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The President Asks, What If There is No God?

The President Asks, What If There is No God?

In a recent speech, President Rodrigo Duterte raised the question, “What if there is no God?” He asked this in light of criticism of his stance on the war on drugs and the reinstatement of the death penalty, particularly to those who argue that only God can take a person’s life.

As freethinkers and secularists, we applaud the President’s recognition in that speech that not all Filipinos believe in a god. This might be the first nod toward non-believers by any sitting Philippine President in history. He also raised the valid problem of suffering in a world supposedly designed by a benevolent god.

Perhaps the Filipino public might begin to ask themselves that question, “What if there is no God?” How differently would we organize our lives if there were no God? How would our values change as a society? How much importance would we place on social justice in this life, rather than postponing it to a supposed afterlife?

We believe that it is about time that non-believers were recognized as equal citizens in this Catholicism-dominated country. Despite the Constitutionally protected separation of Church and State, too many politicians have used their belief in God to justify their policies, with Senator Manny Pacquiao leading the charge.

However, we also decry the misuse of atheism and agnosticism to promote non sequitur conclusions. President Duterte raised the issue of God because he believed that the death penalty would be his answer to the absence of a god judging the living and the dead.

We disagree that imposing the death penalty follows from the lack of justice in an afterlife. On the contrary, the highly likely execution of innocent citizens would be exponentially more despicable in the absence of an afterlife. There is no undoing the execution of an innocent life. There is no consolation for the wrongfully executed. In the United States, whose system of criminal investigation is already much more advanced and scientific than the Philippines’, an estimated 4% of defendants on death row are still wrongfully convicted.

And even when we are certain of a person’s guilt, the application of the death penalty should take into account its probable disproportionate imposition on the poor since the drug trade is often a refuge for those abandoned by society to fend for themselves. There is also little evidence that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against crime, when it can also serve to escalate and perpetuate the cycle of violence.

If there is no God, if there is no afterlife, justice in this life is of supreme importance. There would be no God to sort out the dead. Only we can provide justice, and there is no justice without due process.

Posted in Advocacy, Featured, Organization, Politics, Religion, Society0 Comments

Sen. Santiago’s RH Speech: a Win for RH, a Loss for Secularism

I’m ambivalent about Sen. Santiago’s RH sponsorship speech. As an RH advocate, I’m happy. Her speech was effective in terms of increasing the chances of the RH Bill passing.

But as an advocate of secularism, I’m disappointed. She replaced arguing from one religious perspective — CBCP’s version of Catholicism — with arguing from another religious perspective — the progressive Catholicism adhered to by most Catholic advocates I know.

This wouldn’t be a problem if she held progressive Catholicism as one of her private motivations for being pro-RH. But to use it as a public argument in Senate is indefensible. This bears repeating: The Philippine Constitution states that secularism shall be inviolable. Although the Philippines may be predominantly Catholic, it should have a secular government — one that is religiously neutral.

Sen. Santiago’s speech is as religiously biased as it gets. How many times did she mention God and the Church in her speech? She didn’t even try to be pluralistic; she could have made God and Church applicable to other religions. But it was clear from the start that she was focused on no other religion but the Roman Catholic one.

Her main argument was that Catholics shouldn’t blindly obey the priests and Popes, their doctrines and dogmas; they should follow their conscience instead. Why? Because the 2nd Vatican council said so. But by following their conscience, Catholics will only be obeying a different group of priests and Popes and doctrines and dogmas.

And while Sen. Santiago argues with the CBCP about which group of religious leaders Catholics should follow, non-Catholic Filipinos remain unrepresented. Non-Catholics don’t care what a Catholic Pope or bishop says. Nor should a secular government.

Some might think it’s a good thing Sen. Santiago is fighting fire with fire, pitting her progressive theology against the CBCP’s conservative version. But by doing so, she has conceded the battleground. She has implicitly agreed that the RH bill is also about theology — the CBCP’s preferred arena. Instead of setting the stage for secular arguments, she left the door open for CBCP’s religious arguments. And in a supposedly secular Senate, even one is too many.

I believe the RH bill has come this far because of a shift toward a more secular outlook — decreasing trust in religious arguments and supernatural causes, increasing reliance on scientific evidence and real-world effects. Although it aims to weaken an ancient authority, Sen. Santiago’s speech strengthens an ancient paradigm: the Philippines is a Catholic country and you have to use Catholic arguments to change it.

Maybe Sen. Santiago thinks the only way to win the RH battle is to fight it theologically. A victory against the CBCP on its own turf might just be the push the RH bill needs to pass. Though such a victory is still uncertain, one thing’s for sure: using theology as a tactic is a clear defeat in the fight for secularism.

Posted in Featured, Politics, Religion, Society11 Comments

Shepherd and Sheep

Shepherd and Sheep

Democracy and with it, freedom of choice, are among the best moral ideas that we have developed, a “universal value” of the 20th century according to the economist and philosopher Amartya Sen. Poor and powerless people do not have much of both, but most will agree that having more is the right way to go. I say “most” because believers of one-man, one-party or one-religion rule do still exist and assert that orders from above work best, or that people are like sheep that constantly need a shepherd for direction. Consider this gem of such thinking from CBCP president Bishop Nereo Odchimar as told in the report “CBCP renews opposition to RH bill ahead of SONA”:

“The bill ignores moral and religious considerations in the name of democracy and freedom of choice in a pluralist society,” he said. … He said the people’s right to choose must always be guided by the Gospels and the teachings of the Church. “To ignore this principle is to ignore the light that illumines an upright conscience,” Odchimar said.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is a popular saying that most people agree with. Both deep and practical, it is something you can repeat to yourself as you overhear your neighbor enjoying the current brain-stopper on TV, or as you read the latest inanities of anti-RH groups. Well, Bishop Odchimar just upended that guide to good-neighborliness.

We know that Catholic doctrine states that contraception is intrinsically evil. But the bishop’s statement is not about the evil of contraception anymore, but the evil of democracy. Odchimar is saying that beyond his right to proclaim his brand of morality, democracy must also give way so that only his moral choices remain. We have the freedom to choose as long as we stick to what he chooses. He must think that we really are dumb sheep.

The RH bill upholds the moral and religious views of all precisely through freedom of choice, and seeks to become law through a democratic process. Unlike Odchimar’s proposal, no one will be forced. All can live with or without RH services. Even funding will depend on people’s choices. If Catholics shift from artificial to natural family planning (NFP), then public money will also shift to funding NFP training costs.

