Thursday, March 22, 2018

OFWs 2018 Via Crucis

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

The coming Holy Week puts aside the old devotional prayers and takes the Way of the Cross with the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Carry their burden, wear their crown of thorns, drink from their bitter cup, feel the stripes on their backs and the fever on their brows, broil in the desert sand, be tossed at sea, descend to the pit of their loneliness.
For many, the way to overseas jobs is a road to Golgotha, and also an escape from the valley of death back home.
1st Station: Jesus is condemned to death
A poor Filipino sells properties, borrows money at high interest rates so he/she could find work abroad.

2nd Station: Jesus carries his cross
The labor recruiter exacts a high fee but the poor worker has no choice. The OFW-to-be leaves carrying with her the burden of the family’s debts. How long will she slave away in loneliness in a foreign land so her family could have a better life? Will she come home to find her family intact?

3rd Station: Jesus falls the first time
A poor, young Filipino woman arrives in a foreign land and she is taken by her strange employer to a place where she finds herself alone, with no one to share her burdens. Held like a virtual prisoner, and with little contact with the outside world, she imagines the worst that could happen to her.
4th Station: Jesus meets his mother
Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong gather regularly on certain days to seek solace from compatriots. In the Middle East, domestic helpers have no way of getting in touch regularly with other Filipinos.
5th Station: Simon of Cyrene helps
Jesus carry his cross Filipinos help other Filipinos who are victims of abuse. Philippine embassies are supposed to be places of refuge, but many OFWs feel that the embassies cannot always be relied upon. Where are you when we need you?

6th Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Nongovernment organizations, religious groups and women’s centers come to the rescue of OFWs in distress. They provide havens and oases for battered and disease-stricken Filipino workers.

7th Station: Jesus falls the second time
A seaman finds out too late that the salary he is going to receive from his employer is much lower than what was written on the contract.

8th Station: Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem
Women come to the aid of other women. A runaway domestic worker with burned hands and face tells her rescuers a horrible story of constant battering. Her mind gives way and she is shipped home sans money and sanity.

9th Station: Jesus falls the third time
An OFW is injured in an accident. Because he is an undocumented worker, he finds himself helpless and devoid of any health benefits. He is sent home. A dancer finds herself prostituted and held as a sex slave.

10th Station: Jesus is stripped of his garments
An OFW is accused of committing a crime. Guilty or not, he finds himself stripped of his rights. He has no counsel, he has no visits. He suffers loneliness in a foreign prison.

11th Station: Jesus is nailed on the cross
A maid is pinned on the bed by her male employer and is raped. He does this repeatedly. When she gets pregnant she is sent home with nothing. Elsewhere, a Filipino woman kills her cruel employer and faces a death sentence.

12th Station: Jesus dies on the cross
A Filipino worker is accused of a crime he did not commit. He is detained, tried, convicted and sentenced to die by beheading. He dies alone, unmourned and unsung.

13th Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross
A domestic helper jumps from the window of a fourth-floor apartment to escape the brutality of her employers.

14th Station: Jesus is laid in his tomb
The body of a Filipino domestic worker is found inside a freezer. She had been dead and frozen for over a year. An autopsy reveals telltale signs of cruelty. Her name is Joanna Demafelis.
Let us weep. Let us pray. Let us arise.#

Thursday, March 15, 2018

'Batang Kamuning'

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

If she should go down, she might as well go down with guns blazing. That is the sense that I get from embattled Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who recently went on leave after having been advised/pressured by the majority of her colleagues in the Supreme Court.

Everything has been thrown at her but the kitchen sink. The House of Representatives has voted to impeach her and bring her case to the Senate for trial, the outcome of which could be iffy. And so Solicitor General Jose Calida came out of left field by filing a quo warranto motion with the Supreme Court (now without Sereno who is on leave) that could nullify her appointment six years ago in 2012. Which leaves many asking: If Sereno is a high government official with credentials and is being impeached, what is there to nullify? And if her appointment is nullified, who is there to impeach? Oxymoronic?
So gather more ammunition while ye may. Bring the shrinks to the House hearing to rat against her and disclose to the public the results of the psychological tests required by the Judicial and Bar Council, the scrutiny of which, by the way, she had passed. (In last week’s column I wrote about the unethical disclosures and the Psychological Association of the Philippines’ statement.) Sereno went on to become an associate justice of the Supreme Court; she was eventually appointed to its highest post by then President Benigno Aquino III.

