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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Best Poem of 2006

Poem of 2006, Written by an African Kid

Nominated by UN as the Best Poem of 2006 -


When I born, I black

When I grow up, I black

When I go in Sun, I black

When I scared, I black

When I sick, I black

And when I die, I still black

And you white fellow

When you born, you pink

When you grow up, you white

When you go in sun, you red

When you cold, you blue

When you scared, you yellow

When you sick, you green

And when you die, you grey

And you calling me colored ??

Friday, October 26, 2007

Update on Stand Up Against Poverty 2007

From UNRC:

Stand Up, Speak Out Campaign Update: Philippines ranked number two (2) (in Asia and Globally...) with 7.1 Million people participating in the event, second to India's 18.6 Million count.

Friday, October 19, 2007

3 million expected to ‘Stand Up, Speak Out’ against poverty

Below are articles on the recently concluded "STAND UP, SPEAK OUT" campaign against poverty, spearheaded by the UN Millenium campaign and participated in by various UN Agencies and their partners both from the government and civil society. From the Information Officer of UNFPA, Dino Subingsubing, the official tally of people who "STOOD UP and SPOKE AGAINST POVERTY" is 7,106,478 Filipinos, more than twice the targetted outcome of three (3) million people.

We sure hope this campaign translates to concrete actions from the government that would actually and directly benefit communities and families living below the poverty threshold.

First posted 05:22:34 (Mla time) October 18, 2007
Tina Santos, Kenneth del Rosario, Vincent Cabreza
The Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- Some 2,000 Filipinos, including government officials, teachers, students and soldiers, Wednesday joined a global campaign to end poverty by standing up and making a symbolic pledge at the Rizal Park in Manila.

They pledged to reject not only excuses that allow 50,000 people to die every day because of extreme poverty but also the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

They also urged government leaders to govern fairly, fight corruption and fulfill human rights.

Many of them wore white wristbands with sketches of multicolored human figures.

Organizers in the country expected three million people to stand up and make the pledge -- in parks, government and private offices, schools, hospitals, restaurants -- around the country from 5 a.m. to midnight Wednesday night.

An auditing firm will do a head count and hopefully, a record of sorts will be established for possible submission to the Guinness Book of Records, Agnes Aleman, UN national information officer, said.

The “Stand Up, Speak Out” pledge is part of the UN campaign to promote the Millennium Development Goals that include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education and ensuring a sustainable environment by 2015.

“Hopefully, this will encourage our leaders to fulfill their promise,” said Aleman.

Biggest headway

The Asia-Pacific region had more than one billion people living on less than $1 a day in 1990, but that number has dropped to 641 million and is likely to be cut in half by 2015, according to an Asian Development Bank-UN report.

China has made the biggest headway, with one in every three Chinese living in poverty in 1990, compared with one in every 10 today, the report said. But other countries were lagging behind, among them the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

“We would like to be one with others in recognizing our effort to fight against poverty,” Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said.

In 1990, about 27 percent of Filipinos lived in extreme poverty -- on less than P1,022 a month -- but this has gone down to 17 percent, she said.

The country’s financial stability and social services, including subsidies for food and medicines, have helped reduce the incidence of extreme poverty, according to Assistant Secretary Dolores Castillo of the National Anti-Poverty Commission

Guinness record

Last year’s “Stand Up Against Poverty” campaign holds the official record title in the Guinness Book of World Records for 24 million people who stood up against poverty in 24 hours in 87 countries.

The Philippines ranked third in the Asia-Pacific region with 2.4 million joining the campaign, after India (9 million) and Nepal (over three million).

By holding fun activities on Wednesday, organizers said they hoped the youth would become aware of the need to eradicate poverty.

Exhibit, rock concert

Apart from the event marking the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty at the Rizal Park, an exhibit was held in Quezon City and a rock concert and cultural show were staged in Makati City.

At the Liwasang Aurora in Quezon City, the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) challenged government officials and policymakers to be “one with the poor” and live with only P41 for a day to “truly experience” what it is like to live on an empty stomach.

GCAP-Philippines said about 68 million Filipinos (more than 77 percent of the total population) were living on only P96 or less a day. Yet, the government claims that the poverty threshold is P41, thus creating an illusion of a reduced number of poor people in the country, according to the group.

“The government is feeding us with words and inaction perhaps because words are the only thing that the P41 per person can afford,” Erning Ofracio, an urban poor, said at a forum attended by some 60 nongovernment organizations.

At the fair, NGOs put up booths selling products of local communities and handing out advocacy materials. The fair became a place for discussions and exhibits on various initiatives aimed at ending poverty.

Poverty Requiem

Poverty Requiem, an artistic performance against poverty that combines visual arts, music and movement, was performed at the Liwasang Aurora.

GCAP-Philippines claimed that the P10 billion in additional budget for hunger and poverty mitigation programs announced on Monday was part of a “publicity” stunt.

“The government’s declaration of it’s six-month war on hunger earlier this year proved to be ineffective, simply palliatives or band-aid solutions to worsening hunger and poverty,” Nora Protacio, GCAP-Philippines Ambassador said in a statement.

She was reacting to a recent survey by Social Weather Stations, which showed that 21.5 percent of Filipinos had experienced involuntary hunger, the highest level recorded in the country.

Notes on dioramas

In Baguio City, everyone walking down Session Road caught a catchy note posted on wire-framed dioramas placed on Session Road on Tuesday.

The note read “Sana magutom din ang Presidente (I hope the President starves)!”

It was one of many notes written by students, vendors, teachers and bank employees who interacted with Baguio artists on the eve of the annual Stand Up Against Poverty campaign.

On Tuesday, sculptor Kigao Rosimo, musician Shant Verdun and performance artist Rene Aquitania shaped ordinary wire into 15 human figures to represent the country’s enduring war with poverty.

They covered the frames with colored plastic sheets to simulate stained glass, and installed the dioramas on Session Road.

Christmas wishes

The artists asked every one who walked by to post early Christmas wishes on the dioramas.

But people offered angry messages against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo because of various scandals that have embroiled her administration, Rosimo said.

Foremost among the issues discussed by pedestrians was the money that Malacañang allegedly had given local officials.

“That is cruel. The people are starving yet she is still capable of granting politicians favors,” said a resident.

He wrote: “Tama na! Sobra na! Alisin ang mga corrupt sa gobyerno (Enough! We’ve had it! Remove all corrupt officials from government!).”

Another wrote: “Sana matugunan ng residente ang hinaing ng mga mahihirap (I wish the President can finally address the complaint of our poor people).”

The National Statistical Coordination Board has classified about 50 percent of Cordillera farming families as poor.

Innabuyog, the Cordillera affiliate of the party-list group Gabriela, said sharp increases in Cordillera malnutrition, which was noted this year by the government, confirmed that most poverty-alleviation projects have failed.

The Tuesday event led to a major concert Wednesday at the Baguio City Public Market where country western musicians were to be joined by 500 porters who would speak out against poverty.

Advocates bring antipoverty campaign to BAGUIO

By Harley Palangchao, Correspondent

BAGUIO CITY: Local folksingers, with the special participation of a Bolivian artist, performed at the city’s public market and shared the humanitarian message of songs against poverty.

There was revelry in one of the most populated areas in Baguio when local folksingers from two bands—Binhi and Shakilan—joined other advocates in a concert in line with the global “Stand Up Against Poverty” campaign.

The campaign was held at the city market, particularly at the vegetable section, purportedly to stir awareness on the need for people, especially those in the grassroots level.

More importantly, the campaign is in support of the call for all governments to make good their pledge to help attain millennium development goals, particularly that of poverty reduction.

Millions of Filipinos have participated in this campaign initiated by the United Nations and billed as “Stand Up Against Poverty”, which is also in support of millions of Filipino families living below the poverty threshold.

In the Cordillera region alone, an estimated 440,000 people are in the threshold of poverty, which is why the Regional Development Council is urged to focus more on antipoverty programs and projects.

“Stand Up Against Poverty,” the global campaign in 2006 organized by the UN Millennium campaign holds the record title in the Guinness Book of World Records for 24 million people in 87 countries standing up against poverty in 24 hours from October 15 to 16, 2006. Some 2.4 million Filipinos counted among those who participated in the said campaign.

The Philippines is one of the 191 states that signed the Millennium Declaration, which embodies commitments to achieve the millennium development goals—a set of time-bound and measurable targets for combating poverty, hunger, disease, environmental degradation and discrimination by 2015.

These goals include eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; intention to achieve universal primary education; promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women; reduction of child mortality; improvement of maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability and; to develop a global partnership for development

3 Million Pinoys "Stand Up, Speak Out" vs. Poverty

By Katherine Adraneda / Thursday, October 18, 2007 /Philippine Star

Millions of Filipinos across the country literally stood up as a symbolic pledge in this year’s global campaign against poverty in commemoration of International Poverty Eradication Day.

The participants in part rejected government excuses that allow 50,000 people to die every day because of extreme poverty and the growing gap between rich and poor. It urges government leaders to save the lives of the poorest citizens, tackle inequality, govern fairly, fight corruption and fulfill human rights.

