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Tag Archive | "Philippine Daily Inquirer"

Of Heroes and Hoaxes: Painting a CNN Hero in a Dangerous Light

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not out to demonize a woman who has obviously done loads for maternal and reproductive health. At 54 years old, Robin Lim has helped thousands of poverty-stricken Indonesian women to experience a healthy pregnancy and to safely give birth, and for that, she most certainly deserves to be hailed as this year’s CNN Hero.

As a rabid supporter of the passage of the local Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, it gladdens me to know that a person has actually built her life around providing the poorest of mothers with prenatal and postpartum care, birth services, and breast-feeding support — and has done so for free. Her Yayasan Bumi Sehat Foundation has done more for reproductive health in a single day than the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has done in, well, ever. I seriously wish that there were more people as passionate and take-charge about the cause as she is.

Here we go again, Inquirer

What doesn’t sit well with me, however, is how the media is playing up the fact that she is an advocate of “alternative medicine.” I’m giving the stink eye to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, in particular, because as far as I know, CNN  and other news outfits have yet to mention the words “hilot,” “alternative,” “homeopathy,” and “herbal medicine” in its features of Lim, whereas the Inquirer has been practically framing her as the poster woman for “No Therapeutic Claims,” and actually sees this love for quackery as a good thing. (Incidentally, FF has had quite a beef with the Inquirer’s integrity, as can be read here, here, here, and here.)

Take note that Lim was awarded mainly for her outstanding efforts to practice and promote safe birthing. CNN as the awarding body did not bestow her the honor because she felt that “there should be a reinvention of the health-care system by including holistic medicine such as acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine and physiotherapy.” If that were actually the case, then Deepak “Quantum Mysticism” Chopra should have been crowned President of the fucking Universe ages ago

Shit sells

Sensationalism is the culprit here, I think. It is this horrid excuse for journalism that possibly encouraged the Inquirer’s writers to play up the “alternative medicine” angle. In line with local media’s never-ending, unnerving campaign for this thing called “Pinoy pride,” there’s a good chance that this facet of the half-Filipino Lim was highlighted because her traditional healing background was the most “Filipino” of her qualities. This nation is, after all, known for its folkloric herbal concoctions and its faith healers, never mind that these concoctions can’t hold a candle to actual lab-developed drugs, and that these healers are money-grubbing quacks of the highest order. (This broadsheet has, unsurprisingly, had a history of publishing scientifically unsound things like “miracles” as fact, so there’s that.)

Another possibility is that Lim herself insisted on the topic of her Inquirer piece. If that were the case, though, then the Inquirer should have suggested a different angle, or at the very least peppered the article with disclaimers regarding the efficacy of traditional healing methods, in the hopes of maintaining the barest smidge of journalistic credibility. But they didn’t.

Ooga booga and mumbo jumbo

“Alternative medicine” is a load of bull. As the old joke goes, “alternative medicine” that is proven to work is just called “medicine.” It is this staggering lack of proof — and its advocates’ insistence that proof is neither necessary nor applicable — that sets the former apart from the latter. It goes out of its way to be baseless and unscientific, depending on flimsy, abstract concepts such as “auras” and “chakras” that have as much chance of being real as unicorns, mermaids, and the Jonas Brothers’ pledge of virginity. And while some unconventional healing methods are said to be okay complements for actual, scientifically proven methods and medicines, this so-called “complementary medicine” cannot and should not stand alone.

Even if Lim advocated the methods that worked in certain, complementary ways (and I use the term “work” very, very lightly), it was still publicized by the Inquirer in such a way that she seemed to be for “alternative medicine” in general, which includes a long, snaking list of  very bad decisions. (She espouses the whackadoodle fad that is homeopathy, which is bad enough, so imagine how much worse the stuff she doesn’t espouse are.)

Moreover, it’s also quite unfortunate and ironic that the article, which features a woman known for her hard work in furthering reproductive health, placed so much emphasis on highly suspect “remedies” that have nothing to do with RH, and in no way mentions how certain lab-developed medicines can do and have done so much for maternal health. In fact, it’s disheartening how the RH Bill, which promotes safe, effective, and clinically approved medicines in the form of family planning supplies, can be so easily dismissed by many, while something as impotent — and fatal — as faith healing gets good press at the drop of a hat.

A bad influence

In the end, by playing up this sorely misguided aspect of Lim’s, the Inquirer can be said to be taking part in putting people in danger. Ranked as the top newspaper in the Philippines, it’s safe to say that this broadsheet helps to influence many Filipinos’ opinions. It is only right, then, that they make sure that the stuff they offer as journalism is, in fact, journalism and not just a bunch of interesting-sounding yet highly deceptive words. But this is sadly not the case.

