Insights and opinions from our contributors on the current issues happening in the region

insight 54


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Police torture video affirms police stations are 'torture chambers'

Freedom of religion under threat

Sex Ed a wedge issue

What’s wrong with sex education in schools?

What do YOUTHink?

Condoms a dead man walking

Manganese, Copper… and other questions

Movie making from Waray’s olden history should begin now

Electric Vehicles will end Climate Change

How could the 'Maguindanao massacre' been allowed to happen?





An invitation to a formal debate

September 9, 2010

I would like to invite non-Catholics to a formal debate on Facebook on a topic of their choice using only the Bible as proof.  We can have this on “Discussions” of my Facebook account or anywhere there’s a considerable number of people looking.

There are plenty of forums on Facebook where Catholics and “Protestants” discuss doctrine, but most of them invariably become unfinished business when “Protestants” suddenly stop responding to points raised by Catholics.  I don’t know why, but this is fairly common.  Only through a formal debate, in my opinion, could a discussion be seen to its logical conclusion.

My debate partner and I could follow the following format: Opening Statement period (2,000 words each).  First Rebuttal period (2,000 words each).  Second Rebuttal period (2,000 words each).  Cross Examination - each side asks 5 questions alternately one after the other (responses limited to 1,000 words each).  Closing Statement period (2,000 words each).

I’d much prefer the following topics: papal infallibility; the Immaculate Conception; the Holy Eucharist; the primacy of Peter; the Church being hierarchical; Sola Scriptura; Sola Fidei; eternal security; or idolatry, but I’d be open to suggestions.  Or, we can have specific passages, e.g., “Romans 3:28 clearly supports “faith alone”; “John 3:16 clearly supports eternal security.”

Baptists of every kind, Evangelicals of every type, Reformed Evangelicals of every hue, Lutherans, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses – it doesn’t matter, I’m okay with any.

My debate partner doesn’t even have to introduce himself.  He can have an assumed name, a profile picture of anything but himself, and we could start immediately.  It seems that non-Catholic churches frown on their members joining debates, I don’t know why.  But nobody could stifle, in my opinion, the right of their members to the truth, which, again in my opinion, could come only from an intelligent study of the subject, a study that could be tremendously aided by a healthy discussion with another from the opposite side.

Another advantage is that we could do this on our free time, in the comfort of our homes, with our notes and/or buddies nearby – I don’t mind debating with someone who has a battery of friends to assist him.  I also don’t mind my debate partner doing cut and paste – I will be doing much the same.

This is not an ego trip.  It’s just that so many “Protestants” have the horribly wrong concept of Catholicism – Catholics worship our Lady; Catholics have placed a lot of things into their beliefs that are not only absent from the Bible but, in fact, contradict the Bible, etc. – that I think Protestants have to be informed as to what, really, is the Catholic faith.  The same goes for Catholics, many of whom are woefully ignorant of their Catholic faith making them easy targets for conversion by “Protestant” proselytizers.

Anyone interested could get in touch with me at





The significant role of media in the society today

September 7, 2010

“Liberal Party’s Legal Adviser Roger Casurao said that the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is the most convenient and appropriate way of approaching the problem in order to prevent the province from releasing the budget. The passage of the 2010 budget was declared null and void because the procedure adopted by the board members present was improper and illegal as it failed to meet the necessary requirement for approval which requires the majority vote of all the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.”  [ Majority pushes TRO to block budget release ]

This paragraph caught the attention and produced an adverse effect on the part of the respondents Gov. Sharee Ann Tan, et al as represented by their counsel during the hearing for the extension of the TRO filed by the petitioners Majority Floor Leader Charlie Coñejos et al in the afternoon of September 3, 2010 at RTC Branch 31 in Calbayog City.

Who would have thought that my article, a banner story of published on that very day would be the last subject of argument during the TRO hearing?

I would like to share how they deliberated on it:

Respondent’s Counsel: In this press release your honor, it was stated that Liberal Party’s Legal Adviser Roger Casurao said that the TRO is the most convenient and appropriate … Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

Your honor please, this is very prejudicial to our client. There is no showing that the 2010 budget was declared null and void; and also your honor, that is misleading to the public and to the constituents of the province. For that purpose your honor, may we please request the parties to give the issue for the decision of this honorable court and never give misleading information to the public.

Court:  Who wrote that article?

