Friday, May 28, 2010

Medicines or not: lost in translation

Cabral unfazed by case to be filed by herbal firms

MANILA, Philippines - Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral is unfazed by the graft case filed against her before the Office of the Ombudsman by a group of manufacturers of herbal and dietary products over the translation of a warning sign on product packages.

“I’m not bothered. All we did was translate it from English to Filipino so that it can be understood by most Filipinos. Why don’t they want the public to understand? Does it mean that they are thriving on deceit?” Cabral told The STAR.

The case stemmed from an administrative order of the Department of Health (DOH) issued last March 18 to replace the warning “No Approved Therapeutic Claims” on the labels of herbal and dietary products to “Mahalagang Paalala:
Ang (name of product) Ay Hindi Gamot at Hindi Dapat Gamiting Panggamot sa Anumang Uri ng Sakit.”

In its complaint, the Chamber of Herbal Industries of the Philippines Inc. claimed that the order had caused the industry some P47.4 million in damages and injury in the form of cancelled advertisements and wasted advertising and promotional materials, excluding losses in sales...

Hmm. Why pick on herbals? I think Sec. Cabral should go all the way and make mandatory the translations of warnings on all other products as well.

English - "Cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health"
Tagalog - "Ang paninigarilyo ay delikado sa iyong kalusugan, kahit presidente ka pa."

English - "Drink moderately"
Tagalog - "Uminom nang katamtaman lamang, kasi parang yosi din yan."

English - "Trust Condoms"
Tagalog - " 85% lamang ang bisa nito, at hindi ito gamot sa AIDS. Sa madali't salita, pwede mo ring ikamatay."

English - "Condoms is supergood medicine"
Tagalog - "Ah ewan!"

Test-tube love?

Woman, 60, gives birth to twins—report

BEIJING – A 60-year-old retiree has become the oldest woman in China to give birth, bearing twins after becoming pregnant via in-vitro fertilization, state media reported Thursday.

The woman, whose real name was not given, gave birth to the two baby girls prematurely on Tuesday in Hefei, capital of the eastern province of Anhui, the official China Daily said.

The births came 34 weeks after she became impregnated to ease the pain caused by the death of her 28-year-old daughter, Tingting, who died in a "gas poisoning" incident early last year along with her husband, it said.

"Their cry resembles my late daughter," she was quoted as saying after the birth were born via Caesarean section.

"The girls give me and my husband the courage to live on. Despite the fact that we are old, we have the confidence to bring them up."
My heart always goes out to a mother who loses her child, at whatever age each may be. In the imperfect world where we live, there is always the possibility for heartbreaking personal tragedies, and it remains for us to grasp at a stronghold in order to cope with the emotional trauma. In this case, the distraught Chinese mother resorted to assuage her loss by a most extraordinary means. She attempts to replace her loss with an artificially-generated, technological solution. Amazing even as it transpires, the fact is she can never really replace the loss of her 28-year old daughter with her artificially-conceived twins, although one hopes and prays that everything turns out for the better - for everyone. The 60-year old Chinese mother must have struck into this reality when she said that "despite the fact that we are old, we have the confidence to bring them up". This reality check tells us that the average Chinese lifespan is at 73 years. This reality check also tells us that some definite point in the near future, she and her husband will have to leave the twins at their tender years when they would need their presence the most. The twins will be orphaned minors at that moment, and sooner or later they would also be sadly pondering at the loss of their biological parents. One wonders even with rapid technological advances whether science would be in a position to help the twins by creating a laboratory-generated set of parents for them - or whether love can actually be generated from the laboratory. One can only hope and pray that when the time comes, these twins can grasp at a stronghold... one that lasts and endures forever.

PS -For the Catholic position on in-vitrio fertilization, see Donum Vitae (The Gift of Life)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hoping against hope

Advocates hopeful of RH Bill OK in next Congress

"MANILA, Philippines--As advocates vowed to revive the Reproductive Health (RH) bill in the 15th Congress, the arena is expected to shift on the majority of its members whose position remains unknown on the issue.

Of the 286 members of the House of Representatives, only about 65 have clear position supporting the bill, including 13 who are first termers, according to Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development (PLDPC) in a forum Wednesday in Quezon City.

The position of majority of the first termers, or 84 percent, remains unknown, he said."

Yeah, yeah, it's a numbers game alright, although we are hopeful that legislators would take positions based upon principled stands arising from convictions towards the RH bill's objective merits or lack thereof. Political wheeling-dealings must now be consigned to the dustbin. The nation must now be keen on observing that "kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap" is not just a slogan.

"But advocates including Akbayan partylist Representative Risa Hontiveros and Iloilo Representative Janette Garin see glimmer of hope that the controversial measure would finally hurdle Congress with incoming president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and with either Albay Representative Edcel Lagman or Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte as Speaker, who are all supportive of the bill."