The CBCP should be more careful about devaluing democracy and freedom of choice. Odchimar’s claim about the RH bill ignoring moral and religious considerations is false. However, the country has had plenty of disastrous experience with the reverse, when democracy and freedom of choice were ignored in the name of interests cloaked in morality and religiosity.

Spanish friars came to the Philippines and amassed wealth and power as part of conquest, colonization and Christianization. We lost 300 years of national freedom. If those events are too distant to remember, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s sham presidency should be memorable enough. Just two months after the May 2004 election, the bishop-friendly Arroyo was hurriedly anointed with legitimacy with these words from the CBCP:

It is the view of the bishops that the results of the elections reflected the will of the Filipino people.

Years after Arroyo’s election cheating and large-scale corruption sparked popular protests, the majority of bishops continued to prop her rule through open collaboration* or acquiescence. All in the name of her anti-RH, conservative politics.

“Ang sinungaling ay kapatid ng magnanakaw” was Susan Roces’ ringing sound bite on Arroyo’s power grab. Bishops who wish to impose their morality after inflicting a corrupt and unelected ruler on us deserve a similar rebuke: Ang kapal ninyo!


* In 2009, Arroyo released public funds to Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos who asked for a 4×4 vehicle as a birthday gift and to Bishop Diosdado Talamayan who asked for contributions to a clergy retirement home. A year before, the two bishops were reported to have “spent thousands of pesos for a full-page ad in a major broadsheet to express support for the Arroyo government and insist that the [bishops’] call for ‘communal action’ should not be interpreted as a call for people power.”


The image of shepherd and sheep above is from a public domain work of Martinus Antonius Kuytenbrouwer d. J. (1821–1897), available at Wikimedia Commons

Posted in Featured, Religion, Society14 Comments

FF Podcast 006: State of Secularism Address 2011

FF Podcast 006: State of Secularism Address 2011

In this episode, we discuss President Benigno Aquino’s second State of the Nation Address, and we deliver our own State of Secularism Address.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Featured, Media, Podcast, Politics, Society0 Comments

His Deafening Silence: A Quick Take on P-Noy’s Lame Excuse

His Deafening Silence: A Quick Take on P-Noy’s Lame Excuse

(Video from GMA News TV)

President Noynoy Aquino’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA), apart from being the most shameless reheating of a metaphor in recent literature, was not much else. Yes, we get it, the man loves talking about his wangwang, but what of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, among other dire matters? Suffice it to say that many people were sorely disappointed by P-Noy’s deafening silence regarding the sundry issues he failed to mention, and clamored for a follow-up.

Sadly, P-Noy’s response was just as disheartening.

Regarding the RH Bill, he said:

Anong pakinabang nino man na ‘yong proponents and ‘yong antagonists of the bill to discuss it when we are almost at the stage na tapos na ‘yong debate (What’s the use of discussing it when we’re almost at a point where the debate is over)?”

The debate’s almost over? That’s news to us, dear President. When you say something is almost over, you can see a definite conclusion hovering around the corner, and I’m afraid all of this hemming and hawing from Malacanang the past year regarding the RH Bill–most notably the one being held behind closed doors with a bunch of old, virgin men–has prevented any semblance of a conclusion from being formed. On the contrary, the moment you decide to reign the CBCP down from the heights of unwarranted privilege is when we can finally see an end in sight.

Ask any person on the street if they can definitely say whether or not the RH Bill will be passed into law–not whether they are for or against the Bill, but whether they know the state the government is in regarding that matter. Odds are that they will struggle with their answer.

That was what the SONA was for, P-Noy. We weren’t even asking for a dissertation. A comprehensible sentence or two on what you thought about it was enough, but you couldn’t even give us that. If the issue really was nearing an end, shouldn’t you have at least said so instead of leaving the entire country hanging? In the spirit of your tired metaphor fetish, if we really were your boss, we would’ve fired you already not only for your shoddy report, but for taking us for fools and making up such a poor excuse.

Posted in Featured, Politics, Society1 Comment

Blessed are the Poor, said the Billionaire Bishops

Every night, millions of poor Filipinos pray that when they wake up, they’d no longer be poor. Answering these prayers would take nothing short of a miracle. And a miracle, by definition, is highly improbable; just witnessing one is considered a blessing by many.

But a miracle might just be what Romulo Macalintal has performed. Together with Lito Atienza, Macalintal led a campaign to replace the vehicles returned by Catholic bishops in the wake of the recent PCSO scandal. In less than two weeks of fundraising, donations exceeded a million pesos.

But it’s not the amount of donations that I consider miraculous. Nor is it the fact that they were collected in less than half a month. The fact that Macalintal managed to convince so many that the bishops needed money — now that’s a miracle.

Because as friend and fellow RH advocate Elizabeth Angsioco pointed out, the bishops are filthy rich:

Based on Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) 7 July 2011 records, their holdings in these corporations are now worth a whopping P18,040,238,371.80.

There are a few more minor holdings that are not included here and many more corporations can be examined. Even without touching the RCC’s real estate properties (which are surely worth many billions), and its highly profitable businesses like schools and hospitals, it is quite clear that the RCC as a church, as well as its various entities are FILTHY RICH.

What 18 billion can buy

18 billion Pesos. That’s 18 thousand pesos multiplied by a million. Or 18 million pesos multiplied by a thousand. No matter how I put it, few Filipinos can fathom what it means to have such a huge amount. Maybe it will be easier to understand in terms of what the bishops can buy with all that money.

Consider the Araneta Coliseum. It can hold 15 to 16 thousand people. Picture every seat in every row occupied by a person, from ringside to general admission. With 18 billion pesos, the Catholic bishops can afford to give every person in a packed Araneta Coliseum their own SUV[1]. To be exact, the bishops can buy 15,272 SUVs[2].

If the bishops can afford this much, why did they have to ask PCSO for SUVs? Whatever the reason, it wouldn’t be the only time a bishop asked for something he could have paid for himself.

In Cagayan, the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao asked PCSO for money to pay for the operational expenses of a retirement home for priests. The PCSO gave them P200,000 plus an unknown amount for “finishing touches” on the renovation of the said retirement home. Forget about the fact that this is a clear violation of our Constitution and PCSO’s charter and consider this: Although P200,000 is no small amount, it’s nothing compared to the more than P100 million pesos the Bishop of Tuguegarao has invested in San Miguel and Ayala. With that P100+ million, the bishop could pay for the operation of 500 retirement homes, and he’d still have several million left.

