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The Government That Prays Together Steals Together

Senate Prayer

How does one know that a politician accused of plunder is a devout Catholic? Don’t worry — they’ll tell you. One even put a Bible quote on a shirt — Bong Revilla’s had the following on his the day he surrendered:

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

This kind of religious gesture is usually shorthand for, “I’m not corrupt, I’m Catholic, for Christ’s sake!”

But a recent study concluded that if you’re a Catholic politician in a predominantly Catholic country, you’re probably corrupt. I had read several studies that confirm the correlation between religiosity and other signs of societal dysfunction.

But this most recent one, titled “A Cross-National Investigation into the Effects of Religiosity on the Pervasiveness of Corruption,” went a bit further. It argues that religion, instead of just being correlated with corruption, actually promotes it.

Secularism and Societal Health

A few weeks before Revilla’s surrender, Alex Gonzaga, a celebrity contestant of reality show Pinoy Big Brother, preached about the virtue of theism and the vice of atheism. She said that while believers solve their problems with God, nonbelievers “deteriorate,” trying to solve their sins with yet other sins.

But such statements can only come from someone who doesn’t know about Scandinavia and other secular societies. Study after study has shown that when it comes to countries, a strongly religious population is rarely a good thing. The more religious the population, the higher the incidence of, among others, poverty, crime, corruption, inequality, infant mortality, inability to access education and a decent standard of living — the list goes on. The least religious countries are better at most, if not all, of these measures.

However, correlation does not mean causation. Just because strong religiosity usually coexists with high crime rates does not mean one causes the other. When it comes to causation, I share the conclusion of the sociologists at the World Values Survey. They argue that what causes both high religiosity and low societal health is existential insecurity. When you live in a society where you can’t count on your government for survival, you’re more likely to pray to God for help or to get the help yourself — regardless of the legality of the means.

But this doesn’t quite explain why politicians — particularly those who are rich enough to own private jets — would plunder millions, especially while professing belief in a God that sees and judges everything they do.

Hamid Yeganeh & Daniel Sauers of Winona State University, USA, provide an explanation.

Corruption By Catholic Privilege

Even after controlling for the effects of socioeconomic development — making sure that how developed a country was didn’t significantly influence the outcome — they concluded the following:

“Considering the variety of corruption measures, the reliability of data, and the large number of included countries, we have to conclude that religiosity not only does not impede corruption but tends to promote it… The fact that religious denominations did not have considerable effects on the level of corruption suggests that religiousness inherently increases the occurrence of corrupt business behavior.”

But isn’t religion supposed to make people more moral and less corrupt? Yeganeh and Sauers argue that “while religiosity provides guidance on morality, some of its characteristics practically promote corrupt business behavior.”

The first of these characteristics is the creation of “a hierarchical socio-cultural structure promoting the elites’ discretionary power that ultimately endorses corruption.”

Consider clerical child abuse. The abuse of children and adolescents had been happening for centuries before it was brought to public awareness. Then it was discovered that systematic cover-ups and cleric shuffling made it difficult for the proper authorities to get involved.

I emphasize “proper” because the Catholic Church claimed that abuse cases were handled by their internal courts. They thought that whether the abuses should be handled by external authorities were up to their discretion. Because they could ensure the victims’ silence with threats of excommunication, they alone could decide whether to report the crime to the police. And the decisions usually favored the priests over their victims.

Now consider the psalm on Revilla’s shirt: “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” This sentiment was shared by Vatican and its bishops when it decided that their authority alone was enough. What can man (the law) do to one with the Lord on his side (Catholic official)?

Thus bishops and politicians see themselves as privileged. But they wouldn’t have any power if the population didn’t actually share this perspective. Unfortunately, this is the case. The more religious a country, the more faith citizens have in both priests and politicians. These privileged people deserve more special treatment, more respect, and more trust.

On the other hand, secular societies are more skeptical of authority. They realize that there’s nothing special about priests, politicians, or any other person of authority. The more power they have, the more scrutiny and skepticism they are subjected to. Because the idea of faith is more foreign to secular societies, reason and evidence hold more currency. In the researchers words, “rationality, without too much emphasis on morality, wordlessly and effectively hinders corruption and supports ethical behavior.”

Religion: Sedation, not Solution

Another characteristic of religion that promotes corruption is the doctrine of forgiveness. In the researchers’ words, “the function of religion with regard to corruption is to provide sedation rather than a solution.”

If the allegations of plunder are true, then condemnation should be the least the people could do to ensure that justice is served. Yet CBCP President Villegas found it necessary to ask Filipinos not to condemn the alleged pork scammers.

You may think that there’s no way the public could be that stupid. Surely Filipinos would never forgive, never forget. But what kind of country would make Revilla consider running for president right after his arrest? What kind of country would elect a president impeached for corruption as Mayor of Manila? What kind of country would have so many of its people forget the atrocities of Marcos and elect his family into power?

A country that can forgive a corrupt politician seventy times seven.

The Government that Prays Together

To this day, the supposedly secular Philippine Senate starts every session with a prayer. Most, if not all, of them are implicated in either the PDAF or DAP scandal. A lot of Filipinos ask, “How can a government that is so religious be so corrupt?” If you’ve read up to this point, I hope you’ll agree that the correct question is, “How could it not?”

___

Image source: kickerdaily.com
Author’s note: This article was previously titled, “The Government That Prays Together Plunders Together.” “Preys” was also suggested, but “steals” sounds better (and sounds closer to “stays”).

