Archive | June, 2011

Hate Crimes: Definitions and a Call to Action

Hate Crimes: Definitions and a Call to Action

Over the past few months, the Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch has compiled records and reports of the violent deaths of LGBT Filipinos from 1996 to the present. As we continue to share these data with fellow LGBT activists and human rights advocates, we have encountered recurring questions, including: How do we know if these acts are hate crimes? What are hate crimes, anyway?

According to Preventing and responding to hate crimes,1a publication from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, an act can be considered a “hate crime” if it (1) “constitutes an offence under criminal law”; and if (2) “in committing the crime, the perpetrator acts on the basis of prejudice or bias.” Perpetrators of such crimes select their victims because of their negative opinions, intolerance or hatred towards the members of a social group on the basis of any of the following characteristics: race, ethnicity, language, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity or other status.

Hate crimes are also known as bias crimes. The U.S. Department of Justice Training Guide for Hate Crime Data Collection2underscores the role of bias in the following definition of hate crime: “a criminal offense committed against a person or property which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offenders’ bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnicity/national origin, or sexual orientation.”

Stonewall UK’s publication, Homophobic hate crime: The Gay British Crime Survey 20083, presents yet another definition of hate crime taken from the UK’s Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). It is: “any hate incident, which constitutes a criminal offence, perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hate.” The document further clarifies that “hate incident” is defined as “any incident, which may or may not constitute a criminal offence, which is perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hate.”

Unfortunately, our Pilipinas has neither official policies nor rigorous studies on the issue of hate crimes. Prejudice, bias, or hate towards any minority group (such as LGBT Filipinos, Indigenous Filipinos, Filipinos of Foreign Descent, Filipinos from non-major religions) are not at all considered when investigating crimes. The absence of an established mechanism in our country to prevent, identify, or resolve hate crimes does not mean they do not happen. It does mean that, if and when hate crimes happen to members of a minority group, the authorities do not recognize them and deal with them as such.

The alarming number of LGBT Filipinos who have been killed in recent years is strongly indicative that hate crimes may indeed be happening. As of this year alone, twenty-eight LGBT Filipinos have been murdered. Twenty-nine were reported to have been murdered last year. Looking at available reports for the past twenty-five years, we found that 103 LGBT Filipinos have been murdered from 1996 to the present.

The brutalities done to the murdered LGBT Filipinos also suggest that they were victims of hate crime. Thirty-six of the victims were stabbed multiple times. Six were tortured before they were killed. Others were raped, or killed with a blunt object, or suffocated, or dismembered, or burned alive.

It is important to note that hate crimes are not limited to murder. There may be an even greater number of crimes—theft, assault, rape–committed against members of minority groups because of the prejudice, bias, or hate against them.

Now is the time to uncover the truth. We call on our government to conduct a national inquiry on crimes involving victims who were known or perceived to be a member of a minority group, and to investigate the possibility that these crimes were motivated by prejudice.

The Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch is thankful to all its members, advisers, and supporters. We are also grateful for Rep. Teddy Casino’s call for a congressional inquiry on the murders recorded in the Watch’s database. That is a start.

But for this advocacy to succeed, we call on all elected officials,  individuals, advocates, and organizations who value human rights above all. People who will do all they can to protect, promote, and fulfill eveyone’s human rights without prejudice, bias, or hate against any sector or group. Despite all that divides us, we must unite so that all of us will live and grow in liberty, equality, and justice.

There is hope that the nature, occurrence, perpetrators, and targets of hate crimes in the Philippines will be better understood. Greater hope still that marginalized and stigmatized sectors of Philippine society will be protected and given justice when victimized. And this hope may come to fruition if all of us work together.

You may download resource materials on hate crime and human rights from this link:

https://skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?cid=11a3f2713fdfa524&resid=11A3F2713FDFA524%21119


[1] Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. (2009). Preventing and responding to hate crimes: A resource guide for NGOs in the OSCE region. Retrieved from http://www.osce.org/odihr/39821

[2] U.S. Department of Justice. (1996). Training guide for hate crime data collection. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/hate-crime/trainguidedc99.pdf

[3] Dick, S. (2008). Homophobic hate crime: The Gay British crime survey. Retrieved from http://www.stonewall.org.uk/documents/homophobic_hate_crime__final_report.pdf

 

Posted in Announcements, Featured, Society0 Comments

July 3 (Sunday) Starbucks Meetup

Location: Starbucks at Ansons across The Podium, Ortigas (Google map)
Date: Sunday, July 3, 2011
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm
RSVP on Facebook

Due to our packed weekend schedule full of RH and LGBT events, we’re moving what is supposed to be a Saturday meetup to Sunday. We hope you can join us in our weekend activities as well as being at the meetup.