Anyone can use a calculator and plug in the values, but I think there’s something wrong with Atienza’s arithmetic:

“We can do this quickly. If 8,000 Catholics donate P1,000, we could have the P8 million. If 16,000 give P500 or 32,000 donate P250, we could also reach that amount,” said Atienza

Atienza, who helped launch the Piso Para sa Obispo campaign in Cebu, can do the Math. But there’s something wrong when you divide the burden of raising P8 million among poorer people, especially when the beneficiary can afford to give P8 million each to 2,250 people (18B/8M).

The sin of obscene wealth

Surely if there’s anyone that should be doing the donating, it’s the Catholic bishops. Instead, they keep their billions invested where all it does is make the bishops even more rich. Angsioco discovered that from May to July of this year, the value of the bishops’ investments appreciated by P567 million. When Atienza said you can be sure that what you give to the church comes back to you (“Kapag nagbigay ka naman kasi sa simbahan, alam mong babalik din sa iyo”), he might have been referring to the stock market.

And while the billionaire bishops become even richer, millions remain poor and hungry. An organization that claims moral ascendancy should find something wrong with this picture, especially one that calls itself pro poor. Apparently it’s not only wrong — it’s a mortal sin:

The Vatican has revised the traditional Catholic “Seven Deadly Sins” with new ones, including “being obscenely wealthy.” Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, announced the new sins in an interview published on March 10, 2008, in LOsservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper… Bishop Girotti explained that the sin of obscene wealth consists of “the excessive accumulation of wealth by a few.”

Are the billionaire bishops guilty of “excessive accumulation of wealth by a few”? When a few people have enough money to give SUVs to 15,272 people, the answer is obvious. And the bishops owe society a lot. Obviously, I’m not suggesting that the bishops start giving away Pajeros. All I’m saying is that if you’re really pro-poor, you should be the ones giving to the poor, not the other way around. The question is, Have the bishops accumulated wealth so that they could be pro-poor? Or have they pretended to be pro-poor so that they could accumulate wealth?

The problem of evil

Anyway, let’s correct Atienza’s Mathematical mistake and see how much we can divide the bishops’ P18 billion among the people who really need it. According to a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, 15.1 percent of Filipinos (14.2 million) are hungry and 2 percent of Filipinos (around 1.88 million) are severely hungry, having nothing to eat often or always. The billionaire bishops can feed all hungry Filipinos for more than a month. If they chose to help only the 1.88 million who are severely hungry, the bishops can provide food for more than nine months [3].

The billionaire bishops are in a position to perform a real miracle in the Philippines. For more than a month, they can end hunger; for almost one year, they can put an end to severe hunger. The bishops are able. But as Epicurus asked in his early formulation of the problem of evil, “Are the bishops able but not willing?”


Assuming the average price of the 7 vehicles given to the bishops

P18B = value of stocks owned by CBCP and other Catholic organizations
Cost of 7 SUVs (Sacred Utility Vehicle) given to bishops = P8.25M
P18B / P8.25M x 7 = 15272.72727

Population of the Philippines = 94M
94M x .151 = 14.2M = hungry Filipinos
94M x .02 = 1.88M = severely hungry Filipinos
P974 = how much a Filipino needed in 2009 to meet his/her monthly food needs according to the National Statistical Coordination Board
P974 x 1.88M = P1.83B = amount needed to feed severely hungry Filipinos for a month
P18B / P1.83B/mth = 9.83 months = months the bishops can afford to feed severely hungry Filipinos
P974 x 14.2M  = P13.83B = amount needed to feed hungry Filipinos

Posted in Featured, Politics, Religion, Society16 Comments

[Press Release] Filipino Freethinkers remind PNoy to pass RH and avoid GMA’s mistakes at Purple Ribbon RH March

(July 22, 2010) Manila – Filipino Freethinkers marched to Mendiola and Malacañang with other RH advocates from the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) and other pro-RH organizations.

One of their members dressed as ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), pulling behind her seven huge PCSO checks. Each check was carried by a member dressed in a bishop costume. The recipients and amounts listed in the checks are based on the details of the recent PCSO scandal, wherein 7 Catholic bishops were given PCSO donations approved by GMA.

“We want to warn PNoy not to commit the same mistakes of the past president,” said Kenneth Keng, RH advocacy director of Filipino Freethinkers. “GMA bought the bishops’ silence during the Hello Garci scandal by blocking the passage of the RH Bill during her term. The recently exposed PCSO donations to several bishops are only the tip of the iceberg. There may be more bribes that have yet to
be uncovered.”

Filipino Freethinkers also echoed the call for PNoy to clearly support RH during his upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA). Keng said: “It is our hope that showing the President the broad based majority support that the most recent SWS surveys confirmed (70% of filipinos nationwide in favor of the RH Bill) and the dire consequences of delay in terms of innocent lives lost (100,000 maternal and infant deaths and 4,000,000 abortions since a vocal minority of religious opposition began opposing the bill 10 years ago) can enjoin him ahead of his upcoming State of the Nation address to take action in making the priority passage of the RH Bill this year a reality.

“We want to remind PNoy to fulfil his promise to provide RH for all,” said Keng. “He has unequivocally given his support to the RH Bill in public fora such as the recent UP commencement address. We’re here to celebrate this new promise while gently reminding him of the need to help push the Bill past all of the shameless, underhanded and undemocratic stalling tactics of groups led by the CBCP in both houses of Congress”

# # #
If you’d like more information about this, or to schedule an interview with Kenneth Keng, please contact us
or send an email to [email protected].

Posted in Featured, Politics, Press Releases, Religion, Society5 Comments

The Ethics of Secularism

The Ethics of Secularism

One of the principles of secularism is doing good for goodness’ sake: “Whether there be other good or not, the good of the present life is good, and it is good to seek that good.” The English secularist George Jacob Holyoake, who coined the word “secularism” in the mid-19th century, asserted, “Individual good attained by methods conducive to the good of others, is the highest aim of man, whether regard be had to human welfare in this life or personal fitness for another. Precedence is therefore given to the duties of this life.

Since this utilitarian ethical principle is not grounded on the moral dictates of a transcendent being, i.e., God, it is not surprising that theists are quick to criticize it as lacking an ontological foundation, meaning there is no basis for conceptualizing such moral system in the first place. They then proceed to cite David Hume’s is-ought problem and G.E. Moore’s naturalistic fallacy, insisting that it is impossible to derive an “ought” from an “is” or to infer moral obligations from mere observations of nature, and that what is naturally pleasant or desired is not necessarily “good”.

