Archive | November, 2012

The Varsitarian Lemon Pity Party

The Varsitarian, the official student publication of the University of Santo Tomas, got a lot of flack a couple of months ago for an editorial, entitled “RH bill, Ateneo, and La Salle: Of lemons and cowards,” ranting at fellow Catholic universities for not being authentically Catholic because they employ “lemons and cowards.” This was in reference to these schools’ professors who came out in support of the Reproductive Health Bill, which the Catholic Church leadership vehemently opposes. The editorial was so vitriolic that the faculty adviser of the paper publicly apologized for it, calling it “unchristian.” UST itself denied that it supported the caustic editorial of The Varsitarian.

As The Varsitarian brags in a followup editorial, “Calling a spade a spade, a lemon a lemon,” their previous piece garnered almost 300,000 views, supposedly “shaming” the readership of national news media. They even take a potshot at the claims of the mainstream media having a “national” reach without objective statistics to support this assertion. This plea for evidence is quite incongruous given the Varsitarian’s general attitude toward scientific and logical reasoning, which will be clear shortly.

The Varsitarian fails to account for the proportion of those 300,000 views that were simply from people sharing it with others because they found it hilarious and intellectually bankrupt. If the paper did account for it, they probably wouldn’t go about boasting of thousands of chortling readers. It also, more critically, fails to mention their readership outside lemon, part 1 and whether this was even comparable to the consistent audience of national media. Given that, it is not likely that any of the media outlets that “assaulted a hapless campus paper and accused it of bad journalism” are spending any sleepless nights from a Varsitarian nightmare.

The Varsitarian doubles down in lemon, part 2. Instead of taking criticism in stride, it lashes out at the media that reported on the scathing commentaries against it. In typical anti-RH (and anti-science) behavior, it insinuates (without a shred of evidence) a vast conspiracy, with the media supposedly carrying out “a vicious campaign against the Catholic Church.” (If this were true, it would have come up in our semimonthly meetings to plot the downfall of the Catholic Church.)

The persecution complex of The Varsitarian is at its height as it compares itself with two Christian martyrs, Lorenzo Ruiz and Saint Stephen. It even emphasizes that Stephen was stoned to death. The paper apparently sees what it does as a service to truth “with the purity of searing idealism.” In full self-aggrandizement, The Varsitarian claims that it would “die a thousand deaths” for its faith, even though, unlike those actually mired in religious violence, it has never faced the threat of dying even once. By calling back the imagery of men who were murdered, The Varsitarian likens its role as an Internet punchline to out and out martyrdom. It would behoove the Varsitarian to know that some people actually die, as in cease to have a functioning brain, because of the denial of reproductive health care. But, let’s not have facts get in the way of delusions of grandeur.

To keep its “idealism” in check and prevent it from being “blind,” The Varsitarian says that it seeks guidance from the Catholic Church. Then, what keeps their obedience to the Church from being blind and sycophantic? I suppose they wouldn’t consider that as a bad thing.

When one is trapped in an echo chamber as large and labyrinthian as Catholic theology, it’s easy to talk out of one’s ass. “The Varsitarian upholds the natural law even without recourse to Catholic teachings because the natural law covers everyone, including non-Christians,” says the paper. Of course, what the Varsitarian means by “natural law” is the specific ethical system ingrained in the Catholic faith. To support their claim that natural law applies to and must be believed by everyone, the paper even quotes the system’s major architect and the namesake of the school, Thomas Aquinas. So, the Varsitarian claims to defend a Catholic teaching (anti-contraception) by upholding Catholic teaching (natural law) “without recourse to Catholic teachings.”

In the end, The Varsitarian does admit that its words were indeed unchristian. And yet, it remains sanctimonious enough to call out AdMU and DLSU professors for not being true Catholics. The paper claims that the moral imperative for denunciation was so strong that it justified lemon, part 1, thereby flouting Christian virtue with the bravery of an anonymous editorial. So strong was the necessity that The Varsitarian closes lemon, part 2 with a quotation from Mark, that those who “scandalize” believers (such as the “faculty members and administrators” of their target schools) are better off to have a millstone tied to their necks and thrown into the sea to drown.

Perhaps The Varsitarian is right, after all. Maybe only people who are as hateful and uncharitable as its editorial team should have the right to call themselves Catholic.

Posted in Religion, Society4 Comments

Did the 1987 Constitution Define Conception as Fertilization?

One of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, Bernardo M. Villegas, who happens to be an Opus Dei member and a vocal opponent of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, made a claim that conception is defined as fertilization.

