Why is the Filipino special?
By JUAN L. MERCADO,
June 29, 2012
( A friend, from our UN past, emailed this feature which he says was
written by former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. You may find much to
agree with – or disagree. Anyway, read on - JLM )
Filipinos are brown. Our color should not be a reason for an
inferiority complex. (Some) pine for a fair complexion, white people
tan themselves – approximate the Filipino complexion.
Filipinos are a touching people. We create human chains with our
perennial akbay (putting an arm around another's shoulder),
hawak (hold), to kalabit (touching with the tip of the finger).
We seek inter connection.
Filipinos are linguists. It is not uncommon for Filipinos to speak at
least three: his own local dialect, Filipino, and English. A lot speak
an added language, Chinese, Spanish or, if he works abroad, the
language of his host country.
Filipinos are “groupists”. We surround ourselves with people and hover
over them. An average Filipino would have and know at least 300
relatives, notes Dr. Patricia Licuanan of Ateneo and Miriam College.
At work, we live bayanihan (mutual help). We want a kalaro
(playmate) more than laruan (toy). At socials, even guests
bring in other guests. When there is no more space in a vehicle, we
“Kalung-kalong” (Sit on one another). No one suggests splitting.
Filipinos are weavers. Look at our baskets, mats and other crafts.
This art is metaphor. We are social weavers. We weave theirs into ours
that we all become parts of one another. Thus, we put premium on
pakikisama (getting along) and pakikipagkapwa (relating).
Walang pakikipagkapwa (inability to relate) is one of the worst
We harmonize with people and include them in our 'tribe,' our
'family'. We seek to be included. Thus, we call our friend's mother
nanay, we call a friend's sister ate (eldest sister), and
so on. We even call strangers tia/tita (aunt) or tio/tito.
We have the 'ka' institution, loosely translated as 'equal to the same
kind' as in kasama (of the same company), kaisa (of the
same cause), kapanalig (of the same belief), etc. In our social
fiber, we treat other people as co-equals.
Filipinos are adventurers. We have a tradition of separation. Our
legends speak of heroes and heroines who almost always get separated
from loved ones, and move to far-away lands. There, they find wealth
Our Spanish colonial history is filled with separations caused by the
reduccion (hamleting), and forced migration to build towns, churches
or galleons. American occupation enlarged the space of Filipino
wandering, including America. There is documented evidence of Filipino
presence in America as far back as 1587.
Now, Filipinos compose the world's largest population of overseas
workers. Today's citizens of the world, bring the bagoong
(salty shrimp paste), pansit (sautéed noodles), siopao
(meat-filled dough), including the tabo (ladle) and tsinelas
Filipinos recreate their home, or feel at home anywhere. Filipinos
have pakiramdam (deep feeling/discernment). We know how to feel
what others feel. Being manhid (dense) is slur. In our
pakikipagkapwa (relating), we get not only to wear another man's
shoe but also his heart.
Filipinos are very spiritual. We transcend the physical world. We have
a sense of kaba (premonition) and kutob (hunch). A
Filipino wife instinctively feels her husband or child is going
astray, whether or not telltale signs present themselves.
Filipino spirituality makes him invoke divine intervention. Rightly or
wrongly, Filipinos are always acknowledging, invoking or driving away
spirits into and from their lives. His pakiramdam makes the
Filipino, once correctly Christianized, a major exponent of the faith.
Filipinos are timeless. For nearly half-a-millennium now, the western
clock encroached into our lives. Except for official functions,
Filipinos still measure time with feeling. Our time is diffused, not
Appointments are defined by umaga (morning), tanghali
(noon), hapon (afternoon), or gabi (evening). Our most
exact time reference is probably katanghaliang-tapat (high
noon), which allows many minutes of leeway.
There is really no definite time. A Filipino event has no clear-cut
beginning nor ending. We have a fiesta, but there is visperas
(eve), a day after the fiesta is still considered a good time to
visit. The Filipino Christmas is not confined to December 25th,
it somehow begins months before December and extends up to beyond the
first days of January.
Filipinos are spaceless. The Filipino concept of space is not
expressed in kilometers but with feelings. We say malayo (far)
or malapit (near). Indigenous culture did not divide land into
private lots but kept it open for all to partake of its abundance.
One's party may expropriate the street! So do sari-sari stores.
Provincial folks dry palayan (rice grain) on the highways.
Religious groups matter-of-factly commandeer streets for processions
and parades. “Filipinos eat, sleep, chat, socialize, quarrel, even
urinate, or just anywhere!”
