Separation of Church and State, Not!

It seems to me that the Church is really pushing for the dissolution of the idea of the separation of the Church and State for they continue to meddle in state affairs.

Truly, they shouldn’t. They couldn’t even keep their own order in check and now they want to engage in politics?

They can’t even hold together the Church for real and yet they want to get involved in matters which do not concern them?

I don’t get how that is supposed to make sense.

Today is the National Heroes Day. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) wants to “celebrate” it by organizing a one-million-people-march against the so-called pork barrel.

I did understand, if only for a bit, why they had such a strong opinion against the Reproductive Health Bill (RH Bill. Now, Reproductive Health Law.), but I cannot understand why they want to get involved in such a matter concerning the financial resources of the state.

The previous issue, of the RH Bill, involves the question of the life of the unborn child. While the newly-passed legislation doesn’t include a provision for the legalization of abortion in the Philippines, they stretch it that far and say that the direction is definitely headed there.

Indeed, it is a possibility which cannot be denied.

However, what have the Church got against the idea of the government giving an allowance to lawmakers so that they may be able to realize projects for their communities?

Truly, the PDAF, Priority Development Assistance Fund, isn’t all bad. Scrapping it altogether would require a new method with which a representative or a senator could get funds for projects. Whatever this new method will be, it can be exploited just as easily as the pork barrel can be.

Clearly, the appropriation for these funds is not the one at fault here. It is but in the handling of these funds where everything goes wrong.

So, now, answer me. Why is the Church calling for a march against funding that supposed to be helping the poor (a sector of the community which is supposed to be the top priority of the Church given Pope Francis’ principles) instead of calling for a march against the abusers of these funds?

They are already meddling in affairs which they shouldn’t have anything to do with unless, of course, they want the Church to all over the State like it used to, why are they taking it from such an angle?

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Corruption, Poverty, and Education

In a third world country such as ours, even a blind man can see the face of poverty. However, it is a given that the Philippines is much better off than some other countries and that it is not in the lowest of groups in the GDP rankings and the like. But those facts only make matters worse as it can only mean that much more countries are living in much worse states.

There is a saying that goes, “Poverty is not a hindrance to success – which should be true. However, there are just too many people in the world who choose to succumb to their bleak circumstances and not do anything about it! It’s wrong but it happens a lot. Mostly, it’s because people have chosen to accept what has become “norms” in some societies: corruption. See, the roots of poverty can be traced back to this practice of the powerful and influential. Hence, the rich become richer and the poor becomes poorer.

Corruption exists even in the lowest tiers of governmental power. It is apparent in lots of things that are visible in the more physical aspects of a community – bridges hardly passable because of use of substandard materials, roads hardly suitable for driving in because of cuts in the budget, schools with hardly enough rooms to accommodate so many students due to poor budget allocation, and so much more I could probably fill pages if I went on. And because corruption has its foundations in the smallest of powers, it’s very hard to eradicate it, and even, decrease its effects on society as a whole. But, if one is to make a sincere effort to reduce poverty, like most things which must be done, one must start at the roots; in this case, corruption.

In a society with an established government, most social services, including health and education, are controlled by the government. Which gives for another reason why some people are powerless against corruption, some people want to do something but just can’t, They fear that if they try to do anything about it, like protest or try to bring down a long-standing dynasty, whatever little help they are getting from a polluted government will altogether be removed. But that is simply wrong. A government should not be a slave-driver of people but should, on the contrary, serve the people – it’s supposed to be what it was made for. But it never happens that way for a lot of people have lived in dependence and fear. And, a lot of times, these people are what make-up the largest portion of the population – those who are in the bottom of society and are most vulnerable.

However, these people need not remain helpless. Education is a very powerful tool which has already been proven to change lives for the better. But attainment of any level of education, let alone, a higher level of education is rather elusive to most, if not all, of these people. Like I mentioned earlier, “schools with hardly enough rooms to accommodate so many students due to poor budget allocation”. Therefore, the democratization of education is highly important, like what our founder, Mr. Shai Reshef, has done for us all with the University of the People. As he so put it, “Education should be a right not a privilege.”

I couldn’t have said it better even if I tried. Education should be something that is available for all and not just for a privileged few. And this should also reach the first steps in formal education – from kindergarten, that is. See, in my country, education is like some form of survival of the fittest. The number of students in a level tend to be less than the one in a lower level. The trend is a decline. Some people choose simply not to study and get a job instead, whatever it is so long as there is something even if it is the most difficult and least rewarding ones, while some have no choice due to lack of funds. It’s a sad picture, and it must be changed. And it can change if people are willing to put some energy to that effort.

