Archive | September, 2012

Our Government was Hacked: Cyber Martial Law and the Sottovirus

Definitely not a government web page.

The true test of any system is its ability to respond to problems. A system can work most of the time, but you can’t measure its true capacity unless you subject it to stress.

This is what happened to several government websites recently when Anonymous Philippines hacked them to display a message protesting the Cybercrime Prevention Act. While proving their skill as hackers, they also proved another thing: the security system of these government sites has failed. There have been a range of criticisms to this hacking: from petty and ineffective on one end to ultimately counterproductive on the other.

Whatever the case, this serves as a good analog to the larger narrative. The government is designed to self-correct internal problems through a system of checks and balances. There’s a reason there are three branches of government, two houses of Congress, 24 senators, and so on. These bureaucracies make it hard for any single element to make the entire system fail, similar to a computer’s using several layers of protection, such as firewalls and anti-virus software.

So what does the passage of the Cybercrime bill say about our government? Our legislative system has been hacked; its many layers of security have failed. A malicious virus was uploaded, undetected, and resulted in the system behaving contrary to its intended design.

Let me explain the analogy. As part of a democratic government, our legislation was designed to create democratic laws. In contrast, the laws crafted by a dictatorial government would be undemocratic. By now it’s obvious to any intelligent person who has a basic understanding of democracy that the Cybercrime Law is undemocratic. I have yet to encounter someone who thinks otherwise. Despite their responsibility for the law, even our politicians agree, but it will take some explaining.

Most probably, the implications of the Cybercrime Law — particularly on the right to free speech and privacy — weren’t fully understood by most legislators when they first encountered it. I don’t think that any intelligent legislator would think that someone who simply tweets an unflattering sentence about someone should be at risk of government surveillance or spending a decade behind bars. This is just one of the Cybercrime Law’s implications that weren’t so obvious at first. These concerns possibilities may be absurd, but they’re legitimate ones, at least according to every lawyer I’ve read and spoken to so far.

Senator Escudero: Better late than never?

I believe that if you take a poll of our lawmakers, asking them whether they would have passed the bill knowing these implications, the results would show how much each lawmaker understands and values democracy. Only the undemocratic or incredibly stupid would still have passed it.

In spite of everything, I still think majority of our lawmakers are basically democratic. Yet the Cybercrime Law shows that a mostly-democratic legislative branch has created an extremely undemocratic law. The executive branch, which is lead by someone who would especially want to avoid any association with dictatorship, would have vetoed the bill had he known its dictatorial implications.

Sadly, most of them will never admit this. Senator Escudero has been the first and only one so far to have admitted his mistake, but only because he has good reason to. He is the author of a bill that decriminalizes libel. There could be nothing more embarrassing than his having passed a bill that not only perpetuates libel’s criminal status but broadens it as well. An error of this magnitude is better corrected sooner than later.

Which makes me wonder why Senator Angara, who has also authored a bill removing the prison penalty for libel, has yet to admit his mistake. It probably has to do with the fact that he is a principal author of the Cybercrime Law. Admitting that you shouldn’t have passed your own law is understandably more embarrassing. Two more senators, Sen. Honasan and Sen. Estrada, also have pending bills that decriminalize libel. Yet both have voted for a bill that makes libel an even graver crime, and both have yet to admit their grave mistake.

The other senators are not as hard-pressed to admit their error, and it will be interesting to listen to their excuses when (or if) they do. But I highly doubt that many will. Because if more Senators admit that they’ve made a mistake, then the integrity of the entire legislative institution will be jeopardized. Better to perpetuate the story that the Cybercrime Law, flawed as it is, is still the product of a working legislative branch.

P-Noy thoroughly examining something.

Which is precisely the story that the executive one has been telling so far. His spokespersons have said that he endorsed the Cybercrime Law only after studying it thoroughly. Which is a good political move considering the alternative: admitting that he and the people who work for him weren’t doing their jobs (or as his critics love to call it, Noynoying).

Our government may not admit it, but the integrity of the legislative and executive branches has been tested, and it has failed badly. Like the handful of government websites hacked by Anonymous PH, our democratic system has been hacked — the Cybercrime Law is the malicious web page to prove it.

But there is hope. The third branch of government has yet to fail, and it is now being tested. Several citizens have separately filed motions asking the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on implementing the law’s undemocratic provisions. Some have even asked that the entire law be repealed. But it will be hard for the Supreme Court to do either. Whichever they choose, it will mean the failure of the executive and legislative branches. Understandably, Chief Justice Sereno would think twice before painting P-noy and his administration as less than competent.

And if there’s any branch who understands how undemocratic and unconstitutional the Cybercrime Law is, it’s the Supreme Court. Regardless of what the SC decides, it’s up to us citizens, the programmers and owners of this system, to make sure that the error is corrected. We deserve some of the blame, having installed these faulty components. But it’s a good sign that unlike the incompetent government we’ve elected, we’ve detected the virus.

