Tag Archive | "RH Bill"

The Unborn Representatives: How BUHAY Makes a Mockery of the Party-List System


Note: Please also read how BUHAY responded to our opposition of their party-list accreditation in COMELEC.

The party-list system of representation is broken. Want proof? Consider the case of BUHAY party-list.

According to COMELEC, you have to be a member of the sector you claim to represent. BUHAY claims to represent “the unborn, the sick, the disabled and others not capable of protecting themselves alone, through observance of their basic right to live.” Never mind being sick and disabled and incapable of self-protection (all at the same time!). Is even a single BUHAY representative unborn?

Even if we grant for rhetorical purposes that every BUHAY representative is unborn, they would still be disqualified for one simple reason: the unborn is not a sector recognized by COMELEC. This fact was repeated several times at BUHAY’s accreditation hearing at COMELEC yesterday.

And every time the COMELEC official mentioned this, the BUHAY spokesperson would answer the same way: BUHAY representatives actually represent its own political party, which is the one marginalized and underrepresented.

Setting aside how self-serving this reasoning is, does BUHAY actually think that a political party should be considered a sector of society? Let’s humor them a little and pretend that it is. Why is BUHAY party marginalized?

According to their spokesperson, it’s because aside from their party-list seats, they haven’t won any major political positions (senator, president, etc.) in the past elections, so they aren’t a major political party. And according to BUHAY, that means they are marginalized. Poor BUHAY. Since 2004, they’ve only won 7 seats in the House of Representatives.

That’s right. Seven seats in almost as many years have been allotted to the unborn representatives of BUHAY party, each representing the unborn citizens of the Philippines, and of course, that other marginalized and underrepresented sector, the BUHAY party itself. If that can’t convince you that the party-list system is a joke, I don’t know what can.

But there’s hope. COMELEC has been reviewing the current party-list candidates, and from the way they’ve been conducting these accreditation hearings — I’ve witnessed a few — they seem to mean business. I just hope it translates to disqualification, especially in the case of BUHAY and Ang Prolife — another conservative Catholic religious group trying to disguise itself as a political organization.

When we opposed Ang Prolife’s application, I thought nothing could ever beat the absurdity of their claiming to represent OFWs and “the structure of the Filipino family.” Well played, BUHAY party. Well played.

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Note: This post isn’t meant to be a comprehensive opposition to BUHAY’s application. We’ll leave that to our formal opposition, which we were given 3 days to file, and will post as soon as it’s available. For now, check out Kontradaya’s reasons for objecting to the accreditation of BUHAY (follow the link for other party-list groups they argue should also be disqualified):

Buhay claims to represent the following sectors: the unborn, the sick, the disabled and others not capable of protecting themselves alone, through observance of their basic right to live.

However, none of its present representatives in Congress, and nominees for 2013 elections belong to these sectors.

First representative Mariano Velarde, Jr., the son of El Shaddai’s Mike Velarde, has a personal net worth of P53.326 million for 2011. He does not belong to any of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors Buhay claims to represent. He is not unborn, sick, disabled, nor incapable of protecting himself.

So is second representative Irwin Tieng, whose net worth amounts to P20.054 and whose family owns Solar Sports. He does not belong to any of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors Buhay claims to represent. He is not unborn, sick, disabled, nor incapable of protecting himself.

Second nominee for the 2013 elections is Jose L. Atienza, more famously known as Manila Mayor Lito Atienza. Mayor Atienza served as Manila Mayor from 1998 to 2007. Previous to that, he served as Manila Vice Mayor from 1992 to 1998. He also held other high positions in government, being appointed by former President Gloria Arroyo as the Secretary of Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Clearly Mayor Atienza can compete for a position in Congress through regular elections. This is in addition to the fact that he does not belong to any of the sectors that Buhay claims to represent, and neither is he marginalized and underrepresented.

Posted in Politics, SecularismComments (2)

How an RH Law Will Change the Dynamics of Reproductive Health Rights


Image Credit: ANC Video

Whether or not the RH bill is made into law, Filipinos have the right to use contraception. More precisely, they have the Hohfeldian privilege-right, which means they have no duty not to use contraception because there is no law prohibiting them from doing so. According to the Hohfeldian system for describing the form of rights, to say that one has a privilege to do something is to say that one has no duty not to do it.

This is what some of the opponents of the RH bill, including Sen. Tito Sotto, are saying. They also point out that free contraceptives are already being distributed by the government so there is really no need for an RH law.

But such distribution is only happening because the current administration supports it. Moreover, as Karen Davila said in an interview with Sen. Sotto last August 16, in many cities where the mayor or governor is a member of the Opus Dei or Pro-Life, they impose their religious beliefs on their constituents by pulling out all the contraceptives from the barangay hall.

To which Sotto replied, “That’s looking at it on the other side of the fence, Karen. Look at it on the other side…you are removing the freedom of choice of the mayor and the governor and the next president.” He argued that if the next president is against contraception, you will remove his freedom of choice if RH is already made into law.

Which is precisely the point of the RH bill not only as far as contraceptives are concerned, but also in providing for age-appropriate sex education, reproductive health information, midwives, emergency obstetric care, and maternal and newborn health care in crisis situations. For now, all of these are merely privileges or privilege-rights in the sense that there is no law prohibiting people from using contraception, and there is no law prohibiting the national and local governments from giving everything that the RH bill seeks to provide.

An RH law, however, will add to this privilege a claim by imposing on the government a duty to provide qualified people access to free contraceptives, information, emergency obstetric care, etc. To say that one has a Hohfeldian claim-right means that another has a duty to satisfy that claim. In other words, an RH law will take away a mayor’s right to be a douchebag by depriving citizens of RH services in the name of his religion.

And this is one of Sotto’s major objections to the RH bill. It seems that he is more concerned that the mayors, governors, and the next president will have the “freedom of choice” to withhold lifesaving information and assistance, than to grant the claim-right to the thousands of Filipino women who badly need them and whose lives could be saved by an RH law.

Which makes us wonder, is Sen. Sotto really pro-life? He sounds more like pro-choice ― not choice for women, but choice for the public officials.

Posted in RH BillComments (6)

Bad Father or Evil Politician: Did Sotto lie about his son’s death?


Despite his patent lies and his staff’s excuses, Sotto’s plagiarism  is now an established fact. They have even changed their defense to plagiarism being an acceptable practice for Senators. I’d first thought that Sotto was alone in his stupidity, but it appears even Sen. Santiago thinks the Senate is exempted from academic standards of honesty.

But all this talk about plagiarism has overshadowed the most controversial part of Sotto’s recent speech: his claim that oral contraceptives killed his son. Some critics have hesitated to attack this claim, and those who haven’t, such as former health secretary Esperanza Cabral and Rep. Janet Garin, have taken flack for even entertaining the idea that Sotto would lie about something as serious as his own son’s death.

But since Sotto, a public official, has entered his personal tragedy into public record, it is fair game to consider the possibility that Sotto is lying. And I believe this is precisely what he did. Sotto is lying about the death of his son to further his fight against the RH Bill. Many of his statements and actions — these past weeks and even during his entire career — point to this conclusion.

1. Sotto lied about the pill his wife was on.

Sotto said his wife was taking Diane in 1975. Diane was introduced in 1978. This is the kind of detail you never forget. Rather than an honest mistake, he is probably lying.

Back in high school I got contact dermatitis (eczema). Today, almost two decades later, I still remember the name of the ointment I was prescribed by my dermatologist: dermovate. It came in a small green tube, and you could also get it in a more expensive cream version.

Sure, Sotto’s tragedy happened much earlier. But all I got was a bad summer; his son died. You’d think that such tragedies etch every minor detail into memory, especially the name of his son’s killer. Could Sotto have forgetten this? I don’t think so.

2. Sotto lied about his medical sources.

The first time Sotto defended himself from plagiarism allegations, he denied it. He asked, “Why should I quote a blogger?” He explained that he and Sarah Pope were reading the same author, and that’s who he’s citing. This defense was echoed by his chief-of-staff, Atty. Hector Villacorta.

Again, Sotto and Villacorta were lying. They have already admitted to not even having a copy of the book, using Pope’s blog to indirectly (but incorrectly) cite McBride.

