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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

SC Justice Carpio: IT need not be expensive

Jowel F. Canuday/MindaNews
Wednesday, 16 April 2008 23:38

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews) – Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio today said setting up a digital, web-based technology for effective government service doesn't have to be expensive as he commented on the country's continuing "struggle to find out the truth" about the National Broadband Network controversy.

Speaking at the 11th commencement exercises of the University of the Philippines Mindanao this morning, Carpio said that at a cost of only P300,000 the Supreme Court was able to set up an internet and electronic-based library resource that helped hasten and improve the access of judges nationwide to Supreme Court decisions within 48 hours from promulgation.

Carpio's speech, " Final Words for the Iskolar ng Bayan," wove the story on the SC's effort of setting up its low-cost E-Library around a general theme of "search for the truth."

"Recently, our nation struggled to find out the truth about the National Broadband Network Project. You may not be happy with the outcome but do not despair for the story does not end there. In the end, the truth will see the light of day," he said.

On March 25, the Supreme Court, voting 9 – 6, ruled that Commission on Higher Education Romulo Neri can invoke executive privilege and cannot be compelled to answer three question which the Senate says is crucial to its inquiry on the national broadband project.

Carpio was among the six dissenters but he concurred with the majority in ruling that the Senate gravely abused its discretion in citing Neri in contempt and in issuing the warrant for his arrest.

The aborted but controversial NBN deal between the government and China ZTE Corporation would have cost the government $329 million (P13.16 billion at P40 to US $1). A Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation implicated First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, then Commission on Election Chair Benjamin Abalos and other officials in alleged corruption and overpricing of the deal that was supposed to have cost only $129 million (P5.16 billion).

In emphasizing that "technology does not have to be expensive," Carpio also shared that a director of another government agency once told him that his office has spent over P100 million in setting up their own E-Library. Without naming the agency and its director, Carpio said that the director's E-Library was even limited to bibliographic search and not a full text unlike the one set up by SC which is a full text search of all of its recent decisions.

"Our cost in setting up the Supreme Court E-Library was a pittance compared to that," Carpio said, referring to the P100 million peso cost in setting up an E-Library in the unnamed government agency.

Carpio said that shortly after joining the High Court in 2001, he volunteered to set up
the Supreme Court E-Library with a "simple vision" of seeing "every judge in the country" have all the SC laws and decisions "at his or her finger tips."

Carpio said the move to establish the E-Library was prompted by the problem that most judges in the country do not have access to the latest SC decisions with some receiving copies only after one or two years of promulgation

Carpio said he put up two electronic libraries, a web-based and in compact discs for judges who do not have internet access. Both versions are powered by a search engine which he had used when he was still into private practice. Carpio said that the cost of all the software, which he simply downloaded from the vendors site, was less than P300,000.

The High Court's web-based, full-text search and retrieval electronic library, which they were able to set up in only eight months, was the first among the judiciaries in Asia, according to Carpio.

The SC decisions are uploaded to the E-Library website within 48 hours from its promulgation while those in compact discs are updated twice a year. The compact discs, which costs the SC less than P12 for every copy, are sent by registered mails to all judges in the country.

He said before setting up the E-Library, the SC used to ship volumes of books to judges but today they would only send two discs.

Carpio said that a Social Weather Station survey before the E-Library showed that majority of judges in the country did not receive copies of the latest decisions of the Supreme Court. He said that a second survey after the E-Library was established showed that the "situation had turned around" as majority of the judges already received copies of the latest SC decisions.

"Right now, any judge anywhere in the country has two ways of accessing the E-Library. If the judge has an Internet connection, the judge can go, any time of the day, to the E-Library website of the Supreme Court," Carpio said.

A total of 128 students graduated this year from UP Mindanao: 48 from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, 56 from the College of Science and Mathematics and 24 from the School of Management. (Jowel F. Canuday/MindaNews)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Looking for Work

A Japanese doctor said, 'Medicine in my country is so advanced that we can
take a kidney out of one man, put it in another, and have him looking for
work in six weeks.'

A German doctor said, 'That's nothing, we can take a lung out of one person,
put it in another, and have him looking for work in four weeks.'

A British doctor said, 'In my country, medicine is so advanced that we can
take half of a heart out of one person, put it in another, and have them
both looking for work in two weeks.'

A Filipino doctor, not to be outdone said, 'You guys are way behind.
We took a man with no brains and a little woman with no heart,
put them both, one after the other, in Malacanang Palace and now
half the country is looking for work.

-- Shared by William M. Esposo

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Nobility Versus Hypocrisy

GLIMPSES
Jose Ma. Montelibano

"If Satan appears to me and gives me money, I will accept the money and spend it all for the poor. It is not the practice of the Church to ask donors where their donations come from. Our duty is to make sure all donations go to the poor. The devil remains . . . my enemy but I will use his resources to feed the poor." -- Jaime Cardinal Sin, Oct. 25, 2000, defending the Catholic Church's acceptance of a total of P181 million in donations from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. since 1998.

In an early September 2005 column of Conrad de Quiros, he wrote that after criticisms about the Church receiving PAGCOR funds, then outgoing president of the CBCP Bishop Fernando Capalla said, "The principle of morality does not apply in this situation. There is nothing wrong with accepting money from gambling operations so long as the money goes directly to the poor." Quoting Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, Bishop Capalla then said, "I'd rather be criticized than let the poor die of sickness and hunger."

The three most senior and influential personalities of the Church hierarchy have been consistent in their pronouncements about the primacy of the work for the poor. It must be that their whole spiritual and pastoral experience grounds them to the very mission for which Christ was sent to earth by His Father, and the very criteria by which all human beings, most especially Christians, will be judged at the end of time.

All Catholics with interest in their faith know the guidance of the Church hierarchy through the public pronouncements of the late Cardinal Sin, the former president of the CBCP, Bishop Capalla, and the famous Bishop of Cebu, Cardinal Vidal. Thus, it makes it all the suspect that Bishop Gabriel Reyes as head of LAIKO in the Philippines will choose to forget the guidance of the major pastoral leaders of Filipinos and seek an opinion of Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko of the Vatican. Feigning ignorance or forgetfulness of a principle that all his colleagues collectively use to justify their receiving of funds from less than clean sources, Bishop Reyes finally gets Cardinal Rylko to state that Gawad Kalinga should not enter into a partnership with pharmaceutical firms who produce anti-life products.

In news reports that give as basis private communication between Cardinal Rylko, Bishop Reyes, and CFC's Executive Director Joe Tale, who, incidentally, is also Gawad Kalinga's chairman of the board, it was headlined that the Vatican admonishes and chastises Gawad Kalinga's "overemphasis on social work." The statement is not only shocking, but utterly absurd. It is, in fact, quite perverted because of the fact that it comes from the Catholic Church as orchestrated by a bishop from the Philippines.

The story of poverty and corruption in our homeland is not anymore fresh news, only the intermittent introduction of new faces in deep pain from the ranks of the poor, or the new ways by which those in power manipulate the siphoning of billions from the treasury to personal pockets. What is generally known but not so talked about is the participation, by commission or omission, of the Catholic Church in causing and perpetuating the situation of poverty and corruption. A few opinion writers like Conrad de Quiros do take occasional potshots at the hypocrisy of some bishops, but there are not many more.

Because of the same reluctance to taint the religious despite solid reasons for doing so, the Catholic Church in the United States finally was forced in several legal settlements to pay more than a billion dollars to victims of sexual abuse committed by priests and bishops. For a very long time, these sexual abuses were hidden from public knowledge, many of them denied, in fact, and the guilty ones allowed to go unpunished, and even promoted in some instances. But wrongdoing is more easily detected and exposed today, unfortunately not from the exercise of higher values or the practice of Catholicism but from the power of technology that is steadily forcing everything to be transparent.

The actuation of Bishop Gabriel Reyes is suspect because his name had already been reported in another controversy affecting Couples For Christ last year. Seen clearly by the hundreds of thousands of CFC members as a partisan supporter of a breakaway splinter group, Bishop Reyes has done much to damage the image of the Church to these Catholics who do much more in living out their fate than most others who can claim membership only by name and by ritual. Mainstream CFC has remained quiet, matching what they see as duplicity of authority by an outer show of respect and obedience which is just as false. Leaders of organizations of the laity are quickly taught that honesty and courage can be dangerous while compromise and hypocrisy can get you there faster.

Gawad Kalinga, though, need not listen to Bishop Gabriel Reyes. Its own experience with this Bishop of Antipolo is another story in itself and reserved for another day. Gawad Kalinga is a secular organization, an independent juridical body, and is Catholic, not by law but by choice, because most of its officers, workers, volunteers and partners are Catholics who strive to be more authentic than their pastors. Gawad Kalinga is not a subsidiary of CFC or submitted to it by legal requirement. That Gawad Kalinga is identified with CFC is natural and beneficial because two independent bodies have become almost like one from a shared history and shared values. The law created them separately and treats them separately, but a common membership bonds the two entities powerfully.

