Tag Archives: politics

RH Bill Wins on Final Reading

By Kert

(Image via Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Today I am happy because the Reproductive Health Bill (or RH bill, the bill that will make sure women have access to contraceptives, sex education and keep reproductive health in check) was approved on its final reading in the congress — 133 Yes, 79 No and 7 abstain. It is a historic event. It took a while before it’s been deliberated. There have been strong oppositions against it, especially from the church and the religious people.

I find it annoying how religion has to permeate in everything, even in public matters. Their reason for opposing the RH bill is that it goes against the teachings of the church and of God. “We should not prevent children from being born.” One bishop even attributed the recent disaster from Typhoon Bopha as an omen — that it’s God telling us the RH bill should not be passed.

There are a number of congressmen who agree with the church. During the deliberations, they claim that their championing the will of God in their vote because the RH bill is evil. Letting women die of childbirth — that is evil.

I agree with my friend who says “Pro-choice is pro-life”. Having the RH bill does not indict the people to adhere to it. It just gives people the choice and helps people as much as possible. People will still have the choice to do natural family planning, but they will also have the choice for alternatives. Yes, natural family planning works, but we also need other options.

Of course the RH bill will not solve poverty in the country. But it will indirectly affect it in a positive way through cutting down overpopulation. We don’t even have enough jobs as it is, what more if the population is doubled? In an interview with John Crawford, a professor in University of Sydney, he talks about how soil degradation is happening in a very fast rate. In 60 years, our topsoil will be so ruined that we might not be able to plant any more of our crops. There will be a shortage of food and economic crisis. One of the reasons for this soil degradation is overpopulation.

They think overpopulation will help the country’s economy as we “export” more OFWs. But they don’t see that it has more disadvantages than not.

The senate also approved the RH bill. Last time I checked, the vote was 13 for yes and 5 for no. One senator gave an endless tirade about how condoms will promote promiscuity. Seriously, people can still be promiscuous without condoms. It will help though in decreasing the chance for STDs.

Some people in the congress and senate should stop basing their decisions on their religious faith. The church shouldn’t even mingle with the affairs of the government. It is good though that the church realized today that they cannot totally manipulate the government. Why should they care about the bill, anyway? They’re not the bill’s target. And what do they know of being a woman?

The church should stop being so persistent. They can have their faith, but they shouldn’t shove it down people’s throats. Unless they want the Dark Age to happen here in our country.

Blood had been spilled in the lands of Tarlac: Commemorating the 8th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre

By Kert

“The land is my life” (Image via Harvey Keh’s blog)

The land is life for Filipinos and it’s more than just a metaphor. It is the source of their food, the clothes on their backs and the roofs on their heads. It sustains the family in more ways than one. And it can even be a source of hope. It is not at all surprising that every family in the country wishes to have a patch of land where they can plant rice, corn, sugarcane and other crops.

The farmers of the 6,443-hectare Hacienda Luisita, owned by the Cojuangco family through the money of the government, have been waiting so long for the patches of land promised to them. Many of them had or have been working in Hacienda Luisita almost all their lives. It was in 1988 that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP happened. Through CARP, they were given the promise of shares in the land holdings of Hacienda Luisita. Indeed they have every right to these shares. They’re the ones who worked and tilled the land every day with only meager wages. The government is doing the right thing when it declared that the lands be given to the farmers.

But what has happened to that promise now? By this time the lands should’ve been distributed to the farmers already. But yet the promise — CARP — remains unkept.

Yesterday marks the 8th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita where over a hundred farmers demanded and fought for their rights from the Cojuangcos. Cops and soldiers were sent to gain control of the perimeter. After throwing teargas at the picketlines of the farmers, the cops and soldiers started  shooting and firing bullets at them. Thirty people were wounded by gunshots and around two hundred people were injured one way or another. Still, twelve men and two children were killed. Supposedly guards and saviors of the people in this country  carried out this terrible and very brutal massacre. All these for the benefit of the few elites.

It has been 8 years and still, no justice has been served. According to an article in Bulatlat, “the problems that drove the Hacienda farmworkers into launching a strike in 2004 still remain” (Salamat 2012). These problems are “cheap wages, landlessness and trade union repression” (Salamat 2012).

When will they hear the cries for justice? (Image via Vince’s Photobaket)

There’s still a lack of stand and comment from the President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III regarding this issue. His relationship to the Cojuangcos, being a Cojuangco himself, puts him in a very controversial spot. Yet the man still lacks action, and the rest of the Philippines is too enamored by Tito Sotto (who I also dislike, by the way) or by the imagology (see previous post here for definition) of the media.

Our claim of being a democratic country is becoming a joke. Or has it always been a joke? I have no idea. But for sure, if the government still has any ounce of humanity left in its system (and I refuse to think otherwise), it should serve justice. What use does it have if not for the protection of its people?