Discussion Topics
TBA

After the meetup we go for dinner and beer drinking at Congo grill at El Pueblo (see
map). If you’re not a meetup regular and can’t make it for the meetup but would like to go
for the post meetup, please indicate on a post in the wall or comment so we can contact
you.

Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0927 323 3532

* Newbies are welcome.
* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).
* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.
* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).
* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.
* You don’t have to buy anything from Starbucks.

Posted in Meetup0 Comments

Ex-CBCP President implicitly admits bribery allegations

“I believe the allegations that bishops got Pajeros and other bribes are all true.” Ex-CBCP President Oscar Cruz did not say this, but he should have just as well. Because although Oscar did not explicitly say it, his response to the bribery allegations was almost as good as an admission of guilt.

First, he never denied the allegations. Like Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, Oscar could have simply said that there is no truth behind the allegations. But neither of them did.

Nor did Bishop Bacani. It seems that he already knows that bribery went on. Because the only “if” in Bacani’s mind is whether the bribery would be proven true:

“If proven true that some bishops are on take, it could dent the credibility of the Church,” said retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani.

Oscar Cruz seems to agree. He is so sure that there are indeed bishops accepting bribes that he addresses them directly, and there is nothing implicit about this:

“I think those concerned should speak up… otherwise the whole hierarchy will be affected,” said Cruz, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

“Whether this is proven by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) or not, they should come out. The truth will set you free,” he said.

Again, by saying that the bribed bishops should come out “whether this is proven by the PCSO or not,” Oscar is clearly saying that regardless of the outcome of PCSO’s investigation, there is no doubt in his mind that some bishops were bribed.

If the ex-President of the CBCP himself is sure that there was bribery, then that’s probably the case. Oscar should work with Father Robert Reyes and expose the corruption within their ranks. Oscar would only be consistent. And he’d be hitting two birds with one stone — isn’t Oscar against both gambling and corruption? Otherwise, he would be just another CBCP hypocrite.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Society1 Comment

LGBT unions kadiri, says Bacani, the sexual harasser

In 2003, Bishop Bacani was accused by his secretary of “sexual harassment for allegedly embracing her from behind and touching sensitive parts of her body while they were inside his office.” Although he was not defrocked, the incident forced Bacani to resign as bishop of Novaliches. Surely you’d agree that this was a humbling experience.

8 years later, the humility has worn off, and Bacani is back to spreading his unique brand of bigotry. Last month his name became a trending topic on Twitter for his arrogant and self-righteous attitude during a recent RH Debate. Some even criticized his appearance, calling it creepy, malicious, and even Satanic.

If you think Bacani does not deserve such crass criticism, maybe this will change your mind. In response to the recent same sex holy unions in Baguio, Bacani expressed his bigotry with statements worthy of a schoolyard bully:

Bacani described the weddings as, “Napangitan ako talaga, kadiri, para tayong gaya gaya puto maya. Laban ito sa salita ng Diyos.” (I really found it ugly, disgusting, it is like we’re copycats. This is against God’s word.)

Ugly? I think the word is better suited to a supposedly celibate man sexually harassing someone half his age. Disgusting? This is what I would call how the sexual-harassing senior was rewarded with a long vacation in the US for a crime that was probably settled out of court.

But why am I even trying to be subtle? Bacani, it is you who are ugly and disgusting. And as a sexual harasser pretending to be an authority on relationships, you’re a hypocrite, and there’s nothing original about that. With bishops who are against corruption but are corrupt themselves,  and bishops who are supposed to constitute a Church of the Poor but are filthy rich — who’s the copycat now?

Posted in Religion, Society12 Comments

Catholic priest says CBCP bishops got more than Pajeros

Father Robert Reyes said that Catholic bishops got a lot more than the Pajeros allegedly given to them by ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA).

According to Fr. Reyes, GMA “constructed houses (for priests), convents, cathedrals, and gave away cars” so that bishops would not criticize GMA’s presidency or ask her to step down during “crisis points” such as the election scandal in 2005.

Fr. Reyes said that the Presidential Advisers on Ecclesiastical Affairs was used by GMA to find out which bishops needed to be bribed with vehicles or church buildings.

