18 May 2006

how not to solve the problem of ALECO

admittedly, the result was not unexpected.

last 6-7 may, our electric coop's miembros-consumidores voted for the new ALECO board of directors. well, at least, 13% of them/us. i voted in behalf of the bishop's house. you can look at 13% in two ways: glass is half-empty - small voter turn-out; glass is half-full - largest ever voter turn-out. an optimist by preference, i choose the half-full version. and partly because it would lead me to discuss two factors why it happened thus.

1. the church factor. the sunday before, the homilies in all masses had a common subject: the election. plus our media campaign. suddenly people were talking (and were apparently concerned) about the huge debt - P850M plus and counting - which ALECO has incurred in more than a decade of corrupt and bad management.

2. the vote-buying factor. again, it was not unexpected. vote-buying happened in all districts, save for 2: legazpi-rapu-rapu (where there was only one candidate) and ligao-oas (the baluarte of the governor). some also claim a no-cheating situation for old albay-manito, then again, we also heard reports stating otherwise. the consensus: there was cheating in that district but only to an 'insignificant' degree.

the same 'style' for the regular gov't officials' elections was employed for this election. including padrino politicos. but here's the twist: rumor has it that a local politician with powerful connections way up, was seen in public in, at least, 3 districts, a day before and during the 1st day of election, talking with 'known' supporters of certain candidates. the 'public secret' is he's behind most of the vote-buying operations.

let's twist things some more: apparently, he is only a point-person (if you want to be charitable) or a pimp (if you want to be precise) for a foreign company who has long expressed (another understatement) intention to either buy the coop (i.e. privatize - which was popularly opposed) or enter into an 'independent management contract' (IMC).

speaking of un-failed expectations, the winning candidates' true colors are expected to be revealed further in two more forthcoming occasions: (1) during the voting of the board chairman and (2) during the deliberation and voting for the resolution/s on the 'independent management contract' issue. and then, of course, in their conduct and decisions through their entire term.

now here's our commitment, and hopefully, that of all the member-consumers of ALECO, too: we will watch the board. we will be vigilant and we will push for transparency in all transaction and decisions. whatever decisions will be taken will have to pass through proper, just and fair processes.

this time, we hope, despite initial setbacks, there would be space for our great expectations.

16 May 2006

reactionaries! (the da vinci code - take #2)

this thu, 18 may, da vinci code will be shown in phil theaters. finally. finally, too, the phil bishops stepped into the fray. how could they not? the movie's pr-strategy: hype the elements of the book deemed contrary to the christian faith & let the media do what they do -- voila! reactions guaranteed (the more extreme, the better). end result: greater public attention and higher revenues for mr brown, his publishers and movie producers.

the cbcp released a pastoral letter and a guide, containing direct, objective answers to matters of faith and facts raised by the novel. but, of course, the more adversarial reactions from certain catholic leaders and fundamentalist groups got better media mileage. somehow, calls for banning the movie, suing the author et al., or, (hopefully not true) book burning, produces higher ratings than level-headed answers.

the whole process won't be complete without avowed liberals counter-(over)reacting to any moves, real and imagined, at censorship. talk about anti-reactionary reactionaries, hehe.

the cbcp was right not to give in to the temptation. in this post-postmodern, so-called information age, censorship is the most counterproductive of options. nevertheless, some fundamental truths of the faith have been put into question, and a good number of the faithful have been disturbed by the book’s claims, thus a proper response was in order.

some of the book's claims:
· Jesus is not divine.
· his marital relations with mary magdalene produced an offspring.
· nicea was the council where they voted (narrowly at that) in favor of the divinity of Christ.
· constantine fixed the NT canon & had a hand in choosing the 4 gospels.
· the church suppressed many facts about the christian faith, including that of the magdalene and some 80 other gospels.

