Thoughts on a double vodka

is my Trade Tripper column for the last Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld for 2012:

The new year is approaching. This would therefore be a good time to re-evaluate certain important things: such as one’s drink of choice. Inasmuch as I’d like to order martinis the problem is twofold -- one can’t or it’s almost impossible to find a decent martini in the Philippines. Also, martinis nowadays are as pedestrian as a Harvard degree. So I’ve decided to switch to Gibsons.

Now if you think that there’s no difference between a martini and a Gibson, you’d be right. Actually, you’re not. In any event, who cares? Order a martini if you’re an ANC watching, James Robinson forum attending (even if you don’t understand his book), Catholic but still pro-RH, and philosophy spouting in a party kind of chucklehead. Cantabrigians and Oxonians, however, would correctly go for Lagavulin or Ardbeq. I’d go for a Gibson.

Incidentally, the article last week ("A very significant announcement," BusinessWorld, Dec. 21, 2011) was not based on this writer’s imaginings, much as I’d like to take credit for it. The details were culled from various sources, amongst which are the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich, the non-canonical gospel according to James, historians’ account of the environment and economy of Nazareth, and -- of course -- the Gospels according to Sts. Mathew and Luke. There was another article I’d recommend: "Olaf, the Other Reindeer" (originally published in 2009), which was indeed written with too much distilled potato juice in the head.

Speaking of idiocy, the RH Bill would most likely be law as of this writing (or soon thereafter). How people could support such a measure considering that contraceptives are actually and always has been legally available, at prices cheaper than cellphone loads, is beyond me. They must have had some serious childhood trauma to actually support the RH Bill just to spite the Catholic Church (which will never go away, anyway). Smart people take this piece of advice from Archbishop Charles Chaput: "If you’re Catholic and you disagree with your Church, what do you do? You change your mind." But leading advocates of the Bill are essentially from our old, rich families anyway so I guess lack of intelligence is a given.

Speaking of lack of intelligence, Germany’s Merkel has a Phd in physics, UK’s Cameron is an Etonian and (unfortunately) Oxonian, US’ Obama is expectedly a Harvard guy, Indonesia’s Yudhoyono studied at the US Army Command and General Staff College and Webster University, Malaysia’s Najib Razak has an industrial economics degree from Nottingham, Singapore’s Lee is a Cantabrigian (as all truly smart people are), India’s Singh is an Oxbridge man, and Thailand’s Yingluck Shinawatra has a master’s degree in public administration from Kentucky State. But of course, we have the most prepared and best of all possible leaders in Noynoy, and this is shown in his soaring popularity and satisfaction ratings. I’m sure those affected by Pablo are utterly grateful that he is at this country’s helm.

And more downers: I’ve finally had it with PLDT. It’s incredible how a phone provider could be so mean towards its customers. Even if you’re not remiss in paying phone bills, yet mere delays in payments, perhaps due to PLDT’s check payment policy, and your internet services would be suddenly cut off. Well I’ve had it and shifted to Globe, which so far we’re happy with. Unfortunately, the same problem goes for Meralco. Make the mistake of a one day delay in payment, which can happen as their billing is given close to the deadline, then you get a written threat of having your electricity cut off. Think of it: their repairmen are always nowhere to be found in cases of calamity but their disconnection people are incredibly determined workaholics. Idiots.

Turning to more cheerful matters, the people of Liliw, Laguna have to be truly congratulated. It’s a clean, cheerful, bustling town, with one of the most beautiful (interior and exterior wise) churches in the country. Huge credit must go to parish priest Fr. Philip Atienza, who unfortunately is being transferred from his post this coming January. He celebrates Mass as it should be celebrated: solemn, quiet, orderly. The only other place one could find such Masses are at Stella Orientis in UA&P. In any event, I’d like to thank the good people of the lovely Balay Celina, particularly former Mayor and Mrs. Polistico, as well as Lassie, Marinel, and Nida. The fact that they have such well trained and competent staff speaks well of their employer and Liliw was lucky to have had such an official as their mayor.

For my smart readers, I urge you to catch The Five on cable, as well as buy the book The Joy Of Hate by Greg Gutfeld. To see what a real president is like, do watch Lincoln starring the greatest actor ever: Daniel Day-Lewis.

And if you disagree with anything I wrote here, then you sir are worse than Hitler.

Happy New Year.


Two Christmas stories

Hi all. Here are two stories for Christmas, A very significant announcement (which appeared in the recent Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld and was originally published back in 2011) and Olaf, the other reindeer (which was published in 2009).

May all of you have a Merry Christmas!


Doha, recovery, and the TPP

was my Trade Tripper column in last Friday-Saturday's issue of BusinessWorld:

While many people are celebrating the reelection of US President Barack Obama (for who knows what reason), the realities that such brings are none too cheerful. For an administration that seemingly has been focused on reviving its sputtering economy, its lack of engagement in the area of international trade is quite disconcerting.

Furthermore, while there have been promises indeed about placing focus on the Asia-Pacific region (again bringing cheers from this part of the world), the reality actually is far different. As Greg Rushford ("Disconnect," Nov. 13, 2012) insightfully puts it: "There’s a disconnect. Obama’s foreign policy -- the so-called Asian ‘pivot,’ or ‘rebalancing’ -- promotes closer security ties across the region, with a particular emphasis on traditional Asia-Pacific treaty allies like Japan and the Philippines (which are embroiled in threatening maritime disputes with China). But the president’s trade agenda excludes the Japanese, the Filipinos, and other important Asian trading partners from participation anytime soon in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks."

The quandary is evident. With a more energetic economy, the desire for increased trade by Asian countries is understandable. Whether Mr. Obama will respond positively to such is another matter. His administration has been noticeably detached, even perhaps wary, of trade. Mr. Obama certainly has no affection for the WTO: "Doha was a multilateral-liberalization initiative; and ironically, it was killed by President Obama who had ironically been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by Norway in the expectation that he would promote multilateralism and turn his back on US unilateralism! [This is so because] under the Obama Administration, already under siege from the labour unions who were hostile to trade, was resolutely opposed to closing the Doha Round unless numerous concessions were made to appease its business lobbies." (see Jagdish Baghwati, writing for Handelsblatt)

Instead, what Mr. Obama decided to do is: 1) center his trade policy around threatening other countries who, in his mind, are engaged in unfair trade; and 2) dangle the Trans-Pacific Partnership in front of other countries.