Wait a minute. Lagman and Belmonte's support of the bill may presumably be counted upon, but the RH-bill advocates are being presumptuous on the position of the incoming president. For the record, Noynoy Aquino's latest statements on the RH bill do not support their optimism, and I quote: "There are provisions that I cannot support...". Therefore, the only logical conclusion one can make at this point is that in its present form, Noynoy will veto the bill.

"The church will always remain an opposition to the bill, but Hontiveros said they are hopeful Aquino and the new Speaker can stand up against the bishops and pave the way for the enactment of the measure into law."

Hah. While anti-RH advocates remain in unity with the bishops against the RH bill, the pro-RH advocates must worry about standing up against formidable arguments, not against clerics. In fact the most compelling arguments against the bill, even from a purely secular standpoint, have been culled from lay people.

" 'The hope is realistic that we can expect support from the executive,' she added."

Not so fast Risa, you have to get it voted through the Lower House and the Senate first. Too bad you didn't win a Senate seat. But of course you can always hope.

Monday, May 24, 2010

On Masonry and the Catholic Church

Bishop: No politics in denying burial rites to Nantes

LUCENA CITY, Quezon, Philippines – (UPDATE) Bishop Emilio Marquez, head of the Diocese of Lucena, on Sunday, explained that the Church denial of Catholic burial rites for the late Quezon Gov. Rafael Nantes was in accordance with Vatican laws and was not motivated by politics.

In his homily during a mass at the Saint Ferdinand Cathedral here, Marquez revealed that Nantes was a “born again Christian” and a “Freemason” and thus, under the Church Code of Canon laws 1184 and 1185, Catholic burial rite was to be denied, "unless some signs of repentance before death have been shown.”...

“There is no politics in the decision of the Church. I just implemented the Church laws,” said the bishop, known here as an arch-critic of Nantes.

Marquez said the Diocese was forced to issue the clarification in order to dispel confusion and avoid any misunderstanding that might arise from the prohibition that the Church issued last week on the celebration of mass at Nantes wake at the Quezon Medical Convention Center here.

Marquez said: “The local Catholic church in the Diocese of Lucena mourns with the people of Quezon. The fact is we sent our condolences to the family of Governor Nantes immediately after we received the sad news of his tragic death.”

“We did not in any way forbid prayers for the eternal repose of his soul or to bless the mortal remains of the governor,” Marquez said...

Note, here are the texts of canons 1184 and 1185:

Can. 1184

§1. Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals:

1/ notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;

2/ those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith;

3/ other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful.

§2. If any doubt occurs, the local ordinary is to be consulted, and his judgment must be followed.

Can. 1185 Any funeral Mass must also be denied a person who is excluded from ecclesiastical funerals.

So canons 1184 and 1185 already settles the issue.

But just for further reference on Masonic associations, here is the declaration of the Vatican CDF issued on November 1983 by then Cardinal Ratzinger. Note that this declaration has been specifically approved by the then reigning Roman Pontiff, John Paul II.
It is the latest statement by the Church to date. I quote partly, with emphasis:

Declaration on Masonic Associations

...Therefore the Church’s negative judgment in regard to Masonic association remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who enrol in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.

It is not within the competence of local ecclesiastical authorities to give a judgment on the nature of Masonic associations which would imply a derogation from what has been decided above, and this in line with the Declaration of this Sacred Congregation issued on 17 February 1981..."

The aforementioned declaration thus follows:

Clarification concerning status of Catholics becoming Freemasons

On 19 July 1974 this Congregation wrote to some Episcopal Conferences a private letter concerning the interpretation of can 2335 of the Code of Canon Law which forbids Catholics, under the penalty of excommunication, to enroll in Masonic or other similar associations.

Since the said letter has become public and has given rise to erroneous and tendentious interpretations, this Congregation, without prejudice to the eventual norms of the new Code, issues the following confirmation and clarification:

1) the present canonical discipline remains in full force and has not been modified in any way;

2) consequently, neither the excommunication nor the other penalties envisaged have been abrogated;

3) what was said in the aforesaid letter as regards the interpretation to be given to the canon in question should be understood—as the Congregation intended—merely as a reminder of the general principles of interpretation of penal laws for the solution of the cases of individual persons which may be submitted to the judgment of ordinaries. It was not, however, the intention of the Congregation to permit Episcopal Conferences to issue public pronouncements by way of a judgment of a general character on the nature of Masonic associations, which would imply a derogation from the aforesaid norms.

Canon 2335 in the older version of the canon law reads as follows:

Persons joining associations of the Masonic sect or any others of the same kind which plot against the Church and legitimate civil authorities contract excommunication simply reserved to the Apostolic See.

The current and revised 1983 version however, removed the previous provision an replaced it with Canon 1374, as follows:

A person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; one who promotes or takes office in such an association is to be punished with an interdict.