The Solgen’s quo warranto motion seeks to nullify her appointment six years ago, with the prescription period conveniently set to have begun only on the date that her qualifying papers were discovered (that is, recently) to be incomplete. Huh!

It all stems from her alleged nonfiling of her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth when she taught at the University of the Philippines. An impeachable offense?

The quo warranto motion and the din from the peanut gallery are supposed to give her an easier way down. But, no way, next option, please. Get the Supreme Court employees and even judges to rally against her. Feigning concern for her, the clutch of red-clad “Sereno Resign” employees say in so many words that she should do herself a favor by not going through the indignity of being pulled down from her perch. The message: We do not like you, you are unpopular. Are we now watching a popularity contest?

Even those unschooled in technical legalities can smell something malodorous. To quote the late human rights lawyer and senator Joker Arroyo on the legal maneuvers of the dictatorship in the days of martial rule and on other such moves: “Like a herring lying in the moonlight, it shines and it stinks.”

The woman wants to fight back. “I will not resign,” Sereno declared in various gatherings—organized mostly by purple-clad militant women’s groups this International Women’s Month—to which she has been invited to speak her mind. Why not? Because, she said, what is being done to her, a chief justice, could be done again and again. Woe to those with weak nerves.

All Sereno and her supporters want is for her to have her day in court. She is raring to face her accusers. Former chief justice Hilario Davide has come out strongly to defend her right to do so. In her Q&A with Inquirer Lifestyle’s Eric Caruncho published two Sundays ago, Sereno spoke about growing up in Kamuning, Quezon City, and how she got enrolled at the expensive Ateneo University under a college scholarship program. (She went to UP for her law degree and graduated at the top of her class.) She referred to herself as “Batang Kamuning,” using street lingo for a kid toughened by his or her environment (as in “Batang City Jail” or “Batang Tondo). Kamuning is not exactly a tough neighborhood, but it is not a gated enclave either.

We citizens now find ourselves in a legal wilderness where might is right. Like a cackle (how scientists call it) of salivating hyenas closing in, Sereno’s adversaries might yet find out how a stricken lioness can spring back and fight to the death.#

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Pschologists ratting on a person of interest

I was in total shock when I watched on TV a psychologist ratting with unconcealed contempt on Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno at the House committee hearing on the impeachment complaint against her. I use the word “ratting” because, in my view, psychological test results are not to be disclosed in public, more so if these are more than five years old and Sereno got past the scrutiny of the Judicial and Bar Council.
I also wonder about the two psychiatrists then employed by the JBC divulging at the House closed session the test results that somehow became fodder for the public ratting.
I still have the psychology textbooks we used in graduate school. I pulled out the one we used in our Psychological Testing subject under Fr. Jaime Bulatao,SJ. A section on the “Code of Professional Ethics Pertaining to Psychological Tests” says that “test scores should likewise be released only to persons qualified to interpret them.” Somewhere it also says that “a raw score on any psychological test is, in itself, quite meaningless.”

A psychological test is defined as “essentially an objective and standardized measure of a sample of behavior.”

I did communicate with former officers of the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP), among them Dr. Ma. Lourdes Carandang, who found the disclosures at the House hearing “unethical.” The ratting could not add to the impeachment issues against Sereno, but it was meant to destroy, malign and diminish.
The PAP promptly issued a statement dated March 2. Excerpts from “On the Valid and Ethical Use of Psychological Assessments to Evaluate Mental Health” deserve repeating for the ignorant and ill-motivated:
“This statement is issued … to inform the public regarding the ethical and valid use of psychological assessments, in response to the recent legislative proceedings that highlight the alleged mental/psychological condition of [CJ] Sereno. The PAP maintains that in giving this statement, the organization is neither supporting nor opposing any position regarding the issues involving CJ Sereno. It only seeks to clarify the function of psychological assessments and the diagnosis of psychological conditions.” (Paid trolls and bashers, take note.)
“First, the purpose of psychological assessment is to help understand a person’s functioning in various aspects of life for informed decision making (for example, for job positions) or for treatment planning. Psychological tests are developed and applied via scientific methods, but they are not perfectly accurate. Actual behaviors and performance are more valid than what psychological assessments may predict.
“Second, a psychological assessment is often conducted for a specific purpose, and should only be used for that purpose. To use a psychological assessment conducted in 2012 (which was for the purpose of [CJ] Sereno’s appointment) for the current legislative proceedings is a misuse of those results.
“Third, statements that the Chief Justice ‘failed’ the psychological evaluation are misleading, as no one ‘passes’ or ‘fails’ a psychological assessment. Instead, a psychologist recommends a person to a position after the assessment indicates that he/she possesses the characteristics that fit the demands of the given position.
“Fourth, decisions and recommendations are derived from psychological assessments that use a combination of methods, such as interview, observation, standardized norm-referenced tests, and relevant informal tools. Good practices entail the application of all these methods, and using only one or two of these methods is inadequate. If a psychologist bases his/her assessment on only one of these methods, or from second-hand reports, then conclusions about ‘mental disturbance’ based on alleged symptoms that indicate such a condition are misleading, if not inaccurate.

