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