Following the promulgation of the new Code, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the (erstwhile) new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a new declaration:

(1) the new Canon 1374 has the same essential import as the old Canon 2335, and the fact that the "Masonic sect" is no longer explicitly named is irrelevant;
(2) the Church's negative judgment on Masonry remains unchanged, because the Masonic principles are irreconcilable with the Church's teaching ("earum principia semper iconciliabilia habita sunt cum Ecclesiae doctrina");
(3) Catholics who join the Masons are in the state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion; and
(4) no local ecclesiastical authority has competence to derogate from these judgments of the Sacred Congregation.

My further comment is that the rule on automatic excommunication of Freemasons seems to have been more open to situational considerations with the effect of the new canon law. To be more specific requires the explanation of a good canon lawyer. Secondly, I am of the opinion that there is no real issue with Mass being "denied" to Gov. Nantes. The prohibition was merely reiterated. There is nothing in the report that says it was even requested by the immediate family. Add the fact that Nantes is a "born-again Christian" -- specifically a Protestant who does not believe in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the first place, and has already disassociated himself by choice from the Catholic Church.

May the soul of the late Gov. Rafael Nantes rest in peace. Amen.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A low point to Tagaytay Highlands

I told myself that if I were ever elected President of the Philippines (God forbid), the first thing I would do is to solve the confounding mess on the road by first instilling order and discipline in drivers throughout the country. It is the day-to-day aggravations we see on the road that mirror the sad and sorry condition of society's inculturated disregard for propriety and the law. This one is somewhere in Sta Rosa Laguna going to Tagaytay. One of my pet peeves is witnessing drivers who blatantly go against the counter-flow lane in traffic, ignoring the double-yellow lines, and muscling their way to the front of the queue near the intersection. They manage to cross the intersection first without getting caught while many of us patiently stay and wait in line. Happens many times. Grrr.

Anyway, this morning I drove my wife to a brief company function at Tagaytay Highlands. I was happy to do so, even as I told myself I had to have just a glimpse of this enclave of the rich and famous. Wow. And there's free wi-fi even as I type this piece along amidst lush surroundings, sipping cold water, while waiting for the wifey. It's a cool bit and slice of serenity that I am savoring for the moment here. In a little while we will be driving back on the asphalt jungle.

The True Church

A question from CatholicFriends:

Scripturally and logically speaking...

Why do you think your CHURCH is "the church, which is His body", as mentioned in Colossians 1:18, 24?

Why do you think your CHURCH is "the church, which is His body", as mentioned in Colossians 1:18, 24?
According to those who studied the Greek language, the English word CHURCH is EKKLESIA. The classical meaning is A CALLED OUT ASSEMBLY without reference to a particular religious group.

A LOCAL CHURCH is a mixed multitude of people, while "The church, which is His body" is a mixed multitude of JUSTIFIED people. The first is headed by a human pastor or minister, while the latter the HEAD IS CHRIST.

This is the big difference of YOUR CHURCH and the CHURCH of COLOSSIANS 1:18, 24

Therefore, there is no ORGANIZED CHURCH ON EARTH who could Scripturally claim being the TRUE CHURCH.


Let me attempt, briefly. Actually it is quite coincidental that in yesterday's Gospel (Jn 21:15-19) we see Jesus asking Peter three times if he loved Him. We see then from Peter's as many affirmatives that Jesus instructed him just as forthrightly to "feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep". It is very clear evidence from the Scriptures that Jesus specially anoints Peter towards a monumental task in leading His flock. Thus, when Jesus says "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18), we essay the biblical evidence that Christ instituted the Church along with Peter's primacy. Although the broader definition of the Church may include many senses, in this particular context we speak of the visible Church, composed of a community of believers, an ekklesia united under the love of Christ AND under the authority of lawful pastors that Jesus himself commissioned. We see that there is only one Church that traces its lineage from our current Pope Benedict XVI all the way to the first Pope -- St. Peter himself. From the time of the Early Church Fathers (those Christians closest to the apostles in time, culture, and theological background), it was clearly understood that Jesus promised to build the Church on Peter. The Holy Tradition of the "laying of the hands" found in the Scriptures manifests itself only in the Papal succession of the Holy Catholic Church -- in an unbroken tradition.

Thus based on Scriptures and the actual historical evidence, there can only be one decisive answer to the question of what is the true visible Church. However when we speak of the Church as the mystical body of Christ, we are speaking in a different sense that does not in any way negate the establishment of a visible Church with its pastoral leaders. For while we speak of a visible Church, it also has both visible and invisible boundaries. The Church, the mystical body of Christ, is also a mystery in this sense. Thus we do not claim that the Holy Catholic Church has a monopoly of the truth, but that it alone possesses the fullness of the Truth - that which has been faithfully handed down throughout generations as the deposit of faith. In all this we must remember that the fullness of truth carries '"the keys to the kingdom of heaven" (Mat 16:19) that .."whatever you BIND on earth shall be BOUND in heaven, and what you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Popcom official urges Aquino to act on RH program

Popcom official urges Aquino to act on RH program

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, Philippines -- A Commission on Population (Popcom) official in Eastern Visayas expressed hope that the reproductive health program would be given more attention under the administration of presumed President-elect Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

"We are really hoping that he will give more focus or emphasis on the issue concerning reproductive health. He's been open about it," Popcom-8 regional director Elnora Pulma said on Tuesday.

