Friday, October 12, 2012

Prayer1 Delivered at the Forum entitled “Academe and the Nation, RH Bill and Academic Freedom”.2

By Sylvia Estrada Claudio, MD, PhD3 My friends, in honor of our guests, let us pray. But since this is the University of the Philippines you may remain in your seats and choose not to make the sign of the cross or other ritual gestures. Dear Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of Ateneo and La Salle; Guarantor of the CBCP and editorial writers from the Varsitarian; BFF of the Vatican; the alpha and the omega of everyone except for those billions of others who have other beliefs; you whose Sacred Heart bleeds for the Filipino Freethinkers and others of their ilk, hear us Lord. Guide us today so that we may have peaceful and collegial discussions as true scholars who are committed to serving our society with our expertise. Bless this coming together of the faculty members of three universities who have chosen to speak out for the reproductive health bill. Reach out to the hearts of other members of academia who disagree with us that they may understand that we would never call for the suppression of their right to free expression. Please click the tab "superlike" that we are reaching across institutions for the cause of academic freedom. We offer up this effort to you in the belief that this struggle will help other universities, including pontifical ones, to remain as institutions of higher learning, discovery and progress. We thank you for blessing the Ateneo basketball team last night at the time they needed to prove that not everyone is a coward and a lemon in that school. Please enlighten the community of La Salle to the truth that if they had reached the finals, many RH advocates from UP would have found it difficult to find a team to side with. We the older people here, also known as professors, thank you also for the most wonderful responses of the students of Ateneo and La Salle to that Varsitarian4 article. It made some of us weep because we have fantasies that we somehow contributed to the greatness of these students. Please prevent UP from feeling superior because it is a secular university and no one seems to be upset whenever we say things against religion. As You know, Lord, this doesn't mean UP's freedoms are always secure and that we are not called upon to constantly to re-examine the parameters of ethical academic discourse. Besides, UP was at the bottom again in the basketball standings this season. Please bless the UP College of Law for this venue, the College of Social Science and Philosophy for its co-sponsorship, the faculty members and students from Ateneo and La Salle who are here, the media people whom you will inspire to file stories about this event and the audience herein gathered to hear our most distinguished panel. We beseech You and all the other Gods that people believe in to make this a safe space for the free exchange of ideas. Lord, we beseech You to pass the RH bill. Lastly dear Jesus, if I am to get in trouble for this prayer, let it not be because I exercised my generic freedom of expression; not because as a teacher of women's studies I exercised my academic freedom to talk about an issue within my expertise; but because this is being done in a government facility and my praying here violates the Philippine Constitution. Amen.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Confessions of an impeachment and RH bill fiend

Published February 12, 2012 in Business World.

Sin number 1: My productivity is much diminished these days because I am addicted to watching the impeachment. Every boring detail. I seethe at every bone-headed move by the prosecution, at every legal victory of the defense. I think Juan Ponce Enrile is a vampire. He can't be that good. Especially as I hated him during martial law. I think Serafin Cuevas is brilliant. But I don't like his bombastic oratorical style. It reminds me of all those men thundering at us during the dictatorship, chief among them, macho Marcos himself.

And so, I am now in search of my ideal man, one with the soft rhetorical style of Niel Tupas and the competence of Cuevas. My ideal man would have argued that nothing prevents the Senate from conducting the impeachment more like a fact finding mission or a truth commission and less like a court.

Sin number 2: I am obsessed with the reproductive health (RH) bill and see connections between the impeachment efforts and the effort to pass the RH bill. I may have imbibed the conspiracy theory paranoia of the religious fanatics who keep claiming pro-RH people are drug company and imperialist lackeys.

I hope that Renato Corona is convicted. (Parenthetically, those who accuse me of not abiding by the rule, “innocent until proven guilty” are to be condemned to 20-minute tongue lashings by Miriam Defensor Santiago. That rule is meant to regulate the police power of the state. It was not meant to substitute for individual discernment and not meant to prevent the social disgrace of scoundrels. Taking that rule out of context would mean that citizens should not be concerned with graft and corruption since very few people get convicted anyway.) I believe Corona is an ally of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who would uphold all her leanings including her refusal to pass an RH bill during her term. It was during GMA's term that the Supreme Court junked the petition of 20 affected women to invalidate Lito Atienza's egregious order banning contraceptives in Manila. From the anti-RH camp, even from some of the legislators we hear it often: “if the bill passes we will take it to the Supreme Court”. They say it with confidence.

So, long before the impeachment, I knew something had to be done to uphold the independence of the Supreme Court. It must be freed not just from GMA's influence, but also from the unholy alliance of the Catholic Church and GMA.

The GMA-Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines connection on the RH bill has bothered me endlessly. Ricky Carandang decided to resign from the Catholic Church when he was still a journalist. He had interviewed CBCP's Melvin Castro who, in so many words, said it would not condemn a corrupt politician as much as it would condemn a pro- RH one.

Thus I was not surprised when the Bishops agreed to mediate the escalating war of Pres. Aquino against Chief Justice Corona. The rest of the nation was going, “go, go, go Pnoy!!!!” while the CBCP was admonishing towards dialogue.

And so, while the CBCP called rallies against the corruption of Pres. Estrada, the Pontifical University of Sto. Tomas gave Corona a PhD in a manner I would describe as “wala lang.” Asked whether the CJ had earned his degree properly like the rest of us plodders, the public got less than satisfactory answers, and an argumentum ad hominem against Marites Vitug.

“To everything there is a season” according to Ecclesiastes. Except that while most of us are in the season of justice and retribution— the CBCP is in the winter of contradictory morality.

I am thinking, if the RH bill finally comes to a vote, all this tension between Pnoy and the CBCP would lessen. I am thinking, that for the sake of my Catholic friends, perhaps the Church no longer needs to go on its moral fugues once we can unstick the RH bill from its craw.

Sin number 3: I am guilty of extreme pettiness. I am upset at Corona's cooptation of the color purple. Those who consider him innocent him are asked to wear purple. He just made my wardrobe defunct. My cabinets are full of purple things because, dear Chief Justice, THAT HAS BEEN THE COLOR OF PRO-RH ADVOCATES. As my friend and colleague Jonas Bagas says, “kung dilaw ka, dapat purple ka rin.”

Sylvia Estrada Claudio is a fellow of AER. She is a medical doctor and a PhD in Psychology. It would be her pleasure as an official of the University of the Philippines to show to Marites Danguilan Vitug the written rules and guidelines for attaining these degrees at the time these were conferred in order to remove any doubt that she earned them on her own merits.