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Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Monday, December 17, 2007

'Collapsing' Filipino middle class

here's a sensible article I read yesterday on the way back from Tagaytay. Indeed, some programs should be devoted to the middle class who actually move things and keep the cycle going in this country- they're the majority of consumers who patronize the big businesses of the rich, and they're the ones who consistently and regularly "fund" the government with the taxes from their income automatically withheld.
Read on...
Last updated 03:59:00 12/16/2007

MANILA, Philippines--DESPITE economic growth, the number of middle class Filipinos and their share of the national income pie have shrunk.

The signs of a shrinking middle class are plain to see. Many professionals, from medical practitioners to executives, continue to migrate to developed countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia in search of greener pastures.

They are joined by a record number of Filipinos working abroad because of the poor pay and bleak employment picture in the country.

Another sign is the growing number of students transferring from private schools to public schools because of spiraling tuition.

The rising cost of goods and services, partly as a result of high fuel prices, is further eroding the living standards of middle-class families.

A study by Romulo Virola, Mildred Addawe and Ma. Ivy Querubin of the National Statistical Coordination Board found thatf there was at least a 2-percentage-point decline in the population share of the middle class between 2000 and 2003.

They also found a 4.6-percentage-point drop in the number of middle-class families with overseas-Filipino-worker members.

Antipoverty? How about pro-middle class?

By Dr. Romulo A. Virola

WE ALL KNOW THAT the overarching goal of our development efforts is to reduce poverty. Toward this end, many programs and policies have been formulated, implemented and monitored over the years. Surely, there are improvements here and there, but the pace of progress just does not seem fast enough. In fact, per the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) monitoring by the National Statistical Coordination Board, we only have a medium probability of attaining our target to halve poverty by 2015! Why? Is something wrong with the implementation of these programs or are our poverty reduction strategies simply ill-conceived?

Generally, it is believed that, for a country to be truly and sustainably prosperous, there must be a broad-based middle class that serves as a stabilizing influence on society.


A middle class that has the knowledge, the skills and the resources to foster economic growth and help generate employment for the poor. But so far, the poverty reduction programs we have crafted have focused mainly on being 'pro-poor," 'antipoverty," helping the 'poorest provinces," etc.

We seem to have completely ignored the needs of and the strategic importance of building and expanding the middle class of Philippine society. Thus, while we all agree to want to help the poorest of the poor, a strategy that pays attention to the middle class may be more effective in achieving our MDG goal to halve poverty by 2015! It is then of interest to find out what is happening to the Pinoy middle class.

Petty bourgeoisie

And just who constitutes this middle class? Does it include those of us who love to be seen spending precious moments at the gym either to make chismis (gossip) or para makahanap ng gf or bf (to find a girlfriend or boyfriend), in other words, para makahanap ng mabibiktima (find someone to victimize)? Or those of us who go to the golf course and watch our handicap soar to new heights each day?

The noisy minority perhaps, who complain about many things and everything, instead of counting their blessings? Or the intellectuals that many of us think we are, the petit bourgeoisie, the Doña Victorina, Angelika Santibañez, Ariel and Maverick or whoever we and Inday can relate to?

In the United States, ideological and economic theories consider the middle class consisting of all those who are neither 'poor" nor 'rich," or being a relative elite of professionals and managers, defined by lifestyle and influence.

Debate on definition

Sometimes, the middle class is defined simply as the statistical middle class, meaning those whose income is in the middle of the income distribution, like the middle 50 percent. No matter if the statistical middle class cannot afford the so-called middle-class lifestyle--government statisticians cannot! But surely, the debate will continue as to what constitutes the middle class.

During the 10th National Convention on Statistics held on Oct. 1-2, we wrote and presented a paper titled 'Trends and Characteristics of the Middle-Income Class in the Philippines: Is it Expanding or Shrinking?" [Virola's co-writers were Mildred B. Addawe and Ma. Ivy T. Querubin.]


The paper attempted to define the middle class in terms of income and in terms of socioeconomic characteristics. Using cluster analysis and multiple regression on data from the Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES) of the National Statistics Office, the paper provided a glimpse of a possibly collapsing middle class of Philippine society.

The following results were obtained:

The middle-income class may be defined as those families who, in 2007, have total annual income ranging from P251, P283 to P2,045,280. In terms of socioeconomic characteristics, the middle-income families are those who meet all of the following requirements: 1. whose housing unit is made of strong roof materials; 2. who own a house and lot; 3. who own a refrigerator; and 4. who own a radio.

The general population spent the most in the following expenditure items: 1. food, 46.58 percent; 2. housing and repairs, 16.80 percent; 3. transportation and communication, 7.52 percent; 4. fuel, light and water, 6.95 percent; and 5. education, 3.83 percent. The expenditure items with the least shares are 1. recreation, 0.38 percent; 2. other miscellaneous items, 1.04 percent; 3. tobacco, 1.19 percent; 4. household operations, 1.23 percent; and 5. household furnishing and equipment, 1.76 percent.

No conspicuous spending

On the other hand, it is good to note that the middle-income class does not seem to favor a lifestyle of conspicuous consumption. Its top expenditure items are 1. food; 2. house rent; 3. transportation and communication; 4. fuel, light and water; and 5. education. The expenditure items with the least shares are 1. nondurable furnishings; 2. alcoholic beverages; (obviously, the middle class has no passion, despite Iza Calzado); 3. tobacco (which Lucio Tan may not like); 4. recreation; and 5. house maintenance and minor repairs. (See Table 1.)

While the Filipino middle class shrank only a little between 1997 and 2000, there was at least a 2-percentage-point decrease in the population share of the middle class between 2000 and 2003. (See Table 2.)

The number of middle-income families actually increased from 1997 to 2000, but decreased from 2000 to 2003. (See Table 3.)

Expanding low-income class

The percentage share of both the middle- and high-income classes shrank between 1997 and 2000, as well as between 2000 and 2003, resulting in an expanding low-income class in Philippine society.

As of 2003, less than 1 in 100 families belongs to the high income class; about 20 are middle income and 80 are low income. Thus, in a span of six years from 1997 to 2003, for every 100 middle-income families, three families were lost to the low-income category.

Of course, it must be stressed that the low-income class is not necessarily poor, but this trend maybe the basis when people (the middle class?) complain that they do not feel the impact of the economic progress that the country has achieved in recent years. (See Table 3.)

Preliminary results of the 2006 FIES seem to indicate a continuation of the pattern. The good news is that the ratio of the income of the richest 30 percent to that of the poorest 30 percent and the ratio of the income of the richest 10 percent to that of the poorest 10 percent has gone down.

In addition, the Gini coefficient has improved from 0.4605 in 2003 to 0.4564 in 2006, indicating an income distribution that is getting slightly more equitable. The bad news is that the income share of the families in the fifth to the seventh deciles has gone down, meaning that the income share of some of the middle-class families has shrunk. (See Table 4.)


Although the middle-income class has expanded in countries like China and India, this phenomenon of a collapsing middle class is present in other countries. For example, Wikipedia cites statistics about the shrinking American middle class as well: over the past two decades, the number of American households in the middle half of the income distribution decreased from 48.2 percent to 44.3 percent!

Indeed, it is a challenge to our development planners to do something about and for the middle class. We can no longer ignore the seemingly systematic shrinking of the group of professionals and skilled workers who can spell the difference between us being mired in poverty or crossing over to the league of First World countries by 2020.

But then, if the Pinoy middle class is truly shrinking, why are spas burgeoning? Or why does business at Starbucks seem to be sizzling? And our neighbors at Rustan's always a-rushing? Maybe we are spending just much more than we can afford?

Have a Merry Christmas!

(Dr. Romulo A. Virola is the secretary general of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) and chair of the Statistical Research and Training Center. He holds a Ph. D. in Statistics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, USA and has taught Mathematics and Statistics at the University of the Philippines. This article first appeared in Virola's column, 'Statistically Speaking," on the NSCB website on Dec. 10. He can be contacted at

Monday, December 10, 2007

International Human Rights Day - Back to Black

(Photo culled from Inquirer.Net)

Today is International Human Rights Day.

Unresolved extrajudicial killings. Sudden disappearances. Ignored Sumilao Farmers.

A DENR Secretary who embraces Overpopulation. A child taking her own life because of poverty and abuse. The media arrested for covering news and current events. Curfew imposed. A President proceeding with her international travel despite the ongoing threat of rebellion and sedition.

The value of PESO increasing but oil prices continue to rise. The list goes on and on...

Today is a day of mourning. "Back to Black".

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The World focuses on the HIV and AIDS pandemic

The fight against HIV and AIDS take its peak with the onset of WORLD AIDS DAY, celebrated every December 1st.

Read on. Thanks to Dino. =) This sums up his media monitor for UNFPA.
Manila Standard Today / 30 November

THE First Global Parliamentary Meeting on HIV/AIDS sponsored by the Philippine Senate with over 200 foreign delegates, went on uninterrupted at the Manila Hotel while the Makati City turmoil was going on.

But Senate President Manuel Villar expressed sadness that the Makati incident had caused embarrassment as it happened while the Philippines was hosting an international affair.