In an article published in The Manila Bulletin in December 2010, Villegas confidently wrote:

In the Philippine Constitution of 1987, conception is defined as fertilization, the moment the egg is fertilized by the sperm. This was the majority decision (32 to 8) of the members of the Constitutional Commission of 1986 convoked by the late President Corazon Aquino…No amount of further debate will change that. Only a charter change can modify that conclusion… In the meantime, any contraceptive device (e.g. the “morning after” pill, the IUD, etc.) that can be medically demonstrated to be abortifacient, i.e. killing the fertilized ovum before implantation, will always be declared unconstitutional, whether or not the RH bill is passed.

Which makes one wonder, why then, during the period of amendments for the RH bill, particularly at the plenary session last November 19, did Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile propose to define conception as “the successful penetration of an ovum by a spermatozoa in the fallopian tube, otherwise known as fertilization, when a new life begins, to form in the mother’s womb.”

In the Records of the Constitutional Commission, there was a discussion between Bernardo Villegas and Blas Ople:

MR. OPLE: We say, “Protect the life of the unborn from the moment of conception.” Is there in jurisprudence anything now that will help us visualize the precise moment, the approximate moment when conception begins and, therefore, the life of this new human personality entitled to all the protection of the laws in the Constitution begins? Is there any standard legislature or jurisprudence that will support an interpretation of the moment of conception?

MR. VILLEGAS: Jurisprudence? None… We believe that the abortion debate from a scientific standpoint must proceed on the assumption that…human life begins at fertilization of the ovum.

MR. OPLE: But we would leave to Congress the power, the mandate to determine.

MR. VILLEGAS: Exactly, on the basis of facts and figures they would obtain from experts.

MR. OPLE: Yes, to legislate a kind of standard so that everyone will know what moment of conception will mean in terms of legal rights and obligations

So as far as the Commission was concerned, conception was not defined in the 1987 Constitution and the power and mandate to determine was left to congress. And since Enrile’s proposed definition lost 9 to 11, there is still no legal definition of conception up to now.

The proposed amendment of Enrile that did get approved, however, was to define abortifacients as “any drug or device that induces abortion or the destruction of a fetus inside the mother’s womb.” Based on this definition, drugs or devices that prevent the implantation of the fertilized ovum are not considered abortifacients.

Now what does this all mean for the RH bill? Actually, not much. Contrary to the opponents’ claims that it will promote abortion, the RH bill is not defined by the pill or the IUD or any contraceptive drug or device that may or may not prevent implantation. The RH bill is about providing informed choice and free access to safe, effective, and legal means of family planning, and this even includes natural methods. If certain contraceptives are declared abortifacient by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an RH law will not provide for their distribution.

And to show their good faith, the authors at the lower house made an amendment to make sure that the services, methods, devices, and supplies provided by the State “do not prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum.” So even as the term conception is yet to be legally defined, the authors already took the initiative of crafting the bill to fit the conservative definition, which means fertilization, in case it gets adopted.

So the next time you hear the anti-RH folks say “abortifacient” and “unconstitutional,” you know that they are lying or parroting a lie out of ignorance. Either way, you know that their objection is absurd and that their argument was not forged with intellectual honesty and an openness to dialogue.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Posted in Advocacy, RH Bill2 Comments

November 25, 2012 (Sunday) Amici Greenhills Meetup

Location: Amici Restaurant, Connecticut St, Greenhills (Google map)
Date: Sunday, November 25, 2012
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

RSVP on Facebook

Talk by Danee Gm
– How Genes Affect Human Behavior

Discussion Topics
– Gaza
– Sin Tax
– RH Bill Amendments
– Pride March

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.

* 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.

Posted in Meetup0 Comments

Plagiarism and the RH Proxy War

After months of pompously brushing aside accusations of plagiarism, Senator Tito Sotto has finally been forced to take matters seriously. Of course, this was only after the daughter of his highest profile victim stepped forward to join the chorus of condemnation.

What Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Senator Robert Kennedy, found most appalling and “twisted” in Sotto’s sin, is that not only did he plagiarize one of the most famous speeches in the English language, he wielded the late statesman’s words to deny women reproductive rights.

Unsurprisingly, Sotto’s apology to the Kennedy family was quite visibly insincere. Instead of acknowledging any wrongdoing on his part, Sotto said he was sorry if the Kennedys were offended. This is a textbook non-apology and the kind of victim-blaming one would expect from an opponent of reproductive rights. Sotto also predictably lashed out at his critics—the academics and writers who filed an ethics complaint against him in the Senate. (Disclosure: I, personally and along with Filipino Freethinkers, Inc., am one of the signatories of the complaint.)