It is an emerging reality, though, that Gawad Kalinga will expand well beyond CFC. Its nature is ecumenist, non-judgmental, multi-sectoral, inclusive yet deeply anchored on faith in God, love of neighbor and sacrifice for country. Most know, but do not mind, that Gawad Kalinga is Catholic in its perspective – the Catholic who heeds calls from the Pope for ecumenism and rejects temptations towards fundamentalism and spiritual bigotry. In Gawad Kalinga, Catholicism is not preached, it is witnessed. Very soon, millions more will see, will understand, and will be part of Gawad Kalinga.

Pope Benedict XVI just affirmed the Gawad Kalinga way by reaching out to the most anti-life nation and accepting the welcome of the most anti-life president, both anti-life by Church definition. The Pope affirmed the primacy of engagement over condemnation in fidelity to the footsteps of his Church's Divine Founder. With the Pope's courage and wisdom, there is hope that erring cardinals and bishops who have veered away will ultimately see the way, the truth and the light . ***

Responses may be sent to jlmglimpses@gmail.com

Friday, April 25, 2008

Brouhaha Over Basura

With the impending vote by the Philippine Senate to ratify JPEPA, I am re-posting my article, "Brouhaha Over Basura," which was published two months after JPEPA was signed in Helsinki on September 9, 2006. I believe that the Senate should look into this trade agreement very seriously before deciding on its ratification. Once it's signed there is no turning back and any damage done to the Philippines would be irreversible.

Perry


November 10, 2006

PerryScope
Perry Diaz

Brouhaha Over Basura

On September 9, 2006, at the Asia-Europe People's Forum in Helsinki, Finland, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi signed the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). The comprehensive free trade agreement -- the first bilateral trade treaty since the parity agreement with the U.S. in 1946 -- would be a big boost to the Philippines' economy. Among the items agreed upon is the employment of nurses and caregivers in Japan. In return, however, the Philippines would allow the entry of toxic and hazardous waste to be dumped on Philippine soil.

Philippine environmentalists pointed out that one of the hazardous waste materials allowed is the highly toxic incinerator ash which is banned by the Basel Convention of which the Philippines and Japan are signatories. The Basel Convention does not allow the exportation of toxic materials to another country unless the government of that country approves it. However, both the Philippines and Japan have not ratified the more stringent Basel Ban amendment which banned trading of all hazardous waste including those that are labeled -- or mislabeled -- for "recycling."

Why the Philippine negotiators at the Helsinki confab allowed this to happen is beyond reason. It's either they're stupid or ignorant of Philippine law. Republic Act 6969, known as Toxic Substances, Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act, which was enacted in 1990, declares: "It is the policy of the State to regulate, restrict or prohibit the importation, manufacture, processing, sale, distribution, use and disposal of chemical substances and mixtures that present unreasonable risk and/or injury to health or the environment, to prohibit the entry, even in transit, of hazardous and nuclear wastes and their disposal into Philippine territorial limits for whatever purpose." Clearly, the yet-to-be-ratified JPEPA is a violation of Philippine law.

In 2000, four Filipinos representing a firm that imported tons of toxic waste from Japan were sued by the Philippine government. Sinsei Enterprises Inc., the Manila-based partner of a Japanese firm, Nisso Ltd., was suspected of shipping hazardous waste to the Philippines. According to the lawsuit, 122 containers arrived in Manila on July 22, 1999, and were declared to contain 80% "recyclable waste paper" and 20% plastic. The illegal shipment was cleared when it left Japan. However, an inspection of the cargo upon its arrival in Manila revealed hospital waste materials piled under adult diapers, candy wrappers, used sanitary napkins, aluminum foil and noodle cups. Customs inspectors and reporters present during the inspection said that the "smell was so bad that those present threw up and moved away from the containers." The containers were shipped back to Japan and the Japanese government paid for the expenses. The four accused Filipinos mysteriously disappeared and are still at large today.

Are we looking at the tip of a "stinking" iceberg here? How rampant is the smuggling of hazardous waste in the Philippines? Recently, an investigation by Greenpeace International revealed a massive flow of automobile lead-acid batteries from industrialized countries to Third World countries including the Philippines. Greenpeace reported that the end result of this free trade in toxic waste is the suffering of thousands of workers and children from lead blood poisoning, rivers and air loaded with lead emissions, and big profits for the lead battery brokers and manufacturers. Other toxic waste being dumped in the Philippines are waste oil from South Korea and electronic waste from various countries.

Compounding the illegal importation of toxic waste is the Philippines' inability -- the Philippines has no recycling industry -- to dispose or treat its own hazardous waste which is estimated at more than 2.5 million tons a year. Garbage dumps like Payatas in Quezon City are the repository of all kinds of waste including hazardous material. With the anticipated importation of toxic waste from Japan, the health of future generations of Filipinos would be compromised.

Under JPEPA, the Philippines is allowed to export its toxic waste to Japan. But who in Japan would buy them? Japanese society has for centuries branded and isolated waste-handlers, butchers, tanners, and executioners. They are called Burakumin -- the "untouchables." They lived in isolated villages called Buraku -- there are 4,000 such villages today. They are placed at the lowest social rank -- "Eta" (extreme filth) or "Hinin" (non-human). They are considered polluted and are not allowed to move out of their Buraku. Today, there are 1.17 million Burakumin. It is no wonder that Japan is eager to export its toxic waste -- handling waste is taboo in their society.

India's caste system has similarity to Japan. They, too, have "untouchables" -- the Harijan. People who work in unclean occupations -- similar to the Burakumin -- are looked upon as polluting people. In some regions, even a contact with their shadow was considered as polluting. If someone comes in contact with an "untouchable," that person is defiled and has to immerse or wash himself or herself with water to be purified. In 1949, the use of the term "untouchable" became illegal and discrimination against them became illegal as well. However, the social stigma against the more than 60 million "untouchables" remains. One "untouchable" -- K.R. Narayanan -- broke this social barrier and became the President of India in 1997.

With the brouhaha over toxic waste -- basura -- the Philippine Senate indicated that it would scrutinize the trade agreement with Japan. In reaction to the furor, the Japanese embassy in Manila reassured the Philippine government that they would export toxic waste only if the Philippine government approves it.

What was once a Paradise called the "Pearl of the Orient Seas," the Philippines is becoming to be the garbage dump of the world -- a Payatas on a global scale. Are we going to be the new "untouchables" of the world? There is still time to reverse this massive destruction of our environment. The government has to renegotiate the trade treaty with Japan and remove toxic and hazardous waste as exportable items. And it must also ratify the Basel Ban amendment. It's time that the government cleans up its act and enforce the Toxic Substances, Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act. As the saying goes, "Cleanliness is next to godliness."

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Madonna Decena (a Filipina) - Britain's Got Talent Contestant (WOW!!!)

Madonna Decena touches a lot of hearts. Read the article, then click below it to view video...

MANILA, Philippines — Filipina Madonna Decena, who made it to the semi-final round in the second episode of the UK reality competition, "Britain's Got Talent," is now an Internet sensation.

The video of her performance of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" has merited over 39,000 hits as of Monday, and a five-star rating (exceeding the four-star system) from YouTube viewers.

In the video, Decena's sob story—and singing—left the entire Manchester Theater in tears, including judge Amanda Holden and two stagehands who led the 33-year-old Filipina to the stage.

Holden, an acclaimed West End actress, explained on the program's Web site that she was "moved" by the Pinay's touching real-life drama. "She had to leave her two daughters in the Philippines to work [in the UK] and she hasn't seen them in a year (actually, six months)," Holden related. "Every penny she earns, she sends back home."

At first, Holden said, she tried to contain her emotion. "But when she started singing … I completely lost it, really badly. I knew she was singing for her babies."
Now dubbed Madonna of Manchester on the Web site, Decena received two standing ovations from the audience—one at her song's end, another after the judges' comments—and a wink from the initially blasé judge and show co-creator Simon Cowell, who was shown chewing on a pencil throughout the Pinay's performance.
Holden says in the online interview that Decena is "a possible finalist—she's great!" On the show, she was just as effusive, telling the Pinay: "You'll go a long way on this show and you'll have all the money in the world and you'll be able to put your children in a plane and you'll be together. Because you, lady, have got talent."
Inquirer Entertainment was alerted to Decena's story by reader Alma Borja. Blogger and TV host Daphne Oseña-Paez sent us a link. Clearly, this Madonna has touched quite a lot of hearts.




the video response to the above:

The Family Access Card could exacerbate the food crisis

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR
By William M. Esposo
Thursday, April 24, 2008

The more rice the National Food Authority (NFA) sells, the more it bleeds. It simply cannot afford to subsidize the new, higher level of demand.

When the food crisis struck, even those who never purchased NFA rice started joining the NFA queue. There is justified fear that the better-off families who have the means will end up hoarding the precious grain to the detriment of the poor, the very targets of the subsidy.

Thus, the NFA devised a Family Access Card system as a way of limiting the number of people who would be allowed to purchase subsidized NFA rice.

Sadly, Filipinos have a history of panic-buying which is but a symptom of deep insecurity and distrust for the capability of the nation's leaders to resolve problems.

In this case, we do not even refer to the credibility problem of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime. I remember the panic buying that ensued after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino on August 21, 1983. The long queues were in supermarkets of the middle and upper class neighborhoods.

The poor perhaps bought a little more than usual but hardly what you can call hoarding. They simply did not have the money to stockpile food and provisions.

