Saturday, October 23, 2010

On plagiarism

View from Malcolm
By Atty. Harry Roque Jr.
Manila Standard Today

The Supreme Court last week promulgated a decision that Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno described in her dissent as one that would create “unimaginable problems for the academia” on how they would hence discipline students and researchers for plagiarism. Justice Sereno was particularly concerned with the majority’s decisions that plagiarism requires intent, which according to her, “stand against overwhelming convention on what plagiarism is.”

The lady Justice’s dissent was a directed at a per curiam (meaning the writer does not wish to be identified) majority opinion of the Supreme Court which dismissed our complaint against Justice Mariano Del Castillo for plagiarizing at least three works of foreign authors published by two leading international law journals and a book published by Cambridge University Press.

The majority dismissed the complaint after it accepted the explanation of Justice Del Castillo’s researcher that the failure to attribute was not intentional. In the words of the court: x x x “Unless amply explained, the above lifting from the works of Ellis and Criddle-Descent could be construed as plagiarism. But one of Justice Del Castillo’s researchers, a court-employed attorney, explained how she accidentally deleted the attributions, originally planted in the beginning drafts of her report to him, which report eventually became the working draft of the decision.. x x x

She electronically “cut” relevant materials from books and journals in the Westlaw Web site and “pasted” these to a “main manuscript” in her computer that contained the issues for discussion in her proposed report to the Justice. She used the Microsoft Word program. Later, after she decided on the general shape that her report would take, she began pruning from that manuscript those materials that did not fit, changing the positions in the general scheme of those that remained, and adding and deleting paragraphs, sentences, and words as her continuing discussions with Justice Del Castillo, her chief editor, demanded. x x x as it happened, in the course of editing and cleaning up her draft, the researcher accidentally deleted the attributions. x x x Given the operational properties of the Microsoft program in use by the Court, the accidental decapitation of attributions to sources of research materials is not remote.”

In the absence of an intent to plagiarize, the court could not rule that there was in fact plagiarism: “plagiarism presupposes intent and a deliberate, conscious effort to steal another’s work and pass it off as one’s own.”
Justice Sereno was, however, not convinced: “What is black can be called ‘white’ but it cannot turn white by the mere calling. The unfortunate ruling of the majority Decision that no plagiarism was committed stems from its failure to distinguish between the determination of the objective, factual existence of plagiarism in the Vinuya decision and the determination of the liability that results from a finding of plagiarism. Specifically, it made ‘malicious intent’, which heretofore had not been relevant to a finding of plagiarism, an essential element.”

The dissenting opinion then adopted the matrix that was included in our supplemental motion as evidence of plagiarism in the text of the decision itself. She then painstakingly enumerated what were instances of plagiarism.

Anent the defense that the “limited operational properties” of MS Word was somehow contributory to the omission of the court researcher, the lady justice had this to say:

“First, for a decision to make full attribution for lifted passages, one starts with block quote formatting or the ‘keying-in’ of quotation marks at the beginning and at the end of the lifted passages. These keyed-in computer commands are not easily accidentally deleted, but should be deliberately inputted where there is an intention to quote and attribute.

Second, a beginning acknowledgment or similar introduction to a lengthy passage copied verbatim should not be accidentally deleted; it must be deliberately placed.

Third, the above explanation regarding the lines quoted in A.1 in the majority Decision may touch upon what happened in incident A.1, but it does not relate to what happened in incidents B.1 to C.6 of the Tables of Comparison, which are wholesale lifting of excerpts from both the body and the footnotes of the referenced works, without any attribution, specifically to the works of Criddle & Fox-Decent and of Ellis. While mention was made of Tams’s work, no mention was made at all of the works of Criddle & Fox-Decent and of Ellis even though the discussions and analyses in their discursive footnotes were used wholesale.

Fourth, the researcher’s explanation regarding the accidental deletion of 2 footnotes out of 119 does not plausibly account for the extensive amount of text used with little to no modifications from the works of Criddle & Fox-Decent and Ellis. As was presented in Tables B and C, copied text occurs in 22 instances in pages 27, 31, and 32 of the Vinuya decision. All these instances of non-attribution cannot be remedied by the reinstatement of 2 footnotes.

Fifth, the mention of Tams in ‘See Tams, Enforcing Obligations Erga omnes in International Law (2005)’ in footnote 69 of the Vinuya decision was not a mere insufficiency in ‘clarity of writing,’ but a case of plagiarism under the rule prohibiting the use of misleading citations.

Sixth, the analogy that was chosen —that of a carpenter who discards materials that do not fit into his carpentry work—is completely inappropriate. In the scheme of ‘cutting and pasting’ that the researcher did during her work, it is standard practice for the original sources of the downloaded and copied materials to be regarded as integral parts of the excerpts, not extraneous or ill-fitting. A computer-generated document can accommodate as many quotation marks, explanatory notes, citations and attributions as the writer desires and in multiple places. The limits of most desktop computer drives, even those used in the Supreme Court, are in magnitudes of gigabytes and megabytes, capable of accommodating 200 to 400 books per gigabyte (with each book just consuming roughly 3 to 5 megabytes). The addition of a footnote to the amount of file space taken up by an electronic document is practically negligible. It is not as if the researcher lacked any electronic space; there was simply no attribution.

