Saturday, October 30, 2010

Climbing a sycamore tree

Sunday Gospel - 10/31
Lk 19:1-10

...For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.

Did you hear about the short tax collector? The bills he handed out were longer than himself !

The above joke was supposedly often told by Zacchaeus himself, although I suppose the people at the time were far from amused. A chief tax collector was often loathed and it was easy to understand why. They were authorized to collect taxes for the Romans, and usually padded the tax charges with fat personal commissions. No one could contest the tax assessments, lest they fall into trouble with the Roman soldiers who backed up the tax collectors. As they say, it was taxes or death - two of the only sure things in this world.

The other particular thing as narrated about Zacchaeus was his diminutive size.
"but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature."

It seems he cannot muscle his way in front of the crowd, so he decided to climb up the sycamore tree, a rather undignified action for his bearing. I've often wondered how a sycamore tree looks like, as it does not grow anywhere in our own country. A sister in the community just came back from a Holy Land tour/pilgrimage, and one of the things she brought back for us was some nuts from a sycamore tree. It actually tasted somewhat like large roasted peanuts, however I believed that during the biblical times these sycamore nuts were fed to the pigs! So at the time, the sycamore tree was considered 'unclean'. How doubly humiliating it must have been for Zacchaeus.

Going forward, we now ask ourselves to what lengths shall we go to be able to 'see' and accept Jesus. First, we have to feel lost, much as Zacchaeus felt.
Usually those who are lost have all the power and the money, yet the most essential part is missing. Some realize it, but sadly many do not. Those that
do not, simply won't bother climbing up a sycamore tree. Zacchaeus had more than enough money and power, yet he longed to see and submit to the Savior.
After all, what he had to give up was peanuts compared to what he was being offered by Jesus: salvation.

P.S. Our friend regaled us with her account of her Holy Land pilgrimage. I was in awe at her narrated experiences. Someday I hope me and the wife will have the opportunity experience that tour/ pilgrimage. She also gave me a souvenir -- a rosary carved out of wood. Sycamore wood, I think.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Offending religious feelings: Not?

Offending religious feelings: Not?

Tourist guide Celdran pleads not guilty to ‘offending religious feelings’

MANILA, Philippines -- Tourist guide Carlo Celdran donned his Jose Rizal suit anew for his arraignment on Thursday at the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC) where he pleaded not guilty to the charge of offending religious feelings.

Amazing. Caught with his hands in the cookie jar: No, I didn't intend to filch cookies!

He said that he wore his Jose Rizal duds so the public would not forget his message on the necessity of the passage of the reproductive health bill.
“I also wore my Jose Rizal costume because it is Halloween,” he laughingly pointed out.

Haha. But wait...since when has Rizal been a Halloween character?

Asked if he would consider any offer of dropping the charge against him under any condition, he said that he has already apologized for disrupting the ecumenical service but pointed out, “I will not apologize for my message. In my pleading not guilty, it means I am standing by the fact that I did not say anything offensive.”

Carlos: The message is tolerable, but the action you did to spout the message is not. Gets?

Lawyer Marlon Manuel said that his client would be open to a settlement if the Church officials would not insist that Celdran admit to offending religious feelings.

Atty Manuel: Who on earth is bargaining for a settlement? You and your client should realize that you are in no position to bargain for anything.
On the other hand, Celdran is in a perfect position for remorse and repentance.
Otherwise, you should advise your client to look forward to six months of guiding tours around the prison grounds carrying a placard which says "Ako si Sisa".

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

RH Bill Talk/Forum: "Why Catholics should oppose HB 96 (RH Bill)"

Businessmen, are they

Businessmen back birth control despite Catholic Church protest

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines' main business groups on Tuesday declared their support for President Benigno Aquino III's plan to promote birth control, despite strong opposition from the powerful Catholic Church.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and four other major business organisations issued a joint statement following threats by bishops to mount protests against Aquino's population policy.

"We believe such a focused policy of family planning must provide lowest-cost access for the very poor to the services and materials to implement their free and informed choice," it said.

Oh yeah? Why don't you businessmen put your money where your mouth is and donate all the money needed to "provide lowest-cost access" to contraceptive services and materials huh? What's stopping you anyway. You can always donate billions from your hefty profits and you do not even need the RH bill to do that, do you? It's a free country, right?

