Monday, March 26, 2012

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

At a time when the country is supposed to be celebrating Filipino women and women all over the world, I was surprised to read an opinion posted by one of my Facebook friends about a consolidated enrolled bill pending in the office of the President --- waiting for Presidential approval, veto or inaction.

The consolidated enrolled bill seeks to amend Article 202 of Act No. 3815 (The Revised Penal Code), which defines "Vagrants and Prostitutes" and imposes a penalty for those who commit vagrancy and prostitution. The change introduced by the consolidated enrolled bill erases the definition of vagrants, in effect decriminalizing vagrancy, but retains its definition of prostitutes and the penalties. What is wrong with this or what worries me, you may ask?

First, what is the purpose of the law? Aside from favoring vagrants which mostly come from the poorest of the poor in our population, I see no purpose in the law. Why merely amend Article 202? Why not delete it entirely for being anti-poor and anti-women? Are our legislators preparing for the next election? ensuring that the votes of the majority (which come from the poor)go in their favor by including, as one of their accomplishments, the enactment of this law?

Second, to me, the law is a step back and erases whatever accomplishment our country had with respect to protection of our women. Have the legislators forgotten that we already have the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act? In said law, a prostitute has already been classified or described as a victim (not a criminal). In its repealing clause, the consolidated enrolled bill will repeal, modify or amend any and all laws inconsistent therewith. Clearly, the Anti-Trafficking Law's categorization of prostitutes as victims is contradictory with the criminal categorization found in the consolidated enrolled bill.

Third, the consolidated enrolled bill is discriminatory against women as only women can be prostitutes therein. It seems to me that our legislators did not even attempt to look at the definition of a prostitute in the Revised Penal Code and proceeded merely to "erasing" the portion of Article 202 that referred to vagrancy. Were they in a hurry? Why, are they not aware that even males engage in sex-for-money activities? Why single out women?

Finally, the consolidated enrolled bill is already pending in the Office of the President. If worse comes to worst, its passage into law may be the first and fatal example of "Noynoying" that our country will have. Under our Constitution, one of the ways by which a bill becomes a law is when the President does not communicate his veto of a bill to Congress within thirty (30) days. In said instance, the bill shall become a law as if the President had signed it.

PNoy has to veto this bill. PNoy has to act with haste lest the bill lapse into law. The crucial date is April 7, 2012. I hold my breath, cross my fingers and pray for a veto before that date.

To our legislators, I am disappointed. True, there is wisdom in amending an old law (especially an antiquated one like the Revised Penal Code which has been here since 1932) but in amending existing laws, legislators should take pains and strive to study and research the context within which amendments are to be made, i.e. whether amendments are proper or necessary, and if they are, what amendments should be done. In this case, an amendment is truly necessary but it was not a properly researched amendment. Congress should have removed the entire Article 202 for being anti-poor and anti-women. Instead, Congress showed its true colors, opting to dance the cha-cha (one step forward, two steps back) at the expense of women.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Listen With Deaf Ears or Else ...

Judges are not gods. They are also humans like the ordinary person you see or meet in the streets. The only difference is that they have been appointed by the President from a list of three persons of supposedly unquestionable morals and integrity, which list had been prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council after a serious and rigorous process of application, qualification and interviews. The presumption therefore is that, by being selected, they are a cut above the rest, at least insofar as knowledge of the law is concerned.

Since judges are also humans, they are also prone to commit mistakes and are apt to behave in a manner totally unbecoming or least unexpected of a judge.

When Atty. Vitaliano Aguirre was cited in contempt of court for covering his ears because of what he refers to as the "shrill" voice of Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago, I felt that something was wrong somewhere.

While the act of covering ones ears may be interpreted by most people as a sign of disrespect (manifesting a clear lack of interest in what the Senator-Judge had to say), one cannot help but wonder and ask: Wasn't the Senator-Judge's "sermon" -- which consisted of a barrage of insults to the prosecution panel -- equally a sign of disrespect which merits punishment or sanction?

I believe the answer to be in the affirmative.