“After the government’s declaration of its six-month war on hunger that brought about the release of the P1-billion fund for their hunger and poverty mitigation programs, hunger rose to record high levels,” declared Nora Protacio, ambassador of the Global Call to Action against Poverty-Philippines (GCAP).

The Philippines will take part in the “Stand Up, Speak Out” pledge of the UN campaign to promote the Millennium Development Goals that include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education and ensuring a sustainable environment by 2015.

About 2,000 government officials, teachers, students, soldiers and ordinary citizens, many of them wearing white wristbands with sketches of multicolored human figures, assembled early yesterday at the Rizal Park to make the pledge.

Agnes Aleman of the UN Information Center said the Philippines was targeting 3 million people to stand up and make the pledge – in parks, government and private offices, schools, hospitals, restaurants and even at Starbucks stores – around the country from 5 a.m. to midnight.

An auditor working with the UN office in Manila will certify the final figure for the country, in which initial reports said have reached five million.

The Stand Up and Speak Out against Poverty campaign targets a Guinness record of 50 million people worldwide standing up and speaking out against poverty and inequality.

A window from 5 a.m. Oct. 17 to 5 a.m. Oct. 18, for which volunteers and advocates could hold their demonstration, was set by event organizers in consideration of differing time zones around the globe.

Last year, 24 million people from 87 countries around the world stood up against poverty, with India leading Asians with 9 million people, followed by Nepal with 3 million and the Philippines with 2.4 million.

“We would like to be one with the others in commemorating our fight against poverty,” Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said.

“It is a gesture that we recognize our effort to fight poverty, as well as the fight itself – what we are doing in order to eradicate poverty in our nation,” she said.

Cabral said in 1990, about 27 percent of Filipinos lived in extreme poverty – on less than P1,022 a month – but this has gone down to 17 percent currently.

Cabral, however, appealed to the people to help the government eradicate poverty in the country. She said the poor must do their part in solving this problem.

Assistant Secretary Dolores Castillo of the National Anti-Poverty Commission said the country’s financial stability plus a combination of government social services, including subsidies for food and medicine, have helped reduce the incidence of extreme poverty. – Helen Flores, AP

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

UNDP exec says RP poverty down but inequality rising

By Estrella Torres
Reporter/Business Mirror/Oct 16

The head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Philippines said rosy figures on Philippine economic growth do not trickle down to Filipinos suffering from extreme poverty, and only widened disparity among people.

Nileema Noble, resident representative of the UNDP in the Philippines, said both the Global Report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the Philippine Midterm MDG progress report launched last week revealed significant progress in halving the proportion of people who live on $1 a day.

“In addressing other MDG goals, what is also clear is that the gains in reducing extreme poverty have been accompanied by rising inequality… the benefits of growth have not been equally shared. The deprivation that characterizes the daily lives of fellow citizens will most certainly compromise our shared future,” said Noble in her speech at the opening on Monday of the regional workshop on strengthening human- rights mechanisms.

The three-day forum organized by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights seeks to help governments in the region in establishing national human-rights institutions as well as strengthening the functions of existing ones.

Chairman Purificacion Quisumbing of the Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines, meanwhile, noted the importance of the establishment of national human- rights institutions in Asia to help governments address human rights in transborder dimensions. She said common human-rights concerns in Asia include suppression of terrorism while respecting human rights; human-rights aspects of trafficking in persons; protection of the human rights of migrants and migrant workers; implementation of economic, social and cultural rights; and right to development and the enhancement of human-rights education.

“Asia is the biggest and most culturally diverse region in the world. [But] it is the only region that does not have a regional human-rights mechanism,” Quisumbing lamented.

Member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will sign the historic Asean charter in Singapore next month. The charter seeks to establish a human-rights council that would cover human-rights violations cases in all the member-countries.

World Food Day 2007: The right to food

Manila Bulletin, October 16, 2007

Led by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), WFD 2007 and TeleFood have adopted the theme "The Right to Food" to demonstrate the increasing recognition by the international community of the important role of human rights in eradicating hunger and poverty, and hastening and deepening the sustainable development process.

The right to food as a human right was first recognized at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. It was incorporated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights that was adopted in 1966 and ratified by 156 states. As a universal right, it emphasizes that every woman, man and child, must have access at all times to food, or to means for the procurement of food, that is sufficient in quality, quantity, and variety to meet their needs, is free from harmful substances, and is acceptable to their culture. The definition recognizes the right to food as being intricately related to other human rights, i.e., right to education, right to work, right to health, freedom of assembly and association. It also puts forward that "hunger and malnutrition are caused not just by a lack of available food, but also by poverty, income disparities, and lack of access to health care, education, clean water, and sanitary living conditions."

World Food Day was established by FAO’s Member Countries at the organization’s 20th General Conference in November, 1979. October 16 was the date chosen, to coincide with FAO’s anniversary.

As we observe World Food Day this year, governments and civil society groups are urged to undertake initiatives to ensure that every individual, regardless of gender, age, color, or creed, enjoys adequate food on a sustained basis. Initiatives in this regard are not only a moral imperative and an investment with high economic returns. They are also the realization of a fundamental human right

Rapid population growth barrier to reaching MDGs

10/16/2007 11:59 AM /

The Philippines's rapid population growth rate is one of the primary reasons hindering the country from attaining the millenium development goals, as it dilutes the impact of economic growth and policy improvements, a joint report by the government and the United Nations showed.

In a statement, the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development Foundation Inc., said that the Philippines, with a growth rate that is one of the highest in Asia, still has a long way to go before it makes noteworthy progress on the eight MDGs.

"Among the challenges and priorities for action that must be viewed with urgency is the rapid population growth," the PLCPD said, quoting the Philippines Midterm Progress Report on MDGs jointly released by the UN and the National Economic and Development Authority.

"Rapid population growth rate is closely linked to persistent poverty as it reduces overall economic growth and prospects for poverty reduction. It strains the environment as competition for scarce resources and public goods expands," the report continues.

If the rapid growth of the Philippines's population is not addressed, PLCPD said the country's population would hit 102.55 million by 2015, a number sure to tax the Philippine economy and environment. However, PLCPD said that as of now, the government is doing very little to address this problem.

“The Philippines, along with 191 member states of the United Nations, signed the Millennium Declaration in September 2000. Eight years after, the country still lacks a comprehensive national law that would address our population management problem," said Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the PLCPD.

San Pascual said that the current administration has instead let local government units shoulder the burden of implementing policy on population and reproductive health. "However, without sufficient budget allocation from the (national) government, any LGU efforts will not be sustained," San Pascual said.

There are eight MDGs that should be achieved by 2015: halving extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowerment, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development.

However, a report by the Asian Development Bank, has showed that no developing country in the Asia-Pacific region, including the Philippines, will be able to meet all millennium development goals by 2015.

“The region still faces quite a challenge. Most of the developing countries can point to success in some of the goals, but none is on course to achieve all of them," the regional lender's The Millennium Development Goals: Progress in Asia and the Pacific 2007 report said.

Philippine hits and misses

The ADB said that among the 21 criteria under seven MDGs, the Philippines is either slow or showing no progress in nine categories. There are eight MDGs: halving extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowerment, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development, by the target date of 2015-- but the ADB study did not release a rating for the global partnership goal.

The multilateral lender noted that the Philippines is slow in reducing the number of its population living in $1 a day, reducing the number of underweight children, providing sufficient water, and improved sanitation both in rural areas.

The Philippines, the ADB report said, is either showing no progress or even regressing in the MDG criteria of number of primary education enrollees, number of those able to reach 5th grade, forest cover, carbon dioxide emission and water accessibility in urban areas.

However, the ADB also said the Philippines is an early achiever in the following MDG criteria: primary completion rate, gender primary, gender secondary, gender tertiary, tuberculosis prevalence rate, turbeculosis death rate, increasing the number of its protected areas, and ozone-depleting CFCs consumption.

Besides this, the ADB lauded the Philippines for making progress in reducing under-five mortality, infant mortality, people with HIV, and improving urban sanitation.

Local Group taps music in fight against poverty

First posted 02:50:37 (Mla time) October 16, 2007 / Jeannette Andrade / Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- It is not the type of music that sticks in your head.

But it is a melody that the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) Philippines hopes will sensitize a society that has become insensitive to privation.

In launching the song “Poverty Requiem” locally, GCAP Philippines aims to join the worldwide call on Wednesday -- the International Day of Hunger and Poverty Eradication or the Whiteband Day -- to eliminate destitution through positive action.

“Doing away with poverty is not a matter of charity but self-advocacy, where people are encouraged to act and empowered to do something about their situation,” May-i Fabros, GCAP Philippines media campaigner, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of

Introducing “Poverty Requiem” to naturally music-loving Filipinos is a new tack, Fabros said, of bringing back awareness to those who have started to take poverty for granted “because they see it around them every day.”

She stressed that the message was hard to deliver but through music, her group hoped to “spark” some feeling back.

“People should be made aware that if poverty happens to one person, it could ultimately happen to you,” she said.