Posted in Politics, Religion, Secularism, Society8 Comments

Anti-RH Church Leaders Blame Calamities on RH

Tacloban_Typhoon_Haiyan_2013-11-13Why would God let calamity hit a predominantly Catholic country? “God is not the cause of the suffering,” answers Father Bacaltos, a Tacloban parish priest. “God cannot prevent this. This is the work of nature.”

Many Catholics would agree that nature, not God, is to blame for this tragedy. But for some leaders of the Catholic Church, the Reproductive Health (RH) law is to blame. Which leaders? Well, what a coincidence: the ones who are most vocal against RH.

Here’s Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, who campaigned against “Team Patay” through tarps, reminding us that rather than Nature’s random acts, calamities like Yolanda (Typhoon Haiyan) are God’s reminders. He adds that when we continue to oppose God through the RH Law, we put our lives in danger:

 What happens to us — earthquakes, floods, storms — are reminders.We are reminded to never forget life… Even our life is in the hands of God so we better make it meaningful… Let us not forget him. We remove Him, for example, in this [RH] law that goes against His will. So when we oppose God, we are in danger.” [some parts translated]

And here’s Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, an anti-RH voice in mainstream media since 2010, explaining why Typhoon Pablo was no coincidence:

I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or it’s because the Lord is trying to tell us that if you talk about that [the then RH bill] seriously it’s like there’s a message saying that many difficulties happen to us… especially since we [the Catholic Church] don’t want the bill deliberated hurriedly and secretly so that it is passed.” [translated]

Finally, here’s Father Melvin Castro, who frequently heads anti-RH contingents during demonstrations and vigils, blaming the RH Bill for the heavy rains of “Habagat:”

Although we would not give other meaning to it, nonetheless God speaks through his creation as well. Nature tells us to respect the natural course of things.

If I researched further back in time, I’d probably find even more Church leaders who blamed calamities on God (or the people who disobey God, depending on how you look at it). And something tells me it’s only a matter of time before some distasteful CBCP leader does it again.

But there are priests, like Father Bacaltos, who are more tactful, more humble, and it’s Catholic leaders like these that I continue to respect. As Susan B. Anthony, a leader of the women’s suffrage movement, said:

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do to their fellows, because it always coincides with their own desires.

***

image source: Trocaire

Posted in Religion, RH Bill8 Comments

No, CNN Did Not Praise Filipinos

11-9-2013 2-39-46 PM

The above image of a CNN comment has gone viral. At this writing, it has been liked by 12,555 users, shared by 3,768. And that’s just the version shared by Gloc-9. There are surely other versions going around, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that by the end of the day, the post will have been viewed by millions.

I’m sure that many will be uplifted by such an image, and when tragedies like Haiyan happen, people will use anything as a source of inspiration. But that can be a problem. Especially when the source is not completely true.

Most of the people who will see the inspirational image will take it out of context. Because in most cases, it is presented without any. The average social media user will see it and think, “CNN, one of the most prestigious news organizations in the world, thinks Filipinos are special. Cool.”

But CNN didn’t praise Filipinos in this way. We have a commenter named “dudesk001” to thank for that:

11-9-2013 2-38-42 PM

Suddenly the statement becomes a lot less noteworthy. If the comment from the CNN article were shared this way, the image would probably be less popular — especially without the CNN logo prominently displayed.

This misattribution may be harmless, but it is still wrong in principle. Imagine if a racist comment in the same thread were shared in the same way, making it seem that CNN was critical of Filipinos. The post would also go viral, but in this instance, more would point out this important detail: CNN said no such thing; it was just some random commenter.

I also find it interesting how the comment was revised before it was shared on social media. The original comment went, “Filipinos will just shake off the dirt from their clothes and thongs and go about their business.” In the sanitized version, there were no thongs.

Another detail that deserves more attention is how the comment says that being hit by a supertyphoon is somehow a privilege. Given the mounting reports of damages and casualties, few would agree, and many would even think that such an idea was perverted.

Some users have criticized this detail as they commented on the image or shared it themselves, but I’m sure their sentiments won’t get as many likes or shares. In a time when many need heroes and hope, the one who pokes holes in positive things could be seen as the villain.

***

11-9-2013 3-49-20 PMIt’s images like this that deserve more likes and shares.

Posted in Personal13 Comments

Bishop Conflates Censorship with Secularism, Settles Nothing

ConflateIn an article published in CBCP for Life, Bishop Broderick Pabillo said that the “church hierarchy is entitled to speak and express its opinion on public policies that could affect the welfare of the majority.”

I don’t see anything wrong with this statement. Nor should anyone. What I don’t like is how the article says that this obvious sentiment — that the clergy can criticize the government — somehow “settles the debates pertaining to the constitutional provision on the separation of the church and state.”

What the bishop has done is conflate disallowing criticism of the government with enforcing secularism. Throughout the article, both Pabillo and the writer quoting the bishop make it seem as if secularism asks the Church to keep silent on political matters:

“The separation of the church and state does not imply that members of the clergy are not allowed to criticize the mishaps of politicians in governing the public. We are allowed to criticize them for we are citizens of this nation, too. As Filipinos, it is just right and fitting for us to point out what is wrong in our government… If we would remain silent, we are not doing our rightful duty as citizens of this nation.”

Again, no one is asking the clergy to end their criticism because it is proscribed by secularism. This is not what the public debate on secularism is about.

What secularism advocates ask for is not Church silence but government neutrality. A Church leader, like any other Filipino citizen, is free to say whatever he wants about politicians or policies, however religious or theocratic it sounds.

But if secularism is to be respected, public officials must not do the same. Their words and actions must be secularly motivated — motivations do not privilege one religion above others — or at least appear to be.

