Thursday, November 27, 2008

Can't we keep the dis out of disagreeing?

I'm no expert on the issues surrounding the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Bill 5043 introduced by Congressman Edcel Lagman, but I am aware of the varying and often strong opinions on the matter, particularly the opposition of the Catholic Church to the bill. My interest was piqued when I learned that 14 faculty members from the Loyola Schools of Ateneo de Manila had released a position paper on the RH Bill, in spite of the university's official stand against it. Soon after, more Ateneo teachers (over 60 of them, including the eminent Manny Dy, the famous Bobby Guev, the infamous Gus Rodriguez, and my hero Jo-ed Tirol) signed a declaration of support for the RH Bill, which they submitted to Congress last October. I found it a brave and admirable move, not only because they dared to disagree with the university's Jesuit administration, but because they took an unpopular stand on what remains a sensitive and even scandalous issue in this predominantly Catholic country of ours.

Then I came across this editorial from The Varsitarian, the official student publication of the University of Santo Tomas. It is a somewhat violent reaction to the Ateneo position paper, blasting the "14 Horsemen of the Apocalypse" from "the other" Catholic university for "
break[ing] away from the Catholic position and... twist[ing] Catholic teachings to suit their self-serving position." I was surprised that The Varsitarian published such a vitriol-laced article, attacking not only the character of the 14 Ateneo teachers (calling them intellectually dishonest, anti-poor and guilty of academic mediocrity, among others), but Ateneo itself as an institution, deriding "Ateneo's jesuitic nature" (whatever that means) that shows in its "cozy and cash-rich sleeping-with-the-enemy arrangements" (whatever that has got to do with the RH Bill). Perhaps the writer/s had not read the memo from ADMU president Fr. Ben Nebres clarifying the university's official position, which is firmly aligned with the CBCP's. Does that mean the Jesuits are not staying true to their "jesuitic nature"?


I'm sorry but while reading the editorial, the image in my head was that of an apoplectic Dominican friar from the Middle Ages furiously scribbling on a piece of parchment with a quill, sputtering in self-righteous indignation.
Granted, the piece actually has some sound arguments (though I admit I did not agree with most of them) but because of its scathing and accusatory tone, it often lapses into faulty logic, not to mention the occasional grammatical error. The Ateneo teachers' position paper may have its flaws as well, but was it necessary to respond to it with such condescension and ugly mudslinging? And in an official university publication, no less.
If the Varsitarian editorial staff truly and vehemently disagrees with the "14 Grim Reapers", it's their right to express their dissenting opinion, but they could have done it with less venom. The editorial itself evokes "the darkness foisted... by shadowy figures that include those who call themselves Catholics, educated, and educators". How can enlightenment come about through this kind of hysterical knee-jerk reaction? Rather than absorbing their arguments, all I picked up from the article was the permeating sense of holier-than-thou disdain. Is that UST's idea of how Catholic educators and educated Catholics should engage in intellectual debate or discussion?

What riles me further is how critics of the RH Bill keep throwing religion into the mix to cast an "evil" shadow upon the bill and vilify its proponents, which just serves to distract from the real issues at hand. I like this quotation I read in the blog of a former Ateneo Theology teacher:
"...it is fair and just to remind the hierarchy and the rest of the Catholic citizenry that our Republic does not exist for Catholics alone, and this means that their faith and morals cannot be made the exclusive basis for state policy." -Manuel L. Quezon III

I refuse to believe that one editorial speaks for the entire UST community, just as one position paper does not speak for the entire Ateneo community. I'm sure there are a number of Thomasians out there who support the RH Bill as well, or are at least capable of conveying their contrary viewpoints in a more level-headed manner. What this issue needs is open dialogue, not sanctimonious diatribes. Although I am in favor of the RH Bill, I'm not saying it's perfect and that it will solve the myriad problems it covers, but instead of coming at it with pitchforks and torches, maybe the angry mob should consider talking to the mad (social) scientists who are protecting the monster they fear so much. Instead of being hell-bent on destroying the RH Bill, perhaps its critics can propose a viable alternative or revisions to the bill that would make it less objectionable and more beneficial for the Filipino people. And everyone, whether for or aginst the RH Bill, would do well to bear in mind that ultimately, it's the welfare of our fellow citizens-- Catholic or otherwise-- that's on the line.