some other facts about dan brown and his work:
· contrary to his claims, not all, descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate, a good number of them have been proven to be downright untrue.
· the priory of sion, as he described it, hasn't existed in history. but, of course, he could always tell us: 'it's a secret brotherhood.' sure.
· the 'les dossiers secret', which supposedly lists down the grand masters of the non-existent priory, is a well-documented hoax.
· he claims to have 'worked hard to create a fair and balanced depiction of opus dei' but insists on his personal unfavorable opinion of the prelature.
· when confronted by scholarly refutation of his claims, mr brown resorts to the following appeals:

appeal to fiction – it’s a work of fiction. indeed. but fiction which insists on certain dubious elements as hard facts.
appeal to history as written by victors – a convenient argument when going against the grain of scholarly consensus, and the fact that no authority of note or respectable university affirms his basic assumptions.
appeal to his own opinion – mr brown says he welcomes the debate spurred by his work. the debate happens this way -- affirmation: he writes the novel. rebuttal: they write books to challenge his facts. final word: i disagree with them, and that’s that.
appeal to rationalization – this one, on some levels, i would agree. his book undoubtedly sparked renewed interest in religion. but at the expense of the most revered truths of the christian faith, of the sensibilities of many christians all over, and of the image of the catholic church in general, and opus dei in particular. it also sparked renewed upsurge in mr brown's income.

i'm no great fan of the opus dei, too conservative for my taste. but assassinations and terroristic acts? come on. thought they'd be more adept at issuing threats of CDF censure to erring theologians than death threats, hehe.

but the opportunity for evangelization, that i could thank him for. ironic that a moderately well-written (mr butch dalisay would have a different much expert opinion. though i myself would choose michael crichton many times over mr brown when it comes to SF, & i've read all 4 of mr brown's novels) pulp fiction, founded on spurious documents, dubious facts, recycled legends and alternative art appreciation, could move otherwise apathetic christians to know more about their faith (and hopefully relate more with the God they profess to believe in) than a slew of televangelists -- both the preaching and duelling types -- and sunday after sunday of regular church masses, which only a relative few attends, could achieve.

of course, he could also thank God (or maybe, just his common sense) that he only 'did' christianity, not islam. otherwise, fatwas and flag-burning, anyone?


for direct statements from dan brown about the controversy surrounding his novel, check this site:

15 May 2006

can't resist joining the da vinci band wagon ;-) here's my take (#1)


from the “fact page” of the novel da vinci code:


The Priory of Sion – a European secret society formed in 1099 – is a real organization. In 1975 Paris’s Bibliotheque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous numbers of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo and Leonardo da Vinci.

The Vatican prelature known as Opus Dei is a deeply devout Catholic sect that has been the topic of recent controversy due to reports of brainwashing, coercion and a dangerous practice known as ‘corporal mortification.’ Opus Dei has just completed construction of a $47 million National Headquarters at 243 Lexington Avenue in New York City.

All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.


before even decoding da vinci’s code or declaring it a hoax, a deception, a work of the devil, whatever, certain things may already be said about dan brown’s touted “facts” and their accuracy, or lack thereof.

· the priory of sion is not as real an organization as mr. brown would have us believe. the closest to genuine historical record we have is this: in 1099, the christian king of jerusalem at that time founded the abbey of our lady of mt sion in jerusalem. it was destroyed by muslims in 1291 although the replanted abbey-community survived till the 14th century in sicily. a certain pierre plantard founded a 'priory of sion' in france in the 1950s, he is curiously connected with the so-called “les dossiers secret”.

· the “dossiers secret”, which supposedly contains a list of an unbroken line of the priory’s grand masters from 1188 to 1963, were neither parchments nor were they discovered in 1975 at paris’ bibliotech nationale. rather they were texts deposited (planted?) there (and in some other libraries) in 1967, most likely a hoax of fairly recent origin.

· church authorities, as a matter of practice, do not call the opus dei a “sect” (the term has connotations of divergent/dissenting doctrines or practices) operating within the catholic church. they don’t have member monks. needless to say, such non-existent member-monks don’t engage in assassination and terrorism. and while stating there were “reports of brainwashing, coercion and a dangerous practice known as corporal mortification” may qualify as factual reporting, they are, actually, facts of certain people's opinions and hearsays on opus dei. further, his choice of words and facts ($47m headquarters along lexington ave., nyc) may even qualify as deliberate efforts to make the prelature appear secretive, sinister, hugely influential and, therefore, to some extent, conveniently convincingly dangerous and menacing.

the idea of Jesus and mary magdalene getting married and having (a) child/ren has been a staple in some ancient pseudo-christian texts and later anti-christian writings. the church – the christian communities, faithful and united in the faith taught by the apostles and their legitimate successors – since earliest times, has consistently considered the notion heretical, i.e., not of the true faith. the book’s claims hinged upon a quaint legend from a village in the region of provence in france where an ancient shrine to st. mary magdalene is located. the legend tells of magdalene spending her last days there with her child/ren.

