Thursday, June 28, 2018

Could it be onset of dementia?

Don’t call the exorcist. Instead, get hold of a psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist and a neurologist to make a diagnosis.
President Duterte’s latest blasphemous rants and fulminations against God, the Catholic Church, the “idiots” in Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” are behavioral manifestations that could be symptoms of a health problem. I say this as someone with an academic background in one of the behavioral sciences. But it does not take rocket science to notice that there is something odd, strange and peculiar in the way the President has been behaving in public.
Is Mr. Duterte probably displaying symptoms of the onset of dementia or some form of neurodegenerative or neurocognitive disorder? I say this not to put him up for ridicule, but to remind those in his inner circle to have their boss’ mental state assessed.

Mr. Duterte signed last week the Mental Health Law (Republic Act No. 11036, whose principal author was Sen. Risa Hontiveros) that would benefit those suffering from mental illnesses. It is hoped that, with this law, the stigma associated with mental disorders, dementia among them, would be removed.
There are presidential protocols and behavior that are expected to be observed. Mr. Duterte can scratch his crotch, pick his nose or grapple with his inner demons all he wants, but only in the privacy of his room and not in public. Same with distasteful remarks, baseless or not, that demean and destroy what many hold sacred.
Former senator Rene Saguisag called the unbecoming presidential behavior “excrescence,” a word that is similar in meaning to execrable.
All that, while the Department of Education is now trying to revive classes in so-called good manners and right conduct (GMRC) in the education system, something we were weaned on as grade schoolers in decades past. As Girl Scouts, we had to live the mottos “Be prepared” and “Do a good turn daily.”
Computer literacy and newer subjects have all but wiped out GMRC, and with a sitting president on live TV peppering his speeches with cuss words and sex jokes that insult religious beliefs, women and mothers, who among the national leaders can the young emulate?
While waiting at a stop light, I was able to take a photo of a motorcycle rider whose helmet had the words, “P…ng ina” (whore mother), a favorite expletive of the President.
Mr. Duterte makes foul utterances in unlikely public occasions and venues. At the National Information and Communications Technology Summit in Davao City last week, he again fulminated on the Bible’s Creation story and used the words stupid and God in the same breath. (I have a book on Creation stories from the world’s different cultures; the Christian Bible’s is only one of them.) What did it have to do with the occasion?
His repetitive, off-the-cuff remarks (he hardly ever reads prepared speeches) have become so predictable that his audience simply gives him complimentary laughter, his curses notwithstanding.

But not in Iloilo, where he got obligatory applause only at the end of his remarks. While he was blabbering about Adam and Eve and other inconsequential matters not apropos to the occasion, the church bells rang on cue for the Angelus. That startled him. (“Gibagtingan ako?”)
As Ilonggos would exclaim, “TĂȘ man!” (Translates as “good for you.”)
A reminder from the poet John Donne: “…therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
When Mr. Duterte arrived at night from his South Korea visit (where he kissed a Filipino woman lips to lips on stage) and faced the media, he showed strain and pain. Time perhaps for his dose of Fentanyl (which he had admitted to have used/been using)?
Those who call President Duterte the anti-Christ, evil personified, the devil incarnate, possessed, etc. should not recommend an exorcist. They should first call in the mental health practitioners. I doubt if he’d want to go through projective tests administered by clinical psychologists, so what about high-tech MRI and the like for his skull? There could be flashing lights in there.
What are the doctors of the President/Commander in Chief waiting for? There is so much at stake for this woebegone country.#

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Bashing the Catholic Church

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

A farce,” “f—king shit,” are among the cuss words that President Duterte has directed against the Catholic Church and its beliefs — sheer foulness that drips from his mouth and aimed against those he perceives to be standing in his way. One wonders if these verbal tirades might have emboldened criminal elements to murder priests — three in the last six months. A fourth survived, while two were shot dead near the church altar and in full view of churchgoers. The President even heaped yet-to-be-proven accusations against one slain priest, whose blood was still fresh on the hard surface on which he fell.

What the prime basher of the Catholic Church overlooks are church ministries that serve the marginalized poor and forgotten in remote places where only the brave of heart can reach. These missionaries work not to proselytize or convert, but to bring the good news that there are people who care enough to help them.

And in the towns and cities are church-run schools that cater to students from different economic classes, academic institutions that fill the gap that the government cannot fill. Add to these hospitals, community-based health programs, counseling centers, feeding centers, housing, name it. This is not to say that all these good works should wipe away the multitude of sins in the church ranks and leadership. But the good cannot simply be ignored and the mistakes held up without letup in order to foment disrespect and ridicule.