December 2004. Massacre of Sugar Plantation Workers in the Philippines. Retrieved from http://www.internationalist.org/philippinesluisitamassacre0412.html

Hacienda Luisita. (n.d.). Retrieved November 17, 2012 from the Hacienda Luisita wiki. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacienda_Luisita#Jos.C3.A9_Cojuangco_period

Salamat, M. (2012, November 17). Trade union repression even worsened, 8 years after Luisita massacre – progressive labor. Bulatlat. Retrieved from http://bulatlat.com/main/2012/11/17/trade-union-repression-even-worsened-8-years-after-luisita-massacre-%E2%80%93-progressive-labor/

Around the Web

It’s another week of very relevant topics around the internet.

Politics and Society

Where are they? (Image via Franz DG)

Gone Tomorrow: The Vanishing Voices of Democracy in the Philippines by Michael Mira

I was a first year student in the University of the Philippines Diliman when news broke out that two UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan were reported missing. The case of the “disappeared” was rekindled as many from the left were reported missing. Enforced disappearances were also the stuff of conversations until a few years ago. Indeed, if we really consider ourselves to be a democratic country, then why do these things happen? As Mira said,

A true democratic nation should guard freedom of speech, no matter who it is that utters their opinion.

The Scientific Community

Academic paywalls mean publish and perish by Sarah Kendzior

Studying and eventually teaching in a so-called third world country (or as others would call it, developing country), I have faced the problem of acquiring academic articles more often than not. Publishers require $20 per article and around $40 per book. Tough luck. But anthropologist Kendzior talks about how we’re building elitism in the academe instead of sharing our knowledge to the public who is supposed to be at the receiving end of our research endeavors. The pricey amount for knowledge also marginalizes those who are from non-first world countries to obtain up-to-date and relevant studies. These all end up to one thing: only a limited number gets to read published materials. Kendzior writes,

“Publish or perish” has long been an academic maxim. In the digital economy, “publish and perish” may be a more apt summation. What academics gain in professional security, they lose in public relevance, a sad fate for those who want their research appreciated and understood.


The Rationality of Irrationality by Peter Kaufman

Modernism has changed us in so many ways as people moved from the villages to the cities. We are all alienated with one another and everything needs to be speedy. This is because speedy and efficiency is the “rational” thing to do work, and rationalism is the forte of modernism. As my professor once said, “everything is touch-and-go”. Face-to-face interactions are done in split second. When you’ve finished getting your order, you have to leave the counter immediately. This is what sociologists call McDonaldization. However, irrationality might be the better way to live on this planet. Kaufman draws an example through Community Supported Agriculture.

CSA’s are really the antithesis of McDonaldized systems. I don’t know what varieties or how much food I will get each season because it all depends on unpredictable forces (namely, the weather). When I pick up the food it is not cleaned, there may be signs that bugs had a few nibbles before it was picked (not to mention the occasional bug that is still there), and the produce may not even be in recognizable shapes. There are also vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers that I can pick myself each week thereby reversing the McDonaldized trend to replace human efforts with non-human technology.


Anthropology and the Assault on Common Sense: Critical Thinking About Being Human Is a Useful Hobby by Agustin Fuentes

Even Albert Einstein questioned the reliability of common sense. Many scientists have many times told us that our organs can lie. Thus, science was created to decrease the errors our organs make. Fuentes, in his Huffington Post article, calls for us to be critical and not to be complacent in what we think is the “truth” — because that “truth” is not absolute. It is enfeebled by our culture, our history, our nature and our biology — or as Fuentes says, or “naturenurture”. We always have to question. We always have to think.

 But we all have to realize, and accept, that the process of becoming and being human is messy, and it takes a lot of work to try to direct your own path in life. One must be an active learner and a critical thinker, always.

The cycle of political dynasties

By Kert

(Image via Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Yesterday I posted a link to Prof. Jose Abueva’s column about the political dynasties in the Philippines. It’s a really good read. Filipinos and anyone interested in Philippine/Southeast Asian politics should go and read it.

Prof. Abueva writes about how these centuries-long dynasties have been very detrimental to the social and political structure of our country. The existence of political dynasties undermines our claim to be a democratic country and continues the cycle of the manipulation of the poor and powerless.

Political dynasty members are seen to use their superior wealth, following and access to public resources to favor themselves. They attract their followers and keep them loyal with patronage.

Some of them even resort to unfair if not illegal means to keep their political rivals out of office: corruption, fraud, violence, vote-buying and intimidation.

Prof. Abueva reminds us that political dynasties aren’t supposed to be allowed according to our 1987 constitution. However, as always, politicians are amazing at circumnavigating the laws (the opposite can be said about their ability to actually help their constituents). They didn’t define political dynasty — so there really is no way that families running together in the elections can be persecuted. Because there’s nothing in there that says what constitutes political dynasties.

