Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Archive for January, 2013

Repeal the RH Law?

Posted by butalidnl on 27 January 2013

The CBCP wants the next Congress (i.e. the one that will be elected this coming May) to file a bill that will repeal the RH Law. This might seem achievable at first; but it is actually an impossible dream. The chance of the RH Law being rolled back is extremely small.

In the first place, the next Congress will probably look very much like the present one. Half of the senators will remain in place, and a number of other senators will probably be reelected. The majority of Congressmen will either retain their seats or pass on their positions to relatives or allies.  There will be no big shift in the composition of Congress.

The political dynamics that got the RH Law passed will remain in place after the elections. Aquino will still be the president, and most lawmakers would want to stay in his good side and not go against a law he supported. Public opinion will remain overwhelmingly in favor of the law.
Then the law would generate its own inertia. There would be organizational changes in the Departments of Education and Health, as well as in LGUs: people will be hired, reassigned, etc, to implement it. This in itself is a pro-RH constituency, and this goes beyond those directly involved in RH.  Reversing the law will mean lay-offs, reorganizations, etc. and will be resisted.

Legislators have a general aversion to reversing laws that they have just passed. Take the Cybercrime Law – although everybody agrees that it is defective, it takes forever to reverse because some would want to change parts of it (and the specific parts they want changed would differ) while others would want to repeal the whole law. And all these options have to go through committee; and this takes a long time.
A law which has so much support will have a lot of difficulty even hurdling the committee level of discusions.

If bills will be introduced to change the RH Law, they will have to give way to a reevaluation of the law itself, and this would mean that the law would then have to be implemented for a time. And when eventually amendments to the law will be considered; there would be as many proposals to strengthen it as to weaken it.

The implementation of the RH Law is sure to demonstrate its benefits, and it will show that the claims of its negative effects were exaggerated. Sex education will become part of the standard education curriculum; family planning advice and cheap contraceptives will be routinely available for poor couples. After a few years, even Catholic high schools will decide to integrate sex education in their curriculum. This is because their students would otherwise be at a disadvantage when they take exams e.g. the NCEE or State University admission tests.

The CBCP call to reverse the RH Law is most probably just a political rearguard action on their part. As long as they keep on screaming about it, they hope to deter lawmakers from passing other laws they don’t like, specifically a divorce law. This may work for a while; but if the CBCP keeps it up for too long, everyone will see how little political power the CBCP actually has. The CBCP case against the Divorce law will be a lot weaker, though. After all, the Philippines is the ONLY country in the world without a divorce law.

The CBCP would be better advised to concentrate on other issues than RH or Divorce. Gun control would a better thing to push. If the church pushed for a stricter gun control law on the basis of its being pro-life, it could regain some of its lost prestige. The CBCP could also strengthen its opposition to Mining (after having ‘dropped the ball’ on this issue in the last years).

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Tragic Revolutions: reflection on Les Miserables

Posted by butalidnl on 24 January 2013

I was teary eyed when I watched the Les Miserables movie recently. But it was in the ‘wrong’ parts, i.e. not where most people were teary eyed. My ‘moment’ was in the build-up for the revolution, and when it began. Sure, it was a bit theatrical and dramatic, as movies are bound to be. But when I looked it up, it turns out that it really did happen more or less like that. The republican students did start a revolt during the funeral of General Lamarque in June 1832. They revolted against the newly installed king, Louis-Philippe. It was tragic: all the young lives lost in a futile effort for a very worthy cause.

I was affected perhaps because Les Miserables paralleled my own life (to a point). I was a student activist (starting 1978) and had fought to overthrow the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Marcos was overthrown in 1986, but was replaced by Cory Aquino, who represented what we called the middle forces.
This was similar to the Les Miserables’ revolt. They had deposed the Bourbon king in July 1830, but instead of restoring the republic their leaders installed a new king, who was acceptable to the political middle.
The republicans decided to continue with their struggle. They assumed that the masses – who had supported them in 1830 – were still behind them. The students didn’t understand that the revolutionary moment had passed, and they unwittingly were on a suicide mission. Paraphrasing from Lenin (80 years later) “It is not enough that the masses don not like to live in the old way; the ruling class should also find it impossible to live in the old way.” In 1832, the ruling classes had found a way to live in a new way. And part of this was to play their opponents against each other: Republicans, Bonapartists, Bourbon restorationists and others. This strategy proved successful for 16 more years.

Why did the king order the brutal massacre of the revolting students? Was it not enough to merely isolate the rebels and starve them out? I think not. The king really had no choice: the rebellion had to be ended immediately because otherwise the other opposition forces would take advantage of the situation.  Image was everything – he had to show the people that he was in complete control. So, while the rebellion was being suppressed, the king walked the same streets to demonstrate that he was in total control.

In the case of the Philippines, Cory Aquino restored the old rules of the political game after the overthrow of Marcos. This meant that the old ruling classes, instead of fighting the system, fought each other in electoral contests. This made for political stability, in a sense. In response, the revolutionary left declared that the struggle continued, and the new system should be overthrown. Similar to the republican youth of 1832, the Philippine revolutionary movement did not realize that the revolutionary moment had passed. And, instead of preparing for a new fight, it unleased one internal purge after the other, decimating its own ranks. So many revolutionaries died uselessly.

The Les Miserables revolutionaries died for continuing their revolution, even without mass support; many Philipppine revolutionaries died because they were falsely accused as enemy agents, or because they were deemed not revolutionary enough. Either way, many young idealists ended up dead.

This was truly tragic. It was enough to bring tears to my eyes.

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