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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ILANG DEKADA NA, BAKIT WALA PA RING MAGNA CARTA”: The Iloilo Political Education Series 2010

I congratulate the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, AKBAYAN Youth, the Political Science Socity of the University of Iloilo, the Coalition for Students’ Rights and Welfare, and other partner organizations for launching this as part of their political education series. It is very important that the students are fully aware about this bill and how this measure affects us as the youth and as students.

As member of DEKADA party in the Faculty of Arts and Letters of UST (2004-2006) and as former Chairperson of the Alyansa ng Kristiyanong Lakas Party (AKLAS) of UST from 2007 – 2008, and as one of the unwilling victims of abuse of school administrators in UST, Students’ Rights and Welfare is an advocacy that is truly worth my time, OUR TIME. Coming from a deeply conservative Dominican institution, any sound of criticism, complaint or dissatisfaction was considered a rebellion and those who continued on are persecuted until silence is met. The same is true with our brother campus journalists, mostly those who are in active engagement and from far-flung towns and cities. The Students’ Rights and Welfare Bill must be lobbied for by the youth ourselves and must not be killed by our own apathy.

I believe strongly in the premise that democracy is best taught by example, and that rights may only be protected by their fervent and constant exercise. And I think the best nesting ground for true democracy is the school. The school is the microcosm of society, and in it, conditions must be set for individuals to taste the fullness of democracy, which is the key to effective citizenship in a democratic society. Schools must not be obstructive with respect to students’ rights, but must not be lax as well. There must not only be a sense of freedom, but a sense of responsibility as well.

However, I believe that the STRAW must strongly include campus journalists, and consolidate into it R.A. 7079 (Campus Journalism Act) in order for it to be a true and complete charter.

To my friend and freedom colleague Gibby Gorres, and former congresswoman Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Kudos!

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.

The Petition

Please encourage your friends to support the online petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/cfad001/petition.html

On Monday, I together with the haircut policy abolition supporters will go around Beato Angelico, the pavs, kantunan, and other areas with CFAD students, to disseminate information on the unjust haircut policy. Also, we will encourage those who support to sign the petition which we will submit to the appropriate university officials.

I think that we have to begin acting and redirecting our own destinies. For years now, many CFAD students have felt the unjust policies but have feared to go against it because they are alone. Now, nobody is alone. Every CFAD student must stand up for his fellow student in order to get things done, of course always in a peaceful way.

Over at petitiononline, the petition can be signed by anybody from students, alumni, faculty members, even parents. Practically anybody. But the paper petition is for the students only. This is our initiative against policies that directly affect us and our rights as students and as citizens.

I will be at room 801 tomorrow but some volunteers will go around the Beato Angelico area to solicit signatures. Let us all fight for this cause together. The real message we want to send; THAT WE ARE NOT APATHETIC, THAT WE ARE CONCERENED ABOUT OUR RIGHTS, AND THAT WE ARE WILLING TO UNITE FOR A CAUSE AND GO AGAINST IT PEACEFULLY, WHILE BEING GOOD STUDENTS AT THE SAME TIME.

Peace.

The Haircut Policy

A college is run by a dean. A dean is described by the university’s General Statutes (Chapter II, Article 13) as “…the chief administrator of a faculty, college, or school.” In specific cases, the dean needs the concurrence of a Faculty Council in: (1) recommending for approval by the authorities concerned the courses of the study and the curricula, and their suppression or change; (2) recommending to the Rector the appointment, promotion, or separation of the members of the faculty; (3) recommending to the Rector the distribution of assignments to the members of the faculty for each semester; (4) FORMULATING EDUCATIONAL POLICIES FOR SUBMISSION TO THE RECTOR; and (5) recommending educational policies for submission to the Rector.

Furthermore, the General Statutes provides (provision 2) that the dean shall consult the Regent on important matters affecting the faculty, college, or school.

In the same chapter of the General Statutes (Chapter II, Article 15), the regent’s role is defined. His duties include: (1) SUPPORT the dean in execution and implementation of all decisions, policies, directives of the Rector and other governing bodies of the university; (2) TAKE CARE OF THE SPIRITUAL WELFARE OF THE MEMBERS OF THE FACULTY, OF THE STUDENTS, AND OF THE NON-ACADEMIC PERSONNEL, AND IN COORDINATION WITH THE VICE RECTOR FOR RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS, INITIATE AND COORDINATE RELIGIOUS AND APOSTOLIC ACTIVITIES; and (3) coordinate and supervise instructions in Theology and Professional Ethics in cooperation with the Vice Rector for Religious Affairs (ECE, Gen. Norms, Art. IV, part 5).

