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

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The face of hunger

No change in the Church’s teaching on condoms

For the greed for money, corruption persists

Yellowing journalism

An invitation to a formal debate

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?





Indifference to disaster

January 19, 2011

Only when lives are lost and properties are damaged due to disaster that our thoughts are disturbed what really caused in all these things from happening.

Disasters are recurring as well as our search for answers that we end facing a blank wall of whose to find fault and whose to put the blame in these sufferings brought  by what we considered as “the wrath of nature” to mankind.

We never learned our lessons from mistakes committed in the past as we still continue to travel the same road ahead without looking back on what should be done to correct the past.

One of the factors that point us Filipinos from being indifferent in times of disaster is our insensitive culture toward it.

We demonstrated it by taking for granted things like building homes, offices and other structures in hazardous and disaster prone areas. No matter how scary the warning may be, but still we continue to risk our lives and properties in living in high risk places which are considered geohazardous zones.

Another sad picture that adds to our being indifferent to disaster is the lack of political will and absence of resolve governance of some local government leaders. Instead of looking after for the welfare and safety of the constituents, we often hear and see elected government officials evading their responsibility in saving the lives and properties of the constituents in exchange for one’s political survival.

That reality happening in local governance is aggravated by the lack of plan and vision of local leaders to map out a long term plan on disaster risk reduction and management so that the loss of lives and properties will be minimized if not be avoided.

The values of taking notice only to disaster when considerable number of lives and properties are already gone and when hapless people are crying and craving for one’s shoulder to cry on that we realize to extend our hands for help.

What is there to help when houses are already swept by flashfloods and when people are buried in mudslides? What else can we offer but our grief from the misfortunes they suffered or if there is a remaining one that is a little offering of prayers and flowers for the untimely death of our Filipino brothers and sisters.

These indifferences recur simultaneously with natural calamities and disasters and the only best way to prevent it from happening or perhaps putting and end to it is to do what should and must be done.

Let’s be sensitive enough as a citizen to the plight of the victims of these natural disasters and calamities, let’s be proactive as a people as to these fatal natural eventualities and let’s be responsive as leaders in the respective community we governed so that at the end of the day we can all see a disaster and calamity free country where everybody is safe from any occurrence of natural disasters and calamities.





Romancing the streets of mega Manila

January 17, 2011

A line from an old song by the Hotdogs bears timeliness for a neophyte visitor like me: simply no place in the world like Manila.

For exact territorial correctness, I was not able to step in the soils of Manila, for as far as public and commercial vehicles that I had ridden in my four days’ stay there last week, I had been to Pasig, Mandaluyong, San Juan, and, of course, Quezon City.

But such perfect territorial description does not matter, because for a “promdi” (slang for “from the province”) Manila is a generic term, encompassing the environs of a modern metropolis that can also be viewed as an urban jungle.

As soon as our plane touched down at the tarmac of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), I can feel the smell of a concrete forest, where people and high-rise buildings and vehicles – thousands of vehicles – competed for space.

The distance from the airport to our assigned hotel was about under twenty kilometers, but we reached there in solid two hours, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm because of bumper-to-bumper traffic – a scene I only saw on TV was unfolding right before my eyes, backlights of vehicles in glowing red illuminated like flickering fireflies.

And so in the next four days, my eyes feasted on sights of roads twisting here and there, the overpasses, underpasses, shallow tunnels, seamless curves, with matching blaring whistles of taxicabs, jeeps, service cars, buses, and single motorcycles.

Pedestrian crossing was passé, for in its place was the skywalks where people move like ants in opposite directions, either for a leisurely stroll or on the way to work, after alighting from the stations of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and the Light Rail Transit (LRT).

The malls, whose structure are so huge they defy comprehension for starters, were always filled with people buying anything until exhaustion, which made me wonder that malls should also be covered by surveys to determine if people really have gone bottom poor, eating only twice a day – a situation you cannot believe happening when you observe lavish lifestyles in these cool shopping centers.