An example of church efforts to help those who call God by another name, but who are brethren nonetheless, is Duyog Marawi. It is “a church-based and interfaith dialogical response to the Marawi crisis in partnership with the Redemptorist Missionaries,” a response to the aftermath of a terrorist attack. It is spearheaded by the Prelature of St. Mary in Marawi under Bishop Edwin de la Pena.

“Duyog” is a Cebuano word that means to accompany. Duyog Marawi’s initiators believe that the mission of rebuilding belongs to the people of Marawi, and Duyog Marawi is the Catholic Church accompanying Filipino brethren—Muslims and Christians of Marawi — all the way.

There are countless more “duyog”, institutional and personal. One example is Sister Patricia Fox, who was threatened with deportation for aligning herself with the marginalized poor and forgotten. She got a reprieve three days ago when Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra ruled that the Bureau of Immigration cannot revoke the nun’s missionary visa without basis.

Sister Pat’s words to her fellow sojourners: “Where there are victims of abuse and poverty, where there are people who are fighting for justice and freedom—the Church should be there.”

While in South Korea, President Duterte enticed Filipinos in the audience to join him on stage by waving a copy of the book on abuses in the Catholic Church, “Altar of Secrets”, by Aries Rufo. (He passed away suddenly after the book came out.)

That the President brought with him his antipathy toward the Catholic Church and bared it in a foreign land was odd behavior, if you ask me. Odder still was his lips-to-lips kissing on stage with a hesitant but eventually obliging Filipino woman who was given the book.

The biblical tenet of turning the other cheek is not exactly what Catholics expect from their leaders in these times. In fact, very strong statements have been issued against the priests’ murders, so strong they should reverberate in timid souls while arousing fear of eternal damnation among the hired guns and the cowards who cannot do the killing themselves.

But while churches — all churches — have their share of misbehaving pastors and members of the hierarchy who must be denounced and sent to prison if need be, using trashy language for an institution that many hold in high respect is not becoming of a leader of a nation. And though the Catholic Church is an institution in the corporate and sociological sense, it is, for believers, the people of God, the body of Christ.

I read an anecdote about a group of errant Catholic priests huddled together and talking among themselves. One remarked: “For two thousand years people like us have been trying to destroy this Church, but it is still here.” #

Thursday, June 14, 2018


A cinematic scenario, a fantasy, running in my mind is that of a world inexorably headed toward what looks like a dystopian future. As humankind hobbles toward that uncertain beyond, Filipinos (having multiplied in immense numbers) at home and in the diaspora begin to rise up and rule the world, thus preventing this dystopian scenario from becoming a reality.
Rule the world? Yes, why not? But not through brute might, unbridled power and money, but through their sharing of talents and skills and, most of all, the bigness of their hearts.
And while reveling in this imagined future, I might as well quote the recently departed beloved culture icon Anthony Bourdain, who showed us the world on a plate: “Filipinos are, for reasons I have yet to figure out, probably the most giving of all people on the planet.”

I choke on this every time.
Those are mind-stimulating and heart-warming stuff that I entertain during these rainy days, which have been marked by a series of tragic events presaged by presidential remarks that could only have emboldened evil elements that are, to borrow a phrase, roaming in the gloaming.
In the span of six months, assassins have shot four priests, three of them dead from bullet wounds. How many more on the list? How does one distance these crimes against church persons from the unrelenting presidential attacks on the Catholic Church, its beliefs and consecrated members?
“A farce,” “f—king shit,” etc., President Duterte rants, while overlooking the ministries of selfless church workers among the poor and marginalized who are unreached by his government. He also conveniently overlooks the alleged abuses in other religious sects and cults led by self-styled, self-appointed redeemers of humankind.
And not to forget his attacks on mainstream, legit media.
While dwelling on the President’s F word, look closely at the Sunday Inquirer’s banner photograph of a rally in Slovakia. Notice a street protestor wearing a black T-shirt with bold white letters in two lines that say “FCK NZS.” One need only supply the missing vowels.
The photo was of a May 31 protest rally in Slovakia’s capital Bratislava. Some 3,000 protestors took to the streets in the aftermath of the beating to death of 36-year-old Filipino expatriate Henry Acorda by a so-called neo-Nazi, an assault described as “racially motivated.”
According to an Inquirer report, Acorda tried to stop the assailant from harassing his two female companions from the Philippines and Poland. An Agence France Presse (AFP) report said security footage made available to the media showed that Hiraj Hossu hit Acorda, who then fell and became unconscious. The attacker continued kicking Acorda and even used a cell phone to photograph his victim lying on the ground. Acorda died on May 31.