What this means is that a public official is not prevented from being motivated by religious convictions whenever they fulfill public duties. But they owe the public — which may or may not share their private convictions — secular justifications for their political actions. “Because my bishop/Bible says so” will no longer do.

This is why many conservative politicians must now resort to secular arguments — based on non-religious reasoning and supposedly scientific evidence — to further their religious agenda.

Although the motivations of these arguments are primarily religious — which is often evident in how little reason and science are actually involved — they can at least be debated legislatively, countered with other secular arguments, and tethered to consequences in the real world that all citizens can appreciate, regardless of religious affiliation.

That politicians make an honest effort to behave politically as though they had no religious bias: This is really all that secularism requires. Unfortunately, many politicians still act like sectarian Church preachers intstead of secular public servants.

This patent sectarianism is really what secularists want to correct. By making it seem like secularists are instead asking to silence the Church, Bishop Pabillo and the article writer cast not only secularists but secularism itself in a bad light.

Pabillo (and the article writer) hasn’t settled any debate on secularism. But he has started a small one in my mind: Either Pabillo doesn’t understand secularism, or he doesn’t want others to.

Posted in Politics, Religion, RH Bill, Secularism1 Comment

Love is Thicker Than Water (But Not True Semen)

Andy_Gibbq_(2)Former CBCP President Oscar Cruz has said that LGBT weddings are OK, but there’s a catch: Lesbians can only marry gays, gays can only marry lesbians, and the rest can only marry someone from the LGBT community if the other party has a different set of sexual organs:

May a lesbian marry a gay man? My answer is ‘yes’ because in that instance the capacity to consummate the union is there. The anatomy is there. The possibility of conception is there.

Aside from having the right pair of genitals, Cruz mentioned two other requirements for couples: capacity to consummate the union, and the possibility of conception. Many commented with the same questions: What about love? Is marriage just about sex? What about straight couples who cannot have children?

This led a fellow freethinker to write a satirical article about Catholic marriage, reporting that the Church will now integrate a sperm count in the wedding ceremony. I hope that few would miss the fact that this is satire. But no matter how satirical, I don’t think it comes close to how absurd the official Church position is. I’ll get to this shortly, but first, a reminder: The following is not satire.

Correcting Cruz

First of all, I’m surprised that Cruz got an important detail wrong, considering he is the judicial vicar of the CBCP National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal. Possibility of conception is not a requirement for marriage. Or stated another way, sterility is not a marital impediment:

Can. 1084: §3. Sterility neither prohibits nor nullifies marriage, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 1098. (The marriage contract can be invalidated if one of the parties is dishonest about their sterility.)

Although Cruz was wrong about sterility, he was right about impotence. Couples who want to get married must have the capacity to “consummate the union”:

Can. 1084 §1. Antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse, whether on the part of the man or the woman, whether absolute or relative, nullifies marriage by its very nature.

So sterility is OK, but impotence is not. But this was not always the case.

Cum Frequenter and True Semen

In 1587, Pope Sixtus issued a papal document known as the Cum frequenter. (Again, this is not satire.) In the document, Pope Sixtus said that because eunuchs cannot have intercourse, they shouldn’t be allowed to marry. This was interpreted as saying that for men to have proper marital intercourse, they must be able to produce “true semen.” True semen, as it was first understood, meant that it contained a crucial element that could only come from the testicles: sperm. In other words, even sterility was an impediment to marriage.

Scientists soon discovered that the male ejaculate contained not only sperm but other stuff as well. According to Dorland’s Medical Dictionary, semen is “composed of spermatozoa in a nutrient plasma, secretions from the prostate, seminal vesicles and various other glands, epithelial cells and minor constituents.” So it could be argued that sperm, although often found in semen, was not what made semen “true.”

The uncertainty on what constitutes true semen led the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to allow marriage involving men who had legally imposed vasectomies. It was only in 1977 when the CDF declared with certainty that canonical potency “does not necessarily require anything in the ejaculate that has been produced in the testicles.” True semen need not have sperm.

What’s Love Got To Do With It

But if sperm is no longer crucial, what is? Three things: (1) an erect penis (2) penetrating a vagina and (3) secreting true semen. The reason for this, however convoluted, is easy enough to explain. When a married couple successfully procreates in the Church-approved way, all 3 things are present. Therefore, all 3 things are essential in every sexual act — even though it may not necessarily lead to procreation.

So even though sterile couples cannot have children when they have sex, the fact that they’re having sex in the same Church-approved way that fertile couples do makes their intercourse valid.

Unfortunately, the first requirement — an erect penis — rules out the Church-approved way for impotent men. And the fact that there has to be one penis and one vagina rules out the Church-approved way for same-sex couples.

It’s also worth noting that even fertile couples who do not ever plan to have children are not allowed to marry. This, together with the other rules I’ve discussed reveal the Church’s true understanding of marriage: nothing more than a license to have sex. It doesn’t matter to the Church how much two people care for one another. Love may be thicker than water, but not true semen.

Posted in Politics, Religion2 Comments

Marriage Equality and the Unequal Society

Marriage Equality vs Unequal SocietyBrace yourselves. Marriage Equality is coming. It’s been happening all over the world recently, and it’s only a matter of time that it happens here.

But as with many developments in science and social justice, the conservative Catholic Church and its Pro Life cohorts will do everything to stop it. They’ll be particularly more antsy with the recent loss in the RH battle and a potential loss on divorce also looming.

They’ll explain how marriage equality — we don’t call it same-sex marriage anymore* — is an attack on the traditional marriage, the sanctity of the family, Filipino culture, and human existence itself. They’ll bring out their usual non-sequiturs and one-sided statistics.

