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San Juan Gossip Mills Outlet

A veritable fanatic of the Internet. His avocation is teaching while his main vocation is practicing the much maligned law profession. Currently teaching Constitutional Law at the FEU Institute of Law and a guest lecturer at the De La Salle University teaching "Freedom and Regulation in Cyberspace" in the Graduate Program of the Department of Communication. He is married to his beautiful Ateneo law school classmate and is blessed with a daughter and a son.

Location: San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Religion & Hypocrisy in Government

We have a state religion although we do not admit it.

Despite borrowing heavily from the US Constitution, the Philippines exists as though the Spaniards and the frailocracy never left our shores. Our Constitution emphasizes non-establishment of religion. But one could be easily fooled.

You go to government offices and one gets overwhelmed with the statues of the Virgin, the Sto. Niño, the lighted icons of the Perpetual Help peppered in corners, adorned in hallways and crucifixes hung in offices. Some government offices are chapels in all but name. Just yesterday, I met the second highest bureaucrat in a government agency and he proudly proclaimed that his office is filled with religous icons. Nothing wrong with that except they are just violating the highest law of the land.

Why fuss about it? First, because the Constitution forbids it. The very essence of non-establishment is that no religion must be patronized by the State. Though seemingly harmless, the statues and icons found in government offices smack of endorsement and it is taxpayer's money that subsidizes the maintenance of these items. Were I a Muslim, a born again or even an atheist taxpayer, I would have been gravely offended. The latent tolerance of government in displaying religious articles is an insult to adherents of other faiths and a clear but tacit violation of the Constitution.

Second, despite the presence of these icons, our government bureaucracy is considered one of the most corrupt in Asia, and even the world. One would think that these artifacts would put the fear of God in their hearts or encourage honesty, integrity and civic esprit de corps. But all to naught. Religion and its ornaments are propped up as a facade for decency in some government offices where there is little or none to speak of. If religion has no effect on our bureaucrats, what do these icons serve? Save for wearing religion on their sleeves, nada.

Corruption and hypocrisy are two sides of a coin. And they are inversely proportional to the pervasive and declining influence of religion in this country. More and more people speak of moral regeneration but where are the leaders we seek to emulate? The Church has lost much of her credibility because she chose to play footsies with Pagcor. The politicians never had the sincere respect of the people except during campaign doleouts where they are willingly led to slaughter. The private sector is fragmented that there is no common voice except during EDSA uprisings. Public religiosity has wrought largely nothing but ill and hypocrisy to government.

And so I say, let us do away with the hypocrisy of religion in government. The physical manifestations of religion appear to serve no lasting moral or beneficial purpose to the men and women serving the public good. Let our Constitution justify their removal. After all, a man is justified by his faith and good works, not by the sheer number of statues in his office.

But in the meantime, as a concerned citizen meditating in his private room, let us pray that God will raise up a prophet in our midst to proclaim the good news to the nation, to make straight the path of the Lord, and to lead us out of this seemingly endless moral desert. Oh, and religious hyprocrisy!

Salve Regina.....

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Recollections of the '79ers

(This article was written in celebration of the 25th Homecoming of our Batch '79 held last August 2004)

It was a time of growing chaos. When our parents sent us to a relatively new institution called St. Jude Catholic School situated a stone's throw from Malacañang Palace, little did they know that the restive and tumultuous days of pre-martial law would soon engulf the San Miguel district of Manila. Rallies and molotov cocktails were almost a daily fare. Bombs bursting were regularly heard and even St. Jude Catholic Church was not spared from the ire. School suspension was something we looked forward to.

Through it all, we grew up and studied in relative calm within the four walls of St. Jude Catholic School. Nurtured by the discipline and guiding hands of Rev. Fr. Peter Yang, SVD and Rev. Fr. Charles Tchou, we were largely unmindful of the dark clouds hovering over the country. And when martial law was declared and school was indefinitely suspended, we cheered and only thought about vacation and cartoons. It was still martial law when we graduated.

But between the 1972 martial law proclamation and our high school graduation in 1979, we slowly melded and awoke from our individual consciousness. It was a period of growing friendships. As we were shuffled every year, companionships were cultivated across gender lines. And as a co-ed school, it was inevitable that boy-girl relationships flourished. In fact, several of our batch mates ended up living happily married.

It was also a time of adolescent rebellion. Several of us would become regular visitors to Fr. Tchou's Discipline Office. To be marked with conduct "C" was our equivalent of the Scarlet Letter. It was something most of us studiously avoided but for others, it was something assiduously courted.

It was also a time of mentor relationships. We came to rely on our teachers not only for knowledge but for guidance as well. Teachers became our big brothers and sisters. We confided and shared our deepest yearnings. Some of us developed crushes and not a few became teachers' pets. "Sipsip" was something unheard of then.