While Hume wrote in A Treatise of Human Nature that it surprised him to find an ought instead of an is, there seems to be nothing in the book expressing the impossibility of bridging the is-ought gap. Hume only said that “’tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it.

Moreover, the rules apply to both theists and nontheists, and if the requirements for bridging the gap are set to go beyond common sense and into ontological obsession, I doubt that even Divine Command Theory can bridge it. Someone claiming that God exists and has laid down certain rules (an is statement) is also expected to explain why we ought to act accordingly, and after all the rationalizations have been exposed and eliminated, it all boils down to one thing: we ought to obey and please God for the welfare of our souls.

While the secularist does not necessarily rule out the possibility of a life after death since it’s unprovable either way, he gives priority to his welfare in this life: “For a future state Secularism proposes the wise use of this, as he who fails in this “duty nearest hand” has no moral fitness for any other.” And since claims of divine revelation are all hearsay and our common sense dictates that the Bible is a dangerous guide to morality, secularism “offers the guidance of observation, investigation, and experience. Instead of taking authority for truth, it takes truth for authority.

The word ought was originally used to express duty or obligation (and this is probably how Hume intended to use it), but modern usage has expanded its meaning to also indicate advisability or desirability. Since the secularist believes in the improvement of this life by material means and that science is the available Providence of man, if he wants to be happy then he knows what he ought –  what he is well advised – to do, and that is to seek happiness in ways that are conducive to the happiness of others so as to encourage mutual effort in perpetuating everybody’s happiness.

As for the naturalistic fallacy, while it is true that “pleasant” is not necessarily tantamount to “good,” it seems that all of mankind’s conscious acts are ultimately motivated by pleasure. The blogger Philosophy Bro put it succinctly:

“People want to be happy; that seems pretty clear. What makes people happy? Why, pleasure makes people happy…Pleasure is the only thing people want for its own sake, as an end; everything else people do is to attain some final pleasure…For some reason dudes keep insisting that there’s more to life than pleasure. And to them I say, “Really? Like what?” When they start listing shit like literature and the arts and human excellence, I know they’re not paying attention because all of those things are pleasurable.”

As for the theists who define “good” as something that God commands or desires, the is-ought problem is thrown back at them: why do we ought to do good and obey God? And if they are honest enough they will admit that it’s because they want to have a pleasant eternal life in Heaven and avoid perpetual torment in Hell.

And so it seems that for the theist and nontheist alike, morality, or at least the standard by which a person judges actions with either approval or disapproval, is ultimately rooted in the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. In Of Vice and Virtue, Hume wrote, “For granting that morality had no foundation in nature, it must still be allowed, that vice and virtue, either from self-interest or the prejudices of education, produce in us a real pain and pleasure.” An article in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy paraphrases Hume: “[I]t is because we are the kinds of creatures we are, with the dispositions we have for pain and pleasure, the kinds of familial and friendly interdependence that make up our life together, and our approvals and disapprovals of these, that we are bound by moral requirements at all.”

And while the secularist does not concern himself with ultimate or eternal scenarios of pleasure and pain as much as the immediate and foreseeable consequences of his actions, it does not mean that his morality is inferior. In The Science of Good and Evil, Michael Shermer explained that “like everyone else, I face judges that are in their own ways transcendent and powerful: family and friends, colleagues and peers, mentors and teachers, and society at large. My judges may be lowercased and occasionally deceivable, but they are transcendent of me as an individual, even if they are not transcendent of nature…real people whose lives are directly affected by my actions, and whose actions directly affect my life.”

The secularist’s judges may not be as fearsome as a deity capable of sentencing people to eternal torture, but he nevertheless respects them deeply and holds himself accountable to them. That’s because in this life, which is the only life we really know exists, these human judges influence our welfare and happiness in ways that we can clearly see and foresee. As such, we are accountable to them because we are ultimately accountable to ourselves.

Posted in Featured, Society20 Comments

God in Our Constitution

God in Our Constitution

For many who had expected the July 13 Senate hearing with the “Pajero 7 bishops” to be more than just an occasion for face-saving apologies or Pilatean hand-washing on the part of persons involved in the PCSO plunder scandal, the whole affair turned out to be a letdown. What could have been a forum for investigating in aid of legislation public officials’ conduct in appropriating GOCC (government owned or controlled corporations) funds for the wealthiest and biggest sect, instead, became a pretext for condoning the routine practice of showering administration-friendly religious leaders with state largesse on secular grounds!

Santiago’s Speech

Senator Miriam Santiago virtually acquitted the “Pajero bishops” and preempted all discussion, by pointing out to her colleagues the secular purpose behind the bestowal of funds on the bishops and by berating the COA officers, mass media practitioners and common people for their supposed intrusion into the Supreme Court’s dominion as the ultimate interpreter and arbiter of legal issues concerning church-state relations. Though Santiago made a number of valid comments regarding discretionary powers that enabled incumbent public officials and PCSO officers to exploit charity funds for private gain and partisan political uses, she buried the whole issue of clergy influence-peddling and preferential treatment of administration-friendly sects beneath a mountain of legal apologies for religion’s presumptive right to state support.

After Santiago’s pandering speech to clergy sensibilities, the Senate hearing followed a descending path, with Enrile casting the whole blame on the former PCSO officers, Estrada cracking a few quips about the propriety of a bishop’s acceptance of tainted funds from the Devil, Bishop Pueblo explaining his reasons for backing GMA and assuring P-noy of his support, and finally, PCSO Chair Margie Juico apologizing to the bishops for her scandal-causing tautological lapses (confusing second-hand pickups with brand new big name luxury SUVs) and assuring the Bishops of PCSO’s openness towards supporting the Catholic Church’s charity work for the poor.

The Church and the State

The problem of church-state relations in our country does not simply lie with corrupt public officials and influence-peddling religious leaders who take advantage of their respective offices. The problem lies with the Philippine State itself which has yet to shed off its feudal and colonial connections that bestow undue economic, cultural and quasi-political privileges on religious institutions, not accountable to the citizenry. Modern democracy is the fruit of the common people’s earthly struggles for social justice, welfare and development, against politico-economic systems that perpetuate elite monopoly over resources and power without accountability. The democratic ideals and values of freedom, equality, justice and fellowship draw their strength from the ascendancy of reason and science as guides to public morality and public policy, over and against supernatural creeds that have historically nurtured despotic regimes that self-servingly claim a mandate from god and his ordained hierarchy of nature.