CJ Sereno and the SC: The Last Bastion?

What’s left is to deal with it — telling our anti-virus software to put the virus in quarantine (issue a TRO), delete it (repeal the law), and of course, uninstalling those responsible for it (not re-electing them). The Cybercrime Law is testing our country — whether we’re truly a democracy or just a democracy on paper. It is then fitting that some have dubbed it “cyber martial law.” Forty years ago, when Marcos declared martial law, we faced a similar test. I hope it doesn’t take us as many years — or casualties — to pass this one.

____
For updates on the fight to junk the Cybercrime Prevention Act (Cyber Martial Law), join the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA) on Facebook. Filipino Freethinkers is a proud member of PIFA.

Posted in Advocacy, Freedom of Expression, Personal, Politics, Society1 Comment

Priestly Paranoia

For an institution that purports to be concerned with the deepest questions in life, the Roman Catholic Church sure can’t let go of sex and how people go about it. Notice how the Church is at its most vocal when it speaks on the Reproductive Health Bill with unprecedented and unparalleled froth and anger. Hot and bothered, the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines’ obsession over sex has gotten them paranoid that everything bad that ever happens about them is because of the RH Bill.

In the row between Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Antonio Trillanes over negotiations with China about Scarborough Shoal, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles has seen an illicit subterfuge of Pro-RH advocacy. Citing Enrile’s adamant anti-choice stance, Arguelles points out, “This may be a ploy to discredit the old man, to weaken the anti-RH group in the Senate.”

Of course, Enrile and Trillanes are both faithfully against the RH Bill. Enrile’s opposition as Senate President has been key to the delays on the RH Bill. While, Trillanes is anti-RH because he believes that if teachers taught students about sex, this would open up opportunities for those teachers to molest their students. In an interview with anti-choice Catholics, Trillanes intimated, “‘Pag may isang medyo manyak na teacher doon na paghuhubarin lahat…” (If there’s one slightly perverted teacher, they’ll make the children strip naked [in sex education classes].) This nugget of unrivaled intelligence from Trillanes should remove any ambiguities regarding his position on reproductive rights. And despite the clear lack of possible motive on either Enrile’s or Trillanes’ part, Arguelles seems to divine a most devious deception.

On another end, a National Geographic piece revealed the extensive involvement of a Filipino Catholic priest, Cristobal Garcia, in the smuggling of elephant tusks for its use in religious idols. This same priest was also revealed to have been involved with raping altar boys in the United States. Garcia has admitted to having sex with minors, thereby admitting to statutory rape, at the least. However, Garcia claims that it was he who was “seduced” and “raped” by children.

Garcia, who has spent zero time in prison for raping children, has been on “sick leave” here in the Philippines. The foreign nation of the Vatican has “suspended” Garcia from priestly duties and has begun investigating him, in lieu of surrendering him to the proper secular authorities.

In the eyes of the Church, the public exposure of this monstrous suffering of children and non-human animals is also part of a Pro-RH scheme to “discredit the Church,” at least, according to Bishop Arturo Bastes. To this sentiment Arguelles agrees, “This is related to Church’s championing life against RH bill.”

It has long become apparent that the Church believes itself to be incapable of error. All the evils that besiege their powerful institution can’t possibly be due to the systemic rot that pervades the Church. It must be because of evildoers conspiring against their Mother! In these paranoid delusions of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy (which owns an entire European country), the RH lobby is so strong that they can orchestrate entire international fiascos to their ends, even when this same bill has been mired in Congress for over a decade.

All the while, more sober minds might ask, what happened to the Roman Catholic Church’s concern for “life?” What of the children whose lives they’ve helped destroy by coddling their rapists? What of the lives of the sentient animals (human or otherwise) on whose suffering they have profited? The narrative becomes clear once we reject the Church’s patently false claims to a “pro-life” motive and view their behavior as what it obviously is: a self-preservationist persecution complex. The unmasking of their sex-obsessed spirit reveals a sanity that has broken down before our very eyes.

Image Credit: Dallas Morning News

Posted in Politics, Religion, RH Bill2 Comments

On the Cybercrime Law: How Sotto Violated the Democratic Process to Violate Our Democratic Freedoms

When Senator Sotto plagiarized Sarah Pope in his recent turno en contra speech, it wasn’t discovered by traditional media. Sotto’s plagiarism was first pointed out in a post on our website at FilipinoFreethinkers.org.

From there other bloggers spread the word, and some even discovered that Pope wasn’t the only one Sotto plagiarized. By then, traditional media had picked up the story, and Sotto’s plagiarism became national news. Soon, it even went international.

