I Support the RH Bill: A Speech I Would’ve Delivered if I were a Legislator

Reproductive health supporters and volunteers

(NOTE: This is a speech I would’ve delivered if I was a member of the House of Representatives. I just wanted to share what’s on my mind.)

Mr. Speaker,

As a Centrist Democrat, my world view tells me that I should craft legislation to provide people with equal opportunities; opportunities for them to live, work, and be contributors to nation-building. I am obliged by my world view to legislate with the end goal of providing my constituents not only with choices, but with opportunities as a result of their choice, however it may swing. It’s not only my obligation to my belief but to constituency which I serve.

For more than a decade, this Congress has attempted to pass legislation that provides women with choices, and the opportunities that shall bring fullness to their choice. For more than a decade, we have been attempting to pass legislation that shall provide women with choices on how to control family-size based on their physiological and economic contexts; and to support their choice with state-sponsored opportunities to back their choice.

Mr. Speaker, let it not be believed that I am against the divine and natural obligation of birthing children. I believe that children are the hope and the future of our nation. Let it not be believed as well that I am in favor of curtailing the freedom of choice for Filipino families. I am in favor of them; thus, my support for this legislation.

Our constitution has vowed to protect the interests of women by making it a matter of principle to recognize women’s role in nation-building. And true nation-building can only be achieved if a state makes itself a conducive seedbed of free choice and opportunity. The state has an obligation, under a democratic system, to ensure that women are actively involved in affairs of the state; and with that said, I’m sure the Constitution wants our active women to be healthy.

Mr. Speaker, I am one with the anti-RH supporters in the view of their right to life. I share their view that life begins with conception, and that abortion is a crime. I am a Catholic, a believer in the Judeao-Christian concept of life.

In my view, I see no provision on the measure supporting or condoning abortion. In fact, the RH Bill does not only protect one life, but two. The RH Bill protects the life of the child and the mother. Through the assurance of pre-natal and post-natal health services to mothers, the RH Bill is one with our cause and obligation to protect life.

As to the allegations of the bill promoting abortion, I ask this back: since when did free choice lead to abortion, Mr. Speaker? Since when did informed and educated choices lead to death? Since when did empowerment and education led to an immoral decision? Mr. Speaker, our legislative duty to provide alternatives and choices must not be misconstrued to lead a certain type of life or lead towards a certain type of decision. I oppose abortion, Mr. Speaker. But I also support the RH Bill. Who can tell me I cannot support both at once?

The RH Bill presents a medical approach to contraception, which welcomes the aid of artificial contraceptives such as condoms, pills, and injectibles. But the bill does not outlaw the calendar method, to which I personally believe on. The bill provides the people with choices, and opportunities to undertake their choice. The issue of how the family should be controlled is a personal and familial issue. Many may opt to use calendar method, but that does not eliminate our obligation to provide other choices. A democracy values the presence of several alternatives; there is no single way out all the time.

Mr. Speaker, if we ask our conscience to weigh in on the matter of reproductive health legislation, should we not also consult reason and facts? If we were to make choices for our constituents, as I believe we are empowered to make, will we not give our constituents the choice to control the way they put gaps between births in search of a comfortable, decent life? Will we not give our youth the opportunity to learn that sex is a natural phenomenon that entails responsibility? Will we not give the poorest Filipino women a fighting chance to live and rear for their newly-born children? Will we deprive our constituents with the constitutional guarantee of their right to life, their right to living, and their right to choose?

My conscience, my belief, and my object reality is one, Mr. Speaker. I believe in the right to live. And I believe that I am obliged to protect it against any element that will prevent it from its fullness.

I support the RH Bill.

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The Future of Philippine Secularism

“My people are going to learn the principles of democracy the dictates of truth and the teachings of science. Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will, every man can follow his own conscience provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him act against the liberty of his fellow men.” 