The outskirts, however, offered a different scenario: cramped houses standing side by side as children frolic unmindful of whistling, passing motorcabs.  “Hangang dito na lang po tayo,” said a taxi driver as he stopped by a station of waiting motorcabs.  “Binato ako dyan ng pumasok ako minsan, at akoy gumasto ng P18,000 para sa repair sa mga nabasag,” he chuckled.

An unfortunate incident, no doubt.  But reminders for reckless drivers also abound in bold letters beneath the hard columns of overpasses.  “Pumagitna po tayo, makakarating din tayo,” one sign reads, referring to the unwanted overtaking and sudden, out-of-lane insertion.

Then there is this ubiquitous instruction, which is self-explanatory: “Follow your lane.”  And still another: “Dahan-dahan po tayo, may namamatay na dito,“ obviously referring to past fatal accidents that hopefully would no longer be repeated.

Yet everyday on prime news we hear accidents after accidents happening.  Were those warning signs not read or were they just become simple routines that no longer merit attention?

Still, I cannot help but be filled with awe and wonder, as life goes on in crowded highways in this bustling metropolis.  “Iyan ang EDSA shrine,” the taxi driver told me as we passed by yet another wondrous structure of a road named after a historic figure.

And EDSA itself, the long stretch of a street, was no less historic, for it was here when people once converged in a show of strength and power that not even tanks were able to get through.

I can relate with EDSA even as I did not live there, because I was part of those glorious moments in spite of the fact that I was far away from the so-called Imperial Manila.  There was this inner sentiment that somehow I belong.

The Hotdogs had the same feeling.  “I walked the streets of San Francisco,” the lyrics of their song “Manila” goes.  “Traveled around in Disneyland.  Dated a million girls in Sydney.  Somehow I feel that I don’t belong.  Hinahanap-hanap kita Manila.  Ang ingay mong kay sarap sa tenga.  Mga kotse mong nagliliparan…“

For me, my discovery of the streets in Manila has just began.

It was like a romance.





Charity perfects connectivity

January 10, 2011

IT’S good that there is a growing sense of connectivity that is now palpable these days. One just has to look around and realize how the steady crawl of linkages among persons and entities in different levels of society is developing.

Technology, for sure, has a lot to do with it. The mobile phone, the Internet, the social network systems, etc., are quickening the pace of communication. With them, we can get in touch with practically anyone in any part of the world.

In a way, these modern means of communication have an equalizing effect on the people. That's because even if there are several grades and levels involved, the fact remains that they have a much larger coverage than previously known. A lot more people are drawn into the communication loop now than before.

Together with this technological angle is, of course, a growth in the sensitivity of people, especially the young ones and even the old, retired ones, toward the need to communicate.

I’m amused to see both my very young nephews and nieces and my rather elderly aunties, already pushing 80, quite adept especially in the social network. I suspect they are the ones that keep the lines abuzz, or the cyberwaves clogged. All of sudden, the world has become much smaller, and more people, despite distance and age, get close to each other.

In schools, young students are continually taught the many possibilities of the new technologies. Innovations keep on popping up, providing people with still more ways to communicate.

Obviously, the big guys are also happy with these developments. Those in business and politics, those trying to monitor social and cultural changes, etc., derive great benefit from these novel things.

And it’s truly heartwarming to note that not only the pace but also the quality of business and politics is improving. That’s because with these gadgets the potentials of participative government are unleashed. Both politicians and citizens, businessmen and consumers, are now more sensitive to the requirements of the common good.

Let’s hope this trend goes on, without forgetting that there is also a need to be vigilant over abuses and other bad effects, usually unintended, that can spoil this development. We have to remember to practice some kind of restraint and moderation in the use of these new gadgets. They can lead us to some info overload that would not be healthy to us.

In this regard, it might be helpful to remind ourselves that the real and proper motor to drive and guide us in this new waters of communication is charity. Let’s not disparage that truth, again considering it as something irrelevant to our current state of development.

Charity can never become obsolete nor useless. It cannot and should not be held as something so other-worldly that it can have nothing to do with our earthly, mundane affairs. In fact, the opposite is true.