And although this especially applies to their flock, the Church will fight so that it applies to everyone else. They have every right to do so, but it shouldn’t matter in a secular democracy. Yet just like “equality,” “secular” and “democracy” are words the Catholic Church has always been allergic to.

They made this very clear a century ago when France first introduced secularism. In response to the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and State, Pope Pius X promulgated Vehementer Nos, an encyclical that called secularism “a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error.”

Although it was particularly aimed at secularism, it illuminated the Church’s stance on other issues, showing just why equality, secularism, and democracy are foreign ideas to this foreign institution:

The Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of per sons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful.

So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.

The encyclical goes on to explain why secularism has been, is, and always will be denounced by the Roman Catholic Church.** For now, understand that in the same way that the Church fought against secularism until it became the obvious choice to almost everyone, they will do the same against marriage equality. They’ll rehash the same tired arguments they’ve been using to block the measure here and all over the world.

But ultimately, behind the flawed arguments and supposed “science,” what it all boils down to is this: the Church does not think marriage equality is a good idea, so everyone else will just have to obey them. Because in their unequal society, our one duty is to allow ourselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.

_______

* What LGBT couples are asking for is not a special kind of marriage that merits its own moniker (same-sex marriage). All they’re saying is that the right to marry should apply equally to everyone.

** Fans of Vatican II will undoubtedly bring up Dignitatis Humanae, which supposedly corrects the Church’s stand on religious freedom. But one of the last things Pope Benedict XVI did was explain how this wasn’t really the case. But that’s a story for another article.

Posted in Gender Rights, Politics, Religion, Secularism1 Comment

It’s Not the Size That Matters: How the Team Patay Tarps Circumvent Comelec Regulations

Two weeks ago, on March 19, the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on the Team Patay tarpaulins. Dean Ralph Sarmiento of La Salle Bacolod, counsel for Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra, defended the bishop by invoking his rights to religious freedom and free speech, especially as a private citizen who does not belong to a political party.

In response, Chief Justice Sereno said that election laws apply to all, even to a diocese. Sereno said: “In the Bible, it is said that you have to render unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s. If there is government regulation on taxes, even if God owns the whole world, you have to pay taxes.” She added that all materials “that tend to influence the electorate” should be regulated.

Justice Antonio Carpio shared Sereno’s opinion. He said that the penalties for violating campaign restrictions also apply to private individuals.

Section 95

These statements are promising. Yet I’m disappointed that they didn’t mention section 95 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines. Also called Batas Pambansa Bilang 881, the Omnibus Election Code is the oldest law reference used by the Commission on Elections (Comelec); it’s been enforced since 1985. Which is why I’m surprised that both the Comelec and the Supreme Court missed such a crucial part of it, at least as it relates to the Team Patay tarps.

The crucial section of the Omnibus Election Code can be found in “Article XI. Electoral Contributions and Expenditures.” According to Section 95, “no contribution for purposes of partisan political activity shall be made directly or indirectly by… natural and juridical persons who have been granted… incentives, exemptions, allocations or similar privileges or concessions by the government.”

According to section 94, contributions include, “anything of value… made for the purpose of influencing the results of the elections… [including] the use of facilities voluntarily donated by other persons.”

Because the diocese of Bacolod is a religious organization, it receives exemptions on paying property taxes. Because they were granted this incentive by the government, they are forbidden from making contributions for political purposes. The Team Patay tarp, perhaps even the façade on which it is posted, clearly fall under the contributions defined in section 94.

Section 95 concludes by saying that it’s “unlawful for any person to solicit or receive any contribution from any of the persons or entities enumerated herein.” Which means that if the diocese is found guilty, the politicians listed under Team Buhay can be held liable as well.

Circumventing Comelec

During the hearing, Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro agreed with Sarmiento that private individuals must not be punished for expressing their political views. She said that the government must show how private citizens could circumvent election regulations, particularly the limits on campaign spending.

In the case of the diocese of Bacolod, it’s quite easy to think of a hypothetical example. Consider Politician X. He has already reached his limit for campaign spending. But he still has money to spend. He decides to make a big donation to his local Church. He tells the local Bishop that he hopes the donation will help the church, and that he prays to God that he can win in the next election.

The local Bishop uses some of the money to create billboards on several parish churches, expressing how pro-life Politician X is. Of course, no one can prove that the politician’s donation went to paying for the billboards; churches, unlike other charitable organizations, aren’t required to report where donations go to. Politician X has thus circumvented election regulations.

The Team Buhay tarpaulins currently include senatorial candidates Mitos Magsaysay, Cynthia Villar, Gringo Honasan, Koko Pimentel, Antonio Trillanes, and JV Estrada. We don’t know how much these politicians have donated to the diocese of Bacolod – or to any church for that matter. We also don’t know whether these donations played a part in their inclusion in Team Buhay, or where the money used for the tarps actually came from. But the possibility that some campaign restrictions are being circumvented is there. This is one of the potential violations that can be prevented if Comelec enforced section 95 – provided the Supreme Court lets them.

But first, both institutions have to forget the poster size restriction issue. Because as far as section 95 of the Omnibus Election Code is concerned, the diocese of Bacolod shouldn’t be posting campaign materials in the first place. At least in this case, it’s not the size that matters.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Secularism0 Comments

The Progressive Church That Will Never Come

Imagine this hypothetical situation:

The progressive Catholics have split from the Vatican to form their own church. They’ve called it the New Catholic Church.