But this strategy, coming from a country of which leadership in the global economy is expected, is not helpful. To have an energetic dispute policy would make sense, perhaps even beneficial, in a situation where you have a healthy global economy. But in a time when the European countries are staggering under the weight of their own entitlement systems, with Japan still unable to get fully going, China under fears of a bubble bursting, and the US misguidedly wanting to spend their way out of their problems, to aggressively proclaim disputes (either as a political sopping rhetoric or as an actual policy to be carried out) is bizarre.

As for the TPP, Mr. Rushford was more trenchant: "The TPP… is increasingly being perceived as ‘part of a U.S. foreign policy strategy to contain China.’ Already the White House has heard from officials in Australia, New Zealand that ‘it is not in their interests to participate in trade arrangements that are seen to be hostile to China.’ The Aussies and Kiwis have laid down a red line that they could bolt the talks, if the Americans don’t step up their economic game." Furthermore, while "the White House has been happy to use such high-sounding rhetoric, much of what Washington has actually put on the negotiating table is a familiar litany of old-style protectionism aimed at pleasing Obama’s base in the anti-trade wing of his Democratic Party. It mainly comes down to special carve-outs to protect US sugar quotas, subsidies for US dairy farmers, legally binding rules on labor and the environment to satisfy US labor unions, no liberalization of widely-resented US anti-dumping rules, high tariffs on athletic footwear, and complex rules of origin aimed at preventing Vietnam from expanding its exports of garments to the United States. (Strident American demands for just the latter two alone could be deal killers.) Consequently, the once-promising TPP is beginning to look like just another ordinary trade-distorting scheme, and one that is not particularly economically important.

The Philippines, correctly, has expressed no hurry in signing on to the TPP. Baghwati calls free trade agreements (of which the TPP is one) as "termites in the trading system," used "by hegemonic powers to foist on weaker trading partners demands unrelated to trade but desired by domestic lobbies, at times in a markedly asymmetric way." Such is a sentiment this column shares. Specifically, the TPP imposes certain conditions, a lot requiring constitutional amendments, as well as measures that for a still developing country like the Philippines, would simply not make sense. This is on top of this column’s repeatedly stated position that free trade agreements are just poor trade distorting substitutes for the WTO.

However, there is an added point: perhaps what’s worse than an ill-conceived US trade policy is an ill-conceived trade policy half-heartedly carried out by the US. For a country presumably wanting to maintain its sole superpower status, such flip-flopping is unbecoming.


Updated compilation of materials against the RH Bill

Here again is an updated compilation of materials you can use in arguing against the RH Bill:

> Contraception is not a human right
> Contraceptive faith
> It's just sex
> No need for an RH Bill, now or ever
> RH, the academe, and human rights
> Contracepting common sense
> Some notes on Fr. Bernas' response to Bp. Reyes
> Comments on Fr. Bernas' RH Bill article
> Ethical reasoning about a legislation promoting contraception
> Snappy replies against condomics
> Snappy replies to condomics 2
> Snappy replies to condomics 3
> Contraception and natural law
> Wealth and the Catholic Church (response to Angsioco)
> Sex, lies, and the Catholic Church
> Reasons against RH
> Do the right thing: Oppose the RH Bill
> On kicking God out of government
> Why we must fight the RH Bill our way

Some good resources putting the lie to claims that contraception or family planning is a human right:

> WYA White Paper On Family Planning
> WYA White Paper on Reproductive Health

This one I got from a friend's FB page:
Below are the list of laws that already address the various concerns raised in the RH bill:
1. R.A. 9710 or An Act Providing for Magna Carta for Women
2. Republic Act No. 9262 or Anti-Violence against Women and Children
3. Republic Act No. 8504 or Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998
4. AO 2008-0029 Implementing Health Reforms for Rapid Reduction of Maternal and Neonatal Mortality
5. Children’s Health Program of the DOH
6. Family Planning Program of the DOH
7. Prevention and Management Control of Abortion and its
Complications (PMAC)
8. PD No. 965 or A decree requiring applicant for marriage license to receive instructions on family planning and responsible parenthood
9. R.A 7883 or the Barangay Health Workers Benefits and Incentives Acts of 1995
10. R.A. 7160 or The Local Government Code of the Philippines
11. AO No. 2010-0036--The Aquino Health Agenda: Achieving Universal Health Care for all Filipinos
12. Women’s Health and Safe Motherhood Project of the DOH
13. Republic Act No. 8504 or Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998
14. Republic Act No. 7875 or the National Health Insurance Act of 1995
15. Republic Act No. 9502 or the Cheaper Medicine Act
16. Executive Order No. 453 or Directing the Enrolment of 2.5 Million Indigent families pursuant to E.O 276
17. AO No. 2010-0010 or the Revised Policy on Micro Nutrient Supplementation to Support Achievement of 2015 MDG Targets to Reduce Maternal Deaths and Address Micronutrient needs of other population groups.
18. Botika ng Barangay Program of the DOH
19. PD No. 79 Revising the Population Act of Nineteen Hundred and Seventy One
20. PhilHealth Circulars and Policy Guidelines
21. CCT program of the DSWD
22. PD No. 79 Revising the Population Act of Nineteen Hundred and Seventy One.
Feel free to share with your friends.


China anger management and the UN General Assembly

is my Trade Tripper column in this recent Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

China's government, for some inexplicable reason, is again playing the bully card. Less than a month after declaring its desire of resolving the territorial disputes peacefully among the Asian countries involved, it then pulls a bizarre stunt of legislating a measure that will supposedly authorize its police officers to board and inspect vessels found within the said territories.