"It was quite difficult to perform our duties so that the image of the country would not be besmirched in the eyes of the delegates," Villar told newsmen.

He said no security problem surfaced during the day-long session yesterday although the delegates to the confab must have been advised by the respective embassies in Manila about the turmoil in Makati.

The Makati incident had dissuaded newsmen from covering the press conference at the Manila Hotel where Villar, Inter-Parliamentary Union secretary-general Andres Johnsson and the United Nations' secretary-general special envoy on AIDS for Asia and the Pacific Nafis Sadik were to discuss the recommendations of the three-day conference which is scheduled to end today.

Villar said Antonio Trillanes, despite being a member of the Senate, did not bother to communicate with any of his fellow senators after he and the other accused in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny walked out of their court trial.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri had suggested to the Senate leadership that Senator Gregorio Honasan be dispatched to the Manila Peninsula hotel to negotiate with Trillanes and his group for their peaceful surrender.

But Villar said that he could not send Honasan or any other senator in the absence of any request from Trillanes. Fel V. Maragay

IPU mulls anti-AIDS laws, criminalizing HIV transmission
Christina Mendez / Thursday, November 29, 2007 / Philippine Star
Lawmakers belonging to the International Parliamentary Union (IPU), including Senate President Manuel Villar Jr., vowed that the legislative bodies of 147 countries will become more involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

In his keynote address at the opening ceremonies of the First Global Parliamentary Meeting on HIV/AIDS at Manila Hotel yesterday, Villar called on the world's parliamentarians to get their acts together and help address the spread of HIV/AIDS, which he described as a global threat.

"As members of parliament, we are in a unique position because we can make important legislative decisions that have powerful effects on the lives of people," Villar said.

IPU Secretary General Anders Johnsson and Michel Sidibe, deputy executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), agreed with Villar about the necessity of deeply involving legislators in containing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Johnsson said the IPU members should make concrete recommendation to governments to ensure that all victims of the deadly virus will have complete access to drugs and medication. He added that IPU delegates are looking into the possibility of enjoining member countries to craft legislation that would criminalize the "infection" of HIV/AIDS virus. They expect to come up with the position by the end of the three-day conference on Friday.

Both Johnsson and Sidibe admitted that lawmakers should work closely on how to help HIV/AIDS patients have access to proper treatment by 2010.

"We are also confronted with the challenges of long-held biases, prejudices, and social barriers that impede efforts to prevent the spread of the disease. As lawmakers, we can craft laws aimed at tearing down the social barriers that accompany the trial of living with HIV/AIDS," Villar said.

Villar exhorts international lawmakers to fight HIV / AIDS
Manila Bulletin / 29 November

Senate President Manuel Villar yesterday underscored the need to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic even as he lauded the participation of more than 200 delegates from 55 countries in the first global parliamentary meeting on HIV/AIDS which opened yesterday at the Manila Hotel.

"Our presence here today manifests our deep concern and unwavering commitment to address this global threat. Through this meeting, we are sending a strong and clear signal that we, parliamentarians, are serious in our quest for concrete solutions that would considerably reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS worldwide," Villar said in his keynote address yesterday.

Villar said the infectious disease does not consider economic status and social standing. "It is cruel and merciless. If it remains unchecked, it can wipe out a generation, ravage countries and demolish all our economic gains in the 21st century," he said.

Villar cited the latest AIDS Epidemic Update released by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) which showed that there are now 33.2 million people stricken with the deadly disease worldwide.

"Of these, 2.5 million are children under 15 years old. AIDS claimed the lives of 2.1 million people this year, including 330,000 children below 15 years old, Villar said.

In addition, 6,800 new infections and over 5,700 deaths are recorded each day due to AIDS, the UNWHO report said. Every hour, at least 40 children die from AIDS.

"As a father and lawmaker, I find this very alarming. The children are our future,'' Villar said. "But what does the future hold for this world if we are slowly but surely steadily losing our children to AIDS? How can we protect them in order that we may likewise protect the future of our world?''

Villar sees no universal solution to the HIV/AIDS problem. "We must adopt a best-fit approach to suit each country's specific conditions and requirements in order that appropriate laws be passed. We can draw up a national response to this pandemic that matches the needs and concerns of our respective countries," he said.

He also pointed to the high cost of medicines for AIDS and called on pharmaceutical companies to make the drugs, and vaccines affordable and accessible to people with HIV, especially in developing countries.

"We are also confronted with the challenges of longheld biases, prejudices, and social barriers that impede efforts to prevent the spread of the disease. As lawmakers, we can craft laws aimed at tearing down the social barriers that accompany the trial of living with HIV/AIDS," he said.

Villar added that there was an urgent need to strengthen the country's poverty-alleviation efforts and to intensify the AIDS awareness campaign, especially among the youth and migrant workers.

"At the Philippine Senate, I am pleased to report that we are y working on two HIV/AIDS-related measures. The first aims to facilitate the development of microbes to prevent transmitted diseases, including HIV-AIDS. The second measure, seeks to provide counseling and testing of pregnant women and newborn infants for HIV infection," Villar said.

The Senate President also cited the achievement of the 1992 ASEAN Task Force of coming up with two declarations to combat HIV/AIDS, including the one which was spearheaded by the Philippines and eventually adopted in Cebu City during the 12th ASEAN summit special session on HIV/AIDS in 2006.

"We must also ensure that resources are properly allocated in order to launch an effective response to HIV/AIDS, especially in the areas of education, prevention, care and support. It is said that the fairest criterion for allocation is need. Those who have the greatest need have the strongest claim to services. This advocacy role is paramount as we launch a stronger crusade against HIV/AIDS on national and international levels," Villar said.

He expressed optimism that the Manila meeting of parliamentarians would result in concrete strategies and initiatives that strengthen existing ones to help governments deal with the global health problem of HIV/AIDS in time for the marking of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.

Also present during yesterday's opening ceremonies were House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Sen. Pia Cayetano, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, International Parliamentary Union SecretaryGeneral Anders Johnson, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe and Roberto Ruiz, board member of Positives Action Foundation, Phils. Inc.

GMANews.TV, 'i-Witness' bring home top PopDev Awards
11/28/2007 12:57 AM

GMA Network took home three trophies from this year's Annual PopDev Media Awards after a series of stories by GMANews.TV was judged "Best in News Reportage Writing" and a report by the public affairs show "i-Witness" was named "Best TV Documentary." A collection of photographs by GMANews.TV's photo editor also got a citation for photo essay.

A series of election stories - "Birth control issue killing bets' chances," "Current issues drown out campaign noise" and "GO, TU in mud fight" - written by Abraham "Abe" Cerojano were judged "Best in News Reportage Writing."

The committee conferred the award "for making a significant difference in the amount and accuracy of public knowledge of population and human development issues affecting the Filipinos from October 1, 2006 to August 15. 2007."

The board of judges for the print and online categories - Rep. Edcel Lagman, Jose Favia of the Philippine Press Institute, Prof. Luis Teodoro of the UP College of Mass Communication/Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez-David - met on November 6 to decide on the final winning entries.

Named runners up in the same category were stories that also appeared on GMANews.TV: "Poverty, hunger as poll issues;" "GO smells scam in P1-B anti-hunger fund;" "19 Days to E-Day: Money talks anew" by Cerojano; and "Bird flu alert up;" "Saan ihihimlay ang mga namatay?" and "The El Niño Phenomenon" by GMA Network's News Research department.

Joe Galvez, GMANews.TV's photo editor, got a citation for his photo essay "Living in a Canned World."

"P 36," a documentary by Jay Taruc for "i-Witness," was named "Best TV Documentary" while "Pop Culture" also of "i-Witness" was runner up in the same category.

The Annual Media Awards was held at the Traders Hotel in Pasay City on Tuesday.

The Awards is undertaken by the Philippine Legislators' Committee and the United Nations Population Fund through its 6th Country Programme.

Now on its third year, the Awards pays tribute to print, broadcast and online media practitioners who have produced, published and aired "responsible and exemplary news and feature articles and programs on population and development" during the year.

The Awards also aims to encourage the media to actively examine population and development issues that affect the country's development, and to heighten public awareness and knowledge on population and development issues.