Sure Noynoy is open, and that is better than having a closed mind on the issue. In fact, in a recent forum prior to the elections, Aquino said he now believes that the pending RH bill must be amended. “There are provisions that I cannot support,” Aquino said. “I was mistakenly labeled as co-author [of the bill]. Actually, I’m listed as interpellator, and I’m waiting for my opportunity." On the other hand RH bill sponsor Lagman has previously maintained: "We will not entertain killer amendments like limiting family planning options to natural family planning methods; deleting or reducing the appropriations for reproductive health and family planning; altogether discarding reproductive health and sexuality education; and removing the provision on humane and non-judgmental medical care to women suffering from post-abortion complications, among others,". His statement actually looks like a summary of the entire bill, deliberately couched in mystifying language that no one can find fault with. The devil however, lurks in the details. In other words, Lagman and his cohorts insist on the bill "as-is", while they continue to market it with bleeding-heart statements. It would be safe to say that the president-elect's position is now at odds with those of the RH-bill proponents. Good for now.

Pulma has emphasized that the issue on reproductive health is not just about family planning or population control. "There are several elements concerning reproductive health, like maternal and child health, and responsible parenthood," she pointed out.

Sure, but she makes it sound as if responsible parenthood can be legislated. How is the bill going to do that? Who is against responsible parenthood anyway? And maternal and child health - again. Who can argue with a proposal that will promote maternal and child health? In reality, the argument goes for the canard that promoting contraceptives would cut maternal deaths. Otherwise, it is just plain dishonesty on their part because maternal and child health is already under the purview and mandate of the Department of Health - no need to enact a redundant law. The Family Health Office under the DOH is already tasked to promote maternal and child health, so it follows that the existing line agency should just be strengthened. It says so right there in black and white. I have no problem with part of my taxes going there. I would have a problem though, with my taxes being used to pay for other people's condoms.

Finally, director Elnora Pulma further emphasized that PopCom really stands for Popular Comedy.

Well, that last one was a joke. Hard to tell, really.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Up for grabs

The rambutan is ripe for the picking. It usually happens this time of the year when summer is about to fade. Today's harvest happened to be cornered by this little tyke who ate much of it...

Meanwhile, the House speakership is also ripe for the picking, or to put it in a better way, up for grabs.
In the Senate side, it seems Manny Villar already cornered the rebound, although Drilon and Pangilinan are going for the steal. Jockeying for position in the lower house is now the order of the day. There is bound to be some deft picks, screens, and bone-shattering box-outs. Hopefully, there is no illegal pick in the scramble for position...

Lakas may field Lagman for speaker

Speakership in the bag for Belmonte

The test comes early for... kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap...


Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Confirmation

And so it happened that we arrived 2:30pm at the parish church today for the appointed 3:00pm confirmation of my teener son. Quite early enough I thought, until we found out that we were actually too late. The mass confirmation rites were already finished, having started earlier at 1:30pm. Apparently, my son got the scheduled time wrong. So sorry -- mixup. My wife and I were aghast. My son had already attended the pre-confirmation seminars, we had forgone many other activities to make way for this, and the godparents came all the way from Cavite. Add the fact that the next scheduled confirmation rite was due yet in another year. As the bishop was just about to conclude the celebration mass, the church greeter suggested that we request the good bishop to grant our son a special private confirmation sacrament afterward. I thought it was worth a try although I was quite embarrassed to be making such a request, knowing all too well that bishops have tight schedules. We were not a special case that a bishop had to go to the trouble of disrupting his tight schedule. Didn't even know me personally. Besides, it was our fault. Thus when we approached the bishop and the parish priest to request a private confirmation, I was prepared for a rejection.

It turned out I underestimated the graciousness of the bishop and the parish priest. While the bishop obviously had enough worries about the time, he promptly coordinated with the parish priest to find a private suitable place within the church where he can conduct the confirmation rites just for our son. My son was finally confirmed in the sacristy by the bishop with no less than the parish priest assisting. No, he didn't rush it in any way. He conducted the confirmation with the full rites and a solemnity that was awesome. And no, they didn't mind the heat either, even as I saw perspiration trickling down their chins in the poorly ventilated, unairconditioned sacristy room.

Thanks and God bless you, your Excellency Bishop Honesto Ongtioco and Reverend Father Desiderio Martin. For me, my wife, my son and his godparents, today was an encounter with Christ.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Odds and Ends 5/14/10

Celtics oust James' Cavaliers in six games

The Boston Celtics beat Cleveland 94-85 Thursday to reach the National Basketball Association playoff semi-finals, sending LeBron James into a possible uncertain future with the Cavaliers.