Yet even if Sotto had a copy of McBride’s book somewhere, it couldn’t have been his source for long because Gut and Psychology Syndrome was first published in 2004. Sotto’s other source, The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed On Women — a source he misrepresents just as much as Sarah’s post — was first published in 2003.

So as far as we know, all those years blaming contraception for his son’s death was because of his physician, Dr. Carmen Envarga-Santos, who has passed away and can no longer confirm or deny Sotto’s claim.

Thankfully, her family is still around and has said that if Dr. Envarga-Santos were alive, she would be pro-RH. And I don’t doubt that she’d be furious that Sotto is using her reputation to argue against contraception.

3. Sotto hasn’t attacked his son’s killer for almost 4 decades.

Sotto learned 37 years ago that oral contraceptives killed his son. Let’s assume for the sake of discussion that his wife was on the pill (some pill that actually existed back then) and that he was really told that the pill killed his son by his doctor (who was pro-RH but rather incompetent, at least in this story). If that were true, Sotto has done nothing for almost 4 decades to fight his son’s killer.

And it’s not like he didn’t have the opportunity. He was already a TV host in 1975. He could have used his celebrity status to raise awareness about the dangers of oral contraception. But he didn’t.

He became vice mayor of Quezon City in 1988. He could’ve restricted access to oral contraception (the way it was done in Manila). But he didn’t.

He became senator in 1992. He could’ve proposed a bill to ban oral contraceptives (or at least add “birth defects of future children” to the list of complications found in every box of pills). But he didn’t.

He led the Dangerous Drugs board in 2008, and he could’ve included oral contraceptives on that list. But he didn’t.

What kind of man is Tito Sotto?

Sotto has done nothing for 37 years, waiting for the very moment the RH Bill is on the verge of passing, to reveal one of the most damaging details about oral contraceptives that even those on the anti-RH side has failed to discover. The way I see it we can interpret this in one of two ways:

Either Sotto is a bad father, who has realized just now that he owes it to his son, his family, and his constituents to reveal the truth about his son’s killer so that they could avoid a similar fate.

Or Sotto is an evil politician, willing to do anything to block the RH bill, which includes plagiarizing and twisting the words of writers, tarnishing the reputation of physicians who can’t defend themselves, and lying about the death of his own son.

Whatever Sotto is — a bad father or an evil politician — he does not deserve to be a senator.

Posted in Personal, Politics, ReligionComments (7)

Senator Tito Sotto: Dishonest, Deceptive, and Intellectually Lazy (Part 1)


According to one of the greatest senators of our republic, the “Filipino people are worth dying for”, aren’t they worth properly citing, reliably researching, and thoroughly analysing for?

Introduction

Senator Tito Sotto, his staff, and his fans club should not confuse his other profession as an actor with his being a senator. Sotto, as an actor, is not responsible for what he is saying or even doing when he plays a character in a film, sitcom, or teleserye. If Sotto plays the character of a dishonest, deceptive, and intellectually lazy senator in a film, only those who cannot tell the difference between fact and fiction will seek to either correct or condemn him. But when Sotto delivered his turno en contra speech, he is not playing the character role of a senator: He is Senator Tito Sotto, a public servant of the Republic of the Philippines, and his speech writer/researchers are not scriptwriters. All of them are paid by the Filipino people not to entertain but to provide the highest standard of public service. If Sotto’s listeners find out that he is dishonest, deceptive, and intellectually lazy, they have all the right to point it out; they are, after all, not paying him to be that kind of senator. Even if he is presenting an argument that we don’t agree with, he still has to deliver those arguments with the highest standard of research and reading comprehension.

After his first speech, it was found out that he plagiarized – not just once but several times in the same speech. To be fair, Sotto is not the only one in world history that has committed this lapse in judgment. In 1991, the New York Times reported that after a thorough investigation of the committee formed by Boston University, it was verified that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “plagiarized passages in his dissertation for a doctoral degree.”  Although they didn’t ask for the revocation of Rev. King’s doctoral degree, the committee recommended “that a letter stating its finding be placed with the official copy of Dr. King’s dissertation in the university’s library.” This demonstrates that plagiarism, even if committed by a Nobel Laureate or a world hero, is still plagiarism.

Plagiarism does not automatically diminish the value of your arguments. What it does is tarnish your character and betrays your thinking style: Are plagiarists thoughtful thinkers or are they ungrateful parrots who only repeat what they have heard and read?  In Writing with Sources: A Guide for Students, a guide developed for Harvard University’s Expository Writing Program, Gordon Harvey defines plagiarism as “the act of passing off information, ideas, or words of another as your own, by failing to acknowledge their source-an act of lying, cheating, and stealing.” Sotto claimed that he graduated from “the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.” If so, then he must be aware of the strict rules against plagiarism of his alma mater, as stated in the Harvard Guide to Using Sources. Harvard Guide provides two reasons why their students should properly cite their sources:

 First, citing sources allows scholars to give credit to other scholars for their hard work and their ideas. Second, by citing sources, scholars provide a roadmap for readers who are interested in learning more about a topic and joining the ongoing conversation about that topic. (emphasis mine)

The first reason is about basic respect and humility. It takes so much time and energy to think, research, and craft a thoughtful argument. Using someone else’s hard work as your source is of course allowed, that’s just how knowledge develops. Even if your source is a blog, you have to properly cite it. All citations styles – such as MLA, APA, and Chicago – agree that blogs, even blog comments, should be properly cited. Even if you are citing a citation made in another person’s work, you still have to inform your listeners about it. With Sotto’s Harvard education, as well as his staffs’ educational attainment, there is no way they don’t know this. Moreover, there are a lot of free resources online that can guide them how to cite properly. One website even does the citing for you (see: EasyBib.com)! And no, this is not just about complying with the legal rules of copyright as what Atty. Hector Villacorta, the chief of staff of Sen. Sotto, would like to make it appear. This is just plain gratitude and honesty. Citing your sources is respecting the hard work of the author/s of your sources. With this respect comes the humility to accept that your ideas are not original, they came from other people. And with humility, comes gratitude, or in our culture, “utang na loob.” Respect, humility, honesty, and gratitude are values prior to legal ones.

Harvard Guide’s second reason points us to something more practical. Citing your sources allows your listeners to know the richer context of your arguments. Thoughtful speakers and writer make thoughtful listeners and readers – but they cannot be thoughtful listeners and readers if they cannot thoroughly examine the content and context of your arguments. You cannot just tell your listeners or readers that this is the truth; they need to know the basis of your truth-claims so they can decide for themselves whether or not your arguments are persuasive enough. This point is wonderfully summed up by Charles Lipson in Cite Right: A Quick Guide to Citation Styles – MLA, APA, Chicago, the Sciences, Professions, and More. Besides upholding important social values, properly citing your sources “show[s] readers the materials on which you base your analysis, your narrative, your conclusions…[and] guide readers to the materials you have used so they can examine it for themselves. Their interest might be to confirm your work, to challenge it, or simply to explore it further.” How can the Filipino people verify the veracity of Sotto’s arguments if he doesn’t properly cite them? But in fairness to Sotto, he did cite some of his sources, allowing us to look more deeply into his arguments.

In this article, we will analyze whether one of the sources Sotto mentioned in Part 2 of his turno en contra speech actually supports his claims. I am referring to Barbara Seaman’s The Greatest Experiement Performed on Women, Exploding the Estrogen Myth. It is one of the evidences he presented to support his claim that contraceptive pills have bad effects to children born of mothers using them (“…mga pag-aaral na makakapagpatunay na mayroong masamang epekto ang contraceptives sa kalusugan ng mga bata na pinanganak ng mga ina na gumagamit ng contraceptives”).

The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women, Exploding the Estrogen Myth

This is exactly how Sotto used  Barbara Seaman’s book:

In the book entitled ‘The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women, Exploding the Estrogen Myth’ by Barbara Seaman, it was stated that those who take pills but still got pregnant have more abnormal children and lower I.Q. (Hindi naman po siguro kelangan pa na maging doctor ang isang tao para lamang malaman ang maaaring maging kumplikasyon ng pag-gamit ng pills ngunit nagbuntis pa din di ba?).

