Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weekend Buzz: Good omens for RH Bill?

I got the shock of my life when Jim Paredes posted this on Twitter a few minutes ago:

This tweet was preceded by a link to Time's What the Pope Really Said About the Condoms. In the article, the Pope expressed that the Catholic Church has reversed its stand on the use of condoms - a good news to AIDS workers but not necessarily to RH Bill advocates.

The Pope says that the use of condoms as a means to prevent the spread of HIV is consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church -- even using the example of a male prostitute who chooses to use a condom as a conscious effort to prevent the spread of STD. However, he maintains the Church's stand against the use of condoms as contraceptives for fear that "the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality... the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love." (Time)

This brings me back to Still on Reproductive Health, an article written by Ateneo School of Government Dean Tony La ViƱa, with whom I had the chance to discuss the RH Bill with during iBoP Asia's Innovations Forum at the Ateneo a few weeks back. I appreciate that the Jesuits seem to take a moderate stand on the issue; that they see the good side of The Many Faces of the RH Bill. This is why it saddens me that many of the so-called enlightened RH Bill advocates continue to attack the Catholic Church as an institution. (Which may also be because of what Vatican maintains.) At the same time, it's no longer a surprise that people would approach me to say nasty things about the RH Bill that I can't seem to validate a n y w h e r e in the Full Text of the RH Bill.

It is interesting to note as well that Cong. Edcel Lagman's RH Bill is just 1 of the 6 bills on reproductive health and family planning that have been filed at Congress. (I hope to read the others.) Likewise, a 'Consensus' bill is being presented by former Sen. Vicente Paterno which, by its name, seeks a consensus among the conflicting views of the RH Bill advocates and the Catholic Church. (Info Source: Inquirer)

It is indeed time that crucial stakeholders stop bickering and for once, be objective and constructive with their ideas. Reproductive Health (RH) is a serious issue and so are HIV/AIDS and the exponential population growth. (Last Friday, these were some of the issues that were identified in the Stakeholders' Consultation of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) for 2010-2016.)

The Pope's press release is timely since the Congress will start the RH debate this coming week. As they say, when something's meant to happen, everything falls into place.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Finally, a tabloid for women

Introducing Klik Bandera, a tabloid for women -, Philippine News for Filipinos

I've grown up with the idea that Philippine tabloids are dirty, scandalous and male-serving. But since I've learned last weekend that the Inquirer released the maiden issue of Klik Bandera, a tabloid for women, I began to think otherwise.

So this morning, I excitedly went to the news stand to get myself a copy. Here's my review of the tabloid:

Rating: Needs Improvement

Released with a sub-title that says "Balita. Buenas. Chika.," Klik Bandera indeed came out with "entertaining, informative and mostly feel-good show-biz articles." Half of this weekend's 12-page issue was dedicated to showbiz news while the rest were a mix of the typical tabloid news stories and features that include horoscope, beauty tips and some short stories.

There seems to be nothing new.

Klik Bandera is a good development communication medium for women all over the country, with a circulation that spans all over Metro Manila, across Luzon and in major locations in Vis-Min. As part of the Inquirer's corporate social responsibility, Klik Bandera should take this as an opportunity to provide marginalized women with information that will empower them to come up with informed choices and live better lives.

I look forward to seeing that kind of Klik Bandera on the hands of our women. :-)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oh My Lash! A writing contest.

Good news to those who sought lash advice and found Mad About Lashes . . .

I learned about the ILASH's Oh My Lash! writing contest through a tweet. ILASH is an eye lash and brow conditioning gel which promises "longer and fuller" natural eye lashes in "as fast as 3 weeks." By enhancing natural lashes, ILASH is far different from most of the methods discussed in my former blogpost. And with this, ILASH must be something that's worth trying.

To join the contest, please click here. Two winners will receive a bottle each of ILASH, each worth Php5,900.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Choosing between herbs and synthetics

The rainy season usually gives birth to a quirky sort of chorus. These days, I hear a lot of grande renditions of “ehem-ehems” that are coupled with some occasional wheezing and sneezing. Sadly, this chorus often longs to include my little one.

As a working solo parent, I find going through labels of over-the-counter drugs time-consuming. So what I do is to remain faithful to the prescription of doctors who advise the use of synthetic medicines all the time. But lately, ads of herbal cough medicines seem to challenge my loyalty.

Again, as a parent, I want the best remedy for my daughter. What attracts me to herbal cough medicines is the claim that they are the safest cough medicine on the shelf. On the other hand, what encourages me to continue with synthetic cough medicine is its supposed ability to cure cough faster and more effectively than other remedies.

At this point, I ask myself, herbs or synthetics?

