentiation along functional lines of society itself. This is the crux of modern society’s complexity. Instead of a single moral code applicable to every conceivable human relationship, what we find in modern society is the emergence of autonomous spheres of communication, each governed by its own specific normative codes. [...]

Politics itself is undergoing a wrenching process of differentiation in our society, as it struggles to free itself particularly from the influence of religion and the family. The Catholic Church remains a powerful voice in Philippine politics. It is thus ironic to watch the present leaders of the Church delineate their role as “moral shepherds” in order to precisely exclude the exercise of political leadership that their flock has come to expect from them. They find it very difficult to shake off the memory of the interventionist role that the late Cardinal Sin played so deftly in the nation’s political life.

If the bishops have shown restraint in politics to the point of being accused of moral abdication, the same cannot be said of the country’s political families. [...]

The absence of strong and stable political parties representing alternative programmatic perspectives is at the root of our nation’s political immaturity. Instead of serving as a venue for criticizing existing programs and policies and offering solutions, our political system has become nothing more than a popularity and patronage game. In lieu of the open government/opposition debates that steer the course of modern politics, what we have are the behind-the-scenes negotiations and accommodations among the few political and economic families that rule this country.

Because there are no real policy issues on which they are divided along programmatic lines, Filipino politicians resort to name-calling to distinguish themselves from each other. That is why political discourse in our society is suffused with words like “evil,” “greedy,” “thieves,” “corrupt,” “liar,” “depraved,” etc. These are easier to understand and remember than the complex issues raised in policy discussions. Elections are reduced to a choice between manifestly “good” persons and manifestly “evil” persons. Wittingly or unwittingly, our mass media have done a lot to encourage this pre-modern form of politics. [...]

Click here to read full text.

Read also, "Caveat on Politicized Clergy", by Minong Ordoñez of PDI.


Call Centers Gaining Grounds in RP

Call Center Hiring 7,000 Agents
By Elaine Ruzul Ramos

US-Based Convergys Corp. is hiring 7,000 call center agents over the next 12 to 18 months to support the expansion of its operations in the Philippines.

Andrea Ayers, president of customer management at Convergys, said yesterday the company would expand its Philippine operations by nearly 50 percent with the addition of five new integrated contact centers throughout the country.

‘‘We are constantly evaluating new locations and at this point, based on client demand, we find that the Philippines offers the most advantageous mix of available talent, infrastructure and government support,’’ Ayers said.

She said the expansion would increase the company’s capacity by 77 percent. This would also make the Philippines its second largest operation globally, second only to the United States in terms of number of employees.

After the expansion, Convergys will have a global workforce of 67,000, with about 20,000 in the Philippines.

The Philippines, she said, was the fastest growing operation, and this was where the company was putting up more capacity. It will have 14 contact centers in the country alone after the expansion.

Ayers said the country’s competitiveness lay in its people.

‘‘Filipinos have a high level of proficiency in the English language, strong technical skills and great customer service skills,’’ she said.

Three of the new sites will be in Metro Manila, the fourth in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, and the fifth in Cebu City. These new facilities would bring in 3,995 new seats.

The Cebu facility will have a capacity of 450 seats and will require over 650 employees. Located in the Asiatown IT Park, the facility is set for completion in August. [...]

Click here to read full text.

Some Blithesome Anecdotal Conversations in Call Centers

Customer: "I've been ringing 0800 2100 for two days and can't get through to enquiries, can you help?"

Operator: "Where did you get that number from, sir?"

Customer: "It was on the door to the Travel Center."

Operator: "Sir, they are our opening hours."


Samsung Electronics

Caller: "Can you give me the telephone number for Jack?"

Operator: "I'm sorry, sir, I don't understand who you are talking about."

Caller: "On page 1, section 5, of the user guide it clearly states that I need to unplug the fax machine from the AC wall socket and telephone Jack before cleaning. Now, can you give me the number for Jack?"

Operator: "I think you mean the telephone point on the wall."


RAC Motoring Services

Caller: "Does your European Breakdown Policy cover me when I am travelling in Australia?"

Operator: "Doesn't the product name give you a clue?"


Caller (inquiring about legal requirements while traveling in France ): "If I register my car in France, do I have to change the steering wheel to the other side of the car?"


Directory Inquiries

Caller: "I'd like the number of the Argoed Fish Bar in Cardiff please."

Operator: "I'm sorry, there's no listing. Is the spelling correct?"

Caller: "Well, it used to be called the Bargoed Fish Bar but the 'B' fell off."


Then there was the caller who asked for a knitwear company in Woven.

Operator: "Woven? Are you sure?"

Caller: "Yes. That's what it says on the label; Woven in Scotland."


On another occasion, a man making heavy breathing sounds from a phone box told a worried operator: "I haven't got a pen, so I'm steaming up the window to write the number on."


Tech Support: "I need you to right-click on the Open Desktop."

Customer: "OK."

Tech Support: "Did you get a pop-up menu?"

Customer: "No."

Tech Support: "OK. Right-Click again. Do you see a pop-up menu?"

Customer: "No."

Tech Support: "OK, sir. Can you tell me what you have done up until this point?"

Customer: "Sure. You told me to write 'click' and I wrote 'click'."


Tech Support: "OK. In the bottom left hand side of the screen, can you see the 'OK' button displayed?"

Customer: "Wow. How can you see my screen from there?"


Caller: "I deleted a file from my PC last week and I have just realized that I need it. If I turn my system clock back two weeks will I have my file back again?"


There's always one. This has got to be one of the funniest things in a long time. I think this guy should have been promoted, not fired. This is a true story from the Word Perfect Helpline, which was transcribed from a recording monitoring the customer care department. Needless to say the Help Desk employee was fired; however, he/she sued the Word Perfect organization for 'Termination without Cause'.