He said that as an insider, he was “not speaking from the outside (of the Church’s institution).” He even had an idea of who these bishops were.

I hope that Fr. Reyes gives insider information such as this to the authorities. Unfortunately, I think he is expecting that the bishops themselves confess their sins. He urged the corrupt bishops to come clean and return the gifts to the government, telling them that “they don’t have to make it public or announce it.”

I agree that the CBCP and its corrupt bishops must come clean, but I don’t agree that anyone should be quiet about this. The CBCP should make a public apology and reveal the identities of those involved in this scandal. Only by doing this can they show the public that they are serious about reform. Anything less would perpetuate the culture of secrecy that allows corruption like this to thrive.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Society9 Comments

7 CBCP bishops bribed with Pajeros as part of “standard practice”

7 Catholic bishops each received a Pajero from ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA). This allegation was made by Margarita Juico, chair of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

Juico told the Inquirer that GMA “moved to divide the bishops by getting some of them on her side to ensure that the CBCP (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines) would not have a unified stand on her.” According to the Inquirer report, “Juico said that she was told by some of the agency’s old-timers that these ‘donations’ to the Church leaders had become standard practice since Arroyo faced a real threat of removal from office with the ‘Hello Garci’ election cheating scandal six years ago.

The CBCP replied by saying it didn’t accept bribes “as a group.” But it did not deny the allegations that 7 bishops were bribed with Pajeros (emphasis mine):

Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, media director of the CBCP, said the Church hierarchy as a group did not avail itself of the supposed extravagant gifts from PCSO during Arroyo’s term.
“The CBCP as a body did not have any part in that…” Quitorio said.

How easy would it have been for Msgr. Quitorio to say that none of the CBCP bishops received a Pajero? To me this is almost as good as admitting that there were indeed some bishops who were bribed by GMA.

And according to Juico, these Pajeros were given a few months before GMA stepped down. What other expensive gifts were given as part of GMA’s “standard practice” of “donating” to the CBCP?

It is not enough for Quitorio and the CBCP to disassociate themselves with the individual bishops who accepted bribes in spite of the official position of their organization. If Juico’s allegations are true, it was the dissent of these bribed bishops that ensured the CBCP would not go against GMA’s administration. This silence amidst obvious corruption was an organizational action, and the CBCP as a whole is guilty for it.

I hope the PCSO continues its investigation into this scandal. Juico’s allegations are serious, and needs to be backed by evidence. At the same time, the CBCP should do its own investigation and expose corruption within its own ranks. Otherwise, with all their crusades against gambling and corruption and immorality, they will be nothing more than hypocrites.

Posted in Politics, Religion15 Comments

Acts of God vs RH and Equality: New Events Schedule

Well folks. It looks like God really hates the reproductive health bill and LGBT rights cause he rained all over the events we had lined up last weekend. Wait, what’s that? New York passed legislation to allow same sex marriage? Maybe God was too busy hating on LGBT’s here to meddle with legislation there!

Never fear though. We lowly humans have the power of rescheduling! Below are the new schedule of events:

UP para sa RH: March for RH
Friday, July 1 2011
3-6PM
UP Diliman Academic Oval

The Filipino Freethinkers UP Diliman chapter will be supporting the UP Reproductive Health and Gender Advocates Movement (RH AGENDA) march for the Reproductive Health bill, to show the support of the UP population for the RH bill. Assemble at the AS steps from 3PM onwards, the program and march starts at 4PM and ends at 6PM. Wear a purple wristband/cloth around your left wrist please!

Facebook event for RH March

The Pink Manifesto
Friday, July 1 2011
6PM onwards
UP Diliman Film Center

After the RH march, the FF LGBT Rights Advocacy committee invites everyone to a night of art and music at the UP Film Center. A free event to bring together the LGBT community and supporters, it aims to foster a sense of community and pride while also valuing individuality. This event will be held at Ishmael Bernal Gallery, UP Film Center, UP Diliman starting from 6PM.


Facebook event for Pink Manifesto

29 Steps for LGBT Human Rights
Saturday, July 2 2011
10AM-6PM
People’s Hall, Quezon Memorial Circle, Quezon City (near the Commonwealth Ave. entrance)

On Saturday we’ll be at the festival for LGBT Human Rights held at the People’s Hall, Quezon Memorial Circle. The festival will have free film showings, art exhibits. We’ll have a booth showcasing the work we’ve been doing with the LGBT community in support of human rights. Come by, we’ve got a kiss or a kiss for you!

