Sunday, April 29, 2018

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ban plastic straws

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

Belated Earth Day greetings!
When we were kids the straw that was used for sipping drinks from a bottle or glass was made of paper. Before throwing the straw into the trash, sometimes we would toss it in the air, catch it with the thumb and forefinger and start pressing it while saying, yes, no, yes, no to a question begging for an answer. One kept at it until the end of the straw was reached and there was nothing more to press.
The lovelorn would openly mutter, he/she loves me, he/she loves me not, and so on. The end of the straw answered the question. You can’t do that on a plastic straw because it retains its shape even when pressed, and there is nothing to show for your effort to find an answer.  Kid stuff, yes, but I wish those paper straws would make a comeback.
I do not remember when paper straws were replaced by plastic. Straws, the plastic variety, are a scourge to Planet Earth. Now we see that these small, seemingly insignificant items are causing so much havoc that many people all over the world are waging campaigns to ban them. “The last straw” is no longer just a figure of speech; it is, literally speaking, a cry, a call, that we may see the last of them.

Earth Day (last Sunday, April 22) came and went and we are still on page Boracay. The cleanup and rehab work have to do with the island’s capacity overload and the wanton disregard for environmental regulations, what with wayward structures and faulty human and kitchen waste disposal. It’s the same in other beach resorts now under scrutiny.
For Boracay habitues, there is a project called “The Last Plastic Straw” under the Plastic Pollution Coalition. It is foreign-based but its call is worldwide. It wants us to know that in the United States alone, over 500,000 plastic straws are used each day. “In only the past 20 years, people have come to expect plastic straws in every drink, in an example of extreme waste being generated for minimal convenience. These short-lived tools are usually dropped into a garbage can with no further thought, instantly becoming a source of plastic pollution.”
In our own congested cities, we see them strewn about, along with the plastic bags that held the drink bought from sari-sari stores or sa malamig vendors. I’ve seen these being thrown out of vehicles and into the street. After a sudden strong downpour, you see these being swept into the drains and clogging the drains’ strainers. Along with them are sharp barbecue sticks, rags, plastic cups, juice drink foil containers, candy wrappers, plastic water bottles, balloons, cigarette butts, etc. The huge ones — floating sofas, broken plastic chairs and folding beds, no kidding — are another story.
But the small ones — plastic straws, stirrers, cups and small drink pouches — are the ones that easily get swept into the rivers and seas and swallowed by marine creatures that die untimely deaths.
Some of our cities have ordinances on plastic bags. In Quezon City you bring your own grocery/shopping bags or pay extra if you need plastic ones. (Cardboard boxes are free in groceries.) So why not ban plastic straws in fast-food joints and make them use paper ones instead? Why not ban the manufacture and sale of these plastic items?
At the personal level, one can do something. Here are some suggestions from The Last Plastic Straw that I tweaked a bit (calling EcoWaste Coalition).
Make a personal commitment to say no to plastic straws.  Encourage your friends and family to do the same. Want to make an impact? Bring your own reusable (fancy) straw, and start a conversation.Reach out to food joints and ask them to give plastic straws only upon request. Or leave informational cards when you settle your bill.
Encourage eateries to make a change to nonplastic-straw options.
Host a screening of “STRAWS The Film” in your community to start a wave of change.
To find out more about the “No Plastic Straw Pledge” visit https://takeaction.oceanconservancy.org/page/9195/petition/1?ea.tracking.id=17WAXAWXXX. Help keep our oceans plastic-free! #skipthestraw. You can download “STRAWS the Film” for group screenings. #


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pro-poor nun, 'nasampolan'

A 71-year-old Australian Catholic missionary nun who has been working with marginalized Filipinos for more than 27 years is the latest person of interest in the Duterte administration’s crackdown on what it perceives as openly prohuman rights, propoor, and therefore not to its liking.
Officials of the Bureau of Immigration picked up Sr. Patricia Fox of the Our Lady of Sion (Notre Dame de Sion) congregation from her residence in Quezon City last Monday and detained her for 24 hours at the BI Intelligence Division. She was released on Tuesday but the BI held on to her passport. The nun has a missionary visa that is renewed every two years. Now she has been given 10 days to respond to charges against her, among them her participation in rallies.
A not-so-recent photo on the internet shows Sister Pat at an outdoor gathering, carrying a backpack and wearing a floppy hat and a T-shirt with the image of Pope Francis and the words “Struggle with us for land, justice and peace.” What a great smile she had on her face.Sister Pat was the national coordinator from 2002 to 2008 of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), one of several mission partners of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines. The RMP is composed of religious from different congregations and laypeople who work in the rural areas. It is turning 50 this year, and has been a candle in the dark, so to speak, in parts unknown and on roads less traveled.