Seventh, contrary to what is implied in the statement on Microsoft Word’s lack of an alarm and in paragraph 4 of the decretal portion of the majority Decision, no software exists that will automatically type in quotation marks at the beginning and end of a passage that was lifted verbatim; these attribution marks must be made with deliberate effort by the human researcher. Nor can a software program generate the necessary citations without input from the human researcher. Neither is there a built-in software alarm that sounds every time attribution marks or citations are deleted. The best guarantee for works of high intellectual integrity is consistent, ethical practice in the writing habits of court researchers and judges. All lawyers are supposed to be knowledgeable on the standard of ethical practice, if they took their legal research courses in law school and their undergraduate research courses seriously. This knowledge can be easily picked up and
updated by browsing many free online sources on the subject of writing standards. In addition, available on the market are software programs that can detect some, but not all, similarities in the phraseology of a work-in-progress with those in selected published materials; however, these programs cannot supply the citations on their own. Technology can help diminish instances of plagiarism by allowing supervisors of researchers to make partial audits of their work, but it is still the human writer who must decide to give the proper attribution and act on this decision.”

I have not received a copy of either the majority nor the dissenting opinion. Chances are we will file a motion for reconsideration, precluding me hence from commenting on either opinion. This much I will say: plagiarism comes from the same root word as kidnapping. It is not just morally wrong, it is in fact criminal. It cannot and should not be treated lightly, nor casually. As an educator, I can only concur in the fears expressed by Justice Sereno that the decision will have disastrous effects for the academe. Unless challenged, the majority opinion and the “MS Word” defense may hence be invoked by dishonest students in justifying plagiarism.

In any event, while the Supreme Court’s decision is final on purely legal issues, its decisions on a charge of plagiarism, unprecedented in our jurisdiction, is subject to challenge particularly by those who have the most interest in preventing it: the academe. Surely, the decision cannot remove the perception by at least three respected international scholars that their works were in fact plagiarized and twisted. And yes, lest we forget, Vinuya is not just about plagiarism. Its primarily about at least 60 women who were repeatedly raped during World War II and who, according to the majority opinion of the Court, have no further remedies under our laws.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chickboy, Chicks, and Chikinini

Balitang Kutsero
By Perry Diaz 

Within a week, President Beningo “P-Noy” Aquino III’s love life has dominated the “chizmis” crowd after it was revealed that he broke up with his girlfriend, Shalani Soledad. Indeed, three young “chicks” – Trish, Barbie, and Liz — were rumored to having a love affair with P-Noy. If that were true, P-Noy would qualify as a playboy or “chickboy.” Yup! And I wouldn’t be surprised if some “chizmosas” would swear that they have seen P-Noy with a “chikinini” (hickey). Hmm… Makes one wonder if that “chikinini” was the cause of his breakup with Shalani.

Meanwhile, Shalani denies the “chizmis” that she has been dating the Mayor of Valenzuela. Hey, it’s a free country. Besides, the Mayor is younger than P-Noy. As some women would say, “Age really matters.” Looking at the pictures of his young “chicks,” P-Noy seems to agree as well.

While P-Noy can get rid of any of his “chicks” like flicking a cigarette butt into the trash can, he’s stuck to his longtime friend, mentor, and “shooting buddy,” Rico E. Puno. A lot of people have advised P-Noy to fire Rico as Undersecretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for complicity in the August 23 bloody hostage-taking crisis and the jueteng payola scandal in which he was alleged to be receiving P8 million a month from jueteng lords. 

“No way,” says P-Noy. Unlike his expendable “chicks,” Rico is indispensible and untouchable. Reminds me of England’s King Edward VIII who gave up his crown for the love of a divorcee. Hey, that’s what true love – or in the case of P-Noy, true friendship — is all about.

Latest Manila sport… After P-Noy split with Shalani, there’s a new sport in Manila called “Spot-Noy-on-a-date.” It started when P-Noy was seen at Nuvo Restaurant and Wine Bar with a pretty young woman who was rumored to be Barbie Palagos. But Nuvo’s manager claimed that it was not Barbie, “The Barbie Palagos seen with the President that night was not the same woman in Facebook. The Barbie in Facebook was younger than the one who dated Mr. Aquino, and she was 25 to 27 years old.” Hey, does it matter whether it’s Barbie or not as long as  P-Noy is satisfied with his date?

P-Noy and his mystery date “Satisfaction” survey… In the recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) “satisfaction” survey conducted from September 24-27, 2010, the National Administration of P-Noy took a beating when 41% of the respondents said they were dissatisfied with his National Administration, particularly on the issue of “Resolving the hostage-taking of Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza,” while 36% said they’re satisfied and 21% were undecided.

