5 February 2013, MANILA –On the official website of the Philippine Department of Education, the following Vision is listed:
The DepEd Vision
By 2030, DepEd is globally recognized for good governance and for developing functionally-literate [sic] and God-loving Filipinos.
The following listing of Core Values can also be found:
Culture of Excellence, Integrity and Accountability
Screenshot of the said webpage
Filipino Freethinkers denounces these mentions of “God-loving” and “Maka-Diyos” as they are clear violations of the principle of secularism. They enshrine theism as a preferred belief system and imply that those who do not subscribe to belief in a deity are at best second-class citizens who have flawed or incomplete values.
We therefore call on the Department of Education to remove these or replace them with secular counterparts.
We are fully aware though that our government has long been negligent in honoring the separation clause. Similar mentions of god in our currency have been present for a long time (“Faith in our people and faith in God” on the 500-Peso bill and “PINAGPALA ANG BAYAN NA ANG DIYOS ANG PANGINOON” on the 100-Peso bill) and these are also violations of the separation of church and state. Unfortunately, our previous calls for the removal of these clauses seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
Our constitution clearly states that “the separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.” With this, we strongly urge the Department of Education to act on this matter through the omission or replacement of the said clauses with more universal values that apply to both theists and non-theists alike.
Pepe Bawagan, Secularism Advocacy Director
Update: The Department of Education has replied via twitter that this is an old vision statement that they have reviewed and that a new vision statement will be released in the coming weeks. We look forward to having a more inclusive vision statement from the DepEd.
When Senator Sotto plagiarized Sarah Pope in his recent turno en contra speech, it wasn’t discovered by traditional media. Sotto’s plagiarism was first pointed out in a post on our website at FilipinoFreethinkers.org.
From there other bloggers spread the word, and some even discovered that Pope wasn’t the only one Sotto plagiarized. By then, traditional media had picked up the story, and Sotto’s plagiarism became national news. Soon, it even went international.
Sotto’s critics were those who, unlike the Senator, understood that plagiarism was a serious offense, especially for a public servant. It was surprising that Sotto’s colleagues in both houses of Congress were mostly silent on the issue. Was it because they were guilty of plagiarism themselves? Were they simply looking out for one of their own out of professional courtesy? Whatever the case, one thing became clear: If someone was going to call Sotto out for his erroneous views on plagiarism, it wouldn’t be his fellow legislators.
Fortunately, Filipino netizens took the responsibility. To the extent that public officials kept quiet, Filipino netizens made noise — writing blogs, creating posters, spreading memes — exposing, criticizing, and even mocking Sotto for his plagiarism and how little he understood its seriousness.
This was democracy in action: Ordinary citizens were fearlessly criticizing a representative they had elected. They didn’t have regular columns in which to publish their thoughts. They couldn’t interpellate or give privilege speeches to denounce Sotto. But now, they could have their say, and they were heard. Sotto heard. To a small degree, the playing field was leveled. And this was thanks to the internet.
But instead of listening to netizens, Sotto claimed that he was being bullied. He said that his alleged bullies would one day be held accountable. A few weeks later, the cybercrime law was passed, and it contained a section that made e-libel a worse crime than defamation in print. It’s not a mystery who we have to thank for this.
Much can and has been said about e-libel, but one thing is clear: anyone who uses the internet to criticize public figures has good reason to be afraid. The possibility of spending more than a decade in prison tends to have that effect. As a result, people will think twice before criticizing people like Sotto online. Or as Sotto would like to call it, “cyberbullying.”
But bullying is defined as “the use of superior strength or influence to intimidate or force someone to do what one wants.” Sotto has used his position as a Senator to intimidate and force others to keep silent or think twice before criticizing people like him. Who’s the bully now?
With the Cybercrime law, how will ordinary citizens criticize elected officials without fear of being sued and fined, or worse, put in jail? Should we all join traditional media to receive the same protections journalists receive? Should we all run for public office to receive the same privileges politicians enjoy? These are unrealistic expectations. And if only a few have the freedom to criticize public servants, what does that say about the democratic process? As President Obama said at a recent speech in the UN–a statement I will gladly and properly attribute to him–true democracy “depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear; on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.”
