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

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Indifference to disaster

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?





Special election for Samar 2nd District may be called to choose a new House Representative

February 8, 2011

There could be a special election for Member of the House of Representatives to represent the Second District of Samar province.  Yes?

The likelihood of a special election could come about only if and when the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal or HRET of the Lower Chamber of the Philippine Congress decides in favor of a petition that has already been filed with it to disqualify sitting member Milagrosa “Mila” Tee Tan, former 3-termer governor of Samar who was proclaimed by as winner in the May 2010 congressional election in the Second District of that province.

Mila won over former Basey, Samar mayor attorney Wilfredo “Didi” O. Estorninos and other hopefuls, was proclaimed as duly elected member of the House of Representatives, took her oath of office as such member, and has since been doing her job as congresswoman.

The HRET could do either of only two things: decide against Mila based on grounds raised in that petition or sustain her election as House member.  If the latter prevails, Mila could continue with her legislative functions and duties until the end of her term.  Such ruling would be equal to saying she has never been disqualified from the time the Comelec received her certificate of candidacy for Representative.

If the House rules in favor of the petition, then it will proclaim Mila as disqualified.  With that, the House will declare as vacant the seat of Member for the Second District of Samar.  The vacancy would be followed by the enactment a law, or a passage of resolution, calling for a special election.

As to when this can happen, only the Lower House can decide.

The disqualification petition was filed with the HRET because this body alone has the sole and exclusive jurisdiction thereon.  Does the Commission on Elections have a prior jurisdiction?  Not anymore.  The Comelec’s authority stopped right after the winner in the May 2010 congressional election was declared.  Had a petition been filed with the Comelec to disqualify Tan after her proclamation won in that election for the Second District of Samar, it could have been dismissed outright by that body, for reason of lack of jurisdiction.

The ground offered for the disqualification of Tan, to stop her from working a day longer in the House of Representatives in whose turf she is one of its honorable legislators, is that she was allegedly “disqualified” to run for Member of the House of Representatives right from the moment her certificate of candidacy for that position was filed with the Comelec.   A highly reliable source in the Liberal Party said that she was “disqualified” because she did not meet the basic qualification which was to be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines.  Much, much earlier, it was bruited about that Mila was born to a Chinese national and  years later was “naturalized”.  The Philippine Constitution requires that only a natural-born citizen can run for Congress, according to the source.   Requesting anonymity, the source said that even if Mila was allowed under the Constitution as a naturalized Filipino citizen, to run for Congress, still she must be disqualified because of her alleged failure to take her “oath of allegiance” to the Philippine flag, the Philippine government, and the Philippine Constitution.

It was, however, alleged by another source that Mila, or her lawyers, relied heavily on her “naturalization” via her business permits and licenses for her businesses in the Philippines, particularly in Samar, for which, through her applications therefore, she declared or entered her citizenship as “Filipino”.

QN’s source said, that was not legally enough because the constitutional requirement must first be satisfied.  Even the oath of allegiance as Filipino must be accompanied by certification about that fact of that oath having been made and taken, the source said.

As of this writing, Tan has not yet filed her answer to the petition.  When done, the petitioner and respondent would be submitting their respective memorandum.  From there, the HRET will render its verdict.

Whatever will be the result of the HRET’s decision, either of the affected party can go to the Supreme Court for a final relief.

With the special election possibility brewing, eyes are on Atty. Estorninos.  Since he landed, according to the election proclamation at the provincial level, second to Tan, many are now entertaining the belief that he should join the race in order to win.  Some of them, earlier, had said that had Tan be disqualified even before her name could be entered by the Comelec in the list of candidates in the official sample ballot, Tan’s name would not have never been read even if appearing in the ballots, or if read, every vote for her could have been considered invalid or stray and therefore not counted.  The walking rumors said that had the early disqualification taken place at all, Didi could have been the one proclaimed as winner, he having obtained the most number of votes over his rivals.  And then Didi could have been congressman for the first time since noon time of June 30, 2010, and perhaps he could already have introduced, or been introducing, the reforms and kinds of development that he promised during his campaign of which vigilant Samarnons cannot yet see from the sitting congresswoman after more than seven months and for more than seven months now.





Why the cross, Lord?

