Insights and opinions from our contributors on the current issues happening in the region




more articles...

A Nation outside the Country

Pride, Sadness and Hopes of a Samarnon in California

Counting the Cost of Corruption in the Philippines

Death Penalty: Moral or Immoral?

The Old Song of the Cityhood of Catbalogan

Money Laundering in a Changed World



Is the quality of American diet superior to Filipino diet?

August 17, 2005

There seems to be a prevailing perception that American diet is superior than the diet of Filipinos. This reminds me of a Filipino laborer who would eat bread most of the time even after I told him that camote or palawan are just as good if not better but much cheaper than bread. But I could not convince him. I think this is quite a common misconception. I also used to think this way.

Carbohydrate is the same whether it is in bread, potatoes, camoting kahoy or palawan. Protein containing amino acids is also the same whether it comes from meat, chicken, salmon, tuna, swordfish or sarapon, tique’ or tilapia. The same thing with fat. Their chemical formulas are all the same regardless where they are found.

Therefore, the Filipino diet which consists of rice, root crops as sweet potato, camoting cahoy or palawan with fish, chicken, occasional meat, fruits and vegetables supplies the body with the same three main food elements as the American diet consisting of bread or potatoes, meat, chicken and occasional fish, vegetables and fruits with dessert.

But notice the difference. The American diet usually have meat in their diet and the Filipino diet usually have fish with only occasional meat. Meat contains cholesterol while fish usually do not. Cholesterol forms plaques along the inside walls of blood vessels and causes narrowing of arteries that leads to poor circulation to organs and other parts of the body, heart disease and stroke. Also notice that the Filipino diet usually contains bulk and fibers found in palawan, camoting kahoy, gabi and other roots of plants while the American diet usually lacks bulk and fibers. Bulk and fibers are good for the integrity of the gastrointestinal system. Finally, the practice of serving dessert after eating the main dish when one already feels full is actually overfeeding that leads to obesity. This seems to be an American rather than a Filipino custom although some Filipinos also indulge in it.

Similarly, we can compare the diet of rich Filipinos to the diet of the poor. The rich usually do not eat palawan or camoting kahoy and most likely would eat more rice, more meat and indulge in over eating. So, the poor has a more healthy diet if only he can get adequate and consistent supply of sarapon, tilapia, palawan and other readily available sources of food.

Also, by eating less rice and more of other sources of carbohydrates we can cut down the import of rice and even allow us to export this more popular food. The reason why we cannot export camote, palawan and belang-hoy is because they spoil readily unlike rice which can be stored. So, we should eat less of rice and save it for export while eating the more healthy food sources that cannot be exported.




The problems with the proposed SINP Bill

July 22, 2004

“…the second phase of the project will not be implemented and SIBP will be terminated if the proposed bill is disapproved.”

The Samar Island Biodiversity Project (SIBP) and its partners/stakeholders are apprehensive the proposed bill for the establishment of the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) will be enacted into law. The local populace is worried that it may not pass the last reading.  Samarenos believed that it would go through a difficult process specially that Senator Robert Jaworski, chairman on the Senate Committee for Environment and Natural Resources, lost in the recent elections. They also believed that the administration would not favor for its approval, as the national government will be construed to allocate fund for the SINP. More so, prominent politicians with businesses dependent on our fragile and deteriorating natural resources were elected, citing as an example Senator Juan Ponce Enrile who is the owner/proprietor of the San Jose Timber Corporation based in Samar island which according to Samareños has manifested to challenge the total log ban moratorium to protect his interests since said corporation has a permit to operate until 2007. Further, they also cited the thrusts and priorities of the present administration that promotes sustainable mining in the country as another reason that may hinder the approval of said bill.

Although the three (3) provincial government of Samar island, the League of Municipalities, church, academe, non-government organizations (NGO’s) and peoples organizations (PO’s) strongly endorsed and supported the approval of the proposed bill, they however failed to include the budget proposal for SINP in said bill that may also affect the passage of the bill into a law.

SIBP and partners/stakeholders are clamoring for the approval of the proposed bill, in fact, they were granted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) 2-year extension for the first phase of project implementation. Originally, first phase of the implementation only has a 4-year duration from 2001-2005, with the granting of the 2-year extension, the first phase will end in 2007 giving time for the proposed bill to be approved.  However, the second phase of the project will not be implemented and SIBP will be terminated if the proposed bill is disapproved.





Delusions of Communism

July 19, 2004

"The techniques of the communist are deception, violence and propaganda..."

Almost all young democracies in the then Third World have been beset by the challenges of the Communist or Marxist insurgency. In fact, some nations have fallen, others have decisively accepted the challenges, and still others like the Philippines, are in the process of exploring the feasible political, social and economic options in dealing with the insurgency phenomenon attributed to Communism and Marxism.