10 Comments:

At Thursday, November 27, 2008, Anonymous Frohnie said...

Great! I totally agree with you!

I hope this and other similar comments i have read, will reach the editorial staff of the UST's the Varsitarian and the Administration. They should know!

 
At Thursday, November 27, 2008, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Thanks for reading and posting a comment. I'm thinking of emailing a copy of my blog post to The Varsitarian. Hopefully it reaches the right people.

 
At Thursday, November 27, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to prick your big Ateneo egos and drag down your armchair experts from their pedestals. But your so-called intellectual titans started the bastusan – first they say it’s their individual positions but then they hold a huge sign saying, “Hey, we’re Catholics, and its not really a bad thing to support this bill.” Obviously, the purpose was to undermine the Catholic position and pull the rug under the CBCP. Worse, they cut and pasted from Catholic social teachings and said, “Hey, Catholicism backs this RH bill.” Catholic social teachings, for your information, will never ever support such a bill no matter what the social realities are. It would have been okay if they simply said we support the bill and stopped right there. But instead, they said, “Hey guys, the RH bill is okay, it’s so Catholic. Trust us, we’re Catholic professors.” With such blatant misrepresentation, your 14 professors deserved no less than a rebuke.

Now, what you and your fellow Atenean bloggers have done so far is to criticize the editorial superficially (ay pangit, gawa ng UST, dyologs) without actually refuting the arguments. It’s a long editorial as you have noticed, and says a lot. Answer them point by point.

 
At Friday, November 28, 2008, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

I'm sorry, but could you kindly point out the part where I said anything about the editorial being "pangit" because it's "gawa ng UST, dyologs"?

And if you would care to read my blog post again, my point was not to refute the arguments laid out in the Varisitarian editorial (as I said, I actually found some arguments sound). My point was to criticize the writers for the ugly, "personalan" tone of the editorial. As the title of my post says, can't we keep the dis(respect) out of disagreeing?

 
At Friday, November 28, 2008, Anonymous yang said...

Obviously, mr. or ms. anonymous here, does not understand the whole point of your blog post.

I hope that in a few days his/her comprehension skills vastly improve so that he/she may understand what it is you're really saying with your post.

 
At Friday, November 28, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I repeat, with such blatant misrepresentation, your 14 professors deserved no less than a rebuke.

 
At Friday, November 28, 2008, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

You have every right to that opinion, just as The Varsitarian has every right to "rebuke" the "14 doomsday pundits". In my blog post, I merely pointed out that the criticism could have been delivered in a less caustic and more constructive manner.

And just as the "14 wolf-criers" do not speak on behalf of the entire Ateneo community, I do not speak on behalf of all Atenean bloggers.

 
At Friday, November 28, 2008, Anonymous visitor said...

I heard that the UP School of Economics supports the bill... After reading the piece from Varsitarian, I can't help but remember the priests portraying the friars during the Spanish era in Rizal's novels and how they used their "religious authority" to control people.

 
At Tuesday, December 02, 2008, Blogger Benny said...

The UP School of Economics stand on the RH Bill:

http://www.econ.upd.edu.ph/papers/Population_Poverty_Politics_RHBill.pdf

 
At Tuesday, December 02, 2008, Blogger Benny said...

Sorry to prick your big Ateneo egos and drag down your armchair experts from their pedestals.

Your post reeks of Argumentum ad hominem, Mr./Ms. Anonymous. Why don't you try cleaning up your post so that we may take you seriously?

It's laughable that the most violent (and often rude) reactions from anywhere in the 'internets' come from religious folk who claim they come from a moral standpoint.

(ay pangit, gawa ng UST, dyologs)

Your words, not anybody's in this entire blog. Argumentum ad misericordiam.

Don't you know you're the one giving UST a bad name by playing the Jologs card? Stop playing the victim, you're just reinforcing yourself to be treated that way even if nobody around here is.

 

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