February 4, 2011

I REMEMBER a priest friend of mine asking me one question that I'm sure is also in the mind of many people. “Why does our Lord want us to carry the cross? Why do we have to suffer? Did he create us only to suffer?”

Some years ago, that question also engaged my mind in some torturous exercise. This business of having to suffer simply goes against that primal human desire and need to be happy. That's really what is burning in our heart, isn't it?

We want pleasure, we want comfort and convenience. We want wealth and power, and whatever they are that fascinate our heart, and these can be endless. We are told that in heaven, there will just be bliss, unmitigated joy and goodness that “eyes have not seen, nor ears heard.” Then why do we have to carry the cross?

I believe it is a question that needs to be answered not only adequately, but also repeatedly, giving fresh arguments, pieces of evidence, etc., because we tend to lose sight of the whole picture with which it has to be viewed.

Besides, the question possesses many aspects and side issues that also need to be tackled properly. Given current human and world conditions that handicap deep reflection and wholistic, integrative thinking, this duty to give timely reminders of the entire truth of this matter acquires urgent necessity.

In the gospel, we are encouraged to always give reasons for our hope of the promised supernatural life of eternal happiness with God in heaven. This task faces tremendous challenges and difficulties in view of the continuing flow of hardships that many times lead people now not to look for spiritual and moral solutions, but precisely the opposite.

Nowadays, big parts of the world, especially in the so-called developed countries, are lapsing into a neo-paganism era, where God is not anymore the transcendent Supreme Being but rather we ourselves with our newly acquired power especially in technology.

But indeed, why should there be a cross in our life here on earth?

Offhand, we can say that God for sure did not create us simply to suffer. We were created for joy. That's why every pore of our being just longs for it. In fact, everything that he created, he found it to be good. The creation narrative simply says that very clearly.

The problem is that in our case, and in that of the angels, who were both created spiritual (the angels are pure spirits while we are spirit and body), and therefore intelligent and free, we abused these endowments. We dared, first through our first parents and then us, to detach our freedom from God, its creator and law.

This is how evil entered into our lives, and with it all sorts of suffering and ultimately death. We actually cannot avoid suffering from then on. Evil and suffering in all its forms are self-inflicted by us. It's not what our Lord wants for us, though he took the risk and somehow knew in his omniscience that it would happen.

But precisely because of that he unleashes a much more tremendous display of his power by undertaking a very complicated plan to redeem us in a way fit to our wounded human nature and condition.

We could not argue that if nothing is impossible with God, why then would he not make it easy for us by simply making us anew and completely forgetting the past as if it did not happen.

That would not sit well with our human nature. It would be like annihilating us again into nothingness then make us as a completely new creature. That's like cheating. God does not go back to what he has created. From what has taken place, we will do what is necessary to fix the problem.

To do that, he is showing us how to handle suffering and ultimately death. The Son of God has to become man to assume all the sins of men and with his passion and death and later his resurrection, convert those sins into the basis for a new creature, the new, re-created man in Christ.

For this, there was no other way open to Christ but to suffer death on the cross. And so he wants us to follow him all the way to the cross, since his resurrection and ours could only be attained through it.

There's still a lot more of points to clarify, but for now I think what have been articulated suffice. May we not be afraid of the cross!





Sad state of nursing in the USA and how it affects the Philippines

January 24, 2011

So, you got into nursing school, passed all the requirements, took and passed the NCLEX and now, here you are wanting to go abroad and work as a nurse. But…. You can’t find an opportunity available. Why? …. Well here may be some answers for you.

As it pertains to the US, nursing is in a sad state of affairs. We are told that there is a shortage of nurses in the US. But in reality, there is no actual shortage. There IS a shortage of nurses willing to WORK as a nurse! Every year, more ‘good’ nurses leave the field of nursing because of the standards in which they are forced to work under have gotten worse over the years they have been a nurse. It is a slow downward spiral.

We here in the US have created a monster with a life of its own called HIGHER EDUCATION. Nurses are now made to think more of themselves than they are actually worth. Why be a ‘nurse’ when you can be a clinical nurse specialist or a clinical educator or a nurse practitioner? School and more school and more school is the way to go, or so say the professors of nursing in those universities. The more students enrolled, the more income to the school the higher the salaries to those same nursing professors who are pushing unqualified and under qualified applicants into these advanced programs just because the applicant can qualify for a student loan or a grant.

