Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Archive for March, 2012

The Continuing FB Bikini Case

Posted by butalidnl on 31 March 2012

The administration of St Theresa’s College (STC), an exclusive girls school in Cebu had decided to bar 2 students from attending their graduation ceremony. This was because the nuns said that the girls had posted pictures of themselves in bikini on Facebook. The parents of one of the girls filed a case in court, asking it to overturn the STC nun’s ruling. The school declared that they were actually being lenient, since the girls would still graduate, and that they would simply not attend the graduation ceremonies.

RTC Judge Wilfredo Navarro decided on 29 March to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to overturn the STC administration’s decision, saying that the girls should attend the graduation, but also that she be treated with respect, and accorded all the courtesy during the ceremonies. But on 30 March, STC guards refused to accept the TRO being served by the sheriff, and also blocked the girl and her parents from entering the campus. According to the STC administration, the TRO was ‘inadequate’. So, the STC pretends to know the law more than the judges; or, is it just a matter of their arrogance at disregarding any court order that they consider inconvenient.

The girl’s father said that they will continue with the case, even if the damage had already been done.

Violation of Privacy
The issue over inappropriate photos posted on Facebook is first of all a matter of the school’s violation of the girls’ privacy. Posting a picture on Facebook is akin to showing one’s photo album to friends. This is private. For someone who is not on one’s friends list to take issue with a posting on Facebook will be – to say the least – highly inappropriate. They should be the ones ashamed, in the first place, for having peeked without permission at the posting. It is the STC administration who should apologize for its voyeurism in peeking at a student’s Facebook page.

Violation of the Department of Education Rules
The disciplinary action of the STC administration violates the rules of the Department of Education, specifically Dep. Order 88 “2010 Revised Manual of Regulations for Private Schools in Basic Education”. In this Order, Section 131. Responsibility on Student Discipline: Limitation.  “The administration of each private school shall be responsible for the maintenance of good discipline among students inside the school campus, as well as outside the school premises whenever they are engaged in authorized school activities.”

The family outing when the photo was taken was clearly not an “authorized school activity”, and thus the STC administration had no jurisdiction over it, nor over the subsequent posting in Facebook.

The STC administration should not cite the Student Manual as the basis for their action. If a provision in the manual is in conflict with the relevant Department of Education ruling, then it is invalid. It should be amended accordingly. To claim that their Manual provision should prevail over a Dept of Education rule is wrong; the Dept of Education specified in Order No. 88 that schools should adjust their rules to conform to it.

I have not seen the photo in question. But it seems that the photo was one of the girls wearing a bikini with a towel wrapped around her waist. If one was to consider this lewd, it would be more a reflection of one’s own dirty mind, rather than of the one in the photo. How could we expect nuns, who are sheltered from society, to be good judges of what constitutes appropriate states of dress. The RTC judge said that he does not consider the photo to be lewd. I would tend to rely more on his judgement than that of nuns.

The standard of ‘lewd’ is one on a slippery slope. If we let the nuns have their way, very soon all skirts above the knee will be lewd, as will all tops held up by spaghetti straps. (Note that the nuns appropriate upon themselves to judge what students should wear anywhere, not just at school.) We could end up worse than the Wahabi religious police in Saudi Arabia.

Next Steps
The children have been wronged; the graduation is over. The only appropriate penalty for the STC administration would be for them to issue a public apology, and perhaps reparations for the unnecessary emotional damage they had caused. But beyond this, there should be a thorough revision of all Student Manuals to ensure that they do not extend to behaviour outside school premises and activities.

The STC administration should also be sanctioned by the RTC for contempt of court. We can’t have school administrators who simply disregard the law whenever it does not please them.

Posted in alternative media, Cebu, Philippine education, Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

US Elections 101, for Filipinos

Posted by butalidnl on 21 March 2012

The US election process is well under way, with the Republican primaries becoming a fierce battle between four candidates. It is sometimes difficult to follow and understand the process, especially if you are a Filipino thousands of kilometers away. But the US elections could be easily explained to Filipinos.

It all boils down to putting Filipino faces on the main candidates.
Mitt Romney‘s equivalent will be Manny Villar. Like Romney, Villar is quite rich, and they both used their own money to finance their campaigns. Both claimed that since they were businessmen, they knew how to run the economy.

Rick Santorum. His Filipino equivalent would be Brother Eddie Villaneuva. They are both conservative Catholics, for whom a conservative stand social issues is important.

