Thursday, September 30, 2010

Free Carlos Celdran

At Midfield joins the call for the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to drop the charges filed against Celdran over his protest action.

Carlos Celdran represents the sentiments of many Filipino Catholics who reject the Church's threat of mounting a civil disobedience campaign against the government police of giving free couples the free choice of family planning options, inclu access to use of contraceptives.

I am against abortion and the use of contraceptives by no means encourage the murder of fetuses.

Free Carlos Celdran now.

No to the return of Padre Damaso!!!

Excommunication,Modern-day Padre Damasos, and Contraception

The quite reckless statement from a prelate warning that the President was ricking excommunication by his support for couples to free choose contraceptive options is whipping up quite a storm, it seems.

Online activist and exponent of walking tours in Manila’s historic sites, Carlos Celdran, gave vent to the dismay of many Catholics about how certain prelates are posturing like much reviled Spanish colonial era Friars.

The great Jose Rizal had immortalized the ‘Frayle’ in his revolutionary masterpiece Noli Me Tangere where Padre Damaso typified the oppressive and manipulative prelates that dominated Philippine life for over 300 years.

There is now what appears to be a retraction of the reported excommunication threat against P-Noy but people are angry over how Celran has been jailed for expressing his sentiments as a private citizen.

Articles 132 and 133 of the Revised Penal Code stipulates that the crime of “Interruption of religious worship.” Will be meted “the the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon any public officer or employee who shall prevent or disturb the ceremonies or manifestations of any religion. If the crime shall have been committed with violence or threats, the penalty shall be prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods.
Art. 133. Offending the religious feelings. — The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”

While he can post bail, Celdran is refusing to and is asserting tat his protest was an exercise of free speech.

l have to see how this plays out.

But a thoroughly valid, albeit indignanr question to ask is this: while the
Fathers are posturing high and mighty, moralizing and threatening us
with excommunication what about the Fathers who fathered now fatherless

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Civil Disobedience VS Free Choice?

Let’s be blunt.

With our population growing ballooning by one million souls each year and 9 in 10 statistically listed as Christians, just exactly how long will the Catholic Church continue to figuratively, and literally, have its cake and eat it too???

The Church’s threat to wage a campaign of civil disobedience over the State policy of giving the citizenry free choice in the matter of planning their family, including getting government-funded condoms, smacks of outright meddling in governance and the delivery of health services.

This is not to argue against the teaching that children are God-given blessings nor is this a brief for practices that are lead to the abortion of fetuses.

But how is it the our religious shepherds can meddle in secular concerns while ignoring the harsh reality that that they are failing in the primary task of educating, nay, guiding and making their flock follow the Catholic edict that parents’ temper their reproductive urges, whether or not induced by love, with their practical capacity to raise their innocent progeny.

Sure the Church runs token shelters and orphanages, but the truth is the countless children neglected or abandoned by their Christian parents become street urchins who beg for a living while also being victimized by criminals, pedophiles included!!!

Oh sure, there are schools run by religious orders but we are only too familiar with how the high matriculation fees further elitism in the educational system if not Philippine society as a whole.

I wish we had ready statistics about how parochial schools impact on the educational system.

But in the main, what leaves this writer disconsolate, if not angry, is the fact that our Catholic shepherds are loudly sounding like promoters of a theocracy while being unable to minister to the herd in meaningful and life changing meanings ways.

Civil disobedience against lawful government laws and programs?

This I’ll have to see.

What Are We Jueteng For?

This is really about talking the talk and walking the walk on the issue, nay, the promise that the Republic’s 100-day-old 15th President ran on and overwhelmingly won - the eradication of corruption.

It was THE political race that ended the 9-year-long reign of be-moled and petite Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and told Filipinos that “you can now dream again for a better life, living behind crooked ways and walking the straight and narrow path.

This is very well the central point in what’s being called Juetengate 2010 with the dramatis personae involving a crusading retired bishop, downtrodden ‘whistle blowers’ with death threats perpetually hounding them, big and small-time politicians tagged as ‘illegal’ gambling lords, and yes, the Presidential practical shooting buddy who doubles up as undersecretary in charge of the national police.

