Sunday, August 31, 2014

SOCIETY | Caught in the act of helping

Should we put on the spotlight people who commit good deeds?

This is the question that came to my mind in lieu of recent events. For the past two weeks, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been making the rounds of news programs and the Internet. Yesterday, I covered The Philippine STAR’s awarding of aid to 28 individuals and groups it featured on its 28 Stories of Giving anniversary campaign.

On my way home from SM North EDSA after the STAR event, I took a passenger van, a Toyota Hiace Grandia with foldable jump seats and a removable stool, which you can place between the normal seats and jump seat so it can comfortably sit four people on the third and last rows.

I was seated on one end of the third row. When the passengers beside me have alighted at their destination, I took the liberty to remove the stool and place it on the empty seat beside so that the people at the last row could easily alight from the vehicle.

After doing this, it dawned on me: What if we thanked and honored every person who committed even small acts of kindness? You know, just tell that random person, “Hey, thanks! You’re my hero!” just others who have witnessed the act can emulate it in the future.

This kind of recognition is, in fact, being done already. When I attended the Social Media Day celebrations at the Samsung Hall of the SM Aura  Premier in Taguig City last June, I met Tim Humangit, founder of the social media enterprise, “Hero of D Day.”

What “Hero of D Day” basically does is it crowd sources stories of small acts of heroism and kindness--a random person helping the elderly cross the street, giving spare food to the homeless, returning lost items to its owners, and so on. I felt it is a good advocacy, especially in a time of too much negativity in social media. It’s a good addition to the growing number of good news that’s been proliferating on the Internet and it does make one have hope in humanity.

That is until the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral.

Pouring a bucket of iced water on yourself to raise awareness and funds for a debilitating disease and getting it all on video isn’t a bad idea initially. But if everybody’s doing it just to get attention for themselves, it does give you doubts about these people’s true intentions.

Which brings me back to my question: Should we put on the spotlight people who commit good deeds?

If we’re keen on helping others and not keen on drawing attention to ourselves, then we should shun whatever form of attention placed on its by others, especially the media. We must keep in mind that we are helping others to feel good and not to look good. Let me elaborate the difference.

If you help the elderly cross the street, you’re doing it because not doing so won’t make you feel good. You’ll worry that something unfortunate might happen to that person. The same thing goes to giving spare food to the homeless. You know what it feels like to be hungry for a very long time, you must understand what these vagrants are going through as well. It doesn’t make you feel good that other people are suffering while you are living comfortably.

Those who help to look good would do good deeds to draw attention to themselves. It’s a classic act in the book of public relations. They want to be known for helping others; they want their names or brand to be tied to the act of lending a helping hand. That’s why when the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral, fame-hungry pop stars and politicians trying to mend their damaged image were quick to catch the trend.

But how about those foundations and non-government organizations engaged in truly helping others? If they advertise their good deeds, does that mean they are doing it just to draw attention to themselves i.e. to attract more donors and members to their organization or is it to inspire others to do the same, sort of a “pay-it-forward” mechanism?

The tendency is to see such as a way to inspire others to do the same. But isn’t the act itself already inspirational that it no longer necessitates advertisement?

It could be argued that advertising such good deeds can inspire a bigger audience. But arguing so is to assume that the bigger audience does not have the ability to discern and perform good deeds. It is to assume that humans in general are incapable of doing good and need to be provided a stimulus in the form of an advertisement just to act.

Take the case of those donors donating anonymously to various causes, or those Secret Santas who would leave gifts to orphanages and homeless shelters. They help without drawing attention to themselves. And yet their actions still inspire others to do the same.

You see, in a time when everyone has become rather individualistic than social--using headphones to prevent you from hearing other people’s music, voices, or noise, movies you can watch alone in your mobile phone, even silent concerts where participants wear headphones--even the act of helping others involves an individualistic motive of getting rewards, such as attention, fame, a better image, or material rewards. 