Newt Gingrich. His Filipino equivalent is Jose De Venecia. Both have been speakers of the House of Representatives, and are experts in the art of making political deals.

Ron Paul. His Filipino equivalent would be Raul Roco. Both men attract a loyal but relatively small following on the basis of rather sensible policy proposals. Unfortunately, they do not appeal to the broader masses, since their message is more intellectual than emotional.

Barack Obama. He is the only one so far who is sure of really running in the November elections. His Filipino equivalent would be Noynoy Aquino. They have both run based on the emotional appeal for better government: Obama with “Yes we can.”, and Noynoy with “Kung walang korupt, walang mahirap.” People are ready to forgive their policy mishaps because they like them as persons.

The big difference between US and Philippine elections is mostly in terms of scale (the US is a much bigger country) and the state of technology.

Elections in the US are held every 2 years, and Philippine elections every 3 years. The presidential elections in the US is every 4 years, and every 6 years for the Philippines. In the US, a sitting president could run for a second 4-year term; in the Philippines, the president gets only one full 6-year term.

In the US, when there is more than one person vying to be his/her party’s candidate for president, then they would have primaries to determine which one would run. In the Philippines, candidates have a wide choice as to which party they could run for. Usually, there are more than two parties that field presidential candidates.

Going back to the Republican race: just imagine Manny Villar competing against Brother Eddie Villaneuva, Jose De Venecia and Raul Roco. Who do you think will win? I will put my money on Villar winning that slugging match, with Bro Eddie as second (with the support of the Catholic Church hierarchy). And viola! – this is similar to what is happening in the uS – with Romney leading, followed by Santorum.

It isn’t too difficult to understand, after all.

Posted in Philippine politics, politics, World Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Planting Trees

Posted by butalidnl on 18 March 2012

President Aquino issued on 4 March 2011 Executive Order 26 – the National Greening Program (NGP), an initiative to plant 1.5 billion trees by the end of his term in 2016. This would serve to absorb carbon dioxide. Many people have declared that this target is unachievable. Perhaps. But I think it would be good to at least try.

Valuable Trees
Previous tree planting schemes have indeed succeeded in planting trees; only to have the trees cut down by the same farmers who planted them. This is because they had been paid only to plant the trees. After planting, the trees themselves meant nothing to them; they were more valuable cut than left standing.

The key to a succesful tree planting, or forest preservation, program will be making sure that the trees are more valuable to the farmers when they are left standing that when they are cut.

Forest Wardens. One method would be to hire the farmers as forest wardens tasked to guard the forest. Better still, the whole community is given money to maintain the forest, as well as the right to exploit its resources (e.g. gathering etc). This does not include cutting the trees, of course.
This method is effective especially in cases where there is an existing forest. The wardens will guard against people who cut the trees there.

Commercial Trees. Planting trees with commercial value to the farmer e.g. rubber and fruit trees, is another way of reforestation. When these trees are planted, the farmer gets a continuous benefit from them. They will not only NOT cut down these trees, they will defend them with their lives (figurately, we hope).

Partnership with NGOs, Social Enterprises
The government could not plant a billion trees all on its own. Despite its resources, there are limits to government’s ability to mobilize grassroots groups and adapt to the local situation in so many places. Government will need to cooperate with civil society organizations. These organizations would be in a better position to relate with and mobilize communities to participate in the program.

Pasali, an NGO in Region 12, cooperates with the government (at all levels) as well as with grassroots cooperatives and IP tribes. It will mobilize all these to participate in a tree planting program. It plans to plant a million or more trees in the coming nine years, or till 2020 (and, if it receives foreign support, it will plant much more than that). Similar organizations in other regions will greatly speed up the implementation of the government’s ‘billion tree planting program’.

Indigenous Peoples
A big proportion of the areas where the trees could be planted are occupied by Indigenous People (IP) tribes. The government should improve the status of IP ownership of this land, specifically in their applications for CADT (Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title). If the IPs are ‘sovereign’ over their lands, they will be in a position to take better care of them.

Food security and the use of proper technology are also important. In Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, Pasali provided a Manobo tribe with a portable corn miller, as well as improved their technology for planting corn (SCI – System for Corn Intensification). As a result, this tribe is now self-reliant in food. They also now have a policy against the commercial cutting of trees.

A million trees is not much compared to a target of 1.5 billion trees, but at least it is a concrete target that helps achieve it.

