Tag Archive | "RH Bill"

FF Podcast (Audio) 32: Flesh-Eating Disease in the Philippines?

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast 32:Flesh-Eating Disease in the Philippines

This week, we talk about the story propagated by ABS-CBN’s Bandila program regarding a supposed mysterious flesh-eating disease engulfing Pangasinan.

You may also download the podcast file here.

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FF Podcast (Audio) 26: Feminism

Sylvia Claudio and Leloy Claudio

This week, we talk about feminism with special guests Profs. Guy Claudio, director of the UP Center for Women’s Studies and Leloy Claudio, Ateneo de Manila assistant professor. We joined them to celebrate the UP CWS 25th anniversary.

You may also download the podcast file here.

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Anti-RH Church Leaders Blame Calamities on RH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


image source: Trocaire

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FF Podcast (Audio) 010: Pro-RH at SC and Advice for Atheists with Religious Parents

Pro-RH at SC and Advice for Atheists with Religious Parents

The Filipino Freethinkers’ Podcast-that-is-also-a-Video is back! For its tenth episode, Red, Pepe, and Margie talk about the pro-RH presence at the recent Supreme Court hearings on the RH Law, and–in a Podcast-that-is-also-a-Video first–answer an online query about living with religious parents. Press play and enjoy!

You may also download the podcast file here.

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

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

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

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

Section 95

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

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

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

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

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

Circumventing Comelec

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

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

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

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

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

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Convenience Confessional: RH vs. Rape

With the resounding defeat of Church lobbyists on the matter of the RH Law, Fr. Melvin Castro of the CBCP said that he could at least thank the law’s proponent and principal author Albay Representative Edcel Lagman for one thing—because of the publicity of the RH debates, young Catholics are now confessing the sin of using contraception.

If you are familiar at all with the Catholic Church and its behavior regarding rapes by its employed priests, you would know that they view confession as so sacred that any part of it cannot even be used as testimony against a rapist. A priest hearing the confession of a rapist cannot be compelled to reveal that confession to authorities, secular or ecclesiastical. The priest is bound, upon pain of excommunication, never to speak of the secret.

Castro’s statements emphasize the complete hypocrisy and lack of human compassion of the Catholic Church, where it can just as easily break that sacrament when it can score cheap political points but never do it for its institution’s victims. Without revealing specifics, Castro, and whoever reported the confessions to him, broke that sacrament.

Of course, Castro denies breaking the sacramental seal. He says the identity of the penitent must be “publicly” revealed in order for the seal to be truly violated. It appears that the sins you tell your priest are fair game for gossip as long as they don’t tell everyone your name. If only the Church would exploit such technicalities to support police investigating rapist priests.


Where There’s Gold…

The sacrament of confession is a particularly strange relic marking the ancient and bygone political powers of the Catholic Church. Through this sacrament, priests are told by penitents, both the small and the powerful, their deepest darkest secrets, for the guarantee that they will be forgiven by God. Needless to say, the confessional is a goldmine for blackmail and coercion. It was particularly useful in discovering the Katipunero rebellion during the Philippine Revolution.

The confessional is a very intimate place. It is at this place the faithful are most vulnerable as they are encouraged not to hold anything back. In fact, it is itself a mortal sin to willfully keep any grievous evil from a priest during confession, as an earnest confession clears one’s soul of any wrongdoing.

Assuming you don’t sin on the way, if you get hit by a car going out of Church after confession, you are going straight to heaven—no purgatory necessary. The confessional is where priests have believers by the balls. This is true both figuratively and literally.


The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most

Dave Rudofsky was 8 years old in the 1980’s. Like most Catholic children his age, he would soon prepare for receiving the literal body of Jesus Christ in the form of bread. This means he first has to clean the vessel that is his body by confessing all his sins in his first holy confession. His confessor, Rev. James Burnett took advantage of the 8 year-old’s vulnerability and molested him.

Cases like Dave’s have become so frequent that Pope John Paul II issued the encyclical Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela in 2001. This updated Crimen sollicitationis, released in 1962 during Pope John XXIII’s tenure, which tackled the problem of priests using the confessional for the purpose of sexual activity. Among those outlined as “grave delicts” or violations of canon law in Sacramentorum was “Solicitation to sin with the confessor against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, in the act of, context of or pretext of the Sacrament of Penance.” This was reinforced by the head of the Inquisition, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in De delictis gravioribus.