Some other things must be noted, too: food and health. Why? Well, one most definitely can’t learn on an empty stomach. And, neither can one learn on a sickbed. So, besides access to education, access to food is also important. The efforts of the World Food Programme have shown positive results in the communities that they are attending to. See, there is enough food in the world to feed all of us, the only problem is access. Health services might be a lot more difficult to deal with but it can be done with proper motivation. In some of the most distant of villages in the Philippines, there are already doctors who attend to them. If only proper channels are given to those who need them, then everything will be much easier for all these people.

Now, the bottomline of all of poverty can be linked to one thing: access. And corruption is the biggest, if not the only, thing that blocks this access. Therefore, if a society must try to reduce poverty, it must first try to remove corruption. After that, things can flow freely: people have access to food, people are healthy, people are educated, corruption goes out. It might seem like a roundabout in the first turn, but once corruption is out, it will inevitably be replaced by the improvement of people’s lives.

The Open-Ballot System

Another round of elections. Another round of display of corruption that has already rooted in the Philippines.

See, vote buying is already a thing of the past. But I didn’t say so to mean that there is no more vote buying here in the Philippines. Quite the contrary, actually. It seems that vote buying has become an integral part of the Philippine electoral system.

However, as it is a given that vote buying has been existent for so long, people have already learned a thing or to on how to get around it – candidates and voters alike.

For the voters, there’s always the sure-I-will-accept-your-money-but-that-doesn’t-mean-that-you-have-my-vote technique. It’s what some people call “the right way”. To mean, “I will accept everyone’s money but I will still vote for my candidates.”

But the candidates have also learned to be smarter about vote buying. This time, they want to ensure that they get the votes that they paid for. It’s called the “open-ballot” system.

I, actually, have not seen it being done in a precinct, as I don’t linger after voting, but am pretty sure that ballots are supposed to be kept confidential so, it can only mean that whoever pushes for this strategy must have the support of the election council for it to succeed. It basically means that you have to show your ballot to your buyer’s inspector before dropping it in the ballot box.

Well, yes, it has to have happened in our place after I have voted as I voted right after the lunch break of the election council and local buzz about the operation grew at around 3pm.

You see, this, open-ballot, was the strategy that was employed by one of the local candidates here for barangay chairman. Saturday before the elections, this candidate has already given away an amount for some voters. Sunday, the other one gave thrice more than the previous candidate.

But Mr. Open-Ballot was very much determined to win the elections. So, some people, his followers, started the operation and went places to convince people to vote for him. The deal was simple enough: five times more than the amount previously distributed by Mr. Open-Ballot will be given to voter and all voter will have to do is show a ballot with Mr. Open-Ballot’s name on it to his inspectors before dropping it to the ballot box.

I so don’t know what to think.

Well, for those people who stood up and didn’t agree to the open-ballot, I can congratulate you for sheer nerve and self-control. As for those who gave in to the offer, I can’t blame you. Money is so hard to find these days.

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Unbelievable how time flies by. The year was just starting. Then, it’s already the end of the third quarter. See, time waits for no one.

September 2010 closes with a rather gloomy Philippine atmosphere.

First, there’s the issue of the hostage taking at the Quirino Grandstand that was staged last month by no less than a former police officer. Yes, it is of last month but the issue has not yet been settled. China has not yet lifted the travel ban against the Philippines following their demand for a fair and believable investigation. As the report has not yet been reviewed by the president himself, there is no word yet about the future of the Philippine-Chinese relation.

Second, the bar exams this year ends tragically. It would have been a day of celebration after a week of very exhausting exams but someone just had to send a bomb to the area giving injuries to a number of supporters. The police seems to not have a concrete place to start investigations. There are two people who have attested to seeing a person send that bomb but for, the lack of evidence, the person is not yet being treated as a suspect. Like the previous issue, this one is far from settled.

Third, there is the president, Noynoy Aquino, facing the possibility of excommunication for his stand on the issue so-called “reproductive health”. The church is firm on their stand on the natural methods of family planning. The church blatantly disapproved of the DOH’s giving away of free condoms. They have stated that if the president will have his hands on this program, there is the possibility of him getting excommunicated.

As far as I am concerned, and, I daresay, a lot of other people too, this so-called “reproductive health bill” should not be in the priority list of this new administration. It is a given that, from the previous administration, Mr. Aquino have been a supporter of this bill – an evidence of which will be the banners of the Catholic church listing the candidates who support this bill, one of the names being Noynoy Aquino.

Somehow, stopping people from giving birth to children is not the best that this government can do for the population that is already in place. Or so it should not be.

If I may say so, corruption is still the number one problem in the Philippines. Yes, the president has said that he will give much of his efforts in the campaign against corruption. But saying so is never enough.

I believe, that instead of spending much of his energy in this reproductive health bill, he should divert it to issues with more substance – for example, he should instead try to help ease the distress of those who are suffering.