Panic buying here does not happen only when there are visible shortages. A mere prospect of social unrest can trigger panic buying; the thought that a social problem may disrupt food production or distribution is enough to provoke the hoarding.

There is no argument about the importance of ensuring that the poor become the beneficiaries of subsidized rice. And to do that, there is need to ascertain who the qualified families are. This is the Herculean challenge – just who decides and what are the criteria for deciding who qualifies for NFA rice.

The national agencies would be hard pressed to do that simply because they do not have the people on the ground to cover all communities. Other than the manpower compliment, they will need to know the community in order to determine who truly deserves to be given a Family Access Card.

The DSWD, NFA and DILG will all have to cooperate with local officials (mayors) and the barangay leaders to be able to cover all the communities and effect a proper distribution of the Family Access Cards.

This is also where the Church parish network could be of great help. In fact, the presence of the Parish priests could provide the safety factor to ensure the fair and equitable distribution of the access cards.

An even bigger task is teaching intended beneficiaries about the system; get them to know how it will work. The poor folks, especially in farther rural areas, do not have sufficient educational background and experience to observe government regulations and procedures.

The Family Access Card is an emergency measure and is not part of the usual procurement process that people are familiar with. Expect those who do not know what the access card is for and understand why it is being imposed to resent and raise a fuss about not being allowed to buy NFA rice.

They can easily misinterpret the access card as another form of government discrimination, an added imposition to make their lives more miserable. In this scenario, GMA will just provide the rabble rousers with yet another opportunity to incite a mob to assault Malacanang Palace.

It also becomes important that contingency provisions are in place for lost or stolen access cards. A poor family cannot be allowed to starve because of a lost or misplaced access card. If the cards can be made with individual built-in ID, the replacement could easily be arranged.

To effectively implement the Family Access Card system, the government must ensure that the system is not utilized for political purposes. No less than Senator Mar Roxas and DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral have separately expressed concern about the possible misuses of the Family Access card by people who are motivated by political objectives.

GMA will not want to exacerbate an already explosive situation by playing politics with the Family Access Card. Her main concern, I'd imagine, is to distribute NFA rice to the most needy and not to play politics with the food crisis.

But can she prevent the officials on the ground from doing so?

We all know how petty and personal local politics is in our country. It is easy to see our mayors and barangay captains, regardless if they are from the administration or the Opposition, taking advantage of the Family Access Card in order to promote their personal political agendas.

It is also not beyond them to utilize the access card in order to get back at their political rivals and their followers.

Hunger is more than enough to provoke mass anger. History teaches us that. But adding another dimension to the anger by making the hungry person feel that he is the target of recrimination or discrimination – now that is truly tempting the fates.

Chair Wrecker email and website: macesposo@yahoo.com and www.chairwrecker.com

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gloria, Eva and Juan

PerryScope

by Perry Diaz

The recent trips of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to rural areas doling out goodies to the poor reminds of me of Eva Peron during the reign of her husband, Argentine dictator Juan Peron. Eva Peron -- affectionately called "Evita" by Argentina's descamisados, the "shirtless ones" -- became popular with the poor Argentines. She could have been the next President after her husband. But fate was not kind to her for she succumbed to cancer at the young age of 33.

Born poor and out of wedlock, Eva's rise to power has been the subject of historians. But one thing that most historians would seem to agree on is that Eva was very much part of Peron's authoritarian style of government called Peronism. The workers and the poor were his base of support; however, it was the popular Eva who was credited for getting their support for Peron.

In 1948, Eva created the Eva Peron Foundation which she funded with 10,000 pesos from her personal funds. The foundation collected donations from workers' unions and private businesses. Within a few years its assets grew to more than three billion pesos -- or about US$200 million at that time. The foundation employed 14,000 workers including 26 priests. It distributed hundreds of thousands of shoes, sewing machines, cooking pots, and other household items. It gave scholarships to the poor and built homes and hospitals. Her supporters called her "Santa Evita." However, her critics accused her of using the foundation to divert government money into private Swiss bank accounts controlled by her and Peron.

In 1951, Peron was reelected with the help of Eva and her 500,000-member Peronist Feminist Party. It was the first time that women were allowed to vote in Argentina. On May 7, 1952, the Argentine Assembly, which was controlled by Peronistas, gave Eva the official title of "Spiritual Leader of the Nation." She carried that title until her death on July 26, 1952.

Peron, who was first elected President in 1946, was beset with problems during his second term. High-level corruption, economic problems, and conflict with the Roman Catholic Church had a destabilizing effect on his government. Once one of the top 10 richest countries in the world, its agricultural exports substantially decreased due to the conversion of agricultural lands for industrial use.

In June 1955, anti-Peronists staged a coup d'etat using navy planes. However, the coup failed. That same year, the Roman Catholic Church withdrew its support of Peron's government for a variety of reasons including the enactment of the controversial divorce law. When Peron expelled two Catholic priests, Pope Pius XII excommunicated him. On September 16, 1955, Peron was ousted by an Army-Navy coup. He escaped to Paraguay and then moved to Panama. He eventually settled in Spain under the protection of Generalissimo Francisco Franco.

The new Argentine government conducted an investigation into the corruption in the Peron regime. Of the more than 1,000 suspects, 314 cases were filed in the courts. A government investigation revealed a web of corruption from the top all the way down to the lowest level in the bureaucracy.

The TIME magazine issue of December 19, 1956 said that "Peron did his mother-in-law out of half of her bequest from the late Eva Peron, then with medieval flourish had Evita's brother, Juan Duarte, killed because he knew too much." Cronies of Peron profited immensely. In April 1956, the government investigation was abruptly ended without prosecuting anyone. It was believed that the reason for ending the investigation prematurely was that some people being investigated were in the new government.

It's interesting to note that there seem to be similarities between Gloria Arroyo and Eva and Juan Peron. Like Eva, Gloria has been projecting herself as "pro-poor." Whenever there is a calamity, Gloria would be there doling out relief goods to the people. At a recent trip to a barrio, Gloria addressed the rice shortage by invoking the Virgin Mary to perform a "miracle" to feed the poor. That's the Eva Peron in her.

On the other hand, there's the Juan Peron in her. Behind the walls of Malacanang and shielded by "executive privilege," Gloria has built -- as Romulo Neri has told Senators Ping Lacson and Jamby Madrigal -- an intricate web of corruption that permeated at all levels of her government. Neri also disclosed that Gloria's cronies -- he called them "oligarchs" -- controlled the Philippines' major industries. Like Juan Peron, Gloria's failed economic policies are causing havoc in the country. Like Juan Peron, Gloria is encouraging the conversion of agricultural (rice) land to other land use; thus, increasing the country's dependency on imported rice. Like Peron, her government reeks with corruption.

Recently, a Pulse Asia survey showed Gloria as the most corrupt president in the history of the Philippines. In another survey, by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC), the Philippines was tagged as having the most corrupt economy in Asia. What an inglorious distinction: Most Corrupt President, Most Corrupt Economy.

The looming rice crisis in the Philippines would be Gloria's biggest challenge in her political life. While the people may not be too concerned with corruption in high places, hunger is the one that would surely hurt them the most. With her lucky streak of surviving coups, impeachment, and a series of corruption scandals, the question is: Would she survive a food crisis?

Recently, she approved a request from the military to sell government-subsidized rice to soldiers, veterans and their dependents at a price lower than that paid by civilians. Gloria knows that her staying in power is contingent on the military's loyalty. She wants to make sure that the military remains loyal to her… at all cost. The last thing she wants to see happen are hungry -- and angry -- soldiers.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Joke Time: Tawanan muna

FACELIFT

Pasyente ... magkano ang facelift?
Doktora ... complete treatment ay P145,000
Pasyente .. mahal!!! ano bang pinakamurang treatment para magmukha akong bata?
Doktora ... heto tsupon, P20 lang!!


ORDER ORDER

Customer .... waiter! bakit ang tagal ng order ko? ilan ang cook nyo dito?
Waiter ... ay, sir, wala pu kame cuk dito...pipse lang po!!


PROBLEMA NGA

Pasyente .... Doc, may problema ako...tuwing alas otso ng umaga dumudumi ako...
Doktor ... so, anong problema doon?
Pasyente ... Eh alas nuwebe po ako nagigising.


HIWALAYAN

Wife ... maghiwalay na tayo!
Man ... ok! akin ang bahay!
Wife ... Akin ang farm!
Man .. Akin ang kotse!
Wife ... Wag mo isama driver, matagal ng akin yan.
Man .. Magkakamatayan tayo! Akin siya!

CUSTOMER

A man was carrying 3 babies in a train.
Lady sitting next asked, 'are they your babies?'
Man: 'No, I work in a con - dom factory and these are customer complaints!'


ACCIDENT

A lawyer driving on a highway notices a crowd in an intersection.
With his urge to get into the thick crowd and see the action, he shouted, 'I'M THE SON OF THE VICTIM.'
Upon hearing, the people made way for him to get through.
There he saw, bloody and helpless lying in front of the people...a pig bumped by a trailer truck!