However, in addition to condemning rapist priests using the confessional to, for example, forgive sexual partners of the sins they commit together, these statements also reiterate the inviolability of the seal of the sacrament of confession. No one must ever reveal what goes on during confession, even if it means justice for a rape victim. This would be a “direct violation of the sacramental seal.”

Though Castro argues that he and his cohorts did not break the sacramental seal, it can be argued that they did so indirectly. The sacramental seal is so deeply regarded that Crimen itself states that during canonical trials conducted to investigate rapes, any testimony that might even “suggest a direct or indirect violation of the seal” will be thrown out of the case and will not be recorded (Crimen sollicitationis, Chapter III(52)). Castro’s political grandstanding surely suggests at least an indirect violation. More to the point, regardless of any technical wrongdoing under canon law, Castro shows the moral cowardice of the Church and its employees—revealing some confessions when expedient while keeping others when inconvenient.


The Secret’s in the Telling

Doctors enjoy physician-patient privilege. They do not reveal the contents of their consultations with patients with anyone, upon pain of having their license revoked. This is to make sure there is a culture of trust between doctors and patients; it improves the medical relationship, which results in more accurate diagnoses. The same could be said as the motivation behind the sacramental seal, but at a far grander and cosmic scale. However, doctors are still obliged by secular law to report information to the police if their patients pose a threat to society, among other situations. Priests do not have such ethical or legal duties to the nations they operate in. Their duty is to the king in the Vatican first.

The Church does not care about the harm it causes society (indeed, denies it) and does everything it takes, even going against their own principles, to make sure their institution survives for centuries to come. The Catholic Church has consistently used the seal of the confessional as a defense against criminal investigation of rapist priests. Melvin Castro reveals what this defense truly is—a sham and an abuse of religious freedom.

This Lent, think about whether you can trust your priest with your sins. Think about Dave the next time you walk into a confessional. From the start, the Church has acted as if its hands have been bound with supernatural chains, unable to help rape victims by disclosing details revealed during confessions. Castro’s statements expose that these chains are imaginary. Goodness knows what other imaginary things they tell the faithful.

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How to Kill As Many Unborn As Possible

The Reproductive Health Bill is now the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012. While the measure has passed all legislative hurdles, the RH Law is now facing a predictable challenge in the Supreme Court. More predictably, the challenge comes from Catholic Church associates. While the intention behind the challenge is supposedly to protect the unborn, it is clear that if the goal of Catholics is to protect as many unborn children as possible, striking down the RH Law is just about the worst thing you can possibly do.

On the first working day of the year, January 2, James and Lovely-Ann Imbong filed a petition for the Supreme Court to nullify the recently passed bill. “In behalf” of their minor children, the Imbongs also name their two offspring as petitioners. As has been pointed out, the “Imbong” name should be very familiar because the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has Jo Imbong, mother of James, as its lawyer. Also, James Imbong is the first nominee of the CBCP-backed Ang Pro-Life Party-List, which claims to represent not the Church, but OFWs. Try to stop yourself from laughing; it gets better. The CBCP has come out to state that they are in no way involved with the petition against the RH Law. Melvin Castro of the CBCP said that their counsel’s relation to the petitioners was “purely incidental.”

Pro-Life Philippines: Abortion is okay sometimes

Reason and Science of Contraception

It is typical for conservative Catholics to equivocate the RH Law with abortion. On the contrary, the availability of contraception diminishes the number of abortions. The logic is simple: people who use contraception want to prevent pregnancy resulting from particular sexual encounters. They can choose to have children from later coital acts by stopping the use of contraceptives. By reducing the number of pregnancies of people who do not want to be pregnant, the number of unwanted pregnancies decreases. Since unwanted pregnancies are the targets of chemical and surgical abortion, less unwanted pregnancies means less induced abortions. After all, why would you willfully abort a wanted pregnancy? Consistent and proper use of contraceptives therefore ensures that a pregnancy that does occur is wanted and planned instead of unwanted and by chance.

But, let’s not rely on pure reason and let some empiricism enlighten us. A four-year study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis came out last year to show that when free contraceptives were provided to a community, abortions decreased. It should be noted that from their study, most women (75%) chose to have “long-acting” contraceptives such as IUDs instead of pills, which must be taken daily. They found that abortions in St. Louis, Missouri, where the study was conducted, dropped by 20%, while the rest of Missouri’s abortion rates remained steady.

