Monthly Archives: November 2006

Ang bagong doktor: Mga manghihilot at albularyo

Boxing champ captivates a nation, my blog entry for Global Voices.

More than 40,000 individuals will take the nursing licensure examinations this weekend, including most of the 1,687 passers of the controversial June examinations who were ordered by the Court of Appeals to retake Tests 3 and 5.

To prevent another leakage of test questions and answers, the five members of the Board of Nursing were ‘quarantined’ in a private printing press. Test booklet custodians will be allowed to leave only on November 30 or December 1.

Cheating may be discouraged since the Professional Regulation Commission cannot afford another humiliating scandal. But the December nursing examination is bound to be controversial as well.

Those who have registered to take the tests included professionals, even doctors, who saw the bright prospects of becoming a nurse in a distant developed country. This may not be surprising news anymore but it still underscores the alarming trend of migrating health workers which seriously undermines the country’s health care system.

Most of the nursing schools which have proliferated since 1999 are geared towards the training of ‘second-coursers’ or professionals who go back to schools to study nursing. Then we have the ‘nursing medics’ or doctors who become nurses. There are schools which offer abbreviated courses for physicians who wanted to work as nurses in other countries.

During the 1970s, thousands of doctors left the country as doctors. Now, doctors are leaving as nurses. This highlights not only the inevitable high demand for nurses, but also the precarious situation of the country’s health human resources.

The exodus of doctors and nurses is blamed for the deteriorating delivery of health services in many parts of the country. Thousands of hospitals are understaffed or forced to hire unqualified nurses. Senior and skilled nurses are replaced by inexperienced and less idealistic young nurses who stay for three to six months in local hospitals before deciding to leave the country.

The depletion of health workforce has worsened the problems besetting the heath sector. Rural areas now have less access to doctors, nurses and medical attention.

Meanwhile, the government has recently endorsed the medical tourism program to entice health professionals to stay in the country. This means wealthy foreigners will have the chance to avail of local health services while the health needs of the poor and rural Filipinos will be less priority of private and even public health facilities.

There are various proposals to address the migration of health workers. One of which is to increase the salaries and benefits of government doctors and nurses. The Magna Carta of Public Health Workers should be reviewed since local government units, and even national government agencies, have failed to implement all provisions of the law.

Reforms are also needed in the nursing and medical education. Should we allow the establishment of more nursing schools? Should we discourage ‘second-coursing’? Perhaps we should we teach nursing students about the ethics of migration or the impact of migration on the country’s health system.

Can we make medical education more affordable and more responsive to the needs of rural and urban poor communities? Can we hire midwives and community health workers as nurses and train them as physicians?

Everyone is free to pursue their dreams. Everyone is free to travel. But we should be allowed to appeal to every individual’s sense of patriotism and encourage them to delay their departure or work in the country for a certain period before leaving.

Scholars and leaders have already sounded the alarm on the rising number of migrating health workers. Now is the time for political will and decisive action. Otherwise, we will lose all our doctors and nurses and we will be forced to recognize the ‘albularyo’ and ‘manghihilot’ as the new medical professionals.

Related entries:

Indian doctors in RP hospitals. importer na tayo.
Beyond the nursing brouhaha. commercialization of nursing.
Labor as export. lahat na lang.


The gods must be crazy: I saw Tito Sotto interviewing tricycle drivers on Panay Avenue for Eat Bulaga. The following day I heard the comedian on DZRH talking about the arrest of Gringo Honasan…I was able to read the statements of Kiko Pangilinan about his views on the economy, charter change and the many problems of the country in the Senate website. The following day I saw him on TV endorsing Lucky Me instant noodles together with her famous wife….In Congress, visitors of lawmakers are recognized in the gallery. In Eat Bulaga, constituents of Vice Mayor Anjo Villana are recognized in the audience. In the Philippines, politics is not a serious matter.


Sons and Politicians

Blog anecdote: I was speaker at a forum in De La Salle Dasmariñas yesterday. I also met Jhay Rocas of Pinoy Explorer. I was really planning to look for him since I am impressed with his blog. Yesterday was the first time I met him but there were many things to talk about thanks to the wonders of blogging….

Philippine politics, both at the national and especially at the local level, has always been dominated by very few powerful families. The 1987 Constitution (Article II Section 26) tried to “guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service” by banning political dynasties. Two decades have passed but Congress has not yet approved an enabling law that would adhere to this explicit intent of the Constitution.

Since 1986, a political cycle has been established: After nine years of public service, politicians will be replaced by their spouses, children or relatives. If they lose in the elections, they would employ all forms of intimidation and foul means to destabilize the governance of the incumbent leader so that they can regain control of power after three years.