PINTURA

Erap .. Honey, nagpintura ako ng banyo.
Loi ... Bakit dalawa ang suot mong jacket, ang init - init!!!
Erap .. Sabi kasi sa label, for best results put on 2 coats.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Meloto seeks clarification of Church policy on social action

Tony Meloto is just too much of a Christian to simply seek clarity of doctrine from a Church that accepts money from the promoter of gambling and the resident evil in Malacanang.

This is a clear case of a misinformed Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko who must have been fed the cock and bull concoction of the Chief Pharisee and his supporter in the CBCP.

How Christian are these intriguers who make GK accountable for a donor who has not yet bought the contraceptive making company at the time they made a GK Village?

Expect one or two columns on this. We owe it to Christ, the biggest victim of the Pharisees, to expose Pharisee conspiracy whenever it rears its ugly head. - The STAR Chair Wrecker (William M. Esposo)

Meloto seeks clarification of Church policy on social action

By Jeannette Andrade
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:41:00 04/18/2008

MANILA, Philippines--Former Gawad Kalinga head Antonio Meloto on Friday sought "clarity and consistency" in the Catholic Church's policy on funding for projects, declaring that GK's work has always been pro-life.

Meloto told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net): "If saving the children from tuberculosis and malnutrition is a sin for me as a Catholic, then I am a sinner. I just need to be guided by a clear direction from our church leaders."

The GK founding member was responding to the March 11 Vatican "correction" sent to Couples' for Christ president Jose Tale in which the Pontifical Council for the Laity mentioned the Gawad Kalinga's purported shift of focus from the spiritual to the social as well as its alleged openness to donations from companies that promote artificial family planning.

"Should all Catholics who work with pharmaceuticals resign? Shall we all stop buying medicine to be in faithful compliance? Is Ateneo less Catholic because they partnered with a pharmaceutical for their successful leaders for health? Why is it okay for many Catholic organizations to receive support from them and not okay for GK in caring for the poor. With all due respect, we just want clarity and consistency," Meloto said.

The GK has more than 350 partner-corporations that support its work with the poor.

He further lamented: "What can be more pro-life than feeding the hungry and saving children from malnutrition, TB, and other diseases? Or transforming slums and troubled communities and stopping people from killing one another?"

Meloto pointed out that Gawad Kalinga has been working in over 1,700 villages nationwide together with people of other faiths, including born-again Christians and Muslims "who love God and country."

"If loving this country, serving the poor and saving the children is anti-life then I need to be enlightened again as a Catholic because I only desire to be faithful," he said.

He said he was a devout Catholic and remained an active member of the CFC.

"My pain as a Catholic and as Filipino is seeing our people suffer from poverty and our country labeled as corrupt. We have not done enough for our poor countrymen. Poverty in the only Catholic country in Asia is a failure in discipleship and Christian stewardship. My dream is for the world to see that it is possible for a Catholic country (to) rise from poverty because we practice what we preach," he said.

On Thursday, Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes , chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' Episcopal Commission on the Laity, said that the Vatican merely intended to guide and correct the GK's overemphasis on social work when it sent a letter to the CFC.

GK was founded by CFC and has been credited for providing slum dwellers and other low-income groups with decent housing and livelihood.

The Antipolo bishop maintained that the guidance also covers the acceptance of funds from pharmaceutical companies purportedly supportive of artificial family planning.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Passionate Strategist: Justice Antonio Carpio

DAVAO CITY —The University of the Philippines in Mindanao will be holding its 11th Commencement Exercises on April 16, 2008. Honoring the University as the invited Guest Speaker to this event in its Centennial is Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

Coming from a generation of student leaders and freedom fighters, Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio has proven to be a man of conviction and political astuteness. The tumultuous '70's under Martial Law had shaped the man who would become Supreme Court justice.

Justice Carpio was born in Davao City on October 26, 1949. He completed his primary and secondary education from the Ateneo de Davao University and went on to finish a degree in Economics at the Ateneo de Manila University in 1969. As a young student journalist, he wrote with audacity and precision for The Guidon, where he served as editor-in-chief. Edgar Jopson and Eman Lacaba, the fearless student activists during that period, were Carpio's batchmates in the Ateneo.

It was Justice Carpio's father, former regional director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in Davao and also a lawyer, Bernardo Carpio, who encouraged him to pursue the same profession. At the beginning it was only through his father's resolve that he continued studying law. "It was useless to be a lawyer then," as Carpio used to say before he was appointed to the Supreme Court. But it was in law school at the University of the Philippines where Carpio met Vietnamese Ruth Nguyen, his future wife who was introduced to him by activist Nelia Sancho. They would have two children, Ronaldo and Audrey, both college graduates.

Graduating Cum Laude and Valedictorian from the UP College of Law was only the beginning of a sterling, historic career. In the same year that he finished his law degree, Justice Carpio took and passed the Bar Exams, placing 6th in the 1975 Bar Examination. He then co-founded a firm with partners F. Arthur "Pancho" Villaraza and Avelino "Nonong" Cruz Jr. While he was the managing partner of the firm, Carpio balanced his practice with teaching two subjects in law in UP Diliman. The brightest students in his class were usually recruited to the law firm. Years later he would also serve as a member of the university's Board of Regents.

But true to his principles, Carpio was willing to risk his career for a greater cause. On the advent of the first EDSA revolution, he was ready to unite with Reform the Armed Forces Movement, leaving the law firm on hold.

Apart from being Senior Partner at the Carpio and Villaraza Law Office, then Atty. Carpio served as chief legal counsel to former President Fidel V. Ramos, a man he strongly supported during the 1992 elections. Serving as Ramos's legal counsel for four years, he helped collapse dominant cartels in the telecommunications and shipping industries, which as a college student Carpio already saw to be a cause of social inequity. He would show his independence from his former boss when became one of the most strident critics of the constitutional amendment.

"The most important qualification of a judge is independence, not brilliance," Carpio had told a former associate. In his leisure time, Justice Carpio enjoys sharp shooting, sailing and hunting. He is also known to be a technology enthusiast: he had pushed for an e-library for the judiciary, and earlier in the '80's, he was responsible for bringing in computers to his former firm.
As a writer, he wrote columns in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Manila Times and in Sun Star Manila. His editorial work was shown in the Philippine Law Journal of the UP College of Law , The Philippine Collegian, The Intellectual Property Journal and the Journal of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines .

Justice Carpio had also served as the President of the Licensing Executive Society of the Philippines and the Pasay-Makati Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines . Having been sworn in as a member of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on his 52nd birthday in 2001, Justice Carpio co-headed the Oversight Committee on Halls of Justice.

A fiercely outspoken guardian of the constitution, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, this honorable man who grew up in Davao , has become one of the country's most revered public servants.
(By John Bengan and Sheila Bulaong)

The Philippines failed to impress 17 countries

Despite of being applauded by the UN, the 6-man delegates of Philippine UPR Watch said that the Philippines failed to convince the 17 UN members on their good and honest report. The Philippine UPR Watch is a group of human rights advocates, victims and their families.

Casiño and Olalia were among a six-man delegation sent to Geneva by the Philippine UPR Watch, led by Karapatan special legal to UN Edre Olalia and Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño, is an organization of human rights advocates, victims, and families of victims. They claimed that the presentation of the Philippine delegates were a show of lies, hypocrisy and fantasy and criticized Ermita for saying that the Philippines is a human rights defender.

The 17 countries were United States, United Kingdom, Australia, France, Canada, Norway, Netherlands, Slovenia, New Zealand, Latvia, Switzerland, Japan, Brazil, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Mexico and Korea. "This sizable number of states sends a strong message that the GRP human rights record is both in the microscope and within the radar of the international community," Olalia said. These 17 countries told the Philippine UPR Watch that the government is not doing enough in the issues of human rights, especially to the recommendations of Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions. Alston visited the country last year.

Raphael D. Torralba raph_torralba@hotmail.com

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

PINOYS AND PINAYS

Meron akong gustong ibahagi para sa ating lahat na mga PILIPINO.
Simple pero parang mahirap gawin ng karamihan sa atin.
Hindi ito makukuha sa puro daldalan lang or walang kabuluhang pagtatalo,
kumilos tayo ngayon na.

Sa ibang bansa: Pag nagkasala ang Pinoy,pinarusahan siya ayon sa batas.
Sa PINAS: Pag nagkasala ang ang Pinoy,ayaw niyang maparusahan kasi sabi
niya mali raw ang batas.

Sa ibang bansa: Pinag-aaralan muna ng Pinoy ang mga batas bago siya pumunta
roon, kasi takot siyang magkamali.
Sa PINAS: Pag nagkamali ang Pinoy, sorry kasi hindi raw niya alam na labag
sa batas iyon.

Sa ibang bansa: Kahit gaano kataas ang bilihin at tax sa USA okey lang,
katuwiran natin doble kayod na lang.
Sa PINAS: mahilig ka sa last day para magbayad ng tax minsan dinadaya mo
pa o kaya hindi ka nagbabayad. Rally ka kaagad kapag tumaas ang pasahe at
bilihin imbes na magsipag mas gusto natin ang nagkukwentuhan lang sa
munisipyo o kahit sa alinmang tanggapan.

