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Autopsy of a Debacle: Clerical Extremists, Timid Liberals, and the RH Debate

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The bishops should have realized it was only a matter of time. The surveys were unanimous in chronicling a steady rise in the majority supporting family planning and government support for it. More and more from all classes had come to accept that family size had a direct bearing on poverty and that medical science provided them with the means to do something about it, if they had financial assistance. And the spread of plural sources of belief and ethics that came with secularization was eroding the Church’s claim to a monopoly on morality.

Posted: April 13th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Featured Columns,Featured Headline,Inquirer Opinion,Viewpoints | Read More »

Rude Awakening

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The Supreme Court affirms the constitutionality of the RH Law, except for some specific provisions. Whatever it is, the RH Law goes into effect, maybe watered down, but nevertheless has changed a landscape forever. It signals, too, more changes in that same landscape, as in the reality of divorce everywhere except in the Philippines.

Posted: April 11th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Viewpoints | Read More »

China defies Deng Xiaoping warning

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“If one day China should change her color and turn into a superpower, if she too should play the tyrant in the world, and everywhere subject others to her bullying, aggression and exploitation, the people of the world should identify her as social-imperialism, expose it, oppose it and work together with the Chinese people to overthrow it.” ~ Deng Xiaoping speech at the United Nations, April 10, 1974

Posted: April 4th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Viewpoints | Read More »

Countering Beijing’s octopussy diplomacy

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The recent brazen moves of Chinese maritime surveillance vessels operating over 1,100 kilometers from China’s coast to prevent Philippine civilian vessels from resupplying the tiny marine garrison aboard the BRP Sierra Madre beached on Ayungin Shoal, 200 km from Palawan, are steps in the execution of the so-called “cabbage strategy” articulated last year by Chinese General Major General Zhang Zhaozhong. The aim is to surround Bajo de Masinloc, Ayungin Shoal and other Philippine territories in Spratly Islands with a massive Chinese naval presence to starve Filipino detachments and prevent reinforcements from reaching them.

Posted: March 31st, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Viewpoints | Read More »

An accident of birth

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I am aboard an airplane bringing me home to Manila after two great days in Iloilo province. It seems that being busy and able to help Yolanda victims somehow mitigates the growing frustration that even I, an active member in the humanitarian work of Gawad Kalinga (GK), have been feeling these last two months.

Posted: March 28th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Viewpoints | Read More »

Hot emerging markets? The curious case of the Philippines and Mexico

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The Aquino administration has very good press these days—outside the country. In two major international publications, the Philippines under President Aquino has been the toast and talk of the town. In early February, Keith Bradsher recently gave a heads up in a much-read New York Times piece where he wrote: “Political analysts say that his administration has fought and reduced the corruption that played a role in holding the Philippines back. In one practical measure of that change, the country has been able to pave more roads per 100 million pesos in spending (about $2.2 million) than before — when funds were lost to corrupt officials and incompetence — finally addressing an impediment to commerce.”

Posted: March 22nd, 2014 in Columns,Viewpoints | Read More »

What really matters?

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It may be that news is important, but seldom so. It is voluminous, for sure, what with tri-media becoming a business more than a service. It used to be that media outlets would seek profits from entertainment and subsidized news programs. Not anymore, though, as news sell nowadays, and sensationalized news the most saleable.

Posted: March 21st, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Viewpoints | Read More »

Prepare for China: Part II

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It may simply be a game for China. After all, who is the Philippines to fight back? Pushing us away from the sea, water-hosing our fishermen in Scarborough Shoal, blocking our supply ships at Second Thomas Shoal (Ayuningin Reef), China ups the ante in its bullying of the Philippines. And it seems that most Filipinos are not aware how close we are to war.

Posted: March 14th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Columns,Featured Columns,Featured Headline,Inquirer Opinion,Viewpoints | Read More »

Speculation and chismis

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The presidential elections are two years away, yet it is beginning to seem like we already are in an early campaign mode. It must be that the great powers given to the Office of the President and the Executive Branch can actually make the head spin, or the mouth salivate – even from onlookers.

Posted: March 7th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Featured Columns,Featured Headline,Viewpoints | Read More »

For freedom and democracy

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I had always believed that people power meant less about the people in power than the power of the people.

Posted: February 28th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Viewpoints | Read More »

The Rice Fiasco: How smugglers, bureaucrats and naïve economists are mugging our farmers

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These lines come to mind as one observes the awful debacle that has overtaken the fate of the most important item in the Filipino diet. In a controversial recent judgment, a court in Davao recently ruled against the Bureau of Customs and ordered the release of 4.2 million tons of seized smuggled rice. Now the smugglers are shouting with glee at an unexpected development: Secretary Leila de Lima is on their side.