Respondent’s Counsel:  I believe your honor that the author of this press release was Gina Dean-Ragudo.

Then the Counsel asked the writer…

Is the statement in paragraph 2 a correct statement?

Writer’s Answer:  Yes, as stated by the legal adviser of the Liberal Party based on the interview I conducted.

Respondent’s Counsel:  Your honor, may we request the parties to prohibit them from giving press release.

Petitioner’s Counsel:  You read very well the article Mr. Counsel. Is there any showing that I said it was declared null and void by the court?

The court read the article…

Petitioner’s Counsel:  Who declared it null and void?

I will make the clarification. I said that the most convenient way of approaching the problem on this impasse now on the budget is a judicial relief. My saying… that is null and void because the board made it.  I was referring to a Letter of Disclaimer. The 7 board members declared it null and void. Is there any gag order for the board members from declaring it null and void? I never used the name of the court in declaring it null and void.

Respondent’s Counsel:  I never said that…

I would like to manifest that this be submitted for record purposes.

The use of the term press release by the respondent’s counsel is incorrect. Said article was taken from the statements of the interviewee on the interview conducted by the writer 2 days after the filing of the petition for TRO. In my own understanding, a press release is an announcement distributed to members of the press in order to supplement or replace an oral presentation, or a public statement containing information about an event that has happened or is going to happen; the announcement appeared in several newspapers or radio/television stations.

What I am trying to convey here is that – the name of the writer is posted in the article published only in and the writer’s Facebook Account unless another colleague in the industry has copied (plagiarism) it verbatim.

Anyhow, the intention of the story was not to preempt the decision of the honorable court because the petition was already granted when the story was published in the website. In fact, no issue ever came out on the day when the petitioners filed the “Injunction Declaration of Nullity of Appropriation Ordinance # 13-002 Series of 2010 of the Province of Samar with a Prayer of Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order” before the court.

Furthermore, the source of the story was the Letter of Disclaimer signed by the majority members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan addressed to the Provincial Budget Officer. The source and the story itself did not implicate the name of the court when “null and void” issue was mentioned. The source, as the legal adviser of the Liberal Party was just conveying his legal opinion based on the Letter of Disclaimer issued by the petitioners the day after the controversial budget was approved. [ Letter of Disclaimer ]

The judiciary’s cloistered way of independence and established anti-political shield is highly regarded by the media as we are aware of our responsibility when delicate and complex issues evolve.

The intent of the story is not to mislead the public and the constituents of Samar because there was no exaggeration or “embellishment” when it was written.

Notwithstanding the effect of bringing the issue in court, the media is pleased how the people reacted to a particular subject matter. It upholds the significant role/s of media in the society. Responding to President Noy Aquino’s call in his SONA that media should be fair, truthful and elevate the level of public disclosure, we are encouraging the constituents of Samar to exercise vigilance and participation. Regardless of your political preference or “color”, we should adhere to a pattern of advocacy – take part in matters involving the “coffers” of the province. It’s not THEIR (politicians) MONEY; it’s OUR MONEY that is being deliberated upon.





A Letter of Disclaimer on the approval of the 2010 Annual Budget of the province of Samar

Republic of the Philippines
Catbalogan, Samar


August 27, 2010

Province of Samar


The undersigned are members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Samar.

This is to formally and officially DISCLAIM the validity of ordinance for the approval of the 2010 Annual Budget of the Province of Samar that transpired during the regular session of the Sanggunaing Panlalawigan on august 26, 2010 at the Samar Provincial Capitol Building.

The procedure adopted by the members present for the alleged approval of the 2010 annual Budget was IMPROPER and ILLEGAL as it failed to meet the necessary requirements for approval of an appropriation ordinance which requires the MAJORITY VOTE OF ALL THE MEMBERS OF THE SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN,

Moreover, the 2010 annual Budget was UNCEREMONIOUSLY, CLANDESTINELY AND SURREPTITOUSLY treated during said regular session as it was not calendared on the said session and it was only brought on the item for Other Matters despite the fact that said 2010 budget is already with the proper Committees and is under treatment and consideration of the concerned Committee.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Samar is composed of FOURTEEN (14) MEMBERS including the Vice Governor as the Presiding Officer. A simple mathematical computation would clearly show that a vote of SEVEN (7) members is necessary to meet the requirement of MAJORITY VOTE OF ALL THE MEMBERS OF THE SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN for the approval of an appropriation ordinance.