Perhaps, it’s time for P-Noy to let go of his “shooting buddy” and concentrate on his “chicks.” “No way!” Oops, sorry… I forgot, untouchable pala si Rico.

P-Noy’s whipping boy… Poor Prisco Nilo, P-Noy fired him two months ago as weather bureau chief for providing him with wrong weather forecast. Sad to say, P-Noy is still whipping Nilo today. He said that Nilo is “not owning up to his mistakes during his watch.” Come on Mr. President, Nilo’s mistake did not cause people to die while the incompetence of your “shooting buddy” may have contributed to the death of eight Chinese tourists.

Wasted American taxpayers’ money… A news report says, “The United States government has allotted more than $1.5 million worth of training and equipment assistance for the Philippine National Police (PNP) in order to improve the organization’s anti-kidnapping and hostage negotiation capability following the August 23 hostage fiasco in Manila.” What a waste of American taxpayers’ money. All P-Noy had to do was fire his “shooting buddy” and appoint a qualified and competent Undersecretary to oversee the PNP.

New Jueteng guidelines… A news report says, “The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) sent Friday the new guidelines on the controversial Small Town Lottery (STL) to Malacañang to inform President Aquino on the steps being crafted by the PCSO as a campaign against ‘jueteng.’ PCSO chairperson Margie P. Juico said she believes it is better the new STL guidelines to get the approval of Malacañang before they are finalized and implemented.” I wouldn’t be surprised if P-Noy would ask his “shooting buddy” to “review and revise” the new jueteng guidelines. Who knows, his “shooting buddy” might have some vested interest in it.

By the way, jueteng whistleblower Sandra Cam revealed a few weeks ago that certain PCSO officials were getting mini-Cooper cars from Pampanga jueteng lords. Is that all they’re getting? Heck, the Pampanga jueteng operations are generating P33 million a day! And all they’re getting are those funny looking midget cars?

Gloria junketing to South Korea… A news report says, “Former President and now Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will lead allies from Pampanga in a 6-day trip to South Korea. Arroyo will be joined in her trip by her political ally, Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda. Pineda and her husband, Rodolfo ‘Bong’ Pineda, were recently invited to a Senate inquiry on jueteng after being accused of being jueteng operators in Pampanga.” Hmm… Don’t be surprised if the South Koreans will start jueteng in their country pretty soon. Yup, it looks like La Cuarta Nostra is going international, folks. Like they say in Juetengland, “Cuarta na! Cuarta na!”

By the way, Gov. Lilia Pineda insists she is not a “jueteng lord.” Yup, she’s right. She’s not a “jueteng lord,” she’s a “jueteng queen.”

Dyok of the Week… A news report says, “Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo on Thursday assured that it has been clear with Rico Puno, a shooting buddy of President Benigno Aquino III, that he is not the boss in the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).” Robredo said, “I’m Rico Puno’s boss.” Hehehe…


Friday, October 15, 2010

Hillary Clinton pays tribute to Filipinos

NEW YORK, United States—State Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton is probably the highest American official who has an intimate knowledge of Filipinos, their dreams, and aspirations.

This was manifest during the signing of the $434-million US Millennium Corp. grant that she and visiting President Benigno Aquino III presided over last September 22 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

Speaking extemporaneously, Clinton—who speaks openly of her close relationship with Filipinos, especially during her term as senator representing New York—gave a glimpse of how much she knows about the Filipino psyche.

She said:

"Millions of people in the Philippines have left their native land for a better opportunity. They love the Philippines, I know because I know many of them. They try to go home when they can afford to do it. They retire back to the Philippines. They want to be sure their children and grandchildren are raised in the Philippines."

Then Clinton, dressed in an elegant indigo blue suit, addressing the new Philippine president continued:
"We hope that, Mr. President, the people of your country will be able to make a good living in their own country. And in order to do that, there must be a partnership that creates the conditions for economic opportunity."

But what endeared the charming state secretary to the Filipinos in the audience were these words:
"I know how smart the Filipino people are. I know how hard they work. I’m not sure there’s any group of people anywhere in the world that work harder than Filipinos.

"But let’s be very honest here. Too many of them feel that they cannot progress in their own country. Too many of them feel that the elite in business and politics basically call the shots, and there’s not much room for someone who’s hardworking, but not connected. Too many of them believe that even if they get the best education they can, that there won’t be an opportunity for them, and so they take that education and help build someone else’s economy, very often here in the United States."

This writer observed that as Mrs. Clinton made her way to the stage where the signing ceremony was to take place, she hugged some Filipino friends in the audience. And on her way out, she blew kisses to the same groups of Filipino American friends and constituents from New York state.

Not too many top diplomatic officials would risk speaking these strong words in an official function. But Hillary Clinton, because of her close relationship with the Filipino people has the inside track—and the charm and candor—to speak up.

Even the usually skeptical media people covering the event were quite impressed by the gracious top American diplomat.