constantine is sweepingly charged with fixing the NT canon and having a hand in choosing the gospels which presented a “divine” Jesus, for political and security reasons. a century or so before even constantine reached world history prominence, the four gospels have already been universally acclaimed by the church as canonical and inspired. around the same time, the church has already been consistently condemning gnostic-christian texts as heretical.

da vinci painted Jesus and 12 other persons in the famous last supper scene. via an alternative art interpretation and clever explanation of symbolisms, he insists the person to the right of Jesus is mary magdalene. the simplest and most obvious interpretation (and the one upheld by scholarly consensus) is that it is a painting of Jesus with the 12 apostles, the one beside him being john.


for the recently released cbcp pastoral letter on the da vinci code and accompanying guide on "handling questions" you may click these sites:

07 May 2006

triple whammy! e.o.464, cpr, p.p.1017. but why the negativity?

three little pigs: e.o. 464, cpr, p.p. 1017. three little pigs housed on arguments of hay which the arroyo administration devised to suppress the search for truth and expression of legitimate dissent. three little pigs oinking their way to martial rule. until the supreme court (big bad wolf?) blew their house away and exposed them for what they are: the delusions of mad-persons corrupted by power and bent on self-preservation no matter what. laws of this country be damned, having discarded morals long ago. bernas calls them: palace adventurists. it seemed now, with the series of slamming the supreme court did several days ago to three of malacañang's prized weapons of suppression, the team arroyo adventure is about to come to an end. or is it?

the obvious good news aside, what is perhaps glaring is the degree of caution and trepidation, even cynicism and pessimism, from all over, which greeted the supreme court decisions. why all these negativity? need you ask?

consider: at may 1 eve, another supposed plot/s by the usual suspects, cpp/npa, was announced on national tv. as if on cue, the secretary of injustice promptly reminded/threatened the nation of their readiness to activate p.p. 1017 and the full coercive force of the state. you have to give it to these guys, they're slick, sleazy and tummy-churning wicked but slick.

so the supreme court has already decided. the first two got unanimous votes, the last, an overwhelming majority of 11-3. but what's stopping gloria and her minions from concocting yet another scheme to intimidate and oppress, and strengthen their hold to power? their smug dare: got complaint, charge us in court.

looks like this would be the way things work: they initiate, i.e., they'll organize a palace initiative for cha-cha, arrest and jail dissenters, harass the press, bribe the bishops, use all the machineries of gov't - police, military, comelec, pagcor, lgus - to pursue their agenda. and nobody can do anything but charge them in court, but place oneself at the mercy and wisdom of our justice system. scream 'unfair' all you want but, hey, they are ever careful to remind you, we are following due process.

so, those who see the sc's rulings as a hollow victory really do have a point. but i prefer to look at the glass as half-full. i'd like to think of them as incremental changes producing incremental reactions from a usually apathetic nation. little steps on the way to the holy grail of social movements - the 'tipping point'.

for now, let us enjoy and acknowledge them for what they are - victories little but victories still. otherwise having demolished houses of hays, you may just want to rush to the next best but useless thing: to huff and puff at gloria's impregnable (for now) brickhouse.

05 May 2006

how do you solve a problem like ALECO?

tomorrow, 6 may, is the election of the new board of directors of our aleco (albay electric cooperative). though only a small segment of our province's population will get to exercise their right to vote (only registered members, i.e., those whose name appears on the bill), we have been actively promoting and giving it extensive media exprosure.

aleco is saddled with so many problems - technical, personnel, financial (a whooping P865M debt, and counting). 2 times napocor threatened to cut the province's power supply, it was assuaged by the appeals and assurances of both the governor and the bishop. this election is recommended by our original SAC consultants commissioned by NEA (at present, some of them hold key temporary posts in the management of aleco) and by some of the province's leaders as one of the major steps towards solving the coop's problems.

what has happened to aleco? imagine. more than a decade of systemic, endemic, wanton graft and corruption. positions dispensed as political favors - result: overstaffed, lots of unnecessary and inefficient workers, enormous retirement benefits, and several court cases filed by employees, former and present. NEA inspectors wined, dined and womened. antiquated facilities. 21% systems loss (way above the 14% industry standard). only 63% collection efficiency (way below any standards) - that's 37% uncollected electric bill! clear and simple mismanagement.