So what makes the Filipino special? Brown, spiritual, timeless,
spaceless, linguists, groupists, weavers, adventurers; seldom do all
these qualities find personification in a people. Filipinos should
contribute their traits to the world-wide community of men. Ah, but
first, they should know, like and love themselves.
By CHITO DELA TORRE
Simple negligence is a common blunder Filipinos commit. Its loudest
equivalent word in Waray are “pagpasibaya”. Left unattended for as
long as time goes by, a thing may be engulfed in a misfortune but
embrocaded with value at a not so later time. A late realization of
that thing’s worth could create bedlam, which may find an absconder
the greater beneficiary when other better options are not available to
a supposed legal owner.
Pagpasibaya sometimes proceeds from “pagpaumaya” (or “pagpasiumaya”)
ot “paubaya”, meaning, giving way to another, or from temporarily
giving up dominion over a thing.
Sometimes, laches develops when a supposed owner starts claiming
ownership or opting to already use the thing that has been left
forlorn for a time. That’s where a quondam denial becomes an assertion
which results of continued failure to decisively assert only tend to
The Philippine’s claim over the Scarborough Shoal is a discomforting
It seems, Filipinos are all too late in fortifying their assertion
over those small islands which, whether we like it or not, are now
totally under the control of alien Chinese. We should have sustained
our assertion right from the very first moment that we though that
those islands are ours. Like our surrounding territorial sea waters,
we should have not just left that archipelagic part uninhabited, or
unexplored. “Yana, dara han pagpasabaya, nagmumuas na lugod kita,” is
the usual blame we hear from the ordinary citizens.
From the early 80s to early 2000s, we used to hear about Taiwanese,
Japanese and Korean vessels fishing our realm of the Pacific Ocean.
But we also used to hear about our Philippine navy and coast guard
always unable to stop those alien ocean marauders. We always heard
the usual alibi, our own vessels were no match to those. And so,
almost always, ginpasibay’an ta nala an mga langyawanon. “Kay waray
ta man kapas” was the most painful alibi. Up to now, our armed forces
are not effectively ready to protect and defend territories that we
have been made to believe as ours.
China might have been watching events. Once, we thought Sabah in
Borneo was ours. But we stopped our claim somwhere at many times in
the not so distant past, until we no longer heard about it. It was a
case of pagpasibaya.
Since Palacio de Malacañan was erected, only a few muslims’ groups
were warring against non-muslims and non-christians yet, and
eventually, christians, first, as our own Waray historical accounts of
moro raids say, to pillage small to big establishments, then to claim
the entire island of Mindanao as independently theirs after failing to
force to their knees the Warays, Bikolanos and Tagalogs in the 1600s
to mid-1700s, and finally, to secede. Secession has always been the
last expression at arrogating a territory no matter to whom it
belonged and who reigned over it. Thus, there used to be a Mindanao
Secession Movement that serious talk of which had eroded the
conscience of some Waray’s until year 2001. (Did you recall proddings
to establish a Waray Republic? it almost had the embellisment of a
Leyte-Samar Indepence Movement? That was between 1999 and 2001.)
With our negligence, some original parts of municipal territories have
already effectively been lost to the more enterprising neighboring
towns, never mind if the latter were even smaller in both land size
and human population. Local government officials should have been
seen an constantly crusading to reinforce their protectional claims
over their territorial boundaries, first, through passage of a
resolution or ordinance, next by elbowing with the government’s lands
survey authorities for the conduct of without-let-up survey that in
the end will determine the exact locational boundaries between towns,
or between towns and cities, or between towns/cities and a province or
provinces. Today, ginpapabay’an ta la gihapon ine nga kamaihaan na
nga development must. That is why, some barrio folks migrate to that
place which seemingly cares for them, for their products, and for
their lands, farms and crops. In this wise, however, the national
government should not simply wait until local government officials
start knocking on its doors. The problem is actually already
“national in scope”, and therefore alarming. It is time the national
government seriously create a body that will study closely this
problem, with the end in view of putting a total stop to it. The
national government and all the local government officials should not
It may help recall here that before 1990, or up to 1992, an estimated
2,000 hectares in the northwestern territory of Basey in Samar
province had reportedly been claimed by some enterprising residents of
the neighboring town of Sta. Rita as already belonging to the
terrirory of Sta. Rita. No giant steps were ever made to correct that
threat to the territorial integrity of Basey. If my memory serves me
right, about a thousand hectares, if not just hundreds, belonging to
the town of Villareal (Samar) were being claimed by its neighbor,
Pinabacdao (Samar). I think that issue had reached the sangtguniang
panlalawigan and Villareal officials were doing their level best to
reinforce their own claims.