There are long waiting lists to get into these already full programs. And of course, there is a shortage of nurses willing to be ‘just’ a bedside nurse and actually (gasp) do basic nursing functions with their patients. Since most of these nurses think they are too good to do basic care, the hospitals have hired aides and simple care givers to take care of those dreaded basic nursing tasks.

Since we now have a shortage of bedside nurses, a shortage that is actually a false shortage, a made up shortage, but still there are not enough nurses willing to work AS A NURSE. So, in past years, there have been at least 2 approaches to fix the situation. One was, as you know, to allow foreign nurses the opportunity to come to the US on a special visa to work as a nurse. The other was to ‘dumb down’ the requirements to actually get into and pass nursing school. Let’s talk about the dumbing down part first.

Prior to say the 1980s, nursing schools had entrance requirements and personal standards that must be met. Those standards have been ‘relaxed’ many times. I have a relative who was a professor of nursing at the associate degree level school for maybe 25+ years. In her last couple of years of teaching, she was ORDERED not to fail anyone. The demographics of the nursing classes had changed (read racial make up) and it was not politically correct for a nursing school to have a failure rate of certain groups of students, which may effect the school’s ability to get more students and tuition income. If an instructor tried to fail a bad student, the instructor would be called a racist for not making special accommodations for that student……

Basically unless you as a student dropped out, if you showed up every day, you were allowed to pass and this was rationalized by the nursing professors in that the ‘really bad’ students would not be able to pass the NCLEX exam. It ended up with that ONE EXAM being the gate keeper between the patient and a nursing disaster being able to work as a nurse.

The end result is that in the US, we now have several generations of people working as a nurse, which are only working because the standards were lowered to allow them into the field of nursing. It is reasonable to say that there have been thousands of felons working as nurses, and many more thousands in or have been in ‘impaired nurse programs’ that are set up for drug addicted nurses to allow them to continue to work while going through some drug program. As long as the student nurse properly disclosed their criminal record on their application to the state Nursing Board, there was a good chance the Board would allow that person a license. Get arrested as a nurse for drug charges? Same standards apply.

Business as usual.

Still with me? Good. We will be getting to the Philippines part soon.

Faced with the growing number of marginally qualified nurses coming into the workforce, the older, qualified nurses started to retire or get out of nursing and into a different profession. This increased the shortage of bed side nurses. The older nurse who went to nursing school to be a NURSE found these new grads were thinking they were too good to do basic nursing care… “Isn’t there a nurses aide to give him a bath? I did not go to nursing school to give some old man a bath….” And the downward spiral continues.

Ah! Now the Philippines……

So, while you may have heard about special visa for Pinoy / Pinay nurses to come to the US and work, actually that special visa is for “foreigners” not just Philippine nurses. And THAT my friends is the problem!

The US today is trying to be a friend to the world and trying to be all inclusive. It is not politically correct to leave anyone out. At least officially that is. I mentioned earlier about the 2 ways the US was addressing the shortage of nursing. Well now we talk about the importation of foreign nurses into the US workforce.

First, the Philippines. In reality, since the Philippines is mostly a Catholic country and English is taught in schools, it is easy for a Philippine nurse to blend into the US work force and learn how to adapt. No special handling needed! With the limited number of visas available and the screening process for the nurse applicants, the US benefited from quality as a person and qualified-ness as a nurse of the Pinay.

But, in an effort to be all inclusive, those special visas were also available to ‘other nations’. Where the training, personal hygiene, language, and ethics were not the same as the Philippine nurse imports. Hospitals were confronted with foreign nurses who were easily offended, lacked training standards, who brought strange religions with them, demanded special holidays off and were not as easily accepted by the patients.

These same foreign nurses once here, demanded more accommodations and if the hospital said no, then the hospital could face discrimination charges and legal issues and costs. At the same time, many of these foreign nurses came from countries in which if lets say a patient has a broken leg, that patient may wait 2-5 days to see a doctor. So that foreign nurse did not understand that in the US, patients expect minimal delays. There were many issues of patients or their families having ‘problem’ in the various aspects of patient care / interaction with these foreign nurses.