This is actually an iteration of the statement Sotto made in the media when former Department of Health Secretary Dr. Esperanza Cabral challenged the claim he made in the Part 1 of his turno en contra speech that his first son died because his wife Helen Gamboa used contraceptive pills. Sotto said:

Based on [s]tudies yes those on pills who got pregnant have more abnormal children and lower IQ. From the book ‘Greatest experiment ever performed on women’ by Barbara Seaman. Tell them to read it. [It’s] available on line or order from amazon.com.

In order for us to determine whether Seaman’s book supports Sotto’s claims, we have to answer several questions:

  1. What is the book about?
  2. Who is Barbara Seaman?
  3. What is the exact quotation from Seaman’s book?
  4. What is the context of the passage?

We will answer 1 and 2 in this article, while 3 and 4 will be explored in Part 2.

What is the book about? Who is Barbara Seaman?

In a eulogy in The New York Times, Barbara Seaman (1935-2008) is described as “a writer and patients’ rights advocate who was one of the first people to bring the issue of women’s reproductive health to wide public attention.” She is one of the founders of National Women’s Health Network (NWHN). According to their website, NWHN “aspires to a health care system that is guided by social justice, in which all women have access to excellent health care that meets [the diverse needs of women].” Their goals include the following:

(1)    “…ensure that every woman can make her own decisions about her reproductive and sexual health;”

(2)    “…advocates for comprehensive, accessible contraceptive and abortion care, accurate information about sexuality and reproduction, and tools women can use to protect against HIV and sexually transmitted infection;”

(3)    “…promote access to safe and effective reproductive health products and services, with complete information and without ideological restrictions;” and

(4)    “…ensure that women have complete and accurate information about products and services marketed to them, and strengthens public protections against such threats.”

Given Seaman’s political position, how on earth Sotto – or whoever is responsible for his speech – used Seaman’s work to aid his arguments is baffling.  But let’s still give Sotto (and his speech writer/researcher) the benefit of the doubt…

What brought Seaman to fame (or notoriety) is her 1969 book The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill, which exposed the risks of high-dose estrogen birth control pills. In the foreword of the 25th Anniversary Edition of the book (1995), Claudia Dreifus writes how The Doctor’s Case led to a US Senate hearing about the concerns raised by Seaman: “The result [of the hearing] was a mandate that patient package inserts be included in all birth control pill packages.” According to NWHN’s profile of Seaman, this was the “first on any prescription drug,” leading the way for other prescription drugs to have their own package inserts that will inform people of their potential risks and adverse effects. Sotto could have used The Doctor’s Case as his textual support for his arguments, but we all know he didn’t. Instead, he used Seaman’s The Greatest Experiment. But using The Doctor’s Case wouldn’t also benefit Sotto because the facts and circumstances in that book are radically different from what we have today; and these radical changes are actually caused by Seaman’s exposition in the The Doctor’s Case.  However, The Greatest Experiment is a more bewildering and unfortunate choice of textual support for Sotto. And here’s why…

Published in 2003, The Greatest Experiment is a continuation of Seaman’s investigation on synthetic sex hormones. The Doctor’s Case, Seaman focuses on contraceptive pills taken by women who would like to prevent pregnancy while The Greatest Experiment is about hormone replacement therapy pills taken by women who would like to arrest the effects of menopause.  The Greatest Experiment exposes the risks of hormones being given to women going through their menopause. Nonetheless, even though Seaman is aware of those risks, she didn’t go on advocating for women not to use them at all. She is calling for greater caution in the use of estrogen products and for people to be more informed about them. This she expressed in the introduction of her book. After giving a background story about the meaning of the title of her book, Seaman writes, “estrogen products won’t go away, and they shouldn’t. One can only wish, as I do, that they will be used now with caution, based on evidence and facts, not illusion. My aim is to consider whether hormone supplements are necessary and for whom. Specifically, I hope this book will help women navigate the estrogen issue…But the larger hope is that we can make informed decisions about other drugs as well.”

More importantly,The Greatest Experiment is a fatal choice of textual support for Sotto because in Chapter 10, Seaman reproduced the leaflet FDA Commissioner Dr. Charles Edwards presented during the US Senate hearing about the concerns raised by Seaman in The Doctor’s Case. Seaman praised that leaflet calling “the wording [of the leaflet] helpful and clear,” but she lamented that “it was derailed, in a scandalous manner, by that unholy trio of organized medicine, drug manufacturers, and extremist population controllers.” And here’s what we can find in the leaflet Seaman praised:

All of the oral contraceptive pills are highly effective for preventing pregnancy when taken according to the approved directions. Your doctor has taken your medical history and has given you a careful physical examination. He has discussed with you the risks of oral contraceptives and has decided that you can take this drug safely.

If The Greatest Experiment is to be used at all in the RH Bill debate, the position that this book can support is not whether or not contraceptive pills should be used but whether or not the RH Bill has provisions to: 1) examine the medical history and give a careful physical examination of women before they are given the pill; 2) determine the responsibility of the government for those who will experience adverse reactions to contraceptive pills; and 3) If 1 & 2 are not present in the RH Bill, shouldn’t we include them there?

(In this article, I’m using the ePub version of Barbara Seaman’s The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women, Exploding the Estrogen Myth being sold at www.kobobooks.com)

In Part 2, we will examine how Sotto used The Greatest Experiment to support his claims, and see whether he is right in doing so.

 

Posted in Politics, RH BillComments (7)

Timeline of Senator Sotto’s Plagiarism (Updated September 7)


Quickly unfolding after one of our authors, Alfredo R. Melgar, exposed Senator Tito Sotto’s unattributed word-for-word lifting of significant segments of a piece written by Sarah Pope, has been the public excoriation of the Senator for plagiarism. Pope’s blog, The Healthy Home Economist, was used by Senator Sotto to oppose public funding of oral contraceptive pills in the first part of his turno en contra speech against the Reproductive Health Bill. The Senator and his staff still contends, however, that if they used her blog at all, it was only in the citation of Pope’s own attributed source, a certain Natasha Campbell-McBride (whose medical opinion is, on its own, highly suspect).

The following is a timeline (a web log, if you will) of the events on Sotto’s apparent plagiarism. It will be periodically updated for further developments on the matter.

Updated as of September 7, 7:20 AM (added the confirmation of Feminists for Choice blogger of Sotto’s plagiarism)

“Bakit ko naman iko-quote yung blogger? Blogger lang ‘yon.”

 

August 13, 2012

Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” C. Sotto III delivers the first part of his turno en contra speech on the floor of the Philippine Senate against Senate Bill 2865, the Reproductive Health Bill. In his speech, he makes several claims regarding the relationship of the bill with abortion, an act the bill acknowledges to be illegal. He makes further claims that contraceptives, such as the oral contraceptive pill, have severe side effects. He supports these claims by citing a Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. He reveals that his son, who died over 30 years ago at the age of five months, died due to his wife’s use of contraceptives.

 

August 15, 2012

Filipino Freethinkers publishes a piece by Alfredo R. Melgar, who points out that several stretches of Sotto’s August 13 speech were lifted “almost word-for-word” from the blog of a certain Sarah Pope, who writes as “The Healthy Home Economist.” Melgar further points out Pope’s views on medicine, such as a thoroughly-debunked link between vaccines and autism.

Senator Sotto delivers the second part of his turno en contra speech, in which he accuses former Department of Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral and Iloilo Representative Janet Garin of being callous for questioning his claim that his son died due to contraceptive use by Sotto’s wife. Sotto, who is backed by the Roman Catholic Church represented by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, also purports to expose the identities and motives of foreign organizations lobbying for the RH Bill.

 

August 16, 2012

Senator Sotto appears on Headstart on the ABS-CBN News Channel with Karen Davila. He states that he opposes the RH Bill because, if it is made into law, it removes the freedom of choice from mayors and governors for denying their constituents access to contraceptives, should they choose to. He warns, “Do not remove their freedom of choice.”

Sotto denies the allegation of plagiarism, saying, “Bakit ko naman iko-quote yung blogger? Blogger lang ‘yon. Ang kino-quote ko si Natasha Campbell-McBride.” (Why would I quote a blogger? That’s only a blogger. I was quoting Natasha Campbell-McBride.) Karen Davila asks him whether his speech writing staff looks at blogs and Sotto says, “We don’t.” When Davila presses him further asking, “Not at all?” Sotto responds, “No.” He further reveals, “When I prepare my speeches, I prepare it with them. We talk about it. We sit down and discuss what we need to say.” Sotto questions his accusers’ capacity to refute his claims saying, “They attack me kasi nauubusan sila ng sagot.” (Because they run out of answers.)