If I have to rely on the ads alone, then I guess my dilemma will be reduced to something like, Vic Sotto or ordinary moms? This is mainly because two of the most visible brands on TV claim that they are the best (while also attacking the other). Reading through the comparison of herbal and synthetic cough medicine TV commercials gave me this insight.

That is why I decided to come up with my own little research.

First Source: The LABELS (Drug Information)

Time-consuming as it may be, the labels are still the best source of drug information. I got the info of the first three brands from the boxes/leaflet in my medicine cabinet while for the last, I got the info from MIMS Philippines.

1. Bisolvon (Bromhexine HCl)
a. Indication: cough due to an acute or chronic respiratory disease associated with hard, sticky phlegm (mucolytic)
b. Precautions: Pregnant and lactating women (not recommended)
c. Possible side effects: immune system disorder, skin and subcutaneous tissue disorders and respiratory, mediastinal and thoracic disorders: allergic reaction…, gastrointestinal disorders: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and upper abdominal pain; can be taken by diabetics and people with heart ailments

2. Loviscol (Carbocisteine)
a. Indications: chronic disorders of the respiratory tract associated with excessive or viscous mucus, such as chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and otits media with effusion including glue ear (mucolytic)
b. Precautions: patients with a history of gastric or duodenal ulcer and GI bleeding; carcinogenesis, mutagenesis and impairment of fertility (long-term animal studies not performed; effect on human fertility unknown); safety not established for pregnant and lactating women, and children below age of one
c. Possible side effects: not stated on box; possibly on enclosed leaflet which I no longer have

3. Ascof (Vitex negundo L. Lagundi Leaf)
a. Indications: For relief of mild to moderate cough due to common colds and flu
b. Precautions: Pregnant and lactating women (not studied)
c. Possible side effects: None were reported in the clinical trials for the syrup.

4. Solmux (Carbocisteine)
a. Indications: Relief of cough associated w/ excessive and tenacious sputum or phlegm as in acute and chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, otitis media w/ effusion and glue ear
b. Precautions: History of gastric or duodenal ulcer & GI bleeding. Pregnancy & lactation
c. Possible side effects: not stated

Second Source: FRIENDS

I ran a quick survey on Facebook and Twitter. And here are some comments:

1. [herbal cough medicine] did not work for me
2. Honey is a natural way to relieve a coughy throat.
3. Fluimucil for productive cough. Tastes bad, but I was told it's the only real mucolytic, haha. Oh, it's not a cough syrup, you mix it with water. : )

Brands used by friends include Ascof Lagundi, Benadryl, Fluimucil, Solmux (capsule), and Tuseran. It seems that most of my friends are synthetic users.

So is it herbal or synthetic?

As the question has become Ascof vs. Solmux, I chanced upon Ascof and Solmux: A Comparison of Two Cough Remedies that seems to point out that making a comparison of the two is not valid.

Summing it up, Ascof may have all the advantages over Solmux. But, these drugs possess dissimilar modes of action. Solmux is a mucolytic while Ascof is a simple cough formula with an anti-asthma effect. Ascof won’t be effective enough if the cough will be involving too much phlegm in the lungs. On the contrary, Solmux will not be also suitable for a simple cough with asthma involved.

It is good that companies advertise their products so that people will be aware of the choices they have. They are empowering for as long as they don't mislead. But it is also our responsibility as consumers to educate ourselves: Read the labels, ask around and consult our doctors.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Deconstructing Public Opinion: Is Hubert Webb guilty? (2nd in Series of 3; UPDATED)

Much can still be learned as we anticipate the results of the Supreme Court deliberation on the Vizconde case and Hubert Webb’s motion for acquittal later this November.

More than ten years ago, we saw how print and broadcast media had been effective in shaping public views which in turn, played an influential role in yielding the results of the trial. Back then, most people relied on what media fed and on what went around as hearsays.

But times have changed. Documents and other important information are now available on the Internet. It just takes a couple of keywords, links and clicks to access them. Hence, the discerning public can now make better-informed opinions.

Now, as we take on the hefty task of deconstructing the old public mindset, it is important to begin with the right frame of mind: Hubert Webb is innocent until proven guilty.

