Saturday, July 16, 2011

Apology NOT accepted

(I stand with the new PCSO, Marge Juico and the President)

There is something wrong with the universe. A group of Bishops have sought moral absolution from a bunch of politicians, in a gallery crowded by the Catholic supporters, after some heavy lobbying with the politicians beforehand. Does it surprise anyone that the absolution was given? The CBCP is economically powerful. Church and affiliate Catholic groups are the top stockholders in companies such as the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), Philex Mining Corporation (PX), San Miguel Corporation (SMC), Ayala Corporation (AC), and Phinma Corporation (PHN) according to the latest data submitted to the Philippine Stock Exchange. Apart from its economic power the Church remains a powerful social institution.

The Senate Committee hearing, looking into the unconstitutional use of charity funds in the grant of vehicles to 7 Bishops, was a clinic in sycophancy, hypocrisy and farce.

The day before, the CBCP issued the same apology I hear erring husbands give to their wives. These are the similarities:

Firstly, most erring husbands address the apology to the smallest number of the people hurt by their abuse: the wife. Not the wife and the children, not the wife and the friends and family who love her who have borne her pain and suffering with her. And so the Bishops address themselves only to “the people of God”. Reading the letter it would seem that the more accurate phrase is: “the people of the Catholic God”. But let us say, that they mean also the people of the Allah, the Buddha, Shiva, and so on. They certainly have not addressed it to me and the small but growing band of Filipinos who have no religion.

They owe me an apology for participating in the violation of our Constitution. (And yes, they have. With all due respect to Senator Santiago who I admire for many reasons. But her interpretation is not the only expert one in the area and other constitutional experts including UP's Raul Pangalangan says the Constitution was violated.)

They owe me an apology for their hypocrisy that has affected my life and the lives of countless women and men seeking to exercise our sexual and reproductive rights. How often have they told me that we don't need a reproductive health bill because the more important measure the nation needs to progress is to stop corruption? Define corruption please? Is it corruption only if persons other than yourselves presume on the resources of the nation?

How often have I heard that it is the CBCPs duty to speak out against immorality, and that is why they interfere in the nation's politics? They have intoned against the RH bill like people who have a franchise on moral perfection. It is on this basis that they have run roughshod over all my appeals that they do not impose their single standard of morality on all Filipinos. Noooo. I must obey them whether I like it or not. Or to be accurate, the poor women who cannot afford to buy contraceptives must obey them.

In the meantime, such rigorous discipline is only for us, the spiritual orphans standing at the CBCP gates. Even before the apology the CBCP had stated that it was not up to the them to decide what the 7 would do with the vehicles. They were answerable only to the Pope and themselves.

And, it would seem that our spiritual development as a nation still awaits the first holier-than-thou person to hook us into belief. Even the intellectual Randy David says he welcomes the Church's incursions into politics because the standard of perfection is not a bad standard to strive for. Perfection? With all due respect to David, feminist agnostics like me strive for perfection too. It is a function not left only to religion. But I do not arrogate unto myself moral superiority as a basis for my advocacies. I claim a bit of non-Christian humility in this regard. I only ask that I too be given recognition as a moral actor. Not a moral paragon, just an equal moral agent. It is called secularism, this democracy of the moral.

But the parallels to the erring husband do not end here. Often too, the husband apologizes for the pain and suffering he has caused the wife without exactly telling her what he thinks about the events that caused the pain and the suffering. There is no definitive statement here about whether wrong was done only that there was an “apparent inconsistency in their actions”. And in the light of this apparition of wrong-doing, there is an appeal “to be slow in judgment and to conscientiously seek the whole truth.” Indeed, indeed. We have been hurt but only because we have allowed ourselves to be hurt by an illusion.

“And you know,” says the husband, “remember all those times when you thought I was at my mistress when I proved to you I was actually at my office? See? You are too suspicious and jealous.” Sounds like, “well you know, many times, the vehicles were used for real charity work.”

Nonetheless, like real men they are ready to face the consequences of an infidelity they are not certain they committed. “We assure you that the bishops concerned are ready to accept responsibility for their action and to face the consequences if it would be proven unlawful, anomalous, and unconstitutional.”

And like the erring husband, they assure us that IF there was abuse, it was done without malice. It was done because they had the urgent desire to serve the poor. “Honey, I am sorry I hurt you, it is just that I love you so much.”

As I tell my grieving counselees, it is the rare and lucky woman who walks into a room where the mistress and the husband are in flagrante delicto. I am sorry Philippine nation, I can give you no taped conversations that prove that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo granted those vehicles to Bishops who stopped the Church from condemning her when it was revealed that she talked to an election official seeking assurance that she would win by at least a million votes. If this is the kind of certainty you need, then do get back to the arms of the Bishops as those senators at the public hearing did. But perhaps you should take the Bishop's at their word on this and conscientiously seek the truth.

