Atwood in Twittersphere

Atwood in the Twittersphere
Margaret Atwood

A long time ago—less than a year ago in fact, but time goes all stretchy in the Twittersphere, just as it does in those folksongs in which the hero spends a night with the Queen of Faerie and then returns to find that a hundred years have passed and all his friends are dead…. Where was I?

Oh yes. A long time ago, back in June of 2009, when we were planning the launch of The Year of the Flood and I was building a Web site for it. Why was I doing this building, rather than the publishers? Well, they had their own sites, and I wanted to do some non-publishing things on mine, such as raise awareness of rare-bird vulnerability and heighten Virtuous Coffee Consumption (Arabica, shade-grown, doesn’t kill birds) and blog the seven-country dramatic-and-musical book tour we were about to do. Anyway, the publishers were at that time hiding under rocks, as it was still the Great Financial Meltdown, not to mention the Horrid Tsunami of Electronic Book Transmission. “That sounds wonderful, Margaret,” they said, with the queasy encouragement shown by those on the shore waving goodbye to someone who’s about to shoot Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Oops! I shouldn’t have said that. Which is typical of “social media”: you’re always saying things you shouldn’t have said. But it’s like the days of Hammurabi, and those of the patriarch Isaac in the book of Genesis, come to think of it: once decrees and blessings have made it out of the mouth—or, now, in the 21st century, out of the ends of the fingers and past the Send button—you can’t take them back.

Anyway, there I was, back in 2009, building the site, with the aid of the jolly retainers over at Scott Thornley + Company. They were plying me with oatmeal cookies, showing me wonderful pictures, and telling me what to do. “You have to have a Twitter feed on your Web site,” they said. “A what?” I said, innocent as an egg unboiled. To paraphrase Wordsworth: What should I know of Twitter? I’d barely even heard of it. I thought it was for kiddies.

But nothing ventured, no brain drained. I plunged in, and set up a Twitter account. My first problem was that there were already two Margaret Atwoods on Twitter, one of them with my picture. This grew; I gave commands; then all other Margaret Atwoods stopped together. I like to think they were sent to a nunnery, but in any case they disappeared. The Twitterpolice had got them. I felt a bit guilty.

I was told I needed “followers.” These were people who would sign on to receive my messages, or “tweets,” whatever those might turn out to be. I hummed a few bars from “Mockingbird Hill”—Tra-la-la, twittly-deedee—and sacrificed some of my hair at the crossroads, invoking Hermes the Communicator. He duly appeared in the form of media guru McLean Greaves, who loosed his carrier pigeons to four of his hundreds of Twitterbuddies; and with their aid, I soon had a few thousand people I didn’t know sending me messages like “OMG! Is it really you?” “I love it when old ladies blog,” one early follower remarked.

One follower led to another, quite literally. The numbers snowballed in an alarming way, as I scrambled to keep up with the growing horde. Soon there were 32,000—no, wait, 33,000—no, 33,500… And before you could say LMAO (“Laughing My Ass Off,” as one Twitterpal informed me), I was sucked into the Twittersphere like Alice down the rabbit hole. And here I am.

The Twittersphere is an odd and uncanny place. It’s something like having fairies at the bottom of your garden. How do you know anyone is who he/she says he is, especially when they put up pictures of themselves that might be their feet, or a cat, or a Mardi Gras mask, or a tin of Spam?

But despite their sometimes strange appearances, I’m well pleased with my followers—I have a number of techno-geeks and bio-geeks, as well as many book fans. They’re a playful but also a helpful group. If you ask them for advice, it’s immediately forthcoming: thanks to them, I learned how to make a Twitpic photo appear as if by magic, and how to shorten a URL using or tinyurl. They’ve sent me many interesting items pertaining to artificially-grown pig flesh, unusual slugs, and the like. (They deduce my interests.) Some of them have appeared at tour events bearing small packages of organic shade-grown fair-trade coffee. I’ve even had a special badge made by a follower, just for me: “The ‘call me a visionary, because I do a pretty convincing science dystopia’ badge.” It looks like this:

They’re sharp: make a typo and they’re on it like a shot, and they tease without mercy. However, if you set them a verbal challenge, a frisson sweeps through them. They did very well with definitions for “dold socks”—one of my typos—and “Thnax,” another one. And they really shone when, during the Olympics, I said that “Own the podium” was too brash to be Canadian, and suggested “A podium might be nice.” Their own variations poured onto a feed tagged #cpodium: “A podium! For me?” “Rent the podium, see if we like it.” “Mind if I squeeze by you to get onto that podium?” I was so proud of them! It was like having 33,000 precocious grandchildren!

They raise funds for charity via things like Twestival, they solicit donations for catastrophe victims, they send word of upcoming events, they exchange titles of books they like. Once in a while they’re naughty: I did get word of a fellow who’d made a key safe by hollowing out one of my books. (Big yuks from his pals, one of whom ratted him out to me and even sent a pic.) But after I threatened to put the Purple Cross-eyed Zozzle Curse on him, he assured me that no disrespect was intended. (He was forgiven.)

So what’s it all about, this Twitter? Is it signaling, like telegraphs? Is it Zen poetry? Is it jokes scribbled on the washroom wall? Is it John Hearts Mary carved on a tree? Let’s just say it’s communication, and communication is something human beings like to do.

How long will I go on doing this? I’m asked. Well, now. I can’t rightly say. How long—in no more than 140 characters—is “long”?

Fr. Joseph A. Galdon: A Homily by Fr. Stein

Homily delivered by Rev. Thomas A. Steinbugler, S.J. during Fr. Galdon's Funeral Mass
date posted: 2010-03-23 09:30:29

Rev. Joseph A. Galdon, S.J, Funeral Mass, March 18, 2010, Church of the Gesu
Homily delivered by Rev. Thomas A. Steibugler, S.J.

Preparing these remarks has been a labor of Love, a labor bringing together the love of so many people for Fr. Galdon--the wake Masses, the Necrological Service last evening, Facebook, the Ateneo Website, the Province Website, and so many letters from his Galdon Girls, many from Prayer Days with Coeds.

Since I have followed so closely in his footsteps thru the years, thinking about JAG has been like looking at a mirror, with most of the smiles on his side, the tears on mine. Let's see if we can bring some of those smiles out on our side. For our gathering this morning is truly a celebration of the Resurrection.. We bade goodbye to Joe over the past years, today we proclaim his good deeds, and we celebrate his victory march over suffering and death.

Why not begin with a poem, Gerard Manley Hopkins' sonnet honoring Alfonsus Rodriguez, our Jesuit brother?

Alfonsus was canonized in 1887. One the first year anniversary of that event, the Rector asked Hopkins' to write a poem. He was not happy with that assignment, and when he sent the first draft to his closest friend, Robert Bridges, he sniffed that the sonnet aims at being intelligible. You can judge about that.....

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J.
(Laybrother of the Society of Jesus)

Honour is flashed off exploit, so we say;
And those strokes once that gashed flesh or galled shield
Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,
And, on the fighter, forge his glorious day.
On Christ they do and on the martyr may;
But be the war within, the brand we wield
Unseen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled,
Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.

Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,
Earth, all, out; who, with trickling increment,
Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by of world without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.

We have heard about Joe's accomplishments for the last several days; his headline years included his doctorate from Columbia, years of marvelous teaching, Dean of the College, Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies, Rector of the Jesuit Residence Community, 18 years as Editor of Philippine Studies, five books published, the Mustard Seed Column in the Chronicle, five years heading the Admission and Aid Office. More than enough to forge his glorious day.

But what about those back-pages in Joe's life, Those years and years by of world without event, little-noted nor long remembered? What can they tell us about our dear departed friend?

Joe was 17 when he crossed the Hudson to enter St. Andrew on Hudson. One of four brothers, three of whom became priests. His parents were George Galdon and Mary Wasko, which tells us a lot about his Slavic parents, prayers at home, Catholic Grade School, no doubt an altar-boy. It is easy to surmise that his baptismal promises were polished regularly. At the age of reason, 6-7, he consciously started a journey towards God which he sustained for 74 years.We take that for granted, of course, but those who have made that same journey well know the cost involved, the faith revived again and again, faithfulness thru post-modernity. Not always smooth sailing, there.

Fr. Jim O'Donnell and I first met Joe in 1944, when he was a Junior in Regis. 'Twas a small school, and we all knew each other. Joe was Editor of the Yearbook, a member of the prestigious Virgil Academy, which meant 10,000 lines of Latin poetry mastered on the Bayonne Bus. (It was 6 years later when I finally accomplished the same.) Probably the head of his class. Although no one ever called Joe an athletic jock, he used to come early to play half-court basketball before school started, mainly with the younger students.... who were smaller !