This result, however, is not enough to show that opposition to the RH Law will result in more abortions.


Intelligently Designed Abortion

Abortion is an unavoidable fact of pregnancy. Spontaneous abortions are more politely called “miscarriages,” but the essence is the same for either spontaneous or induced abortion—pregnancy ends and a fertilized embryo fails to develop into a child. Catholics would argue that the embryo is already a person and intentionally inducing abortion is murder. Miscarriages, then, would be accidental death. It turns out, however, that as much as 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. This estimate includes the great number of pregnancies that were never even noticed because the embryos were spontaneously aborted so early. That means, for any sexual act that successfully results in a fertilized embryo (which Catholics believe are people), 50% of all of these “people” will die. If the Christian God is anti-abortion, it’s hard to imagine greater hypocrisy.

The main mechanism of contraceptives is to prevent the meeting of sperm and egg altogether, meaning no embryo is formed. The opposition of the Church against condoms should have been a dead giveaway that their concern is sex and not unborn children. Chemical contraceptives, like the pill, prevent the meeting of sperm and egg through various means, such as by slowing down the transport of the egg from the ovaries to the uterus. But, even if a drug were specifically designed to prevent the implantation of a fertilized embryo (which is supposedly a person), its users would not rival the number of abortive events caused by well-meaning couples wanting to get pregnant. That’s not a strong enough statement. All the induced abortions performed in the world (over 470,000 in the Philippines according to 2000 data from the Guttmacher Institute), cannot even begin to compete with spontaneous abortions.

The Department of Health reported that there were 1,700,000 live births in 2000. If that is just 50% of all successful pregnancies, then that means there were also 1,700,000 embryos naturally aborted, or over three times the number of induced abortions in the same year. Therefore, if many pregnancies are prevented altogether through contraception, there will be less abortions. Thus, the Catholic plan of “openness” to pregnancy is tantamount to “openness” to spontaneous abortion. In contrast, a couple with no plans of ever conceiving risks no abortions. Comparatively, a couple that plans each pregnancy with contraceptives, and does not haphazardly sire dozens of kids, will not abort as many embryos as the well-meaning Catholic couple.


Accessories to Murder

If you want to avoid abortion altogether, the best way is not to have kids. If you want kids, you will risk having an abortion, whether or not you know about it. That is a fact we must accept as a nation. If you want to risk the least number of abortions, then you will need to plan your pregnancies and use contraception.

If you have as many kids as you want, you will abort just as many. It’s statistics. And if you want to kill as many unborn as possible, go a step further like the Imbongs and deny Filipinos the right to access to contraceptives.

The use of the Imbongs’ children in the petition, despite their being incapable to consent, is consistent with anti-RH values, since the Imbongs (and the Church) claim to represent children and the unborn in their crusade against reproductive rights. And in this crusade, they are not shy to employ the bloody imagery associated with the Catholic Church’s own medieval Crusades. About President Aquino’s signing of the RH Bill, Batangas Archbishop Ramon Arguelles compared him to the Connecticut shooter who killed 20 schoolchildren because the RH Law would supposedly kill millions. But, we can see from the scientific evidence that it is not contraception, and not even induced abortion, that will lead to the most aborted embryos—it is the Church’s anti-contraceptive dogma. If abortion is murder, the Imbongs are accessories, and the Catholic Church is the killer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is the tale of three poor daughters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image from facebook.com/RHnow

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

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Don’t Fear the Preacher: Fear and the RH Bill

In a final attempt at scrounging for votes against the Reproductive Health Bill, CBCP President Archbishop Jose Palma exhorted CBCP loyalists in the House of Representatives with the words their god told Abraham, “Do not be afraid.” You may recall that Abraham was the man whose son Yahweh asked him to kill to prove his faith.

Palma told representatives to “listen to what God is saying.” By pure coincidence, I’m sure, what “God is saying” is exactly what Palma is saying, with God unable to speak for himself.

While Archbishop Palma entreats conservatives in Congress to be free from fear, the Roman Catholic Church sows fear everywhere else. Once Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto conceded that the pro-RH side had the votes to pass the measure in the Senate, he had this to say, “May God have mercy on their souls.” This, of course, was a threat against pro-RH senators that while they may win in this world, they will face everlasting torment in the afterlife.