Nobody would want himself to be called "gago" in public or to be referred to as a person lacking in "neuron activity". Nobody would want to be shouted at. Even parents are advised not to shout at their children when the latter is in the wrong and when they do, some children will, in defiance, cover their ears. Moreso if the person being shouted at is not a child anymore but an adult in the practice of law.

Further, isn't the Philippines supposed to be a democratic country where everyone is guaranteed the right to liberty? Can't one choose what one wants to hear? Can't one choose not to listen? I believe that a person should not be punished for choosing not to listen. If the only way for a person to not listen is to cover his ears, I also believe, he should not be faulted or punished for doing so.

Furthermore, aren't judges supposed to behave in a certain way in court? While Senators, acting as impeachment court judges, are different from ordinary judges in that no less than the people of the Republic of the Philippines appointed them to sit as such judges through the Constitution, they are similarly bound by the Code of Judicial Conduct which, I believe, applies to all judges. In fact, more is expected of Senator-Judges.

Thus, we further ask: Aren't Judges prohibited from using intemperate or foul language in court? Didn't the words used by the honorable Senator-Judge fall short of the standard imposed by the Code of Judicial Conduct?

Well, I believe it did. It fell way way below the imposed standard considering the circumstances that Senator Defensor-Santiago has been a Regional Trial Court Judge, that she is, at present, a Senator-Judge and that she had just been recently appointed/chosen to be a justice of the International Court of Justice.

Unfortunately for Atty. Aguirre, and everybody in the impeachment tribunal agreed, nobody can choose to cover one's ears without being cited in contempt even against a Senator-Judge's "shrill" voice which uses foul, intemperate and personally insulting language. Sadly, as it happened, one can only choose to listen with deaf ears.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

In Celebration of Filipino Women (Part III)

You may call the THIRD and the FOURTH GROUP of women in the song "Babae" as fighters for freedom and democracy. Though living in different but significant times in Philippine history, these women have shown that a woman, like a man, can stand up and fight for what she knows is right.

Melchora Aquino or Tandang Sora is known as "Ina ng Katipunan" (mother of the Katipunan). Like a mother that cares for her children, she let her home be used as a safe refuge for Katipuneros who were then fighting the Spaniards.

Gabriela Silang, on the other hand, was the first Filipino to ever lead an uprising. She led the Filipino forces in Ilocos when they fought against the Spaniards after her husband, Diego Silang, died.

Theresa Magbanua fought similarly like Gabriela but during the Japanese-American war. It is even said that she sold her properties to financially support Filipino guerilla forces.

Lisa Balando is described by some writers as an icon of the union movement. She lived at a time when Marcos ruled the Philippines with an iron hand and she was one of those who died during a big rally on May 1, 1971.

Liliosa Hilao was a youth leader during Martial Law while Lorena Barros was with the women sector. They were both members of organizations outlawed (for the strong and radical positions that they take on issues against the government) during Martial Law. Liliosa Hilao was a member of the Kabataang Makabayan while Lorena Barros was the founding member of MAKIBAKA. They both died in pursuit of their beliefs during Martial Law.

While the Philippines is presently not at war with any particular country, the spirit of these women live on in the women who continue to fight for what is right today... the struggles and desires merely taking on a new form. They are the women who continue to fight for gender equality and justice.


Yes, there are women who, like Maria Clara, Hule and Sisa, are forced into silence and meekness. They choose not to speak a word or utter a complaint either out of fear or a feeling of helplessness or either because they simply feel that their opinion or words are not important ('why talk, when no one listens anyway?', they may ask). There are those who cannot say 'no' (who dare not say 'no') and those who do not fight back against abuses and oppression. They are the Maria Claras, Hules and Sisas of this world. For women like these, escape is inevitable or a necessity, even if escape means death or insanity.

Then there are also women who fancy themselves as damsels in distress to be swooped up by a horse-riding prince and taken away to safety. They feel that the men are their security. They depend on men for their survival. These are women totally dependent on men for support --- financially, emotionally, morally and psychologically. Instead of fending for themselves or saving themselves when danger comes, they opt to wait to their manly savior.

And then there are those who choose to speak. To fight back when necessary. To fight back even to their death. Because they are not afraid. Because they know that it is right.