Sarah Pope, author of the passages that Melgar had shown to have been lifted word-for-word, posts on her Facebook account that she was indeed plagiarized, saying, “A Senator in the Philippines plagiarized one of my blog posts to use in a speech. Can’t even believe this!!!”

Sarah Pope writes about the experience of being plagiarized by a sitting Philippine Senator. She echoes the accusations put forward against Sotto, “It seems one of [the Filipino people’s] esteemed Senators, Tito Sotto, plagiarized a blog post I wrote on February 23, 2011 entitled How The Pill Can Harm Your Future Child’s Health, lifting entire sections of the article basically word for word that were delivered in a speech to the Senate floor regarding the possible passage of the highly controversial Reproductive Health Bill.” She also noted Sotto’s denial of the charge. She is unconvinced, however, saying, “A thief is a thief, Mr. Senator. Denying it doesn’t get you off the hook; it just makes you a lying thief.”

Pope goes on to lament the manner of use of her writings by Sotto, “Women of the Philippines: I am terribly sorry my blog was used and twisted against you.” Furthermore, she notes that she does not support the way her work was used by the Senator, “While I want you to know that this choice has health consequences as does the decision to use any pharmaceutical drug, I in no way would ever condone taking this choice away from you!”

On Pope’s article, a person named “lezel” who claims to be writing in the name of Senator Sotto’s Chief of Staff, Atty. Hector A. Villacorta comments. However, despite media reports of admission by Sotto’s camp to plagiarism, Villacorta’s words reveal no such confession, “Let me say that after asking my staff, indeed your blog was used but only in quoting also from the same book of Dr. Campbell-McBride. We are both indebted to the book’s author but if you wish that you also be credited with the contents of the book, let this be your affirmation. I can do it and by this message, I am doing it.” [Emphasis and proper capitalization mine.]

Regarding Pope’s accusations of plagiarism, Villacorta asserts the innocence of Sotto, “What have we done to deserve your incriminating words? The Senator did not lift it himself, we did. Did you want us to tell him to admit what he did not do? Who would you like to crucify for this oversight?” [Proper punctuation and capitalization mine.]

Villacorta then ostensibly asks for pardon, “Forgive us our single trespass. We had no malice, we thought you would be happy about it. There was no injury. Hope this makes you feel better.” [Again, proper capitalization mine.]

Pope responds to Villacorta, “I don’t like the fact that my blog was used without my permission against the education of the women of the Philippines and their reproductive rights.” She does not accept Villacorta’s claim that the Senator was innocent saying, “If his staff did it, he condoned it. He is responsible for your actions.”

Directly contradicting Sotto’s claims since his appearance on ANC, Pope maintains, “My Blog was quoted, not Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. I put her work in my words and you copied my words.” She also appears not to have appreciated Villacorta’s appeasement, “No, your lame comment does not make me “feel” any better.”

The account under the name “lezel,” through which Villacorta’s message was relayed, later responds to Pope, “A blog is meant to be shared and we shared it.” [Proper capitalization mine.]

ABS-CBN News confirms that the message was indeed the words of Villacorta. The author’s identity as Sotto’s Chief of Staff was also reaffirmed to Rappler. Later research turns up that this lezel appears to be a certain Lezel De Villa, who posted the same message from Villacorta on her Facebook account.

Investigative journalist Raissa Robles reports that, upon being informed by several commenters, it also appears that, for his second turno en contra speech, Sotto also had word-for-word plagiarisms from at least 4 sources, including several blogs (contradicting Sotto’s claim to not using blogs at all): The Margaret Sanger Papers Project of New York University, Marlon C. Ramirez’s Talking Sense, FeministsforChoice.com, and TheTruthofContraceptives.blogspot.com.

 

August 17

In an interview with Rappler, Sotto Chief of Staff Hector Villacorta maintains that Sotto has nothing to apologize for because, “He can’t apologize for something he did not know.” Rappler reports, that Villacorta, as Chief of Staff, takes responsibility for the scandal.

Villacorta says that they committed the error “in good faith,” despite repeating the same error on four other sources. He also says that it was “inelegant” to have quoted a blog. Despite having a law degree, Villacorta also adds that blogs are “part of public domain.” It should be noted that Sarah Pope’s blog, The Healthy Home Economist, is copyrighted and not in the public domain, given the statement below each of her articles showing that the rights to the content of her site are under Austus Foods LLC.

Villacorta further denies that they plagiarized the sources revealed by Raissa Robles, “I doubt it’s word for word because we’ve been going over and meeting about this research for months. It’s the product of our minds.” This doubt should be sorely tested by Robles’ highlighting of the said word-for-word copies on her article.

In another interview, one with GMA News Online, Villacorta further submits his opinion, “You have a blog, it is meant to be shared, it’s in the public domain, so it’s not plagiarism.”

Villacorta also reveals that it was actually him commenting under the name “lezel,” using a staff member’s account.

It appears that Villacorta understands plagiarism as copyright violation, saying, “Hindi naman copyrighted ang blogs kasi.” (Blogs are not copyrighted.) It is important to point out that plagiarism is not necessarily copyright infringement. Rather, it is taking someone’s work and presenting it as your own.

GMA News Online’s own coverage of the matter reveals that even a misplaced comma in Pope’s article (“According, to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD…”) is also present in Sotto’s published text of the first part of his turno en contra speech.

International news agency, the Associated Press, picks up on the Sotto plagiarism scandal, distributing it to various other news desks all over the world.

Apparently taking responsibility for any scandal, Sotto finally comments on the matter to GMA Network’s 24 Oras as reported by ABS-CBN News, “Whatever it is, the buck stops with me. I’m the senator.”

ABS-CBN Show Bandila, also hosted by Karen Davila, reports further on the scandal. They interview Villacorta who says, “What law did we violate? Only [Sarah Pope’s] sensitivity was affected.”

Pope on ANC’s The World Tonight, subsequently re-aired on Bandila, advices Sotto’s camp that they should have acknowledged that they “made a mistake” and that “proper credit should have been given for this information that was taken illegally from [Pope’s] blog.” She says that they should have said, “We’re sorry and can we move on?”

 

August 18

ABS-CBN News reports further that on Pope’s appearance on The World Tonight, she accused Sotto of “acting as though he’s above the law… to get his agenda through the Philippine legislature.” She continues, “That’s just wrong, that’s very poor behavior.” She later calls on Filipinos to “think about this when they go to the election booths when he’s up for reelection.”

Commenting on Villacorta’s supposed apology, Pope calls it a “ridiculous insulting rude comment” and that it “should be an embarassment to his office.” She demands an apology from the senator himself, “[I]f he, Senator Sotto writes a sincere letter of apology saying ‘this was a mistake, we apologize,’ I would post that on my blog.” Then, she would “consider this issue done.”

 

August 19

The Philippine Star reports Sotto announcing that he will postpone the closing of his turno en contra speech in order to defend himself on Wednesday against the public outcry against plagiarism in his speeches. He blames RH advocates, “It’s their fault. I am ready to close my turno but now I will postpone this for my privilege speech.”

He maintains his same defense, despite using verbatim Pope’s and several other sources’ exact words without attribution, saying that Pope was not “the author of the book,” referring to the writings of Natasha Campbell-McBride. He goes on to admit that he also “did not mention several other people’s names.”

Refusing to apologize to Pope and his other unattributed sources, Sotto again lashes out at RH advocates, “This is clearly a wrecking job.” He states his own view on the matter of plagiarism, “Plagiarism, whether you give attribution or not, applies only if you contend that the contents are yours.”

Bukluran UP System, the alliance of student organizations across the University of the Philippines (UP) system of campuses, calls on Senator Sotto to resign over the plagiarism scandal. The group’s National Spokesperson, UP Manila University Student Council Chair Jason Alacapa, says that Sotto’s resignation would be the “dignified thing to do.”

The group cited the resignations of Hungarian President Pal Schmitt and German prime minister prospect Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg over plagiarism as precedents for such an action. Recalling Sotto’s own dismissal of the stature of Sarah Pope as a blogger, the group’s Deg Daupan says, “…kung blogger lang iyon, senator lang si Sotto. Itong mga nag-resign sa ibang bansa, presidente at prime minister-to-be.” (If that was just a blogger, Sotto is just a senator. Those who resigned in other countries were a president and a prime minister-to-be.)

