Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I had to pause and reflect upon humility yesterday. By chance, yesterday's Gospel was found in Matthew 5,13-16.

"You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father."

We are all called to evangelize. We are all responsible to make the world a better place. Each of us must find the best way we can give back. There wasn't any boasting intended when I wrote about the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. I felt my pride in the institution was justified and I wrote it in my blog. I also called myself a prototype of things to come. Am I not allowed to sing paeans to myself in my house? If you can even call them paeans? But it was ungracious of me to flash a sliver of arrogance towards a guest even if I felt it was deserved and so my humble apologies (no sarcasm intended with the pun) to jdtl, md.

But humility? Come on, would any of you even consider descending into a political maelstrom with no reasonable chance of electoral success? When I referred to the campaign as a "humbling experience", I had in mind a picture of myself, a successful physician based in the US talking to market vendors in Davao, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro introducing myself and try hard to reach out to those I felt needed the most help. I did encounter a numbing dose of cynicism, incredulity, despair, resignation, skepticism amid the poverty and the unwholesome living conditions but what made the experience humbling and ultimately worthwhile was the hope most people continued to harbor that life would be better for their children no matter how unfavorable the odds.

My commitment to help improve the situation in whatever way I can has grown stronger. I am impatient and I think these are desperate times. I sincerely want our leaders to succeed and our country to rise but as the election of Sonny Trillanes demonstrates, regardless of the rosy economic numbers and hopeful forecasts, very few are buying.


Delfin said...

Doc, This is good that you are blogging so your thoughts are getting better-defined. I have read your blogposts, so I know you agree that a solution to the many abortions in the Philippines is a law that penalizes with 5 days in jail (plus P5,000 fine) any unmarried woman who becomes pregnant.

Gregory said...

If it is the type of humility that recognizes that "knowing is not knowing" and that one can always learn and grow from others - and that it is only in working together with other great minds that one can eventually cut through complexity and find solutions to problems, then yes - humility is a virtue.

But if is the type of humility that begins to lack confidence and not be proud of one's achievements, or to put down others, or to be coy about stating that one's experiences in life has been great, or to downplay one's knowledge and skill which could be beneficial towards finding solutions - then no - -that isn't humility.

I am not from UP and I am not a doctor. But UP Med I am sure is a great school. I have friends who went there. I am glad you are proud of that and recognize that your experience/skills can be used towards nation building.

We need Filipinos who are confident of their achievements and believe that they can contribute a great deal to the country's development.

pian said...

Kindly indicate if you've read/considered my suggestions dated 11Jun07.

delfin said...

Pian... if your suggestion is to renege on the Bataan Nuclear Plant debt... too late, the Philippine government has just "mailed in" the last payment.

The debt is fully-paid!!!!!

pian said...

I was far from suggesting the government renege its debt from BNPP for that would only mean to further downgrade our credit rating. I also know the BNPP is fully paid (finally). What I wanted to explain is that since most voters expect the economic growth of 6.9% for the quarter (the highest in about 20 years!) would equate to an immediate reduction in poverty will certainly not happen because primarily of debt-servicing inherited mostly from the Marcos dictatorship, and I gave the BNPP as the best-known example.

Gregory said...

With the GDP growth is good, we've got to grow faster for people to actually feel the "growth." With a high population growth, much of the GDP growth is negated.

Just check this cool map where the GDPs of some of the world's economies are mapped out against the US States with similar GDPs.

You'll see that the Philippines = Oklahoma (where Martin lived for sometime).

But what's interesting is that our GDP per capita is so low. Our population is just to big. Population growth probably doesn't matter much if we're growing 15% yearly. But if we grow 7-8% and our population grows 2-3% yearly, it will take time before we double our per capita income.

(Check out the June 10 map)

And check the commentary about it from Another Hundred Years Hence

Gregory said...

Regarding economics, there's a book out there that looks like a worthy read.