Posted in environment, Pasali, Philippine economics, Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Israel will Attack Iran Soon

Posted by butalidnl on 7 March 2012

The trend is unstoppable. Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear facilities in a few months. PM Netanyahu and President Obama have finished their ‘talks’ about the Iran issue; but their real positions regarding Iran have not changed.

Hysteria in Israel
Domestically, the Israeli press is whipping up the hype against Iran as an ‘existential threat’ against Israel.  A sober person could say that even if Iran did have a nuclear weapon, it would not be a threat to Israel. An Iranian nuclear weapon launched against Israel, killing thousands, will not only kill lots of Palestinians, it will make Iran an international pariah for a very long time. Despite this, most Israelis believe the threat from Iran is real.

Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman recently brushed aside Western (especially US) misgivings about their plan to attack Iran. He is probably right in thinking that, for show, the US must publicly disapprove of ‘the plan’, but that it will support Israel in the event of war.

A war with Iran will probably have a limited effect on Israel itself. They do not share a border. Iran’s proxy Hezbollah will be too preoccupied with Syria to attack Israel. For Israelis, war would mean that the US will do most of the fighting, and absorb most of the damage.

Iran Leaders Want War
Iran is probably NOT developing a nuclear bomb. But the threat of a US attack is keeping it from conclusively closing that option. It knows that the US will attack it if it doesn’t have a nuclear bomb. The lesson of Iraq and North Korea is clear: Iraq didn’t have a bomb, it was attacked; North Korea has a bomb, it was not attacked.

So, Iran is now developing a capacity that will allow it to shift to producing a bomb at short notice. Since its access to bomb technology is limited, it may decide to make a bomb anyway by using lower technology and more uranium.

Iran is suffering economically. Soon, international sanctions will bite and cause massive protests against the government. The regime sees war as a possible uniting factor for its people, especially if the war is ‘imposed’ on Iran.

Ironically, economic sanctions make it more attractive militarily to have a war soon. Iran’s military is still quite strong; later, economic problems will sap its strength. Iran reckons that the US will enter the war on Israel’s side, but does not have the resources, nor the political will, to launch an all-out attack. The Iranian government thinks that a war held soon will have a minimal cost.

Iran will continue provoking Israel and the international community. It will make all kinds of destabilizing announcements, war exercises, etc. It will continue hardening potential targets of attack. It will hit Israel targets – mostly outside Israel.

Iran is preparing for war.

Obama Needs a War
The US has informed the Israelis that an attack on Iran now would be ‘ill advised’. This is diplomatic-speak which translates as: “Don’t attack now. Perhaps in the summer.” At the same time, the US says that sanctions need time to work. They are right – sanctions WILL work to stop the nuclear program, but much too slowly for the US.

The US has a big economic problem. It needs the world to concentrate on something other than the problems of the US economy. In 2011, the US hyped up the Euro crisis, exploiting it to the full, even stampeding Americans away from Euro holdings. But the Euro crisis has been solved in 2012. If the US did nothing, the dollar is poised to devalue, and interest rates will soon go up.

So now, the US plans to focus the world on Iran. The US knows that Iran will not do anything to block the Strait of Hormuz – Iran will be harming its own interests if it did so. In a sense, a war with Iran will be a limited one, with some attacks on nuclear installations and the Iranian military. So, the US really thinks that a war with Iran is one which it can afford to wage.

If a war with Iran is timed well, it may have the added advantage of increasing Obama’s chances of reelection.But only is the war is ‘forced’ on the US; a US first-strike will not be received favorably in the US.

Another reason why a war is inevitable is that the party most likely to start it (Israel) stands to lose the least from this war. The other two parties (Iran and the US) will be the ones really at war. The ‘benefits’ of a war is disproportionately in favor of Israel.

Both the Iranian and US governments see a war as advantageous; but only if they are ‘forced’ into it. They will not do anything to prevent Israel from starting one.

At the same time, both Iran and the US may be underestimating the cost of a war. The Iranians want to unite their country, and maybe even ease sanctions. They would think that a war now will probably lessen chances of a more terrible and damaging war later. They may be wrong. Domestic opposition may still grow, even with a war. Economic sanctions will still bite, pushing people to overthrow the government. Or, the US may extend help to armed opponents of the regime.

The US may also have miscalculated. Even if the Strait of Hormuz doesn’t get blocked, a war will increase world oil prices, maybe even to $200/barrel. High oil prices will severely hurt the US, maybe even triggering a very deep recession.

Posted in politics, Uncategorized, World Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »