Wake Up, Philippines!

Exploiting our culture

Posted in Congress, Legislation, Reproductive Health, Women by Erineus on February 20, 2009

Filipinos are known worldwide for their strong family ties and filial love and respect for elders and as staunch defenders and protectors of their women and children. Their respect and care for mothers, wives and children are relatively much more intense and intimate than that of people in any other country.

This admirable trait is deeply embedded in our culture. No law is even necessary to bring about such kind of respect for, as well as care and protection of our women and children. But just to preserve, enhance and support this desirable Filipino culture, and to assure that it will not be eventually set aside and disregarded, our legislators chose to enshrine it in the legislative annals by enacting Republic Act 9262 otherwise known as “Anti Violence against Women and Children Act” in 2004.

Lately, our legislators seem to have gone a step further by drawing up what it considered a “Magna Carta for Women” that on its face looks laudable or even badly needed in this present modernistic and materialistic day and age. Unfortunately on closer scrutiny, the said Magna Carta is turning out to be another insidious attempt to sneak into our statute books some of the toxic provisions of the RH bill. Vigorously campaigning for its approval is an organization known as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Watch Philippines. Working closely with it is the Philippine Legislative Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) the same foreign-funded NGO which is the architect and principal promoter of the still pending RH bill. The backers of the “Magna Carta” betray the hidden agenda behind it.

It is really quite deplorable that these groups where some members of Congress belong are exploiting our own Filipino culture to advance their anti-life and anti-family, pro-abortion-population control agenda under the guise of a bill purportedly empowering women, upholding their dignity, protecting their rights and assuring their equality with men in economic, political, social and cultural life.

Because of their subtly altered form, some unconstitutional, anti-life and anti-family provisions of the Magna Carta went unnoticed, enabling it to breeze through second reading in both Houses. The report is that an appallingly large number of the members of Congress were not completely aware that the versions of the bill in their chamber were already approved on second reading and what remained was the pro-forma approval of the printed version on third reading.

In the Senate, the approval on second reading was reconsidered to accommodate new amendments. But it appears that some of these amendments worsened the objectionable features in the bill and rendered it all the more unconstitutional, anti-life and anti-family. But as expected the bill has also been approved on third reading.

The remaining step in the legislative mill is therefore the reconciliation of the Lower House and the Senate versions of the “Act providing for the Magna Carta of Women” by a Bicameral Conference Committee (BICAM) which will come out with the final version for signing into law. This should be one of those times when the existence of this Committee as some sort of a Third House of Congress further refining the products of both chambers can be appreciated. But again this largely depends on the BICAM’s composition. In this particular bill, most of the BICAM members designated by both chambers are also listed as “members” of the PLCPD. So they will expectedly insist on their “pet” provisions which are similar to the objectionable portions of the RH bill but in subtler more appealing form because it is supposedly pro-women.

Indeed one of the Senate BICAM members and principal sponsor of the Magna Carta, Senator Pia Cayetano has already come out with a press release warning that the BICAM should not “emaciate” the said bill. Cayetano insists that there is nothing in the bill which would allow abortion as abortion remains illegal under the 1987 Constitution. Yet in almost the same breadth she is batting for the use of contraceptives by women for the “reproductive health” citing in the process the high maternal mortality rate among Filipino women especially the poor. Obviously Cayetano (Pia) is using the same fallacious and deceptive argument advanced by the proponents of the RH bill. She still refuses to see that the “reproductive health care services” she is promoting that allows the use of contraceptives may cause abortion or cancer among women; and that “reproductive health” is neither about reproduction or health as it prevents or terminates pregnancy and may lead to death due to breast, cervical or liver cancer according to the studies conducted by WHO itself.

In the Lower House, Congressman Edcel Lagman, the principal sponsor of the RH bill is also the staunch backer of the Magna Carta. According to highly reliable sources Lagman suggested at a pre BICAM meeting the bill’s provisions be anchored solely on their adherence to the CEDAW and other international instruments which are in direct collision with our Charter and existing laws. Lagman also reportedly suggested the retention of provisions formally objected to by the Episcopal Commission of Family and Life and the CBCP Office on Women. He also reportedly wants to remove the word “ethical” qualifying the family planning methods made available in the bill as one of the comprehensive health services while insisting on the retention of “management of abortion complications” obviously to bring them fully in line with his RH bill.