Clinton's remarks—and how she delivered them with graciousness and tack—were the topic for conversation during dinner among the Philippine media people who covered the event.

Here is a powerful US official who knows and understands the dreams and aspirations of Filipinos, especially the three million Pinoys who have chosen the United States as their adopted country. For most of us who toil in the "land of milk and honey," it's really nice to know that Hillary Clinton is there for us.
Jun Medina, FilAm Star

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Is it time for population control?

by Perry Diaz

President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III ignited a firestorm during his six-day working visit in the U.S. when he announced that he might give assistance to Filipino couples needing contraceptives to limit the number of their children. Instantly, Catholic Church leaders unleashed an attack accusing him of “selling out the Filipino soul” for American dollars and threatened him with excommunication if he went ahead with his plan. Unfazed, P-Noy stood his ground.                       
However, upon his return from the U.S., he met with Church leaders and softened his stand acknowledging that “the State is not empowered by any law to dictate upon any couple how they should plan their family.” But he emphasized that the government “has an obligation to educate all its citizens as to their choices,” although he insisted that his stand has not changed.

Pro-life vs. pro-choice
In reaction to P-Noy’s hardline position, Bishop Nereo Odchimar, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said: “Well, being the President of all, you must consider the position of the Catholic Church because we are approaching this issue from the moral aspect, the morality, because life is at stake, the life of the unborn. For abortion is a grave crime, as a matter of fact, excommunication is attached to those who commit abortion … that is a violation of God’s commandment.” He further stated: “I maintained that the traditional position of the Church is that human life starts at conception and not at implantation. Some contraceptive pills and devices are abortifacient. Any completed act to expel or kill the fertilized ovum is considered to be an act of abortion.”

Thus, the battle line was drawn between the pro-life Catholic Church and the seemingly pro-choice stand of P-Noy.

Rapid Population Growth
But the bigger issue that confronts the world in general and the Philippines in particular is “overpopulation.” It’s a daunting challenge for the Philippine government because the country’s economic growth cannot keep pace with its rapid population growth; thus, putting more people into poverty year after year.

In 1903 when the first census was taken, the population of the Philippines was 7,635,426. Thirty-six years later in 1939, the population more than doubled to 16,000,303. Twenty-nine years later in 1960, the population increased by 169 % to 27,087,685. Forty-seven years later in 2007, the population increased by a staggering 327 % to 88,574,614. This year, 2010, the population is estimated at 97,976,603, an increase of more than 11% in three years or 3.67 % per year. At this rate, the population would be 500 million in 50 years, 1.2 billion in 80 years, and 2.2 billion in 100 years!

Compared to other Asian countries, the Philippines has one of the highest – if not the highest – population growth. China’s population growth is 0.66% while Japan’s is 0.19%, one of the lowest in the world. It is interesting to note that China and Japan are, respectively, the world’s second and third economic powers. The number one economic power is still the United States with a population growth of 0.98%. However, it would be much lower than that if immigration were not included.

It can then be surmised that economic growth is correlated to population growth. In essence, economic growth would increase the per capita income much faster if the population remained constant. Conversely, if economic growth were not at par with the population growth, the per capita income would decrease.

Family planning
The Philippines – one of the poorest countries in Asia – would always be in a “catch-up” situation if nothing were done to control its rapid population growth. The Reproductive Health bill that’s filed in Congress would address some of the issues in formulating policies on family planning. But the Catholic Church considers “family planning” as a vehicle for birth control and therefore an instrument of abortion.

The Church has made it crystal clear that it is opposed to the “use of artificial means of contraceptives as a mode of family planning because it is antilife and antifamily.” However, P-Noy was steadfast in his position, that is: “The intervention of contraceptives takes place before the conception of human life, that is before a human fetus is formed. Therefore, according to this view, there is no human life aborted by contraceptives.”

Zero Population Growth
With the world population now past the 7-billion mark, a lot of industrialized countries have adopted Zero Population Growth (ZPG). According to Wikipedia, “ZPG (also called the replacement level of fertility) is a condition of demographic balance where the number of people in a specified population neither grows nor declines, considered as a social aim. According to some, zero population growth is the ideal towards which countries and the whole world should aspire in the interests of accomplishing long-term environmental sustainability.” In other words, ZPG is achieved when the birth rate equals the death rate.

Take the case of China whose 1.3-billion population requires an aggressive program – initiated in the early 1970s — to control its growth. China’s goal is to achieve ZPG by 2030. The key to the success of China’s family planning policy is due to the following: (1) Late marriages and late childbearing are encouraged; and (2) Urban couples are limited to one child and rural couples to two children.

The question is: Will China’s family planning model work in the Philippines? There is a big societal difference between the two countries. A communist government runs China where religion is suppressed while the Philippines is a nation of zealously religious people. In the Philippines, a strong resistance from the Church could doom the Reproductive Health bill. Many members of Congress have strong ties to the Church and would most likely be pressured into voting against the bill.