The business groups also said that it was individuals, rather than outside parties, that should decide whether to use birth control devices. It said that "various parties and interested sectors" – an apparent reference to the church – should only provide guidance and advice.

Of course it is the individuals rather than outside parties who ultimately decides whether to use birth control devices. That is the way it is now, and that is the way it is going to be - with or without the RH bill. What? As if these businessmen are not themselves "giving guidance and advise".

"We strongly believe government must encourage responsible parenthood and promote family planning as a direct strategy for poverty reduction and maternal and child healthcare," the statement said.

And we strongly believe that businessmen should have more corporate social responsibility as a direct strategy to share the wealth around and refrain from scandalous profit-taking at the expense of our poor workers.

Friday, October 22, 2010

24 new cardinals: Cheers!

24 new cardinals

Congratulations to Archbishop Raymond Burke !!!

I can see the Pro-lifers exchanging hi-fives.

The new cardinals will be elevated in a consistory set for Nov. 20 in Rome.

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Odds and Ends 10/19/2010

DepEd suspends classes in Metro Manila

MANILA, Philippines -- The Department of Education suspended classes in the elementary and high school levels in both public and private schools in Metro Manila starting at noon Tuesday in light of continuing inclement weather following the passage of super-typhoon “Juan” (international codename: Megi).

Here we go again, suspending classes starting at noon. All the while we had the impression that the typhoon was going to hit hard much earlier, and this supension happens just at the time when the typhoon is weakening AND the students are already in class. With the numerous typhoons hitting our country over and over again since time immemorial, one thinks that we should have mastered the art of suspending classes by now.
Oh well, some things never change.

Malaysian king's palace to cost $258 million

KUALA LUMPUR – A massive new palace being built for Malaysia's king is expected to be completed next June, at a total cost of $258 million, parliament has been told.

The "Istana Negara," or national palace, is taking shape on a hilltop in a Kuala Lumpur suburb and is an enormous complex of dome-topped buildings linked to the city's highways with special access roads.

Just another one of those reasons that says that the world has more than enough resources to support all of its inhabitants.

Octuplet mom's doctor faces license revocation hearing

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- A California fertility doctor implanted a dozen embryos in Nadya Suleman, resulting in "an unsafe octuplet delivery" last year, a lawyer for the state's medical board said Monday.

Dr. Michael Kamrava, the fertility doctor who treated Suleman beginning in 1997, appeared before an administrative law judge Monday for a hearing that could lead to the loss of his medical license.

Kamrava "will say she demanded all 12 embryos and, because it was the weekend, he did not know what to do," said California Deputy Attorney General Judith Alvarado. "But he knew it was unsafe."

Suleman -- known in the media as "Octomom" -- was 33 years old when she gave birth to eight babies in January 2009. She was a single woman who already had six young children conceived through in-vitro fertilization administered by Kamrava..

..for a hearing that could lead to the loss of his medical license...

Crazy. A doctor who intentionally and willfully subjects his patients to an unnecessary, grave physical danger not only deserves loss of his medical license. He deserves penalty for a criminal act as well. According to the report, Suleman already has 8 children -- six boys and two girls born nine weeks premature. That should be enough reason to question the psychological state of the mother who it appears, is in no financial condition to support even her current children.
They are already all under welfare. What was this fertility doctor thinking when he implanted a dozen embryos into a financially distraught woman, who already has eight children she cannot support, who is not even married, and who will be placed in grave physical danger? I wonder if this doctor has the good sense to plead insanity.

(Note: for the Catholic position against IVF, read Donum Vitae and Dignitas Personae)

Monday, October 18, 2010

A lesser antidote to the culture of death: A millstone around the neck

LifesiteNews has highlighted the speech of Archbishop Burke to the Human Life International World Prayer Congress last Saturday. Abp Burke is the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. Apart from the Pope himself, who is the supreme ecclesiastical judge, the Apostolic Signatura is the highest Church tribunal. His complete talk in PDF format maybe downloaded here. The message bears emphasizing today to all the countries around the world with prominent 'Catholic' politicians, although at first glance I had the impression that it was specifically addressed to the Philippines. Here are some excerpts (emphasis mine).


