Tag Archive | "Romulo Macalintal"

Plagiarism and the RH Proxy War

After months of pompously brushing aside accusations of plagiarism, Senator Tito Sotto has finally been forced to take matters seriously. Of course, this was only after the daughter of his highest profile victim stepped forward to join the chorus of condemnation.

What Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Senator Robert Kennedy, found most appalling and “twisted” in Sotto’s sin, is that not only did he plagiarize one of the most famous speeches in the English language, he wielded the late statesman’s words to deny women reproductive rights.

Unsurprisingly, Sotto’s apology to the Kennedy family was quite visibly insincere. Instead of acknowledging any wrongdoing on his part, Sotto said he was sorry if the Kennedys were offended. This is a textbook non-apology and the kind of victim-blaming one would expect from an opponent of reproductive rights. Sotto also predictably lashed out at his critics—the academics and writers who filed an ethics complaint against him in the Senate. (Disclosure: I, personally and along with Filipino Freethinkers, Inc., am one of the signatories of the complaint.)


Sotto was quick to label the complainants as RH advocates and, indeed, most of us are advocates for reproductive rights. This should be expected, since Sotto’s series of plagiarized speeches were made against the RH Bill. It takes little imagination to see that the people most closely watching his arguments would be RH advocates. Listening to the other side is only the intellectually honest thing to do in a debate, something Senator Sotto might not be aware of.

Conservative Catholic groups were also quick to make the same connection to RH as Sotto did and rush to his aid. One of the first to formally defend Sotto against the complaint is Romulo Macalintal, who claims that the RH Bill has nothing to do with his defense of the Senator. You may remember him from the Manila Cathedral incident when his group, Pro-Life Philippines, accosted reproductive rights advocates and tried to exorcise non-existent demons from them. Macalintal is also one of the lawyers trying to pass off BUHAY Party-List as a marginalized group in order to be registered candidates for the 2013 elections.

Not to be outdone, no less than the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, the biggest opponents of reproductive rights in the Philippines, had several of its leaders come out to defend Sotto (and his anti-RH ally Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile). CBCP’s Father Melvin Castro said he admired Sotto’s “principles.” Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros dismissed the charges against Sotto as “trial by publicity.” Riding on their coattails is Filipinos for Life, which released a statement saying that they held Sotto “in the highest regard” and that the group was at his “disposal.”

While it makes sense that the complainants are mostly RH advocates (who were the first to notice the plagiarized passages), it does not follow that defenders of Sotto ought to be RH opponents. The content of our complaint of plagiarism has absolutely nothing to do with the merits of the RH bill. The evidence of plagiarism is incontrovertible, and to deny it is to reveal either unbelievable ignorance or unparalleled duplicity. That RH opponents almost exclusively rallied to defend an obvious and inexcusable transgression betrays their true intention of making Sotto’s plagiarism case a proxy war on the RH bill. In doing so, they are not defending a principle, rather, they are defending their anti-contraceptive club: a club that ostensibly uses any means necessary to achieve their ends, even if it is against their so-called principles. It is this same exact tribalist mentality that is used to justify the protection of rapists in the Catholic Church.

The narrative that the conservative Catholic establishment has always thrust upon the RH discussion is on morality—specifically, the medieval Catholic brand of ethics that they use to divine God’s apparent hate for contraception. It is quite curious, then, that they would casually ignore a clear ethical breach in order to pursue an anti-contraceptive agenda. It is not even that they believe that Sotto is innocent. Macalintal readily admits that Sotto used Robert Kennedy’s speech, shamelessly asserting that the late New York Senator would have been “proud” that Sotto used his words to shut down a bill that would provide women access to modern family planning.

This is moral expediency par excellence, which is particularly odd coming from these Catholic dogmatists. The Catholic ethical system specifically denies that morality can be seen in shades of gray. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, human acts are “either good or evil.” There is no in between. Their system has no room for the moral inconsistency practiced by those defending Sotto. Whether or not the consequences of their actions would bring about a Catholic ideal (which would be a ‘good’ consequence), if it is done with the ‘evil’ intention of lying, then it is still ‘evil.’ As the chief philosopher of the Church said, “An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention.” By abandoning consistency in their absolutism and supporting the dishonesty of a public servant, these conservative Catholics have shown that not only is their ethical system out of step with the real world, even they don’t believe in it.

Image Credit: GMA 24 Oras

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There will be poor always…look at the good things you’ve got!

(Mike Alquinto/NPPA Images)

With millions of Filipinos living below poverty line and children dying of malnutrition and disease, it’s shocking to read news stories like this:

Lay Catholic group raises P2.7 million to buy vehicles for bishops

MANILA, Philippines –  A lay Catholic group led by former Manila mayor Lito Atienza and election lawyer Romulo Macalintal yesterday said they have already raised P2.7 million and have donated utility vehicles to at least three Catholic bishops.

CBCPNews, the official news service provider of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said Macalintal revealed that the money was used to purchase four Foton pickup trucks.

Television host Willie Revillame has also donated P100,000 with a van and another pickup truck.

The Diocese of Butuan under Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, who was highly criticized for asking former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for a car for his birthday, received the van from Revillame.

Other personalities who gave money to the fund drive were Senators Vicente Sotto III (P200,000), Francis Escudero (P100,000), and Bong Revilla and his wife, Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado-Revilla, (P200,000).  [Source: Philstar.com]

This reminds me of the song “Everything’s Alright” from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. The scene is based on John 12:3-8 where Mary Magdalene used her expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. Judas was indignant:

Woman your fine ointment, brand new and expensive 
Should have been saved for the poor. 
Why has it been wasted? We could have raised maybe 
Three hundred silver pieces or more. 
People who are hungry, people who are starving 
Matter more than your feet and hair!

But then Jesus tried to justify Mary’s extravagance:

Surely you’re not saying we have the resources 
To save the poor from their lot? 
There will be poor always, pathetically struggling 
Look at the good things you’ve got 
Think while you still have me! 
Move while you still see me! 
You’ll be lost, and you’ll be so sorry when I’m gone.

Could this be how Macalintal and Atienza as well as Willie Revillame, Tito Sotto, Chiz Escudero and Bong Revilla rationalize the fund-raising campaign to match the amount donated by the PCSO for the purchase of the vehicles which were eventually returned? Do the bishops’ comfort and luxury matter more than the people who are hungry and starving? Are they completely oblivious to the fact that various Catholic entities in the Philippines have literally billions in assets that could buy all the SUVs the bishops want and actually save the poor from their lot—or at least feed all the severely hungry Filipinos for almost a year?

There will always be poor people indeed and charity can only do so much to help them, but do the bishops deserve to be treated and pampered like Jesus? Should we be grateful that we still have them? Will we be lost and sorry when they’re gone?

Macalintal and Atienza seem to think so because when the bishops were stripped of their rides they scrambled to raise money for the replacement of such vehicles. They’re almost like Mary Magdalene singing to Jesus:

Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to 
Problems that upset you, oh. 
Don’t you know 
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine.

Yes, everything’s alright. We’ll give you another fleet of brand-new cars so don’t be upset about returning those vehicles to the PCSO.

But I think one bishop will be upset, and that is Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan. His Mistubushi Montero was replaced with a van, when he specifically asked for “a brand-new car, possibly a 4×4” from GMA for his birthday.

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