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

One interesting aspect in this globalized world we have today is that the airline industry has, for some reason, been taken for granted. Perhaps to blame for it is its previous successes, whereby its very ubiquity have made people think nothing of its state and future, whether it be globally or even locally.

However, the airline industry is not exactly flying high these days (and, yes, I couldn’t resist the puns for this article, mea maxima culpa). Qantas, for one, has seen its profits dip. As reported by The Observer ("Airline industry faces grim year as Gulf carriers take over the world"; 17 June 2012), "Earlier this month, Qantas shares fell below A$1 for the first time since the carrier was privatized 17 years ago, following a profit warning blamed on a combination of hard-up Europeans cancelling their holidays and sharply rising fuel costs. Attempts to restructure the airline last year led to a dispute that saw the entire fleet grounded. Qantas’s biggest problem is the ever-more competitive environment."

But Qantas is not alone, as The Economist pointed out ("The American Airlines bankruptcy," 12 May 2012), "AMR Corp., the parent company of bankrupt American Airlines, announced that it will consider merging with another airline as part of a plan to emerge from bankruptcy. Most outside observers have expected this for some time -- United Airlines, which absorbed Continental, and Delta Air Lines, which merged with Northwest, are now significantly larger than American."

Competitiveness among the different airlines certainly has something to do with it. But the uncertainties in the global economy, along with insecurities in safety due to terrorists and other such problems, have contributed to increasing airplanes’ empty seats. As the WTO recently reported, "Slowing global output growth has led WTO economists to downgrade their 2012 forecast for world trade expansion to 2.5% from 3.7% and to scale back their 2013 estimate to 4.5% from 5.6%."

But assuming it’s true that the Philippine economy is poised for a take-off anytime soon (which, in no small part, is attributed to the Philippines’ young population; thus putting the lie for a need for an RH Bill), a significant part of that development will have to do with services and, specifically, tourism. As I wrote, however, previously ("A cloudy open skies," 20 January 2011), "Considerably, our tourism industry needs more than additional plane seats to get going: they need better airports and an efficient infrastructure. Both of which, we don’t really have. Such also needs careful and coordinated planning. None of which is being done effectively. We have a Category 2 rating from the International Civil Aviation Organization due to deficient aviation infrastructure and safety standards. All these are beyond the purview of local airlines. But they do fall squarely within the responsibility of the government. Traffic, peace and order, pollution, sanitation? These are not the responsibility of the local airlines. These are government’s. So why put the burden squarely on the shoulders of our airlines?"

And the need for emphasis in putting method and coordination for our air industry is highlighted by the fact that while Europe’s airline industry is not doing so well due to "rising tax regimes, inefficiencies in air traffic management, and the high cost of complying with poorly thought-out regulations," nevertheless, "IATA has also revised its forecast for Asian airlines’ profitability down from $2.3 billion to $2 billion, due mainly to weaknesses in the cargo industry." (The Economist, "The sick man of Europe," 11 June 2012)

IATA (International Air Transport Association) should know, what with its 60-year industry experience and a network that encompasses around 84% of total air traffic. It also assisted Oxford Economics in making the 2011 report "Economic Benefits from Air Transport in the Philippines". In it, the stakes are detailed on how important it is that we get our air industry right: "Improved connectivity gives Philippine-based businesses greater access to foreign markets, encouraging exports, and at the same time increases competition and choice in the home market from foreign-based producers. In this way, improved connectivity encourages firms to specialize in areas where they possess a comparative advantage. Where firms enjoy a comparative advantage, international trade provides the opportunity to better exploit economies of scale, driving down their costs and prices and thereby benefiting domestic consumers in the process. Opening domestic markets to foreign competitors can also be an important driver behind reducing unit production costs, either by forcing domestic firms to adopt best international practices in production and management methods or by encouraging innovation."

So while trade agreements and laws do matter, nevertheless, the little details matter more. St. Augustine was right: if you want to aim high, go deep and build better foundations. If we want our economic and tourism numbers to rise, our airplanes fly, we better take the time (as we’ve been saying for some time already) to see that matters on the ground are going right as well.


Again, Fr. Bernas is mistaken. Same with Fr. Aquino

By this article Fr. Joaquin Bernas (and those from whom he gets his advice) is again sadly mistaken. It is very evident that he compartmentalizes his reasoning, distinguishing the theological, philosophical, and constitutional points from each other. This is wrong. The arguments are actually unified and one. They are all constitutional arguments (and philosophical, and theological). The fact that he can't seem to see that is unfortunate.

His arguments on taxation, the nature of legislation, and the application of natural law are also myopic and, at times, quite fallacious.

Ultimately, how one understands the law, the nature of law, the nature of rights, and the nature of human beings would be determinative of how one ultimately views constitutional law. Though there would be occasions to properly discuss 'pluralism' and 'tolerance', there is still that point when one has to make a consideration of what is the objective standard (or else admit the lack of one) in determining what is constitutional or not and what what is right from wrong.

Far from helping achieve clarity on the issue, Fr. Bernas, I am grieved to say, continues to feed confusion to it.

I still stand on my previous comments on the issue, noting that Fr. Bernas has said nothing new that would give me cause to revise it. For a further exposition on natural law and how contraception violates it, see Catholic Sexual Ethics: A Summary, Explanation & Defense.

Lamentably, Fr, Ranhilio Aquino, also seems to not "get" natural law (see The Trouble With Natural Law). One can point to so many reasons why this is so. Suffice to say, however, that the fact that he does not seem to grasp that the very authority he mentions (i.e., John Finnis) is actually quite clear on his position that contraception violates natural law (see "Every Marital Act Ought To Be Open to New Life': Toward a Clearer Understanding"; co-written by John Finnis with Germain Grisez and William May) points to his inadequate depth on the matter.

Cutting through all the things he says, the logical consequence of his argument is that by denying contraception's contradiction to natural law, then the Catholic Church's stand on the matter is merely a theological eccentricity on its part, not based on reason. Which is completely opposite that of what the Church is saying about the 'reasonableness' of its teaching, a quite interesting position for a priest to take.

Having said that, here's another excellent (albeit, ironically, from a lay person) discussion on why contraception is a violation of natural law (see Contraception: Why not? by Dr. Janet Smith).


Tolerance and reciprocity

Brilliant article by Professor Anthony Esolen on the nature of 'tolerance' (as well as 'pluralism'). Good reference and framework within which to argue on the merits of contraception, as well as divorce and same-sex marriage.

* * *

(The article was first published in Public Discourse and is by Anthony Esolen, Professor of English at Providence College in Providence Rhode Island, and the author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child and Ironies of Faith. He has translated Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata and Dante’s The Divine Comedy.) 

Tolerance of wrong-doing is freely given; it is an act of graciousness, and not the paying of a debt. Therefore it rests with the offender, at the very least, to refrain from aggravating the burden of tolerance.

Thomas Aquinas, practical fellow that he was, understood that not all bad things can feasibly be proscribed by human law. It isn’t because people disagree about what is bad, but rather that a well-governed polity should require few laws, easily promulgated and understood, broadly promoting the common good, wherein the lawgiver can attend to things that are obviously within his scope of competence. Custom and the ordinary interchanges between human beings must take care of the rest. Since human beings are wayward—since they suffer the ills of pride, envy, avarice, lust, and the other deadlies—we will always require the modest virtue of tolerance to get through a day without knocking one another about the head.