The BICAM should therefore be more careful and should not rush the drafting of the final version of this bill just to have a photo-op for its signing on Women’s day celebration this coming March. There may not even be any signing at all if the final version is adopted in similar fashion as the versions of the Upper and Lower Houses; or if there will be a signing, its unconstitutional portion will just be invalidated by the Supreme Court.

Note: Books containing compilation of my articles on Labor Law and Criminal Law (Vols. I and II) are now available. Call tel. 7249445.

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E-mail at: jcson@pldtdsl.net
View previous articles of this column.

A LAW EACH DAY (Keeps Trouble Away)
By Jose C. Sison
Updated February 20, 2009 12:00 AM


Posted in CDA, Cooperatives by Erineus on February 20, 2009

IT is the good fortune of the cooperative industry that its significant role in the propping up of our country’s economy, especially in these hard times, has finally been acknowledged. Last Tuesday, Malacañang signed into law the Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008 that will grant cooperatives banking powers without losing their tax privileges.

It has long been overdue. Recently, while reading a 2004 report by the Cooperatives Development Authority, I discovered that in 2003 alone, the national average savings generated and mobilized by this little-known sector amounted to a staggering R113 billion, 10 percent of the national budget at that time.

In 2006, data showed that the sector generated 1,636 million jobs, 1.56 million in 2005 and 1.498 million in 2004. Would you believe that its growth rate is higher than that of rural banks? The paper predicted that this will balloon to over R140B this year.

These figures speak volumes about the vibrancy of local cooperatives industry. Significantly contributing to keep it in the pink of health is R.A. 6938, the Cooperative Code of the Philippines. Incidentally, this important piece of legislation was authored by former Senator Butz Aquino who has remained as the moving spirit behind the continued surge of cooperatives around the country today.

If there is one thing that can be said about Aquino, it is the fact he did not abandon his “baby” even after his congressional stint. Acknowledged as the father of modern cooperatives, Aquino, in coordination with other self-help advocates, has been going around the country evangelizing on the big returns and rewards of the coops business. With missionary zeal, he also conducts workshops and seminars to keep stakeholders attuned and responsive to the needs of a fast changing business milieu.

Concurrently chairman emeritus of the National Cooperatives Movement, umbrella organization for local cooperatives, Aquino is one of the brains and prime movers behind the Cooperative Insurance Deposit System Federation Cooperatives. Established last year, CODIS spurs the vigorous growth of this burgeoning industry.

CODIS is the industry’s counterpart of Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation which ensures the return of bank deposits up to R250,000 should host banks encounter liquidity problems. With this insurance mechanism in place, the small depositors’ multi-million-peso deposits held by cooperatives, are now safe from scammers who abscond the hard-earned money of unsuspecting members.

Updated data shows 75,000 various cooperatives nationwide of which 4,812 are credit coops; 1,369 consumer’s; 33,352 multi-purpose agri-based and 24,623 non-agri-based coops. In Metro Manila alone, almost all of the more than 3,500 coops are into money lending and savings activity. And the number of “kooperatibas” is still growing, thanks to the dedication and commitment of people like Butz Aquino and those of his kind.

By Elinando B. Cinco

Tagged with: ,

First World Day of Social Justice

Posted in Celebrations, Social Justice by Erineus on February 20, 2009

TODAY we celebrate the First World Day of Social Justice.

With the aim of consolidating further the efforts of the global community in eradicating poverty, promoting full employment, decent work, gender equality, and access to social well-being and justice for all, the 62nd General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) has designated the 20th of February as World Day of Social Justice to be observed for the first time this year.

The day-long celebration seeks to encourage all UN member states to organize activities on the national level that will support the objectives of the 1995 World Summit for Social Development that recognizes how “social development aims at social justice, solidarity, harmony, and equality within and among countries.”

The declaration also acknowledges that economic growth is “a vehicle for promoting equity and social justice, and stresses that a society for all is only attainable with the presence of social justice and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

There are endless numbers of definitions of social justice, an encompassing term that covers the entire spectrum of elements that render quality to the life of a people or a group of people. Put simply, it is the presence of equal justice in all aspects of society, with everyone – from the most marginalized to the most affluent – accorded equal rights, opportunities, and privileges, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, religious or political affiliation, and economic status, among others.