Just last May 25 and June 15, some baryohanon of Basey expressed a
common observation. Some parts of their barrio’s territory are no
longer producing an income for their own barrio because those parts
had already been arrogated by the next villages as part of their own
territories. That may have a bearing on a barrio’s internal revenue
allotment and on overall economy. Alas, the barrio officials
themselves did not know then, as much before, what to do and how go
about with that situation. At least Marlou Palo and Michael de la
Torre, both products of the community organizing training coordinated
with KAISAMPALAD Inc. through non-government organization coordinator
Judy Torres, had suggested certain courses of action to take. The
only problem now is not a single course has been arrived at by those
who should be making a decision at the barrio level.
These economic and geographic landscape events happen in other towns
in the Leyte-Samar region and in other regions across the Philippine
What we have just demonstrated as our form of protest to the
controversial – suspected as “fixed” – split decision that gave
American pugilist Timothy Bradley the champ’s belt that should have
rightfully belonged to our own lawmaking boxer Manny Pacquiao, should
be replicated, although in translated forms, in addressing out problem
of pagpasibaya involving Scarborough Shoal and losing barrio
territories. The best leaders to start this move are our national,
regional, provincial, and municipal officials. Well, isn’t it that
they, too, were ostensibly one with the whole world in acknowledging
Manny as the June 9 winner in Las Vegas? As a result of our
persistent efforts and outcry, at least the World Boxing Organization
(WBO) had determined that it was Bradley who was outboxed and that it
was Manny who actually won. Another good outcome, the good tidings
from America, two former-boxers now American senators are pushing for
a legislation that will at least ensure that boxing decisions will no
long be as had occurred on Manny. Well, Manny himself, briefly after
his twelfth round with Tim, remarked that he won. The world witnessed
that outpunching performance Manny did. The world saw Tim helplessly
couched on a wheelchair after his win by split decision was announced
after he himself believed, before that ring announcement, that he was
These, and our own experiences, should guide us in overcoming the
misfortune of neglect and abandon.
+ + + + + + + + + +
“I am not sure I can handle it." We often hear this remark when a
comrade hesitates to accept an assignment. Why is he unsure of
himself? Because he has no systematic understanding of the content and
circumstances of the assignment, or because he has had little or no
contact with such work, and so the laws governing it are beyond him.
After a detailed analysis of the nature and circumstances of the
assignment, he will feel more sure of himself and do it willingly. If
he spends some time at the job and gains experience and if he is a
person who is willing to look into matters with an open mind and not
one who approaches problems subjectively, one-sidedly and
superficially, then he can draw conclusions for himself as to how to
go about the job and do it with much more courage. Only those who are
subjective, one-sided and superficial in their approach to problems
will smugly issue orders or directives the moment they arrive on the
scene, without considering the circumstances, without viewing things
in their totality (their history and their present state as a whole)
and without getting to the essence of things (their nature and the
internal relations between one thing and another). Such people are
bound to trip and fall.
can be seen that the first step in the process of cognition is contact
with the objects of the external world; this belongs to the stage of
perception. The second step is to synthesize the data of perception by
arranging and reconstructing them; this belongs to the stage of
conception, judgement and inference. It is only when the data of
perception are very rich (not fragmentary) and correspond to reality
(are not illusory) that they can be the basis for forming correct
concepts and theories.’ - Mao Tse Tung.
What is religious freedom?
By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
June 20, 2012
A kind of controversy erupted recently because a party-list
congressman had the brilliant idea of filing a bill, ironically
entitled “Religious Freedom in Government Act,” practically banning
God in public places. The premise on which the proposed bill stands
“The state cannot be seen as favoring one religion over the other, in
allowing the prominent conduct and display of religious ceremonies and
symbols, respectively in public offices and property.“
And so among provisions are the following: “Religious ceremonies shall
not be undertaken within the premises and perimeter of their offices,
departments, and bureaus, including publicly owned spaces and
corridors within such spaces and corridors within such offices,
departments and bureaus.
“Religious symbols shall not be displayed within the premises and
perimeter of their offices, departments and bureaus, including
publicly owned corridors within such offices, departments, and
If I may say so, this is a crazy idea simply because no one is forcing
anyone else to pray or not to pray in public places, to hold some
religious activities or not in these places. Things depend on the
religious sentiments of the people involved, whether they are in
public or private places.