Actual dialogue of a former WordPerfect Customer Support employee. (Now I know why they record these conversations!):

Operator: "Ridge Hall, computer assistance; may I help you?"

Caller: "Yes, well, I'm having trouble with WordPerfect."

Operator: "What sort of trouble?"

Caller: "Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away."

Operator: "Went away?"

Caller: "They disappeared."

Operator: "Hmm... So what does your screen look like now?"

Caller: "Nothing."

Operator: "Nothing?!"

Caller: "It's blank; it won't accept anything when I type."

Operator: "Are you still in WordPerfect, or did you get out?"

Caller: "How do I tell?"

Operator: "Can you see the C: prompt on the screen?"

Caller: "What's a sea-prompt?"

Operator: "Never mind, can you move your cursor around the screen?"

Caller: "There isn't any cursor: I told you, it won't accept anything I type."

Operator: "Does your monitor have a power indicator?"

Caller: "What's a monitor?"

Operator: "It's the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it have a little light that tells you when it's on?"

Caller: "I don't know."

Operator: "Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that?"

Caller: "Yes, I think so."

Operator: "Great. Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it's plugged into the wall."

Caller: "Yes, it is."

Operator: "When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one?"

Caller: "No."

Operator: "Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other cable."

Caller: "Okay, here it is."

Operator: "Follow it for me, and tell me if it's plugged securely into the back of your computer."

Caller: "I can't reach."

Operator: "Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is?"

Caller: "No."

Operator: "Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over?"

Caller: "Oh, it's not because I don't have the right angle - it's because it's dark."

Operator: "Dark?"

Caller: "Yes - the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in from the window."

Operator: "Well, turn on the office light then."

Caller: "I can't."

Operator: "No? Why not?"

Caller: "Because there's a power failure."

Operator: "A power... A power failure?! Aha! Okay, we've got it licked now. Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in?"

Caller: "Well, yes, I keep them in the closet."

Operator: "Good. Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it from."

Caller: "Really? Is it that bad?"

Operator: "Yes, I'm afraid it is."

Caller: "Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them?"

Operator: "Tell them you're too f--king stupid to own a computer!"

There are so many folks who are very much willing to adapt to the ways of the modern life but they simply fall short of achieving the desire. This is where the patience and understanding of willing experts can give more meaning to the words "assistance" or "help".

On Death Penalty and the Sanctity of Life

Zubiri, Lacson Want to Restore Death Penalty
By Hannah L. Torregoza

Two senators yesterday called for the restoration of the death penalty, saying such a move would help deter hardened criminals and recidivists from committing heinous crimes.

Sens. Juan Miguel Zubiri and Panfilo Lacson said the death penalty as capital punishment should be restored in order to put a stop to brutal and violent killings such as the bloody RCBC bank robbery in Cabuyao, Laguna where 10 people died.

In the House of Representatives, Speaker Prospero Nograles has proposed the start of a lively debate on whether to restore the death penalty or not.

"The specter of certain death will deter even many hardened criminals. It will be a fear greater than just being caught and locked for life in jail. Many terrorists have managed to escape. Or they could feign reformation of character such as parolees who went back to their old criminal ways. Had they been meted out the death penalty, the activities of recidivists would have stopped with finality," Zubiri said.

Congress, he noted, should re-impose the death penalty for crimes relating to drug trafficking and multiple homicide. Zubiri said he earlier voted against the abolition of the death penalty when Congress voted to repeal Republic Act 9346 during the 13th Congress.

"Criminals have been known to trade illegal drugs inside the jails and run their illegal drug-trafficking networks from the prison which ironically serves as their safe haven from rival drug syndicates. While alive, incorrigible drug lords in jails only need a cell phone to perpetrate their crime," he said.

He added that the death penalty would also help law enforcement agencies cope with rising criminality.

For his part, Lacson said Congress should start reviving talks on the restoration of death penalty.

"Mukhang noon ang sentiment at the time, iabolish yan, masyadong malakas. Pero ngayon, marami nang nangyayari kaya siguro ngayon, magiging deterrent iyan sa future heinous crimes kaya dapat pag-usapan ito uli," Lacson said in an ambush interview. [...]

Nograles seeks House debate on death penalty
By Ben R. Rosario

Two massacres that resulted in the death of at least 18 persons in Laguna prompted yesterday Speaker Prospero Nograles to ask members of the House of Representatives to consider anew the restoration of the death penalty.

At the same time, Nueva Ecija Rep. Edno Joson appealed to the House Committee on Public Order and Security to reconsider its decision rejecting the bills providing for the reinstatement of the death sentence on extrajudicial killings and the imposition of a total gun ban in the country.

Joson’s appeal was supported by neophyte congressmen led by Rep. Reno Lim (NPC, Albay).

"It looks like the removal (of the death sentence) did not deter the commission of heinous crimes. Maybe we should revisit and debate its restoration again in Congress," Nograles said.

However, the Davao City solon recommended that the imposition of the death penalty be an "exception to the rule and let the judiciary use its discretion" to impose it in cases when judges find it necessary due to the seriousness of the offense committed. [...]

Click here to read full text.

Death Penalty – NO!
By Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz

To say it clearly and put it briefly: As no government is the author of human life, no human life may be taken by any government. Furthermore, just as no human law can bring about human life, this may neither be taken away by any law of man. Finally, death penalty is the summit of injustice when a justice system is dysfunctional. And this is the reality when certain dynasties, certain families and many individuals live and act above the law of the land, when the demands of justice are neutralized by the tenure of power, the possession of wealth.

Practically whenever heinous crimes get the attention of tri-media and hit the sensibility of public conscience, there is some kind of a clamor for the re-imposition of death penalty in the country. And this reaction is in some way still good and proper—even if only for the following reasons: It shows that a good majority of the people still value human life over and above everything else. It also proves that most of them are angered in a special way by those who treacherously take human lives away. It also confirms that irrespective of their status in life, Filipinos by and large still craves for justice in principle.