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

INTRODUCTION

The Philippine Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state, and the perpetual outlawing of a state religion. Being a multi-ethic state, the Philippines is host to numerous religious beliefs and denominations, to which it is obliged to maintain itself to be their safe home all at the same time. Our church-state separation can be likened to a condominium; where many are allowed to occupy its various units but no one can ever claim that he owns it all.

But our post-EDSA history have seen how one religious denomination have played an increasing role in the affairs of state, and in various aspects of Filipino life. Since the Fifth Republic was established in 1987, the Philippines only had one Protestant President (F.V. Ramos), and that can be said as well for the whole of our independent history. We have been accustomed to seeing almost all chambers of government beginning their meetings and sessions with a prayer; a Christian-leaning one at times. For national gatherings, however, we make do with an ecumenical prayer, where the major religions pray together.

I have seen this as well. During my grade school years, I would see how my fellow students would be required to attend First Friday Catholic Masses even if they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, Agnostics, of Iglesia ni Cristo. It was a non-sectarian, secular school. And at my age then, I find that exercise offending.

I studied in a Catholic school during high school and college, and it was pretty much the same. Then, I enjoyed going to mass (because it was the opportune time to sleep) but my teachers would require all to attend. The Philippine Catholic School system admits all students of various faiths, but would not excuse them from Catholic-specific rituals to which, I’m definite, they have no interest in attending.

The increasing involvement of faith in public policy is a serious cause of alarm for many secularists and for many citizens, regardless of denomination. Here, I shall discuss the future of Philippine Secularism, together with brief narratives of international trends of spirituality, and how this dangerous encroachment prevents our government in crafting legislation, or imposing laws.

Why So Catholic?

Prior to Spanish invasion, Filipinos were either Muslims or Pagans. History taught us that most of our ancestors worshiped the sun, the trees, the wind, etc. And this is proven by our mythology. Mythology presents an overview of who people living at a certain time worshiped. In the case of the Hellenics, it was Zeus; in the case of the Romans, it was Jupiter. In our case, it was Bathala. But while we have a flourishing spiritual practice and relationship with the ancient gods at that time, rulers would govern without interference from such, and would maintain affairs of state as secular as possible. The spiritual affairs were left to babaylans, while the state affairs were handled by rajahs and datus.

Spanish Rule changed the way we view spirituality and governance. Perhaps attributable to the fact that at many points of history, the Catholic missionaries also served as government officials. The Governor-General was in charge of ecclesiastical appointments, which made priests highly political figures using their pulpits and Churches as extensions of the Spanish Court.

But at the turn of the Century and today, even Spain has devolved from the concept of faith-influenced policy. Like the Philippines, Spain is a deeply Catholic country, but it has introduced same-sex marriage (2004) and abortion (2010), considered enemies of Catholicism.

The “Vision” Role of Spirituality v. The “De Facto” Role of Spirituality

Our constitution envisions the absolute freedom of every Filipino to believe or not believe in the concept of a divine being. Meaning, a Filipino is free to believe in Satan, in a narra tree, or in Manny Pacquiao as his “God”. In the same manner, the constitution protects its free practice; freedom not only from the choice thereof but freedom to practice it as well.

The state is also disallowed from establishing a state religion; for the establishment of one forfeits the freedom of religion as subsequently guaranteed. Meaning, the state shall never sponsor Islam, Catholicism, or Pacquiaoism as a national religion, and provide funds for its propagation.

Also, the Constitution provides a separation of Church and State where the state shall not interfere in internal church matters as private juridical entities, and where the church or churches is/are not allowed in influencing public policy.

Let us put all these Constitutional clauses to work:

Juan dela Cruz is a satanist. He goes walking to the streets distributing fliers and materials to promote Satanism. He, together with his fellow Satanists, would meet at Starbuck’s every afternoon of Monday to discuss Satanic scripture, listen to Satanic music, and eat Satanic donuts. Is his action legal?”

In the eyes of our Constitution, it is legal. Juan’s exercise is an invokation of his right to religion, free exercise of it, and freedom to propagate it.

“Juan dela Cruz is a satanist. He goes walking to the streets distributing fliers and materials to promote Satanism. He, together with his fellow Satanists, would meet at Starbuck’s every afternoon of Monday to discuss Satanic scripture, listen to Satanic music, and eat Satanic donuts. During Saturday nights, he invites three members and sacrifices them before the altar of his god, Satan. Is his action legal?”

In the eyes of the same Constitution, it is illegal; for even if the altar sacrifice is part of his free exercise of religion, slaughtering another individual is against the law.

What am I trying to establish here?

In this example, we can see how civil, secular law, overrides the supremacy of a religion. For even if an action (in this example, altar sacrifice) in the perspective of a religious denomination is moral, it may be illegal in the eyes of the law. And since we are of various religions here in the Philippines, it is our laws that govern the affairs of our state, and not our religion.

Let us try it in a different, more political context:

“There is a bill filed in the House of Representatives to regulate the selling of boxing gloves because it has been proven that the unregulated sell of such has directly contributed to crimes involving hand-fisted fights. Congressman Juan dela Cruz, a devout Pacquiaoan, indicated dissent for the measure because he said that it violated some lyrics of Manny Pacquiao’s “Para Sa’yo”, Pacquiaoism’s main religious text. However, he can clearly see that the country, and his district, have the highest incident rates of hand-fisted fights. How should he vote on this measure?”

This is where it gets tricky for many lawmakers and politicians in general. The numbers would lean the congressman to vote in favor of regulating the sale of boxing gloves to reduce related crime rates; but his strategic mind would tell him otherwise. Out of fear towards an organized group of people, he will vote against it to enjoy their continued support notwithstanding the long-term fatal effects of his decision. In effect, he has let reason fly out by succumbing to the irrational beliefs of his religion, and deciding against the need of the people he serves. And this is due to his religion.

Secular Thought and the Filipino People

I am not surprised if there is only a handful of Filipinos believing in secular thought. And this is mainly for two reasons: (1) The instilled culture of religious influence in policy decisions; and (2) The economic status of the Filipino people, who needs to work to live and who does not have the time to devote thought on these matters.

In a political context, I define secularism as the full exercise of the state’s discretion on matters directly affecting the citizens without the consideration of the body politic’s religious beliefs. As the Bible have said, “give Ceasar what’s due to him and give to God what is due to God”. Religious beliefs, with the inherent nature of being politically irrational, must not be put in consideration in public policy-making. Should we accord better Social Service benefits to Mormons than to Lutherans? Should we accord three bedroom penthouses to Catholics and leave Muslims living in studio type flats? Should we provide free food and education only to God-believers?

The Church’s moral role is to guide its flock to heaven. The state’s role is to guide its flock on earth. Our society, deeply entrenched in Catholic thinking and philosophy, kills through perception to right of two individuals to contract marriage, or even the basic right of a woman to know what reproductive method suits her context best.

Why the Churches have no Say on Matters of State

First, churches do not pay taxes. Enough said.

Second, churches do not have the monopoly of civil righteousness. They have no experience in governance and cannot weigh in on issues of such nature.

Third, churches have better things to do. They must focus on the dwindling number of believers, the sex scandals they are involved in, and their scandalous lives of extravagance amid their vow to poverty.

Secular is the Way

If the Filipino people will continue to heed the voice of religion on matters of state, we will continue to be divided, for there is no one religion that binds us. But national interest binds us all. On the issue of RH Bill, if we are to put religion aside, we can see that all of its provisions abide by reason. Its provisions operate on equal opportunity. The Catholic way is not the only way.

A Call To Be Involved

I know that many of us associate ourselves with a religious group (I am a Catholic). But let us try to examine issues on the light of unadulterated reason. Let us involve ourselves in policy debates and advocacies without bringing to consideration our religious beliefs, and secure a secular and free future for us all.

May God Bless us all.

A Show of Strength is a Sign of Weakness

Sometimes, the only tool available to the weak is the show of brute and the indecent cry for public approval. And we can clearly see that now; a President constantly reinforcing his authority by virtue of public approval.

How can we entrust our government to a leader who constantly cries for public approval? As it shall, he will not make bold decisions that can change the course of the country to the positive, in fear of losing favor from the people.

But if there is one reality surrounding the people (and not just the Filipino people) is that we always think in the spirit of convenience. Take for example, going to the third floor of the building; we would rather take the elevator, regardless of its sedentary nature, than take the stairs which is good for the health. We often would opt to take the easy way out; notwithstanding long-term effects and impacts of our actions. Our President is no exception to this. He would rather be a popular president than be a good one. He would rather defy institutions than lose his grace from the people. He would rather bring us all down to dust in terms of economic policies, than spend the funds as mandated.

Yesterday, the President spoke in front of his allies in the mid the impeachment case filed against the Chief Justice, Renato Corona. He speaks proudly of it like an achievement, expecting that his Congressional allies will clap with approval. Knowing that the impeachment is now in the hands of the Senate, who shall then sit as judges, it would’ve been proper for him to be silent and appeal only for speedy resolution and impartiality.

Instead, he reinforces the deed of his Congress, a deed that was denied by his spokeswoman. He comes to their bosom like the righteous man, at a time when he knows that he needs it the most. This action is a sign of weakness in the strongest possible terms, and now cuts the fine line between democracy and tyranny.

English: Cropped picture of President Marcos i...

Former President Ferdinand Marcos

I would like to recall a little history in generals. Dictators have risen mostly because of their claim that they have the people on their side. And so they demolish institutions, carrying the so-called blessing of the people. The President’s own family rival, the Marcoses, have risen to power in almost the same manner. But if there was a difference, Marcos was wiser. Marcos believed still in the power of the Courts, and has made himself still subservient to the prevailing Constitution. At the standards of the time and of the 1973 Constitution, he was not above the law. This President, however, in an effort to elicit political vendetta, bastardizes the very Constitution his mother had a hand to, in the spirit of political convenience.

People, how do we want to be governed? Would we rather be governed by a Goliath; full of himself and confident even at the point of wrong? Or by a David who is humble and recognizes that he is weak and nothing without a Higher force, and who clearly took upon himself without volition to fight Goliath.

I would rather be governed by a person who is strong in the face of threats; than by a weakling who is threatened by the own ghost that he created.

Mr. President, Remember Joseph Estrada.

CJ Corona Impeached: “Tuwid na Daan” Takes a “Biglang Liko”

With 188 votes, more than the 1/3 constitutional requirement, the House of Representatives transmitted the Articles of Impeachment against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. These articles are now in the hands of the senators, who shall now become senator-judges, to either convict or acquit the Chief Justice.

I respect the move of the House of Representatives in exercising this constitutional power. All public officers should be held accountable for their actions. Public office is public trust. However, the constitution also guarantees “due process”, which means giving the respondent time to respond to the allegations against him.

In the impeachment system, the House of Representatives is like a prosecutor. As one, its primary function is to determine probable cause. Should it be found, then it shall transmit its articles to the Senate and become prosecutors, or lawyers, on behalf of the complainants.

The salient feature of the complaint is Corona’s voting pattern in favor of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former President and now Pampanga Congresswoman. I do not even think that this constitutes betrayal of public trust. It may just be an incidental trend. Assuming without conceding that Corona had this pattern, are we not also supposed to file impeachment cases against the three Aquino appointees, who also have a consistent voting pattern for the incumbent President?

Clearly, this complaint was filed under the wrong and dangerous presumption of the powers-that-be that the Supreme Court and its Justices must always vote on their favor. The Supreme Court is independent, and however their vote swings in one question must be within the bounds of law, reason, and jurisprudence, to which Corona, as a Justice, has done. The Supreme Court is beholden to none except to the people and to their own conscience.

I would like to touch base on the allegations that the impeachment complaint was signed in exchange of the PDAF release. If this is true, then this President has no difference to the rest who came before him. If true, then the tuwid na daan has taken a biglang liko; how can we trust a President who promised to bring us to new heights and admonish the deeds of the past if he does the same in the spirit of personal interest?

