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EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full news commentary)

FROM THE INQUIRER

EDITORIAL: CEBU DEBATE - DIVORCE AND DEATH


MARCH 23 -At the second presidential debate sanctioned by the Commission on Elections and held in Cebu on Sunday, the candidates were asked to answer three questions without explanation, simply by raising their hands if they were in favor and keeping still if they were against. It was a made-for-TV format, but the exercise proved to be a welcome respite from the often heated exchanges that characterized the debate. The up-or-down format used by TV5 was also a helpful guide to the candidates’ views on long-simmering, much-discussed issues. On the question of allowing divorce in the Philippines, none of the four candidates—Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Sen. Grace Poe, and former interior secretary Mar Roxas—raised their hands. To those who have only intermittently followed the so-called Duterte-serye, the melodramatic twists and turns of the Davao mayor’s unlikely run for the presidency, the unanimous opposition to allowing divorce in the Philippines must have come as a surprise. After all, isn’t Duterte known for his romantic entanglements, cheerfully admitted both in private and in public? But earlier this month, in another forum, Duterte already took an unequivocal stand against divorce. “In legal separation, there’s still hope for the husband and wife to come together, but not in divorce,” he had said. “You don’t have to love your wife to live together.” He added: “I’m not in favor of divorce for the sake of the children, and abortion, for me, is a no-no.” A series of Social Weather Stations surveys has found increasing public support for the legalization of divorce in the Philippines, the only country outside of the Holy See where divorce remains banned in the statute books. From 43-44 percent in May 2005, support rose to 50 percent in March 2011 and to 60 percent in December 2014.READ MORE...

ALSO: By Michael Tan - ‘Pasyon,’ politics


MARCH 23 -Dr. Michael Tan I was at a birthday party Monday night of a former staff member and kumpare (his daughter is my godchild), intending to leave early because of work the next day. But my kumpare insisted I stay and join his friends for some beer. Why not? I figured, my social-scientist instincts getting the better of me because I knew alcohol always lubricates discussions about politics. It was an all-male, working-class group, ages ranging from the 20s to the 30s, which made me feel like I was 100 years old. But they were completely at ease, calling me by my first name. Except for my kumpare, none knew about my job at the University of the Philippines, or that I wrote for the Inquirer—an advantage, I thought, for getting candid opinions. I’ve been asked several times why I haven’t written about the elections, and I’ve had to explain that as an appointed government official, I am not allowed to publicly endorse any candidate or political party. So for my only column for Holy Week, I was ready to write something on religion. But after Monday night’s discussions, I realized I could do a column that deals with politics, as well as some religion, without being partisan.  FGD In effect, the birthday party gave me an opportunity to do an FGD (focus group discussion), where you have a small group of people with similar demographic backgrounds talking about a particular issue. It’s widely used by marketing companies who want to check consumers’ preferences. In the last two decades or so, FGDs have been used to help in the formulation of political campaign strategies. It was my kumpare who got the election issue going when he asked who I would vote for. I shrugged and said I hadn’t decided, but the others all named their candidates, almost simultaneously. All six of the men watched the presidential debate last Sunday, and seemed quite certain about who they would vote for. I was expecting that most of them would vote for Rodrigo Duterte, especially because three are from Mindanao and the Visayas, but I was wrong. Only two, one from Pangasinan and the other from Zamboanga, said they would go for Duterte, strongly arguing that he had the experience of running Davao City and would instill discipline and get rid of “criminals.” Later that night, another party guest, much older than the others (but still younger than me), joined us and also argued for Duterte. He is from Manila and not the South. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Bank secrets
[“The era of banking secrecy is over,” declared a joint statement issued by the members of the Group of 20 developed countries, or G20, at their 2009 summit in London. That was a good seven years ago. Today, we can only wonder why the Philippines insists on these secrecy laws.]