Fr. Jim and I entered St. Andrew ourselves, 2 years later, just in time to watch Joe take First Vows our very first morning ... vows which shaped his life and which he still observed, until Monday morning. He became a lordly Junior, with a Baretta to wear during meals, and a new, clean cassock... compared to the dead men's clothes we were wearing! Latin galore, Greek coming out your ears, and the glories of English Literature. Finally, with awe, we watched him ride around the circle three times and head for the Philippines... two months short of four years after entering. Bayonne was in tears...

I met him again, his Philosophy in Cebu over, as a teacher in our H.S. Rather, I was a novice teacher while he was Prefect of Discipline. Easy to say, but how did this teacher-par-excellance feel when asked to stop teaching and focus on discipline and all the mundane matters of administration. We can only say that he was available, something we will see again and again in the life of Joseph Available Galdon. And, when I was asked to take the job after him, to my lasting shame I said NO, because I knew I could not do it as well as he did.

His next minor headline came in Theology. Joe was an illustrious member of the Fire Crew. We lived far out in the countryside. We had two fire engines--I presume to reduce the premiums of the fire insurance on our 90 year old building! Not only was Fr.Galdon illustrious, he was the Chief. They could leave any class when the gong rang, stay away as long as the liked, always have merienda on their return, and swizzle beer. No wonder every fire cowered into submission when Bob Hope rode up, in his flashy duds and gleaming smile.

Illustrados indeed!

Fr. Galdon returned to Manila in 1965, after 19 years as a Jesuit. Those were not headline years, but in them God, who, with trickling increment, Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more, was forging the man we came to know and love in the next 30 years.

On Tuesday evening Fr. O'Donnell summed Joe up as versatile. I will say the same thing with another word, available. Although he loved teaching in the Juniorate, he readily agreed to become Dean during the years of Yankee go home, and the Down from the Hill movement. Dozens of demonstrations, a strike, a book-burning... not an easy assignment, I can tell you, for I was his Asst. Dean. We worked for five years to bring coeds into the College! He headed the English Dept. when it had some serious internal problems. He sacrificed some of his own scholarship to edit Philippine Studies for 18 years, fostering the scholarship of others. Somehow, five books were published, and a weekly column in the Chronicle. His weekend seminars, known as Prayer Days for Coeds, changed the lives of hundreds; the last few days have shown that. One Jesuit told me at breakfast yesterday that for four years of College, he adjusted his Monday schedule to attend Joe's noon Mass, constantly crowded. All done with a certain grace and dignity.

In all, he was a very human being. He liked a glass of wine, some of his remars could be naughty -- his criterion for a good restaurant was "pretty waitresses in short skirts". He smoked a pipe, and in my travelling years I tried to keep him supplied with his favorite tobacco, Borkum Riff. Unfortunately, when that ran out, he would steal cigarettes from my room, and puff away on my Marlboros!

But he was a faithful man, true to his Baptismal promises, his Jesuit vows, his missionary vocation, his Ordination promises to be faithful to the Gospels, to preach what he believed, to practice what he preached. Easy enough to take all of that for granted. But really, we should stand in awe.

It can be said that Jesus went out to save us wearing only the shirt on his back, and even that was taken away from him. He saved us by being faithful and human, Joseph A. Galdon also served, and 'saved' us with his humanity, and in the end, even that was taken away from him. But I checked with the Infirmary yesterday, with one of his long-term care-givers, to whom we owe so much. He never once complained.

Today we give thanks and rejoice:
- For 75 years he followed his Lord and Savior
- For 64 years, he follow Ignatius as a Jesuit
- for 60 years he remained true to his dream for the Philippines and its beautiful people
whom he loved so much.

- Joe Galdon…….. the faithful one
The available Jesuit
A grace-filled human being
A Man for all Seasons

He used to end each PDC weekend with that wonderful saying of Dag Hammeskold:

" For all that is past, THANK YOU; for all that is future, YES.

As we return to our Mass in his honor, can we say that together, for him and for us:

"For all that is past, THANK YOU; for all that is future, YES.

Well, I don't think that is loud enough. Can we say it again?

Ah now we are getting there. Just one more time!!

So, I think he heard us. We have his attention. And so, with smiling hearts, we bid him farewell with words so dear and familiar:

"Good night, sweet Prince; and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

Turning Villaroyo orange

Turning Villarroyo orange
March 27, 2010

‘Doesn’t Gibo see that the Garcias would not do anything without securing approval from their patroness, La Doña Gloria?’

CONJURE in your minds the green balimbing turning orange. Money Villarroyo three weeks ago in Davao used the pongkan as symbol. Except that he’s unfamiliar with the Davao pongkan. It hardly turns orange. Davao pongkan is green, just like its mandarin oranges. Must be the climate. When Hans Menzi yet had his citrus farms in Mati and elsewhere in Davao, he procured in the Seventies what agricultural technologists called a "de-greening" facility, where green pongkans and mandarins, including the native-bred Valencia oranges were placed in some kind of machine that neutralized the green fruit pigmentation and turned them into a pale yellow. Later, with the use of food-safe color dyes, Menzi turned Valencia and mandarins into orange. Parang "Sunkist" the then "stateside" and expensive orange brand.

Villarroyo’s symbol should really be the balimbing (starfruit) . But wonder if a balimbing can naturally turn orange? No, they turn into a pale yellow when they are over-ripe. And from a sour taste, the balimbing metamorphoses into bland, even "mapakla".

While in Davao, Villarroyo proudly declared that "many Pa-La-Ka’s will soon swear into his Nacionalista Party". A week or so before, Gov. Erico Aumentado, along with his vice-governor, Julius Herrera who is the Villarroyo candidate to succeed him, called his mayors to a grand show of "loyalty" to the NP presidential candidate. Aumentado may not be in the league of Joc Joc Bolante as far as being an icon of corruption, but they are now both declared Villarroyo loyalists. Bolante for governor of Capiz and Aumentado to join Gloria and Mikey, Dato and Iggy in Congress. Aumentado would likely be deputy speaker for the Visayas once more, under "Speaker" Gloria Arroyo come July 26, IF…

The other day, Joe Zubiri, the governor of Bukidnon and erstwhile Pa-La-Ka loyalist, also shed off his green pigment and turned flaming orange, along with his mayors. In 2007, when it became clear that his son Migs was fighting Koko Pimentel for the last slot in the senatorial derby, Manong Joe went to Andal Ampatuan Sr. and asked for succor. Ampatuan Sr. got permission from Malacañang, and true enough, the Maguindanao factory where Lintang Bedol was the Ampatuan encargado, produced for the young Zubiri the margin needed to overcome Koko.

Now Koko’s father Nene and his sister Gwen appear in television ads of Money Villarroyo, the latter in fact hoping to precede her brother as senadora, in the tradition of Alan Peter and Pia, the Cayetano loyalists of Villarroyo. What happens now to Koko’s case at the Senate Electoral Tribunal? Who will a (God forbid) President Villarroyo favor – old "reliables" (ropa vieja) like Nene and his brood, or new balimbings like the Zubiris?

Since Migs is a fairly decent chap, he must be crushed. Which is why he has declared that his heart remains with kawawang Gibo, and the latter bravely says he will expel Zubiri from Pa-La-Ka. Ha, ha, ha.

Not to be outdone, the Garcias of Cebu, minus Gwen la gobernadora, have shed off their green skin and molted into bright orange. When Gwen will likewise join the orange wagon is just a matter of time. Meantime, to show that she has enough "palabra de honor," she will hold a huge rally to support Gibo in Argao, Cebu over the weekend. Doesn’t Gibo or Nikki Prieto-Teodoro yet see through all these? That the Garcias would not do anything without securing approval from their patroness, La Dona Gloria?

In fact last Monday, the country’s most powerful gentleman tendered a belated birthday luncheon for his special friend, a lady stock broker. Bankers and big businessmen close to both were invited. There, the powerful gentleman bared the latest findings of their in-house survey, with Noynoy Aquino 11 points ahead of Money Villarroyo, and their certified Pa-La-Ka candidate Gilbert languishing still in single-digit territory.

One of those in attendance was Winston Garcia of GSIS, who then proudly told his patron that their family in Cebu would soon announce their switch to Villar. "On or before the start of the local campaign (March 26)", he promised. And the powerful gentleman nodded happily.

Yesterday, the broadsheets proclaimed the great switch to Villar, which Winston on Monday promised the powerful gentleman. Villarroyo, mismo!