What’s wrong is when you prohibit them to express their religion in
public places just because they are government properties. Religion
cannot be confined to being purely personal, individual affairs and
expressed only in private and secluded places. This is not religious
freedom at all.
One carries and lives his religion wherever he is and we should
respect this right anytime. The only limitation to this right insofar
as public places are concerned is when public disturbance is involved.
Otherwise, it should be made to be lived and expressed in the manner
desired by the persons involved.
So if more or less everyone or at least a majority agrees to pray
before starting their work in government offices, or to put some
religious images on their desks, or to have Mass on First Friday, no
law should prohibit them from doing so.
Obviously, not everyone can agree to these things, and so a certain
tolerance should be exercised by those who don’t agree, and a certain
sensitivity and magnanimity should also be practiced by the majority
toward the minority in any issue of religion.
In this regard, we have to remind the Catholics and Christians who
form the majority in our country to be delicate in living their
religion especially when practicing it would cause some unnecessary
disturbance in public.
So far, I have not witnessed any big problem in this matter in our
country. I believe we are quite a tolerant and understanding people.
We hate imposing things on others. We have managed to live in harmony
despite the great variety and differences in our religious beliefs and
On the contrary, banning the practice and expression of religion can
indicate not religious freedom but rather intolerance and tyranny. It
is forcing everyone to tend toward what are called as religious
indifference or agnosticism or relativism or atheism.
Of course, everyone is free to assume those beliefs if he chooses
them. But they should not be given some undue favorable position to
the detriment of those who choose to live their religion even in
It might be relevant to cite a point in the Catechism that talks about
religious freedom, especially in the context of a country where you
have a composition of majority and minorities in the area of religion:
“If because of the circumstances of a particular people special civil
recognition is given to one religious community in the constitutional
organization of the state, the right of all citizens and religious
communities to religious freedom must be recognized and respected as
The Catholics in general, whether they are the majority or minority in
a given country or place, abide by this teaching. This is the official
stand to which everyone is asked to live. Obviously, we need
continuing formation and reminders for this ideal to be attained.
But religious freedom is the most fundamental of all our rights and
freedoms, since it involves human freedom in its core. On it are based
all our other values pertaining to other levels and aspects of
freedom, human rights and duties.
It’s also a subject that needs to be studied and understood more
penetratingly. We should not be restrained in doing so just because we
want peace, order and harmony. We can only achieve true peace, order
and harmony when we take this task more seriously.
Otherwise, we will have false versions of religious freedom, prone to
be distorted even more.
By JUAN L. MERCADO,
June 15, 2012
“Better to jaw-jaw than war-war” is a street demo cry. It also fits
the June launch of a $3 million project that would help over 20,000
households, scattered in 21 towns across nine conflict-ridden Mindanao
This is the latest project launched by the Mindanao Trust Fund -
Reconstruction and Development Program (MTF-RDP). This six-year old
$16 million multi-donor facility is co-chaired by the Presidential
Adviser on the Peace Process and the Bangsamoro Development Authority.
World Bank funds and administers the project. The European Union as
the largest contributor.
Four out of 10 households, in Central Mindanao alone, were uprooted by
periodic clashes over the past 12 years, an earlier survey by UN World
Food Programme and World Bank found. Respondent families came from
Lanao del Sur and Norte, Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan
In October last year, more people fled clashes between government and
MILF units erupted in Zamboanga Sibugay and Basilan. Political
warlords aggravate conflict. Thirty two journalists were among 57
victims massacred in Maguindanao. Senior members of Ampatuan clan and
associates are now being tried.
Five in one families had to flee two or three times, ”Violent
Conflicts and Displacement in Central Mindanao” notes. One in ten
evacuated homes up to five times during the period covered by the
survey. They’re dubbed “bakwits”. Respondent families came from Lanao
del Sur and Norte, Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.
The two Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao – Maguindanao and Lanao
del Sur – were savaged by the highest levels of food insecurity.
Recurrent flooding and crop disease exacerbated the stress.
Conflict shattered every key indicator from food security, access to
basic services, income, poverty to social cohesion, the study found.
Return to gutted homes usher in rehabilitation problems.
Maneuvers by armed military and rebel groups were pinpointed as major
cause of their displacement by 29 percent of surveyed households.
Another 9 percent blamed it on clan conflict or “rido”.