Charity is the very soul of our life and everything in it – our thoughts, words and deeds, our business, politics and all kinds of human dealings. It is what brings all these things to their proper foundation, their proper end, and to their proper ways.

We need to disabuse ourselves from the erroneous mentality, sadly quite common these days, of considering charity as impractical. This is actually the main problem we have now. We tend to view things almost exclusively from the practical point of view, as if everything depends on practicality.

Charity demands more things from us precisely because we are not mere animals who happen to be rational and who are just ruled by the law of practicality. We are persons and children of God, meant to enter to a real communion of life and love with God and with everybody else.

Charity tells us more things about what we need to communicate and how to do it. It equips us with a greater sensitivity that lets us fathom deeper things in persons and events. It enables us to understand and to take advantage of sufferings in this life, and of the many negative things that can come to us – our mistakes and failures, our sins, etc.

Charity links us ultimately to God, our last and final end.

Practicality is incapable of doing these things. It tends to treat us not as persons but as objects to be used. We have to be wary of this tendency that seems to afflict us these days like a sweet poison that we gladly take everyday.

It’s time that we sit down and make a serious inventory of the requirements of charity.





Rouges’ Damascus moment?

January 4, 2011

President Benigno Aquino signed into law his first national budget. He stitched in “mandatory postings” provisions.  Are we on the cusp of a good-governance initiative? Or a big bust?

Like it or not, legislators must upload on Department of Budget and Management’s website, “details about their pork barrel spending,” chairman of House appropriations committee Rep. Joseph Abaya told Inquirer.  The P1.645-trillion budget requires publishing data on fund releases, bid provisions and awards, etc. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad added.

Will fugitive Senator Panfilo Lacson be allocated P200 million in pork, despite a pending arrest warrant? Will Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo heed “mandatory provisions” on her beneficiaries?

As President, she vetoed last March, a similar transparency clause stitched into her P1.41-trillion budget.  “Vetoes against measures to curb theft by greater transparency stud the Arroyo record,” noted Viewpoint (PDI / Sept 28, 2010). Congress stapled ‘A Right to Information’ clause into the 2007 budget. The lady vetoed that one. Last year’s rewrite slammed into a repeat veto".

Arroyo allies, like Speaker Prospero Nograles and Rep. Pedro Romualdo (Camiguin) derailed the Freedom of Information bill. If approved, that’d have allowed citizens access to data from the P600-million Macapagal Boulevard overprice to the $328-million ZTE broadband deal.

Pork is deodorized by an official template: “Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).  In the 2011 budget, 24 senators and 283 congressmen may slurp from the pork trough.  There are notable exceptions. Senator Joker Arroyo never dipped into his pork allotments. Deputy Speaker Erin Tanada aligned his pork barrel to support Millennium Development Goals, notably on curbing maternal and infant death rates.

But many treat pork slabs almost like personal checks. Too much “goes for roads that led to nowhere,” former National Treasurer Leonor Briones frets, “or waiting sheds that wait for no one.”

Taxpayers never get accounting on how pork is divvied-up. Major scandals provide the exceptional window.  The Maguindanao murders led to audits that ripped down curtains on how the Ampatuans fritted away pork and heftier Internal Revenue Allotments.

“The P-Noy administration … inserted transparency and accountability measures into execution of the budget,” concluded former NEDA chair Solita Monsod. She sifted, with usual thoroughness, through the draft budget late last year.  “(These can] ensure that expenditures don’t get diverted or wasted.”

The Department of Interior and Local Government spearheaded this “open-books” drive DILG already pastes its budget, contracts and expenses on the Net.  Go transparent, DILG Local Secretary Jesse Robredo directed attached agencies, from Philippine National Police to Local Government Academy.

As six-term mayor of Naga, Roberdo made transparent that city’s financial data. He met stiff opposition – but won accolades from Magsaysay Award Foundation to World Bank.  P-Noy’s first budget now casts a wider net.

About 20 centavos of every taxpayers’ peso is cornered by crooks. So, we’re pleasantly surprised this PNoy reform proposal got this far. Usually, such changes would be mugged early on.