The root meaning of the word suggests what the virtue involves. The Latin tol- is related to a group of words having to do with carrying a burden: German dulden, to be patient, to endure; Old English tholian, to suffer; Latin tuli, I have borne. When we tolerate we bear with someone or something; we bear the existence of a wrong. We do so because, given the circumstances, to protest would invite a greater wrong. There is a time for public correction, and a time for quiet endurance and, if the opportunity arises, private correction.

I should like to distinguish tolerance from an even more modest virtue, one without a name; it is part civility, part equanimity, part humility. It is sometimes called “pluralism,” but that isn’t quite right. We acknowledge that no one person can ever grasp the whole of the human condition, or the common good in its fullness. We are fallible, first of all; but we are also endowed with a variety of interests and talents. So we welcome a certain freedom of action, within the bounds of common courtesy and the moral law. One man works on cars in his spare time, another plants grapevines, another reads philosophy. It is to our general benefit that this should be so. But in these cases there is nothing really to tolerate. Tolerance properly understood always suggests the bearing of some trouble, or even of moral wrong.

What’s not so often acknowledged is that tolerance implies reciprocity from the person whose behavior is tolerated. For tolerance of wrongdoing is freely given; it is an act of graciousness, and not the paying of a debt. Therefore it rests with the offender, at the very least, to refrain from aggravating the burden of tolerance.

Suppose my neighbor has left his wife for another woman. It’s not against the law, although perhaps it should be. But it is a wrong. He can complain all day about how exasperating his wife is, but that won’t change the fact that he is breaking a vow, and doing his part to undermine the fundamental institution of society. I like my neighbor, poor man. He’s on the brink of a nervous breakdown. His mother is very ill. For these and other reasons I decide to tolerate his behavior. I am not going to take him to the woodshed. But I’m not going to give him my approval, either.

No matter whether my tolerance in this case is prudent or only timid, it demands reciprocity from my neighbor. He will refrain from bringing the new woman to my house, to meet my wife and children. He will refrain from lounging with her in his front yard, in affectionate embrace. He will refrain from publicizing the adultery. He will certainly not celebrate it.

The discretion he must practice is, as it were, tolerance’s doppelganger. I tolerate his vice; he “tolerates” my tolerance, and owes it to me to do so. Another example. The local convenience store sells Playboy magazine. They are legally permitted to sell it. But it is a wrong; it degrades the beauty of the human body and turns sexuality from its proper sphere in marriage to the private quest for gratification. If they tacitly request tolerance, they tacitly incur a debt of reciprocity. They will keep the offensive magazine out of sight.
The reader will note that the two examples above have to do with sex. They needn’t have; the principle remains. Suppose my auto mechanic accepts cash from his customers, giving them a break on their expenses, with the understanding that the money changes hands under the table, beyond the ken of the tax man. I know that it is dishonest to sign a tax form with a false declaration of income. He knows it too, because he himself would never hire a contractor who signed his name to false expense accounts. I pay him by check, and do not turn him in. I tolerate the evil. Now suppose he were to run for public office, on a platform of fiscal reform. That would be to heap another burden upon my back. It would make a mockery of tolerance itself.

And yet, because of the great leeway the law allows to sexual rather than financial relations, and because of the vagaries of human desire, behavior that touches upon our sexual nature will offer plenty of opportunities for tolerance—and for the reciprocity that tolerance is owed.

I am the father of a twelve-year-old boy. I want my son to be comfortable being a boy. I want him to grow up to be attracted to women, and to be attractive to them in turn. I want him to have natural, matter-of-course friendships with other men; not the suffocating touchy-needy relationships that stunt a boy’s maturity. I want him to walk and talk and work and play and fight and laugh like the man I see developing within him. I want him to love the beauty and grace and wisdom of girls and women, and to see himself as perfecting them and being perfected by them. I hope he will marry a good woman and raise happy children, who will look like him and his wife, and maybe a little like me and my wife. It’s perfectly natural for me to want this. It’s what fathers have always wanted for their sons.

Therefore it is natural that I should want no one to lay a snare in the boy’s path. Adolescence comes with a maelstrom of new feelings: frustration with still being so young, fear that one is already too old, longing for some indefinite thing of beauty, curiosity regarding good things that are mysterious, and bad things that seem so; no one can chart a map for every adolescent child. Adolescents are, then, peculiarly vulnerable. We owe it to them to make their passage as healthy and easy as possible.

All right, then. I understand there are men who have not attained the healthy masculine nature I hope my son will attain. I don’t make fun of them. I don’t wish them ill. I count some among my friends. I extend to them my tolerance of a state that is at least a significant falling-short of a natural good. But it requires pretty serious reciprocity. For one, the rights of my son should be respected. No snares in his path, thank you. He should not have to suffer, by suggestion or invitation or public example or enticement or moral sophistry, any complication along his way to becoming a healthy man, able to love a woman in a healthy way. Mr. Madison and Mr. Unger live in the same apartment: they are roommates. The history teacher, Mr. Delvecchio, is 40 and unmarried. Well, some people are confirmed bachelors. And indeed they may be. The freedom-clearing presumption of normality ought to obtain.

It follows too that if the public parading of a wrong is an offense against tolerance, so is the public declaration of a propensity to engage in the wrong. Every person alive is beset by temptations. We may utter them to our confessors, or, less often, to our best friends on condition of secrecy, or to our spouses, when it would not cause needless pain. Beyond that, we assist the tolerance of our neighbors by keeping our serpents to ourselves.

If a married man says, “I’m attracted to your daughter, but be assured I’ll never act upon my attraction,” he has at a stroke made it impossible for you ever to see him and your daughter in the same room without the shadow crossing your mind. He has, in his false and hypocritical show of honesty, loaded a heavy burden of decision upon you. Sever your friendship, and the self-hugging candid fellow can soothe himself by saying, “It was he who turned away from me.”

There are things we are better off not knowing about. But there’s more. The man who parades his temptation may be seeking approval. “Look at me! I am tempted to do things with another man that God and nature never intended. But I’m not going to do them. Aren’t I to be congratulated?” No, not a bit. If a man said, “Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to open fire upon a bus full of professionals. Oh, I’ll never do it, but just imagine the blood,” we’d rightly consider reporting him to the police. And then it is a small step from approving the brave fellow who makes his temptation conspicuous and conspicuously averts the sin, to suggesting that perhaps the sin isn’t really so bad after all, if such a conspicuously virtuous fellow is tempted by it.

That too is an offense against tolerance. It is to make one’s neighbor always aware of his tolerance: to weary him with it, to pester him little by little into giving in, because it is so much easier to condone than to tolerate. So it is that the most intolerant among us frequently preach about tolerance—to nag their opponents into submission, and to get their way.


Updated compilation of materials against the RH Bill

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

> 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

Feel free to share with your friends.