Government insists that LGU- supervised Small Town Lottery and legally-franchised Jai-Alai are the antidote to jueteng but the truth is the two projects have simply become cover activities for jueteng and a companion variant, 'Lot-Teng’, to milk poor bettors of their hard-earned money.

So illegal gambling, rigged and pervasive, steals from the poor and lines the pockets of corrupt policemen and politicians with bribes amounting to billions of pesos enough to fund political campaigns and even new ‘kapilyas’ from Catholic dioceses!

It’s time to end the hypocrisy about jueteng.

It cannot and will not end as an illegal activity for so long as the government rakes in revenue from legal high-roller gambling activities under the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation whose core operations are envisioned to be the magnet for tourism.

Let us legalize Jueteng now and remove the seeming mystic that draws Filipinos to it – the fact that it’s illegal and is done on the fly while being the source of livelihood from bet-taking barangay runners.

The revenue potential from legal jueteng has been conservatively estimated at P 30 to 35B, a full 10 % of the burgeoning national budget deficit.

Let’s do this.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Barbarians

Wikipedia defines a barbarian as “is an uncivilized person with the noun “often used pejoratively, either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage. In idiomatic or figurative usage, a "barbarian" may also be an individual reference to a brutal, cruel, warlike, insensitive person.

While fraternity men use the term to heap scorn on non-joiners unwilling to be subjected to violent and inhuman initiation rites, your Midfielder strong feels that the real barbarians are the hoodlums behind that grenade throwing incident on the last day of the bar exams at De La Salle University.

The toll from the carnage: 44 injured from grenade and shattered bottle shrapnel that so severely wounded to female law students whose legs have had to be amputated from the knee down.

If the attack was not the work of barbarians, nay, criminals, then something is terribly wrong with Philippine society.

Just over the weekend, four fratmen, suspects in the fatal hazing of a neophyte, had the criminal charges against them dismissed for supposed lack of probable cause.

Fair or not, the public's knee-jerk reaction is the suspects in the Makati hazing were cleared because they are members of APO (Alpha Pi Omega) that ‘coincidentally’ is the brotherhood to which Atty. Jejomar Binay, the Vice President, belongs.

Verily, owing to the violent initiations they endure, fraternity members literally become blood brothers for life.

They support each other professionally and those who become business and political big wigs can always count on their brods’ support.

But what price does society have to pay as these hooligans walk the path toward ‘greatness’???

Exhibit A – the barbarous incident at DLSU.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Inverted Flag Snafu

Filipino netizens, hecklers,pundits and honestly patriotic individuals are raising their hackles over how the Philippine tricolor was displayed in the legally mandated wartime red-field-over-blue manner during the 2nd US-ASEAN Leaders Meeting hosted in New York by Pres. Barack Obama.

People are angry over the breach of diplomatic protocol with the blame being leveled on the team of President Noynoy Aquino for failed to spot the error and correct it.

Detractors have, not surprisingly, been quick to pounce on such missteps given the immense popularity of Aquino who trumped his electoral rivals by a wide margin on the back of a promise to rid government of the corruption and widely known opaque governance style of highly unpopular former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The US Embassy in Manila is red-faced for its government:

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Thompson: "This was an honest mistake. Tthe U.S. treasures its close relationship and close partnership with the Philippines. We will find out how the "unfortunate" incident happened."

DFA spokesman Ed Malaya: "The Philippine government understands that it was an honest error that "should not detract from the true significance of the summit, which showed the unprecedented cooperation between the ASEAN and the U.S."

The snafu aside, methinks the 'inverted flag incident' cannot overshadow immense goodwill for the Philippines generated by Mr. Aquino's week-long official visit which saw Aquino champion the call for "Global People Power" to help attain Millennium Development Goals to fight poverty, push better health and education in the developing world, and sustain much needed development aid.

Both their schedules were tight but Presidents Aquino and Obama still had a one-on-one meeting lasting for 7 minutes on the first visit to America of the new Filipino leader.

Aquino supporters note this is in sharp contrast to how Arroyo vainly tried to have a face-to-face with Obama in the waning days of her rule and had to settle for a session at the State Department with Hillary Clinton.

Arroyo was finally received at the White House just before she stepped down, but with the occasion only an official trip and not a State Visit with all the attendant pomp and pageantry.