MARCH 21 -ROOT OF ALL EVIL? There is one other matter that deserves full government attention and action in the ongoing investigation into the $81-million money laundering scam involving Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. and local casinos: the strict bank secrecy rules that have protected many crooks from criminal prosecution. At the initial Senate hearing last week, the senators (and the viewing public) were exasperated when RCBC officials repeatedly invoked the Bank Secrecy Law when asked about the circumstances surrounding the laundering of $81 million stolen from the central bank of Bangladesh. “I apologize, your honor, I can’t talk specifically about this case because of the Bank Secrecy [Law]” or “I was advised by counsel, your honor, to refrain from talking about bank accounts and specific transactions. I apologize…” was the common reply of RCBC officials to inquiring legislators. As early as 11 years ago, the United States criticized the Philippines’ bank secrecy rules as being “among the strictest in the world.” In a series of cables from 2005 to 2008 made public by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, former US ambassadors to Manila Francis Ricciardone and Kristie Kenney noted that the bank secrecy laws in the Philippines were “hampering” transparent governance and anticorruption mechanisms, and went against the global trend of financial transparency.  Washington was particularly concerned about the Foreign Currency Deposits Act (FCDA) or Republic Act No. 6426, a Marcos-era legislation that makes the disclosure of foreign currency deposit details unlawful, except upon a written permission of the depositor. The other piece of legislation is the much older Bank Secrecy Law or RA 1405, enacted on Sept. 9, 1955, and which declares all deposits absolutely confidential, with very few exceptions, among them if there is a written consent of the depositor or upon order of a competent court in cases of bribery or dereliction of duty of public officials. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Rina Jimenez David -Hope springs


MARCH 22 -HOPE IS the story of Easter, the culmination of this week’s annual observance, when it seems the entire country—or at least the majority Catholics among us—pause in our daily occupations and take time out to reflect on our relations with the Higher Power. Or maybe just hie off to the nearest beach and work on a deeper tan. But hope doesn’t have to be bathed in divine light, the representation of the Risen Lord ascending to Heaven in loosened bindings that had fallen from Him as He conquered death. Sometimes, hope can be as simple and mundane as the first family of the United States descending from Air Force One to touch ground in Cuba. Just a few years ago, the very notion of such an event would have been considered mere fantasy; so long and entrenched had hostilities been that at one point the island seemed the unlikely source of World War III. American commentators watching the Obamas descend the steps of the plane, trailed by a bipartisan delegation of legislators and a group of businessmen checking out potential investments in the island, at one point seemed at a loss for words. Overtures to end the decades of tension and put an end to an embargo that left Cuba isolated and impoverished began just a few years ago. It was the unlikely result of discreet diplomatic efforts initiated by, another source of wonder, the Vatican. True, much of the credit must be laid at the feet of Barack Obama, who dared displease the powerful and outspoken anti-Fidels in the United States, as well as at the feet of Raul Castro, who has taken over the reins of leadership in Cuba from the legendary Fidel. But it’s extraordinary how the Church successfully wielded its influence and goodwill in a purely secular matter: a rapprochement between two old enemies. READ MORE...

ALSO: By CIELITO HABITO - Sharing the Cross


MARCH 24 -Cielito F. Habito
Last week, the National Economic and Development Authority announced that based on the latest triennial Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES), 26.3 percent of Filipinos were poor as of the first half of 2015. That means that there still are more than 26 million poor Filipinos in our midst, making less than what’s needed to make ends meet. The good news is that this was lower than the last FIES-based figure of 27.9 percent reported in 2012. However, it was higher than the 25.8 percent poverty incidence reported in 2014, which was in turn higher than the 24.6 percent reported in 2013, both based on the Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (Apis). While the numbers from the FIES and Apis are supposedly not directly comparable, it is nonetheless disturbing that we have yet to see poverty go down consistently and convincingly. Counting families rather than individuals, the FIES tells us that one in every five Filipino families is poor (20.9 percent as of 2012). This also means that four out of five families are not poor. Think about it: If only one in every four nonpoor Filipino families cares enough to help one poor family lift itself out of poverty, then zero poverty need not just be a dream! What would it take to do this? A concrete way of helping is to support a promising child of the family through school all the way to college or vocational/technical training, as appropriate. My late father did so almost all of his professional life through his retirement, and reaped the satisfaction of seeing his protégés uplift their lives and their families’ wellbeing and standard of living. Gawad Kalinga sees decent housing as the critical entry point. Spending weekends helping build a home for a family one did not even know before is truly giving of one’s self. It represents taking a concrete stake in another family’s life. Still another concrete way of helping, especially for those successful in business, is to equip a poor family with the means (including skills, values and financial capital) to start and sustain a livelihood enterprise. This week, Christians around the world commemorate how God sent His only son to become one of us and live and die among us. I see in this a message that the way to truly help the poor is to live with them, and feel their pains with them. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

EDITORIAL: Divorce and death

MANILA, MARCH 28, 2016 (INQUIRER) @inquirerdotnet March 23rd, 2016 - At the second presidential debate sanctioned by the Commission on Elections and held in Cebu on Sunday, the candidates were asked to answer three questions without explanation, simply by raising their hands if they were in favor and keeping still if they were against. It was a made-for-TV format, but the exercise proved to be a welcome respite from the often heated exchanges that characterized the debate.