No need for an RH bill, now or ever

(The 19 authors are Dr. Bernardo Villegas, Ph.D Economics [Harvard University]; Maria Conception Noche, Alliance for the Family; Frank Padilla, CFC-FFL; Rolando de los Reyes, Courage Philippines; Dr. Eleanor Palabyab, Doctors for Life; Alan Dacanay, Families against the RH Bill; Dr. Angelita Aguirre, Family Media Advocacy Foundation; Leonardo Montemayor, Federation of Free Farmers; Evelina Atienza, Kababaihan ng Maynila; Joseph Tesoro, Live Pure Movement; Eric Manalang, Pro-life Philippines; Jemy Gatdula and Felipe Salvosa, Pro-life Professors; Dr. Raul Nidoy, Science and Reason for Human Beings; Maribel Descallar, Teodora: In Defense of the Authentic Woman; Kiboy Tabada, UP for Life; Luis Buenaventura III, YUPamilya; Anthony Lumicao, Youth United for the Philippines; and Anthony Perez, Filipinos for Life.)
There is no need for any legislation that guarantees universal access to contraceptives, the so-called reproductive health (RH) care devices, now or ever. Whatever “band-aid” amendments may be proposed by well-intentioned proponents of the RH bill to make it more palatable, the underlying principles behind it are inherently flawed.
Antisustainable growth
The first component of sustainable development is a rate of economic growth that is high enough to contribute, together with appropriate economic policies, to the eradication of poverty. High gross domestic product growth is dependent on a growing and young population as has been stated by numerous international economists and top officials.

The just released Global Competitiveness Report 2012 of the World Economic Forum, like the HSBC 2012 Report, had the Philippines jumping several notches up in economic competitiveness because of our large, growing population.

Population control, however, will backfire and cause the acceleration of our falling fertility rate. Many pro-RH proponents harp on the dangers of population explosion. They have not learned from the lessons of the last two centuries of unparalleled economic progress in many countries of the East and the West that have disproved the Malthusian theory of perpetual poverty caused by the so-called geometric growth of population.

New resources
The unlimited capacity of the human mind to discover new resources and technologies has overcome the “limits to growth” that sowed fears in the last century.

Some of the greatest minds of the 20th century such as Nobel laureates Simon Kuznets and Michael Spence; Dr. Mahbub ul Haq, creator of the development index; and resource specialists Colin Clark and Julian Simon have shown through cross-country studies and long-term analyses of the economic experiences of developed countries that population growth was a positive stimulus to economic progress and that it was surpassed by the growth in real income.

Economists who purport to show the opposite have for their sample very few countries. They also have access to data over a relatively short period compared with the studies showing that there is no correlation between population growth and the spread of mass poverty, which is due to erroneous economic policies and failure of good governance.

Even those few countries in which there is some evidence that birth control policies temporarily helped in boosting economic growth in the short run are now regretting their fertility reduction programs. Well-known are the attempts of the leaders of Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan to appeal to their women to bear more babies.

Premarital sex, abortion
Since material well-being is not the only component of human development or happiness, there is another problem that widespread use of contraceptives can unleash. The findings of Nobel laureate George Akerlof who, despite his protestations that he was in favor of abortion and artificial contraception, demonstrated with empirical evidence that the “reproductive technology shock” led to an increase in premarital sex, and due to contraceptive failure, also in unwed mothers, children without fathers and other societal ills.

A 2009 University of Pennsylvania study, titled “Sexual Revolution,” showed that premarital sex in the United States ballooned from 0.06 percent of women in 1900 to 75 percent today as contraception provided the youth the ease of sex without “cost” or responsibility.

False sense of security
This same link with premarital sex was also suggested by the studies by JE Potter in Brazil, and clearly seen by the work of Dr. Edward Green in Africa. Green, former director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard University, affirmed that “condoms have not worked as a primary intervention in the population-wide epidemics of Africa,” citing studies at the Lancet, Science and British Medical Journal and explaining that the availability of condoms led to earlier and riskier sex by creating a false sense of security.
As the contraceptive mentality sets in (contra = against; conception = beginning of human beings), a negative view of human beings is promoted. A 2011 study in the scientific journal Contraception showed that the rise in contraceptive use in Spain also saw a jump in abortion rate. This link—both logical and empirical—has been acknowledged by leaders of the abortion industry, such as Malcolm Potts, the first medical director of International Planned Parenthood.

Only five nations in the world still prohibit abortion. A hundred years ago all nations did. It was acceptance of contraception that changed their minds. This will happen here, too, if we accept contraception.
Secularist ideology
Another serious flaw in the RH bill is the sweeping generalization about “unwanted pregnancies.” Scientific studies in the United States, especially those by Lant Pritchett of Harvard University, have seriously questioned the assumption made by pro-RH bill advocates that unwanted pregnancies among married women are rampant. The finding of social scientists is that mothers have the number of children they want.
Surveys in the Philippines that purport to show that there are many mothers among poor households, who regret having given birth to some of their children, are suspect. These surveys are usually funded by international organizations that have a strong bias for population control.
Obama administration
It is no secret that in the Democratic National Convention, the Obama administration made it clear that there will be continuing support for abortion. One does not have to be paranoid to assume that if President Obama wins a second term, he and his Secretary of State will continue to target countries like the Philippines to spread their culture of death.

Besides being part of an ideological interpretation of “women’s rights,” such aggressive campaign to promote reproductive health (which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton averred “includes access to abortion”) continues the US-supported worldwide program that was unleashed by the National Security Study Memorandum 200:  Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas Interests.
Considering the revelations about the participation of foreign interests in lobbying for the RH bill, any version of it will be suspect.

Let us not be naïve. Only last year, Green, through his book “Broken Promises,” exposed in brilliant detail how the West’s AIDS establishment disowned scientific evidence that wide condom use was in fact ineffective in stopping AIDS in Africa, and how those who dominate it—the homosexual ideologues, population controllers and condom suppliers—worsened the epidemic and betrayed the developing world.

Taking away funds for poor
Besides being the antithesis to sustainable economic growth and human development, the RH bill also unwittingly goes against inclusive growth, i.e. economic progress that benefits the poorest among the poor.
It misdiagnoses the reason  households of larger family sizes are poorer than those with fewer children. Studies have shown that households with larger family sizes are poorer not because they have too many children but because their heads are the least educated.  This should lead policymakers not to convince these poor households to have fewer children, but to invest more resources in their education, especially the women, a proposal that is strongly supported by the studies of Economics Nobel laureates Amartya Sen and Gary Becker.
Improve basic education
Government should divert whatever is budgeted for contraceptives to improving the quality of basic education among the poor.  Poor households, especially in the rural areas, choose to have more children because human beings are their only resources, especially considering the failure of the state to provide farmers with infrastructure.

The poor farmers will suffer manpower shortages in their labor-intensive farming if they start imitating the rich in having only one or two children. The same applies to those millions of households that have at least one of its immediate members working abroad. Seducing them to have fewer children could very well leave them even more destitute, as publications of the UN and Asian Development Bank have predicted.

Disseminating a contraceptive mentality among the poor unmasks a condescending and elitist attitude that the poor should not be allowed to multiply. This policy is dangerously close to the eugenics practiced by authoritarian leaders like Adolf Hitler.

Considering that the competitive advantage of the Philippines in the global economy is its young, growing population, a really propoor economic strategy should allow the poor to choose to have as many children as they wish and then to generously support them with infrastructure, educational and technical skills training, and microcredit support, among other things, so that they can turn their children into truly productive resources.

Suspect surveys
Those who support the RH bill refer to surveys purporting to show that there is a large demand for free contraceptives among the poor. As mentioned, these surveys are suspect because they are funded by international agencies advocating contraception and abortion. Questionnaires are formulated to influence respondents to give the desired answers.

A recent consumer survey conducted among the C, D and E households (constituting more than 60 percent of households) by SEED Institute, a field research group, came out with more objective data about the demand for contraceptives among mothers in poor households in Metro Manila.