Poverty and crimes against person and property will continue to be the most visible manifestations of the absence of a just and equitable social system. The day-long celebration hopes to achieve a society where everyone enjoys equal rights and privileges and even chances and opportunities in all aspects of life and where mutual respect for individual rights and freedoms is ensured.

The celebration of the first World Day of Social Justice should serve as a reminder to all of us that a just society is the foundation on which peace and unity can be built, and only through which they can be continually nurtured.


Resign, CHEd chief told

Posted in CHEd, Complaints, DepEd, Education, Youth by Erineus on February 20, 2009

MANILA, Philippines — Youth groups are demanding the resignation of the chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) for being “profit-oriented” following his proposal for an extra year in college to improve the quality of education in that level, their officials said Monday.

At the same time, the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and Kabataang Pinoy [Filipino Youth], along with lawyer Adel Tamano, president of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (University of the City of Manila, PLM) and United Opposition spokesman, said that CHEd Chairman Emmanuel Angeles’ plan only “favored profit-oriented higher educational institutions” and were “anti-poor and anti-student.”

“CHEd Chair Angeles is currently listed as member of the Board of Trustees of Angeles University Foundation as its corporate secretary. He has a reputation to have a negative bias towards the poor and marginalized,” said Tamano in a statement.

Vencer Crisostomo, Kabataan Pinoy spokesman, said the planned five-year program was “insensitivity to the difficulty being experienced by the students and parents due to high education and living costs.”

“This policy will cause a significant number of students to drop out from school especially considering that there is a global economic crisis. Instead of coming up with senseless projects like this, the government should focus on lowering education costs and making education more accessible,” he added.

At the same time, CHEd should “overhaul its educational policies” if it really wanted to improve the quality of education, said NUSP national president Alvin Peters.

“The current recommendations of CHEd and the government will only push the country’s education system into a worse crisis. This has been the case for the past years. The government should reverse its policy of deregulation and privatization of education and should raise the budgetary allocation for public higher education,” he said.

Overstepping its bounds

Posted in Complaints, Congress, Court of Appeals, Judiciary, Supreme Court by Erineus on February 20, 2009

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If there is a complaint against a court decision or the conduct of a judge or justice, the complaint should be brought to the Supreme Court, which has disciplinary powers over members of the judiciary. Summoning those members to a congressional inquiry to explain a judicial act may be entertaining to watch, especially when there are suspicions that justice might have been sold to the highest bidder, but Congress will be overstepping its bounds. This is a slippery slope that members of Congress would do well to avoid.

The issue cropped up amid reports that the House of Representatives is planning to summon Court of Appeals Justice Apolinario Bruselas and members of his division as well as Judge Nina Antonio-Valenzuela of the Manila Regional Trial Court. A year ago the judge had issued a temporary restraining order on the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, which had planned to institute action that would have protected depositors from the collapse of rural banks belonging to the Legacy group of companies. As BSP officials have explained, quick intervention would have averted disaster.

When the case went up the Court of Appeals, the BSP’s hands were tied further, with the CA upholding the lower court’s TRO. Lawmakers have pointed out that this violated the New Central Bank Act of 1993, which prevents the courts from blocking BSP investigations of fraud. The law also gives the BSP a free hand to move immediately in cases where banks face insolvency.

It is not surprising to learn that there might be members of the judiciary who do not know the law, since too many people have joined this branch of government based chiefly on the right connections rather than capability. The public has long suspected that there is big money to be made in the issuance of TROs, especially in cases involving business transactions.

But if the Manila judge and CA justices have erred, a complaint must be filed against them with the Supreme Court, possibly by the BSP. The high tribunal can then determine guilt and impose the appropriate punishment. This task does not belong to the legislature, whose members might see a precedent and decide to have a say in every controversial judicial decision, the way they are already interfering in decisions on the implementation of development projects. What lawmakers can do is to strengthen the regulatory environment and prevent a repeat of the Legacy mess.

Secret VFA paper bared

Posted in Foreign Affairs, international relations, Treaties, VFA by Erineus on February 20, 2009

Joker says pact favors erring US soldier

MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Joker Arroyo has produced a secret document that proves the one-sided nature of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States in the treatment of erring personnel.

