The new year in numbers
What to anticipate in 2013? Here are some numbers that reflect big issues in politics and policy and will have an impact on our lives, our politics, and our growth as a nation.
10354: The number of the Republic Act that is the culmination of the reproductive health bill, a close to 14-year battle in this Catholic country. Titled the “Act Providing for a National Policy on Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health,” it mandates universal access to reproductive health care services, contraceptives, and information, with poor families as top priority. Not surprisingly, it faces its first legal challenge in the Supreme Court. The government needs the votes of 8 justices to win this.
18,022: The number of contested national and local positions in the upcoming general elections in May, including 12 senators, 299 district members of the House of Representatives, and 80 provincial governors. The quality of governance will depend, to a large extent, on the victors. Will transparency reign? Will corruption be thumbed down? Will access to basic services vastly improve? Will the larger good and meritocracy trump narrow and selfish vested interests? These are not exactly cliffhanger questions. But after May, or even before, we will have a strong idea of how things will turn out.
150 square kilometers: The size of the Scarborough Shoal, an island group 124 nautical miles off Zambales that is being claimed by China but which actually belongs to the Philippines. It is known here as Panatag Shoal while China calls it Huangyan Island. Actually, it is a whale of a distance from them—550 nautical miles from Hainan Island, the closest Chinese port.
Tension has ebbed in the area since last year’s standoff, when 8 Chinese fishing ships ventured to the Shoal and illegally collected corals and sharks. While diplomacy eventually prevailed, this contested area will continue to be a sore spot for the Philippines, with China, of course, ready to show its naval might. A multi-agency or whole-of-government approach is what the Philippines needs to deal with our neighbor, the behemoth.
15 members: These men and women, 8 from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and 7 from the government, will compose the Transition Commission which will draft the proposed Bangsamoro basic law, the legal foundation of the new autonomous entity to be run by the MILF. They will wrestle with the details which the much-heralded framework agreement left out. A lot of hope rests on the Commission and its ability, together with like-minded legislators, to convince Congress to pass the basic law. If so, this will bring the country closer to peace in Mindanao. They have 3 years to complete their work—before President Aquino steps down in 2016.
10175: The number of the controversial Republic Act titled “The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012” which will be the subject of a Supreme Court oral argument on January 15. While parts of the law are noble, the section on libel is scary. Comments on Facebook and Twitter, for example, may be considered libelous. And the penalties are jaw-dropping: a maximum of 12 years in prison and a maximum fine of ₱1,000,000.
The law also threatens privacy and is short on due process, as this section shows: “when a computer data is prima facie found to be in violation of the provisions of this Act, the Department of Justice (DOJ) shall issue an order to restrict or block access to such computer.'" Surely, we wouldn’t want to curtail freedom on the Internet, no matter that it gets chaotic at times and that some netizens get nasty and mean. Cyberspace, as we’ve seen, has self-correcting mechanisms.
17 senators: In December 2012, they voted for the Freedom of Information bill or FOI which aims to provide access to government documents and data and keep secrets to a minimum. But the problem is, they’re only half of the equation. Their counterparts in the House of Representatives have yet to pass it.
Eastern Samar Rep Ben Evardone, chairman of the committee on public information, said he was ready to sponsor the FOI bill on the floor last month but got sidelined by the RH bill which President Aquino certified as urgent. Will Evardone, a former journalist, really push it when session resumes on January 21? If he does, there’s one ticklish issue that can spoil the FOI bill: some congressmen want to include the right of reply.
20: That’s the average number of storms that visit the Philippines per year. Many of these come during the rainy season, from June to November, but we’ve experienced out-of-season typhoons like, most recently, Pablo. Thanks to better storm forecasting, we’re better prepared. But there’s no time to let our guard down. - Rappler.com
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