Over time, our politicians were made aware of these problems and every once in a while these same politicians were patients or their family members were patients and they saw first hand what was happening in America’s hospitals. Also, it should be noted that the majority of Pinay nurses work in California, New York or in some smaller areas and the vast majority or Americans outside these areas see foreign nurses from countries other than the Philippines!

The special visas used to bring foreign nurses here to the US expired as a matter of law and they were not renewed in a timely manner or in the same numbers as past cycles.

Which brings us up to today and of course… you! You are ready to travel, trained, affairs in order and then you find no job visa available.

Now, lets talk about cause and effect and how it relates to time and the Philippines.

Remember, there is a period of time to pass between any action and a reaction. Sometimes it is years before there is a correction.

In past years, it was easy to get a special work visa to go to the US and work as a nurse. In the US, you can work and make between $25 to $45 an hour (P1,100 to P2,000 an HOUR). An entire industry came to be in nursing schools. Selling the students on the idea of going to nursing school, getting the NCLEX certification and then going to the US and making enough money live and send money home for your family. Maybe save and build a big house for your retirement. A good life / dream come true for anyone. 

And then the Philippine hospitals realized that the US hospitals wanted any foreign nurses to have a certain number of years working as a nurse before the US hospitals would accept them as a candidate for a position.

Hospitals in any country work on money! Private or public makes no matter. Without money, there is no budget to pay for supplies and of course salaries. Local governments who must use a certain amount of tax money to support hospitals also like to save money.

When hospitals realized that the number of nursing programs had grown by leaps and bounds, and then there was competition between nursing schools for clinical time for their students. In a few years, there were far more nurses graduating then there were hospital jobs available. From a purely business point of view, why PAY nurses, when there was a huge supply of recently graduated nurses who would work for free just to get the job experience needed to qualify for that special visa to work abroad and make some ‘real money’. Suddenly, hospitals did not have to budget so much money for nurses salaries! And there also the bad stories in Philippine media of hospitals requiring some recent grads to pay to get that free job in order to get that required experience.

So here we are. What is next? Can a special appeal be made to the new US Ambassador to the Philippines to request congressional approval for special work visas of JUST the Philippines?  Doubtful. Is it fair that the Pinay nurse is losing out on a good job opportunity because of the ‘issues’ caused by foreign nurses of other countries? NO!

But with the US trying to show that we are supporting the world and everyone is equal in the world…. It does not look like anything will change anytime soon.

What is needed in my opinion? What will benefit both the US and the Philippines? Well that is easy. The US needs to come to terms with the fact that not all people are equal or able to get along with other cultures. It is OK to not like some people or to give preference to some people that will benefit the host country. It is time to stop being a friend to the world and start doing things that benefit the US.

A good start would be to allow a 5 year visa for Philippine nurses, with 2 renewal periods allowed before that nurse must return to the Philippines. This allows the individual nurse to work for up to 15 years and save enough money to retire to in the Philippines. That nursing job is then opened to another Philippine nurse and the 5-10-15 yr cycle starts for that new nurse. The retiring nurse brings back to the Philippines up to 15 years of quality nursing experience where she / he can retire and work for the government as a nursing instructor or as a community outreach nurse. This benefits the US, helps to reduce the shortage of nurses for us, brings money back into the Philippines and ends up with a well qualified nurse then retiring and giving back into the Philippine community…. And the cycle starts again!

But in the short order… I see no real changes coming soon. And that, is bad for both the USA and the Philippines.

***About the author. Bruce Wheatley is a retired US nurse and is now into business in Florida. He obtained his LPN in 1991 and his RN in 1994, a board certified in Prenatal (OB/Gyn) Nursing in 1997. He worked as OB/Gyn and spent years both in OB/Gyn clinic and high risk L&D in a hospital. Since 2009, he was able to visit Catbalogan 5 times, and using his own money, is planning to set-up a small clinic for community outreach program with free medicines and rice to poor Samareños in Catbalogan.





Life-saving colors

January 20, 2011

The untimely death of couple, Marcos Maestre, 52 years old and his wife Veneranda, 49 years old of Brgy Paypayon, Oras, Eastern Samar due to drowning as their boat capsized after it was swept away by rampaging waters on their way home from Sitio Tapol, Brgy Agsam, was among in the recent lists of casualties in Eastern Visayas brought by flooding and landslide that hit the region.