“This is a well-kept secret,” Arroyo yesterday said of the “complemental agreement” that he described as “part and parcel of the VFA” and constituted its implementing rules and regulations.

The 14-page document was signed by then US Ambassador to the Philippines Thomas C. Hubbard and then Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon Jr. on Oct. 9, 1998.

According to Arroyo, the VFA mandates that an American soldier who commits a crime in the Philippines will be detained at any US embassy or penal facility. But under the secret agreement, a Filipino soldier who commits a crime in the United States cannot be housed in a Philippine embassy or consulate but “shall be served in penal institutions in the United States suitable for the custody level of the prisoner.”

“In short, confinement shall always be in a US penal institution. The only consuelo de bobo (consolation) is that we may ask which prison [the Filipino soldier] may be confined,” Arroyo told reporters in a phone-patch interview.

Ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999, the VFA governs the conduct of US troops engaged in military exercises in the country.

Calls for its review and outright scrapping have lately been aired, triggered by the continued detention at the US Embassy of Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, who was convicted in 2006 of raping Filipino woman “Nicole.”

Solid argument

Arroyo provided Senate reporters copies of the accord titled “Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and Government of the Republic of the Philippines regarding the Treatment of Republic of the Philippines Personnel Visiting the United States of America.”

“We never had a solid argument why the VFA is unequal, with no reciprocity and no mutuality, until now,” Arroyo said, adding that the document was provided by “a learned jurist.”

Its preamble states that the two governments agreed to the accord “for the purpose of complementing the Agreement between the United States of America and the Republic of the Philippines regarding the treatment of United States Armed Forces visiting the Philippines.”

Arroyo said the matter should not be elevated to the Supreme Court but should be resolved within the Philippine government’s political department because the foreign secretary “speaks for the President.”

Siazon is now the Philippine ambassador to Japan.

Asked to comment, Bayani Mangibin, spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said he would look into the agreement, if indeed there was one, and seek a clarification from Siazon.

Colonial mentality

“The terms on confinement are so glaringly iniquitous, and that Philippine authorities ever agreed to this reflects our residual colonial mentality,” Arroyo said.

He said that with Manila’s consent, erring Filipino troops could even be held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, which is operated by the US government as a detention camp for terrorists.

Arroyo said this anomaly in RP-US relations should be resolved in favor of Filipinos.

“It is time President Arroyo and the legislature joined hands in a nonpartisan manner to eliminate this iniquitous and one-sided arrangement, which has bedeviled us for the past 63 years, from 1946 to 2009,” the senator said.

“After all, it was neither President Arroyo nor the present Senate that entered into the VFA in 1999,” he said.

Arroyo observed that certain parties had warned against “rocking the boat.”

He lamented: “We need the US, they say. The pity of it all is that because of the century of dependence on the United States, we have not learned how to walk. It’s time we got up unaided. And if we fall, as we start to walk, then we stand up on our own as healthy babies do.”

Not just making noise

Arroyo said that in seeking the scrapping of the VFA, the focus should be on “confinement and jurisdiction.”

To the reminder that the Philippine Senate had ratified the agreement, he said: “Of course, past is past. But what is the alternative? Let’s just allow this to go on, forget this?

“We’re being beaten black and blue, and yet we’re still smiling.”

Arroyo said working for the scrapping of the VFA was not merely a matter of “making noise” but a matter of “justice and official responsibility.”

Opinion/Letters to the Editor
By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:34:00 02/20/2009

Inouye comes to Filipino vets’ rescue

Posted in Foreign Affairs, international relations, Veterans Affairs, Wars by Erineus on February 20, 2009

A number of media commentators went to town criticizing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for making a “useless trip” to the United States after the Davos Conference in Switzerland, as she didn’t get to meet President Obama, contrary to speculations. If there was a big letdown here about that non-meeting, it was the fault of Ms Arroyo’s staff, for the US trip was made to center on the supposed meeting, so that when it failed to materialize, due perhaps to Obama’s being so preoccupied with the economic stimulus package that was then still in limbo in the US Congress, the trip did seem useless. But it turns out that there were, to borrow a phrase from Dr. Anding Roces, a number of things to crow about. For instance, the media only later learned that President Arroyo played an important role in securing the long-awaited benefits due to Filipino World War II veterans.