in short, aleco was runned and runned down like a regular gov't agency. but unlike a gov't agency backed-up by a huge network with deep source of funds that can remedy the regular foul-ups it commits, aleco has none such backing. it stands on its own, on the discretion of its managers and directors, and the support of its coop members.

the election is so important that the bishop was compelled to make a radio message last week, his first since assuming his post in legazpi, urging the members to vote and the people to be concerned, as well as assuring the public that the election would push through (against the attempts and rumor-mongering of one atty. olaybal, a former member of the board, to stop the elections for reasons of his own). last sunday, in all the parishes and sunday masses in the entire diocese, the homily was this election and aleco's problems. here's the homily which our office prepared:

Ikatolong Domingo Pakalapas (30 Abril 2006)

Sa ebanghelyo ngonyan padagos kita sa pagsubaybay
sa mga pangyayari matapos an Pagkabuhay-liwat ni JesuCristo.
An ebanghelyo manunungod sa istorya kan mga disipulo
na nagkakatiripon sa sarong kwarto, sarado an pintuan,
nagdadarangog sa istorya kan duwang disipulo
na nakaibahan si Jesus sa dalan pasiring sa Emmaus
alagad dai ninda tulos namidbidan,
kun bako sa pagbaak kan tinapay.
Mantang naghuhuroron sinda manunungod kaini,
biglang nagpahiling sainda si Jesus.
Nagkatarakot sinda asin naghurona
na nakakahiling sinda nin multo.
Alagad an pagkatakot nasanglean
nin katoninongan asin kaogmahan
Lalo na kan si Jesus maghapot:
“Ano lamang an isirà ta dyan?”.
Asin naliwanagan an saindang kadikloman
kan namidbidan na ninda saiya.

Uya pa saiya an hawak na “nagkakakan” alagad dai na magagadan
nin huli ta dinaog na niya an kagadanan siring man an kasalan.
Ipinaliwanag man ni Jesus sa mga disipulos na nasa Kasuratan
an bilog na plano nin Dios manungod sa kaligtasan nin tawo.
Sa Banal na Kasuratan masasabotan niato
na an Dios igwa nin plano sa tawo:
boot niyang makaligtas kita sa karatan
asin makasaro sa bagong buhay huli ki Cristo.
An kaligtasan asin bagong buhay na ini
para sa bilog na tawo – hawak asin kalag –
na magmumuraway, huli sa saiyang gracia, sa huring aldaw.
An kaligtasan nin Dios huli ki JesuCristo
kaligtasan para sa hawak asin sa kalag.

Ngonyan na Domingo, kaming mga padi kan dioceses
igwa nin boot ipaaram saindo –
nagpagdesisyunan mi na tabangan an satong katawohan
na maaraman asin maliwanagan sa sarong dakulang problema
na pinaghahampang ta sa ngonyan –
an satuyang Albay Electric Cooperative o ALECO.
Tibaad magngalas kamo kun nata ta pinaggigibo mi ini.
An rason iyo na an ALECO nakakaapekto
sa karahayan kan gabos na Albayano.
Sa pagpadagos kan misyon nin kaligtasan ni Jesus,
an Simbahan kaipuhan na magmakulog sa karahayan
asin kapakanan kan bilog na tawo – kalag asin lawas.

An problema ta iyo ini: an ALECO igwa nin dakulaon na utang:
maabot 800 MILYON DE PESOS
sa NAPOCOR asin sa iba pang pinagkakautangan.
Kan Abril 2004 diit na kitang putulan nin kuryente kan NAPOCOR
nin huli ngani sa dakulang utang na ini kan ALECO.
May 200 na empleyado kan ALECO an nagrani sa Obispo
asin naghagad nin tabang. Dara ninda an suporta
kan National Electrification Administration o NEA
Nin huli ta para man sana ini sa karahayan kan kagabsan,
an Obispo kan Legazpi kaidto, si Msgr. Jose Sorra,
inako an dakula asin mapagal na trabahong ini.
Kaya an Simbahan, sa paagi kan Social Action Center (SAC),
nagtatabang na sa paghanap nin solusyon
sa problema kan ALECO poon kaidto.

An problema kan ALECO dakulang gayo.
Alagad dikit saná an magiginibo
hanggang dai pa natatawan nin solusyon
an sarong aspeto kan problema kaini.