Death toll like what the Maestre couple suffered would not happened and could be prevented not because of the aid of sophisticated early warning device or system used by weather bureaus in times of weather disturbances or in the event a public storm signal is hoisted, but a color is enough to save lives if people in the community are better informed what it meant.

Each color has its own distinct meaning and interpretation depending on how we use and apply it and on the way how each individual perceived it to be.

White generally means peace and purity and black to many is a color of death or something resembles that ominous things are coming.

But unknown to many of us, much more to ordinary layman at the grassroots, colors play a significant role in giving warning in the first place and generally save lives in times of any types of disasters and calamities.

The use of colors provided in the Code Alert System designed by the Department of Health (DOH) is a useful tool in the preparation, prevention and mitigation aspects in natural disaster like what has occurred in Eastern Visayas and even in man-made disaster and other types of disasters and calamities.

In DOH Administrative Order No. 2008-0024 or the Integrated Code Alert System of 2008, three colors are used as indicators in determining what conditions of natural, man-made and other types of disasters and calamities are present, the human resource requirements needed for responding and other necessary requirements.

In Code White, conditions include forecast typhoons (signal no. 2 up), national or local elections and other political exercises, national events, holidays or celebrations with potential Mass Casualty Incident (MCI), any emergency with potential 10-50 casualties (deaths, injuries), notification of reliable information of terrorist attack/activities, any other hazard that may result in emergency and unconfirmed report of re-emerging diseases (e.g. bird flu, SARS).

Code White requires an emergency officer on duty, driver and security guard, reliever on stand by and a response chief to perform continuous monitoring and serve as medical controller for mass casualty incident plus the checking of all available medicines and supplies, do proactive monitoring, alert all health facilities that might be affected or needed to respond or receive patients and do other necessary actions to addressed the calamity or disaster.

In Code Blue, conditions include the conditions in Code White plus any of the two conditions like mobilization of DOH resources (manpower, materials), 30%-50% of health facilities in the area affected or damaged, no capability of LGU and/or lack of resources of the region to respond to the affected area, magnitude of the disaster based on the geographical coverage and number of affected population (more than 30%), any MCI with 50-100 casualties irrespective of color code, high case fatality rates for epidemic and confirmed human to human for Avian Flu or SARS.

Code Blue requires for a response director or officer to be physically present in the operation center, driver and security guard to assist at the operation center, incoming on call officer for immediate mobilization, logistics officer on duty and at least one DOH representative to go on duty to DRRMC plus do coordination with concerned government agencies, prepare possible drugs and medicines needed for movement to affected areas, check all possible means of transportation, anticipate need of medical teams and other experts, prepare all needed reports and presentation required for DRRMC meetings, plan for support to the affected regions in case of long term emergencies and make coordinative meetings with concerned offices.

In Code Red, conditions include any natural, man-made, technological or societal disaster where all of the following conditions are present like declaration of disaster to the affected area, 100 or more casualties in the area, health personnel in the region not capable to handle entire operation, mobilization of the health sector needed, mobilization of key offices and uncontrolled human to human transmission of SARS/Avian Flu.

Code Red requires for personnel and staff augmentation from other offices to be divided into three teams to go on a 24 hour duty rotation every three days composed of team leader, two data collector/encoder, logistics, communication, administrative officer, support staff/clerk, driver and I staff to be assigned at the OCD operation center on a 24 hours duty plus representation of the agency to DRRMC and other agencies and leads in the coordination of international partners in health and nutrition, all members of the health sectors, international and local donor agencies, prepare updated reports, assists in the preparation of recovery and rehabilitation plans and recommends in the activation of the crisis committee.

Every one of us knew the white, blue and red and other colors, yet we simply disregard its deep meaning in the lives of people especially in times when other people’s lives are lost and properties are destroyed.

Tragic incidents like what had happened to the Maestre couple of Oras in Eastern Samar in January 9 this year could have been prevented if we give its real meaning, intent and purpose to the disaster affected community, only then that we realized how important the white, blue and red colors are in saving the lives of people.



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