No longer is helping about empathizing with other people’s plight, putting yourself in other people’s shoes, and feeling good about how good the welfare of others have been. Have we successfully evolved and transcended the focus of our existence from inside going out? Not yet. But I have hope that humanity can still do so.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

OPINION | Aquino's combative stance breeds more Noytards

By now, you’ve noticed how onion-skinned President Benigno S. Aquino III is. He has become alarmingly combative of his critics, as if he’s in a shooting rampage in a target range. And the list of individuals and institutions he has attacked is growing longer each week, including TV broadcasters, corrupt senators, former justices, a New York-based newspaper, and even an independent, co-equal branch of government. 

If he continues this combative stance, it might even become the only legacy he leaves behind. “The Complaining President”, we might read in textbooks in the future, for being such whiner, like a slacking, blue-collar worker complaining to his “Boss” when his indolence is pointed out. 

The proliferation of Noytards

I don’t worry at all if this is what he leaves behind. What I am more worried about is his loyalists, these so-called “Noytards”, are becoming more like him each day. If PNoy was a god, then he had created these clones in his “image.” 

These imbeciles loiter the hallways of social media, bullying or picking a fight against any netizen expressing their disgust or disapproval of Aquino. To be fair, there are a lot of imbecile anti-PNoys out there who disapprove without knowing exactly what to disapprove of and why. But these imbecile pro-PNoys do not discriminate their targets; they attack anyone, even those with reasonable grounds for dissent.

Take the case of one Noytard who came lingering in my blog’s Facebook page the other day.

He responded to my comments regarding a piece of news about Aquino’s comments regarding the passage of the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill (APDB). He is questioning if I had taken Aquino out of context when I opined how shameless the President is for questioning the scrutiny politicians like him could get once the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill. 

Let us take another look at what PNoy said in the article:
"Ang hirap nga nito 'yung kawawa na rin kaming mga pulitiko kung tutuusin," Aquino said. "Kapag pulitiko ka dapat bawasan 'yung karapatan mo, dapat mas mataas 'yung scrutiny sa'yo, 'di ba? 'Pag papanatili ng magandang pangalan, 'pag sa pulitiko ka, mali [ang] dynasty," he added. (Source: PNoy on anti-dynasty law: “Kawawa kami”)
Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
Why is this statement shameless? Because the President is using a defensive tone and wording in favor of politicians like him when it comes to public scrutiny of their actions. He described politicians like him as, "kawawa" (pitiful) once their right or "karapatan" are limited by the potential passage of APDB.

What made his statement even more defensive is what succeeded the aforementioned quote, which did not come out in the Philippine STAR article, but in a GMA News Online article:
Pero kunwari, sa medicine, magretire ang doktor mo. Doktor ang anak niya. Una mong susubukin ang anak niya," he added.
If the President is really committed to reform, he wouldn't use examples like this one. If a doctor retires, even if the successor child is a doctor, you wouldn't want to be treated by that person if you don't know his or her professional track record, right? Some apples fall far from the tree, just as the current president has exhibited in refusing to certify APDB as urgent and allowing it to linger in a Congress dominated by political dynasties. Aquino's actions are as doubtful as the bill's passage in the House of Representatives.

The intolerance of others' opinion

Back to the Noytard: Perhaps he has limited understanding of contextualization, that's why he was shameless enough to question if I interpreted Aquino's statements correctly. He also accused me of being "subjective" in my opinion for calling the President shameless and not true to his word. This is despite the fact that both the Philippine STAR and GMA News Online noted PNoy's apparent defense of politician's rights.

This Noytard must have been unaware that as we look at facts from different realities, there can be no single, comprehensive, and correct interpretation of a statement. Subjectivity is the very nature of opinions, and while opinions are informed by facts, I have not failed to state such facts.

As his comments are already offensive and bordering towards personal, I opted to delete them and ban the user from my Facebook page. Instead of stopping, he resorted to attacking my blog in his timeline.

This is just one evidence that Aquino is breeding netizens as shameless as him. When he is banned for his inappropriate actions on Facebook, this imbecile netizen calls me an enemy of democracy, even as he himself bastardized democracy by opting to silence my opinions.