Facebook event for LGBT Human Rights Festival

Posted in Announcements1 Comment

FF Weekend Activities: A March, a Gig, and a Kiss

UPDATE (June 24, 2011, 12:30PM): All the events below have been postponed due acts of God (ahaha). In all seriousness though, through this storm we encourage all our friends and fellow advocates to spend time with their respective loved ones, whether LGBTQI or A, ensuring their safety and comfortable encuddlement.

 

It’s going to be a busy weekend. We’ve got three activities lined up for the weekend. The weekend starts on Friday right?

UP para sa RH: March for RH

Friday, June 24 2011
3-6PM
UP Diliman Academic Oval

The Filipino Freethinkers UP Diliman chapter will be supporting the UP Reproductive Health and Gender Advocates Movement (RH AGENDA) march for the Reproductive Health bill, to show the support of the UP population for the RH bill. Assemble at the AS steps from 3PM onwards, the program and march starts at 4PM and ends at 6PM. Wear a purple wristband/cloth around your left wrist please!

Facebook event for RH March

The Pink Manifesto

Friday, June 24 2011
6PM onwards
UP Diliman Film Center

After the RH march, the FF LGBT Rights Advocacy committee invites everyone to a night of art and music at the UP Film Center. A free event to bring together the LGBT community and supporters, it aims to foster a sense of community and pride while also valuing individuality. This event will be held at Ishmael Bernal Gallery, UP Film Center, UP Diliman starting from 6PM.

Facebook event for Pink Manifesto

29 Steps for LGBT Human Rights

Saturday, June 25 2011
10AM-6PM
People’s Hall, Quezon Memorial Circle, Quezon City (near the Commonwealth Ave. entrance)

On Saturday we’ll be at the festival for LGBT Human Rights held at the People’s Hall, Quezon Memorial Circle. The festival will have free film showings, art exhibits. We’ll have a booth showcasing the work we’ve been doing with the LGBT community in support of human rights. Come by, we’ve got a kiss or a kiss for you!

Facebook event for LGBT Human Rights Festival

Posted in Announcements0 Comments

Blame Thrower 101: The RCC’s recent scapegoats

For those who’ve never watched Mystery Men, a blame thrower is a non-lethal weapon that causes the targets it affects to start blaming the guy nearest to them for their woes.

The end result is usually a fistfight, followed by much hilarity (and finger-pointing).

While the movie’s heroes have had to use a mechanical blamethrower though, the Catholic Church has gone far beyond mere toys.

In its years of existence, this institution has developed its skill to Sith levels of mindtrickery, conveniently throwing one scapegoat after another in its constant attempts to evade public outrage regarding its hypocrisy.

If you thought their name game was bad enough with the RH bill, wait ’till you get a load of their other material. Every statement is a worthy read in its own right, so like a good serving of sashimi, I’ve opted to present each snippet in its raw form, sans the usual snark.

Without further ado, here are the choice cuts:
_______________________________________

1. Secular society

Pope Benedict XVI told Vatican officials Monday that they must reflect on the church’s culpability in its child sex-abuse scandal, but he also blamed a secular society in which he said the mistreatment of children was frighteningly common.

In his traditional, end-of-the-year speech to Vatican cardinals and bishops, Benedict said revelations of abuse in 2010 reached “an unimaginable dimension” that required the church to accept the “humiliation” as a call for renewal.

“We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen,” the pope said.

Benedict also said, however, that the scandal must be seen in a broader social context, in which child pornography is seemingly considered normal by society and drug use and sexual tourism are on the rise.

“The psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times,” Benedict said.

_______________________________________

2. Hippies

(Reuters) – A study commissioned by U.S. Roman Catholic bishops concludes that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality caused the church’s sexual abuse crisis, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The five-year study says the abuse occurred because priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s, according to the newspaper.

The “blame Woodstock” explanation has been floated by bishops for years but the study was likely to be regarded as the most authoritative analysis of the scandal in the Catholic Church in America, The Times reported.

_______________________________________

3. Satan

Sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church are proof that that “the Devil is at work inside the Vatican”, according to the Holy See’s chief exorcist.

Father Gabriele Amorth, 85, who has been the Vatican’s chief exorcist for 25 years and says he has dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic possession, said that the consequences of satanic infiltration included power struggles at the Vatican as well as “cardinals who do not believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to the Demon”.