Noting a predictability of the plagiarism scandal, Topher Porras, Secretary-General of the RH AGENDA UP student organization, “This plagiarism case is not surprising. The anti-RH camp has been misinforming the public through lies and superstitions from the very start.”

 

August 20

The Philippine Daily Inquirer publishes an editorial, calling the scandal “so comical” and “so ridiculous” that they “invite disbelief.” Entitled, “‘Iskul Bukol’ in the Senate,” the editorial refers to Sotto’s stint in a comedy television show about students and their mischief. In addition to plagiarism, the editorial points out that Sotto used “dubious or at least ambiguous research” and “emotional blackmail” to stop the Reproductive Health Bill from passing. The editorial calls this “the real joke.”

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Sotto’s partner as the staunchest opponents of the RH Bill in the Senate, comes out to defend Sotto, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reports, against accusations of plagiarism. On Sotto’s word-for-word copying of several sources, Enrile says, “He did not deny that the speech was a product of research. Meaning, there was attribution.” He goes on to say, “Is there an idea in this world that was not copied from others?” On using copyrighted material, Enrile declares, “Once you release an idea to the public, unless you copyright it, it can be used.” As reported earlier on this piece, Sarah Pope’s content is copyrighted under Austus Foods LLC.

 

August 21

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reports that Senator Pia Cayetano, co-author of the Senate version of the RH Bill, was “blasted” by “netizens” for “the same offense” of plagiarism as Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto.

It was pointed out that two of Cayetano’s privilege speeches also contained word-for-word copies from sources apparently unattributed. These two speeches were “Privilege speech on the status of the Philippines in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)” and “On World Environment Day.”

However, upon being informed of the lack of attribution, the office of Cayetano immediately added the necessary references. On Twitter, Cayetano responded to the accusations, “If at any time, I fail to attribute, I immediately make the necessary corrections and amends.” She continues, “Citing authors and sources is part of the writing process I am happy to do because it shows the depth of research done.”

In contrast, Sotto’s immediate response after facing the initial charges of the scandal was to deny even using blogs at all. His camp has still failed to acknowledge Sarah Pope and the (at least four) other unattributed sources as references in his speech.

It should be noted that these statements by Cayetano were all readily available on Twitter. Despite the Inquirer mentioning an attempt to “get a comment from Cayetano,” the paper’s piece has no mention at all of any of these responses from Cayetano.

 

August 22

Sotto’s camp admits to not reading Campbell-McBride’s work at all, according to ABS-CBN News. Upon trying to access her writings, Sotto’s office apparently could not get a copy of her book off the Internet. Believing instead that Pope’s work was an accurate depiction of her work, they decided to use her words. Sotto Chief of Staff declares, “Researchers tried clicking the book but ayaw mag-download.” (It wouldn’t download.) “Kaya ang pinakamaganda, refer to blog dahil baka accurate naman,” (That’s why the next best thing was to refer to the blog because it might be accurate.) Villacorta went on to explain.

This defense completely contradicts Sotto’s initial claim that he was quoting Campbell-McBride and not Sarah Pope, who he believes is just a blogger.

 

August 23

Sotto Chief of Staff Hector Villacorta says, in a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, that “copying is a common practice” in the Senate. Citing that bills are usually refiled by other legislators without much revision or attribution to previous authors, Villacorta rationalizes, “Re-filing is an accepted practice. It is also called copying.” He goes on, “We plagiarized the US Constitution… but do they call us a plagiaristic country? No, because the law is based on precedent.” He said these in response to accusations that his office plagiarized not a bill or a legal document with boilerplate wording, but a personal privilege speech delivered in the name of Senator Sotto.

Further justifying his office’s actions, Villacorta calls upon his religious opinion, “Even our image was copied from God. We are all plagiarists.”

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, co-author of the RH Bill in the Senate, excused the plagiarism, saying, “Maybe the speech just writer overlooked it… we should give more leeway to senators as long as later on they admit that they took it from some other source…” It should be pointed out that while Cayetano immediately placed citations on the speeches found to not have them, Sotto’s camp has still refused to officially acknowledge the several bloggers whose words were delivered in the Senator’s name without attribution.

Villacorta further states that it is “awkward” to deliver a speech that says, “according to this blogger who quoted this author,” even though this was, in fact, what his office did. He goes on, “A whole gamut of ‘according to’ would also not make the speech credible,” referring to the speech Sotto delivered that cited outdated 1970’s sources.

In an “ambush interview” at the Senate, Senator Pia Cayetano responds to allegations of plagiarism. She notes that on the speech where she was accused of plagiarizing the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), the footnotes her office had for the speech were accidentally left out when it was uploaded to their WordPress site. She also mentions that she had already cited the UNEP as a source in the relevant paragraph. Contra Sotto, she concedes that “dapat talagang ma-identify ang mga source.” (Sources definitely have to be identified.)

In the case of her speech on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), she complains that her accusers should have done a little research. She reveals that this speech was never delivered in the Senate. She delivered an entirely different speech “ad lib.” Then, her undelivered speech was accidentally uploaded to their site instead of the transcript of the manifestation she actually delivered in the Senate.

She says that she finds it “quite malicious” for her accusers to “impute malice on this.” She further acknowledges, “that your literary work should always be protected and should always be acknowledged.”

August 29

ProPinoy reports that the copy posted on the official Senate website of Sotto’s first turno en contra speech has been taken down without notice. It is available for access on Filipino Freethinkers servers.

Sotto’s turno en contra speech has apparently been moved to a different URL. This new transcript perhaps much more accurately reflects ad lib remarks and revisions Sotto made as he was delivering the speech on the Senate floor. It is, however, noteworthy to point out that this new transcript removes the (PERSONAL EXPERIENCE) note at the end that implied original authorship of the speech. It also removes the incriminating typographical error that matched Sarah Pope’s own blog from which Sotto’s office copied word-for-word segments, which were delivered without attribution in his name.

After much delay, Sotto finally delivers his speech defending himself from accusations of plagiarism, which was delivered mainly in Tagalog. He opens his speech by condemning his accusers of doing a “demolition job.” He opines regarding his accusers’ motives, “…upang humina ang aking panindigan laban sa RH bill.” (…so that my resolve is weakened against the RH bill). He claims that his accusers did not listen to his speech and decided to find a “small” issue to throw at him, “…ang mga kalaban ay naghanap ng maliit na isyung makakapuwing sa akin.” (…the enemies looked for a small issue that would blind me.)

He maintains, as if it were a sufficient replacement for proper attribution, that his blanket turn of phrase would be enough to deflect accusations of plagiarism: “Hindi ko po iniimbento ito. Itong mga kino-quote ko po ay mga fact na pinatotohanan ng mga eksperto sa larangan ng agham at batas.” (I am not inventing these. These things I’m quoting are facts that have been proven by experts in science and law.) Sotto is accused of plagiarizing Sarah Pope (among others), an anti-vaccination blogger and economics graduate who has no degree in law or science.

He further claims that he is the first Senator that has been a victim of cyber-bullying, particularly, he says, by supporters of the RH Bill. He opines, “Bahagi siguro ito ng kanilang istratehiya, lalo pa’t may milyun-milyon silang pondo.” (This is probably a part of their strategy, especially since they have millions in funds.)

Sotto claims that none of the points of his turno en contra speech were answered. Of course, a casual search on the Internet will provide a plethora of rebuttals of the content of his speech, such as those by Prof. Sylvia Claudio of the Center for Women’s Studies, which is just one among many.

He quotes no less than three different dictionaries, and this time properly cites them, in defining plagiarism. However, he does not defend himself regarding the definitions he had just presented. Instead, he says that plagiarism is not a crime, “…walang krimen ng plagiarism sa Pilipinas. Kahit hanapin ninyo pa sa Revised Penal Code, sa Intellectual Property Code, at maging sa Special Penal Laws, wala kayong makikitang krimen ng plagiarism.” (…there is no crime of plagiarism in the Philippines. Even if you look in the Revised Penal Code, in the Intellectual Property Code, even in the Special Penal Laws, you will not find the crime of plagiarism.)