However, these political dynasties aren’t as deeply-rooted as they may seem. They may have a certain grip on the people for quite some time, but that grip isn’t necessarily eternal.

In general, however, political dynasties rise and fall. A political dynasty can be challenged and defeated, then rise again; or fade away when the people are dissatisfied and turn to other leaders.

I find this interesting because this is exactly how Laura Lee Junker describes the Philippine political system in the Pre-Hispanic times (which is similar to the political system of other Southeast Asian countries during the time) — kinship-oriented and ephemeral. Does this mean that nothing much has changed in our society since hundreds or maybe thousands of years ago?

However, it is clear from the contact period Spanich documentation that chiefly authority, particularly at the regional level, was frequently weak, ineffective, and ephemeral. It was clearly undermined by relatively diffuse rules of chiefly succession, by a power base centered on tenuous alliance networks rather than more stable territorial units, by the lack of institutionalized mechanisms for wielding true coercive power against subordinates, and by the perpetual threat of usurpation by competing political leaders. While the historical records suggest a strong hereditary component to leadership positions, inheritance of the chieftainship was complicated by nonunilinear descent rules and multiple spouses as in other Southeast Asian complex societis. (Junker 2000:75)

This pretty much sums up the kind of political structure that we have today. Political parties (mostly composed of kin groups, now much easier to discern as there are no longer multiple spouses) are kept alive by alliances, and people in power are constantly in threat from opposing political alliances. The success of this alliances depends on how they can win (or manipulate) the sympathies of the people. Political power, therefore, seems strong in its facade but it is easily breakable. The only one who never ever gets to win are the people because they are juggled by opposing groups whose goals don’t concern the betterment of the entire society.

Junker and Abueva’s statements are also reminiscent of the exchange of power from the Marcoses to the Aquinos/Cojuancos. The Marcos family was, for a time, powerful and seemingly unbreakable with their vast network of alliance (consisting mainly of their friends and kin) and large control of the country. However, the people grew dissatisfied with them (what with the martial law and oppressive orders). At the peak of the people’s dissatisfaction, another political alliance arose consisting of its own set of alliance who were not getting any benefits during the rule of Ferdinand Marcos. The Aquinos/Cojuancos (except maybe Ninoy Aquino) were not necessarily fighting for the rights of every Filipino except their own, but they found a good timing and seized it. Thus, there is a change of power from one political dynasty to another. Presently, we are still seeing the Aquino/Cojuanco family in power, but I wonder what will happen five, ten, twenty years from now?

Lastly, Abueva calls for structural change and reforms to save our political system. Even if the political dynasty is a “benevolent political dynasty”, it is still an abuse of power.

To be sustainable, fighting corruption and developing the country cannot depend on our President’s charisma alone, however well-meaning and popular and trusted he is. These require dynamic, functional institutions and a critical mass of transforming leaders gradually replacing our political dynasties.

We need inclusive economic growth, population control and a sustainable environment. In a word, we need good democratic governance that will enable us in the long run to “build a just and humane society.”


*Note: All quotes are lifted from Prof. Jose Abueva’s column except stated otherwise.


Abueva, J.(2012, November 3). Dynasties threat to democracy. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved November 4, 2012, from http://opinion.inquirer.net/40084/dynasties-threat-to-democracy

Junker, L.L. (2000). Raiding, Trading and Feasting: The Political Economy of Philippine Chiefdoms. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press

Around the Web

by Kert

Here’s a round-up of interesting things I’ve dug up in the bowels of internet:


Anthropology is the worst college major for being a corporate tool, best major to change your life (Living Anthropologically) —

Anthropologist Jason Antrosio talks about how Anthropology is beyond cashing in and more about gaining knowledge and learning life. It’s not always about the money. But if you’re really keen about money, Anthropology can just be as competitive as other courses in the employment market.


Dynasties threat to democracy (Philippine Daily Inquirer)–

Philippine politics has been marred by political dynasties since time immemorial. This political system is ephemeral and renders Philippine society unstable. Prof. Jose Abueva discusses this very pressing issue in Philippine politics.


An Interview with John Cacioppo: The Science of Loneliness (Being Human)–

Dr. John Cacioppo talks about loneliness in an interview. He discusses the roots of loneliness, its nature and how it may be prevented.


Last life on Earth: microbes will rule the far future (NewScientist) —

Scientists say that 2.8 billion years from now, when the entire human race have disappeared, only microbes will remain — that is until the sun dies out. However, scientists give a positive response about the possibility of life outside Earth.


This is the way the world ends <i>(Image: Jjguisado/Flickr/Getty)</i>(Image via NewScientist)