The other winners are:

A. Print Category

Best in News Reportage Writing

Winner: Linette C. Ramos, Sun.Star Cebu, "LGUs told: Invest more in schools;" "Stop trafficking, porn: officials told;" "9,000 households in Cebu City still use unsanitary toilet facilities;" and "Gov't told to end malnutrition"

Runners up:

Jujemay G. Awit, Sun.Star Cebu, "Popcom urges parents to go back to school;" "Dads reminded to keep promise;" "Poll bets fear backlash, shun family planning issues;" "Abortion on the rise: survey"

Ira P. Pedrasa, BusinessWorld, "Migration affecting quality of voting population-economis ts;" "Exit tax pressed for leaving professionals; " "Poor get raw end of deal in urban migration;" and "Informed choice slowing down annual population growth rate"

Best in Investigative Reporting

Winner: Mayette Q. Tabada, Rene H. Martel, Rianne C. Tecson, Jujemay G. Awit, Cherry Ann T. Lim, Sun.Star Cebu, "Surviving Aging" (1st Part: "Plight of elderly;" "Debate rages on drug discounts;" 2nd Part: "Going herbal, generic, capitalist;" "Waiting for that pension check;" 3rd Part: "Bumps in travel, but not a peep heard;" "Livelihood programs many, but takers among elderly few;" Last Part: "Second wind; Bread for the aged; Enforce the law")

Runners up

Mayette Q. Tabada, Rianne C. Tecson, Jujemay G. Awit, Cherry Ann T. Lim, Sun.Star Cebu, "Hidden Scourge" (1st Part: "Passing it on;" "Not the usual suspect;" "Living with HIV in Cebu" 2nd Part: "Condoning condom;" "Epidemic of fallacies;" "Flavored, ribbed, dotted;" Last Part: "Damage control;" "On guard;" "'Be responsible'")

Liberty A. Pinili, Jeanette P. Malinao, Linette C. Ramos, Cherry Ann T. Lim, Rianne C. Tecson, Mayette Q. Tabada, Sun.Star Cebu, "Is the well running dry?" (1st Part: "What lies beneath;" "Drill weary;" 2nd Part: "A long walk;" "How safe is trucked, bottled water?;" "High and dry" 3rd Part: "Watershed guardian;" "Saving on a rainy day;" "Cebuanos drinking recycled sewage water;" Last Part: "United they must stand;" "Here, there and everywhere;" "Crossing lines")

Best in Opinion Writing

Winner: Rene Ezpeleta Bartolo, The Mindanao Times, "A little less of everything"

Runners up

Julia Careeon-Lagoc, The News Today, Iloilo City, "A brighter day for little Jane"

Rene Ezpeleta Bartolo, The Mindanao Times, "What do we want, really?"

B. Online Category

Best in Investigative Reporting

Winner: Frank Cimatu, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, "Sex, Laws and Video Nights"

Runners up

Red Batario, Girlie Alvarez, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, "Postcards from the Road Back"

Lala Ordonez-Cascolan, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, "A Mother's Breastfeeding Story"

Best in Opinion Writing

Winner: Samira Gutoc, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, "Confronting Peace, Battling Stereotypes"

Runners up

Maytet Diokno-Pascual, Clarence Pascual, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, "Walking on a Knife's Edge"

Alecks Pabico, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, "The Philippines, Now a 'Second World' Country?"

C. Broadcast Category

Best Radio Production

Winner: PAKSA – DZMM, "Populasyon Sa Pilipinas Paano Ito Makokontrol"

Runners up

Population Special Report, DZMM, "Populasyong Mabilis ang Paglobo, Ano nga ba ang Benepisyo at Sakripisyo?"

Imbestigador, DXGM Super Radyo Davao City, "Series of commentaries on population"

Best TV Documentary

Runner up

Bantay OCW: Special Edition, "Helen"

Citation for Single Photo: Jose Enrique Soriano, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, "Indisputable Hunger"

Citation for Editorial Cartoon: Josua S. Cabrera, Sun.Star Cebu, "Too many mouths to feed"

The Awards has been given with the collaboration of the Commission on Population, Employers' Confederation of the Philippines, Philippine Press Institute, Konrad Adenauer Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University, Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare, Forum for Family Planning and Development, Philippine Center on Population and Development. - GMANews.TV


Opinion / Health News and Views / Dr. A.G. Romualdez / Malaya / 29 November

Increased investments in health

The 2008 General Appropriations Bill includes P19.6 billion for the Department of Health. This is an extraordinary increase of 87 percent from the DOH 2007 budget of P10.5 billion.

The only other time that the DOH was given more money by Congress was in 1993 when the late Senator Arturo Tolentino restored 10 billion pesos from an overestimated loan payment program to a DOH budget that had been decimated by the implementation of the Local Government Code. At that time the restoration was a god-send and literally saved people's lives by enabling the DOH to implement health programs that newly empowered LGUs were not quite ready to pursue..

Unfortunately, to paraphrase a popular saying, "every silver lining has a dark cloud." Health financing experts familiar with the DOH spending record are apprehensive that the department may not have the absorptive capacity for such a large funding increase. Obsessed with preventing leakages (in the form of corruption or unnecessary spending), the department's processes and procedures have placed so many obstacles to spending that it has already been forced to return significant amounts in the form of unspent balances to the national treasury for the current budget year.

The silver lining is that DOH has had a working blueprint for appropriate spending since 1999 when it formulated a comprehensive health sector reform agenda. Also, for the last three years, the DOH has also developed a viable mechanism to implement this agenda labeled Formula One and accepted by the international donor community. These instruments should in fact constitute guidelines to help reduce the glaring inequities that up to now characterize the Philippines' health sector.

There is one pitfall that government health institutions should avoid at all costs if the bonanza materializes. Whenever funding for health is significantly increased the primary beneficiaries are commonly the health providers (or the supply side) in the form of cost increases for currently available services. A good example of this is the increase in reimbursement rates by PhilHealth. Beneficiaries were not at all affected by this in the form of better or more services because health facilities (both private and public) simply raised their charges to accommodate the increased payments.

For this reason, DOH should ensure that increased investments in quality health services (whether curative or preventive) target quality improvements specifically for the poor. All services in government facilities should also be free without distinction as to capacity to pay. DOH should lead the way by completely banning all billing except perhaps for high-end room accommodations.

During the last seven years, the DOH budget has been lopsided in favor of large, mainly Metro Manila-based curative facilities. This expenditure pattern has aggravated the situation of inequity in health care access and availability because of the resultant under-funding of public health and other approaches that specifically target the country's low income population.

With the added resources, DOH has the means to address priority health problems such as maternal and child health and infectious diseases. It should now emphasize multi-year budgeting to ensure continuity and sustainability. This should give the country a chance to meet its communicable disease control and millennium development goal targets in time.

Given this opportunity, DOH should also develop programs to meet the anticipated problems of degenerative diseases. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other "diseases of development" can be expected to hit hardest the poorest segments of the population. As well, the recent report of the UN intergovernmental panel on climate change should alert the health sector to the likelihood of health problems linked to environmental degradation. This may be an area where the added funds for DOH may be put to good use.

Preventive approaches for these diseases are basically behavioral. With the new funding, the health sector should expect to provide the public with correct and appropriate information about health matters. These should be geared towards counteracting the misinformation contained in almost all commercially-oriented marketing and advertising of health goods and services.

In the area of maternal and child health, priority should be given to increasing breast-feeding rates, prevention of unwanted pregnancies, good ante-natal care, and installing capacities for emergency obstetrical care.

Indeed many good things can be achieved by increased government spending on health. Even if in terms of the overall national budget, the DOH share comprises only 1.6 percent, if wisely spent, it will go a long way to correcting the inequity that has long plagued the health sector. But all this assumes that the present government is sincerely pro-poor and not just trying improving its image by this significant but still small added investment in social development.

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Editorial / Manila Bulletin / 29 November
First Global Parliamentary Meeting on HIV / AIDS at the historic landmark Manila Hotel

A few days before the observance of World AIDS Day, parliamentarians from around the world gathered in Manila starting yesterday for the First Global Parliamentary Meeting on HIV/AIDS.

The legislators will discuss and commit to undertake action to prevent, cure, and assist those who have been affected by the global pandemic. The First Global Parliamentary Meeting carries the theme "Leadership and Parliaments in Combating HIV/AIDS."

The three-day meeting, being held at the historic landmark Manila Hotel, is designed to enlist the full force of the world's legislatures in the fight against the AIDS pandemic. There have been a number of national and regional parliamentary initiatives in this area but never before have the world's parliamentary leaders been convened to discuss the part they have to play in responding to the crisis.

The meeting will tackle a full range of crucial issues that members of parliaments face while performing their legislative, budgetary, oversight, and advocacy functions in connection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS). It will bring together specialists from all over the world who will share their expertise in discussion sessions with the representatives of national parliaments.

The meeting will also see the launch and discussion of a handbook for parliamentarians "Taking Action against HIV and AIDS," a document that devotes its largest section to some of the most important legal and policy issues that governments have to address as they scale up access to prevention, treatment, care, and support for HIV/AIDS vulnerable groups and victims. The objective of the handbook is to assist parliamentarians to become leaders, take action, and make decisions on HIV-related law and policy reform. The Global Meeting will also be looking at universal access and the question of affordability of drugs. Delegates will discuss an IPU position paper designed to help parliaments legislate in this difficult area.

Led by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS, a group of parliamentarians set up in 2006, the meeting will discuss issues that include Stigma and Discrimination: What Can Members of Parliament Do? Legislation and Criminalization of Transmission Issues, and Powers of Oversight to Tailor Government Budgets More Closely to HIV/AIDS Needs.

We congratulate participants and organizers of the First Global Parliamentary Meeting on HIV/AIDS and wish them all the success in their endeavors. To the foreign delegates, we wish them a fruitful and enjoyable stay in the Philippines.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Makati Stand-off. What the ????