Taking exception to attacks on his intellectual capacity he says, “Kahit mukha akong walang pinag-aralan kung ikukumpara sa mga pinag-aral nila at hindi kasing dunong nila, ang mahalaga ay ang ipinaglalaban ko.” (Even if I look unschooled compared to what they studied and not as wise as them, what is important is what I am fighting for.) He also mentions that his stint in the variety show, Eat Bulaga where he appeared with his brother Vic Sotto and fellow comedian Joey De Leon, was also made fun of. Sotto, who disparaged Sarah Pope as a mere blogger, says that he would rather be a clown than to say bad things about others.

In his closing, he reads a poem by Joey De Leon as well as enjoins his enemies to read Psalms 56, 63, and 64. He also mentions his god, “…ang tunay na Awtor ng aklat ng ating buhay at bawa’t kaluluwa ng isang sanggol na nabuo na sa sinapupunan ng kanyang ina.” (…the true Author of the book of our lives and of every soul of every baby that is already formed in the womb of their mother.)

He moves that the entire paragraph referencing Campbell-McBride, which included the plagiarized blog post of Sarah Pope, be stricken from the record.

Sotto does not mention Pope by name nor does he mention the word-for-word copies of other sources in his second turno en contra speech.

 

September 5

After several delays, Sotto finally delivers the third and fourth parts of his turno en contra speech on the same day. However, it was shown by several online commentators that the ending of his fourth speech was plagiarized from Robert F. Kennedy’s Day of Affirmation speech given to the National Union of South African Students in Cape Town. Though Sotto’s speech was delivered in Tagalog, it is quite clear that his words were unattributed translations from Kennedy’s famous speech.

Shortly after delivering his speech and amid the public furor on another clear case of plagiarism all within the span of a few weeks, Sotto defended himself on ABS-CBN’s Bandila. The segment showed Senate President pro-tempore Jinggoy Estrada asking Sotto on the Senate floor whether the words he had just delivered were his own. Sotto responded that they were indeed his own words. He continued, “Kaya ko ho tinagalog. Kaya ho Pilipino na ang ginamit ko para ‘wag nang magbintang ‘tong mga kung sinu-sino, at subukan nila.” (That’s why I made [my speech] Tagalog. That’s why I used Filipino so that these nobodies won’t accuse me, and they can try.)

Regarding Kennedy’s words that he had translated and delivered in Filipino, he asks his accusers on Balita, “So para nga safe, tinagalog ko. O, sino ngayon ang kinopyahan ko na Tagalog? Meron ba silang alam na pinanggalingan na Tagalog doon?” (So it would be safe, I made [my speech] Tagalog. What is it this time that I copied that was in Tagalog? Do they know a source that is Tagalog [in my speech]?) Referring to his own stint as a comedian he says, “Nakakatawa na sila. Sila ang komiko, eh. Hindi ako.” (They are hilarious. They’re the comics. Not me.) Apparently incredulous at the fact that he delivered the same thoughts of Kennedy in 1966, but merely translated, he says, “Marunong palang managalog si Kennedy, ah!” (Oh, Kennedy can speak Tagalog!)

 

September 6

One of the other bloggers Sotto plagiarized in the second part of his turno en contra speech, Janice Formichella of Feminists for Choice has come out to confirm that she was indeed plagiarized. More than that, she says that here words were “twisted into an argument against an important reproductive rights bill.”

Formichella clarifies in the Ms. Magazine blog that, in context, her work was not a condemnation of Margaret Sanger but of Gandhi and his “little-known sexism.” She says that Sotto’s quote-mining is ironic because the part he lifted “aptly reflects [Gandhi’s] hypocrisy as a political leader.” She says she would “love nothing more than to see this bill passed” and that she was angry that her work was used to delay the bill’s passage. She asks Sotto to apologize to “each of the bloggers he has plagiarized.”

In the GMA News Online report, Sotto instead says that it was “impossible” that Formichella was right because his office got the information from a book. He could not, however, provide the name of the book. Similar to how he considered Pope, Sotto says Formichella was “pathetic” and that she was just riding the bandwagon, “gusto lang niyan sumikat.” (She only wants to get famous.)

 

Image Captured from ANC’s Stream of Senator Tito Sotto’s Appearance on Headstart with Karen Davila

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Sotto’s Pseudoscientific Source: Who is Natasha Campbell-McBride?


Senator Tito Sotto responded to allegations of plagiarism by denying them on national TV. In case comparing his speech with the blog post isn’t enough, the blogger herself, Sarah Pope, has confirmed that she was indeed plagiarized. And as it turns out, she might not be the only victim of Sotto’s plagiarism: some count at least 3 other plagiarized bloggers.

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

Let’s humor Tito Sotto and entertain the possibility that his excuse is valid — that he wasn’t quoting the blogger, he was quoting the blogger’s source: Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. But was citing Dr. Natasha a good move?

I don’t think so. As far as Sotto’s credibility goes, citing Dr. Natasha was even worse than plagiarizing Pope. Because Dr. Natasha is a quack. She is most known for inventing the idea that autism — and many other symptoms and diseases — is caused by bacteria in our gut, a condition she calls “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” or GAPS — because “gut bacteria” just doesn’t sound as scientific.

The Consequences of Gut Bacteria

And what causes gut bacteria? According to Dr. Natasha, children who aren’t breastfed get gut bacteria. Sure, breastfeeding has benefits, and even real doctors prescribe it. But they don’t scare people with invented consequences, especially not without any real evidence. And by evidence, I mean the results of proper clinical trials. Does Dr. Natasha have such evidence? No. All she has are testimonials.

And when you replace the objectivity of Science with the subjectivity of anecdotal evidence, anything goes. Without the need to adhere to the rigors of Science, Dr. Natasha can confidently claim that like vaccinations, oral contraceptives cause gut bacteria, something Sotto now believes to be the cause of his son’s death.

Dr. Natasha’s disrespect for scientific procedures translates to a distrust of mainstream medicine — a distrust Sotto seems to share, both of them claiming that the pharmaceutical industry only cares about making money. And what alternative does she prescribe? She sells plenty of them in her online store, where anyone can purchase books, DVDs, probiotics, supplements, kitchen equipment, and garden hose filters, all based on the principles of the GAPS diet — an alternative solution that I think Sotto should promote.

Because if he believes Dr. Natasha, he should recommend these products to other alleged victims of vaccination and oral contraception. After all, these are the same products that could’ve saved his son. Unless, of course, he doesn’t buy this bullshit and he’s just trying to grasp at any scientific sounding nonsense to further delay voting on the RH bill.

____
Image sources: 1, 2

Further reading:

  • http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2011/08/01/gaps-in-a-doctors-reasoning-about-vaccines/
  • http://thesecondsight.blogspot.com/2010/10/self-reinforcing-circle-of-improbably.html

Posted in Politics, ScienceComments (19)

Sen. Sotto Turns Personal Tragedy Into Fair Game


Image credits: Joseph Vidal, Philippine Daily Inquirer

I’m sorry to hear about Sen. Tito Sotto’s son.

Unfortunately, Sen. Sotto himself turned his own personal tragedy into fair game. He did so by putting it up to public debate, when he used his son’s death as an example for his plagiarized argument on the health hazards of contraceptives, which his wife allegedly used but still got pregnant. And when he was challenged by former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral to produce the death certificate showing the cause of death, Sotto described her as “callous and insensitive” and even said that he is “ready to declare war.”

Well, Mr. Sotto brought this war upon himself and his family. For no matter how tragic it is to lose his son, such tragedy could easily be matched by the tragedies of the children, husbands, and parents of the 11 mothers who die every day due to maternal complications, the same mothers whose names and death certificates Sotto laughingly asked for, and who could have been saved had they received proper information and assistance for which the RH bill seeks to provide.

Senator Sotto, I really am sorry about your son Vincent Paul. But please understand that just because it was something so tragic doesn’t mean that it is no longer subject for verification, if you use it as evidence in the hottest debate happening in our country today. Even dogma deemed infallible by the Roman Catholic Church isn’t above scrutiny in our pluralistic society, so how could you even expect the circumstances of your son’s death to be treated as sacrosanct in an issue where others’ lives are at stake?