The up-or-down format used by TV5 was also a helpful guide to the candidates’ views on long-simmering, much-discussed issues. On the question of allowing divorce in the Philippines, none of the four candidates—Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Sen. Grace Poe, and former interior secretary Mar Roxas—raised their hands.

To those who have only intermittently followed the so-called Duterte-serye, the melodramatic twists and turns of the Davao mayor’s unlikely run for the presidency, the unanimous opposition to allowing divorce in the Philippines must have come as a surprise. After all, isn’t Duterte known for his romantic entanglements, cheerfully admitted both in private and in public? But earlier this month, in another forum, Duterte already took an unequivocal stand against divorce. “In legal separation, there’s still hope for the husband and wife to come together, but not in divorce,” he had said. “You don’t have to love your wife to live together.” He added: “I’m not in favor of divorce for the sake of the children, and abortion, for me, is a no-no.”

A series of Social Weather Stations surveys has found increasing public support for the legalization of divorce in the Philippines, the only country outside of the Holy See where divorce remains banned in the statute books. From 43-44 percent in May 2005, support rose to 50 percent in March 2011 and to 60 percent in December 2014.

READ MORE...

The other candidates had also made earlier statements recording their opposition to divorce. Last January, for instance, Roxas made it clear: “I’m one of the 40 percent na hindi payag (who oppose it),” he told GMA News.

This common position may be based on deeply held personal values, or part of a deliberate strategy not to attract opposition from influential religious institutions, but it is interesting to see the candidates take what is now a minority position. On the question of reimposing the death penalty, archrivals Binay and Roxas found common ground in saying no.

But Duterte and Poe both raised their hands, with Poe rushing to add “only for heinous crimes.” Since its founding, the Inquirer has opposed the death penalty because of both principle and the penalty’s practical consequences.

The principle can best be explained using Duterte’s own words about divorce. “In legal separation, there’s still hope for the husband and wife to come together, but not in divorce.” If the modern purpose of incarceration is not revenge but rehabilitation, then capital punishment is a disavowal of that purpose. In jail, there’s still hope even for the worst offender, but there’s no going back from the lethal injection chamber.

The most powerful argument against the death penalty, however, remains its skewed nature. Capital punishment mostly claims the poor and the ignorant, those who do not have the resources to hire adequate legal representation. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is exactly the same charge leveled at the victims of the so-called Davao Death Squad (a point raised by Roxas in the debate):

Almost all of them were poor, and if they were criminals, they were engaged in petty crime—not, say, billion-peso scams that defraud thousands. Both Binay and Roxas have previously taken anticapital punishment positions.

In the first presidential debate held in Cagayan de Oro, Binay said he did not believe in the death penalty and said taking someone’s life was “trabaho ng Diyos ’yan”—literally, God’s work.

Roxas based his opposition on procedural justice: “You may have a death penalty law but if you can’t catch criminals and even if you arrest them, you fail to present proofs because of a lousy investigation, then that’s useless.”

Poe’s position was surprising, given that only last November she said she was against it. But whether based on deeply held personal values or political considerations, it is interesting to note that the two candidates with the biggest public support (in an admittedly very tight race) support a policy that, in practice, is antipoor.


‘Pasyon,’ politics SHARES: New VIEW COMMENTS By: Michael L. Tan @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:11 AM March 23rd, 2016


By Dr. Michael Tan

I was at a birthday party Monday night of a former staff member and kumpare (his daughter is my godchild), intending to leave early because of work the next day. But my kumpare insisted I stay and join his friends for some beer.

Why not? I figured, my social-scientist instincts getting the better of me because I knew alcohol always lubricates discussions about politics. It was an all-male, working-class group, ages ranging from the 20s to the 30s, which made me feel like I was 100 years old. But they were completely at ease, calling me by my first name. Except for my kumpare, none knew about my job at the University of the Philippines, or that I wrote for the Inquirer—an advantage, I thought, for getting candid opinions.
I’ve been asked several times why I haven’t written about the elections, and I’ve had to explain that as an appointed government official, I am not allowed to publicly endorse any candidate or political party.