I spoke with Sister Pat on the phone after her release from detention and while she was on her way home. With her was the current RMP national coordinator, Sr. Elenita Belardo of the Religious of the Good Shepherd.
Sister Pat said she was really supposed to be detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City (a god-awful place for a frail 71-year-old), but she was detained instead at the BI as “a concession.” Ay, salamat naman.
She was “nasampolan” (used as an example) — to use street lingo — to warn foreigners not to be openly on the side of the marginalized and the voiceless. How many Filipinos have spent that many years of their lives, as Sister Pat has, working with the last, the least and the lost of this woebegone country? For heeding the biblical imperative to walk with those who have been largely forgotten, she is suspected to be an enemy of the state.
In a TV interview, a BI official said in so many words that monitoring the activities — of the “political” variety, that is — of persons like Sister Pat was part of intelligence gathering.  That statement was a giveaway. Ah, so … she may not be seen or heard sympathizing with the landless, the powerless, the voiceless.
Pray tell, what is political? Is everything to be reduced to the political? Is espousing land for the landless political? Is answering God’s call to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and visit the sick political?
Oh, anything that could open people’s eyes and make them know their rights could be deemed political. So — as I have seen up close — when nuns teach indigenous groups not the ABC but first the Ls and Ds (L for lota or land, D for damowag or carabao), etc. and how to compute the cost of harvested bananas so they are not shortchanged by middlemen, is that political?
“Sister Pat is known among church people for her progressive advocacies and her steadfast commitment to serve the rural poor,” said RMP coordinator Sister Elenita. “This incident is undeniably part of the Duterte administration’s crackdown on human rights and rural poor defenders and land reform advocates.”

Sister Elenita added that when Sister Pat was the RMP national coordinator “she actively advocated for genuine agrarian reform and the rural sectors’ welfare,” and “organized and implemented activities aimed at providing services to [them].”
Last April 6-9, Sister Pat was with the International Fact-Finding and Solidarity Mission in Mindanao that investigated alleged human rights abuses against farmers and indigenous communities in the southern, northern and Caraga regions.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Swift justice?

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

I watched a convicted rapist being killed “slowly and gently” by lethal injection. He was strapped onto a gurney a few meters from the viewing room where we journalists sat. That was after lawmakers had brought back the death penalty (no longer by electrocution but by lethal injection) only for it to be scrapped again in a few years and after about a dozen kills.

I do not want to describe here what it was like before, during and after. Suffice it to say that after witnessing a convict being killed by needle, I do not even want to imagine the carrying out of the death penalty by hanging or beheading, as still practiced in other countries. No matter the heinousness of the convicts’ crimes that deserve the most severe of punishments.

News reports said two days ago that the employers-killers of 29-year-old overseas Filipino worker Joanna Demafelis had been tried in absentia, found guilty and meted out the death penalty by a Kuwaiti court. Demafelis’ killers, who were living in Kuwait and had Joanna in their employ, had left her body in their apartment freezer and fled. The corpse remained frozen for about a year until it was discovered on Feb. 4.

The decision on their guilt was made on first hearing and the penalty would be death by hanging. The Inquirer’s banner headline last Tuesday: “Gov’t welcomes death for PH maid’s killers.” It looked like swift justice but … Where are Demafelis’ killers? News reports say the couple, Lebanese Nader Essam Assaf and his Syrian wife Mouna Hassoun, were arrested on Feb. 24 after an Interpol manhunt. The news media in Lebanon reported that Assaf was in custody pending Kuwait’s request of extradition. Hassoun is reportedly in custody in Syria.

Kuwait and thousands of Kuwait-bound Filipino workers are eager to see the lifting of the ban on OFW deployment to that wealthy Gulf state. The “swift justice” could be Kuwait’s way of mollifying the Philippines’ angry president and Filipinos as well. But until we see the killers manacled and we behold the whites of their eyes, there is no reason to believe that justice is about to be served completely. Until the killer couple are extradited and handed over to the Kuwaiti government, there can be no rejoicing. Rejoicing? In the death penalty?

As to death by hanging or whatever means for Demafelis’ killers—that is, for me, something to think about. The Philippines, like many other countries, has done away with the death penalty even as many of our compatriots in prisons in the Middle East and elsewhere are awaiting death by hanging or beheading. Example: the case of alleged drug courier Mary Jane Veloso whose execution by hanging in Indonesia was stayed at the 11th hour because of the intervention of the Aquino administration. For his efforts, President Benigno Aquino III still got a tongue-lashing and threats from the Veloso family. Not a few have quipped, “Mabitay nga sana (I hope she hangs).”

Those who are against the death penalty, while pleased with Kuwait’s brand of swift justice, can shrug and say, “But that’s how justice works over there.” Paraphrased, it is okay for the convicted couple to hang. I, too, am tempted to cry out: “No mercy.” But I shudder when I think of our convicted OFWs awaiting their own punishment. Might they bear the brunt of the couple’s high-profile hanging? Will international humanitarian groups plead for the guilty couple’s lives? Because the death penalty is to be abhorred, outlawed and erased from the face of the earth?

These many decades of the Philippines’ labor diaspora, many of our OFWs — guilty or innocent — have ended up either hanged or beheaded for crimes they were accused of. Rarely have employers been punished for their crimes against Filipinos. The hanging of Demafelis’ employers would be the first of its kind. If and when …
“Mindful Parenting in the Age of Bullying,” conducted by psychotherapist Dr. Ma. Lourdes A. Carandang, is scheduled on April 7, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., at the Henry Sy Sr. Innovation Center, Miriam College, Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City. Call 0926-7539538 or visit mlacinstitute.com.