A similar tact has been repeatedly approached by other conservative Catholics, where they quote the Gospel’s injunction against those who “cause the little ones to sin.” Matthew 18:6 says, “…if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” They threaten RH advocates with death because they believe that the RH Bill will lead otherwise faithful believers into sin through the temptation of contraception. A cursory search through Google will reveal how popular the idiom is among conservative Catholics and just how much they would like to tie a rock around all our necks and drown us in the sea.

Centered on human sacrifice, violence is at the very root of the Catholic religion and it is not at all surprising that its most zealous adherents would resort to savage irrationality when things do not go their way (despite their confidence in a god). RH Bill sponsor Edcel Lagman has been well-aware of the Church’s history of violence, saying, “Fear has always been used by the clergy as an instrument of repression and reprisal like fear of damnation…”

Even before the RH Bill has passed either chamber of Congress, the CBCP has already issued a warning that the RH Bill is the start of a slippery slope towards what they call “DEATHS bills” or “Divorce, Euthanasia, Abortion, Total Reproductive Health, Homosexuality or gay marriages, and Sex education.” The CBCP Secretary General who was quoted saying this has obviously seen the trend in the greater part of the world toward equality for humans and rights over their own bodies. The CBCP fears that it might also happen in our neck of the woods. It is likely, in my view, that the Roman Catholic Church fears more that they will lose their centuries-long stranglehold on the Filipino people.

As RH advocates, we aim to make, with the RH Bill, this very small step towards a lasting and flourishing society in the Philippines. Our opponents have made it clear that they share no such interest. They would rather we be mired in disease, torment, and starvation, for the sake of avoiding some imagined damnation. But, if there is anyone who ought not be afraid, it is those who are on the side of equal human rights and the dignity of self-determination. It is those who are fighting for a better future, not in some invented paradise, but here, on this tiny planet we call home.

As we draw near into the final stages of passing the RH Bill, many are still hoping that both sides of the argument will come to a compromise. But, it is clear from all the threats of death and violence that there shall never be compromise for the Roman Catholic Church. For them, human souls are at stake and they will stop at nothing to prevent the evils that they foresee. None of their fears, of course, are based on any evidence.

The burden of proof is on the Church to show that the ruler of the universe does indeed think contraception is evil and that its users are going straight to hell. Nevertheless, they act as if this is self-evident. It is not. Their views betray a literally medieval mindset that has no room on the floor of the House of Representatives. Yet, it is given room by conservatives such as Rufus Rodriguez at the expense of those who live and die in suffering every day because of the denial of reproductive rights. It is time to say no to these men beholden to fear and superstition. It is time to acknowledge the right of persons over their own bodies. It is time to vote on the RH Bill.

Image Credit: Le sacrifice d’Isaac by Matthias Stom | Source: Wikimedia Commons

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The Varsitarian Lemon Pity Party

The Varsitarian, the official student publication of the University of Santo Tomas, got a lot of flack a couple of months ago for an editorial, entitled “RH bill, Ateneo, and La Salle: Of lemons and cowards,” ranting at fellow Catholic universities for not being authentically Catholic because they employ “lemons and cowards.” This was in reference to these schools’ professors who came out in support of the Reproductive Health Bill, which the Catholic Church leadership vehemently opposes. The editorial was so vitriolic that the faculty adviser of the paper publicly apologized for it, calling it “unchristian.” UST itself denied that it supported the caustic editorial of The Varsitarian.

As The Varsitarian brags in a followup editorial, “Calling a spade a spade, a lemon a lemon,” their previous piece garnered almost 300,000 views, supposedly “shaming” the readership of national news media. They even take a potshot at the claims of the mainstream media having a “national” reach without objective statistics to support this assertion. This plea for evidence is quite incongruous given the Varsitarian’s general attitude toward scientific and logical reasoning, which will be clear shortly.

The Varsitarian fails to account for the proportion of those 300,000 views that were simply from people sharing it with others because they found it hilarious and intellectually bankrupt. If the paper did account for it, they probably wouldn’t go about boasting of thousands of chortling readers. It also, more critically, fails to mention their readership outside lemon, part 1 and whether this was even comparable to the consistent audience of national media. Given that, it is not likely that any of the media outlets that “assaulted a hapless campus paper and accused it of bad journalism” are spending any sleepless nights from a Varsitarian nightmare.