Wish list
The survey was conducted to identify the consumer patterns of the poor with the intention of giving guidelines to profit-making firms and social enterprises about what goods and services could be tailored specifically to the needs of the poor. The respondents (all mothers) were asked to list down the top three goods or services that they most wanted the government to provide for free after they exhausted their resources to meet their most basic needs. Among more than 20 goods or services on their wish lists, there was no mention whatsoever of “free contraceptives.”

The Philippine Medical Association also asserted that the goal of reducing maternal and child deaths “could be attained by improving maternal and child health care without the necessity of distributing contraceptives. The millions of [pesos] intended for contraceptive devices may just well be applied in improving the skills of our health workers.”

Provoking moral crisis
Several religious groups, Muslim, Protestant and Catholic, oppose the RH measure on moral grounds. Belying pro-RH surveys, these groups, together with other people of goodwill, have rallied by the thousands in many cities and towns around the country, and have contributed in winning post-debate polls on national television.

The Imam Council of the Philippines, leaders of our 4.5 million Muslims, pronounced that contraceptives “make us lose morality.” Throughout the centuries, the Catholic Church has taught that contraception is intrinsically evil. Pope John Paul the Great wrote that contraception “leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love.”

It is, therefore, advisable that Congress refrain from passing a law that would oblige citizens who adhere to their religion to fund an item which they consider immoral. Considering the strong arguments against the RH bill based on secular sciences, it would be prudent for the state not to provoke a religious-moral crisis among a large majority of the Filipino population.

Need for virtue
Lastly, two Asian intellectuals spoke of the virtue needed by a nation. Speaking of the “crime” of contraception, Mahatma Gandhi taught: “Even as many people will be untruthful and violent, humanity may not lower its standard, so also, though many, even the majority, may not respond to the message of self-control, we may not lower our standard.”

Jose Rizal wrote: “Only virtue can save! If our country has ever to be free, it will not be through vice and crime, it will not be so by corrupting its sons, deceiving some and bribing others, no! Redemption presupposes virtue, virtue sacrifice and sacrifice love!”

Still no to the Kasambahay Bill

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

When I wrote that article last week ("No to the Kasambahay Bill"; Sept. 14, 2012), I was expecting huge anger from the readers about the position and the arguments I made. Gratifyingly instead, aside from a few who expressed quite eccentric views, the overwhelming response I got was agreement to my objection to the Kasambahay Bill. This article is meant to clarify and further discuss why I believe the Kasambahay Bill, at this time and as it stands, is a bad idea.

Emphatically, the biggest objection is not merely the minimum wage requirement but fundamentally the idea of fairness, a fairness deserved as well by the employer. Again, this is not to go against the idea that a proper wage should be given for a proper day’s work.

A reader who agreed to my objection to the Kasambahay Bill, nevertheless, expressed discomfort at my seeming "generalization" of maids. My response was: not so. If there was any generalization made, it was made by the Kasambahay Bill of the middle class. And the generalization done was quite negative: that the middle class abuses, underpays, and commits violence against household help. But that is simply not true. Most Filipinos who hire household help are decent people who, as our culture makes pretty clear, treat such household help as members of the family.

This negative generalization of the middle class ignores the fact that middle class employers practically have no remedy against erring or malicious maids. Sue them for damages? But lawsuits cost lots and what money could the maids pay the damages awarded with anyway? Will the police be willing to hunt down maids who, because they simply felt like it, abandoned their employers? In fact, the system is so skewed against the middle class that, with just minimal exaggeration on my part, maids feel they are entitled to get away with any infraction or incompetence simply by uttering "’sensya na po."

But this negative generalization also ignores the fact, which I pointed out in last week’s article, that "ordinarily in this country, maids that are found working well are compensated generously." As one reader mentioned to me, because of their maids’ demonstrated loyalty and good work, their family went to the extent of funding their education and even took them to their Hong Kong vacation. Another reader said they funded the maid’s family business in the province. These stories cannot be overemphasized enough considering they (the readers’ families) themselves admitted are "not rich."

Clearly, the issue is not about withholding deserved compensation to the household help. It is about genuine fairness. And it is also "fair" to say that a lot of household help are "generally untrained, a good number of which work lazily or with a bad attitude." I quoted Beth Day Romulo’s 1987 book Inside the Palace: "The little maids who flood into Manila from their parents’ farms in the provinces are apt to be pleasant and honest, but also untrained, inefficient, unmotivated -- and clumsy." Note, she was writing from the perspective of a quarter of a century ago. But as one reader wrote to me, having grown up with maids in the house, he is bothered at the fact that the quality of maids (and the service they give) has steadily worsened through the years.

Obviously, there are abusive employers, as the recent newspaper headlines show us. But these abusive people are currently in jail, awaiting trial. What does that tell you? That there are laws currently in place already that protect household help for whom abuse is heaped.

The real objection to the Kasambahay Bill then, to repeat, is fairness: why give to maids, at considerable burden to the middle class, extra rights, professional’s privileges, and statutorily imposed compensation without requiring from them the commensurate professionalism and accountability?

One reader argues that the Kasambahay Bill actually will enable household helps to be responsible and professional. But that’s ridiculous. As anybody who actually managed people would know, you never give a reward or promotion in the hopes that such person will step up and match the reward or promotion. It never happens. It will actually encourage that person to continue behaving or working badly or even worse. Rewards, rights, privileges are given for good work or behavior already done and with the concomitant responsibility to keep doing so. To do otherwise is precisely to encourage a "paternalistic entitlement society."

If the Kasambahay Bill must be passed, it is suggested at the very least to strengthen the reportorial provisions of the Bill to help protect future employers. This means including a national computerized database for getting mandatory references before a maid is hired. That way, if a maid decides to unjustifiably abandon her employer, robs or steals, or does bad work, such maid can be immediately identified and perhaps "blacklisted." It will give a bare minimum of protection for the employer and encourage greater accountability for household helps.


No to the Kasambahay Bill

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

Beth Day Romulo has this marvelous book Inside the Palace (published by GP Putnam’s Sons, 1987), a colorful, witty insider’s look in the goings-on in Malacañang during 1970s and up to the early ’80s. But it also provides an interesting peek on how life was during that era and of the people that lived it.

Thinking of the Kasambahay Bill (which provides greater rights for household helpers), one particular passage of Ms. Day Romulo’s book came to mind: "Servants [in the Philippines] consider their employers ‘masters,’ and the relationship is far more personal than that of American or European help and their employers. Once the ‘master’ has taken a maid or houseboy into his family, he is in effect responsible… [for everything, ‘from heart attacks to broken hearts’] that no Western employer would be expected to deal with."

And she insightfully goes on: "The relationship between servant and master or mistress is not all roses… The little maids who flood into Manila from their parents’ farms in the provinces are apt to be pleasant and honest, but also untrained, inefficient, unmotivated -- and clumsy."

And from that one can understand my problem with the almost inevitable Kasambahay Law (presently House Bill No. 6081). I’ve always believed, to paraphrase Cardinal Newman, that "we have rights precisely because we have responsibilities." I do not see the merit of providing a group of people with extra rights just because politicians want to feel good about themselves or look good to the voters.

Why should household help, generally untrained as they are, a good number of which work lazily or with a bad attitude, be rewarded an array of rights while having done nothing yet to deserve them? Rewards are given for good work done, never in the hope that they will do it. And ordinarily in this country, maids that are found working well are compensated generously anyway, even moving on to have businesses of their own.