A handful of progressive bishops have taken the place of the Pope as its leaders, and none of them call themselves infallible. Completing the clergy are progressive priests and theologians, mostly Jesuits, who feel exhilarated by the freedom to openly air their opinions without fear of being censured, excommunicated, or fired.

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the New Catholic bishops are in constant dialogue with their priests. Theologians thrive as their expertise is sought sincerely. Best of all, the laity are also given a voice. They’re invited to pastoral committee hearings on relevant social issues such as contraception, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and freedom of conscience. It seems like for the first time in centuries, progress is possible.

Progressive Church

Because most Roman Catholics were progressive, the New Catholic Church now outnumbers the Roman Catholic one significantly. And because the Roman Catholic Church is no longer the predominant religion, few politicians pander to them. The drop in donations has forced them to start using their billions in investment, which they have also been using to settle clerical abuse cases. More families are pressing charges with the New Catholic Church urging and supporting them to speak out.

Meanwhile, the New Catholic Church, being the biggest religion, has a steady flow of donations that has allowed them to build simple churches, unlike the luxurious Roman Catholic ones. Most of their funds are spent on charity instead of partisan political campaigns and causes. And none of it is used to settle abuse cases out of court; they report the rare offender to the police and fully cooperate with the authorities so that justice is ensured.

Having learned from the dangers political meddling, the New Catholic Church focuses on the well-being of its flock, avoiding partisan politics and fully respecting the separation of church and state. This has allowed legislation to proceed more smoothly, with the blackmail and fear mongering of the Roman Catholic Church falling on the ears of few conservative politicians.

New Catholics are thriving in their new religion, where they agree with the moral position of their priests and bishops, never again having to withhold tithes or walk out of sermons. Their personal views no longer conflict with their Church’s teachings, and educating the youth is now a cooperative effort between parents, teachers, and priests, each lesson based on scientific evidence and humanistic ethics.

Now. In this hypothetical future, if you are a progressive Catholic who still belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, would you join the New Catholic Church? Remember that the progressive priests and theologians who have made your religion bearable have already left to join this new one. Most of your progressive friends and relatives have also converted.

Would you remain a Roman Catholic when your views on so many social issues are at odds with the clergy? Would you tithe and pay for sacraments in a conservative church when you could so easily get the same experience in its progressive counterpart? What good reasons are there to remain Roman Catholic?

Hans Kung, one of the most prominent Catholic theologians today, has long urged progressive Catholics to revolt, but to no avail.

Stalemate

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most progressive Catholics would convert to this New Catholicism in a heartbeat. I believe that this is the ideal situation every progressive Catholic hopes would happen inside the Roman Catholic Church. The only problem is, this is not going to happen.

The conservatives in the Vatican are in full control, and because they’re a dictatorship, the opinions of the majority don’t matter. The only way progressive Catholics can get their ideal situation is by forming their own institution outside the Roman Catholic Church.

And this is precisely the problem. To make the New Catholic Church possible, they have to leave the Roman Catholic Church. Every person has to leave on their own. And someone has to start it. But who would begin such an exodus?

The youth would probably be the most willing. But their youth might be a turnoff to those who are so used to getting guidance from more mature men.

The older progressives are more authoritative, but they’re probably too settled into their Roman Catholic routine, with careers and families taking up most of their time, that taking on such a big change would be too much to ask. Not to mention they still wouldn’t be authoritative enough for those who look for a sense of the sacred in their leaders.

Progressive priests and theologians would have this holy authority. But compared to the laity, they would be risking their careers, their livelihoods. They would need to rely on their savings because while starting a new religion they wouldn’t have a source of income.

Bishops probably have enough saved up. But the way the Vatican has been screening bishops since Vatican II, finding even one progressive bishop is a challenge in itself, and such a person would be risking the most in terms of the wealth and influence he would have to give up.

That leaves no one.

Conservative Church

I believe that every individual needed for this New Catholic Church is already here. Majority of Roman Catholics who now have more progressive views than their conservative counterparts and clergy. A group of dissenting priests and theologians who have been expressing their progressive ideals more and more publicly. Enough ideological and theological conflict in many core beliefs to make forming a new religion necessary. And enough shortcomings of the Roman Catholic Church to make leaving it, ceasing to further support its bigotry, an ethical necessity.

But progressive Catholics have to start somewhere. Each of them would join this New Catholic Church if it is ever formed. But few, if any, of them would be willing to leave the Roman Catholic Church to start it.

Progressive Catholics will be content to bear their burden together, comforting each other with their shared dissent, hoping for change but knowing in their hearts that it will never come. Meanwhile, the Vatican thrives with power, arrogance, and impunity, never having to worry about the progressive church that will never come.

Posted in Personal, Religion3 Comments

FF Turns Four — Offending Religious Feelings Since 2009

Filipino Freethinkers turns four today, and as usual, I’ll mention some milestones (at least from my limited perspective — and memory):

  • My Bottomline interview. I was told by a producer that it’s one of their most successful episodes ever. I didn’t get a single negative message about it — and I got a lot of messages.
  • The first RSS Forum. Not only did we honor some of our heroes, we gave Sen. Sotto his first Bigot of the Year award, and it made the news. On GMA.
  • Pro-life party list opposition. We registered as a non-stock, non-profit organization so that we could take legal action as Filipino Freethinkers, inc. We heard some judges take that stuff seriously.
  • Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance. Together with allies in the fight to repeal the Cybercrime Law, we formed PIFA and made noise — and silence — both online and on the ground.
  • Sottocopy. Our site featured proof of Sotto’s plagiarism for the first time in social and mainstream media. We also joined a group that filed a formal complaint against Sotto with the Senate Ethics Committee.
  • Marching as Memes. Our 4th Pride March was our most successful, not only in terms of the size of our contingent, but the number of people who took photos with our props.
  • RH Law. It’s been a pleasure to work with some of the most sincere and passionate advocates of women’s and human rights, and it’s an honor to share this victory with them.
  • Mainstream relevance. For the first time, we were featured in the news at least once a month for each month of the year. I heard it’s now mainstream to hate mainstream, so hipsters need not worry.
  • Social media savvy. Our website exceeded 1 million page views, and our FB page passed 20,000 fans. We consistently rank high on Top Blogs, and are often #1. (Currently #1 above two CBCP sites.)
  • Warm bodies. With the introduction of RSS talks and the raunchy topic of the week, meetups have become more educational and entertaining than ever. Plus they’re still regular and well-attended.

