Monday, December 23, 2013

The Magic that is Christmas

The Star of Bethlehem .
In a recent Pew Survey in the U.S., it found that only about half of those who celebrate Christmas see it as a religious celebration while the rest see it as a cultural non-religious event.  But whatever belief one has about Christmas, the fact of the matter is that Christmas is a celebration that is based and rooted on the birth of Jesus Christ; in fact, the name with which this globally celebrated event is known is derived from the name of Christ himself. 

Every time Christmas comes, I am in awe of the far-reaching influence and legacy that this humble carpenter from Nazareth has left in this world.  His ministry is brief (a little over three years) and confined in and around the area of his birthplace (biblical accounts show that he never traveled more than 200 miles from Bethlehem), and yet Jesus left an enduring and worldwide teaching of love, peace, generosity and humility that no being who has set foot on the face of the earth has ever done.  He is truly the savior of the world!

Commercialism aside, what with all the merchandise being pedaled to us by merchants, there is no other season of the year where gift-giving is so pervasive and the air is filled with the ambience of kindness and forgiveness.  It is this time of the year where people are more tolerant and forgiving, letting go of offenses against them with the usual remark, “forget about it, it’s Christmas anyway”;  it is this time of the year where goodwill among men pervades and you see people with happy countenance everywhere.

There is no other event where even fighting men dropped their rifles and muted their canons and crossed enemy lines to engage in Christmas greetings and songs and even exchanged gifts, as was done by German and British soldiers around Christmas time during World War I. 

Whether you are a believer or not, the song is right. Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Merry Christmas to you all and let us keep the spirit of kindness and giving alive!    



Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Thin-Skinned Brillantes

Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes, Jr.
“The interest of society and the maintenance of good government demand a full discussion of public affairs . . . a public officer must not be too thin-skinned with reference to comment upon his official acts,” so goes Justice Malcolm in the landmark case of US v. Bustos, in his disquisition on freedom of speech.

But Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr., a former San Beda College of Law professor and practicing lawyer,  must have already forgotten this mandatory case law reading in law school when he threatened to sue critics of the just concluded midterm elections in the Philippines.  Reacting to allegations of massive glitches in the implementation of the 2013 computerized elections and criticisms that it was worse than the 2010 elections, Brillantes said “[t]hose people who keep on blabbering but know nothing, they are the ones I’m going to charge.  All of them.”     

While it is completely understandable that planning and handling the elections in 1,630 municipalities and cities around the country is a daunting task and must be draining, physically and mentally, Brillantes should not lose sight of the fact that he took the job of election chief voluntarily and as a public office, it is open to public criticisms, whether justified or not.

Threatening to sue critics – aside from being stupid, because criticism of official conduct, unless proven to be malicious, is not libelous – has a chilling effect on free speech, for it deters others from commenting on what they perceive to be inefficiencies in the government and calling on public officials for any wrongdoing.  In a democratic society like the Philippines, freedom to comment on the workings of the government and conduct of public officials is one of the strongest checks against the excesses, abuses, and other misconduct of officialdom.