This piece on Lim could very well encourage many people to prioritize alternative methods over tried-and-tested ones and, thus, keep these people from getting the proper medical attention every one of them deserves. “If an actual CNN Hero is for it, then it can’t be wrong” is the kind of opinion that might proliferate. As much as we hope people to be more discerning of what they read, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and, in the Inquirer’s case, absolutely necessary to be factual than not.


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To the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Re: Article on Gay Rights

Dear Editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer,


Having relied on The Philippine Daily Inquirer as an essential source of information on Philippine politics, lifestyle, and business, I would like to commend the newspaper for continuing to cover stories that matter to Filipinos both in the Philippines and abroad, often with exceptional depth and quality.

Thus, given my past admiration, it is with utter disappointment that I write to strongly critique a recent article, entitled “CBCP Wants Anti-Discrimination Bill Cleansed of Provisions on Gay Rights”, published on December 7th, 2011. In this article, Nina Calleja discusses the CBCP’s opposition to the current Senate Bill 2814 (Anti-Ethnic, Racial or Religious Discrimination and Profiling Act of 2011). Although the bill has passed the third reading in the Senate, it still has to go through harmonizing through bicameral discussions. The CBCP thus wants the phrase “sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity” removed from inclusion as the bill goes through this harmonizing process.


My opposition to the article stems from the following reasons:

1) Given the article’s public nature, and its ability to influence debate regarding an issue with such high stakes, I found it offensive that Calleja chooses to ignore one side of the conversation. Thus, she does not interview anyone—political activists, legislators, and academics to name a few—that could possibly provide feedback regarding the reason for the bill’s inclusion of this phrase in the first place. Off the top of my head, I could already recount many people who could have discussed the issue with similar depth and complexity. If Calleja can claim that no other sources of this information were available at the time of the article’s writing, then that should have been stated in the article, to at least give the impression of balanced coverage. Yet this article, as seemingly straightforward as it is, nonetheless provides a biased reading of the bill, and the CBCP’s stance as a whole.

2) Related to this bias, I was a bit offended by the tone of the article, especially the use of the word “cleanse” in the title. This word presupposes that the bill was polluted, tainted, and made “dirty” (the oppositional word to cleanse by the way) with the inclusion of a non-discrimination phrase that includes women and LGBT identified individuals. How come Calleja did not use “remove”, “stripped”, “taken out” or any possible terms that could convey a similar message, without the overtly political tone? Rather than having myself be accused of being defensive, I’d like to return to the article, and point to the copious amounts of quotations, perspectives, and frameworks coming from the CBCP, without ANY other possible viewpoints being included from the other side. This to me is explicit proof of the article’s point, which is to sway a particular set of legislators and the population, towards its bias around the topic. Granted that anyone should be able to write an opinion in a newspaper, then I suggest that as the Editor, you should have included this article in the Opinion section, NOT the News section as it still currently sits in.

3) Finally, as an out Filipino gay man, as an Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies, as a Filipino living in the Philippines and abroad, and as someone who feels invested in the equal rights of women and LGBT Filipinos, I would like to provide a counter-discourse to what Calleja wrote.

A) I find it offensive that Calleja can include passages about our “choice”, about our “third sex”, and about how the threat of the bill’s rightfully “changing society” for the better, without a single gesture or awareness of the violence that these harmful statements enact on our community. During the recently concluded Philippine Gay Pride (December 1), I saw the commitment of our community in fighting the continued spread of discrimination for everyone, not just LGBT identified folks, and to fighting the continued lack of awareness about HIV/AIDS (which is why the parade was timed to coincide with World Aids Day). Thus, as a community, we also desire the non-discrimination of everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, class, and religion (which the bill would have still preserved). This is the ethical thrust of the current bill, which is why sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity” were included in the last version.

B) As you can see in the bill’s phrasing, the removal of non-discrimination based on sex and gender would then also exclude not only “sexual orientation” but also sex and gender discrimination itself. Does the CBCP want the continue disenfranchisement of women and men based on their gender and sex (and not just sexual orientation)? I highly doubt the CBCP can claim that they believe women should still be discriminated, and survive politically (even though it is a religious group primarily).

C) The role of a newspaper, aside from providing information, is to educate the population. Thus, balanced reporting, which we had so forcefully fought for amidst multiple regimes and dictatorship, need to be preserved at all costs. This article, and its clearly skewed perspectives, fails to do so. Thus, it needs to be retracted immediately.