Sa Singapore: Kapag nahuli kang nagkalat or nagtapon ng basura sa hindi
tamang lugar, magbabayad ka na 500 Singapore dollars. Sabi ng Pinoy,
okey lang kasi lumabag ako sa batas.
Sa Pinas: Kapag nagkamali ang Pinoy katulad nang ganito, Sabi ng Pinoy,
ang lupit naman ni Bayani Fernando, mali naman ang pinaiiral niyang batas
eh akala mo kung sino. Ayun nag-rally na ang Pinoy gustong patalsikin si
Bayani Fernando kahit na alam niyang mali siya.

Mga igan, ilan pa lang iyan baka may iba pa kayong alam.
Bakit ang PINOY, pwedeng maging "law abiding citizen sa ibang bansa ng
walang angal" pero sa sarili nating bayang PILIPINAS na sinasabi ninyong
mahal natin, eh hindi natin magawa, BAKIIITTTTT?????????

ETO PA, "Ang Pilipino NOON at NGAYON":

NOON: Wow ang sarap ng kamote (kahit nakaka-utot)
NGAYON: Ayaw ko ng kamote gusto ko French Fries (imported eh)

NOON: Wow ang sarap ng kapeng barako
NGAYON: Ayaw ko niyan gusto kong kape sa STARBUCKS (imported coffee 100 pesos or more per cup)

NOON: Bili ka ng tela para magpatahi ng pantalon like maong
NGAYON: Gusto ko LEVI'S, WRANGLER, LEE
(Tapos rally tayo "GMA tuta ng KANO") Di ba tuta ka rin naman.

NOON: Sabon na Perla OK ng pampaligo
NGAYON: Gusto mo DOVE, HENO DE PRAVIA,IVORY, etc. may matching shampoo pa

NOON: Pag naglaba ka batya at palopalo ok na,minsan banlaw lang sa batis pwede na
NGAYON: Naka-washing machine ka na plus >> ARIEL powder soap with matching DOWNY
pa para mabango

Alam ko mas marami pa ang alam ninyo tungkol dito, pero ilan ilan lang iyan para
bigyan ng pansin.
Mga Pilipino nga ba tayo? O baka sa salita lang at E-Mail pero wala naman sa gawa.


My Fellow Filipinos,

When I was small, the Philippine peso was P7 to the $dollar. The president was Diosdado Macapagal.
Life was simple. Life was easy. My father was a farmer. My mother kept a small sari-sari store where our neighbors bought sang-perang asin, sang-perang bagoong, sang-perang suka, sang-perang toyo at pahinging isang butil na bawang. Our backyard had kamatis, kalabasa, talong, ampalaya, upo, batao, and okra.

Our silong had chicken. We had a pig, dog & cat. And of course, we lived on the farm. During rainy
season, my father caught frogs at night which my mother made into batute (stuffed frog), or just plain fried. During the day, he caught hito and dalag from his rice paddies, which he would usually inihaw.

During dry season, we relied on the chickens, vegetables, bangus, tuyo, and tinapa. Every now
and then, there was pork and beef from the town market. Life was so peaceful, so quiet, no electricity, no TV. Just the radio for Tia Dely, Roman Rapido, Tawag ng Tanghalan and Tang- tarang-tang. And who can forget Leila Benitez on Darigold Jamboree?

On weekends, I played with my neighbors (who were all my cousins). Tumbang-preso, taguan, piko, luksong lubid, patintero, at iba pa. I don't know about you, but I miss those days.

These days, we face the TV, Internet, e-mail, newspaper, magazine,grocery catalog, or drive around
The peso is a staggering and incredible P42 to the $dollar, per kilo of rice is P 32. Most people can't have fun anymore. Life has become a battle.

We live to work. Work to live. Life is not easy. I was in Saudi Arabia in 1983. It was lonely, difficult, & scary. It didn't matter if you were a man or a woman. You were a target for rape. The salary was cheap & the vacation far between. If the boss didn't want you to go on holiday, you didn't. They had your passport. Oh, and the agency charged you almost 4 months of your salary (which, if you had to borrow on a "20% per month arrangement" meant your first year's pay was all gone before you even earned it).

The Philippines used to be one of the most important countries in Asia. Before & during my college days, many students from neighboring Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and China went to the Philippines to get their diplomas. Until 1972,like President Macapagal, President Marcos was one of the most admired presidents of the world. The Peso had kept its value of P7 to the $dollar until I finished college. Today, the Philippines is famous as the "housemaid" capital of the world. It ranks very high as the "cheapest labor" capital of the world, too.

We have maids in Hong Kong, laborers in Saudi Arabia, dancers in Japan,migrants and TNTs in Australia and the US, and all sorts of other "tricky" jobs in other parts of the globe. Quo Vadis, Pinoy? Is that a wonder or a worry? Are you proud to be a Filipino, or does it even matter anymore? When you see the Filipino flag and hear the Pambansang Awit, do you feel a sense of pride or a sense of defeat & uncertainty? If only things could change for the better.......

Hang on for this is a job for Superman. Or whom do you call? Ghostbusters. Joke. Right?

This is one of our problems. We say "I love the Philippines. I am proud to be a Filipino."
When I send you a joke, you send it to everyone in your address book even if it kills the Internet. But when I send you a note on how to save our country & ask you to forward it, what do you do? You chuck it in the bin.

I want to help the maids in Hong Kong. I want to help the laborers in Saudi Arabia. I want to help the dancers in Japan. I want to help the TNTs in America and Australia. I want to save the people of the Philippines. But I cannot do it alone. I need your help and everyone else's. So please forward this e-mail to your friends.

If you say you love the Philippines, prove it.
And if you don't agree with me, say something anyway.
Indifference is a crime on its own.


From a forwarded e-mail

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Olympic Torch Dims Over Tibet

When the 11th Olympiad was held in Berlin in 1936, it provided Hitler with a grand opportunity to make Nazi German look good. He tried to project his Third Reich as a peaceful, non-aggressive, and a tolerant society. For two weeks, Germany and Nazism glowed in the limelight. But as soon as the Olympiad concluded, the Nazis were back at their old ways: persecuting the Jews and anyone whom they considered as "non-Aryan." Within a couple of years, Germany invaded its neighbors and sparked World War II.

The Nazis believed that the mythical Aryan race was real and superior to other humans. In 1938, Hitler sent a anthropological expedition to Tibet to search for the origin of the Aryan race. However, many believed that the expedition was more of a political nature than "anthropological." After all, the expedition was sponsored by no other than the second most powerful man in the Third Reich, Reichfuhrer Heinrich Himmler. Himmler was the leader of the dreaded SS and architect of the "Final Solution" which systematically annihilated more than six million Jews -- the worst genocide the world has ever known.

Christopher Hale in his book, "Himmler's Crusade: The Nazi Expedition to Find the Origins of the Aryan Race," revealed that the purpose of the expedition was "to examine Tibetan nobles for signs of Aryan physiology, undermine the British relationship with the ruling class, and sow the seeds of rebellion among the populace." Himmler was obsessed in his search of the remnants of the lost Aryan "master race."

A decade later, Tibet was once again in the limelight. On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong took total control of mainland China and established the People's Republic of China. He then declared that the People's Liberation Army -- formerly Red Army -- must liberate all Chinese territories, including Tibet.

On October 7 the following year, Mao sent an invasion force of 80,000 troops to Tibet. The 8,000-strong Tibetan militia was no match against the battle-hardened communist troops. Within two days, Tibetan resistance collapsed. Consequently, Mao imposed a treaty that declared Tibet to be a part of China.

On November 17, 1950, the Tibetan National Assembly installed the 14th Dalai Lama --who was 16 years old at that time -- as Tibet's head of state as well as head of government with full political power. In April 1951, the Dalai Lama sent a delegation to Beijing to negotiate for peace. However, The Chinese told the Tibetan delegation to either sign an accord -- the "Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet" -- or face a Chinese military offensive. On May 23, 1951, the Tibetan delegation, who were prevented by the Chinese from contacting their Tibetan government during the negotiation -- acquiesced and signed the agreement. As Mao once said, "Power comes from the barrel of a gun." Yes, indeed.

In March 1959, the Tibetans revolted but were brutally crushed by China. The Dalai Lama went into exile in Dharamsala, India. More than 80,000 Tibetans followed him into exile. It was at Dharamsala where he established the Tibetan government-in-exile.

For almost half a century, the international community has turned a blind eye to China's oppression of religion and genocide against the Tibetan people. Statistics show that more than 17% of the Tibetan people have been killed and 6,000 monasteries have been destroyed in Tibet.

With the upcoming 39th Summer Olympics in Beijing this year, Tibet is once again at the forefront of international debate. The term "Genocide Olympics" is being used by the "Free Tibet" movement to highlight their opposition to China's repressive rule and genocidal campaign against the Tibetan people and their culture. The issue is the Tibetan people's right to self-determination. Indeed, "right to self-determination" is the fundamental right of all peoples which is enshrined in the United Nations Charter. In 1961, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution upholding the Tibetan people's right to self-determination. It was reaffirmed in 1965. Various countries including the European Union have supported the Tibetan people's right to self-determination. It is sad to say, however, that all this expression of support for the Tibetan people is nothing more than lip service.

