Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rejoinder to Antonio Montalvan

Antonio Montalvan in his column "Junking Noynoy" presents a strident defense of the status quo. He calls "Anti Life" those seeking solutions to urgent social problems: Widespread ignorance, dismal maternal mortality rates and 750,000 annual abortions.

These are facts, as distinguished from the fears peddled by Mr. Montalvan. Regrettably he exploits these unfounded fears not for his avowed purpose of protecting human life but for a less noble political reason: to attack Noynoy Aquino and help elect his perceived exemplars of moral probity such as Juan Ponce Enrile and Francisco Tatad.

In the process he makes more than a few assertions that can hardly be taken seriously:
1. "Abortion and contraception are Siamese twins." (Both concept and metaphor are demonstrably absurd.)
2. "There is no such thing as overpopulation." (The mathematical relationship between amounts of food, water and living spaces and the number of human bodies is lost on him.)
3. "Abortion has risen in countries that have made contraception the norm." (Naturally he fails to specify the countries. Neither does he establish a causal connection between access to means of contraception and incidence of abortion simply because there is none.)

Perhaps it is time to leave Mr. Montalvan's world of delusion and deception and engage in a balanced, realistic and reasonable presentation of perspectives.

It boils down to faith. The first of 7 themes of Catholic Social Teaching enumerated by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is the sanctity of human life and dignity of the person. There is a tendency to overlook the second component.

Take me as an example. My wife and I trained in the busiest hospital in the Philippines as well as in the busiest hospital in New York City. We were exposed to all forms of contraception including abortion. After a period of discernment, we decided on natural family planning methods. We have 5 children, the youngest of whom is 3 months old.

At 47 (my wife is 46), we had not expected to experience again the pure, joyful blessedness of a child's birth.

Pope John Paul II states that Catholic social teaching "rests on the threefold cornerstone of human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity." (1999 Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in America, 55). Solidarity, John Paul II wrote is "not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 38).

Complementing solidarity is subsidiarity. Pope Pius XI declared "that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry" (Quadragesimo Anno, 79).

During these partisan times when politicians pander to various interest groups in the spirit of expediency, let us not forget that each one of us possesses the capacity to prayerfully reflect upon our choices. For St Thomas Aquinas, conscience is the act of applying our knowledge of good and evil to what we do. The principle of the primacy of conscience is contingent upon education and enlightenment. John Paul II affirmed that "in order to have a 'good conscience,' (1Tim 1:5) a person must seek the truth and must make judgments in accordance with that same truth"(Veritatis Splendor, 62)

750,000 abortions each year is unacceptable (Pro-Life Philippines). In the absence of education, it is becoming the contraceptive of choice in our country. We must do something about this national tragedy. "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them." (Luke 11:46)

While I cannot support House Bill 5043 because of its punitive provisions towards health professionals and private enterprise as well as an inadequate educational component, we must persevere in crafting guidelines which will allow every Filipino to act according to their sufficiently formed conscience. We must have faith that each one of us, properly enlightened, will do right.


"Junking Noynoy"

THERE may be no such thing as a Catholic vote, but not for long. Notice, for example, how presidential candidates who used to be uncompromising in their stand on reproductive health have suddenly turned nuanced in their language, suddenly sounding neither here nor there whether they truly are for or against reproductive health.

The most nuanced stand on reproductive health is Noynoy Aquino's. From his "I don't care if the Catholic Church will abandon me because of my support for the reproductive health bill," his last pronouncement tried very hard to please pro-lifers. "I am against legislating the use of artificial contraception; however, contraceptives must be provided for those who ask"-meaning, he will commit public funds for its promotion.

Watching Ramon San Pascual and Sylvia Estrada Claudio, both prominent anti-life advocates (and media talk show favorites, on Cheche Lazaro's ANC talk show "The Platform"), expressing disappointment at Noynoy's nuanced stand, it was not surprising that Noynoy got low marks from them. Well, for his nuanced stand, he is also getting low marks from pro-lifers. And for a very good reason.