Thanks for your time. And regardless of the outcome of this letter, I do hope it gets noted. I’d still like to read the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and teach it to my students. Some of that faith needs to be restored.




Dr. Robert Diaz

Assistant Professor

Women and Gender Studies Program

Wilfrid Laurier University

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“We are a Christian Country”

That’s according to Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, who recently chastised the Kapisanan Ng Mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), for not regulating certain radio disc-jockeys on the late night circuit who “are using indecent and vulgar language.”


While that is certainly an expected statement from a member of the Catholic hierarchy, it does not mean that is the only viewpoint we should be listening to.

First off, I wished the Inquirer reporter had asked the bishop to give specific names of disc jockeys or radio programs which offended his religious sensibilities; that way, any one would be able to gauge that statement for themselves.

If the disc jockeys/programs in question are indeed guilty of breaking the law, then by all means, the government and the KBP should exert all efforts to ensure that they are punished accordingly. (Offhand, legal provisions on that broad category of “indecency” would probably be enough to charge any offenders.)

What I find disturbing – monumentally – is why Bastes was complaining: his contention that “we are a Christian country” certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth, particularly for those who have been advocating a more secular space and tone where discussions of laws and government are brought up, in the context of a democratic government and country.

And what bothers me is that his statement is no different from when the Spanish conquerors claimed these islands for their king centuries ago: He makes it seem like the Philippines has been conquered, and is now the property of the Catholic Church, Inc., so much so that the way things happen and are run in this country should be to their specifications.

Here is a small list of what I have observed as things they want to have or happen:

  • No talking about sex.
  • Presidents of a democratic country should bow down to us and our whims.
  • Catholicism is Christianity. All other “Christian sects” are invalid.
  • We don’t care about offending other religions and “their” feelings. But no one should dare say anything negative about the Catholic faith! (I wager they must miss the days when beheadings still took place.)
  • What our religion says should be inscribed into secular law.
  • Feel free to add your own observations here: ____________________________________.

Let me reiterate: if laws have been broken, then prosecute, charge, and punish. And by laws, I mean secular laws, the laws by which all citizens of this country are bound to, regardless of religious preference.

The bishop is forgetting one important fact: Catholicism does not hold the monopoly/trademark on what is to be deemed moral/correct/righteous.Unless we have transformed our form of government into a theocracy, we would well be reminded of a basic truth in a democracy: Religion is a choice.

Someone reacted to my previous post about Mary the Catholic deity, saying that we cannot fault anyone for thinking that all Filipinos are Catholic, seeing as majority subscribe to that religion. Bellowing out statistical data is not the same as respecting everyone’s rights under a democracy. Being the religious majority does not give anyone the right to summarily disregard other religions. To paraphrase what Father Joaquin Bernas (one of our Constitution’s framers) has stated, in a democracy, all religions are seen as equal, and no one religion is to be treated as “superior,” and rightfully so.

Everyone should be seen as equal, under a democracy—unless anyone wants to contest that.

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Inquirer’s Conservative Catholicism Deserves Greater Public Recognition


Recently, our own Marguerite de Leon challenged the Philippine Daily Inquirer to explain itself for putting a puff piece on Pedro Calungsod as its editorial. De Leon also noted the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s recent history of innuendo against “unrepentant” secularists and liberals. In de Leon’s original open letter, she questioned the editorial, which fawned over “a story that is not based on a shred of evidence and is only sincerely believed by some people.” She was referring to a 2002 story of the revival of a clinically dead woman, whose recovery was attributed to the long dead man, Pedro Calungsod (1654–1672). Despite the lack of evidence for the story (such evidence would surely merit at least a passing mention in a medical journal), the respected broadsheet peddled the event as fact and elevated it into its editorial.

For de Leon’s trouble, the Inquirer editorial team’s response was one sentence: “We suggest that De Leon read the editorial more closely for its main message.” And, she did. She wrote a response reiterating her questioning of the lack of evidence for the event in the original editorial asking, “What other evidence-less things do you not only take for granted, but are more than willing to broadcast to the public as the ‘truth’?”

The Inquirer’s editorials have often been suspiciously reminiscent of conservative Catholic talking points, such as when it drew the ire of the art community for comparing Mideo Cruz’s Poleteismo piece to “terrorism.” In this piece, the editorial went so far as to explain the theological distinction between veneration and worship, as if to avoid for itself the common accusation by non-Catholics against Catholics of “worshipping saints.”

That the Inquirer spends so much ink on Catholic diatribes isn’t a surprise as it is a frequent winner of Catholic Mass Media Awards (the Inquirer won 3 this year). However, it is curious that even with the seasoned experience for pro-Catholic bias of the editorial team of the Inquirer (including its anti-RH propagandist, Jess Abrera), they couldn’t find any rational response against De Leon’s queries.