...Often the lack of obedience to the Magisterium is not total but selective. Our culture teaches us to believe what is convenient and to reject what is difficult for us or challenges us. Thus, we can easily fall into “cafeteria Catholicism,” a practice of the faith, which picks and chooses what part of the deposit of faith to believe and practice. A most tragic example of the lack of obedience of faith, also on the part of certain Bishops, was the response of many to the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI, published on July 25, 1968.

The confusion which resulted has led many Catholics into habits of sin in what pertains to the procreation and education of human life...

[The sponsors of the RH bill are a paramount examples, wherein these self-professed Catholics dismiss Humanae Vitae as 'not infallible' and may be conveniently disregarded. The rationale goes typically like this: Contraceptives should be allowed in a poverty-stricken, overpopulated country, doesn't the Church care for the poor? Ahem. I will translate their euphemistic words for all it’s worth: Humanae Vitae is erroneus, and what their conscience tells them is morally superior to the teachings therein by Pope Paul VI, and Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI, and so on, and so on.]

Regarding the Magisterium and public life, there has developed in many places the false notion that the Christian or any person of faith, in order to be a true citizen of his nation, must bracket his faith life from his public life. According to such a notion, one ends up with Christians, for example, who claim personally to be faithful members of the Church and, therefore, to hold to the demands of the natural moral law, while they sustain and support the right to violate the moral law in its most fundamental tenets. We find self-professed Catholics, for example, who sustain and support the right of a woman to procure the death of the infant in her womb, or the right of two persons of the same sex to the recognition which gives to a man and a woman who have entered into marriage. It is not possible to be a practicing Catholic and to conduct oneself publicly in this manner...

[This has many translations and flavors: Not all Filipinos are Catholics; I am first and foremost a public servant, I will just check-in my conscience at the door; Jesus did not judge, who are we to judge. And the hands-down, all-time favorite: Separation of Church and State!!! The latter is especially invoked when one’s personal opinion does not square with 2000++ years of solid Church teaching.]

...When a person has publicly espoused and cooperated in gravely sinful acts, leading many into confusion and error about fundamental questions of respect for human life and the integrity of marriage and the family, his repentance of such actions must also be public. The person in question bears a heavy responsibility for the grave scandal which he has caused. The responsibility is especially heavy for political leaders. The repair of such scandal begins with the public acknowledgment of his own error and the public declaration of his adherence to the moral law. The soul which recognizes the gravity of what he has done will, in fact, understand immediately the need to make public reparation...

[Yes, yes -- public repentance is required. Whenever the sin is publicly espoused as to account for massive scandal, It is only appropriate that repentance must also be public, otherwise, one has to face Pope Benedict XVI’s minimum proper prescription. Besides there is also Canon law 1364#1, and Canon 1399 which calls for just penalties (yes, including excommunication).

If a politician thinks denial of Communion or excommunication is a tad harsh, wait till he or she reads Luke 17:1-2]

"Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if amillstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Que horror

Luistro tries Chavacano, calls students ‘servants'

Ordering the students to return to their classes after the brief program, Luistro said: “Maga muchachos y muchachas, entra ya ustedes na clase.”

His words came as a shocker to the more than 600-strong crowd, including teachers, principals, supervisors and students.

Abelardo Brutas Jr., principal of Lubigan National High School and secretary-general of the Teachers Organization of the Philippines Public Sector (TOPPS), said he was shocked to hear the secretary calling the students servants. “I am from Luzon and muchacho or muchacha means househelper, katulong, alipin,” Brutas said.

...Claretian Missionary Father Angel Calvo said Luistro might have thought that Chavacano is Spanish and had them mixed up.
Calvo, himself a Spaniard, said that in Spanish, “muchacho” and “muchacha” mean “adolescent boy and girl, [respectively].” But in Chavacano, they mean servant.

Still, Calvo said Luistro should have said in pure Spanish: “Muchachos y muchachas, vuelvan a vuestras clases.”