Acorda began working as a financial analyst in a multinational company in Slovakia only last year. The government of Slovakia will shoulder the repatriation of his remains to the Philippines.
At the rally last Friday, protestors, many of them in black, carried a streamer with the words “Spravodlivost pre Henryho,” which means Justice for Henry. Behind that was a big, red inflated heart. A placard read: “Slovensko 2018: Sexismus Rasizmus Xenofobia.” Another: “Nazi brain burn in hell.”
AFP’s report said the protesters who attended the rally, which began with a violinist playing a mournful tune, were mostly in their 20’s.
What can one say? FCK you NZS, indeed, you evil incarnate roaming this planet.
And while we are on the N word, we note President Duterte’s palm- and arm-raising (not the fist-thrusting) that not a few have noticed to be eerily similar to, if not reminiscent of, the Nazi salutes Hitler made when he worked the crowds and rallied his troops. The President’s Hitler-style salutes and palm-raising I have seen for myself on TV. I am aghast.
Didn’t Mr. Duterte cause an uproar among Jewish leaders when he said he would kill as many drug addicts as Hitler did Jews? “Hitler massacred three million Jews… there’s three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he said.
Language, in whatever form or medium, can enable and ennoble. It can also embolden the criminally inclined and stoke to life latent predispositions to commit evil.#

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Fired but enriched, pocketwise

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

With the series of firings of high government officials and bureaucrats suspected of corrupt practices or hard-to-explain personal use of government funds, one can’t help having afterthoughts about the outcomes of their cases and the direction of their lives. Have cases been filed against these persons? Did they get off the hook or end up in the slammer? How much of the government funds — the people’s money — that they allegedly used for personal enjoyment was recovered or voluntarily returned?
Or did the fired and fried government officials just leave their juicy posts as ordered and walk away in haste? Disgraced, yes, but feigning innocence and none the worse for wear despite the swirl of accusations and body of evidence.

Our jaws fall to our feet when we learn of staggering amounts of money involved in questionable deals that smell of rot. Then we feel somewhat mollified when the culprits are identified, tarred and feathered in the media, when we learn that Sec./Mr./Ms. Sticky Fingers have had their comeuppance, been exposed and fallen from grace. But was justice really served in favor of the tax-paying citizenry?

What happens after heads have rolled? Case in point is that of acting PhilHealth chief Celestina Ma. Jude de la Serna, who was discovered to have incurred huge travel expenses and hotel bills. The Commission on Audit (COA) raised a red flag. Not a Manila resident, De la Serna traveled regularly from Bohol, her home province, to Manila and lived in a hotel while serving as PhilHealth acting president and chief executive officer. She was reported to have received huge allowances despite notices of disallowance in past years.

De la Serna got the boot several days ago and was replaced by another acting chief. Some might say to her: But, hey, it was good while it lasted. And perhaps even after?

In the case of the jaw-dropping P60-million advertising deal that led to the sacking of former tourism secretary Wanda Teo and subalterns in her department, was the money returned? And even if it was returned by her brother’s media outfit as promised, is everything back to, uh, okay? End of story?

While these recent cases are not as staggering compared to the earthshaking scam that involved billions, spawned by one Janet Lim Napoles (now behind bars) in cahoots with politicians, these recent ones are just as eyebrow-raising because they are easy to grasp and close to home. Like what the COA did, just follow the money.

The clever are able to set up labyrinthine trails that can throw off track even those with the smelling power of blood hounds. But not for long. The Marcoses were experts in covering their tracks, but eventually their evil schemes were laid bare. But, hey, there is more to uncover out there.

While at this, I call to mind the case of Acsa Ramirez, the brave whistleblower who exposed a P432-million tax and money-laundering scam, but got the shock of her life when she was suddenly presented as an accused. Ramirez suffered for years before she was cleared, no thanks to bumbling investigators, ingrates who, like former president Gloria Arroyo, could not even get themselves to thank Ramirez and apologize. (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/232585/acsa-moves-on-but-tax-case-is-stuck)

After what Ramirez went through, who would then muster the courage to blow the whistle on wrongdoing in the bureaucracy? There is rot and there is rot, and it only takes a lowly government bureaucrat to expose it.

I know someone in a government office who, as a newbie, already saw how her seniors could play around with per diems, allowances and expenses for out-of-town trips and get away with them. They would buy themselves take-home gifts charged to their department, their way of lining their wardrobes, closets and cupboards. This person had to glumly take her share and give them away, so as not to be seen ever using them. How’s that for a department that is supposed to spread good values?

If questioned, just return the money? If fired, you have enriched yourself anyway. Henceforth you can enjoy the nest you have feathered with people’s money, and bask in the memory of the days of wine and roses. Bad. Bad.#

Wednesday, June 6, 2018