But the dishonorable Villarroyo proclaims on television how "Opo! Oposisyon" he and his pack are. With Gilbert Remulla of the land-grabbing clan invoking how he hates mandaraya’s (bati na kayo ngayon ni RR?), and Adel Tamano defaming the memory of the late FPJ by invoking the poor victim of electoral cheating, just to disprove that his new boss, Villar, is not in reality a Villarroyo. He, he, he.

So does this mean Winston, who has been lording it over the multi-billion pension funds of government employees for the last nine years and a half, will remain as the lord and master of GSIS if Villarroyo wins? Most likely, unless he has his sights on replacing Romy Neri at SSS.

My friend, the multi-awarded writer Krip Yuson, sent me an SMS after reading about the great switch, and it read: "Nagsanib-sanib na ang mga mandurugas. Kakuntsaba ng palasyo ang mga trapong nanganganib mawalan ng kapangyarihan….Lumaban tayo gamit ang ating mga puso. At ipakitang ang marangal na Pinoy ay ‘di mabibili."

First Joc Joc Bolante. Then Aumentado. Then Zubiri. Now Garcia. Can Garci and Abalos be far behind?

Some did their Judas act on Gibo before Holy Week. Many more will prefer to do their Judas acts after Semana Santa. And all of them with the nihil obstat or the secret imprimatur of Doña Gloria y su esposo.


Another friend, a retired colonel who was once one of FVR’s most trusted managers, and whose integrity is unquestioned, sent me this funny text message:

"We need a land grabber to get Sabah. Vote Villarroyo and get Sabah back".

Oo nga naman.


Just as we were writing this article, word came from the radio that the country’s most powerful gentleman was rushed to St. Luke’s Hospital at The Fort. Even if he hates this writer as much as I dislike him, I will not wish him ill.

As we approach Semana Santa, let us all pray for the benighted land.



Not even a pygmy

Not even a pygmy
March 27, 2010

MIKEY Arroyo, nominee of a party list group representing security guards, dared compare himself to sitting nominees of leftist party groups. Predictably, he exposed himself for what he is: a fraud.

Mikey said leftist militant congressmen are "hypocrites" for assailing his party list nomination because most of them, including self-exiled communist party founder Jose Ma. Sison, do not belong to the working class which they claim to represent.

"Mr. Jose Ma. Sison had been the chairman of the CPP and it is widely believed he is still chairman of the CPP up to now. But then, the CPP is a movement of the working class. Is Mr. Sison a member of the working class himself? I don’t think so," he said.

We hold no truck with Sison. In fact, we are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. On economics, we favor the market system over central planning. On politics, we stand solidly planted on the side of liberal democracy against the dictatorship of the proletariat. But we know for a fact that Sison has been a communist since his late teens. He is now in his seventies and there is no living Filipino who can question his bona fides as a leader the communist party and of the working class movement.

Let’s see who could be the "hypocrites" Arroyo was referring to. There’s the Bayan Muna party which the Armed Forces continues to tag as a communist party "front" organization.

Bayan Muna, whose No. 1 aim is "to establish a democratic, nationalist and popular government by empowering the people," has three sitting members in the House, namely, Neri Javier Colmenares, Teddy Casiño and Satur Ocampo.

Here are the capsule biographies we got from the Bayan Muna website.

Neri Javier Colmenares. A long-time human rights lawyer, constitutionalist and expert on international humanitarian law. He was among the youngest political detainees during martial law. Prior to joining the legal profesion, he was a student activist.

Teddy A. Casino. A genuine social reformist and one of the most dynamic young leaders in the country today. He was first swept into the politics of change when, as a high school student in La Salle Green Hills, he volunteered for the National Movement for Free Elections and took part in the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution. The experience changed him so that since then, his life has been characterized by a conscious choice for the road less traveled.

Satur C. Ocampo. Born on April 7, 1939 in Sta. Rita, Pampanga in the Philippines to a family of landless tenant farmers. He is married to Carolina "Bobbie" Malay, a writer and professor of journalism…He supported himself through his university education. In 1963, he worked as an economic journalist for the Manila Times until Martial Law shut down the newspaper in 1972. He was a vice-president of the National Press Club in 1970-72.

(The information on Ocampo is somehow sparse, but it is on record he was detained during martial and continues to be accused by the AFP as a leader of the communist party)

These three have no need to prove their "pro-people" credentials.

They may not be moral giants but compared to them, Mikey cannot even reasonably be described as a pygmy. He stands on a moral plane no higher than a crocodile’s.

Why Mar leads all surveys

Why Mar Roxas Leads All Surveys
By Martin Bautista - Doctor, Senatorial Candidate
March 18th, 2010

It doesn’t take a professional political analyst to explain why since the launch of his candidacy, Mar Roxas has led in all published and unpublished surveys without exception.

The reason is simple. Filipinos from all economic and educational strata recognize the qualities of mind and heart which anyone aspiring for public office must possess. In a word, character.

If you compare the viable vice presidential candidates with Mar Roxas, you see a stark contrast.

1. Loren Legarda is a talented woman with a great deal of energy. But her personal and political history shows that she is totally unprincipled. She turned her back on her Catholic faith and embraced Islam for a marriage of convenience. In the Senate she led the fight against President Erap, shed tears at his impeachment trial and then joined him as FPJ’s vice president. Only months ago she denounced Senator Villar as a corrupt politician and is now running as his vice president. This is blatant opportunism.

2. Jejomar Binay has no moral credibility. He recalls the poverty of his boyhood, how he raised pigs in their backyard and poked for coins under the ashes of their burnt house. Now he is a multi-millionaire, which is impressive, except that he made his fortune while he and his family controlled the Makati local government. Hardly a sterling example of unselfish dedicated, service to the people.

3. Edu Manzano is a professional actor who opposes nothing and proposes nothing. He is shockingly unfamiliar with the nuances of public policy and relies chiefly on his movie star charm. It appears that in the campaign he himself is not convinced that he should be taken too seriously.

Then you have Mar Roxas. His credentials as a worthy candidate for the presidency are beyond question. Yet when faced with a crucial decision that would affect not only his future but the future of the Philippines, he distinguished himself. With a single act he demonstrated his core political beliefs- that personal aspirations must be subordinated to the needs of the nation, that elective office no matter how high is not a business enterprise that must be gained at any price, and that an inordinate desire to win an election to public office by any means is by itself a moral disqualification to hold such an office.

This is what Mar Roxas showed the Filipino people when he gave way to Noynoy Aquino. He valued the nomination for the presidency, but not at the cost of a principle he valued even more: the opportunity to transform the political environment of our country and render authentic, effective, ethical service to the people he truly loves.

Filipino voters have seen this act of self sacrifice and patriotism and they have not forgotten. They have affirmed it in their positive response in every survey and it is not likely that they will soon forget.

Legalizing the illegal

Legalizing the illegal
Ellen Tordesillas
March 19, 2010

‘Arroyo can do anything illegal to stay in power beyond June 2010 and the Supreme Court will give it a mantle of legality.’

THIS is what is disturbing about the Supreme Court decision allowing Gloria Arroyo to make a midnight appointment to succeed Chief Justice Reynato Puno: Arroyo can do anything illegal to stay in power beyond June 2010 and the Supreme Court will give it a mantle of legality.

This is the scenario that we are looking at: There will be partial failure of elections, only at the national level. That means no president, vice president and senators would be proclaimed by June 30.

Since the term of incumbent Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile will end on June 30, there will be no Senate President, who is third in the Constitutional order of succession. (There have been calls for Enrile to do the patriotic act of resigning as Senate President so that someone whose term will end in 2013 could sit as Senate President but no dice.)

Meanwhile, there would be proclamation of winners in the local posts including members of the House of Representatives. There have been reports of Gloria Arroyo subsidizing the campaign of many congressmen to make sure that she gets elected as speaker.

The speaker of the House is fourth in the line of succession.

By noon of June 30, 2010 without a proclaimed president, vice president, and Senate President, House Speaker Gloria Arroyo becomes the acting president. The House then meets as a constituent assembly and adopts a parliamentary form of government. Gloria is named prime minister.

Of course, concerned citizen groups will question it in the Renato Corona Supreme Court, which expectedly will throw it out.

The public would be outraged. They will try People Power. The AFP Chief of Staff is Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit. He may not be highly regarded by military officers but he is loyal to Arroyo. He has defended her against those who wanted the truth out and preserve democracy during the Hello Garci scandal in 2005 and 2006. He is expected to defend her against an enraged citizenry.

The Philippine Army, the biggest service command, is under Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu who belongs to Class ’78 of the Philippine Military Academy just like Bangit. Arroyo is honorary member of PMA Class ’78.