It has to be pointed out however that in this country, the Justice System has become progressively dysfunctional. Translation: The high and the mighty are above the law. The poor and the helpless are the victims of law. Justice has become selective in its relevance and application. Injustice is the lot precisely of those who have less in life and resources. That is why as a matter of course, those perpetrate and perpetuate huge crude graft and uncouth corrupt practices in the national level, those who engage in smuggling in staggering proportion, those who make enormous money from the calamity of others such as that caused by natural disaster—all these are untouchable by law and its enforcers as they specifically remain beyond the reach of justice.

These are deviate characters who customarily and callously suck in enormous public funds precisely intended for the common good and the public welfare of the people. These are the sick and sickening personalities who eventually cause the poverty and misery, the hunger and sickness of millions of Filipinos, who thus contribute to their hopelessness and eventual death. In other words, they are the eminent examples of those who in truth strangle people “in style”, who in reality kill people “softly”. In the last analysis, these cold-hearted and ruthless individuals are themselves eventually guilty of heinous crime, of hideous massacre—and in very large scale. [...]

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On the Proposal to Restore the Death Penalty
By Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago

As a former RTC judge of Quezon City , I oppose the move to restore the death penalty. When I was RTC judge and handling cases punishable by death, during the course of the trial I noticed that when the accused was threatened with the death penalty, there was no obvious terror or deterrent effect on the face of the accused. Apparently, criminals who go to the extent of murdering people are not deterred by the death penalty. This is not to underestimate the heinousness of the crime, but there are remedies.

The abolition of the death penalty was a matter of criminal law philosophy that it is better to rehabilitate the accused than to kill him outright. Number two, we will be going against the global mainstream if we restore the death penalty because it has been condemned, meaning to say that it has been vigorously sought to be abolished not only by the churches, but also by the United Nations and the European Union. So that would be a step backward.

Normally, the arguments in favor of the death penalty are that the penalty should be commensurate to the crime. However, the problem there is not whether by taking their lives we would restore the lives of those they took. The answer of course is no, those lives have been lost. If we punish with the approach of an eye for an eye, a death for a death, then we are starting a vicious cycle.

Plus, in this case, we would be violating the right to life, which already has been constitutionalized in our country. You will say “What about the right to life of their victims?” You will be correct. However, the question here is what is the best penalty for society as a whole. It may be that the families themselves may not even wish for the death penalty, they’ll simply wish for appropriate punishment. Sometimes, considering the miserable conditions of our jails, life imprisonment can be more proportionate as punishment than death itself. [...]

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Electoral Reforms

By Antonio C. Abaya

During my TV interview with Harry Tambuatco on Destiny Cable last week, we discussed my objections to the Federalism resolution of Senator Nene Pimentel on the grounds that federalists have not shown any empirical evidence that switching from a unitary to a federal system would “spur economic growth” etc.

Harry asked: “Are you against all changes? Are there any changes that you would like to see?” By all means, yes. But these changes should be made through an elected Constitutional Convention AFTER the 2010 elections.

Hurrying them through with a hastily convened constituent assembly BEFORE the 2010 elections merely creates a Trojan Horse, with President Arroyo crouching inside, scheming to become prime minister, in the manner of Vladimir Putin in Russia.

And what changes would I like to see? First and foremost, I would like to see senators elected by region, instead of at large. By this means, all regions are represented in the Senate all the time.

In the present system, in which senators are elected by nationwide vote, Central Luzon, Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog and Bicol are over-represented, Visayas and Mindanao are under-represented, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is not represented at all.

When was the last time we had a Muslim in the Senate? As far as I can recall, that was in the ’70s or ’80s, in the person of Mamintal Tamano, father of the opposition spokesman Adel Tamano. No wonder the Bangsamoro want to secede. To have no Muslim presence in the Senate, for one whole generation, is against all political commonsense. Why didn’t the framers of the 1987 Constitution think of this?

“What other changes would you like to see,” asked Harry. I would like to see qualifying exams for all candidates for all elective positions, from municipal councilor to president.

This would disqualify, right from the start, the stupid and the ignorant, no matter how popular they may be with the squealing masa. [...]

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On Panglao International Airport Project

Surplus of Airports Amid Food Deficit
By Ernesto M. Pernia
Commentary - Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:39:00 05/20/2008

International airports are a humdrum topic until one realizes that we have too many of them, yet we do not have enough food, power, water and other basic needs. The subject comes to mind because another international airport is to break ground this month in Panglao Island, Bohol. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself is scheduled to preside over the ceremony.

The project was first conceptualized more than 20 years back when hardly anyone even dreamed that the island would become a world-renowned tourist attraction. With the typical on-again, off-again manner of government planning, not too many people paid attention to the project. Of late, however, it’s been rushed supposedly so that it can be completed in two years, before the end of the President’s and the provincial governor’s term in 2010.

The key question is: Does the country need another international airport in addition to the nine existing ones (Laoag, Clark, Subic, NAIA, Iloilo, Mactan, Davao, General Santos, Zamboanga, not to mention the one planned for Cagayan de Oro)?

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DOTC to provide funds for Panglao int’l airport beyond MIAA’s P3B
By June S. Blanco
News & Events - Bohol.gov.ph
Originally Posted: 2008-02-18

Nothing beats regular meetings to iron out kinks in gigantic projects like the Panglao Bohol International Airport .

The Panglao Island Tourism Estate Inter-Agency Task Force (PITE IA-TF) chaired by Gov. Erico Aumentado put to good use his the time-tested and proven practice as they tackled Friday the concern of where to get the funds for the P4-billion airport after the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) had committed only up to P3 billion. [...]

MIAA General Manager Alfonso Cusi earlier said the authority will get the amount from payables of the Philippine Airlines (PAL).

