Thursday, May 29, 2014

Giving stolem money to the Church

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

When someone gives stolen money to the Church or to religious groups, what does the giver have in mind or hope to happen? That he will receive pardon for his sins? That the evil that he has done will somehow be balanced by the good that will come out of the donation? That God’s punishment in this life or in the afterlife will not be more severe than if he just took it all? So that Church persons and those in the know would think so highly of him they couldn’t, for the life of them, imagine that such a generous giver has stained hands? Panghugas kamay(serving as hand sanitizer)? To polish one’s image (as in Na-polish)?

Much has been made of the donations that Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam, lavished on some Church persons or Church projects. Now she’s saying that she should not be called mastermind, brains, or queen of it all, but that is another issue. Whatever she is called, she does not deny that she donated money—in the name of her deceased mother, she said—to Church persons or Church institutions. The act may be seen as one with redemptive value, if not for the fact that what was stolen was stolen, and the donation, whether a big part or an infinitesimally small part of the loot, is not supposed to be given away at whim by the one who stole the money.

One cannot polish one’s image that way. The sheen will be gone in no time. The truth will be out.
Napoles cannot be likened to Robin Hood who stole from the rich in order to give to the poor or, in this age of widening societal gaps, the so-called Church of the Poor. Robin Hood did not steal for himself or for his next of kin. He and his Merry Men of Sherwood Forest did not live easy lives. Still, whether in the medieval setting or under present-day laws, that style of philanthropy or altruism is considered criminal. Thou shalt not use the name of the poor in vain.
 Napoles and her bagmen and bagwomen stole—allegedly—from the poor to give to the already rich and those who wanted to be richer. What she gave away for Church purposes (if at all they were used for Church purposes) does not expiate her evil deeds.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

El Niño redux

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

In 1997, or 17 years ago, I wrote a three-part series on the El Niño phenomenon. I did a lot of reading on the subject on hard copy. The Internet was not yet just a click away. I tried to understand the scientific explanations, I interviewed experts and those who might be affected—the pre-writing part, we call it. Then I sat down to write. I remember receiving a science and technology award for that special report and going home with a cash award and a trophy. (They gave cash awards in those days.) Yes, for writing about an impending calamitous phenomenon.

I remember little of that long piece now. I have to again get acquainted with the subject of El Niño/La Niña. But this time, gathering information is easier. The Internet is now just a click away. I called up the Inquirer library to ask if my November 1997 special report had been digitalized and if I could please be sent a copy via e-mail. I did not want to dig into my clippings. After a few minutes I received a copy via e-mail. (Thanks, Ellen.)

How technology has made getting information faster and easier. But don’t we all wish that science and technology, which are developing by leaps and bounds, would also solve the world’s weather problems just as fast? If they can’t, there is the consolation that they can at least be used to deliver the bad news and warnings pretty fast so that the world as we know it does not perish sooner but later.

We are now being inundated with El Niño warnings for 2014, and the weird weather we will experience—hot-dry, wet-wild. Some places will get the worst of one or the other, or both. Food producers will feel the blow, but so will the rest of us who are dependent on what the much abused earth, sea and sky can deliver to our dining tables given the hostile conditions.

What things did I say about El Niño in 1997? “An unwelcome climatic phenomenon that, scientists say, will confound us all,” I began. I quoted something I had read: “A global-scale oceanographic/meteorological phenomenon that develops in the Pacific, most often off Peru. It is associated with extreme climatic variability characterized by devastating rains, winds, drought and other events that could result in economic disaster.”

I did interview at that time Pagasa’s chief meteorologist, Aida Jose, and this is what I gathered: El Niño is not a direct result of global warming that is blamed on the havoc that human beings have done to the earth, sea and sky. There is something else that is at work on this planet and in the atmosphere, something that has gone on for millions of years outside of humankind’s doings.

Doesn’t the Bible have stories of strange climatic conditions that brought about deluges and droughts as well as plagues and famines? During the time of the pharaohs and the prophets, there was as yet no greenhouse effect, no hole in the ozone layer to speak of.

But here is the big But. The severity of the effects of El Niño will be proportionate to the severity of the situation on the ground—that is, how badly people have treated the areas that it will hit. Water will be doubly scarce in logged-over areas. Floodwaters will be doubly high in places with clogged canals. In other words, humans have only themselves to blame.

It’s bad enough that a calamity of biblical proportion outside of humankind’s doing—literally the act of God—occurs. But when it doubles in severity because of uncaring citizens of Earth, we are indeed the worse for it.