“The PAP upholds the dignity of every human being and we reject recent narratives that directly or indirectly use psychological assessments to stigmatize those with mental or psychological conditions. We condemn the unethical practice of using confidential psychological information for purposes of discrediting or damaging a person’s character. Even if psychological test results become public documents (as in marriage annulment cases—CPD), this does not grant permission for anybody to use it for any purpose other than its original intent…"
What a disgrace for the psychology profession if practitioners  (with behavioral problems of their own) trot out in public confidential test results that mean little to those with limited understanding of how these are to be interpreted.#

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Journalism in real life and the movies

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

I have a copy of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography “Personal History” (1997), which I had hurriedly bought to read before interviewing her daughter Elizabeth “Lally” Graham Weymouth in 2001. Weymouth was here at that time to interview then President Gloria Arroyo for Newsweek (also a publication of the Washington Post Company) as she had other heads of state.

Inquirer chair Marixi Prieto had arranged for the interview at a hotel lobby. It was short and quick, but it (and reading the book) gave me a glimpse of the storied life of Weymouth’s mother. Two months after the interview, Graham died at the age of 84.
So watching “The Post” directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep (as Graham) and Tom Hanks (as Post executive editor Ben Bradlee) was not at all like knowing about the story for the first time, also because — in an eerie sort of way — something similar had played out in the Philippines before and is again playing out here and now. Although in different magnitudes at different times and circumstances.

Allison Brie played Lally Graham Weymouth who, in the movie, gave her mother a what-to-do-and-not-do list when she entered, for the first time, the lion’s den made up of corporate men.

“The Post” is about Washington Post’s 1971 exposé on the highly classified Pentagon Papers that would throw light on the United States’ involvement and loss in the Vietnam War that was being kept secret while hundreds of thousands of young Americans continued to die in the battlefield. Then President Richard Nixon, like his predecessors, had secrets to keep.

Graham, newly widowed and who took over the helm of the Washington Post, had to contend with her friendship with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, the Post’s editors and reporters, the company’s overbearing stockholders, as well as a possible lawsuit that could spell the end of the company if the newspaper spilled what was in the Pentagon Papers. The movie draws much from Chapters 21 and 22 of Graham’s 26-chapter autobiography (with photos). The choice was hard but Graham had to make it. The newspaper triumphed, with the Supreme Court upholding the correctness of the paper’s decision to publish.

In her book, Graham quotes a letter from Bradlee: “I’m not sure I could handle another one of these tomorrow, but it is so great to know that this whole newspaper will handle the next one with courage and commitment and style.”

Graham follows with: “Indeed, publishing the Pentagon Papers made future decisions easier, even possible. Most of all it prepared us — and I suspect, unfortunately, Nixon as well — for Watergate.”

Yes, daring, defiant journalism that exposes the truth no matter who is in power has its own redemptive power.

A number of journalism-related movies based on real events have gotten their share of Oscars from the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Sciences which is going 90 this year, as well as awards from other bodies. March 4 is the big day and already, “The Post,” Streep in particular (for the nth time in her life), are in the running. In 2016, “Spotlight” which was about Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team that investigated sex abuses in the Church, ran away with the Best Picture award.

The 1976 “All the President’s Men” (starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford as Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, respectively, and Jason Robards as editor Bradlee) which was on the Watergate scandal during the Nixon presidency had its share of awards and nominations from award-giving bodies. The 2017 movie “The Post” is like a prequel to the 1976 movie “All the President’s Men,” the former ending with a hint of the exposé that was to explode next — the Watergate break-in.

The riveting drama in these movies that I see as a journalist consists of the characters, the hidden sources, the legwork, the digging up, the locking horns with publishers and editors, and, of course, the consequences. In real life it is heart-pounding, exhausting, frightening, exhilarating. As one shapes and writes the story in solitude, the characters, living and dead, come to life — to haunt, torment, cast doubt, and also assure. The truth one knows has a way of sneaking back in.#