Putting Mapagu at the helm of the Army meant bypassing a more senior officer, Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, who belongs to PMA Class ’77. I can imagine that Mapagu is very grateful to Arroyo.

Another from Class ’78 has also been put in a very strategic position. Rear Admiral Feliciano Angue is chief of the Army’s National Capital Region Command.

Let me tell you about something that happened in the 2004 elections involving Rear Admiral Angue. He was then a Navy captain assigned in Tawi-Tawi as a task force commander.

Angue was telling his friends that then Maj. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, AFP deputy chief of staff for operations, was calling him to facilitate entry of election operators in the area.

Angue told his friends he appealed to Esperon to spare his area of jurisdiction since it didn’t have a big voting population anyway. He also said that if they must undertake the operation, he’d rather that he is taken out of the area.

He was taken out.

Commendable, wasn’t it.

Yet, sources in the military said he didn’t relate this incident during the investigation of the role of the military in tampering of the 2004 election results conducted by then Vice Admiral Mateo Mayuga.

With that, I’m not so hopeful Angue would side with the people in a political crisis.

What about the PNP? Last week, PNP chief Jesus Versoza said he believes that there should a new president by June 30. But if Arroyo continues to hold on to power after June, he said, he would seek the guidance of the Supreme Court.

Naloko na.

Besides Versoza, who belongs to PMA Class ’76, may not really be in control of his organization. Last month Metro Manila Police Chief of PMA Class ’78 tried to reshuffle police officers in Manila without consulting with Mayor Alfredo Lim.

Lim went to court citing the law establishing the PNP that "no reshuffle or reassignment of station police commanders can be effected in a particular city or town without the concurrence or clearance of the local chief executive."


Political weather-weather

Political weather-weather - Danton Remoto
Views and analysis

I am still writing this column because I am not running as a nominee of Ang Ladlad for the party-list elections on May 10, 2010. Only those running for elective posts are barred by the law from writing articles and columns and holding book launchings. So for those who keep on asking me for money because they want to campaign for me, go back to the boonies, please.

The five nominees of Ang Ladlad are Ms. Bemz Benedito, a transgender who studied Sociology at the Ateneo de Manila University Graduate School; Atty. Germaine Trittle Leonin, from the College of Law, University of the Philippines; Mr. Cris Lopera, a seasoned NGO leader from General Santos City in Mindanao; Ms. Naomi Fontanos, another transgender finishing her graduate degree in Education at the State University; and Mr. Dex Macaldo, who used to work as a media officer with another, elected party-list in the previous Congress.

So it is not me who is running. I would also like to tell the many other party-lists out there to please stop calling me, texting me, or sending me e-mail messages inviting me to be their party-list candidate for the elections. The Party List Law states that you have to be a member of the party 90 days before your nomination. And what is the quick answer of these wise guys? “We can always antedate your membership form.” And these, ladies and gentlemen, are the future lawmakers of the land.

When I ask them why do they pester me to run under them as their first nominee? “Because of your wide media exposure, you will carry us to victory. And we have lots of money for the campaign.” Excuse me. Some of these party list groups, frankly , serve as mere fronts of a group I cannot, will never, join. Eh kung ‘yung senatorial slate nga under them, hindi ko tinanggap, eto pang party list kuno nila?

In my few years in politics – from 2003 when I founded Ang Ladlad to the present – this is what I have learnt. Like blue-bottle flies (bangaw), political operators and the lawyers of politicians will descend on you months before the filing of candidacies to inveigle you to join them. Like kings, they will come bearing gifts, in this case, offering millions of pesos in campaign funds, plus TV ads. Only God knows where these millions of pesos came from.

Moreover, they carry with them copies of unpolluted surveys showing you in the top 12 of the senatorial game. These copies, I think, are correct because they are brought by people belonging to different political persuasions. And why are these surveys unpolluted? Because the moneyed political party that commissioned the “uncommissioned” surveys have not yet tampered with the results. Your 36 percent showing has not yet been changed to 0.6 percent; and your number six in the top 12 has not yet been changed to number 60 out of 60 senatorial candidates sampled. And these are the results released to media, surveys labeled as “uncommissioned” surveys. Really?

In my few years in politics, this is what I have also learnt. When you begin to rise in the surveys and the people’s awareness, if not their affections, your future competitors will do everything for you not to be included in their slates. Especially if your kalabans are also young, re-electionists, and pretend to be bright. They see you as a potential rival if not now, as senator, then for the Vice-Presidential derby in 2016. Yes, sir, some of our senatorial candidates are now aspiring to be in the Top Three because they are angling for the VP slot in 2016. You don’t prepare to be VP or President in one year. You prepare for that beginning with the previous elections – six years before.

In my few years in politics, this is what I have also learnt. Those who are into the NGO groups, who are supposed to be bleeding hearts and liberal-minded, are also consumed with envy when they see your political star rise. Why, is it my fault if they also ran before as senators and ended up as kulelat? It is not my fault if they have lost not only their popularity, but also their hair.

In my few years in politics, this is what I have also learnt. Many will pay lip service to helping the poor, but really, do they? One of my closest friends is an Ateneo professor, and he told me last week that class is what divides this country, even in the presidential race. The dark heart of poverty lies at the core of the political messages blazoned on your TV screens. But really, who among them is for the poor?

The son of elite democracy? The son of the Tondo slums? The alleged son of Tondo? The son of dynastic democracy? The son of a religious empire? The daughter of a business empire? The motor mouth from Olongapo?

As Miriam Defensor Santiago would put it, in her La Paz, Iloilo-Ann Arbor, Michigan-St. Hilda College of Oxford accent: “Oh, come on!”

Unfazed, Cabral orders $8m worth of condoms

Unfazed Cabral orders $8m worth of condoms
Manila Standard Today

THE government is using $8 million from the $19-million Global Fund grant to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to buy condoms from the United Nations, Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said Sunday.

“If it’s from the UN, a condom costs only P1.50 to P2, but if we are going to get it from commercial sources, it will cost P7 up to P10,” Cabral told a health forum sponsored by the Philippine College of Physicians.

She said the Health Department had P63 million last year to help prevent the spread of AIDS, but it had so far spent nothing to buy condoms.

“We are still using funds from the international aid agency called the Global Fund whose biggest donor is Bill Gates [to buy condoms],” Cabral said.

Catholic bishops slammed Cabral and asked President Gloria Arroyo to sack her after she distributed condoms in Sampaloc, Manila, on Valentine’s Day eve, saying she was immoral, but Cabral said they could not stop her from campaigning to prevent AIDS.

She said the Philippines committed to buying condoms and to launching a program to fight HIV-AIDS when it accepted the Global Fund grant.

“The consistent and correct use of condoms is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of HIV, which could lead to full-blown AIDS,” Cabral said.

Did she still receive communion despite her quarrel with the bishops?

“I receive communion when there is occasion to receive communion, but when there is no occasion to receive communion, I don’t lose sleep over [it],” she said.

The opposition to condoms had affected the government’s drive against AIDS and had led to a significant rise in HIV cases, Cabral said.

Edsel Salvana, a consultant at the Sagip HIV/AIDS clinic at the Philippine General Hospital, said 90 percent of all HIV cases were sexually transmitted.

“If condoms were being promoted adequately, we would not be experiencing rising HIV cases,” he said.

Figures showed that HIV cases worldwide declined by 17 percent from 2001 to 2010, but the number of cases in the Philippines rose 334 percent in the same period and by 400 percent in 2009, when 835 cases were recorded, Salvana said. The number of HIV cases here could reach more than 25,000 by 2019.

“If the doubling rate [of HIV cases] continues, we will have 1,600 cases by 2011, 3,200 cases by 2013, 6,400 cases by 2015, and 25,000 cases by 2019,” Salvana said. Macon Ramos Araneta

(Almost) a woman

By Ida L. Bata
Sunday Inquirer Magazine
First Posted 18:56:00 03/06/2010

“I AM a woman. I’m not gay.”

This succinct line from a song by a local artist best describes how Transpinays (or Filipino transsexuals) see and accept themselves –and hope the rest of the world would too.

The words reflect the experience of Filipino transsexual women, says Brenda R. Alegre, a clinical psychologist who has completed a study on transgenderism. Herself a transsexual, Alegre explains that they are individuals whose sex and gender are in opposition, and so they seek to hormonally or surgically alter their bodies to match their gender identities. Gays, on the other hand, do not feel the need to change their genitals, she adds.