Fabros added that the song would also help people already in the grip of poverty “to understand their rights so they would know what to do to live above it.” She said that her group wanted to focus on the right of a person to see a better life and live decently.

“Poverty Requiem,” Fabros said, “will hopefully start a fire within people to help them find ways in uplifting their lives. It encourages turning desperation to power. Art and music can do that.”

“We are producing generations and generations of persons who see poverty as an inescapable fact of life. I was born poor therefore, I will always remain poor and I cannot do anything about it. That’s the mind-set we want to change,” she said.

Artistic performance

“Poverty Requiem” is an artistic performance against poverty that combines visual art, music and movement. Divided into five parts, the piece is a journey of standing up and speaking out against poverty, of the suffering, the anger, the mourning, the humor and the hope.

The five-part song started from the Netherlands and was composed by Sylvia Borren, GCAP general director.

It is more of a community choral presentation where people from all walks of life are anticipated to participate. “Even those who cannot sing well are encouraged to join and even those who do not want to sing. They can just dance to the music,” she stressed.

The core performers of “Poverty Requiem” come from four sectors -- the youth, males, professionals and a “scratch or inexperienced” group that would be organized from the community, two solo singers, percussionists, and dancers.

Bono of the Philippines

Fabros said that her organization could not have found a better ambassador in singer-composer Noel Cabangon, who has been in the forefront of the campaign for the eradication of poverty even before GCAP Philippines was formed in 2005.

“He is basically, the Nelson Mandela or U2’s Bono of the Philippines, who is not just doing this for publicity but for true advocacy. He has been doing this for years through his songs,” she noted.

Cabangon is the coordinator of “Poverty Requiem” here and has tapped Malou Matute, a professor at the University of the Philippines College of Music, to act as the conductor of the community choir.

Getting message across

“Even if we only have a hundred participants, we know that we can get the message across. We have to be a community to make change,” Fabros pointed out, adding that “Poverty Requiem” will form part of a chain of countries on Wednesday, from First World to Third World, who want to erase poverty.

“The call is around us, worldwide, and it is only fitting that we express our outrage against poverty through music, a universal language that everyone can understand and feel,” Fabros said.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Abortions declining, but probably not in RP

hey Congress, we hope you know the stats. Pass the RH bill into a law. Otherwise, incidents of abortion will keep rising. People can't unlearn sex, either consciously or subconsciously. It's "human nature", which is part of God's creation.

It is when you look the other way that you actually put the lives of women, babies and mother's at risk. Clearly, the omission to address the issue through concrete policies and measures is what constitutes the "culture of death".
By Beverly T. Natividad
Inquirer, Inquirer wires
Last updated 04:55am (Mla time) 10/14/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Abortions worldwide are on the decline, according to two international studies released yesterday. But the good news may not apply to countries like the Philippines where abortion is illegal and birth control is not so widely available.

According to studies by the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization (WHO) the decline in abortions—from 46 million in 1995 to under 42 million in 2003—was felt most significantly in Eastern Europe because of increased use of birth control methods. Western Europe in 2003 had the lowest abortion rate in the world at 12 per 1,000.

There was practically no change in the rate of unsafe or illegal abortions, nearly half of which are performed in Asia and Africa.

“The continuing high incidence of unsafe abortion in developing countries represents a public health crisis and a human rights atrocity,” said Beth Fredrick of the International Women’s Health Coalition in the US, in an accompanying commentary.

“The legal status of abortion has never dissuaded women and couples, who, for whatever reason, seek to end pregnancy,” said Fredrick.

About 70,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions. Another 5 million women suffer permanent or temporary damage.

In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) has no specific data on abortion incidences because it is illegal and unreported.

Yolly Oliveros, director of the DOH’s National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said in an interview that it is hard to verify for now if the Philippines reflects the declining incidence of abortion worldwide.

In its website, Pro-Life Philippines said that a research by the University of the Philippines Population Institute in Metro Manila estimates that about 17 percent of Filipino women undergo an induced abortion.

The UP research also said that every year, as much as 750,000 women undergo induced abortion in illegal clinics in the country.

The powerful Catholic Church is leading the prolife campaign in the Philippines against the use of artificial birth control methods and the legalization of abortion.

Pro-Life’s national coordinator, Sister Pilar Versoza, told the Inquirer that they consider the use of pills, intra-uterine devices (IUDs), and emergency and oral contraceptives as “abortifacients” or nonsurgical forms of abortion, and expressed concern that the use of such methods was on the rise.

The real problem that needs to be resolved, she said, is the mentality that people can have sex and not have a baby.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sharon Camp, president and chief executive of the Guttmacher Institute said in a statement that the global study on abortion confirms that the best way to make abortion less necessary is to help women avoid unwanted pregnancies.

The study said that about a third of the world’s 205 million yearly pregnancies are unintended, and 20 percent of these end in induced abortion.

The downward trend in abortions was happening “too slowly and too unevenly across different regions,” the studies said.

“It’s high time for policymakers worldwide to renew their commitment to women’s health by addressing these crucial issues,” said Camp.

Unspilt MILK

Interesting OPINION piece from Inquirer re: the Supreme Court's decision on the issue of the Milk Code's total ban on advertising. I have to say I agree, in toto, on what this article said...

Last updated 00:38am (Mla time) 10/15/2007

MANILA, Philippines - With nothing less than the future of how we raise our babies at stake, the issue over the Milk Code’s total ban on advertising for breast milk substitutes could not but be highly emotional. The decision of the Supreme Court last week, striking down certain portions of the Code’s revised implementing rules and regulations or RIRR that instituted an absolute ban on infant formula advertisements, could not but inspire strong reactions too.

We understand the deep sense of outrage shared by breastfeeding advocacy groups such as Arugaan, which called the high court’s decision “ridiculous.” Its spokesperson did not mince words in ruing all the unspilt milk: “We are enraged. The future of Filipino children is now for sale. We can’t see any righteousness in this.”

It is unfortunate, albeit inevitable, that questions of right and wrong are tied to questions of legal and illegal. Cases filed before the courts are meant to decide primordially on the legal issues. But parties to a case are often heavily invested in it, to the point where victory or defeat implies judgment on their moral choices.

In the case of the Milk Code, a noble and necessary policy—the promotion of breastfeeding—is all tangled up with society’s mixed feelings about the potency, the ubiquity and the sheer opinion-shaping power of one of the driving forces of capitalism: advertising.

When we discover that billions of pesos are spent by infant formula companies advertising their products and their sometimes rather fantastic claims, and realize that the government’s pro-breastfeeding campaign in contrast is inadequately funded, we can easily understand why advocacy groups find the test of the market unfair. As the Arugaan spokesperson lamented: “What freedom of choice are we talking about when what [the people] have is a misinformed choice?”

The government’s proposed solution, however, was extreme: Ban all infant formula ads. If advocacy groups found the test of the market unfair, then let the Department of Health eliminate the test.

Because the Supreme Court allowed some form of test of the market to continue, precisely for the public to exercise its freedom of choice, advocacy groups felt they had been slighted, their moral positioning on a legal issue opened to question. But all the high court did was to follow where the law led; it found that, in instituting a total ban, the Department of Health overstepped its boundaries and went beyond the scope of the Milk Code.

The Court ruled, in a 12-0 decision written by Justice Alicia Austria-Martinez, that the “national policy of protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding cannot automatically be equated with a total ban on advertising for breast milk substitutes.”

In a separate, concurring opinion, Chief Justice Reynato Puno also warned that the total ban had implications for the practice of free speech. “It ought to be self-evident ... that the advertisement of such products which are strictly informative cuts too deep on free speech.”

In following where the law led, however, the high court found a middle ground where the DOH can pursue its breastfeeding policy and infant formula companies can responsibly offer their products to the public.

What the government can do, the Court said, is regulate the advertising. This will force the DOH to be more stringent and, in the words of a health undersecretary, “more deliberate” in allowing infant formula advertisements.

It was in this light that the United Nations Children’s Fund welcomed the Court’s decision as in fact a victory for breastfeeding. “This signals an end to the unethical advertising claims that [for instance] infant formulas increase intelligence,” a Unicef statement read.

The onus, in other words, has moved from the Supreme Court, which breastfeeding advocates wanted to see issue a once-and-for-all declaration, back to the DOH, where the promotion of breastfeeding and its benefits will remain, eminently, a matter of day-to-day vigilance. Considering the Philippine polity’s need for growing political maturity, the decision may be just what the doctor ordered.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Desperate Apologies

Excuse the cross post as this is not rh-related. However, I find this issue significant I had to blog it.

Desperate Apologies

By Rodel Rodis
Last updated 05:06pm (Mla time) 10/10/2007

WHEN Terri Hatcher’s character in “Desperate Housewives” flippantly inferred in the September 30 episode of the hit TV show that all physicians who receive their diplomas from “some med school in the Philippines” are quacks, it exposed not just the anti-Filipino bigotry of the producers, scriptwriters and cast of that ABC show but the total absence of the Filipino community’s clout in Hollywood.