Through it all, we enjoyed the fellowship of one another. And we now hardly recall the academic pressure in St. Jude not because there was none. On the contrary, the pressure was so constant it became a staple for us that we learned to take it for granted.

When we graduated in 1979, we proudly called ourselves "The Last of the '70s". Our training in St. Jude was complete and we were prepared to meet the challenges head-on. Indeed, times were changing and a few short years thereafter, so did the whole country.

Twenty five years and pounds after, we relive the halcyon days of our residence in St. Jude Catholic School and how richer our lives have become because of it. And as we celebrate the 25th reunion of Batch '79, we recall and yearn for a time past, when we were not saddled by burdens, when life was lived day by day, and where the four walls of St. Jude offered a refuge from the drudgery of everyday life. And for this, we shall be eternally grateful.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The End of the World

Last 10 January 2005, Niña and I had our annual get-together Christmas party of our law school barkada. Our peer group go a long way since first year law school. Actually, I am the odd man out. I belonged to Section C while the rest of the group belonged to Section A. Our group consisted of two guys and 5 ladies.

As usual, the discussion centered around the tsunami and the tornadoes in Florida (one classmate migrated there and came home for Christmas) among other calamities. It so happened that two of our classmates were born again Christians and so, in their deeply held convictions, they said that the onslaught of calamities signalled the coming end of the world.

As a sign of respect, I did not disagree. But I can not seem to bring myself to agree with them on this point. I know that Jesus warned of calamities and wars before the end times but deep in my heart, this is not it. Going home, I discussed my observation with Niña. And then, she said the simplest, most profound explanation. We choose not to believe that these are end times because we have children who are our pathways to the future.

I could not bring myself to accept that I am living in the throes of the end times. This disbelief is not brought about by the lack of faith. My reluctance stems from the thought that my children who we have raised up will face the inevitable demise of the world. We have raised them to look forward to a good future, not to face the doom and gloom. And for that, I cannot accept that their fate is to face death.

I know that the end will come. Whether one believes in God or not, we live in a finite world where a line has been drawn in the sand. And whether one believes in the afterlife or not, a mandate to live a moral life has been exacted on our conscience since childhood. For that, I will continue to train my children to have faith and lead upright lives so that before the judgment seat of God, they will be declared just and righteous.

In the meantime, I continue to pray for the coming of the kingdom in the Lord's prayer but deep in my heart, I will continue to plead: Lord, not yet. Let me see the smile in my children's children and for their their descendants to see the beauty of God's creation.

For this, we pray. Not yet, Lord.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Tsunami Woes

It is so disheartening to post in the last few days because of the tsunami. More so when I realized that that a fellow alumnus and a student from the high school I came from perished in the tragedy.

Back when we were taking up world history, you read about the Middle Ages and the tens of thousands of deaths in the aftermath of the Black Plague, I wondered how one single event can cause so much grief and misery. And one thinks it is all the more improbable in this day and age with all the advances in climatology and science in general. And then, this tsunami happens and one could not believe the magnitude of the tragedy. Since then, doubts have risen regarding the modern advances and their utility to mankind and of course, the existence of God and why He allows suffering to happen.

I am no theologian and I think both sides of the coin can argue about the goodness or the indifference of God. From a scientific viewpoint, the tsunami can be easily explained. You take away God from the equation and you know that the tsunami was caused by the shifts between several tectonic plates. But that it is not the question we proverbially ask ourselves. God had to be blamed somehow and his wisdom had to be questioned one way or the other.

I do not know why God allowed the tsunami to occur. I am not even sure that nature had to ask God's permission for this to happen. What I have seen however subsequent to the tragedy is the universal goodness of man which is his divine spark and manifested by the great flow of aid to the victims. It is quite ironic that the great deluge of human compassion and charity would have to be preceded by devasting waves of raging waters.

If one still doubts the wisdom of God, doubt no longer. If there was anything that was settled by the aftermath, it is that no man is an island, that there are no borders where aid is concerned, that man is universally good, that all things work for the good even in the face of agony and despair.

In this century where certain ethnic races are distrusted, where certain nations are despised for their arrogance, where certain leaders are criticized for being imperialist, all these are of no consequence when the whole world rallied around the victims of the tsunami. Race, creed, wealth and power has never been more subsumed than ever than in this time of great need.

We can never bring the dead back but perhaps, the people who died in this great tragedy perished for a noble cause. That is, their deaths brought the whole world together and showed that in the face of political and sectarian differences, we are all one and we can be one. And therefore, let their deaths be not washed in vain. Let their deaths cleanse the soul of this world of all iniquity and evil with the confidence that we can live in peace, in harmony and with charity for all.

May they be welcomed by God in heaven!