The Varsitarian doubles down in lemon, part 2. Instead of taking criticism in stride, it lashes out at the media that reported on the scathing commentaries against it. In typical anti-RH (and anti-science) behavior, it insinuates (without a shred of evidence) a vast conspiracy, with the media supposedly carrying out “a vicious campaign against the Catholic Church.” (If this were true, it would have come up in our semimonthly meetings to plot the downfall of the Catholic Church.)

The persecution complex of The Varsitarian is at its height as it compares itself with two Christian martyrs, Lorenzo Ruiz and Saint Stephen. It even emphasizes that Stephen was stoned to death. The paper apparently sees what it does as a service to truth “with the purity of searing idealism.” In full self-aggrandizement, The Varsitarian claims that it would “die a thousand deaths” for its faith, even though, unlike those actually mired in religious violence, it has never faced the threat of dying even once. By calling back the imagery of men who were murdered, The Varsitarian likens its role as an Internet punchline to out and out martyrdom. It would behoove the Varsitarian to know that some people actually die, as in cease to have a functioning brain, because of the denial of reproductive health care. But, let’s not have facts get in the way of delusions of grandeur.

To keep its “idealism” in check and prevent it from being “blind,” The Varsitarian says that it seeks guidance from the Catholic Church. Then, what keeps their obedience to the Church from being blind and sycophantic? I suppose they wouldn’t consider that as a bad thing.

When one is trapped in an echo chamber as large and labyrinthian as Catholic theology, it’s easy to talk out of one’s ass. “The Varsitarian upholds the natural law even without recourse to Catholic teachings because the natural law covers everyone, including non-Christians,” says the paper. Of course, what the Varsitarian means by “natural law” is the specific ethical system ingrained in the Catholic faith. To support their claim that natural law applies to and must be believed by everyone, the paper even quotes the system’s major architect and the namesake of the school, Thomas Aquinas. So, the Varsitarian claims to defend a Catholic teaching (anti-contraception) by upholding Catholic teaching (natural law) “without recourse to Catholic teachings.”

In the end, The Varsitarian does admit that its words were indeed unchristian. And yet, it remains sanctimonious enough to call out AdMU and DLSU professors for not being true Catholics. The paper claims that the moral imperative for denunciation was so strong that it justified lemon, part 1, thereby flouting Christian virtue with the bravery of an anonymous editorial. So strong was the necessity that The Varsitarian closes lemon, part 2 with a quotation from Mark, that those who “scandalize” believers (such as the “faculty members and administrators” of their target schools) are better off to have a millstone tied to their necks and thrown into the sea to drown.

Perhaps The Varsitarian is right, after all. Maybe only people who are as hateful and uncharitable as its editorial team should have the right to call themselves Catholic.

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Priestly Paranoia

For an institution that purports to be concerned with the deepest questions in life, the Roman Catholic Church sure can’t let go of sex and how people go about it. Notice how the Church is at its most vocal when it speaks on the Reproductive Health Bill with unprecedented and unparalleled froth and anger. Hot and bothered, the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines’ obsession over sex has gotten them paranoid that everything bad that ever happens about them is because of the RH Bill.

In the row between Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Antonio Trillanes over negotiations with China about Scarborough Shoal, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles has seen an illicit subterfuge of Pro-RH advocacy. Citing Enrile’s adamant anti-choice stance, Arguelles points out, “This may be a ploy to discredit the old man, to weaken the anti-RH group in the Senate.”

Of course, Enrile and Trillanes are both faithfully against the RH Bill. Enrile’s opposition as Senate President has been key to the delays on the RH Bill. While, Trillanes is anti-RH because he believes that if teachers taught students about sex, this would open up opportunities for those teachers to molest their students. In an interview with anti-choice Catholics, Trillanes intimated, “‘Pag may isang medyo manyak na teacher doon na paghuhubarin lahat…” (If there’s one slightly perverted teacher, they’ll make the children strip naked [in sex education classes].) This nugget of unrivaled intelligence from Trillanes should remove any ambiguities regarding his position on reproductive rights. And despite the clear lack of possible motive on either Enrile’s or Trillanes’ part, Arguelles seems to divine a most devious deception.

On another end, a National Geographic piece revealed the extensive involvement of a Filipino Catholic priest, Cristobal Garcia, in the smuggling of elephant tusks for its use in religious idols. This same priest was also revealed to have been involved with raping altar boys in the United States. Garcia has admitted to having sex with minors, thereby admitting to statutory rape, at the least. However, Garcia claims that it was he who was “seduced” and “raped” by children.

