Monday, December 29, 2008

Character and Abuse of Power

I read a most interesting blog about an incident that happened in a golf club a day after Christmas. It turned out to be not just interesting, but one that will most definitely cause outrage against those in power. To read it, go to this blog

It’s been said that if you want to know the true character of a person, give him power. I couldn't agree more.

I am a politician, granted by the Constitution and the people who voted for me a mandate to serve and the opportunity to have power. As a government official, it is a power that enables me to make things happen and influence to make government personnel to act. I acknowledge that this power, given to persons who easily give in to the temptation of abusing this privilege, may be wielded not as intended but in a manner that is abhorred.

To some, righteous wielding of power comes naturally because of how they were brought up. Some exert a conscious effort not to abuse it, while others are overwhelmed by it, easily giving in to the whispers of the devil, pretty much like Anakin Skywalker who walked over to the Dark Side upon acquiring the powers of a Jedi.

If there is a subject that should be included in a Public Administration or any governance course, it should be about Character. Many have spoken about Character, but apparently, not all those who wield power have read or heard about those words of wisdom. Take for example, the following:

"Character is that which reveals moral purpose, exposing the class of things a man chooses and avoids" - Aristotle

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

From more contemporary and pop culture source (but one of my favorite quotes):

"The best index to a person's character is (a) how he treats people who can't do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can't fight back." – Dear Abby (Advice Columnist)

There is a joke that I often use in my public speaking. It starts out with me thanking those who welcomed me by shaking my hands. Then for the punchline, I give the reason for my appreciation by saying this, “There was a time that whenever you meet a politician, you shook his hand. Nowadays, you just shake your head. Thank you for shaking my hand”.

It always elicits laughter from the audience, therefore, making it easier for me to connect with them. But there is indeed not just a grain of truth in it, but an entire harvest of truth. Indeed, many people distrust, disdain and disapprove of politicians nowadays. Many have refused to give politicians the benefit of the doubt, lumping all politicians in one category--- trash. In the eyes of the people, being a politician has ceased to be an honorable occupation. The reputation of politicians nowadays has been degraded to that of a low-life.

But is it the people’s fault? Some politicians would say “yes”. Some would say that is only a matter of perception by a cynical population. But actually, it is a matter of reputation. Reputation is brought about one’s actions, unlike perception which is significantly affected by an observer’s opinion. Politicians have become notorious not because of people’s perceptions but because of politicians’ reputations. And that reputation is brought about by the politicians’ actions, which in turn is based upon their character.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “"Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

Before I became a politician, I had already heard about those who abuse power. I had already despised those who do. Many times I have heard stories from my mother when the wives of senior officers would wield their seniority over her. I felt outrage at those who offended my mother. I knew how it felt to be at the receiving end of power.

On the other hand, my father, who was then a military officer, ingrained in me and my siblings the virtue of respecting other people, even those who were under his command. He constantly reminded us that even though we were the children of the commander, we should bear in mind that only he has the authority over the soldiers in his command, not us. This was during the time of Martial Law, when the military lorded it over the country, with the children of military officers acting like commanders themselves, especially in the treatment of soldiers under their fathers’ commands.

The most common line that you can hear from someone who is intoxicated with power are the words, “Hindi mo ba ako kilala?”

Those words are a betrayal of a person’s arrogance, because for one to expect that he is known by everyone is evidence that he thinks highly of himself or a lack of humility. In public service, humility is the number one qualification because as the term itself connotes, a public servant is expected to be beholden to the public. Rich or poor, young or old, man or woman, they are all to be served by those who are in public service.

Actually, it is the public who has the greater right to ask those in public service, “Kilala mo ba ako?” The public has the right to say, “Ako ang nagbabayad ng suweldo mo” and “Inutusan ka ng Saligang Batas na paglingkuran ako”. Whether a citizen pays taxes or not, that citizen is entitled to courteous service and treatment by public servants and officials.

As a politician and public servant myself, I am saddened at stories of power abused by those given the privilege to wield it. It is power that is supposed to be used for the People, not against them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Wonderful Time

Personally, I officially went on vacation yesterday. I completed my last official duty last December 22, topping off a year that was dedicated to serving the public most of my daily life. For the past seven years, from the time I wake up in the morning until I get back home at night, it was spent on official duty, even up to weekends. The only time I can take a break from the rigors of public life is during the Christmas break, which I claim for my family. During that period from Christmas Eve up to New Year’s day, I beg off from official activities. But in the past, even that deserved break was sometimes interrupted by activities or invitations that cannot be avoided.

For elected public officials, official activities are not confined to office work or official functions. It includes invitations from the constituents, ranging from the opening of a community basketball tournament to standing as principal sponsor to a wedding. Public officials are always invited to many social functions, many of which fall into what is supposed to be personal time of the official, meaning outside the official working hours and function.

For example, my official function is that of a legislator and my official working hours are during committee hearings and plenary sessions. But as a public official, I am expected by my constituents to be available for them any day of the week for any occasion. Legislators are better off than those serving in the executive, such as mayors. They are expected to be on call 24 hours a day.

So it was that I went on official vacation yesterday. I had the option to lay lazily in bed all day and just watch videos. But that’s something that I easily get tired of. I’m so used to being on the move that if I have nothing to do, I look for something to do. So on that first day of my official vacation, I was looking for something to do.

As I was reading the newspaper after breakfast, I remembered that one of the light bulbs in our bedroom needed to be replaced. Finally finding something to do, I decided to go to the hardware to buy the replacement bulb. As I was about to dress up to go out, my six year old son asked me where I was going. He always asked me that every morning and my answer was always, “I’m going to the office”.

This time, before I answered, an idea flashed in my mind. My reply to him was, “do you want to go with me?”. Without even knowing where I was going, his immediate answer was “Yes!”.

I was hoping he’d answer yes. Immediately, another idea came to me. Why don’t I bring along all my kids? It would be a boys’ day out! I have four sons, aged 17 (Carlo), 9 (Anton), 6 (Ino) and 2 (Enzo). It would be a nice opportunity to spend time with them.

I asked Carlo if he could drive for me, but he preferred to stay home. Anton was eager to go out with me. Enzo…well, Enzo is just two, so he’s always eager to go out wherever, with whoever.

I decided that it will just be me and the kids. No yaya even if the two year old was going with me. I haven’t done that for a long time. I wanted to savor this opportunity of being Ruffy Biazon, the father. When I became congressman seven years ago, I only had two sons who were 10 and 2 years old at that time. Now I had four and I rarely have an opportunity to have some alone time with them.

Instead of going to the hardware, I took them to the supermarket, where the bustling activity and the variety of goods would surely excite them. With the three young boys in tow, I entered the supermarket with the same excitement as they had. It felt good to be a father.

We went from aisle to aisle, without any plans or shopping lists. It was purely time spent together as a father enjoying his sons. I relished answering their questions such as “What’s that, papa? What is it for papa? Can I buy this, can I buy that, papa?”. While I granted some of their requests, I also taught them restraint, gently saying no to many of their wishes. It was an opportunity to teach them the concepts of spending within the budget, choosing between needs and wants, and of dealing with disappointment.

Of course, they weren’t unrewarded for just being with me. They got some of their requests, such Anton’s favorite milk and Ino’s bubble gum. Enzo biscuits which he immediately opened even before we checked out. I also taught them the concept of giving when we purchased some gift baskets filled with groceries to be given to the workers doing work in our house.

I was such a wonderful time for me. Knowing the value of documentation, I had the foresight of bringing along my camera, and we had fun taking photos in the supermarket. I knew I had to record his moment in history, because this will never happen again. Anton will be 9 , Ino will be 6 and Enzo will be 2 only once in my life. This particular instance will only happen once and never be repeated again. Yes, I’m sure that there will be other instances when I will go out with them again, but this moment on December 22, 2008, is only a fleeting moment in the timeline of my life.

I am one who believes that one should relish every moment given by God. In one of the pictures, my two year old son Enzo posed by trying to embrace my huge body with his small reach. It was an act which was not prompted, purely his own. And I am thankful that it was captured in a photo that would last until I am gray and old. That’s one reason why I have tons of photos of my kids, taken during their school presentations, birthday parties or when they’re playing at home. It’ a blessing that there’s digital photography and archiving. It’s easy to make files and back up files of digital photos.

My life as a public official will have its end. My term will end, or I will not get elected, or I will simply quit. But as a father and a husband, my role and duty will last until I breathe my last breath.

So more than being a great public official, I must first be a good family man. There’s a passage which says, “For if a man does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?” This passage, taken from the book of 1 Timothy which was a letter from the Apostle Paul was meant as a guide on how to lead the church. But it may also be applicable in how to lead the country. For indeed, how can one manage the country if one does not know how to manage his own family?

It is a great challenge to be able to say that one has succeeded in managing his family. It is so because the only time you can evaluate if you have indeed successfully managed you family is when you are on your deathbed.

But for me, it is a very good standard to live by, because everyday, I am compelled to exert effort in managing my family successfully, so that when the time comes for my performance to be evaluated, I will have done my best.

