Monday, July 21, 2008

Wrong priority

Wrong priority

While our congressmen and women at the big house are busy pushing a bill that will promote the use of artificial birth control methods to control population the people are reeling from the double crises resulting from run away cost of food and oil. The analogy that comes to my mind is the story from Will Durant who, in his Story of Philosophy, said that while the Athenian solons (all 1000 of them) were busy arguing in the midst of the Peloponnesian wars the Spartans marched past the gate and won the war. At the height of a rapidly deteriorating situation our solons are pushing for the use of condoms to address the issue of over population and poverty. The problem is that artificial birth control will neither reduce populations nor make a dent on poverty. Values, morality and not permissiveness and promiscuity will solve our economic and political problems.

There is no over population in the Philippines in the first place. A road trip across rural areas would show space, living space for millions of Filipinos more. There is nothing out there but soil, crops, trees, rivers, mountains, and hills. That’s where the problem lies. Because there is “nothing” out there the people are flocking to the big cities in search for jobs and a better life, only to find out that life does not get better with a city job or by living in the big city. Most of the rural poor end up as prostitutes of some sort, domestic helpers, and factory workers anyway.

The perception that there is a need to drastically reduce our population is caused by migration to urban centers resulting in over crowding but not over population. The problem has to do with the lack of development in the country side rather than the lack of condoms and birth control pills. Poverty is caused by poor and mismanaged economic policies, and, by a large part, corruption. Big populations can be a source of economic development and not the other way around. Our economy, for example, is kept afloat by the dollar remittances that come from Filipinos working abroad. Bigger populations mean bigger markets, more man power, and added human resources for economic growth.

Indeed, the population problem that is confronting the developed world is actually their lack of people. In the West the populations are dwindling. Their people are growing older and in their case the young working people have to care for a growing number of senior aged dependents. That’s why they need care takers and nurses from the Philippines. One may even suspect that one of the interests of some funding agencies to reduce populations in developing nations is to prevent a disparity between populations. It has been estimated that white people will make up less than 10% of the world’s population by 2050 AD.

But even if over population is a real and pressing problem, artificial birth control methods won’t solve that problem anyway. In fact it may even result into more economic hardships for our people and larger populations. Education, knowledge, wisdom, and prudence are the things that our people need to not only keep the population growth in check but to reduce poverty and solve the looming economic and political problems of the land. Decadent movie and TV shows and irresponsible lifestyles are making our people more and more promiscuous. High school and college girls are getting pregnant at a younger age because of the materialism and the hedonism that media has over them. Gang rapes and sexual abuse are becoming more and more frequent in schools. Poor women are being raped even by their husbands and nobody really knows what to do with the growing number of poor children whose numbers continue to grow at a scary rate. Throwing condoms and pills to our people offers only a bandaged solution at best. Better to teach them values and morality instead. Better to teach them the value of prudence and the wisdom of refusing sexual advances rather than showing them that they can have sex, whether they want it or not, safely as long as they take abortifacient pills.

Meanwhile the protests against the government’s inability to solve the fuel and food crises are getting more and more frequent. More disturbing is the perception that the same rallies are getting more passionate and violent as the days go by. And yet the congressmen and women are quibbling about sex and pills. Solve the real and more urgent problems at hand, then you representatives can wax philosophical all you want later on. Some representatives do have wrong priorities. They would rather go to the US on a junket tour to see Obama, McClain, and Pacquiao rather than stay home and help typhoon victims. Now they act as if there is no food shortage and economic crises taking place.

One has to wonder, therefore, as to just what kind of pressure is being inserted by funding agencies, like US Aid, to make these congressional representatives so hell bent on pushing for artificial birth control. Maybe there is money (for our legislators) to be made by pushing pills and condoms? But these solons have to face another hell as well in the persons of an angry CBCP.

Monday, July 7, 2008



Crime does pay when it is committed by the high and mighty in the Philippines. A man is sent away by his boss to escape a senate investigation. When he came back he was accosted by armed men who took him for a “joy ride” against his will. He would have been kidnapped or worst if not for the vigilant media who took interest in his case. He was about to spill the beans you see and deliver critical information over the ZTE broadband scam. At that time the people who abducted Jun Lozada were not really sure if Jun was still on his side or perhaps he already turned against them. Uncertain they had to bring Jun Lozada round and round until they can make a decision about the kidnap victim. Isn’t it frightening to have a government who kidnaps people in broad day light? What kind of government would kidnap a citizen of the republic and then have the gall to defend a non-existent human rights record before the international community of nations? Remember Jonas Burgos? His poor mother is still looking for her lost son who may still be alive, tortured, and languishing in a government cell.

According to human rights groups: torture, something that should have been a thing of the past, is now being used once more by state security agents under the Arroyo government. Women kidnap victims who were thought by state security to be sympathetic or allied somehow to the communist front have been raped, beaten, battered, and mentally tortured by elements from the military according to those who have somehow escaped. And yet what are the people doing about all of these things. Nothing, we have lost the will to fight for our rights therefore we no longer deserve a decent government unless we change our ways soon.