Arroyo’s “thumbs-down” for transparency measures enabled Malacanang to mask, for some time, that the lady burned P940 million for globe-trotting, just in her last year as president. That’s 400 percent more than the P244.6 million authorized by the budget.

The 2011 budget rules “are a little more stringent now”, a key committee chairman explained.  "We're surprised by the marked difference. And nobody is complaining.''

So far, that is.  “Rain wets a leopard's skin,” the Ghanian proverb says. “But it does not wash out the spots.”

Led by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, the new Congress approved mandatory posting.  That is overdue – and welcome. It does not mean both now preside over an assembly of once certified rouges who’ve had a mass “Damascus moment.”

“Mandatory postings” provisions will buttress the Government Procurement Reform Act. That   mandates posting of annual procurement plans, bid invitations and winners. Outlets include the Internet, newspapers and bulletin boards.

Bad habits die hard, however.  Officials in many provinces and cities, like Congress, are spoiled by sustained spending with sparse accounting.  All sorts of dodges will be used.

Cebu City window-dressed it’s massive foreign debt by using outdated exchange rates. COA rapped the knuckles of then mayor, now Congressman Tomas Osmeña. On its official website, Congress posts it’s budget – of 2008.

People, however, clamor for transparency and a Freedom of Information Law. These are powerful inducements, Robredo says. True. Even if not deliberately smudged, mandatory postings are not self-implementing. They provide data at most.

Effective citizen action must channel that clamor.  Social Watch Philippines is a good example of a citizen watchdog over the taxpayer’s peso.  Universities can focus their research on the budge impact on their environs.  Examples can be multiplied.

Mandatory postings can help citizens ask those who spend their money the tough questions “What (funds) have you got? Where did you get it from?” as British Labor Party’s Labor’s Viscount Stangate (Tony Benn) would snap. “In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how do we get rid of you?”





God is not dead!

December 30, 2010

NOT only not dead. Nor is he simply alive and kicking. He is actually intervening in our lives every step and moment of the way. This is the fundamental truth we need to disinter from the graveyard of our memory.

He is at the very core of our being. He is in everything that exists around us. As St. Augustine once said, while to know where he is may be difficult, it is even more difficult to know where he is not. He is in the air, in the light, in the darkness, and both outside and inside us. He is everywhere!

While he is infinitely supernatural to us, a hard reality worsened by our human condition weakened and damaged by sin, there is always in us a flicker of a divine longing, precisely because a link vitally exists between Creator and a creature made in his image and likeness and adopted as a child of his.

No matter how broken that vital link may be, we can still manage to see glimpses of God’s presence and power, his wisdom, his goodness and providence in the most unexpected circumstances of our lives. Our consciences, no matter how torn, cannot totally muffle God’s guiding voice for us.

The mystery of God that is made more mysterious by our sinfulness should not be a hindrance in our belief in God’s existence. If ever, that liability could and should be turned into an asset, and later on, hopefully a capital we can use to feed our continuing awareness of God’s presence.

That mystery should not stop us from dealing with God. On the contrary! It should spur us to ever look for him, believing in what Christ told us that it is in asking that we shall be given, in seeking that we shall find, in knocking that the door shall be opened to us.

It’s our choice to make, of whether to live by faith, a divine gift that binds us with God, or by our own reasoning, our own estimations and devices. Let’s hope that we know what to choose, and not be confused by some problems, difficulties and failures.

The other day, a friend theorized that perhaps it’s not good to be very serious about religion. He said that a number of supposedly good and holy men turned out to be monsters. They personified the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

He mentioned not only a string of very embarrassing scandals involving priests in many countries found to have molested children. He pointed to the most painful discovery that a founder of a religious group known for religious conservatism and orthodoxy was later discovered to have committed ugly crimes.

He fathered children by different women, and worse molested his own son. Could God really exist with these anomalies in high and holy places, he asked. Are we not just making things up?

The observation is truly a painful fact and we cannot deny it. But once I heard it, my thoughts turned to the gospel truth of Jesus choosing among his disciples one who would betray him, and Christ is supposed to be God who knows everything.