Then, let us challenge our frame of mind by applying logic on hard facts. Such that:

1. IF HUBERT WEBB IS GUILTY, then he must be in the scene of the crime when the Vizconde killings happened.



Hubert Webb is Guilty



Hubert Webb is Innocent

Material Evidences

Supporting Column [A. B]


1. record of departure including ticket, ticket receipt,(with accompanying testimony from raja tours owner Bibay Nolasco), airline manifest (with accompanying testimony from a northwest airline official), passport with departure stamp from the Bureau of Immigration

2. record of entry which includes an F.B.I. report, a note verbal issued by the U.S. government signed by Secretary of State Madeline Albright stating that Hubert Webb was in the U.S. Testified to by no less than both Foreign Affairs Secretary Domingo Siazon and Consul General Leo Herrera Lim

(certification from US Immigration and naturalization service signed (w seal) by Madelaine Albright, Warren Christopher and Atty. General Janet Reno verified proofs/documents by US state secretary (Albright) and FBI (Bob Heafner)

3. records of his stay which include:

Videos - one in Disneyland (testified to by a complete stranger who saw Freddie Webb and decided to take his video, with Hubert seen on the background). Another at Lake Tahoe where he was seen playing in the snow. And lastly, another video at a cousins wedding ceremony.

Records of employment in the form of several encashed checks in his name Hubert Jeffrrey Webb before and after the crime.

California Drivers License aquired during his stay, certified by the Department of Motor Vehicles California.

4. records of his departure from the U.S. which includes again the certification from the U.S. stating his date of departure, airline manifest testified by an authority from Philippine Airlines and passport showing entry into the Philippines. These only prove he was in the United States four months prior and fifteen months after the massacre occured. Hubert has only one record of going to the U.S. He left Manila on March 1991 and arrived back to the Philippines October 1992.

Statements / Testimonies

Supporting Column [A. B]

1. Jessica Alfaro (eye witness) - positively identified Hubert Webb and others as perpetrators

2. Nerissa Rosales and Mila Gaviola* (former housemaids of the Webbs) - one testified that she washed Hubert Webb's shirt with blood stains on stomach and chest areas

3. Carlos Cristobal - doubted if Hubert Webb was the same person who was his co-passenger

4. Lolita Birrer (former live-in partner of Policeman Gerardo Biong) - claimed that Biong helped Hubert Webb and others clean up the crime scene

5. Normal White and Justo Cabanacan (BF Homes security guards) - Cabanacan testified that he flagged down the vehicle of Hubert Webb because it did not have the local village sticker around the last week of May or the first week of June 1991; did not ask for ID nor logged Hubert Webb as visitor since he was the son of then Cong. Freddie Webb, a well-known man

6. Lauro Vizconde - testified that in one of his phone conversations with Carmela when he was still in the USA, Carmela mentioned to him that she had turned down a suitor whom she called "Bagyo," who is a son of a politician in Paranaque and comes from an affluent family. (Carmela never mentioned the identity of the suitor.)

1. Atty. Artemio Sacaguing (NBI) - testified that Alfaro was supposed to bring someone who witnessed the Vizconde killings (as relayed by NBI agent Cresencio "Jun" Nombres) but instead volunteered herself as eyewitness when she could not produce the witness

2. Judge Antonio Carpio (not yet in SC at time of trial) - testified that he had a phone conversation with Sen. Freddie Webb on June 29, 1991 where the latter mentioned that he and his wife were looking for a job for Hubert Webb

3. Rafael Jose, Paolo Santos and Joselito Escobar (friends) - relate despedida party organized for Hubert Webb on March 8, 1991

4. Miguel Munoz (security personnel of former Senator Freddie Webb) - testified that he accompanied Hubert Webb and parents at the airport on March 9, 1991

5. Cristina Magpusao (secretary of Webbs) - testified that she gave money to Hubert Webb for his terminal fee on March 1991

6. Victoria Ventoso (former housemaid of Webbs) - testified that Hubert Webb left for the US sometime in March 1991 and had not come back at the time she left the household in May 1992

7. Gloria Webb (Hubert Webb's aunt), Christopher Esguerra (Gloria's grandson) and Dorothy Wheelock - testified that Hubert Webb was in the States; accompanied Hubert Webb in Lake Tahoe on April 1991)

8. Gary Valenciano (performing artist) - testified that he was introduced to Hubert Webb at the Rodriguez residence in Orlando, Florida, USA in Novermber 1991


1. Alfaro, along with housemaids and security guard, is said to have emerged as witnesses only 4 years after the crime.

2. Alfaro has 2 affidavits dated April 28 and May 22, 1995, which contradict on the ff. items:

a. knowing Carmela prior to the date of the killings;

b. seeing the dead bodies;

c. seeing the alleged rape of Carmela

d. how Webb, Lejano and Ventura entered the house

e. if Alfaro entered the house

3. Court and DOJ Panel ruled that misdescription and inconsistencies did not erode Alfaro’s credibility.

4. DOJ Panel rules that alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification made by a prosecution witness. … claim of alibi is mainly supported by friends and relatives.

5. As per CA, time and space as requisites of acquittal are not supported by clear and convincing evidence; dates of departure and arrival in passport does not fully entail that Hubert Webb is not in the Philippines on June 30, 1991.