Opinions as hallmarks of democracy

What every Noytard and even President Aquino has to realize is that in a true democracy, opinions are crucial and tolerated, regardless if they're positive or negative. It is a feedback mechanism from which the government can draw ideas for improvement of performance.

Tolerance means allowing something, such as a belief, to exist even though we dislike or disagree with it. Tolerance does not mean never disagreeing with anybody. The word implies disagreement. True tolerance means allowing differing views to coexist without necessarily agreeing with them or claiming that all views are true.

But if a President has the nerve to dismiss criticisms, it should be worth questioning if he is indeed listening to his "bosses." In a true democracy, a president is humble enough to admit mistakes and lapses committed, instead of stubbornly defending policies that have been declared unconstitutional and making excuses for his allies and political party.

With the number of netizens adopting Aquino's combative stance growing each day, having second thoughts on posting one's opinions is now becoming a grim reality. This kind of intolerance is a form of bullying and dictatorship, as it pushes one's opinions down another's throat and proclaims a sense of infallibility among those imposing their frame of mind.

Hence, a reminder to my readers: it is your choice to visit and read my opinions in this blog. You are free to disagree and express your disagreement to my opinion as long as you maintain your decency in expressing so. In a tolerant world, there are no negative or positive opinions, just opinions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

OPINION | Enough with this Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is perhaps the most viral campaign of 2014. The Challenge, which aims to raise funds and awareness for ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, started in North America around May of this year and has now invaded the Philippines.

As of writing, I am watching TV Patrol's "Mga Kwento ni Marc Logan" has just finished featuring who among the country's TV personalities have joined the campaign. Both Kapamilya, Kapuso, and Kapatid artists have done the challenge, including actors Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera, singer Lea Salonga, Black Eyed Peas frontman, newsanchors Korina Sanchez and Noli De Castro, and even DILG Secretary Mar Roxas.

The challenge involves a dare to pour a bucket of iced water over someone and donate money, $10 to $100, to The ALS Association and other non-profit organizations advancing awareness and research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The disease, which also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, is characterized by muscle weakness due to motor neuron damage, leading to a patient's inability to move, speak, swallow, and perform other motor skills, or worse, may lead to death due to respiratory  Ever since the Challenge has gone viral, The ALS Association has doubled the donations it received to $41 million, from $19 million last year.

But the campaign is not without criticism.

Writing for The Daily Telegraph, Willard Foxton criticized the Challenge as a "middle-class, wet t-shirt contest for armchair slacktivists," noting that participants, most of which only wore swimsuits and Speedos only did it to look good while soaking wet.

Writing for SBS, William MacAskill, Vice-President of Giving What We Can, suggested that the challenge encouraged "moral licensing", meaning that some people might use taking part in the challenge to justify future unethical acts. He also proposed that by attracting donations for ALS, the challenge was "cannibalizing" potential donations that otherwise would have gone to other charities instead.

In the Philippines, The Apprentice Asia winner Jonathan Allen Yabut slammed the Challenge in Rappler as "normalizing a behavior in which the cool or the sexy must first take precedence before action," and encourage people to take a few minutes to talk about the disease to other people, other than just doing the Challenge.

Actor and comedian Joey De Leon, meanwhile, posted on his Instagram account a picture, wherein he is holding a sign that says "Don't nominate if you don't donate," noting that some of the participants are only doing the Challenge to look good, or merely for fun, but are not giving money to ALS charities. The same sentiments were earliers stated by stunt performer Steve-O.

For my part, I believe people shouldn't be "forced" to participate in the campaign, just because of its popularity and bandwagon effect.

Remember that Starbucks "Pay-It-Forward" campaign in Florida that was really sabotaged by a man who refused to having his coffee paid by the previous customer? The man, Peter Schorsch, declined, saying he felt the phenomenon was a marketing ploy for the company and no longer a spontaneous act of kindness when the barista asks the customer to pay it forward.

The same logic applies to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Yes. I recognize that ALS is a disease that requires much needed attention and funding. I recognize that more needs to be done to spread awareness on this disease. But so are other equally pressing matters like the Ebola virus, the Gaza-Israel War, the Syrian Civil War, the crisis in Ukraine, the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, or even local issues like PNoy's plans for term extension or corruption in government ranks.