NOW, THEREFORE, We are FORMALLY and OFFICIALLY DISCLAIMING the validity of the ordinance for the approval of the 2010 annual Budget and any transactions and/or dealing pursuant to said invalid ordinance shall be ineffective and has no force and effect of the law.

Thank you and we are hoping that you will give this matter a preferential attention.







A media statement on P-Noy’s recent anti-divorce but pro-remarriage pronouncement

National Chairperson, Democratic Socialist Women of the
Philippines (DSWP)
August 26, 2010

Hearing the President’s pronouncements on divorce made me cringe.  When President Benigno S. Aquino III stated that divorce in the Philippines is a no-no, but in the same breath said that those who want to remarry may just use legal separation, my initial reaction was – “Does he know that legal separation does not allow remarriage?” The President contradicted himself and his statement may be described as confused, or perhaps, misguided. Unfortunately, Presidential pronouncements are usually taken as the administration’s positions on issues and strongly influence Congress decisions.  In this case, the President’s message is unclear.

His statement that legal separation should be enough for couples who cannot stay together and who want to remarry reveals wrong appreciation of existing laws.  Legal separation does not dissolve the marriage and only settles separation of abode, and in some cases, of properties.  Our work with women from all over the country taught me that some marriages break down, divorce or no divorce. Many times, women’s decision to get out of relationships is due to abuse and violence they suffered for years and could no longer bear.  For these women, legal separation is not enough even if they do not have plans of remarrying. Reports consistently show that in this country, violence and other forms of abuse against women are primarily committed by husbands and partners, the very same people who vowed to love and protect them ‘till death do they part’.  We know of cases where even if legally separated, women are unable to escape abuse from husbands because they remain “owned” by them in marriage.

President Aquino also said that the sanctity of marriage must be protected and I agree.  However, this should not be at the expense of women, particularly those who are victims of abuse.  Does the President really believe that those abused should not be given another chance at life? Would the President prefer women to suffer in silence for the sake of making it appear that their marriages are intact even if in reality, they have broken down? Mr. President, many women want to be free from abusive relationships. The goal is to get their lives back. Whether they will remarry or not is beside the point.  The government, which you lead, should make possible women’s freedom from abuse within marriages. Legalizing divorce will help and we hope that you will side with us on this urgent matter.  We want to know if you are for or against divorce.





Educating torture 'experts' is pointless

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
August 24, 2010

The widely publicised video of a police torture has drawn mixed reactions and opinions from the public, including lawmakers, lawyers and human rights groups, who have all joined in the chorus condemning such a barbaric and cruel act. Most of them share the opinion that 'lack of education of the law enforcers' is to blame for it happening but the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) strongly argues that this is not the case.

While educating law enforcers about the content of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 is necessary the lack of education of this law cannot be used as an excuse to justify the said incident. If there is anyone who are 'experts and well-educated' on the use of torture, it is the law enforcement officers themselves. Torture is not something so new that one has to be told that it is abhorrent and prohibited.

The enactment of the Anti-Torture Act in December 2009 did not mean that the term 'torture' just came into existence and was an alien concept to the law enforcers. The term torture itself has been widely used and understood to refer to violence and cruelty perpetrated against a person. Before the right not to be tortured was included in the 1987 Constitution, the police and the military had already been practicing it, particularly during Martial law period against political dissenters. Therefore, it would be too naïve to argue that the lack of education amongst law enforcers is to blame as to why it continues to persist. For any police officer who thinks with reason, torture is absolutely a condemnable act undeserving of those who wear the uniform of the Philippine National Police.

Some of the authors of the Anti-Torture Law were victims of torture themselves during the Martial Law regime. It is their experience, and that of countless others, that made the enactment of this law possible. It was also after the Marcos regime that the concept of the right against torture was first introduced in the Philippine Constitution. The torture victims, most of them in disbelief as to how cruel people of their own nationality could become, felt the depth of what torture really is. It meant being a witness of their own suffering long before this was written into law. Those who 'survived' have to suffer and live with the trauma of having been tortured for the rest of their lives.