Speaking of democracy and the democratic process, we could have used more of that while the Cybercrime Law was still a bill in legislation. The most controversial section of the bill was the section on e-libel. But it seems that it was the least discussed and debated. That is, it didn’t get any time for discussion and debate at all. No one even got an opportunity to interpellate. Why? Because the e-libel section was a last-minute addition by Sen. Sotto during the period of amendments. Note that there wasn’t even an e-libel section to amend — it was an entirely new addition.
Why no one objected to this is a mystery to me. I refuse to believe that so many senators failed to understand the negative implications this has on freedom of speech. Whatever the case, I’m sure that one of the main reasons for this was the very short time they had to review and discuss it. I heard that Sotto, as majority floor leader, immediately closed the period of amendments after introducing the new e-libel section.
As an advocate of the RH Bill, I find this disturbing. Where is the meticulousness that led to the pointlessly long discussions on the meaning of certain words? In the RH Bill, it was “life.” Couldn’t the same attention to detail be applied to words such as “defamation,” “malicious intent,” “justifiable ends,” and “libel” itself? Why is it that in discussing the RH Bill every detail of implementation is carefully questioned, while in the Cybercrime bill, implementation details were left for later?
This lack of discussion and due process has surely lead to the vagueness of the current Cybercrime Law, and I’m sure that had our legislators realized its implications, they wouldn’t have passed it so haphazardly.
This is why we fully support the various motions to amend, replace, and even repeal the Cybercrime law, especially the section on e-libel. At the very least, we want the SC to issue a TRO on the said law. This law has implications on our most basic freedoms, but most of our legislators seem to have overlooked this because the democratic process was hurried, if not entirely violated. And as citizens who are guaranteed free speech by our democratic constitution, we deserve better.
Filipino Freethinkers is part of the Filipino Internet Freedom Alliance, a newly formed coalition that seeks to repeal the current version of the Cybercrime Law and replace it with something more democratic. We invite allied individuals and organizations to join us. Together, let’s ensure that democratic freedoms like freedom of expression and information, both online and off, are preserved and protected.
September 15, 2012— Makati City— Lesbian Activism Project, Inc. (LeAP)*, in collaboration with the Filipino Freethinkers**, will stage a performance at the Manila Contemporary on September 15, 2012 as part of the line-up of activities for the Queer Manila exhibit.
Hubad is inspired by the 2007 production, The Coming Out Monologues (TCOM) of the University of California Riverside. Originally produced by the university’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) organization, TCOM has since been staged in several other universities in the US and Canada. For the first time, LeAP takes this concept and gives it a Filipino spin as a way of spurring discussions on coming out as LGBTQ.
Touching, heartbreaking, and at times funny, Hubad is a collection of narratives originally written by Filipino LGBTQ activists, students and professionals. Both personal and political, these stories of coming out of the closet inform us of how they negotiate, sometimes wrestle with, identities in order to gain recognition and acceptance from their families, friends and the self.
“Hubad, the Filipino term for undressing, is about moments of daring to bare the self that is at once a means— and is in itself the end— to achieving true freedom,” says Ira Briones, chairperson of LeAP.
This will be the first of a series of performances that will be held all throughout the months of September and October. The succeeding events will be guerrilla-style in unidentified locations—the clues of which will be posted on facebook.com/LeAPPhilippines.
Manila Contemporary is located at Whitespace 2314, Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City. The performance starts at 5:00 pm. Entrance is free.
Project Head for Hubad—Lesbian Activism Project, Inc.
About Queer Manila:
Queer Manila is an ongoing exhibit that attempts to create a visual discussion around gender and sexuality within local contexts and internationalised LGBT discourse. It explores the understandings, misunderstandings, conflicts, humours, loves, eroticisms, deviances, spectacles, and dilemmas within Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender identities. Queer Manila runs until September 15.
*Lesbian Activism Project, Inc. is a non-stock, non-profit organization of lesbian, bisexual and queer women that fight for the recognition of LGBT Human Rights.
