As the cybercrime Law comes into effect today posts like this one, no matter how factual, become targets for lawsuits that run contrary to the human right of freedom of expression.
Images used under fair use for political commentary.
Posted on 03 October 2012.
As the cybercrime Law comes into effect today posts like this one, no matter how factual, become targets for lawsuits that run contrary to the human right of freedom of expression.
Images used under fair use for political commentary.
Posted on 06 September 2012.
Imagine a woman warned by her doctor to refrain from having a fifth pregnancy for medical reasons. She decides to use natural family planning (NFP). Will the bishops of CBCP and their allies question her decision?
Certainly not. As early as 1951, Pope Pius XII in his Allocution to Midwives specifically accepted medical reasons as a justification for birth control. He said:
Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic, economic and social so-called “indications,” may exempt husband and wife from the obligatory, positive debt for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life. From this it follows that the observance of the natural sterile periods may be lawful, from the moral viewpoint: and it is lawful in the conditions mentioned.
Now imagine another woman with exactly the same medical reasons who chooses contraceptive pills. To be consistent with their own teachings, one would expect the bishops to simply say: right reason, wrong method. But no, they are now on a war path and have branded the use of contraceptives as treating pregnancy like a disease. In their desire to destroy the status of contraceptives as medicines and its value to public health, it seems they are willing to stigmatize pregnancy prevention as inherently immoral.
In his “contraception is corruption” speech, Archbishop Villegas said: “A contraceptive pill is to be considered an essential medicine. If it is a medicine, what sickness is it curing? Is pregnancy a sickness?” Weeks later, Senator Enrile echoed the same line: “In the case of a contraceptive pill, is pregnancy a disease that needs to be cured? Why do we need to prevent it?”
Sure, pregnancy is not a disease. But pregnancy and childbirth can lead to diseases or injuries. Even bishops must be aware of this fact, which makes their argument sound so contrived. The World Health Organization has a whole chapter listing such diseases and injuries in its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. Obstetricians exist to prevent or treat these conditions.
If the bishops of CBCP and the anti-RH camp are not yet convinced that they are stirring up double standards in morality, they should try asking this to any user of NFP: “Is pregnancy a disease to be cured? Why do you need to prevent it?”
A double standard in law is also being pushed by the anti-RH camp. The claim that medicines must cure a disease, or must not prevent normal bodily functions like pregnancy is not supported by our laws.
As far back as the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1963, drugs have been defined as articles intended “for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease,” or “to affect the structure or any function of the body.” The above phrases are retained in the latest version of that law, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Act of 2009. And in case the anti-RH camp will try to claim that medicines are different from drugs, they should read the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008 which defined drugs and medicines the same way, and included “drugs and medicines indicated for prevention of pregnancy, e.g., oral contraceptives” as part of the “List of Drugs and Medicines that are Subject to Price Regulation.”
Many substances classified as medicines without any controversy expose the hollowness of the “pregnancy is not a disease” argument. Blood clotting or coagulation is not a disease. Yet we have anticoagulant medicines, commonly used to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. A functioning immune system is not a disease, yet we have medicines that suppress the immune system, a standard fare to prevent organ transplant rejection. Having gastric acid is not a disease, yet we have antacids to manage indigestion.
People do choose to avoid normal or even desirable activities to prevent possible future harm. I’m pretty sure even bishops and anti-RH campaigners do it. We avoid too much sun; avoid too much food; avoid too much reading; avoid crossing streets when overpasses are available. When the path towards harm is clear enough, stigmatizing people who steer away violates plain common sense. Unless the bishops have another brand new standard of common sense.
Double standard in action is my final beef with the “pregnancy is not a disease” argument. In that memorable August 16 Headstart episode , TV host Karen Davila asked Senator Tito Sotto if his wife has had a tubal ligation, and this in part is what he said:
She has to be ligated. Because, yes, because she had, how many pregnancies. … She had four cesarean operations. … So, pagkatapos noon, sinabi ng [obstetrician], “You have to be ligated.”
A few minutes before in that same interview, when asked why he was against the RH Bill, Sotto’s first response was to attack the status of contraceptives as medicines. This is what he said:
Medicine is supposed to be, must cure something. What does a condom cure? What does an injectable cure? What does an IUD cure? So they’re not medicines, they’re not essential medicines.
A tubal ligation is of course a contraceptive medical procedure, not a medicine. But women fearful of the health consequences of another pregnancy, whether using condoms, injectables, IUDs or tubal ligations to prevent the next one, would surely be hurt by the senator’s loaded questions. Sotto attacked the health benefits of contraceptives and admitted to using the health benefits of a contraceptive procedure. The double standard is simply stunning. Perhaps Sotto should answer Enrile’s core concerns: “Is pregnancy a disease that needs to be cured? Why do we need to prevent it?”
 All quotes taken by the author from the video.
Posted in RH BillComments (49)
Posted on 28 August 2012.
Update: Sotto has since denied that he is against LGBT provisions in the anti discrimination bill. The point still stands, other senators who are against these provisions are calling for discrimination to pass the bil.
Manila Bulletin reports that certain senators are opposing the Anti-Racial, Ethnic and Anti-Religious Discrimination Act of 2011 (the Anti-Discrimination bill) because they want the provisions concerning the LGBT struck down. Among these senators is our favorite bigote’d senator, the Honorable Vincente Sotto III.
“Kaya pala nadedelay sa Senate na mag-agree sa bicameral ay pinapa-negotiate ng some Senators na alisin ang provisions ng LGBTs. (The reason why the Senate failed to agree in the bicameral is that some senators wanted to exclude the LGBT provisions),” [one of the authors of the bill, Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr.] claimed.