Sotto’s critics were those who, unlike the Senator, understood that plagiarism was a serious offense, especially for a public servant. It was surprising that Sotto’s colleagues in both houses of Congress were mostly silent on the issue. Was it because they were guilty of plagiarism themselves? Were they simply looking out for one of their own out of professional courtesy? Whatever the case, one thing became clear: If someone was going to call Sotto out for his erroneous views on plagiarism, it wouldn’t be his fellow legislators.

Fortunately, Filipino netizens took the responsibility. To the extent that public officials kept quiet, Filipino netizens made noise — writing blogs, creating posters, spreading memes — exposing, criticizing, and even mocking Sotto for his plagiarism and how little he understood its seriousness.

This was democracy in action: Ordinary citizens were fearlessly criticizing a representative they had elected. They didn’t have regular columns in which to publish their thoughts. They couldn’t interpellate or give privilege speeches to denounce Sotto. But now, they could have their say, and they were heard. Sotto heard. To a small degree, the playing field was leveled. And this was thanks to the internet.

But instead of listening to netizens, Sotto claimed that he was being bullied. He said that his alleged bullies would one day be held accountable. A few weeks later, the cybercrime law was passed, and it contained a section that made e-libel a worse crime than defamation in print. It’s not a mystery who we have to thank for this.

Much can and has been said about e-libel, but one thing is clear: anyone who uses the internet to criticize public figures has good reason to be afraid. The possibility of spending more than a decade in prison tends to have that effect. As a result, people will think twice before criticizing people like Sotto online. Or as Sotto would like to call it, “cyberbullying.”

But bullying is defined as “the use of superior strength or influence to intimidate or force someone to do what one wants.” Sotto has used his position as a Senator to intimidate and force others to keep silent or think twice before criticizing people like him. Who’s the bully now?

With the Cybercrime law, how will ordinary citizens criticize elected officials without fear of being sued and fined, or worse, put in jail? Should we all join traditional media to receive the same protections journalists receive? Should we all run for public office to receive the same privileges politicians enjoy? These are unrealistic expectations. And if only a few have the freedom to criticize public servants, what does that say about the democratic process? As President Obama said at a recent speech in the UN–a statement I will gladly and properly attribute to him–true democracy “depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear; on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.”

Speaking of democracy and the democratic process, we could have used more of that while the Cybercrime Law was still a bill in legislation. The most controversial section of the bill was the section on e-libel. But it seems that it was the least discussed and debated. That is, it didn’t get any time for discussion and debate at all. No one even got an opportunity to interpellate. Why? Because the e-libel section was a last-minute addition by Sen. Sotto during the period of amendments. Note that there wasn’t even an e-libel section to amend — it was an entirely new addition.

Why no one objected to this is a mystery to me. I refuse to believe that so many senators failed to understand the negative implications this has on freedom of speech. Whatever the case, I’m sure that one of the main reasons for this was the very short time they had to review and discuss it. I heard that Sotto, as majority floor leader, immediately closed the period of amendments after introducing the new e-libel section.

As an advocate of the RH Bill, I find this disturbing. Where is the meticulousness that led to the pointlessly long discussions on the meaning of certain words? In the RH Bill, it was “life.” Couldn’t the same attention to detail be applied to words such as “defamation,” “malicious intent,” “justifiable ends,” and “libel” itself? Why is it that in discussing the RH Bill every detail of implementation is carefully questioned, while in the Cybercrime bill, implementation details were left for later?

This lack of discussion and due process has surely lead to the vagueness of the current Cybercrime Law, and I’m sure that had our legislators realized its implications, they wouldn’t have passed it so haphazardly.

This is why we fully support the various motions to amend, replace, and even repeal the Cybercrime law, especially the section on e-libel. At the very least, we want the SC to issue a TRO on the said law. This law has implications on our most basic freedoms, but most of our legislators seem to have overlooked this because the democratic process was hurried, if not entirely violated. And as citizens who are guaranteed free speech by our democratic constitution, we deserve better.

Filipino Freethinkers is part of the Filipino Internet Freedom Alliance, a newly formed coalition that seeks to repeal the current version of the Cybercrime Law and replace it with something more democratic. We invite allied individuals and organizations to join us. Together, let’s ensure that democratic freedoms like freedom of expression and information, both online and off, are preserved and protected.

Image from pineswire.net

Posted in Advocacy, Announcements, Freedom of Expression, Organization, Politics, Press Releases, Society2 Comments

God Is My Giant Robot, My Mask, My Vulgar Display Of Power

My problem with people invoking God to justify and rationalize their views on controversial issues is that they are so confident that this God actually supports and sides with all their biases, prejudice and definition of righteousness. If this God actually exists as a distinct entity, I still don’t see why he has to be a ‘Yes Man’ who nods his head to one particular person’s views and opinions, as if he doesn’t have his own mind on the matter.

