Thursday, March 28, 2013

Suicide and the 'feeding frenzy'

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

In suicide cases, experts say, guilt should never be owned and blame should never be assigned.

I find myself repeating myself—like today—whenever there is a high-profile case of suicide and a blame game ensues. And then it is followed by a “feeding frenzy,” which was how someone in the health sector described the finger-pointing and the media overload in the case of University of the Philippines student Kristel Tejada, who killed herself.

The reason that most everyone—her schoolmates, parents, sympathizers—is pointing to is Kristel’s becoming despondent over having to go on leave because of her failure to pay her tuition.
Explanations have been given on why UP’s policies were so, which indeed need to be addressed, but breast-beating on the part of its officials was also displayed, partly perhaps to appease those who clamor for changes in school policies.

Tejada instantly became the poster girl for school reforms, especially in public universities that are supposed to offer the best for the least. Suddenly she was turned into a martyr whose death could ignite a variety of causes. Because of the media attention, her death seemed heroic even though her suicide note did not say exactly why she wanted to leave this world.

God forbid a suicide contagion among the young who are emotionally disturbed and who may think their “meaningless” lives can achieve meaning if they end their lives in order to drive home a point.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

'Pope Kiko' and the grace of office

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

“Pope Kiko.” The common Filipino nickname and endearment for those named Francisco and its other versions was in my thoughts the moment the Vatican’s cardinal deacon intoned, “Habemus Papam Franciscum.”

The new Pope from Argentina we call Francis in English will be signing his papal name in Latin as Franciscus PP—that is, unless he wants to break with tradition. (The um in Franciscum as used in the announcement is just a Latin suffix, “the standard ending of neuter nouns and adjectives of the second declension,” says an ask-anything Internet site.)

There are a number of guesses as to what PP really means—pontifex primus, pastor pastorum, etc., nasty ones among them. The Vatican website does not give the meaning of PP (an invitation for punsters to guess) but it officially lists Pope Francis in Latin as Franciscus.

But what’s in a name? Immediately after the new Pope’s choice of name was announced, St. Francis of Assisi (Francesco d’Assisi, patron of Italy and lover of God’s creatures) was in most everyone’s mind. For the huge crowd that had waited for the white smoke that was to signal the good news, the seagull seen near the Sistine Chapel chimney was a confirmation of the Pope’s choice of name. That is, even before Pope Francis (who is not a Franciscan but a Jesuit) had explained why he picked the poverello of Assisi, not Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary to Asia, or Francis de Sales, a doctor of the Church.
It was during his audience days later with thousands of journalists that Pope Francis explained his choice of the rich man who left everything in order to live poor and serve the poor. St. Francis (1181-1226) was not a priest, but the Franciscan Order that he founded, and the hundreds of congregations of brothers, sisters and priests that have sprung worldwide over the centuries, are proof of his great charisma.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Women's conclave and other thoughts

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

I am privileged to have been invited to a regular gathering of Catholic Filipino women theologians—or women doing theology—and participate in a discussion of issues that concern the Catholic Church, especially those affecting women who work in spreading God’s message of love, peace, justice and equality, as well as those that these women serve. I call our gathering a “women’s conclave.”

The meetings are so vibrant and liberating to the spirit, sometimes raucous one moment and solemn the next. The women are always full of hope, laughter and eagerness to listen. I don’t consider myself a foreign entity there, not so much because of some background in theology of my own as because I am a woman similarly concerned with where a huge body (I don’t want to say “powerful institution”) with a massive following such as the Catholic Church—to which I belong—is headed.
Our last meeting was held a week or so ago, when speculations were high on who the next pope would be. How will he deal with women’s issues and restive women in the Church? Will he break or thicken walls? Will the Church be more inclusive or exclusive?  
We had a good laugh when someone said that technically, women could be elected cardinals without first becoming ordained priests. A theologian said this is true, a backdoor way for women to get to the conclave that would elect a pope. But this is possible only in theory, and not in practice. But granted that this is in fact possible, how will the conclave go? I suppressed the wicked thought that the women cardinals might end up tagatimpla ng kape (making coffee). I imagined a particular feisty woman theologian, author and feminist lost in a sea of scarlet, humbly doing a Martha. But I should keep that naughty and impious thought to myself.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

'Defining moment' in Philippine-Swiss ties

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

At a forum two days ago on the newly signed Human Rights (Violations) Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, I shared a table with some rights abuse victims of the martial law years. They were not the nationally known biggies.

The gathering was held at the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani grounds in Quezon City, where the names of martyrs and heroes of the dark days are etched on black granite.

A woman from Tarlac showed me documents related to her desaparecido (disappeared) father who was snatched by unknown men in front of her when she was 12 years old. Her father was an organizer of peasants, she told me. Would her family be qualified to receive compensation? she wondered.

I asked a man from Bulacan about his case. Already among the 9,539 so-called “Hawaii claimants,” he was eager to know more about the new compensation law. He suffered torture in prison: Electricity was applied on his genitals, he told me. While speaking he kept rubbing his chest, then added that his torturers also kept pulling and twisting his nipples and that it took a long time for his nipples to get back to their original look.

The gathering was an eye-opener especially for those victims who have not been in the loop for many years. The crafters of the law, among them Representatives Edcel Lagman and Neri Colmenares, spoke about how the bill went through the wringer for many years. They shared inside stories in the bicameral sessions and how the bill finally got signed by President Aquino at last week’s 27th anniversary of the 1986 People Power uprising. Bantayog executive director Nievelina Rosete spoke on little-known facts about the early days of the hunt for the Marcos loot and Sen. Jovito Salonga’s recovery efforts.

But the speech of Swiss Ambassador Ivo Sieber held its own. A source of sound bytes on the Marcos Swiss accounts—recovered many years ago but held for a long time in the national treasury until the compensation law was passed—Sieber said the President’s signing of the compensation law was “a remarkable moment for Philippine-Swiss relations.”