It's entitled: The Philippine Economy: Development, Policies, and Challenges (Paperback)

I haven't gotten my hands on it yet but will likely order it in the near future. I checked the library here and they don't have it. I requested them to to purchase it but no response yet. If the Vancouver Public Library doesn't order it, I'll probably buy it.

Anyway - -it seems like a resource that people who want to discuss policy, or those involved in politics/governance should read.

Gregory said...

Link correction:

pian said...

That would be extremely difficult to pursue because you would be going against the grain of the Catholic church. Instead, the focus should be on sustaining the growth we have achieved so far in the economy. To keep this momentum, I hope the new Senators will not impede this and solely take the credit for it. I note that Singapore is the most progressive Asian country which makes it the least corrupt. So if we can only sustain this momentum in our economy by not being divisive, then a lot of our problems can be addressed, like corruption, political killings (since there would be adequate resources available), education (adequate resources also), etc. With the right education, people will be knowledgeable. I’ve read in the headlines that the House set aside the very divisive Charter Change issue. That’s a step in the right direction. And I hope Erap will be convicted. Otherwise, our economic gains will be for naught.

Kindly indicate if you’ve read/considered my suggestions I posted on this blog dated 11Jun07. I really want to be of help because you and your party give us a glimmer of hope.

Gregory said...

Yes, sustain the economy but to make a dent, a strategy to manage our high growth rates should be put in place too.

Again - -there must be a goal. For example, double GDP in X no. of years. To do so, you must work with certain assumptions and numbers. And if you assume a growth rate of 9% a year for the next X no. of years, and a population growth rate of 3% per annum, it will take so much time before we can even reach 1/3 the GDP per capita of Oklahoma. In the meantime, all other countries aren't stagnant too - -they are growing too.

There was a survey recently regarding contraception. I forgot now what it was about. But it was a number which would be encouraging to the government when it comes to planned parenthood.

Our government is secular. Laws must be based on reason. The Church can continue teaching to its flock not to use artificial contraception. And if they follow, so be it. But for the Church to start hampering efforts of a secular government with respect to planned parenthood and start making black and white statements or labeling the promoters of artificial and natural contraception as "devils" or "satan" or some other metaphysical, superstitious description will not help one bit. They might as well ex-communicate all the Catholics who use artificial means of contraception.

Gregory said...

Here's another worthy read regarding artificial contraception and the myth of the Catholic vote by one of my favorite columnists, Raul Pangalangan:

Here's an excerpt:

Some may criticize the CBCP. I won’t. That is what churches do. They hang on to their beliefs and stand fast against passing fads and fashions. It is not their job to hear the democratic voice of the people; they hearken the mandate of heaven, not the clamor of the world. To be traditional is their virtue; to be hip is not. For them, it just ain’t cool to be cool.

So let us stop hectoring the Catholic clergy to keep in step with the times. To be stubborn in their beliefs is their right, indeed to drive home the point, a God-given right that, John F. Kennedy said, “come[s] not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God” (and he proceeded to call on religious themes six times in his inaugural address).

What is absolutely ridiculous is the stance of the Arroyo administration carrying out Catholic dogma as government policy—to fulfill God’s commands using the sword of Caesar. If 92 percent of the population approve of family planning and if indeed we are a democracy, why wouldn’t our elected deputies listen?

Martin D. Bautista, M.D. said...

Pian, I emailed you privately 2 days ago. Under what heading did you post your June 11 comments? I could not find your comments under the June 11 heading.

pian said...

It’s good to finally receive a word from you! I didn’t receive your private e-mail though.
My suggestions were posted on your heading entitled ‘Lost Cause’. Please consider them.

pian said...

That’s why I feel proper education is important. The government may be secular, but when it comes to issues of morality, the government can never distance itself away from controversial issues like that. You do understand the separation of the Church and State lies only on forbidding priests to hold public positions, otherwise they are suspended from priestly duties (like Gov. Panlilio), and not from issues pertaining to morality. Everyone is subjected to this law.

pian said...