Most of the people I meet who assert their certainty in the existence of a God profess belief in a character that closely resembles their desires, behavior and views, or at least one that shows complete approval of their outlook. It is like a ‘Mary Sue’ archetype in a story, a character made up to project the author’s wishes and idealized self. Another way of putting it is that this God resembles a puppet, a mouthpiece, an intimidating mask used to assert one’s views without providing room for criticism and analysis. Like a gangster with a big, handsome car running over someone, disrespecting that person’s voice and sense of self, disregarding that person’s protestations, just because they do not have a big, handsome car.

It is no surprise that mecha, giant robots in Japanese anime, are often depicted as God or are associated with God, as is the case in both the Evangelion series and Gundam 00. The staunch believer pilots the giant robot, metaphorically speaking, projecting his desire for a world to stay the same, to vent out his frustrations on what he perceives to be the enemy of his world, the threats to his sense of security. It is a behemoth best friend that will step on appeals for reason, logic and evidence and crush them because these are taking apart his perception of what he wants to be real and what he wants to not be real. It reminds me of squealing fan girls who get angry at someone for pointing out the flaws of their favourite Hollywood actor.

(image source: http://www.myspace.com/crosstout)

If there really is a God, he/she/it will not be a vessel for any person’s biases, any more than that the American President’s views does not necessarily reflect the overall values of every American. Even Batman’s Alfred has to tuck in for the night on his own and often disagrees with some of Bruce Wayne’s decisions. I am somewhat confounded that many believers call God their Master, when it is they who are pulling the strings and rubbing the lamp so that this God will fulfill their wishes and inflict punishment on those that they are angry with.

Even the biblical God has has been known to say, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” (Isaiah 55:8, NIV). If that is the case, then it would seem that many believers are simply putting forth a being of their own creation, tailored to fit their worldviews. They’ve made it that way so that they do not have to deal with the fact that the world is full of people with a variety of beliefs, ideals, and various cultures where people view their separate experiences as truth.

I have people who I can call really good friends, and even if I have a lot of things in common with them, they do not always agree with me, and they have separate lives and experiences that produce a truth that is subjective. They do not always take my side, they do not pander to my convenience, and they are honest enough to point out where I am wrong. They will not be my friends if they said yes to everything I said, and I will doubt their sincerity. In the same way, people who invoke God as if their relationship with him is without question, are only invoking something that is imagined, idealized and made up so that any other opposition can be conveniently disregarded. It would be like the Emperor hitting the child for pointing out that he doesn’t have any clothes, all because he is the Emperor and the child is weak. This God is a person’s reflection of himself, a self-compensation for his feelings of inadequacy and therefore a necessary means to force everyone else to adjust to his ideas of right and wrong.

(image source: http://hiscrivener.wordpress.com)

This invocation of God as a perpetual ally to the hardcore believer’s every cause is an issue of power, an expression of a bully’s sense of helplessness that he has to call on a bigger, brawnier gang member to beat up the small kid whose only crime is defending himself and his convictions. It is the reflection of inner fear, a fear that induces a person to show bravado and use intimidation to achieve a sense of control in a world that is out of his control, rather than taking up someone their own size, on their own, without asking a divine benefactor to confront his own life issues for him.

Posted in Metro Manila South Chapter, Personal, Philosophy, Religion2 Comments

September 30, 2012 (Sunday) Kuppa Cafe, Bonifacio Global City Meetup

Location: Kuppa Roastery and Cafe, Commerce Center, 4th Avenue corner 31st Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City (Google map)
Date: Sunday, September 30, 2012
Time: 3:00pm – 6:00pm

RSVP on Facebook

Discussion Topics
* Freedom of speech
* Blasphemy and Intolerance: Innocence of Muslims
* Cybercrime and e-libel
* Dalai Lama: Religion “is no longer adequate”

Commuting directions:
Take a bus or MRT to Ayala avenue MRT station, walk to the Fort bus terminal on the north bound side of EDSA. Take the Fort bus on the west route to the Net Cube bus stop and walk in the direction of the HSBC building to the Commerce Center building.
After the meetup we usually go for dinner and drinks somewhere nearby. 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.
* Please abide by the code of conduct.

Photo by Patrick Charles Rigonan

Posted in Meetup0 Comments

Memo to God

To:          God (in all your names and guises, throughout the history of humanity)

Cc:          Your prophets, dead or alive

From:   Your alleged creation

Date:     A mere blink of eternity’s eye

Re:         Violence committed because of you

——

I am writing this memo to request that You clear Your name once and for all; and, while You are at it, please include the name of Your prophets, dead or alive. Since you are omnipresent and omniscient, I’m sure that you already know that throughout the history of mankind, Your precious humanity has proclaimed you to be the reason why they have committed violence. You have been the eternal excuse for countless murders, for lives made miserable because these persons were deemed to be not following Your words, and for never-ending feelings of hatred. Your name, Your words, Your commands, Your existence have all been implicated with a lot of violent and intolerant behavior. You have been accused as the mastermind behind all this violence and intolerance.