(Kevin Garnet spoke to an apparently dejected Lebron James after the game)

"'You have a very, very, very bright future. Continue to work and make decisions based on you and your family.' 'That is the best advice I can give...'"

Amen to that.
Noynoy may not take oath before Corona

TARLAC CITY , Philippines - Anyone except Justice Renato Corona.

Presidential race frontrunner Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III revealed he is contemplating on taking his oath as the new president before any magistrate but not before newly appointed Chief Justice Renato Corona.

“I’m considering it (not taking oath under Corona),” Aquino said, stressing the appointment of Corona by President Arroyo is questionable and “inappropriate.

Not so good a sign for a smooth transition.

Bishops remind Aquino of Church’s stand on RH Bill

MANILA, Philippines—Roman Catholic bishops around the country Thursday aired their support for “president-in-waiting” Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III in his promise to fight poverty and corruption, but reminded that the Church’s stand on the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill would never change.

Before anything else, the RH Bill needs to be re-filed in the forthcoming 15th Congress. If so, it will be the fourth time that the same bill is filed. The indefatigable Rep Edcel Lagman has vowed to do so in the Lower House. I remember that he quit all his House committee memberships just to focus on the RH bill. I hope his heart and legs can still stand it. On the other hand, staunch RH bill co-sponsor and avid advocate Rep Risa Hontiveros also vowed that once she wins in the Senate race, she will likewise re-file the Senate RH Bill counterpart. Looks like her vow is all for naught. Ms Hontiveros seems stuck at the losing 13th place in the senatorial race for 12 seats, still a formidable million votes behind 12th placer Guingona. Maybe she can start looking for someone sympathetic in the Senate to re-file the bill for her. At any rate, it remains to be seen whether Noynoy and the Congress leadership endorses it as priority legislative agenda.

As for Risa Hontiveros...maybe she should listen to Kevin Garnet's advise.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Senators can do...

PPCRV-Comelec Tally (Senators)

Except for Marcos Jr. and Guingona III, the senatoriables landing on the top twelve are the same old, same old faces. Marcos and Guingona are not exactly new names either, as the surnames of their more well-known fathers must have worked wonders for their respective candidacies. There are a lot of comments going around
(most of them snarky) that four (ex) actors managed to place in the magic 12, with two of them even garnering the two highest slots. The HR practitioner in me tends to empathize with the concern. Matters of professional preparedness, capability, and evidence of past achievements appear to have been thrown out the window. If I were to draw up the job profile for a senator and try to match it with the voters actual choices, I would end up scratching my head.

The situation is not a bad thing by itself, considering that the citizenry get routinely burned by the extremely disappointing performance of your usual highly-educated, elite, smart-talking, glib barista of a legislator. I opine therefore that perceptions of professional integrity trumps all other criteria, although professional integrity should actually be a given for all candidates. The absence of significant legislative achievements in the last six years (and more) of parliamentary wranglings makes one wonder whether most of our legislators are really just playing actors themselves. I guess similar voter sentiments likewise prevailed in the presidential elections. This is not to say that our country is doomed with the prospect of lightweight leaders in the face of the country's heavyweight problems. After all, the most famous twelve leaders of all times were composed of lowly fishermen and tax collectors, and they faced much greater odds.

That said, it is good to expect that any change normally works out for the better. There is a time for disagreement and there is a time for unity. Regardless of whom we voted for, the moment has come to support the new leadership and take it to task. A determined leadership together with a more vigilant, enlightened, and engaged citizenry should be the People Power of the future. And lest we and our leaders forget, we should all pray towards that end and abide in God's grace. For without Him, all of us can do nothing.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The real work just begins

Aquino maintains huge lead

Aquino opens up commanding lead in Philippine vote

Well, I guess it's all over but the shouting.

Many thanks for all those PPCRV volunteers who braved the stifling heat, patiently calmed the hot-headed voters, and kept their cool throughout.

COMELEC also deserves kudos for the apparent overall success of the country's first automated elections. For a while there you gave us a real scare.

Thanks to all the voters who thought long and hard in choosing our country's next leaders, and for queuing up many hours in the stifling heat to cast that vote. This is also the first time I saw so many senior citizens casting their votes.

Thanks to the police force for generally keeping the peace.

Shortly, the real work just begins -- for everyone.

Friday, May 7, 2010

To be vehemently tactful

Cardinal Rosales says another people power is ‘crazy’

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales, upon learning that some sectors are threatening People Power:

“Why infuse that into the present situation when it’s different? Come on, let’s use our head. These are two different things,” said Rosales. “That’s just crazy, crazy, crazy.”.

While I understand the concern of the good Cardinal, I feel a little uncomfortable with his choice of words in conveying his disagreement. It was likely in reaction to Noynoy issuing a warning for people power in the event that the polls fail (and he fails to win the presidency). The word 'crazy' is particularly strong enough as it is, yet the good Cardinal says it three times, for good measure. I do understand that at these times, 'crazy' is a highly-loaded word, especially since Noynoy's psychiatric condition has been put into question.