“Peace is the only battle worth waging,” French philosopher and author
Albert Camus wrote. Despite high risks, MTF-RDP delivered services to
over 31,000 households in 2011. These consisted of classrooms, health
stations, access roads, water supply systems, and community centers.
Coverage expanded from 62 to 162 barangays in 75 towns.
“Initiatives like the MTF-RDP ensure that communities can enjoy the
dividends of development and peace, Presidential Adviser on the Peace
Process Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles said. “Gains from this
Program show that partnerships among different stakeholders can bring
about much good for the communities…”
She also noted the importance of capacity-building for the Bangsamoro
Development Agency. “A strengthened BDA is an important building block
for a just and lasting peace in Mindanao,” Secretary Deles stressed.
BDA is the development arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
It also oversees relief, rehabilitation and development. “Priority
attention is focused on the political settlement of the Mindanao
problem,” noted BDA chair Dr. Saffrullah M. Dipatuan.
Human needs, however, can not wait “Projects and programs that will
alleviate suffering in conflict-affected areas should be implemented
while both parties are earnestly engaged in peace negotiation.”
Indeed, “there was never a good war or a bad peace.”
“This new agreement serves as a confidence-building measure among
parties in the conflict,” noted World Bank country director Motoo
Konishi. It will be a vehicle to build capacity among Bangsamoro
groups. That capacity will be even more important in a post-peace
“Global experience suggests that achieving and sustaining peace
requires cooperation and collaboration between key stakeholders,” Mr.
Konishi added. “No single party can achieve peace on their own. By
bringing the Government and the MILF together, with the support of the
international community, the Mindanao Trust Fund is built on the
principle of cooperation.”
“Take one peace step at a time – and repeat it again and again,” is an
old counsel. That is needed on the political front where government
and MILF are still inching forward to reach an agreement.
To look beyond the horizon of 2016 is one essential peace step, said
Judge Soliman Santos at an Ateneo de Davao forum. Santos area of
expertise is the Bangsamoro issue.
Government should not just think of President Benigno Aquino’s
administration and what it can do up to 2016 – when he steps down.
Malacanang and its negotiators should think of leaving a more
strategic legacy beyond that. “It is the centuries-old Bangsamoro
problem that we are solving here, not just its fate under P-Noy.”
The peace panel is “constrained by its mandate to negotiate only
within the existing constitutional framework. “It is not allowed to
think outside the box to solve the Bangsamoro problem. Is this
contrary to the guidance in the Supreme Court decision on the
(Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.”
What the Supreme Court did not allow was clear, Santos said: “The
panel cannot usurp constituent powers regarding constitutional
changes. Nor can it agree to even legislative changes by promising or
commitment to the negotiating partner certain changes in the existing
legal frameworks.” Thinking beyond the box is vital.
agreed, meanwhile, that el respeto al derecho ajeno es las paz.
“Respect for the rights of others nurtures peace”.
Persons not commodities
By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
May 27, 2012
“…talents now appear to be considered more as a commodity than as a
Together with the rest of the country and I suppose millions of others
all over the world, I was disappointed when Jessica Sanchez did not
win the American Idol title. What made it worse was the news item that
Jessica would most likely get only a $30K contract, way below the
usual $175K rate others of her ranking would take home.
The news said that the downgraded rate was due to the low ratings the
American Idol finale got that evening. Somehow, that item left in me a
bad taste in the mouth.
It’s actually not so much about her low-valued contract that bothered
me. I understand that there is always a business side in contests like
the American Idol, and that has to be respected. It’s more about
reducing everything into money and profitability that would seem to
turn talents into mere commodities.
I pray that I’m wrong in this observation, that perhaps I have been
overly sensitive and have been exaggerating my reactions and
generalizing my judgments. Still, I find many instances where this
disturbing thought seems to be validated. And I feel we need to do
something about this.
We have to be careful with this tendency that is actually
proliferating to such an extent that it is now becoming the mainstream
culture worldwide. The fine distinction and proper relation between
talents as persons and as business products are getting confused, if
not obliterated and reversed.
This is a dangerous situation, obviously because talents now appear to
be considered more as a commodity than as a person. Talents are simply
used when useful and profitable, and conveniently discarded when their
popularity drops. That’s because they are treated more as commodities.
Young talents, not yet well educated, are very vulnerable to be used
and in fact are willing to be used as mere commodities. And the people
in general, the audience, do not know any better either. They go along
with that kind of system.
This dangerous situation is especially endemic in showbiz, where the
talents just come and go like soaps and shampoos in the commercials.