Decent people shouldn’t tolerate torture and kidnapping from state agents, rebel groups, or criminal syndicates. Decent people shouldn’t have to tolerate such things. But what is indecent about this whole thing is that we have grown apathetic and uncaring about the plight of the victims of abductions, torture, and extra judicial killings. We no longer care about the plight of Jonas Burgos. I asked some students if they still remember him and they replied by asking; “Jonas who?”

And now that the excitement has come and gone, do we still care about Jun Lozada? Should we reward a fellow Filipino who has gone to great lengths to expose anomalies in the land by turning our backs against him now that he really needs our support the most? The government is now prosecuting (persecuting) his wife, whose only fault was that she was frightened and concerned about her husband, for perjury. The government is saying that she committed the act of perjury while forgetting that they were the ones who forced her, and Jun’s sister, to sign the damn thing anyway.

Indecent, that’s what we are if we do turn our backs to the Jonas Burgoses and the Jun Lozadas of our lives! Indecent is what we are fast becoming because this government is anything but decent.

Despite the economic and food crisis what do we do in our spare time? We cruise the malls and ogle at each other forgetting that there are people who are languishing in jail, tortured and humiliated by their captors. We forget that there are still some people out there who still sleep on rooftops while six foot high mud remain lodged in their homes. Instead of trying to help the victims of Typhoon Frank and other such people who need our help some schools are getting their students to miss their classes by organizing club fairs. What kind of values do we still have as a people?

Values, rather the lack of them, are at the root of many of the troubles in this country. Our people wallow in poverty despite the government’s pronouncements to the contrary. This poverty is aggravated by corruption. Corruption is a moral problem and not just a political and economic dilemma. So are vote buying and selling, electoral fraud and the like. The symptoms are torture and all kinds of human rights violations. At the heart of this is a chilling reality. Some of our people have become spiritually numb. They no longer care about other people and that my dear friends make them indecent.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Time to scrap VAT

Time to scrap VAT

First hand reports have reached this writer that the people of Kalibo and Iloilo are still mired in waist deep mud. They go to office or school in short pants and rubber slippers. Many families from the same cities still live on the roof tops of their former homes, there is still no electricity and clean water there. Please give freely to our neighbours who are suffering in Panay Island. They need our help badly and time might come when we will need their help too.

Government, non-government, and church groups have been flying food, water, and blankets to the poor victims of typhoon Frank in Panay Island. But there is very little help for the middle class families who have been afflicted by the same. These people need our help too. Some of my friends and acquaintances who are professionals who work or have their families and homes in Iloilo and Kalibo have lost their houses to tremendous mud slides. A colleague had to take a leave of absence from his work here in Bacolod so he can go and try to salvage whatever he can from his house which is covered in six feet of mud. As the only man of the house his job is to shovel the filth and mud from his home. Meanwhile his family sleeps and cooks meals on their roof top. They cover themselves with plastic sheets from the rain. When this man asked for assistance for his family he was told that he had to fend for his family and himself because the priority of the government relief agencies is to help those who are poor. Because he had a job he didn’t qualify. We can hardly blame the government and other relief agencies for their preferential option for the poor. We really should prioritize help for those who are indeed helpless. But what about the office where the man above mentioned is working? Don’t they have mechanisms to help their employees who are in need?

Meanwhile the cost of diesel fuel has risen to 60 pesos per litter and that is just so that the oil firms won’t loose too much of their expected profits for the month of June. The economic crisis will continue to worsen and all ready the middle class is starting to feel the pinch. Many professionals, including myself, have been reduced to near poverty and have been living from one pay check to the next. Their savings are all gone after paying for tuition fees, textbooks, school uniforms, and the like. Economists predict that more and more of the middle class will likely join the ranks of the poor this year. That statement is actually almost fallacious as it is merely stating what is already obvious to the people.

And what is the government doing to abate this economic crisis. Well aside from spending millions of pesos at a junket to the US the government is also giving 500 peso dole outs to the poor. They have extra money you see taken from the value added tax that the government imposes on any transaction or sale. Vat, for those who don’t know it yet is 12% of the cost of produce or service. But what can a dole out of 500 peso actually do for those who received it? The money was supposed to go to the paying of their electricity bill. That would partially pay for one month worth of electricity. But what about next month’s bill? Most likely the 500 peso government dole out went to the buying of food for the week. What happens when the food runs out? This is the problem with dole outs. It is simply unsustainable and causes more problems in the end.

The government is giving out dole outs left and right to avert a possible rebellion amidst and because of the economic crisis. People become violent you see when they become hungry. But what would happen when they actually run out money to give as dole outs. The government can’t continue to subsidize the price of NFA rice and give 500 peso dole outs forever. And when the poor won’t receive these dole outs then there will be hell to pay.

It’s time to scrap the VAT. The government is mismanaging the extra income it makes from VAT anyway. It would help our people from all classes if VAT is scrapped. The cost of living and the prices of food and services would go down tremendously and almost immediately. This would go a long way to diffuse a hard and worsening condition. It may also prevent rioting and violent protests on the streets. It might just save Madame’s neck. But will she do that to ease the financial woes of the Filipino? Probably not, she is too much of a liberal economist who believes in everything that the WTO tells us and is more concerned with what foreign investors say about her than to heed the calls of her own people. We face bleak and bleaker times.