Again, I am sorry Mister Senator, and I hope that we can begin the difficult process of healing our country. No matter how much you deny the statements of the World Health Organization and our Department of Health only to copy from the article of a single blogger, the RH bill seeks to save lives, and while it’s definitely too much to ask for you to vote for it, at least don’t try to delay the voting.

At least don’t try to delay our efforts to save our dying mothers.

Posted in Politics, RH BillComments (2)

Anti-RH Blame Rains on RH Win


Yesterday, August 6, the House of Representatives finally voted to end the period of debate for the Reproductive Health Bill. This was a surprise move by the bill’s proponents as it had been expected that the vote would be on August 7.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales put forward the motion to end, which faced several objections. Deputy Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella allowed all representatives some time to voice out their positions on the vote with Rep. Amado Bagatsing furious about the early vote. He cited the bill’s opposition to the nation’s “public religion” and that the date, August 6 was unlucky and that 6 was the number of the devil. From these premises, the honorable representative from Manila concluded that it was not a good day to vote for the bill. Rep. Rudolfo Biazon was the last to speak, asking his fellow congressmen whether they ought to listen to the people of the Philippines or to the clergy.

The RH Bill pushed through into the period of amendments despite a last minute attempt by anti-RH congressmen to force a nominal vote. This would have given congressmen 3 minutes each to explain their vote, further delaying the procedures. Such a procedure requires 20% of the representatives to agree to it, which was 50 given the attendance that day. The anti-RH representatives were unable to muster the numbers, belying the Catholic Church’s claim that they had 140 representatives against the bill.

20120807-113230.jpg

The day ended with severe rains that continue as of this writing. Several areas in Metro Manila are flooded to as high as 6 feet. Several opponents of the RH bill see this coincidence as divine punishment. The following is a collation by Red Tani of several posts on Twitter by users finding divine purpose in completely natural phenomena.

Update (1:00 PM, August 7): One of those objecting to the vote, Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay has put her say regarding the rains, calling it “heaven crying.”

Posted in Advocacy, RH BillComments (5)

To All RH Advocates: Onwards and Upwards!


Fellow RH advocates, today, August 7th, is the day we have been waiting for. We invite every pro-RH citizen to join us as we demand that our congressional representatives vote to end the debate on the RH Bill and move it to the period of amendments. Together, we will… ah, wait.

Together, we already have.

Congratulations to everyone who contributed to the effort; this victory belongs to all of us. The president and the congresspeople he invited to Malacanang yesterday, and who then trooped to the Batasan Hall and called for a surprise vote to end the debates a day early, said as much. They heard the noise of the people on the streets and online, and the message we were sending them was coming through loud and clear: we are your bosses and after 14 years of delay, you are way past the deadline.

Perhaps I am not being clear enough; they pushed the vote yesterday because they were scared of you. Of you, the majority of the people of this nation that surveys have proved again and again are in favor of the bill, and not of the supposedly mighty Catholic bishops. It was you who made clear how any politician who voted anti-RH could be sure that they would not have your vote come 2013. It was you who were either with us on the streets or helped spread the images and articles that showed the desperate need for reproductive health in this country, and the hypocrisy, intellectual dishonesty and moral bankruptcy of the CBCP and its allies.

Our political leaders have been put in their proper place — as our public servants and our employees by dint of the votes we cast and the taxes we pay. We their constituents have shown them a glimpse of what accountability looks like; now is the time to give them the full show. Let’s keep demanding answers to the simple, important questions: when are you going to have the final vote on this bill, and after 14 years and countless deaths, what is taking you so long? The RH Bill is further along than it has ever been, but it is not yet law. If, however, we all together keep up the pressure as we have these last few weeks and don’t lose sight of the fight, then I am confident that it soon will be.

Posted in Advocacy, Politics, RH Bill, Secularism, SocietyComments (0)

An Urgent Appeal to All RH Advocates


Tuesday, August 7, is the day Congress will vote to end the period of interpellations on the RH bill. As it draws nearer, we urge each and every one of you to come and join the following:

August 6, Monday, 6:00 pm
Nationwide simultaneous candle lighting and noise barrage for RH Bill:

We urge you to organize vigils, candle lightings and noise barrages in your respective areas.

In Manila, at the South wing gate of the House of Representatives (HOR), RH leaders and personalities will hold a series of activities from 1:00 pm – 7:30 pm, with a candle lighting and noise barrage at 6:00 pm as the main program.

August 7, Tuesday
Plenary session to vote to stop the period of interpellations on the RH Bill:

9:00 am to 2:00 pm – Program at the South wing gate
4:00 pm – Plenary session to vote to stop the period of interpellation on the RH Bill, Main Building, HOR

Troop to Congress and wear purple shirts on these two dates!

Continue to:

Maximize social media – tweet or Facebook pro-RH legislators to attend sessions
Maximize mainstream media to send our urgent message to the legislators

Once again, let us take collective action to pass the RH Bill. For more information, please contact Joy Salgado of Likhaan (0915 407 9894) and Kit Onate, RHAN Secretariat (0927 863 6394).

Image from 2.bp.blogspot.com

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A Letter to Hon. Vincent Crisologo, Representative of Quezon City, District 1


Filipino Freethinkers calls on Filipinos to contact their representatives in Congress to be present on August 7, when the House of Representatives votes to end debate on the Reproductive Health Bill (HB 4244). It is likely that many opposing congressmen will skip work on that day in order to avoid quorum and prevent any congressional procedures. If the period of sponsorship and debate ends on August 7, the bill will enter the period of amendments and, eventually, it will be voted on for third reading before final passage.

The following is a letter sent to the office of Congressman Vincent Crisologo via their online form on the Philippine House of Representatives Website.

Dear Hon. Vincent “Bingbong” Crisologo,

After over a decade of delays, the RH Bill is finally up for voting to end interpellations this August 7. I am aware of your staunch opposition to the bill. Given your religious background, this is not at all surprising. At this time, all arguments for and against the bill have already been exhausted and any intellectually honest person would have already supported the RH Bill by now.

Because of your continued opposition, I am resigned to your unwavering objection to a bill that would save thousands of people from death and millions from inhumane conditions—people with interests you disregard solely due to your personal religious convictions. I will not try to convince you to support the bill. However, your convictions, I must stress, are not shared by the constituency you were elected to represent. Your constituency, by and large, is more concerned about the suffering and abject poverty forced upon them by your personal denial of their right to family planning choices.

As your constituent in the first district of Quezon City and as a citizen who pays for your wages in taxes, I urge you to at least be present when the RH Bill comes to a vote for the end of interpellations on August 7. This is your duty as a public official. Hardworking taxpayers pay you and expect you to do your job and report for work. This is the bare minimum any employer expects from their employees. You are a representative of the City—not of your Church and not of your personal interests.

If you still believe that the RH Bill should be defeated, then defeat it by democratic means and vote against it. But, please, refrain from further participating in the decade-long delaying tactics. Be present at your job on August 7. You owe your attendance to every citizen of Quezon City.

 

Your boss,

Garrick Bercero
Affiliations Director
Filipino Freethinkers

Posted in Advocacy, Politics, Religion, RH BillComments (0)

Pro-RH Catholics: Please Create a Pro-RH Church


Dear Pro-RH Catholics,

You’ve been asking the Vatican for pro-RH reforms for over four decades. During that time, your leader, the Pope, has made it absolutely clear that to be Catholic means to be anti-RH. You have been called “fake Catholics,” “cafeteria Catholics,” and even “oxymorons.” You have been told that if you cannot obey, you should just leave. Your Pope has answered requests for reforms by saying he prefers searching agnostics over fake believers.

You have no control over what your church officially does and decides. Yet you have fought long and hard to cling to your Catholic identity. I respect that, but I respect even more the fact that you recognize the moral value of RH despite the denigration of your detractors. So I’m suggesting that you consider indulging them.

What if you left the Roman Catholic Church completely and formed your own one? It would be identical to your old church, except for one critical difference: it would be pro-RH officially. Of course, your new church will no longer be recognized by the Vatican.

But what would losing Vatican recognition do anyway? If you cared about the Vatican’s official position, you wouldn’t be pro-RH Catholics. This implies that you don’t think the Vatican is the highest authority.

You probably think that Jesus Christ is, and that He is pro-RH. So don’t you owe it to Jesus to create a church that truly represents Him? If you create a church with pro-RH bishops and priests — and you’ve claimed that there are many of them — don’t you think that Jesus would let them represent Him even without the Pope’s permission?