Posted: February 26th, 2014 in Columns,Viewpoints | Read More »

Change the Charter for us, not them

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All this talk about Charter Change, especially to amend economic provisions of the Constitution, fills me with dread. Strangely enough, though I had actively joined all sorts of protests to change the political provisions of the Constitution, it is the change of economic provisions that I am more afraid of. Or, to be more accurate, of one provision in particular.

Land. Mother. Motherland. Please, let us never sell the Motherland, let us never sell our land. There is no Motherland without the land. There is no Philippines without the land. There is no Filipino if there is no land on earth that is meant for Filipinos.

Land defines us. Maybe, it is because we are human beings, not fish living in the seas, not birds flying in the sky. We are human beings, people of the land.

This is why the majority of Filipinos are poor, because land was taken away from them, grabbed from them, stolen from them, and continues to be kept away from them. Because land defines us, and landlessness defines poverty.

History is history. That part which happened a long time ago, seems to have much less importance in the present. Especially for a people who would rather forget their own history, especially for governments who would rather let history remain in the shadows.

Having been conquered leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, or a wound in our collective soul. Serving, by force, one master after another, more easily conjures shame when it should conjure anger, then resolve, for a master-less future forever. Because we have refused as a people to confront a sad past and learn from it, we have a present that remains enslaved in the same past.

What was imposed by a monarch’s edict and armed force dispossessed a people from control of their own land. That may have been four centuries ago but it is a past that refuses to let go of the evil it has spawned. This evil is not from Spain anymore, or the United States. The land they stole remains here in the Philippines but the control they took away has not been returned to the natives they took it away from.

The more grotesque reality is that the largest land theft of our history that caused massive poverty then and continuing poverty today has been blurred to the point that it is not visible to the lazy eye. Both historical amnesia and the gradual piecemeal sale of a massive land grab have made us forget, or blind to, the fact that a historical anomaly has not been corrected because it has been erased from the memory of our societal leaders.

These leaders of society has managed to afford to play by the rules of the conquerors, had the resources and connections to buy back what was originally stolen (that makes government a fence, doesn’t it?), and became the 1% of the population to become landed – again. But because there had been commercial transactions on top of land grants given to the Catholic Church and favored Filipino natives, these effectively obfuscated and perverted reality with a sense of normalcy. The horrible historical land theft was legitimized by a titling system, and all is forgotten.

Except that the lives of the landless and the poorest, weakest among them, who have over time been unable to rediscover their productive capacity and aspirations without a reconnection to their land, numbering at least 5 million families still, continue to fester in misery today.

There are two things that can be done. One is the easiest, and the most just. It is simply to acknowledge that a historical anomaly was committed, that foreign masters had stolen our lands by control or by title, and that the dispossessed must be given back what was stolen.

The second is more challenging. It will mean that the true story of that part of our history must be re-told, our people, especially the poor, must know of what they had been forced to forget, and that the shame of conquest must not extend its terrible consequences by sheer amnesia.

If our societal leaders can remember their own history, how they attained to be the powers in our country, how they control politics, the Church, the economy, the academe and high society, if they trace their own evolution to elite-hood, then they will realize that it happened by conquest, by monarchical decree, or by religious authority. They will also discover that as they ascended to the higher echelons of society, the rest of the native population descended to poverty. The most obvious difference—land versus landlessness.

Land represents security. To a still great number of Filipinos, land means survival itself. It has been by tilling the land and by fishing our seas (from land communities) that most of our ancestors had survived their poverty. Beyond that, however, is that our land is part of our identity as sons and daughters of the motherland. The landless, the squatters, they become less than Filipinos because they have less to be identified with.

It is time to correct the wrongs. We talk about corruption, we talk about how thieves in power steal people’s money. But we do not talk about the worst thievery in our history, as though such a crime was never committed. As the consequences to that crime deepen the poverty of most and keep millions hungry despite what so-called economic growth, we inherit the curse that plagues the unjust.

Change the Charter? By all means. Let the Constitution rectify the wrong that foreign masters inflicted on our people, not continue to legitimize it. Return the dignity of all Filipinos, especially poor Filipinos. Let the Constitution be a true symbol of truth and justice by returning to our people what was stolen by history. Make the Constitution the Magna Carta of the Filipino identity.

Posted: February 21st, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Viewpoints | Read More »

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