The Kasambahay Bill is actually an assault on that one sector of society that needs to be protected and nurtured if this country is ever to prosper: the middle-class. However, with proposals that household help be given minimum wage (not even mandatorily required by the ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers), plus 13th month pay, that they can’t (unlike confidential employees) be dismissed as needed by the employer, easy access (but without need for accountability) to dispute settlement, and so on just made it harder for the middle class to maintain household help. Only the rich can now afford to do so.

But the Kasambahay Bill also inordinately benefits the poor at the expense of the middle-class. Let’s face it, a lot of these maids are hired more out of charity by the employer (who most likely can do without them) than for their qualifications. But, aside from the fact that our culture demands that employers treat their household help as members of the family, suddenly they now have to be paid and treated like professionals as well. Now, that’s all obviously well and good. But only if these servants act like professionals themselves and be held accountable if they don’t.

But the Kasambahay Bill instead romanticizes household helps, thus practically containing no (actually none at all) workable provision that protects the interests of the middle class employer. Think of the situation wherein the middle class employer has to advance the transportation expenses of the maid, only to have that maid suddenly disappear upon arriving in Manila. Or of that maid abruptly leaving because she just got bored with her work or got rightfully reprimanded or was summoned back to the provinces because her parents impulsively got a sudden attack of sentimentality and missed her? What about the untold number of appliances, utensils, gadgets that they break, clothes ruined, cars scratched, food spoiled? What about those instances reported in the newspapers of maids or houseboys robbing or killing their employers?

What relief can a middle-class employer have? Hire lawyers and sue them? For what? Damages that they have no money to pay for anyway? If they disappear, will the police take the trouble to track them? Put them to jail on what charge and for how long must a trial go on before one gets justice?

I, for one, will consider to stop hiring any household help upon the passage of the Kasambahay Bill. On principle. Because I simply do not believe in the "paternalistic entitlement society" that our senators and congressmen are espousing. To paraphrase from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, I do not agree when our politicians tell our people: "Do not bother about wanting to work hard and acting with honor and integrity and ingenuity because we’ll take care of you." True leaders never say they will take care of people. True leaders work to have people learn how to take care of themselves.


Some notes on Fr. Bernas' response to Bp. Reyes

The following are some thoughts in response to an article by Fr. Joaquin Bernas (Conversation with a Bishop), posted in his blog on 8 September 2012, which in turn was in response to an article by Bishop Gabriel Reyes (Defense of the Stand of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on the House Bill 4244) published in the Philippine Star and Inquirer.

Fr. Bernas organized his response on three points: the availability of contraceptives, the use of government funds to purchase contraceptives, and the natural law in relation to contraceptives. These notes will adopt the same line, with the addition of some thoughts on the nature of the Catholic Church's teachings on contraception.

Contraceptives are publicly available

Fr. Bernas takes issue (or, as he puts it, would like to "converse") on the assertion by Bishop Reyes that contraceptives are publicly available. It must be emphasized that Fr. Bernas does not contest the fact that it is "available", that it is not banned. What he does, however, argue is that because of the fact that contraceptives need to be purchased, then the same unduly restricts the freedom of the choice of the poor.

But that is a claim that needs to be further examined. One thing that must be considered is that contraceptives, particularly condoms, are not only publicly available, they are actually quite affordable. How affordable? Cheaper than cellphone loads. And this has to be considered as well in light of the fact that that the business of telecom companies, particularly with prepaid loads, are doing quite well. This apparently has to also to do with the claim by the government that the economy is picking up and experiencing growth. Interestingly, even the most far flung areas can see the presence of cellphones, which is a great development indeed. Considering all that, it should be no difficult matter indeed for pharmaceutical companies (or even civil society groups advocating for contraception) to actually donate such contraceptives for free if they truly believe it would do some good. In fact, when one thinks about it, contraceptives are actually even cheaper than alcohol, tobacco, or even a copy of the country's most popular broadsheets.

But examined further, Fr. Bernas actually skipped over the point that the very first choice that people are asked to make is not what contraceptive to use but whether or not they want to have children. At that point, the "freedom of choice" is already there. Then, assuming that the couple prefers (for reasons of their own) or decides not to have babies, they now have the option of practicing NFP (which I'm sure Fr. Bernas definitely endorses) and, because precisely, it is not banned and readily available, shell out money and buy contraceptives. At both instances, "freedom of choice" is still again available.

It is in the third instance, which is what Fr. Bernas is actually focusing on, that refers to the choice in relation to the variety of artificial contraceptive method. But disregarding my point earlier about cellphone loads being more expensive than condoms, the question then becomes: is it proper for the government to use public funds just to make available (not contraceptives) but a variety of contraceptives? Which leads us to the second point.

Taxes can't be used to discriminate against a religion

Fr. Bernas makes much of the difference between money donated and taxes paid. But that is not the point. The RH Bill seeks to provide free contraceptives and the government will need money to purchase the same. For that the government will need to use government funds, taken from the taxes collected mandatorily (by law) from the people.

Will a portion of the taxes collected from an individual be used for a probable RH Law? Yes. How can it be proven it won't? What about taxes collected from faithful Catholics? Then they have just been forced to go through a situation knowing that they have supported, through their taxes, a measure they believe to be immoral and against their faith. Note that the objection is not merely about political or policy differences. The objection is based on a constitutionally protected right: of religion. This right does not merely mean quietly praying in the secrecy of one's room but also includes the right to proselytize and to live that faith in public.

Furthermore, in the same manner that taxes can't be used to support one religion (see Arts III and VI of the Constitution) then neither can tax money be used to discriminate against a religion. And the issue of contraception definitely has a strong religious component. And to use tax funds to purchase contraceptives discriminates against the Catholic faith. It is like the government purchasing crosses. Or, worse, purchasing crosses to put in mosques.

Finally, any law must fulfill several requisites: public purpose, necessity, etc. For tax money to be disbursed it must be for a recognizable and clear public purpose. In the case of the RH Bill, what is its purpose (and by that I mean true purpose)? Population control? No. And RH Bill proponents already admitted as much that population control is not their objective. Poverty? But study upon study has already claimed that our population, our young population, is driving upwards our economic growth. Health? But pregnancy is not a disease. Maternal deaths and other such health risks? Then why not use the money to purchase additional hospital facilities and hire and train more health professionals? Besides, particularly as to the matter of health, a lot of this is already covered by other existing laws and regulations, for which budgets have already been allocated.

But aside from the fact that it is unclear what the true purpose of the RH Bill is, which raises the issue of necessity, there is also the issue of the propriety of the measure espoused by the Bill. Because study upon study has already attributed certain health risks associated with contraceptives, particularly as to oral contraceptives. Cancer, bleeding, bone problems, migraines, permanent infertility, etc. There is also the issue of failure rates, with both condoms and oral contraceptives having a probable failure rate as high as 10-15%. Considering the risks, considering the unreliability, our own legal system, our legislative experience, tells us that, assuming that there are indeed public purposes that need to be addressed, then the least obtrusive, invasive measure shall be adopted. Providing free contraception, what with its possible violation of religious rights, obvious divisive nature, health risks, and unreliability, is clearly such a measure that need not be adopted and begs for an alternative, better measure.