Certain groups in Hollywood have clout. If the “Desperate” writer had used Israel instead of the Philippines, he would have been immediately denounced as anti-Semitic and his offending script dumped in the garbage along with him. If the script attacked the integrity of African-Americans, the writer would have received the Don Imus “nappy-headed hos” award and would disappear in a New York minute.

If the script had denigrated someone’s sexual orientation, the writer would get the Isaiah Washington treatment named for the actor who used the “F” word in a confrontation with fellow actor T.R. Knight in “Grey’s Anatomy”. The producers of the ABC hit show compelled Washington to publicly apologize for the homophobic slur and to take anger management classes. After complying with all that was asked of him, Washington was fired from the show by ABC.

The offending "med school" script of “Desperate Housewives” was probably written about 10 months ago after which it went through a vetting process with the writers, producers and the director of the show, as well as the cast, working on the final script before shooting of the episode was completed around April or May. After editing, it was then shown to the ABC executives who approved it and readied it for showing on September 30.

Throughout this whole 10-month process, not one person in the ABC chain said “Wait a minute, folks, this isn’t right. We’re maligning every Philippine-educated physician in the US. What are we saying here? That they’re all quacks who can’t be trusted to make a proper medical diagnosis about menopause?”

Not one of them even sought to show the script to Alec Mapa, a Filipino-American actor who has a recurring role in the series, to get his reaction. If they did, he would have said, as he did after it aired: "It's unfortunate that the Philippines was used as a punch line. My family is filled with doctors and medical professionals. I know first hand from them, that the medical schools in the Philippines are top notch.”

After the offending episode was shown, ABC was besieged with angry phone calls, e-mails and letters from Filipino-American viewers throughout the US. An online petition drafted by Kevin Nadal drew 30,000 signatures in 48 hours (130,000 in five days). Philippine government elected and appointed officials went ballistic in expressing outrage.

In response, ABC's publicity department issued a boilerplate apology: "The producers of `Desperate Housewives' and ABC Studios offer our sincere apologies for any offense caused by the brief reference in the season premiere. There was no intent to disparage the integrity of any aspect of the medical community in the Philippines," the ABC statement said.

The PR person’s apology showed incredible ignorance of the issue. It wasn't the integrity of the “medical community in the Philippines” that was disparaged (Filipino patients don't care that their physicians were educated there), it was the Filipino “medical community in the US” that was defamed by the “brief reference” to their quack credentials.

Manila-based columnist Conrado de Quiros explained the significance of the offense: “It doesn’t just cast aspersion on—or worse doubts, which affect employment opportunities of—Filipino doctors, it does so on Filipino professionals generally. What applies to the diplomas of Filipino doctors applies as well to the diplomas of Filipino engineers, accountants and lawyers. Left unprotested, a single line like that in a hugely popular TV series can do more harm by the incalculable power of suggestion than whole reams or airtime of diatribe in a newspaper or talk show.”

What kind of harm can this show that is watched by more than 125 million viewers in more than 75 countries do?

One US-based physician, Dr. Arsenio Martin, a pulmonary and critical care specialist who has a diploma from “some med school in the Philippines”, wrote to say that he regularly sees terminal patients and knows that family members try to get the best specialist they could find to treat his patients.

“If that patient dies because of his or her terminal illness, the family members will either accept it or second guess themselves… If you try to inject negative things in their minds, like what Terry Hatcher did, then they will forever torture themselves wishing they had called another physician or, worst case scenario, they will file suit against that Filipino doctor.”

When ABC’s anemic apology failed to mollify the Filipino community, ABC dispatched Robert Mendez, its Senior Vice President for Diversity, to “reach out” to the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). According to NaFFAA’s Jon Melegrito, Mendez wanted “to assure the Filipino American community that ABC takes our concerns seriously and is taking the necessary steps to make amends.”

After just one telephone conversation with Mendez, Melegrito was ready to assure the Filipino community that “ABC is making a good faith effort to seriously make amends, and that Mr. Mendez is sincere in wanting to open a dialogue with us.”

But others were not so quick to accept ABC’s "good faith effort" as they recalled a similar promise made by ABC in the past over an episode of Frasier where Filipino women were referred to as “mail order brides from the Philippines.” Filipino community protests resulted in a similar public apology by ABC and a similar promise to remove the offending dialogue from the episode. ABC reneged on the promise and the offensive episode has remained intact in the DVDs and in the syndicated reruns of Frasier.

Over the past week, pickets by Filipino-American groups in Burbank, California and in New York and Washington DC caused Mendez to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Filipino community leaders in New York on October 5. In that meeting, Rico Foz, a spokesperson for the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (Nafcon), asked ABC to broadcast its public apology during the show’s next episode. “It will be tough,” Mendez said (“In your dreams” is what he meant).

Foz also demanded that Mendez arrange a meeting with Marc Cherry, the producer of “Desperate Housewives”, to discuss their concerns and to obtain an explanation on how the bigoted remarks in the episode got past everyone. He wanted ABC to initiate cultural sensitivity training for its network writers and producers and for ABC to produce shows that depict Filipinos and other minority groups as "prominent, positive role models." Mendez promised to discuss these demands with the network management.

To ensure that ABC follows through on its promises, continuous pressure by the Filipino community must be applied. Pickets of ABC offices and a boycott of Disney products will ensure that ABC will live up to its promises. We will not be naively fooled again.

Please send letters of protest to Mr.. Mark Pedowitz, President; ABC Television Network; 500 S. Buena Vista Street Burbank, CA 91521-4551; email: or sign the online petition ( Attend the Filipino community meeting at the Philippine Consulate Social Hall in San Francisco on Tuesday, October 9, at 6 PM.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Poorest Pinoys spending MORE, earning LESS

Talk about IRONY... =(

It will be almost a year ( October 17, 2006 ) after the first STAND UP event by the UN Millenium Campaign. And these are the news we get to read.... "Poorest Pinoys spending MORE, earning LESS".

Will we ever get there? To that point where better quality of lives for the majority of Filipinos will be achievable? Where getting basic commodities is a "given", the general rule in every Filipino household rather than an exception nowadays. And then we have the CBCP opposing measures on artificial contraception and everything RH-related, saying it has nothing to do with "us" being poor and that overpopulation is not a problem. This is a no-brainer really - MORE MOUTHS TO FEED means LESS FOOD EACH MOUTH RECEIVES.

So here's a question I have yet to hear an answer from them - What alternative measures or bright ideas do they suggest in order to alleviate the poverty situation in the country?? Instead of giving people who do something about our problems a lecture/sermon on Catholicism, why not channel their energy into doing something concrete that would actually make a difference in the lives of Filipinos. Thus, more Catholics would perhaps remain "faithful" and actually "practice" their religion.

"Heaven never helps the man who does not act. "


By Cai U. Ordinario
Reporter / Business Mirror / October 10

HIGHER prices have taken their toll on the poor. The poorest families are now spending more and earning less, according to the latest preliminary results of the 2006 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) released by the National Statistics Office (NSO) Tuesday.

The FIES showed that poor families, or those belonging to the bottom 30-percent income group, spent P153,000 last year but only earned P148,000.

While these figures are higher than the P125,000-worth income and P128,000-worth expenditures in 2003, the difference is higher in 2006 at P5,000 a year than in 2003’s P3,000 a year.

The NSO said for every P100 spent by these economic sectors in 2006, P59 went to food, compared with only P48 in 2003. Consequently, there was a decrease in the share of other expenditure items like rent, which dropped to 9 percent from 12.7 percent.

Macroeconomically, the upper 70 percent earned P2.73 trillion and spent P2.3 trillion for a savings of P437 billion in 2006 compared with the
bottom 30 percent that earned P258 billion and spent P267 billion, or a deficit of P9 billion.

The Gini coefficient measured in the FIES was estimated at 0.4564 in 2006, slightly lower than the 2003 ratio of 0.4605 .

The Gini coefficient provides a measure of income inequality within a population and ranges from 0 to 1, with 0 indicating perfect income equality among families, and 1 indicating absolute income inequality.

The good news, if good news it is, is that, “the share to the total income of families belonging to the 10th decile exhibited a slight decrease, from 36.3 percent in 2003 to 35.9 percent in 2006. The gap in family income between the families belonging to the 10th decile and those in the first decile had narrowed slightly.”

The FIES is a nationwide survey of households undertaken every three years by the NSO. It is the main source of data on family income and expenditure, which include among others, levels of consumption by item of expenditure as well as sources of income in cash and in kind.

The number of households, or families, for the 2006 FIES was estimated using the 2000 Census of Population and Housing (CPH)-based population projections and information from the 2000 CPH on the average household size by province.

Myth on Poverty and Overpopulation

Here's a view on RH advocacy from the stand point of someone with a "closed mind".

Hey, I am a Catholic and I am an RH Advocate. Trust me when I say these two (2) are NOT mutually exclusive. That same religion taught me that God gave us freewill. Some people keep forgetting that. One must realize that even among the clergy, views on the issue of artificial contraception have not been unanimous and conclusive, although at present, the "official position" has always been against it.

Religion should never be an inhibitor for development.