In the final analysis, educating the people on the virtue of family planning could be P-Noy’s most effective weapon to combat ignorance and fear of damnation. Is it time for population control?

Friday, October 8, 2010

RH Bill: Reason over dogma

By Val G. Abelgas

Above the din of emotional outbursts and threats of excommunication is an article written by a Catholic priest in the Manila Standard Today last week. In his article, “Excommunication and other non-issues,” Fr. Ranhillo Callangan Aquino called for sobriety and rationality, and demanded that the Roman Catholic Church should be ready to convince the people – Catholics and non-Catholics alike – that the use of artificial means of contraception is not acceptable.

Fr. Aquino challenged his fellow priests to “study philosophy and theology more assiduously —and to engage skeptics as well as well-intentioned men and women who do not share our faith in intellectual dialogue, and to be prepared with arguments that can win the attention and the respect of those who have no patience with, or regard for Scriptural quotations.”

Fr. Aquino went on: “If the Catholic Church rejects the reproductive health bill because artificial means of contraception will be readily available under the aegis of such a law, then it should rightly be asked: What does the Catholic Church have against artificial means of contraception? If the only response the Church can give is “Humanae Vitae” and the consistent teaching of the popes and of most (certainly not all!) bishops, then that is not good enough an argument for the public sphere.

“The legitimacy of enactment is determined by its rational acceptability to all whom the law shall govern (presuming, of course the legitimate constitution of the legislature that passed the measure). If all that the Catholic Church can offer in opposition to the reproductive health bill is supposed argument drawn from its own reading of Scripture and the tradition of its teaching, that is argument that cannot be rationally accepted by other members of the Philippine political community who do not share our credal premises.”

Fr. Aquino, however, said it is also “silly to demand of the Catholic Church that it “adjusts” its moral teaching to suit populist tastes. Moral issues are not settled by the rule of the majority—a rule that, itself, is of doubtful morality!”

Fr. Aquino said there is a need for a truly coherent presentation of the Catholic position against artificial contraception “that can meet with the approval of all of its members engaging in rational discourse as equals—whose voices are not silenced because they wear no miters on their heads! Perhaps this is the opportune time for us in the Catholic Church to revisit the matter, to take one more look at our premises and to ask about their dependability.”

The father concluded his piece with a call to reason: “Let no one then speak any more of an anachronism like excommunication and let us all get down to the business of rationality!’

It is reassuring to know that there remains a voice of reason in the Roman Catholic Church, one that is willing to challenge the centuries-old positions of the Church regarding present-day issues, one that is willing to pit reason against dogma so that the Church can keep up with the needs of the times.

The heated exchange between the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and Malacanang over President Noynoy Aquino’s presumed support of the Reproductive Health Bill that has been pending in Congress since the time of the late President Cory Aquino, has opened a Pandora’s box that the Church has dreaded for decades. After the reported threat of excommunication by the CBCP on those who would support the bill that would allow the use of contraceptives, several congressmen and senators who would otherwise not dare speak against the Church suddenly found the courage to do so.

Sen. Edgardo Angara, for instance, said the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines should start rethinking its role in modern society or else its members will abandon it.
“The interpretation of dogma is evolving. Before, there was even a papal bull on witchcraft,” Angara said. “If the church is instrumental in the number of the poor, of malnourished and uneducated children, then it is not the church of the poor,” Angara said.

The senator urged the local Roman Catholic Church to keep in step with the times instead of propagating “outdated, unprogressive ideas.” He said that if the Catholic Church confines itself to pulpit preaching and does not back this up with social action, then it will lose moral authority.

The Church cracked its whip, but very few toed the line. Instead, the RH Bill that would not move beyond the committee level suddenly found supporters in several senators, including Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago who filed her own reproductive health bill in the Senate last week, and congressmen, including Speaker Sonny Belmonte who said he supported the RH Bill.

Evidently, politicians no longer fear the Catholic backlash nor would go all out to woo the Church’s support after Aquino still won by a landslide despite defying the Church’s threat of withdrawal of support when he stood his ground in favor of the RH Bill during the campaign.

Even the Church’s hold on the Catholic faithful was put in question when thousands showed its support for tourist guide Carlos Celdran who disrupted Mass at the Manila Cathedral and decried the Church’s meddling in government affairs with regards to the RH Bill while displaying a poster that said “Damaso” in reference to the fictional Spanish friar, Padre Damaso, in Dr. Jose Rizal’s novels.

While I must condemn Celdran’s grandstanding because of its blatant disrespect for a solemn religious ceremony, I must also agree with his admonition that the bishops must respect the constitutionally mandated separation of Church and State.

The Church cannot impose on the government its belief that any kind of birth control method other than the natural method should not be allowed. The government has the responsibility, nay duty, to arrest the rapid population growth in the same manner that the Church has the responsibility to promote the spiritual well-being of its faithful according to the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church.

Obviously, the Church will not back down on its stand. On the other hand, the government must not turn its back on its responsibility to promote the general welfare of the people, which includes keeping the population within the limits of what the government can provide in terms of basic services and what the economy can support.