There are hardly new names that vie for dominance in Philippine politics. The old families which monopolized political and economic control of the Islands for almost a century are still the kingpins and warlords of the 21st century. We can never make offers they can’t refuse. They have the guns, goons and gold. This makes the proposal to prohibit political dynasties a noble but quixotic advocacy.

Recently, Malacañang chided the Opposition for fielding senatorial candidates which would promote political dynasty in the country. Indeed, the Opposition is guilty of this accusation. Why rely on the popularity of established politicians? As eloquently expressed by Rep. Edmund Reyes, is there no one else?

On the other hand, Malacañang has no credibility to complain about political dynasties. If it is serious in democratizing access to power, then it should ask its allies in Congress to pass a law that would forbid dynasties in politics. Malacañang can also persuade members of Congress and local politicians to renounce the practice of making politics a profitable family business. The administration can also come up with an alternative senatorial slate representing dynamism, change and competency.

The First Family can set a good example for others to follow. The First Couple can convince their sons not to run for Congress. Jose Pidal can be asked not to aspire for reelection in Negros Occidental. Sec. Raul Gonzales and Sec. Eduardo Ermita can discourage their children from running for public office again. Sec. Mike Defensor can advice his father to retire from politics already.

We can ask the defeated Charter Change advocates to continue chanting Sigaw ng Bayan: Pagbabago! But this time, we will focus on our bid to replace traditional politicians with young, idealistic and brilliant leaders. With a population of more than 85 million, we can definitely choose a new breed of politicians.

But this requires the overhaul of the political system of the country. As long as the rules of the game favor the landed gentry and old elite, we can never inspire the marginalized sectors and middle classes of society to make a direct participation in the governance of the country.

Related entries:

Interview with the Vampires. Congress.
Deodorant boys. Spicy na.
Hello Edgar. Garci.


Toxic trade with Japan, my blog entry for Global Voices Online. I was in Cebu City and Bacolod two weeks ago. Check out the pictures.

‘Hospitality with a Cebuano flavor’

Blog works: Through network of bloggers (Thanks Helga), I was able to invite Atty. Edwin Lacierda to speak on the prospects of Con-Ass during a meeting of student/youth leaders last Monday.

On December 11-14, Cebu will host the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit which will be attended by 18 heads of State and a thousand foreign delegation. The Summit will tackle trade issues, security threats in the region and the ‘haze problem’ or air pollution that has built up in several ASEAN countries. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has also invited China and the World Trade Organization to take part in the Summit proceedings.

Cebu’s local government is frantic over last minute preparations for this important activity. The construction of the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC) has been receiving national and local media attention. This is understandable since this project alone will cost P517 million to be shouldered by the local government.

There are Cebuanos who view the CICC as a ‘white elephant’ or a source of social corruption. But there are those who believe it will be a ‘profit center’ in the next few years. Doubts were raised whether the CICC can be completed in due time or whether it will be ‘usable’. A Cebuano journalist aptly described the situation: ‘Makalibog na ang CICC’ (You do the translation).

The venue is just one of the logistical nightmares being addressed by the local government. Since Cebu wants to showcase its trade and tourism prospects, almost all government agencies, communities and private institutions were tapped to help in the preparations.

A cultural extravaganza which will feature indigenous music, dance and fashion is in the works. Beautification (read: imeldific) projects abound in the city. Landscaping of center islands is sponsored by private companies. Students plant decorative flowers. Traffic signal facilities will be rehabilitated. Two thousand taxi drivers are undergoing training.

It will be a ‘normal holiday’ in Cebu during the ASEAN Summit. This means public utility vehicles can ply their routes, malls are open but schools and offices (except banks) will be closed.

Security measures have already been announced. More than 12,500 police forces will be deployed to secure the Summit delegates. Power barges are already docked to serve as power supply reserves. Navy patrol boats will guard underwater power cables to prevent power interruptions. Ports will be allowed to operate as long as new inhabitants and visitors will be required to register. There is a proposed gun ban during the Summit. The people are advised not to watch cultural street performances since it will be difficult to secure the foreign delegates.

The ASEAN summit will naturally attract civil society groups and peoples’ organizations which will undertake a parallel summit to tackle issues generated by unfair trading practices, human rights violations induced by the war on terrorism and corporate-sponsored exploitation of finite natural resources.

In short, Cebu will have to balance its goal of impressing the foreigners while respecting the right of advocacy groups to freely express their views. That Cebu agreed to host the ASEAN Summit despite the short time to prepare (Myanmar begged off to be the host this year) was a brave initiative. But its promise to provide ‘hospitality with a Cebuano flavor’ must not include the employment of exaggerated security measures which impede the mobility of our countrymen. The ASEAN Summit can also be an opportunity to show the world that we have tolerance for dissent.