This is not to say that one kind of woman is better. Or that one kind of response is more apt. The song simply shows the versatility of women. Her capacity to respond in soooo many ways to sooo many kinds of situation at different points in time.... That a woman is special. That she is good, not only in bed, but also in the field of battle. That what she says is equally important as what she thinks. That what she thinks is equally important as what the next man on the street is thinking. That a woman is also human.

Yes, let's celebrate the Filipino woman. Let's celebrate not only her achievements or what she has become through history. In addition, let us celebrate her potentials. The present and her possibility of being man's partner for progress. Let us celebrate what she can eventually become --- free and equal with man.

In celebrating, let us also be challenged. Let us be challenged to fill in gaps --- gaps in laws and ways of thinking...gaps in implementation of good laws.. Let us improve the NOW. Let us do what we can to take women all over the world to her FULL POTENTIAL.




Friday, March 9, 2012

In Celebration of Filipino Women (Part II)

The FIRST GROUP of women from the song "Babae" are women who appear to the author of the song as having no might (strength). These women are: Maria Clara, Hule and Sisa. All these women are fictional for they are characters in Dr. Jose Rizal’s novels “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo.

Maria Clara

Maria Clara was introduced as the sweetheart of the protagonist, Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, and the daughter of Kapitan Tiyago and Pia Alba. However, at a later part of the story, Maria Clara will discover that her true father is a priest, Padre Damaso. Despite her being in love with Ibarra, Maria Clara was announced to be engaged to a certain Linares. Thinking that Ibarra was shot to death, Maria Clara went to the convent for nuns. While there, Padre Salvi who lusted for her body all these time, made good his desires. Because of this, it was implied in the novel that Maria Clara plunged herself to death from the top of the convent.


Hule is the daughter of Kapitan Tales, a former barangay head who became a bandit because of abuses he suffered under the friars. Hule was forced to work as a maid to raise enough money to free her father. When her boyfriend (Basilio, the eldest son of Sisa) was arrested, she tried to get the help of Padre Camorra but the latter, instead, attempted to rape her. To escape Padre Camorra, Hule jumped to her death over a balcony.


Sisa is the beautiful and loving mother of Crispin (7 years old)- an altar boy who was wrongfully accused of theft and killed - and Basilio (10 years old)- an acolyte in charge of ringing the church bells for the Angelus. Sisa was married to Pedro who was a wife beater. Perhaps due to the tragedy of losing his youngest son and the daily beatings that she and her children got from her husband, Sisa became mentally deranged.

*** The common thread among the three characters, I think, is that they were all victims of abuse and they chose to escape from that abuse is various ways. Maria Clara was abused by Padre Salvi in the convent where she was staying. Her escape was to plunge herself from atop the convent to her death. Hule was almost the victim of rape by Padre Camorra and she escaped by jumping off a balcony to her death. Sisa was a battered wife who loved her children so much. She was able to tolerate the beatings but she could not accept the fate of her sons (one of which died because of friar abuse). This drove her crazy...this was her escape.

While their responses may be viewed by some as weak, notice should be taken of the fact that it takes guts to take one's own life...Maria Clara and Hule decided that they did not want to be a victim of abuse anymore. Admittedly, at that time, there wasn't much that they could do. Reporting to the authorities may have been viewed by them as futile (considering their own personal experiences with the authorities then). The same would have served no purpose other than to anger the church. There were also no women support groups to turn to. Thus, they decided: "Never again, over my dead body..."

The solution of death was not taken by Sisa. She was so consumed by love for her children, she had to continue to live for them. But where were they? This unanswered question plagued Sisa so much that it drove her to madness.

The three characters also show us that women abuse does not choose skin color (Maria Clara was mestiza, Hule and Sisa were of our native skin color). It does not choose class (Maria belonged to the upper class while Hule and Sisa, the lower).

The three characters also show us that women during the Spanish time were treated like goods and not persons with a voice of their own. Maria Clara was forced to be engaged to Linares. Hule was forced to work as a maid for Hermana Penchang to pay for her father's ransom. Sisa was battered like she did not have any feelings at all (as if she were a thing).

The SECOND GROUP of women from the song "Babae" are again fictional characters viewed as dependent on men for their salvation and survival.