Maybe Cardinal Rosales should have used an alternative word, like 'insane'. No, I guess that's not quite right either. At any rate, the good Cardinal should have searched for more tactful words to convey to the effect that anyone who wishes to threaten people power at this presumptuous point should have his head examined.

Expectedly, there were howls of protest from some militants. Among these, the protesting words of Sr. Mary John Mananzan -- a top official of the influential Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines -- is worth noting:

“With due respect to the cardinal, I disagree very vehemently with what he said. I think doing nothing (against poll fraud) is more irresponsible,”.

My. I found it rather amazing that the words "with due respect" and "disagree very vehemently" can actually be combined in one sentence. The good Sister also manages to infer that the cardinal's position is "irresponsible".

At this point, I take note here that the issue in contention boils down to opinion against opinion, hinged upon assumptions against assumptions. Besides not being a matter of faith and morals, it is at a point where the issues behind the contentions were still contingent on the presence or absence of certain conditions either way.

Probably in retrospect, Cardinal Rosales had to explain his position further. In a more recent statement, he clarified that he will not turn down any possibilities of having another uprising in the aftermath of the May 10 polls as long as it is justified. The statement claimed that the cardinal’s statements against those threatening a new people power last Sunday were just not “reflected” upon.

So in the end, it appears there were actually no reasons to disagree (and get hot under the collar), since both sides actually agree in principle. In everyday life, this kind of thing happens many times. I guess there is a lot to learn here from Steven Covey's fifth habit: "Seek First to Understand". When there is still disagreement, perhaps there is also a lot to learn further with the fourth: "Agree to disagree agreeably".

I wonder if that last one can possibly take hold in the local political debates, considering the level of disagreeable intensity that I see in the political mudslinging hereabouts. Furthermore, I see that the norms of propriety have gone down to a level wherein a radio interviewer can have no qualms in addressing a Senator, many times his senior, as "chickenshit". It's the perfect way to lose an argument, besides making an a-hole out of oneself.

All this goes without saying that it is not impossible to assert one's positions in a firm manner, tactfully and with due respect, especially when we disagree with people in authority. Yes, I think that tact and vehement defense are not mutually exclusive. But then again, one has to understand the other's position first; take an objective, evidence-backed perspective; then prepare a well-thought-out response. When there is room for ambiguity, adopt the charitable assumption that the other side means well.

St. Peter has something to say about defending the faith, and it is worth reflecting into for its broader application.

"...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (1 Pet 3:15).

Gentleness and respect, right. St. Peter should have added: and don't lose your sense of humor.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

For your consideration: Richard Gordon

No, I am not campaigning for Richard Gordon. I am not campaigning for Manny Villar either, although I gave space to his piece here. I am still woefully undecided. I just came across this well-written piece in Facebook that I thought worth sharing with readers. Let the piece speak for itself. I must admit it is good reading, after reading that diatribe of Pat Evangelista. It is written by one Kenzei Yonzon.

For your consideration: Richard Gordon

I put down my thoughts today with much regret for the time I had let pass. Time I have lost. Perhaps, if I'd made up my mind sooner, I could have done more. But here we are, five days to go before we, the Filipino people, are given an opportunity to steer our nation. In five days, we will let our voices be heard and brace ourselves for a change in leadership that we all hope will bring this troubled country some relief. By this time, most of us will have decided on whom to support. I write in the faint hope that my verbosity might help at least one person decide.

This note is borne partly in response to an article written by the young and brilliant Patricia Evangelista which is certain to sway many minds. In her piece entitled 'People call me Dick.' (you might have read it or will find it with relative ease), she delineates her dislike for Richard Gordon and questions his character. She gives as an example Gordon's dismissal of UNO editor Erwin Romulo as a "nobody" during his interview on NU 107's RockEd Radio.

But she is disingenuous in that she fails to mention how Romulo relentlessly goaded Gordon into committing slander and, in failing, calls the Senator 'chickenshit' on live radio. To subvert that context in a powerfully worded piece is rather irresponsible. Perhaps, in Evangelista's perfect world, no statesman will lose their cool in the face of such blatant disrespect. Alas, Gordon fired back as he is wont to do. That is his character. He won't take any bullshit and he won't give it, either. Richard Juico Gordon is about as straight a shooter as you can possibly imagine.

Humility is not merely spoken. It is not in reticence to say what needs to be said. Humility is also found in action. And let me tell you that giving about two thirds of your life in volunteer work is humility that speaks greater volumes than presenting an affable face in front of the cameras.

Let me address that Cojuangco issue to you now, Patricia Evangelista, and to you, Erwin Romulo, so that you may understand what it means and why there are such insinuations and why it gets Richard Gordon's goat. Because it gets me incensed just thinking about it, too.