I did learn that during a severe El Niño event, sea surface temperatures are measurably higher than normal over a large expanse of the South Pacific which can prevail for more than a year. The implication of El Niño spreads from the local to the global. It is linked to the devastating climatic impacts on North America, Europe, West Africa and India, not just in the Southern Pacific. This occurrence in the Pacific clearly affects the rest of the world because of the extra heat it generates and the storms it triggers. An unlikely wind-ocean conspiracy results in temperature change over a large equatorial swath of the Pacific Ocean and further results in weird weather and extreme situations.

Climatologists and meteorologists can explain away the dynamics at work, but the why of it is the mystery. So, are we prepared for El Niño’s return? Without El Niño, the Philippines has had more than its share of calamities in the past years. How much more can we endure?

From my readings, I gathered that El Niño experts bewail the fact that forecasters sound too conservative for fear of causing a panic. Panic could mean increase in food prices because of expected poor agricultural production. What to do?

Now scientists are saying that the El Niño event that occurs every 20 years or so could become more frequent, like every 10 years, due to global warming. We can now blame ourselves for its devastating frequency. Think about this: more severe and more frequent. A quadruple whammy. It’s not all God’s doing then.

Today scientists are discovering how El Niño responds to global warming. There is El Niño and there is extreme El Niño, which develops differently from the regular El Niño that originates in the Western Pacific. Extreme El Niño has a different area of origin—the normally cold and dry eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean.

An El Niño event usually straddles two years, which means that the 2014 event will spill over to 2015. Already, scientists are about to declare that 2014 could be the hottest yet since temperature recording began, and that there would be more devastating floods, droughts, wild fires and other calamities that will befall our planet.

Oratio imperata, our plea for divine deliverance, will have effects only if we buckle down to prepare. Like Noah, we have to do our part.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Claiming reparation for HR violations

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

May 12 was the first day of submission of reparation/compensation claims by victims of human rights violations under martial law. This is provided for in Republic Act No. 10368, or “An Act providing for reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime, documentation of said violations, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes.”

President Aquino signed the law on Feb. 25, 2013, the 27th anniversary of the People Power revolt that toppled the Marcos dictatorship. It took a year for the President to constitute the nine-member claims board and a few months for the board to draw up the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) that would be the basis for the processing of claims.

Reparation will be drawn from the P10 billion that the government has allotted (from recovered Marcos ill-gotten wealth) for the victims. This is apart from the $2 billion (P88 billion) assigned by the Hawaii Court for the members of a class suit.

I was one of the early birds at the HRV Claims Board (HRVCB) office at Virata Hall on E. Jacinto Street, University of the Philippines Diliman. It was a nice place to be because of the huge trees that cast cooling shadows on the grounds where claimants were warmly welcomed and assigned numbers, and where they filled out forms and had their documents assessed by legal and paralegal staff in nipa-bamboo kiosks.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Women in the news

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

In the news almost every day in the past weeks and until now are three women involved in crimes: Janet Lim-Napoles, Ruby Chan Tuason and Deniece Cornejo. Also in the news are the women going after wrongdoers: Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares and Commission on Audit Chair Grace Pulido-Tan.

Napoles is the alleged queen behind the multibillion-peso scam that involved lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations that were channeled through dubious nongovernment organizations of her making. Tuason is the confessed bag lady who served as conduit between Napoles and lawmakers who were recipients of kickbacks of their own PDAFs coming from Napoles. Cornejo is a young woman—22 years old—who filed a rape complaint that backfired on her when the purported rapist, an entertainment celebrity, charged her and her group (one of them well-connected) with serious illegal detention, extortion, etc.

Comments on how women have been hogging the headlines—in negative or positive ways—are not few and far between. But what of it? Do men have the monopoly of being criminals and crime-busters?

Those who expect women to be the better half of the population are having a rude awakening. Well, alas, indeed. This is not to say that women have come full circle by becoming at par with men in committing headline-grabbing crimes, plunder and extortion among them. “Coming full circle” may not be the right way to describe it. “Gone astray” is more like it. It is hard to accept that just because the females of the species are now in step with the males in terms of positive achievements, they now have an equal share of the blame for the evil sown in this world.

For the women who commit wrong, there are the words “Kababae mong tao.” You’re a woman and more is expected of you. For the men, it is “Kalalake mong tao.” You’re a man and you’re not supposed to be weak. After the Moor’s last sigh on losing Alhambra came the admonition that reverberates to this day: “You do well to weep like a woman for what you failed to defend as a man.” And it was his mother who said that to him.