"Dalawang gabi ko lang babasahin ito." - President Rodrigo Duterte

A crisis management structure

ONE HAS to be, or to have been, at the center of the Philippine state to realize how extremely unwieldy it is, how labyrinthine its structures are. It is like an old, huge, ocean-going ship, which requires much experience to know how to quickly maneuver, out of harm’s way especially.

The central government was not designed to deal with political crisis or security threats, such as mobs pretending to be a People Power movement, terrorists kidnapping scores of people in remote parts of the country—or a disgruntled policeman holding foreign tourists hostage.

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Filed under: Inquirer Columns

New pills for the 21st century

WITH THE many, mostly passionate responses, to my Aug. 12 piece (“There are 100 million of us now”), which argued that a full-blown population program is now crucial for our national well-being, a report on recent breakthroughs relevant to the issue, especially as these have gone strangely unreported in the local press, will be useful.

Whether we, the government or the Catholic Church like it or not, these developments could very well overwhelm religious, cultural and even government restrictions on the use of artificial contraceptives in our Catholic-dominated nation. Indeed, humanity’s history is marked by sharp twists when theoretical or religious debates were suddenly resolved by some scientific breakthrough. For instance (and closer to our topic), oral contraceptives, which was introduced to the American public half a century ago, allowed many US Catholic women, even if secretly, to defy Catholic dogma that sex is moral only if undertaken solely for procreation’s sake.

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Filed under: Inquirer Columns

China’s growth and the 4th June Movement

CHECK AGAIN this newspaper’s front-page news the other day: China has overtaken Japan as the world’s second biggest economy. Then, recall what in China is termed as the 4th June Movement, which the Western media calls the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.

The juxtaposition of these two thoughts should pose serious issues in this land of People Power movements, which we must confront. To use a politically neutral terminology, the “Tiananmen Square Turmoil of 1989” could have been the biggest global event in the template of our 1986 People Power Revolution, which had inspired democracy movements all over the world.

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Filed under: Inquirer Columns

There are 100 million of us now

WELL, TO be precise, 99,900,177, according to one forecast. That makes our country the 12th most populous nation on earth. Ours is the fourth most crowded place on earth after India, Bangladesh and Japan (on a list that excludes such exceptional cases such as Monaco, Singapore and Malta.)

It is a staggering figure. President Aquino presides over a nation nearly double the number of Filipinos when his mother assumed power in 1986. Since 2008 when the Reproductive Health Bill was filed in Congress, there are 4 million more Filipinos. And while Congress debated on the bill, which would empower Filipinos to choose whether to have children or not, and going by surveys that 36 percent to 44 percent of births in the country are unwanted, there have been as many as 1.8 million unwanted births in the past three years.

Worse, it is the poor who mostly have these unwanted births, as they do not have access to contraceptive information and means. (How can a laborer earning P200 a day afford condoms sold at P30 per pack?) While Congress debated and the Catholic Church threatened fire and brimstone against its supporters, our country produced 1.8 million more poor Filipinos.

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Filed under: Inquirer Columns

Awed by octogenarians

MAYBE IT’S because another year is passing this month for me, but I can’t but be awed by some people who are decades older than me: Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, 86, former President Fidel V. Ramos, 84 and Sen. Joker P. Arroyo, 83.

These octogenarians are the living Filipinos I admire most, and to paraphrase a child’s compliment (revised for my phase of life): I’d like to be like them when I grow up (to my 80s). They certainly inspire me to look forward to my coming decades. I hope our new generation of leaders will emulate their patriotism and political wisdom.

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Filed under: Inquirer Columns

State of the world

WE OFTEN tend to forget that our country is part of the planet, and that the economies of nations—even their culture and politics—are getting closer and closer to each other, affecting each other more and more. The state of our nation will always be affected by the state of the world, just as it had always been.

THE GLOBAL ECONOMY. President Aquino is lucky in that he assumes office in precisely the period when the state of the world economy is looking better. After the slowdown triggered by the global financial crisis that started in the United States in 2007, the global economy is expected to pick up in the first year of the Aquino II presidency.

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We are in the Goldilocks zone for typhoons

This type of hurricane is a very strong tempest, so many and so strong hitting these islands that neither Virgil nor Ovid nor any other poet I have read can describe its destructive power. These occur very often and we suffer so much, that even after experiencing them, it is difficult to believe these can happen.—F. I. Alzina, a Jesuit missionary in Philippines, 1668

IT HAS been our nightmare since our nation emerged. Out of the 192 countries in the world, ours has the dubious distinction of being the nation worst hit by typhoons. I do not refer just to the frequency of typhoons per year, or the destruction wrought by a one typhoon in a particular year.

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Filed under: Inquirer Columns

God and the Pope under attack (P2)

Talk about an attack, almost literally, on the Catholic Church.

Just a few weeks ago, police in the Belgian city of Bruges raided the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church and the residence of the recently retired Cardinal of Belgium to gather evidence to bolster accusations of child sexual abuse committed by the clergy.

The investigations accelerated with the resignation, after admitting to having sexually abused a young boy, of the Bishop of the city of Bruges – a center of Catholicism in Protestant Europe, a pilgrim’s city where stands Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child sculpture and the awesome Church of Our Lady.

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Filed under: Inquirer Columns

God and the Pope under attack (P1)

THAT CERTAINLY IS AN ATTENTION-GRABBING headline that, some critics say, is this newspaper’s flavor. But I assure you, it’s accurate. And it is certainly news in a country where Masses are held even in malls, where prelates pontificate on politics, and where a jogging cleric’s rants are news sound bites.

The 21st century is seeing the most intense attacks on belief in God in general and the Roman Catholic Church in particular. The siege is both on the intellectual level, the subject of the first part of this column, and on the cultural and institutional level, next week’s topic.

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Filed under: Inquirer Columns, Philosophy

Why we’re not into soccer (2)

A RECENT TIME MAGAZINE COVER STORY ON the World Cup 2010 games observed: “One reason why football is the world’s most popular game is that it is just so accessible, you can play anywhere.”

That’s not exactly true. Basketball is the more accessible game for one major reason: a basketball court is 10 times smaller than a football pitch, and therefore much easier to find.

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Filed under: Inquirer Columns