The university statutes are very clear as to who MUST initiate policy formulation in a college, which, I presume, is entrusted to the Dean by virtue of him being THE CHIEF administrator of a college. The word CHIEF must have been placed there for a reason.

While the regent is bestowed nothing more but the power to SUPPORT the dean in policies, and mostly to take care of the spiritual affairs of the college.

A TWO-FRONT BATTLE

In many colleges that confront the issue of haircut, a battled is waged on two fronts; first, a battle is waged against those who make the policy, while another is waged on those who are supposed to represent us. Both are important.

A policy may be seen by its proponents as a sound one. Many colleges that espouse the haircut regulation policy presume that the way we do our hair is reflective of our decency; of our value sets. We can’t blame old, almost obsolete brains for formulating this, for hair length, during their time, may have determined how moral they are. But as far as I can remember, we stepped onto the 21st century nine years ago, where gender, philosophies, political beliefs, and moreso, HAIRCUT, do not really define us as a person. It is not even a measuring tool to gauge our intellect. There are those with well-trimmed hair but with a duller mind, MORESO, less values than those who sport long hair. I know long-haired fellows in Fine Arts and in other disciplines that exude the most moral behavior; putting forward the welfare of others ahead of theirs. In fact, Jesus, the Messiah, sported long hair, yet he performed the most ultimate sacrifice for mankind.

Perhaps what I am trying to say is that hair length must not be an issue. You can be competent, a law abiding student of the university even if you have long hair. In previous academic years, negotiations have started and it was agreed upon that long hair shall be sported with a pony-tail, an acceptable deal. Nobody broke it. Why change it?

The other, more important front is what have been keeping us on the victim side of the story. We continue to elect men and women in public offices called STUDENT COUNCILS who do not even have a scrotum large enough to stand up and defend us. They stay subservient, following without question. They do not know how to consult both sides of the spectrum (students and administrators). Today they are used for no other purpose in Beato Angelico but to litter their 7th floor office, and stand close for instructions of the GODFATHER. I can’t blame them. Just like many of their professor supporters, they are afraid to lose their jobs, or their academic standing. Fear gets in the way of objectivity, of doing proper things. And for many years, from the fiance of the President now, up to the President now, the SC’s greatest achievement was ensuring that less clearance get lost year after year.

If they cannot perform their functions well, might as well abolish it. After all, the college has been in anarchy for years.

It is shameful and very depressing to hear that academic standings are affected by the hair. And amid the urgence to encourage them to cut it just for this baloney to be over, I can’t. After all, the policy has no rationale, no wisdom. I think the only part of buildings that know the policies are the front doors.

Hair must not be an issue. It is never an issue. EDUCATION IS A RIGHT AND ANYTHING THAT DOES NOT PREVENT YOU FROM THE EXERCISE OF THIS RIGHT, OR ANYTHING THAT IS BEYOND THE CONTROL OF INSTITUTIONS MUST BE FOUGHT AGAINST, ANYTIME, ANYWHERE.

Peace. I remembered, Jesus had long hair, too.

The UST-NSTP Program

I am an advocate of community development, provided that the strategies to be employed, the communities to be assisted, and the motivation utilized, is correct. This is the reason why I have profound admiration for the community development program of Mr. Jose Cruz, the Director of the Office for Community Development, UST, and the courageous men and women who staff his office for their resilience and resolve to become a true serving community development advocates.

But across the Main Building, past the library, at the left wing of Tan Yan Kee, I am not impressed.

Last semester, a handful of my classmates failed NSTP because of their long hair. The NSTP ordered these students to sport their hair short, and if they do not wish to do the same, they must secure a letter from competent college authorities certifying that long hair is allowed in their respective colleges. The NSTP is aware that long hair is allowed in CFAD, unless of course, they are situated in some other remote place light years away from Espana.

According to my NSTP instructor, whose name I forgot, they just conform to the university’s haircut policy. But we all know for a fact that the haircut policy is a local issue and varies in every college, faculty, institute, and school. But still, they require a letter from every student “for the purposes of documentation”.

Republic Act 9163, the NSTP Act of 2001, cites no specific provision as to the physical appearance of students taking the program. In fact, its primary policy is to “promote civic consciousness among the youth and shall develop their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism, nationalism, and advance their involvement in public and civic affairs.” (Par. 2, Sec. 2, R.A. 9163).

All my classmates with that sentiment miserably failed the course, and is forced to take it next year, only because of hair.

NSTP is not a major subject, though it is statutory in nature.