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. " - Galileo Galilee
Emil Jurado / To the Point / Manila Standard Today/October 10


Here we go again: Congress is planning to set aside P1 billion worth of condoms, birth control pills and other reproductive health products to control the country’s population growth. We are now 88 million Filipinos, and growing by 2.36 percent annually.

Expectedly, the Catholic Church, through the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, opposed the move and said that the money should instead be channeled to projects aimed at easing poverty and hunger.

Sterilization and the use of the contraception are basically wrong and are aimed at destroying the fruitfulness of human reproductive capacities which are God-given. The use of condoms and other forms of contraception are basically wrong, not because the Church forbids them, but they against nature and God’s laws.

I am a practicing Catholic, and family planning and responsible parenthood to me means that couples, whether Catholics or not, are free to exercise sexual and family morality according to one’s religious conviction. I have been married 52 years and I never used contraception, and my wife and I are blessed with four children, and now five grandchildren.


Since my faith tells me that contraception or any other artificial means of birth control is basically against nature and God’s law, I abide by it.

Thus, every Catholic is also bound by it. Otherwise, those who don’t believe in it may as well join the “Born Again” and Protestant sects that don’t believe in the Church. It’s as simple as that.


Advocates of the use of condom and other means of artificial birth control inevitably use poverty as the reason for the need to control population. But, coming right down to it, is poverty really the result of overpopulation?

Demographics will show that poverty is caused by a confluence of events. One is constant migration of people from the rural areas to urban centers to seek employment or because their relatives want them around. The end-result is the proliferation of squatter colonies, now euphemistically called “informal settlers or dwellers.” These are the people who remain jobless and rely only on their employed relatives.

Another reason for poverty is the unequal distribution of wealth, and most importantly, graft and corruption. This deprives people what is due them. Money pocketed by corrupt officials, running to the billions of pesos, could have been used to fund projects to ease hunger and poverty.


Poverty is always used as a convenient excuse for advocates of condom and artificial birth control, euphemistically called “reproductive health” and “responsible parenthood.” Many point to overpopulation as the culprit.

But there’s no empirical basis for saying that overpopulation causes poverty and hunger. Take the most populated regions of the country, like the National Capital Region. It is in this region where the greater wealth of the nation comes from. Going outside the country, look at Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan where the population is thin, and you see people dying from hunger and disease.

Singapore for many years adopted a two-children policy, but it has reversed it now after it realized its population is aging, like Japan. Now Singapore is encouraging early marriages, and even giving incentives to those who opt to do so.

In other words, overpopulation causing hunger and poverty is a myth. Poverty will always be with us, whether we like it or not. Even highly developed countries like Japan and the United States have homeless and hungry people. Go to Tokyo and you see the homeless pitching tents at Hibiya Park right in front of the Imperial Palace, and go to the US where there are soup kitchens for the jobless and the unemployed.

That’s why I say that God must really love the poor because He created so many of them. The bottom line here is that as a Catholic, I believe in my faith and I’ll die for it.


Sex not a source of happines but...

By Cai Ordinario
Reporter/October 10/ Business Mirror

DESPITE Filipinos’ interest in politics and the country’s high population growth rate, politics and sex are among the least important sources of happiness for most Filipinos, according to the recent pilot study for the Philippine Happiness Index conducted by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).

NSCB Secretary General Dr. Romulo Virola discussed the results of the pilot study in his column “Statistically Speaking,” published regularly on the agency’s web site.

Virola said, however, that while politics was consistent in its low rankings, sex life—which is “not an important source of happiness” for Filipinos—gives many Filipinos a very high level of happiness compared with other pursuits.

“Sex life is not considered important, but, boy, 72.6-percent enjoyment of sex is not bad, if work could only give 71 percent, leisure and sports, 70 percent, financial security, 68.8 percent, and cultural activities, 66.6 percent. And yes, climate change could be an inconvenient truth, but the respondents will take sex anytime over the environment! Seriously, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources [DENR] should take this very seriously,” Virola said.

The NSCB secretary-general said that apart from this, the study gives the government a lot of insights such as giving priority to the formulation of programs and building of facilities that allow Filipinos to spend quality time with their families.

Virola said the Church will also continue to have a strong influence on how Filipinos live their lives.

The study ranked 15 aspects of Filipino life according to their importance and how much happiness is derived from these topics. There were a total of 167 respondents.

The topics are Family, Friends, Religion and/or spiritual work, Lovelife, Health, Education, Sex Life, Work, Leisure and Sports, Community and Volunteer Work, Technological Know-how, Income and Financial Stability, Cultural Activities, Environment, Economy, Government and Politics.

The top five important sources of Happiness for Filipinos are Family with 9.45 percent; Health with 8.95 percent; Religion and/or spiritual work with 8.59 percent; Friends with 8.57 percent; and Income and Financial Stability with 8.30 percent.

“Quite surprising is that sex is not an important source of happiness! In fact, it is among the five least important! Could it be that the respondents were just too shy to reveal their true feelings about sex? Or time to shift stories away from the birds and the bees?,” Virola said in his column.

“Politics is the least important, scoring only 5.84. I wonder if our congressmen and senators realize this,” he added.

Virola said that other unimportant sources of happiness are Cultural Activities, Community and Volunteer Work and Government.

“The National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency and related agencies obviously need to do something if they want our countrymen to appreciate what they are supposed to promote,” Virola said.

Furthermore, Virola said Leisure and Sports is the sixth-least-important source of happiness. He said that though boxer Manny Pacquiao’s victories brought happiness for the country, his loss in the 2007 elections was probably more reflective of Pinoys view that Leisure and Sports are not important sources of happiness.

“Does this mean too that, in so far as elections are concerned, actors and sports heroes are passé, but priests are in?” Virola wondered aloud.

Meanwhile, the top five in the level of happiness for Filipinos are their Family with 88.46 percent; Friends with 83.57 percent; Religion and/or Spiritual Work with 79.81 percent; Love life with 79.37 percent; and Health with 78.02 percent.

Virola said that Health, which is supposed to be the second-most-important source of happiness, only got 78 percent. He said this means Filipinos are not getting any healthier or are not worrying too much about their health.

In addition, Virola said that the respondents derive very little happiness from Politics at 25.5 percent and Government at 35.5 percent.

“Makes one wonder, why do politicians seem to enjoy their position? Politicians may be amusing but they apparently do not make people happy. And if Politics contributes the least to gross national happiness, isn’t it time we abolished many elected positions in the government? Question is, how?” Virola stated.

Meanwhile, Virola said that asking one question on happiness produces an index 10-percent higher than when happiness is dissected into its various domains, and questions are asked for each topic.

Virola said that Filipinos are apparently happier with topics that are within their control, than those not within their control like politics.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Kumilos! Manindigan! Labanan ang Kahirapan

Pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 717, Series of 2004, declaring October 17–23 of every year as the “National Week for Overcoming Extreme Poverty,” the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) is spearheading its observance in joint collaboration with the United Nations System (UN) in the Philippines and All Together in Dignity Fourth World (ATD).

This year’s theme is “Kumilos! Manindigan! Labanan ang Kahirapan.” This theme is being adopted to signify that every Filipino should be empowered and take action to overcome and reduce the incidence of poverty in the country as envisioned in the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) 2004–2010 and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In this connection, we are inviting you on 17 October 2007 to join a wreath-Laying Ceremony in Commemoration of the International and National Day for Overcoming Extreme Poverty from 7:00 am – 12 noon at the Open Air Auditorium, Rizal (Luneta) Park, Manila. You may also wish to join the Stand Up, Speak Out Youth Concert also on 17 October from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Market! Market! Activity Center at The Fort, Taguig City, featuring various local artists.

The Stand Up, Speak Out campaign is being organized by the UN Millennium campaign to demonstrate publicly the growing support to fight poverty and raise awareness on the Millennium Development Goals. This is also an innovative challenge to set another official Guinness World Record to mobilize people around the world to literally stand up to fight poverty. Last year, the UN and its partners mobilized 2.4 million Filipinos to participate in the campaign. The Philippines ranked third in the Asia-Pacific region. This year, the target is to surpass this number and bring 3 million Filipinos together to convey their aspiration to overcome extreme poverty in the country.

As such we are inviting organizations to hold a Stand Up, Speak Out Moment as their contribution to the Stand Up Speak Out campaign. It would be highly appreciated if you could organize a Stand Up moment for your partners, members and staff. Attached is the Partner’s Handbook containing the guidelines for participation in the Stand Up campaign for your reference.

Join us and share this information with your development partners, friends and colleagues! Should you need more information, you may e-mail or call 889-7447.

Thank you very much for your continued support.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Saving the youth from risks

Saving the youth from risks

By Ma. Cecilia Rodriguez
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 09:53pm (Mla time) 10/06/2007

MISAMIS ORIENTAL--Unlike other teenagers, this group spends weekends and free time not in malls and game hubs but in dusty barangay (village) halls or even under the shade of a tree.

Being there is neither a requirement nor a spiritual sortie but is motivated by a common mission: To save young people like them from contracting sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiancy virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome).