Yesterday, Sen. Trillanes and Gen. Lim walked out of their hearing at the Makati Regional Trial Court and went to "siege" Manila Peninsula in an attempt to force PGMA to resign. The thing is, the whole situation felt useless after their surrender later that day. Like the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny, it did not do us any good. Worse, the Manila Pen incident subjected the media men and women to harsh violations of their freedom. These people were simply doing their job, trying to bring the necessary information for the public to know and see, and yet I felt they were used and abused, both by Trillanes' group and the PNP.

Let me be clear, however, that this sentiment does not mean I do not agree with what Trillanes' and his group fight for. But then again, don't engage in something you're unsure of yourselves. It just makes the people more frustrated and the country's situation more frustrating!

As a last note, we condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the arbitrary and unwarranted arrests and detention of the media by the PNP. The government showed no mercy in its attempt to put things "under control", destroying properties and endangering the lives of civilians, including the media with their "tear gas". Thereafter, arresting them (the media) despite proper ID. It was an overkill. And it spells - VIOLATION in every angle.

For whatever its worth, it did validate how "ruthless", as Trillanes' said, and how little respect this present administration has for its people and their rights. It proves to us, once more, what PGMA will do to stay and keep herself in power. Trillanes' and Lim et. al. have every reason to feel the way they do. And I sympathize. Most of us feel that way, too. But please, do what you think you "need" to do in a manner that actually "change" things --- for the "better", and not for "worse". - aleta

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

WORLD AIDS DAY 2007. Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.

World AIDS Day is a day when people from around the world come together within a single effort. This year, the global theme of World AIDS Day is leadership within the slogan Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.

The annual UNAIDS/WHO 2006 AIDS Epidemic Update, reports on the latest developments in the global AIDS epidemic, providing the most recent estimates of the epidemic's scope and human toll and explores new trends in the epidemic's evolution.

According to the report 39.5 million people are now living with HIV. There were 4.3 million new infections in 2006 with 2.8 million (65%) of these occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and important increases in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where there are some indications that infection rates have risen by more than 50% since 2004. In 2006, 2.9 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses.

Why the theme of leadership?

Since the beginning of the epidemic, experience has clearly demonstrated that significant advances in the response to HIV have been achieved when there is strong and committed leadership. Leaders are distinguished by their action, innovation and vision; their personal example and engagement of others; and their perseverance in the face of obstacles and challenges. However, leaders are often not those in the highest offices. Leadership must be demonstrated at every level to get ahead of the disease - in families, in communities, in countries and internationally. Much of the best leadership on AIDS has been demonstrated within civil society organisations challenging the status quo. Making leadership the theme of the next two World AIDS Days will help encourage leadership on AIDS within all levels and sectors of society. We hope it will inspire and foster champions within a range of different groups and networks at local and international levels.

Leadership as a theme follows and builds on the 2006 theme of accountability. In 2006 a number of milestones were reached where accountability was particularly crucial. It was the year of the United Nations High Level Meeting on AIDS, which reviewed the progress on the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS - an important blueprint for reaching the Millennium Development Goals on AIDS. 2006 marked the fifth year anniversary of the African Abuja Declaration. 2006 was also the year in which national targets were set, or should have been set, by governments for achieving universal access to prevention, treatment, support and care by 2010. In addition, at 2006's International AIDS Conference, “accountability “ was the buzzword throughout the global forum, reflecting the conference's theme, “Time to Deliver”.

Despite the efforts to hold leaders accountable in 2006, progress in halting HIV is falling far short of targets. Over 25 million people have died of AIDS so far, and 4.3 million people were infected with HIV in 2006. The spread of HIV is accelerating with more people infected in 2006 than in any previous year. This is despite the number of promises by world leaders to provide services to curb the rates of infection and to bring down death rates. The G8 leaders must deliver on their commitments to AIDS. In other high level meetings, governments of rich countries promised to increase the spending on development aid to 0.7 percent of their annual budget. Only a handful of countries have done so. In the Abuja Declaration, African leaders committed to allocating 15 percent of their budgets to health. This has happened in just one or two countries, with only one-third of African countries spending over 10 percent. Promises are not being kept because there is a lack of leadership at every level.

DOH report: 3 new AIDS cases bring total to 776

First posted 09:40:32 (Mla time) November 26, 2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Department of Health data on AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) cases in the Philippines showed three new cases reported in the month of September.

The DOH report said this brought the number of known AIDS cases in the country to 776, up slightly from 770 in August.

According to the data, 25 people were reported to be HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) positive in September and three progressed to AIDS (or stage 4 of the HIV infection). All three were male.

Also, of the 25 found positive with the HIV virus in September, 92 percent were men and 2 percent were women. Six of the 25 were overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

AIDS data in the Philippines gathered since 1984 showed patients are predominantly male, representing 66 percent of 2,965 patients found to be HIV-positive to date.

More than half of those found to be HIV positive, or 58 percent, are in the 25-39 age group.

The DOH data also showed that sexual transmission was still the main mode of transmission of the deadly disease in the country. Of the 25 HIV-positive patients in September, 24 reported getting the virus through sexual contact.

Since 1984, 2,595 of the 2,965 HIV-positive patients got the AIDS virus via sexual transmission. Beverly T. Natividad

Atienza: Global warming not population’s fault

Even as DENR Secretary, he pushes the misplaced and erroneous views on Overpopulation. Haaay. Embrace overpopulation pala ha. Simple Economics lang yun eh.. Overpopulation means MORE DEMAND, LESS SUPPLY.


First posted 06:39:53 (Mla time) November 26, 2007
Vincent Cabreza - Northern Luzon Bureau

BAGUIO CITY -- Global warming and urban decay cannot be blamed on overpopulation, Environment Secretary Lito Atienza said here Saturday.

Atienza made the assertion during a tree-planting activity at the Camp John Hay forest reservation to jump-start a counter-global warming campaign.

A former Manila mayor, Atienza re-launched the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ program called “Tree for Life,” which aimed to plant 10 million trees throughout the country.

He, however, is batting for the planting and nurturing of 50 million trees before the end of 2008.

“The country’s problem is not the number of people, but the absence of good governance. Planting trees … that’s good governance. If we reach 100 million or 200 million, as long as we all have jobs and we keep our environment healthy, we have nothing to worry about,” Atienza, a staunch pro-life advocate, said in Filipino.

He said good resource management would correct anomalies that have spawned homelessness and poverty, and should be enough to address the hole in the ozone layer.

Proper reforestation programs and complete adherence to the Kyoto Protocol are the country’s contributions to the global fight against climate change, he told reporters here.

The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 requires United Nations member-countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions following a set of guidelines that affect many industries.

The United States had raised the matter of overpopulation to justify its decision not to ratify the protocol, which was pushed by former Vice President Al Gore.

It argued that the restrictions should also cover China and India because of their big populations.

Although many equate overpopulation with climate change because of the subsequent increase in motor vehicle emissions and heightened industrial expansion, population has never been a serious condition to draw the interest of world environmentalists, Atienza said.

The Philippines need not alter its climate change policy because it does not contribute as much greenhouse gases as developed countries do, he said.

Atienza said overpopulation should be embraced and not feared by cities.

“We must never blame overpopulation … Everything [can be resolved by] organization,” he said.

Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral, who was also in the city, said her department had noted an increase in vagrancy and homelessness in cities and towns outside Metro Manila.

It is a phenomenon that is natural for urbanizing regions, but local governments must learn to address them, she said.

Monday, November 26, 2007

WHO calls on Asia to revamp health care

Agence France-Presse
Last updated 11:41am (Mla time) 11/25/2007

TOKYO--The World Health Organization called Sunday for Asia to revamp medical care to tailor it to individual needs, saying health services were failing to satisfy patients despite rising spending.

Asia's health system too often treats patients as a set of symptoms without assessing cultural, environmental and other factors, said Shigeru Omi, the UN health body's Western Pacific regional director.

While the world spent $4.1 trillion on health in 2004, 50 percent of people globally say they are dissatisfied with their medical care, he said.

"What I'm calling for is a concerted effort to put the heart back into medical practice," Omi told a World Health Organization (WHO) conference in Tokyo.

"I sincerely believe that treating and caring for a sick person is not just a matter of curing his or her disease," he said.

He said that a patient who remained psychologically well after heart bypass surgery had a greater survival rate than someone who suffered depression after undergoing an identical operation.

"Health care has reached a crucial turning point, and as we move further into the 21st century, I believe that we must re-examine our values and beliefs."

He launched a book for WHO's "People at the Center of Care Initiative," a policy framework aimed at reforming health services in Asia.

Omi, who took office in 1999, admitted he himself had been preoccupied with other concerns such as the fight against tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS.

"However, overall progress in the Asia-Pacific region has created an environment in which it is now possible to address concerns about quality of care while we continue to tackle in earnest" other issues, he said.

24/7 Condom shops to cater to SULU folks

By Ed General
Inquirer - Mindanao
Last updated 00:36am (Mla time) 11/25/2007

JOLO, SULU -- Tausugs were not so receptive of the free contraceptive program but this reality failed to exclude Sulu from becoming one of the 10 pilot areas, where birth-control pills and condoms would be sold.