The same conclusion could be reached when one simply uses common sense: when in doubt say no. Considering that women and children's lives are at stake, considering that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a risk exists as to contraceptive use, would it not be more rational to employ measures that are not as divisive and as laden with risk but would achieve the purposes or objectives laid out in the RH Bill? Even with the use of international law perspectives, particularly of the "precautionary principle" (which I've had occasion to discuss in another article) and even with due regard to the sui generis argument in relation to international human rights law (that a lot of human rights lawyers sadly misunderstand), the same common sense conclusion would be reached.

Contraception violates natural law

The last point that Fr. Bernas seeks to "converse" upon is Bishop Reyes' assertion that contraception violates natural law. Fr. Bernas responds to this with a "flippant" answer and an answer that is "more than just a flippant answer." However, considering his reputation and learning, both of Fr. Bernas' answers are - sadly - actually flippant.

Fr. Bernas asks which natural law, which "reasoning" do we refer to: "Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Grisez, Chapell, Finnis, etc.?" The answer, simply put, is: all of them. Because there is only one natural law. Considering Plato's and Aristotle's reasoning but with the caveat that theirs is a primitive understanding of natural law, and then looking at Aquinas, Grisez, Chapell, and Finnis, the conclusion is inevitable: contraception violates natural law.

And Fr. Bernas actually leaves out other natural law proponents: Rice, Arkes, George, Smith, Rhonheimer that all come to a similar view. Interestingly, considering his background, Fr. Bernas leaves out perhaps the most significant natural law proponents of all: Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger.

The fact is: there is no significant, recognized, respected natural law proponent out there who will say that contraception does not violate natural law. And there is a reason for that: because natural law, contrary to what people think is not based on "nature" per se, is based on "human nature". To put it another way, natural law followers all proceed from certain first principles, primary among then is that the focal point is the human being, with his body and a reason capable of comprehending reality, and possessed of an inherent dignity. From that as a starting point, the conclusion that contraception violates natural law is inescapable.

Fr. Bernas points out that there other "serious thinkers" studying human nature that take the view that there's nothing wrong with contraception. Of course there are. But who are these thinkers? These are thinkers whose views of human nature would be different from that of natural law proponents: either they would deny human nature, or deny that human beings have a nature, or deny that human beings are with inherent dignity. Or they would most likely deny that man is capable, by the use of his faculties and reason, of actually comprehending reality.

But if that be the case, then one has now to contend with the probability that there is no ordering of morality, that, as one natural law proponent puts it, the acts of Hitler will now be considered no different from the acts of Mother Teresa. A logical end that I am sure Fr. Bernas will not accept.

Interestingly, Fr. Bernas then jumps from a discussion of natural law to a discussion on plurality. This is a bit of a puzzle. Because natural law, which seeks to apply a universal standard through the use of right reason, independent of divine revelation (as Hugo Grotious once famously puts it: "natural law would maintain its objective validity even if we should assume the impossible, that there is no God"; thus allowing natural law to be free from any dependence on theology) precisely overrides any cultural, religious, or racial differences because it looks to that which is uniform and constant in all men. If Fr. Bernas actually proceeded to this point because he disregarded natural law, then there is left the uncomfortable situation of him acquiescing to a world without an ordering of moral norms. However, it would seem instead that Fr. Bernas chose to sidestep any further questioning of natural law ("I do not intend to dispute the meaning of natural law as the bishop or the Church, to which I also belong, teaches") but then makes the rather baffling allegation that Bishop Reyes' "view is a very narrow understanding" of pluralism"". Baffling because Bishop Reyes, to reiterate, was proceeding on the basis of natural law (which Fr. Bernas apparently does "not intend to dispute") and not on religious differences.

But setting aside that point on natural law for a moment and instead just focusing on Fr. Bernas' rather awkward segue to "plurality", one can see that this again presents further issues. Of "plurality", a reading of Fr. Bernas' writing give the impression (at least to my view) that he is referring to or at least having a view similar to John Rawls understanding of such (which is plausible; another lawyer/columnist who made reference to Rawls is former UP law dean Raul Pangalangan). But this leads to a further awkward point (awkward taking into consideration that Fr. Bernas is a Catholic priest): Rawls concept of plurality is so constructed ("unreasonably narrow" in fact, according to George) as to exclude religious arguments and heavily favor liberal advocacies such as abortion and same sex marriage. Furthermore, while Rawls' plurality does make a pitch for public reason, his concept of "public reason" (see Rachael Patterson's critique, as an example) is so, well, "unreasonable" or ambiguous, as such that it becomes impracticable. In any event, we must not also confuse plurality, as well as the need for tolerance and respect for others' belief into actually thinking that it will magically transform all of our individual beliefs to be all correct. To tolerate and respect the belief of others will not necessitate us agreeing to such others' belief. 

So is it not unreasonable instead that any such plurality we consider will be one that will indeed take into account and respect religious arguments, for which the Catholic Church has been quite clear (and for which we shall discuss in a bit?) But then is it also not unreasonable that any understanding of plurality be also rooted in, again, "reason"? And by that, we mean practicable reason. And on that point, do we not consider that the opposition to the RH Bill, far from being merely a religious objection as its detractors paint it out to be, is actually based on legal, scientific, economic, sociological grounds so much so that it would be ... reasonable to take seriously into account?

Catholic teaching is that contraception is immoral

Which leads to this one point: if Catholic religious beliefs are to be respected and protected (keeping in mind that Catholic objection to contraception rests on more than religious grounds as understood in constitutional law), what is Catholic teaching in relation to contraception?

In this regard, the answer is both consistent and clear: Catholic Church teaching is that contraception is immoral. A reading of the the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us this.

Are there dissents on this matter? Yes there are. But like in rulings of the Supreme Court, the dissenting opinions are merely just that: opinions. In the end, as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, only one vote counts: the Pope's. And if you don't like that set-up, then complain to the One who made it that way.

But is the teaching infallible? Consider: From Pope Pius XI’s Casti Connubii, Second Vatican Council’s Gaudium et Spes, Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, Pope John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio and Theology of the Body lectures, and as recently as Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate, all in quite clear and unconditional language leads us to the reasonable conclusion that the teaching  that contraception is immoral has an infallible nature. And this has been concurred in by theologians and philosophers of recognized merit: Giovanni Montini, Karol Wojtyla, Joseph Ratzinger, George Weigel, Steve Ray, John Murray, John Hardon, William Most, Jimmy Akin, Scott Hahn, Janet Smith, Mike Aquilina, Roberto Latorre, Cecilio Magsino, Mark Shea, Charles Chaput. Lined up with all that, might it not be the reasonable path indeed for any Catholic to exercise a little bit of humility and try to understand the teachings of our Catholic Church?

But even assuming that the teaching is not infallible, we must remember that it is a teaching still of the Catholic Church that Catholics should recognize and heed as such. Not every teaching of the Church, it must be remembered, has attained the status of being infallible (at least at this time). These include the teachings on guardian angels, the rosary, on novenas, or even human cloning, and many many more. Are we to disregard these teachings, turn our back on them, much less should priests refuse to preach them, simply because they are not classified as infallible?

Indeed everyone must obey the dictates of his conscience. And Catholics (who also have the duty of forming their conscience properly) are no different and the Catholic Church teaches that. But there is a world of difference between following one's conscience and creating a lie that it is not Catholic teaching that contraception is immoral or that there is no teaching on the matter. Follow your conscience as you must but do not deceive yourself into thinking that in resorting to contraceptives or doing a contraceptive act that you are not violating a Catholic teaching or that there is no teaching on the matter at all to be violated. Because there is a teaching on the matter, to which every Bishop and priest are duty bound to preach: contraception is immoral (see CCC No. 2399 or Compendium of CCC No. 498).