As the New York Times reported: “New rules announced by a Chinese province last week to allow interceptions of ships in the South China Sea are raising concerns in the region, and in Washington, that simmering disputes with Southeast Asian countries over the waters will escalate. The move by Hainan Province, which administers China’s South China Sea claims, is being seen by some outside analysts as another step in the country’s bid to solidify its claims to much of the sea, which includes crucial international shipping lanes through which more than a third of global trade is carried.”

Never mind that the rules are actually legally inutile against other countries as China’s rule-making powers are without effect outside its correct borders. However, as the New York Times correctly points out, “China, now the owner of an aircraft carrier and a growing navy, is plowing ahead with plans to enforce its claims that it has sovereign rights over much of the sea, which includes dozens of islands that other countries say are theirs. And top Chinese officials have not yet clarified their intent, leaving room for speculation. If China were to enforce these new rules fully beyond the 12-nautical-mile zones, naval experts say, at stake would be freedom of navigation, a principle that benefits not only the United States and other Western powers but also China, a big importer of Middle East oil.”

The measures come just a few weeks after China unnecessarily aggravated relations with its neighbors (particularly Vietnam and the Philippines) by including in its passports a map implicitly claiming ownership over the disputed territories.

China’s acts are so needlessly provocative even the normally placid ASEAN officials felt compelled to speak up. Reuters reported of ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan as calling the Chinese steps a “very serious turn of events” that “certainly has increased a level of concern and a level of great anxiety among all parties, particularly parties that would need the access, the passage and the freedom to go through”. Surin further was supposed to have said (“using unusually strong language”), “[that] the plan could trigger a major incident that would affect confidence in East Asia, a key engine of global economic growth.”

As I wrote previously, this is simply a country whose government cannot be trusted. Note the reportorial by the Wall Street Journal (“China’s aggressive new diplomacy,” Oct. 1, 2010): “Hillary Clinton took the side of Vietnam in mildly pushing back against China’s claims to the South China Sea, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi could barely contain his anger. Calling the Secretary of State’s remarks ‘an attack on China,’ he lectured that ‘China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact.’” In human rights, China’s duplicity is well recorded (human rights activist Wei Jingsheng’s New York Times article “Don’t Believe China’s Promises,” May 4, 2012, is an example). And China has no qualms backstabbing even religious freedoms: see George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center declaring: “For some time, a modus vivendi was in place between the Vatican and Beijing on the appointment of bishops. It was never codified, but everyone knew the basic rules of the road: No bishops are to be ordained without the tacit approval of the Holy See. The regime brazenly broke that working agreement late last year, going so far as to drag one elderly Chinese bishop by his hair to an illicit episcopal ordination.”

The DFA is laudably standing firm on our claims, declaring that Chinese actions deserve “international condemnation” and are “illegal and will validate the continuous and repeated pronouncements by the Philippines that China’s claim of indisputable sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea is not only an excessive claim but a threat to all countries.”

But we should do more. China’s actions are clear threats to international peace and security. While we can’t go to the ICJ (as China is too scared to face us there) and resorting to the Security Council is useless (as China is a permanent member with double veto powers), we can certainly call attention to the situation and ask for international action through the UN General Assembly (UN Charter: Chapter IV, Articles 10, 11, and 14). At the very least, let’s demand that China explain itself to the GA as to why it is being so asinine.

We’ve always been proud of us being “good international citizens.” So it’s time we call in our chits and ask that the international community practice what they preach about international rights and peaceful processes.


For reference, here are the relevant chapter provisions of the UN Charter mentioned in the above article:


Article 9
1. The General Assembly shall consist of all the Members of the United Nations. 2. Each Member shall have not more than five representatives in the General Assembly.
Functions and Powers
Article 10
The General Assembly may discuss any questions or any matters within the scope of the present Charter or relating to the powers and functions of any organs provided for in the present Charter, and, except as provided in Article 12, may make recommendations to the Members of the United Nations or to the Security Council or to both on any such questions or matters.
Article 11
1. The General Assembly may consider the general principles of co-operation in the maintenance of international peace and security, including the principles governing disarmament and the regulation of armaments, and may make recommendations with regard to such principles to the Members or to the Security Council or to both.
2. The General Assembly may discuss any questions relating to the maintenance of inter- national peace and security brought before it by any Member of the United Nations, or by the Security Council, or by a state which is not a Member of the United Nations in accordance with Article 35, paragraph 2, and, except as provided in Article 12, may make recommendations with regard to any such questions to the state or states concerned or to the Security Council or to both. Any such question on which action is necessary shall be referred to the Security Council by the General Assembly either before or after discussion.
3. The General Assembly may call the attention of the Security Council to situations which are likely to endanger international peace and security.
4. The powers of the General Assembly set forth in this Article shall not limit the general scope of Article 10.
Article 12
1. While the Security Council is exercising in respect of any dispute or situation the functions assigned to it in the present Charter, the General Assembly shall not make any recommendation with regard to that dispute or situation unless the Security Council so requests.
2. The Secretary-General, with the consent of the Security Council, shall notify the General Assembly at each session of any matters relative to the maintenance of international peace and security which are being dealt with by the Security Council and similarly notify the General Assembly, or the Members of the United Nations if the General Assembly is not in session, immediately the Security Council ceases to deal with such matters.
Article 13
1. The General Assembly shall initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose of:
a. promoting international co-operation in the political field and encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification;
b. promoting international co-operation in the economic, social, cultural, educational, and health fields, an assisting in the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.
2. The further responsibilities, functions and powers of the General with respect to matters mentioned in paragraph ) above are set forth in Chapters IX and X.
Article 14
Subject to the provisions of Article 12, the General Assembly may recommend measures for the peaceful adjustment of any situation, regardless of origin, which it deems likely to impair the general welfare or friendly relations among nations, including situations resulting from a violation of the provisions of the present Charter setting forth the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations.
Article 15
1. The General Assembly shall receive and consider annual and special reports from the Security Council; these reports shall include an account of the measures that the Security Council has decided upon or taken to main- tain international peace and security.
2. The General Assembly shall receive and consider reports from the other organs of the United Nations.
Article 16
The General Assembly shall perform such functions with respect to the international trusteeship system as are assigned to it under Chapters XII and XIII, including the approval of the trusteeship agreements for areas not designated as strategic.
Article 17
1. The Genera Assembly shall consider and approve the budget of the Organization.
2. The expenses of the Organization shall be borne by the Members as apportioned by the General Assembly.
3. The Assembly shall consider and approve any financial and budgetary arrangements with specialize agencies referred to in Article 57 and shall examine the administrative budgets of such specialized agencies with a view to making recommendations to the agencies concerned.
Article 18
1. Each member of the General Assembly shall have one vote.
2. Decisions of the General Assembly on important questions shall be made by a two- thirds majority of the members present and voting. These questions shall include: recommendations with respect to the maintenance of international peace and security, the election of the non-permanent members of the Security Council, the election of the members of the Economic and Social Council, the election of members of the Trusteeship Council in accordance with paragraph 1 of Article 86, the admission of new Members to the United Nations, the suspension of the rights and privileges of membership, the expulsion of Members, questions relating to the operation of the trusteeship system, and budgetary questions.
3. Decisions on other questions, including the determination of additional categories of questions to be decided by a two-thirds majority, shall be made by a majority of the members present and voting.
Article 19
A Member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years. The General Assembly may, nevertheless, permit such a Member to vote if it is satisfied that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the of the Member.
Article 20
The General Assembly shall meet in regular annual sessions and in such special sessions as occasion may require. Special sessions shall be convoked by the Secretary-General at the request of the Security Council or of a majority of the Members of the United Nations.
Article 21
The General Assembly shall adopt its own rules of procedure. It shall elect its President for each session.
Article 22
The General Assembly may establish such subsidiary organs as it deems necessary for the performance of its functions. 