On Friday, the Sulu Provincial Hospital launched its “pop shop,” where Tausugs, who wanted birth spacing, could avail themselves of contraceptives and other health needs at low prices.

Dr. Farah Tan-Omar, provincial hospital chief, said the pop shop will be open 24/7.

“I should be responsible for the quality of health services our people need from contraceptives to mosquito nets, to address the critical health requirements in our province,” Tan-Omar said.

Tan-Omar said the decision to sell contraceptives was brought about by the phaseout of the contraceptive donation program of the United States Aid for International Development (USAID).

She said health officials wanted mechanisms to make contraceptives available to those who want it and these include selling them.

Read more here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Congratulations EV and Frank!

Two weeks ago, EV Espiritu and Frank Cimatu, both from the Philippine Daily Inquirer-North Luzon Bureau, received a well-deserved citation from the UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME (UNDP), UN's global development network, for their active involvement and participation in this year's STAND UP event.

Since its inception in 2006, the STAND UP Event spearheaded by our Baguio-based media advocates were among those who gained significant media mileage which undeniably drew the attention of government agencies and the public, in general.

Hey guys, we're proud of you. Keep it up!

Congratulations and More Power!!!

In Quezon City, things heat up!

The media monitor for the past two days will show that things are heating up in Quezon City with their local RH/PopDev Ordinance. Thanks to Dino for this media monitor.

QC Council defends proposed population management policy

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 / Philippine Star

The majority leader of the Quezon City Council denounced yesterday an alleged disinformation campaign launched by the Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco against a proposed ordinance on population and reproductive health management.

Council Majority Leader Ariel Inton said a provision mandating sex education for students, as indicated in the proposed ordinance, will focus on reproductive education and not on the sexual aspect, contrary to statements issued by Ongtioco.

”I would prefer that my child get sex education in school with professional teachers rather than learning it on the streets as what the critics of the ordinance are trying to point out,” he said.

Inton said Ongtioco’s campaign, directed at the authors of the proposed measure, is premature since the ordinance is due for deliberation by the city’s legislative body.

Ongtioco’s spokesman, Fr. Aries Sison, said Church officials are campaigning against the proposal during Mass and Councilor Joseph Juico would understand the Catholic Church’s opposition to his “anti-life” ordinance “if he belongs to a family that is staunchly Catholic and was brought up well.”

“If only he sought our guidance and attended Masses regularly, then this would not have happened,” Sison added.

Inton, however, called on Church officials to participate in public hearings on the proposed measure to voice their objection to it.

“The Quezon City Council will not allow the passage of any bill that promotes abortion and other illegal means or any anti-Christian provisions. There is no need to exorcise our members,” Inton told The STAR in an interview.

Inton pointed out that every councilor has the right to file any proposal as part of the democratic process that must be respected and not taken against the person.

He said Juico’s proposed ordinance seeks to answer the population explosion in the city and every sector is welcome to air their input on the measure. – Perseus Echeminada

Quezon City defends reproductive ordinance

Jefferson Antiporda Reporter / Manila Times / 21 November

Quezon City is determined to control its population growth despite attacks from the Catholic Church on a reproductive health ordinance its council is drafting which was branded by a bishop as “against the teachings of the Church.”

Nonetheless, Quezon City council Majority leader Ariel Inton assured the measure will not have any provision that would run counter to the Constitution and traditional Filipino values.

Inton made this pronouncement after Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao, Quezon City, branded the ordinance as against the Catholic Church’s teachings.

The proposed ordinance of Councilor Joseph Juico seeks to establish a reproductive health program for the city. Inton said the constitution is very clear and on the protection of the rights of the mother and unborn.

“We are not about to pass local measures that would later on be invalidated based on constitutional ground,” he said.

However, Inton is calling those opposing the measure to participate in an open and public debate and to avoid issuing statements that misleads the public over the real issues of population growth and reproductive health management.

Under the proposed ordinance, students from Grade 5 to Fourth-year high school will be taught how to be responsible towards sex and reproductive health. The ordinance is being pushed to control Quezon City’s ballooning population, and to help address the issues of family planning and unwanted pregnancies.

The ordinance will also help discourage abortion and minimize pregnancy complications by including provisions for maternal, prenatal and postnatal education, and health care services.

“The city needs a policy on population and reproductive health to complete the process of developments that we have envisioned,” Inton said.

Parents advised to discuss human sexuality with children

First posted 23:07:21 (Mla time) November 20, 2007 / Kristine L. Alave / Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- Parents should be more open when talking about human sexuality to their children, youth sexuality experts said on Tuesday.

The experts say openness would help parents regain influence on their teenagers’ lives even as they warn that this influence has been slipping away, thanks to the power of the media and peer pressure.

Majority of Filipino teenagers still valued sex as a special gift for the person with whom they would share their lives. This was shown by a study bared on Tuesday by the "I Am Strong" youth program and the Developmental Advocacy of Women Volunteers, along with the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at the University of Navarre, Spain, and the Rome-based InterMedia Consulting.

But intention has been quite different from the reality and many students admitted to having sexual relations even if they intended to postpone sex until getting married, thanks to the “misleading messages” from their peers and the media, the survey’s commissioners said.

Parents, the experts noted, did not seem to be of much help to the youths, who preferred to get the information they needed from outside the family, like their friends, magazines, and the Internet.

The organizers surveyed around 4,000 high school and college students in seven regions, with ages ranging from 14-24.

According to the findings, about 85 percent of the total respondents said they would like to wait until marriage before having sex. However, the survey also noted that 23 percent of the respondents had sexual experience already.

“If this statistic isn’t enough to call our attention, there’s also the average age of 17 during which these young adults perform such acts. Sadly, more than 50 percent of those who have had premarital sex admitted that they are not even ready for a steady relationship,” said Dr. Jokin de Irala, an assistant director of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Navarre in Spain.

The study also pointed out that about 33 percent of the minority that initiated sexual activity said they did it because they "felt like it" and 39 percent admitted "wanting to know what it was like."

“Most reasons for having sex could be prevented with character education,” De Irala said.

Around 70 percent would like to know more about how to manage their feelings and sexual impulses better, and how to distinguish between desire, sexual attraction and love, the survey said.

When asked about their future relationship goals, the most highly scored was wanting their marriage to last all their lives, the survey noted.

Lora Tan-Garcia, convener of the I Am Strong program, said Filipino parents were easily embarrassed when talking about sex and relationships with their children. Many parents also do not have the time to discuss such issues with their teens, according to her.

She noted that Filipinos in general were not open to frank sexual talk. “Filipinos are shy in general. We have a culture that tells us that good girls don’t talk about sex,” Tan-Garcia said.

Antonio Torralba, a dean at the University of Asia and the Pacific, said he observed that most Filipino parents have not been talking much about sex and have just been crossing their fingers that their sons and daughters would turn out good.

There were also parents who felt it was enough to warn their daughters against getting pregnant, he added.

But Tan-Garcia said parents would greatly help their cause of positively influencing their children’s perception of sexuality through openness about sexual issues. She added that parents should integrate values education in their lessons to strengthen their sense of self and empower them to make good decisions.

De Irala said parents should not limit their lessons to human biology only, but should also talk about human relationships. “This is not veterinary biology,” he said.

The experts said they considered information from the parents better than the ones teenagers got from the media, which they thought were full of inconsistencies.

Condom, for instance, has been portrayed in the media as the surefire way to avoid pregnancy and HIV, which is false, according to De Irala. “Condom only reduces the risk, it doesn’t eliminate it,” he noted. “Safe sex and safer sex are just not the same information,” he added.

Opinion / At Large ./ Rina Jimenez - David / Philippine Daily Inquirer / 20 November

‘Tale of two cities’

MANILA, Philippines - From 1996 to 2006, writes Dr. Jonathan Flavier, “there were two divergent family planning policies in Quezon City and the City of Manila. With the leadership of Mayor Sonny Belmonte, family planning was encouraged; and an essentially non-existent budget for family planning services and commodities was increased to more than P10 million per year. On the other hand, Mayor Lito Atienza started his three terms by issuing a notorious executive order that discouraged most of the modern methods of family planning. He constrained family planning choices throughout those nine years in office, and “rewarded” families with many children.

“As a result, women have cried out in misery in Manila while more cheered the availability of opportunities to space pregnancies and to manage family size in Quezon City.”

Culling data from the Department of Health’s Field Health Service Information System, Flavier tracks just two indicators: live births per 1,000 population, and maternal deaths per 100,000 married women of reproductive age in the two cities in the decade he mentions. The graphs alone tell a most obvious and moving story.

While the birth rate declined rather steeply in Quezon City -- from 35 per 100,000 in 1996 to just three or four per 100,000 in 2006, it basically remained the same in Manila -- from 27 per 100,000 in 1996, to 23 per 100,000 in 2006. The figures for maternal mortality -- deaths of women due to causes related to pregnancy or child birth -- tell an even more dramatic tale. Maternal mortality declined in Quezon City, from 10 per 100,000 in 1996, shooting up to 14 per 100,000 in 1997, then tapering off to about three per 100,000 in 2006. In Manila, maternal mortality rates rose steadily: from about seven per 100,000 in 1996, reaching a peak of about 12 per 100,000 in 2005 and tapering to about seven per 100,000 in 2006. (I suspect the data for 2006 was still incomplete, thus the small numbers.)