Recently, the Olympic Torch relay started in earnest. It was intended to circle the globe as a "symbol of peace and unity." However, instead of creating global harmony, it has ignited worldwide protests. Indeed, the Olympic Torch run has turned into an event that people use to express their support for the Tibetans' struggle for independence or to signify their abhorrence of China's human rights record in Tibet.

China was hoping that the Beijing Summer Olympics would give her the respectability that she wanted so badly. China put forth an expensive public relations and marketing blitz to show the transformation from a dreaded past into an economically progressive and peace-loving nation.

An ancient Chinese expression says, "Evil prevails when good men fail to act." Well, the good men (or people) of the world have long forsaken Tibet where evil has prevailed for almost half a century. Today, the Beijing Olympics has rejuvenated the "Free Tibet" movement. Inside Tibet, the young Tibetans are more vocal than their passive elders. The question is: would China see the light and allow the Tibetan people to exercise their right to self-determination? Or would China harden her stance and pursue a "final solution" to the prickly Tibetan problem? It's kind of weird, but somehow history always finds a way of repeating itself.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Bishop on libel suit: 'I'm being silenced'

By Abigail Kwok
INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines — Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz said Monday that he was being "silenced" by authorities as Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales earlier in the day ordered the filing of a libel suit against the archbishop.

Gonzales has ordered the filing of a libel case against Cruz over his alleged disclosure of the presence of 19 usherettes of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) at the birthday party of First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo in 2004.

In an interview with INQUIRER.net, Cruz said he would wait for a copy of the complaint before giving his official statement. However, "there is no libelous intent in the item I wrote," he said.

Cruz said that what he wrote was meant to protect the women and not to violate them.

He said that PAGCOR marketing assistants were made to act as GROs [guest relations officers] during the First Gentleman's birthday party, which was unfair for the women.

Cruz said he even brought the issue to women's groups and said the incident was a possible exploitation against women.

Cruz said that PAGCOR could be behind the libel suit. "They [PAGCOR] know my stand against gambling and they want to silence me," Cruz said.

"Sino ba naman ako [Who am I]? Why would they spend their public funds against me?" he added.

Heroes Happen Here

by Vicente R. Romano III

Yesterday, April 10, Microsoft launched their new wave of technologies in the Philippines using their global theme, "Heroes happen here."

I can't help but think how inappropriate the theme is for our country.

After reading Fr. Intengan's ZTE Primer document, I find it hard to imagine how heroes can ever happen in this country. In the guise of shedding light on the controversial deal, Fr. Intengan suggests 3 things:

1) That Jun Lozada lied when he claimed he was abducted; this, of course, assumes that the government account of the incident is true

2) That Jun Lozada's and the other whistleblowers' testimonies are all hearsay and therefore have no value

3) That the Senate hearings should now be stopped and charges in court should be filed instead.

Under ordinary times, Intengan's primer might resonate among peace-loving and decent people. But when you have a president embroiled in serious charges of corruption and cheating, and who uses stonewalling, lying and deceit to respond to these charges, it takes an extraordinary leap of faith or supreme naivete to expect relief from a dysfunctional judicial system.

I have 3 simple questions for Fr. Intengan: If the First Gentleman threatened you by shouting in your face "Back off", will you have the courage to make it public, considering that he is the husband of the most powerful person in the country? Will you file charges of grave threat in a
court of law? Or will you wait for a signed confession by FG or affidavits by others present during the incident attesting to the truth of your charges before filing a case in court?

Incidentally, the ZTE Primer was distributed to students of Fr. Intengan's class on Sexual Ethics at Ateneo some time in March. During the class, Intengan declared that Lozada was part of a destabilization plot and his kidnapping was a hoax. He also played the wiretapped conversation between Jun Lozada and Joey de Venecia. And to think that Intengan advocates the rule of law in his primer (see the last paragraph of the attached primer).

What saddens me is the fact that there are actually some people who believe Intengan. And for what reasons? Because Jun Lozada is always smiling when on TV? Because he seems to be enjoying the limelight and his newfound celebrity status? Because he is going around the country to share his story? Because he has gone beyond the Probinsiyanong Intsik image that has endeared him to the people?

Because of these, you are all too willing to gloss over the truth he has revealed and the heroic sacrifice he and others before him had to go through as the price for the truth.

And yet, we are quite liberal in making heroes of other people with less than noble purposes.

We reluctantly accepted Chavit Singson as a hero, because he conveniently supported our desire to rid our nation of an immoral president. But we cannot accept Jun as a hero, because we're not ready to rid our nation of an amoral president. Why? Because GMA's successor could be worse. Because the economy is doing well, at least on paper. Because 2010 is just around the corner. Why can't we just wait? And these, even if we believe that she probably cheated, that she and FG are probably involved in corruption, and that she and her cabinet members have lied brazenly to cover up the truth.

We routinely make a hero of taxi drivers who return oodles of money left by passengers in their cabs. It is the most unnatural thing to do in this country, and is therefore considered heroic. But we cannot make Jun a hero for telling the truth at heroic costs, even though that too has become the most unnatural thing to do in this country. Why? Because it might lead to a regime change. Because GMA's successor could be worse. Because.

We proudly call our OFWs our modern-day heroes for their heroic sacrifices, although I have yet to hear an OFW say, "I will work abroad so I can help make the country better". For the most part, they do so for the survival of their family. But we cannot proudly call Jun a hero, even though the easiest thing for him to do for the survival of his family was to keep silent. And yet he spoke the truth, precisely to do his share in making this country a little better. Why can't we make Jun a hero? Because the country may not end up getting better. Because GMA's successor could be worse. Because.

We lavishly praise Pacquiao to be our hero, for indeed he gives pride to our country every time he wins. But he trains and fights hard to win, mostly for the prize money (that's what professionals do), and reaping pride for the country is an incidental, though happy, consequence for our nation. But we cannot praise Jun, not even scantily, to be our hero, even though he inspired pride for our country amongst the youth for rejecting the prize money offered him in exchange for his silence. Why? Because it's possible we may not be proud of what happens after a regime change. Because GMA's successor could be worse Because.

I share with you Jun's reflections 2 months after he came out (see attached document) so you might understand a little better the sufferings he continue to go through as the cost of doing the right thing. I echo Jun's challenge: before you judge him, you should ask yourself - "What have I done for the country?"

If you say you contribute to the well-being of this nation by, first, being a good provider for your family, and then, by contributing to the community through Gawad Kalinga and other civic projects - that's well and good. And you might even add, let's not get involved with politics or anything that might imperil the perceived stability of our government.

Jun, too, could have done the same thing - avoid the Senate at all cost so he can continue to be a good provider for his family, so he can help the underprivileged through his work at PhilForest, and so he might not shake the perceived stability of our government. That would have been well and
good. But he decided to go beyond what is good. He decided to do what is right by exposing the evil and demanding accountability, even if it meant instability to his life, to wake up a people in stupor - ready to accept evil, thinking that doing good will drown out the evil.

And so I ask the final question - If you were in Jun's place, would you have done good or right?

The advertising application of Microsoft's launch theme is quite interesting. "Heroes happen here" is usually followed by a pair of curly brackets like this { }. Visually, the brackets are used to frame an ordinary person, to single him out of a crowd. The message is simple: ordinary people
can do extraordinary things when equipped with the right tools (of course, from Microsoft).

That can very well apply to our times. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things, propelled by the right heart and mindset - to do, not just what is good, but what is right. And it starts with you and me.

Are you ready to put your name inside the curly brackets?

Heroes happen here { }.

God bless,

enteng

Monday, April 14, 2008

Why GK May Not be Enough... OR more than enough

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

GK may not be enough. GK may be more than enough. Either can be true. I remember somewhere in Mr. Keh's proposition that the word "IF" meant everything. If I follow the word "IF" with my own wish list, then GK will be more than enough.

I have been in both social and political advocacy, including some years in the environment movement for 25 years. Before that, I was in the agriculture industry in the manufacture, distribution and sale of agricultural products- plus a few other types of business. Community development and political advocacy became my favorite advocacies, however, and I have remained very focused in the former and less so in the latter in the last few years (but not before two Edsas and a sedition charge).

In the end, it has been only Gawad Kalinga that has produced results that are measurable and sustainable. Only Gawad Kalinga in the face of all other intervention efforts that has a chance of meaningfully altering the poverty situation, including the corruption that afflicts the nation. Only Gawad Kalinga. It may not be enough but there is nothing else, notyet anyway.

Many NGOs have helped before GK, and many will continue to do so even if GK is already there. Each one that survives is living proof that a modicum of success has been achieved, especially since the mortality rate of NGOs, foundations, cooperatives, and similar organizations has been very high. Seven years ago, when I joined a new NGO doing anti-poverty, anti-corruption work and listened to the various sharings of co-workers, the one in charge of registering us said that several tens of thousands of NGOs, etc. had been registered in the last 20 years but most have quietly disappeared, buried in the dustbins of history before most Filipinos beyond a barangay or town could even know of them.

So, let us assess the results of NGO work. What is there outside of GK that can possibly reverse the tide of poverty and corruption? What NGO seeks to un-squat all the landless, to facilitate their ownership of at least a home lot or long-term security of tenure to it? What NGO seeks to provide decent shelter to homeless Filipino families without having to pay for them through money, or paying affordable rates if these families belong to the lowest earners among the employed?