But it actually also obtains in practically all fields of profession
and business. Even in clerical circles, this anomalous phenomenon can
also take place.
We tend to see others more for what they can do to us than what or who
they really are. This seems to be the currency or the lingua franca
nowadays in our dealings with others. And this is generating, albeit
quietly and subtly, a polluting atmosphere around us. It perverts the
world culture from the root of our relationships.
We often forget that talents, workers, artists, etc., are first of all
persons with mind and heart, with a spiritual soul, who in the last
analysis are the image and likeness of God, children of his and
brothers and sisters of ours who deserve always to be loved regardless
of our differences and other conditions in life.
As such there is a certain sacredness in all of us that should always
be acknowledged and respected no matter what successes or failures,
victories or defeats we may have. Whatever talent one may have, or the
lack of it, should always be related to God, and not just something to
be used purely for gain or other practical purposes.
As such, there is always a need to give preferential treatment to the
inner aspects of man, and I refer not so much to a person’s feelings
and emotions, though these too are important, as to a person’s
conscious and willing conformity to right reason, and ultimately to
truths of faith about us.
Obviously, cases are abundant where our feelings and emotions are
actually at odds with the objective truth about us as presented to us
by reason and faith. In these instances, we just have to find a way to
reconcile these conflicting inner aspects, always giving priority to
the demands of faith and reason over our feelings and emotions.
Our usual problem is that we often get contented with tackling just
the external aspects – one’s performance, his efficiency, popularity,
profitability, etc. Obviously, these have to be attended to, but if we
give a lot of attention to them, much more so should we give to
protecting and enhancing one’s dignity as person and child of God.
We should try to avoid succumbing to the practical side of things at
the expense of neglecting and even sacrificing the objective dignity
of persons. In this, we have to be more conscious, precisely because
the current culture is in dire need of correction.
In commemoration of the 29th
International AIDS Candlelight Memorial
A press statement by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
25 May 2012
As the global community commemorates the 29th International AIDS
Candlelight Memorial, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
stands with the communities of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and key
affected populations in claiming their right to health and dignity.
This year’s theme, “Promoting Positive Health and Dignity Together”,
highlights the important role of partnerships and collaboration in the
campaign for positive prevention.
In the Philippines, as the number of reported new HIV infections
continues to rise at unprecedented rates, the goal of universal access
to treatment, care and support, as well as prevention services,
becomes even more challenging. Without effective HIV prevention
programs, it is estimated that there will be around 12,000 Filipinos
living with HIV needing anti-retroviral treatment by 2015. The cost of
providing treatment for all those in need by 2015 will be P428.5
UNAIDS Philippines acknowledges the leadership of HIV Champions at the
Senate and House of Representatives who have initiated legislative
processes that aim to strengthen the legal framework for a national
response to HIV and AIDS that is people-centered and rights-based.
While Republic Act 8504, known as the AIDS Prevention and Control Act
of 1998, had been cited by UNAIDS as a “good practice”, the rapidly
expanding HIV epidemic in the Philippines calls for urgent policy
reform. At the start of 2011, an initiative of civil society
organizations, including support groups of people living with HIV led
to the filing of House and Senate bills by the year’s end.
Among the noteworthy provisions of the bills are stronger measures
protecting the rights of PLHIV, key affected populations, peer
educators and other service-providers. Likewise, the bills recognize
the need for increased domestic resources to scale up coverage of HIV
prevention programs, and allocate significant budgetary increases for
These legislative reforms are consistent with provisions of the
Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Intensifying Our Efforts to
Eliminate HIV/AIDS, a resolution that was adopted by the United
Nations General Assembly in June 2011. The Political Declaration, to
which the Philippines is a signatory, affirms the commitment of Member
States “to intensify national efforts to create enabling legal, social
and policy frameworks in each national context in order to eliminate
stigma, discrimination and violence related to HIV and promote access
to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support and non-discriminatory
access to education, health care, employment and social services,
(and) provide legal protections for people affected by HIV”.
UNAIDS calls on the country’s leaders in government, civil society,
the private sector, and media to engage in dialogue that openly
discuss the current status of the HIV and AIDS epidemic and the
rights-based and evidence informed responses that are needed to move
the country closer to attaining the Millennium Development Goal 6, to
halt and reverse the spread of HIV by 2015.
UNAIDS vision of Zero new infections, Zero discrimination, and Zero
AIDS-related deaths, may yet become a reality when all sectors of
society are “promoting positive health and dignity together.”