Palace sources said Ms Arroyo, who was then attending the Davos Conference, was invited by the US Congress to the National Prayer Breakfast annually held in Washington DC. She was assigned a seat beside Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who later arranged for her to meet with key legislators on Capitol Hill, among them Sen. John Kerry, chair of the US Senate foreign relations committee, and the chair of that committee’s East Asia subcommittee, Sen. James Webb, and Ohio Rep. Steve Austria, the first Filipino-American to win a legislative seat on Capitol Hill. Palace sources said Ms Arroyo took advantage of her meetings with key legislators for one specific agenda: to push for the inclusion of the veterans’ benefits in the economic stimulus package recently passed by the US Congress.

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In fact, on the day of President Arroyo’s visit, Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, a staunch advocate of Filipino war veterans, stood up on the Senate floor to sponsor an amendment to the economic stimulus package bill that would grant Filipino veterans befits totaling $198 million. Some of Inouye’s colleagues tried to block the amendment, preferring to corner the sums for their own needy constituents, but the crusty, old, physically challenged Hawaii lawmaker, a distinguished war veteran himself, stood his ground.

Over the years, Inouye has developed a solid friendship with Filipino leaders, with Ms Arroyo hosting various receptions in Malacañang during his visits. At the 100th anniversary celebration in Honolulu in 2006 of the arrival of Filipino plantation workers in Hawaii, Ms Arroyo and Inouye once again renewed their friendship.

On Capitol Hill, Ms Arroyo lobbied hard for inclusion of the benefits to Filipino war veterans in the Obama stimulus package, and found a dependable ally in Inouye.

The amendment paved the way for the realization of the dream harbored by Filipino veterans (their ranks now decimated by death, age and disease) for more than half a century: to be compensated for their heroism during the days of their youth. The benefits that will accrue to Filipino veterans will not only be in recognition of the sacrifices of those still living, albeit sickly and old but also in honor of the memory of their fallen comrades who never tasted the glory of recognition or the well-deserved material compensation.

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In another part of the US at that time, former House speaker Jose de Venecia addressed the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, and the Universal Peace Federation, proposing in well-received speeches that President Obama recognize a “Global Inter-Faith Summit” in the US, inasmuch as all the great religions of the world — Christianity, Catholicism, Protestantism, the Evangelicals, Islam (Sunnis and Shiites), Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Shintoism and Sikkhism — are represented in that nation in great numbers. They could, De Venecia argued, help bring about global and regional peace, isolate extremists and strengthen moderates, “and regain the high moral ground for America.”

It will be recalled that De Venecia successfully pushed the Inter-Religious Dialogues in 2006, first with President George W. Bush and then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which was later affirmed by the United Nations in a resolution. By a twist of events, he found his advocacy being tested soon. Late last year, the former speaker was in Cambodia to receive an honorary doctorate degree for international relations from the University of Cambodia, when a pocket border war exploded between Thai and Cambodian troops over a historic Buddhist temple in an area being claimed by both countries.

Speaking with Cambodian Premier Hun Sen and his deputy, Soc An, De Venecia pointed out that the border dispute was a “Buddhist problem” that could be quietly solved not by governments but by representatives of the Thai and Cambodian kings, who are both Buddhists and much-loved by their peoples, and the disputed ancient place of worship has been a Buddhist temple through the centuries. Hun Sen and Soc An said there was no need for Asean intervention, as some worried neighbors in the region had proposed, and the conflict quietly subsided. This little episode didn’t make headlines, but it demonstrates that there’s no substitute for meaningful diplomacy.

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My brother Danny Olivares received a request from his Ateneo de Manila University classmate, Noel Trinidad, to help disseminate to the legion of friends of his brother, internationally renowned cartoonist Corky Trinidad, that the latter recently passed away after a lingering illness in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he had been a longtime resident. Noel said Corky had lived a “very full and meaningful 69 years on earth” adding, “We are proud of his achievements but even prouder of how he lived his life.”

Corky was the son of Lina Flor, famed columnist and creator of the highly popular “Gulong ng Palad” drama series, and Koko Trinidad, acknowledged as the father of radio broadcasting in the Philippines. The Honolulu Star Bulletin, where Corky did editorial cartooning, paid a glowing tribute to him, which I will reprint here. Our condolences to the Trinidad family.

Political Tidbits
By Belinda Olivares-Cunanan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:18:00 02/17/2009