Philippine Oedipal politics

is my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

Whenever the issue of politics crops up in this country, the inevitable "we get the leaders we deserve" and "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result" are quoted. This should lead to some rumination regarding the real significance of those two statements’ popularity amidst recent political events.

While reading Beth Day Romulo’s marvelous book Inside the Palace (published by GP Putnam’s Sons, 1987), I came across this interesting passage: "Traditionally, Philippine society is a matriarchy. Men may hold top political office, or serve as Chairman of the Board of major companies -- but it is the women who handle the money. … [Yet], One of the things that disturbed me, as I got to know some of the couples and their marriages better, was how Philippine women tended to indulge -- even infantilize -- their men."

At first, I thought nothing of it: if indeed true that Filipinas mother their men, bath, powder, and clothe them, letting their husbands play while they work at home, that’s their problem. But, if such behavior led to an "infantilized" (to borrow Ms. Day Romulo’s word) sort of politics and, hence, society, then perhaps it’s a source of concern indeed.

I then happened to come across an article (a completely unrelated work, I might add) by Manolo Quezon ("Elections and Mutant Evolution," Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2009): "Even when elections were participated in by a tiny minority of Filipinos, it was enough to sweep aside the veterans of the Malolos Congress and replace them with leaders more prepared to [cautiously] accommodate a broader participation among the public; and when they, in turn grown old and cautious, balked at the consequences of extending democracy, they were swept aside in the 1950s. And when that generation, in turn, grew old and unresponsive, a younger, post-war generation was poised to sweep them aside, until Marcos stopped the process dead in its tracks."

Quezon goes on to conclude: "And so began a period of reckless experimentation on the part of a repressed electorate, as well as of frantic cooptation by both the pre-martial law and martial law elite, scrambling to retain power and make up for lost time, cringing in the shadows of a dictator who would brook no challenges, much less groom any potential successors. As the West Indian proverb Juan Mercado often quotes goes, ‘Nothing grows under a banyan tree.’ When the dictatorship fell, everything was stunted and started to grow in a mutant manner."

This led me to thinking of Oedipus, the mythical Greek King of Thebes. Apparently unable to escape his tragic destiny, Oedipus ended up killing his father (unknowingly) and marrying his mother (also unknowingly). Upon learning later of the monstrous deeds that he had done, he decided to pluck out his eyes so that he may be unable to see the horrible world that he inhabits. Incidentally, he was said to have lived out his days accompanied by his daughter Antigone, whom Sophocles would later immortalize in the play that bears her name, significant for this column as it would contain the very first mention (in published, written form) of natural law.

Sigmund Freud would later use the name of Oedipus for his concept of a psychological complex that seeks to illustrate (at least in the abbreviated account contained in Wiki) that "all sons feel they are in competition with their father and often feel in a battle against the father. This is well represented in Greek mythology as Chronos, the father of the gods, is in constant war with his children should they contradict him. This dominant patriarchal attitude still has roots in society today as men are viewed to be heads of families. Freudian psychologists claim that the risk the son runs is that in some cases it is more difficult to win the battle against the father than to lose the battle against the father. This is because a common result of winning the battle against the father is that the son suffers tremendous guilt."

Apparently, "narcissism" is connected to the Oedipus complex in that the former follows the latter and is a means of addressing the latter. Some known symptoms of narcissism include lying, exploitation of others, often frustrated, angry, irrational, stubborn, and disregard for the rule of law.

So it makes one think: Can our neurotic political system be explained as a kind of Oedipal complex played out on a national scale? That those of the post-war (baby boomer) generation of politicians (along with their offspring or protégés) have simply been damaged due to the years they’ve lost, which was further worsened by the war (or pre-war) generation of leaders’ continuing grip on power?

Something to ponder on. And perhaps another good reason why we should vote against political dynasties. Verily, another quote, this time from James Schall, is apt: "in establishing who is to rule us, we reveal our own souls."


Contraception is not a human right

is the subject of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

The news currently being gloated over by the pro-RH Bill advocates (including their too fawning pro-RH media) is the United Nations Population Fund’s declaration in its annual report "The State of the World Population" that: "Family planning is a human right." Unfortunately, aside from playing up the non-news, pro-RH advocates and their media cohorts also distort it.