What NGO penetrates the slums, even the dangerous ones with a plan and the will to rehabilitate and upgrade not just structures but values, mindsets and behavior as well? What NGO has lifted the quality of life of a community and seeks to do that community after community? What NGO works to transform violent communities to peaceful ones, dirty communuties to clean ones, ugly communities to become neat, landscaped and beautiful?

What NGO has transformed communities who sell their votes and blindly follow the bidding of political masters for a fee to being communities who refuse to join protest marches for pay, who refuse payment for their votes, who keep learning about ethical and moral governance? Contact GK Pandi's 600 families and ask how many this time did not selltheir votes. Or, ask who did because only 2 or 3 of almost 2,000 did. Or contact the barangay captain of the biggest barangay of the Philippines - Bagong Silang - who beat 7 or 8 rivals including the incumbent by a vote bigger than all rivals combined, and ask him how his GK work for several years

What NGO has convinced politicians to alternative politics of performance and vision - the GK vision, of course, and allowed them to win without the traditional politicking and vote-buying? Contact Mayor Sonia Lorenzon of Nueva Ecija.

What NGO hs been adopted by the most number of schools and their students and continues to attract them from city to city, town to town? Ask the major universities in Metro Manila and the bigger colleges in the provinces.

There are 15 million Filipino families, 5 million of them below the line of poverty and 5 million more thinking they are poor as well. Even if we target only the first 5 million, to un-squate them, to provide decent homes for them, and to teach/support them to feed themselves, what NGO strives for that?

GK seeks all of the above and has achieved much more than any other though it seems like a drop in the bucket considering the context of poverty and corruption. But GK seeks them all, works to get nearer to the point when more authortity, resources and support from the general population can actually begin to turn the tide. This is where the big "IF" word then comes in. "IF" GK's vision and work continues, it will get there. "IF" more senators, congressmen mayors and governors will join those who are already in partnership with GK, then GK will get there.

Perhaps, GK has moved forward despite ordinary people being in the center of both leadership and volunteer corps because it is designed to reach out to different sectors in active invitation to be part of GK. Perhaps, GK has achieved much more than others because it insists on being a spirit and movement as well as an organization. Perhaps, GK has moved vertically and not just massively horizontal because good hearts and minds with resources and/or expertise find a welcoming places for them in GK.

It is also noteworthy that GK has become a convergence zone for others who cannot directly work with one another, how GK manages to inspire groups to set aside their differences while commonly helping GK. And ask the Fil-Amswhich group has become the most acceptable to them, the one that they can help if they want to help the poor in the Philippines.

GK is almost spitting distance from Global City. It is also in the mosr remote barrio, in the land of indigenous peoples, in Mindanao with Muslims and lumads. GK can be in thousands of other barangays, and it will. "IF" more help, then we will be there much sooner.

Yes, GK may not be enough. No one or nothing has been enough. But GK can be more than enough with the big "IF." And that "IF" is always a combination of each of us and many of us.

In the event that something else will trigger a dramatic and sudden change in political fortunes, guess who will do the groundwork the day after without skipping more than just one heartbeat.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Why Gawad Kalinga May Not Be Enough

By: Harvey S. Keh


In one of my interviews with ABS-CBN, the news reporter asked me, despite all the scandals and corruption (Hello Garci, 1 Billion Peso Fertilizer Scam, Irrigation Scam and 6 Billion Peso NBN-ZTE Broadband Scam) that have hounded this present administration, why do you think do majority of young Filipinos choose not to do anything about it. She further added that there seems to be no uproar from the Filipino youth and young professionals from all over the country, does that mean that we are okay with all these scandals that are mushrooming almost on a weekly basis? I asked these same questions to my students and friends and here are their answers (summarized already):


Student A: Sir Harvey, Naiinis naman talaga kami sa nangyayari pero wala naman kaming magagawa eh, estudyante lang kami at kahit sino namang ilagay sa gobyerno natin, pareho pa rin silang lahat na magnanakaw. They will only protect their own self-interests.


Student B: Sir, I'm not happy with how our country is being led by our government leaders but I think the best way I can contribute to this country is by becoming a good student, study hard, find a good job and be a good citizen in our country.


Yuppie A: I don't want to get involved in politics masyadong magulo yan kaya I'd rather just stick to doing my job well and helping my own family besides I'm already helping this country by helping send my younger siblings to school.


Yuppie B: I was part of EDSA II and actually took helped organize the concerts at the EDSA Shrine but as much as I'm very frustrated with how this government is being run, I am no longer convinced that political engagement is the way to go for our country. I would rather focus my energies and resources to helping NGOs and Foundations like Gawad Kalinga and Pathways.


Reflecting upon these answers which I also often receive from the emails Filipinos here and abroad send me, I believe that their answers are all valid and I respect them although I don't totally agree with all of them. Allow me to share with you what I think on each of these answers:


Student A's answer is typical of a person who is disgruntled with what is happening to our country but who apparently feels helpless about the situation. When I receive this kind of an answer from people and my students, I tell them about what they can do and organizations they can join like Team RP but when they are invited to take part in activities that aim to promote good governance and greater transparency in our government, they fail to join and act. Sad but true, many Filipinos just love to criticize and point out what is wrong with our leaders but when they are given an opportunity to act about these pressing issues, they refuse to make time and move out of their comfort zone.


Student B's answer is for me a selfish answer, yes, I believe that a student's main and foremost responsibility is to study hard and finish education but what about our own responsibility as citizens of this country? In a utopian society, this answer would have been okay but in our present situation as a country in crisis where the gap between the rich and the poor continue to grow and where more than 20 Million Filipino Families grow hungry each day, this is no longer acceptable especially for students and young professionals who study at the top universities and who come from the middle to upper class of our society. This answer is an easy cop out and it's selfish because at the end of the day, just by confining yourself to you own life won't help our country as much as it will help you.


Yuppie A and B's answer is all well and good since I admire them for continuing to work hard to provide for their families while at the same time continue to get involved with volunteer work for Gawad Kalinga and Pathways to Higher Education. I admit that I was like Yuppie A and B who just confined myself to working towards helping poor but deserving students go to college and finish their education but I realized that this isn't enough. I realized that if we are able to reform our government institutions and leadership then there won't be a need for organizations like Gawad Kalinga and Pathways. We need to realize that in order for us to help uplift the lives of the poor we need to attack the problem at its roots and that is the inability of our government systems to provide these basic services to them. Isn't the National Housing Authority supposed to be the one to help provide adequate shelter to every Filipino family? Isn't it the Department of Education's job to assist every Filipino child gain access to quality education? A recent study by the World Bank has said that more than 30 Billion Pesos goes to Corruption every year. Imagine if we are able to work together and pressure government into being more transparent and accountable towards curbing corruption then we would have more resources to provide housing for every poor family, irrigation and fertilizers to farmers (which would help alleviate our growing food crisis), higher salaries for our public school teachers, enough textbooks for our students and access to quality healthcare for every Filipino. Working for and helping Gawad Kalinga, Pathways and other non-profit organizations are very much needed in our society today but let us also not forget that unless we work hard towards fighting for and institutionalizing credible and lasting reforms in our government and its leaders, then we will always have to do the fire-fighting because we have failed to solve the cause of the fire.

In summary, what I would like to share with all of you are the following:

a.) We deserve the country that we have. If we want a prosperous and just country, then we should all work hard towards it. If you look at the history of South Korea and Singapore, they were able to turn their country around in less than 30 years, I believe we can do it in less time and do it even better if every Filipino will just care enough to go out of his or her way to help push for reforms in our government. As the saying goes, Walang makakatulong sa Pilipino kundi kapwa Pilipino rin.

b.) Genuine Hope of this country does not lie on our government and church leaders and especially not in the ruling elite and oligarchs, it rests in each one of us. As I have always said, every Filipino whether you live here or abroad can complain about the rampant corruption and problems that is present in our government but after the complaining have you asked yourself, what will you do about it? Are you willing to sacrifice some of your time and resources to making yourself heard by our government leaders? If we want change in our country, we need to change ourselves, change starts with each one of us. We need to stop making excuses about why we cannot act and why we cannot take part in actions that will reform our present government systems.

c.) If our government and its leaders were doing their job effectively then there wouldn't be a need for a Gawad Kalinga or a Pathways. I support and firmly believe in Gawad Kalinga, Pathways and other non-profit organizations that are working hard to deliver basic services to the poorest of the poor in our country but don't you think it's also time that we start holding government accountable to these basic services that they have failed to provide our people? Of course it will be harder to do this and it may take a longer period of time but if we are able to institutionalize these reforms then we will be able to make our government more efficient and effective and in the end we will be able to help not just seven thousand but seven million Filipino families.

I am not calling for another People Power Revolution nor am I asking for our President's outright resignation. I'm not also saying that people should quit supporting and volunteering for Gawad Kalinga and Pathways, in fact, I believe that we should continue to support these very laudable and inspiring initiatives. All I'm saying is that these efforts can only yield lasting benefits for the poor and the powerless if all of us would be more involved in activities and movements that would push for greater Truth, Accountability and Reform in our government because in these times of crisis, despair and growing hopelessness in our country, the poor can't wait and Gawad Kalinga may not be enough.