2012 gave us a lot of reasons to celebrate, but I’m ambivalent about celebrating. I still feel bad about what happened a few days ago: Carlos Celdran, one of our closest allies, was found guilty of offending religious feelings. Yet it opens up the possibility of repealing Article 133, removing that archaic blasphemy law and clearing Carlos’ name. That’s one milestone I want to report next year.

It will surely be a challenge. The Catholic Church hierarchy and its conservative cohorts will surely oppose us at every turn. But if 2012 has taught me anything, it’s that Carlos is no longer alone. We’re no longer alone. More and more Filipinos are realizing the importance of reason, science, and secularism, no longer content to let bigotry and traditionalism dominate public discourse.

This growing appreciation of secular ideals helped us reach milestones and fight battles in 2012 that were unimaginable when we started in 2009, and it’s why I’m sure that 2013 will be even more awesome.

***

To celebrate our 4th year of offending religious feelings, we’re going back to where it all started:

Friday, Feb 1, 2013. EDSA Shangri-la mall.
6:00-8:30 Meetup in Shangri-la Starbucks near cinemas (where we had our first meetup in Feb 2009)
8:30-9:30 Dinner somewhere in Shangri-la (attend the meetup to find out where!)
9:30-11:10 Movie: Warm Bodies

There will still be a meetup this Sunday, Feb. 3. And while you’re at it, mark Feb. 16 on your calendar — we’re planning a bigger than usual event for Darwin Day.

Posted in Organization, Personal6 Comments

Santa Claus: the Legend, the Man, and Edcel Lagman

Sen. Pia Cayetano & Rep. Edcel Lagman: two of the many individuals we have to thank for our purple Christmas.

If there’s one thing reproductive health (RH) advocates want for Christmas, it’s the passage of the RH Bill. Many have been speculating that President Aquino will sign the bill into law as his Christmas present to the Filipino people — all 94,852,030 of them.

When you think about one person giving gifts to so many people, one mythical figure comes to mind: Santa Claus. Many have worked hard throughout the years to give Filipinos an RH law. And among them, none other reminds me of Santa than Rep. Edcel Lagman. His white hair and round figure are complemented by the constantly cool and humorous nature he displayed throughout the process of RH legislation.

But there’s more to the analogy than appearance and attitude. Because the historical figure Santa Claus was based on had something more in common with Lagman. According to Adam C. English, associate professor of religion and author of “The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus: The True Life and Trials of St. Nicholas of Myra,” Santa had a soft spot for poor women.

He tells the following story, which he finds so “strange and surprising… that historians assume it must be based to a large degree on fact”:

It is the tale of three poor daughters.

Nicholas had been aware of a certain citizen of Patara – in Lycia, modern-day Turkey – who had once been an important and wealthy man of the city but who had fallen on hard times and into extreme poverty. The man grew so desperate that he lacked the very essentials of life.

The poor man reasoned that it was impossible to marry off his three beautiful daughters because they lacked dowries for proper marriages to respectable noblemen. He feared they would each in turn be forced into prostitution to support themselves.

Nicholas heard this heartbreaking news and resolved to do something about it. He bagged a sum of gold and in the dead of night, tossed it through the man’s window. The money was used as a dowry for the first daughter.

Sometime later, Nicholas made a second nighttime visit so that the second daughter might marry. Later tradition reported that, finding the windows closed, he dropped the bag of gold down the chimney, where it landed into one of the girl’s stockings that was hanging to dry.

When Nicholas returned to deliver anonymously the third bag of gold for the last daughter, the curious father was ready. When he heard a bag hit the floor, the father leapt to his feet and raced outside, where he caught the mysterious benefactor.

Nicholas revealed his identity to the father but made him swear never to tell anyone what he’d done. He did not want praise or recognition for his generosity.

Thus the legend of Santa Claus was born. Although millions recognize the legendary figure, few know that it all came from the story of how a rich old man did his part to help three women, each less fortunate than he was, have the opportunity to live better lives.

The people who made this purple Christmas possible are too many to mention, each of them deserving of our thanks and congratulations. But I think it’s OK to start with Rep. Edcel Lagman, the Santa Claus of the 15th Congress, who in his final term did his part to pass the RH Bill, giving every Filipino, especially the poor, the opportunity to live healthy, educated, and dignified lives.

Image from facebook.com/RHnow

***
INB4: In the context of my Santa — Edcel analogy, it’s quite ironic that St. Nicholas was a bishop, and that Santa Claus is most commonly depicted in red.

Posted in Personal, RH Bill0 Comments

The Bishops You Vote For

All of a sudden the RH Bill is a signature away from becoming the RH Law. Recently, it’s been progressing so rapidly that you have to wonder: Why has it been stuck in legislation for so long?