He added: “When one speaks of ‘the smoke of Satan’ [a phrase coined by Pope Paul VI in 1972] in the holy rooms, it is all true – including these latest stories of violence and paedophilia.”

_______________________________________

4. Gays

Speaking on a visit to Chile, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, said: “Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and paedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.”

_______________________________________

6. Liberalism

The most obvious change must occur within American seminaries, many of which demonstrate the same brand of cultural liberalism plaguing our secular universities. My hope was rekindled last week as our American Cardinals proposed from Rome an “apostolic visitation” of seminaries emphasizing “the need for fidelity to the Church’s teaching, especially in the area of morality.” It is an arduous task. However, the Pope made it clear last week that he expects the strong appeal of the Cardinals to be followed by decisive Episcopal action.

It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning “private” moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.

_______________________________________

7. Secular Media

The Vatican has attacked the media over charges that the Pope failed to act against a US priest accused of abusing up to 200 deaf boys two decades ago.

A Vatican newspaper editorial said the claims were an “ignoble” attack on the Pope and that there was no “cover-up”.

The head of the UK Catholic church said the Pope had made important changes to the way abuse was dealt with.

The Catholic church has been hit by a series of allegations in Europe and the US over the past months.

The latest allegations stem from the US, after it emerged that Archbishops had complained in 1996 about a priest, Fr Lawrence Murphy. Their complaints went to a Vatican office led by the future Pope Benedict XVI.

_______________________________________

8. Jews

Monsignor Giacomo Babini, the Bishop Emeritus of Grossetto, was quoted by the Italian Roman Catholic website Pontifex as saying he believed a “Zionist attack” was behind the criticism of the Pope, given that it was “powerful and refined” in nature.

Bishop Babini denied he had made any anti-Semitic remarks. He was backed by the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), which issued a declaration by Bishop Babini in which he said: “Statements I have never made about our Jewish brothers have been attributed to me.”

However, Bruno Volpe, who interviewed Monsignor Babini for Pontifex, confirmed that the bishop had made the statement, which was reported widely in the Italian press today. Pontifex threatened to release the audio tape of the interview as proof.

_______________________________

Of course, with the RCC as it is today, you may also want to keep on the lookout in case they decide to take their scapegoating up another notch in the near future.

Now if you’ve just finished reading all that, I leave the floor to the readers. Enjoy. Discuss. Deconstruct. Facepalm.

Posted in Humor, Religion, Society14 Comments

Abortifacients and the RH Bill: The Real Relationship

Abortifacients and the RH Bill: The Real Relationship

One of the issues delaying the passage of the RH Bill is the question of when life begins, or more importantly, when the protection of life begins. It’s no help that our constitution uses the imprecise term conception, allowing a lot of room for discussion as the pro-life argue that it refers to fertilization while others maintain that it means implantation, and this debate has taken long enough at the expense of the rest of the provisions of the bill which have nothing to do with the fertilized ovum, such as providing for midwives, emergency obstetric care, and maternal and newborn health care in crisis situations.

While the World Health Organization has already answered that “to date, there is no scientific evidence supporting the contention that hormonal contraceptives and IUD prevent implantation of the fertilized ovum,” the pro-life continue to claim otherwise and even assert that since the bill seeks to provide for these contraceptives, the bill is therefore unconstitutional. I have argued in a previous post that they are actually objecting to the pill, not the bill, and this is just a follow up. If we look at two sections from both Edcel Lagman’s House Bill 96 and the final consolidated RH Bill, HB 4244, we will see the important difference that renders the pro-life’s objection moot:

HOUSE BILL 96 HOUSE BILL 4244
Sec. 4. Definition of Terms Modern Methods of Family Planning – refers to safe, effective and legal methods to prevent pregnancy such as the pill, intra-uterine device (IUD), injectables, condom, ligation, vasectomy, and modern natural family planning methods which include mucus, Billings, ovulation, lactational amenorrhea, basal body temperature, and Standard Days methods. Sec. 4. Definition of Terms Modern Methods of Family Planning refer to safe, effective and legal methods, whether the natural, or the artificial that are registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the DOH, to prevent pregnancy.
Sec. 9. Family Planning Supplies as Essential Medicines Hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectables and other safe and effective family planning products and supplies shall be part of the National Drug Formulary and the same shall be included in the regular purchase of essential medicines and supplies of all national and local hospitals and other government health units. Sec. 10. Family Planning Supplies as Essential Medicines Products and supplies for modern family planning methods shall be part of the National Drug Formulary and the same shall be included in the regular purchase of essential medicines and supplies of all national and local hospitals and other government health units.

