Neps Online


The unfortunate stereotyping of homosexuals in the Philippines: A personal reflection — July 30, 2015
Military power or democracy? — November 19, 2013

Military power or democracy?

Before Ferdinand Marcos transformed into ruthless dictator, he was democratically-elected president from 1965. Initially extremely popular, he was reelected to a full second term in 1969 until 1973. He declared military rule in 1972 and re-engineered the Constitution in 1973 thereby scrapping term limit for Philippine presidents.


Then installed wife Imelda to different political posts and relatives and cronies as heads of numerous government-controlled corporations. Along loyal military generals, cabinet members and trusted aids he was reported to have gifted his friends with multi-billion peso government contracts, among others. In the years following 1972, deteriorating peace and order in Mindanao took center stage coupled with stronger assertion from separatist groups for autonomy. Perhaps opposition Senator Benigno Aquino’s assassination in 1983 was the crack-in-waiting for his growing unpopular regime—culminating in a 1986 EDSA People Power revolution—arguably the world’s first non-violent, bloodless demonstration that toppled a mighty dictator of 20 years.

The Filipino will remain prosperous and resilient, so thought he. Marcos was aspiring for a rigidly ‘disciplined’ society as was Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore of the time. But how should the government impose discipline to a spread of 7,000 islands as opposed to Singapore’s less than 70? Would the clumping of free speech and civil liberties—mechanisms of martial law—silence the very people who put him to power? “Marcos generals” were widely thought to have conspired to further this grip. Newspapers, radio and TV stations critical of his regime were shut down. Human rights abuses were rampant, and intellectuals, academics, students, activists, newsmen and opposition politicians were thrown into prison on charges of crime against the state. Many were assassinated or exiled. Thousands were summarily executed, murdered, vanished and tortured all throughout the country. Thousands remained missing.


I was born in the Philippines in 1978 and have little recollection of the impact of those years. Therefore I feel obliged to revisit that dark chapter of merciless military oppression and denounce its demons. I am tempted to blame the leaders whose responsibility was to mainly protect citizens’ civil liberties—but whose trust they apparently grossly violated.

The secession of my country (to U.S.A.) from the Spanish Empire in 1898 left a lasting American legacy in education and democratic governance. Democracy in my country, though still very young, is more effective as opposed to military rule because it encourages leaders and citizens to work to achieve common ground. Democracy instills responsibility and when used judiciously, it can empower and positively impacts on peace and order. Democratic principles should aim for harmony and should seek to further advance peaceful resolution of civil and international conflicts—where respect of human life should be at the pinnacle. In turn, democratically-elected leaders should listen and strive to not violate their oath of office and execute its noble objective.


In the end I think Mr Marcos failed to grasp the wisdom of these principles or he could have been swayed to ignoring his constituents’ cry altogether. Formerly revered as one of the most intelligent, eloquent and charismatic public servant died possibly in disgrace—far away from home—in Hawaii in 1989.


Note:  I don’t own these pictures. Taken from online sources. 

Adulthood in the Philippines — November 11, 2013

Adulthood in the Philippines

In relatively polarized society like the Philippines where half the population thrives on subsistence farming and fishing, the borderline between adulthood and childhood is very thin, if visible at all. Contrary to my experience in Hong Kong where I lived between 2005 and 2013—a good 25% of my entire life—defining ‘adulthood’ and ‘childhood’ in stricter Filipino context may take further inclusive studies that involves the poorest of the population.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution defines ‘adult’ as someone who is at least 18 years of age. Thus only when he is 18 he is qualified to vote or free to participate in any lawful transaction without parental consent. This could be interpreted: 18-years old and above are mature and capable of making sound decisions in life.

... the borderline between adulthood and childhood is very thin, if visible at all...
… the borderline between adulthood and childhood is very thin, if visible at all… (picture not my own.)

Interestingly, I know of some folks who cook and go to school on their own. The difference? They are actually kids between the ages 8 and 12! Is this also true in your country?

The parents are either working in the farm, in a distant city, or as contract workers in another country like this student. The kids live on their own, bathe, wash their clothes and practically decide for themselves.

The oldest child often assume fatherhood or motherhood or some leadership role in a household—a responsibility supposedly reserved for older and mature individuals. Therefore adulthood in many, but especially among poor, families do not fall into the universally accepted definition of ‘adulthood.’