Garcia, who has spent zero time in prison for raping children, has been on “sick leave” here in the Philippines. The foreign nation of the Vatican has “suspended” Garcia from priestly duties and has begun investigating him, in lieu of surrendering him to the proper secular authorities.

In the eyes of the Church, the public exposure of this monstrous suffering of children and non-human animals is also part of a Pro-RH scheme to “discredit the Church,” at least, according to Bishop Arturo Bastes. To this sentiment Arguelles agrees, “This is related to Church’s championing life against RH bill.”

It has long become apparent that the Church believes itself to be incapable of error. All the evils that besiege their powerful institution can’t possibly be due to the systemic rot that pervades the Church. It must be because of evildoers conspiring against their Mother! In these paranoid delusions of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy (which owns an entire European country), the RH lobby is so strong that they can orchestrate entire international fiascos to their ends, even when this same bill has been mired in Congress for over a decade.

All the while, more sober minds might ask, what happened to the Roman Catholic Church’s concern for “life?” What of the children whose lives they’ve helped destroy by coddling their rapists? What of the lives of the sentient animals (human or otherwise) on whose suffering they have profited? The narrative becomes clear once we reject the Church’s patently false claims to a “pro-life” motive and view their behavior as what it obviously is: a self-preservationist persecution complex. The unmasking of their sex-obsessed spirit reveals a sanity that has broken down before our very eyes.

Image Credit: Dallas Morning News

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Holding Sotto Accountable for Plagiarism is Not a Distraction


“Marunong pala managalog si Kennedy, ah!”


A common, probably the only mildly-reasonable, criticism of the public condemnation of Senator Tito Sotto’s pathological penchant for plagiarism is that it distracts from the issues—mainly the reproductive health bill. Sotto himself has taken this route to defend himself against the accusations, saying that his critics could not answer his unimpeachable points, so they’ve resorted to “cyber-bullying.” He challenged his opponents with an aphorism (which I’m sure he’d never claim to be original), to shoot the message, not the messenger.

Of course, if his intellectual honesty and credibility were irrelevant to the interests of the Filipino people, then his excuses would be valid. It is, however, not the case that calling Sotto out on plagiarism is an argumentum ad hominem fallacy.

Ad hominem or “to the man” argumentation is not fallacious if it is not taken to refute “the man’s” positions and if the subject is “the man’s” character itself. In the case of Sotto’s plagiarism, of course his intellectual dishonesty does not affect the credibility of his case against the RH Bill.

But, let’s first take Sotto’s claim on face value. Is it indeed true that nobody at all has even tried to rebut Sotto’s claims during his long-winded turno en contra speeches that spanned four parts? No.

On this website alone, we have exposed Sotto’s use of a non-peer-reviewed quack, Natasha Campbell-McBride, to claim that contraceptives are dangerous. We’ve shown that Sotto’s Texas sharpshooter-ed statistics themselves show even greater maternal mortality rates than the pro-RH camp’s “11 maternal deaths a day” claim. We’ve shown how Sotto quote-mined even his attributed literature to misinform the public regarding contraceptives. We’ve shown that the contraceptives Sotto’s wife supposedly took that killed their first-born son did not even exist when he said they did.

With that out of the way, we can tackle whether or not it is true that calling Sotto out on plagiarism distracts from the RH Bill.

Given the long years the RH Bill has been dragged on, there really are no new arguments for or against it. Well, Sotto’s introduction of anti-vaccination quacks to the mix was a breath of fresh air, but the core arguments are all stale and worn out: that contraceptives are not essential medicines, that contraceptives don’t even work, that contraceptives are poison, that contraceptives cause abortion, that poverty is not related to overpopulation, that the RH Bill is redundant, that the RH Bill removes freedom of choice, and that the RH Bill is against God.

Calling out Sotto on plagiarism is not a distraction from the RH Bill discussion because there’s no RH Bill discussion to distract from. The debates are over.

All that is left now is to vote on the RH Bill. The anti-RH camp claims they have the numbers, but they have repeatedly, successfully, and frustratingly delayed deliberations on the bill. These are not the actions of a confident majority bloc. These are the actions of cowards and dishonest politicians kowtowing to the Vatican-led Roman Catholic Church.

The issue of Sotto’s plagiarism is another matter entirely apart from the RH Bill. To that extent, I can agree. But it is not a distraction. Sotto’s unscrupulousness is in itself worthy of contempt, condemnation, and punishment.

