ADVOCACY MindaNOW: Talking with a taxi driver

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 April) – I always take a taxi coming from or going to the Manila airport. This one last Saturday morning with taxi driver Lando was interesting. He was talking all the way in Cebuano nonstop in spite of the EDSA traffic that when we reached the domestic terminal, I wished we were still stuck in traffic because he still had more to tell. He said he came from Dipolog in Zamboanga del Norte and had been driving in Manila for years. “Lisod panginabuhi didto.” (Life is difficult there).

POLITICS – He asked where I was going. “Davao diay ka sir? (So you are from Davao?) Then he went ballistic. “Kusog si Binay sa karon pero unta mag uban sila ni Bongbong Marcos ug si Duterte para mo asenso ang Pinas. Kay kaming taxi driver Bongbong mi sir. (Binay is strong now but he should team up with Bongbong Marcos and Duterte for the sake of the country coz we taxi drivers are for Bongbong.) I’ll tell VP Jojo, Sen. Bongits and Mayor Rody about this, I quietly told myself.

But he continued. “Baho na ang gobyerno Aquino ug halos tanang opisyal nato, (The Aquino government and all officials now stink) he said, mentioning Napoles with expletives several times.

FAMILY – He has two daughters, aged 18 and 10. He is worried. In Zamboanga when he was young, he recalled that suitors of his aunts had to do “harana” (serenade) and would come to the house and visit with the “lola” nearby either within hearing distance or eavesdropping. The courtship then included the whole family. Today, he said, the young jump to bed just by texting each other. (That ‘s my moderate translation from his more vulgar language. Ahahaha! )

ROLE MODELS – He blamed the VIPs and “mga artista” , who have become role models and the influence of TV for the bad values today. “Tan-aw ka sa TV ‘The Legal Wife’ sir? Suko pirmi mrs ko sa kabit ba unya sige warning sa akoa”. (Do you watch the telenobela The Legal Wife? My wife is always angry at the mistress then always warns me.) I told him I am in the same situation. LOL.

He then mentioned a few examples, the names he did not mention but quite obvious to be identifiable. A senator leaves his wife and family for a celebrity but he is still popular. (He cursed!) A presidential sister who has several men – although one at a time and still adored by the public. (He chuckled!)

PEACE – He said he had recently an unmarried lady from Midsayap, North Cotabato for a passenger going to the NAIA bound for Canada. She was leaving to look for work abroad and plans on uprooting her family soonest when she gets settled down there. She expects trouble with the signing of the peace agreement because some Muslim elements are starting to claim their lands in Midsayap that her family had long owned and developed.

AMERICANS – To my surprise, he said, “Maayo kay si Obama moabot” (Good Obama is coming). I asked why. He said another passenger, a retired corporal in the Army, told him that it was a mistake to throw out the US bases years ago and now we are asking the Americans to come back because we need them against China. The retired corporal recalled how he was receiving “second hand” uniforms and equipment while the Americans were still around and the Filipino soldiers were well provided. Today his other soldier friends tell him of holes in their boots. He said that the Philippines can be better off being a part of the US so we can have dollars and maybe we will also have snow! (He laughed!)

He was still talking after he parked as he handed me my handcarry bag. And when I disembarked, he was not through yet. “Pag balik na pud nimo, sir” (Next time when you return), he called me aloud as I headed for the terminal gate. The hefty tip must be the reason, I told myself. Listening to him, belonging to the “masa” was a source of unending fascination. And reality check somehow.

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We are misled by the media line that the Catholic church’s anti- RH campaign lost because the Supreme Court ruled that Reproductive Health Law (RA 10354) is constitutional. Many may not realize this but the Supreme Court in “approving” the RH law actually GAVE DUE COURSE to the objections of the Church. According to former Ambassador Rigoberto “Bobi” Tiglao in his article in the Manila TIMES, what the Supreme Court declared constitutional are the ALREADY EXISTING laws that have already been implemented for decades but consolidated in the new RH law. These are the population-control laws that have been in effect like RA 6365 of 1971 (Creating the national population commission and its functions); PD 79 of former President Marcos and RA 9710 of 2009 (Magna Carta for Women).

But the main objectionable provisions that the Church raised were DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL, including the controversial implementing rules crafted by the Secretary of Health. I call this government’s ATTEMPT that the Supreme Court ABORTED, legally of course. (This is the type of abortion we all welcome. Hahaha!)

For example, the SC ruled that the religious beliefs of citizens (those who oppose) be respected and must prevail. Hence, the ruling declared as unconstitutional the provision that required public and private health companies to provide birth control information and means to all even if it is against their religious beliefs. Another provision declared unconstitutional was that which allows one spouse to make a unilateral decision to avail of birth control methods. The SC required that BOTH SPOUSES must approve to do irreversible birth control interventions like vasectomy and tubal ligation. Another provision is to require parental consent for minors. There are other significant fine points.

But what the Supreme Court significantly STOPPED ON ITS TRACKS was the “ABORTED” attempt of the government, through its Secretary of Health and the pro-RH groups, to insert and SMUGGLE the word “PRIMARILY” (to define abortifacients) in the implementing rules and regulations that was NOT present in the RH law itself and which would have opened the floodgates of abortions. If not discovered and stopped and ABORTED by the SC, it would have allowed government to undertake wide-scale distribution of devices and drugs for abortion or abortifacients. Truth to tell, this important SC ruling upholds the Catholic dogma that is found in the Philippine Constitution (Article 11, Section 12) which provides that the state “shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception”. THIS MEANS THAT ANY ACTION TO STOP THE FERTILIZED EGG FROM DEVELOPING IS AGAINST THE CONSTITUTION. Scientific studies tell us that IUDs and other contraceptives, while they have the PRIMARY effect of preventing fertilization (the spermatozoa from reaching the egg), they have the secondary or after-effect of weakening the uterine walls lining so that the fertilized egg (with the meeting of the sperm and the ova already done) cannot be implanted there and therefore will die. This validly challenges legally the use of IUDs and contraceptives with that SC ruling.

No doubt, this a “de facto” rejection of the RH law. What is interesting is that it makes pro-RH proponents seemingly victorious but actually the anti-RH ones also won the day. This is “judicial statesmanship” of the Supreme Court at its best. Everyone can claim victory. Those who decide to avail of the benefits of the RH law can do so while those who do not believe can freely reject them without being penalized. What will be interesting to see hereon is how the implementation of the RH law will be done and how vigilant are we in seeing to it that what the Supreme Court discovered and aborted in its ruling, will be followed and enforced on the ground.

(Lawyer Jesus G. Dureza was government peace panel chair in the negotiations with the MILF under the Arroyo administration from 2001 to 2003 and was later named Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (2005 to 2008). He heads Advocacy MindaNOW Foundation, Inc. and was recently named publisher of the Davao City-based Mindanao Times. This piece is from his syndicated column, Advocacy MindaNOW).