Notably, the UNFPA’s annual report actually used the term "family planning" as a human right. Not "birth control." Not "contraception." Those are three different things. But pro-RH advocates and media immediately headlined their articles to give the impression that the UNFPA is stating that "birth control" or "contraception" are the human rights. This is outright misleading.

Nevertheless, assuming the UNFPA actually did mean "birth control" or "contraception," such pronouncement is not legally binding and should never be interpreted by the Philippines (or by any individual official or citizen) as a mandatory requirement for the country to provide contraception to anyone.

It must be emphasized that the UNFPA, a subsidiary organ of the United Nations (and, hence, obviously NOT the United Nations) is not authorized to make international law. Any declaration that it makes is merely for its own internal purposes, with regard to the objectives handed down by the UN.

International law is made by the States themselves (and, to a certain extent, other "subjects" of international law) through the execution of treaties or by the making of a custom (which requires State practice and "opinio juris").

Presently, no international custom exists making "contraception" a human right. And as Meghan Grizzle (in her "White Paper on Family Planning," March 2012; see http://www.wya.net/advocacy/research/WYA%20Reproductive%20Health%20White%20Paper.pdf) shows: "No international human right to any particular form of family planning supply or method is enumerated in international human rights treaties. The only international human rights treaties that explicitly mention family planning are the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the Convention on Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Despite claims from UNFPA and the World Center for Reproductive Rights that there is a right to contraceptive information and services, no international human rights treaty even mentions contraception."

Activists love resorting to arguing that international human rights law is sui generis. Which is nonsensical. It is sui generis because international human rights law focuses on individuals rather than States (as other international law fields tend to do). But it does not excuse international human rights law from overriding the nature of international law itself, sovereignty, democratic processes, or genuine human rights such as "religious liberties." Even international human rights law does not permit un-elected bureaucrats, such as those in the UNFPA (or the WHO), to make international law.

And thus, as Ms. Grizzle rightly emphasizes: "International law clearly does not create a right to contraception; States are thus not required to provide contraception."

Furthermore, while "family planning" has indeed been mentioned in some international instruments, we refer again to Ms. Grizzle: "Family planning is not synonymous with contraception, and calls for family planning methods and services should not be construed as calls for contraceptives alone."

True. "Family planning" could mean a lot of things. It is not limited to contraception. Family planning could include abstinence. It could include "natural family planning" or NFP (which is espoused by the Catholic Church). To this must be considered the fact that, as I pointed out in two previous articles ("Contracepting Common Sense," Aug. 23, 2012; "Contraceptive Faith," Nov. 16, 2012), countless medical studies and lawsuits show us that contraceptives are dangerous not only to women but also for their children. Yet, on top of that danger, oral contraceptives also come with a 7% failure rate, a 15% failure rate for condoms, compared to the almost 0% failure rate for NFP.

The absurdity of UNFPA’s position is best summed up by Marcus Roberts of Mercatornet: "How do we reduce infant mortality throughout the developing world? The normal person’s answer: improve health services, water and food supplies. The UN Population Fund’s answer: increase contraception so that the infants are not born. No births, no infant mortality. What a perfect solution."

What makes UNFPA’s stand worse, however, according to Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse of the Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, is that it seeks to encourage States to force "believers around the world to give up their deeply held, long-established religious convictions." And, contrary to the impression spread by the media, many women believe -- correctly -- that, rather than contraceptives, their religious faith is an actual "human right" that must be protected.

Indeed. To believe that a human right could be created distanced from natural law is ridiculous and dangerous. Natural law leads us to know our human nature and our rights are precisely based on protecting that nature. Creating a so-called "right" that turns its back on natural law will ultimately lead to the debasement of the human being.


Contraceptive faith

is my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

The pro-life crowd (or at least those who stand against the RH Bill, watered down or not) has always been accused of basing their positions on faith rather than on "facts" or science. Which is absurd. And patently untrue. Because if there is anybody actually basing their entire argument on blind faith, in complete disregard of reason, information, or logic, then one has to lay that on the RH Bill advocates themselves.

How else to justify their baffling support for contraception despite overwhelming evidence that such are hazardous to women or newborn babies? Just six days ago, Lori Chaplin reported ("Want to Find a Good Husband and Have a Family? Don’t Use the Pill," National Catholic Register, Nov. 10, 2012; citing a 2009 UK study "Does the Contraceptive Pill Alter Mate Choice in Humans?") that, aside from making women less attractive (due to the contraceptive’s prevention of ovulation, thus interfering with a woman’s "appearance, odor and voice pitch -- to which men are sensitive"), contraceptives also unquestionably cause harm to women’s bodies.

Chaplin describes such serious dangers to include "increased likelihood of breast cancer, heart attack, stroke, blood clots, high blood pressure, liver tumors and gallstones. The pill also heightens infertility. When a hormone is chronically changed, it actually changes the entire system of hormones. It changes the master hormones and how they excrete. The result of this is that when a woman does want to become pregnant and stops the pill, the body continues to act as if the contraceptive is still being taken. That is one of the reasons why women who have been on contraceptives for a long period of time can’t get pregnant."

The study further noted contraceptives’ "detrimental effects on future generations, stressing that more studies need to be conducted. They predict that offspring of pill users will be more homozygous (possessing two identical forms of a particular gene), which can be related to impaired immune function, an increase of genetic diseases, as well as decreased perceived health and attractiveness."

Reuters (Nov. 7, 2011) also discovered that the risk for venous blood clots "was 43 percent to 65 percent higher with drospirenone-containing pills, compared with older, so-called second- and third-generation pills." All the foregoing is in addition to the list of studies I discussed in a previous article ("Contracepting Common Sense," Aug. 23, 2012), finding reasonable grounds to conclude that contraceptives pose a danger not only to women but also for their children.