The task force invoked Section 6 of Memorandum Order (M.O.) 178-A signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on January 13, 2006 that provides that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary shall regularly releases the allotments and disbursement authority … as authorized in the General Appropriations Act, covering both loan proceeds and local fund counterparts, and from the budgets of DOTC [Department of Transportation and Communications], PTA [Philippine Tourism Authority], DOT [Department of Tourism], ATO [Air Transportation Office] and PPA [Philippine Ports Authority].

M.O. 210 later amended this to include MIAA as a funder. [...]

Airport city
Meanwhile, the task force will adopt the ‘airport city’ concept in the development of the Panglao airport.

The decision came after Serrano presented the concept at Friday’s meeting.

“I share the vision of MIAA to set up an airport city in Panglao Island as support facility to make the Panglao Airport economically viable. The plan is not far-fetched – it can be realized with MIAA and the government working in tandem with the private sector,” Aumentado said.

Serrano said the concept was born out of a comprehensive study conducted by MIAA, ATO and DOTC that chart the national aviation program.

The current thrusts in airport development are giving way to broader, more encompassing concepts, he explained.

“The airport city will spell big earnings from non-aeronautical activities,” he said, adding that the concept is now being applied in Hong Kong , Singapore , Kuala Lumpur , the United States and Europe .

Development is now geared to integrating the role of the airport in shaping an area or vicinity. This new type of urban form features aviation-intensive businesses and other enterprises within the airport and its immediate vicinity.

This includes hotels and entertainment facilities serving as job engines pump-priming the economy. It would therefore attract corporations, international business presence, travelers and high-income jobs, among others.

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By IJsselstein
Posted On: 19 May 2008
Bohol Philippines: God's Little Paradise

[...] Most tourists come to Bohol to enjoy its natural resources: in particular scuba divers come here to admire the underwater coral reefs. Another significant group are foreigners and former Filipinos who have relatives on the island. [...]

The trip to Bohol by boat from Manila takes about 25 hours, and is not a realistic option for tourists. The flight takes between one and two hours, depending on aircraft type. Transfer from NAIA in Manila to the domestic airport takes about one hour. Currently, there are one or two flights per day directly to Bohol, but a number of visitors may also choose to go via Cebu, which is served by numerous daily flights.

The trip by fast ferry from Cebu takes about one and a half hour. Unfortunately, transfer from Mactan Airport to the pier also takes about two hours, and requires dealing with the rather hectic traffic situation between Lapu-Lapu city and Cebu. Finally, the transfer from both the pier and the airport in Tagbilaran city to the resorts in Panglao takes about half an hour.

Foreign tourists have to spend at least four to five hours after arriving in the Philippines to reach their destination in Bohol. This assumes schedules match perfectly. In practice, many visitors will be forced to spend a night in either Manila or Cebu before they can continue their trip to Bohol. Obviously, this delay is the main argument in favor of an International Airport on Bohol.

However, in this article, we will show that this is not enough justification for the considerable investments required.

After concluding that an airport in Panglao doesn't make sense, what alternatives can be proposed to develop tourism in Bohol in a economically, socially, and environmentally responsible way. I can think of a number of things that can better be done with the available funds.

Protect assets. The provincial government should guard its assets for future generations. It should not kill the goose with the golden eggs, nor allow commercial exploiters, or just sheer indifference or poverty to do the same. Support should given to grass-roots initiatives to protect the marine environment, such as the small marine sanctuaries that have started to appear around the coastline. Destructive fishing methods should be stopped. Historical buildings need proper attention and repairs to remain attractive. In tourist development zones, no buildings should be higher than the coconut trees.

Develop medium size resorts. Bohol can still offer space to a range of smaller and medium sized quality resorts, up to about 40 rooms, as long as each of these new resorts offer some unique selling points and a special atmosphere. Examples of such resorts with a special atmosphere may be Ananyana, or the Bohol Bee Farm. Such medium sized resorts offer much better opportunities for locals to be involved, and often offer better services to their customers.

Keep beaches free. Bohol should keep its beaches free. In all senses of the word: free for all visitors to enjoy, even if they cannot afford the high entrance prices of some of the resorts. This way, word-of-mouth advertising will have the widest reach. Even young backpackers traveling on a shoestring will grow older and return to stay in the better places. Beaches should also be free from stray waste, dirt and other annoyances. In particular, the province should create and strictly enforce a no-build zone for the first 50 or even better 100 meters from the high-water line on the beach. This will create a commons that can be enjoyed by all. It should also keep the beaches free from too many hawkers. People don't mind watching somebodies wares once or twice during a beach holiday, but if they constantly have to send away over-zealous sales people, they will not return. [...]

Click here to read full text.

If I can correctly recall, the idea of an airport in Panglao island came about initially because of the limitation that upgrading the old Tagbilaran Domestic Airport (TDA) presented because of various reasons -- one major reason is that, besides being misplaced in the first place, the TDA is now already surrounded by residential buildings making further expansion of its runway impossible.

The original plan was just a modern domestic airport in Panglao that could accommodate larger domestic-flight aircrafts. The planners thought that since Panglao is an island, it poses no risk of high rise structures that could distract the pilots during take-off and landing procedures -- which was the main complain of PAL pilots about TDA.

The plan was conceived many years back. As time progressed, it became a flagship project that politicians used during elections. Candidates after candidates running for governor and congressmen, and elections after elections, it became their favorite promise to the people of Bohol such that from a domestic airport plan it became an international airport plan.

There were small groups of people in the province and from abroad who were opposed to the plan. Hearings and dialogs were conducted but major disagreements still remain.

Now that the plan is finally an approved project and the needed lands are already acquired and sources of funding are already secured, under the current governor's hands, according to his legal consultants, only a court order could stop him from pursuing it into completion.

Personally, I preferred the original plan but it should be located elsewhere in Bohol -- somewhere not so far from the capital city which is Tagbilaran. There should be large land area appropriately reserved as allowance in case the need to upgrade it into an international airport becomes inevitable in the future.