“East is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet” and so be it. Let the State implement a Reproductive Health Bill that’s acceptable to the people, whether they are Catholics or not, and let the Church tell its faithful to stick to the natural method of contraception and reject any other means. After all, the proposed RH Bill does not aim to impose the use of any kind of contraceptive. It only aims to inform the people of their options with regards to planning the size of their family, and to assist them once they have made their choice.

I don’t see any problem with that arrangement, unless the Church is no longer confident that its dogma cannot hold its own against reason.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Peace in America

by Tony Meloto
Las Vegas, September 24

Two weeks ago I found joy in China.

I discovered that people I sadly and wrongly judged all these years were living happily with dignity, perhaps with less freedom but with less slums and beggars because they continue to learn how to care for their country and for one another. The Chinese showed me their immense capacity to be happy because of a collective perspective for family and the needy, not leaving any one behind. They are one, moving together in the same direction. This is the measure of success or progress that I must continue to learn.

In my long life, God has shown me enough proof that he blesses those who do not neglect or abandon the poor, regardless of ideology or religion. I saw this again in the United States where I am now in the way he blesses the rich who share their wealth.

This week I found not only joy but peace in America.

I am here in Las Vegas for three days to speak about building peaceful communities in the Philippines to a group of Filipino patriots, mostly doctors, who will not simply give up on us. In their company, I found peace.
I guess I needed space away. from the hostage crisis, the jueteng scandal and all that mess and some serenity in harmony after my dismay over the persecution of the poor in our villages from some leaders of the community that I love.

I found my balance on this trip in kindred spirits from the Filipino United Network (FUN) and PEACE who invited me, in their unflinching hope for our country, despite the constant negative publicity in the news, and their unwavering faith in the GK way to end poverty through justice and peace.

Both groups took the first step to peace by transcending differences and uniting for a more cohesive and effective approach to community building and good governance. Their firm resolve to rebuild the Philippines is quite impressive when one considers that they all have the option to simply live the rest of their life in comfort.
Again they are one Filipino in love and sacrifice for the sake of our country.

Dr Philip Chua, the founder of FUN, travels to Cebu every other month to conduct free clinics and pursue his advocacy for good governance, raising substantial funds when needed like Ondoy and the Noynoy campaign.
The same thing is true with my host and convention chairman Dr. Mike Micabalo, a hale 74 who is personally building his dream village in his hometown Oroquieta – against all odds, he claims – with unconditional support from his equally committed wife Luz who stays fashionable doing charity balls at the Strip or digging septic tanks in the barrio.

There is something about compassion with passion and all its positive energy that keeps the wrinkles away. They are never too busy, or too tired or too far to help or to give.

Dr Rina Galvez jetted in from Chicago to find support for the clinic she is building in the two lots she donated in Caloocan City where one GK village has already been built and another one with 40 homes being constructed with funds from popular TV personalities Julius and Tintin Babao.

These patriots are like pit-bulls that won’t let go once they bite on a cause that captures their heart.
They want to help us build more homes for the homeless when their own properties here have dropped significantly in value due to the sub-prime fiasco in America.

They want to build more water systems for the thirsty in our country( 500 wells by PEACE to-date, based on the latest report by foundation president Dr Dan Santos) when some of their own wells have gone dry with the fall in income and the long dry spell in the economy.

They want to do more medical missions in our remote towns and poorer provinces when the state of health care in America is uncertain, affecting those who still practice. This is really thinking beyond self-interest and doing authentic mission to do good rather than just find a noble excuse to play golf. In truth, many may have started out this way only to discover the greater joy in healing than teeing off, especially when there is no financial payback and the income is mostly psychic and a first class ticket to heaven.

They have discovered peace at a time of uncertainty by being certain about the things that really matter in this life.

They have simplified their once lavish lifestyle, something which was justifiably claimed as a prize before for all the hard work on their road to success. Now they have less extravagant balls and gowns in order for them to clothe the naked, and less wasteful consumption to feed the hungry. They are, happily for us and for them, on their path to greatness.

A moving force in PEACE and FUN, Dr Sarie Laserna, who does not take no for an answer when she invites which brought me this time to Las Vegas post haste, showed me her unadorned wrists as she proudly proclaimed “look Tony no blings for me and my friends so we can send more Kalinga scholars from public schools to college.” Together with determined cohorts from FUN, Fe Cacdac and Aly Ragasa, they hounded fellow doctors, family and friends to fund 76 homes and part of the 4 floor multipurpose building in Taguig. Hopefully, Tiffanys and Cartier will not hunt them down for being bad for their business.