So for my only column for Holy Week, I was ready to write something on religion. But after Monday night’s discussions, I realized I could do a column that deals with politics, as well as some religion, without being partisan.

FGD



In effect, the birthday party gave me an opportunity to do an FGD (focus group discussion), where you have a small group of people with similar demographic backgrounds talking about a particular issue. It’s widely used by marketing companies who want to check consumers’ preferences. In the last two decades or so, FGDs have been used to help in the formulation of political campaign strategies.

It was my kumpare who got the election issue going when he asked who I would vote for. I shrugged and said I hadn’t decided, but the others all named their candidates, almost simultaneously.

All six of the men watched the presidential debate last Sunday, and seemed quite certain about who they would vote for. I was expecting that most of them would vote for Rodrigo Duterte, especially because three are from Mindanao and the Visayas, but I was wrong.

Only two, one from Pangasinan and the other from Zamboanga, said they would go for Duterte, strongly arguing that he had the experience of running Davao City and would instill discipline and get rid of “criminals.” Later that night, another party guest, much older than the others (but still younger than me), joined us and also argued for Duterte. He is from Manila and not the South.

READ MORE...

There was one supporter of Jejomar Binay in the group who again cited “experience” as important, then recited his candidate’s accomplishments as mayor of Makati, specifically providing charity health services, and the University of Makati.

When one in the group asked about corruption allegations, the Binay supporter said even if the candidate was indeed corrupt, he at least gave back services.

A supporter of Grace Poe then shot back that the cities of Davao and Makati were different from the rest of the Philippines.
‘Malakas’ and ‘Mabait’

The remaining three were Poe supporters. I was first puzzled, thinking that this very macho group would all go for Duterte. But no, they were actually using a gendered dichotomy in their preferences. However, instead of “Malakas” (Strong, Forceful) and “Maganda” (Beautiful), it was “Malakas” and “Mabait” (Kind), with Duterte standing for forcefulness and Poe seen as having strength derived from being kind and helpful.

The Duterte supporters said Poe, as a woman, would not be able to handle criminal elements, especially “Isis terrorists.” I pushed them about Isis and one Duterte supporter said these terrorists were so formidable he even had doubts that his “idol” could handle them.

The discussion took a new twist when a Poe supporter argued that the problems Filipinos face with peace and order are not because of criminals but because of corrupt law enforcers, to which another Poe supporter took issue, saying that the police are often misunderstood.

“Not all police are corrupt,” he protested, and went on to explain that his father is a police officer and an honest one, so honest that he got into trouble with a local powerful politician and the family was forced to leave its hometown in Mindanao and move to Manila. He was quite dramatic in describing how a price was put on his father’s head.

His answer perplexed me. Here was someone who knew that honesty could get you into trouble, but didn’t see an iron hand as necessary. In fact, he was convinced that a “mabait” candidate, Poe, could better handle peace and order problems.

Political issues have a way of firing up conversations, but can also die out quickly. I asked who their choices were for vice president, and two chimed, “Bongbong.” The others said they hadn’t decided, and when I asked who the other candidates were, it took some time to get the candidates’ names out. It was clear that the vice presidential race was not something they considered too important.

The group’s discussions began to drift away from politics. I was drawn into another conversation when the guy next to me asked how many children I had, and then took out his cell phone to show photos of his 18-month-old daughter. I thought of how, in upper-class gatherings, the men don’t usually bring out photos of their kids.

On the side, I could hear the policeman’s son still arguing for Poe. When his friend, the Binay supporter, said people should vote based on a politician’s accomplishments rather than promises, the Poe supporter waffled momentarily, saying in Filipino, “Yes, we poor Filipinos keep getting fooled… It’s always been this way, even in Rizal’s time.”

Roxas’ ‘dating’

A group of seven cannot reflect the national electorate, but I did feel our discussion provided some insights on what Filipinos are looking for in a candidate. I did worry that Mar Roxas was not named by any of the seven, and when I asked about him, it was almost as if they didn’t hear me, continuing their discussions about the other three main contenders.

Mar’s campaign strategists are going to have to work extra-hard about his impact on the electorate, best described in Filipino as “dating.”