While HB 96 specifically identifies pills, IUDs and injectables as essentials, HB 4244 only uses the general term “modern family planning methods,” which it defines as referring to safe, effective and, most importantly, legal methods. The significance of this is that the protracted debates on the question of when the protection of life begins as well as the alleged abortifacient effects of certain contraceptives can be detached from the debate on the bill itself. If specific contraceptives are proven to be abortifacient and banned by the FDA, they obviously won’t be purchased and distributed by the government even with the passage of the RH Bill since only legal methods shall be provided for.

Fr. Joaquin Bernas, one of the members of the Constitutional Commission of 1986, says:

“There are those who argue that contraception kills life. That is true if the contraceptive means used have the effect of expelling a fertilized ovum. Those who argue that contraceptives currently in the market kill life must be able to point to the precise contraceptive devises that are abortive. A sweeping generalization is irresponsible.”

While a sweeping generalization is already irresponsible, dragging the RH Bill into the abortifacients issue and saying that it promotes abortion is downright insane, especially with the final consolidated version. That issue is separate from the RH Bill and should be discussed in another venue. I hope people will see that. Because that means one less objection, and handling objections in congress takes time, and meanwhile mothers are dying for lack of maternal care for which the RH Bill seeks to provide.

Lastly, the bill explicitly recognizes that abortion is illegal and punishable by law. What many people may not know is that about 500,000 induced abortions are happening in the Philippines each year. By providing education and information on reproductive health and access to modern family planning methods, the RH Bill aims to significantly reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and the resulting illegal abortions. So while the RH Bill will not promote the use of abortifacient drugs and devices,  it also actually seeks to prevent the need to even resort to abortion.

Posted in Featured67 Comments

Crossing Streets and Maternal Death Risks (part 2)

Crossing Streets and Maternal Death Risks (part 2)

Hong Kong footbridgeOf around 3.37 M pregnancies that occurred in 2008, 17% led to induced abortions and 14% to unwanted births—more than a million pregnancies that women did not want. Some 92% of these occurred while using no method of family planning, or relying on a traditional one like the withdrawal or rhythm.

The fist half of this article likened maternal risks to similar risks when crossing busy streets. Risk reduction can be done two ways. One, make the process safer. Two, avoid it whenever possible.

Family planning (FP) is the second way. Using artificial or natural methods, it is a means to avoid unintended pregnancies. Using the road crossing analogy, effective FP methods are like overpass walkways that government builds to keep people away from harm. In turn, people need to learn and choose to use them to be of any good.

Relative Risks

An overpass is safer for most people, but is not risk-free. Nothing in life is. The overpass stairs may be slippery. Snatchers may declare the site as their emerging market. Civil engineers may have been sloppy. An earthquake, lightning or bullet from a cop’s warning shot may just strike while you’re in the middle of it. You simply compare all these with the risk of matching your footwork with running vehicles.

The same weighing of risks and benefits apply to all FP methods. For example, users of combined pills do have an increased risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE), a blood clot in veins deep inside the body that is 1–2% fatal. Anti-RH folks have often used this to scare people. What they fail to mention is that drug regulatory agencies have concluded that the increase in absolute risk is small, and that pregnancy confers higher risks of getting VTE than pill use:

Condition Risk of VTE
Not using pills, not pregnant 5–10 cases per 100 000 women-years
Using the most common pill
(low-dose ethinylestradiol + levonorgestrel)
20 cases per 100 000 women-years of use
Pregnant 60 cases per 100 000 pregnancies

 

Contraindications

Using an overpass is also not safe for everyone. Someone on wheelchairs who will try the atrociously steep ramp at the Quezon Avenue-EDSA overpass will probably careen down and break more bones. Urging someone with fear of heights or an asthmatic attack to climb up is courting trouble. Other more sensible methods should simply be made available.

For FP methods and all other medicines, the user may have a condition which makes the drug or procedure riskier than usual. If the risks outweigh the benefits, the medicine is contraindicated, meaning not recommended for use. Since people have unique genetics, medical histories and current conditions, the decision can only be done on a case to case basis.