Hope for the Philippines is high as passion for our country grows. The Philippine-building bug is spreading across America, across generations, changing mind-sets and lifestyles. Dreaming for our people is serving as a counter flow to currents of cynicism and a prop to sagging spirits as Fil-Ams wake up to the harsh realities of the American dream after 9/11, Iraq and the recession. Asians who came to America to find hope are now giving hope to America being the sector with the highest average household income -and Filipino doctors count among its top tax payers. Those who came from the east as job-seekers are now the job-givers of the west, like Boy Abay who founded the Kansas Spine Hospital in Wichita and Primo Andres who owns the heart Center in Terra Haute, indiana. I guess this is how the cookie crumbles or maybe just how the world turns. Some may call this social justice in the order of things where all God’s children are equal in worth and value and must be provided equal opportunity for a life of dignity anywhere in the planet.

This is the source of my peace.

I am certain that poverty in our beloved land will end when we stop fighting one another and start to care and share because the squatters in the slums of Manila are made of the same cultural DNA and designed by the same wonderful God as the most successful Filipinos abroad.

If Filipinos can turn around their fortune in America they can also turn around the lives of the less fortunate in the Philippines by helping us create and spread wealth out of a sense of fairness to benefit all.

Social justice is the missing platform for prosperity and lasting peace in our country.

This is what we are fighting for – an even playing field where the genius of the poor can be unlocked and their potential for excellence can be nurtured to prosper a nation.

This is our field of dreams, the 2000 GK villages that are rising and many more intentional communities that will stand because we care.

This is what attracts top corporations, foreign universities and Fil-Ams to Gawad Kalinga – our effort to create a massive nationwide network of empowered communities for productivity, wealth creation and good citizenship similar to the communes of China and the kibbutz of Israel – built on our values and aspirations as a nation.

This is how the game of nation-building has played out for us – just build with courage and integrity and they will come.

As I look from this hillside veranda of my host at the breathtaking view of the bright lights of the Las Vegas skyline under a full moon and the cool breeze of an Autumn night, I see clearly with my heart a vision of my country emerging from the darkness of poverty and corruption, of dredged rivers and re-forested mountains, of transformed slums and abundant fields. I see the best Filipinos caring for the least, the strong hand-holding the weak and the corrupt buried in the fields. The corrupt will die and corruption will end soon if we decide now not to breed new ones. All evil will pass if we decide to have less for ourselves and simply do more good to others.

I know our time to shine is now. I can feel the expectant mood even here in America.

My new President, elected in the most honest and peaceful election in memory, is in New York in his first appearance on the global stage as head of state. He carries with him an 88 percent trust rating from his people, which is his highest credential to attract visitors and investors to our shores.

For country and honor, Filipinos in America know that this is not a moment to be wasted and an opportunity to be squandered. They also want a President with a clean slate like PNoy. They know he is untried in the old dirty tricks of politics, raw to stale ideas that did not work for us, and inexperienced in cheating because he never had a wife.

America is fascinated and curious about PNoy because he just might be the game-changer that the Philippines needs.

Wherever I go they ask me what we can do to help him. Frankly I don’t know where to begin. I just keep reminding myself and my audience who care to listen that to have a great President we must all strive to be great citizens ourselves, that lasting and effective change must always begin with us first.

*Let’s keep him honest by being honest ourselves. Not bribing the MMDA, not smuggling at customs, paying the right taxes, using the right scales and not cheating the wife. For religious leaders, by being faithful to Christ and not depriving the poor with the tithes.

*Let’s help him succeed with action and inspiration, not with cynicism and incessant criticism. Monitor the behavior of our government officials, report DPWH projects that are overpriced, teach patriotic education in the classroom, preach the practice of social justice and good citizenship in the pulpit, constantly honor what is good in our country.

*Let’s boost the local economy by starting Filipino businesses and patronizing brands that help the poor and protect the environment.

*Let’s pray for the President’s protection and those who are honest around him because dismantling vested interests and institutionalized corrupt practices is a serious and dangerous game.

Tonight at the dinner of FUN, I was enthralled together with the crowd listening to the young Comelec Commissioner who fought for automation and made it work, giving our President an overwhelming mandate without doubt or question in the fastest and most credible election known to many of us. Atty Gregorio Larrazabal is in Vegas as a bike enthusiast, a friend who donated his prized bike for auction at the GK Hope Ball on October 8 at the Manila Pen. He is serving out the term of controversial former Commissioner Garcillano. From Garci to Larrzi – what a contrast. What is the point here? Miracles do happen, we can have honest election and an honest government – hope is definitely in the air. (Thanks Louie for looking after our new hero and for being a hero yourself for keeping the faith).

Tomorrow, I fly back to Manila as the President meets with West Coast eager supporters in San Jose, California. A thick crowd of new generation Filipino Americans organized by San Diego resident Marcel Ocampo and GK USA Chairman Tony Olaes will be there at the “we are one Filipino” rally to claim their heritage, reconnect with their roots and express solidarity with a new leader that will make being Filipino a brand of honor anywhere in the world.

The new generation are finally coming to terms with the amazing reality that being Filipino in America is beautiful.

And that they also have a beautiful home and career and investment opportunities in Asia.
This is also their moment to send a profound message of peace to the rest of America: filipinos will continue to create wealth and jobs and help ease recession in America.