Ironically, it was the February 1986 Uprising that paved the way for the adoption of our present Constitution which is riddled with conflicting provisions concerning democratic rights and state guaranteed religious privileges. Due to the ruin wreaked by state terror on mass media, social institutions and people’s organizations during the darkest years of martial law, many progressive priests either joined the underground movement or made use of their offices and social action programs to resist the Marcos regime, aid the peasants, workers and urban poor in their struggles for ameliorative reform, democracy, and justice for the disappeared or incarcerated victims of the regime, often against their superiors’ desire for amity with the dictatorship. The murder of opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983 triggered a shift in the bishops’ critical collaboration posture towards the Marcos regime, as unprecedented mass outrage over the atrocity moved hundreds of thousands in street protests throughout the country including Makati its key financial district. The political awakening of the normally conservative middle class and clergy marked a huge advance towards the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship, but it also imposed severe limits on how far democratic change could proceed. Though the Catholic hierarchy in the person of Jaime Cardinal Sin played a crucial role in the overthrow of the Marcos regime in 1986 — when it was already enfeebled by fourteen years of popular struggles for democratic change, armed rebellion, intra-ruling class conflict, and chronic crisis — they played an inordinate role in the making of the Constitution to an extent unequaled by any church in past regimes.

Given their mixed composition, the drafters of the basic law came up with a Constitution replete with contradictory principles that endanger the state’s commitment to democracy, namely:

(1) All persons have the right to freely practice their respective creeds or worldviews, to the extent consistent with the rights of everyone else. Article III, Section 4 of the Bill of Rights declares that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances”. Section 5 of the same article further affirms: “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.”

(2) Though Article II section 6 declares that the “separation of church and state shall be inviolable”, other provisions bestow on religious institutions pecuniary privileges and special accommodations that comparable secular institutions cannot claim on a presumptive basis. Section 28(3) of Article VI of the Constitution limits tax exemptions to church-owned assets and improvements “actually, directly, and exclusively used for religious, charitable, or educational purposes” while section 29(2) of the same article restricts state support for religion to funds for religious ministers “assigned to the armed forces, or to any penal institution, or government orphanage or leprosarium”. Though these provisions apparently limit state support for the church to secular purposes wherein church and state have a mutual interest, they in fact transform into enforceable law religious beliefs that are discriminatory and amenable to slipshod sectarian interpretation. Religious groups invoke the separation of church and state doctrine, not to protect the state and society against undue sectarian influence, but rather to hinder the state from enacting measures beneficial to society at large but possibly injurious to their sectarian interests.

God in the Machine

The drafters of the 1935, 1973, and 1899 Constitutions were content to invoke “Divine Providence” or “Sovereign Legislator of the Universe” in deference to adherents of different faiths, Buddhists, deists, pantheists, animists and even agnostics and atheists who accept “Divine Providence” as a metaphor for the sum total of the laws of the physical universe. In contrast, the 1987 Constitution invokes the “almighty God” in apparent reference to the God of three major monotheistic faiths, namely, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

But the one provision of the 1987 Constitution that imposes sectarian religious beliefs about life and socially constructed institutions is Section 12 of Article III: “The state recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.” This provision has been abused by ultra-conservative and reactionary religious groups to sabotage every progressive proposal from the Magna Carta of Women to the present Reproductive Health and Divorce Bills which aims to empower and liberate women, spouses and children from misogynistic moral codes embedded in numerous families and religious sects.

If the slippery and unscientific notions of “conception” and the “unborn” were construed to elevate the status of a still non-sensient human cell to that of a human person, then every sexual act that involves the use of contraceptives could indeed be labeled as “abortion”, which is illegal under Philippine laws. It was on this basis that former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza issued an ordinance banning the provision of contraceptive pills, condoms and other reproductive health services in public hospitals and clinics. Serious public discussion of abortion as an option for women and child rape victims afflicted with unwanted and life-threatening pregnancies becomes taboo even among liberals and progressives.

Likewise, the invocation of the family as a sacred “autonomous social institution” renders bad marital unions and dysfunctional family traditions impervious to reform and unresponsive to the needs of real life couples and their children. Without divorce and its attendant provision of alimony, spouses who have no love for each other, abused spouses and abused children who need a violence-free family environment, are denied the means of getting out of their predicament and starting life anew with a new pair of spouses like people trapped in a burning building without a fire escape.


The principle stated in number (1) is unassailable but is often mislabeled by religious interest groups as “freedom of religion”. The democratic principles and rights enumerated in Articles II and III are for all citizens and will hold true independently of any religious doctrine. Regardless of whether an individual person is a believer or an unbeliever, male or female, gay or straight, leftist or rightist, colored or white, and endowed or not endowed with an immortal soul, he or she should be entitled to the same rights to life, health, freedom of expression and association, and pursuit of happiness as everyone else.

Regardless of the factuality or fictitiousness of any god or gods, people will discern common human values and affirm the need for reason-based state laws vital to the maintenance of societal health and civilized life. Unlike principle number (1), principle number (2) is philosophically unsound, legally incoherent, and morally indefensible, because it automatically confers undue privileges on members of influential sects and unjustly foists on unbelievers the duty to conform to worldviews other than their own. Consider the following cases that demonstrate the feebleness of legal and political doctrines that purportedly extol complete freedom of religion and non-discriminatory policy towards all creeds and sects.

In the U.S.A., Mormon parents can raise their children according to their faith but may face criminal prosecution for denying their sick children proper medical treatment on account of their belief in the sinfulness of blood transfusion. A woman, not of the Muslim faith, marries a Muslim man and freely decides to settle with her husband in an Islamic state such as Saudi Arabia or Iran (as distinguished from non-theocratic, secular Muslim states such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Turkey); however, by doing so, she loses her legal right to publicly practice her faith as well submits to her husband’s superior status which could later expose her to the risk of losing custody over her children in the event that her husband divorces her on whatever grounds.

In Australia, an Aboriginal man pleads not guilty to the charge of child-sexual abuse, invoking his right to initiate his victim into full manhood through sodomy in accordance with his tribe’s customary laws; the court finds him guilty and promptly sends him to prison, on the ground that the accused person’s tribe has no such customary laws. Indeed, prison serves him right! But what if sexual initiation rites for pubescent boys were really part of the convicted child abuser’s custom and belief system as they were and still are among the Keraki and Sambia tribes of New Guinea?