Aquino will be coming home with hopes of new job-creating American business investments plus the new release of 434-M dollars aid package from the US Millennium Challenge Corporation which froze its release to the Arroyo regime for failing to meet committed targets.

So there.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Need: Political Will To Match Presidential Rhetoric With Action

The President is finally getting his stride as his young administration marks the 100th day since it took oe reins of power from the widely unpopular and nearly opaque rule of the women who has slid down as opposition member of Congress representing her Central Luzon province.

Bouncing back from the botched Rizal Park hostage crisis mishandled by his lieutenants as “a local crisis incident, Benigno Simeon Cojuangco III this week asserted presidency authority to stop the demolition of squatter shanties in a
Quezon City district that saw hard hat-wearing ‘hoodlums’ (they acted like ones) from the National Housing Authority engage in a stone-throwing battle with irate “informal settlers”.

The anarchy, which saw part of EDSA blocked for hours, broke out as NHA attempted to meet its contractual commitment to hand over the property to the realty development firm Ayala Land.

Quezon City police were nowhere to found to prevent the chaos!!!
Ayala Land, whose top honcho is lead supporter of the President, intends to develop the 43-hectare triangle shaped proper in Barangay Pag-asa (hope) into a multi-use central business district that promises to bring in much needed money that will go to our revenue hungry national coffers.

While there is no question about the legality of the project, what angers the stubborn squatters is the undeniable fact that Quezon City politicos, including newbie mayor Herbert ‘Bistek’ Bautista, supposedly promised that they “won’t be evicted” even as they were illegally occupying public land.

The squatters are wrongly claiming property right to the North Triangle property with “professional squatting syndicates reportedly involved in installing urban poor settler who’ve even put up businesses in the area.

In halting the demolition activity, President Aquino has now asked NHA (which is under the Office of the President) to revisit and improve its ongoing relocation plan which already includes a new homesite in Montalban, Rizal where the core houses are nearing completion along with medical, educational, and livelihood laid out.

This week, Mr. Aquino also debuted on the world stage via the United Nations General Assembly and the US-Asean Leaders’ Meeting.

His call for “global people power” to help attain Millennium Development Goals was rich with statesmanlike rhetoric al promises that his administration will, through anti-corruption reforms and banner Private-Public Partnership that will mobilize developmental investments that will create new, properly-paying jobs and solidly bring down poverty.

While both well meaning observers and the political opposition loyal to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo are giving Aquino bad reviews, the dominant mood among Filipinos remains one of hope that their Bachelor President will deliver on his “Matuwid na Daan” pledge.

We certainly hope that President realizes his success, our success as a people, will hinge in the next five years to choosing the right people, chopping off the heads of the incompetent and unresponsive bureaucrats, stopping his aides perceived or actual turf wars and character differences, and fine-tuning his good governance messaging.

Filipinos await Mr. Aquino’s exercise of political will to match his words with resolute action.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Exploiting Filipino Urban Poor

The ‘politically correct’ term now being used now is ‘informal settlers’ instead of squatters.

But the double talk did little to change the fact that the Quezon City North Triangle area turned into into a war zone with the squatters resisting their transfer to a resettlement site 23 kilometers away in Montalban, Rizal engaged in a stone-throwing spree to keep demotion men of the National Housing Authority from tearing down their shanties.

As anarchy prevailed, the stretched of EDSA bordering TriNoMa was forcibly closed.

But what’s galling is now the government of Quezon City which tolerated the entry of squatters into the public property and actively courted the residents’ vote in the last elections is now washing its hands of any moral responsibility to convince the squatters to peaceably vacate the area.

The picture that emerges, rightly or wrongly, is that commercial interests matter more than helping the urban poor.

There is no question that the squatters do not have any legal claim on the property.

But our politicians are, at the very least, being mentally dishonest in dealing with the squatters whom they exploited politically but are now blind to their troubles and simply tags them as "professional squatters"!

That maybe true in certain instances.

But the truth is the government also makes money from the business that spout within the squatter areas.

Shame on you!!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Will The NFA Close Shop?

Most of us have been transfixed on juetengate 2010 and the striptease routine in the release of the report into the botched rescue of a busload of foreign tourists.