The advocates call themselves Kartada Tres, an acronym for Karapatan at Kalusugan ng Kabataan.

With more than 600 youth volunteers, the group goes around barangay in Misamis Oriental and the Lanao provinces to conduct small group discussions and symposiums about reproductive health, HIV/AIDS prevention and safe sex.

"Participants should be 13 to 21 years old. There are times when older people want to sit in but usually they ruin the discussion because of their hostile reactions," relates Mark Vincent Datoy, 21, one of the senior volunteers.

Thus, he says, they usually request organizers to make sure the lectures will be exclusive for the youth.

SK project
Kartada Tres is composed of officers of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) in Lanao and Misamis Oriental. The AIDS/HIV awareness campaign was originally a project of the SK in 2004, but it was the Population Services Pilipinas Inc. (PSPI) that was requested to facilitate a series of seminars designed to spark interest and awareness among SK members on reproductive health.

Ping Castillo, PSPI project officer, says she welcomes the SK interest on HIV/AIDS prevention. "The youth are usually the last to receive information on these matters, while in fact they are among those most exposed to unsafe sex," she says.

Castillo regrets that the government's rural health units do not include the youth in its reproductive health campaign. "I believe there is so much to be done to meet the needs of the youth," she says, pointing to the lack of openness in sex education among health workers.

This same attitude among stakeholders, especially the Church and the academe, became a major challenge for Kartada Tres.

"We know there are people who do not agree with what we are doing. They criticize and rebuke us, saying we only encourage teenagers to engage in premarital sex. But we are also encouraged by the support we get from those who believe in our cause," Datoy says.

He mentions the recognition the group has received from the Cagayan de Oro City council for its work.

Youth at risk
"We started our seminars with personality and communication skills development. Then we moved on to gender and sexuality, and eventually discussed extensively reproductive health, safe sex and HIV/AIDS," recounts Castillo on the PSPI's technique in capturing the interest of their young audience.

More than capturing the interest of students, the agency sparked among them a devotion to impart what they had learned to other youngsters.

A month after the training, Kartada Tres was founded. It came at a time when the alarm had been sounded on the prevalence of premarital sex.

A study conducted by the University of the Philippines' Population Institute in 2002, shows that one of five young Filipinos aged 15-24 had engaged in sexual intercourse before marriage and about 15 percent of young Filipino males had engaged in homosexual sex.

Between 1994 and 2002, the number of young people who thought that AIDS was curable more than doubled.

In the article "Restless, Reckless and at Risk" by Tony Maghirang (Sunday Inquirer Magazine, June 17, 2007), Prof. Maria Paz Marquez, deputy project coordinator of the Young Adults Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS) project, said: "We found an increasing trend towards risky sexual behavior--sex with multiple partners, casual sex, or sex with new acquaintances, commercial sex and unprotected sex. The risks involve early and unwanted pregnancy, or contracting sexually transmitted diseases."

Datoy gulps down these facts like flowing water.

"Yes, teenage sex is happening," he says. "Everyone should accept that this is happening not only in liberated countries but also in the Philippines."

"There was this teenager who was in one of my lectures, 15 or 16 years old. He was sexually active and believed that he will not contract any sexually transmitted disease because he is young and strong. After hearing my lecture, he told me later that he will stop his sexual adventures and if ever, will make sure to use condoms," recounts Datoy.

Kartada Tres volunteers have tested the effectiveness of their lectures in its almost four years of work. "They listen to us because we can relate to them. Parang magkakabarkada lang kami (We are like buddies)," says Datoy.

Castillo stresses that instead of berating them, the best way is to teach them responsibility and educate them on the risks. "Turning them away or simply ignoring will only push them to greater danger," she says.

Deadly consequences
Dr. Lucille Tesoro, secondary education supervisor of the Department of Education in Northern Mindanao, agrees on the importance of sex education today.

"Before, there was already an agreement that sex education will be included in PHEM subject in high school.

Although this was implemented, the lectures only touched on how to be a good lady or gentleman, there was no real lecture on reproductive health and sexuality," Tesoro says.

She commends Kartada Tres for its work and calls on its members to "try approaching the DepEd" for partnership.

Partnership with other sectors and stakeholders has been long planned by Kartada Tres as it pushes for the passage of an AIDS council in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City that will consolidate all the efforts for HIV/AIDS prevention.

Datoy, who will soon pass his mantle to a new volunteer when he graduates in college next year, says he has high hopes for his group. "There's still so much to do. We haven't reached all the barangay yet," he says.

Above his worries that many teens are still out there doing unprotected sex, he reels over the deadly consequences not only of the behavior of these young people, but the actions of the elder ones.

"I hope they will open their minds that premarital sex is happening. People should not condemn people who are sexually active," he says.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

An aggressive stance by the 14th Congress

Efforts on RH/PopDev advocacy towards Congress is finally bearing fruit. Our champion, Congressman Edcel Lagman as Head of the Appropriations Committee has taken the bold and long overdue step of allocating government funds for "reproductive health care and services", including but not limited to condoms, pills and the like.


House allots P1B for condoms
JESS DIAZ / The Philippine Star / 4 October

The House of Representatives will allot P1 billion in next year’s national budget for the purchase of condoms, birth control pills and other “reproductive health products” to control population growth, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said yesterday.

Lagman, who is appropriations committee chairman, said the government has to finally confront the burgeoning population problem by allocating funds for “population management.”

“We cannot separate population growth from economic expansion and human development,” he said.

He lamented that the Arroyo administration has failed to tackle the population problem “because President Arroyo is afraid of the (Catholic) bishops and partly because of her religious beliefs.”

Lagman revealed the P1-billion fund he intends to appropriate for population control at the start of the plenary discussions on the proposed P1.227-trillion 2008 national budget.

He said there is only a “small amount” of P30 million in the budget of the Department of Health for population management-related projects.

In sponsoring the proposed 2008 spending program, Lagman said the “reality of limited resources is compounded by the numerous demands of an exploding population which is projected to escalate to 90,457,200 next year and the crippling constraints of an enormous debt service.”

He said the House would be making a “political statement” by setting aside funds for the first time for “reproductive health, responsible parenthood and population development.”

“We cannot achieve genuine and sustainable human development if we continue to default in addressing the population problem,” he said.

He pointed out that the nation’s population is growing at an annual rate of 2.34 percent, one of the highest in the world.

A burgeoning population “impacts adversely on all indicators of human development, such as health, education, shelter, food security, employment, and the environment,” he stressed.

He cited a recent world human development study, which ranked the Philippines 12th in population and 84th in human development. China and India, the first and second most populous nations, placed 81st and 126th, respectively, in terms of human development.

Lagman said poor couples in the provinces want to “manage” their families by availing of birth control products but cannot afford them.

He said the government should provide such products and offer population management education and seminars.

He also advocated the repudiation of some loans to bring down debt service expenses and the repeal of the Marcos-era Presidential Decree 1177, which allows Malacañang to automatically appropriate loan payment funds.

He said the Marcos decree negates the so-called power over the purse that Congress is supposed to exclusively enjoy.

He added that bills for the repeal of the decree have been filed since the 8th Congress (15 years ago), but Malacañang has so far successfully blocked moves to take away its automatic appropriation power.


(Delivered by REP. EDCEL C. LAGMAN , Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, on 03 October 2007)

Mr. Speaker and distinguished Members of this August Chamber:

We begin this morning the plenary deliberations on the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for the annual budget of Fiscal Year 2008. What we undertake is not to observe a mere ritual, but to discharge a constitutional mandate where the Congress, more particularly the House of Representatives, exercises primacy in the allocation of our constituents' money.

At the outset, allow me to underscore and acknowledge that the GAB is now with the plenary in record time because of the utmost industry and indispensable cooperation of both the Majority and Minority members of your Committee on Appropriations. Truly, we have a responsive Majority and a responsible Minority.

Perforce, we must deliberate, not filibuster; we must en gage in spadework, not in fireworks; we must supplement, not supplant. The ennobling agenda is to imprint our collective wisdom on the budget instrument.

Incidentally, your Committee on Appropriations had broken tradition after it approved on 17 September 2007 the participation of bona fide People's Organizations (POs) and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) in public hearings on the General Appropriations Bill. Accordingly, on 28 September 2007, the Committee heard the presentation of an "alternative budget" by Social Watch and the *Freedom from Debt Coalition *and took note of their recommendations.

The traditional practice of solely limiting budget briefings and hearings to heads and representatives of government departments and agencies is an incomplete process. Verily, the people, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of sufficient budgetary allocations, or the casualties of meager or absent allotments, should be given the opportunity to be heard through their non-elective and alternative representatives in the PO and NGO community.

Likewise, we have revived an abandoned tradition of empowering the various Vice Chairpersons of the Committee to conduct hearings at the sub-committee level. It is at this stage that the nitty-gritty of the proposed budgetary allocations comes under the Committee members' scrutiny for eventual retention, augmentation, disallowance, reduction or realignment.