You may consider viewing this website:
Only to share my views, down the end towards my post of ‘Good News To All’.
Mali ang understanding ko, yung nagbalikbayan pala after 38 years in Europe yung author pala ng blog. Ganun kababa exposure niyo. Anyway, still 17 years as gastroenterologist in the US, since you’re relatively young at 44.

Anonymous said...

Pian: Mark Twain said:

Books are the food of youth, the delight of old age; the ornament of prosperity, the refuge and comfort of adversity; a delight at home, and no hindrance abroad.

Oops, wrong one. Mark Twain said:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream.

Gregory said...

The question is Pian -- whose morality?

People differ in their concept of morality (and were talking here of the details). So if government's role is to implement "morality" -then whose morality is it that it will implement?

That is a big debate here now - -where the conservative religious movement has a strong sway on President Bush and where Bush, and black and white terms, claims to be one who would like to enforce the will of God.

As to issues pertaining to "morality" - -yes - -of course. And that is why the government has all the right to create policy on this question. But some people would view this question as a morality question involving the creation of life. That the "rubber" is immoral and should not be promoted. Those who espouse an approach that promotes both natural/artificial would approach the morality question from the point of view of being able to provide the resources to sustain a family under "human" and not sub-human conditions.

Now - -I will not go into a debate on who is right and wrong. But my point above is to show that "morality" is not as clear as it is because good, honest, ethical people can disagree on issues of morality.

So to say that Government's role is to promote morality - -sure, that's fine. But I ask - -whose morality?

If the answer is the "morality" as defined by the issues of the Catholic Church - -then not necessarily so. Government must instead use reason and ethics coupled with sound economic judgment and planning to come up with a response to the population growth rate. If the Church disagrees with the policy - it has all the right - -and it can, within its churches tell its people not to use artificial means of contraception. But government should not shrink from its responsibility to develop policies even if does not align with the definition of the Church of what is moral or not.


Again, let me quote Panagalangan on this:

Catholic beliefs (and I am Roman Catholic) are entitled to every man’s and woman’s respect. Then why won’t we give that same respect to the beliefs of others—and leave others free to decide for themselves? For the government to take Catholic doctrine, recycle it as government policy, and then foist it upon non-believers makes a mockery of the Philippine Constitution.

Ms Arroyo’s argument is crafty: No, I have not banned artificial methods, I have just focused on “natural” methods, and everyone is free to buy contraceptives over the counter. The modern-day Marie Antoinette thus says: Let the poor buy condoms. They live on $1 per day, and that’s barely enough to buy pan de sal.

Given the overwhelming figures, why is Ms Arroyo so attuned to the wishes of the clergy rather than their—and her own—flock? But why be surprised? Isn’t she solicitous to every organized elite, whether religious, economic, or criminal? She responds to orchestrated voices because that is exactly how she came to power—and exactly how she has kept herself enthroned.

Ours is not a democracy of the people’s voice, it is a democracy of Recto’s “political ventriloquists.” Ours is a network of Mafia kingdoms, and the President thrives by deftly manipulating one gang against another.


You might also want to read:

Faith and Politics: How the "Moral Values" Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together.

This was written by former Senator John Danforth (also an episcopalian priest)

and if you are willing to take the plunge:

End of Faith, by Sam Harris (or A Letter to a Christian Nation). :-)
god is not great by Christopher Hitchens

(I hope the three books above won't elicit howls of protest)

Gregory said...