Torture is not a result of ignorance and lack of education by the law enforcers. It is the absence of an effective mechanism that would hold them accountable. It is also this absence that breeds and develops a culture of violence amongst the law enforcers. When a law enforcer or torturer cannot be held accountable for torture or any other form of violence he would commit, this becomes an accepted norm which we know to have been thriving in the police force for decades. This is what happened in the Philippines. The policeman who tortured the suspected thief in the video did not become a torturer overnight, but had learnt and developed his expertise of using torture and the accompanying mindset to an extent that has become acceptable to him because it is a commonplace practice.

Filipino policemen also do not become police officers overnight. The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM), two agencies who are responsible in training and recruiting applicants into the police force, require highly competitive academic qualifications, accomplishments and intensive training before it awards a policeman the rank of a police captain, the rank that the policeman in the video held. They also undergo civil service examinations, regular background checks and continuing education on law enforcement.

Also, the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA), one of the highly competitive police training academies, even conduct background checks of their recruits, by way if interviewing their family and persons who know the applicant, before admitting him for training to ensure that immoral persons or those with psychological problems would not be allowed in the academy. This is in addition to passing a lengthy qualifying examination.

Apart from training in the police academy, the PNP and NAPOLCOM also absorb applicants with a bachelor's degree in criminology and those who had already earned units from any social sciences course but were unable to graduate. This is also after passing a civil service examination. Thus, those who are absorbed into the police force are either university graduates or have studied for years in a university. They are educated people and need not be told that torture is prohibited. They are have completed, at least the rudimentary teaching on logic, ethics, philosophy and the morals in the universities. They are certainly not uneducated.

When the policeman tortured the victim in the video, he did it consciously. It was not indiscriminate or an isolated case, as earlier mentioned by the police establishment. It reflects the tip of the iceberg as to the state of policing in country. The emergence of further complaints on torture as reported in the media, after the video had been exposed, only demonstrates the ugly reality of the country's policing the surface of which has yet to be scratched. It is a matter that most of the people knew and had live with. Any further complaints must therefore be seriously acted upon under the law.





Legislative activism

August 23, 2010

FORMS of activism have definitely multiplied in trickier, more sinister ways these past years. The original form is obviously when a person just acts without much thinking. Even common sense is neglected, and the result can only be trouble.

Such attitude, unfortunately, can be infectious, taking advantage of people’s weaknesses, ignorance and confusion, and thus can be so generalized as to become part of a society’s culture, with structures to perpetuate it.

And thus, we can have such anomalies as workaholism or professionalitis, where action, work and profession become the be-all and end-all of life. They set aside time for prayer, family life and our other responsibilities.

But the root cause of activism is when we detach ourselves from our objective source of wisdom and truth, and this is nothing other than God. This sadly is becoming prevalent because of the increasingly secularized environment we are having these days.

Instead we depend on our own ideas, mesmerized by their borrowed brilliance and buoyed by our own pride and vanity. In short, we make ourselves our own God. This irregularity is reinforced by a badly understood doctrine of the separation of Church and state that many of us are suffering.

According to this understanding, the Church cannot say anything on state affairs. In a worse case, religion or anything that has to do with faith is automatically banned from making any influence on a country’s political life. And yet all sorts of ideologies are made to hold sway over the people.

With this frame of mind, we start to create a bubble, we start to live in a cocoon. Reality becomes man-made. We follow a logic that while accompanied by reason, is ultimately based on hot air. This is where we can talk about an activism that is driven by ideologies founded on reason alone without God.

Its allure derives from the immediate practicality it gives, the instant, short-term advantages and benefits it produces. But it’s notoriously shallow and short-sighted, and worse, it tends to be dressed in deceptive devices to attract attention.

Thus, in the recent past, we had this disturbing phenomenon of street rallies, where noise replaced thinking, slogans substituted arguments, and ideologies attacked faith and our faith-derived culture.

Its falsehood and inherent infirmity obviously cannot keep the craze long. In time, all the shouting and marching petered out. It had no genuine soul. It cannot go far in its dream.

And so, other forms of activism had been resorted. Lately, we had been “regaled” for a while by the news that an American judge did what was tantamount to a judicial activism. That’s when he overturned the results of a plebiscite that banned same-sex marriage in California.

In his view, there was no sufficient reason to ban gay unions. He had the pluck to insinuate that there was more than enough reason homosexual marriages were ok, were constitutional, if not were moral and natural.

It’s good that a court stopped his decision, at least for a while, from being implemented. We have to be ready for this kind of activism that tries to usurp the right of the majority of the people to be heard in their beliefs.