In an interview, Luistro apologized for the mistake. “Sorry, I forgot my Spanish. It was an innocent mistake,” he said...
I took up Spanish subjects in elementary as well as 12 units in college. In elementary, we used to pray the rosary in Spanish. Although I cannot carry a decent conversation in that language, I understand well enough (having grown up in Manila) that "muchacha" stands for a helper/servant in a deprecatory sort of way. Probably had something to do with the culture wrought by the domineering Spaniards at the time. If Sec Luistro were quite older, he would have understood. The word is almost never used now, to my knowledge. In most households the helper is called 'katulong' (helper) or 'kasambahay' (kasama sa bahay). In our own household, our children fondly call our female helpers "ate", a term commonly used for older female siblings.

To put it simply, Sec Luistro was lost in translation. One has to be very careful with this kind of thing. For example, there are many bible translations that do not convey the actual sense of the original Hebrew or Greek texts. In like manner, there are even occurrences of official Vatican translations of the original encyclicals that contain faulty English translations. When one becomes confused, it is best to study the entire context, or seek the original texts and attempt an exegesis if one is so qualified. In this case, I understand Sec Luistro's context. I suppose his next message to the students should be: "When you are unsure of something, study it more deeply. Do not assume a false sense of confidence. Yet as you make mistakes, like what I embarrassingly did, apologize readily, stand corrected, and learn from the experience. The latter is the true mark of an educated person.".

I feel so sorry for Education Secretary Luistro's blooper. It was an innocent mistake alright.

Que lastima.
or should I say: Que horror.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Odds and Ends 10/11/20

DSWD services strained by 'overpopulation' -Soliman

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines - If there is one government agency that is feeling the impact of overpopulation, it is the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman made the statement even as she expressed full support for the reproductive health bill in Congress...

I feel so sorry for the word 'overpopulation' being blamed over and over again. The most popular and convenient scapegoat of all times: balagoong at lagi na lang taya. Of course Soliman's statement should have been "If there is one government agency that is feeling the impact of poverty and/or overcrowding in urban centers, it is the Department of Social Welfare and Development". At any rate she should not be surprised at all that her agency would have its hands full, considering more than 30% of Filipino's live below the poverty line - what can she expect. As if her agency is the only one hard-pressed. Certainly, there are many public service agencies that have tough jobs alleviating poverty, and there are public service agencies (and officials) and economic policies that aggravate this poverty. It never ceases to amaze me that even intelligent (?) and well-meaning people get mesmerized by the overpopulation myth.

Woman is ordained as Catholic priest in Canada

MONTREAL, Canada—Despite a Vatican ban and threats to excommunicate her, a sixth Canadian woman was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest Saturday, an official with a group supporting women in the priesthood said.

The group Roman Catholic Womenpriests ordained Linda Spear, a retired teacher from Quebec, in an Anglican church in Sutton, Quebec, eastern Canada...

Another misnomer. At least the reporter in the previous item had the good sense to put 'overpopulation' in quotes, so 'ordained' should have been place in quotes likewise here. The correct title would be "Woman thought she was 'ordained' as Catholic priest in Canada". This report is wrong on so many levels that one does not even know where to start. For starters, how can the Vatican possibly excommunicate a person who has already separated herself from the Catholic Church. And there is no such thing as Womenpriests, much less Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

The Church in the public sphere
By Randy David
Philippine Daily Inquirer,

...It is difficult to argue against the Church’s assertion of its public role. We may disagree with its pronouncements on today’s burning issues and problems, but public discourse is not served by excluding its voice. It has as much right as any public institution to be heard on any issue it considers important. At the same time, the Church must respect the autonomy and independence of the political system, and the Pope himself has said so many times...

At last a non-partisan, non-religious columnist who knows what he's saying. All of you who holler "Separation of church and state!" and "Church meddling!", repeat after me:

We may disagree with its [the Church's] pronouncements on today’s burning issues and problems, but public discourse is not served by excluding its voice. It has as much right as any public institution to be heard on any issue it considers important.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to throw away 400 million pesos

DoH seeks to buy 2M condoms from P400-M budget for family planning

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health has set aside P400 million for the purchase of natural and artificial means of family planning, including two million condoms to be distributed next year, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said Wednesday.

Ona made the disclosure when he defended before the Senate finance committee the department's proposed budget of P32.6 billion for 2011.
So who says we even need the RH bill?