Additional comment (I read it from a Wikipedia entry) (note the last paragraph - - -and this will help one understand how the religious minority or Catholics who, in good conscience, disagree with certain teachings of the Catholic Church would be disadvantaged by situations where official government policies are made by rehashing the teachings of the Catholic Church):

Roman Catholic views

On December 8, 1864, on the same day as the Pope's encyclical Quanta Cura, the Holy See under Pope Pius IX issued a document titled Syllabus of Errors (Latin: Syllabus Errorum). This document listed 80 specific assertions which it declared to be erroneous. Assertion number 55 in this list, in the section headed "Errors about civil society, considered both in itself and in its relation to the Church", reads: "The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church."[21]

The Catholic Church's 1983 Code of Canon law, while not laying down general rules about relations between Church and State, considers that a religious and moral education in harmony with the conscience of the pupils' parents is an integral part of education, and obliges Catholics to try to secure its inclusion: "Christ's faithful are to strive to secure that in the civil society the laws which regulate the formation of the young also provide a religious and moral education in the schools that is in accord with the conscience of the parents" (canon 799) [22]

American Catholics, some suffering discrimination from mainstream, majority Protestants, eventually came to see the separation of church and state as a positive development (in contrast to the long standing Church tradition). The work of Jesuit priest and theologian John Courtney Murray in the 1960s was significant as he developed a theological justification of the separation view based upon St. Thomas Aquinas' observation that there existed a necessary distinction between morality and civil law; that the latter is limited in its capacity in cultivating moral character through criminal prohibitions. As Murray said, "it is not the function of civil law to prescribe everything that is morally right and to forbid everything that is morally wrong."[23]

Gregory said...

To anonymous (I hope we can finally know who you are :-)

Oh yes - -books, reading, debate, discussions, etc.

Only when we read, talk to people with diverse points of views/cultures/backgrounds, and not be closed in thinking but to be open to reason/critical thinking can we truly see through the fog.

rey said...

As far as renegotiation of foreign debt, it's probably too late. The perfect timing should have been post-EDSA 1 when Cory Aquino had a very good media leverage. BNPP and other behest loans should have been repudiated.
On the topic of humility and the UPCM, I understand the sentiment of being proud of your alma mater especially if you have a good experience. A better choice of words could have been used instead of "prototype". I came from the same institution and I like the study of Medicine because it forces you to deal with people. If you can't deal with colleagues and patients, your academic brilliance will fall short and go to waste.
However, as a student at that time, I did not look at it as the most intellectual profession. Philosophy and Literature may give you more mileage. Now, if you really want true "geekiness" then engineering and physics are the field for you.

Gregory said...

You have a point there Rey. We didn't renegotiate then. I don't know how you reopen this thing now. However, the behest loan issue has not yet been resolved. I really cannot suggest solutions here because I am not too familiar with the debt issue (I only understand the generalities of it). However, it is my impression that a lot of Filipinos, mostly powerful ones, got away with this one. And only we could get back what went into their pockets, then at least we would have recovered some of the money.

The strong desire right now of governments to end poverty might be a development that might work to our advantage in the future. If there's a groundswell to repudiate third world debt in the future, we should be ready then to ensure that we are able to rid ourselves of certain loans that would be considered "unjust" (based on defined set of criteria).

Oh yes - -philosophy, science, technology, and the arts. Food for the brain and soul. My background is in business and law but my intellectual curiosity that has blossomed since I went abroad in 2003 has enabled me to explore new worlds.

Gregory said...

There have been comments on the 6.9 GDP growth. Here's an analysis on its sustainability:

It discusses the supply/demand side of the growth and where it is coming from.

It looks like a big part of the growth was due to government expenditures.

It's a mix bag. There's good news in the nos. but there's also troubling new in the nos. Thus, the verdict is still out on the sustainability of the high growth nos.

Gregory said...

I encourage Martin and the readers of this blog to download and read this article by economist Artemio Balisacan:

Click download and a new page will come up. Download the 2 articles on the Philippines. (right click, save link as)

Gregory said...

The article is entitled: Why does poverty persist in the Philippines - Facts, Fancies, and Policies.

Martin D. Bautista, M.D. said...