Sotto plagiarized Sarah Pope, New York University, Marlon Ramirez, Feminists for Choice, The Truth of Contraceptives, and most recently, the late New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He then lied about doing so, in the case of Sarah Pope and in the case of Kennedy.

Greater men have been felled for less flagrant failures of integrity.

The Senate is supposed to be where the best of our society gathers to decide on the rules we all must live by. Our senators are styled “honorable” because that is what we expect them to be. What Sotto has done with his office as senator is not honorable by any stretch of the imagination. No less than the Senate President, Juan Ponce Enrile, defended the plagiarism of Sotto, his fellow anti-RH filibusterer. That the Senate has coddled this serial liar and plagiarist by failing to sanction him humiliates the entire institution and belies any such honor it claims to possess.


Image from Bandila’s stream of their Sotto interview

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A Rebuttal to the Defense of CBCP’s Stand on the RH Bill

In what seemed like an effort to show an appreciation of the separation of Church and State and to give an answer to Fr. Joaquin Bernas’s explanation that “public money is neither Catholic, nor Protestant, nor Muslim or what have you and may be appropriated by Congress for the public good without violating the Constitution,” Antipolo Bishop Gabriel V. Reyes defended the stand of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on the RH bill by saying that their opposition to contraceptives, which the RH bill seeks to fund and promote, is not based on faith or revelation, but on “natural law.”

In a statement, Reyes asserted that:

“By studying through correct reasoning the nature of the human person, we arrive at this teaching regarding contraception. All human beings, Catholic or not, are obliged to act according to right reason. By the efforts of the Church to go against the RH Bill, the Church is not imposing her religious beliefs on others. She is trying to stop a bill which is against natural law, a law which all human beings, Catholic or not, should follow. The RH Bill, judged from the principles of natural law, is against the good of the human person and the common good.”

But what exactly is this “natural law” the bishops keep bandying about? Is it the physical laws of the universe that are observable in nature?

The term “natural law” is actually a misnomer, quickly misleading those hearing it for the first time. An entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that:

Thomas Aquinas
Image Credit: Wikipedia

“If any moral theory is a theory of natural law, it is [Thomas] Aquinas’s [the 13th century Dominican priest and theologian]. Every introductory ethics anthology that includes material on natural law theory includes material by or about Aquinas; every encyclopedia article on natural law thought refers to Aquinas.”

Aquinas held that natural law is given by God. This premise alone already makes such law supernatural. And by insisting that not only Catholics but all human beings are subject to this law, Bishop Reyes is overstepping the bounds of religious authority and disrespecting those who do not share his belief in God.

Aquinas also held that procreation is a good that we ought to pursue and that we know this immediately, by inclination. While this may have a ring of truth and even a Darwinian explanation, in no way is procreation an absolute good. A statement released by the De La Salle University faculty in support of the RH bill says it best:

“[B]eyond protecting the very important right of the unborn, [the meaning of the right to life] must extend to a recognition that a life that is weighed down by poverty, sickness, and social inequality—now compounded by environmental stresses—deprives humans of agency to transform themselves and the world for the common good.”

What good would uncontrolled procreation do when our children are left to the streets, begging for food and exposing themselves to diseases and sexual predators? To declare procreation as an absolute good (and contraception as intrinsically evil) is to invoke dogma. So while Bishop Reyes may claim that the CBCP’s opposition to contraception and the RH bill is not based on faith or revelation but on natural law, it is clear that their arguments are ultimately religious in nature.

Fortunately, the constitutional separation of Church and State makes sure that Aquinas’s law or any religious law for that matter is not forced on our citizens. Philippine jurisprudence states that:

“If government relies upon religious beliefs in formulating public policies and morals, the resulting policies and morals would require conformity to what some might regard as religious programs or agenda. The non-believers would therefore be compelled to conform to a standard of conduct buttressed by a religious belief, i.e., to a “compelled religion,” anathema to religious freedom.”

The CBCP’s objection against the RH bill is noted, and the bishops’ right to free speech is respected. Let us just hope that our lawmakers are keen enough to discern between secular and religious arguments, and that they do not forget to respect our Constitution, especially the clause that declares that the separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.

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“Your Mother Should Have Used RH,” Says BUHAY Spokesperson

I recorded this video interview with Frank when I got home from COMELEC before writing this post. Some details might be inaccurate, which I hope this post corrects. Toward the end of the video is footage of the BUHAY spokesperson saying the titular statement.

