Archive for the ‘ Local Issues ’ Category

A matter of principle

After debating the RH Bill for about four years now, I think I can honestly say that I have probably heard every single argument, both good and bad, that exist for and against the bill. I’ve heard arguments that rely on principle, and arguments that rely on pragmatic effects. Both sides have their points. Both sides have their fair share of great arguments and terrible ones. It doesn’t matter if we Catholics are on the opposing side; our religious affiliation does not make our stand any less valid. But what all this has taught me, above all else, is that in the end, the side you choose boils down to a matter of principle.

I’d like to think that while reason does play a significant role in the crafting of good arguments, when you’ve heard them all, it really doesn’t matter. What matters more, I have learned, is what principles you hold to be in higher value–whether those be the ones upheld by the proponents or the opponents of the bill. Ultimately, that is what decides which side you take. An argument can be flawlessly constructed; but if you don’t buy the principle that it attempts to forward, then it really won’t matter.

People often ask me what the single strongest argument against the RH Bill is. I don’t really know what to tell them. The reason I think that is so because I doubt there is even such thing as a “strongest argument”. There are only arguments that make sense to you, and arguments that don’t. Recently, however, as I was contemplating the principle of principles, it occurred me that the strongest argument to me wasn’t so much an argument, but rather a personal principle.

I believe that it is fundamentally wrong for the State to blame the poor for having too many children as the cause of poverty to cover up for their own failures as a government to respond to those needs. Simply put, if a family of six can’t afford to feed themselves because the parents were not able to get a job, I don’t think it’s the fault of the parents for having too many kids, but rather the fault of the government for not being able to give the proper opportunities to them. I’m not saying that governments must be perfect; but when you consider the endemic corruption in the Philippines, I think we would be letting the government off too easy by letting them point their fingers at the poor.

The RH Bill is no longer a debate about just facts or arguments. It has evolved into a clash of principles. What do you hold to be more important– economic growth or demographic stabilization? Band-aid solution or sustainable development? Are you willing to risk risk compensation with contraceptive use? Are you amenable to offering dangerous substances as solutions? Are you willing to go through an economic high if it means that someday we’ll be begging for people to have children? When women die of birth complications, is preventing them from getting pregnant the real solution? Is choice an end in itself?

Ultimately, it’s no longer about the arguments. It’s become a matter of principle.

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Hypocrisy?

The final output of my Komunikasyon 2 class in UPD is a 20-page research paper on a topic of your choice. I nominated three topics and, of course, the one that got approved was my last choice–Ang Sining ng Panlilimos (The Art of Begging). The paper is supposed to be about the different means and ways of begging in Muntinlupa City. Since the paper is due in two weeks, I decided to go around to interview some of the beggars around the city. What I thought would be a simple Q&A about how much these street kids earned from knocking on windows and helping customers park their cars turned into a revelation of sorts for me.

I was talking to three boys, Darwin, 12, Reka, 11, and Joy-joy, 3. They told me about their reasons for begging, what it was like on the streets, and how much they earned from a day of begging. I asked them about their encounters with the law, and was quite shocked to learn that, according to them, the same government agency that actively campaigns against child abuse (hint: they sued Willie Revillame for child abuse after the Jan-Jan controversy) was the same one that would beat these children for begging on the streets.

According to the boys, they would be taken into DSWD custody and then given a choice–to be beaten by a metal pipe or whipped by a garden hose. Then, they would be beaten behind the thighs. If they didn’t choose, they would be beaten anyway. Is this how eleven-year old kids are supposed to be treated? The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 explicitly prohibits corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure or a sentence for crime, yet these underground practices continue to flourish.

It doesn’t end with the DSWD though. Two more boys I talked to, Brixz, 13, and Daniel, 12, said that they would be chased by officials of Brgy. Ayala Alabang on motorcycles, who would run their feet over. Is this how our government officials compensate for their failure to provide the adequate social services for these people? Are we going to resort to violence to care for our children, the future of our nation? I mean, we don’t even do this to rapists, murderers, and terrorists! If they end up beating their children in the future, we know who to blame.

Would little children lie about this? Talk about hypocrisy!

Biased against the Catholics?

I think that if there’s one thing that all those who oppose the closure of the ‘Kulo’ exhibit in the CCP prove, it is that they aren’t so much pro-art and pro-expression as they are anti-Catholic. It seems as though anything the CBCP does right now gets the ire of those who call themselves “liberal” or “pro-choice”. It’s probably because of their staunch opposition to the RH Bill. But my question is this: if Mideo Cruz had painted penises on other icons, would those same liberals be clamoring for “freedom of expression” too?

Let’s remove Catholicism from the picture for a moment. If Cruz’s artwork depicted Muhammad with a penis for a nose, would those same liberals argue that taking it down impedes upon the artist’s freedom of expression? I think Mideo Cruz is a coward for picking on what is arguably the “tamest” religion, since Christianity preaches that we turn the other cheek and love our enemies. If he really wanted to make a statement on polytheism, why not include Islam? Or is he scared of the violent tendencies by which Muslims vehemently protect their faith? But let’s veer away from religion. What if an LGBT icon was endowed with condoms and penises? What if it was painted on a blue eagle or a green archer? On Manny Pacquiao? On Jose Rizal? I’m willing to bet that we’d see people moving to the other side of the fence.

It seems as though we have to wait until we are personally offended before we come to realize that we can’t and shouldn’t live in a world where people throw shit at each other “in the name of art”. Because of people’s biases against the Catholics, they pounce on the closure of the exhibit, calling it “tyranny” and “religious bias”. Art is a powerful medium because it makes use of images, and images, as the cliche goes, are worth a thousand words. Art’s line should be drawn when it offends the sensibilities of sensitive sectors of society, regardless of whether they make up the majority or the minority (although extreme minorities are a different story). Governments can and should remain secular, but it should also be ethical and moral to an extent. Not that they tell us what’s right and what’s wrong, but that they establish certain boundaries as to where some rights begin and others end.

Artists are free to express whatever they want. If they want to hang photos of religious figures surrounded by prostitutes in their homes, then by all means, they can. Public locations, however, are a different story. Furthermore, government institutions such as the CCP should not endorse  religious indifference and intolerance, or any form of indifference and intolerance for that matter. Just as governments should not forward the beliefs and the ideals of any specific religion, so too should they refrain from attacking or offending religions.

We should all learn to grow up and stop waiting before we get offended before we take action. Society would be a better place if we all learned to stop the fight before anyone gets hurt. There’s never a good enough reason to paint a penis on an icon.