The lynchpin of Benigno Aquino III's campaign is the tagline, "Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap" (If there is no corruption, there is no poverty)

The question Gordon asks -- and which I also ask as a voter and Filipino citizen in response is, "so why are there still poor people in Tarlac?" We all agree that there are poor people in Tarlac, right? I hope nobody will deny this.

It is a logic argument, simply. That either means Aquino's campaign slogan is a fallacy, an outright lie, or it could be absolutely true. In which case, well, you can draw your own conclusions.

I would like to think that the statement is pure political bombast, cooked up by Aquino's crack team of political strategists and advisers, and not an honest statement to be taken for fact. That is better than the alternative, which Romulo was so intent on getting Gordon to say. There is dishonesty in either case, because obviously there are still poor people in Tarlac, for one reason or the other.

I don't want a leader whose campaign is based on an outright lie. This is why "Tapusin ang kahirapan" (End poverty) is an equally false promise. A capitalist, of all people, should know better. This is why Gibo's "Galing at Talino" (Skill and Intelligence) appealed to me. But Gibo doesn't have a monopoly on that -- Richard Gordon has galing and talino in equal measure.

It boiled down to those two candidates for me: Gilbert Teodoro and Richard Gordon. To many who will vote for either man come May 10, it comes down to preference. In order to proceed to my choice of Richard Gordon, I must first explain why I didn't choose Gilbert Teodoro.

My brother explained to me that he supported Teodoro because he was willing to work with everybody as opposed to Gordon and VP bet Bayani Fernando's often criticized method of 'my way or the highway'. Teodoro is envisioned by many to be a unifying leader, someone who will galvanize opposing forces under his vision for a better Philippines. They point out his refusal to participate in mudslinging and tearing at opponents, focusing instead on the positive. The message certainly sold well to my hippie parents.

The flip side of such passivity, unfortunately, also reeks of transactional politics and compromise. There is much to be said about Teodoro and his wife, Congresswoman Nikki Teodoro's withdrawal of support for the RH Bill after championing it staunchly. The timing -- at the cusp of the elections -- is suspect. It's not as if Teodoro hadn't deliberated well on the issue before endorsing it. His 180º turnaround hints of compromise and political maneuvering.

It was gravely telling to me that the Ampatuan massacre happened so shortly after his tenure as Secretary of National Defense. It stands to reason that the position is privy to the most sensitive military information including, but not limited to, the accumulation of firearms by private armies. That there was no effort to de-escalate this accumulation at all during his tenure is baffling. He claims that disarming private armies in Mindanao was difficult due to the volatile conflict in the region. But private armies exist in Luzon, too. Just ask Chavit Singson. In April, Teodoro curiously declined to discuss the issue of private armies when invited by the Human Rights Watch to air his plans.

When typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) hit in September 2009, there was a clear lack of preparedness for the event. While a disaster of that scale can reasonably be considered something out of left field, to rationalize the inadequacy of relief efforts to the lack of a budget for rubber boats falls somewhat short of credible. Especially in a country that sees flooding and typhoons on a regular basis, the efficacy of the government's response -- Teodoro's domain -- was underwhelming.

On a personal note, it also doesn't sit well with me that Teodoro's seven year tenure at the EP Mendoza law firm, the same firm that defended Joseph Estrada during his impeachment trial, was spent mostly on the defense team of Lucio Tan and Danding Cojuangco in their ill-gotten wealth cases. While not passing judgement either way, his political leanings are demonstrated here, and I am not inclined to side with it.

Galing at Talino are both excellent qualifications, but so is Gawa (Action). I would love to believe that Teodoro is the right choice for our nation as he certainly exudes a most stately demeanor on top of his obvious intelligence, but his performance in my opinion leaves much to be desired.

So. Richard Juico Gordon.

I will address here first the perception that a vote for Gordon is a wasted one because he has no chance of winning.

I believe that the purest vote is a vote cast in a vacuum, cast without regard for probabilities and surveys. We vote for whom we think is best for the position and not for whom we think has a chance to win. This is not the Lotto. The moment we allow surveys to dictate our voice, or if we decide to play kingmaker and cast our votes as a preventative measure, then we will have been compromised. The integrity of our vote will have been diminished. No, the only wasted vote is one that isn't cast. You don't second guess 50 million Filipinos.

On May 10 I will vote for Richard Gordon because of his platform, his accomplishments, and yes, even his oftentimes overbearing personality. One big difference between Gordon's platform and those of other candidates is that Gordon calls upon the Filipino people -- you, me, every one of us -- to work hard to change this nation.

Gordon's record speaks for itself. Olongapo, SBMA & Subic, Department of Tourism, and six years in the Senate with numerous bills authored and passed. He has already come under fire for flaunting his accomplishments, almost rubbing it in his opponents' faces, so I don't think his record is in question. However, out of all his accomplishments the one that stands out for me is his over forty years in service with the Philippine National Red Cross. It's all voluntary.