For public officials, the same is applicable. The difference is that a public official does not have to wait for the end of his lifetime in order for his performance to be evaluated. A public official’s term has its end and there is retirement.

As I enjoy the holidays and set aside official concerns, I focus on my family and savor the moments spent with them. These moments will only happen once. As a famous poem (I don’t know who the author was) says :

I expect to pass through this world but once;

any good thing therefore that I can do,

or any kindness that I can show to any fellow-creature,

let me do it now;

let me not defer or neglect it,

for I shall not pass this way again.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


I was pleasantly surprised by the comments elicited by the Facebook status I entered yesterday. The comments compelled me to relate the reason behind what I noted in my FB status which said “Ruffy is sad…people are less appreciative nowadays.”

Perhaps what caught people’s attentions is that in the midst of what is supposed to be a season of holiday cheer, someone is in a state of sadness. When I did that entry, I was indeed in that state, although the quick responses of my FB friends also quickly redeemed me from such emotional sandtrap. Spending some time with my family, who always indulge me with their sincere appreciation of who I am and the things I do, was also uplifting and blew away whatever sadness I had in my heart.

What prompted me to make that FB entry was the reaction of some people who received Christmas giveaways from me. Particularly, some of my political leaders whom I traditionally give gifts every Christmas since I assumed office in 2001.

Ever since I became a politician, the gifts I give during Christmas are divided into two—personal and political. Personal of course includes family and friends that I have had even before I became a public official. Political include those who are colleagues, associates, personalities, and individuals who I met, work and relate with in line with my political career. Of course, it goes without saying that many of those in the political ledger have transitioned to the personal.

With so many people to give gifts to, it is no wonder that often, I am able to get gifts for my family only in the last minute, after I have ensured that all other people in my life—friends and political relations—already have something to receive from me for Christmas.

(Another Facebook status of mine about that situation was picked up by a TV talk show, Strictly Politics and used as a topic—“Politician’s Christmas”. Thanks, Ellen and Pia!)

In my political Christmas gift-giving, I always give priority to my political leaders, more than 600 of them, because I value the help they give me in the work I do. While one of their major functions is to help me get the votes every election, they are also the conduits of the social services that I extend to my constituents. They serve as my extensions in the communities, enabling me to deliver services to and get feedback from the grassroots.

Actually, it can be said that they are an unofficial part of the delivery system of government service, on a voluntary basis. In a gesture of appreciation for the help they give all throughout the year, I include them in my priority gift list, meaning they can never be scratched off, in case circumstances compel me to shorten my list.

And so it is that year in and year out, these political leaders of mine receive Christmas gifts from me. However, due to the financial crunch that everyone is feeling nowadays, this year’s Christmas gifts to my leaders was a little bit of a downgrade compared to last year’s. I felt that it was a better option than to cut them off entirely.

As the gifts were distributed, my staff reported the feedback from some of my leaders. Others directly sent their feedback to me and my wife through text messages. Without going into the painful details, instead of sending us a word of thanks, they sent us criticisms of the gifts we gave. My first reaction was to be ashamed of myself, carried away by their comments. Shame turned to sadness, especially when I remembered that I have not even bought gifts for my own kids. Sadness because after giving priority to them and making special preparations to ensure they receive something this Christmas even ahead of my own family, it seems they focused more on what they wanted to have rather than the spirit of Christmas, which is exchanging goodwill towards fellowmen.

In my Christmas messages in all the speaking engagements I had this season, I always put emphasis on the message of faith, hope and love as the center of the celebration of Christmas. But it seems that in the turbulence of the times and perhaps the experience of disappointment, strife and difficulties, people have turned from the message of “Goodwill Towards All” to the mindset of “What’s In It For Me?”.

There are many sayings, proverbs and quotes that are often repeated during Christmas. One very popular saying is that “it is better to give than to receive”. It is actually a paraphrase of a Bible verse, found in the Book of Acts (Acts 20:35). It is already a Christmas cliché, but I wonder…during these times, do people actually believe and live according to this?

But I think one verse that is rarely mentioned in relation to this season is 1 Thessalonians 5:18 which says, “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus”. In encouraging people that it is better to give, shouldn’t they also be enlightened to give thanks?

And in giving thanks, it should be in everything, big or small. To those whose faith in God are beyond doubt, they are in thanksgiving even in the face of difficulties and challenges. What more if you receive something given in goodwill?

In my contemplation of these matters, I realized that as a nation, thanksgiving seems to be overshadowed by the mindset that we deserve the things we receive and others are obligated to give, therefore, thanksgiving is an option. It struck me as a matter of admiration and even envy that in the United States, they actually have a holiday for Thanksgiving. Perhaps that’s why if you listen to Americans, they easily convey thanksgiving and in many different ways---- “Thank you”, “I appreciate it”, “much obliged”.

Some may say that in giving, we should not expect anything in return, even gratitude. Some may even say that in my particular case, I shouldn’t wait for thanks because after all, I’m a public official and it’s my obligation to my constituents to give. Perhaps that is correct and I’m just expecting too much. Actually, I wasn’t expecting a verbalized expression of appreciation. But what I wasn’t expecting was a word of criticism on something that was given from the heart, as a token of my appreciation for the recipient.

Well, Christmas goes on. My wife and children are waiting for their gifts but their appreciation of me is there even if I come home empty-handed. After all, for us, it is being together as a family that matters. And for that, I endlessly thank and praise God for giving them to me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a Quiet Christmas

Speaker of the House of Representatives Prospero Nograles called for a ceasefire on the Charter Change debate. It is a call worthy of support, and one which I am sure will be appreciated by the people.

In fact, I would even go further. I call for a ceasefire not just on the Charter Change debate, but a ceasefire on all political bickering and campaigns, a ceasefire on scandals and controversies, a ceasefire on military operations and rebel attacks. Let the guns fall silent, and stop the tongues from wagging.

In other words, this Christmas, which is supposed to be a season of Love, Hope and giving, the people should be given a respite from all the negativity that has dominated their daily lives throughout the past year and years before.

I think the people deserve this break in order to make their lives a little bit more bearable in the face of the so many challenges and difficulties that they face not only as a people but even as individuals.

It is only during Christmas that we are entitled to temporarily set aside the troubles of our lives and enjoy the spirit of cheer, togetherness and family brought about by the Season of Joy. Of course, most importantly, the Yuletide Season is a time when we are called upon to recall the Reason for the Season, which is the birth of the One who brought a message of love and forgiveness.

Wouldn’t Christmas be more enjoyable if we didn’t go to the dawn mass just to see the headlines in the newspaper being sold in front of the church screaming all kinds of negative news? Wouldn’t it be nice to have quality time with the family watching a nice movie at home instead of being bombarded by depressing stories in the evening news on TV?

Wouldn’t it be better if during this Christmas, we are all engrossed by the Nativity instead of negativity?

This is not to say that I am calling for the people to forgive and forget. One of the messages of the Savior aside from Love and Hope is Justice. Definitely, simply forgetting is not consistent with Justice.

I just think that a Christmas ceasefire is something that we can afford and it should not affect the pursuit for righteousness and justice. After the Christmas season, the hostilities may resume.

I'm dreaming of a quiet Christmas..just like the ones I used to know...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

AARRGH! I hate Planned Obsolescence! That includes you, Epson!

It is commonly known as Planned Obsolescence. In other countries, Built-in Obsolescence. It also comes in another form, Technological Obsolescence. In common language, it is simply a strategy by manufacturers to get you buying again and again by making the product you buy either break down within a specific period of time or they limit the features they put on a product and then come out with something better a short time after they just launched the first one.

It is a clever strategy, one that keeps the consumers buying and their income flowing. It as a practice that is contrary to the traditional principle of taking care of your item so that it will last for as long as your grandmother lived. It denies you the possibility of owning a "classic", such as having a transistor radio that first came to life fifty years ago. Nowadays, your precious item becomes junk in only a couple of years.

Now what drove me to write about Planned Obsolescence. Well, one of the most obscure but important items that people now possess, the home printer, is what drove me to sit down and put down into the records of cyberspace my grumbling thoughts on the subject.

Last night, I was forced to buy a new printer. Normally, being a technology and gadget freak, I am as eager to buy the newest and latest gizmo as I am eager to eat ice cream on a hot summer day. But in spite of that, I am still a practical guy, taking into consideration a technological product's efficiency, maximum utilization, flexibility in use, inter-operability with other technologies, after-sales service, length of service life and price. What made me grudgingly buy a new printer was the fact that the printer I was using was still in perfect working condition, although it was already more than five years old.

I had an Epson Stylus Photo 900. Being into photography, digital video editing and music, it was the perfect home printer for me, since aside form having excellent print quality, it had the ability to print directly onto CD/DVD sticker labels or even on the discs themselves (those with a special surface for direct inkjet printing). Using a special attachment, you loaded the disc directly into the printer for an easy, clean printing of labels.

At the time I bought it in 2002, it had a hefty price tag, especially since it was the latest in the market. But after going through a lot of screening of available printers, it was the only one that fit my needs and specifications. For many years, I was the proud and happy owner of the Epson Stylus Photo 900.