We must admit that the alternative proposed seems highly appealing. Advocates of Communism and Marxism say that the only alternative to national progress is to destroy our present government, destroy our present form of society, destroy the entire systems of values and beliefs in that society and transform it into a Marxist system, where everyone will enjoy freedom, equality, and prosperity.

But, is this not the same standard proposition that the communist foisted upon the peoples of the nations? What has been the result of this proposition in other lands? I think each and every one knows the answer.

In a nearby country alone, millions have perished from hunger, other millions have been killed because they refused to be intellectually rehabilitated with the Marxist concept, and still other millions, who even have the slightest chance of living, will gamble their lives to leave their homelands to seek refuge in other lands. This is the same situation that could happen to our country.

The techniques of the communist are deception, violence and propaganda. When they come to you, they will talk to you in a very nice way, but if they can’t get you that way, they will present to you the barrel of a gun. They will use every means to attain their purpose. They will even use the church. They say they respect your religious rights, but in truth, they will destroy all forms of structured religions later, for there can be no way by which communism, a godless ideology can be in harmony with Christianity.

True, they have proposed a coalition government, wherein religious elements will play an important role, but once they have taken power and dominated society, they will destroy this coalition, and eliminate all oppositions in establishing a total dictatorship.

Democracy?  They call theirs the true democracy. I say, no so.  Theirs is not democracy where every citizen is enfranchised, because only the members of the communist party are allowed to vote. They don’t tell you, that in a communist society, only the members of the communist party are free, if at all. They don’t tell you, that not all the people of the Philippines will become members of the ruling party, but only a few select, and that the others will be under them, to serve their purposes – those of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the state they will adopt – when the truth is, only the interest of the ruling party will actually be served.

Today, we are confronted with this threat to our political, social, and economic system.  Communist intrusion in this country is not just the problem of the government nor that of the defense department. But it is a problem of every Filipino who values his liberty and dignity as a person.

Because if this movement would be able to take control of our republic, we will have no freedom.  We won’t even have an article like this now. As a person, you are a non-entity, a non-person. You serve the interest of the state, but the State doesn’t serve you. You can even be killed if killing you suits the purpose of the State. In other words, you are just an instrument, a means to an end.

It is the anti-thesis to our present system, where everyone is a person in his own right, that not even Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo can assault your person without accounting for it. You are important as individuals, and for your every endeavor, you are the end yourself.

So, if we are bent on defeating this communist ideology, and we must, we should therefore stand as one. We must be willing to work enough, in our respective capacity, to show other people, by way of sacrifice, restraint, discipline and collective enterprise, our benevolent adherence to our democracy.

Further, we must all work enough, to show to our people the effectiveness and responsiveness of our own democratic institutions, in terms intended for the interest and to meet the aspirations of the people. In this way, we can bridge the gaps among the masses, and other sectors of the society, in relation to the economic development that everybody desires.

Once we realize this, then communist ideology will find no space, and room in the minds of our people, thus, communism in this country will just die its natural death.





The Role of the Church and the Media of Communication in Environmental Advocacy

talk given by Msgr. Lope C. Robredillo
at the ESADEF on June 26, 2004
Samar IslandWide Media Advocacy for Biodiversity and Environmental Protection

"When a private sector makes a survey that is against the company that destroys the environment, politicians will tend to discredit the data..."

A few months ago, at the Conference Hall of the Bishop's Residence, I outlined some notes for a theology of ecology. In that talk, I provided theological underpinning to the morality of the current destruction of the environment. The topic assigned to me, today, is rather a follow up of that presentation. It is "The Role of the Church and the Media of Communication in Environmental Advocacy."

Protection of Environment: Essential to Faith

One who heard my previous talk could only conclude that all of us are being challenged to do what we can to halt and reverse the current destruction of the environment. Admittedly, this cannot be done by individuals alone. The action of institutions - for example, commerce and industry, politics, military, business and commerce, media ‑ are decisive. The same is no less true of the Church. The Church has much to contribute. The Church, of course, includes you and me. But by Church, I mean the institution ‑ which includes our bishops, priests, lay leaders, and all believers in Christ.

Can the Church ignore this role? No, and the reason is not simply that the environment crisis has moral and religious issues, which is true enough. Rather, it is also that the people of God would be less Christian if they ignore this role. This is because, as John Paul 11 insists on the first document ever issued exclusively on environment, Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All Creation, "Christians [should] realize that their responsibility within creation and their duty toward nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith."

Challenges to the Role of the Church

However, while it may be easy to point out the role of the Church, it may difficult to pursue it. There are various challenges both within the Church and outside that make the performance of that role almost an uphill climb. Without being exhaustive, let me give some examples, both without and within the Church.