And so the night unfolded, politics retreating as people talked of their families, of going overseas to work. Welding seems to be the new favored occupation, but I told them women welders now have an edge over men when it comes to employer preferences, wondering afterwards if perhaps this was a similar situation with presidential candidates.

I felt that the group was thinking out the issues, not quite as gullible as the stereotypes go. They worry about the future, and know how important the elections will be.

I thought about how, in the past, activist groups would stage a different kind of commemoration during Holy Week, enacting a different kind of “Pasyon,” based on the trials and tribulations of Filipinos.

It will be a long, hot summer before the elections. Might we find some redemption then?


EDITORIAL - Bank secrets @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 01:25 AM March 21st, 2016

There is one other matter that deserves full government attention and action in the ongoing investigation into the $81-million money laundering scam involving Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. and local casinos: the strict bank secrecy rules that have protected many crooks from criminal prosecution.

At the initial Senate hearing last week, the senators (and the viewing public) were exasperated when RCBC officials repeatedly invoked the Bank Secrecy Law when asked about the circumstances surrounding the laundering of $81 million stolen from the central bank of Bangladesh. “I apologize, your honor, I can’t talk specifically about this case because of the Bank Secrecy [Law]” or “I was advised by counsel, your honor, to refrain from talking about bank accounts and specific transactions. I apologize…” was the common reply of RCBC officials to inquiring legislators.

As early as 11 years ago, the United States criticized the Philippines’ bank secrecy rules as being “among the strictest in the world.” In a series of cables from 2005 to 2008 made public by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, former US ambassadors to Manila Francis Ricciardone and Kristie Kenney noted that the bank secrecy laws in the Philippines were “hampering” transparent governance and anticorruption mechanisms, and went against the global trend of financial transparency.

Washington was particularly concerned about the Foreign Currency Deposits Act (FCDA) or Republic Act No. 6426, a Marcos-era legislation that makes the disclosure of foreign currency deposit details unlawful, except upon a written permission of the depositor. The other piece of legislation is the much older Bank Secrecy Law or RA 1405, enacted on Sept. 9, 1955, and which declares all deposits absolutely confidential, with very few exceptions, among them if there is a written consent of the depositor or upon order of a competent court in cases of bribery or dereliction of duty of public officials.

READ MORE...

This bank secrecy issue nearly stalled the impeachment proceedings in 2012 against then Chief Justice Renato Corona, whose main defense was his interpretation that he was not required to declare his money worth $2.4 million because of the absolute confidentiality of foreign bank accounts as provided for under the FCDA. In 2005, the Sandiganbayan also resumed efforts to prosecute the former Armed Forces of the Philippines comptroller, Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, for plunder and corruption. But strict bank secrecy rules prevented banks from fulfilling the court order to freeze Garcia’s dollar accounts. The AFP official and his wife and three children were charged by the Office of Ombudsman for plunder over their P303-million illegal wealth, but the case dragged on for years and the charges were dismissed in 2013 after Garcia entered into a plea bargain with the Ombudsman.

Investigations of money laundering are being hindered by Philippine banking secrecy laws that limit access to financial information vital to prosecute suspected scalawags. Kenney, in one cable sent to Washington, pointed out that giving suspects a notice of the investigations at an early stage—as the law requires—would provide an opportunity for the destruction of evidence, the concealment of other assets and the obstruction of justice as well as allow the account holder to prevent effective investigation by tying up the proceedings with litigation.

It is not that legislators, or at least some of them, are unaware of the need to relax the Bank Secrecy Law. The role of such bank laws in the Corona trial already moved some members of Congress to call for amendments. Sen. Ralph Recto has filed Senate Resolution No. 711 seeking a review of the FCDA and RA 1405, “to make certain that no one gets hurt or gets special treatment when the claws of these laws start to pounce on [their] object of prey.” In 2010, Sen. Francis Escudero filed Senate Bill 107 that would require government employees to provide the Office of the Ombudsman with written permission to look into their bank accounts if they are accused of crimes. A counterpart bill was also filed in the House of Representatives to amend the FCDA by revoking the absolute confidentiality of foreign currency deposits in cases involving bribery and dereliction of duty.

“The era of banking secrecy is over,” declared a joint statement issued by the members of the Group of 20 developed countries, or G20, at their 2009 summit in London. That was a good seven years ago. Today, we can only wonder why the Philippines insists on these secrecy laws.