The DOH can always insert funding for contraceptives in the budget (with the blessings of the Chief Executive), have it passed in Congress, and there you go - nice and easy.

But 2 million condoms! My, that's a lot of non-biodegradable, non-recyclable rubber. Where on earth are the environmentalists? Why aren't they making a pip? Oh, they're probably counting the carbon footprints of babies that never were.

Anyway the 2 million condoms, Sec Ona said, would be given to "couples who will ask for it."

But just how many will ask for it? Let me try to whip-up my rusty elementary math.

The NCSB circa 2000 demographics say that there are about 14 million males in the 15-39 age bracket. Let's just use this conservative figure. Now, we don't suppose everyone of them will troop to the DOH to line up for free condoms, certainly only those in the low-income bracket.

Since our economic reports consistently say 1/3 of the Filipinos are living below poverty levels, so only 4.7 million males would be entitled to free condoms. I suppose only half of those are married (well, I'm assuming they would give condoms to only those who have legitimate spouses), then we have 2.4 million red-blooded males asking for condoms next year when it becomes available.

Hmm, I thought 2 million condoms is already a large figure but it appears it is not even enough to dole out ONE condom each to the target beneficiary. That is, unless the males limit their "reproductive health activity" to only 1 time a year and abstain the rest of the 364 days in the year. A healthy, full-blooded male would probably need 156 condoms in a year, assuming he is so romantically inclined 3 times a week. If the DOH were really serious they should have alloted 374.4 million condoms, which would provide just enough cover (pun intended). Now, that would cost about 1.5 Billion pesos. The bright side of it is that the DOH decided to waste only 8 Million pesos of taxpayer money to buy a measly 2 million condoms.

But wait...the same DOH budget proposal for family planning has earmarked a remaining 380 Million (out of 400 M). That's a lot of money. Secretary Ona said that the DOH allocated P280 million for pills and P100 million for injectibles.

Lets do the math again. The 15-39 age bracket accounts for 15,700,000 females. The target beneficiary would then be 5.233 million females. A packet of pills cost about 150 pesos per single packet. That would be quite enough for 23,000 beneficiaries. An injectible costs about 100 per shot, so the total money is probably good for 1M shots, that would be enough for 250,000 beneficiaries. In short the 380 Million would be good for adequately subsidizing contraceptives for 273,000 beneficiaries out of the 5.233 million target female population. They musn't give out inadequate doses, or they're just asking for trouble. So, close to 5 Million females in the target population of 5.233 million females would still have to rely on either abstinence or "bahala-na" (hit or miss) method. So we spend 388 million pesos on contraceptives and end up with more or less the status quo.

But wait again...Ona did not say how much would be spent for the purchase of cycle beads (a visual guide for Natural Family Planning) but said that the DoH allocated P280 million for pills, P100 million for injectibles, and P8 million for condoms.

So, 388 Million pesos for contraceptives, and (just maybe, not sure yet) the remaining 12 Million pesos for NFP visual guides and whatever. Nice sense of proportion, eh? So much so for the government saying it will equally promote both NFP and artificial methods. On the other hand I wonder how far 400 million pesos can go towards providing school scholarships. or farming subsidies. or livelihood micro-financing. or dengue medication. Oh well...

Those DOH guys are good at math.

Catholics (?) come out for RH bill

Catholics come out for RH bill

A group composed of Catholics Tuesday expressed support for the passage of the reproductive health (RH) law and disagreement with the bishops’ rabid opposition to it.

Dr. Edelina de la Paz, national coordinator of the Catholics for RH Movement, stressed that her group was not against the Church.

“We remain … faithful to the Catholic Church, but we strongly disagree with the bishops’ stance on family planning and reproductive health,” De la Paz said, adding that her group with a nationwide membership was “pro-life, not pro-abortion.”

My dear brothers and sisters. The bishops' stance on family planning and reproductive health is consistent with the stand of the Catholic Church throughout the ages. The Philippine bishops do not operate in a vaccuum. Ask any bishop around the world and he will tell you the same thing in unity with what Philippine bishops stand for. What the Philippine bishops stand for is immutable and irreformable authentic Catholic teaching -- they are just doing their job. Time and again, the Catholic Church has expressed a consistent stand against contraceptives. Pope Benedict XVI says so. Pope John Paul II said so in Evangelium Vitae back in 1995. Pope Paul VI said so in Humanae Vitae back in 1968. Pope Pius XI said so in Castii Connubii back in 1930. And so on, and so on.