There are several culprits, but three groups share most of the blame: bishops, legislators, and voters. Bishops, for bullying and lying to legislators; legislators, for allowing this theocratic meddling to happen; and voters, for electing both into positions of power. You read that right. Electing both. Because as I’ll explain, bishops are elected, too.

Obviously, there are no elections for Catholic bishops. The Roman Catholic Church is a theocracy, a dictatorship led by the Pope, an institution of the bishops, by the bishops, and for the bishops. Ordinary Catholics — the laity — have as much say in who they’re supposed to obey as in what they’re supposed to believe. That is, absolutely none.

But although there are no democratic elections in the usual sense, Catholics can still choose their bishops. If they wanted to, they could change their religious leaders any time they wanted. But first, they have to understand what it means to belong to their church.

Corporations

The Catholic Church is a corporation. A multinational corporation with several branches called dioceses. Both legally and dogmatically, a bishop is the boss of his diocese. You don’t change your boss by incompetence or insubordination. And you don’t change your bishop by disobedience or dissent.

Because the Catholic Church is a monolithic corporation, changing the bishop because you disagree with him is as difficult as changing the Pope himself. If you work for a company that doesn’t allow you to change your boss, the only way to change your boss is to move to another company.

Many Catholics take for granted that they’re not forced to be Catholic. It may not have been the case a few centuries ago, but people can now choose their religion without fear of death or torture. So remaining Catholic is a decision, however consciously the choice is made.

Bishops

Bishops aren’t elected, so choosing Catholicism implies choosing the Catholic bishops. When it comes to most religions, you can’t have one without the other. Still, there is freedom of religion. You could’ve chosen Islam (and its imams) or Buddhism (and its monks) or Judaism (and its rabbis) and so on. By choosing to be Catholic, you’ve essentially voted for Catholic bishops to represent you, regardless of how much — or how little — you agree with them.

A lot of pro-RH Catholics would object to this. What kind of RH advocate would want to be represented by bishops who routinely misinform and fear monger, even blaming natural calamities (Sendong, Habagat, Pablo) and human atrocities (school shootings) on the RH Bill?

They prefer to think they’re represented by progressive Catholic leaders, the silent pro-RH clergy who anonymously spammed text messages in support of RH, or the progressive theologians who say it’s OK to dissent because there’s freedom of conscience and, thus, freedom to dissent.

But there’s a reason the pro-RH clergy are silent: They could be fired by the Catholic Church, losing the little authority they have — not to mention their source of livelihood. And there’s a reason theologians are so relatively noisy: They can’t be fired by the Catholic Church — at least not directly — and they have no official authority whatsoever — at least not when it counts.

 

Think of it this way. A bishop is like an anti-RH congressman. Priests are members of his staff, and theologians are informal advisers and critics. The anti-RH congressman can have one or even several pro-RH staff (silent clergy). He can even surround himself with pro-RH advisers and critics (theologians).

But no matter how progressive the people around him are, only the congressman gets to cast and explain his vote on the RH Bill. And no matter how popular his staff or advisers are with his constituents, they won’t even be allowed to say a single word.

Clout

Religious organizations are essentially the same as political ones because both are ultimately after the same thing: numbers. If the CBCP has political clout, it’s because the Philippines is predominantly Catholic. In political terms, they have the most votes when the most recent religious elections were held.

Because our politicians don’t fully appreciate the principle of secularism, religious clout translates to political power. It’s no coincidence that our government panders to religious leaders in proportion to their religion’s numbers.

When the Pope and his closest bishops attend international human rights conventions, the world’s leaders listen to them for one reason, and it’s not the strength or validity of their arguments. It’s the fact that they represent 1.1 billion Catholics. And whether they like it or not, every Catholic, no matter how progressive, is counted.

Politics

I don’t know for sure, but I highly doubt that anyone in these conventions has refuted the Pope by asking him how many Catholics actually agree with him. The Vatican contingent has routinely weakened, delayed, and even blocked progressive developments on a global level. And every Catholic around the world shares the blame.

In the same way, every pro-RH Catholic shares the blame for the delay of the RH Bill, and inevitably, the difficulty of its implementation — not to mention all the other irrational, unscientific, and theocratic things the CBCP has the power to do.

We’ll have to wait for the coming elections to vote against anti-RH legislators, but Catholics can do something about their anti-RH bishops today. Choosing one’s religion has political ramifications, and it’s time more Catholics realize this.

When you belong to the Catholic Church, it’s not the pro-RH priests or progressive theologians you put in power. At the end of the day, it’s the bishops you vote for.

Posted in Personal, RH Bill3 Comments

PNP Starts Damage Control by Denying Official Connection to FB Page

UPDATE (10/4/12) [Pepe Bawagan]:

The following image is a screenshot from the Google Web Cache of another Facebook Page named PNP National Hotlines Directory (Metro Manila+Provinces):

Previously, it could be seen that the post in the shot had been deleted, but now the entire page is gone. Thankfully, a copy of the page dated September 5 is still available from Google Web Cache. (Here’s a screenshot of the page from Google Web Cache, in case the actual one has expired.)

Given this new evidence, the “long con” theory seems to have become a lot more complicated and a lot less believable.

UPDATE (10/1/12 9:37pm): The “Philippine National Police (PNP)” FB Page is up and running again, but without the controversial thread.

The reputation of the Philippine National Police (PNP) is in danger now, thanks to some comments made by the admin of the Facebook page titled  “Philippine National Police (PNP).” I’m being careful about how I worded the previous sentence because the admin of the Facebook personal account belonging to “Philippine  Nat’l Police” has released the following statement denying any “official connection” to the PNP FB page (emphasis added):

Press Statement of
PCSUPT GENEROSO R CERBO JR
PNP Spokesperson
Chief, Public Information Office
October 1, 2012

The PNP categorically denies any official connection to a message which appeared in one particular facebook account found by many to be offensive, threatening and malicious.

