THE INTERNET behemoth Google recently paid a rare tribute to a cultural icon who is ironically little admired by the generation that most uses the web. It celebrated John Lennon’s 70th birthday on October 9 by having its logo changed to a doodle that had a sketch of the Beatle, with his famous grandpa spectacles.

Clicking the logo triggered an animation of an idyllic scene, and the playing of Lennon’s greatest song “Imagine.”

And then a week later, UN goodwill ambassador Lea Salonga, sang the song at the World Food Day celebration in Rome, with the line perfect for the occasion: “Imagine a world without hunger. It’s easy if you try.”


Continue Reading‘Imagine’

Why many Filipinos are poor (2)

TO RECALL the first part of this topic, the World Bank’s latest report on the country, titled “The Philippines: Fostering More Inclusive Growth,” started its analysis of poverty in our country by asking: “Who are the poor, what are the characteristics of the poorest Filipinos?” The World Bank’s answer: first, the typical poor Filipino belongs to a large family of five members; second, he lives in a rural area.

My past two columns dealt with the first part of the answer: Our unbridled population growth has become one of the major factors causing poverty. We focus now on the second characteristic of the poor: Seventy-one percent of poor Filipinos live in rural areas. Poverty is mainly a rural phenomenon.


Continue ReadingWhy many Filipinos are poor (2)

Majority of Filipinos against Church’s stand

IT WILL take a miracle for the Catholic Church to undertake a civil disobedience campaign against the use of contraceptives because the vast majority of Filipinos are in fact against the Church’s stand. They unequivocally support a state-sponsored modern family planning program.

According to two Ulat ng Bayan Pulse Asia surveys (October 2008 and March 2007), 82 percent of Filipinos nationwide think it is government’s duty to provide knowledge, services and materials for modern family planning methods, both natural and artificial. In Manila, considered the more informed sector of our nation, the support rises to 86 percent.

The Pulse Asia surveys also imply that the claim that the Church through its faithful can block a candidate supporting birth control from winning an election is a myth. Some 72 percent of Filipinos nationwide and 74 percent in Metro Manila in fact think it is important for candidates to include state-financed family planning in their promised programs, and that they would vote for candidates favoring such programs. President Aquino shouldn’t worry a bit that his principled stance on family planning isn’t supported by Catholics. In fact, the big majority most definitely do.


Continue ReadingMajority of Filipinos against Church’s stand

‘All population statistics wrong, except mine’

THAT WAS what the economist Dr. Bernardo Villegas was saying in effect when he claimed, in an article in the Manila Bulletin last Sept. 19, that Philippine “population statistics are being doctored.” He had it reprinted in this newspaper a few days later with the headline, “The Philippine population is not exploding.” His article is a perfect illustration of dogmatism: “If the facts don’t fit my theory, they’re wrong facts.”


Continue Reading‘All population statistics wrong, except mine’

Why many Filipinos are poor: WB’s latest report

THE WORLD Bank’s most recent analysis of the Philippine economy released last month was quite underreported, probably since, as is typical of its reports, you have to wrestle through its technocratic language.

The title itself of the study doesn’t make for exciting reading: “The Philippines: Fostering More Inclusive Growth.” It would have been covered better in the press perhaps if it was titled based on its actual topic: “Why so many Filipinos are poor, and will be poor—and their numbers will certainly grow—if little is done by government.” As is typical of World Bank reports, it is a comprehensive analysis with a long list of “to-dos” for government (e.g., more efficient tax collection, more infrastructure), which, I would say, could be a good blueprint for President Aquino’s reform programs. We focus though on two of its major conclusions on why so many Filipinos remain poor.


Continue ReadingWhy many Filipinos are poor: WB’s latest report

Media will be media

THERE SEEMS to be no doubt that media contributed to the tragedy of the Luneta hostage crisis. They gave ex-policeman Rolando Mendoza the venue and the “loudspeaker” to extort the government, the main goal after all of any hostage-taker.

They gave him the monitoring system to keep tabs on what was going on around him. They even probably puffed his ego, as he was on television, in his well-ironed uniform. That televised scene of his brother being hauled off by the police probably blew his top to a murderous rage.

It would be utterly naïve though to expect that media will comply with certain “guidelines” so that the next time around, they’d behave properly, in the manner the State wants them to.

Media have their own job to do. Ordered to cover a major news event, a journalist’s worry is not over the possible adverse impact of his reportage on people, but whether he’d be scooped by his rivals in some way. Welcome to the real world.


Continue ReadingMedia will be media

A crisis management structure

ONE HAS to be, or to have been, at the center of the Philippine state to realize how extremely unwieldy it is, how labyrinthine its structures are. It is like an old, huge, ocean-going ship, which requires much experience to know how to quickly maneuver, out of harm’s way especially.

The central government was not designed to deal with political crisis or security threats, such as mobs pretending to be a People Power movement, terrorists kidnapping scores of people in remote parts of the country—or a disgruntled policeman holding foreign tourists hostage.


Continue ReadingA crisis management structure

New pills for the 21st century

WITH THE many, mostly passionate responses, to my Aug. 12 piece (“There are 100 million of us now”), which argued that a full-blown population program is now crucial for our national well-being, a report on recent breakthroughs relevant to the issue, especially as these have gone strangely unreported in the local press, will be useful.

Whether we, the government or the Catholic Church like it or not, these developments could very well overwhelm religious, cultural and even government restrictions on the use of artificial contraceptives in our Catholic-dominated nation. Indeed, humanity’s history is marked by sharp twists when theoretical or religious debates were suddenly resolved by some scientific breakthrough. For instance (and closer to our topic), oral contraceptives, which was introduced to the American public half a century ago, allowed many US Catholic women, even if secretly, to defy Catholic dogma that sex is moral only if undertaken solely for procreation’s sake.


Continue ReadingNew pills for the 21st century

China’s growth and the 4th June Movement

CHECK AGAIN this newspaper’s front-page news the other day: China has overtaken Japan as the world’s second biggest economy. Then, recall what in China is termed as the 4th June Movement, which the Western media calls the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.

The juxtaposition of these two thoughts should pose serious issues in this land of People Power movements, which we must confront. To use a politically neutral terminology, the “Tiananmen Square Turmoil of 1989” could have been the biggest global event in the template of our 1986 People Power Revolution, which had inspired democracy movements all over the world.


Continue ReadingChina’s growth and the 4th June Movement