The only tool the people have now is vigilance. Let us be vigilant.

November 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR)

The transgender pride flag

The TransGender flag

Friends,

November 20 of each year is tagged as a Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), a memorial paying tribute to transgender homosexuals violently killed, though not exclusively at present. In the Philippines, this was commemorated by the Society of Transgender Women in the Philippines (STRAP) at their office in Quezon City.

We live in a modern world. We live in a world where nobody should be killed or even hurt on the basis of anything, most especially their chosen lifestyle. We live at a time when everyone must reap the rewards of freedom; living it in its fullness without fear for their life or livelihood. It is our social obligation as citizens to help others live the fullness of freedom, regardless of our own personal beliefs or theirs.

It’s never too late to remember our LGBT siblings. We will never forget, we will always remember.

Remembering the Maguindanao Massacre

In two days, we will be commemorating the death of more than 50 people in what we call the “Maguindanao Massacre” that happened in the municipality of Ampatuan, Maguindanao. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) tagged it as the “single deadliest event for journalists since 1992”. A crime that was supposed to have been caused by political rivalry of the then reigning Ampatuan family, and its challenger, the now reigning Mangudadatu family.

Location of Ampatuan, the location where the m...

Image via Wikipedia

As of this writing, suspects coming from the Ampatuan family are in custody of the PNP and are facing trial for murder. The rival, Esmael Mangudadatu, is now the incumbent governor of Maguindanao. Trial is ongoing and there is no definitive time frame as to when the court shall decide. Until then, justice is an aspiration for the families of those who were killed, the Filipino people, and the world.

I remember blogging about the massacre entitled “The Truly Abused”, I have stressed how not only the Mangudadatus have been victimized by this onslaught but the Ampatuans as well. The Ampatuans were ostracized by political allies, condemned in the media. The Ampatuans endorsed the candidacy of then-Senator Noynoy Aquino, to whose mother they owe the service of the Maguindanaoan people, but Noynoy dismissed the endorsement as black propaganda.

Just as I have positioned myself a year ago on this issue, I wish that the Ampatuans have their day in court so that they can have the impartial avenue to prove whatever needs proving. I hope and pray that however this case may end, it will be for the better of all.

STOP THE CULTURE OF IMPUNITY. STOP KILLING JOURNALISTS. ENCOURAGE RESPONSIBLE JOURNALISM.

No copyright infrigement intended, but let me share with all of you the Study of the Human Rights Watch entitled, “They Own the People”.

Political Bloodbath

The Liberal Party (Samar and Balay Groups) headed by the President Benigno Aquino III led a political bloodbath last week by defying the Supreme Court’s decision, depriving a citizen of her right to travel, and showing the Filipino people that, in the spirit of political grandstanding, they can file a case and have an arrest warrant issued within the day. While many of the Filipinos, blinded by the bling of this regime, call it JUSTICE, some Filipinos view it otherwise.

This is propaganda; a well-thought-of propaganda of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan and their oligarch allies to maintain their hold to power. It has been the distinct style of the Aquinos in maintaining power; abusing people by forgetting their rights and treating them as rightless citizens. And this government will know no bounds to maintain a good and steady impression.

They are likely to succeed, because by their side are media institutions, handed by President Corazon Aquino to their oligarchic allies after the Marcos ouster. Add to that the disloyalty of today’s politicians, once gracious towards Arroyo and now against her when she was left with no power. They call it siding with the truth, I call that a starfruit (balimbing).

What are we suppose to teach our children? Clearly, many Filipinos have understood the concepts of due process, equality, and rights. We laughed at CGMA when she was to fly out of the country and even tell that she’s just pretending to be sick. We admire a Justice Secretary with no respect for the judiciary. And we honor a President who does not do justice to every man.

I’m so glad I did not waste an ink of my marker for this President, his cohorts, and his oligarch allies.

Watch this video and know the truth.