Author Archives | Romano Cortes Jorge

Intolerant of Intolerance

Civil rights are not a matter of religious opinion or personal preference. If you seek to deny others their civil rights, you are a bigot.

Scientific facts are not a matter of religious interpretation or parental prerogative. If you seek to deny others—especially your own children—education, then you are denying them a basic human right. And if you disbelieve in science despite the evidence available and reasons apparent, you are suppressing truth and spreading disinformation.

Your choice

Reproductive Health, sex education and science education, divorce and gay marriage—these are all civil rights issues. Denying others their choice is denying them their civil rights. In contrast, allowing other people their civil rights—specifically Reproductive Health, divorce, and gay marriage—does not curtail your own freedom.

  • If you want to refuse the health and economic benefits of contraception and responsible family planning and if you stubbornly believe that an abstinence-only approach works despite evidence to the contrary, that is your choice and your loss.
  • If you refuse to believe in sex education after learning all the facts and if you refuse to believe in the science of evolution and natural history after learning all the evidence and how it is the foundation to understanding and making sense of this world, that is your choice and your loss.
  • If you disagree with certain music, literature, or other forms of art because of their message, then you can simply choose not to watch or listen. That is your choice and your loss.
  • If you refuse divorce and want to stay in abusive, loveless, and failed relationships, or if you want a priest to have the power to refuse you annulment of your marriage, that is your choice and your loss.
  • If you want to miss out on your friends’, your siblings’, or your children’s joyous weddings simply because they are gay or lesbian, that is your choice and your loss.

None of the proposed laws on Reproductive Health and sex education, divorce and gay marriage will stop you from voluntarily practicing your religious beliefs.

But what I cannot abide by is when you seek to deny others their right to Reproductive Health, sex education and science, divorce, and marriage equality before the law regardless of gender. That is simply oppression. That is simply bigotry. My friend, my kin, I do not want you to be a bigot.

Nor do I want you to prejudice your own children. Your children are individuals, guaranteed to have the same civil rights and choices as everyone. They should not be denied the information, the education, the science, the rationality, and the access necessary to make their own responsible choices when they come of age.

Science and reason are not a matter of religious interpretation or parental prerogative. These are truths that all people—even children—have a right to access, which are a necessity for making responsible and informed decisions.

Education is a basic human right. It is wrong for parents to keeping their children ignorant or misinformed about sex education, literature, philosophy, evolution, natural history, cosmology, plate tectonics, and other fields.

Sex education needs to be taught at schools by professionals trained for the job. Evidently, Filipino parents have failed to educate their children about sex for generations. For many Filipino parents, the only thing they fear more than the possibility of their children (and younger siblings) having premarital sex is confronting them about it. Most youths learn from the media and their peers. Just as abstinence-only policies have failed to foster responsible parenthood, so have ignorance-only policies failed to foster young adults who are empowered about their reproductive rights and responsible about sex. The Reproductive Health bill and Sex Education are necessary because the status quo has evidently failed us.

Truth is truth and it is not for religious schools nor home schooling parents to subvert. There should be no exceptions to any religious institution as to how sex education or even mandatory pre-marriage counseling (as already required under the existing Family Code) is conducted or implemented.

We should love our children regardless of who they were born to be or what personal informed choices they make as adults.

Full Disclosure

I confess, I don’t discriminate. I have friends and family who are either gay, lesbian, separated, together from previous marriages, single mothers, etc. I may not know exactly what it is to be in their place, but I do know what it is to be friend and family. It means standing up with them against prejudice. You can’t be friends or family to someone while denying them equal rights.

I confess, I myself come from the majority in the Philippines. I was born to a Roman Catholic family. I even belong to the currently unfairly advantaged sex; I am a straight man. On the other hand, I am a minority in one crucial aspect; I do not need government help to afford responsible family planning or access information about my reproductive rights like most Filipinos. Many Filipinos do, hence the need for the Reproductive Health bill. And it is a dire need. The Philippines has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. The Reproductive Health bill only seeks to provide the poor the same choices and information that the wealthy Filipinos already enjoy, nothing more. But why should

I, a straight guy from the middle class, care about the civil rights of others? Because a republic isn’t just about the rule of the majority. It is also about respect and tolerance for all, most especially minorities, even ones whose lives you disagree with or cannot comprehend.