“Your mothers should have aborted you” is so 2010. I’m of course referring to members of Prolife Philippines wishing out loud that we hadn’t been born as we were leaving Manila Cathedral. We were there to listen to a discernment mass on the RH Bill, but weren’t allowed to attend because of the DAMASO shirts we were wearing. Aside from wishing we weren’t alive, a public exorcism on us was also attempted by Eric Manalang, president of Prolife Philippines.

Now it’s 2012, and the Prolife greeting has been updated. It now goes, “Your mother should have used RH.” We learned this yesterday when we expressed our opposition to BUHAY’s party-list accreditation at their COMELEC review hearing. After witnessing the most absurd justification for applying to be a party-list, we had an exchange of words with BUHAY that reflects a lot of what happened in the Manila Cathedral incident of 2010.

It began with a question. The BUHAY spokesperson who had represented them during the hearing approached us and asked, “Are you pro-RH?” “Yes,” answers Kenneth Keng, who had earlier expressed at the hearing our intention to oppose BUHAY’s accreditation. “Then your mother should have used RH. So you wouldn’t be here today.”

At this point, I was approached by another BUHAY member. “Did you go to school?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied. “Then why aren’t you using your education,” he said. He probably meant that my pro-RH position betrayed a lack of education.

I was about to explain how education actually leads to being pro-RH when I saw Ken being approached by several BUHAY members. They were trying to grab his camera away from him. I walked over and learned what was happening. The BUHAY spokesperson complained that Ken had started recording without his permission.

They had also asked whether Ken was with the media. Ken had initially said yes out of fear and confusion; their demeanor had given him the impression that they might harm him. He later clarified that he wasn’t with the media and was just a regular blogger, something that I’d clarified earlier with the BUHAY member I’d been speaking to.

At this point we were all huddled between the elevators and the COMELEC reception, where several security personnel were watching. The BUHAY member I’d been speaking to, the one who asked whether I was educated, started talking. He said that if we weren’t with the media, he doesn’t have to treat us that way, and can just treat us like kanto boys. He repeated this, removing his coat as if preparing for a fight. He told us that he would meet us at our levels as kanto boys and invited us outside.

I clarified: “Just to be clear, are you inviting us to a fist fight outside?” He replied, “Anywhere.” I was actually surprised that he was behaving like this in front of COMELEC security. When they finally got on the elevator, we decided it was probably wise that we stayed. Some members of the COMELEC security thought so, too. They advised us to stay for a bit because the BUHAY members might be waiting for us downstairs with less than good intentions.

Surely enough, they were waiting. As I was exiting the building, the BUHAY spokesperson blocked my path, holding a cameraphone to my face. “Excuse me, I need to get out,” I said. He stands aside after a few moments, keeping the cameraphone on me. He asked me for my name and organization, and I give it to him. At this point, Ken also has his cameraphone out, and we were recording each other (another member had a proper camcorder, too).

With all the cameras turned on I wished that Ken’s was on when the BUHAY spokesperson wished Ken’s mother had used RH. Luckily, he repeated his wish, and we got it on video. At first he said that he didn’t mean anything bad when he said this. After all, he says, isn’t RH a good thing? To this we agree, and I further explain that my parents used RH: after all, it includes family planning, birth spacing, etc.

Then he says that my parents used failed RH, because after all, I am here. By doing so he betrays the malice in his wish. To him failed RH means we are born, and successful RH means we aren’t, and it’s pretty clear which of the two outcomes he’d been wishing for us.

We explain that RH isn’t abortion, which is what he keeps on implying, but he disagrees. He advises us to read the Cairo conference. I explain that the RH Bill and the Cairo Conference are two different things. At this point Atty. Macalintal, who had been mostly quiet this time, left in a car with the BUHAY member who had challenged us to a fist fight.

We also headed for our car, leaving the BUHAY spokesperson alone, waiting for his. As we were leaving, I saw the Manila Cathedral and thought about how similar the event from 2010 was: the wishing we hadn’t been born, the prolifer’s fear of being caught on video, the trying to forcefully take our cameras. I sort of expected the BUHAY spokesperson to shout “Your mothers should have aborted you!” as we were leaving. But then I corrected myself: “Your mothers should have used RH.” Because “Your mothers should have aborted you” is so 2010.

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