Freedom from Debt Coalition
Press Statement
18 June 2007


Demand Justice Against Continuing Social and Economic Crimes

The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) decries the recent lamentable developments pertaining to the Marcos legacy of plunder. These include the Court of Appeals’ approval of the PNCC-Radstock compromise deal, the unfreezing of the $40-M Disini Swiss account and the report on final payment of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) debts. These not only showcase government’s ineptitude in obtaining social justice for the Filipinos, but moreso highlights the defective debt policies that result in continuing unjust burden borne by the Filipinos.

The Freedom from Debt Coalition was founded in 1988 to campaign against the “honor-all-debts” policy of the Aquino government. This policy refused to recognize the odious nature of the Marcos debts; a policy that readily freed the perpetrators including creditors of any accountability leaving the Filipinos paying for debts that only benefited a select few. Government further assured the lenders of uninterrupted payments of these debts by institutionalizing the Marcosian decree, PD 1177 or the Automatic Appropriations Law on Debt Service. This prioritizes debt payments over and above the most urgent needs of Filipinos for basic services from government.

In a semblance of bestowing justice for the Filipinos, the Presidential Commission on Good Government was created to go after those responsible for the plunder of our country, with the promise that recovered ill-gotten wealth would be used to address the inequity problem in the country through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Yet, what little hope for justice that was offered was ultimately lost to incompetence, graft and corruption, and advancing personal interests. Whatever ill-gotten wealth that was recovered was itself plundered. PCGG officials themselves, the very people tasked to go after the plunderers, are literally dancing to the tune of Imelda Marcos’ music. And the CARP, now on its last year of implementation, has not made a dent on the country’s inequity problem.

Amidst these glaring failures, the government’s apparent tactic is to sweep the whole unsavory matter under the rug. The PNCC-Radstock compromise deal exemplifies this effete and myopic quick-fix approach to the issue of the Marcos debts. The government is all too willing to compromise just so as to get the matter “officially off the books”, loath as it is to pursue a lengthy struggle in the courts. But the issue of the Marcos debts should not be a matter of cleaning of the books. It should not even be a matter of mere wealth recovery. It should be, more than anything, a matter of justice.

The recent completion of payments for the BNPP debts was even callously presented by government as a turning point in the country’s history, portraying it as an end to an appalling chapter of its indebtedness and a way of moving forward from an awful past. It refused to recognize the real implication of the event, which is the utter failure of the government to obtain justice for so blatant a crime against its people that such an anomalous project has now been fully paid without it providing an iota of benefit to the country, even expending additional resources for its maintenance.

The government refuses to acknowledge the inherent injustice of the very act itself of paying for such odious debts even as the country flounders from one crisis to another, as debt payments continue to drain the country’s resources and the people continue to bear the brunt of additional taxes, want of services from the government, unemployment, and persistent poverty.

The government is telling its people to move on, to close the sad chapter of its unpleasant past.

But how will the country move on without justice? It is untenable to move with more of the same abuses, disregard for people and self-interest. Indeed, new forms of the BNPP case – debts that are useless, harmful and illegitimate are being perpetrated by post-Marcos governments. FDC has uncovered cases such as the Casecnan Multi-Purpose and Irrigation Project, the Small Coconut Farmers Development Project, the Northrail project, the WB funded textbook loan. Many more cases are being discovered as the Coalition continues its investigation.

The country cannot move on like this. Justice must be sought and justice must be served. And justice could only start by recognizing such debts for what they are – debts that are not owed by the Filipino people. In a word, they are illegitimate. And the continued payment for illegitimate debts is simply unacceptable.

We from the Freedom from Debt Coalition challenge GMA’s government to stop the wanton repayment for debts Filipinos do not owe. Payments for illegitimate debts must be immediately stopped. All those responsible for these debts from government, creditors and even from the private sector must be held fully accountable.

The Freedom from Debt Coalition calls on the newly elected lawmakers to muster the political will for a Congressional Debt Audit to once and for all unravel the web of corruption and plunder that is the country’s debt quagmire. FDC calls on the people’s representatives to categorically delineate debts that are not owed by the people and therefore should not be paid by the people.