In fact, the perils accompanying contraceptives are such that liability lawsuits involving it are a growing industry in the West. Legal aid group Lawyers and Settlements reported that as of "March 2012, approximately 12,000 lawsuits" have been brought against the manufacturer of widely used contraceptives "Yasmin, Yaz, Beyaz and Safyral, alleging an increased risk of blood clots (deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism (PE)) and gallbladder problems." NuvaRing Resource Center, "a patient advocacy group," also reported that "the FDA has received over 1,000 reports of blood clot injury or death in patients using NuvaRing. On Oct. 27, 2011 they released a report titled "Combined Hormonal Contraceptives (CHCs) and the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Endpoints," which showed vaginal ring contraceptives could increase the risks of blood clots by as much as 56%."

And yet, with all that danger (and add that oral contraceptives have a 7% failure rate, with a 15% failure rate for condoms, compared to the almost 0% failure rate of NFP), why do these people insist in pushing contraceptives?

One answer perhaps lies in Global Industry Analysts, Inc.’s report (seehttp://www.strategyr.com/Contraceptives_Market_Report.asp), which finds that the contraceptives business, strategically taking advantage of the "financial hardships induced by the recession, world market for contraceptives, which remains one of the few industries untouched by the economic downturn, is projected to reach $17.2 billion by the year 2015."

Notably, the contraceptive business, not content with exploiting people’s economic anxiety for greed, is also not above manipulating ideologically blinded politicians to increase their profits even more. As Forbes reported ("The Biggest Beneficiary of the Contraception Mandate? Drug Companies," March 6, 2012), Obama’s HHS Mandate "will dramatically inflate the price of contraceptives." Contrary, therefore, to the theory that subsidizing contraceptives will make it more available to the poor (a theory the RH Bill works on as well, with its reported allotment of ₱13.7 billion), such laws will actually make contraceptives more expensive, diverting funds from needed education and employment generation measures, all at the cost of the general public and all for the pocket of contraceptive big business. Forbes concludes that, since contraceptives are legal anyway (as in the Philippines), then a more efficient measure actually is to just leave people to buy birth control pills by themselves.

Which brings me back to my original point: support for the RH Bill is based on blind faith and not on reason or facts. Now to what that faith is anchored on, your guess is as good as mine.


Really no to the Kasambahay Bill

is my Trade Tripper column for this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

Following my articles on the Kasambahay Bill ("No to the Kasambahay Bill," 14 September 2012; "Still no to the Kasambahay Bill," 21 September 2012), the feedback I received (whether in agreement or not) has consolidated in my mind the utter absence of necessity for such a law. The intended Kasambahay Law would merely encourage people’s sense of entitlement. It would also ridiculously abandon the idea that rewards should be based on merit.

The main problem of the bill is that it stands on a patently unfair generalization: that the middle class abuses, underpays, and commits violence against household help. But that is simply untrue. Most Filipinos that hire household help are decent people who, as per our culture, treat such help as members of their own family.

Furthermore, it quite significantly ignores the fact that existing laws already give sufficient protection to household help in a manner that took into consideration the very personal, practically familial, circumstance of Filipino house helpers in relation to their Philippine employers.

Aside from the Constitution and the preliminary provisions of the Civil Code, the latter also contains at least eleven articles specifically addressing household help (see Articles 1689-1699). Thus, household service "shall always be reasonably compensated. Any stipulation that household service is without compensation shall be void. Such compensation shall be in addition to the house helper’s lodging, food, and medical attendance." Also, the "head of the family shall furnish, free of charge, to the house helper, suitable and sanitary quarters as well as adequate food and medical attendance."

Not only that, if "the house helper is under the age of eighteen years, the head of the family shall give an opportunity to the house helper for at least elementary education. The cost of such education shall be a part of the house helper’s compensation, unless there is a stipulation to the contrary." And, notably, the "head of the family shall treat the house helper in a just and humane manner. In no case shall physical violence be used upon the house helper."

But there’s more: House helpers "shall not be required to work more than ten hours a day. Every house helper shall be allowed four days’ vacation each month, with pay." The employment can also only be terminated in a just manner, as specifically provided for in Articles 1697-1699.

As I kept emphasizing, maids that are found working well are compensated generously in this country. But we should not be idealizing them, their plight, or the poor in general. I received countless accounts from friends and readers who advanced transportation for new maids, only for them to not show up (along with the money), of maids who steal, or abandon the house or the employers’ children just like that, of maids who surreptitiously use landlines of their employer and leave the latter thousands of pesos in debt to the phone company.

Add the numerous incidents involving maids of working age who -- pleading ignorance -- carelessly destroyed clothes to be laundered, appliances, china, or food. But possessing higher education isn’t necessary to do work properly. Besides, how ignorant can they be if they can operate cellphones incessantly even during work hours? Notably, the problems I described are not even limited to Filipino employers. As one sociology paper found ("Sexuality and Discipline Among Filipina Domestic Workers in Hong Kong," American Ethnologist 1997, Nicole Constable): "Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong are viewed as sexually threatening and thus in need of strict discipline."

And again this must be emphasized: the glossy generalization of household help and the negative generalization against the middle class ignore the fact that middle class employers practically have no remedy against erring or malicious maids. Sue them for damages? But with what money could the maids pay the damages awarded? Will the police be willing to hunt down maids who, because they simply felt like it, abandoned their employers? Besides, what is the need for a Kasambahay Bill if maids today are practically entitled to get away with any infraction or incompetence simply by uttering "’sensya na po?"

Of course we want to help every fellow Filipino. But that help must be done with clear eyes and rational thought. As noted economics commentator Nonoy Oplas pointed out: "There are different causes of poverty, there are different types of the poor, and there are different aspirations by the poor. Thus, ‘fighting poverty’ as if there is only one type of the poor, or as if the poor have only one aspiration, often results in expanding the lot of the poor, or creating new poor.’

If we must have such laws, let it be that which promotes accountability, responsibility, and merit. But if a Kasambahay Law (as it’s drafted now) gets enacted, then it would be better, particularly for those of the middle class, not to hire maids anymore. Better save your money and just do the chores you can do better anyway.