**Filipino Freethinkers is the largest and most active organization for freethought in the Philippines that aims to promote reason, science, and secularism as a means of improving every Filipino’s quality of life.
23 July 2012, Quezon City – Members of secularist group Filipino Freethinkers (FF) posed as pregnant versions of Philippine President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III outside the Batasang Pambansa Complex as the former held his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) indoors. The demonstrators wore blown-up PNoy masks and housedresses, carried baby dolls, and bore a banner that read: PNoy, kung nabubuntis ka, ang RH batas na (PNoy, if you could get pregnant, RH would be a law by now).
FF’s demonstration alludes to the President’s failure to prioritize the passing of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill into law. Despite the bill’s inclusion as a priority measure by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) in 2011, the President has continued to ignore the delaying of its passage by anti-RH legislators. FF claims that if the President himself could literally get pregnant, he would better understand the bill’s overwhelming positive impact on Filipinas and speed up its passage.
“Considering how PNoy has been ignoring the RH issue, we highly doubt that he’d mention it at all in today’s address,” says FF President Red Tani. “This is grossly negligent of him, as 12 women die each day due to maternal complications, and Filipinos in general are not properly educated on their reproductive rights. An RH law is an intrinsic part of our nation’s quest for true progress; we cannot let PNoy forget this.”
Filipino Freethinkers (FF) is the largest and most active organization for freethought in the Philippines. Freethought is a way of thinking unconstrained by dogma, authority, and tradition.
Every one of FF’s efforts aims to promote reason, science, and secularism as a means of improving every Filipino’s quality of life. The group wishes for everyone to live free of ignorance and oppression—in a society where they are able to act and think for themselves, and in a country where religion and governance are clearly and permanently separated.
The Filipino Freethinkers, alongside hundreds of other organizations across the globe, sign The Declaration of Internet Freedom which can be read in full here.
The following is an excerpt from the site:
We stand for a free and open Internet.
We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles:
Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.
Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.
Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create and innovate.
Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies, and don’t punish innovators for their users’ actions.
Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.
Throughout the years, the Internet has enriched the lives of countless people and has made the world so much smaller with the incredible connectivity that it offers. It has enabled individuals to access virtually the whole pool of human knowledge through online encyclopedias and search engines, giving everyone almost unlimited sources for learning. It has allowed for near-instantaneous communication and sharing of creative content, revolutionizing what it means for information to be viral. It has given birth to a playful and entirely new Internet culture and has helped forge the image of an open global village in the minds of its users. It has fueled the growth of countless web-based services and communities that enable meaningful interaction between strangers and even better ways of collaborating with peers.
With these in mind, we realize that increased connectivity, openness, and transparency should be observed, and to abandon the very principles that guaranteed the success and speedy development of the Internet would be a huge step back for humanity.
The following is the official statement of Ladlad Negros, as written by Pol Escubido Cabalfin.
Ladlad Negros is still alarmed as two members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community have been killed in the month of June.
The two recent victims, one from Silay and the other from Victorias, suffered from more than 20 stab wounds each. On top of this, two cases were also reported for the month of May.
The successive killings of the LGBT members should be treated seriously . We are calling the attention of the local police to further investigate these untimely deaths. We also urge our local government officials to work with the local LGBT groups and associations to fight this grisly trend of murders of LGBTs.
The local governments of Bacolod, Victorias and other cities and municipalities of Negros island must enact legislations against discrimination, bullying and homophobia as these all lead to hate crimes.
The killings here in Negros are just part of the greater whole. In the entire Philippines, around 20 reported LGBT killings have been recorded by the Pink Watch this year, with most of the victims suffering from fatal stab wounds.
At the close of the Pride Month (June), still no justice was given to most of the murdered victims. We demand that justice be brought to these deaths.
We in Ladlad strongly condemn all LGBT killings here in Negros and in the whole country. Like everybody else who have rights, we demand that ours be respected and looked after.
End Discrimination. Stop Hate. Stop LGBT Killings. Forward Equality. Spread Love.
(June 18, 2012) — The Filipino Freethinkers (FF) are waiting for the results of a verified opposition they filed a week ago against the partylist accreditation of Ang Prolife. On May 31, FF, together with representatives of Catholics for Reproductive Health (C4RH), attended the COMELEC partylist hearing for Ang Prolife.