1. Politicians and Government Officers. When it comes to issues that benefit the poor, the powerless and the marginal, but deprive the rich of their income and money, some politicians and government officials tend to resolve it in favor of the rich. They are concerned with the poor, only in so far as these coincide with their own interest. When a private sector makes a survey that is against the company that destroys the environment, politicians will tend to discredit the data. For example, they will assert that the private sector had no basis on fact, they are incompetent and these people were coerced. They will try to move in such a way that there will be no obstacle to the operation of the company.

2. Politics. When the Church involves herself in ecological issues, some politicians will invoke a medieval view of the Church ‑ itself a proof that politicians are not updated in their knowledge of their Church. They will insist that the Church has no business interfering in ecological issues; this should be left to the government, while bishops and priests must concentrate on the altar and the sacristy, and teach catechism to the young boys and girls. We discredit the authority of the Church to talk on such matter, and thereby cover the problem.

3. The people. I am not very sure about this, but certainly the poverty of the people makes them susceptible to coercion. The case of Homonhon is a good example. In order to destroy the people's resistance to mining, the mining company uses various means to convince the people about the acceptability of its operation. Short terms benefits are accepted. So, despite all the explanation that is given them about the disadvantages of mining, they still prefer the filthy money.

4. The Church. Our bishops and priests have been educated in a theology of creation that is anthropocentric, that is to say, we understand creation as centered on man. The whole creation is at the service of man. Given this education, we cannot expect an overnight shift in the perspective of understanding among the leaders of the institutional church. (Our Protestant ministers have no edge, either. They have been educated in a theology that focuses on the Bible and faith, with the result that individualism is exalted, and the separation of the spiritual and the material is stressed. What is important is the soul; never mind the material world.) That is why it is difficult to make them see the urgency of the problem. Some would even say that God will provide.

If I mention all these factors, it is to let us realize that no individual, no institution can do it by himself or itself. The problem is enormous; in some cases, it is a fight between David and Goliath. We cannot leave the problem of Homonhon to its inhabitants alone, anymore that we can leave it to the people of Manicani to solve their own problems. They are fighting against a powerful and moneyed company that can padlock the mouth of many individuals. It requires the involvement of all who live in this province, if not in this planet. The local Church alone cannot do it. She has her own limitations. But this is not to say that nothing can be done.

The Resolutions of the local Church of Borongan on Ecology

The local Church of Borongan is aware of the problem. In fact, this entered in the discussion during the First Diocesan Synod of Borongan, and I am happy to share with you what the Church of Borongan resolved to do in connection with Ecology. In chapter V, the Church in Its Mission, the Synod provides three decrees concerning ecology, in numbers 212‑214:

  1. A Desk on Ecology shall be established to formulate and implement programs which shall, among others, gather ecological data on Eastern Samar, identify ecological problems, and establish linkages with government agencies, non‑government organizations with similar concerns, and with the academe.
  2. A catechesis on ecology, stressing the web of life and the principle of stewardship, shall be developed and disseminated to all the faithful through, among others, the basic ecclesial communities, other faith communities, religious organizations and renewal movements.
  3. The Diocese shall encourage communities to promote balance of ecosystem through advocacy and active involvement in such environmental projects as reforestation, rehabilitation of degraded ecosystem, establishment of sanctuaries, waste management, water conservation, etc., as well as advocacy against pollutive and destructive activities, like mining, illegal fishing, indiscriminate waste disposal, among others.

The Diocese, as I said, promulgated these in 1998, and these decrees await implementation.

Prophetic Role

At this point, however, I believe that the role of the Church consists in exercising her prophetic role. Hence, in addition to what has been provided for in the First Diocesan Synod of Borongan, the Church, and I mean here, the faithful who have competence on the practical field, can do the following:

1.       The first one is denunciation ‑ we have to criticize institutions, which could include the government, that destroy the environment.

a.  This means, we will have to expose the evils that are being done to the environment, how they are done, and at what price they are done.

b.   This also means, we refuse to be bribed by them in whatever form, even in terms of charitable works.

2.       The second is annunciation ‑ this is more difficult. We will have to teach and share with the people a vision of what it means to live in a community, where there is justice to all created things, where there is symbiosis between people and environment, where there is care for people. We empower them to realize that vision of community. Unless they have this vision, it would be difficult to convince them to care for the earth.

Priestly Role

3.       The Church, this time both its leaders and the faithful can incorporate environment themes in the exercise of their priestly role. I have in mind two things that can be easily adopted. Here we can help in the formation of conscience:

a.   We can widen our concept of the sacrament of reconciliation. I have two things in mind. First, we should include destruction of environment among the sins against the 5th commandment - thou shall not kill. Our catechesis must emphasize that destruction of the environment is a sin against God ‑ it also defaces the beauty of creation.

b. Second, reconciliation means not only reconciliation to neighbor, but also reconciliation with creation, in accordance with the thought of St Paul.