All of these extreme examples prove that “freedom of religion” exists only to the extent that the religious acts and beliefs in question concur with or bear no consequence to the laws and values of society at large. Though individuals may invoke private conscience, popular religious beliefs, ancient traditions or ethnic customs as a basis for state laws, it would be wiser and sounder to ground these laws and norms on shared secular moral values and objectively appraisable societal ideals.

(Not So Good) God

In our country, separation of church and state is routinely violated in government offices, public schools, the Courts, the Cabinet and the Congress itself through opening prayers for every occasion and blatant display of religious symbols and messages alongside national icons and on government advertisements. One wall graffiti co-sponsored by the Manila local government and the Philippine National Police urges the youth to “Get high on God not on drugs!”, indeed a catchy slogan aptly comparing religious devotion with narcotics addiction but a poor remedy to a deeply rooted social and political problem. While secular militant organizations have to hurdle bureaucratic barriers to secure a permit for holding a rally at a public place, influential religious sects get a free pass as well as government assistance for holding day-long religious ceremonies and processions at the cost of traffic jams, deaths by stroke or trampling and rise in street crimes due to inordinate deployment of police personnel to celebration sites for crowd management.

Due to former Mayor Atienza’s ban on contraceptives in public hospitals, people have to undergo a tedious litigation process to fight for rights they are entitled to and had enjoyed for years under previous administrations. Students who get pregnant out of wedlock are summarily expelled by Catholic schools. Doctors deny women timely and appropriate medical treatment on suspicion that they had deliberately attempted abortion and that it is against their faith and the law to condone let alone perform abortion. Bishops bypass normal procedures for obtaining funds from the PCSO and PAGCOR in spite of their church’s billions and moral indictment of gambling, while poor people endure long queues under drizzling rain or sweltering heat at PCSO offices just to obtain paltry sums for medical treatment. Religious ministers slander their counterparts in rival faiths on national TV without fear of recrimination, but an obscure author like Ross Tipon gets slapped with a lawsuit for allegedly defaming the INC and its founder and seeking to incite religious unrest through his still unpublished but narrowly circulated book. Though politicians shun debate on church-state relations as a futile exercise in “preaching to fellow believers (or unbelievers)” and “antagonizing believers” (sect-affiliated religious voters), they deliberately ignore the adverse impact of church interventionism and influence-peddling on a wide range of societal concerns such as taxation, public access to information about the socio-economic profile of public officials and patterns of revenue allocation and expenditure, public health, education, sexual ethics, family relations and so forth.

Since religionists and church-pandering politicians have turned our state laws on their head, it is imperative upon democrats, secular humanists, freethinkers and other progressive activists to turn these laws right side-up and fight for progressive reforms at both national and local levels. Since we cannot wait on our vacillating national leaders and lawmakers to act on their campaign commitments and our demands for progressive measures such as the Reproductive Health and Right of Information bills, we have to build up critical mass for these reforms through advocacy, popular education, organizing work and direct action on urgent social issues in our schools, workplaces, social organizations, civic institutions and barangays.

(Images taken from Inquirer, Schriftman, OFW Now, Wellsphere, and Ahmadiyya Times)

Posted in Featured, Politics, Religion, Society3 Comments

FF DAVAO Meetup on July 30 (Saturday)

FF DAVAO Meetup on July 30 (Saturday)

Hello Davaoeños! Let’s get together for an evening of interaction and interesting discussions with our fellow freethinkers.

Date: July 30, 2011 (Saturday)

Time: 8.00 pm

Place: Harley Blvd. Motor Cafe (the 2nd floor is reserved exclusively for us)

Address: Juan Luna St., Davao City (opposite Better Components) Tel. (082)302-8986

* Newbies are welcome.
* 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 if you don’t feel like it; you can just sit in and listen while enjoying your drink.

While Harley offers tasty burgers and other food – and drinks – the meetup is set at 8pm so you have the option of having an early dinner at home or elsewhere and you don’t have to order anything from Harley.

If you don’t know where Harley is, click on the map below to enlarge it:

You may also RSVP on our Facebook page

See you there!

Posted in Featured, Meetup1 Comment

Inglorious Gifts

Inglorious Gifts

It used to be that crimes were done in the name of God. Hand it to the inglorious Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to hit rock bottom and commit malfeasance for bishops’ birthdays. Yes, that’s birthday-plus-s because the Mitsubishi Montero gift was not a lone event. On March 9, 2006, Arroyo made a much bigger offering to mark the birthday of Pampanga Archbishop Paciano “Apu Ceto” Aniceto—policies on women and the Filipino family that, in her words, “would be the best birthday gift” she could give. Unconcerned about displaying the power of Catholic bishops during Arroyo’s rule, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) released the following account:

[Arroyo:] “It must be providential that the birthday of Apu Ceto (her important adviser) falls within International Women’s Week when I have to make policy statements on women’s concerns and issues relating to them.”
After the concelebrated mass held in the Bishop’s honor at the Mother of Good Counsel seminary in this city, the President would attend a meeting of all female members of her cabinet in which women’s issues would be discussed.
After this, the President said she would make a declaration that “a strong family makes a strong republic”, and follow up with measures designed to further strengthen the Filipino family.
“This I think would be the best birthday gift I could give to Apu Ceto”, the President said amidst loud applause from the audience composed mostly of the bishop’s religious congregation in the province.

Strange but true. Our highest public official openly gifted someone who is not a woman and does not claim to have a wife or kids with policies on women and families. Can this be just one of those quirkiness that makes our great nation so, well… quirky? To answer this, we have to go further into the Archbishop’s background and the context when this event occurred.

Arroyo’s Gifts

Luckily, the regime then was truly indifferent about revealing Catholic church influence over governance. The same PIA piece stated that the Archbishop was the President’s adviser on “issues concerning population, family, women welfare and health” and was consulted on March 2001, just two months into Arroyo’s term, prior to her making a statement on these issues; that the President “consults with him when making a choice for a new Secretary of Health”; and that at an Interfaith Summit and the UN General Assembly in 2005, the President “brought much of the Bishop’s inputs into the statements she made in front of these prestigious international bodies”.