We all have advocacies that are dear to us. If I choose to participate in a different advocacy other than the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, does that make me indifferent to the plight of ALS patients? 

I think we have a choice whether or not to participate in any advocacy.

Photo from Twitter/@RebelMouse

Friday, August 1, 2014

FILIPINO | Ang pananaw ng Pilipino sa pera

Kagabi, habang nanunuod ng State of the Nation with Jessica Soho, nabalitaan ko ang pagkakahuli ng mga tao sa likod ng isang panibagong investment scam.

Naloko umano ng Upwarm Limited Co. ni Rodolfo Miranda Jr. ang mahigit 100 katao at nagkamal ng mahigit P100 million mula sa ipon nila. Ginamit umano ng grupo ni Miranda ang Facebook upang maka-engganyo ng mga mamumuhunan sa kanyang network marketing investment scheme at nangakong dodoblehin ang pera ng mga kasapi sa loob lamang ng ilang araw.

Kung tutuusin, hindi na bago ang mga ganitong balita.

Kasaysayan ng mga investment scam sa bansa

Nitong 2012 lamang, libu-libong mga resident ng Visayas at Mindanao ang naloko ng Aman Futures Group ni Manuel Amalilio. Nakakuha si Amalilio ng halos P12 bilyon mula sa mahigit 10,000 mga mamumuhunan.

Dalawang taon bago nito, noong 2008, nabunyag naman ang investment scheme ng Legacy Group ni Celso De Las Alas, na nakapagdispalko ng P30 million. Subalit, mas nauna naman dito ang Multitel Corporation ni Rosario “Rose” Baladjay noong 2002, na nakapanghuthot ng P25 million.

Kung paulit-ulit na nalolok ang madla ng mga ganitong klase ng investment scheme, di kaya may sinasabi na ito tungkol sa pagtingin ng mga Pilipino sa pera at sa mismong pag-iisip ng mga Pilipino?

Madaling magtiwala ang mga Pilipino

Sa isang ulat ng ABS-CBN, ipinaliwanag ni kalihim Gerald Lukban ng Securities and Exchange Commission ang operasyon ng mga investment scams na ito.

“Ang una nilang ginagawa ay ang mang-akit ng mga mamumuhunan sa pamamagitan ng pangako ng malaking tubo o returns—tubo na masyadong malaki para maging totoo,” ani ni Lukban.

Idinagdag pa ni Lukban na imposibleng mangyari ang malaking tubo na ipinapangako ng mga investment scam, na madalas ay nasa pagitan ng 4% hanggang 60% na interes. Idinagdag rin niya na karamihan sa mga Pilipino ay madaling magtiwala kaya sila naaakit ng mga investment scam.   

“Nakita namin sa mga gawain ng Legacy Group at iba pang investment scams ang kalakaran. Sa una’y pinapadama muna sa iyo yung resulta para lalo kang ma-engganyo at maka-engganyo ng iba pang mamumuhunan. Ipakikita sa iyo na tumubo nga talaga ang pera mo, bibigyan ka ng bagong sasakyan—talagang ipadadama sa iyo na mabisa ang kalakaran. Pero ang di nila sinasabi ay ang sasakyang ibinigay sa iyo ay inutang lang pala at di pa nababayaran. Kapag nalugi na ang investment scheme, dun mo lang mapagtatantong naloko ka,” sabi ni Lukban.

Ganito-ganito ang nangyari sa Upwarm Limited Co. Sa ulat ng GMA News Online, inihayag ni Eric Carreon, isa sa mga nabiktima ng naturang scam kung paano siya naakit na mag-invest.

“Nagsimula ako mag-invest ng P9,200 tapos tumubo siya, naging P18,000. Nakuha ko yung P18,000 kaya syempre na-enganyo ako, dinagdagan ko,” ani ni Carreon. Tinatayang nasa P250,000 ang nakuha ng Upwarm sa kanya.