Until early this year.

Normally, I would always have an extra set of ink cartridges in stock so I wouldn't run out of ink in the middle of a printing job. But late last year, I wasn't able to replace the stock. So when my ink ran out in the middle of printing my son's project, I had to rush to the mall to buy cartridges. I had to go to several stores before I found the last available stock in a store. Little did I know that it might have literally been the last remaining stock.

A couple of months ago, I ran out of ink again. But after going around all the computer shops in all the malls in the area where I live, none was to be found. I went to another mall in another city and I went home empty handed. Worse, in one of the stores, I was told they would no longer carry that particular line of Epson ink cartridges. It was then that I had a suspicion that my pritner was about to be forcibly retired.

But I am also a sentimental guy. I didn't feel like giving up and abandoning my reliable old printer. So I decided to do something that I said I would never from the ink-refilling station. I had told myslef that I would always use original ink cartridges. But these were desperat times which called for desperate measures.

So I bought an ink-refilled cartridge. But somehow, it wasn;t the same. For the first time, I couldn't print the right colors in the photos I was printing. It was indeed true that the quality of original ink wasn't matched by the refill inks. For text printing, it was okay. But for quality photo prints, much was still to be desired.

Because of the many repeats that I had to do just to get the right print quality I needed, my ink usage increased. So it wasn't long before I needed to buy ink again. Yesterday, I once again did the rounds of all the computer shops in my area, hoping that original cartridges would be available for my printer. Alas, there was none. In several instances, the sales clerks in the shops I visited weren't even familiar with my printer model and the ink cartridges I needed.

As I went from one shop to another the dreaded feeling sank deeper and deeper in printer was a dinosaur. The reality that it was time to buy a new printer kept nagging me, together with the thought that I had a perfectly working but obsolete printer.

As a last ditch effort, I went back to the ink-refilling store to buy the "fake" ink cartridges. But woe of woes, misery of miseries, they also no longer carry that ink cartridge for that particular printer model.

Depression turned to anger. What?!! My prized printer is now junk?! Epson retired my printer?! AARRRGGH! Questions rushed through my head---why didn't they issue notices? Why didn't they make newer printers using the same kind of cartridges? Why retire such a good printer model? Why? Why? WHY?!!!

With shoulders hunched down, I resigned myself to the fact that I was powerless in the face of planned obsolescence. That while I may not be alone, the millions of consumers around the world are trapped in the whirlpool of technology that overtakes itself, and of marketing strategies that keep us buying and buying and buying and we're in the Twilight Zone.

As I accepted this fate, I walked into one of the stores mindlessly, like a zombie attracted to fresh human flesh. Without much of a conscious effort, I walked towards the printer section of the computer super store, with a wide variety of printer brands and models to choose from. A small vocie inside me said, "Damn Epson. Never again."

But as I browsed the different printer brands--- HP, Canon, Lexmark, etc...I my gaze was drawn to the familiar....somehow, like an old friend, I went back to what was familiar. Call it stupid or call it sentimental...others call it brand loyalty....I went to the Epson display. After carefully considering the specifications of the various Epson models, I made a choice, paid for it left the building, perhaps to return in a couple of years time, a repeat victim of Planned Obsolescence.

By the way, the price I paid for the new printer is just around 200 pesos more than if I had been able to buy the original Epson cartridges for my now obsolete printer.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pre-2010 Charter Change: Magnet for Suspicion and Distrust

Any moves to amend the Constitution before the change of political leadership in 2010 will only be met with extreme distrust and suspicion by the people. The proponents of a pre-2010 charter change must take into account the prevailing sentiments of a very significant segment of the population which have very serious suspicions about the motives of those pushing for chacha. It cannot be denied that there is no vocal clamor for charter change from the populace while on the other hand, there is widespread disapproval of tinkering with the Constitution especially under the present national political leadership (not just the president, but the ENTIRE political leadership).

It does not help the cause of the cha-cha proponents that the most vocal about amendments to the Constitution are incumbent politicians, particularly those identified with the present administration. Thus, the product of a rammed-down-the-throat-of-the-people charter change will only be a highly politicized and divisive Constitution which will not be a solution to the country’s problems but only serve to perpetuate the political divide that we are experiencing now.

It does not also help that the proposed method is through Constituent Assembly, where incumbent members of the legislature will be the ones to sit down to propose and approve changes in the Constitution. Proponents of this should make a thorough, realistic self-examination and ask this question: “What is the people’s level of trust of present officials?”

What we need in 2010 is a fresh start. We do not need to carry over the baggage of the political past, the woes and ills of past administrations and the conflicts of politicians of bygone days. That’s why if we are to amend the Constitution, which I will venture to say needs some amendments, it must not happen during the incumbency of the present political leadership. The level of suspicion by the people is simply too high.

Of course, the question now is, if we agree that the Constitution can be improved with amendments, when and how should it be done? If doing it now by constituent assembly will only be met by skepticism and distrust, how and when should it be done?

I think amendments done through a duly elected Constitutional Convention will not have the baggage of a constituent assembly which is perceived to be self-serving. Electing the delegates simultaneous with the 2010 national and local elections or even the 2010 barangay elections (which will be held five months after the national and local elections) will enable the change to happen immediately in order for the new administration to make use of the benefits of the new charter. In other words, a fresh start for the country and the people.

In the wake of the Barack Obama victory which stood on a platform of Change, there is no escaping that charter change may well provide a fresh start for the Philippines. But that change should not be dragged down by a tarnished political past, and suspicions of self serving change. Just like in the United States, the Change must happen with the People playing the most significant role, not politicians who having messianic complexes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Adminstration or Opposition?

While plying the stretch of South Superhighway this morning on the way to work, I was listening to the interview of a bright, young senator by an equally bright, young radio anchor-commentator. They were discussing the recent leadership change in the Senate, trying to dissect the rhyme and reason for the change and the prospects that the change will bring to the Upper Chamber, particularly the committee chairmanships.

While many said the Change brought by Obama should be emulated by Filipinos, the change in the senate was met with skepticism. Of course, that skepticism is due to the circumstances surrounding the change such as moves to amend the constitution, ongoing investigations, new appointments in the Supreme Court, etc. Because of that skepticism, who gets to be hailed as chairman of what committee becomes a concern.

The interview focused on who will get to be designated as chair of the powerful Blue Ribbon Committee, formerly chaired by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano. The committee is mandated to investigate anomalies in government, as what it is doing now with regard to the fertilizer fund scam, the euro generals and other controversies in the past. The committee is seen as the people’s tool against the corrupt and the means to look into shenanigans in government.

The interviewer asked the interviewee who he thinks should be the chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee. The anchor-commentator pointedly asked whether an administration or opposition senator should be the chair. The articulate senator replied that the former chair should be retained because the committee, given its mandate, should be given to someone who is affiliated with the opposition to serve as check and balance to the administration.

I think everyone will agree with the reply of the senator. That the ideal situation is that an opposition senator should be the chair. Indeed, it will ensure that the administration will always be on their toes, since the opposition will be empowered to investigate activities of the government.

But as for me, I don’t necessarily agree.

While I believe in a strong opposition, I also believe that the basis for who will chair the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, or any investigative body for that matter, should not be political affiliation or leanings. The criteria should not be whether the prospective chair is pro-administration or with the opposition, but whether the person is fair, bold and independent in thought and action when it comes to issues of anomalies in government.

We must all be reminded that the Blue Ribbon Committee is supposed to look into anomalies in government, no matter who perpetrated it. And we must be reminded that anomalies in government may be committed not just by administration officials but even by those from the opposition. Corruption knows no political boundaries. It is an affliction that affects anyone who falls into temptation, whether administration or opposition, male or female, educated and uneducated, even the religious or atheist.

What should matter is not the chair’s political loyalty but the faithfulness to the mandate and responsibility of the position. Because even if an opposition chair is put into place, it does not make him or her immune from the possibility of protecting fellow opposition officials if the situation calls for it.

To the question of who should be designated as chair, I would have answered differently. I would have set aside the criteria of political leaning (whether opposition or administration) but rather focus on the prospective chair’s independence of thought and integrity in the performance of the job.

Of course, it may be said that it is difficult to judge a person before he assumes the position, but at least by having that standard or criteria stated, the chair would have an idea what standard he or she should be living up to. If we settle with the idea that the criteria should be based on whether the chair is from the opposition or administration, then the danger that the chair will focus on anomalies of “the other side” and turn a blind eye to those from his or her own political color will remain.

Someone said that Leadership is a lonely place. Somehow, integrity seems to be in the same location. But I think we have chance to stand by both if we choose to. What say you, Philippines?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Why Can't We Be Like the Americans?

“The one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is certain or unchangeable.”

It was the 35th U.S. President, the youngest ever elected at 43 years old, who said that. John F. Kennedy, assassinated in the middle of his term, was known for his thought-provoking quotable quotes.

Well, another charismatic, young US President (President-Elect, that is) spoke about Change…a Change that America Needs, a Change that has now come to America.

Yes, he can. And yes, he did. Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America.