Dr. Manuel Dayrit—a member of Couples for Christ—became the Archbishop-and-President’s Secretary of Health in 2001. In the next few years, Dr. Dayrit created the legal basis and structures for overly expanding natural family planning (NFP) and entwining it with Catholic doctrine. He set an ambitious “mainstreaming” target—unmet up to now—to raise NFP use to 20%; created a National Natural Family Planning Committee with a Couples for Christ doctor as Chairperson and with a representative of the CBCP Family Life specified as a member; and separated NFP from the national family planning program to let the government “work more closely with groups and partners that want to promote NFP exclusively”. He even tried to ban the IUD for being an “abortifacient” but was foiled by protests done by women’s and doctors’ groups.

And what was the Archbishop’s inputs to Arroyo’s statement at the UN? The full speech was 10 paragraphs long, but these two about funding NFP exclusively in the name of Catholicism, and belittling the value of artificial contraceptives are proclamations the Archbishop would surely be proud of:

… We expect the United Nations to be sensitive to the deep Catholicism of the vast majority of the Filipino people. The funding given by the United Nations to our national Government for reproductive health will be dedicated to training married couples in a natural family planning technology which the World Health Organization has found effective compared with artificial contraceptives.
The Population Council of New York has found that artificial contraception contributes only 2 per cent to the decline of birth rates, while the combination of improving the economic condition of the family, urbanization and breastfeeding contributes 98 per cent. Thus we ask the United Nations and donor countries to direct their assistance towards the improvement of family productivity and income.

Both are based on lies, or lapses in judgment if your prefer the colorful language of the powerful who when caught are always absolutely sorry about absolutely nothing prosecutable.

The World Health Organization (WHO) rates most artificial methods as more effective than fertility awareness methods. Moreover, limiting people to a method not of their own choosing—whether pills, NFP or whatever—will do nothing but cut sharply its effectiveness and violate fundamental human rights which the WHO promotes.

As for the Population Council, here’s what they said in an article entitled Family Planning Programs Remarkably Successful: “Decades of research show that comprehensive family planning and reproductive health services lead to sharp rises in contraceptive use that help women avoid unintended pregnancies. Over a 30-year period (1960–90), fertility declined in the developing world from more than six to fewer than four births per woman, and almost half of that decline—43 percent—is attributable to family planning programs.”

What’s the Catch?

The Population Council’s 43% became 2% at the UN speech, a remarkable manipulation of numbers to suit one’s needs. Audacious but nothing new. Just a few months earlier, Arroyo was heard in a wiretapped conversation with Comelec Commissioner Virgilio “Garci” Garcillano asking for a lead of one million votes while counting was still going on for the presidential election of 2004.

The Garci scandal and Arroyo’s no holds barred battle to cling to power set the stage for the Archbishop’s birthday gift in March 2006. The scandal erupted nine months earlier in June 2005. Despite widespread protests and calls for Arroyo to resign, the CBCP merely asked for an independent “Truth Commission”. The protests continued and on February 24, 2006, two weeks before the Archbishop’s birthday, Arroyo declared a State of Emergency to quell a supposed coup attempt against her.

The tottering Arroyo needed the bishops to survive. She bought them with various currencies, from religion-inspired policies to the glittering currency of legal gambling. To their historic ignominy, majority of Catholic bishops granted her wish.

Something died during those trying times of Arroyo’s decadent rule. Some may call it the moral authority of Church leaders. Or the principle that the end never justifies the means. Or maybe just plain honesty, fair play and decency. Whatever you call it, something is dead and rotting. And the stench is inevitably escaping.

Posted in Featured, Politics, Religion8 Comments

Apology NOT accepted

(I stand with the new PCSO, Marge Juico and the President)

There is something wrong with the universe. A group of Bishops have sought moral absolution from a bunch of politicians, in a gallery crowded by the Catholic supporters, after some heavy lobbying with the politicians beforehand. Does it surprise anyone that the absolution was given? The CBCP is economically powerful. Church and affiliate Catholic groups are the top stockholders in companies such as the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), Philex Mining Corporation (PX), San Miguel Corporation (SMC), Ayala Corporation (AC), and Phinma Corporation (PHN) according to the latest data submitted to the Philippine Stock Exchange. Apart from its economic power the Church remains a powerful social institution.

The Senate Committee hearing, looking into the unconstitutional use of charity funds in the grant of vehicles to 7 Bishops, was a clinic in sycophancy, hypocrisy and farce.

The day before, the CBCP issued the same apology I hear erring husbands give to their wives. These are the similarities: Continue Reading

Posted in Featured, Personal, Politics, Religion, Society3 Comments

SUV: Secularism Unmistakably Violated

Make no mistake: The recent PCSO scandal violates the separation of churches and state. Yet some, including several senators, think that the PCSO and Catholic bishops weren’t doing anything wrong. By the end of this article, I hope you’ll agree: In every donation the bishops received from the PCSO, secularism was undoubtedly, unquestionably, and unmistakably violated.

First, let’s review the relevant rules regarding the PCSO donations:

  1. To paraphrase the Constitution, public money should not be given to or used by any religious group or individual.
  2. To paraphrase the PCSO charter, the funds allocated for charity should be used for health programs, medical services, and charities of a national character.

Consider the first rule. Does it make any qualifications? Does it say “public money should not be used for a religious group except when the money is used for secular purposes”? No. (Atty. Raul Pangalangan shares the same sentiment.)

Given this, we can now create two questions that test whether there were violations in the use of PCSO funds by the Catholic bishops:

  1. Was public money given to or used by a religious group?
  2. Were the PCSO funds used for a purpose other than health programs, medical services, or charities with a national character?

Tuguegarao Retirement Home for Priests

With these questions in mind, let’s begin with the Tuguegarao case. In Cagayan, the PCSO gave the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao P200,000 for the operational expenses of a retirement home for priests. The PCSO gave an unknown amount for “finishing touches” on the renovation of the said retirement home.

Let’s ask our two questions:

  1. Was the public money given to a religious group? Yes.
  2. Were the PCSO funds used for a something other than a health program, medical service, or charity of national character? Yes.

Is this a violation of secularism? Unless the priests actually retired to become doctors and the retirement home actually serves as a hospital, the answer is obvious. The fact that priests enjoy a retirement home funded by the public is an unmistakable violation of secularism, even if there were a small section in the retirement home that serves as a priestly private practice.

I’d be interested to hear a rebuttal of this case, especially by the senators who hastily accepted the bishops’ innocence and apologized for their involvement in this scandal. Will they be less apologetic when they learn that the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao didn’t even need the funds, because it had more than P100M invested in San Miguel and Ayala?