Ang kababalaghan ng pera

Ang mabilis na pagka-enganyo sa perang mabilis tumubo ay tanda ng mga maling paniniwala ng mga Pilipino sa pera, na marahil ay bunga na rin ng paniniwala at pananampalataya natin.

Bago pa man dumating ang Kristiyanismo sa bansa, malakas na ang pananalig ng mga Pilipino sa mga kababalaghan. Nariyan ang paniniwala sa mga agimat, birtud, at anting-anting na nakapagbibigay umano ng kapangyarihan. Nariyan din ang kulam at gayuma na kaya umanong maka-impluwensya sa taong paggagamitan nito.

Sa kasaysayan, palasak na ang mga milagrosong pangyayari gaya ng aparisyon ng Birheng Maria sa Agoo, La Union, at Lipa, Batangas.

Tila nasobrahan sa pananalig at pagka-relihiyoso ang mga Pilipino kaya naman pati ang “kababalaghan” ng perang madaling lumago ay agad na sasamantalahin ng ating mga kababayan.

Subalit may mas malaki pang imahe sa likod ng mga pangyayaring ito, pagkat sumasalamin rin ito sa pananaw ng Pilipino kung ano nga ba ang tunay na pag-asenso sa buhay.

Easy money at One-Day Millionaire

Marahil, ang tingin ng mga Pilipino ay madali, biglaan, at di nangangailangan ng malaking hirap o puhunan. Patunay rito ang milyun-milyong Pilipinong manggagawa sa ibayong dagat (OFWs) dahil sa pangako ng mas mataas na sahod at mas malaking halaga ng pera bunga ng mas mataas na palitan ng piso at salapi ng ibang bansa.

Patunay rin dito ang araw-araw na pagtaya natin sa sari-saring mga sugal, mula sa mga iligal na pustahan ng jueteng, masiao, at mah jong, hanggang sa mga legal na pasugalan gaya ng sa mga casino at loterya ng PCSO.

Sa madaling sabi, mataas ang pananalig ng mga Pilipino sa Easy Money. Di lang yan. Ang depenisyon rin nila ng tagumpay ay magarang bahay at sasakyan at ang kakayahan na mabili ang kanilang mga luho at layaw sa buhay. Mapamayaman, mapamahirap, ganito ang pagtingin sa pera. One-day millionaire, ika nga.

Tingnan mo na lang sa mga mahihirap na komunidad sa kalunsuran. Kapag nakakuha ng mataas na sahod, bonus, o pautang si Tatay, ang unang binabayaran niya ay ang mga negosyante sa pamamagitan ng pagpapainom sa kanyang mga kaibigan, paglibre sa kanyang pamilya at mga kamag-anak, o ang pagbili ng bagong DVD player para magkasama nga namang makanuod ang mag-anak ng mga bagong pelikulang pinirata.

Ganun din naman, sa mga nakakaalwan ang buhay. Pag may promosyon si Daddy o si Mommy, ang nasa isip nila eh, “Bakit kailangan kong mamasahe papuntang trabaho kung pwede naman akong bumili na ng kotse? Bakit kailangan kong magtiyaga sa ordinaryong cellphone kung kaya ko naman nang bumili ng mamahaling iPhone?”

Kapag may pera ang mga Pilipino, ang unang nilang binabayaran ay ang iba kapalit ng mga materyal na bagay na di naman makapagpapasaya sa kanila ng pangmatagalan. Sa halip na mag-impok sa isang magandang kinabukasan, nag-iimpok sila para gumastos sa mga bagay na walang kapararakan.

Patunay ng pag-iisip na ito ang pinakahuling Consumer Finance Survey ng Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas nitong 2012.

Ayon sa survey, walo lamang sa 10 pamilya sa Pilipinas ang may bank account. Dagdag pa rito, 3.7% lamang ng mga pamilyang tinanong ang may hinuhulugang bahay, 5.8% lamang ang may hinuhulugang real property (gaya ng lupa, apartment, o condominium unit), at 13.5% lamang ang may binabayarang utang o consumer loan (maaaring sa sasakyan o kagamitan). Samantala, 20.9% naman ang may personal na pagkakautang at 3.9% naman ang may binabayarang utang sa credit card.