The world was witness today to history unfolding. America finally crossed the line and elected its first non-white president. Perhaps in the future, when America’s political maturity will have further advanced, they will have their first Latino president…or the first Asian president…maybe even a Filipino-American. Who knows? Barack Obama said that America is a place where all things are possible.”

To a certain extent, the Obama candidacy excited not just the American voters but the world as well. I found it a curious departure from past US elections to see and hear Filipinos in the Philippines talk excitedly about the US presidential race. The coverage of the elections also showed how citizens of other countries closely monitored the events and even cheer as Barack Obama was declared the winner. The senator from Illinois actually offered hope not just to the weary Americans but also to the rest of the world.

Here in the Philippines, I am pretty to sure that many are inspired by Obama’s victory. After all, he was in a situation that is closest to the heart of the Filipinos---the Underdog. Although it may be said that from the beginning, it was already apparent that Obama will capture the hearts and minds of the voters, it still could not be discounted that the color of his skin might thwart the destiny that was his. Doubts still lingered that America might not be prepared to have its first African-American president.

As I listened, watched, and read in the radio, television, and the internet the many Filipinos who reacted to the Obama win, I couldn’t help but agree to many who said that his electoral victory serves as an inspiration to us, that there is a hope for change in this country and all we needed was a Filipino Obama who will rise from anonymity and take this country by storm and trample on traditional politics in the coming elections.

And who would disagree with that desire? We all want an inspired and inspiring leadership.

While many feel inspired by Barack Obama, there are also those who expressed admiration at Senator McCain’s statesmanship when he conceded and urged “all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.”

The man just lost a bitterly contested election yet he concedes and rallies the troops around his opponent. Indeed, he proved that his being a war hero extends all the way to his political battles.

His statesmanship is reciprocated by the magnanimous victor, when the president-elect said in his speech, “Sen. McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.”

And he also extended his hand of reconciliation as he said that he was looking forward to working with Senator McCain in the coming days.

We are not used to this kind of statesmanship after elections. That is reflected by the many commentaries of people who, with near unanimity, all expressed the desire that the same could be said of Philippine politics.

Not a few said, “Why can’t we be like the Americans?”

I think that while the desire is there, we do not have what it takes to be like them in that regard. Well, not yet.

As I was listening to an interview over AM radio, a prominent, young and promising politician was ecstatic over the win of Barack Obama. The anchor asked him if we can have a similar, inspiring leader who could lead this nation, a Filipino Barack Obama.

The interviewee said, yes, we could have such a leader. But he added that what we need is to unite the political groups so that in 2010, there would only be one candidate from the opposition to go against the administration.

But there lies the problem---- we are looking for a Filipino Barack Obama. As always, we are looking towards personalities. Filipinos have that mentality of looking for a Savior, a Patron.

While Barack Obama is undoubtedly a charismatic, eloquent and inspiring leader, he is actually only a face of the Americans’ collective aspirations and what they stand for. What got him elected was not just who he is but what he represented.

He represented the American Dream which is Freedom, Equal Opportunity and Prosperity. He is the realization of their aspirations that in America, everything is possible.

Do Filipinos have those in their hearts? Do we, as a Nation, even have a concept of what it is to be free to follow your aspirations and desires… to rise up out of poverty…and have enough for your basic needs and have some more for your leisure?

The majority of Filipinos are only familiar with a society where only a college degree from a prestigious university will land you a good job; that not even everyone can afford to have a degree, even from a less prestigious university. Many of our countrymen are only familiar with being born poor, living poor and dying poor.

That is why we all look for that savior, our knight in shining armor. We can’t afford to have our own aspirations as individuals and as a Nation, so we rely on the one person who will save us.

Tragically, such a mindset only makes us slaves to the personal desires and selfish aspirations of the savior we are looking for.

We wonder why McCain and Obama could be such statesmen after their intense rivalry. Well, it is because they both know that there is something bigger than both of them. They know that what the American people expect is for their leaders to uphold the American Dream and Way of Life.

Obama’s campaign was successful because he always said it was all about the American People, and not about him. He acknowledged that the success of America will not only depend on him but on the American People working together to achieve their aspirations and goals as a Nation.

Obama looked at himself not as a savior but as a servant-leader and for that he earned the people’s trust.

If we want to become like America and experience the blessings they have, then we, as a Nation, must learn to have collective ideals, goals and vision, and not rely on self-appointed political messiahs. The Book of Proverbs (29:18) says, “without a vision, the people perish”. The founding fathers of America had a vision for their country and they made it the cornerstone of their country. Up to this day, although bad leaders have come and gone, the vision they had are still embedded in the psyche of the American people.

Do we want to be like the Americans? Well, it’s going to take more than changing a President or an administration. The change will have to happen within each and everyone of us.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Impeachment --- The Power of the People

I was interviewed recently and asked to define impeachment not with the textbook definition but with my own words. Instinctively, I replied that impeachment is the power of the people to remove a president (and other government officials) if they believe that he or she is no longer fit to lead.

Of course, there is a legal definition and impeachment is only a part of the whole process of removing a president (impeachment, an act of the House of Representatives, still has to be followed by a trial in the Senate), but for practical purposes, impeachment is the people’s way of reversing their vote for a President.

While the President is elected into office in a process where all of the people cast their individual votes, a reversal of that act of trust is not through the same process (voting). While anybody can file an impeachment complaint, the power to act on that complaint is delegated to the members of the House of Representatives.

Ideally, since members of the House of Representatives are elected by the people, they are supposed to represent the ideals, aspirations, vision and desires of the populace that voted them into office.

This point brings me to a side issue—what exactly is the role of a Representative? Is it to simply be the mouthpiece of his/her constituents? Or is the Representative given the privilege of making decisions in behalf of the constituents using informed judgment?

Should a congressman simply follow what the people who voted him into office say, even if it goes against his/her principles or the conclusions of his/her studies on the issue? Or is he/she allowed to make judgment calls on what he/she believes is the right thing to do after making a thorough assessment of the issues at hand?

The fault of simply being a mouthpiece is that not just because the people say so, it is already correct. There are times when the people may have a collective opinion on the subject but lack the necessary information to make an informed decision. In Congress, public hearings are conducted in order to gather as many sides of the issue as possible, in order for the members of Congress to make educated decisions. Obviously, not all of the constituents of a member of Congress can attend those hearings and be privy to the issues being discussed. So how can the people make an informed stand on the matter?

On the other hand, giving the member of Congress the leeway to make judgment calls may result in a situation where he/she may make a decision which is unpopular with his/her constituents. Or the decision of the member of Congress may not necessarily be in the interest of the people but only in his/her own.

The dilemma posed by the “mouthpiece or decision-maker” question puts the relationship of the congressman and constituents in a grey area that constantly shifts from being friendly to hostile.

Going back to the impeachment, it has been said that it is the power of the people to remove a President. Such being the case, then it only follows that it is a power that should be held in high regard and handled with seriousness. In other words, it should not be trivialized and devalued since it is an expression of the people’s sovereignty over the leadership of the country. After all, a government under democracy is, as said by Abraham Lincoln, is “a government of the people, by the people and for the people”.

Used erroneously, power may either become oppressive or diluted.

For example, for those who follow the principle of “spare the rod, spoil the child”, the use of the rod as punishment for bad behavior only becomes effective if it is carried out effectively and consistently. Some parents are either not consistent or do not carry out the punishment effectively. In the long run, the policy only becomes a threat, a threat that is eventually learned by the child as something that will never happen. In the end, the power of the rod becomes diluted, even useless.

Another example on a more national scope is the power of traffic laws. These laws are set in place, with violations meted with penalties ranging from a small fine to disqualification from obtaining a driver’s license.

In other countries, traffic laws are faithfully observed by the people since the laws are faithfully implemented by the law enforcement officials. They break the law, they get punished.

In the Philippines, the majority of drivers (I’m tempted to say “all”) do not care about traffic laws. The laws have been rendered not only diluted but even useless, not because the law is weak (our traffic laws are generally patterned after other countries’ traffic laws) but because successful enforcement is weak and the people have been desensitized.

In fact, many drivers already know what to do to get around the penalty. To illustrate, I ask this question to all those who drive out there: What is the first thing that comes to your mind when a traffic cop/enforcer pulls you over?

I am willing to bet that without the traffic cop/enforcer even talking to the driver yet, the average Filipino behind the wheel, when pulled over, will immediately think of how much he will give to the apprehending officer/enforcer. In other words, people are already preconditioned that bribing a traffic cop/enforcer will save him from the penalty of a traffic violation.

The same principle of power that becomes diluted or even useless applies to the power of impeachment. Use it erroneously, it loses its power much like Superman loses his power when in close proximity to Kryptonite.

How can impeachment be used erroneously?

First, if it is used trivially. An impeachment filed frivolously will be an impeachment that is not taken seriously. Take the complaints filed by Atty. Oliver Lozano. How many complaints has he filed? How many have been taken seriously both by the administration and the opposition?

The complaints he filed were ignored by the administration and even criticized by the opposition. Pathetically, whenever frivolous impeachment complaints are talked about, the Lozano complaints are cited by people as examples.