* * *

Jondi Flavier, son of Juan Flavier, a former health secretary and former senator, and who is himself a health and family planning advocate, concludes that “the reports from the health departments of these two cities give us some basis to decide what policy is better for women, couples and their children. Supporting family planning reduces the deaths of women that are often caused by getting pregnant too often or too many times, getting pregnant at very young or old ages, and when the woman is too sick or unable to nurture more children.”

There’s a saying in the women’s movement that “the personal is political.” In the case of reproductive health policy, the reverse is also true -- “the political is personal.”

A local executive’s decision to support or hinder reproductive health programs, particularly family planning, for whatever reason, has a real, visceral impact on the health and lives not just of women, but even of their male partners and their children. An untimely (and probably unwanted) pregnancy endangers not just a woman’s health and life, but also her children’s chances of survival. A UNICEF study notes that the biggest cause of death of children under five is “the birth of another sibling,” that comes before the child is three years of age because this means the cessation of breastfeeding, and even less food for everyone.

Then-Mayor Atienza used to “reward” big families with a sack of rice and some money whenever he came to visit depressed areas. But this not only fostered an alarming sense of mendicancy, it was also obviously inadequate. On one hand he tried to help the parents, with irregular, unreliable subsidies, to care for their growing broods. On the other he took away their ability to limit the size of their families and to decide for themselves how best to raise their children.

* * *

Perhaps aware that Mayor Belmonte is on his third term (he ran unopposed in the last election) and that his successor could very well overturn his policies -- if he or she had a mind to -- the Quezon City Anti-poverty Task Force, composed of 12 departments of the city government, drafted a proposed ordinance to “protect” the city’s reproductive health program.

City Councilor Joseph “Sep” Juico agreed to be the main sponsor mainly because he also believed such an important policy, which has vital implications on the health and lives of the poor, needed to be “institutionalized,” protected as it were from partisan bickering and budget uncertainties.

But from the moment he filed the proposed ordinance in August, Juico has come under fire from the Catholic Church and has been called names, one of which is being an “abortionist.”

In a privilege speech he delivered last Nov. 12, Juico responded to accusations that the ordinance is “pro-abortion.” “This ordinance explicitly opposes abortion; in no way does it encourage or support abortion,” he said. “The ordinance underscores that abortion is illegal and is punishable under our criminal laws…. Abortion is not the same as preventing conception from taking place -- which is what condoms, pills, IUD and the like do.… At bottom, the goal of the ordinance is to prevent abortions from ever taking place.”

* * *

In an interview, Juico says all he wants to do at this point is “to listen to all the sides, and use their views to refine the ordinance.” He says: “I appeal to everyone, not just to the Catholic leaders, not to jump to conclusions and to wait for the proper venue, like a public hearing, to make themselves heard.”

But in the noise and din that church authorities are whipping up in Quezon City, it’s difficult to make oneself heard, much less have a meaningful dialogue. If it’s noise they want, then perhaps it’s time women, men and children also had their say in Quezon City.

Opinion / To Take A Stand / Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. / Business World

The Church's Diminishing Influence

I was amused and at the same time incensed when I read Rina Jimenez - David's piece in last Sunday's Inquirer on the intense campaign the Catholic Church authorities and lay leaders in Quezon City are waging against Councilor Joseph Juico. I was amused to the extent to which they would try to dissuade Juico from pushing in the city council the proposed ordinance to formulate a population and reproductive health management policy.

I was incensed by the inconsistency of the Catholic Church leadership in Quezon City in the treatment of transgressors of the moral order.

Specifically, the proposed ordinance will urge the city to adopt a policy on responsible parenthood, effective population management, and sustainable social development that values the dignity of every human person and affords protection to people's rights. I glean from Jimenez-David's article that to Quezon City Bishop Honesto Ongtioco the ordinance would mean the promotion of the killing of unborn children.

According to the article, there is even talk that should priests of that city spot Juico and other proponents of the ordinance lining up for Communion, they will be denied the Host. A Church official was supposed to have warned Juico that what pro-life groups did to advocates in Congress of family planning bills would be nothing compared to what they will do to him. This is what infuriates me, the resolve of Church leaders to punish a public official merely for sponsoring a proposed ordinance that is assumed by the bishop and his faithful followers to promote birth control and even abortion in sharp contrast to the apathy of the same overzealous religious leaders toward the highest officials of the land glaringly involved in colossal venalities, and in the case of Erap, declared guilty of plunder by the proper court.

Is sponsorship of a proposal that may encourage the use of contraceptives a more grievous sin to these Church leaders than entering into a contract involving taxpayers' money amounting to $329 million, with about $100 million to be kicked back to national officials? Is it more grievous than the distribution of cash bags containing hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' money to already fabulously compensated congressmen for them to keep or use as they please? Is it more grievous than subverting the people's will by ordering the padding of one's votes by one million?

Why is the sponsor of a mere proposal that may not necessarily promote family planning using artificial methods, definitely not promote abortion, threatened with denial of the Church's sacraments while national officials evidently guilty of large-scale anomalies and massive electoral fraud are received in Church weddings in pomp and pageantry, seated in exalted places, and served Communion at their places by the main celebrant, a bishop in some instances, of the Mass?

Why are the same Church leaders not enraged by the mockery of justice when a man convicted of plunder by a court of law and sentenced to 40 years in jail is given executive pardon without him spending a day in jail? Why hasn't Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, who has expressed disapproval of his flock attending Mass in casual attire, expressed revulsion at a polygamous man convicted of plunder receiving COmmunion in the Cardinal's archdiocese and even sprinkling holy water at the remains of a prominent person before they are laid to rest? When this same man was shown on television several years ago being given Communion by a priest belonging to a religious congregation, the priest was exiled to NOrthern Luzon, believed by many at the prodding of Cardinal Jaime Sin.

This benign attitude of present-day Church dignitaries toward immoral characters brings to mind the temperate statement of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines against those who tampered with the electoral process last May. The CBCP condemned, "The dirty conduct of elections in some provinces, the buying, padding, and selling of votes have embarrassingly become systemic and threaten to become a cultural element of our decisions." It protested "against the injustice done to people as their right to choose their leaders are desecrated. We are horrified by the violence inflilcted on innocent people during the campaign and election periods."

It called for a full revamp of the COMELEC, beginning with the appointment of a new chair and commissioners with unquestioned integrity and competence, and making accountable to the people those responsible for immense fraud in the past elections as well as the ones held last May.

For the CBCP to make such a statement, the bishops must have known for a fact who bought and padded votes, who inflicted violence on innocent voters, which COMELEC officials tampered with the election results. Not one bishop though named the guilty and resolved to deny the Catholics among those denounced the sacraments.

Jesuit priest John J. Carroll wrote in his contribution to the book about the People Power Revolution of 1986, Looking Forward, that the Philippine Catholic bishops warned through their pastoral letter dated January 28, 1986, that those who might attempt to subvert the election scheduled that year by fraud or violence would sin grievously and make themselves "unworthy of the Body of the Lord", suggesting that such persons could be denied Holy Communion. He wrote further that Augustinian friars who accompanied Legazpi to the Philippines refused Holy Communion to Spanish soldiers guilty of plundering the goods of the Indios and unwilling to restore what they had stolen.

The Church leaders' benign attitude toward high-ranking public officials ostensibly guilty of big-tme graft and corruption and massive electoral fraud juxtaposed with the dire warnings to a city councilor endorsing an ordinance meant to alleviate poverty in his district can be expected to diminish the Catholic Church's influence on her faithful when it comes to matters of morality.

Warriors for safe motherhood

First posted 22:36:56 (Mla time) November 20, 2007 / Rina Jimenez-David / Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dr. Jondi Flavier writes in, clarifying some points in the “Tale of two cities,” a comparison of the impact of contrasting policies on reproductive health in Manila and Quezon City, that I wrote about in Tuesday’s column.

“While we can only present trends,” writes Jondi, “what we see is the decreasing birth rates and lowering maternal mortality rates in Quezon City. We also believe that because of the lack of family planning services for women in Manila, there is a more level trend in birth rates there and tragically, there is an increasing trend in maternal deaths.”

He adds, though, that data on birth rates and mortality rates and other indicators in the two cities would need more testing for significance, perhaps by statistics experts in the University of the Philippines Population Institute or the Population Commission.

What he considers “more distressing,” though, is that, based on a limited sample, “we have also seen that the abortion rate in Manila is now greater than in Quezon City.” Jondi suggests that researchers “obtain a bigger sample for abortion comparisons.” Even so, this seems a most logical, if not natural consequence of a policy severely limiting, if not withholding, family planning and other reproductive health services from women.