For example, natural family planning (NFP) is effective for motivated couples. If one or both do not want to use it, the method is contraindicated. The risk of pregnancy would be too high. If the husband is violently uncooperative, the woman gets no benefit at all while risking a whole range of harm. Using the same principles, combined pills are not prescribed to women with pre-existing hypertension because of increased risk of heart attack and stroke; or to women with pre-existing breast cancer because both natural and synthetic estrogens stimulate the proliferation of breast cells.

Policy Choices

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is something we learn in elementary school. When anti-RH folks profess to support safety through maternal care services and in the same breath denigrate the value of family planning, I yearn for the simple lessons of our grade school teachers. The anti-RH position is akin to banning overpass walkways, insisting that people rely on the natural ebb and flow of traffic to safely cross streets, and allaying their fears by saying there will be more hospitals to save and mend broken bodies.

The RH bill’s safe motherhood proposal is simple. Women who are pregnant by choice or circumstance should get the standard care that has made maternal deaths a rarity in many parts of the world. Women who do not want more children or want to postpone the next pregnancy should get the family planning method of their choice to avoid maternal risks altogether.

Make the process safer. Avoid risks whenever possible. Both are needed, both should be done.

Posted in Featured, Society10 Comments

Sweet Silence

Sweet Silence

Let me begin by alienating the vast majority of potential readers with a Doctor Who reference. The antagonists of the latest season are an alien species known as the Silence, who have the ability to be forgotten every time you look away from them. The show posits that modern Earth has long been conquered and cohabitated, only no one’s aware of it as the Silence could be in your very room watching you…right…now… and you’d forget about it as soon as you look at your monitor to read this article.

Also in more respectable news (whatever that means) the South African playwright Athol Fugard won a lifetime achievement award during the 2011 Tonys for his works which exposed the evils of apartheid. In his BBC interview, he talked about how he began writing his plays because he could see that despite all of the misery and injustice apartheid brought about, within his own educated white South African society there seemed to be instituted a ‘conspiracy of silence’.

Silence in and of itself certainly has some merit. There is the silence one offers to another that she might express her opinions, arguments or art without interruption. There is the silence while thoughtfully considering one’s own position before speaking out. There is the silence while witnessing a glorious sunset on a beach with amiable company.

I believe that when it comes to living in a democracy however, or indeed any society that prides itself on free expression, silence is at best a holding pattern and at worst an enabler of the many forces determined to constantly undermine those freedoms. Sinclair once said that our liberties were not won without suffering, and may be lost again through our cowardice. It is so very tempting to simply wallow in our own lives, each of which are filled with enough of their own difficulties and concerns without adding issues on a national level to them.

It is that very inclination to remain silent, remain seated, remain as Victorian era children who are to be barely seen and not ever heard, that too many of those in power today are counting on. Already congressmen like Nograles are pushing for legislation to enable them to sue online outlets for libel. Our country’s history is filled with examples of what happens to institutions, from our government’s Martial Law period to the Catholic Church’s clerical child abuse cases, that believe they can get away from accountability to their constituents. Each time they’ve relied on declaiming those few with the temerity to speak out as dissident, disruptive or disrespectful.

Mainstream media, while doing much to ensure that injustice is not ignored, is still fueled by revenues generated from the viewing public. We the people is more than some abstract concept, it is you and me and anyone else reading this with who shares and participates in Philippine society. The recent activities over the anti-contraceptives ordinance in Alabang showed that no matter how sheltered from the wider world you might think you are, if you do not stand up and speak out other people will happily come and speak for you. If too many people become set against noisy public debate and discussion, seeing it as unnecessary distraction from their already stressed lives, then the silence ultimately granted all of us might well be that of the political prison, or the graveyard.

 

Posted in Featured, Society2 Comments

June 19 (Sunday) Makati Meetup


Location: Starbucks Valero, Salcedo Village Makati (Google map)
Date: Sunday, June 19, 2011
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

RSVP on Facebook

Hey folks! We’re taking the meetup to Makati this weekend, do drop by for some juicy, intellectual discussions! We’ll be talking about privacy, privates and nationalism! Well, one of these things is not like the other. As this is a new meetup location we’re not sure where we’ll be going for the post meetup. We’ve got a contact number if you need directions/want to find us for the post meetup: 0927 323 3532

Discussion Topics
– Peeping Tom Ethics
– Why Won’t You Show Me Your… ?
– Nationalism (on Rizal’s Birthday!)
– Open Mic

We’re not sure where we’re going to for the post meetup but we’ll have dinner and drinks somewhere. If you’re not a meetup regular and can’t make it for the meetup but would like to go for the post meetup, please indicate on a post in the wall or comment so we can contact you. Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0927 323 3532.