For better Filipinos and against dynasties

Here is a compilation of articles I've written on political dynasties and the elite through the years. Feel free to share:

> It's the inequality, stupid!
> Tama na, sobra na, palitan na!
> Our mad, lunatic, insanity
> Of Ilustrado and the elections
> Still on the elite
> Vox populi
> Occupied Philippines
> Coffee with Jose Almonte
> The politics of excuses
> The trouble with priests
> Class war

And two somewhat technical articles on our oligarchy problem and how international trade and a good competition policy law could be of help to the country:

> Trade and human rights
> Anti-trust and corruption


Defending the faith

is the subject of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

Last October 11 marked the beginning of the Catholic Church’s Year of the Faith, which will run up to November 2013. Pope Benedict XVI (in his Apostolic Letter, “Porta Fidei”) explained his desire to put this emphasis on faith: “Ever since the start of my ministry as Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.” Significantly, this Year of Faith coincides with major political developments for our country, particularly the May 2013 national elections.

This is a crucial opportunity for Catholics to exercise their duty in ensuring that their values are translated into meaningful policies in the public square. This was a call made by Jesus Christ himself (Mk 16:15). We should take this time to end the ridiculous notion that religious freedom merely allows a person to pray in private. True religious freedom (along with that other equally misunderstood concept of church and State separation) includes the right of believers to proselytize and to push for their beliefs even in political discussions. For Catholics, this is best described by St. Josemaria Escriva: “Have you ever bothered to think how absurd it is to leave one’s Catholicism aside on entering a university, or a professional association, or a scholarly meeting, or Congress, as if you were checking your hat at the door?”

The social issue currently needing Catholics’ correct advocacy is on the matter of contraception. On this, Catholic position is clear: it is an infallible teaching of the Church that contraception is immoral. Thus, any legislation, including an amended RH Bill, should be opposed completely. In this regard, GK Chesterton’s comments are apt: “I do not feel any contempt for an atheist... I do not feel any contempt for a Bolshevist... But there is one type of person for whom I feel what I can only call contempt. And that is the popular propagandist of what he or she absurdly describes as Birth-Control. I despise birth control first because it is a weak and wobbly and cowardly word. It is also an entirely meaningless word. The proceeding these quack doctors recommend does not control any birth. It only makes sure that there shall never be any birth to control.” Chesterton was right: “birth control” is a misleading term, it is actually “birth prevention.” And if the RH Bill proponents are to have any sincerity, they should use that term instead and then let the people decide if they will support such a chilling measure.

But if Catholics are to fight for their faith, they should ensure that they correctly know their faith as well. This includes the duty to study Church doctrines (a good starting point of which is to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, easily available at National Bookstore and Fully Booked) and continuous reading -- with priestly mentoring -- of the Bible.

However, this also means that we be vigilant in how the faith is expressed by others and how the sacraments are respected. We should encourage everybody to teach correct doctrine. This has nothing to do with academic freedom but everything to do with honesty.

If there are any priests or teachers out there who question the teaching of the Bishops on contraception, for example, let them know about Canon Law (1983) 750-754, which provides for a good Catholic response to the teachings of the Church. Thus, even for Church teachings that are supposedly not of the level of infallibility, Catholics must respond with “religious submission of the mind” and avoid anything not in accord with such teaching.

The integrity of the celebration of the Mass itself must be protected: host crumbs (or wine drops) allowed to fall after transubstantiation, priests who ridiculously insist in gender neutral readings of Scripture (including those who refuse to call God as “Father”), those who insist on preaching the discredited “liberation theology,” those who make improper innovations during Mass (such as making the congregation recite the words “through Him, with Him, and in Him...”; only the priest is supposed to say that), those who include pagan or indigenous people’s rituals into the liturgy (this is not allowed even by Vatican II; see Sacrosanctum Concilium) must all be corrected.

Catholic lay believers have that right and duty. It is recommended that if such erroneous practices are being done, then they should talk directly (and very respectfully, charitably) to the priests making the error. However, if the errors continue, then note that under Canon Law 221 (and 229), Catholics have the right to demand that they receive correct teaching and liturgy, even to the point of taking such demand before a “competent ecclesiastical forum.”

If anybody needs assistance on these matters, including Canon Law, do feel free to contact me. Let’s all help each other in defending the Catholic faith from within and without.


Developing a Catholic economic vision

I got this from Mirror of Reason, a compilation of recent articles that deal with economic matters from the perspective of Catholic moral thought:

> Campaign 2012: Economy and Empowerment (by George Weigel)

> Can Catholics Converge on an Economic Vision? (by David Cloutier)

> A Truly Catholic Economy (by Anna Williams)

> A Welfare System That Works (by Naomi Schaefer Riley)

Try reading this in line with the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church.


The Philippines' last battleground

is the subject of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

This article is based on a paper I delivered (“The Last Battleground: Philippine Social Issues And The Constitutional Response To Natural Law”; for the full text, see http://www.jemygatdula.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-last-battleground-philippine-social.html) at the 19th International Law and Religion Symposium, Brigham Young University, last Oct. 7-9. 2012. The paper sought to discuss how natural law worked within Philippine legal history, and how the same can play a better role in resolving present and future social disputes.

The paper found only three Philippine presidents who didn’t make any reference to a “higher law” or anything akin to a “natural law” in their inaugurals. Joseph Estrada focused more on his personal struggles as allegory to that of the masses. Corazon Aquino did not as well. But this could be justified perhaps because her swearing in as president occurred during the uncertain days of the People Power revolution. But it is interesting that her son, current president Benigno Aquino III did the same: failing to mention or refer to any higher law and seemed more intent on extolling the virtues of his “tuwid na landas” (literally the straight path), which is more a political slogan than anything else.

In any event, in judicial declarations the concepts of “higher law,” “divine law, “natural law” would be repeatedly seen. That the Philippines refer to a “higher law” is not doubted. It is also clear that natural law has been recognized consistently through the years. What is not clear is the identity of such higher law. Do Supreme Court rulings indicate a Philippine legal system more “fideistic” than is supposed? If so, such presents certain problems, particularly as to how such could be worked into the fabric of our constitutional principles.