In fact, if anything jumps out at me from all his media interviews and reading his work, it is the fact that he engenders volunteerism. He demands it. His work in Olongapo, Subic, and the Red Cross are all driven by volunteerism. Gordon understands that the Philippines will not rise on the power of its President alone but on the efforts of every Filipino. It will take hard work to make this happen. Bawal ang tamad (No room for the lazy).

Gordon runs at the end of his six year term in the Senate. This means that if he loses this election, he will have no position in government. Villar and Aquino were both elected in 2007 and will return to the Senate if they don't win the Presidency. In other words, Gordon has thrown all his chips in the pot. He's gone all in and stands to lose everything. Well, everything except the PNRC, which I can guarantee you he will continue to volunteer for even if he doesn't win.

That's the point. Gordon has been at this longer than any other candidate. He's been serving the Filipino people with or without public office, volunteering his time -- and many of those who have worked with him will tell you of his long hours -- and his life to the people of this nation. Because he loves this nation and its people. Boy, does he ever.

Richard Gordon wears his heart on his sleeve, vacillating between teary-eyed sympathy and vein-popping lividity even under the watchful eyes of the media. He is who he is. What you see is what you get. If Richard Gordon is abrasive it is because he knows nothing else but brutal honesty, and I appreciate that more than duplicitous timidity and tactful restraint. I appreciate honesty and straight shooting because so few politicians are capable of it.

If Gordon is angry it's because his passion to change this country is so overwhelming that it tears at his very core to imagine the Filipino people, out of sympathy and nostalgia, so willing to hand over the keys to an ineffectual public servant bankrolled by the country's oligarchs. If you truly love this country and want to effect change, you'd be offended, too. I know I am.

This is why Gordon's strong personality is endearing to me. I don't want compromise. I'm sick of it. I'm tired of politicians spinning lines and making this a morality play. The heart of the issue is that the country is sick. The Philippines is in the mud and we need to get up. One person won't be able to do it, and Gordon knows that.

We know that. At the back of our minds, we know that in order to actually change this downtrodden archipelago, we have to get off our lazy asses and work hard. Some of us will hide behind the thought that if we vote for this or that candidate, our involvement can end. More than a few of us will gladly hand the keys over to the nation and be happy to ride in the back seat.

That's not going to get it done.

Our involvement doesn't end on May 10 after we cast our vote. It only just begins there. The most telling of Gordon's traits is that, no matter the outcome of these Presidential elections, I know that Richard Gordon will continue to devote his life to serving the Filipino people, working with the PNRC. That speaks volumes to me.

What this country needs isn't a change of men, Gordon says, it needs a change IN men.

I have never been so inspired by a leader as I have by Richard Gordon.

At the end of the day, even if none of these words manage to sway your vote, understand that I am hopeful that this country is moving in the right direction. We have a new automated election (thanks to a law authored by Gordon), the emergence of social media as an alternative and complement to traditional television and print, and the most informed voting population in history. Voter education will only continue to get better, and I'm hopeful that along the way, we'll continue to make the right choices.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Prayers for the success of automated elections

Malfunctioning PCOS machines can be fixed, PPCRV told

Senator wants Congress to look into poll machine glitches

No cellphone signals at nearly 5,000 precincts

Defective data cards for poll machines recalled

PCOS machines in Palawan declared faulty

Naloko na.

I get this mounting feeling that the automated election process does not invite much optimism for success. In the manufacturing environment where I work, much, much smaller incidences of failures provide enough reason to reject the whole thing. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to reject the automated election process this late in the game. The call for parallel manual counting only asks for the moon at this point. In my experience in IT, pilot runs are normal and mandatory for a such a large-scale, complex computerization project. It stretches the imagination that there was none, but that is now water under the bridge. Apparently, they also did not employ failure-mode analysis in the planning process.

Massive prayers are called for.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

On loving one another

Sunday, May 2, 2010
"Now I give you a new commandment: love one another.."
(John 13:34)
The greatest commandment is also the hardest to follow. It means you have to love everyone, even those you dislike. While reading C.S. Lewis' book 'Mere Christianity', I found an interesting tip.

"Natural liking or affection for people makes it easier to be "charitable" towards them. It is, therefore, normally a duty to encourage our affections—to "like" people as much as we can (just as it is often our duty to encourage our liking for exercise or wholesome food)—not because this liking is itself the virtue of charity, but because it is a help to it..."

"But though natural likings should normally be encouraged, it would be quite wrong to think that the way to become charitable is to sit trying to manufacture affectionate feelings. Some people are "cold" by temperament; that may be a misfortune for them, but it is no more a sin than having a bad digestion is a sin; and it does not cut them out from the chance, or excuse them from the duty, of learning charity. The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you "love" your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less. There is, indeed, one exception. If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his "gratitude," you will probably be disappointed. (People are not fools: they have a very quick eye for anything like showing off, or patronage.) But whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less."