Second, if it is pursued without the intention of being successful. Very much like a law that is not meant to be implemented, an impeachment complaint that is filed without a serious effort to be successful only serves to demean and dilute the people’s power.

I am not a believer in the thinking that it doesn’t matter if an impeachment complaint does not have a chance of being successful, as long as the complaint is filed and the accused is publicly embarrassed or the charges made known to the public. Publicity and propaganda will achieve the same result. I believe the power of impeachment should not be used as a tool for that purpose. Impeachment should only be pursued with one end in mind---the successful removal of a President through the process.

Unsuccessful impeachment complaints, especially if successive, only strengthens the official who is the subject of the complaint, and at the same time weakens the whole process and therefore, dilute the power of the people.

Bacteria become immune from antibiotics if the antibiotics are not used in accordance to prescription. The body develops immunity from bacteria because it develops antibodies to fight off the infection. This may be analogous to impeachments.

If you use impeachments trivially without first gaining the critical mass of support, it only ends in failure. If you fail often enough, the official being impeached learns how to defeat the whole process.

It is imperative then that impeachment should only be filed pursued with the strongest chance of success, not with the “file now, hope to get support later” approach, because that approach will only result in dilution of the power that belongs to the People, not the politicians.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Speech during the 1st Philippine Cooperative TEAM Shop in General Santos City

I was invited to deliver the Keynote Addtess during the 1st Philippine Cooperative TEAM Shop in General Santos City.

The conference had the theme "T.E.A.M. -Together, Everyone Achieves More" and I was requested to deliver a message on "My Vision for the Cooperative Movement in the Philippines in Response to Global Challenges".

Below is the speech I delivered:

I am deeply honored to be the speaker during this conference of cooperatives, the first of its kind in the country. The First Philippine Cooperative-TEAM Shop is a noteworthy endeavor that is a step towards the right direction in the development of cooperatives in the Philippines.

Perhaps it is appropriate that at the outset, I extend my congratulations to the National Cooperative Development Council, the Government of Gen. Santos City, the City Cooperative Development Council, the Regional Cooperative Development Councils in Regions XI and XII and last but certainly not the least, the Cooperative Development Authority. Truly, this initiative is proof of your proactive stance in advancing Philippine cooperativism.

TEAM…T. E. A. M. The acronym stands for the conference’s theme, “Together, Everyone Achieves More”.

The theme is a reiteration of the real spirit of cooperativism, where the combined strength of its members serves as the driving force behind the success of a cooperative. Ideally, the input of the individual combined with those of others results in the higher output of the cooperative as a whole.

It should not take a genius to realize that cooperation and combination leads to increased productivity as well as equitable sharing of benefits. It is a principle that is older than any political ideology prevailing now. From pre-historic times up to the modern era, the idea of joining forces, forging alliances and pooling resources has always been known to Man.

One would think that with the wisdom that goes with that principle, people would always give premium to banding together in unity. But what do we see in our country now? The Philippines is so divided, and the division criss-crosses between political ideologies, religious denomination, social strata, ethnic origin, even school affiliation.

The country’s division has contributed to our slow progress, and our country is often said to be taking two steps back for every step forward.

But cooperatives offer a glimmer of hope. Above the clutter and noise of national division, cooperatives offer a chance for the people to tap into the best qualities of the Filipino and achieve economic gain and stability.

Cooperatives have a universally accepted set of principles:

  1. Open and Voluntary Membership- where the lines of division is overcome with an open membership based on self-determination
  2. Democratic Control – where leadership is determined by collective decision
  3. Member Economic Participation – where every member has an equitable share in the capital and profit.
  4. Autonomy and Independence – where the direction of the coop is determined by the members free from external influence
  5. Education, Training and Information – where members learn from the organization and information is made available to everyone
  6. Cooperation among Cooperatives – where the cooperative moves in cooperation not only among its members but also among other cooperatives
  7. Concern for the Community – where cooperatives consider the sustainable development of the community and environment they move around in.

These principles give me a hope that in the backdrop of the chaos in national politics, cooperatives will more than make up for the flaws in present day society. It makes me confident that in the face of the global challenges the Philippines’ faces, cooperatives will be the catalyst of change that will usher in prosperity for our countrymen.

What is my vision for cooperatives in these trying times?

1. Cooperatives will be the preferred economic activity by the masses.

A majority of our people, the masses, are considered economically challenged. Many lack the educational attainment that would land them a well paid job, and almost all do not have the resources to become entrepreneurs by themselves.

While these dire circumstances may make a bright future seem unreachable, cooperatives provide people the opportunity to engage in productive economic activity without the demands of a venture by themselves.

2. The diversity of cooperative activities will lead to complementation, not competition.

There are various types of cooperatives with various kinds of activities. But there are times when similarities occur, and sometimes, those similarities lead to competition so intense that the cooperatives cancel each other out and both end up losing.

But there is a way to take advantage of diversity. If cooperatives concentrate on core activities and make themselves distinct from others, the concept of specialization will enable cooperatives to co-exist and prosper.

This is where your concept of One Coop Type – One Project comes in. The concept will make cooperatives avoid destructive competition and allow market niches to flourish. The specialization will also lead to excellence in the outputs of coops, since the concentration produces mastery of activity.

3. The cooperatives will be able to expand its business borders from the domestic market to the global market.

The mastery of a particular activity will enable cooperatives to turn out quality products or services and be more competitive. If coops are able to attain world class standards in their outputs and sustain that ability, they can penetrate markets in other countries as well as gain the confidence of the domestic market.

4. The cooperative movement will become so successful that not only will the movement be the preferred activity of Filipinos, but the movement will become the model to be emulated by other countries.

It is not unrealistic to dream that there will come a time that the Philippine cooperative movement will become the model for other countries. We are already on the road towards achieving the level of cooperative excellence and success, and as long as we are consistent in our efforts to improve cooperativism, it will not be long until the world will recognize our leadership in the cooperative movement.

These are but some of the aspirations we have for the Philippine cooperative movement. I do believe that these are realistic and attainable. But once again, we have to go back to the issue of unity and cooperation.

The question is : Is the cooperative movement ready to take on the challenge?

I believe it is. Proof is this conference that you have held for the first time. It is my desire that this conference will start the ball rolling towards the vision that we have for the cooperative movement.

But being ready to take on the challenge is only the beginning. The next step should be the adoption of a shared vision, plot a course of action, diligent implementation of the plan and an honest to goodness evaluation of what has been achieved.

As you go back to your respective areas after this conference, take along with you the lessons you have learned, the insights you have heard and the linkages you have made. These shall be valuable in your efforts to make your cooperatives successful.

And as I end this message, I leave you with this quotation which I think is relevant to our theme today:

"If you want to be incrementally better:Be Competititve. If you want to be exponentially better: Be Cooperative."

May you all have a blessed day ahead!

Thank you very much!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Countries

It's good to be home. Well, after one week of being out of the country, I sure do miss my four boys. My wife and I just arrived from a trip to Cambodia and Singapore. I attended a conference on the Role of Parliament in Defense Procurement in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. On the way home, we visited Singapore since the connecting flight was via Singapore Airlines' hub. I haven't been to the land Lee Kwan Yew built and this was an opportune time.

I had very productive conference in Phnom Penh. Aside from delivering a speech on Defense Procurement in the Philippines, I also learned from the processes and policies implemented in other ASEAN countries.

The trip also gave me an important insight on leadership and nationhood as I visited two countries with contrasting histories, characteristics and destinies. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned by Filipinos from these two countries.

First, Cambodia. I do not mean any disrespect to the Cambodia people, but I would say that a trip there would give Filipinos a respite from the depression that they have about their own country. Many Filipinos have many complaints about their own country--the poverty, the chaotic streets, the congested sidewalks, corruption in government, etc, etc....the list of complaints could go on and on...

But a visit to Phnom Penh would immediately give a Filipino a boost of pride on how "modern" and "orderly" our cities are. If you think that Metro Manila streets are a nightmare to drive in, wait till you experience the streets of Phnom Penh. Motorcycles are the kings of the road, with the concept of traffic rules seemingly alien to the riders. It could even be said that traffic signs and lights are mere suggestions, not regulations in Phnom Penh.

It is also apparent that the years of economic, political and social hardship has stunted the development of the city's infrastructure. COmpared to Metro Manila, the Philippine capital gives you a sense of being in the First World.

On the contrary, our visit to Singapore gave me a feeling of envy. If I saw Phnom Penh as being behind Metro Manila, Singapore gave me a reality check...Metro Manila is still not First World.

First of all, Singapore's cleanliness puts Metro Manila to shame. Never mind what others say that Singapore can do it because they are just a small country. The fact of the matter is that not any of Metro Manila's 17 cities and municipalities alone could even measure to Singapore's cleanliness and orderliness.

I have been to many cities with Chinatowns around the world --- Washington D.C., Montreal, New York, Los Angeles, Sydney---but this has got to be the cleanest Chinatown I have ever seen! It's so clean that it's become so un-Chinatown!