Almost invariably, no national budget is adequate. In the Philippines, like in other similarly situated countries, the reality of limited resources is compounded by the numerous demands of an exploding population which is projected to escalate to 90,457,200 next year and the crippling constraints of an enormous debt service with interest payments reaching P295.751-B in Fiscal Year 2008 and principal amortization amounting to P328.341-B or a total debt service of P624.092-B, which is a little over 50% of the proposed National Expenditure Program.

A P1.227 trillion expenditure budget for 2008 appears to be huge at face value. However, stripped of the virtually mandatory personal services amounting to P384.829-B and automatic appropriations totaling P555.556-Bconsisting of (a) Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of P210.730-B; (b) interest payment of P295.751-B; and (c) other automatic appropriations of P49.075-B, the remaining discretionary items amounting to P286.615-B or 23.36% of the total budget is the only amount subject to the disposition of Congress. These non-mandatory and non-automatic components of the budget a! re the regular MOOE of P138.953-B and the capital outlay of P147.662-B.

Over and above this lean remnant of the appropriations measure is the constitutional injunction in Section 25 of Article VI that "The Congress may not increase the appropriations recommended by the President for the operation of the Government as specified in the budget" proposed by the President in the National Expenditure Program.

Many of our distinguished colleagues would, therefore, ask: "What are we talking about?" or "What are we poised to debate on?" or "Must we cross swords on less than a fourth of the annual budget?" or "Are we viewing a carcass?"

At first blush, these are cogent questions. However on further reflection, it is this reduced percentage of the budget pie which must lead us to transform the General Appropriations Act from a compendium of figures to a genuine document of policy declarations.

It is judicious, albeit belated, that we revisit and revise our inept and injurious policies on debt service and seek innovative means of liberating our people from the debt trap. For example, no less than our Speaker has proposed debt swap arrangements by which the country's appropriations to attain the millennium development goals (MDGs) may be picked up or used by our international creditors to offset our loan obligations.

We must also rekindle the crusade dating back to the 8th Congress to repeal the law on automatic appropriation for debt service and recapture for the legislature its undiluted constitutional supremacy over the purse.

We must trust the innate responsibility of legislators to determine what debts must be paid. We must never allow our country to agai! n suffer the inordinately expensive folly of the useless and fraudulently procured loan for the construction of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. For this mothballed facility, the Executive paid for more than two decades or from 1986 to this year a total of P64.794-B consisting of principal amortization of P43.560-B and interest payments of P21.234-B. All for absolutely nothing beneficial to the Filipino people.

This total amount of P64.794-B for the improvident full payment of the BNPP loan is more than the combined appropriations for the Departments of Health (P16.259-B); Agriculture (P23.756-B); and Transportation and Communication (P23.339-B) for 2008.

Lamentably, we are replicating the BNPP folly with our continued payment of a P503.65-M loan from Bank Austria which the government used to purchase substandard medical waste incinerators for the use of 26 government hospitals. Subsequently, these incinerators had been banned from operating under the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 even as they were found to be emitting pollutants. Yet the government continues to pay this useless and toxic loan through automatic appropriation. For 2008, government will pay P17.700-M for interest payment and P79.332-M for principal amortization.

But we do not have the money to buy or repair medical equipments for government hospitals.

Unfortunately, we cannot stop these off-budget payments without first repealing the law on automatic appropriation which was originally authorized under PD 1177 and reenacted in toto in the 1987 Revised Administrative Code, both of which were issued by one-man legislatures: by the late President Ferdinand Marcos under martial law and by former President Corazon Aquino under a revolutionary government.

However, we cannot strike down automatic appropriation through the General Appropriations Act. We will have to do this through a specific repealing statute. Nevertheless, we can express the strong sense of Congress against the payment of tainted and worthless loans through appropriate special provisions in the General Appropriations Bill.

Another categorical political statement, but this time coupled with appropriate allocations, should be on reproductive health, responsible parenthood and population development. We cannot achieve genuine and sustainable human development if we continue to default in addressing the population problem. It is beyond debate that a huge population growth rate like the Philippines' 2.34% impacts adversely on all indicators of human development such as health, education, shelter, food security, employment and the environment.

All of the most populous countries in the world rank low in the Human Development Index. Even the United States and Japan which rank 3rd and 10th respectively among the world's most heavily populated countries, do not rank among the first half dozen countries in human development.

The Philippines which is ranked 12th in population is 84th in the Human Development Index, while China and India, the 1st and 2nd most populous countries, are ranked 81st and 126th, respectively, in human development.

Curiously, the macroeconomic assumptions submitted by the Development Budget Coordinating Committee (DBCC) do not even include projections or targets on population growth. This is a grossly myopic outlook on the crucial import of population on development. This blatant failure of DBCC negates the prescription in the Medium Term Development Plan on "widening the choice and reach of family planning services and increasing the prevalence rate of men and women/couples practicing responsible parenthood using either modern, natural or artificial methods to 60% in 2010".

Moreover, this lapse overlooks six of the eight major components of the Millennium Development Goals which our country is committed to achieve. These are eradication of extreme poverty, achievement of universal primary education, promotion of gender equality, reduction of child mortality, improvement of maternal health, combating HIV-AIDS and ensuring environmental sustainability, all of which are relevant to population and reproductive health in relation to human development.

Another good reason why we have to expeditiously d! eliberate on and approve the General Appropriations Bill is to prevent the reenactment next year of the 2007 General Appropriations Act. A reenacted budget allows the Executive to derogate the ascendancy of Congress in the appropriation of public funds and negates the implementation of new and beneficial projects and programs which otherwise should have been authorized by Congress in a fresh GAA.

In fairness to the Executive, within the constraints of the state of the laws which Congress has allowed to perpetuate like automatic appropriation and Congress has enacted like the IRA without a subsequent cap on the increments being received by LGUs which are already awash with funds and resources, the Presidency has incontrovertibly prioritized education, health, infrastructure and social services in the productive portion of the proposed budget and in the operation of the government.

Finally, this General Appropriations Bill is not a perfect bill, like all legislative proposals. Thus, your Committee on Appropriations welcomes perfecting amendments to augment, for example, the allocations for education, health and agriculture, among others.

We hasten a word of caution, however: more money does not always mean more service or better performance; an augmentation may instead buy more seminars or travels, rather than additional textbooks, better health care or more rice on the table.

Your reasonable and modest amendments will make the GAB truly the collective handiwork of the House of Representatives.

Mr. Speaker and distinguished colleagues, approval of this annual appropriation measure is earnestly urged.

Rescuing Morality

Opinion / Dr. A.G. Romualdez / Health News and Views

Rescuing Morality
Malaya / 2 October

‘Allowing such a situation is not just amoral, it is downright immoral.’

Last Saturday, a group of women’s rights advocates launched a publication entitled "Imposing Misery: The Impact of Manila’s Contraceptive Ban on Women and Families". Linangan ng Kababaihan (Likhaan) is based in Quezon City and is a non-governmental organization devoted to the promotion of women’s reproductive rights.

The Reproductive Health, Rights and Ethics Center for Studies and Training (ReproCen) is a multidisciplinary, multi-professional academic entity based in the UP College of Medicine devoted to the study of social, ethical and legal aspects of gender and reproductive health issues. The Center for Reproductive Rights based in New York City collaborated with their two Philippine counterparts to produce a remarkable document that hopefully will convince people that the atrocities committed by the Manila city administration from 1998 to 2007 should never again be repeated.

The publication confirms the fact that whenever extremist religious beliefs are allowed to dominate public policy, the burden of suffering falls mainly on the poor who are in fact already disadvantaged in so many other ways. For nine years, the city government actually imposed a ban on all methods of "artificial contraception" throughout the city but particularly in the slums whose inhabitants were completely dependent on government for family planning information and supplies.

By issuing Executive Order Number 003, the then mayor of Manila, Jose L. Atienza, coerced city health officials and frontline workers into denying their poor constituents any access to effective family planning methods. While pretending to recognize that "natural family planning" (a method requiring abstinence from sex during a woman’s fertile period) was a religiously acceptable practice for the purpose of spacing births and limiting family size, the city government did not have a systematic program to promote even this method – one which is extremely difficult to implement in urban poor communities whose residents are less educated than members of higher income groups.

But the city government at that time was not satisfied with merely withholding information and services on family planning; it actively promoted antiquated and discredited notions that accentuated the misery of poor city dwellers. During visits to these poor neighborhoods, it is reported that the mayor distributed monetary rewards to mothers who had produced the most number of children, promoting the absurd idea that big populations translate into more workers to further enhance the economy.

What is worse is that non-governmental organizations that attempted to fill in the void left by City Hall’s abandonment of family planning were in fact driven out of the city by a number of coercive means including harassment and intimidation. Even the national government was kept out of the picture by preventing any contact between the Department of Health and the city’s health units. Attempts by the DOH family planning program to share what was left of donated contraceptive supplies were rejected by cowed city health workers who were not even allowed to cooperate in surveys and other demographic exercises conducted by national agencies.

The medieval thinking on which the mayor’s executive order was based is illustrated by the fourth operative paragraph of the issuance:

"That the various activities geared on moral rejuvenation shall be encouraged to equip its people against amoral influences brought about by the excesses of modernization."