Now it’s time to read this:

For years, the National Food Authority has been the guaranteed buyer of palay from Filipino farmers and buffer importer of rice to the tune of 20-plus percent of the total rice supply in the market and making prices stable.

But while we were not watching, the National Food Agency has seen its requested P15 billion allocation in the 2011 budget slashed by the Cabinet to P8 billion.
Simple belt tightening to curb the budget deficit?

Not really it seems.

The budget has actually been strangely
transferred it to the DSWD without prior consultation with NFA officials.

Answer me the question:

How is it that the DSWD itself will now become involved in rice importation minus any track record of conducting such activities?

NFA Administrator Lito Banayo is warning of a looming shortage of NFA rice for the poor should the Aquino administration fail to release the remaining P6 billion budget of the agency.

"We’re close to putting up the shutters on our retail operations. If the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) will not release our remaining budget this year, we will have to close Batanes, Aurora, Masbate, Catanduanes, the entire CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region), Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Bohol, Cebu, all of Regions 8 and 9. Even Coron and Busuanga will be closed for selling rice.

Banayo notes that of the NFA’s total allocation of P8 billion for 2010, only P2 billion has been released.

This was surprisingly decided on at Cabinet level as domestic production of palay is projected to be flat as previous events last year and this year will just even out with bad weather conditions having brought down second quarter farm production by 2.18 percent and by 2.88 percent in the first quarter of the year.

Banayo admits that the NFA has been losing money from selling cheap rice at prices below the purchase price. Records show that NFA losses had ballooned to P177 billion of which P54 billion consisted of suppliers’ credit.

"We cannot do anything about that. It is our mandate to ensure there is food for the poor, to provide a way for poor people to have something decent on their table," Banayo says.

Banayo is worried about the prospects of the proposed 2011 budget based on a restructured NFA.

The DBM has slashed the proposed P58 billion budget requested by the agriculture department to P37.7 billion

But the NFA chief rightly points out:

"We cannot work on a zero budget as what is being proposed by the budget department
based on their version of a restructuring program for the NFA. I worry about provinces like Occidental Mindoro where 30 percent of palay produced is being bought by the NFA.”

If this comes to pass, what are the feared consequences?

A sampling from recent news reports:

Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano: The proposed budget of the DA for 2011 "will further worsen the rice crisis and food insecurity in the country."
"Unscrupulous rice traders operating the domestic rice cartel will have a heyday with NFA’s zero budget and intervention in the market through unjust rice pricing and manipulation.

Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile (NPC):
“Just imagine the nationwide confusion and economic exploitation if this is implemented by a department that has no experience in farmer subsidy operation, warehousing and marketing.
I cannot allow this abrupt change of policy that can cause an adverse effects on farmers as well as rice producers and consumers. Without the budget, NFA would cease to be socially and economically relevant and worse the poor farmers would be placed under the mercy of profiteers and other exploiters.
The honorable secretaries of Budget, Finance and Welfare should explain their action to our people. They may have the noble intention of suddenly changing the policy but it’s also possible that they overlooked the political, social, economic and national security implication of their collective action. Their timing alone is bad enough because obviously they did not consider the plight of our farmers who have just been through a series of typhoon and El NiƱo calamities that devastated thousands of hectares of their farmlands in many regions of the country.

BSP Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo:
The possible removal of government support in the NFA importation of rice will move inflation rate higher by 0.37 percentage point for 2010 and 1.24 percent for 2011. BSP assumes a fare hike of P5 for jeepneys and P10 for taxis. The price of rice will likely increase if subsidy such as tax exemptions will be reduced or removed. NFA rice is priced at P25 per kilo.

This could very well pull retail prices of rice to as high as 34 to near 40 pesos per kilo!

Verily what could happen now is local farmers will see the further depression of palay farm gate prices with the private rice cartel raking in profits and government abandoning its long running commitment to keep politically-sensitive the supply and price of rice within reach.

Further, instead of shutting down the NFA shouldn't it be be reformed to make it more efficient, cleanse operations prone to graft, and make it more responsive to the "matuwid na daan" agenda?

Or will the Aquino administration rather play with fire?