And so it has been with our poor political system. It has become the subservient chattel of the macho Church. The Senate hearing proves only one thing, we are not a democracy, we are a theocracy.

But oh, how quickly our erring husbands have cycled back to abuse after their remorse. At the very hearing the Bishops ask where the information about “Pajeros” comes from and refuse to accept Marge Juico's apology and explanation. This, while the pro-CBCP people still debating me on twitter have been tweeting links to me about Juico's public corrections long before the hearing.

And now a few Bishops have asked Juico and Pres. Aquino to resign. The President, has has hardly made a public statement on the matter. In the meantime, a friend in media tells me that those Bishops critical of the “donations” are no longer giving interviews. Marge Juico, Aleta Tolentino and the new PCSO are seeking to clean the augean stables of PCSO corruption. Someone, maybe Juico (though she denies it), may have said “Pajero” when she should have said “Montero”.

What is this sense of moral privilege that allows them to think that absolution by a bunch of politicians; that a half-apology; that the return of the vehicles over and above the call of the sycophants that they should keep them; is sufficient cause to pat themselves on the back? The morally righteous have tweeted me after the hearing as if I have been on the losing side of an arm wrestling contest. What is this sanctimoniousness that allows them to be so easy on themselves and so harsh against those who they think have wronged them? This is prophetic?

I have my own sense of prophecy. There can be no forgiveness until there has been a full acceptance of wrong doing. There can be no forgiveness until there is genuine remorse that does not minimize the hurt that has been done nor the number of people who have been hurt. There can no real remorse if the rebound to harsh judgementalism has been so quick.

I condemn the CBCP and the Senators at that hearing for this farce. That was unconscionable. There are righteous people here. They are Marge Juico and her people at the new PCSO.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Buy me a new car Mr. President

His Excellency Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III
Republic of the Philippines

Dear President Aquino,

I want you to give me a new car for my birthday. Preferably a 4 x 4 SUV bought from government monies meant for health assistance to the poor.

May I remind you that Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos was given government money by former Pres. Arroyo so that he could buy himself a Montero for his birthday. As the Bishop's request letter managed to get him the said bonanza, I will cite the same justifications for my request. But my justifications, while similar, will be better.

I celebrated my last birthday like the good Bishop. I carefully discerned not to throw a party and “spent the day with and for myself”. But unlike the Bishop who spent the day also “with God” I spent some of the day with President Emerlinda Roman who was given a testimonial on her last day as UP President. I was running for UP Diliman Chancellor at that time, so I thought it best to be seen at said event. I therefore missed watching the Askals game with my family. I did not take my one-day birthday leave. With all due respect to former UP President Roman, surely the Bishop had a more pleasant day than I did. I deserve a luxury vehicle more, for having renounced more pleasures on my birthday than he did. I was a model of Christian asceticism and saintly sacrifice!

Unlike Bishop Pueblos who was chosen by the former President Arroyo as “Peace Champion of Caraga”, I was not chosen as UP Diliman Chancellor. However, I have been reappointed as the current Director of the UP Center for Women's Studies. I also have a few awards to my name, but I am so filled with Christian humility that I won't mention them.

The point is, like the good Bishop (and all those other Bishops who also bought nice SUVs or vans using government charity money), I DO GOOD WORKS! I do, I do. Swear and cross my heart. And in the words of said Bishop, “I know I could do more”.

Quoting Bishop Pueblos further, “It is in this view that I am asking a favor from your Excellency. At present, I really need a brand-new car, possibly a 4 x 4, which I can use to reach the far-flung areas... I hope you will never fail to give a brand new car which would serve as your birthday gift to me. For your information, I have with me a 7-year-old car which is not anymore in good running condition. Therefore, this needs to be replaced very soon.”

Your Excellency, my official vehicle is an early 1990s Toyota Fx and I am terribly ashamed of it at this point. It is older than 7 years old. When it was 7 years old I envied the Director who was riding around in it. It really needs to be replaced because when I use it to transport relief goods, the poor and displaced tend to hand me money thinking I am poorer than them.

Your Excellency, us poor Professors from UP, the servants of the Filipino youth, cry out in our desperation for 4 wheel drive SUVs. Please don't help the CBCP anymore. Help your own. It is high time government money be spent for the Colleges of UP rather than the College of Cardinals.

Sincerely yours,
Sylvia Estrada Claudio, MD, PhD
Professor of Women and Development Studies
Director, Center for Women's Studies
University of the Philippines

PS Please make out the check to: UP Center for Women's Studies c/o Sylvia Estrada Claudio, MD, PhD. I prefer that the check be made out in my name complete with all the post-nominal letters just like the one they made for Bishop Pueblos. Please note I have more letters after my name. This proves I am a worthy doer of good works. In any case, I promise I will tell the accountants about the check and the purchase. Trust me on this, I do good works.

P.P.S Don't worry, if it blows up in our face, I will promise to return the vehicle, all the while acting as if I still had the high moral ground. After all, I do good works.

cc: Margarita P. Juico