"Imposing Misery" is actually an indictment of the lack of a firm national reproductive health policy that created an environment allowing one man to impose his narrow view of morality on the country’s largest and still most important city.

The different tales of woe told by the poor women in the document revolve around a recurring theme where women, deprived of access to services and information about family planning, continued to get pregnant, despite being informed of the dangers of multiple unwanted pregnancies. Allowing such a situation is not just amoral, it is downright immoral.

"Imposing Misery" illustrates the urgent need not just for population advocates but for all those who profess concern for the poor to rescue morality from the hands of narrow-minded, unthinking and heartless religious fundamentalists who believe that non-procreative sex is the gravest of sins that should be prevented at the cost of human suffering and even death. Such people are convinced that lying, cheating and stealing is justified provided it is done in the name of their distorted moral sense.

The Appropriations Act of 2007 contains an allocation of P180 million for "artificial family planning supplies." Of this amount, P30 million has been released for the operation of the Department of Health’s family planning office. The balance of 150 million is to be released through DOH to local governments in need of family planning supplies based on conditions and guidelines approved by Malacañang. Optimists among population management advocates think that this will happen sometime soon. There are pessimists, however, who believe that the releases will be delayed past the December 20 deadline for the obligation of budget allocations so that they can actually be spent for intended purposes. There are now 79 days left.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Things gear up... =)

There have been a lot of news related to RH, Gender and Population Development issues. Excuse the delayed posting as I have been very busy.

One interesting news was the class suit to be filed against the former Manila mayor and now DENR Secretary Lito Atienza for measures he implemented against artificial contraception in the city during his term. I was actually invited by Dr. Junice Melgar of LIKHAAN to attend this forum, however, I failed to do so as I was so caught up with affairs of the family. They held the forum on a Saturday, Sept 29 at Manila Pavillion Hotel. I am not sure if the venue was changed as I failed to follow up as well. Anyways, here's the news...

Read on...

Lito Atienza faces class suit
By Evelyn Macairan / Sunday, September 30, 2007 / Philippine Star

Family planning advocates said yesterday they are readying a legal suit against former Manila mayor Lito Atienza for his opposition to artificial contraception.

Elizabeth Pangalagan, executive director of the Reproductive Health, Rights and Ethics Center, said the groups were looking at either administrative charges or a civil suit against Atienza for removing all contraceptives from city clinics when he was mayor of Manila.

The suit aims to “hold (Atienza) liable for acts which caused injury to women,” Pangalagan said.

Her group and other organizations presented testimony on how Atienza, a devout Catholic, introduced a policy in 2000 banning city government clinics from issuing contraceptives or informing people how to use or obtain them.

Atienza stepped down as Manila mayor earlier this year but was later appointed environment and natural resources secretary by President Arroyo, also a devout Catholic.

Dr. Junice Demeterio-Melgar, executive director of Linangan ng Kababaihan (Likhaan), said their group, along with other civic groups, are “contemplating on filing A tort case against Atienza and ask for remedies on injuries and damages done to the women.”

Atienza is the president Pro-Life Philippines, a group that advocates natural family planning.

Melgar said they will question the legality of Executive Order 003 series of 2000, otherwise known as “Declaring Total Commitment and Support to the Responsible Parenthood Movement in the City of Manila and Enunciating Policy Declarations in Pursuit Thereof.”

She said that while they have not yet set a date for the filing of the case, they will file a class suit before a Manila court and challenge Atienza’s executive order before the Supreme Court.

The EO said the “city promotes responsible parenthood and upholds natural family planning not just as method buy as a way of self-awareness in promoting the culture of life while discouraging the use of artificial methods of contraception like condoms, pills, intrauterine devices, surgical sterilization and other.”

The family planning advocates came out with a report yesterday in which they claimed that “while the order does not explicitly ban ‘artificial’ contraception, it has in practice resulted in a sweep of these supplies and services from health city centers and hospitals, depriving many women—especially poor women—of their main source of affordable family planning supplies.”

The women reportedly suffered physical, emotional, financial, mental anguish because they have been deprived of availing of artificial family planning methods, the groups said.

They cited the case of Tina Montales, 36, who wanted to undergo tubal ligation after her fourth pregnancy, but could not because the local hospital no longer offered the said service.

Atienza’s order, according to the groups, reportedly violates the Philippine government’s obligations under national and international law. The Constitution guarantees the rights to liberty, health, equality, information and education for all citizens, as well as the right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their personal religious convictions, they said.

When asked why it took them seven years to voice an objection, Melgar said they had problems looking for a complainant since most Manila residents were afraid to come out for fear of earning Atienza’s wrath.

“Atienza reportedly had a reputation that he could take away what he had given to them. Now they are more courageous since he is no longer the mayor,” she said.

Melgar clarified that they support both the natural and artificial methods of family planning.

“Ours is to provide a choice to the people, give them the full spectrum when they need it,” she said.

Likhaan has also taken the initiative to meet with incumbent Mayor Alfredo Lim to request that he revoke EO 003. They said Lim assured them that he would promote both the family planning methods.

Should he fail to revoke the EO, Melgar said there is a possibility that they would include Lim as a respondent.

She said they did not name national officials in the suit, because the function of delivering basic health services to the people has already been devolved to local executives.

She said that apart from the filing a class suit, a lot of work has yet to be done before Manila could offer once again a complete family planning program to its constituents.

She narrated that during Atienza’s nine-year term as mayor, the delivery of family planning services to city residents deteriorated. The family planning advocates said city officials had to reconstruct the health infrastructure, such as acquiring contraceptives and providing training to city health workers.

Another family planning advocate, Dr. Jonathan David Flavier, said Manila has to invest P1 million to cover the acquisition of new contraceptives for one quarter.

Family-planning advocates plan to sue Lito Atienza
Sunday Times / 30 September

FAMILY planning advocates in the Philippines said Saturday they are readying a legal suit against a member of President Gloria Arroyo’s cabinet for his opposition to artificial contraception.

The groups said they will sue Environment Secretary Lito Atienza for removing all contra­cep­tives from city clinics when he was mayor of Manila, the capital city.

The suit aims to “hold [Atienza] liable for acts which caused injury to wo­men,” said Elizabeth Panga­langan, executive director of the Reproductive Health, Rights and Ethics Centre, a social research and study group attached to the University of the Philippines.

Her group and other organizations presented testimony on how Atienza, three-time mayor of Manila and a devout Catholic, introduced a policy in 2000 banning city government clinics from issuing contraceptives or informing people how to use or obtain them.

Pangalangan said the groups were looking at either administrative charges or a civil suit, but said the details would be revealed later.

Atienza finished his third term as Manila mayor on June 30, but was later appointed Environment Secretary by Arroyo, also a devout Catholic.

The Catholic Church, do­minant in the Philippines, frowns on artificial birth control.

Pangalangan said they had wanted to file a suit for years, but had difficulty finding women to testify against Atienza due to fear of his position.

Letter to the Editor -PDI
House Bill 17 not pro-abortion

First posted 03:37:06 (Mla time) September 29, 2007 / Philippine Daily Inquirer

Equating the Reproductive Health Care Bill with the promotion of abortion is a misinformed and misleading exercise. (Inquirer, 9/19/07) No reproductive health bill filed in Congress seeks to legalize abortion. In fact, the prevention of abortion and management of post-abortion complications are key components of the bill (Sec. 5).

The recognition that abortion is prohibited and penalized under Articles 256-259 of the Revised Penal Code remains. But there is also recognition of the critical need -- when abortion is resorted to despite the prohibition -- to manage post-abortion complications in a humane and compassionate manner. A patient shouldn’t be left to die just because she is poor or desperate.

The bill will penalize health care service providers that refuse to attend to these patients (Sec. 15, House Bill No. 17), just as Republic Act No. 8344 sanctions hospitals and medical clinics that deny appropriate initial medical treatment to emergency and serious cases. This fundamental protection should be given to the Filipino patient; this is not promoting abortion.

With their needless focus on abortion, the bill’s critics fail to appreciate the crucial elements of reproductive health care that, among others, address: (1) maternal, infant and child health and nutrition, (2) the promotion of breastfeeding, (3) family planning and information services, (4) the prevention of abortion and management of post-abortion complications, (5) adolescent and youth health, (6) the prevention and management of RTIs, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, (7) the elimination of violence against women, (8) education and counseling on sexuality and sexual and reproductive health, (9) treatment of breast and reproductive tract cancers and other gynecological conditions, (10) male involvement and participation in reproductive health, and (11) the prevention and treatment of infertility and sexual dysfunction.

Clearly, House Bill No. 17 is not an advertisement for abortion and sexual promiscuity, but an advocacy for reproductive health as a basic human right. And as state-party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw), the Philippine government must protect and facilitate the enjoyment of this right. The passage of the Reproductive Health Care Bill into law, not knee-jerk arguments from its critics, ensures that.

MARIE HAZEL LAVITORIA SALIGAN, Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal, G/F Hoffner Bldg., Social Development Complex, Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City