I confess, I do come from another kind of majority: the majority of Filipinos who support Reproductive Health, are tolerant of gays and lesbians, and are understanding of the realities and complexities of married life. This despite most Filipinos being Catholic.

I confess, it comes easily for me to support Reproductive Health, divorce, and gay marriage because these do not threaten the sanctity of life, the sanctity of my marriage, or my manhood for that matter. I was born this way, and nothing can change that. It is not a choice; my gender is a pillar of my identity. And evidently that is the way for all. Oppression can only drive a person to hide their identity, not change it, as centuries of repression have failed to change people’s genders. People will be who they are, regardless. People will love who they love, regardless. However, being a bigot wouldn’t be me. It is not natural for anyone to deny others equality. More importantly, supporting civil rights not only frees the oppressed, it frees the oppressor. There is no neutral in the battle between right or wrong. Those who fail to act and testify against wrongs committed to others are accessories and accomplices to it.

I confess, there are beliefs and lifestyles among the people whose civil rights I defend that I do not share. But I also know that neither agreement nor understanding are necessary. None of us owes anyone an explanation when we all are in the constant process of self-discovery and realization. Even the ones we have loved for years constantly surprise us. We do not need anyone else’s permission to be ourselves. We only owe it to each other to tolerate one another, to allow one another the freedom to pursue happiness.

So what about your beliefs? Shouldn’t these be tolerated as well? Not if they impose on the lives of others. You just can’t claim that your religious sensitivities are offended every time you disagree with someone so you can shut them down.

It was your choice to be offended, not theirs. They are just being themselves. For as long as they are not forcing their choices on anyone and are not spreading hate, violence or lies, all people have a right to be who they are. Do not deprive others of the same freedoms you enjoy.

Science and Reason

Before you criticize, oppose or support anything, know and read about it. It seems obvious, but many apparently don’t.

With the Reproductive Health bill, opponents criticize it by claiming it “legalizes abortion” and “imposes an ideal family size.” Read the bill in its entirety and know that it says nothing of that sort. In adherence to the 1996 Philippine Constitution, the Reproductive Health bill reiterates its support in protecting the health of the unborn.

Then they claim that some forms of contraception such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and “morning-after pills” that prevent conception even a few days after unprotected sex are also abortifacients. IUDs and morning-after pills work by not only preventing fertilization—the fusion of sperm and egg—but also implantation—the adherence of the embryo to the wall of the uterus. American and British laws define the beginning pregnancy and the conception of human life at implantation, hence the classification of IUDs and morning-after pills as contraceptives, not abortifacients.

Doctors, bioethicists, law experts and theologians of several religions define implantation as the beginning of human life for several reasons:

  • The ability to create embryos in vitro (such as in test tube babies fertilized outside the womb) has proven that fertilization does not automatically result in pregnancy. Only after implantation does an embryo’s existence have an effect on the mother’s body. It is only upon implantation that a fetus receives oxygen and nutrients from the mother to grow into a human being. It is at this point when the fetus cannot survive except within the woman’s body. Any rights granted to it must come at the expense of the pregnant woman. Note that to be pregnant—which is to be implanted—means risking one’s life for nine months to bear a new one.
  • Majority of fertilized eggs do not go on to become infants. With unprotected sex, embryos are often formed that never undergo implantation. If fertilization were to be defined as the conception of life, then countless souls have been killed without knowledge or intent.
  • After fertilization and implantation, an embryo can segment to become identical twins—separate and distinct individuals who, despite their similarities, develop their own personalities, experiences and decisions and possess their own unique DNA, fingerprints, etc. If segmentation defines the start of an individual with an indivisible soul, then an embryo prior to the stage of possible segmentation cannot be defined as an individual.

Some even make the ridiculous claim that every sperm is a life. If that is so, then every act of sex is mass murder since the millions of sperm in ejaculated semen all die save for the single one that successfully fuses with the egg cell to form a fertilized embryo. And that’s if fertilization occurs. Often no sperm succeeds at fertilizing the egg and most fertilized eggs do not go on to be infants.

Those who cite “natural” family planning-only policy fail to note that it has simply failed to work despite years of implementation.

Those who cite the cost of implementing Reproductive Health avoid considering the cost of not implementing it: the cost in lives, in health and the economic cost of building more hospitals, homes, schools, jails, and cemeteries on a finite amount of land.

