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.

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.

Exiting the Catholic Faith

Lately I have observed that I have been praying more often and more intimately. But to whom exactly?

Not so long ago (3 to 4 months back), I have fully renounced the tenets of the Roman Catholic faith because I found that it has not been fully communicating the truth to me. I don’t want to admit it, but my constant brawl with the Dominican friars in college led to my souring belief in the Roman Catholic Church. They preach one thing, but do the other. The Dominican friars, particularly this renegade and obscenely stupid College Regent from a Dominican-run University, preaches humility but is nothing but the opposite of it; preaches consensus but divides people; and preaches prudence but practices the antonym. All of these, including all the other bitter experiences I had, led me to leave the Roman Catholic faith.

And now I continue to search the faith that reveals the truth and practices what it preaches and leads its flock towards true salvation — knowledge and empowerment. But now, I’m still in the process of finding the right denomination for me. And this month of November, I want to try out and listen to teachings of various religions.

But not withstanding  what I said, I believe that human spirituality is something sole to onself… Believe it or not, I still pray to St. Jude for hopeless cases. I believe what I choose to believe and what works for me.

Now Planning: DAVAO YOUNG LEADERS’ SUMMIT 25-26 August 2010, Tagum City, Davao del Norte

First of all, I would like to thank the vibrant, active, and kind people of the Technical Assistance Center for the Development of Rural and Urban Poor (TACRUP) and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) for hosting us in Paradise Island Resort last week in Samal Island as we began CDM’s historical journey to becoming a nationwide organization.

Furthermore, I extend my warmest thanks to the hospitable people of Tagum City when I dropped by to do a radio guesting for “Tingog ng Kabataan” radio program in 88.7 XFM Tagum. I am humbled by the commitment of the youth of Davao del Norte which puts it incumbent upon me to be more committed to the youth advocacy.

It’s time to catch the pace and run full steam ahead.

The Juniors for Change Movement (JCM) will now begin its consultations/seminars/workshops nationwide. And there’s no other place to start off better than the Davao region. In my brief visit there, I saw the passion and desire to serve of the youth from Davao and so I decided to start there. I saw in their eyes their serious commitment to development and partnership with the movement.

We’re planning to hold the Davao Young Leaders’ Summit (DYLS) on August 25-26, 2010 with Tagum City, the provincial capital of the province of Davao del Norte, as the host city. I will be flying to Davao soon to fix the details of this meeting and to hold talks with our partners in the area.

The plan is to invite one (1) youth leader from each city and municipality in the region to discuss relevant topics and issues surrounding the youth and youth organizing in the region.

So guys from Davao, just standby and we will provide for details of this very very soon.

Peace.

Why GIBO?

As the 2010 local and national elections draw near, people must begin a critical examination of national and local candidates. After all, the officials we’re electing are not only going to serve us in dealing with domestic issues, but will (or will not) propel us to the vision of being a 1st class economy by 2020.

POSITIVE POLITICS THROUGH CONSTRUCTIVE POLITICKING

GIBO Teodoro has been the hallmark of constructive politics. His campaign has been the example of a principled and prudent national political campaign; one that presents the problem/s and the issues providing its context, proposing the abstract solution, and presenting a program that embodies the proposed solution. Enough of the campaign that rides on the popularity of kiths and kins, or a campaign that coattails on anger and desires vengeance and vindication. It is time that politicians, national and local, wage a campaign of positive disposition — tackling problems and solutions than personalities. GIBO has demonstrated to us that politics is an issue-based battle; a war of ideas. Let wrong ideas be casualties of this war, and not people. With his demonstration of wit and prudence, GIBO has elevated himself into a national statesman.

A NATIONAL STRATEGY

If you check GIBO’s website (click here), he presents an overview of the country’s regions, its strengths and weaknesses, and rooms for growth and improvement. Check other websites and you will see platforms that do not have a clear cut program of implementation. The same is seen in Nicanor Perlas’ campaign website (click here) who also campaigns positively.

A SPIC N SPAN TRACK RECORD

Unlike many of his competitors, who are either accused (or proven) to be corrupt or incompetent, GIBO has not been criticized as either. His father, Gilbert Sr., is a man who joined and left the government with his dignity intact. GIBO has never been dragged in a corruption scandal. His academic record has been superb; topping the BAR, being a New York state lawyer, and a licensed commercial pilot – these demonstrate his competence. In debates, he has exuded intellect in addressing issues properly. Both his academic and political track record speaks of his readiness for the presidency.

THE PRESIDENT OF THE FUTURE

GIBO is a president whose intellect can bring us places; perhaps even to the vision we so long to have come true. In the next elections, I hope that we all support candidates like GIBO to ensure that our country is entrusted to people who does not only govern responsibly, but responsively, just as in my slogan: MAY ALAM. MAY PAKIALAM., a derivative of GIBO’s Galing at Talino. If I may add one more GT: Greatness and Trustworthiness.

As one of the youngest candidates and members of the LAKAS-KAMPI-CMD, I will be very proud to usher Gilbert “GIBO” Teodoro to the presidency.

Peace.

**MAY ALAM. MAY PAKIALAM.***

“110: HIGH VOLTAGE!” A Fundraising Dinner Concert for the Juniors for Change Movement

I am cordially inviting all of you to attend “110: HIGH VOLTAGE!”, a fundraising dinner concert for the Juniors for Change Movement on JANUARY 16, 2010, 8:00 PM, at the Ride n Roll Diner, Xavierville Avenue, Quezon City.

Aimed at helping JCM fund its initiatives in Cainta, Rizal, the fundraiser features various bands to give joy to supporters and patrons of the cause.

Also there are selected works of Nicole delos Angeles, student artist from the UST College of Fine Arts and Design, one of the students supported by the JCM.

Tickets sold at P 500, inclusive of tapas buffet and drinks.

For ticket reservations or inquiries, please contact:

MR. PHILO DANAO – 0927-540-8414

MS. JADE FERRER – 0917-822-8087

MR. MARIUS FUNTILLAR – 0906-312-7514

Thanks!!!