Another thing that amazed me that in spite of all the development and the trappings of a modern city, they were able to maintain the healthy balance of greenery and concrete. The tree-lined streets gave the feeling of being in a garden, even though all around you are glass, steel and concrete buildings.

The contrast between the two cities--Phnom Penh and Singapore---went beyond the physical. You can also sense the difference in how the people put order in their lives. Phnom Penh is obviously still under the transition from having gone through a war-torn era while Singapore is already way ahead of their uncertain beginnings when they were separated from Malaysia.

But with their differences they also had their similarities. For one, both Singaporeans and Cambodians have a strong sense of nationalism. The Singaporeans, at the beginning of their nationhood, were like outcasts who had to fend for themselves. Through visionary leadership and a determined citizenry, they overcame the odds and even overtook many of their neighbors. Their accomplishment fuels their national pride and desire to maintain that feat.

The Camobodians, on the other hand, had a very traumatic history of violence and oppression marred by genocide. As a result, their country lagged behind, becoming the region's basketcase.

But their experience gave them the resolve to never allow war to tear their country apart again. Their collective experience as a people led to a collective decision to shun division and move together forward. Although they are still behind in terms of infrasturcture and economic development, they are now at the beginning of a new revolution---that of taking their place in the league of countries that miraculously rose from the ashes and become one of asia's wonders. It won;t be long before they will be at par with Vietnam and soon after that, Thailand.

With the examples shown by Cambodia and Singapore, one is compelled to ask oneself---how does the Philippines fare? If a visitor came to the Philippines, what would be the impression?

There are many things about the Philippines that make me cringe. But I think there are more things that make me hopeful. All we need to do now is get our acts together.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

So What if the Americans Supported the MOA-AD?

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision on the petition filed regarding the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), many comments and opinions have been forwarded reacting to and even dissecting the Supreme Court decision.

I have my own views on the MOA (which I hahve written in my blogs) and I would have settled for the Supreme Court decision. I was not even going to react to other people's comments, preferring to just say, "the Supreme Court has decided...your opinions will remain opinions."

But there is one reaction that I found incredlous, especially coming from the person who said it. He is the last person I would expect to say such comments.

I refer to a quote of Senator Joker Arroyo I read in an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer where he was reported to have said that the MOA-AD was supported by the US:

On the phone from the United States, Sen. Joker Arroyo pointed out that the high court’s ruling practically rested on one vote, and that “a change of one vote changes the picture.”

Arroyo noted that the tribunal was “sharply divided” on the issue of an expanded Bangsamoro homeland.

“For a decision with such far-reaching consequences, the high court was sharply divided, 8-7, and it could pose more problems in the future,” he said.

“A change of one vote would make the minority opinion the majority decision, and conversely, the minority decision would become a dissenting opinion.”

“Rarely” has this happened, he added.

Arroyo also said the US government had implicitly supported the MOA-AD.

“It should be stated that the act that the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional had the indirect encouragement and blessings of the US. This is attested to by the joint statement titled ‘Fixing Mindanao,’ released by the immediate seven former US ambassadors to the Philippines,” he said.

Arroyo was referring to the statement that appeared on the Sept. 30, 2008, issue of the Asian Wall Street Journal, which was in support of the MOA-AD.

The statement, which appeared as an opinion piece, was jointly written by former US Ambassadors Stephen Bosworth, Thomas Hubbard, Richard Murphy, Nicholas Platt, Francis Ricciardone, Richard Solomon and Frank Wisner, along with US officials Chester Crocker and Eugene Martin, and Astrid Tuminez, senior research associate of the US Institute of Peace Philippine Facilitation Project.

I don't exactly know what the good senator, who has the image of a staunch nationalist, said during the itnerview (because sometimes interviews have their way of being edited and coming out misconstrued), but the report as written gave me the impression that he was justifying the MOA-AD because after all, it was supported by the Americans, as jointly written by seven former US ambassadors. Of course, everybody knows that even the current US ambassador was supposed to have been a witness to the signing of the MOA if it had pushed through.

Senator Arroyo's quote even seemed to be meant to contrast the decision of the Supreme Court, implying that the SC was wrong in making that decision on a matter that is supported by the United States.

I do hope that the Senator, whom I respect, was misquoted. Because my opinion is SO WHAT IF THE AMERICANS SUPPORTED THE MOA?

While I look upon the United States as an important ally of the Philippines, it cannot be denied that they always act with their own interests as their primary concern. Meaning to say, if they supported the MOA, it is not out of the goodness of their heart or particular desire for the welfare of the Philippines. They support it because it is in their best interest.

The constitutionality of the agreement is a purely Filipino concern and no foreign opinion or position should matter. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of legal questions in the Philippines, as provided for in the Constitution. Their supreme mandate is the defense of the Constitution so if there is any question of constitutinality, their final word is holy. It is ridiculous to even consider what foreigners think about matters brought to the Supreme Court.

What is their interest in Mindanao? There may be many, but one that would stand out is the American company Exxon's project to drill oil in the Sulu Sea. How would the MOA-AD play out in this project?

Well, under the proposed MOA-AD, the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity would have been empowered to enter into agreements with foreign governments or entities pertaining to their economy and use of natural resources. The MOA also provided the BJE with their own Exclusive Economic Zone with the determination of their territorial boundaries prescribed in the MOA.

So with the Americans supporting the MOA, one can be sure that the BJE will be a friendly entity to the United States, free from the restrictions presently being enforced by our Constitution.

Oil is a major motivation for the United States to get involved in a country's affairs. Iraq was and is not just about the atrocities of Saddam Hussein and the welfare of the Iraqi people. It is first and foremost about the control of oil in the Middle East.

What about other countries in the world where conflict, oppression and strife has caused human suffering? What involvement did the United States have? What about the genocide and war crimes in Darfur? While the US is funding a monitoring team there, the United States is not motivated to act against the government in Sudan in the same way as they did in the case of Iraq.

So in the case of the MOA-AD, so what if the Americans supported it? The Supreme Court has decided. Let that be the final word on the matter.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Reproductive Health Bill-- House Bill No. 5043

For anyone and everyone who is interested in what is contained in The Reproductive Health Bill (the version that is presently being tackled in plenary debates in Congress), I have taken the liberty to post the entirety of the bill. This is so that people will be informed as to what is written in the bill and being debated upon.

The judgement is left to the reader.

Republic of the Philippines


Quezon City, Metro Manila




(In substitution to HB Nos. 17, 812, 2753 & 3970)

Introduced by Honorables Edcel C. Lagman, Janette L. Garin, Narciso D. Santiago III, Mark Llandro Mendoza, Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel, Eleandro Jesus F. Madrona



Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled:

SECTION 1. Short Title. – This Act shall be known as the “Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008”.

SEC. 2. Declaration of Policy. – The State upholds and promotes responsible parenthood, informed choice, birth spacing and respect for life in conformity with internationally recognized human rights standards. The State shall uphold the right of the people, particularly women and their organizations, to effective and reasonable participation in the formulation and implementation of the declared policy. This policy is anchored on the rationale that sustainable human development is better assured with a manageable population of healthy, educated and productive citizens. The State likewise guarantees universal access to medically-safe, legal, affordable and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, supplies and relevant 16 information thereon even as it prioritizes the needs of women and children, among other underprivileged sectors.

SEC. 3. Guiding Principles. – This Act declares the following as basic guiding 20 principles:

a. In the promotion of reproductive health, there should be no bias for either modern or natural methods of family planning;

b. Reproductive health goes beyond a demographic target because it is principally about health and rights;

c. Gender equality and women empowerment are central elements of reproductive health and population development;

d. Since manpower is the principal asset of every country, effective reproductive health care services must be given primacy to ensure the birth and care of healthy children and to promote responsible parenting;

e. The limited resources of the country cannot be suffered to be spread so thinly to service a burgeoning multitude that makes the allocations grossly inadequate and effectively meaningless;

f. Freedom of informed choice, which is central to the exercise of any right, must be fully guaranteed by the State like the right itself;

g. While the number and spacing of children are left to the sound judgment of parents and couples based on their personal conviction and religious beliefs, such concerned parents and couples, including unmarried individuals, should be afforded free and full access to relevant, adequate and correct information on reproductive health and human sexuality and should be guided by qualified State workers and professional private practitioners;

h. Reproductive health, including the promotion of breastfeeding, must be the joint concern of the National Government and Local Government Units (LGUs);

i. Protection and promotion of gender equality, woman empowerment and human rights, including reproductive health rights, are imperative;

j. Development is a multi-faceted process that calls for the coordination and integration of policies, plans, programs and projects that seek to uplift the quality of life of the people, more particularly the poor, the needy and the 21 marginalized;

k. Active participation by and thorough consultation with concerned non-government organizations (NGOs), people’s organizations (POs) and communities are imperative to ensure that basic policies, plans, programs and projects address the priority needs of stakeholders;

l. Respect for, protection and fulfillment of reproductive health rights seek to promote not only the rights and welfare of adult individuals and couples but those of adolescents’ and children’s as well; and

m. While nothing in this Act changes the law on abortion, as abortion remains a crime and is punishable, the government shall ensure that women seeking care for post-abortion complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner.