During the hearing, Ang Prolife representative Eric Manalang claimed that he was representing “the structure of families in the Philippines and the youth that belong to them, and more particularly the OFW families who are the most dysfunctional part of the family structure of Philippines,” even denying at first that their group had any specific plans regarding the RH Bill.
“Eric Manalang lied under oath,” said Red Tani, president of FF. “He did this to hide the fact that Ang Prolife represents conservative anti-choice advocates affiliated with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). They are neither marginalized nor underrepresented, which is why Manalang had to commit perjury, claiming that they would represent ‘the family structure,’ which is not even a concrete constituency.”
COMELEC gave potential oppositors 10 days to file their opposition, so last Monday (June 11), FF filed their verified opposition (posted below). Its Final Word summarizes FF’s opposition:
[Filipino Freethinkers] protest Ang Prolife’s party-list petition on the ground that its accreditation would make a mockery of the party-list system. Ang Prolife and its members are neither marginalized nor underrepresented. They are closely affiliated with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and the leadership of the Philippine Roman Catholic Church, which already has more social and political clout than it deserves. Together, the CBCP and so-called prolife groups hold enough power over the government that politicians routinely pander to one church at the expense of all others, and of those with no church at all. There are already numerous blatant violations of secularism, and should Ang Prolife get a seat in Congress, there is no doubt that there will be even more.
In Ang Bagong Bayani, the Supreme Court describes the role to the Honorable Commission when it comes to registration of party-list organizations in the following manner: “In the end, the role of the Comelec is to see to it that only those Filipinos who are ‘marginalized and underrepresented’ become members of Congress under the party-list system, Filipino-style.” The Oppositors ask the Honorable Commission to heed the words of the Supreme Court.
The oppositors trust that the Honorable Commission would not be so timid so as not to strike down attempts of sectarian groups masquerading as sectoral organizations to make unnecessary and prohibited inroads in what ought to be purely secular political activities. Oppositors ask that Ang Prolife’s petition for registration as party-list organization be dismissed.
The verified opposition, with names and addresses removed for privacy, is posted below:
26 August 2011, Manila, Philippines: Philippine freethought organization Filipino Freethinkers won in “The One” category at the local T@tt Awards, the first social media-themed tilt of its kind in the country. “The One” is considered “the most influential trendsetter that shaped opinion, moved people, and prompted action,” through the use of social media tools such as websites, Twitter, and Facebook, and is seen as the top spot amongst the 10 available categories. The group was honored with a trophy and a PHP100,000 (USD2,351) cash prize.
The Freethinkers were also finalists in “The Advocate” category, and in the voting polls that comprised 10% of the total score, the group received the most votes in both spots.
“We are thrilled to receive this award, as the group would not have gotten to where it is now without the help of social media,” says Red Tani, President of the Filipino Freethinkers. ”However, we want to remind people that actions and conversations should not end in the realm of social media. Intelligent ideas are worthless if they’re not implemented in the real world. Online and on the ground advocacy and activism should go hand in hand.
”We’re also happy that we won the major prize considering the circumstances. Not only do we promote the Reproductive Health bill, we’ve been criticizing the Catholic church hierarchy without reservation. We were afraid that controversial issues such as these would keep us from winning. Maybe this recognition from Globe is a sign that the Philippines not only tolerates but welcomes our progressive ideas.”
Other awardees of note were National Chair of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines Elizabeth Angsioco, and Broadway star Lea Salonga, who won in “The Advocate” and “Ballbreaker” categories, respectively. Both women are the Freethinkers’ allies in the fight for the passage of a comprehensive reproductive health bill in the Philippines.
With 29,270,000 Filipinos online spending 41.3% of their time on social media, the Philippines is often dubbed as the “Social Networking Capital of the World.”
PRESS RELEASE: Win Php25,000 in Mulat Pinoy’s “We Are RH” video contest
Amateur filmmakers are invited to submit short films on reproductive health.
Do you wish your videos were on TV instead of YouTube? Looking for extra cash to buy that nice phone? Hoping for your own cool video camera? Then this is what you’ve been waiting for.
Join “We are Right Here. We are RH.”! This amateur video contest aims to bring into the limelight young people’s take on responsible parenthood, reproductive health, and population and development.
Finalists’ videos entries will be featured in a TV special to be aired on one of the most prestigious networks in the country, the ABS-CBN News Channel. The producers and directors of the winning video clips will also be interviewed. Selected entries shall also be aired on the Knowledge Channel program, Peliculab.
Aside from fame and nationwide reach, winners shall also get the following cash prizes: Php 25,000 for the First Prize, Php 15,000 for the Second Prize and P10,000 for the Third Prize. They will also receive trophies, and video cameras from Creative Zen.
A special citation award shall be given by the United Nations Population Fund to one entry that best embodies their theme for 2011, “The World at 7 Billion.” The winner of this special award will receive P15,000, a video camera and a trophy. UNFPA will also use the selected video entry in their 7 Billion information campaign.
So, if you are 25 years old or younger, muster your creative energies and shoot the video that reflects your views. It can be about anything, not just the RH Bill: the use of condoms, family planning, sex education, overpopulation, virginity, STDs, AIDS. Be it a public service announcement or a commercial, a mini-documentary, animation or a dramatic scene, you have the freedom to speak your mind the best way you know how.
Join the discussion. Let your voice be heard. And let Mulat Pinoy be the channel for your shout-out to the world. Join “We are Right Here. We are RH.”
(August 21, 2011) Cultural Center of the Philippines, Pasay City – The Filipino Freethinkers marched with Palayain ang Sining to commemorate Kulo’s now-thwarted closing day, and to show solidarity with our country’s fearless and passionate artistic community. Filipino Freethinkers brought placards that, among other things, said the following:
One man’s belief is another man’s blasphemy.
“I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire
Censorship is so 12th century.
Censorship is offensive.
Censorship: protecting you from reality.
Blasphemy is a human right – United Nations
One freethinker marched in a Jesus costume and held a sign that said, “I am not offended.”
“The issue has definitely riled up individuals both in and out of the artistic community,” said Kenneth Keng, spokesperson of Filipino Freethinkers.
“It’s a reminder of our intrinsic right to freedom of expression,” said Keng. “In light of the UN’s affirmation that blasphemy is indeed a human right, it couldn’t have come at a more poignant time.”
Garrick Bercero of Filipino Freethinkers expounded on UN’s affirmation, at the same time reminding enemies of free speech of the resolution’s importance:
“It is encouraging that more enlightened bodies such as the Human Rights Council of the United Nations has released General Comment No. 34, which affirms the superiority of the right to free speech over the so-called right against blasphemy. Sorry, Atty. Imbong. General Comment No. 34 was put out by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which the Philippines is a member. As a signatory and ratifier, the Philippines is legally bound by international law to follow GC34.
“Members of the ICCPR are required ‘to guarantee the right to freedom of expression… This right includes… political discourse, commentary on one’s own and on public affairs, canvassing, discussion of human rights, journalism, cultural and artistic expression, teaching, and religious discourse. It may also include commercial advertising.’ The comment instructs members to embrace ‘even expression that may be regarded as deeply offensive….’”
(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
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”
(July 13, 2011) Philippines — Over 150 individuals launched the Bantay Bishop movement to support the Senate Blue Ribbon committee investigation on the 7 Pajero Bishops allegedly bribed by ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The individuals come from different organizations, including Filipino Freethinkers, Likhaan, Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, Watchbiatches, Pink Rockers, and Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood. Individual supporters include Carlos Celdran and Dr. Sylvia Claudio.
“We’re here to remind everyone that even bishops can be criminals, too,” said Red Tani, spokesman of Bantay Bishop. “Criminals must be brought to justice, even if they’re leaders of religious organizations.”
The demonstration featured 7 activists, each wearing a costume that resembles a bishop riding an SUV. The costumes were dubbed “Mitsubishop Montero,” “Nissan SaPari,” and “StraDamaso,” alluding to the brands of the SUVs received by the bishops.