So my dear brothers and sisters, if you say you are faithful to the Catholic Church but strongly disagree with the bishops on FP and RH, I very strongly suggest you re-examine your conscience, as well as your mind-boggling logic.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010





























Monday, October 4, 2010

Excommunication by Fax

CBCP reminds Aquino about excommunication

CBCP head denies excommunication threat

‘Excommunication’ threats can boomerang on Church – senators

"The opposition against the RH (reproductive health bill) is too premature. A hearing has yet to be held and they are already against it. The Church and President Aquino are already fighting over it when we don’t even know the final form of the bill being pushed. It’s not even in first base,’" said Senator Joker Arroyo in an interview with dzBB radio.
[Oh c'mon Sir Joker. opposition premature?? The bill reached 3rd reading last Congress and it was just re-filed. Re-filed, get that?]

Senator Edgardo Angara said the threat of excommunication was an "argument by those without an argument, if you can’t say anything, just make threats.’"

[Without an argument?? I think all this time, Senator Angara was hiding behind a rock]

He [Joker Arroyo] said threatening excommunication could boomerang on the Church especially if Congress enacted the RH bill. "Will the Church have the guts to excommunicate the majority of congressmen and senators who voted for it?’"
[In other words, Sir Joker issues a challenge: C'mon I dare you to excommunicate all of us!]

If there is any premature, and pointless talk going around, it is about the perceived threat of excommunication. There is no threat of excommunication as clarified by CBCP.

"While the prevailing sentiment of a number of bishops was that of dismay and frustration over the reported stance of the President regarding artificial contraceptives, excommunication has not been contemplated by the CBCP," said [CBCP President Bishop] Odchimar.

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales... also said that the threat of the CBCP to excommunicate the President was not true. Rosales even blamed media for the controversy, saying that they merely made up the issue, according to a report by Radyo Inquirer.

“Gawa-gawa ng media ang issue [Media has made up the issue] and it is not true that Aquino will be excommunicated,” Rosales was quoted as saying on Radyo Inquirer.

While Senators Angara and Arroyo seem to have taken a cocksure and arrogant stance, Senator Miriam Santiago seems to have taken the issue quite seriously, or comically, depending on which way you look at it. Reacting to the excommunication issue, she wrote a letter (yes, wrote a letter!) to CBCP President Nereo Odchimar basically saying : please don't excommunicate me. Part of her letter reads:

"May I respectfully submit that the penalty of excommunication for pro-RH (reproductive health) legislators, who are merely exercising the preferential option for the poor under liberation theology, would be too extreme and disproportionate. It will raise constitutional issues about church-state relationship."

The mere mention of the word "Liberation Theology" is a dead give-away that her arguments in the letter is totally off the wall. She throws in for good measure inane arguments such as "The natural-law theory is already obsolete" and the usual but boring "we are bound to follow our conscience faithfully in all our activity".

She ends her letter by saying "So please do not excommunicate President Aquino, myself, and those similarly situated. Thank you very much."

Haha. It's just like going to confession and seeking absolution through a letter. Bishop Odchimar would do well to fax her back a letter, stating:

"Dear Madam Senator, You are hereby excommunicated right this very moment. Best regards,"

Friday, October 1, 2010

Free thinking gone mad

Revised Penal Code, Section Four. — Crimes against religious worship

Art. 133. Offending the religious feelings. — The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.

(in short, it carries a six months prison term)
Lawyers post bail for jailed tour guide

MANILA, Philippines – The lawyers of tour guide Carlos Celdran posted a P6,000 bail Friday after the city prosecutor's office found probable cause to indict him for violating Article 133 of Revised Penal Code or offending religious feelings.

(see news story here)

Meanwhile, members of the Filipino Free Thinkers picketed the Manila Police District’s Station 5 in Ermita, Manila demanding Celdran’s immediate release. At least 10 members of the group expressed their support for Celdran's cause against continuing Church intervention in state affairs, particularly in the issue of birth control. Red Tani, the organizer of the group, told reporters that not all Catholics and not all Filipinos hold the same view as the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

Tani called for the repeal of the "archaic" Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, offending religious feelings, which is what Celdran was charged with.