For one, official statements of the PNP to include press releases intended for public consumption are published
in digital form through our PNP official web site www.pnp.gov.ph or Facebook under the account name pnp.pio.

Further, said official statements can be released individually to our media friend both in hard and digital copies in the name of the PNP Public Information Office.

We shall have this incident investigated ASAP. You will be updated on the developments.

The phrase “official connection” immediately struck me. Do they have an unofficial connection to the “Philippine National Police (PNP)” FB page? If they do, that would explain why the page was taken down so quickly — it usually takes much longer for FB to act on page removal requests.

In a recent post on Rappler, PNP spokesman Chief Supt Generoso Cerbo Jr. — who wrote the press statement quoted above — told Rappler that “statements made on their Facebook page are not official. [emphasis added]” Does “their” mean they do own the page? Another source of confusion is Cerbo’s next statement:

“Di kami nagrerelease ng statement through Facebook,” he said, adding that the PNP only makes statements through their official website. (We don’t release official statements through Facebook.)

But as of this writing, Cerbo’s statement has not been posted on their official website. It has only been released on the PNP PIO personal account. Should I then suspect the PIO statement on FB to be less than official?

Another thing that bugs me is how Cerbo keeps referring to official statements. The Big Brother comments on the “Philippine National Police (PNP)” FB page were just that: comments. No one seriously takes comments as official statements.

Imagine that something similar happened to your organization. You discover that there’s an FB page posing as someone who is affiliated with your group, and worse, they’re posting comments that make you look bad. How do you respond? You wouldn’t say, “We don’t post official statements on Facebook.” You would say something like this: “We don’t know who is operating that Facebook page, but we can assure you that we have nothing whatsoever do do with it, and that its admin is nothing but a fraud.”

That the PNP statement says something less than this adds weight to my suspicion that the “Philippine National Police (PNP)” FB page, however unofficial, was run by someone connected with the PNP. According to several FB users who have frequented the page, it contained informative posts and was updated more frequently than the PNP PIO account. It also had almost 9,000 likes, dwarfing the PIO personal account’s 824 subscribers. Lastly, compare the headers used by each:

I don’t particularly like either, but the second one sure looks like more effort was put into it. Considering this, together with the amount of content and interaction in the “Philippine National Police (PNP)” FB page, it’s no wonder that many still think it was authentic despite PNP saying otherwise.

This isn’t the first time the authenticity of “Philippine National Police (PNP)” FB page was questioned. Technogra.ph posted an article arguing that the page was fake because (1) the behavior of the admin was too abusive for an official PNP page, and (2) PNP didn’t link to the page from their official website. Both are true, and I particularly agree with their first reason. PNP also took flack for what the FB page had said back then. But that was almost three months ago, and I don’t think the PNP was unaware of what had happened.

So why haven’t they taken action on it until now? And why was the page only taken down now? I hope these questions and more are soon answered by PNP’s investigation into this. And I find it interesting that the fascistic technologies and manpower mentioned in the “unofficial” FB page will be a big help to them now. (It’s also interesting that the PNP statement did not deny any of the statements made by the fake FB page. Are they really monitoring citizens this early?)

Lastly, I’d like to commend the allegedly fake admin of the “Philippine National Police (PNP)” FB page. I read that the page had been up since Jan 10, 2011. (The first activity of the PNP PIO account was on Jan 6,2011.) It takes dedication to attract 8,880 likes in only a couple of years. If this was indeed a long con meant to troll PNP, fool thousands of Filipinos online, including the reporters at Rappler and GMA News (they wrote a post about this but have since taken it down), then all I can say is well played, sir.

____
Check out Google’s cache of the allegedly fake FB page. Really seems legit.

Posted in Freedom of Expression, Politics, Society3 Comments

PNP FB Admin First to Abuse Cybercrime Law

UPDATE (10/1/12 9:42 PM): More updates on PNP’s damage control.
UPDATE (10/1/12 7:15PM): A press statement in this PNP PIO account denies any official connection to the “Philippine National Police (PNP)” page, which has already been taken down.
UPDATE: The FB thread below has been taken down.

The Cybercrime law hadn’t even taken effect, but that didn’t stop the Philippine National Police (PNP) from abusing it. At least that’s what the admin of their Facebook page did when they encountered an unwelcome comment.

The comment was a response to PNP’s post about criminology students doing poorly in English. Here’s a screenshot just in case they delete the comment, too:

I say “too” because right now these are the only comments I can read out of the ones included in a screenshot that is spreading all over Facebook. Here it is, just in case they get Facebook to take it down as well:

As several commenters have pointed out, the law doesn’t take effect till Wednesday, October 3. Yet the “CIDG Anti Transnational Crime is now conducting background investigation against” the commenter. This may or may not be true, but one thing is certain: some who read PNP’s comment are now thinking twice about speaking their mind. And when anyone is afraid of exercising their right to freedom of speech, something is definitely wrong.

Thank you, PNP, for proving that the Cybercrime Prevention Act (AKA Cyber Martial Law) must indeed be stopped. And fuck you.

___

Image source: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=507445769267202&set=a.102182453126871.4645.100000053506248&type=1

PNP thread: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=407303659323060&set=a.145337415519687.39609.145291485524280&type=1

Posted in Freedom of Expression, Personal, Politics, Society15 Comments

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.

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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

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