Cinderella is a popular children's story character who waited for her Prince Charming to come and save her from the oppression and abuse of her stepmother and two stepsisters. Cinderella had to wait for the Prince to come and slip on her foot the famed glass slipper.


Nena represents women who are forced by poverty to engage in prostitution. The story of "Nena" is narrated in another song entitled "Nena" composed and sung by Heber Bartolome's Banyuhay. In the said song, Nena initially started out as a young student with working parents (her mother is a laundrywoman while her father works in a factory). Her father dies in an accident and Nena stops studying. She helps her mother with the laundry. Then her mother gets sick. Suddenly, Nena is put in a dilemma of where to get money. Hence, her decision to engage in prostitution.

*** Both Cinderella and Nena are stuck in a muck. Both use their beauty to get out of their deplorable state. Cinderella attracts a Prince Charming who, in the happy ending, takes her to be his wife. Nena, on the other hand, solicits clients who pay her money so that she and her sick mother could live (even if deep inside she is already dying because she does not want to engage in the activity of prostitution).

*** Both the FIRST and the SECOND GROUP of women in the song may appear to have responded in a way that is far from ideal. This differentiates them from the women in the THIRD and FOURTH GROUP.

To be continued again...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In Celebration of Filipino Women (Part I)

Tomorrow (March 8) is "International Women's Day" when the entire world celebrates women and their economic, political and social achievements. In the Philippines, Proclamation No. 224, signed on March 1, 1988, declared the 1st week of March of every year as "Women’s Week" and March 8, 1988 and every year thereafter as "Women’s Rights and International Peace Day”. In the same spirit, Proclamation No. 227, signed on March 17, 1988, provided for the observance of the month of March as "Women’s Role in History Month." Finally, the Philippines has Republic Act No. 6949, signed on April 10, 1990, which declares March 8 as a Working Special Holiday known as "National Women’s Day.”

On the occasion of this celebration, I would like to take a look at the women in the Philippine context by looking at the women mentioned in the song "Babae" written and composed in 1978 when the Philippines was under martial law. The women in the song came from different walks of life, lived in different times, and had different opinions and views on women, including themselves.

I view the song in three ways:

First, I consider it as a simple narration of the evolution of women's struggle in the Philippines;

Second, I view it as the writer's homage or tribute to the women mentioned in the song (including those who represented the women who were viewed either as weak or submissive because were it not for them and their stories, women around the world would not have awakened to realize that things should and could change -- that women were not weak (after all)and they need not be submissive all the time, that women also have strength, that women also have voices for you to listen to, that women can also push back and fight any form of oppression or abuse), and;

Finally, I consider the song as a challenge to everyone, to continue working towards fulfilling the hopes and dreams of women not only in the Philippines but also all over the world for a world free from oppression, discrimination, inequality, and injustice.

The lyrics of the song (including the English translation) copied from are as follows:

"BABAE" (1978)(Music and Lyrics: Ramon T. Ayco, Sr.)

I. Kayo ba ang mga Maria Clara [Are you women like Maria Clara]

Mga Hule at mga Sisa [Or women like Hule and Sisa]

Na di marunong na lumaban [Who are submissive and could fight]

Kaapiha'y bakit iniluluha [When you're battered, why you just cry]

Mga babae, kayo ba’y sadyang mahina [Oh women do you really have no might]

II. Kayo ba ang mga Cinderella [Are you women like Cinderella]

Na lalake ang tanging pag-asa [Who dream for Prince Charming to come]

Kayo nga ba ang mga Nena [Are you women like sexy Nena]

Na hanapbuhay ay pagpuputa [Whose profession is selling sex delight]

Mga babae, kayo ba’y sadyang pangkama [Oh women are you only for bed of love]

Refrain: Ang ating isip ay buksan [Women open up your mind]

At lipuna’y pag-aralan [Society needs to be analyzed]

Pa'no nahubog inyong mga isipan [How are you being molded and brainwashed]

At tanggaping kayo’y mga libangan [To admit you're just objects of fun]

Mga babae, ito nga ba’y kapalaran [Oh women is this really you destined life]