It is not farfetched to think that a Noynoy presidency will open the floodgates to artificial contraception. Noynoy is surrounded by senatorial candidates who hold the most radical views on reproductive health. They are Neric Acosta, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Ruffy Biazon and Teofisto Guingona III. Noynoy's stand may be nuanced for now-we know that is just for election posturing-but not when he assumes the presidency. It is just all glib-tongue, campaign lingo. These days, he no longer admits that he was advised by Jesuit friends to support reproductive health. No, that would not be a vote-getting line.

But Noynoy's reproductive health stand has the liberal media and poll survey organizations on his side. Media, especially television, are mostly anti-life. In measuring the candidates' stand on reproductive health, "The Platform" never had anyone from the pro-life side on board.

Media personalities, especially those who mix inane editorial commentaries with the news, gloat over the fact that surveys have shown that the Filipino electorate will vote for a candidate who will legislate for artificial contraception.

Surveys, however, have nothing to do with measuring political correctness. Morality is not measured by popularity. Anti-life advocates obfuscate many aspects of the reproductive health issue. Survey respondents are not expected to be fully knowledgeable of the pros and cons. Much of the statistics, especially from the experience of countries that have opted for full contraceptive availability, are not being made known. That is not pro-choice.

It is absolutely not pro-choice when anti-lifers are silent on the fact that many of these contraceptives are actually abortifacients. It is not pro-choice when they give mute testimony to the fact that abortion has actually risen in countries that have made contraception the norm. Because they purposely keep quiet on the fact that contraception promotes sexual promiscuity among the young, they proclaim early on that they are against abortion. But that is a lie of the nth magnitude. Contraception and abortion, as the statistics say, are actually Siamese twins.

Survey respondents also are unaware of the demographic winter. It is only candidate Ruffy Biazon who has so far expressed publicly that he fears, however, that we may go the way of Singapore: an aging population where government has to spend exorbitantly on social welfare but is now expressing mea culpa by asking its citizens to reproduce more children. It goes without saying, of course, that basketcase Philippines can ill afford to support an aging population. But survey respondents are nowhere near those data.

The most serious charade, however, is mouthing the line of overpopulation. That is definitely a bogey. Humans are resources that governments only fail to develop because of graft and corruption and misgovernance. There is no such thing as overpopulation.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rejoinder to Carmen N Pedrosa

The April 24th column of Ms Carmen Pedrosa "Clincher" requires a direct, straightforward response if only to uphold the oft repeated principle that a columnist is entitled to her opinions but she is not entitled to her own facts. Neither is she entitled to fallacies, innuendos and contradictions.

Ms Pedrosa writes "The stories about Noynoy's mental illness...must be proved...We must look at the issue closely and not be satisfied with mere gossip but seek to establish the facts.."

Then starting with the very next paragraph she devotes her entire column to hearsay, rumors, insinuations based on no substantial or even factual basis.

Her story is this: Idle talk spun into a long, rambling defamatory anecdote resting on an alleged comment by Ninoy Aquino in the early eighties that his son is "walang ka-drive, drive." That is all.

From this single unconfirmed statement supposedly made by Ninoy more than a quarter of a century ago, Ms Pedrosa makes the incredible conclusion that "because of his mental problems.. Noynoy needs help.."

Ms Pedrosa offers no authentic evidence to support her conclusion. Her purported resource persons who will corroborate her personal judgment are unidentified, dead or incapacitated.

To put an end to this contrived issue of Noynoy Aquino's mental health, let me as a licensed physician with twenty one years of experience state, and in this case, re-state the veracity and accuracy of this medical fact:

According to the established clinical diagnostic criteria affirmed by the American Psychiatric Association in the authoritative manual DSM-IV, Noynoy Aquino suffers from no mental disease, disorder, or dysfunction. He is perfectly fit to carry out the duties of the Philippine presidency.

It is convenient for the black propagandists to pathologize normal, every day emotional reactions such as sadness, anger, shyness, annoyance, and label them as symptoms of depression or distress. But there is no medical basis or clinical justification for such labels.

They are, in a word, fallacious.

Ms Pedrosa's own half brother suffered from clear symptoms of sociophobia as a boy but he outgrew them and he developed into a reasonably normal young man.