Those who see the Philippines’ environmentally unsustainable population growth as a positive fail to mention that natural resources are finite and that even renewable resources diminish when abused beyond their capacity to recover.

Worse, they see the Philippines’ unsustainable population growth as the solution to declining populations in industrialized countries. Migration has already robbed the country of its talent. Work overseas has already broken so many families apart and exposed so many Filipinos to racism and abuse. Nonetheless, the Reproductive Health bill does not in any way stipulate any means or programs of population control. It only provides the masses choices and information already available to the privileged in the Philippines.

Showing One’s Character

Tellingly, those against Reproductive Health not only oppose IUDs and morning-after pills but also contraceptives that only prevent fertilization and not implantation. They oppose condoms—the only contraceptive device that protects against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS as well as accidental pregnancies. They also are against sex education and knowledge empowerment of young adults. Their definition of conception is but one of many arguments used against all of reproductive health, responsible parenthood, and gender empowerment.

Tellingly, those against Reproductive Health continue using the false specter of “abortion” and “population control” for disinformation and fear mongering despite these being clearly absent in the bill. They also question the science behind it and imagine fantastic conspiracies.

Tellingly, those opposed to the Reproductive Health do so despite the fact that the bill simply affords the poor the same choices and information that wealthy Filipinos already enjoy. These opponents who rabidly denounce the bill had curiously stayed silent for the many years that their privileged class enjoyed these same choices and information.They claim to be “pro-life” but they do not want to foot the bill to truly alleviate poverty, uplift the lives of the masses, and empower women regarding their choices in a meaningful, long-term manner. Charity donations and other public relations and tax deduction gimmicks during holidays and disasters evidently do not substantively alleviate poverty.

Tellingly, those who claim contraception promotes promiscuity ignore that accidental pregnancies, premarital sex, and corruption have long been rife in the Philippines despite 400 years of conservative Roman Catholicism, first forcibly introduced by the rapacious Conquistadors during the time of the murderous Spanish Inquisition. Four hundred years of Inquisition-era Catholicism has evidently done little to make “Good Christians.”

Tellingly, this alarm at liberties already enjoyed by some spreading to all characterizes not only those who oppose Reproductive Health but also those who are against gay marriage, divorce, science education, and sex education as well.

Tellingly, those who denounce gay unions and divorce for supposedly defiling the sanctity of marriage were curiously silent for the decades that spousal abuse, arranged marriages, marriages for convenience and appearances truly made a mockery of the institution.

Tellingly, those who see sex education and science education as a threat to their “prerogative” as parents don’t see inculcating their own religious beliefs upon their children as an imposition.

Tellingly, those who oppose Reproductive Health, gay marriage, divorce, science education and sex education tend to see themselves as devoutly religious, rejecting any facts that run counter to their beliefs.

Tellingly, when engaged in discussion and debate, those who oppose Reproductive Health, gay marriage, divorce, science education, sex education, and other civil rights sometimes comment derisively, “masyado kang matalino (you are too smart).”

Tellingly, Church authorities have threatened those who support Reproductive Health with expulsion from Catholic institutions and excommunication, the same sentence they meted out to famous truth-tellers such as scientist Galileo Galilei who insisted that the Earth revolved around the sun as evidenced by his telescope, Martin Luther who exposed the corruption within the Church as it sold indulgences that“absolved”the wealthy of all their sins for a fee, and Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal who exposed how priests used religion as a tool of oppression by engendering unthinking docility and submissiveness.

Tellingly, those against Reproductive Health include a plagiarist, the unapologetic family of the late Ferdinand Marcos, ousted dictator who instituted corruption in the Philippines, and the Roman Catholic Church, an institution that has been accused and convicted of endemic sexual abuse of minors and well as the systematic and leadership-sanctioned coverups of these cases.

Tellingly, those who are anti-Reproductive Health and anti-gender-equality have wished us ill and even dead. We have endured name calling and threats, disinformation and fear mongering. Anti-Reproductive Health zealots also see natural disasters and misfortunes as collective and indiscriminate punishment, as if those who were most affected deserve it. And yet when the same misfortune falls upon them, they see it as a divine test. In many aspects of their thinking, they lack both rationality and compassion.

Tellingly, we who support civil rights continue to engage in argument, dialogue, and debate. To attempt to communicate is to presume intelligence and humanity in one’s opponent, hence this message.