4.       We can also do something with our popular devotion.

a.   We can include environment concerns in the making of the Stations of the Cross.

b.  Flores de Mayo could be modified in such a way that the celebration should be about Mary the Queen of the Whole Creation, and draw program for that purpose.

c.   We can celebrate the death of St Francis as patron of creation, and our celebration can focus on the environment.

Role of the Media of Social Communications

The role of the media is really linked with the prophetic role of the Church. And so, almost everything that we said of the Church could be said of the media of social communication.

The media is an important component in advocacy. For the media is used not only to inform, but also to persuade and motivate people to act - to convinced people to act in a certain way. That is why it is a very good tool for advocacy.

Challenges that confront the Media

But there are challenges. The media and its practitioners can be subverted by the pressures of its advertisers and sponsors. Advertisers, like mining firm, can dictate what the people in the media will say ‑ they can suppress the facts, they can refuse to treat facts that will be adverse to advertisers or embarrass them.

Of course, we know that more often than not, media represent the vested interests of its owners, and while its practitioners may state their independence from these vested interests, we also know that they can become vehicles of politicians to mouth their own distorted views, and attack their opponents. In print, we call them envelopmental journalists ‑ receive envelopes full of cash from politicians and advertisers. They are paid hacks, as Doroy calls them.

And there is the challenge of the moral and religious values which the owner and their practitioner hold. Often, media present or espouse values that are detrimental to the poor and the marginalized and favor the rich, it can present corrupt values.

Role of the Communication Media

Despite these challenges, we recognize the value of media in advocacy. But I think they should observe certain principles:

1.    The human person and the community is the end and measure of the use of the media. It cannot be made into a tool of the rich to exploit the poor, or destroy the communities of the poor. It must respect the human person and the community.

2.    Media of social communication is for the integral development of persons and community. Media should not look at development merely in terms of accumulation of money and comfort. What is money when people and their values are destroyed?

3.   It must be truthful. It must communicate truth and ‑ within the limits of justice and charity ‑ complete the truth. In no way shall it be used to deceive.





Villar’s folly

By Philippine News Service
June 21, 2004

Administration senator Manny Villar stuck out like a sore thumb during the course of the victory party held over the weekend to celebrate the reelection to the Senate of opposition leader Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel. Many eyebrows were raised, and the most-uttered questions that night were: “Why is Villar gatecrashing Nene’s party? What is his hidden agenda?”

Sen. Pimentel, of course, was too much of a statesman to show even a hint of annoyance over the unannounced arrival of Villar. While many of Sen. Pimentel’s guests exchanged puzzled looks over the appearance of Villar, a few people seemed to have seen through his motive.

To those who had knowing looks written in their faces, the buzz that Villar is angling to wrest the Senate presidency from Sen. Franklin Drilon were all but confirmed on that fateful night. “Villar is making ligaw (courting) of Nene,” mumbled a guest. “He (Villar) wants the opposition to back his power grab at the Senate so that he’ll have the numbers.”

Villar’s problem though is that he does not have the support of the majority of administration senators, including the eight newcomers. This early, the consensus among administration senators seems to be to reward the hardworking Drilon by letting him continue his able stewardship of the Senate.

People in the know say that this is where opposition lawmakers enter the picture as far as Villar envisions it to be. You see, there would be 15 administration senators in the incoming 13th Congress. From the 15, Villar can only draw support from the Wednesday Club clique in the Senate to which he belongs.

That’s only four votes for Villar from himself and his Wednesday Club pals Sens. Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto and Joker Arroyo. This is the reason, pundits say, why Villar is now hard at work trying to entice opposition senators, like Pimentel, to back a coup against Drilon.

Though it taxes the imagination that the eight opposition senators would vote for Villar, the latter is pinning his hope that they’ll do so.

With eight opposition votes and the four of the Wednesday gang, Villar would have the magic number of 12 votes in the 23-member Senate of the 13th Congress.

But for Villar to assume that President Arroyo would allow him to break up the majority in the Senate would be too much. President Arroyo knows too well that thanks to Drilon, she got a winning margin of 885,719 votes in Western Visayas over FPJ.

The eight new senators of Lakas also would not entertain any coup initiative by Villar since they too are indebted to Drilon for his tireless efforts that made it a grand slam for the administration in Western Visayas. As spearhead of the administration’s election campaign in Region VI, Drilon crisscrossed the six provinces and two major cities of Western Visayas.

On the other hand, what did Villar accomplish for President Arroyo and the eight new senators in Metro Manila and the environs in terms of vote-getting? Nothing!

Drilon has been the steadying force in this administration, and the President knows this very well. Drilon is a team leader who gets things done without fanfare, and it would be a shame if someone like Villar would get to be rewarded the Senate presidency for laying a big fat egg, and for putting his ambition before anything else.


◄◄home I next ►