In fact adult life in the Philippines starts early. Kids, many are product of failed marriages, seemed to have ‘matured’ faster than their contemporaries in many parts of the world. Perhaps that’s due to household responsibilities and family problems they’ve morphed into adults albeit too early.

Particularly I think incidence rate for teenage pregnancy, already among the highest globally, contributed to early maturity of our minors and worsening of their economic condition. I was wondering if we can use teenage parenthood as yardstick. If so I think Filipino teen mothers (and fathers, too) could be evaluated on the same standard. Or perhaps even more.

Additionally we now impose criminal punishment to Filipino minors. Jail terms are meted to child offenders of the law, generally under the “age of majority” according to Black’s Law Dictionary. Few years back, Philippine law prohibits actual filing of criminal charges against offenders below 17 years except such heinous crimes namely murder, homicide and rape. And instead of a regular jail, child offenders are camped separately. With offenders their age range in rehabilitation centers, they are released after completing community service instructions and other requirements such as personal and spiritual coaching set forth by the presiding judge.

Fortune turned sour when the law was amended last year and lowering the age of criminal liability from 17 to 13 years. This is especially dangerous because we have thousands of kids who call the streets home. Kids that can not grasp criminal justice are more susceptible to encountering numerous injustices.

For instance street kids may not have realized robbery and burglary are morally wrong and punishable by law. At face value they have committed a crime. Therefore, the 13-year-old kid will be accordingly penalized in the same category of adults based on latest amendment. Should not kids deserve reconstructive and personal and spiritual rehabilitation rather than jail time alongside hardened criminals in the penitentiary, who might further the damage kids’ already severed to their well-being?

It could be inevitable certain juvenile group may face suspended jail terms (until they turn 18) for committing heinous crimes such as murder, rape, homicide or kidnapping. But I have full reservation as regard to the manner we treat them in this spectrum.

The Philippines is a polarized, complicated, hierarchical and problematic society. It is a society 60 percent are in miserable economic condition and unimaginable poverty. It is a society undergoing massive economic and political development in recent years but a hugely gapped development only the elitist few thrive dominating wheels of fortune and playing lord over the fate of the remaining 98%. We have a justice system except it is in the brink of failing. It is a society where bureaucratic systems particularly justice is challenging. Consider this: Majority believes it only favors the rich, influential and personalities with political clout. Perceptions of injustice are not only heard but seen everywhere.

Some people feel our penal system is defective and that it needs overhauling. Other sectors of the society view the penalty too severe and unjust. And there are still few people who dare say the entire nation, through popular assembly declare a total failure of the system in this part of the world.

Exactly, what is the best definition of adulthood in light of criminal liability? Where does it begin? Where does it end? 🙂

Mexico’s ‘booming’ drug trade — June 6, 2013

Mexico’s ‘booming’ drug trade

STRATFOR-Mexican-drug-cartels-mapThe economy of Mexico is the 13th largest in the world in nominal terms and the 11th by purchasing power parity, according to the World Bank. With a population of more than 107 million people, it is indeed one of the world’s most important countries in terms of economic activity. Its GDP in 2010 was more than 1 trillion dollars. There is great economic activity going on in the country which is bordered by the United States on the North and often considered gateway to Latin America on the south. It is also home to one of the world’s richest men Carlos Slim Helu.

Additionally, agriculture plays a very important role in Mexican economy. Mexican farmers grow crops such as potato, avocado, corn, lemons, beans, oranges, papaya, mango, and many others. Mexico is also one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

Today, Mexico is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of television and smart phones.  The World Bank reported that the production of high-technology goods represents about 22% of Mexico’s GDP in 2000. The growth is steady.  This trend is very important for the people, where 40% still live below poverty line.

The geographic location of Mexico is also important for mining. Today, Mexico is of the largest oil producer in the world. The government provided research services, and exploration of oil supplies.

A country as diverse as Mexico, it is estimated that the drug money coming into Mexico every year is very huge. Reports estimate it from $30 billion to $50 billion every year. There is huge profit for selling drugs in Mexico and perhaps this explains why drug cartels and powerful syndicates continue to operate. If for example, the whole syndicates produce $50 billion amount of illegal drug products each year, and say, 10 percent is profit, that is already billion dollars a year! But in reality, the profit margin for illegal drugs is still very much higher than that. Some estimates are at 80 percent. If that is the case, then it’s a profit of 40 billion dollars!