It’s a mystery that defies the most elevated level of our human logic. I know that God respects and lets himself to play along with the twists and turns of human freedom. I also know that we can be most vulnerable to the most heinous kind of crimes when we let ourselves be spoiled by God’s precious gifts to us.

But why should such things happen? Could not the almighty God, in whom nothing is impossible, not prevent it? The Catechism answers this question by saying that:

“God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil.” (272)

It’s still a mystery. But then again, the mystery, if handled with humble faith, actually helps us to see God and to feel and experience is constant interventions in our life.

It’s with faith that we can get glimpses of God in the simplest events of our lives. It’s the kind of faith that asks, that seeks, that knocks. Not the kind that simply waits for miracles, since miracles happen only when we go to Christ begging and confessing that we are nothing without him.

Let’s believe then, so we can see God. Let’s not get entangled with our reasonings.





“Short-changing” our teachers, again!

December 21, 2010

OVERHEARD: Radio Announcer 1: What’s the new theme song for teachers this Christmas season? Radio Announcer 2: “Ang Pasko ay suma-bit!” (Christmas got suspended!)

Funny or not, the recent development hounding the teachers in the country is a stark manifestation of how the government is taking our so-called “heroes” for granted.

Not only stalling the releases of their much-anticipated Productivity Enhancement Incentive (PEI), the government is also lying on its teeth when they announced into the public, as being reported in national media, that said PEI had been “readied” in advance so as to “make it up” with the teachers when it also made a “delay” in the distribution of the same type of remuneration in the past.

A delayed release of PEI also means “denying” teachers an appreciation or even a gratitude of their efforts to nation building. It seemed to this writer that teachers are only “attractive” to the national government when there is an election (and government short-changed them during this period, too).

Teaching profession has been “stereotyped” as low-profile, less-compensating, and socially unappealing career in this country. The news on delayed releases of their PEI worsen their already badly-cropped image.

Also, it seemed to me that the national government has been into its “usual crime” of demeaning the teachers, reducing them into beggars and potential victims from “loan sharks”, and worst, stepping into their rights for equal welfare and protection among other state workers.

In Tacloban city alone, teachers would “salivate” when they would hear that its local administration had reportedly distributed rice allowances and some Twenty-five thousand pesos (P25,000) as its bonus allowances to its many employees. And I don’t want to mention how much money the personnel and officials from other big cities and our government-owned and controlled companies (GOCCs) were receiving last week during their annual Christmas parties as I don’t want to completely “break” the hearts of our teachers this season. Likwise, the “pork barrel” and the incentives received by our politicians.

I am always thinking that our government is “short-changing” the teachers because they are anxious or even feel bad of the big amount they owed to them. With around 556,971 reported number of teachers both from elementary and secondary plus their school heads, the government must have a difficult time on how to deal with them “financially”, as PEI would eventually caused the government coffer a whopping P5.57 billion. The same story on how the government resorted to “installment basis” in the increase of teachers’ salaries.

And if such is the case, then the government must do the same thing to all government agencies, or might as well stop this costly annual “bonus habit” of ours.

The issue is not whether the teachers from Luzon (and how I wish they should be the last considering their proximity to national offices) who got the first “share” of this year’s PEI compared to those from Visayas or Mindanao (here we go again with our Philippines-is-Manila Region-Syndrome).

The issue is always about why the government is prone of lying and financially limping our hardworking teachers when we all know that they don’t deserve that kind of treatment.

Over DYDW-Radyo Diwa station in Tacloban city, two radio announcers raised the arguments on why the distribution of P10,000 PEI is being delayed: First, so some people in “DepEd” hierarchy would allegedly earn interest from its depository bank; Second, profiteers and loan sharks (I personally knew one in the regional office, too) allegedly operating in various departments of DepEd throughout the country would find time to rake their “interest” from the PEI proceeds of their loan borrowers.

So this is how our teachers are being treated in this country. Yet, we seldom see or hear teachers marching on the streets, protesting and demanding for their rights.

Our teachers are always like this. No wonder, many people and agencies are prone of abusing them.  (Comments @

About the writer:
Ronald O. Reyes is a freelance journalist based in Tacloban City.



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