In our own country, we have another disturbing phenomenon that is emerging. We can call it legislative activism, because it involves lawmakers, our congressmen and congresswomen, who now want to redefine marriage according to ideological lines.

This time, they want marriage not to be a lifelong commitment but a renewable affair after every few years. This is really a wild idea that only shows what’s inside their mind and heart.

Marriage, by definition, is a lifelong commitment, because it involves everything of the parties concerned. We, as persons and especially if we are aware that we receive grace from God through the sacrament of marriage, are capable of such commitment.

I’m sure the proponents want to solve some screaming marital and family problems, but the proposed solution can open a Pandora’s box of many other worse problems. With such attitude, where the nature and sanctity of marriage are eroded, people would have more reason not to take it seriously.

Besides, the proposal to legalize “renewable” marriage goes with another on divorce. Actually these two are twin bastard children of a man-made understanding of marriage.

We have to understand that the nature of marriage is given to us by God, written in nature, and for us to find, discover and live. It’s not for us to fabricate nor to revise. We need to go back to this basic truth about marriage.





SP Committee Hearings reveal lapses in the AIP/Budget Preparation

August 22, 2010

The 2010 Annual Budget of the Provincial Government of Samar is presently being subjected to a keen scrutiny from members of the two committees. A series of marathon hearings jointly held by the Committee on Finance and Appropriations and the Committee on Laws and Legal Matters have called on the different agencies and the Local Finance Committee to defend the appropriations/items incorporated in the proposed budget.

Based on my personal accounts on the hearings conducted, the Committees have already noted major procedural lapses in the budget preparation. First, it was only last July 22, 2010 that the budget was calendared for deliberation. Secondly, it has questioned in particular, the absence of an Annual Investment Plan that was duly approved by the Provincial Development Council prior to the submission of the Annual Budget. Furthermore, it was observed that the plans and programs contained in the AIP did not pass the consultative process since there were proposed projects that are already implemented from other sources of funds; specific places for project implementations are not provided; resource persons/offices for various social/promotional programs are not identified and priority programs are not reflective of the needs of the Samarnons.

It may be recalled that Samar has been operating under a re-enacted 2008 budget since 2009. The succeeding proposed annual budgets failed to get the SP's approval after the Tan's administration has continually been bombarded by criticisms for irregularities in its financial transactions, unfinished infrastructure/road projects, poor governance and more other administration lapses. In fact, former Governor Milagrosa Tan was meted a 90-day suspension last December 2009 to February 2010 for graft acts committed.

With the new set of provincial employees sworn in, the budget controversy becomes a hot issue putting more pressure on both the Executive and the Legislative Branches. The seven (7) Board Members (Magnificent Seven), whose numbers control the Sangguniang Panlalawigan decisions, are decided to protect the coffers of the province.  Hon Eunice Babalcon, Chairwoman of the Committee on Laws and Legal Matters, was even quoted with these pronouncements. "We don't want to take part in the approval of a budget that is not beneficial to the people. Himay-himayon ta ini para hingadto ha maupay nga kakadtuan".

Likewise, Hon. Noel Sermense, Committee Chair for Finance and Appropriations bluntly said approving the budget hastily, will not solve the problems of Samar. This was Sermense's reaction to Governor Sharee Ann Tan's statement that, the delivery of the basic services is hampered because of an unapproved operating budget. Employees were even motivated to lobby with the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for their benefits and salary differentials. Placards were displayed at the lobby of the session hall urging the legislators to immediately pass the budget. Governor Tan, in a press conference, blamed the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for the delay in passing the budget. She had posed a challenge to the Board Members to approve the budget now with the assurance to deliver the services, and that if she fails to deliver the basic services provided in the budget, they can disapprove the 2011 budget. It is to the perception of Hon. Charlie Conejos that these activities are orchestrated by the administration to pressure them into signing the budget. Onlookers are waiting for the outcome of this tug-of-war between the executive and the legislative branches.

While most people perceive the sincerity of the younger Tans in pursuing a transparent administration, the opposition has not forgotten yet the corruption cases that keep haunting the older Tan. People continue to doubt the role of the previous governor in the present administration. Whoever gets the people's sympathy with the word war circulating around, the Samarnons are still hopeful that these officials will be acting on their independent decisions and in the end, people's welfare wins.



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