To clarify some matters, I have prepared some questions here for You to answer. I hope You’ll find a spot in Your busy schedule to answer them:

Did You really tell these mortal creatures that violence and intolerance are needed in order to believe that You exist? To worship You? To thank You for Your wonderful creation and for Your blessings?

Is there really a need for gore in order to exalt Your glory? How many people should be killed in order to prove that You are indeed the one and the only Divine Master of the universe?

Do You really hate satire? Do You ever laugh at Yourself? Do you laugh when violence is committed in Your name?

As the most powerful and highest being ever in the Universe, do You feel bullied when mere mortals laugh at you? Are You happy when mortals are being bullied because of You?

Do You hate being criticized? If Yes, given that You created everything that is and will ever be in this universe, why did You create critical thinking? Do You really want those people who criticize You to be killed, imprisoned, or bullied? Don’t You want feedback?

As the Owner of the universe, do You really need our money? Do You really need big houses? What do You need a country for?

Aren’t you tired of seeing these mere mortals act as if they were You? Of speaking, allegedly, on behalf of You? Of using You as an excuse for their behavior? Can’t You speak for Yourself? Can You once and for all reclaim the dignity of the office of Your eternal magnificence?

Thank you and hope to hear from You soon!

 

Posted in Humor, Religion, Satire2 Comments

FF Davao Meetup – October 6

Poster Design by Clyde Mante

 

Have you ever received a forwarded email or message telling you about some chemical found in a popular softdrink that’s also used to preserve dead bodies? Or how the chicken you’re eating is not really a chicken but some mutated genetic freak?

How about your next-door neighbor who tells you about this bracelet or necklace that supposedly emanates protective energy? Or the latest scientific breakthrough, embedded in a small sticker or magnet that can generate healing energy for your body?

How do you know how much of this stuff is real and how much of it is just plain b*******?

Join us as we explore these issues in “What the Fact? Investigating Urban Legends and Pseudoscience” at the Filipino Freethinkers Davao meetup on October 6, 2012 at Cafe Demitasse, F. Torres St., Davao City (click for map), from 7:30PM to 9:30PM (or later — last time, we had a stimulating discussion that ended at around 12:00 MN).

Click here to RSVP on our events page on Facebook.

FF Davao Meetup 2012-08-25 / Photo by Anthony Montecillo

Posted in Announcements, Davao, Meetup0 Comments

Visit FF-UPLB’s Sottocopy Booth and Get Your Stuff Sottocopied!

After last last week’s success, the Filipino Freethinkers’ University of the Philippines-Los Banos chapter another awesome activity coming up!

This week, from September 18 (Tuesday) to 21 (Friday), they’re going to provide free Sottocopy services to students.

In addition to that, FF-UPLB members are going to roam around campus selling brownies and giving away free condoms!

The chapter aims to bring more attention to Sotto’s plagiarism and his dilatory attempts against the passing of the Reproductive Health Bill. Furthermore, they wish to dispel the stigma around possessing condoms and other contraceptives, and set aflame student interest in the RH Bill in general.

The chapter is looking for more sponsors, and interested parties may contact them through [email protected]

Also this week, FF-UPLB is going to have a meetup. We invite all of you to attend and discuss with us. As always, there is no required political ideology, religion, IQ level, age, or even university (i.e. by all means, you may freely attend even if you are not a UPLB student). Please see the event page at Facebook for more details.

Posted in Advocacy, FF Chapters, RH Bill, UP Los Baños0 Comments

Unraveling My Faith

Photo by Stephen Ainsley

It all started when I pulled one loose thread from the fabric of the belief that had been woven around me when I was growing up. This fabric had protected me, warmed me and gave me comfort when I was yet a child and had not yet formed my own convictions.

I guess I was around 14 or 15 at that time when I noticed a few loose ends. It was at a national inter-church summer camp in Baguio City. I tugged a bit at those ends. I had a long discussion with my best friend. We threw around questions like “Why would an all-knowing God create Lucifer in the first place when he knew he would rebel against him? How come God put the forbidden fruit in the garden when he already knew that man would fail the test and take a bite from it? What if you were born in a remote place and you never heard about Jesus? Would it be fair for God to throw you in hell because of that?”

We went back and forth with these questions, trying to find answers from the Bible, from our own experience, and from what we had heard from other church leaders. We discussed these issues until way past midnight and even brought them up to a pastor the next day.