If the NSTP of UST wants to teach its students civic consciousness and to inculcate a TRUE sense of nationalism, then they should be THE FIRST KNOWN ADVOCATES OF DEMOCRACY and RIGHTS. Instead, they utilize their dwarf power into taunting students to do what is against their will; to cut their hair to pass the subject. If they lived a little northward of the Philippines and had a red flag, they will be called TOTALITARIANS.

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that they do this to teach students to follow the rules of the university as  way of inculcating accordance to laws, then these people must understand that in CFAD and AB, a different rule applies and must not be interfered by a department like them. The NSTP instructors must not use failing students as a threat to do something against their will; putting the university’s policies as a shield to get what they want.

Another issue with NSTP is the distance of the communities they choose for the students to serve. I and my class LA6 was assigned to Alitagtag, Batangas, a 5th class municipality of Batangas close to the shores of Lake Taal. It’s far; I should know because I am from Batangas. And due to its distance, students are demanded to wake up earlier than usual. Not that I have anything against my kababayans in Batangas, but this is too far for students in their late teens. Saturday is supposed to be rest day, and they demand us to work all day teaching in that area. And non-compliance, of course, is countered with a standing threat of failure.

My instructor contends that it is one of the partner communities of the university that direly needs our help. But she does not see the point that students who are exhausted with 5 days and almost 9 hours of class a day cannot stand journeys of ions of hours. They have a tendency to be inconsiderate.

If they want to help, then find communities nearby who are in dire need of literacy assistance. Metro Manila is a large region, and it won’t be a struggle looking for some community within its borders. In helping, we help our neighbors first, then beyond.

The NSTP program is designed to make citizens responsible citizens, not to make citizens puppet of incompetent puppeteers who throw their puppets into the remote insular shelves of the nation, documenting the service for the sake of gratification, and tiring students to the extent of stealing the only rest day they have for themselves. Thou shalt not steal, especially free time.

Nothing personal. I think the program sucks and needs change. I know some of the NSTP instructors themselves see this need; they’re just too blind to see the light.

Peace, especially to the door across the Office for Student Affairs.

The Beatitude

It is very noble and humbling to live one’s life in the service of others, may this cause adversity or danger to one’s physical self, property, or reputation. It is very humanizing to experience, at least just once, to think of everybody else first before one’s self.

Let us look back into our gracious and rich history. Many men and women, from Ilocos to Dadiangas, have thought of the Filipino people first than their own personal survival. Many have chosen to risk their lives, some their credibility and stature to think about the Filipinos, living in dire and desperate circumstances — longing for the freedom they so long wish. And with this virtue of selflessness, the east was won, and freedom was born in this nation.

The labor pain that led this nation to freedom is selflessness. Through selflessness, the Philippines gained freedom in 1898. Through selflessness, we have developed a nation in an area where, in those times, a republic was not even a major thought. Our freedom was accrued through selflessness.

But at this point in our history, where political landlords roam the land just as Spanish land grabbers did in the 1800’s, corruption is a household term and life is hard, it is natural for people to think first of their own personal survival. After all, life is needed to fight for what is fundamental.

But no matter how apathetic this nation has turned into, individuals, from great origins and from small towns, rise to the challenge of leaving their personal interests behind to begin a battle where victory is next to unattainable — one that is fueled by hope to achieve the goal of change. Still there are individuals who choose to leave the comfortable abode of their executive chairs to stand up un-umbrellaed to step up to this nation’s self-preserving oligarchs, with the hope of changing this nation a little; making his fellow men’s lives a little better than yesterday.

I faced insurmountable tribulation when I stepped up against corruption and inequities in my university, and almost got expelled due to it (there is a God, after all). It was a time when corruption in the university’s southwest walls flourished, but with such selflessness I have tried to live that they died a natural death. But mine was such small domain compare to the battlefields of Jun Lozada who, in the act of repentance and preservation of our patrimony spoke, at the expense of his lavish life, notwithstanding the challenges that came and went. My situation is incomparable to that of Mike Lopez, a National Youth Commission Official, who through his blog vented the alleged illegalities and controversies and scandals that plague their little office in Quezon City and still continues to wage a battle of hope for the youth of this nation. I have nothing but awe and humility because of their unwaivering cause.

But to those who live in selflessness, despite the dark evenings, the lonely suppers, the ridiculing, the questioning, the feeling of despair, the sleepless nights, and the tribulation we face from colleagues, friends and enemies alike, we are comforted by one single truth — that we may be poor in spirit, but a room in God’s Kingdom, a suite it may be, is reserved for us.

Peace. Especially to Commissioner Mike Francis Acebedo-Lopez, Commissioner-at-Large, National Youth Commission.