Shouldn't the NCC be Given the (Bigger) Role?

Hybrid Solution for 2010 Election
By Ike Suarez, Correspondent

A combination of simple personal computers, texting, Open Source software and the old manual system should be used.

Claiming that all automated technologies proposed so far for Philippine elections are either too expensive or have technical workings, which cause Filipinos to doubt the results, a group of six prominent figures in the country’s IT sector today proposed a hybrid solution using simple personal computers, cellular phone SMS-texting, and Open Source software while retaining the manual system of voting.

The movement to advocate the hybrid solution was announced at a symposium at the University of the Philippines College of Engineering organized by the Computing Society of the Philippines, an organization of academics all over the country engaged in both the teaching of and research and development (R&D) in computer science and computer engineering. [...]

Gruet said that unlike Direct Recording Equipment, the proposed hybrid solution would cost around P1 billion to implement. That of DRE would cost P17 billion if made available to all the country’s precincts.

And unlike optical mark reading, the other proposed automated technology, the counting of votes and canvassing of election returns would be visible to all interested parties. It would not also require the design of new ballot boxes.

Under the hybrid system, voters would vote manually as they have always done. But the election returns would be tabulated via PC in designated schools, the returns validated and sent by cellphone SMS to a website, the Comelec Board of Canvassers would access the Website to produce the Statements of Votes and Certificates of Canvass, the Provincial Board of Canvassers would access the Web to produce the provincial Statements of Votes and Certificates of Canvass, and the National Board of Canvassers would access the database to produce the final results. All these would be visible on the Internet to any interested party. [...]

Click here to read full text.

Read also, "The Philippines' ICT Roadmap"

NCC (National Computer Center) should be the central government agency that has a bigger role in matters concerning computers and information -- and that should include the automation of the electoral system. NCC should be empowered, properly staffed with highly competitive professionals and supported with the appropriate budget so that it can expand its capacity and scope of work.

Comelec commissioners are very reluctant to handle the task of automating the electoral system simply because they don't have the expertise when it comes to computerized systems and equipments. They don't have computer professionals in their organization to handle the tasks -- especially proper maintenance of data and equipments.

PC's, DRE's, OMR and other IT devices require proper maintenance during and after elections or else they may not function properly in the next election -- and considering that these devices are so expensive.

Either Comelec hires and employs their own technicians and IT professionals to handle the tasks, or they could coordinate with NCC for these specific needs. But what can NCC help Comelec with when they themselves are short of experts (both in the software and hardware categories).

One problem of Comelec that may be assisted by NCC is the coordination of data between the Comelec's CVL (Computerized Voter's List) and the LGU's LCR (Local Civil Registry) data. CVL data clean-up operations and updating could become efficient if NCC could find ways of integrating these two systems.

Catholic overpopulation, in a non-Catholic rice crisis

By Antonio J. Montalvan II
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:42:00 05/12/2008

Catholic overpopulation is the favorite whipping boy of many pundits. Its centuries of consistency on the natural legal dictum that human life is a gift and for which it deserves an unchanging value no matter the mores of the times, the Catholic Church stands once again on the docket in what is largely a trial by publicity. And it makes for good economics.

The issue is the perceived rice crisis. The basis of the indictment seems to be, as is usual, the monocausal illogic that socio-economic woes are caused by overpopulation-and from the usual manner it is made to sound, by no other factor-and because the Catholic Church is staunchly against artificial contraception, then simplistically it is to blame.

In this latest analysis that borders on the pseudo, the version has changed but the logic has not, that there is not enough rice to feed a population that continues to burgeon because the Church prohibits artificial contraception. That is probably the most naïve argument of the season...

To start with, is there truly a rice crisis that has doomed this entire land from Jolo to Aparri, or to make it more geographically correct, from Sibutu to Y'ami? Manila media says there is. Life in the province, however, testifies that there is none. At the most, there are few lines that are mostly panic-induced by a false notion that rice is about to be depleted. But it has not. Nonetheless, score one for the pundits there for effectively causing those lines.

In a Manila, however, that is bursting at the seams with migration from the provinces and thus has lost the bucolic quality that we in the provinces still have the pleasure of possessing, the perception of a rice crisis truly registers. Unlike the provinces, Manila is possibly so overpopulated with migrants that it becomes easy to influence (impose?) its thinking on the Filipino majority that there truly are more mouths to feed. Likewise, Manila's punditocracy easily finds convenience in punishing the Catholic Church for it.

Demographic science, however, does not agree. In truth, there is a growing rise of artificial contraceptive use across the Filipino population. What that means is that many Filipino Catholics, practicing or nominally otherwise, are increasingly not following the Church teaching against artificial contraception. Given that real scenario, one can surely expect the Catholic Church to step up its catechesis, even if only one soul is left to care to listen. Have we forgotten our knowledge of scriptural accounts? The Church, in fact, has always had this courageous forbearance in the face of opposition and persecution. As we all know, it may even take martyrdom to do so. [...]

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Population Control: A Cop-out

By Jose Ma. Montelibano
First Posted 01:19:00 05/16/2008

I do not know the scientific basis for the conventional conclusion that population is a cause of poverty. I can accept that a certain level of population can aggravate poverty, but to aggravate is not to cause but rather to make worse what is already there.

What nation had no poverty but engendered poverty because its population grew to objectionable levels? Until the past 50 or so years, population was never imagined to be the cause of poverty. Yet, poverty has been a traditional state of many people throughout recorded history. When there was no population issue connected with poverty, who or what caused poverty?

It is a fact that I have strong Catholic influences working in my life and these are merged in the way I process my decisions. But it is not my being Catholic that upsets me when birth control is offered, or pushed subtly or aggressively, as a solution to poverty. The only solution to poverty is the opposite of what creates it. If the cause of poverty is removed, then poverty will disappear. If the opposite of what causes poverty is interjected into a situation of poverty, then poverty will disappear much faster.

