On Geraldine Roman

geraldine

Photo Courtesy of Philippine Star. No copyright infringement intended.

True, politics is about compromise: finding the balance between what one’s constituency says and one’s idea and understanding of what is right.
True, Geraldine Roman is a breath of fresh air in the Philippine political arena. But for her to thrive, she has to concede some of the things to her constituency and the establishment. Politics isn’t black and white. Don’t forget that she voted for death penalty. We can take that against her. But also, do not dismiss her and her anti-discrimination advocacy just yet.
I personally believe that Roman is your traditional political scion. She wouldn’t be sitting as a representative had she not been a Roman. The goal of these dynasts is perpetuating itself. While we spit disgust over this, it is somehow understandable that dynasties would want to retain power. But that shouldn’t blind us on the issues we need to discuss.
Stand beside Roman for her anti-discrimination advocacy. Regret, that she voted for death penalty. For, we stand with our ideals. We talk about taking the conversation away from the personality and focus on the issues. This is the time we take a firm stand on this principle.

Stick to the issue guys!

Lourd De Veyra reposted a letter by Ira V Panganiban to Kim Henares regarding the Pacquiao tax issue. I just can’t help but to share my thoughts about it:

1. I can’t see the relevance of juxtaposing Lucio Tan’s case and Manny Pacquiao’s case. Although I totally get what you are pointing at, this juxtaposition seems to confuse the reader of the real issue: Whether or not Pacquiao paid his taxes diligently and correctly.

2. There is no question on the source of Pacquiao income. I think it is general knowledge, and we can agree upon this, that his income is hard-earned. But again, the real issue is whether or not Pacquiao paid his taxes.

3. Dragging the PDAF accused is again irrelevant. But isn’t it true that freeze orders are now imposed on some of the bank accounts of the accused? I refer to the recent CA decision issuing a freeze order on bank accounts of Gigi Reyes, Ruby Tuason,, etc.

4. Panganiban is trying to imply that Kim Henares is motivated by some insidious malice, but I cannot seem to get it except that he is trying to confuse things with irrelevant issues.

5. AND really, PACQUIAO IS A PATRIOT?! Seriously?!

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While I understand that some people will naturally support Pacquiao, I think it is best that we keep the issue at point. Are there political motives behind BIR’s move? We do not know. But the more important thing is to find out whether Pacquiao paid the right tax. If Pacquiao did, let’s put this at rest. If not, then it is only right for BIR to pursue him after his tax liabilities. What I find unfair is that some people give Pacquiao undue importance just because he just came from a boxing fight. I do not also get the arguments saying Pacquiao should be given consideration mainly because he is a source of national pride.

I think Pacquiao hired a very bad lawyer and accountant. His previous lawyer (forgot his name) even admitted on a TV interview that they deferred informing Pacquiao of BIR’s letters because they would not want him to lose focus on his upcominig game. Now, that’s irresponsible. I think Pacquiao is in good hands with Tranquil Salvador now that he hired him.

I also understand that this issue will raise a more wider discussion on taxation. I can already imagine what the libertarian-minarchists say would say especially on the large amount of money involved. We welcome these discussions but it is important for us to focus on the issue first.

On prayers: Not really THAT offensive

I think by now you can infer that I am detached from any religion. To be honest, I was once almost fanatically engaged in religious activities. But in recent years, I have grown from apathetic to almost completely detached from it. I would not want to delve on the whys for now because I can’t even point it out. Suffice it is to say though that I have a secularist view in general, especially in government.

Earlier this day, I bumped in to the news that the United States Supreme Court is hearing a case on prayers said before a town assembly. It interested me mostly because I kept hearing  objections about prayer said in government agencies. To be specific, these objections say that, at least for our country, prayers have no place in the halls of our supposed secularist government. With the SCOTUS hearing the case, I thought the hearing will give more clarity to the “controversy” on prayer. I downloaded the audio recording of the oral argument and listened to it. (Transcript of the oral arguments can be found here.)

Legislative-Prayers

SCOTUS tackles legislative prayers. Do prayers have a place in government? Image via WikiMedia

It makes sense :If our Constitution, and so does the United States’,  prohibits the government to recognize the State’s official religion; then our government should be secular in nature (US calls it Establishment Clause in the First Amendment; Philippines calls it the Non-establishment Clause, Art III Sec 5). In Town of Greece v Galloway, an atheist and a jew are protesting the prayer said before a legislative session (The case introduces the term legislative prayer to refer to prayers said before a legislative session). They argue that legislative prayers are offending their religious belief, or the lack thereof. They further argue that prayer is similar to endorsing a religion which is directly contradictory to the Non-Establishment Clause.

In the oral argument, it is clear that the justices have a problem with the proposal of the respondents to have an inclusive prayer– that is, a prayer that would not offend any religious beliefs, even the atheists. Respondents proposed several prayers that to them are not offensive. The problem the justices is having, as Justice Kennedy aired, is that telling the government what to include or what not to include in the prayer gives a problem with respect to Free Exercise of Religion. Also, some of the justices thought that having guidelines in constructing a prayer to be delivered before a legislative session is tantamount to government editing the content of the prayer. Further, asking a chaplain from a certain religious denomination to recite a prayer contrary to his belief is also against Free Exercise.

When I was a public school student, the teachers, mostly Catholic, would ask us to stand and bow our heads in prayer before we conduct the class. Of course I would stand, and so I did in fear that my classmate or my teacher would take it against me if I would remain seated (which is of course tantamount to disrespecting religion as my teacher would surely think). .That is another arguement of the petitioners: That it is impossible for non-participation to not attract attention, which is tantamount to coercion. It does make sense! However, when we look at Senate and House where a person would usually deliver a prayer, it is almost impossible to attract attention for non-participation (mainly because there are more people involved). It appears, then, that the difference between the two situation lies on the number of people present.

Before listening to the oral arguments, I thought that atheists fussing about prayers said before or after a government function is just a trifle. I still think it is trifle, mainly because the more important part of the government function is the function itself. Is the prayer affecting the function? I do not think so. I think people fighting for secularism could let these prayers past. While I totally get where they are coming from, I think it is a total waste of time fussing about a 5-minute speech addressed to some almighty being.

I do not personally think that prayers are intended to inflict offense to other persons. If the prayer is said–imploring whoever it is– to give guidance in the conduct of the said function, then I do not think it should be construed as offensive. I have read threads and debates over this issue. The problem with the people arguing against them is that they seem to be so extremist in their view it highlights their hatred towards religion. If they are in full track towards secularism, then I think they are still premature. After all, I personally think that it is vital to respect other’s religious belief, and secularism does not mean eradication of all of religious beliefs.