Looking back, my goal at that time was not so much to seek the truth no matter what, but to find a position of defensible comfort within my belief system. And so when the pastor replied with — “You know, I look at it this way. We are like people standing behind an expert painter creating a masterpiece. While he is still working on the painting, we don’t understand it. We see that some parts are dark and some strokes look ugly. But when the master is done and the final work is revealed, we will marvel at how wonderful it is” — I accepted that reply even if it really didn’t answer the question. I was contented enough with it and accepted that my puny mind could never comprehend the infinite wisdom of God. I ignored those loose ends and left them there, assured that all will be revealed and make sense when I died and went to heaven.

Fast forward to a just a few years ago. I was in my mid-thirties, had gone through  tremendous swings in my spiritual journey, had married and had 3 kids, had experienced dealing with many different kinds of people, had a richer and wider view of reality than I had when I was a pimply teenager. I saw those loose threads. They were still there. They didn’t go away no matter how I tried to ignore them.

So I started to pull again. I started asking questions in an earlier blog I made. So now I had a wider audience — not just Christians and pastors but really different people with different beliefs. And I found out two things — one is that there were many people like me, on their own journey of unraveling the threads of their beliefs, and the other is that the Christian answers to the questions were more or less the same ones I had received as a teen — and they no longer satisfied me. To paraphrase from the Apostle Paul — the answers were milk when what I needed was meat. It was like feeding baby food to an adult.

Because I wasn’t satisfied, I continued pulling and it became a bit scarier because the fabric was beginning to tear and my skin was showing beneath it. I worried about how others would see me. I wondered about those who read my blog and what they thought about me: “Oh he’s backsliding” or “he’s being deceived by the devil” or “he should really stop this or God will stop blessing him.”

I think I stopped pulling for a while when I began to get numerous reactions, even calls from close relatives and friends who were “concerned” and “praying for me.” I didn’t want to rock the boat that much yet.

But in the end, my desire for truth outweighed everything else. Jesus rightly said, “the truth will set you free,” and I wanted so badly to be free. And so I decided to pursue the truth — even if that truth said that the Jesus I believed in was a lie. I started pulling harder at the strings and fabric unraveled faster. I might have lost a few relationships because of this but those that have remained no matter what, I cherish as true friends.

Now, only a few tatters remain from the tapestry of faith that once covered me, but I have never felt happier, have never felt more joy and at peace with myself. I no longer wonder whether what I do is God’s will for me or not. I am no longer tormented by guilt that I have not prayed enough or have not nurtured my relationship with God enough. The responsibility for my life is mine alone. I accept it and lay blame at no one’s feet when things go wrong. No more asking, “Why God?” No more clutching at false hope and prayer, but simply accepting what comes today and then moving forward to create a better tomorrow.

My only regret, perhaps, is not pulling those strings sooner and having tasted this freedom earlier in my life, because the unraveling of my belief has left me stark naked to all the wonder the universe has to offer.

The truth has finally set me free.

 

—–

This article also appears in zenbananas.com

Posted in Personal, Religion, Stories24 Comments

So… What Are You Waiting For? An Open Letter To Anti-RH Lawmakers

Dear Anti-RH Lawmakers (I heard there’s so many of you guys, so I can’t really name you all, but you know who you are.),

We get it, we really do. There is no point in debating issues with you because any attempts to respond to your points have been either ignored or outright rejected. You don’t want to find out how wrong you are, and your colleagues in the Senate are decent enough people to not take pleasure in making fools out of you. That’s kind of surprising since Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago is in your roster, but it is what it is.

So no, I’m not here to debate the points of the RH Bill with you. That achieves nothing at this point, since you clearly refuse to listen to reason, and your mind is made up. In fact, my stand on the RH Bill at this point is rather irrelevant to what I, as a taxpaying citizen, expect you to do, all things considered.

The bill has been met with so many delays that instead of addressing the pros and cons of the bill, people are now discussing how to stop filibustering on the issue.

For the pro-RH, filibustering means a rejection of the bill, by default. For the conscientious anti-RH, filibustering is a denial of the democratic process: the very numbers game that makes them think that because the Philippines is composed of 80 percent Catholics, then their values must be the Filipino’s values. If the RH Bill is to be rejected, it must be because the people who voted on it clearly did not want it, not because time ran out on the bill.

You will notice that at no point are the pro-RH trying to delay the proceedings, for obvious reasons. They want the bill to pass, and for them, dealing with Sotto’s woes on plagiarism is a very real opportunity cost: doing that, as Sotto himself has proven, will be yet another opportunity to stall progress with the bill. It has become a race against time.