Hope springs SHARES: 2 VIEW COMMENTS By: Rina Jimenez-David @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:48 AM March 22nd, 2016

HOPE IS the story of Easter, the culmination of this week’s annual observance, when it seems the entire country—or at least the majority Catholics among us—pause in our daily occupations and take time out to reflect on our relations with the Higher Power. Or maybe just hie off to the nearest beach and work on a deeper tan.

But hope doesn’t have to be bathed in divine light, the representation of the Risen Lord ascending to Heaven in loosened bindings that had fallen from Him as He conquered death.

Sometimes, hope can be as simple and mundane as the first family of the United States descending from Air Force One to touch ground in Cuba. Just a few years ago, the very notion of such an event would have been considered mere fantasy; so long and entrenched had hostilities been that at one point the island seemed the unlikely source of World War III.

American commentators watching the Obamas descend the steps of the plane, trailed by a bipartisan delegation of legislators and a group of businessmen checking out potential investments in the island, at one point seemed at a loss for words.

Overtures to end the decades of tension and put an end to an embargo that left Cuba isolated and impoverished began just a few years ago. It was the unlikely result of discreet diplomatic efforts initiated by, another source of wonder, the Vatican.

True, much of the credit must be laid at the feet of Barack Obama, who dared displease the powerful and outspoken anti-Fidels in the United States, as well as at the feet of Raul Castro, who has taken over the reins of leadership in Cuba from the legendary Fidel. But it’s extraordinary how the Church successfully wielded its influence and goodwill in a purely secular matter: a rapprochement between two old enemies.

* * *

THE New York Times (NYT) reports that Cubans have shown “a great affinity for Mr. Obama throughout his presidency.” But his popularity among Cubans leapt when the US President announced the restoration of relations with Cuba on Dec. 17, 2014.

Says the NYT: “That date is now recited often as a new starting point for the country, joining historic dates, like July 26, 1953, when Fidel Castro mounted an attack on the Moncada barracks, initiating a revolution.”

Another comic irony, in the face of frantic beautification efforts like filling in potholes or painting rows of houses in attractive pastels, is that Cubans now joke among themselves: “Too bad Obama can’t stay for a month or a year.”

For sure, problems remain. Cuba is unlikely to transform into a democratic republic anytime soon, even if the expected deluge of tourists from around the world, and especially from the United States, cannot but influence Cubans’ expectations from their government. Rallies and other expressions of disagreement had been prohibited in the days leading up to the Obamas’ visit, even as Obama scheduled sessions with Cubans who have been detained for many years.

Still, as a movie title goes: “Hope Springs.” What other more hopeful sign than that the Cuban government announced it would not tolerate demonstrations or any forms of public dissent against the government or the United States, a former archenemy. Some shift has taken place indeed!

* * *



ANOTHER source of hope is Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who, on a recent visit to the UN headquarters in New York, proudly announced that “I am a feminist.”

Speaking to an enthused, applauding audience of women taking part in the annual Commission on the Status of Women deliberations, Trudeau remarked that it’s high time a male feminist should no longer be considered an oddity. He said that the best response to the announcement should not be hossanahs but rather a shrug.

No wonder women love him.

It’s one thing for men in positions of leadership to say they believe in women’s rights or support their aspirations for equality. But it’s quite another thing to proudly declare their “feminism.”

To be a feminist, after all, is not just to believe in the equality of men and women, but to actively work to see that belief come into fruition, whether this equality be in the field of politics, economics or the personal domestic sphere. From what I see, it’s equality at home, in relationships, that men find most difficult to champion. Male privilege, after all, as with all forms of privilege, can be very difficult to give up, given how one’s rearing and society itself upholds, supports, encourages and cheers that privilege.

* * *

THAT’S why an avowed feminist like Trudeau comes as such a pleasant surprise, especially as his feminism comes in such a good-looking package.

But in cheering the Canadian prime minister, feminists should not forget that the real “heroines” in the struggle for gender equality are not the few men who find the gumption to declare their affinity for women’s rights. Rather, it is the women who have fought, for generations and through history, for their own personal space and identity and with other women to get the larger society and governments to recognize and respect their rights, including the right to make their own choices.

Hope is fleeting and elusive. But with grit and will, that hope can blossom into reality, and dreams can turn into real changes in real lives. That is the promise of Easter.