To that, the following must be added and emphasized: not only does the Catholic Church teach that contraception is immoral due to religious or scriptural reasons. In addition to the foregoing, the Catholic Church teaches us that contraception is immoral because it violates natural law, an objective standard of right and wrong based on right reason and universally applicable to all.

As always, St. Augustine says it best

"I believe so that I may understand". So says St. Augustine. It is an attitude based on humility and it is an attitude that I try to take and which I trust all other Catholics do so too. Thus, I acknowledge and give credit to Fr. Bernas when he wrote that he takes Bishop Reyes' letter as an "invitation to a dialogue". I am therefore cheered by the thought that, whatever confusion or misunderstanding there may be at the moment, in the end, in such "conversation", when the point that it is the teaching of the Catholic Church that contraception is immoral because it violates natural law is raised, Bishop Reyes and Fr. Bernas will both be in happy agreement to it.

*for further information see:
- No need for unmet need (which discusses the myth regarding the need for contraception),
- Contracepting common sense (which discusses the health risks associated with contraceptives),
- Compiled arguments against the RH Bill (which discusses the natural law, constitutional, and scientific reasons why contraceptives and the RH Bill are wrong for the Philippines).


US elections, the WTO, and trade

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

Amid all the social issues tersely debated not only in the Philippines but all over the world, international trade goes on, albeit not too much in the spotlight but of great importance nevertheless. It’s fair to say that a lot of the decisions the Philippines will take (particularly in the elections for 2013), as well as the decision that the United States will make this November, will significantly impact the economy of our country for a decade to come.

That the upcoming November presidential election in the US is a significant trade-related matter for the Philippines is without doubt. The difference between the candidates is stark. Jagdish Baghwati, writing for Handelsblatt, considers US President Barack Obama being "under siege from the labor unions who were hostile to trade, was resolutely opposed to closing the Doha Round unless numerous concessions were made to appease its business lobbies." Accordingly, as concluded by Dr. Baghwati, the Obama administration "killed Doha… 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!"

On the other hand, Republican candidate Mitt Romney seems more welcoming of trade (at least for the US and for its favored trading partners). As Washington based trade lawyer Andrea Ewert wrote, the theme of a possible Romney administration on the area of trade is to: "1. Expand market access for US businesses through trade agreements; and 2. Confront China." Accordingly, "Romney promises to pursue new trade agreements with nations committed to free enterprise and open markets, and to create a Reagan Economic Zone." As far as China is concerned, "Mitt Romney promises to: (i) impose targeted tariffs or economic sanctions; and (ii) designate China a currency manipulator and impose countervailing duties, i.e., increased duties imposed by an importing country to compensate for subsidies given to producers or exporters of the exporting country."

In the meantime, Russia and Vanuatu recently joined the World Trade Organization, raising the WTO’s membership to 157. The entry of the two countries is important, both for quantifiable and symbolic reasons. As WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy puts it: "Both accessions show that joining the WTO remains high on the countries’ agendas since trade can bring a predictable and stable basis for economic growth. This is especially important as the world goes through troubled times and continues to suffer from one of the worst global economic crisis in memory. Joining the WTO is a sign of confidence in the organization and in what it can deliver for its members."

By its accession agreement package, Russian agreed to fully implement "all WTO provisions, with recourse to very few transitional periods. On average, the Russian Federation will apply a final bound tariff for 7.8% for goods and has made specific commitments on 11 services sectors." As far as tariff ceilings are concerned, Russia’s "final legally binding tariff ceiling for the Russian Federation will be 7.8% compared with a 2011 average of 10% for all products: The average tariff ceiling for agriculture products will be 10.8%, lower than the current average of 13.2% The ceiling average for manufactured goods will be 7.3% vs. the 9.5% average today on manufactured imports."

Vanuatu, on the other hand (see WTO.org), intends to "fully apply all WTO provisions and did not require recourse to any transitional period except on intellectual property and on the publication of trade information. Vanuatu will apply an average final bound rate of 39.7% and has made specific commitments on 10 services sectors. The services sector has been growing and now accounts for three-quarters of Vanuatu’s GDP."

The entry of Russia is significant for Philippine businesses. As Kemal Dervis of the Brookings Institution states in Finance & Development, "the world economy is going through a major structural shift, with emerging markets rapidly catching up to advanced economies." This is supported by Santiago Cueto of International Business Law Advisors: "According to the United States’ Export.gov division, nearly 96% of consumers live outside the US. Moreover, two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is in foreign countries." Furthermore, citing the International Monetary Fund, there are "as many as 150 emerging international markets nearing economic expansion. Other countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa are seeing tremendous growth." The logical conclusion, according to Mr. Cueto, is that "small businesses looking to increase sales and profit, reduce dependence on the domestic market and stabilize seasonal fluctuations should consider exporting."

There’s indeed a lot of uncertainty in the global economy. But there are definite areas of opportunity for Philippine businesses to take full advantage of, which can result in greater revenues for the country, better jobs, better education, better standard of living for Filipinos.

That is, if only we can shift our focus on the things that matter rather than wasting time arguing about the gutter that is the RH Bill.


Ethical reasoning about a legislation promoting contraception

by Fr. Julio Penacoba

Is it ethical for a government to promote contraception?  This question belongs to the ethical dimension of the debate on the RH Bill. I would like now to offer now some lines of ethical reasoning leading to an answer to the above opening question.

Let us begin with one basic principle in Ethics: “The end does not justify the means”. For example, we all can see that the good end of providing for one’s family does not justify stealing. That is why we all can easily agree on one starting point: The possible good objectives or ends of the RH would not justify using unethical means. And so, if contraception is unethical, the whole RH bill would be unethical as its main thrust is to promote contraception. We must then move to our next question.

Is contraception unethical? Since in the present debate we obtain different answers to this question, we must move now slowly but surely through our ethical reasoning.

Let us review first the fact that Ethics is not based on numbers --statistics or votes like in American Idol--, nor on religious beliefs --like the greatness of relating with Christ-- but on reason. Ethics is all about the truth of being human --the truth about what makes up the dignity of each and every human person. And we ask now: What are the elements in man that place him far above the rest of the beings in the universe?  Holistic ethics identify three of those amazing capacities in man --our intelligence to pursue the truth, our free will to pursue the good and our sexuality to pursue love and family. That is why to tell a lie, or to attack the freedom of others or to cheat on one’s spouse are all unethical behavior --regardless of the numbers or of the religion of the people. And that is so for every human person of whatever culture or religious belief. Ethics is all about understanding and respecting what makes us fully human.

Let us now focus on human sexuality. The starting point is the observation of a fact: we all consider human sexuality as loaded with a special dignity --as intrinsically connected with the dignity of the person. And we ask, why do we all consider rape to be a serious offense to the dignity of the persons?  The rapist is actually violating two ethical values: the freedom of the woman and the meaning of her sexuality. But we ask, which of them is more crucial for human dignity, her freedom or her sexuality? Consider by comparison that when a woman is victim of a hold-up, the robber --like the rapist-- is also violating her freedom, yet all peoples on the planet consider rape a much more serious crime than a holdup. We can find in all cultures and legislations countless examples of this universal recognition: there is something to human sexuality that makes it an intrinsically important part of the dignity of the person.