SEC. 4. Definition of Terms. – For purposes of this Act, the following terms shall be defined as follows:

a. Responsible Parenthood – refers to the will, ability and commitment of parents to respond to the needs and aspirations of the family and children more particularly through family planning.

b. Family Planning - refers to a program which enables couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information and means to carry out their decisions, and to have informed choice and access to a full range of safe, legal and effective family planning methods, techniques and devices.

c. Reproductive Health – refers to the state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the

reproductive system and to its functions and processes. This implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life, that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so, provided that these are not against the law. This further implies that women and men are afforded equal status in matters related to sexual relations and reproduction.

d. Reproductive Health Rights – refers to the rights of individuals and couples to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children; to make other decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence; to have the information and means to carry out their decisions; and to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.

e. Gender Equality – refers to the absence of discrimination on the basis of a person’s sex, in opportunities, allocation of resources and benefits, and access to services.

f. Gender Equity – refers to fairness and justice in the distribution of benefits and responsibilities between women and men, and often requires women-specific projects and programs to eliminate existing inequalities, inequities, policies and practices unfavorable to women.

g. Reproductive Health Care – refers to the availability OF and access to a full range of methods, techniques, supplies and services that contribute to reproductive and sexual health and well-being by preventing and solving reproductive health-related problems in order to achieve enhancement of life and personal relations. The elements of reproductive health care include:

1. Maternal, infant and child health and nutrition;

2. Promotion of breastfeeding;

3. Family planning information and services;

4. Prevention of abortion and management of post-abortion complications;

5. Adolescent and youth health;

6. Prevention and management of reproductive tract infections (RTIs), HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmittable infections (STIs);

7. Elimination of violence against women;

8. Education and counseling on sexuality and sexual and reproductive health;

9. Treatment of breast and reproductive tract cancers and other gynecological conditions;

10. Male involvement and participation in reproductive health;

11. Prevention and treatment of infertility and sexual dysfunction; and

12. Reproductive health education for the youth.

h. Reproductive Health Education – refers to the process of acquiring complete, accurate and relevant information on all matters relating to the reproductive system, its functions and processes and human sexuality; and forming attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy and gender roles. It also includes developing the necessary skills to be able to distinguish between facts and myths on sex and sexuality; and critically evaluate and discuss the moral, religious, social and cultural dimensions of related sensitive issues such as contraception and abortion.

i. Male involvement and participation - refers to the involvement, participation, commitment and joint responsibility of men with women in all areas of sexual and reproductive health, as well as reproductive health concerns specific to men.

j. Reproductive tract infection (RTI) – refers to sexually transmitted infections, sexually transmitted diseases and other types of infections affecting the reproductive system.

k. Basic Emergency Obstetric Care – refers to lifesaving services for maternal complication being provided by a health facility or professional which must include the following six signal functions: administration of parenteral antibiotics; administration of parenteral oxytocic drugs; administration of parenteral anticonvulsants for pre-eclampsia and eclampsia; manual removal of placenta; and assisted vaginal delivery.

l. Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric Care – refers to basic emergency obstetric care plus two other signal functions: performance of caesarean section and blood transfusion.

m. Maternal Death Review - refers to a qualitative and in-depth study of the causes of maternal death with the primary purpose of preventing future deaths through changes or additions to programs, plans and policies.

n. Skilled Attendant – refers to an accredited health professional such as a licensed midwife, doctor or nurse who has adequate proficiency and the skills to manage normal (uncomplicated) pregnancies, childbirth and the immediate postnatal period, and in the identification, management and referral of complication in women and newborns.

o. Skilled Attendance - refers to childbirth managed by a skilled attendant under the enabling conditions of a functional emergency obstetric care and referral system.

p. Development – refers to a multi-dimensional process involving major changes in social structures, popular attitudes, and national institutions as well as the acceleration of economic growth, the reduction of inequality and the eradication of widespread poverty.

q. Sustainable Human Development – refers to the totality of the process of expanding human choices by enabling people to enjoy long, healthy and productive lives, affording them access to resources needed for a decent standard of living and assuring continuity and acceleration of development by achieving a balance between and among a manageable population, adequate resources and a healthy environment.

r. Population Development – refers to a program that aims to: (1) help couples and parents achieve their desired family size; (2) improve reproductive health of individuals by addressing reproductive health problems; (3) contribute to decreased maternal and infant mortality rates and early child mortality; (4) reduce incidence of teenage pregnancy; and (5) enable government to achieve a balanced population


SEC. 5. The Commission on Population (POPCOM). – Pursuant to the herein declared policy, the Commission on Population (POPCOM) shall serve as the central planning, coordinating, implementing and monitoring body for the comprehensive and integrated policy on reproductive health and population development. In the implementation of this policy, POPCOM, which shall be an attached agency of the Department of Health (DOH) shall have the following functions:

a. To create an enabling environment for women and couples to make an informed choice regarding the family planning method that is best suited to their needs and personal convictions;

b. To integrate on a continuing basis the interrelated reproductive health and population development agenda into a national policy, taking into account regional and local concerns;

c. To provide the mechanism to ensure active and full participation of the private sector and the citizenry through their organizations in the planning and implementation of reproductive health care and population development programs and projects;

d. To ensure people’s access to medically safe, legal, quality and affordable reproductive health goods and services;

e. To facilitate the involvement and participation of non-government organizations and the private sector in reproductive health care service delivery and in the production, distribution and delivery of quality reproductive health and family planning supplies and commodities to make them accessible and affordable to ordinary citizens;

f. To fully implement the Reproductive Health Care Program with the following components:

(1) Reproductive health education including but not limited to counseling on the full range of legal and medically-safe family planning methods including surgical methods;

(2) Maternal, peri-natal and post-natal education, care and services;

(3) Promotion of breastfeeding;

(4) Promotion of male involvement, participation and responsibility in reproductive health as well as other reproductive health concerns of men;

(5) Prevention of abortion and management of post-abortion complications; and

(6) Provision of information and services addressing the reproductive health needs of the poor, senior citizens, women in prostitution, differently-abled persons, and women and children in war AND crisis situations.

g. To ensure that reproductive health services are delivered with a full range of supplies, facilities and equipment and that service providers are adequately trained for reproductive health care;

h. To endeavor to furnish local Family Planning Offices with appropriate information and resources to keep the latter updated on current studies and research relating to family planning, responsible parenthood, breastfeeding and infant nutrition;

i. To direct all public hospitals to make available to indigent mothers who deliver

their children in these government hospitals, upon the mother’s request, the procedure of ligation without cost to her;

j. To recommend the enactment of legislation and adoption of executive measures that will strengthen and enhance the national policy on reproductive health and population development;

k. To ensure a massive and sustained information drive on responsible parenthood and on all methods and techniques to prevent unwanted, unplanned and mistimed pregnancies, it shall release information bulletins on the same for nationwide circulation to all government departments, agencies and instrumentalities, non-government organizations and the private sector, schools, public and private libraries, tri-media outlets, workplaces, hospitals and concerned health institutions;

l. To strengthen the capacities of health regulatory agencies to ensure safe, high-quality, accessible, and affordable reproductive health services and commodities with the concurrent strengthening and enforcement of regulatory mandates and mechanisms;

m. To take active steps to expand the coverage of the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP), especially among poor and marginalized women, to include the full range of reproductive health services and supplies as health insurance benefits; and

n. To perform such other functions necessary to attain the purposes of this Act.

The membership of the Board of Commissioners of POPCOM shall consist of the heads of the following agencies:

1. National Economic Development Authority (NEDA)

2. Department of Health (DOH)

3. Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)

4. Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)

5. Department of Agriculture (DA)

6. Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)

7. Department of Education (DepEd)

8. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)

9. Commission on Higher Education (CHED)

10. University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI)

11. Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP)

12. National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC)

13. National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW)

14. National Youth Commission (NYC)

In addition to the aforementioned members, there shall be three private sector representatives to the Board of Commissioners of POPCOM who shall come from NGOs. There shall be one (1) representative each from women, youth and health sectors who have a proven track record of involvement in the promotion of reproductive health. These representatives shall be nominated in a process determined by the above-mentioned sectors, and to be appointed by the President for a term of three (3) years.

SEC. 6. Midwives for Skilled Attendance – Every city and municipality shall endeavor to employ adequate number of midwives or other skilled attendants to achieve a minimum ratio of one (1) for every one hundred fifty (150) deliveries per year, to be based on the average annual number of actual deliveries or live births for the past two years.

SEC. 7. Emergency Obstetric Care – Each province and city shall endeavor to ensure the establishment and operation of hospitals with adequate and qualified personnel that provide emergency obstetric care. For every 500,000 population, there shall be at least one (1) hospital for comprehensive emergency obstetric care and four (4) hospitals for basic emergency obstetric care.

SEC. 8. Maternal Death Review – All LGUs, national and local government hospitals, and other public health units shall conduct maternal death review in accordance with the guidelines to be issued by the DOH in consultation with the POPCOM.