Sa katunayan, nag-expire na an termino
kan gabos na miembros kan Board.
Kaya kun igwa pa man ki miembro kan Board na natatadà,
an saiyang termino haloy nang nag-expire,
kaya dai na man talaga nin Board
na nag-aatendir sa mga pangangaipo kan ALECO.

Ini an satuyang gigibohon sa maabot na Mayo 6 asin 7:
Boot ming ipaaram na an Board of Directors kan satong ALECO
importanteng gayo sa solusyon kan satuyang problema.
Sinda an naggigibo kan mga policia
asin nagmamangno/supervise sa pagpadalagan kan mga ini.
Sinda an naggigibo kan mga importanteng desisyon
sa ngaran kan gabos na consumidores asin miembros kan ALECO.
Kaya kaipuhan tang makaelihir nin MARHAY
Boot sabihon kaipuhan tang magpili
nin sarong miembro kan Board para sa satong distrito
na igwa kan mga minasunod na qualificacion:

Enot, igwa nin KAKAYAHAN (competence)
– moral asin profesional.
May pagkaaram sa mga bagay na tecnical
manunungod sa pagpadalagan (management)
nin sarong dakula asin sensitibong serbisyo.
Siring man tatao magdesisyon
susog sa prinsipyong makaDios asin makatawo.

Ikaduwa, igwa nin INTEGRIDAD; boot sabihon maimbod
sa pagsabuhay kan saiyang identity (pagkamidbid sa sadiri)
bilang aki nin Dios asin parasunod ni Cristo.
An siring na tawo midbid na matanos
asin matitiwalaan (just and trustworthy)
sa mga presente o nakaagi na niyang trabaho, negosyo o posisyon.
Bakong kurakot, abusado sa poder, mabisyo, o mahabon.

Ikatolo, Pinapaorog an karahayan nin kagabsan (common good).
Kaipuhan na an Board of Directors igwa nin kusog nin boot
na daogon an makasadiring interes,
o interes kan pamilya, o mga suportadores,
na kontra sa karahayan kan kadaklan o kan kagabsan.
Siring man, may political will na magdesisyon
asin mag-implementar kan mga kaipuhan na reforma
asin pagbabago sa ALECO minsan dificil asin mapagal.

Nangangapodan kami na magkaigwa kita
nin sarong malinig asin honestong pirilian.
Kun igwa nin mamakal nin boto, magtao o magtugâ nin pabor
para botohan an sarong kandidato, maliwanag na tanda ini
na dai ta siya botohan ta mahanap an siring na tawo
nin paagi para makabawi kun manggana.
Siring man, nangangapodan kami sa gabos
na dai maghagad o maghalat nin anuman – kwarta o pabor –
hale sa mga kandidato; ta pagginibo ta ini,
kita na mismo an nagkukurakot sa mga kandidato,
kita an nagdadara sainda na maggibo nin sala,
kita an nagpapasakit sa satong banwaan,
an nagpapagabat kan sadiri tang kamugtakan.

Ini an nagkapirang mga praktikal na kaipuhan
maaraman para sa eleccion sa Mayo 6-7:
1. Aramon kun ika qualificado para magboto
/ taraman su iba na qualificado.
An qualificadong botante iyo su an ngaran nakasurat sa electric bill.
An lista kan mga qualificadong botante nakapaskel
sa opisina kan ALECO asin sa municipio.
2. Aramon kun haen an lugar na pagboborotohan.
Sa satong banwaan/ciudad an polling place
nasa _______________________.
3. Magdara nin valid ID para madali an identificacion.
Magpasiguro man nin kopya kan electric bill
kun saen nakasurat an pangaran. Ballpen siring man.

Tabangan ta an satong ALECO.
Tabangan ta an satong banwaan.
Magpili kita nin MARHAY asin MATANOS
na miembro kan BOARD of DIRECTORS.

Saro sa mga mensahe kan Pagkabuhay-liwat ni JesuCristo iyo ini:
minsan gurano kadificil an buhay,
minsan gurano kagabat o kadakula kan problema,
kaya tang magtriunfo sa kadificilan,
kaya tang makakua nin marhay na solusyon.
Siring na si Jesus nanggana sa karatan asin kagadanan,
sa paagi nin sakripisyo asin pag-atang kan saiyang sadiri,
kita man kayang pangganahan
an dakulang problema kan satong ALECO.

Dios an mag-antabay saindo gabos. Amen.