I cannot see for the life of me why so simple an equation can be missed—unless it is being deliberately sidestepped or covered up. Those who would like to push population control as a poverty-solving mechanism must have more important agenda than what they claim. And in all likelihood, the initiative for population control comes from developed nations or from their agents in impoverished countries which are the prime targets of population control...

Poverty is present in many levels, from local to global. In many of these cases, population has obviously nothing to do with it. In some, it is intimately connected to natural conditions like extreme and extended drought; in others, by aridity of the land which denies productivity. In most cases, though, it is entirely man-made. Even people from areas that are adversely affected by climate or land conditions can be easily helped by those who are not. Poverty is born from exploitation and later aggravated by sheer apathy toward the suffering of others. To repeat, poverty is not caused by population but by exploitation. This must be our only understanding of poverty, this must be the mantra of all those who wish to eliminate poverty...

Population control is being diverted to the level of religion because divergent or opposing views justify secular or state actions and policies. Using the dictum of the separation of the church and the state, national or local governments promote their policies on population control and often effectively sideline religious opposition. But when the issue of poverty is predicated on social justice, when the guilty cannot escape accountability by blaming victims for their inherited suffering, even the sanctity of life can be defended in the most secular of ways.

In gist, people who have impoverished Filipinos cannot get away with just giving us condoms to address the poverty they themselves have helped to cause...

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Playing (Moral) Authority Over The RCC in RP

What Good Is The Catholic Church in Economics, Politics, Education, Religion and Morals?
By Dean Jorge Bocobo

From the point of view of the Democracy and the Constitution, the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) as an institution is what we call a Non-government Organization (NGO). Just like the Communist Party of the Philippines, or Greenpeace, or an ideologically driven newspaper like the Philippine Daily Innuendo (all of whom support and find common cause with it), the RCC has taken very definite positions on the fulcrum issues of Philippine society, and just like them deserves to be scrutinized for the validity, reasonability and consequences of its policies and actions. In the next few weeks I propose to do just that in several key areas:

(1) I've already begun with its position on Population policy, which I think bears important significance on the long-term economic prospects of the country...

(2) In the economic realm, the Church has adopted entirely regressive policies on such key issues as mining, genetically modified organisms, nuclear power and globalization, which deserve to be examined and understood in the light of its apparent adoption of radical, fear-mongering environmentalism as a secular component of its religious tenets.

(3) In politics, it has aligned itself with the liberal fascist policies of the Arroyo administration and holds captive a large part of the electorate by acting as a de facto political party, uber alles, of which all the other parties are mere factions (think about it!). [...]

(4) In education, the Catholic Church completely dominates the private school sectors, powerfully influences the public school system (since it trains virtually all the teachers and functionaries that run it!) and sabotages science education along the lines that conform to its reactionary world view and sentimentally looks back upon Spanish Taliban times as its halcyon days of complete domination in this field.

(5) In religion and morals, the RCC is an almost complete failure, both in its teaching magisterium and in the example set by its hierarchy. It does not teach Christianity at the level of Biblical study, but rather concentrates on liturgical extravaganzas that have weekly, monthly, seasonal and holiday components, and as in the days of yore, utilizes sacraments and ceremonies as cultural artifacts that circumscribe Filipino social life. [...]

(6) On social issues, the Church sets the worst example on the matter of GAMBLING, where its corrupt relationship with the PAGCOR represents an entirely unhealthy and demoralizing factor for which its leaders ought to be pilloried and put to shame. [...]

Click here to read full text.

"Yes, the Church is archaic, antiquated, stupid, etc.'"
Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Fernando R. Capalla

Dear Bishop Rimando, Msgr. Vicente, Rev. Fathers, Religious Men and Women, and Catholic Lay Faithful:

Greetings in the Risen Lord!

Recently, and also not too long ago, some of our city officials and newspaper columnists were reported as saying that the Church’s moral teaching on the family, reproductive health, population, and related matters are “archaic,” “antiquated,” “stupid.” If the media report is correct, I must say they are right: the Church’s moral teaching is synonymously foolish, obsolete, and outmoded.

They are right because their comments, on their face value, confirm what St. Paul had said centuries ago to the people of Corinth in Greece: that he was preaching the stupidity or foolishness of the cross of Jesus Christ (1Cor. 1:21) Who and His teaching are “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrew 13:8).

These comments, which we think are sincere but ignorant, are not a surprise. We expected them always. For today, as in the time of Christ and the Apostles, the nature of family, procreation, health, population and related matters are seen and considered from a different perspective or, as the educators would say, from a worldview so much different and even opposed to ours.

Their view considers human life as pure matter. We say it is both matter and spirit or, as our Catechism says, human life is body and soul, and we are embodied souls. While the body is created by secondary factors through what is known as genetic evolution, the soul is directly created by God as revealed in Sacred Scriptures. Hence human life and human society together with its legal, political, economic, cultural, and religious dimensions are also governed by God’s moral laws which must be respected and observed.

The City Council’s adoption by majority vote of the Local Development Plan for Children of Davao City, 2007-2010 has raised serious questions on the morality and acceptability of its principles and implementing mechanisms and procedures. In our Pastoral Statement of 12 April 2008 we told the City Mayor and the City Council that under the guise of reproductive health and safe pregnancy the Plan mocks parental authority, belittles the value of family, denigrates the virtue of chastity, makes available all contraceptives to children from 0 – 18 years old, and promotes pre-marital sex and promiscuity. Because of this the Church cannot be silent but must object relentlessly and courageously, whether She is listened to or not. Our silence may be construed as consenting to an immoral act which is dangerous and detrimental to the moral and spiritual welfare of our people especially our families and children.