Senator Enrile believes they have the numbers. Tito Sotto obviously wants the RH Bill “out of his hair.” And even if they clearly aren’t supposed to be dictating public policy since we are not a theocratic country, you don’t need a link to know that the CBCP believes that God is on their side, and He will not allow something as dastardly as the RH Bill to ruin the Philippines the way it has “ruined” Italy (Where the Vatican is located.), Spain (Who introduced Catholicism to us.), Israel (Where Christ was born.), and America (Because screw America, I guess? I don’t really know why they even have to be part of this.).

How lucky then, that the Philippines is the last standing bastion of morality! We’re currently the only country where divorce is illegal! Are we the new chosen people or something? Surely, our high rate of teenage pregnancy must be some weird aberration: our cause is pure, right?

At this point, we’ve established four things:

  1. The anti-RH camp believes their cause is just.
  2. The anti-RH camp wants to lay this matter to rest.
  3. The anti-RH camp is convinced that its arguments have been strong and irrefutable.
  4. The anti-RH camp is confident it has the numbers to once and for all reject this bill.

So… what the Hades are you waiting for?!? Why is the RH Bill on the backburner yet again? Why are you interpellating yourselves when you can’t trollbait the pro-RH into getting into long, protracted arguments with you? Or are we actually looking at the Rapture, come to take the rest of the Senate while you rambled on?


Pictured: A riveting debate between two men over what to do with a woman’s body.
Of course, they would be the ones to know best about this, right?

Even the CBCP is open to putting the RH Bill to a plebiscite. After all, former President GMA is on their side, and she knows a thing or two about putting things to a vote. If you truly don’t have time, why not leave it in the hands of the people, who clearly are the ones who will be affected by this bill the most?

You have everything going for you, as far as you’re concerned, dear anti-RH lawmakers. So what the Hades are you waiting for? It’s not like you had problems getting things done in a timely manner before. Just ask former Chief Justice Corona: he’d tell you.

Do not deny us the right to see this democratic process completed. Whether the RH Bill is accepted or junked, we aren’t paying you our hard-earned money to have you merely stall this process out. If it’s such a thorn in your side, then strike it down by putting it to a vote!

It has been way too long, and too many lives have already been sacrificed as you stall this law, hoping that the 2013 elections will make it all go away. Where is your confidence that your cause is just? Where is your belief that you are in the right? If you truly believe that you have the numbers, then you should get through the amendments with little incident, then proceed to voting on the bill upon third reading.

Surely, you’re not afraid that the numbers aren’t in your favor, right? You believe God is on your side. What more can you ask for? Are you questioning His divine power to validate your beliefs through a vote?

Then, and only then, can you truly prove that you are anti-RH, once you have taken this matter to a vote. Then, and only then, do you prove that you are not a public official who just doesn’t want to do their job, instead malingering over the RH Bill issue so as to look busy while not actually accomplishing anything.

TL;DR. Let democracy prevail: whether in Congress, the Senate, or a plebiscite, quit stalling and put the RH Bill to a vote. We, the people, whether we are pro, anti, or undecided on the RH Bill, deserve that much. We are not paying our taxes to see you waste our time again and again on this issue.

Sincerely yours, it’s true! It’s true!
Kel Fabie

Article originally posted in Kel Fabie’s own blog. Image by Kenneth Keng.

Posted in Politics, RH Bill0 Comments

Filipino LGBTQs Dare to Bare for Hubad: Mga Kuwento ng Kalayaan

September 15, 2012— Makati City— Lesbian Activism Project, Inc. (LeAP)*, in collaboration with the Filipino Freethinkers**, will stage a performance at the Manila Contemporary on September 15, 2012 as part of the line-up of activities for the Queer Manila exhibit.

Hubad is inspired by the 2007 production, The Coming Out Monologues (TCOM) of the University of California Riverside. Originally produced by the university’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) organization, TCOM has since been staged in several other universities in the US and Canada. For the first time, LeAP takes this concept and gives it a Filipino spin as a way of spurring discussions on coming out as LGBTQ.

Touching, heartbreaking, and at times funny, Hubad is a collection of narratives originally written by Filipino LGBTQ activists, students and professionals. Both personal and political, these stories of coming out of the closet inform us of how they negotiate, sometimes wrestle with, identities in order to gain recognition and acceptance from their families, friends and the self.

Hubad, the Filipino term for undressing, is about moments of daring to bare the self that is at once a means— and is in itself the end— to achieving true freedom,” says Ira Briones, chairperson of LeAP.

This will be the first of a series of performances that will be held all throughout the months of September and October. The succeeding events will be guerrilla-style in unidentified locations—the clues of which will be posted on facebook.com/LeAPPhilippines.

Manila Contemporary is located at Whitespace 2314, Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City. The performance starts at 5:00 pm. Entrance is free.

 

Contact:

Tao Aves

Project Head for HubadLesbian Activism Project, Inc.