Our next step is to ask, What is it in human sexuality that gives it such “high dignity”?  The extreme case of rape can help us to identify the key meaning/value. We could say that from the point of view of biological sexuality, the rapist and the husband both do the same type of physical acts to the woman.  But why are they so different human acts from the point of view of sexual ethics?  Well, in one case the husband and wife are expressing marital love through their sexuality: a love with the high qualities of total self-giving (till death), unconditional  love (for better or for worse) and life-giving love (open to form family with you). Such quality love is recognized, sung and praised unceasingly in all cultures of all centuries as expressing not only a high human dignity but even something sacred or connected with the divinities. In the other case, the rapist is not loving the woman at all but rather using her --her sexuality-- for his own satisfaction. The feeling of rage we feel when sexuality has been abused by a rapist is symmetrical to the highest regard we give to marriage and conjugal act. In one case the person is used in her sexuality while in the other she is loved sexually with the highest human love.

We have arrived now at the most basic principle of sexual ethics: Sexual activity is ethical and meaningful --it is really human and great-- in as much as it expresses marital love.  Using this principle, any ethically-minded person can see that other sexual behaviors have something in common with rape. If we think enough, we can see that adultery, fornication, contraception, masturbation and pornography they all have something in common: they use sexuality to express less than total unconditional love. Obviously in different degrees, all those behaviors detract from the high dignity of the persons in their sexuality.  Let us take a closer look at the case of contraception.

In ethical discourse, contraception is technically defined as any action intended to deprive the sexual intercourse of its possible life-giving effect.   Now, let us go back to recognizing the key to the high dignity of the conjugal act between husband and wife. We could say, that with their bodies they are expressing a total self-giving love; in a sense, with their body language they are saying: Here I am, I am giving my all to you, all of myself --including my possible fertility-- to you. And so, the ethical evaluation is that the natural conjugal act is fully human --in keeping with high human dignity. On the other hand, if they practice contraception they are not expressing total love as if “saying by doing”:  I enjoy this but I do not want to give myself totally to you --I will withhold my/your possible fertility.  And so the ethical evaluation is that contraception detracts from the high dignity of human sexuality --that of expressing a total, unconditional and life-giving love.

We have arrived now at this conclusion:  Evidently in a degree much less serious than in adulterous sex, let alone in rape, still contraception is not ethically good nor neutral --it detracts from the high dignity of the person.

We come to the last part of our ethical discourse.  Would it be ethical to promote contraception in a pluralistic society? 

Here we start with the general frame of the relation between Ethics and Law. A basic fact is that Ethics is bigger than Law in the sense that the laws cannot cover the total spectrum of ethical behavior but only the ones that might affect the rights of others. Take for example the case of getting drunk which can be easily recognized as unethical behavior; yet, hardly a law can forbid you to get drunk privately but only in as much as it could affect others as in “driving while drunk.”  Likewise, practicing contraception, which detracts from one’s dignity, can hardly be prohibited by law since it does not affect other people.

On the other hand, let us consider this basic principle of Social Ethics --no law may run against ethical principles. In other words, one thing is that legislation cannot forbid all the unethical behaviors and another thing is that a law would foster them. Take again the case of getting drunk; One thing is to forbid that you get drunk in your room and another is to make available drinks for free --nationwide!-- for those who want to get drunk privately. Again, a law that would mandate education on how to get drunk as part of normal life would not be an ethical law itself. In a parallel way, one thing is to forbid contraception and another thing is to make a law that will provide it for free --nationwide!-- and to mandate education of the upcoming generation for them to consider contraception as normal and good for health and country.  Both behaviors cannot be forbidden by laws provided that no harm is done to third parties.  That type of law would be encouraging citizens to harm their personal dignity and to still call it neutral or even good. The final effect is already visible in the Western countries. Losing the sense dignity of the human sexuality can only weaken marriages and families.


RH, the academe, and human rights

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

To those actively participating in the national conversation regarding the RH Bill, a constant source of frustration is discussing the same with somebody who keeps shifting ground while one is in the middle of directly addressing a particular issue. Deliberate tact or not, it unfortunately prevents intelligent discourse in what is clearly an important national subject.

That problem again came up when the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines urged "Catholic" universities to adhere faithfully to Church teachings. It was a logical, reasonable enough request: like simply telling a history teacher to teach history or a math teacher to teach math. But that CBCP statement met with almost hysterical reaction from certain quarters, particularly those advocating for the RH Bill. Commentators supposedly more circumspect are now seen labeling the Bishops the "Taliban," or of reviving the "inquisition," or "waging a just war."

But did the CBCP cross the line in making that call as they did? Religious freedom is a confirmed international human right. As the UN Declaration of Human Rights provides: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance." This is expanded by the later International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to include: "respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions."

So the Bishops, like anybody else, had the right to say what they said. Note that the Bishops were not asking people to obey without thinking or coercing them to let go of their conscience. All they were asking is for Catholic universities (or at least those who say they are Catholic academic institutions) to teach Catholic doctrine correctly.

But doesn’t this violate academic freedom? The answer is no. It’s not even the issue. Does the Church, through its Bishops (mandated, as declared in the Catechism, as the "authentic teachers of the apostolic faith"), have the right to determine what is Catholic doctrine from what isn’t? Of course it does. And our Supreme Court recognized this right through a long line of cases: from the right of the religious to "proselytize" (American Bible Society case) to the fact that the State should not interfere with any religions’ beliefs, creeds, or doctrines (see Islamic Da’wah, Seventh Day Adventists, and Ebranilag cases).

The Catholic Church’s teachings are succinctly and widely available in compiled form in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Do the Catholic Church and Catholic universities have the right to have that taught to its students? Yes. It’s a constitutional and human right as mentioned above. Do Catholic universities have the right to direct how that particular subject is taught, who teaches it, and retain who it thinks is fit to teach it? Yes. Again a constitutional and international human right; further discussed in Article XIV of the Constitution and elucidated by the Supreme Court in cases such as Miriam College Foundation and Alfredo de Torres.

And let’s not forget: nobody is forcing anybody to study or teach in those schools.

As mentioned above, academic freedom is not even actually the issue. It is academic or intellectual honesty, and respect for the contractual rights of the university and of the parents who enrolled their children in a Catholic school expecting a Catholic education. Again, nobody is telling anybody not to teach what he or she doesn’t want. But it’s simply dishonest and wrong for one to teach against Church doctrines and then pass that off as Catholic doctrine. Teach that if you want but call it something else. Call it "Liberation Theology" or "Critique of Church Teachings from the Marxists Perspective." Anything. But don’t call it "Catholic." In short, if a teacher was asked (and he agreed) to teach Catholic doctrine, then that teacher is contractually obliged (either to the school administration or to the students or to the students’ parents) to teach it. Not doing so could simply result in civil (or possibly even criminal) liabilities.

Contrast that established right to religion with that oft-repeated claim that access to contraceptives is an international human right. It is most definitely not. There is no treaty that ever mentions contraception nor is there any binding international norm that requires States to supply contraceptives (see White Paper on Family Planning by the World Youth Alliance). "Reproductive Health" is a right but that term is not synonymous with contraception. And international law clearly does not require the need for reproductive health to be fulfilled merely through contraception.

In the end, it’s good to remember Cardinal Newman’s dictum: our "conscience has rights because it has duties." For our students’ sake, lessening our egos and developing rational thought would be quite helpful indeed.