Monday, September 20, 2010

An Open Letter To DILG Usec Rico Puno

Dear Mr. Puno,

That was a performance you gave at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Juetengate 2010.

But Filipinos are wondering why despite your avowed efforts to fight jueteng, our Senators tagged your answers as evasive while you were seemingly just experiencing ‘senior moments’, memory lapses about the names of the enjoys of jueteng kingpins who wanted to schedule meeting with you, being the President’s point man for the Philippine National Police.

You certainly must must have felt being ganged up upon by our lawmakers.

But without meaning to cast doubt on your integrity, given your seeming unshakable brother-like closeness to the President, the problem your are facing now is really akin to what called the “Caesar’s Wife Test.”

As legend goes, Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, when asked why he divorced his second wife Pompeia despite the fact that there was no proof that she was having an affair, reportedly answered: “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”

While our President, your President, is away on a mission to tell the world that “the Philippines is open for business”, it would be a major, major exercise for you to reflect upon whether you would pass Caesar’s test on two counts: Juetengate 2010 and the botched handling of the RizaL Park hostage crisis.

Humbly posited.

Finally, The IIRC Report Is Made Public, Sort Of

So it is that the report of the inquiry team into the August 23 Rizal Park hostage taking is finally out.
But much like a striptease act, Filipinos are only being given a peep into the recommendation that certain police official, political figures and media practitioners and organizations will face either criminal, administrative, or industry-specific sanctions for their lapses that supposedly contributed to the fiasco's blood-soaked end.
But we are told not to hyperventilate just yet because the inquiry findings led no less by the justice secretary will yet be reviewed by legal minds apparently enjoying a higher degree of presidential trust.
We are also now learning the deeper meaning of the word prerogative, executive prerogative.
It applies in this case in the same way it applied to the decision, for “courtesies’ sake” that Hong Kong and Beijing have been given the privilege of examining the full report with the ‘larger’ goal of smoothing out our frayed diplomatic ties with the two jurisdictions.
The gesture should surely make up for the phone call of Hong Kong’s chief executive which got lost in the Malacanang trunk line along with the failure of Manila to take the initiative of communicating with the former British colony during the 11-hour-long crisis.
So let’s concede that presidential prerogative is sacrosanct and just wait for the Chief Executive to return from his week-long maiden foreign mission which is, anyway, widely expected to brinf home the bacon in the form of new aid from Uncle Sam, and the promise of new investments that will result in new jobs and other major, major benefits.
Anyway, the matter of Filipinos engaging in armchair punditry in the coffee corners and barbershops can never be circumscribed by presidential prerogative.
Gusto nila happy pa rin tayo.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Waiting For The Report

We've all been waiting for the official findings of the inquiry into the botched police assault on the busload of Chinese tourists from Hong Kong.

But Malacanang says Filipinos can't be told just yet until Hong Kong and Beijing see the report submitted yesterday by the panel led by Justice Secretary Leila De Lima.

The only snippets revealed thus far is that the 8 hostages all died at the hands of dismissed police captain Rolando Mendoza and no one among the casualties were felled by friendly fire - meaning no one was mistakenly hit by gunfire from the SWAT assault team members nor from police snipers.

It's also ben disclosed that up to 12 people will face criminal or administrative proceedings over the helter-skelter way the assault was carried out, and the manner news media covered the event.

Members of the probe panel and several Senators have roundly scolded how journalists supposedly gave "more importance to their news gathering needs over the safety of the hostages and their live coverages' painted a negative image" of the Philippines.

The scuttlebutt:
1. At least two political figures "will be recommended for prosecution or suspension.
2. Up to eight police officers will also be leveled with severe sanctions.
3. Two news media personalities and their media entities will be publicly reprimanded while further investigation may be sought with regard possible infractions of the terms of their broadcasting franchises.

It may surely be concede that the matter of Hong Kong getting first crack at seeing the findings is well within executive prerogative.

But something feels amiss.

Sure the people of the former British colony were 'traumatized and angered' by the fiasco that left 8 of their compatriots dead.

But what about Filipinos who've been humiliated and been put on the receiving end of insults about the incompetence of our police forces?

Why the seeming discriminatory gesture of delaying the report's release to us

Aren't we the bosses???