"We are no longer in the dark ages," he maintained.

Lets see. Celdran, wearing a mock Rizal costume, barges into the cathedral while a religious ceremony was going on. He proceeds to the front of the altar, waves a placard bearing the word "Damaso", and shouts "Stop involving yourselves in politics!". Take note, while a formal ceremony was going on. To the Filipino "Free Thinkers", this is perfectly acceptable behavior, otherwise, one's mind belongs to the dark ages. Again, I was wondering if these "brave" people can pull the same stunt in a Muslim mosque. Nah.

So, it is perfectly fine to disrupt a religious service (any religious service, mind you) with disruptive intrusion, gross disrespect, extreme rudeness, insults and hate. Really.

To think otherwise would be archaic, and properly belongs to the dark ages.

And they call themselves "Free Thinkers".

Meanwhile, RH-bill main advocate Lagman said the detention of the popular tour guide "smacks of intolerance and unchristian conduct by the Catholic hierarchy.".

I think my thinking mind is exploding. In this incident, it is the Catholic Hierarchy who is guilty of "
intolerance and unchristian conduct"? Whoah. Another 'free thinker', this Lagman.

Aquino stands vague in his population planning policy

Aquino stands firm in his population planning policy

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) -- President Benigno Aquino III said today he is to stand firm in his population management policy, which respects all family planning methods including artificial contraception, despite the threat of possible excommunication by the head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Mr. Aquino was reacting to the statement of CBCP President Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag, Surigao del Sur, that the Catholic Church would excommunicate him if he allows the government to provide artificial contraceptives to poor couples who opt for them as a family planning method.

"We are all guided by our consciences. My position has not changed. The state's duty is to educate our families as to their responsibilities and to respect their decisions if they are in conformity to our laws," the president said in a text message forwarded to reporters by Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

The title of the article should have been "Aquino stands vague in his population planning policy".

There is simply too much wiggle room in this policy statement that a herd of elephants can easily pass through.

No one has any issue with a general policy declaring "the state's duty to educate familes as to their responsibilities". As far as I know, this policy is nothing new and has been held by all administrations since President Emilio Aguinaldo III. "Respect their decision if they are in conformity to our laws", certainly. Again, all democratic countries do that. So what is there to argue with this policy statement? None.

As to artificial contraception, admittedly it is legal in the Philippines, as long as such is medically certified by the Food and Drug Administration. So technically speaking from a secular point of view, there is nothing wrong with Aquino's stated population management policy - "which respects all family planning methods including artificial contraception". Theologically speaking however, there is a lot wrong with his personal stand, considering he is an avowed practising Catholic.

His policy however, does not admit as to whether he would obligate public money to fund distribution of free contraceptives and if so, how much. There, we have an issue. The policy also does not make any stand on the so-called "abortifacients". That is another fundamental issue. The policy does not say if the plan to educate families includes mandating sex education in all schools starting elementary. There we have another issue. It does not say whether the policy of respecting all family planning methods also includes respecting the right of medical practitioners to refuse to cooperate in endorsing contraceptives. Aquino did say we are all guided by our consciences, but again, he didn't say anything when one's conscience conflicts with another. That is another issue. It is very difficult to understand President Aquino's population management policy. That is the biggest issue.

RH Bill ticked off

All hell breaks loose since President Aquino spoke in favor of contraceptives...

RP to provide birth control despite church ban

"The government is obligated to inform everybody of their responsibilities and their choices. At the end of the day, government might provide assistance to those who are without means if they want to employ a particular method," he said.

"I believe the couple will be in the best position to determine what is best for the family, how to space (the births), what methods they can rely on and so forth," said Aquino at a "town hall" style meeting with expatriate Filipinos.

"They face the responsibility for the children that they bring in and government is willing to assist them."

Pretty interesting pronouncement from the President right after his one-on-one with Obama.
On cue, the bishops reminded Aquino of its stance against contraceptives. For good measure, was CBCP was also reported as having reminded him of the possibility of excommunication. (Update: A disclaimer from Bishop Odchimar that he never threatened Aquino with excommunication).