The initial reaction to this was to conclude that the Philippines is simply confused in its references to a higher law, mixing up “divine law” with that of natural law. Hence, the seeming easy interchangeability with which the judiciary (and to a certain extent our political leaders) have done on the two seemingly distinct concepts. But on closer look of our case law, particularly as to our justice’s opinions surrounding Estrada vs. Escritor, what looked like confusion becomes actually something else.

That the Philippines involves natural law in its legal thinking is certain. So does its belief that a “divine” law holds human beings accountable. However, instead of concluding that the Philippines simplistically foregoes reason in exchange for a convenient ambiguity that could justify any decision by making references to a law grounded on faith than anything else, the better probability is that the Philippines takes it for granted that, assuming faith has a role to play in our legal system, such faith is also based on reason. Rather, therefore, than simply resorting to fideism, the Philippines seems to have recognized, early on and quite “naturally” (no pun intended), that matters of faith are “reasonable.” Taking that viewpoint, that faith and reason go together, complementing each other, the propriety therefore not only of natural law reasoning but also of religious thought into judicial determinations, as well as legislation, becomes all the more appropriate.

The significance of this becomes all the more apparent when one considers the paper’s title. I called the Philippines the “last battleground.” And the reason for that is twofold: the Philippines is the only country left in the Southeast Asian region that still does not have national legislation legally institutionalizing contraception and is the only remaining country on Earth (except perhaps for the Vatican) that still does not recognize divorce. A lot of the credit has to go to the Catholic Church for courageously keeping to its teachings. However, if the Philippines is to stand its ground on these two issues, despite massive funding being given by international organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and liberal groups, a lot of it will depend on the Philippines being confident enough that its legal system is not based merely on a “leap of faith” but is properly anchored on reason as well.

But there is an even more significant aspect to all this: for a country of 7,000 islands, hundreds of dialects, varied cultures and religions, different races and even political beliefs, the one unifying thing that could be said of the Philippines is its belief that faith, with a commonality to be found first in natural law, is indeed reasonable. The other thing that must be considered is the Philippine demographic: Filipinos 30 years old and below comprise around 70% of the population (with those below 14 years at 35%, with the median age at 22.9 years old). Whoever or whatever captures the soul of this demographic effectively captures the soul of the nation for many decades to come.

Viewed in that regard, to accept and institutionalize the fact that a reasonable faith has a proper role in public and political matters, even perhaps serving as a fundamental and universal normative framework, is perhaps the real last battleground.


Bangsamoro at any price

is the subject of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

Back in 2008, the Supreme Court gave one of the most important judicial decisions ever in the history of our Republic. As penned by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales in the North Cotobato case, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain violated the Constitution, creating as it does “a far more powerful entity than the autonomous region recognized in the Constitution. It is not merely an expanded version of the ARMM, the status of its relationship with the national government being fundamentally different from that of the ARMM. Indeed, [the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity] is a State in all but name as it meets the criteria of a State.”

As I wrote then (“The MOA and of good intentions,” BusinessWorld, 31 October 2008): “The MOA essentially begins with acknowledgments from the government of the Bangsamoro rights. Then it goes on to identify the Bangsamoro as the natives, Muslim or not, of Mindanao, including Palawan and Sulu at the time of colonization, their descendants, whether mixed or of full blood, and their spouses. The MOA then designates the territory of the Bangsamoro as the land -- as well as waters, airspace, and atmospheric space -- embracing the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan geographic region. The Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is mandated to have jurisdiction over those areas, including ‘territorial waters,’ as well as the use of resources. Finally, the BJE is free to enter into any economic cooperation and trade relations with foreign countries, establish trade missions in other countries, and enter into environmental treaties. With that, our government almost got away with allowing a group of people to dismember our Republic and to have another State carved out away from us.”

Contrary to what most people think, sovereignty is not a requirement in order for an entity to become a State. As provided for under the 1933 Montevideo Convention, the elements of a State are only the following: people, territory, government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other States. As with the MoA-AD then and as it is now with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro announced last Sunday, all four elements have been acquired by the Bangsamoro. This is an entity that potentially could get portions of OUR territory, OUR resources, and OUR people.

That it has the elements of “people” and “government” are seen from the provisions of Art. I.1 and I.2 of the Framework. Thus, the “Bangsamoro shall be established to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).” Also, the “government of the Bangsamoro shall have a ministerial form. The Parties agree to entrench an electoral system suitable to a ministerial form of government. The electoral system shall allow democratic participation, ensure accountability of public officers primarily to their constituents and encourage formation of genuinely principled political parties.”

One very significant provision is Article I.5, which betrays the Bangsamoro “people’s” desire to be dis-affiliated from Filipinos and indicates continued use of the quite discredited (under international law) “First Nation” argument: “The Parties recognize Bangsamoro identity. Those who at the time of conquest and colonization were considered natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands including Palawan, and their descendants whether of mixed or of full blood shall have the right to identify themselves as Bangsamoro by ascription or self-ascription.”

That it has the element of “territory” can be seen from the provisions of Article I above, as well as Article V, particularly Article V.1: “The core territory of the Bangsamoro shall be composed of: (a) the present geographical area of the ARMM; (b) the Municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte and all other barangays in the Municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite; (c) the cities of Cotabato and Isabela; and (d) all other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least ten percent (10%) of the qualified voters in the area asking for their inclusion at least two months prior to the conduct of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

That it has the “capacity to enter into relations with other States” can be seen in Article III.2.c, whereby the Bangsamoro has “the power to enter into economic agreements.”

That the Bangsamoro and the Philippine government has an “asymmetric” relationship means nothing. When the Framework Agreement takes effect, the Bangsamoro can at any time claim the status of being a State as it has -- with the complicity of our government -- acquired all the elements of one. It has all the powers of a State: police powers, taxation, and eminent domain. It even has its own executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

And the clincher why we know the Bangsamoro is a State is because not once under the Framework Agreement do we see the Bangsamoro subject to the Constitution.