MANILA, OCTOBER 5, 2010 (STAR) By Wilson Lee Flores – Ever wonder about the difference between rich and poor?

“The rich are different from you and me,” said novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. “Yes, they have more money,” retorted novelist Ernest Hemingway, adding “The rich were dull and they drank too much, or they played too much backgammon.”

There’s something very skewed and grossly unfair with the way not a few of our leaders look at the issues of family planning and gambling! Our lexicon of terms is also so biased!

Why is it our leaders condemn the illegal gambling of jueteng which caters mostly to the poor and rural masses nationwide, but they allow and even personally indulge in cockfighting, going to casinos and engage in other forms of gambling? I’m not a lawyer, but doesn’t this smack of inequitable and unconstitutional class legislation? By the way, this writer is in principle 1,000 percent against gambling, but is wondering why there are two sets of legalities on this issue?

What difference between thievery and plunder?

The disconnect and double standards in government policies on gambling is similar to our penchant to call a crazed rich person “eccentric” while a poor one is just called good-for-nothing “may topak”! Why is it also that the rich suffer “nervous breakdowns,” but only the poor become “sira-ulo”? If you’re rich and like to do nothing you’re surely a “bum,” but if poor, tamad ka!

In the same manner almost, if a girl has a kid out of wedlock, a rich girl is called “single parent” but a poor girl is looked down upon as “disgrasyada.” If a poor guy steals a loaf of bread or even a few thousand pesos he’s a thief and jailed for thievery, but if a rich person steals many millions or even billions of pesos, it’s classified as “plunder” (wow, sounds like “thunder”!), he has loquacious lawyers defending him, and he’s most likely officially addressed as “honorable.”

Also, on the issue of reproductive health, it is tragic that the rich often practice family planning though they could afford to raise kids, while our past governments were afraid of the Catholic Church and for many years have deprived the poor access to family planning.

On the issue of family planning as a way to protect women’s health, to prevent abortions and to moderate our runaway population growth, I am sorry to say that the antiquated opposition of the Roman Catholic Church reminds me of the anti-progress regimes of Communist North Korea and Cuba, in stark contrast to ideologically similar but economically reformist China and Vietnam.

Let us express support for President Noynoy Aquino, Speaker Sonny Belmonte and other progressive leaders who are behind the passing of the Reproductive Health bill in Congress .

Make no mistake about it, this writer is totally against gambling in all its forms. I’m only open to the idea of letting casinos operate as long as they cater primarily to the wealthy tourists (follow the example of Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore where local Singaporean citizens can only enter their two new casinos upon paying US$100 at the entrance while foreigners with passports get to enter free of charge). However, since our existing laws allow casinos for the rich as well as OTBs, lotto and even Internet betting for the well-off and middle-class, why not just legalize, strictly regulate and heavily tax the popular jueteng of the masses?

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and her Lower House counterpart Cavite Congressman Elpidio F. Barzaga, Jr. should be cited for having that rare commodity called common sense. This writer supports their proposal to legalize jueteng. What are our other politicians “jueteng” for?

I agree with Senator Miriam Santiago who used the example of America’s failed attempt to stamp out drinking liquor with the Prohibition Act, which only resulted in illegal activities enriching crooks and even endangering drinkers with substandard or fake liquors. The US government finally decided to legalize liquor again, but also regulated it and taxed it.

Jueteng is one source of corruption. Our jueteng lords are not only notorious for their bribing our politicos and police, not only for often cheating the masses with their unregulated operations, some of them have even barged into politics and won elections !

‘Jueteng’ lords as art lovers? no way, jose?

By the way, on the issue of jueteng lords, another newspaper erroneously reported that topnotch contemporary painters Mark Justiniani, Elmer Borlongan and Ronald Ventura allegedly had their artworks bought by jueteng lords, who then hid these inside tubes, brought them to Singapore for international auctions, so that the auctioneers could then help them wash their dirty money and deposit the funds into foreign banks.

My initial reaction was that, at least, our jueteng lords seem to have good aesthetic taste, since those three artists are among my favorites. However, despite their great reputations and their works being much sought-after, I know for a fact that Justiniani and Borlongan have rarely had their works auctioned at Sotheby’s or Christie’s abroad.

Also, I know that the outstanding Ventura paintings auctioned in recent years abroad came directly from the artist himself, and were not bought by alleged jueteng lords, because it’s so hard to buy any Ventura, Justiniani, Borlongan or Geraldine Javier oil paintings in any local art gallery!

I have also read that one of the top reasons many people are committing the immoral and atrocious crime of abortion every year in the Philippines is due to lack of proper education and better access to family planning options like contraceptives, especially for the poor.

Oh my gulay!

Idon’t know Senator Edgardo Angara’s stand on the raging issue of family planning, but during the recent surprise birthday dinner for him at Shangri-la Hotel Makati where I was privileged to be seated beside billionaires Ambassador Antonio Cabangon Chua and Ambassador Philippe Lhuillier, the statesman revealed that kids five years old and below are 40 percent undernourished in the Philippines. Isn’t overpopulation part of the cause of this social problem?

Ed Angara said he plans to launch a project called OMG or “Oh My Gulay” to encourage the masses to plant and eat more vegetables like moringa (malunggay in Tagalog) and squash (kalabasa in Tagalog) to help poor children grow taller, healthier and to develop better intellectually. This is a great and very pragmatic project. My suggestion to him and his progressive Harvard-educated son Congressman Sonny Angara is for them to hopefully also support the Reproductive Health Bill, which has long been pending in Congress.

Another compelling reason to support the RH bill in Congress is our need to stop so many illegal, immoral and dangerous abortions nationwide. A recent Philippine STAR news article quoted research by the Allan Guttmacher Institute showing that contraceptive use reduces abortion rates by 85 percent.

This writer strongly believes that abortion is murder, because science shows us that human life starts at the very moment of conception. We should help prevent the numerous cases of dangerous abortions in Philippine society by promoting family planning which should include both natural and artificial means like contraceptives. Supporting the RH bill and family planning is really a pro-life and anti-abortion stand!

It is my belief that opposing contraceptives is not only anti-life, it is anti-poor because it further perpetuates Philippine society’s shockingly vast rich-poor gap and adds to the grinding poverty of the masses who often have too many kids they can’t educate, shelter, care for or adequately feed.

To those who continue to stubbornly and illogically oppose the progressive and pro-life RH bill, would you be willing to shelter, feed and educate the numerous kids who end up as street children or abandoned and who shockingly drop out of overcrowded public schools in huge proportions every year nationwide

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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