What the policy wrought was not a greater “love for life” but rather more desperation, such that women facing unwanted, mistimed pregnancies considered abortion as the solution to their very real problem. Indeed, as declared by Quezon City Councilor Sep Juico, main sponsor of the controversial reproductive health ordinance, the ordinance is in fact an anti-abortion measure, as it would provide couples who wish to avoid pregnancy or to better space their children the information and means to do so. Without such information and services, they would increasingly turn to abortion for relief -- a point that so-called “pro-life” advocates can’t seem to get into their thick skulls.

* * *

“What we can say now is that, contrary to the unfounded circular of Bishop (Ongtioco) and the dominantly male anti-family planning and anti-women Catholic Conservative minority -- Councilor Juico, Mayor Feliciano Belmonte, Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista and the Quezon City Council are in fact warriors fighting for safe motherhood, and a better quality of life for families,” writes Jondi. “Catholic educational formation, or the lack of it, should not be blamed on our QC legislators and executives -- I would believe that the finger points back to some Catholic ‘priests’ who are less than good examples of morality. Cancers are too sweeping a problem to be pinned down on family planning and in fact, the fight of Councilor Juico in Quezon City will be toward preventing abortions and decreasing the deaths of women and newborn babies.”

An observer notes that the increasingly strident attacks on Juico and other supporters of the reproductive health ordinance and policy are indicative of the critics’ growing panic. While they succeeded in intimidating the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration into essentially abandoning the family planning program -- with responsibility for it thrown to local governments -- they face a tougher battle dealing with local governments. Right now, three provinces have already adopted comprehensive reproductive health policies, and if Quezon City succeeds in institutionalizing its program, it will be the first local government in Metro Manila to do so.

Quezon City could very well open the floodgates, which is not such a remote possibility in Metro Manila, with local government executives grappling daily with the consequences of population growth. No wonder the church conservatives have thrown everything but the baptismal font at Sep Juico, even before he could call his first public hearing on the proposed ordinance.

* * *

This and on succeeding weekends, make time to watch “Into the Woods,” which the New Voice Company is mounting at the Music Museum.

The musical is a clever, witty reworking of the most beloved fairy tales from the Western pantheon. The most familiar characters are present here: Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack of beanstalk fame, the poor baker and his wife, not one but two Prince Charmings, Rapunzel, and, of course -- what fairy tale would be complete without one? -- the ugly witch.

But while the first act brings all these disparate stories to a satisfying, coherent “happy ever after,” the second act poses the question: “What happens after ever after?”

What happens, it seems, is real life, and the pressing need to “grow up,” with the characters forced into confronting their real-life problems and working out solutions to them.

Director Rito Asilo must be congratulated for whipping all the characters and story arcs into coherent shape, doing so briskly and energetically. The cast is generally superb, with outstanding performances from Lynn Sherman, who makes for quite a bewitching witch, Michael Williams as the baker finding his manhood, and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, who is in fine voice and form as the baker’s wife bewildered at her own unhappy ending, despite getting her life’s wish.

* * *

At the entrance of the Music Museum, I bumped into a glowing Monique Wilson, who said she was “thrilled at being here and not being involved in the show!”

Now based in London, Monique comes home to Manila and to New Voice Company usually to star in or direct a production. But I can understand her excitement: being in Manila and watching the other members of New Voice mount a production on their own, is a sign that the company has come into its own, maturing and claiming autonomy much like the fairy tale characters after “ever after.”

Congratulations, then, to Monique as well for finding her own “ever after,” as both an artist and company manager.

Opinion / ARH / Enthusiasms and Forebodings / Rene Q. Bas / Manila TImes / 21 November
Congress for Chastity Education

More and more twelve-year old girls are getting pregnant without being forcibly—not just statutorily—raped. Some resort to abortion. Others get married. Often the poor girls’ lives are ruined. Their boy friends also suffer.

This growing problem disturbs a lot of people. So they do something to arrest it. Most parents, regardless of religious belief or the absence of it, really want their children to save the joy of sex for marriage. Parents have grouped themselves with similarly-minded educators, community workers and social scientists to start movements to reinforce the “old-fashioned values” of character-building, self-discipline, chastity, responsibility and self-respect.

Young people all over the world are themselves in the forefront of these movements. In campuses, in work places and in their neighborhoods students and young adults have formed clubs to make chastity and the struggle to be responsible persons a shining virtue. To them virginity and chastity—for both unmarried men and women—are cool. Streng­thened by the certainty they are doing what is right, they view with pity those who live the opposite and promiscuous lifestyle as silly, immature, self-destructive losers.

These virtue-empowered girls know giving in to a hormone-shattered boy who says “let’s do it” is an idiotic weakness. And to these virtue-empowered boys and young adults the ability to master the urges dictated by their body chemistry is proof of real manhood. More often than not, these young people are also their schools’ top achievers in sports and academics and their offices’ model performers.

Last Monday, the 2nd International Congress on Education in Sex, Love and Life started. Delegates from Australia, Singapore, the USA, Mexico, Chile, China (Hong Kong and Macau), Taiwan, Spain, Italy, the Philippines, among other countries, are at the EDSA Shangrila. The 1st congress was held last year in Mexico. Next year, the 3rd congress will be in the USA.

The delegates exchange their experiences in putting up and running movements and pro­jects to educate young people on chastity and responsibility through self-discipline and character formation.

One of the projects is the Manila-originated “I Keep Love Real (iKLR)” campaign. It was launched with the nationwide iKLR Song-Writing and Documentary Film-Making Competition and a research study for over 4,000 youth respondents across the Philippine archipelago.

The 2nd SLLEA Congress wants to move parents, teachers, the media, the government, NGO’s, businessmen and youth leaders to take individual responsibility for teaching chastity and self-discipline through character education.

The Congress director, Dr. Antonio Torralba, a well-known Filipino educator, tells a message that the DepEd supports. “Youth education is the key to future social development. Some aspects of education are both difficult and yet supremely crucial. Helping the young prepare themselves for love and life has been a matter of growing concern for families and other educators. It deserves the proper attention of all social institutions and authorities.”

One of the organizers of this congress is the “I Am S.T.R.O.N.G. . . .I am Responsible” program. Founded by young people, it is probably the most effective youth character-building support group and values-formation undertaking in today’s Philippines. It has branches in several high schools, colleges and universities.

The other congress organizers are:

InterMedia, a not-for-profit organization that serves as a consultant and gives worldwide support to social entrepreneurs and non­profit organizations that promote good values in the education, family, mass media and entertainment fields. It has offices in Rome.

EDUCHILD (or Education for the Upbringing of Children), also not-for-profit, is an organization of parents helping fellow parents and educators in the delicate task of rearing a family and educating their children. It has been doing international service since 1976.

The Developmental Advocacy for Women Volunteerism (DAWV) Foundation, Inc., another non­profit organization, was started as a personal initiative of a few women to help in the social development and liberation from poverty of Filipino women.

The urgent and critical work of the organizers and the delegates to the congress, unfortunately, rarely gets media attention. (Continued tomorrow)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Congrats Frankie!

Last Tuesday, November 13, 2007, Frank Cimatu of PDI-North Luzon and one of the media advocates working under the UNFPA 6th Country Programme informed me, through a text message, that he won under PLCPD's 2007 PopDev Media Awards with his article re: Ifugao's RH Code, posted in The article was SEX, LAWS and VIDEO NIGHTS.

Getting the good news felt great, I was truly happy for him! For a moment then, I remembered feeling sad that none of the media advocates working under the 6th CP won last year. Texting him with my "congratulatory" message, his reply caught me off guard, in a good way, and made me feel even better. =)

To you Frankie, Thank You, Congrats (again!) and More Power!!!

Sex tempest in Quezon City

Opinion / At Large / Rina Jimenez - David / Philippine Daily Inquirer / 18 November 2007

MANILA, Philippines -- When Quezon City Councilor Joseph “Sep” Juico agreed to be the main sponsor of an ordinance “Establishing a Quezon City Population and Reproductive Health Management Policy,” little did he know that it would affect even his romantic life.

After weathering scathing criticism and name-calling from Catholic Church authorities and groups, Juico says he has become wary of even attending Mass in Quezon City. So intense has the campaign become that, he says half-seriously, he fears he may not even be allowed to wed in church. When he brought up the possibility with his girlfriend, Sep tried to make light of the matter by joking that “we can always go to a judge.” “That’s not funny,” she retorted.

“Nothing,” says the two-termer councilor wearily, “has ever prepared me for the scale of the attacks against me.” (His co-sponsors are Councilors Bernadette Herrera-Dy and Lala Sotto.)

After all, Juico hails from a family that can only be described as staunchly Catholic, if not loyally La Sallian. His father is Popoy Juico, a former agrarian reform secretary under President Cory Aquino; these days, Popoy serves as a juror in the Catholic Mass Media Awards while hosting a program in the El Shaddai radio station. His mother, Margie is a private secretary of President Aquino. But while his dad once confessed to Sep that “my heart is with you but my mind is not sure,” Margie has proven to be Sep’s chief cheerleader and defender, even writing a letter to Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco expressing her hurt and heartache at the virulent attacks on her son.

