Forbidden fruit

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THANKS TO some priests and bishops of the Catholic Church, and with considerable help from the media, the debate on the consolidated Reproductive Health bill (House Bill 4244) pending in the House of Representatives is turning into a murky exercise that’s spreading more disinformation than enlightenment.

The episode in which perennial and number one House absentee Manny Pacquiao weighed in on the issue by announcing his opposition to the anti-RH bill demonstrated how far some bishops will go to stop the bill. The anti-RH bishops’ cynical manipulation of the boxer put their opposition on the front pages and the news programs, furthering their advocacy despite Pacquiao’s unfamiliarity with the issues and his embarrassing trouncing during the House debates. Although coached by the bishops, Pacquiao not only misquoted the Biblical injunction to “Be fruitful and multiply,” he also displayed an appalling though unsurprising ignorance of the bill’s intent and provisions unworthy of a member of the House of Representatives.

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Culture of death

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COMMONWEALTH Avenue was once a dirt road which for some reason cut through the northern portion of the 500-hectare University of the Philippines campus. With only the occasional snake to worry about in the darkness, students would cross it to get to a bar called Butterfly. Commonwealth nowadays is an eight-lane highway serving the many subdivisions that have sprouted in what were once paddy fields, and leading to the House of Representatives, the Batasang Pambansa of martial law days.

Butterfly Bar has morphed into the 20- hectare UP Techno-hub, a joint undertaking of the University of the Philippines and property developer Ayala land. Devoted to developing information technology, the hub also has coffee shops, restaurants and bookstores to which the employees of hub-based companies like IBM could repair for coffee, meals, books, writing implements, newspapers and Web access. UP students and professors who visit the hub for those amenities risk life and limb every time they do so, the entrance to it being accessible by car or taxi from UP’s University Avenue only by crossing four east bound lanes of speeding vehicles, making a u-turn, and immediately cutting across four west-bound lanes down which trucks and busses barrel at breakneck speeds.

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Pulling teeth

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IF THERE’S anything every reformer or revolutionary knows, it is how changing anything in this country is as difficult as pulling teeth — or how comparable it is to getting former Armed Forces comptrollers to explain their wealth, or to even remember where their wives have been.

Even revolutionaries, to whom convincing existing governments of the urgency of change isn’t as important as getting ordinary folk to join them, have a difficult time recruiting into social movements, no matter how valid, even the poorest of the poor and the most disempowered citizen. Filipinos may complain and whine about how bad things are, but doing something about it isn’t among their strengths.

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Casualties of failure

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MEDIA ADVOCACY and journalists’ groups marked World Press Freedom Day last May 3 after a year (May 3, 2010- May 2, 2011) of continuing violence against the media.

Iraq and Afghanistan, where they faced the usual perils of being caught in the crossfire between warring groups, and in some cases targeted for abduction and assassination, were still major areas of conflict journalists had to cover, courtesy of the wars generated by US incursions in those countries. Five journalists were killed in Iraq in 2010, and two in Afghanistan. But the unrest in Egypt, Tunisia. Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and Libya also subjected journalists to the same perils of being killed, threatened, harassed or abducted. Four journalists have so far been killed in Libya, and two in Egypt. Several others were abducted in the crisis-ridden countries of the Middle East and North Africa.

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