Speaking on the Church-run Radio Veritas, Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag, Surigao del Sur, the current CBCP president, said that even Mr. Aquino may be covered by excommunication. Mr. Aquino, a practicing Catholic, has stood by his position that Filipino couples who choose to use artificial contraceptives should be allowed to do so.

"Well, being the President of all, you must consider the position of the Catholic Church because we are approaching these issues from the moral aspect like the unborn. Abortion is a grave crime. Excommunication is attached to [it]. That is an issue of gravity, that is a violation of God's commandment," Odchimar said.

Accordingly, the pro-RH camp was emboldened to push for the prioritization of the pending RH bill in Congress.

But first, Mr. Aquino has to match his pronouncement with an endorsement and certification of the RH bill as a priority measure, the minority leader [Lagman] said.

House Speaker Belmonte, whose leanings on the issue is no secret, has also expressed his wish for the bill to be prioritized.

“Everyone has to assess it for himself, but we ourselves have assessed it in the past and we are willing to take the risk,” Belmonte told reporters in his weekly news conference Thursday when asked how lawmakers intend to deal with the staunch opposition of the Catholic church, which even campaigns against congressmen in favor of RH bill.

While offering no guarantee of its passage, Belmonte said he would like to see the bill reach third reading and voted on by members of the chamber, unlike in the past congresses when it only reached the level of plenary debates.

With the snowballing support for the bill, Belmonte said he might even ask the President to certify it as an urgent measure.

“I think it’s okay for us to request him to certify that. At any rate he’s already bitten the bullet on it,” he said.

Speaker Belmonte hit it right on the button: Aquino has already bitten the bullet. The money quote from President Aquino would be: "At the end of the day, government might provide assistance to those who are without means if they want to employ a particular method". This is equivalent to saying that the government might distribute contraceptives for free, just as the RH bill intends to.

However, I notice the tentative word "might". It would have been more decisive of President Aquino had he instead declared : "At the end of the day, government should provide assistance to those who are without means...". It seems though Aquino has bitten the bullet, he didn't swallow the whole thing. The bullet is still between his front teeth. I wonder if the forthcoming dialog with the CBCP would make him spit it out. One key question might be telling enough: When does life begin? A follow-up question would be: "Are you sure all the artificial contraceptives you are in favor of freely providing for, does not interfere with life in any of its stages?". Note Mr. President, to back up your arguments with scientific, medically ascertained facts.

Meanwhile, a group of Muslims has also voiced out its (op)position on the issue. It makes the matter even more more interesting.

Muslims join outrage vs birth control

MANILA, Sept. 30, 2010—A group of Muslims has joined the growing chorus of voices opposing any effort by President Benigno Aquino III to promote artificial family planning.

In what could be a boost to the Catholic Church’s campaign against contraceptives, the Imam Council of the Philippines said they are against birth control pills and condoms even among married couples.

Ibram Moxir, council head, said the Islam community is one with the Catholic hierarchy in opposing the passage of the Reproductive Health bill which seeks to control the country’s growing birth rate.

Other pro-RH advocates like Gabriela have also been emboldened to step-up their campaign, even as one particularly overeager advocate has pushed 'emboldened' to new level.

Manila tour guide arrested for heckling during ecumenical service

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) Popular tourist guide Carlos Celdran was arrested Thursday afternoon after he held a protest in front of the main altar of the Manila Cathedral while an ecumenical service was going on.

Celdran was arrested by police after he began shouting for the Catholic Church to "stop getting involved" in politics during a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the "May They Be One Bible campaign," a joint effort by Catholics and Protestant leaders to distribute five million Bibles to five million poor Filipino families.

He also held up a placard with the word "Damaso," referring to the hated Spanish friar in Jose Rizal's novel Noli Me Tangere.

"Stop involving yourselves in politics!" shouted Celdran, who dressed up like Rizal and also had a top hat, inside the cavernous cathedral.

He later told reporters that he did the stunt because the bishops needed to "hear what the Filipinos are saying."

Whoah. This guy Celdran is a bold man, I suppose. Now if Celdran could stage the same stunt in a Muslim mosque during service, I would really be impressed.