The City Council’s questionable Resolution is, among other things, a clear wake-up call to all Catholics – the clergy, religious, and laity. It is a serious and urgent call for us to prepare our people for its implementation. For this reason we have to intensify our evangelization programs, especially that part of our Pastoral Plan which is the moral education and conscience formation of our People especially the young and the children. Towards this objective the following diocesan structures and offices are hereby enjoined to make a concrete, collective, systematic, and implementable steps under the supervision of the Office of the Vicars General:

1.The Diocesan Pastoral Office under Bishop George Rimando;
2.The Office of the Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools under Fr. Julius Rodulfa;
3.The Office of the Vicar for the Clergy under Msgr. Martiniano Gorgonio;
4.The Office of the Vicar for Religious under Fr. Patrice Picard, PME;
5.The Office of the Archdiocesan Council for Lay Associations and Integrated Movements (ACLAIM) under Msgr. Paul Cuison and Dr. Mike Manalaysay.

On this point of effective preparedness, our Christian response and conduct must be according to the following advice of the first pope, St. Peter the Apostle, who wrote:

“Simply proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience, so that those who slander your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their accusations. And if it is the will of God that you should suffer, it is better to suffer for doing right than for doing wrong” (1Peter 3:15-17).

May Mary, our Blessed Mother and the Star of the New Evangelization, guide us in our struggle to make Jesus Christ and His moral teaching known and loved because He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

"A fire of testing has come to the Catholic church – to the Philippines for now, to the rest of the world later; for these days are a season of testing." Quoted from my old blog entry on 12/17/2007.


An Avenue for the Primacy of the Rule of Law

Executive, Legislative, Judicial Council Formed
By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez

Calling it a "historic moment in our constitutional democracy," President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led leaders of the three branches of government in the signing of the Judicial Executive Legislative Advisory and Consultative Council (JELAC) Tuesday.

The JELAC will work together to institutionalize "consultation, cooperation, and coordination in pursuit of the rule of law and the advancement of our nation," the President said in her opening statement...

"By the legislative and executive action, the beneficiary of the JELAC is the judiciary," he told reporters in an interview.

Senate President Manuel Villar said the greater aim of JELAC would be to make the three branches work together for the people.

Asked if specific issues like extrajudicial killings and press freedom were discussed as among the priorities, Villar said he believed that the council would tackle them in the coming days.

Puno said he reviewed the structure of the JELAC and found nothing that would lead to an encroachment on each other’s independence.

While the separation of powers of the three co-equal branches of government is mandated in the Constitution, the President said this should not mean they could not work together.

"Separation does not mean isolation. Rather, among our co-equal branches, there should be consultation and cooperation to advance shared priorities in the national interest and welfare of all Filipinos" she said.

"We envision JELAC to be the venue where representatives of the three branches can identify issues pertaining to the primacy of the rule of law and formulate and undertake solutions to strengthen due process and the institutions of justice, and implement our laws better," Arroyo said.

"The JELAC's mandate is centered on the rule of law," she said...

Click here to read full text.

What if something like JELAC was formed prior to EDSA 2, or prior to the NBN scandal Senate hearings? Would the primacy of the rule of law be upheld then? Well, we hope it will be from now on -- what a coincidence, especially that this administration has now taken an offensive mode towards Meralco.

We hope that JELAC would turn out to be indeed a useful avenue for independent expert consultative ideas in advancing true primacy of the rule of law -- rather than evolving into a boulevard for sweetheart deals and schemings.


Rectify Agricultural Trade Imbalances

By Senator Edgardo Angara

We have a food crisis unlike what we have seen before. People are not dying on the streets; there is no mass starvation; but there is a crisis nevertheless. The doubling, tripling even, of food prices has caused protests and riots in countries.

If the price hikes continue, Robert Zoellick, World Bank president, said these would push 100 million people back below the poverty line, wiping out seven years of progress.

Peter Timmer, Center for Global Development fellow, thinks that the situation is actually much worse than that. If current rice prices in world markets are actually transmitted into most Asian countries, then even conservative calculations suggest that upwards of 10 million people in Asia will die prematurely.

Inequitable agricultural trade and the food crisis

The food crisis did not just happen immediately. We have blamed this on a confluence of factors that include climate change, increased demand for food, rapid increase in the price of oil, and mandates for biofuel production.

But looking deeper, this crisis is the culmination of long-standing fissures that reflect imbalances between rich and poor countries in international agricultural trade. Such inequities stem from substantial protectionism in rich countries, as well as from inequities introduced as part of the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture.

As a result, 70 per cent of both world exports and imports are exchanged among developed countries. For developing countries, not only do we have a smaller share of world agricultural trade but we also have been experiencing a deterioration in the balance of trade between exports and imports.

In the early 1960s, we, developing countries, had an overall annual agricultural trade surplus of almost US$ 7 billion. By the early 1970s, our trade surplus fell to about US$1 billion. By the end of the 1980s, it had disappeared. And since the beginning of the 1990s, we have become net importers of food and have incurred deficits.

The implications of such dependence on food imports are staggering. It has affected our ability to pay for imports; it has decreased our local production of food; it has brought incomes, especially of farmers, down; and it has stunted our nutritional status.

What needs to be done now

To rectify this trade imbalance and thwart a developing global food cartel, there is an urgent need to:

1. Accelerate the elimination of export subsidies and reduction of domestic subsidies of rich countries...

2. Cut agricultural tariffs; provide Special Products; and institute Special Safeguard Mechanisms...

3. Ensure that legitimate measures are not used as technical barriers to trade...

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You need something that I have which you don't have; I need something that you have which I don't have. Let us help each other so that we may meet each other's needs.

Help me in producing more of my product so that there will be enough of my product for us to share. I will help you in producing more of your product so that there will also be enough of your product for us to share.

Let me bless you with what I have so that you may bless me with what you have.
Isn't this the spirit of true fair trade?

