Come home, Filipino Catholics!

Oh, my saints and moral guardians! The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has ordered the remaining Filipino delegates to the World Youth Day in Spain to come home or risk becoming illegal aliens.

Of 427 delegates to the World Youth Day, 128 have yet to return to the Philippines and have one more day before their Schengen visas expire in September.

Viva El Papa! No vivos extranjeros illegales! (or something)

“(CBCP executive director Father Conegondo) Garganta admitted that in the past, there had been instances when WYD delegates sent by the CBCP failed to return to the country but these comprised only one percent of the delegation,” reports ABS-CBN News.

“They were endorsed by their parish priest and they were chosen because they saw their intentions to join the WYD. They were interviewed, selected and they also had to pass the scrutiny of the diocese,” he added. It was not clear whether the delegates were also asked if they have ever dreamed of a better life in Europe.

Fighting Words

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III has refused to engage in a debate with Akbayan on the Reproductive Health bill. He said the Senate has already begun floor debates on the bill, so there would be “no point in debating it outside.” He is right.

His critics have called him gutless for turning down thechallenge hurled at him by the Ateneo Debate Society, and he may very well be wary of tangling with the best debate team in the country. But Sotto is no slouch when it comes to fighting with words.

His arsenal of rhetoric has weapons that not even the ADS is ready for. Like a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face, for example. He has tangled with Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, author of the RH bill, and was able to give as much as he got. He was able to silence Santiago, for example, with the ultimate debate combo breaker of “Well, that is your opinion.”

Santiago, expecting a counter-argument that made sense, was speechless.

In an earlier tussle, Sotto tried to trap Santiago into agreeing that passage of the RH bill would mean millions in profits for contraceptive manufacturers and dealers. “So! The RH bill is about money, and not health!,” he said, hoping to catch the feisty senator unawares.

And that, she was. “Oh, that is unfair,” she sighed wearily, realizing that it would be easier to squeeze blood from a stone than to get Sotto, who has promised to expose the contraceptive-industry lobby backing the bill, to agree to the need for a reproductive health bill.

And that, no matter how silver-tongued debaters are, will be how any debate with Sotto, or indeed most of the Pro-Life camp, will end. To be fair, it is just as unlikely for Santiago or for Senator Pia Cayetano to abandon the bill after a debate with the University of Santo Tomas Debate Team (whom we assume with no basis are against the RH bill).

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who has yet to be sold on the bill, has said that the bill will be subject to long and heated debates at the Senate. In the end, however, each senator will have to vote according to their conscience, he said.

And there lies the problem. Consicence is a funny thing. It isn’t always logical and is not always informed. One might even argue that it doesn’t exist. But one cannot argue against conscience. Not even within the Church.

“Conscience is inviolable, and the individual Catholic has a right to follow her own conscience, even when it is erroneous,” Santiago said in one of her sponsorship speeches for the bill. It was to argue that individual Catholics can dodge dogma on this one, but it can also apply to Sotto.

Should we keep discussing the RH bill? Definitely. But there is little that can be gained from giving Sotto, or any other lawmaker, a public drubbing from university students trained to argue either side of a debate.

If anything, it will only further alienate the masses and the fundamentalists that Sotto stands with. If the middle class was offended by James Soriano’s elitist column on the English language last week, imagine how TVJ fans would feel seeing their TitoSen being mocked and baited in an actual debate. They might just riot.

Passing a law, as with running a nation, is about building a consensus. Pro-RH bill groups should continue to engage with lawmakers and to lobby for its passage. But this should be done through dialogue and not debate. Anybody who has seen any university debate team in action knows that when they talk, there is no room for dialogue.

[EMBARRASSING ERRATUM: We read it wrong. The ADS will host the debate, while Akbayan will do the actual debating. Akbayan’s Leloy Claudio who challenged Sotto is from ADS. So we are half right!]

No more free mail for Philippine courts

Philippine courts might have to start paying for their mail next January because it has become too expensive for the Philippine Postal Corp. (PhilPost) to shoulder postage for court documents.

Acting postmaster general Antonio De Guzman has written the Supreme Court to ask it to review franking privileges granted to the courts by two Presidential decrees. He said that the rise of e-mail and text messaging has robbed Philpost of people willing to wait two weeks for a letter to get to a city less than an hour away by air.

Obsolescence, it seems, has been chipping away at what was once the leading postal service in Asia (according to renowned History professor and philatelist Wikipedia).

What is surprising is there is no real postal service to speak of anymore.

According to a letter De Guzman sent the Supreme Court:

Except mail posted and for delivery in Metro Manila, the transport of mail is outsourced to private transport companies since Philpost cannot sustain its operation due to dilapidated condition of its vehicles and the high cost of providing the service.”

So that mailman in the Batibot video you saw growing up is just a myth now,  apparently.  Except for a ceremonial corps of postmen in the capital, our mail has been put in the hands of mercenaries who have not made an oath to let “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

That's not even the real Pagsanjan Falls! That's Vernal Falls in California.

To be fair, PhilPost postmen may not have made that oath either considering the pre-climate change glacial pace that our mail has been getting delivered.

Having to pay for their postage may give the courts more reason to deny us justice. At P6 per piece of air mail, and P4 for each piece of surface mail, the courts may soon have to shut down from lack of funds. I mean, everyone knows our honorable judges are poor as church mice.