“The costumes represent the hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy,” said Tani. “They claim to be pro-poor. But by accepting PCSO funds, they rob the poor of resources reserved for them. They claim to be anti-corruption. But they accepted bribes from a corrupt president, refrained from asking her to resign, and kept quiet about this bribery until forced to confess by someone else. They claim to be pro-life. But by delaying the passage of the RH Bill, they indirectly cause thousands of deaths.”
In addition to highlighting the hypocrisy of the CBCP, Bantay Bishop asked the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to do three things:
“(1) The bishops must be treated like any other Filipino citizen — no more, no less. Recent statements from Sen. Enrile and Sen. Drilon imply that bishops will be treated more carefully than other individuals suspected of corruption. But it’s this special standing that allows corruption to continue because everyone assumes their innocence. It can be difficult to recognize wolves in shepherds’ clothing.
“(2) If found guilty, the bishops must be punished accordingly. In addition to the separation of church and state mandated by our Constitution, the bishops also violated RA No.3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which states that it is “unlawful for any person knowingly to induce or cause any public official to commit” corrupt practices, of which allocating PCSO funds for the bishops’ SUVs is included.
“(3) In addition to following through with this investigation to its conclusion, the Senate Blue Ribbon committee must launch an investigation into other illegal donations that, according to the bishops themselves, have become standard practice since Cory’s administration. The investigation only covers 2007-2009, a mere two years; there are two decades of “donations” yet to be uncovered. We believe that the 7 SUVs are just the tip of the iceberg.
Bantay Bishop will continue to observe the Senate Blue Ribbon investigation and publish commentary on its channels. “We need to guard the bishops because they have shown that they will not guard themselves,” said Tani. “But whatever the result of the investigation we already know this: the CBCP does not occupy the moral high ground.”
If you support the movement, join Bantay Bishop on Facebook. If you’d like more information about this, or to schedule an interview with Red Tani, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our contact page.
RH Advocacy Director, Filipino Freethinkers
Anti-RH Rizalito David threatens and assaults RH advocate inside the House of Representatives
(May 24, 2011) Quezon City, Philippines — A pro-RH advocate was recording RH Bill interpellations inside the House of Representatives (HOR) when an anti-RH advocate made threats of violence and ultimately resorted to it.
Kenneth Keng, the RH advocacy director of Filipino Freethinkers, was threatened and then assaulted by Rizalito David, former senatorial candidate of the Ang Kapatiran Party and resource person of Pro Life Philippines.
It started with a brief exchange about how the RH Bill was part of America’s imperialist plot. David spoke loudly so that Keng would hear his accusation: those who didn’t agree that the Kissinger Population Report was imperialist was “bobo” (stupid). Keng replied that he has read the report and that he didn’t think it was stupid. David replied, “Like I said, bobo.” Keng ignored the comment and continued to record the hearing.
Later, while Rep. Garcia was discussing the allegedly imperialist funding of RH advocates, David told Keng about the questionable nature of the funding that RH advocacy groups received from foreigners. Keng replied that the Catholic Church and the anti-RH side also received foreign funding and that this was also questionable.
At this statement David started to get angry. He invited Ken to go outside with him (doon tayo sa labas) where he would make it absolutely clear how questionable the RH funding was when it was only the two of them (pag tayong dalawa na lang). The threatening tone and adversarial choice of words carried with it an implicit threat of violence. Keng pointed his cameraphone from the hearing to David to protect himself and gather evidence for these threats.
At this, David became furious. He stood up from where he sat 3 or 4 seats away, shouted some unintelligible words, and walked towards Keng with his arms slightly raised, as if prepared to throw fists. The people behind him managed to restrain him, so he pretended to have calmed down and sat beside Keng. Seated and unrestrained, David hit Keng’s cameraphone, which was next to Keng’s face, with the back of his hand, sending the cameraphone flying into Keng’s glasses.
David then stood up and walked out of the hall. Witnesses from the row behind picked up Keng’s phone and gave it to him.