Surely you don’t think Jesus gave the Vatican unconditional power. If the Catholic Church suddenly taught that child abuse was a sacrament, do you think Jesus would still be OK with them representing Him? Similarly, do you think Jesus would have a problem with good bishops just because they removed the “Roman” in “Roman Catholic”?

So you should have no doubt that Jesus will bless this Pro-RH Church that you are forming. Being a pro-RH God, it’s even reasonable to think He’d bless it even more. Your new church may not be as extravagant as your old church, lacking the expensive decorations and extravagant costumes (and you won’t have billions in reserve for that occasional child abuse settlement). But I don’t think a carpenter’s son who was born in a manger would care much for appearances.

I don’t think Jesus would mind plain silverware.

You may find the different surroundings striking at first, but I’m sure you’ll get used to it soon. Because you can keep almost everything in your new church the same as your old one. A blind person attending a Pro-RH mass wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. At least not until the priest sermons about the importance of informed choice, freedom of conscience, and of course, contraception.

Imagine not having the urge to walk out because you vehemently disagree with your priest. Imagine not feeling tricked whenever you’re asked to kneel, bow your head, and then pray against the RH Bill. Imagine not thinking twice about donating money that could be used to fund anti-RH campaigns. Imagine not feeling cognitive dissonance about supporting an anti-RH institution that claims to represent the pro-RH God you have faith in.

Forming a new church would surely take some courage, not to mention resources. But it wouldn’t take a lot individually if you did it together. If most of you joined this new church, yours would still be the largest church in the Philippines. Since most Catholics are pro-RH, you’ll be bigger than the Roman Catholic church.

The Philippines would now be predominantly Pro-RH Catholic (which it already is anyway). Your new bishops — who will actually represent your RH stance — will have more clout than your old bishops, who can no longer claim to represent 80% of the population.

Knowing the danger of bullying bishops, your new leaders probably won’t use their religious authority to meddle in politics. And they wouldn’t even have to. Because from now on, your representatives will no longer fear pressure from the bishops.

Anti-RH legislators who were just bullied by bishops could change their position. Closeted pro-RH legislators could now openly support the RH Bill. The passage of the RH Bill will finally be a reality, enshrining RH as a fundamental human right. This alone should make you consider forming a pro-RH church. Pro-RH Jesus would be pleased.

Sincerely,

Red

PS

It wouldn’t hurt to disassociate from an organization that censures progressive theologians and nuns, discriminates against women, LGBTs, and non-Catholics, protects pedophile priests more than potential child abuse victims, and thinks that you deserve to burn in Hell.

Posted in Advocacy, Personal, Religion, RH Bill, Secularism, SocietyComments (12)

Contact Your Congressman before August 7 and Get the RH Bill Passed


On August 7, 2012, our House of Representatives (HoR) will take a vote on whether to end the period of debates for the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill. When the debate period ends, the bill can progress towards the period of amendments and be a hair’s width away from being passed into law. This will be the farthest the bill has ever gotten in 14 long and tedious years. This is our last and most crucial opportunity to end the anti-RH camp’s campaign of outright bullying, needless delaying, and gross misinformation.

It is incredibly important that your Congressman attend the HoR session on August 7 and vote “yes” to end the period of debates. The fate of the RH Bill is now in their hands. In turn, let them know that their own fate as an elected official is in YOUR hands. Your Congressman should be working for you and your best interests. If they decide to ignore the overwhelming demand for a reproductive health law, then let them know that you will not be voting for them come the next election. Your Congressman should not be fearing the non-tax-paying bishops of the Catholic Church; they should be fearing you and your power to decide their fate.

Before August 7, call, email, tweet, and message your representative and let them know that if they do not show up for the session on the 7th and vote to end the RH debates, you will take it as a sign of their utter negligence towards their duties and, thus, not vote for them in 2013. Moreover, you will encourage others to follow suit.

Here is the list of contact information for every single Congressman currently in office: http://www.congress.gov.ph/members/

And this is a list of representatives who have taken an anti RH stance.

Here is an article offering excellent details into what you should be telling your representative.

Do not let our government officials forget the very reason they are in office in the first place. If they truly desire progress, if they really want to ensure the health and wellbeing of every one of their constituents, then they would make sure that the RH Bill gets passed.

August 7 is a mere week away. It is up to you to make Congress do the right thing.

Image from aware.org.sg

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Why PNoy’s SONA is Not a Triumph for the RH Bill


Yesterday, SONA day, a few of us Freethinkers marched down Commonwealth as pregnant PNoys—enormous face masks, pillows for bellies, juggling plastic babies—to allude to the president’s negligence towards the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. Our banner read, “PNoy, kung nabubuntis ka, ang RH batas na.” (PNoy, if you could get pregnant, RH would be a law by now.)

We wanted to point out that if our president could literally get pregnant, could experience first-hand the immense hardship so many Filipinas go through raising multiple children on a less-than-meager budget, he’d have stuck to his promise to speed up the long-delayed passage of the bill, and not be the dilly-dallying, passive-aggressive politician he’s being now. Give the man a uterus and see if he’ll still pander to the bullying bishops of the CBCP.

Later that day, my Facebook newsfeed tittered with reports that PNoy had actually expressed his desire to pass the RH Bill during his SONA. Media accounts and FB friends alike sang praises for the following sound byte:

“Ngayong paubos na po ang backlog sa textbooks, sana po ay maiwasan na rin ang backlog sa estudyante. Sa tingin ko po, responsible parenthood ang sagot dito.” (Now that our textbook backlog is growing smaller, I hope that we soon get to avoid a backlog in students as well. In my view, responsible parenthood is the answer to this.)

It was reported that this blip in his speech garnered the loudest and longest spell of applause in the entire event. Some present even gave him a standing ovation. People were ecstatic. People were claiming PNoy had finally put his foot down regarding RH.

But I don’t buy it. And neither should anyone else, most especially fellow pro-RH advocates.

By sneaking the term “responsible parenthood” into a statement about education, PNoy remains the dilly-dallying, passive-aggressive politician we’ve been frustrated with since RH became a LEDAC priority measure last year. Not only did he not elaborate as to why responsible parenthood—itself a watered-down, wishy-washy euphemism for reproductive health—would help with the student backlog, but he also worded the statement itself to be quite safe and retraction-friendly.

In his speech, responsible parenthood was a mere aside to a larger concern. Moreover, the phrase “sa tingin ko po” or “in my view,” wraps responsible parenthood in a sheath of self-confessed personal bias. (It’s just his own humble opinion; he’s definitely not setting anything in stone, so to all the anti-RH out there, don’t get all huffy just yet.)

I confess that this last part may be reading too much into things, but regardless of this, what PNoy said still appears very much to be lousy lip service to all the pro-RH begging him to grow a pair. What he said was just a bit of cat nip to tide everyone over for a while. He and his Communications staff likely hoped that the crowd would react the way they did, because this would earn him a respite from all our criticism, would make us temporarily forget that it is partly due to his negligence of the RH issue that the bill continues to be woefully delayed.

Realize that he didn’t promise us anything in that speech. In fact,  what he said could very well help to delay the bill’s passage even more, as we would spend so much time waiting for something that actually wasn’t assured to us.

PNoy should have just said, “I will work to get the RH Bill passed.” Straightforward, to the point, definitive, crystal clear.

At the pro-RH demonstration earlier that day, the crowd was introduced to a 19-year-old girl who had to take care of her 10 younger siblings herself. Their mother had died upon giving birth to the 11th child—one of the 12 women who die each day from maternal complications. And this 19-year-old girl was pregnant as well. Unless PNoy actually acts on his promise to make the RH law a reality, nothing else from him can assure us that this young girl’s plight will no longer be repeated with other women again and again and again.

That so many of us praised this blip in his speech to the highest heavens simply betrays how desperate we’ve become at this point. We’re starting to hear the things we want to hear, and not see the situation for what it really is. We still have quite a ways to go, and until the president actually says–and, more importantly, does–something directly, unmistakably in favor of reproductive health, we have no reason to celebrate anything just yet.

 

Photos c/o Frank III Manuel

Posted in Advocacy, Personal, Politics, Religion, RH Bill, Secularism, SocietyComments (1)

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