Commenting is back up!

Hey, guys! We’ve fixed the commenting system. It was working too well and therefore was not working at all. Things are fine now, though. The weather is great, too.

She would know

A self-proclaimed Iron Lady from Congress has been taking potshots at the Aquino administration lately, pouncing  on pretty much any issue she can.

When a mayor from Mindanao complained earlier this year about inadequate calamity assistance in his flooded city, Iron Lady was there to hector him on. Not on the ground, where it would have counted, but from the un-flooded hall of Congress where she works.

She has also locked horns with a Malacanang appointee for being arrogant despite just being an appointed official. It was a blow for the common man, who elects his Congressional representatives, and for the elite families who field random relatives for the common man to elect. It was also a blow to the concept of public service but whatever, it made the evening news.

And earlier today, she was crowing about the resignation of Customs chief Angelito Alvarez. She said a breakdown in leadership at the Bureau of Customs has led to rampant smuggling. And that is probably true. For example, smuggled plywood has reportedly been costing the Philippine wood industry millions a month. Clearly, it is time for a new day at the Bureau of Customs, where smugglers will be caught and prosecuted, and nobody will profit from misdeclared goods.

There is no word, though, whether the sun of that new day will shine on shiploads of logs that her family brings in from Papua New Guinea. We’re not saying that the logs are smuggled, but…

I'm not saying that either. Sheeeit.

Indolent Internet Weekly Digest 7

Every weekend*, Indolent Indio tries to come out with a short and hastily-done roundup of things we’ve found on the Internet (pinoy chapter, of course.) Quality, quantity, content, and success may vary.

We have been delving into the wasteland that is Tumblr and have found two sites relevant to our interests:

Drunken Dispatches is a tumblog for Filipino tipplers. It does not update as often as it should, but seeing as we are people who live in a glass house, we shall let that pass.

Missed Connections Manila reads like the sort of graffiti conversations you always hoped to see in your college restroom. It’s about could-have-beens and could-still-bes. It’s very romantic, really. Romantic and sad, which is pretty much what this whole romance thing is about anyway.

A Manila Bulletin column saying Filipino is not the “language of the learned” earns Atenean James Soriano a place on the pantheon of sad Internet celebrities alongside Cat Killer Joseph Carlo Candare and Christopher Lao.  Project Kino says ang problema sa column mo tsong, elitista ang perspektibo.” Which, as an Atenean, Mr. Soriano cannot really help.

Mistervader, who went to the Ateneo, had this to say: “name-dropping Fr. Bulatao just because he can just feels like such a predictable thing a typical pretentious artsy-fartsy Arrnean would do.”

The “Alabang Boys” were acquitted. Some of them anyway.

With Rey Marfil effectively de-fanged as a blind-item columnist by joining the Aquino government, here comes a new challenger: Remate’s Crispin Rizal. Mr.(or Ms.) Rizal has caused quite a stir at some government offices, and in various news beats. Nobody knows who he (or she) really is, but some friendships are being tested. With reporters being accused of, and having to deny, being Crispin Rizal.

A sample:

Sino itong mambabatas sa Mataas na Kapulungan ng Kongreso na madalas pagtaguan at ayaw kausapin ng kanyang staff kapag mainit ang ulo.

Ang dahilan ng staff, pag-mainit ang ulo ng senador ay nagmumura at naninigaw pa ito kaya mas makabubuti pa umano na huwag na silang magpakita rito.

Pero kapag media ang kaharap, kuntodo ang ngiti nito na halos abot hanggang tenga.**

If only one stream of Filipino literature will survive the global monoculture, let it be the political blind item.

*This is a lie.

**As a pointless spit in the eye of Mr. Soriano (and as a sop to our laziness) we will not translate Filipino content on this post.

Tree falls on driver, everybody hears it

This has indeed been annus mirabilis, a year of wonders.

A sitting senator resigns over allegations of poll fraud, the University of the Philippines wins two basketball games, the President meets with a rebel leader, and the country might actually get back at the Arroyos for playing us for fools for nine years.

And wonders have not been confined to the capital, either. Strange things have been happening in the provinces as well, reminiscent of mythical times (or the 1990s).

In Camarines Norte, a baby was born with Mermaid Syndrome, a rare condition where a baby’s legs are fused together; this makes it look like the baby has a tail and no legs.

Naniniwala si Jane na may kinalaman sa naging itsura ng kanyang baby ang madalas na pamamasyal sa tabing-dagat at panonood ng fantaseryeng Mutya na tungkol sa batang sirena.

‘Nanonood ako ng Mutya hindi ko alam na buntis na pala ako,’ sabi ni Jane Sariba, ina ng sanggol.

(Jane believes her child’s appearance has something to do with her frequent trips to the beach and watching Mutya, a TV show about a mermaid child.

‘I used to watch Mutya, I didn’t know I was pregnant yet,’ Jane Sariba, the child’s mother said.)

The child, named Mutya after the TV show, died soon after being born and did not get to see her mother embarrass herself on national TV.

In Cebu, a tree falls on a jeepney, killing the driver and making the front page of one news website for some reason. To be fair, it was an exciting day for the province of Cebu, where a concrete post fell on a taxi, killing no one and making it to the front page for some reason.

Also, something about a congressman accused of tax evasion.