Alegre began her research back in 1993 while completing a Psychology course at the University of Santo Tomas. “The research was something I really wanted to do. My feeling of being a woman is genuine and sprung from the time I was 5,” she shares. Her research included watching and joining gay and transsexual beauty pageants, visiting beauty salons to observe and interview hair stylists and customers, and watching TV programs and movies about characters conflicted about their sexual identities.

In 2005, Alegre met Dr. Sam Winter of Transgender Asia and Hong Kong University, as well as the founders of the Society of Transsexual Women in the Philippines (STRAP), the first advocacy and support group in the country for male to female (M2F) transgenders. They were her beacons, she says, encouraging her to complete the study within the scope of gender identity and sexual orientation.

“This is my advocacy. I want Filipinos to accept us as we are and realize that we too have equal rights and opportunities to jobs, education, marriage and political representation,” Alegre says. “It’s like a gift – you have to accept it whether it’s a good or bad one.”

The study’s 15 respondents, all aged 21 to 40, identified and presented themselves as women, not as homosexuals or a third gender. They have adopted female names, prefer to be called “ma’am” and referred to as a “she,” and would rather use the ladies’ washroom than the men’s room. They have also joined beauty pageants for transgenders and gays, considered a prelude to their transitioning ritual, which a few of them achieved through sex reassignment surgery (SRS). The surgical procedure costs at least P1 million and is available here, in the US, UK, Sweden, Denmark, Japan and Thailand.

Bemz D. Benedito, 31, national secretary of the gay organization Ang LadLad representing Transpinays, stresses the need to educate society about transsexualism and transgenderism and its distinction from homosexuality. “Most of the time, we are labeled as gays while others think that all transsexuals have undergone SRS,” she says. “Not all of us can afford this procedure,” she adds.

Their gender has been a source of discrimination, says Alegre. “Despite our academic qualifications, we can’t get the right jobs that fit our skills. There are many talented Transpinays who become entertainers and go to Japan and Thailand because of the lack of employment opportunities here. Entertainment is the only industry that shows us the quickest route to income. It has only been in the last 10 years or so, with the opening of call centers, that we’ve been given another career option. Still, it isn’t always a success story for many of us,” she says.

Alegre has worked for the last 12 years with four companies, carving a career path in Human Resources. Between these jobs, she has applied in some 100 companies.

“I have always presented myself as a transgender,” she says. “They’re impressed with my academic accomplishments and work experience, but when they see that I am transgendered, they don’t call me for further interviews. Companies in the Philippines and HR practitioners lack awareness on the transgender experience, so they’re inclined to turn us down.”

Society’s expectations also make things difficult, Alegre adds. “Companies want us to wear men’s uniforms, cut our hair, and use the men’s washroom. We cannot wear earrings and make up. They will not even allow configuration of emails based on our preferred female names. My advice to companies is: hire us first. Skills and the right attitude make a good employee,” she says.

Benedito echoes similar frustrations. Academically accomplished with degrees in Mass Communications and Sociology, she recalls unflattering remarks from colleagues while working on a research project at Ateneo.

Cruel taunts are frequently thrown her way by bystanders when she’s walking on the street or waiting for a cab. “They call me names like bakla, mang-aagaw ng lakas, or salot. Occasionally, I would challenge them to take a good look at themselves and what they’ve done to improve themselves. But most of the time, I just ignore them,” she sighs.

Like Alegre, she has been turned away by companies because of her gender identity. She remembers a male manager of a call center in Ortigas telling her during the final interview that though she performed excellently in the written and oral exams, he cannot take her in because she’s gay, wears women’s clothes, and it is against his (Mormon) religion.

Benedito doesn’t mince words when talking about how the Comelec abused its authority as a legal institution when it called the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community immoral and a threat to the youth. Ang Ladlad, she says, complied with the Partylist system law when it applied for accreditation to represent gays. Comelec however ruled that the group advocates immorality, citing Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code on lust and pornography. A false claim, she explains, because being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender isn’t an interpretation of pornography.

All transgender groups are ready to soldier on if the Supreme Court’s final decision is in their disfavor. They will then step up their education campaign on the rights of LGBTs around the country and will re-apply for party list accreditation during the next national election.

Apart from a more compassionate government, Alegre is pinning her faith on a more enlightened academe, as well as medical and social workers. “Studies on gender differences should be included in the sex and health education classes in the elementary grades and high school. Schools must include activities for transsexuals since most educational programs are designed for male and female students. Social workers must provide the right counseling and job placements for us,” she says.

Alegre and Benedito insist that they’re not batting for tolerance for their gender identity and sexual orientation, but for acceptance. Their advocacy and that of Ang LadLad is to reclaim their human rights as persons and as LGBTs. They are looking forward to that day when being transgendered in the Philippines does not make them beggars pleading for recognition and acceptance.

Says Alegre: “Believing that we are women is not a psychological disorder. This is w

Wth enough funds, DOH willing to give out contraceptives

With enough funds, DOH willing to give out contraceptives
Thursday, 25 February 2010
Newsbreak Magazine

Health chief Cabral: Some bishops can be ‘vicious,’ but I have a job to do

While Catholic bishops were intensifying its campaign against candidates backing the reproductive health bill, their attention was caught by a Cabinet member who gave away condoms at a flower market in Manila on Valentines’ Day.

Newly appointed Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral has since been tagged as immoral by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and is being asked to resign.

Cabral clarified that the distribution of condoms was not meant to promote artificial birth control methods, but a way to remind the public the need for a “responsible sexual behavior” to combat Human Immunodeficiency Virus or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS), a disease that reached an epidemic level in just a year.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel’s “Dateline Philippines” on February 24, Cabral was far from giving in to pressure from the religious. The Department of Health’s anti-AIDS program will continue, she said in so many words. In fact, if funds won’t run dry, she said the department will be willing to distribute pills and other contraceptives—just like how she gave out rubbers in Dangwa.

This was expected that you would get opposition from the Church, but why are you doing this?
Because I think it’s the right thing to do in order to promote the health of the people of the Philippines. That is the mandate of the secretary of health and the DOH (Department of Health), and we are just doing what we are supposed to do.

How bad is the HIV problem?
Over the last few months, investigators and doctors have been alarmed by the escalating incidence of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines. And our figures are like this: it took 20 years for the number of HIV/AIDS to go to 2,000. It took 5 years to go to 3,000, and it has taken just 1 year to go to 4,400. And at the rate that we are going in three-year time, we are going to have more than 3,000 people with HIV/AIDS in the Philippines

And these are just reported cases?
Of course we consider that as the tip of the iceberg. Our calculation is that for every one case of HIV/ AIDS that we diagnose, there are 10 more that we have not diagnosed.

So how do you plan to do this? Is it going to be the DOH that’s going to do it directly? How do you plan to continue the program?
The program for condom distribution is just one component of the entire program that we have. The first, of course, is abstinence. That is the sure-fire way of not contracting HIV/AIDS through sexual transmission. The second is to be faithful to your partner, so that you don’t transmit it to anybody else except your partner. Let’s put it that way, if you have AIDS. And the third is for people who cannot be good, we help them to be careful by providing them with the means to prevent HIV/AIDS, which is with the use of condoms.

How realistic are you expecting people to abstain?
I think it’s very unrealistic. There are a few of us who will be able to do it, but certainly, most people are going to have to heed their natural inclinations.

The Church says it’s immoral?
The Church is the guardian of morality and, therefore, they should exert every effort to ensure that their teachings are heard. The DOH is the guardian of the people’s health. Those are 2 different things.

Are you not at all affected by the threats of the Church against you?
Of course I am. I’m very afraid of the Church. They are very powerful, and they can sometimes be very vicious. And I’m not exactly one who likes to live dangerously. But if I have to, I will do it.

You have the support of the president. Do you still have it?
So far, I have not heard the president stop me from doing all of these things. I’m sure that she knows that when she appoints a person to a position of responsibility, she has to give that person some authority.

Have you spoken to her about that, since the Church has come out with the threat?
Only once, when she noted that we were giving away pamphlets together with the NGOs and the manufacturers of the condoms. And she didn’t say, “You should stop your activity.”

What was her reaction?
So far, nothing negative.

She didn’t say, she supported it or opposed it?
Correct, yes.

She’s not stopping you, that’s support?
Well at this point, we can take it as like that.

Was it the vice-chair of the CBCP, “One foot in hell...” Would you like to react to that?
No. That is the opinion of the bishop. He is entitled to that opinion.

Is that because of the fact that condoms are contraceptive instruments or from a family planning point-of-view rather than an HIV one?
Yes, I think. In fact, that is correct. They do not want the use of condoms as they don’t want the use of other modern means of contraception. Because for them, anything other than abstinence is abortion.