Sep himself is La Sallian green to the core, having studied at La Salle from prep to college (“a rule in our family,” he says), graduating with a degree in human resources management. But even before his graduation, Sep was already deep in public service, having served as SK chairman for many years. From there, it was but a short leap to running for councilor, serving the first district of Quezon City. On the side, he also owns two boxing gyms.

* * *

THOUGH the proposed ordinance was formulated by the Anti-Poverty Task Force of Quezon City, composed of 12 city departments, Juico says he agreed to be its main sponsor because he has seen for himself that “we can no longer continue providing band-aid solutions to the problem of poverty, we need to get to the root of the problem.”

As part of his work as a councilor, Sep says he makes it a point to “immerse” himself in urban poor communities in his district, sometimes even spending a night with a family. “Nakakaawa talaga ang kondisyon nila” (Their condition is really pitiful), he recalls, describing a typical shanty crawling with vermin such that “they no longer wake up when huge rats scamper across their chests at night.”

“Everywhere I go, I see pregnant women,” he adds, “and usually they tell me it’s their fourth or fifth child.” What’s really depressing, he notes, is that “they are not happy about it, telling me they didn’t want to have these many children.”

In a privilege speech provoked by the Church’s campaign of vilification, Juico said of the issue: “(The parents) come to me for help because they cannot provide for their children and at the same time their family is just getting bigger .… In fact, the clamor is on a national level—nine out of 10 Filipinos consider family planning important and 89 percent believe that it is important for government to provide budgetary support for modern family planning methods and services …”

* * *

THE PROPOSED ordinance calls for the crafting of “an integrated and comprehensive policy on responsible parenthood, effective population management, and sustainable social development that values the dignity of every human person and affords full protection to people’s rights.”

A rather innocuous, if not motherhood, statement, you might say. And yet in response, Catholic leaders in Quezon City have launched a full-scale attack on the ordinance and its sponsors. A recent circular signed by Bishop Ongtioco accused the authors of “(using) the name of the poor … to push their deadly intent of promoting contraceptives and abortifacients.” The initiative, said the bishop, “kills the unborn children, cause(s) deadly cancers, destroys the Catholic educational formation of our youth.”

A leaflet, which bares the letterhead of the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish, accuses the proposed ordinance of “(bringing) sexual promiscuity to intermediate and high school students in their class lessons,” a familiar line in the anti-sex education arsenal of the Church, and of “killing unborn children and manipulating the poor.”

* * *

IN ADDITION, the bishop and some parish priests have called on some councilors to talk to them about killing the ordinance outright, even before Juico has had a chance to call a public hearing.

Referring to previous efforts of so-called pro-life groups to torpedo reproductive health legislation in the House of Representatives, a church official even warned Juico that “what we did in Congress is nothing compared to what we’ll do to you.” There is even talk that should priests in Quezon City spot Juico and the other proponents lined up for Communion, they will be refused Communion, something that has cut the Catholic Juicos to the quick.

“It’s been very, very, very bloody,” says Sep with some weariness. Expressing surprise at the virulent Church reaction, Juico says he never expected it, and that in all his years in politics, “this is the first serious test I have undergone, and I hope the last.”

But the good news is that the 30-year-old councilor is standing fast. “I’m not here to create enemies,” he declares, though he realizes that this time, he has found more than he bargained for.

Friday, November 09, 2007

11M Filipinos among 1B living on less than $1/day

First posted 07:14:04 (Mla time) November 08, 2007
Minerva Generalao Eliza Victoria
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- Some 11 million Filipinos are among the 1 billion people across the globe living on less than $1 a day, the threshold defined as extreme poverty by the United Nations, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Three-fourths of the world’s poorest live in Sub-Saharan Africa, the only region where ultra poverty predominates, said the study titled “The World’s Most Deprived: Characteristics and Causes of Extreme Poverty and Hunger,” which the IFPRI released on Tuesday.

Among 119 developing countries and countries in transition in 2003, the Philippines was ranked 72nd -- the highest among the Southeast Asian nations included in the study.

The Philippines had a Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 17.55, which indicates a “serious problem” in hunger. Belarus, a former member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, topped the list with a GHI of 1.59.


Francisco Inorme, 78, can be considered one of the world’s most deprived.

He makes a living by mending shoes in a stall beside the Barangay UP Campus clinic in Diliman, Quezon City.

Asked where he lives, he points at a house across the street, where he rents a small room for P1,000 a month.

He supports his wife, sick in-laws (who live on Batasan Road) and some of his children, most of whom already have their own families.

“Sometimes my children will drop by,” Inorme says, a native of Masbate. “They’d tell me, ‘Papa, your grandchild has nothing to eat.’ So I’ll give them a hundred pesos and borrow food from a karinderya in Krus na Ligas.” (Krus na Ligas is a nearby barangay.)

Inorme, who charges P40 per pair of shoes, says on good days he earns P200 a day. But dividing this daily income equally among himself, his wife and his wife’s parents gives him a share of a meager P50 a day. “And these are on good days,” says Inorme.

“There have been weeks where I only earn one hundred pesos a day.”

The IFPRI study shows that Inorme could be out of poverty if interventions could be made.

The study, presented at the 2020 Conference in Beijing that IFPRI organized, identified the world’s poorest and the policies that could help them move out of poverty.

The study was conducted to see if the first of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) -- to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 -- can be achieved.

The MDGs were contained in the Millennium Declaration adopted by 189 member-states of the United Nations in September 2000.

The study found that the world had made considerable progress in reducing the number of people living on less than $1 a day from 28.6 percent in 1990 to 18.0 percent in 2004.

But it said economic growth did not have the same impact on those considered poor. Income growth benefited those just below the poverty line, but not the most deprived.

The study said that of those subsisting on less than a dollar a day, half a billion lived on less than 75 cents a day (medial poor) and 162 million on less than 50 cents (ultra poor).

Seventh most populous

“This is a significant number of people: If all of the ultra poor were concentrated in a single nation, it would be the world’s seventh most populous country after China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan,” IFPRI said.

The Philippines is not one of the countries included in the study, but in response to e-mailed questions, Veronica O’Connor from IFPRI provided poverty statistics on the Philippines.

She said that 13.5 percent or about 11 million Filipinos lived on less than $1 a day; 9.1 percent or 7.4 million are subjacent poor (living on 75 cents to $1) and 4.4 percent or 3.6 million were medial poor (living on 50 to 75 cents). There is no figure for the ultra poor (living on less than 50 cents).

She said these figures were calculated from the POVCAL (Program For Calculating Poverty Measures From Grouped Data) website, a compilation of poverty data from country household surveys and posted on the Web by the World Bank.

The most unfortunate consequence of widespread poverty is that more than 800 million people cannot afford an adequate diet, according to the study.

Hunger index

Progress in meeting the hunger MDG was examined by using the Global Hunger Index (GHI), which includes three indicators -- the proportion of people who are food-energy deficient as estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the prevalence of underweight in children under the age of 5 as estimated by the World Health Organization, and the under-5 mortality rate as estimated by United Nations Children’s Fund.

The ranking showed that the hot spots of hunger were also in Sub-Saharan Africa, which indicates a direct relationship between hunger and poverty.

O’Connor said that the GHI index of 17.55 for the Philippines was derived from 22 percent of people who are calorie deficient for 2000-02, 27.4 percent of children under-5 who were underweight in 2003, and a mortality rate of 36 per 1,000, or 3.6 percent, for under-5.

The percentages roughly correspond to 17.6 million Filipinos who are calorie deficient; 2.2 million Filipino children under 5 who are underweight; and 0.3 million Filipino children dying before their fifth birthday each year.

“Poor households and individuals are unable to achieve food security, have inadequate resources for care, or cannot utilize resources for health on a sustainable basis,” the study said.

Far from roads, schools

The study also found that “the poorest and most undernourished households are located farthest from roads, markets, schools, and health services” and “adults in ultra poverty are significantly less likely to be educated, be they male or female.”

Despite the global trend of poverty shifting toward urban areas, the incidence of poverty is still higher in rural areas, the study said.

As poverty deepens, the income disparities between rural and urban areas tend to increase. On average, poverty rates are 2.4 times higher for the subjacent poor and 2.7 times higher for the medial poor in rural areas than for their counterparts in urban areas.

Poverty traps

But the poverty rates for the ultra poor are nearly four times higher in rural areas than in urban areas.

The study also said that the coincidence of severe and persistent poverty and hunger indicated the presence of poverty traps -- conditions from which individuals or groups cannot emerge without the help of others.

The three most common traps are the inability of poor households to invest in the education of their children, the limited access to credit for those with few assets, and the lack of productive labor of the hungry.

Within a trap, “poverty begets poverty and hunger begets hunger,” the study said.

The study noted that the slow progress in reducing ultra poverty and the relative lack of success in reaching the very poorest clearly demonstrated that “business as usual” would not be good enough to reach the poorest within an acceptable timeframe.

To help the poorest move out of poverty, IFPRI suggested the improvement of access to markets and basic services for those in the most remote rural areas, greater investment in education for those with few assets, and the prevention of child malnutrition.
IFPRI was established in 1975 and is one of the 15 agricultural research centers that receive funding from governments, private foundations, and international and regional organizations, most of which are members of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.