III. Bakit ba merong mga Gabriela [Why are there women like Gabriela]

Mga Theresa, at Tandang Sora [Like Theresa and Tandang Sora]

Na di umasa sa luha’t awa [Who didn't depend on mercy and cry]

Sila’y nagsipaghawak ng sandata [Every one of them took up arms]

Nakilaban, ang mithiin ay lumaya [They were women who struggled for our freedom]

IV. Bakit ba merong mga Lisa [Why are there women like Lisa]

Mga Liliosa at mga Lorena [Liliosa and like Lorena]

Na di natakot, makibaka [Who were not afraid to fight]

At ngayo’y marami ng kasama [And now there are so many comrades]

Mga babae, ang mithiin ay lumaya [They are women bravely fighting for freedom]

Mga babae, ang mithiin ay lumaya [They are women bravely fighting for freedom]

To be continued ...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

“Aftershocks” of Sendong

Huh? But Sendong was not an earthquake, you might tell me. Sendong was a storm that hit the Philippines late last year which caused a lot of flashfloods and mudslides in Mindanao, the hardest hit areas of which were Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City. Why then do I refer to “aftershocks”?

Aftershocks are natural (and equally unwelcome) occurrences after an earthquake. They occur, as I understand it, while the earth is still in the process of settling down after its movement.

Yes, Sendong, a storm, has “aftershocks”. Literally, the people (especially the children) were “shocked” “after” Sendong.

Our kasambahay, Violy (not her real name) had to go home after Valentines Day to be with her eight year old daughter. You see, Violy’s daughter was diagnosed as having depression. The condition was attributed to her experiences after Sendong. Violy wasn’t beside her daughter when Sendong happened. She wasn’t there when her daughter saw the decomposing bodies of those who drowned in the flashfloods. Our kasambahay was not there to assure her daughter that she would be safe. And it didn’t help that an earthquake of a high magnitude hit the Visayas region and was strongly felt in Cagayan de Oro where Violy’s daughter was.

Violy had to go home to care for her daughter even if it meant not having any regular source of income doing housework for us. She argued, no amount of money can take the place of a mother’s comforting presence. True, indeed. Upon her return, she reported, her daughter was happier and seemed to have gotten better. But Violy’s daughter still had to take her medicines and visit the child psychiatrist regularly. Poor Violy! She is now beside herself with worry over how to get the money for her and her other children’s needs, as well as the medical needs of her depressed daughter. This notwithstanding, she consoled herself by saying that at least she and her daughter are together.

Our kasambahay’s daughter is just one among many children who experienced the “aftershocks” of Sendong. Fortunately, Violy was able to go home and be with her child and we were able to help her out materially but what about the other children... the other children who have seen the wrath of Sendong without their parents? What about the children who lost their parents to Sendong? What about those who lost their siblings and barely survived themselves? Who cares for them now?

It is this blogger’s sincere hope that something concrete is being done about this beyond mere giving of relief goods. Relief goods are mere palliatives for they only remedy what is immediate and does not provide the answers for the long-term. What about the “aftershocks”? Is anything being done about them? I sure hope so.

At the barest minimum, is there, at present, an attempt to even assess or evaluate why the catastrophe in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City happened? Is there an effort to identify the causes thereto?

I am not a geologist nor am I a scientist but satellite pictures of the flooded areas clearly show that the floods carried with it mud. Mud, to me, means that there is erosion. The high volume of mud further indicates the seriousness of the situation. And, tracing the path of the mud, one could see that it came from the mountains...nothing is holding the soil together. Who then is the culprit?

In answering this question, I am reminded of a song “Where have all the flowers gone?” Unfortunately, for the Philippines, it is not just flowers that have been picked...I sing in my mind, albeit sadly, “where have all the trees gone?” “where have all the minerals gone?” “Loggers and miners picked them, everyone” “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn” (as the original song goes for the last two questions)...tsk tsk tsk...