The first letter to the editor they published since De Leon about the matter praised the Inquirer for “reporting about Catholicism as it should be.” Interestingly, the author of this letter was herself a contributor to the Inquirer. A commenter on the online version of the letter pointed out that the writer commended the Inquirer for explaining the doctrine of canonization to “our readers”—a telling slip-up.

Just today, the Inquirer published a second letter to the editor, billed as a “rejoinder” to the first one. The letter lauded the Inquirer for helping “bring the Filipino martyr to the attention (and awareness) of many Catholics in the country (and perhaps in other parts of the world)”—at the expense of non-believers of Catholic doctrine. Not surprisingly, this writer has had a writing relationship with the Inquirer, writing twice for Youngblood.

It does seem rather peculiar, but not impossible, for two people with established relations with the Inquirer to selflessly defend the paper of their own volition—saving the Inquirer from getting its hands dirty. Though, the matter of the possibility of more underhanded motives is at least worthy of noting here.

Now, of course the Philippine Daily Inquirer is free to take any position it desires. It is, however, not free to make up its own facts (especially those of a medical nature, which people might take as serious advice to pursue supernatural cures). It is only fair to us non-Catholic paying customers of the Philippine Daily Inquirer for it to finally respond to De Leon and either confirm or deny if it should be more aptly considered as the proud “Catholic Inquirer.”

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In Response to the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Wholly Unsatisfactory Reply

(To read the original open letter, click here.)


To the editors of the Philippine Daily Inquirer


I didn’t think I would be sending a letter again to you so soon, but I’m afraid your response to my previous one left me—and likely a lot of your other readers—a bit cold, and with quite a lot more to ask. To recap, your response was a single line that read:

“We suggest that De Leon read the editorial more closely for its main message.”

Now, I will pretend that this response is not the wholly unsatisfactory—and, dare I say, smugly self-satisfied—response that I think it is, and actually take your suggestion seriously. So now, I have just re-read the editorial again as closely as I could, and I’m sorry to say that I still don’t understand why this issue and how it was discussed became a worthy main editorial.

Allow me to comment on your piece in detail:

Paragraph one introduces Calungsod and his impending canonization, describing the supposed “miracle” he was responsible for.

Now, I would like to think that seasoned journalists such as yourself would have developed a very keen sense of what is factual and backed up by evidence, and what is not. I would like to think that people in your line of work are able to take things such as miracles with a grain of salt. However, your editorial started off describing the miracle with a straight face, so to speak, and that is quite troubling for me. What other evidence-less things do you not only take for granted, but are more than willing to broadcast to the public as the “truth?”

Paragraph two is considerably more perturbing, as it discusses martyrdom, beatification, and canonization with a seriousness usually reserved for reports on financial crises or war.

This stuff is straight out of Catholic theology class. The thing is, how is that relevant to anyone? You took up so much space describing quite specific rules from a specific branch of Christianity, and for what purpose? For your non-Catholic readers, and much less for your non-Christian or non-religious ones, how can that information enrich their lives or, at the very least, help them to understand why Calungsod matters, considering that they don’t even believe in this stuff in the first place?

As I’ve mentioned in my first letter, not all Filipinos believe in Catholicism, or believe in any religion, period. Your making mention of these Catholic rules really strikes me as biased, or ignorant of the reality. I hate to say it, but it makes me wonder if the Inquirer aims to further Catholic propaganda. (Is it Catholic Mass Media Awards season already?)

Permit me to quote from another of your main editorials (“Art as Terrorism,” on the Poleteismo brouhaha):

“Predictably enough, Cruz also misrepresents Catholic iconography in order to suit his self-serving and ultimately erroneous thesis. Whatever the excesses of Filipino folk religiosity, it must be said Catholics do not worship images; they venerate them as sensual channels to the divine. Catholics worship God; they accord the Blessed Trinity “latria,” Greek for adoration. They don’t worship the Blessed Mother and the saints. To the latter, they accord “dulia,” Greek for veneration; to the former they accord “hyperdulia,” a higher form of veneration. Therefore, Catholics don’t practice polytheism. Cruz not only misrepresents Catholics’ monotheistic practice; he insults it by using Catholic iconography to poke fun at it.”

Defensive, much? This paragraph is unabashedly Catholic-centric, and in the most by-the-book sense. (And seriously, do most Catholics even know about these “dulias” and “latrias?”)