Of course it is very difficult to fully estimate the effect of money coming from selling of illegal drugs in Mexico. There are so many factors. But the main important thing is that drugs are not a conventional product. Meaning, there is no proper auditing and no records. Only pure estimates. Therefore, drug trade in Mexico is causing so much effect on the lives and productivity of the people. Additionally, many people are killed every year due to this activity. And perhaps, drug activity is ruining the economy because investors will feel afraid to do business in Mexico anymore.

But one thing here is very clear. Mexico is a direct beneficiary of illegal drug trade. If for example, such money is being used to do legitimate business, many poor people would have benefited from it. If, for example, the money is used to invest overseas, there could have been visible expansion in Mexican economy.

I think it is hard to finally determine where the drug money among the syndicates is being used or where it is going. Illegal money seems very hard to keep track. But it is also certain that such money were laundered in countries or areas where it can not be traced. In this idea, it is very clear that the money flows quickly out of Mexico and there seems a great influence of the syndicates to the Mexican government officials who may have benefited from the enterprise as well. This is a great loss of opportunity for the Mexican people to do legal business.

But once the drug money have already been laundered out of Mexico or invested inside Mexico, the money is surely used to invest in legitimate business and enterprises. There is very little way for the government officials to trace the origin of the money. This means, drug money enters the legal economy using legal enterprises such as banks and companies.

Perhaps, if the Mexican government finds options to solve the problem, it will be the best place in Latin America again.


Gereffi, G; Martínez, M (September 30, 2004). “Mexico’s Economic Transformation under NAFTA”. In Crandall, R; Paz, G; Roett, R. Mexico’s Democracy at Work: Political and Economic Dynamics. Lynne Reiner Publishers. ISBN 1588263002

Mexico Investment Summit 2012″. Retrieved 2011-04-16.

Fighting Tuberculosis in the Philippines * — June 3, 2013

Fighting Tuberculosis in the Philippines *

* Final paper for the course Writing in the Sciences — a Stanford University online offering. (November 2012.)   

Not having basic knowledge of the symptoms, a Filipino could be unaware of that incessant coughing with fever, night sweats, and abrupt weight loss are already signs of tuberculosis (TB) infection. Early detection is often hindered because diagnosis relies on radiology and blood testing, which is expensive and not routine in Filipino healthcare system.


This paper aims to educate Filipinos about TB because among poor countries including the Philippines, one third of the population is infected with strains of TB virus and new cases occur at a rate of about one per second [1]. Specifically respiratory inspection, heart disease and TB are the top three causes of death annually in the Philippines, with 46, 45 and 44 deaths in a thousand, respectively [2].

With modern medicines, we hope to lower these death rates by providing the people with methods to detect the early stages of infection, practice proper hygiene in their homes and when necessary, recommend them for medical check-up. Tuberculosis is not unique to Philippines. Internationally, TB is the main microbial killer of adults [3] causing about 13.7 million chronic active cases, 9.3 million new cases, and 1.8 million deaths per year, mostly in developing countries [2a]. Reportedly, about 80% of the population in many Asian and African countries test positive in tuberculin tests [4].

Many Filipino health workers and educators blame these infections to chronic poverty. Tuberculosis, which usually attacks the lung, threatens the health of people in the mine pit, wet market, farm, factory, and many other industries. And since the TB virus could spread through air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or otherwise transmits his saliva through the air [5] it may further endanger other people around him. Patients with full-blown TB virus require long courses of multiple antibiotics (pills) and family members, relatives and friends may also be screened and treated.


In the Philippines, government and foreign organizations sponsor screening programs and vaccinations to prevent epidemic [6].

To fight the challenge, a group of Filipino medical researchers and government health workers published a paper that assessed the magnitude of TB in our country [7]. The findings are now used in our national tuberculosis control programs and we are hoping it will effectively address the Philippines’ health reform initiatives.

Finally, we have a long way to go to defeat the TB virus but with better knowledge and full support from the new Aquino government, we are able to provide our people with effective anti-tuberculosis drugs (e.g. isoniazid, rifampicin, Pyrazinamide, Ethambutol, and Streptomycin) free-of-charge through national and local Department of Health centers.