* Newbies are welcome.
* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).
* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.
* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).
* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.
* You don’t have to buy anything from Starbucks.

Posted in Meetup3 Comments

Crossing Streets and Maternal Death Risks

Crossing Streets and Maternal Death Risks

Busy street in ManilaCrossing a busy street and testing one’s agility against vehicles has inherent risks. To minimize these risks, we create structures and social rules such as traffic lights, pedestrian lanes, speed bumps and so on. We also minimize the frequency of exposure to risks. Using overpass walkways, avoiding unnecessary trips and creating better planned neighborhoods are some of the ways we reduce the number of times people and vehicles cross paths.

The reproductive health (RH) bill’s approach to reducing maternal deaths follows the same dual strategy: minimize risks and minimize exposure to risks.

A woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death is a product of two factors: the risk of death from each pregnancy and birth, and the number of times she gets pregnant. The most successful countries in the world have managed to bring down both, and some of our ASEAN neighbors are on the way to making maternal death a rare possibility in a woman’s lifetime (see chart below).

Lifetime risk of maternal death

Source: World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNFPA and The World Bank,
“Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2008”, Annex 1 & Appendix 14, 2010.

 

To reduce the risk of death from each pregnancy, the RH bill mandates:

  • sufficient number of skilled birth attendants (SBAs, referring to midwives, nurses or doctors) that can provide antenatal, birthing and postnatal services (Sec. 5 in both House and Senate versions);
  • enough facilities, equipment, supplies and health personnel to provide emergency obstetric and neonatal care (Sec. 6 in both House and Senate versions);
  • the maximum level of PhilHealth benefits for women with obstetric complications (Sec. 14 in House version and 11 in Senate); and
  • a review process to learn lessons from maternal deaths that do occur (Sec. 9 in House version and 8 in Senate).

Opponents of RH have expressed mixed reactions to this aspect of the bill. Some have accepted it as beneficial and have focused instead on their key issues of contraception, abortion and sex education. Others have branded it as unnecessary or a mere sweetener because the government has been doing maternal health programs without a law; or maternal death is not among the top-10 causes of deaths; or both. To check these claims, let us look at a key indicator of safety during pregnancy and birth: skilled birth attendance.

If women lack access to SBAs, they rely on the hilot (traditional birth attendants) to manage their childbirth and the immediate period after delivery. Unfortunately, around three quarters of all maternal deaths occur during these critical times. A hilot does not have the skills or resources to save women from the usual complications like severe bleeding, convulsions, sepsis and obstructed labor. How a hilot can totally mess up with diagnosing a complication and acting promptly to forestall death can be seen in the documentary Olivia’s Story. Only 37 years old, she died on May 2, 2009 in a poor community in Malabon (yes, hilots ply their trade even in a city in the country’s metropolis) after delivering her tenth child at home.

In 1999, a special session of the UN General Assembly agreed to work towards raising the use of SBAs to 80% by 2005, 85% by 2010 and 90% by 2015. What has the Philippines achieved? In 2008, actual use of SBAs by all women was only 62%, and the poorest women had use rates of only 26% (see chart below).

Percentage use of SBA, Philippines

Source: Macro International Inc, 2011. MEASURE DHS STATcompiler.
http://www.measuredhs.com, June 14 2011.

 

Was the UN target too ambitious? No. Some of our ASEAN neighbors have proven that middle-income countries can attain the goal. Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam have met or exceeded the target. Indonesia is behind but has performed better than the Philippines (see chart below).

Percentage use of SBAs, selected countries
Source: WHO, Women and Health, Health Service Coverage,
Global Health Observatory Data Repository, June 16, 2001.

The average Filipina receives less skilled maternal care than some of her ASEAN neighbors. Those who are poor receive hardly any care at all.

Yes, the country does have a maternal care program which has been in place since perhaps the elder Aquino government, which merely reinforces the point that “business as usual” won’t be enough. Having something going on does not mean policymakers cannot make it better funded and more effective, equitable and enforceable. It would be both wise and charitable for the anti-RH forces to concede this issue in the RH bill debates.

Part 2: Family Planning and Reducing Exposure to Risks

Posted in Featured, Society7 Comments

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