Nonetheless, the time is upon us when we all must come to a decision that determines our character and our relations. Will we be bigots and truth deniers, or will we be emancipators and truth-tellers? Will we be opponents, or will we be friends and family? I simply cannot tolerate bigots.

Posted in Advocacy, Personal, RH Bill, Science, Secularism0 Comments

Ending Fake News From Within

Ending Fake News From Within

If journalists and publishers want to end fake news, they must start with themselves. For far too long certain conventions have been perpetuated that, under scrutiny, have no place in any legitimate journalistic publication.

Stop publishing horoscopes, feng shui tips, and other beliefs definitively disproven by science such as traditional Chinese medicine, crystal healing, cleansing diets, homeopathy, etc. If you must feature pseudoscience, then be critical and get the findings of legitimate science authorities.
Stop making stupid people famous. Banish high society columns where people are featured simply because they were born rich or pretty. Being born rich or pretty is not an accomplishment. If you want to feature someone well bred then feature a pure breed pig, horse, or dog instead. If they are philanthropists then feature their advocacy. If they are tycoons then feature their business success. If they are well dressed then feature the designers. If they travel then feature the destinations. If they are artists then feature their art. Obsessive hoarding, be it any material possession or wealth, beyond any practical need, is a symptom of a sick mind. High society columns are most often amoral, highlighting plunderers and tax evaders, oppressors of laborers and peasants, as if they were worthy to look up to.
Stop showbiz gossip. Judge actors and musicians for their artistry. If they are not true artists then don’t feature them at all. Stop exploiting the private lives of stars and stop being exploited by celebrities who want media attention.
Stop featuring blind item columns and anonymous writers. Everyone must practice accountability and transparency. Journalism is only for the brave and those that can’t name names better shut up.

Stop prostituting the lifestyle section. No upstanding publisher would demand the front page news section or the business section to compromise their journalistic integrity and sell out to make money for the publication. So why demand that of the lifestyle section? The newsmen who most often run publications often look down on the lifestyle section as insubstantial and yet they are the ones who often expect the lifestyle section to sell out and make money for the publication. Cultural reportage is extremely relevant and important. Corruption, poverty, rape, bigotry, and vanity are all perpetuated by flawed culture. Environmentalism, gender equality, entrepreneurship, critical thinking, accountability, honesty, ambition, and creativity are all values that can and should be promoted by arts and culture.

Stop judging by popularity. You don’t publish something because people want to read it and watch it; you publish something because people need to read it and watch it. Stop judging articles by the number of likes, shares, or reads. These are the wrong metrics. If popularity was the basis then all publications would be sensationalist tabloids with sexy pictures, clickbait headlines, and hoax news.

Stop giving equal legitimacy to opposing points of view when this misrepresents reality. For example, It’s not right giving equal voice to a lone dissenter denying man-made climate change when the vast majority of the scientific establishment confirms the existence of man-made climate change.

Be plainspoken. Don’t say he “misspoke” if it was a deliberate and often-repeated lie. Call a spade a spade.

Get real writers and journalists. Don’t get an editor-in-chief because he or she represents the aspirational ideal of your readership or audience—glamorous, accomplished, etc. Don’t get columnists just because they are famous. If they can’t write well or have nothing worthy to say then they have no business in your publication.

Posted in Language, Politics0 Comments

A Filipino for Palestine

gazaAs a Filipino, the struggle of Palestine for independence strongly resonates with me. Being used as a pawn by regional powers; the attempts to marginalize,ignore, and demonize them; and even their own tragically bad decisions–these all mirror the Philippine experience. After visiting both Palestine and Israel some years back and learning of the region’s tortured history, here is what Have to say:

Let’s be frank. Before, when Hamas was not in power, Israel refused to give the PLO under the late Nobel Peace laureate Yasser Arafat a fair deal. They wouldn’t even return land annexed after the Arab Israeli Wars, allow Palestinian refugees to return, or share Jerusalem as a capital, as they did before occupation.

Let’s be frank. If the US or any other country was invaded, occupied and blockaded for half a century, every peaceful and democratic means for liberty was defeated, and the use of conventional armies and weapons was denied,wouldn’t they also be so desperate as to turn to the most brutal of organizations and use the most extreme and desperate measures to fight for their freedom?