What about that element of it? The idea of family planning is also a component of the ditrn of condoms?
Let’s put it this way, a condom is both, a contraceptive and a preventive for STD's (sexually-transmitted diseases) such as HIV/AIDS, if in the process of preventing STDs, there is this element of preventing pregnancy, then we accept that.

What is the stand of the DOH with regards to family planning, artificial or natural?
The principle that the national government abides with is informed choice, responsible parenthood. And in this case, we leave it to the families to do whatever they want to do.

Will the DOH facilitate or assist families who want to do family planning?
Yes, certainly, we will assist families through the NGOs, through the LGUs (local government units), and through our own organization, if they wish to practice family planning.

Is the DOH willing to give out pills, condoms, contraceptives to help out families keep their family small?
We will be at the moment; however, we do not have funds to do that. However, we partner with a lot of non-government organizations, with international aid agencies, and with LGUs to make sure that people are given the proper information, so that they can make an informed choice, as well as access to the services they need, if they cannot afford to buy it themselves.

Do you think there might be some middle ground, without earning the ire of the bishops?
We would love to have a middle ground with them. And we would love to discuss it with them, if they wish to discuss it with us.

Are you hopeful there might be something?
There is always hope.

Funds? GFATM (Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria)?
The Global Fund is a large organization to which many countries and philanthropists, like Bill Gates contribute. And over the last few years, they have approved grants amounting to more than US$215 million of which US$85 million have been released to the Philippines. Our government has signed the grants with them. And part of the grant for the HIV/AIDS program is actually the purchase and distribution of condoms for those who need it but cannot afford it.

How much are you allotting for this in a year?
I think in the Global Fund there is something like P2.5 million for the purchase of condoms.

How much is a condom?
About P10. That’s a considerable number, but that is not our requirement. Our requirement actually is much more than that, but people who need it should be able to buy it. We are only providing for those, for whom it is absolutely necessary, but who cannot afford it.

What would you consider a successful number, consider the program successful? If the number of people diagnosed to have AIDS does not increase, meaning, every year, we remain at, say 2000, 3000 people diagnosed with AIDS, and it doesn’t go up, then, I think, we can say that we have been successful. If it goes down instead of just remaining stable, then that would be even greater.

But you only have less than 3 months to go?
That’s correct.

What kind of success can we see here?
Nothing from me outside of the advocacy that this is something that needs to be done by the next secretary of health and the next administration.

You know you don’t have enough time to do this. If the next administration asks you to stay on, would you do it?
Well, I think we will cross that bridge when we get theres.

Are you eager to get back to private practice?
I’d love to get back to private practice, but I am also happy serving the people this way.
Which department do you prefer?
I love working in the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development). The people there are very special. But I’m also very happy, because I’m a doctor, to be at the helm of the DOH that also has a lot of special people.


In support of Sec. Cabral

By Bong Austero
Manila Standard Today
3 March 2010

If I didn’t have my hands full with other pressing engagements last Monday, I would have been there at the Department of Health compound on Tayuman Street in Manila joining hands with women’s groups, non-government organizations, and people living with HIV/AIDS in support of beleaguered Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral.
From what I gathered from friends who were there, the crowd turnout wasn’t bad. Certainly not huge if we are to use El Shaddai or Jesus is Lord standards—but being able to gather close to three hundred live bodies is already a feat given the level of demonizing the cause, and Cabral herself, have been getting from the Catholic Church. Rallying in support of condoms is not exactly something one would usually like to be known for. Also, getting people to rally around and in support of a cabinet secretary of the present dispensation does not sound like a wise move.

But people did show up—and I am glad that they did. About time some people actually stand up to the bullying being done by the Catholic Church on the issue of condoms.

Cabral has been the object of heavy criticism from the Catholic Church on account of her steadfast commitment to promoting the use of condoms to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS. At least three influential Catholic bishops have openly asked for her resignation as Health Secretary while other bishops have continued to crucify her in media and at the pulpit calling her immoral and incompetent. She’s not a good Catholic, they say.

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles labeled Cabral a bad leader since her condom-distribution program supposedly endangers people’s morals. “It is immoral for a government official to support the distribution of condoms which we know does not really reduce or stop the spread of HIV-AIDS,” Arguelles was quoted in various newspapers. The archbishop was quick to condemn Cabral for simply doing her job, which is to save lives while remaining oblivious to the fact that he perpetuated a blatant lie. Arguelles should be reminded of what former senator Juan Flavier used to say to admonish them: “It’s a sin to tell a lie.”

Two of the world’s leading experts on health, the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control in the United States, have repeatedly come out with position papers backed by empirical proof which firmly establish the fact that condoms are effective in preventing HIV infections. Laboratory studies have found that HIV does not pass through intact latex condoms even when these devices are stretched or stressed.

One comprehensive study conducted in Thailand specifically found that use of condoms led to dramatic decline in HIV infections. There have been hundreds of studies conducted all over the world to test the effectiveness of condoms against HIV—and all of these studies showed that the correct and consistent use of condoms have led to dramatic declines in HIV infections. One of the most convincing data on the effectiveness of condoms in preventing HIV infection has been generated by studies conducted among couples where one partner was infected with HIV while the other was not. These studies showed that, with consistent condom use, the HIV infection rate among uninfected partners was less than 1 percent per year.

I am aware of course that some studies commissioned by the Catholic Church and other similar organizations that have been campaigning against the use of condoms showed—as can be expected given the intent of these studies—mixed results. But even these studies, despite their lack of objectivity and the absence of scientific rigor, recognize that condoms, even if only in principle, help prevent the spread of HIV. Of course these studies belabor certain contextual factors or statistical nuances to support their contention that condoms are not 100 percent effective.

Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez said Cabral should quit as Health secretary because she was not a good Catholic. Gutierrez intoned: “Secretary Cabral should not continue serving until June because the culture and morality of society will be endangered under her. First, she does not respect the big number of Catholics in the country who oppose the distribution of condoms. Second, is she Catholic? I doubt that she is. Because if you are a Catholic and in the government, you should be living the teachings of the Church.”

I have a few points that I would like to ask the bishop. First, where is it written that being a Catholic—or being a good Catholic if he so insists—is a qualification for public office? Second, where in the Constitution does it say that the government should please Catholics in this country? And third, aren’t bishops supposed to lead by example and live the teachings of the Church? I ask this last question because I have always been of the impression that the Church is against lying and condemnation.

So yes, I am very glad that finally we have a health secretary who is standing up to the Catholic church on the matter of condoms (and if the scuttlebutt is to be believed, even on the issue of reproductive health). As some women’s groups have noted, Cabral is one of the very few—probably the first cabinet secretary after Juan Flavier—who has not capitulated to the demands of the bishops. It is my hope that she continues to be brave and resolute in her advocacy.

I’ve already written about this many times in this space, and I will say it again: The HIV/AIDS situation in the country has already reached an alarming stage. Just last December, the national registry recorded 126 cases of new HIV infections. That’s 126 new cases in only a month’s time and that figure is more than triple the monthly infection rates posted in 2009. And we are just talking reported cases here, we’re not talking about the cases that are hidden and not detected.

This is how alarming it has become: Most everyone I know has intimated to me that they know someone who has been diagnosed with HIV.

When we come to think about it, Cabral’s program of action to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS is actually not new or even unique. It’s the same three-pronged strategy that has been operationalized in the past two decades, as ABC: A for abstinence, B for being faithful to one partner, and C for correct and consistent use of condoms.

The Church wants the government to stick to the first option, which is to promote abstinence. There is nothing inherently wrong with teaching people to abstain from sex. The problem is that what do we do with people who can’t abstain from sex? What do we do with people who are not Catholics and who need tools to protect themselves from HIV infection? If we don’t teach people to use condoms, what do we do with couples where one partner is living with HIV? Its position on condoms is just one more proof of the growing irrelevance of the Catholic church. It seems the church is becoming more and more isolated and insulated from mainstream Philippine society.

Bastardizing the party list

Bastardizing the party list
Ellen Tordesillas
3 March 2010

PARAÑAQUE Rep. Roilo Golez sees a conflict of interest in the Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes membership in 1-Utak (United Transport Koalisyun), a partylist group.

Golez said in the hearing of the House Energy Committee last Monday, Reyes admitted that he was offered a slot in the 1-Utak party list and in a TV interview, he said he is considering it.

His nomination indicates that he has been an I-Utak member for at least the past three months because the law states that a nominee should be "A bonafide member of the party he seeks to represent for at least ninety (90) days preceding election day."