“So baka mag-agree na ganito na lang para maipasa. What I know is that one of those opposing is Senator (Vicente) Sotto,” he claimed. Sotto was reportedly pushing for the adoption of the House version, which does not include the LGBT provisions.
What kind of legislators are the Filipino people getting when the first step these senators take to passing an anti-discrimination law is to discriminate? To make it even more disgusting, it’s a good bet that some of these senators are pushing to remove the LGBT provisions from the bill for religious reasons. An incredibly hypocritical move considering that the anti discrimination bill has provisions against religious discrimination. To these senators it’s bad to discriminate against religion but discriminating because of religion? That’s kosher!
Even if the senator’s reasons for removing the provisions aren’t religious, any reason at all for the removal of LGBT provisions would be disingenuous to the spirit of the bill. They are trying to pass a law against discrimination that would, if the LGBT provisions are excised, be discriminatory in the first place.
The legislators who authored the anti-discrimination bill have done good work writing the bill in the first place. Now they need to ensure that their good work will not be brought down by the politicking of bigots and bishops.
Image from Show Patikim
Posted on 23 August 2012.
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?
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:
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 on 20 August 2012.
The anti RH Senator Juan Ponce Enrile recently came out to defend Senator Tito Sotto from the allegations of plagiarism. In his defense of Sotto, Enrile questions the use of contraception for preventing pregnancy, putting forward the question: “Is pregnancy a disease that needs to be cured?”
“What disease does an IUD or a condom cure or prevent? I challenge the proponents to explain that to the public. Is not the purpose of these methods to reduce the population of the country,” Enrile asked. “In the case of a contraceptive pill, is pregnancy a disease that needs to be cured? Why do we need to prevent it?”
While Enrile prefaces his question with the case of birth control pills I think its fair to extend his question to other forms of birth control as well. Why should some women need to prevent pregnancy if its not a disease?
Perhaps he would find the answer to this question easily if he just asked his fellow anti RH legislator in congress, Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay.
@mitosmagsaysay on ANC Headstart admits after 6 kids, she has been ligated following doctor’s advise. Says most constituents not open to it.
— Karen Davila (@Karen_DaviLa) June 19, 2012
No Senator Enrile, pregnancy is not a disease but pregnancy always carries a risk to women’s lives. With medical advancements that risk has been mitigated but for some the risk still runs too high. For some mothers, becoming pregnant means risking leaving their families motherless. For some women, contraception is what they need to have a healthy sexual relationship with their husband while ensuring their own lives aren’t put in jeopardy by a pregnancy.
Beyond contraception, the RH bill has other measures to mitigate the risk of childbirth. It provides for more midwives to attend to births. The RH bill would give sex education and access to reproductive health services to the poor. If it survives the period of ammendments, the RH bill could provide mobile hospitals that can attend to the maternal needs of women further away from hospitals. All these measures can help lower the risk of childbirth.
Enrile, you asked if pregnancy is a disease. No it isn’t. Yet pregnancy carries with it risks to the life of the mother. Sometimes a significant risk, as attested to by Mitos Magsaysay’s own ligation. We need to do better by the mothers of the Philippines. Look at how our maternal mortality statistics compares to countries around us in Asia. We’re doing very poorly in lowering our maternal mortality rate and according to the latest statistics from the Department of Health, our maternal mortality rate is on the rise again.
I find it hard to believe Senator Enrile isn’t aware of the risks to maternal health. Has he been ignoring the debates all this time? Has Senator Pia Cayetano’s level headed presentation of facts on the RH bill fallen on his deaf ears while he raptly pays attention to Senator Sotto’s crying and presentation of old data from the 70s? To Sotto’s presentation of questionable sources? And I find it astounding that Enrile can question some women’s need to prevent pregnancy while someone from the anti RH camp has done that very thing.
Image captured from ANC’s coverage of Enrile’s opening statements during the Chief Justice trial
Posted in RH BillComments (1)
Posted on 16 August 2012.
Senator Tito Sotto tried to debunk the data that 11 maternal deaths occur daily, but ended up reinforcing the same with figures gathered by his own staff. Here’s what he said at the Senate
The proponents of the bill are saying that 11 Filipino women die every day when they talked about maternal mortality. They have not, however, supported this claim with accurate and consistent data. Kung tutuusin sa pinagawa ko sa mga staff ko, hindi pa nga umabot man lang sa kalahati ng 11 maternal deaths ang nakalap nila sa mga hospitals sa Pilipinas nung 2011 eh. For example, sa Nueva Viscaya Provincial Hospital, ang maternal deaths na naitala nila ay 2 lamang sa 2011. … Sa Batangas Regional Hospital, 7 out of 2584 deliveries ang naitala .27%. Hindi pa nga umabot sa 1%. … Kaya ang hirap paniwalaan ang kanilang figure na 11 mothers die every day.
Sotto failed to grasp that a small number – such as the 0.27% he calculated for Batangas and belittled – becomes large when multiplied by a huge number like the millions of births per year. If we assume that the Batangas data can be applied to all births in the country1 in 2011, the national figure becomes 2,385,000 births × 0.27% = 6,461 maternal deaths per year, or nearly 18 per day.
Put in another way, if the Batangas Regional Hospital had a maternal mortality ratio (MMR) equivalent to the country’s Millennium Development Goals target of 53 deaths per 100,000 live births, then Sotto’s staff should have counted only 1 death out of the 2,584 deliveries recorded. Six women should have survived. Malaysia and Thailand had had MMRs of 50 and below a decade or so ago.
Sotto should learn from this mistake and take the data gathered by his staff seriously, and not let his biases cover-up the tragic reality of women’s deaths.
1. As estimated by the UN Population Division; see http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/unpp/panel_indicators.htm
Image from Interaksyon
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