Let’s be frank. How can Palestine get a fair deal peacefully when one of the international arbiters, the United States, supplies weapons to Israel and sides with it unconditionally?

Let’s be frank. Terrorism is terrorism, whether you use US-supplied weapons or homemade rockets, whether you say, “oops, sorry, collateral damage” or not.

Let’s be frank. Before this war, there was no reason that Israel would give Palestine back its liberty peacefully on its own accord. They had no incentive to do so.

Let’s be frank. Without Hamas and other threats, Israel would have run out of reasons for getting the unconditional military, economic, and diplomatic support of the United States. Without Hamas, Israel runs out of excuses to continue land grabbing and blockade of Palestine. Without the constant threat of war, Israel loses its special status.

Let’s be frank. Using Hamas as an excuse for more land grabbing, apartheid,and occupation is like using the Ku Klux Klan as an excuse to bomb all of America. I don’t like Hamas. But that doesn’t excuse turning a blind eye to Palestinian suffering.

Let’s be frank. Not even Germany, despite perpetrating the Holocaust during the Second World War that murdered six million Jews, had its right to exist as a nation revoked or questioned. Not even the United States, despite being founded on the extermination and expulsion of Native Americans and the enslavement of African-Americans, had its right to exist as a nation revoked or questioned. No one has a right to question or deny Palestine’s right to nationhood, regardless of their tragically bad choices, such as choosing Hamas.

Let’s be frank. Creating a state whose identity is based on one religion or race and whose borders are defined by mythology is undemocratic in a multi ethnic world. If only the British colonizers, instead expelling indigenous Arabs to create a Jewish state after the Holocaust of the Second World War,created a nation that was inclusive of all religions and races, we wouldn’t have this war. A modern, peaceful, and democratic nation state defines itself with a shared culture and universal values that unite citizens regardless of race, religion, ideology, or gender.

Let’s be frank. The reason Christians outside the Middle East support Israelis because they want to ensure the fulfillment of their own end-time prophecy,their own mythology. Many of these supporters have yet to actually spend time in both Israel and Palestine. I’ve been there on the ground, Christians and Muslims are allies there. Every successful Palestinian business is blown up or bulldozed by Israelis, saying the building could be used by snipers. The best land is annexed for Jewish settlers who have never lived in Middle East before as long time Palestinian residents look on, still clutching their land titles.

Let’s be frank. The United States’ unconditional support for Israel is more a reflection of its own voter demographic–Jewish American and ChristianEvangelical voters and campaign donors are more numerous and far wealthier thanArab Americans. Morality has little to do with it. After all, US supports many other allies with alarming disregard for human rights (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan,etc.) even as it demonizes it rivals for the same reasons (Iran, Syria, etc.)It only intervenes when profits are to be made or interests are threatened.

Let’s be frank. History and holy books cannot be used to justify this occupation and land grabbing. History books reveal that, besides the Hebrews,the Assyrians (Syria), Babylonians (Iraq), Romans (Italy), Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates (Saudi Arabia), Mamluks (Egypt), Ottomans (Turkey) and the British Empire (United Kingdom) all claimed and ruled present day Israel and Palestine. The holy books of all three Abrahamic religions–Judaism, Christianity, and Islam–have been used to justify the worst atrocities: the genocide, rape, and enslavement of Philistines, Canaanites, Midianites, etc.; the bloody Jihads; and the murderous Crusades. Studies show that indigenous Semites, whether Israeli or Palestinian, are genetically identical. After all, many of today’s Palestinian Muslims and Christians were once Jews before converting to the religion of past conquerors of the region. Ironically, it was the Jews who refused to convert and were displaced by the Diaspora throughout Europe and America who bear little resemblance to native Semites, culturally or otherwise,after generations of conversions, intermarriages, and assimilation.

Let’s be frank. The fact is that the Palestinians exist–despite every attempt to marginalize, ignore, demonize, and eradicate them–and they have aright to exist, as all people do. Like Israelis do.

Let me be clear: I am for a peaceful and democratic Palestine and Israel. I do not condone atrocities on either side. But these atrocities cannot justify injustices.

Supporters of Israel also have to consider how the occupation is corrupting Israel. It has made Israel occupiers, land grabbers, and human rights violators. Unconditional support isn’t friendship; it’s a license to bully. Areal friend tells someone when they are doing wrong. And yes, I consider myself a friend of both Palestine and Israel.

 

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