Red Tani, president of the Filipino Freethinkers, rose from the seat next to Keng’s and followed David outside. He caught up introduced himself, and asked David who he was and which organization he worked with, also requesting that they discuss what had happened. David refused to identify himself. He accused Tani of committing an action against one of his (David’s) colleagues. Tani told David that this was the first time he’d even met David, and that he had no idea what action, colleague, or organization David was talking about. Keng arrived and asked David the same questions. David refused to reply with any information on his or his organization’s identity.
Keng and Tani followed David outside the hall and met other RH advocates in the lobby, where they discussed potential actions, such as filing a case against David in the precinct nearby, and submitting an incident report to Congress. They were about to approach David but he had started walking upstairs to where the other anti-RH advocates were.
Keng and Tani, accompanied by witnesses and other RH advocates, waited until the end of the session for David to return so that they could figure out who he was and discuss what had happened. At the end of the hearing, David finally emerged. He was escorted by Father Melvin Castro of the CBCP, discreetly walking near the edge of the lobby toward the exit.
Keng and Tani approached David and Castro to ask them about David’s then unknown identity (at this point the RH advocates didn’t know who David was). David and Castro ignored the pair and walked straight to the driveway outside. Keng continued to ask the question until it became obvious that David and Castro were determined to ignore him.
Later at the lobby, a fellow RH advocate identified the assailant as Rizalito David.
Filipino Freethinkers condemns the actions of Rizalito David: for indirectly calling Keng “bobo” (stupid), for threatening or at least provoking Keng with violence (doon tayo sa labas), and for hitting Keng’s cameraphone into his face. That this all happened inside the chamber of Congress while a legislative process was going on makes his actions even more unacceptable, especially considering the fact that David once aspired to become a legislator.
We also condemn how Rizalito David — and to a lesser extent, Melvin Castro — hid his identity from us after several polite attempts at civil dialogue. Hiding himself and even his identity after doing what he did only shows that he himself is ashamed of what he did, and knew that he was at fault.
In the next few days, we hope to get David sanctioned by Congress and banned from entering its premises. We will file an incident report in Congress tomorrow, and we’ll consider filing a lawsuit against Rizalito David — we have more than enough witnesses who are willing to testify.
The Filipino Freethinkers is a group of nonbelievers and progressive believers who practice and promote reason, science, and secularism. They have members around the world, with regional chapters in Davao and Cebu, university chapters in UP Diliman and UP Manila, and affiliate organizations in Asia and the US. For more information, visit http://filipinofreethinkers.org/about-ff/ .
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Filipino Freethinkers Condemns the Denial of Eucharist to Supporters of the Reproductive Health Bill; Asks Catholic Supporters of the RH Bill to Oppose Church “Terrorism”
(Feb. 20, 2011) Manila, Philippines – The Filipino Freethinkers (FF) condemns in the strongest possible terms Santuario de San Jose and all other parishes in the Philippines that deny the Holy Communion to Catholic supporters of the Reproductive Health Bill.
By denying communion to Catholics who even feel that they are in support of the RH Bill, the Catholic Church leadership is continuing in its shameless campaign of demonizing all who disagree with them.
Their systematic efforts to silence any opposition within their own ranks through threats, guilt, and intimidation are antithetical to the virtues of love, forgiveness, and humility that they claim to espouse. It is regrettable that those who suffer most from this policy are their own fellow conscientious Catholics who would otherwise wish to stand with them before the altar at Mass.
The Filipino Freethinkers have on numerous occasions personally witnessed and documented the outright hostility that Catholic Church leaders and champions continually show toward their supposed brethren.
They have shouted insults at RH-Bill supporting Catholic mothers, driving them away and declaring them Satan on the very steps of Manila Cathedral.
Against all rules of professional decorum and common decency, legislators in the Catholic Church’s thrall have openly laughed at the group Catholics for the RH Bill during congressional hearings, shouting that no true Catholic can be in support of the Bill.
Individuals wearing the Catholics for the RH Bill t-shirt have been repeatedly escorted out of Sunday Mass from parishes in and outside Metro Manila.
Thus, we call on all Catholics who support the passage of the Reproductive Health to voice out their highest opposition to this latest act of emotional terrorism and hostility by the Church, and to demand that their parishes stop persecuting their brothers and sisters who seek nothing but true social justice in the country.