 

Sotto was quick to label the complainants as RH advocates and, indeed, most of us are advocates for reproductive rights. This should be expected, since Sotto’s series of plagiarized speeches were made against the RH Bill. It takes little imagination to see that the people most closely watching his arguments would be RH advocates. Listening to the other side is only the intellectually honest thing to do in a debate, something Senator Sotto might not be aware of.

Conservative Catholic groups were also quick to make the same connection to RH as Sotto did and rush to his aid. One of the first to formally defend Sotto against the complaint is Romulo Macalintal, who claims that the RH Bill has nothing to do with his defense of the Senator. You may remember him from the Manila Cathedral incident when his group, Pro-Life Philippines, accosted reproductive rights advocates and tried to exorcise non-existent demons from them. Macalintal is also one of the lawyers trying to pass off BUHAY Party-List as a marginalized group in order to be registered candidates for the 2013 elections.

Not to be outdone, no less than the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, the biggest opponents of reproductive rights in the Philippines, had several of its leaders come out to defend Sotto (and his anti-RH ally Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile). CBCP’s Father Melvin Castro said he admired Sotto’s “principles.” Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros dismissed the charges against Sotto as “trial by publicity.” Riding on their coattails is Filipinos for Life, which released a statement saying that they held Sotto “in the highest regard” and that the group was at his “disposal.”

While it makes sense that the complainants are mostly RH advocates (who were the first to notice the plagiarized passages), it does not follow that defenders of Sotto ought to be RH opponents. The content of our complaint of plagiarism has absolutely nothing to do with the merits of the RH bill. The evidence of plagiarism is incontrovertible, and to deny it is to reveal either unbelievable ignorance or unparalleled duplicity. That RH opponents almost exclusively rallied to defend an obvious and inexcusable transgression betrays their true intention of making Sotto’s plagiarism case a proxy war on the RH bill. In doing so, they are not defending a principle, rather, they are defending their anti-contraceptive club: a club that ostensibly uses any means necessary to achieve their ends, even if it is against their so-called principles. It is this same exact tribalist mentality that is used to justify the protection of rapists in the Catholic Church.

The narrative that the conservative Catholic establishment has always thrust upon the RH discussion is on morality—specifically, the medieval Catholic brand of ethics that they use to divine God’s apparent hate for contraception. It is quite curious, then, that they would casually ignore a clear ethical breach in order to pursue an anti-contraceptive agenda. It is not even that they believe that Sotto is innocent. Macalintal readily admits that Sotto used Robert Kennedy’s speech, shamelessly asserting that the late New York Senator would have been “proud” that Sotto used his words to shut down a bill that would provide women access to modern family planning.

This is moral expediency par excellence, which is particularly odd coming from these Catholic dogmatists. The Catholic ethical system specifically denies that morality can be seen in shades of gray. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, human acts are “either good or evil.” There is no in between. Their system has no room for the moral inconsistency practiced by those defending Sotto. Whether or not the consequences of their actions would bring about a Catholic ideal (which would be a ‘good’ consequence), if it is done with the ‘evil’ intention of lying, then it is still ‘evil.’ As the chief philosopher of the Church said, “An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention.” By abandoning consistency in their absolutism and supporting the dishonesty of a public servant, these conservative Catholics have shown that not only is their ethical system out of step with the real world, even they don’t believe in it.

Image Credit: GMA 24 Oras

Posted in Religion, RH Bill4 Comments

November 11, 2012 (Sunday) Holy Trinity Church Meetup

Location: Holy Trinity Church, McKinley Road (Google map)
Date: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

RSVP on Facebook

Talk by Pecier Decierdo
– Stalking the Stars: An Invitation to Stargazing

Discussion Topics
Plastic Surgery: Lying about your looks
Should dolphins get equal rights as humans?
– Decision 2012: What would an Obama win mean for the Philippines?

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.

* 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.

Posted in Meetup0 Comments

FF Davao Meetup – 11/17/2012

Cafe Demitasse (Location Map)
Saturday, November 17, 2012
7:30pm – 9:30pm

RSVP on our Facebook page

Discussion topics

  • In Science We Trust
  • Evolution is a Fact

The past two meetups have been very engaging so far that we’ve extended until almost midnight. Then we usually head somewhere else for more drinks and informal discussions.

Got questions about the meetup? You may ask them at our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/davaofreethinkers/

  • Newbies are welcome.
  • Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people wearing FF-Davao shirts).
  • 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.
Poster design by Clyde Mante

 

Posted in Meetup1 Comment


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