Related entries:

Super cities. Top cities of the country. 
We are no different from Myanmar. Mayabang tayo. 
The Hong Kong trap. WTO

Towers of desolation

Blog anecdote: While lobbying in Congress, I saw Congressman Ruffy Biazon. I approached him and introduced myself as a fellow blogger. I commended him for setting up a blog but I complained about the comment setting in his blog since blogspot users can only post comments. He acknowledged my feedback and was apologetic since he has not yet updated his blog for some time. Later that night, he posted a new blog article regarding his views on the resignation of Sec. Nonong Cruz.

Suicide is not commonly associated with Filipinos. In fact, we only ranked 82nd in the world with the most number of suicide incidents. We are a happy race, remember?

While drowning, self-immolation, narcotics, electrocution and hanging are among the popular suicide options in other countries, Filipinos prefer to jump (or self-defenestration) from high structures to scandalously end their lives.

During Spanish times, church bell towers captivated the poor, as well as suiciders. Even Rizal’s Noli me Tangere featured Huli jumping from a church tower after she was raped by a priest.

Now, commercial billboards are magnets for the destitute. The media loves to report how desperate individuals are climbing billboard towers to end their miseries.

Why the fetish for billboard towers? To be more precise, why do the poor choose the billboards to stage a suicide ritual?

Did people from Spanish times jump from church towers believing it was a ticket to enter the gates of Heaven? Or was it a deliberate attempt to spite the evil clergy by stigmatizing the church with their death?

Did people choose the billboard towers so that they can symbolically acquire 21st century consumer goods? Or was the climbing of billboards an unconscious expression of desperation against a symbolic order which reduces them into powerless paupers who can’t afford to buy what the glitzy billboards are displaying? Did the billboard climbers realize that no matter how long they gaze at the billboards of Bench body models, they can’t have those expensive under wears?

Did they climb the billboard towers to ‘shout back at the world’? Was it their chance to “look down on a city that looks down” on them?

I hope that their view from the top would allow them to see the ugliness and dirt of the city. I hope they would see the filth, hypocrisy and injustice that engulfs the Metro and beyond. I hope that while contemplating suffering and death, they would see the passing pedestrians, bewildered motorists, frantic policemen and amused media persons – all of whom are pretending to be happy and grateful for the boring lives they have.

Billboards showcase the disparity of wealth among the people. Only few can afford what billboards are advertising. It seduces the middle class to buy things they don’t need in life. It seeks to prettify an immoral city with its bright lights and beautiful images. It tries to conceal the fact that Manila, without the neon lights, is a decaying city desperately pretending to be rich and hospitable.

The government is now dismantling these towers of desolation. But poverty remains and so we will never run out of individuals who will continue to manifest their private tribulations by climbing structures which represent power, opulence and greed.

Without the billboards, the poor has a choice to climb the gates of Malacanang and from that vantage point, they can assert their right to live as decent human beings.

Related entries:

The new university belt. Maduming u-belt.
Open the gates. Smash the walls of Forbes and Dasma.
Vanity politics. Political billboards.

Saddam and Gloria

First published in Yehey!

Will the world be a safer and more peaceful place after the execution of Saddam Hussein in less then 30 days? Will it fuel the infighting among Iraqi militias? Will the US troops finally leave Iraq?

Before answering these questions, we must recognize that Saddam, thanks to US occupation of Iraq, has also become an icon of resistance against Western aggression. Saddam’s death will neither solve the insurgency in Iraq nor the political turmoil in the Middle East.

There is no debate that Saddam’s regime was brutal and undemocratic. He may be genuinely responsible for the killing of 148 Shia Muslims in Dujail in 1982. The verdict was predictable and perhaps, even acceptable. But I have misgivings over the credibility of the trial.

First, Saddam’s three lawyers were murdered. Then, three judges have been replaced. For one year, Saddam has no access to legal advice. Human rights groups questioned why the Iraqi tribunal has only to be “satisfied” of guilt instead of being proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” as is the case in most international tribunals.

Saddam has never stopped questioning the legitimacy of the tribunal. He continues to insist that the US has malicious motives in persecuting him. He went on hunger strike to protest the alleged bias of the Court.

The people of Iraq should have been rejoicing in the streets since a former dictator will be punished by law. But the reaction of the people was divided. After the death of Saddam, Iraq remains a subjugated nation.

On the other hand, Saddam’s verdict will have lasting international political repercussions. It can also influence Philippine politics.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is advised to consolidate her political base once she loses immunity from legal suits after her term expires in 2010. Saddam’s trial showed that an international court doesn’t have to be set-up in order to prosecute former leaders. Saddam was tried by his own countrymen.