The study of personality development is a complex discipline and false generalizations abound. More than a few members of the CCP board to which Ms Pedrosa has been recently appointed by her patron, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo believe that Ms Pedrosa may have some personality problems herself. Such suspicions however require objective proof.

I ask Ms Pedrosa to abide by her column's opening statements. Mere gossip is not enough. This should be proved.

Let me close with a verbatim quotation from the same column of Ms Pedrosa which accurately describes herself and the political interests she serves: ."We must save our country from vultures who will feast on the carcasses of a doomed country. They are willing to sacrifice everything and everyone for the sake of their ambitions."

Well said, Ms Pedrosa. It gives sanity to your opinion piece.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Noynoy Aquino is My President

Early December of last year was the first time I heard Noynoy Aquino deliver his stump speech. I’ve been listening to him rather frequently since and not once have I heard him declare that he was maka-Dios (Pro God), maka-Bayan (Pro Country), or maka-Tao (Pro People). It is a testament to the integrity and honesty of this man that he will always allow the listeners to draw their own conclusions based on the example of his life.

There are no lofty promises in his speeches, no grand visions, only a simple pledge that he will remain true and honest. That through how he has lived his life, he will make us understand that it is up to you and me and the entire nation to pick ourselves up from all the injustice and poverty swirling everywhere.

I wish that one day there will be a documentary that will show the crowds, that will capture the spontaneous outpouring of love and support from Filipinos everywhere, willing to stand in the summer heat for hours just to catch a glimpse of a symbol of hope and change in a nation of fundamentally good people perpetually surviving under horrible conditions.

Last week we were in Pampanga, atop a float and for miles, people lined the path of the motorcade. Many waved yellow banners and flags, some held mangoes and other similarly colored objects like pieces of foam mattresses to signify their solidarity. Not once throughout the campaign was food distributed, money handed over or professional entertainment provided. During one particular bend, where the crowd was spectacularly thick, and hope hung especially heavy, I told Senator Aquino he couldn’t let all these people down.

His reply made me absolutely certain Senator Benigno Aquino III had become transformed into the leader our country critically needs. He said everything would pass but that he was putting his life on the line and do his best to make sure all these people would not be disappointed.

If I could put in a suggestion to the documentary, I would end with the image of the float wending its way through the multitudes and while fading, a voice recites from General Patton: "For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Senator Aquino and Hacienda Luisita

To distract voters from Manny Villar's criminal complicity in the C5 scam, his camp tries to connect Noynoy Aquino to Hacienda Luisita and its various corporate activities.

No comparison can be made, legal, ethical or even logical between Villar and C5 on one hand and Noynoy Aquino and Hacienda Luisita on the other. Here's why:

1. Hacienda Luisita is an independent, autonomous corporation. Noynoy Aquino has no direct, personal or active participation in its business and agricultural operations. (Villar and his wife have had direct, personal active invovlement in the C5 scheme that cost taxpayers billions of pesos which went straight to Villar's pockets.)

2. The SCTEX project was a purely commercial transaction, completely above board between the the HL professional managers and the National goverment headed by President Ramos, and at the close of of the road program, by President Erap Estrada. (HL sold its land at 100 pesos per sq meter. Villar sold his land for 13,000 pesos per sq meter and his friend, Mike Velarde sold his land for 30,000 pesos per sq. meter.)

3. Noynoy had no knowledge, certainly no hand in the government's decision to purchase HL land. Senate records show that Villar determined, in fact changed the road blueprints to guarantee huge financial rewards for himself.

4. Noynoy is aware of HL's labor situation and has condemned the violence it has caused. But he is not in alliance with nor does he defend either side. He offers himself as a problem solver who seeks enduring harmony between HL and the farmers.

5. The SDO which appears to be at the core of the conflict is the result of a formal agreement long and painstakingly negotiated between HL and its farmers. It was voted upon and approved by the Land Reform beneficiaries and affirmed by the national government. Regardless of the merits or demerits of the SDO, Noynoy Aquino is not a party to it.

Noynoy's connection to HL is simply an accident of his birth and he has nothing to explain, nothing to justify, because at the end of the day it should be evident that he carries no burden of responsibility, no culpability. There is no need for a reply. Noynoy Aquino has nothing to answer for.