This is when I got reminded of that song by B.o.B and Hayley Williams,

Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars?

I could really use a wish right now

Yeah, we sure do need one these days. I can only hope for a bright October.

Faces of a Newborn City

Part of commuting is the chance, should you choose to take it, to observe the places that you travel by. When you choose to do so, you get to catch a glimpse of the community that you happen to go past.

You get to form an opinion of the city or town you are in. How much progress is it experiencing these days? How far is this town to becoming a city? How developed is this city? What type of place is this?

You get to have a glimpse of the people in the community. You get to see people going about their daily businesses. People going to and fro, trying to get by their lives. And sometimes, get an idea of the personalities of a few people in the community.

The amount of observation you can get will, naturally, depend on the speed of your ride and the number of stops. Of course, first impressions can be wrong.

I was in a cab this afternoon trying to get from a university to a bus terminal. As mostly is the case, I was staring out trying to make think myself of something besides the ones that are already in my head.

Before we got to the bus terminal, the cab passed by a construction site. I’ve been in that place before. I remembered that area to once be a plaza. But this time, there was nothing more than an odd, pointed obelisk in the middle of the square surrounded by unfinished, unidentifiable, would-be decorations.

There must be a renovation going on. True enough, when the cab rounded the corner, it was there. A huge tarp depicting the artist’s image of what will be the new city plaza. It will be beautiful. The square will be divided into four corners by paved footpaths. In the intersection of these paths will be the obelisk surrounded by elevated flower patches. There will be more flowers and grass in every corner. A most noticeable change over the old plaza which had trees scattered around the square, food stalls in the sidelines, and benches put in no observable pattern.

It makes you want to think, “Progress has definitely touched this city. Not a long time ago, they have upgraded the town hall into a city hall. Now, they are ‘beautifying’ their city square.”

But before I can think of all that, my ride has ended. I had to transfer to the bus so I can get back to my place. A few minutes of waiting, then the bus moved.

It was a rather slow movement as an argument started between the dispatchers and conductors. The bus had to stop.

When I stared out, the noise from behind me was almost drowned out by the silent camp a few meters away from me, not over three kilometers away from the city square that is currently undergoing renovation – according to the tarp, it was funded by the local government.

These people, a man, two women, a little girl, and a little boy, apparently, homeless, have chosen to make camp behind the low fence that separates the bus terminal from the road. I thought they were hoping that they can get more supplies from this area as the terminal is just next to the public market without even a wall or fence to separate them.

Of course, you can think that I may have misjudged and that they may be a traveling group but traveling crews do not lay or sit in cardboards, wearing soiled clothing, without even a tarpaulin over their heads.

Maybe I didn’t have to be surprised as even older cities have street people in them. But I still can’t help from questioning why it has to be like so.

Does the government really not care about these people? Do the people who are in power see these kinds of people as lower forms of life that renovating a plaza is more important? Can’t these so-called ‘representatives’ see them or have they chosen to go blind so as to get the request for the town to be made into a city approved and, thus, get a bigger funding for their ‘city’ that they can soon pocket?

How is it that in the face of the so-called ‘progress’, there seems to be a highly overlooked surface?

Tacloban City PUJ’s Rerouting, Again

Yes, once again, the PUJ’s headed to Tacloban City are gonna be rerouted.

I’ve been hearing about this since Monday. The driver said that they new route is gonna be implemented this coming Monday, July 26, 2010.

This time, the rerouting will allow the PUJ’s to reach the city proper just like before.

This was, of course, much to the favor of the various owners of the PUJ’s and the disappointment of the owner of the Robinsons-Tacloban PUJ’s.

According to the driver of my ride this morning, this new route was signed by the majority of the operators but, as can be expected, not by the owner of the aforementioned PUJ’s.

Why?

Simply because this Robinsons-Tacloban PUJ’s get a lot of their income from the passengers who have to cut their trips and get down at Robinsons Mall because the PUJ’s cannot go to the city proper.

Most of these passengers are students. Which includes me.

Besides the very obvious income factor, they seem to be flat-out ignoring the fact that people pile up in that area every morning just to get a ride to the city. And they, we, have to race to the door of the first mini-PUJ to arrive because we are all trying to get to school, or work, for some, and not be late.

It’s good to know that they have somehow noticed us already.

On a side note, not all drivers are aware of this yet as has been proven by the driver of the PUJ I rode in yesterday.

But the question remains whether this will last even for a year because there is also a rumor of a new terminal to be set up in Palo. Also, I have heard that these Robinsons-Tacloban mini-PUJ’s are owned by a very influential individual. And the Tacloban-New Bus Terminal mini-PUJ’s, too.

And there will always be lobbyists…