Bagong pananaw sa pera at pamumuhunan

Matagal nang nangangailangan ng pagbabago sa ating pananaw pagdating sa pera at pamumuhunan. Sa halip na gumastos, kailangan na mas bigyang prayoridad ng nakararaming Pilipino ang pag-iipon, hindi sa alkansya, kundi sa bangko. Nakatutulong ito sa kabuuang daloy ng ating ekonomiya.

Kung nakinig kayo sa inyong guro sa Economics noong hayskul, alam na ninyo marahil na kapag ang pera ay nasa bangko, bukod sa tumutubo ito ng interes, ito ay maaaring gamitin ng mga bangko upang mag-invest sa mga gawaing nakapaglilikha ng trabaho at nakatutulong sa mga mamamayan.

Ang pautang na ibinibigay ng mga bangko sa gobyerno para sa pagpapatayo ng mga kalsada, tulay, at iba pang mga imprastruktra at nakapagbibigay ng trabaho sa mga enhinyero, karpintero, at iba pang manggagawa ay galing sa perang iniimpok natin. Sa madaling sabi, kahit natutulog ang pera mo sa bangko, may mga di-materyal na biyaya naman itong dala.

Subalit, kung mahalaga sayo ang halaga ng pera mo, di mo hahayaang matulog sa ito bangko dahil sa inflation o ang pagtaas ng presyo ng mga bilihin at serbisyo, bumababa ang halaga ng iyong salapi. Kaya nga kung ang piso noong panahon ni Cory Aquino ay nakakabili ng apat na piraso ng kendi, ngayon, kailangan mo ng apat na piso para dito.

Maaari mong ibalik sa daloy ng ating ekonomiya ang iyong inimpok na pera pamamagitan ng:

(1) Pagnenegosyo, pagkat ito’y makapagbibigay ng kita, makapaglilikha ng trabaho, makapagbibigay ng buwis, at makapagtatayo ng mga bagong produkto at pamilihan,

(2) Pagmumuhunan sa stock market, kung saan maaari kang bumili ng porsyento sa isang kumpanya at makakuha ng buwanan o taunang dividends sa kita ng kumpanya,

(3) Pamumuhunan sa mutual funds, kung saan nililikom ng mga bangko ang puhunan mo at ng iba pang mga investor upang i-invest sa mga gawaing makakapagpalago ng inyong puhunan,

(4) Pagbili ng government bonds, kung saan para kang nag-iimpok sa gobyerno habang binabayaran nila ito ng interes.

Di naman nawawala ang panganib sa anumang uri ng pamumuhunan, kahit maging sa apat na nabanggit  na. Subalit, kumpara sa mga investment scam na tulad ng Upward Limited Co., Aman Futures Group, Legacy Group, at Multitel Corporation, ang mga pamumuhunang nabanggit ay mas ligtas at kakaunti ang panganib.

Nasusubaybayan ng gobyerno sa pamamagitan ng Securities and Exchange Commission at iba pang mga karatig na ahensiya ang operasyon ng stock market, mutual funds, at government bonds.

Bukod rito, nagbibigay ang mga bangko at mga kilalang financial institutions ng kaalaman kung paano ka mag-iimpok sa mga ganitong pamamaraan nang di dumaraan sa matinding panganib. Mahalaga rin na ikaw, bilang mamumuhunan, ay nagsasagawa ka ng sarili mong pag-aaral sa pahawak at paggugol ng salapi, at pagsisiyasat sa mga pinalalagakan mo ng iyong pera.

Ang tunay na tagumpay, pinaghihirapan bago marating. Bagamat mas mabagal ang tubo ng iyong puhunan sa ganitong mga legal na uri ng pamumuhunan, sa iyong pagreretiro, di ka naman magsisisi kapag inani mo na ang paglago ng iyong salapi.

Mga batayang batis:
Colayco, Francisco (2004). Wealth within your reach: Pera mo, palaguin mo! Manila. Colayco Foundation for Education
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