Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Year in Politics

I don't want to say that Christmas is over. Here in the Philippines, it lasts until Epiphany (we also earned the reputation of having the longest celebration, which starts on September 1). But Christmas day had passed and during this time of the year, people start to look back on the things that transpired in preparation of the New Year.

Just this time, let's talk politics shall we? It's really not my passion to be political, but I do care about current issues, and I feel it's timely that I post my thoughts about 2 historic bills that passed this year. They deserve a space in my blog, after all, both bills lapsed more than a decade hurdle!

The first one is something that I care deeply is the passage of the Sin Tax Bill. Then just last week, President  Noynoy Aquino finally signed it, now it's officially a law. The new law aims to raise revenue from cigarettes and alcohol products, of course this would mean increase of their prices and hopefully it would discourage people, especially the youth, from consuming them. I feel that it's long overdue, but it's never too late, the law will take effect next year. Personally I'm not affected since I'm not a smoker and I rarely (almost never) drink spirited beverages anyway. But even if I do, I would still go for the passage of the bill to discourage people with lower income from consuming cigarettes and alcohol. Of course this bill comes with a disadvantage, naturally, regulation of sin products like this would mean an increase in smuggling. Even without the law, it's happening, smuggled products make their way here. I guess it's all up to the people at Customs (which happens to be one of the most corrupt department) to uphold a strict implementation on smuggling law. Another thing that some people brought up is the the displacement of tobacco farmers and vendors. I'm not really worried about that, part of the revenue to be raised by the law will go to programs that would provide alternative crops and jobs for the farmers. I've also read that some farmers are unfazed by the passage of the bill because they still have an international market (so shut up Bongbong Marcos!). So this is definitely something to look forward in 2013. I am confident that the objectives of Sin Tax Law will be met, hopefully sooner.

Now the second one, the much more controversial... *sigh* I don't even know how to begin. It's much more complicated and the nation is really divided on the issue. I feel the division personally, I have family and friends who are both for and against the Reproductive Health Bill (RH Bill) now called the Responsible parenthood bill. I am a little divided myself because I see the point of both ends and I feel the advantages and disadvantages and advantages of the bill. But the bottom line is, ultimately I am pro-choice and responsible parenthood, so yeah if I was a member of the congress or the senate, I would vote "YES" for the bill.

First of all, let me just say, I feel bad for those who are against the bill for valid and sensible reasons for they are represented by the likes of Sen. Tito Sotto who would not humble himself by admitting he plagiarized excerpts of a blog post and a speech of a late American president, and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile who thinks the OFW is our best export that's why he's against RH Bill (which is the most stupid argument I've heard!!). Then there's the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the priests, collectively known as "the Catholic Church". You see, I'm a little uncomfortable with that. I am not a devout, but I'm a practicing Catholic, I go to church every Sunday and on Holidays of obligation, I pray the Rosary and the 3 o'clock prayer, I join the annual Visita Iglesia of our parish and I consistently include the souls of the faithful departed in my prayers. But I disagree with the bishops and the Vatican on a lot of issues, a LOT of Catholics do and I get hurt when criticisms refer to "the Catholic Church" when bishops voice their political stand point, or when another clergy gets involved in a nauseating scandal like sex abuse. But I do not see myself leaving this faith in the near nor far future. I know for a fact that there are bishops and priest who gives a bad name to the Catholic sect, but then, every religion has that. So when people bash the religion itself, I get hurt.Not all Catholics are against RH Bill, and even those who are against it have fair reasons to oppose it. Like I said, it does comes with advantages, for one thing we are talking about budget here. Unlike the Sin Tax Law, which will generate its own budget, RH Bill will be taken from the existing budget that tax payers are now providing. Budget allotment is always a challenge because of the culture of corruption that the present administration pledge to abolish. I'm also not in favor of allocating budget to give free condoms and pills because I feel these two methods of contraception is affordable and accessible enough for everyone. If the so called mass have the money to buy cigarettes and alcohol, now that these products are about to get unaffordable, then they should be able to afford condoms and pills. I feel very strong about education though.  The bill aims to give people a choice, and true choice would only be realized with proper information. What would couples do with free pills and condoms when they don't know what it's for? Some of the issues of the people against the bill is the rise of promiscuity among the youth, with the integration of sex education and access to contraception. In a way, it does, but then, even without the bill, it's on the rise. It's kinda sad, but it's the reality. Sex is everywhere, in pop music, in movies, sitcoms, soaps, in video games, parlor games (I remember attending a party with naughty games and kids are there). In my (teenage) days, it's very unlikely for a prime time TV show to have a kissing scene, now it's very common to see an afternoon program showing a couple making out. I don't really blame the Censorship, the times are changing. It's best to handle it with versatility than keep on doing things the old way. Right now, I do feel that ignorance plays a big part on the rise of STDs, irresponsible parenthood and even the case of abortion. I think education is the best answer to combat these problems.

It's not about population control but responsible parenthood -- my aunt who's a midwife and works at our municipal health center told a story about a relative of ours who keeps on coming back in the center with a new (malnourished) child, my aunt told her it's time to stop getting pregnant, but she just smirked and replied "masarap eh" (feels good eh). One day, it was her husband who came to the center with one of the sick child and my aunt told her to start using condom. He just laughed. I have a lot of relatives like that. What do you do to these people?

I think the church, not just the Catholic church, but all legible group aiming to preserve our values should think of other ways to keep the people grounded rather than meddle in politics. Like I said earlier, there are many issues that put a bad name to my religion but I chose to stay. Why? Because it is the foundation of all  the values I held dear - my compassion on life, respect to my neighbor, love for my family, love for God.

With the passage of 2 controversial law, I think the country is on the right path. There are lots of monumental events in politics and I'm starting to see small improvements (EDSA is going green, yay). We've got reasons to think that 2013 will be promising.