0917-509-43-86/ [email protected]

 

About Queer Manila:

Queer Manila is an ongoing exhibit that attempts to create a visual discussion around gender and sexuality within local contexts and internationalised LGBT discourse. It explores the understandings, misunderstandings, conflicts, humours, loves, eroticisms, deviances, spectacles, and dilemmas within Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender identities. Queer Manila runs until September 15.

 

*Lesbian Activism Project, Inc. is a non-stock, non-profit organization of lesbian, bisexual and queer women that fight for the recognition of LGBT Human Rights.

**Filipino Freethinkers is the largest and most active organization for freethought in the Philippines that aims to promote reason, science, and secularism as a means of improving every Filipino’s quality of life.

Posted in Advocacy, Gender Rights, Press Releases0 Comments

The RH Bill and the Disintegrating Moral Fiber of the Philippines

Today on ANC’s Headstart Representative Lucy Torres-Gomez has stated that she is against the RH bill because she worries about the bill disintegrating the moral fiber of Philippine society. Perhaps she should ask herself, is this moral fiber worth protecting? Is this wonderful moral fiber doing more for our country’s reproductive health than an RH bill would?

According to this social moral fiber, Filipino teenagers should not be having sex. What the Philippines has instead is one of the highest incidences of teenage pregnancy in Asia. Clearly this moral fiber has not been doing a very good job in stopping teenage sex. Contrast this with the sex education that is part of the RH bill. It’s been found that giving teenagers sex education delays teenage sexual activity. Informed sexual behavior serves our youths better than a moral fiber that denies what is happening in reality. Should we put a moral fiber that has not been working up on a pedestal to the detriment of our youths?

If this moral fiber is better than the RH bill, then this moral fiber ought to be stopping abortions. Its an undeniable fact that abortions happen in the Philippines. According to the national estimate, the number of abortions each year is around 400,000 to 500,000. When contraception has been shown to reduce abortion, then the people who decide to stand behind moral fiber instead of passing the RH bill are effectively saying they do not care enough for the women who feel forced to undergo abortion to do anything to lower that number. They care more for the moral fiber that hasn’t been working than they do for actual women.

The moral fiber argument against the RH bill becomes even more morally bankrupt when you actually have to use your moral courage. Can you do the ethical thing even if it means going against those who claim to be the keepers of “moral fiber”?

Maternal deaths are on the rise. It speaks volumes about your moral fiber when you choose not to do anything about deaths so easily preventable with a comprehensive reproductive health program. It says even more about your actual moral courage when you can defend your decision to do nothing by citing “moral fiber”.

Lucy Torres-Gomez speaks of social moral fiber. What does it say of our society’s moral fiber when abortion is so looked down upon that some health care professionals will shun women who require post abortion care, will have no empathy for these women in need of medical attention? A society of higher moral fiber would be able to put aside their judgement and condemnation and see a woman in need of care.

Critics of the RH bill who say they are defending “moral fiber”, or “Filipino values” need to actually examine what it is they are defending. Morals, values, and ethics are not static things. As we find out more about the human experience we progress in the way we think about things. Do the values you defend reflect the best of what we understand? The best that we can do to make the lives of our fellow human beings better?

Posted in Politics, Religion, RH Bill, Society4 Comments

September 9 (Sunday) Metro Manila South Meetup

Location: Union Jack Tavern, Festival Mall
Date: September 9, Sunday
Time: 4 PM – 7 PM

RSVP on Facebook

Topics:
* Is it justified to use animals for research in order to help people?
* Should there be a cap on how much celebrities can earn?
* Are we becoming too dependent on computers?
* Should military service be mandatory in the Philippines?

* There is no need to order anything in the venue, although Union Jack Tavern is a rad place if you want to experience the relaxing ‘authentic British pub’ ambience at affordable prices.
* Please look inside for the FF signboard or that group of sexy, smart people having lively discussions that go with the sign.
* You can just sit in and listen, but sooner or later you might get the urge to speak your mind on the topic, so you’re encouraged to do so.
* There is usually a post-meetup get together for food and drinks.
* Please abide by the code of conduct.
See you there!

Posted in Meetup, Metro Manila South Chapter0 Comments

September 8 (Saturday) Filipino Freethinkers Katipunan Meetup

Location: Bo’s Coffee Katipunan
Date: Saturday, September 8, 2012
Time: 3:00pm onwards

RSVP on Facebook

Topics for discussion:
– RH Updates and Issues
– Social Entrepreneurship
– Topic Toss-up

After the meetup we usually go for dinner and drinks somewhere nearby. 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 through a post on the wall or comment so we can contact you.

Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0922 868 9882

* 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.
* Please abide by the code of conduct.

Posted in FF Katipunan, Meetup0 Comments

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