There are calls for Reyes to resign because, as Golez said, "his membership in 1-Utak, a player in oil products price and supply issues, which are within the jurisdiction of the energy secretary poses a clear conflict of interest."

Concerns have also been raised about Mikey Arroyo, son of Gloria Arroyo who has opted not to run re-election as representative of 2nd district of Pampanga to allow his mother to make a bid to return to power via the House of Representatives?

Mikey Arroyo is the first nominee of Ang Galing Pinoy, allegedly representing tricycle drivers and security guards. How in heaven’s name can Mikey Arroyo be a member of association of tricycle drivers and security guards? The same question was asked when his aunt, Marilou, got to the House of Representatives representing balut vendors.

Ang Galing Pinoy and 1-Utak are two of the 187 partylist groups that are included in the ballot (that helps explain the two-foot long ballot) . The Comelec admits many of those 187 are questionable but they decided not to question them because that would have delayed the printing of the ballots. They say that they could still disqualify some of those before Election Day.

Former Akbayan Rep. Etta Rosales laments the bastardization of the party list system which was introduced in the 1987 Constitution with the noble purpose of giving the marginalized groups a voice in Congress. It was giving substance to the philosophy articulated by the late President Ramon Magsaysay that "those who have less in life should have more in law."

Etta said that in 2007, Akbayan exposed 11 dubious party list groups including Biyaheng Pinoy, a tricycle party list group founded in Mandaluyong but whose bulk of votes came from Mindanao. It was headed by the brother of the disgraced Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos.

Etta said there is no serious effort by Comelec to investigate the integrity of all the groups it has accredited, both past and present.

She said, "Some curious names in the 187 list include Agbiag, No. 34 and Ang Galing Pinoy, No. 89. In 2007 this was one and the same suspected government front called ‘Ang Galing Pinoy, Agbiag! Timpuyog Ilocano, Inc.’ (Agbiag) for short. Now they have split like an amoeba with Ang Galing Pinoy ‘aching’ to have Mikey Arroyo its first nominee in the party list."

Etta asks the Comelec: "What does ‘1-Ako ang Babaeng Astig Aasenso’ stands for and what under-represented sections of the population does it represent?"

She further said, "1-UTAK is among seven accredited party list groups that command the first row because they all start with "1"! Obviously this is intended to have these seven groups listed ahead of some 102 party list groups starting with the letter "A". While these PL titles in competition of billing are a comedy by themselves, what is more bothersome is the fact that the transport group 1-UTAK should offer its first slot to a GMA cabinet member, Angelo Reyes, whose loyalty to the President today is measured by the years of service he has given to her in the various cabinet posts he has held regardless of experience these past nine years."

Etta said elections is being held under "a regime in a desperate drive to hold on to power in a period of rapid decline."

Etta is not alone in thinking that "this kilometer-long list of 187 party list groups may hold the key to her last remaining options – a private army of party list loyalists to support her speakership where district solons are fast jumping ship in search of new perks."

She is calling for the reactivation of Party List Caucus. She said, "the Comelec must be called to task and the Supreme Court must respond decisively before the dream of EDSA for a democratic Congress ends in a gruesome nightmare. A democratic Congress can still be a reality, but only with the concerted action of an informed public. "


Adel Tamano for gays? | 03/01/2010 1:54 PM

MANILA, Philippines - In an effort to get the support of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBT) in the May polls, Atty. Adel Tamano of the Nacionalista Party (NP) promised that if elected, he will be party-list group Ang Ladlad's "voice in the Senate."

During Ang Ladlad's national convention over the weekend, Tamano claimed that it takes someone who has experienced discrimination such as himself (who is a Muslim) to be able to represent marginalized sectors like LGBTs in the Philippines.

"Being a Muslim, I too, am a part of a minority group that is stereotyped and discriminated against like LGBTs in the Philippines. I know what you're going through and I know how frustrating it is not to be heard," said Tamano, who is president of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and the legal counsel of popular cosmetic surgeon Vicki Belo.

"It takes someone who has experienced discrimination to be able to represent marginalized sectors like LGBTs. I could be your voice in the Senate," he added.

For its part, Ang Ladlad "warmly welcomed Tamano's offer," according to a statement released by the senatorial bet's office on Monday.

Aside from Tamano, Joey de Venecia III of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino party was present at Ang Ladlad's national convention. De Venecia also promised to work with Ang Ladlad, citing his father's (a former House speaker who bears the same name) efforts against discrimination.

"I consider this as my political 'coming out' so that I may henceforth openly and publicly partner with Ang Ladlad as it struggles to give the LGBT community its political voice. Ituring ninyo na po akong kasama ninyo (count me as one of you)," he said.

The Supreme Court has ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to include Ang Ladlad in the ballot, pending a review of its accreditation. The party-list group filed a petition before the High Court after being disqualified last year by the second division of the poll body.

The Comelec has earlier claimed that Ang Ladlad advocates "sexual immorality" and "immoral doctrines," and would pose risks for the Filipino youth. With a report from the Philippine Star
as of 03/02/2010 1:24 AM

Adel Tamano says he can be Ang Ladlad's "voice in the Senate"

Senatorial candidate Atty. Adel Tamano says he can be Ang Ladlad’s “voice in the Senate”

Nacionalista Party senatorial candidate and spokesman Atty. Adel Tamano received warm response from Ang Ladlad Saturday when he said that he will be the partylist group’s “voice in the Senate.”

Tamano made this statement before officers and members of Ang Ladlad, the national organization of Filipino lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBTs), during the group’s national convention Saturday.

Tamano was one of only three senatorial candidates invited to grace the event.

“Being a Muslim, I, too, am a part of a minority group that is stereotyped and discriminated against like LGBTs in the Philippines. I know what you’re going through and I know how frustrating it is not to be heard,” Tamano said.

“It takes someone who has experienced discrimination to be able to represent marginalized sectors like LGBTs. I could be your voice in the Senate,” Tamano offered.

The Ang Ladlad group warmly welcomed Tamano’s offer.

Tamano, a constitutional law professor, is a supporter of Ang Ladlad and its advocacies to promote equality, regardless of sexual preference.

Attack against Ang Ladlad is political, not moral

Attacks against Ang Ladlad is political, not moral
March 2nd, 2010 by Patricio Mangubat

A few days ago, ZTE-NBN whistleblower Joey de Venecia III spoke before a huge throng of gays and lesbians. Based on what my friend told me, Joey spoke of the attempts by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to discredit or disallow Ang Ladlad, a partylist organization espousing the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) members. A renewed attempt is underway, purposedly to strike out the name from the list of accredited partylist organizations. And this, says Joey, is nothing more than a direct affront to Philippine democracy.

In his speech which was sent to me by email, Joey said that it is the height of irony that we call our society “democratic” when government discriminates against members of the LGBT. Since when, asks Joey de Venecia III, did sexual orientation become a “precondition” for citizenship? Let me quote one part of his press statement

How could we, in conscience, celebrate our democracy (and we did that just the other day) and yet attempt to deny LGBT Filipinos their right to meaningfully engage the political process? Are they any less Filipino?

What Joey is saying is that the poll body wants Ang Ladlad out mainly on the point of morality instead of law. Numerous decisions penned by the Comelec point to this reason alone. The poll body is not questioning the “sectoral” nature of Ang Ladlad–it is questioning its conduct, which, again quoting from some decisions, “offends religious sensitivities”.

The issue therefore, is not about Ang Ladlad as a sectoral organization–the issue is its principles, which, as what Joey de Venecia III correctly pointed out, is a realm not within the ambit of the poll body. Regardless of belief, the Commission on Elections’ task is simply determine the suitability of the applicant organization based on legal grounds, such as the determination of its “sectoral-ness” and the validity of its assertions as reflected on the face of its petition.

The Commission on Elections found nothing false in Ang Ladlad’s petition. It has been in existence, enjoys widespread mass base support and has the capability to engage in a national campaign, elements which determine the suitability of a sectoral applicant. If the poll body thinks that the LGBT community is a legit sector, then, why question its conduct? Joey de Venecia III is right when he says that the Comelec showed its gender and pseudo-religious bias when it tries to strike Ang Ladlad out of the game.

What Joey de Venecia III forgot was, maybe, the real reason why the Comelec wants Ang Ladlad out was more of a political instead of a legal or moral reason. Since Comelec is an Arroyo administration stooge, the main task is to discredit legitimate sectoral organizations. That morality issue is being made as a subterfuge to hide the real reason which is political. We all know that Ang Ladlad is anti-GMA, and therefore, subject to Nazi-like persecution. And Ang Ladlad is not the only one being persecuted here.