Contrast that with the spirit of unfair trade: Let me lure you with what you want to have so that I could get from you what I want that you have.


Can NFA Rice Importation & Hoarding Be Stopped?

Here is an interesting simplistic analysis made by a reader of Philippine Star on the subject of rice self-sufficiency.

For now, these rice crisis can still be solved. granting that there are 90 million Filipinos and everyone eats an average of 2 cavans of rice per year, that translate to a demand 180 million cavans of rice to be met every year.

In 1982, my father was able to harvest 96 cavans of palay in half hectare of ricefield. from that period to the present, some farmers now harvest up to 350 cavans of palay from one hectare of ricefield. but lets just be conservative and base our computation in the technology of rice farming in 1982.

If 96 cavans is harvested in half a hectare, that means 192 cavans of palay can be harvested in one hectare in one cropping. there are two croppings in one year so that in one year, a hectare could yield 384 cavans in one year. a ricemill with 65% recovery therefore could yield 250 cavans of rice per hectare in one year granting there are only two croppings.

If we divide the annual demand of 180 million cavans of rice with the annual yield per hectare of 250 cavans, the Philippines need only 720,000 hectares of ricefields to meet the annual demand of rice. what this means is that, the Philippines can be self-sufficient in rice and can even export considering that 2.7 million hectares are devoted to rice farming.

And now the million dollar question: why are we not self sufficient when the technology is available to harvest palay up to 350 cavans per hectare and there is more than enough farmlands to plant rice?

Hoard = to accumulate and hide or keep in reserve.

Haggling Over Federalism

A Proposal Lacking A Consensus
By Manuel L. Quezon III

Philippine Daily Inquirer

Even as the House is poised to begin discussions with the Senate on Sen. Aquilino Pimentel's federalism proposal, the public has a lot of catching up to do, beginning with getting its hands on the actual text of the Senate's resolution and then dissecting it. The public needs to do this, because once the House starts haggling with the Senate over federalism, the public could end up squeezed out of the discussion...

In theory, I'm keenly interested in federalism, and in principle, I'm supportive of it; but my approach is based on the premise that we should retain a bicameral legislature and the presidential system. This is not a basic approach shared by other proponents; there are even proponents of federalism who think it would essentially abolish a national government, when federalism might actually strengthen some national powers while freeing up states to enjoy wider powers in certain areas.

Pimentel's proposal will create federal states without having consulted the provinces on whether they're comfortable with the composition of federal states and the designated state capitals (e.g., for the State of Northern Luzon, composed of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province, with Tuguegarao City as the state capital; the Cordilleras, for one, won't be happy about this; or for the State of Central Visayas, with Masbate, Negros Oriental, Cebu, Bohol and Siquijor, Toledo City will be the state capital and Boholanos won't be happy about this and might bring up the question of "Cebuano imperialism.") The location of Congress in Tagbilaran City, while the Executive branch remains in Metro Manila, is lunacy (there's a reason all other federal capitals have their institutions in one place; it makes more-but not much more-sense to move the Federal capital to the Visayas or Mindanao)...

It would be unfair to say that Pimentel's proposals are carved in stone; they are exactly what they purport to be: proposals. Subject to discussion, and negotiation. But these are proposals of such ambition that they deserve the fullest public participation in their eventual outcome.

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Missing The Opportunity To Bless Your Workers

Employers Nix Wage Hike
By Charo Logarta

The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines (JCCIP) is against any increase in minimum wage, saying that it will be detrimental to the competitiveness of various industries that also are grappling with high commodity prices.

The National Capital Region (NCR) Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board held its consultation with employers and businesses Friday, following its meeting with the labor sector Thursday.

"The [Arroyo] administration and the labor sector should seriously consider the fact that the minimum wage of the country is already the highest in the region," said the JCCIP, in its position paper to the NCR Wage Board.

"There is mismatching between minimum wage levels and productivity in the Philippines that will lead to further deterioration of the Philippine economy if another wage hike happens," it said.

The JCCIP warned that many companies may be forced to lay-off workers, especially if the higher overhead costs cannot be passed on through higher prices for products and services.

"A further increase in the minimum wage means 'just scatter money nationwide.' It will push up end-user prices of goods and services, and this only contributes to the vicious cycle of upward inflationary trend. When the minimum wage is high, there is little room for management to reward workers who are more competitive and productive than others," added the JCCIP.

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Indeed it is very hard to strike a balance between increasing the minimum wage of the workers and protecting the employers from going out of business because of high labor costs -- especially when the decision is to be made in the middle of a crisis.

A crisis can also be a catalyst for a positive change. Sometimes all it needs for a company to grow and move forward are the challenges and the hidden opportunities that a crisis brings.

In times of crisis, only very few companies are not afraid to take the risk of prioritizing the welfare of their employees over their profit. It is remarkable that when the crisis is over, those companies grow even more than before.

There are many management and business principles that companies are following in handling crisis situations but only few managers are willing to apply the following principle: It is better (not bitter) to give than to receive.

“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you. For with the same measure you measure it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38)

When God is about to increase your blessing, He will first initiate the expansion of your capacity -- usually the initiation is in the form of a test (a crisis). What is being tested is not your endurance or your survival ability, but rather, it is your giving ability, your generosity, your kindness, your concern for others -- nothing will test greatly our generosity than when we have less to give. The very reason for God increasing more our blessing is for us to be the channel of His blessings to others.

Companies do not exist just to gather wealth for the banks. They are there to be bearers and channels of God's blessings to the people. Many of them are experiencing the seeming difficulties that today's economic crisis has brought, but how many of them realized that this is a great opportunity for them to remain faithful to the Lord.

If not now, then when? When was the last time employers have given their employees a fair wage increase? Isn't now an appropriate time for a wage increase to be appreciated so much by the workers? Don't miss a God-given opportunity -- for His works are hidden in disguised opportunities.