[1] WHO Tuberculosis Fact sheet. (March 2010). World Health Organization
[2] [2a] World Health Organization (2009).”Epidemiology.” Global tuberculosis control: epidemiology, strategy, financing. pp. 6–33
[3] Frieden TR, Sterling TR, Munsiff SS, Watt CJ, Dye C. (2003). Tuberculosis. (Vol. 362: 887–99)
[4] Kumar, Vinay; Abbas, Abul K.; Fausto, Nelson; & Mitchell, Richard N. (2007). Robbins Basic Pathology (8th ed.). Saunders Elsevier. pp. 516–522
[5] Konstantinos, A. (2010). Testing for tuberculosis. Australian Prescriber 33 (1): 12–18.
[6] Centers for Disease Control. (1990). Guidelines for Preventing the Transmission of Tuberculosis in Health Care Settings, with Special Focus on HIV-related Issues. MMWR 1990/39(RR-17):1-29.
[7] T.E. Tupasi, S. Radhakrishna, M.L. Pascual, M.I.D. Quelapio, M.L. Villa, V.M. CO, J. Sarol, N. Mangubat, A. C. Reyes, A. Sarmiento, M. Solon, F. Solon,L. Burton,V.S. Lofranco,M.P.C. Rostrata and M.J. Mantala. (2000). BCG Coverage and the Annual Risk of Tuberculosis Infection over a 14-year Period in the Philippines Assessed from the Nationwide Prevalence Surveys.

World Population — May 25, 2013

World Population

Original article for Writing in the Sciences course — Stanford University, November 2012.

I would like to discuss the highly debated topic of “world’s growing population” from a global perspective (triggered by the recent Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippines.)


Many scientists believe the world’s population is already unsustainable at today’s rates of consumption and pollution, and another 2 or 3 billion over the next 50 years—all rightly trying to raise their living condition—will only complicate the problem.

According to US Census Bureau estimates, there are more than 7 billion people in the world today. Of this figure, World Population Prospects notes Asia accounts for over 60% (China and India together have about 37%), followed by Africa with 15%, Europe 11%, North America 5%, Latin America and the Caribbean  9%, and Oceania with less than 1%.

By 2050, the Economist magazine believes it will grow to 9 billion! The rich and more affluent countries may see significant decline in population due to low fertility rates, aging population and migration, while poorer and developing countries may see sharp rise. Four decades later, the world will remain that more than half of its population are Asians (56%), Africans (20%), Europeans and Latin Americans (8% each), North Americans (5%), and Oceania is the rest.

Future increases would come from developing countries where fertility rates (number of children an average woman is likely to have during her childbearing years, conventionally taken to be 15-49) remain high. While rich countries would have fertility rates that are often at or below replacement levels, developing countries would experience the opposite. However, it can also change unexpectedly due to possible outbreak of diseases, wars , and catastrophes (such as typhoons, hurricanes, fire, earthquakes, floods) or medical malpractice such as state-sponsored sterilization and so forth.


Some scientists fear we are in a verge of disaster. They think growing demand for scarce resources will eventually lead to a sudden population crash, pestilence and absence of sustainable food supply. One of them was Nasif Nahle, who in 2003 studied the impact of human populations. His research found the severity of human damage to environment and animal species, and pollution level increases in many parts of the world because of the lifestyle people choose. Extinction of animals and plants he said is due to human activities. His study claimed that rapid growth of human population require we chop at least 16 million hectares of forest each year undermining the natural habitats of many species and condemning native species to extinction.

To solve the issue, the Grinning Planet’s website offers the following solutions:

  1. Continue fighting to decrease the suffering of people by fighting the causes of disease and solving the issue of poverty in this planet;
  2. Continue upgrading the resources, putting more efficiency into each work, and instituting changes and improvements in pollution control so that standards of living of humanity can improve without bad effects; and
  3. Maintaining human population to numbers that are sustainable and self-sustaining.

With regards to world population, that means:

  1. Governments should make sure that people around the world would have access to family planning services;
  2. Governments, the mass media, and educators and religious groups should empower women in developing countries economically, socially, and legally in a manner that results in them having an equal say (with their husbands) in reproductive decisions;
  3. Modifying school curricula to include information on population levels and implications for the future; and
  4. Governments and lawmakers should reform tax laws—to encourage couples to have no more than two children. (They would still be able to have as many kids as they want, but they will have to bear more taxes. If they have more than two kids.)

People are a good thing to this world—population growth without limit is not. All countries of the world should take this matter very seriously. That is, to slow population growth especially in developing countries, where there is unprecedented growth. The future of the world depends on it!







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