Migrante, for one, is a national OFW group but was not accredited. Same goes to Samahang Magdalo which, for all intents and purposes, is a national civilian organization. The name of the game is simply which among these applicants are ready to lick the asses of the Powers-That-Be.

If the Comelec can stomach a Mikey Arroyo or an Angelo Reyes as sectoral nominees, it cannot, by political reasons, accept a Danton Remoto. The poll body simply wants those close to “Madame” to win elections instead of those who will bite her hand when she becomes Speaker of the House.
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About Author: Patricio Mangubat has written 200 articles. Patricio Mangubat is a pseudonym. It means "country fight". Yet, the one behind this name is real. He can be briefly described as a long-time activist as well as a communication strategist. He once taught at the University of the Philippines and at Dela Salle University. He blogs at The New Philippine Revolution. Aside from writing, he recently opened a roast chicken business, Manok King.

Aquino's campaign tack gets personal, calls Villar copycat

What can I say to this except, hahahahaha? Expect the dirt to become thicker as the days pass.


Aquino’s campaign tack gets personal, calls Villar copycat

Christine Herrera
Manila Standard Today
march 2, 2010

THE tone of presidential candidate Benigno Aquino III has switched from a campaign promising hope to directly attacking his closest rival, with the Liberal Party standard-bearer now accusing Manuel Villar Jr. of the Nacionalista Party of copying his campaign strategy.

Aquino, who was in Cebu over the weekend, said the Villar camp had also resorted to tying orange ribbons along the major thoroughfares, similar to Aquino’s yellow ribbons, aside from imitating his campaign vows and advertising materials.

“Give him one month and even my hairstyle he will copy,” Aquino said in Pilipino during a campaign sortie.

Aquino’s new attack mode nearly escaped the attention of the Manila-based media were it not for a press statement released Monday by the Liberal Party media bureau that began this way: “After seeing his ads and campaign materials imitated by the rival camp, [the] Liberal Party standard-bearer...predicts that Villar may soon imitate even his hairstyle.”

“Still, [Aquino] will not be surprised if Villar comes out with a song similar to Tie a Yellow Ribbon,” the Liberal statement said.

According to a political strategist, the Liberals, who have been unsettled by surveys showing Villar is now in a statistical tie with Aquino, have taken a two-pronged approach, pitching Aquino as the solution to the country’s woes, and attacking his closest rival, Villar.

Former senator Sergio Osmena III is said to be the brainchild of the new Aquino campaign strategy.

The Nacionalist camp was quick to answer Aquino’s hectoring.

“Noynoy [Aquino] is getting paranoid,” Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla said.

“He should grow up. But we are not surprised that he is into trivial pursuits. He has always been shallow anyway and does not talk about serious issues because he just wants to dwell on trivial things and about the past. He should let go and move on.”

Even the son of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos jumped into the fray, taking exception to Aquino’s accusing President Arroyo of trying to copy the late President.

“Noynoy has a problem with the way he thinks. He cannot talk about serious issues because he is confused, he does not know what he is doing and what to do in the future,” Marcos said.

“He is obsessed about digging up the past. Our people want to know how to solve this country’s problems, but Noynoy does not offer them the solution. That’s the difference between Noynoy and Villar and that’s what makes Villar connect to the people.

“What’s lacking in the Liberal camp is that their standard bearer has little performance to prove that he can run this country better,” Marcos said. Christine F. Herrera

Susan Ople Gets Support of Magdalo Party

Labor Leader Gets Support of Coup-Linked Magdalo Party

MANILA – Susan Ople, a former Philippine labor undersecretary, has been endorsed by the 55,000-strong Magdalo Party, a group originally linked to the July 27, 2003 coup launched against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Known as the Oakwood Mutiny, named after the posh apartel where the putschists were holed up, the failed overthrow was instigated by a group of 321 armed soldiers who called themselves "Bagong Katipuneros."

Magdalo’s endorsement of Ople’s bid after Bro. Mike Velarde, leader of Catholic charismatic movement known as El Shaddai, recently endorsed her in Hong Kong.

According to Rey Robles, chief of staff of detained Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, “Ople embodies the very core of Magdalo’s principles and that is change and good governance. She is competent and well-prepared to be in the Senate as the lone and genuine voice of labor and the OFWs.”

The labor leader actually met with Trillanes at the custodial services unit of the Philippine National Police (PNP) where she was informed of her inclusion in the 12-person slate that the Magdalo movement would be actively campaigning and voting for.

The overseas Filipino worker (OFW) advocate and former labor undersecretary said that tomorrow the Magdalo Party would make a major announcement on who to support, adding that Sen. Trillanes had assured her of the party’s commitment which “comprises a solid vote among members with a multiplier effect on their families and communities."

Susan, youngest daughter of the former International Labor Organization (ILO) president Blas F. Ople, also disclosed he was briefed about the names of the Magdalo-backed candidates for president, vice-president, and 12 senators, hinting “it's a mixed ticket that was a product of a series of consultations among the Magdalo officers and members."

Francisco Ashley Acedillo, a former Air Force first lieutenant, it was learned, has been tasked by the party to make the announcement, marking the first time the group of rebel soldiers and their civilian supporters would be expressing support and actively mobilizing its members nationwide to help certain candidates.

Magdalo Party, with chapters in the provincial, city and municipal levels, is considered as one among the silent but very powerful organizations in terms of command votes among the military personnel and their families.

This claim was clearly proven when then Navy Lt. Senior Grade Trillanes ran as an independent candidate for the Senate seat and won in the 2007 national elections despite limited logistical support.

The Magdalo Party, Robles said, followed a consultative process in formulating its own list of candidates, and that Ople was chosen because of her consistent fight for the rights of OFWs.

Under the party’s rules, delegates were made to select from among the senatorial bets on the basis of the latter’s character, vision and leadership.

The group earlier endorsed the senatorial candidacy of fellow Magdalo members Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and Col. Ariel Querubin.

Wislawa Szymborska: Nobel Prize winner for Literature

New documentary on Nobel laureate Szymborska
March 1, 2010, 11:31am
WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- A rare documentary about Nobel Prize winning poet Wislawa Szymborska portrays a lively yet distinguished woman who savors the world's contrasts, from 17th-century Dutch painting to boxing.

And, in a bit of unsuspected prescience, it shows a school document from 1937 that saw a classmate declare that she would one day win the Nobel Prize in literature, a feat she accomplished in 1996.

The 70-minute documentary "Sometimes Life is Bearable" by Katarzyna Kolenda-Zaleska, which aired Sunday, is the first time the notoriously media-shy writer has offered such insight into her life and fascinations. She let a crew from Poland's TVN television visit her at home in Krakow and accompany her on travels throughout Europe from Italy to Ireland.

Viewers see Szymborska, 86, enjoying her less-known literary hobby - composing saucy limericks - while visiting places including Moher, Ireland, and Corleone, Sicily.

She is shown visiting art galleries and browsing in small shops for kitschy objects of art for herself and for friends.

But, in a more serious vein, she also explains why, as a young poet in 1953, she mourned the death of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin

"I wrote it. A pity. I regret it," she said, recalling that, at the time, many Polish intellectuals had placed great faith and hope in communism in the aftermath of World War II.

"I didn't do that for career or for money," she said. "That's how I thought then."

In the film, Woody Allen, Czech playright-turned-president Vaclav Havel and British anthropologist Jane Goodall speak of their appreciation for Szymborska's verse, which deals with the profound or tragic in life through small details of daily existence, laden with empathy that is sometimes veiled in a joke, sometimes in irony.

"She is able to capture the pointlessness and sadness of life, but somehow still be affirmative," Allen said. "She fulfills my definition of what an important artist should be: profound, but always remembering that his obligation is to entertain the reader."

Szymborska's interest in Goodall's work with chimpanzees and her love for animals suggests she draws more fascination from nature than from civilization.

Her distance to the things worldly and distinction is, perhaps, best summarized in the film by a long, drawn-out search in her apartment's many cupboards for the Nobel Prize medal - eventually found buried deep in a distant corner and then placed in a drawer with old souvenirs and medals.

She still refers to the 1.3 million kroner prize - the highest honor for literature there is - as the "Stockholm Tragedy" that upset her life and writing rhythm, creating constant pressure for public appearances and interviews.

In more personal moments, the document details Szymborska's insatiable love of a good prank, too.

Appreciating Johannes Vermeer's masterpiece "The Milkmaid" in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, she suddenly jokes, with a gleam in her eye: "Now we take out the knife and cut it out."

But just before she cracked that joke, Szymborska read her poem inspired by the painting, which said that as long as the milkmaid pours the milk, the world does not deserve to end.