Sharing the Cross SHARES: 73 VIEW COMMENTS By: Cielito F. Habito @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 02:37 AM March 24th, 2016


 Cielito F. Habito

Last week, the National Economic and Development Authority announced that based on the latest triennial Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES), 26.3 percent of Filipinos were poor as of the first half of 2015. That means that there still are more than 26 million poor Filipinos in our midst, making less than what’s needed to make ends meet.

The good news is that this was lower than the last FIES-based figure of 27.9 percent reported in 2012. However, it was higher than the 25.8 percent poverty incidence reported in 2014, which was in turn higher than the 24.6 percent reported in 2013, both based on the Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (Apis).

While the numbers from the FIES and Apis are supposedly not directly comparable, it is nonetheless disturbing that we have yet to see poverty go down consistently and convincingly.

Counting families rather than individuals, the FIES tells us that one in every five Filipino families is poor (20.9 percent as of 2012). This also means that four out of five families are not poor. Think about it: If only one in every four nonpoor Filipino families cares enough to help one poor family lift itself out of poverty, then zero poverty need not just be a dream!

What would it take to do this?

A concrete way of helping is to support a promising child of the family through school all the way to college or vocational/technical training, as appropriate. My late father did so almost all of his professional life through his retirement, and reaped the satisfaction of seeing his protégés uplift their lives and their families’ wellbeing and standard of living. Gawad Kalinga sees decent housing as the critical entry point.

Spending weekends helping build a home for a family one did not even know before is truly giving of one’s self. It represents taking a concrete stake in another family’s life. Still another concrete way of helping, especially for those successful in business, is to equip a poor family with the means (including skills, values and financial capital) to start and sustain a livelihood enterprise.

This week, Christians around the world commemorate how God sent His only son to become one of us and live and die among us. I see in this a message that the way to truly help the poor is to live with them, and feel their pains with them.

READ MORE...

We are called, in other words, to share in their Cross.

It is easy enough to share what we have in excess, in the form of our discarded clothes and possessions, food and cash. But Christ’s example shows that true giving and sharing go well beyond that, but calls for more: to actually share in their pain and suffering, feel and share their aspirations, and give of ourselves beyond our mere possessions. This is what Jesus Christ did when He lived as a human among us humans.

I’m convinced that this kind of direct involvement is key. In sharing, we always focus on the receiver, and overlook the giver. People who care and are willing to share find greater meaning in sharing when they are able to somehow partake of the pain and suffering of those whom they help. True sharing, in other words, goes both ways. I believe this is the ingredient that has made Gawad Kalinga catch fire not only in the Philippines but overseas as well. It gives people the chance to be with the poor, feel with the poor, and work with the poor, and not merely give to the poor.

When people spend weekends enduring pain and strain by literally helping build homes alongside those who will receive them, sharing is brought to a totally different level from simply writing out a check to one’s favored charity. Giving a scholarship directly to one’s chosen poor child and taking a direct concern and involvement in his/her progress through the years is quite different from sending a regular contribution to a scholarship-granting foundation. An entrepreneurial family that handholds a poor family into starting and growing an enterprise of their own finds greater meaning in sharing than just pledging a portion of their profits to a livelihood development NGO.

On a personal note, one of the most meaningful experiences of my life was living for a few weeks among poor rice farmers in Bicol and Iloilo when I studied rice postharvest technologies for my master’s thesis many years ago. It helped me understand what we otherwise would never understand if all we do to help the poor is to share our possessions, rather than share of our lives.

Many years ago, a woman from a poor community called Patay na Riles in Los Baños, Laguna, moved members of our Bible sharing group to tears with a poignant personal story of sharing.

It was a “Living Word Group” that my wife and I had helped pull together, soon after our Catholic Christian renewal had inflamed us with the drive to share the joy of God’s love with the less privileged in our community. In her story, the woman recounted how she and her children were about to begin their humble meal of a small bowl of rice sprinkled with salt, when they heard the crying of children from the next-door shanty.

The children were crying in hunger, asking their own mother when they would eat. “I heard my neighbor’s pained voice as she told her children, ‘Walang-wala tayo ngayon, mga anak… Tiisin niyo na lang ang gutom niyo’ (We have nothing, my children… You will have to endure your hunger).” She continued: “I could not bear hearing all that, and so I went next door and shared half our bowl of rice with our hungry neighbors.”

It was a live and fitting demonstration of the truth in the words once declared by Pope John Paul II, now St. John Paul the Great: “No one is so poor to have nothing to share; no one is so rich to have nothing to receive.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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