The Tuguegarao case should be enough to clear any doubt that there was a constitutional violation, and it’s unfortunate that this hasn’t come up during the investigation.

Sacred Utility Vehicles

Let’s move on to the next violation: the bishops purchasing Sacred Utility Vehicles (SUVs). (I redefined the acronym because, as some have furiously pointed out, not all of the vehicles are Sport Utility Vehicles.)

Some people seem to think that it’s OK for the bishops to receive SUVs as long as they are used for charity work. I’ve already explained that the Constitution does not care what the funds are used for; that a religious group received the funds is already a violation.

But even if we grant for the sake of argument that the funds (and SUVs) can be used for charitable purposes, at least one bishop implicitly admitted that it was used for more than that.

Consider what Bishop Pueblos said in reference to returning his Montero Sport:

“I don’t see any problem with that. I am riding a very old vehicle within the diocese itself. I could even ride a small vehicle if it is necessary. It will not really be a problem,” Pueblos said.

Think about it. If the Montero Sport were only being used for medical assistance or charity work, this is not what Pueblos would have said. He would have said something more like the following:

“I will return the vehicle, but it’s too bad. People in hard-to-reach barangays will not receive the medical assistance they so badly need. We don’t have any vehicle that can cross the tough terrain, so we’ll have to immediately start looking for one.”

But no. Pueblos said that he would use the “very old vehicle” and that he “could even ride a small vehicle.” (Because, you know, anything that’s not a Montero is small.)

The birthday bishop’s statement tells us that the Montero was primarily for his use, and non-sanctioned use of the Montero is a violation, regardless of whether he used it to go to the market or go to Mass. And does anyone seriously think that every trip Bishop Pueblos took on the Montero was a medical mission?

The statement also tells us that Pueblos didn’t need the Montero after all. If a very old vehicle or a smaller vehicle could have done the job, it means that he didn’t have to ask for the P1.7M birthday gift from GMA; even if he needed a car, it didn’t have to be a Montero.

In addition to the Tuguegarao case, this is also a clear violation. And I highly doubt that the other bishops used their SUVs only for charitable purposes. But let’s pretend for the sake of argument that the SUVs were used exclusively for medical missions. Would it still be a violation of secularism? Yes, and here’s why.

Sen. Miriam’s mistake?

As I’ve explained earlier, the Constitution categorically states that public money should not be given to religious groups, regardless of what the religious group does with it — there are no exceptions.

Senator Miriam Santiago argues that this is not the case, and she brings up a 1937 case to make her point:

The post office issued postage stamps commemorating an international Eucharistic congress of the Catholic Church. The issue was whether the stamps used public money for religious purposes, thus violating the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that there was no violation.

This is a bad analogy. The public money for issuing the stamps was used by the post office, a government organization — not a religious one. In comparison to the SUV scandal, the public money was given to and spent by a religious organization. The contrast couldn’t be more obvious.

Sen. Santiago goes on to explain a threefold test to check whether there was a constitutional violation. But as Atty. Raul Pangalangan explains, the threefold test does not even apply in this case:

Here we don’t even get to apply that test. What is at stake is not the broad language of the Establishment Clause (“No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion ….”) but the specific and prohibitory language on the religious use of public funds (“No public money ….”). In interpreting laws, the specific and the prohibitory prevail over the general and the permissive. As the saying goes, “What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?”

And for someone who said that “the COA report is wrong … there was no constitutional violation,” Sen. Santiago comes to a surprising conclusion:

PCSO management apparently admitted that it has not given similar donations to any other religion. If so, then PCSO management appears to be giving preference to the Catholic religion, and that would be a violation of the Establishment Clause.

So what the investigation has shown so far is that there’s at the very least a violation of the Establishment Clause in the Constitution. How can Sen. Santiago say that “there was no constitutional violation” and then say that there “would be a violation of the Establishment Clause” in the very same page?

Reputation vs. Integrity

Sen. Santiago concludes by calling for the investigation of the “maleficent twisted genius” who invented “Pajero bishops.” I wouldn’t mind the Senate investigating this.

But senators, please get your priorities straight. There are more things that deserve further investigation. What about the violations of the Establishment Clause made apparent by PCSO’s admissions? What about the possible violations committed from 1986 – 2007, when, according to the CBCP, receiving donations from the PCSO became standard practice? What about the unsanctioned usage of the SUVs as Pueblos has implicitly admitted? And what about the blatant violations in the Tuguegarao retirement home for priests?

As I said in a recent interview, the investigation into the bishops’ involvement in this scandal appears to have been done in haste. The excessive respect shown by the senators toward the bishops borders on devotion, and this has undoubtedly affected their objectivity. I hope the more sensible Senators remind their more pious colleagues that the bishops’ reputations are less valuable than the Blue Ribbon Committee’s integrity.

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Posted in Featured, Politics, Religion, Society3 Comments

Your Face is a Heavily Funded PR Conspiracy

Your Face is a Heavily Funded PR Conspiracy

It’s a miracle any of us have been posting on the site recently, considering how little sleep we’ve gotten these past few days. It’s been all cardboard and pens and scissors and tarps and lots and lots and lots of tape for us recently as a handful of us scrambled to create 7 miniature SUVs and placards from scratch in a single night. While some ended up falling unconscious for an hour or two, most had foregone sleep entirely. We be badass.

So, little did others know that while the Freethinkers stood with the rest of Bantay Bishop outside the Senate gates last Wednesday morning, greeting the bishops and Senators as they cruised in for the PCSO hearing, we were running on the barest minimum of energy, half-thinking of the Pajero 7, half-thinking of random mattresses and Jollibee Breakfast Joys. Fortunately, our determination kept us from keeling over.

Moreover, we did this despite our day jobs and other priorities. And all the materials were either from our personal belongings, borrowed, or bought using cash pooled from our members and friends. In the midst of our criticizing an issue regarding certain people getting grossly undeserved funds that could have gone to deserving citizens, it is highly ironic that we would be accused of enjoying this very form of corruption due to some bizarre conspiracy theory. Unlike other people, we helped ourselves.

None of us would have done this because we were told or paid to. We didn’t walk away from this event with extra cash in our pockets or pats on the back from some greasy bigwig. Instead, we headed off for the jobs and deadlines we had put on hold, for a place to finally get some grub and, for a lucky few,  for our homes where we fell unconscious on our beds. And we’d do all of this all over again if (and when) we have to.

Posted in Featured, Personal, Politics, Religion, Society8 Comments