Filipinos can be strong and happy in America if they are one.

They can help bring peace and prosperity to the Philippines if they are one.

With these thoughts, I went back to my room to sleep in peace, eager to fly home to be with my family that I miss in the country that I love.

Friday, October 1, 2010

P-Noy’s First 100 Days

By Perry Diaz

Catapulted to the presidency on a campaign promise to eradicate corruption, President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III’s first 100 days was off to a good start with a trivial “walang wang-wang, walang tong” (no sirens, no bribes) message that made its mark with the people. With a survey taken prior to his inauguration showing an 88% trust rating on him, the populist tone and demagogic appeal of his inaugural message removed any reservation the people might have on P-Noy’s ability to lead the nation. All P-Noy had to do was to demonstrate that he has what it takes. And like all presidents before him, he was extended the traditional 100-day “honeymoon” period by the media. Now, that honeymoon period is just about to end.

Like all his predecessors, P-Noy’s ship of state started sailing with an even keel. However, he was sailing in uncharted waters mined with more than 900 of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s midnight appointees that included the Supreme Court Chief Justice.

His stewardship was erratic at first making a few miscalculations with his memoranda and executive orders. His first memorandum was to fire all of the government top executives who were co-terminus with Gloria. However, he was forced to recall some of them so the government could continue to operate.

Truth Commission

His first executive order creating the Truth Commission was met with strong resistance from Gloria’s few but vociferous allies in the House of Representatives. They immediately filed a complaint before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Truth Commission. And compounding the opposition’s resistance, P-Noy appointed former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. as head of the Truth Commission. Davide’s appointment casts doubt on P-Noy’s motive for appointing him to investigate Gloria. It must be remembered that it was Davide who swore in Gloria as president in 2001 and declared that president Joseph “Erap” Estrada has “constructively” resigned from the presidency. However, many people deemed it as a “judicial coup d’état.”

Notwithstanding the pending complaint in the Supreme Court, P-Noy ordered the Truth Commission to proceed with its investigation of Gloria. This prompted the Supreme Court to threaten the Truth Commission with a temporary restraining order (TRO) if it doesn’t desist.


Then on August 23, 2010, midway through his first 100 days, the unexpected happened – a tourist bus with 25 Chinese tourists from Hong Kong was hijacked at the Luneta Park near the Quirino Grandstand where P-Noy was inaugurated last June 30. The hijacker was identified as dismissed senior inspector Rolando Mendoza from the Manila Police. Mendoza held the tourists hostage while he demanded that he be reinstated in this job. After 11 hours of negotiation, the hostage crisis ended in a bloodbath when Mendoza killed eight tourists before he was fatally shot by police sniper fire.

The hostage-taking fiasco became an international cause célèbre. It put P-Noy in a bad light. Immediately, P-Noy ordered Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to conduct a fact-finding investigation. After several days of hearings, the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) submitted its report to P-Noy. It named 13 individuals with complicity to the hostage-taking fiasco, including Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico E. Puno -– P-Noy’s longtime friend and “shooting buddy” — and then Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Jesus Verzosa.


Then on September 11, 2010, retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz dropped a bombshell alleging that two close aides of P-Noy were receiving P2-million each in monthly payola – protection money – from jueteng lords. During a Senate hearing investigating the “jueteng-gate,” Cruz disclosed the names of the “jueteng kings” – Puno and Verzosa.

Immediately calls for Puno’s resignation flooded Malacanang Palace. Verzosa has since retired. But P-Noy stood by his friend Puno saying that he still had confidence in him.

US bonanza

While Luneta-gate and Jueteng-gate were brewing, P-Noy embarked on his first travel abroad as president. Within a six-day period beginning September 21, he addressed the United Nations General Assembly; attended the US-ASEAN conference with US president Barack Obama and the other nine ASEAN leaders; and signed a $434-million grant to the Philippines by the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) to help fight corruption and poverty in the Philippines. P-Noy also talked with Obama for seven minutes after the US-ASEAN conference.

On September 25, P-Noy addressed the Philippine Development Forum in San Jose, California. The following day, his last day in the U.S., P-Noy attended mass with the Fil-Am community at the Mission Dolores in San Francisco. After the mass, he gave a short talk at the pulpit where he revealed that his delegation was able to secure a $2.7-billion investment pledge from American firms.

In the evening before heading to the San Francisco Airport for his flight home, P-Noy met with members of the Pinoys for Good Governance who, as one member said, “want to make sure that the present administration will live up to its promise to bring about such reform in governance.”

The U.S. trip promises to boost the Philippine economy. P-Noy claimed that the infusion of investment would create about 43,000 jobs.

All in all, the events of the first 100 days pose a big challenge to P-Noy in his goal to institute reforms. Indeed, he’s got his work cut out for him for the next six years.

It’s been said that it was destiny that brought P-Noy to the presidency. I agree. Now, it’s time for him to show the density of his commitment to bring about change in a country deluged with corruption and plagued with poverty.