Now, going back to the Calungsod piece, I believe that the next few paragraphs contain the point that you’re claiming to make. You mention that the Visayans claim Calungsod, who was martyred in Guam, as their own. You mention that the Visayas could very well be considered the birthplace of folk Catholicism in the world. You mention how Catholicism’s feasts and rituals helped build our nation by highlighting communities’ milestones and ultimately fostering a sense of wholeness and legitimacy, and how this parallels how Europe became Europe through a certain annual pilgrimage. You mention how Calungsod and Lorenzo Ruiz—both martyred abroad—are therefore like the first Filipino OFWs, spreading Catholicism (a.k.a. “Filipino-ness,” apparently) across the globe.

From what I gather, then, your point is more or less: “We should celebrate the impending canonization of Calungsod because it helps Filipinos become more significant in the global realm. Through him, we Filipinos can be proud to be Pinoy. Through him, we learn that Filipinos can indeed be influential, most especially due to our Catholic-ness.” And while this may seem like a point solid enough to buttress your paper’s main editorial, it really isn’t. It’s hackneyed, it’s old hat, it’s impotent. This point is nothing we haven’t heard before, and considering the way things are right now, it isn’t as compelling as it used to be.

This never-ending quest of Filipinos to matter, to be admired by, or to just be plain recognized by other countries has not only become cloying, it has evolved into a glaring sign of our insecurity as a people. I don’t find Pinoy pride worthy of being a topic anymore, much less one for a main editorial.

And the thing is, I honestly don’t think that this point is why you wrote the piece anyway. As I’ve already mentioned, I think your piece is just poorly-guised Catholic propaganda, period.

So there, dear editors. I did what you told me to. I read your editorial more closely, and this is what I got from it.

The least you could do, then, is to just come out and clarify whether you are practicing outright agenda-setting or not. Will the Inquirer’s stance always favor the side of the Catolico cerrados? Is your paper’s motto really “Balanced News, Fearless Views,” or “What the Pope Says, Goes?”

I hope, dear editors, that your next response will be more substantial this time around.



Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon

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An Open Letter to the Philippine Daily Inquirer

To the editors of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

I still recall a lot of basic journalism rules from my days as writer and editor for my high school paper. One of them is that the paper’s main editorial is supposed to reflect the views of the entire staff or, at the very least, of the editorial team. A consensus is made as to what topic to feature in the piece, as well as what the paper’s stand is on the chosen issue.


While most of your editorials reflect—or, at least, appear to reflect—these rules, I found today’s piece on San Pedro Calungsod a bit troubling. It talks about the impending canonization of Calungsod, to whom a doctor prayed in the hopes of recovering a woman who’d been clinically dead for two hours. It then goes on to mention Christianity in the Visayas and folk Catholicism, and even dismisses secularists’ notion that Catholic feasts are “wastes of time and resources” with a few handy quotes from two National Artists for Literature. The piece then ends with the following:

“The examples of Calungsod and Lorenzo Ruiz should indicate that the ‘hometown’ has grown to embrace as well the globe. Both of them earned the palm of martyrdom abroad—the latter in Japan, the former in what’s now Guam. They may as well have been the first Filipino OFWs! And although they died with clerics (Calungsod with the Jesuit Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores, and Lorenzo with several Dominican friars), they were laymen, an indication of how Christianity had really taken root among the Filipinos. Their martyrdom having sown and watered the seed of Christianity elsewhere, they’re veritable ambassadors and embodiments of the catholicity of the Catholic faith. They’re the Philippine Church’s gifts to universal humanity. They make us proud to be Filipinos and Christians.”

Given the above rule as to what an editorial should be, is it true that every person working for your paper (or editorial team) is a proud Catholic? Is it true that all of you decided that this issue—which affects fewer people than you think, given that not all Filipinos are serious believers, much less Catholic ones—was significant enough to be the main opinion piece, when there are quite a few other issues (OWS, MILF, GMA, etc.) to be tackled?

I kind of understand why your editorial last October 17 was on the newly-appointed Archbishop Tagle.  Our country’s government, unfortunately, tends to be swayed by the opinions of the local Catholic Church’s leaders, so making mention of the new head honcho can be justified. As Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes admitted, “He could wield more influence to spread the opposition against the [RH Bill] legislation.” This piece gives “unrepentantly secular” individuals like myself reason to be alert. (And by the way, your use of “unrepentantly” in the piece’s first sentence smacked of prejudice.)

But an editorial on some guy from Guam who magically healed a dead woman from the future by way of a doctor who closed his eyes and mumbled for help, which is a story that is not based on a shred of evidence and is only sincerely believed by some people?


Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon

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