If by some chance you were moved to act by this email and want to join us in pushing for genuine and lasting reforms in our government, please let me know by sending an email to harveykeh@gmail.com

Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government. Harvey as a Filipino social entrepreneur has co-founded Pathways to Higher Education-Philippines and AHON Foundation, both these organizations help in promoting access to quality education for every Filipino child. Aside from this, he is also Chairman of Team RP, a youth-led organization which is part of the BUSINA movement that promotes Truth, Accountability and Reform in our government.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Why we're retrograding instead of advancing

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
Thursday, April 3, 2008

We are a nation trying to go north (a term used to describe prosperous nations) but we don't realize that we're really headed in the opposite direction.

We're saddled with loser mindsets that are either illogical or way off the mark which can only bring us deeper into despair. We keep looking for salvation while pursuing the wrong solutions.

Many times in past elections, our countrymen opted to vote for the "lesser evil" and look at what we got. We also want to be rid of the oligarchy but when a good candidate boldly runs for public office sans support from the oligarchs, we dismiss that candidate as a loser and refuse to support him. Are we surprised at the present crop of leaders who now run our country?

Among these many loser mindsets that plague us is our belief that economic progress follows the massive influx of foreign investments. We keep hearing this from our misdirected government. Little do they realize that this so-called solution to our economic woes only puts the cart before the horse.

Most people also tend to associate poverty alleviation with the mere provision of better paying jobs to the needy, a matter of putting more pesos and centavos in the pockets of the poor. It is not.

Put more money in the hands of the poor without first addressing the lack of education and values that make them poor and there is the greater probability that they will not exit their family's generation after generation cycle of poverty.

What separates the rich from the poor is what they know and how they react to situations in life. The gold in the bank vaults of the rich and the coins in the pockets of the poor are mere manifestations of that difference in knowledge, values and attitude.

The fight to eradicate poverty is more of transformation through education and values formation and less of dole outs. The first and most important phase is to transform the poor who are many into productive consumers, meaning develop the poor to form a substantial market which then will convince investors to put their money in Philippine ventures.

Most Filipinos do not realize that the alleviation of poverty in our country is the key to spurring the economy to grow. The investments are only the second phase of the economic solution. Alleviate poverty and investments will pour into the country, not the other way around.

Of the 84 million or so Filipinos, easily 40 million are living below the poverty line, maybe more these days. That means that about 40 million Filipinos cannot afford 80% of the products that middle class and lower middle class household members can buy.

That is a lot of market that is undeveloped and untapped — food, durable goods, services, housing, construction and so forth. That is a lot of manufacturing that can be setup if those 40 million can only afford to buy more products. If we have 84 million Filipinos who can each afford to purchase about P30,000 worth of products a year — that would be the best incentive to foreign investors.

Instead, what is happening is that we have less and less purchasing power to offer an investor because of the way our economy continues to deteriorate. That is not to understate the effects of rampant graft and corruption that also drives investors away from our shores.

The over 40 million of Filipinos who cannot afford the basic necessities in life are also unable to share in the national tax burden. We thus enter a vicious cycle — the few who can pay taxes have to pay more so that government can function and allow basic services to be maintained. This opens us up to a situation that discourages foreign investments.

Foreign investors enter a country to sell goods or services there, not to pay high taxes. In fact, countries who are wooing foreign investors are offering tax incentives.

The biggest investment impediment that our poverty situation creates is the prospect of a social explosion. When too many people are brutalized and dehumanized by poverty, the country encounters periods of instability and disorder. The higher our country rates in political risk, the lesser our chances of getting foreign investments. Investors are characterized as the easiest people to scare.

Investors do not come to our shores with the objective of eradicating poverty — that is only in their public relations mission statement — but with the objective of selling their goods and making a profit.

We have enough Filipinos with the money who can invest in businesses that will address poverty. The loot alone that our plunderers have stashed away overseas can easily fund businesses that can address the poverty problem.

What we need is for those who corner the national wealth to bridge the wealth gap — to actively invest in businesses here (not deposit their loot overseas) that will uplift the poor. It is only after we bridge our wealth gap when we can hope to attract foreign investors.

Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: macesposo@yahoo.com and www.chairwrecker.com

Rice, Church And State

GLIMPSES

Jose Ma. Montelibano

Several times in the last two years, I have written about the shameful situation of hunger that pervades and persists in a Christian and most fertile land. Reports about hunger and its impact on the population are regularly published by SWS (Social Weather Station), and I am so thankful that someone, anyone, thinks that hunger is important enough to be consistently tracked and publicly reported.

In my articles, I had tried to raise awareness and sympathy for the tens of millions of Filipinos who are constantly threatened by hunger and for the close to one and a half million who do actually experience involuntary hunger. I must admit that few respond actively to mitigate hunger, with national government being the most aggressive and everyone else strangely quiet. It dawned on me that the poor and the hungry had become so familiar a blight in our landscape that their misery does not scandalize our consciences anymore.

The lack of collective concern for the constant threat of hunger that confronts a poor family daily has shocked and saddened me no end. And since the advocacy work I had chosen to fully commit to at this stage of my life connects me to the grim reality of poverty and hunger everyday, I cannot avoid or lessen the personal shock and sadness. If it were not for the growing number of Filipinos here or abroad who show more concern for the poor, and my less than youthful age, I would most probably take more radical steps to destroy an environment that has grown callous to the suffering of so many.

I have not spared the Catholic Church or Christians of any denomination from admonition because of the tepid or complete lack of manifest concern for the hungry. For too long as an aware citizen and Christian, I have observed religious attention focused on everything else but where it is most needed. I know that there is a social action arm in most religious organizations, but I cannot but accept that intervention against hunger in particular and poverty in general is nowhere proportionate to the actual need of the poor and hungry and the demands of the Christian faith.

When I recall the religious teachings I have experienced, including two years in a Catholic seminary, I have this sense of overload. Perhaps, I have listened to too many sermons (now called homilies) from the pulpit and too many lectures from religious personalities. Then, readings from Scriptures add on massively to religious matters that accompany a personal journey of spirituality. This preponderance of religious information, however, matches badly against actual reality. The Christian path starts with the mission of Jesus, a mission with primary focus on the poor, the weak, the oppressed and the sick. It ends on judgment day when the same Jesus selects those who will enter His kingdom and rejects those who will not - based on the same criteria that His Father had set for Him in His mission - feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, comforting the sick. And in between the beginning and the end is the constant exhortation to love God and to love neighbor.

Filipino Christians have fared badly in their journey of faith if the collective expression and action against poverty and hunger is basis to assess Christian behavior. I have been monitoring visible responses to the state of massive poverty and the daily threat of hunger to the poor. I have seen small but determined efforts by obscure religious orders, especially of nuns, to go to the heart of the impoverished areas and give their all to succor the poor. I have seen other small efforts translating to feeding programs, mostly directed to children. But I have seen nothing from the religious sector that can make collective and proportionate difference to the kind of poverty that blights a Christian nation.

Thank God, then, for the rice and food crisis that looms. Divine intervention suddenly awakens a nation, its government, its corporations, its churches - including the Catholic Church. What puny exhortations from writers like me cannot do, the mere threat of a rice shortage sends everyone in a frenzy. Now, everyone is talking about rice, its supply and its price, and food in general. It is like magic - from apathy to panic!

Of course, the panic is not yet caused by deep concern and sympathy for the poor. It is a political reaction to a crisis that can collapse governments and send the poor to riot and loot. And despite the criticisms of many against a Catholic Church that does not know whether its bishops will defend or attack the Arroyo administration, because some defend and others attack, the Church is the first beneficiary of a government move to sell cheaper rice through the parishes. Poor Filipinos will now troop to parish centers to buy subsidized rice even when they do not troop to churches in the same number every Sunday. There can hardly be a more effective move to cement relationships between the Catholic Church and the political leadership of a nation characterized, in the words of Church leaders, by a "cancer of corruption."

The Church and the State are not strange bedfellows. They have cooperated, connived and colluded in the Philippines for centuries. They have remained in control together despite intermittent spats. The fruits of their labor are shared, not so much in genuine generosity, but in a natural division of spoils. Around them, there is scandalous poverty of the landless, the homeless and the hungry, millions of Filipino families without rights to land, without resources for decent homes, without capacity to grow their food - or money to buy enough of it. And in the center of this sea of misery that has defied the efforts of perennial do-gooders are the government of the Philippines and and the Catholic Church.

A rice and food crisis is a singular opportunity to learn our lessons, why we have shortages and why Filipinos are forced to go hungry. The state and the church can together seek to repair the damage to people and faith in a humble, learning manner. Both have as their noble quest the common good, and both can try harder, better to attain elusive success. Or, being partners in distributing rice subsidized by people's money, not money from church coffers or Malacañang, can earn state and church temporary goodwill from desperate Filipinos and cover up the very shortcomings, or wrongdoings, that cause poverty in the first place.

The crisis is only in its emergent stage. Much more challenges will unfold, and whatever our personal, political, social and religious persuasions, let us all join hands in helping our poor and showing them that they will never be left alone again. ***