SEC. 9. Hospital-Based Family Planning – Tubal ligation, vasectomy, INTRAUTERINE DEVICE INSERTION and other family planning methods requiring hospital services shall be available in all national and local government hospitals, except in specialty hospitals which may render such services on an optional basis. [Such services shall be covered by PhilHealth benefits and government funding for financial assistance to indigent patients.] For indigent patients, such services shall be fully covered by PhilHealth insurance and/or government financial assistance.

SEC. 10. Contraceptives as Essential Medicines. – Hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectables and other allied reproductive health products and supplies shall be considered under the category of essential medicines and supplies which shall form part of the National Drug Formulary and the same shall be included in the regular purchase of essential medicines and supplies of all national and local hospitals and other government health units.

SEC. 11. Mobile Health Care Service. – Each Congressional District shall be provided with a van to be known as the Mobile Health Care Service (MHCS) to deliver health care goods and services to its constituents, more particularly to the poor and needy, as well as disseminate knowledge and information on reproductive health: Provided, That reproductive health education shall be conducted by competent and adequately trained persons preferably reproductive health care providers: Provided, further, That the full range of family planning methods, both natural and modern, shall be promoted. The acquisition, operation and maintenance of the MHCS shall be funded from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of each Congressional District. The MHCS shall be adequately equipped with a wide range of reproductive health care materials and information dissemination devices and equipment, the latter including but not limited to, a television set for audio-visual presentation.

SEC. 12. Mandatory Age-Appropriate Reproductive Health Education. - Recognizing the importance of reproductive health rights in empowering the youth and developing them into responsible adults, Reproductive Health Education in an age-appropriate manner shall be taught by adequately trained teachers starting from Grade 5 up to Fourth Year High School. In order to assure the prior training of teachers on reproductive health, the implementation of Reproductive Health Education shall commence at the start of the school year one year following the effectivity of this Act. The POPCOM, in coordination with the Department of Education, shall formulate the Reproductive Health Education curriculum, which shall be common to both public and private schools and shall include related population and development concepts in addition to the following subjects and standards:

a. Reproductive health and sexual rights;

b. Reproductive health care and services;

c. Attitudes, beliefs and values on sexual development, sexual behavior and sexual health;

d. Proscription and hazards of abortion and management of post-abortion complications;

e. Responsible parenthood;

f. Use and application of natural and modern family planning methods to promote reproductive health, achieve desired family size and prevent unwanted, unplanned and mistimed pregnancies;

g. Abstinence before marriage;

h. Prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and other STIs/STDs, prostate cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer and other gynecological disorders;

i. Responsible sexuality; and

j. Maternal, peri-natal and post-natal education, care and services

In support of the natural and primary right of parents in the rearing of the youth, the POPCOM shall provide concerned parents with adequate and relevant scientific materials on the age-appropriate topics and manner of teaching reproductive health education to their children. In the elementary level, reproductive health education shall focus, among others, on values formation. Non-formal education programs shall likewise include the abovementioned Reproductive Health Education.

SEC. 13. Additional Duty of Family Planning Office. - Each local Family Planning Office shall furnish for free instructions and information on family planning, responsible parenthood, breastfeeding and infant nutrition to all applicants for marriage license.

SEC. 14. Certificate of Compliance. – No marriage license shall be issued by the Local Civil Registrar unless the applicants present a Certificate of Compliance issued for free by the local Family Planning Office certifying that they had duly received adequate instructions and information on family planning, responsible parenthood, breastfeeding and infant nutrition.

SEC. 15. Capability Building of Community-Based Volunteer Workers. – Community-based volunteer workers, like but not limited to, Barangay Health Workers, shall undergo additional and updated training on the delivery of reproductive health care services and shall receive not less than 10% increase in honoraria upon successful completion of training. The increase in honoraria shall be funded from the Gender and Development (GAD) budget of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

SEC. 16. Ideal Family Size. – The State shall assist couples, parents and individuals to achieve their desired family size within the context of responsible parenthood for sustainable development and encourage them to have two children as the ideal family size. Attaining the ideal family size is neither mandatory nor compulsory. No punitive action shall be imposed on parents having more than two children.

SEC. 17. Employers’ Responsibilities. – Employers shall respect the reproductive health rights of all their workers. Women shall not be discriminated against in the matter of hiring, regularization of employment status or selection for retrenchment. All Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) shall provide for the free delivery by the employer of reasonable quantity of reproductive health care services, supplies and devices to all workers, more particularly women workers. In establishments or enterprises where there are no CBAs or where the employees are unorganized, the employer shall have the same obligation.

SEC. 18. Support of Private and Non-government Health Care Service Providers. - Pursuant to Section 5(b) hereof, private reproductive health care service providers, including but not limited to gynecologists and obstetricians, are encouraged to join their colleagues in non-government organizations in rendering such services free of charge or at reduced professional fee rates to indigent and low income patients.

SEC. 19. Multi-Media Campaign. POPCOM shall initiate and sustain an intensified nationwide multi-media campaign to raise the level of public awareness on the urgent need to protect and promote reproductive health and rights.

SEC. 20. Reporting Requirements. - Before the end of April of each year, the DOH shall submit an annual report to the President of the Philippines, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on a definitive and comprehensive assessment of the implementation of this Act and shall make the necessary recommendations for executive and legislative action. The report shall be posted in the website of DOH and printed copies shall be made available to all stakeholders.

SEC. 21. Prohibited Acts. – The following acts are prohibited:

a) Any health care service provider, whether public or private, who shall:

1. Knowingly withhold information or impede the dissemination thereof, and/or intentionally provide incorrect information regarding programs and services on reproductive health including the right to informed choice and access to a full range of legal, medically-safe and effective family planning methods;

2. Refuse to perform voluntary ligation and vasectomy and other legal and medically-safe reproductive health care services on any person of legal age on the ground of lack of spousal consent or authorization.

3. Refuse to provide reproductive health care services to an abused minor, whose abused condition is certified by the proper official or personnel of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or to duly DSWD-certified abused pregnant minor on whose case no parental consent is necessary.

4. Fail to provide, either deliberately or through gross or inexcusable negligence, reproductive health care services as mandated under this Act, the Local Government Code of 1991, the Labor Code, and Presidential Decree 79, as amended; and

5. Refuse to extend reproductive health care services and information on account of the patient’s civil status, gender or sexual orientation, age, religion, personal circumstances, and nature of work: Provided, That all conscientious objections of health care service providers based on religious grounds shall be respected: Provided, further, That the conscientious objector shall immediately refer the person seeking such care and services to another health care service provider within the same facility or one which is conveniently accessible: Provided, finally, That the patient is not in an emergency or serious case as defined in RA 8344 penalizing the refusal of hospitals and medical clinics to administer appropriate initial medical treatment and support in emergency and serious cases.

b) Any public official who prohibits or restricts personally or through a subordinate the delivery of legal and medically-safe reproductive health care services, including family planning;

c) Any employer who shall fail to comply with his obligation under Section 17 of this Act or an employer who requires a female applicant or employee, as a condition for employment or continued employment, to involuntarily undergo sterilization, tubal ligation or any other form of contraceptive method;

d) Any person who shall falsify a certificate of compliance as required in Section 14 of this Act; and

e) Any person who maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent or provisions of this Act.

SEC. 22. Penalties. - The proper city or municipal court shall exercise jurisdiction over violations of this Act and the accused who is found guilty shall be sentenced to an imprisonment ranging from one (1) month to six (6) months or a fine ranging from Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) to Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court. If the offender is a juridical person, the penalty shall be imposed upon the president, treasurer, secretary or any responsible officer. An offender who is an alien shall, after service of sentence, be deported immediately without further proceedings by the Bureau of Immigration. An offender who is a public officer or employee shall suffer the accessory penalty of dismissal from the government service. Violators of this Act shall be civilly liable to the offended party in such amount at the discretion of the proper court.

SEC. 23. Appropriations. – The amounts appropriated in the current annual General Appropriations Act for reproductive health and family planning under the DOH and 44 POPCOM together with ten percent (10%) of the Gender and Development (GAD) budgets of all government departments, agencies, bureaus, offices and instrumentalities funded in the annual General Appropriations Act in accordance with Republic Act No. 7192 (Women in Development and Nation-building Act) and Executive Order No. 273 (Philippine Plan for Gender Responsive Development 1995-2025) shall be allocated and utilized for the implementation of this Act.

Such additional sums as may be necessary for the effective implementation of this Act shall be included in the subsequent years’ General Appropriations Acts.

SEC. 24. Implementing Rules and Regulations. – Within sixty (60) days from the effectivity of this Act, the Department of Health shall promulgate, after thorough consultation with the Commission on Population (POPCOM), the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), concerned non-government organizations (NGOs) and known reproductive health advocates, the requisite implementing rules and regulations.

SEC. 25. Separability Clause. – If any part, section or provision of this Act is held invalid or unconstitutional, other provisions not affected thereby shall remain in full force and effect.

SEC. 26. Repealing Clause. – All laws, decrees, orders, issuances, rules and regulations contrary to or inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed, amended or modified accordingly.

SEC. 27. Effectivity. – This Act shall take effect fifteen (15) days after its publication in at least two (2) newspapers of national circulation.