Families of victims of extra-judicial killings who blame Pres. Arroyo of abetting these crimes can contemplate on organizing a case against the President beyond 2010. The two failed impeachment complaints actually contained pieces of evidence on how the President committed crimes against humanity.

Saddam’s trial is instructive in the present campaign against political repression in the Philippines. Saddam defended his actions against the rebels in Dujail saying it was necessary to protect his regime. He also claimed he has no time to monitor all the activities of his subordinates. However, the trial proved that there was chain of command and assigning responsibility on a person can set a precedent for future trials against authoritarian leaders.

Meanwhile, Pres. Arroyo has always defended her punitive actions against dissenters saying she has the legal right to prevent destabilization. Her supporters argued that she cannot be prosecuted for the crimes committed by State agents even if she is the commander-in-chief of the military. At this point, we can learn from the trial and verdict of Saddam Hussein.

Related entries:

Remembering 9/16. Bases.
Who are the real meddlers? America!
Gloria and Cory. HR violators.
Who’s afraid of the Left? All out war.

Exporting the working class

Honoring the departed, my blog entry for Global Voices.

1848 – the year of revolutions in feudal Europe. The intelligentsia joined peasant and proletariat uprisings to overthrow oppressive monarchies. What triggered the radicalism of the petty bourgeois? British historian Eric Hobsbawm has an interesting analysis:

“The radicalism of the intellectuals was less deeply rooted. It was largely based on the (as it turned out temporary) inability of the new bourgeois society before 1848 to provide enough posts of adequate status for the educated whom it produced in unprecedented numbers, and whose rewards were so much more modest than their ambitions.” (Age of Capital)

After 1848, the revolutions were quelled and Order was restored. Economic boom was felt throughout the West. Here again is Hobsbawm’s thesis:

“What happened to all those radical students of 1848 in the prosperous 1850s and 1860s? They established the biographical pattern so familiar, and indeed accepted, on the continent of Europe, whereby bourgeois boys sow their political and sexual wild oats in youth, before settling down.”

1970 – Student demonstrations hounded the Marcos regime. The first three months of the year would be known as the ‘first quarter storm’ of 1970. What triggered the radicalism of the youth? Like Europe before 1848, the Philippines before 1970 produced a big number of graduates which the economy and the State could not absorb. There existed an army of unemployed graduates which also formed the backbone of mass demonstrations.

After World War II, there was a proliferation of private universities which offered degrees mainly for clerical jobs and management/business courses. The economy’s slow expansion failed to accommodate the rising number of graduates every year. It was then inevitable that there would be unrest among the youth. The educated has no jobs so their option would be to hold barricades in the streets.

After 1848, Europe’s phenomenal capitalist growth offered countless job opportunities for the ex-radical and the new generation of educated youth. After 1970, the Philippines did not enjoy any significant economic growth but a new economic measure was implemented which may have discouraged the youth to consider revolution as a viable option to vent their frustration against the impotent State: labor-export policy.

After 1970, the barricades became a less attractive alternative since employment in another country can actually contain the passionate energies of the youth. The revolution’s potential recruits were already lining up in embassies.

The government’s continuing dependence on labor migration may be more than just a craving for OFW remittances. The survival of the status quo necessitates the expulsion of potential radical elements of the population. One lowly peasant working as security personnel in Iraq means one less peasant which could have been recruited by the long arms of the Revolution.

This is the economic basis which helps explain the radicalization and de-radicalization of the petty bourgeoisie in Philippine history. Another interesting analysis was propounded by Filipino historian Reynaldo Ileto.

Ileto wrote that a generation of students during the late 50s to the early 60s who read the nationalist works of Teodoro Agoncillo and Renato Constantino became the primemovers of the radical movement in the late 60s. A new historical consciousness was necessary in order to ditch the reformist Rizal and embrace the revolutionary Bonifacio.

Ileto further wrote: “By the 1980s, the Agoncillo/Constantino/Amado Guerrero historical construct had become fully established among a generation of students and intellecutals…sons and daughters of well-off families, having been fed a healthy dose of the Agoncillo/Constantino variant of history, did throw down their books and man the barricades in 1970-1971; quite a number of them even went to the hills after martial law was declared, and some have been killed by the military.” (Filipinos and their Revolution)

Related entries:

Can you invent a hero? Bonifacio as myth.
Arrival gates/Departure gates. NAIA and Heathrow.
Aguinaldo and Imelda. Revolt of the Masses.
Cry of Bonifacio. Kawawang Andres.
Labor as export. Lahat na lang.
Nannies in Hong Kong. Kamusta naman sila?