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Violence against women and children” has been defined by Republic Act No. 9262 (VAWC law) as “any act or a series of acts committed by any person against a woman who is his wife, former wife, or against a woman with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom he has a common child, or against her child whether legitimate or illegitimate, within or without the family abode, which result in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering, or economic abuse including threats of such acts, battery, assault, coercion, harassment or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”

The same law also enumerated certain acts included in the term, to wit:

1. PHYSICAL VIOLENCE - acts that include bodily or physical harm;

2. SEXUAL VIOLENCE - an act which is sexual in nature, committed against a woman or her child which includes, but is not limited to:

a) rape, sexual harassment, acts of lasciviousness, treating a woman or her child as a sex object, making demeaning and sexually suggestive remarks, physically attacking the sexual parts of the victim's body, forcing her/him to watch obscene publications and indecent shows or forcing the woman or her child to do indecent acts and/or make films thereof, forcing the wife and mistress/lover to live in the conjugal home or sleep together in the same room with the abuser;

b) acts causing or attempting to cause the victim to engage in any sexual activity by force, threat of force, physical or other harm or threat of physical or other harm or coercion;

c) Prostituting the woman or child.

3. PSYCHOLOGICAL VIOLENCE - acts or omissions causing or likely to cause mental or emotional suffering of the victim such as but not limited to intimidation, harassment, stalking, damage to property, public ridicule or humiliation, repeated verbal abuse and mental infidelity. It includes causing or allowing the victim to witness the physical, sexual or psychological abuse of a member of the family to which the victim belongs, or to witness pornography in any form or to witness abusive injury to pets or to unlawful or unwanted deprivation of the right to custody and/or visitation of common children.

4. ECONOMIC ABUSE - acts that make or attempt to make a woman financially dependent which includes, but is not limited to the following:

a) withdrawal of financial support or preventing the victim from engaging in any legitimate profession, occupation, business or activity, except in cases wherein the other spouse/partner objects on valid, serious and moral grounds as defined in Article 73 of the Family Code;

b) deprivation or threat of deprivation of financial resources and the right to the use and enjoyment of the conjugal, community or property owned in common;

c) destroying household property;

d) controlling the victims' own money or properties or solely controlling the conjugal money or properties.

The above enumeration is, of course, not exclusive, as there may be other forms of abuse which “result in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering, or economic abuse.”

For example, psychological abuse should not be merely limited to acts of intimidation, harassment, stalking, damage to property, public ridicule or humiliation, repeated verbal abuse and mental infidelity. Psychological abuse may also take the form of a husband regularly and strongly criticizing her wife and pointing out her weaknesses (never her strengths) to other people (including her children), which criticisms have the effect of making the wife slowly lose confidence in herself because of the daily tirades from her husband which constantly break her sense of dignity and self-worth. Add to this, the husband’s lack of any attempt at showing his affection for his wife, his refusal to be intimate with her, and his failure to give her a hug when she asks for it.

Some people may refuse to acknowledge the examples I gave above as examples of psychological abuse. They might simply say that a woman affected by the above criticisms from her husband is too sensitive. They might say that the blows to a woman’s dignity and self-worth brought by such criticisms are more imagined than real and that the woman’s concern is the concern of a person who simply lacks attention. The woman might even be viewed as a demanding and unreasonable wife who does not understand that more important things come first other than her need for intimacy and affection.

I beg to disagree.

I think and believe that nothing could be more violent than when a man violates his obligations to his wife. The Family Code states in Article 68 that: “The husband and wife are obliged to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support.” Failure to observe mutual love, respect and fidelity hurts as much as physical violence does moreso if a wife is in love with her husband. The damage to the woman is further aggravated by her continued tolerance and silence over the psychological abuse simply for the purpose of ‘keeping the peace’ in the home. Unfortunately, in most instances however, ‘keeping the peace’, comes at a cost: the woman’s happiness and sanity. I believe, a woman who lives in such a circumstance of abuse should be given the same legal remedy available to a woman suffering from physical abuse.

One could even say that it is quite notable that a violation of any of the obligations between husband and wife by one spouse could give the other a right of action for damages under the abuse of right doctrine which states that: “Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.” By their marriage, the spouses have promised to forever love and respect each other. What could be more unfair and more unjust than a spouse reneging on his marital vow or promise by being guilty of psychological abuse? What could be more hurtful than hearing the one you love berate you and telling you that you don’t have to be intimate anymore because there are “other things” or matters in the family that should be paid more attention to? Nothing.