6. US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) certifications, dated August 10 and 31, 1995, respectively, were given little weight by both RTC and CA because of the purported omissions or oversights of certain Phil. or US Officials: (a) Aug 10 cert stated that there was no entry/exit of Hubert Webb on June 29, 1991; (b) Aug 31 cert stated Hubert Webb entered USA on 09 March 1991 and departed only on 26 October 1992. Testimony of Sec. Domingo Siazon, Jr. was deemed to prove the physical receipt and transmittal of docs. but not their content. (See Col B Row 2 #2)

1. Judge Tolentino admitted only 10 out of 142 evidences offered by Hubert Webb.

2. As per Fritz Webb, brother of Hubert Webb, the NBI presented 2 housemaids (and 2 security guards) but only 1 housemaid showed up during the trial. (Addendum as per CA 2005, only White testified.)

3. Defense questioned Alfaro's credibility on the ff. grounds:

a. Contents of Alfaro’s first affidavit;

b. Alfaro’s motive in testifying against Hubert Webb et. Al. – Alfaro allegedly admitted that brother Patrick Alfaro was a drug addict and was arrested once by the NBI for illegal possession of drugs and that he is presently in the United States

c. Educational attainment – cross-examination showed that Alfaro lied in her direct testimony

4. Alfaro was said to be a former NBI asset who was quoted by then NBI Head Agent Artemio Sacaguing saying, “Sir, papapelan ko yan…"

5. Housemaids agency owner’s records show that the maids were no longer with the Webbs when the killings happened on June 30, 1991.

6. Re: INS certifications. Justice Dacudao, in his dissenting opinion, believes that omission was adequately explained by defense; oversight because the rules on protocol and standard procedure were not religiously observed by Phil and US officials.

7. None of the evidences presented by Hubert Webb were proven false or refuted by the Prosecution.

2. IF HUBERT WEBB IS GUILTY, then his DNA should match the semen samples found in the scene of the crime.

But apparently, the semen specimen cannot be located.

Here are the events that took place:

• October 1997 - Hubert Webb requested DNA testing of semen specimen
• November 25, 1997 – RTC Judge Tolentino denied Hubert Webb’s motion for DNA Testing
- Reason was “the proposed DNA examination would not serve the ends of justice but only lead to the complication and confusion of the case”
• April 20, 2010 – SC granted Hubert Webb’s request for DNA testing
• NBI claimed that semen specimen is no longer in its custody – claiming that the specimen was handed to trial court
• Trial court denied NBI claim
• October 2010 – Hubert Webb files an urgent motion for acquittal on the ground that he has been denied “the fullest extent of his constitutional right to due process” because the State can no longer produce the semen specimen that was in its custody.

Is Hubert Webb guilty? The decision is left on the discretion of the reader.

* * *
Deconstructing public opinion is a giant task that ironically requires a simple process. Similarly, the Vizconde-cum-Hubert Webb case should not have been as complicated as it had been if everyone remained true to the essence of the quest for justice for the Vizcondes.

Hopefully, with all these details at hand, the public will be in a better position to make opinions. At the same time, further research on the case - from both sides - is encouraged. May vigilance encourage the SC to come up with a fair and reasonable decision.

Do you think Hubert Webb is innocent? Then “Like” the Justice for Hubert Webb page on Facebook.
Why are we tackling Hubert Webb on Beyond Lipstick and High Heels? Read On Vizconde Massacre, Hubert Webb and the Quest for True Justice (1st in Series of 3).

Need to know more?
11. Philippine Jurisprudence.
14. Urgent Motion to Acquit Hubert Webb, submitted to Supreme Court

Latest Update: 09 Dec 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

On Vizconde Massacre, Hubert Webb and the Quest for True Justice (1st in Series of 3)

As we speak of women's issues on this blog, it is impossible to miss one that has gripped the consciousness of Filipinos for years.

The Vizconde Massacre is a harrowing story of violence inflicted against women---a proof that it happens even inside one's own home in a gated community of a bustling city. The brutal killings of the Vizconde women stunned the nation and started a serious quest for justice.

But the quest proved to be a long one. The story of the Vizconde Massacre wasn't just a single story; it varied as told by a number of witnesses. It was hard to tell which made up the truth and the lies.

But to Judge Amelita Tolentino of the Paranaque Regional Trial Court, the truth was the account of star witness Jessica Alfaro. She found Hubert Webb and friends and seven other young men – all scions of wealthy and prominent clans – guilty beyond reasonable doubt hence, sentencing them to life imprisonment. (Note: According to Webb, he only knows two of the seven other accused.)

Justice, then, seemed to have been served.

* * *

Ten years later, the public has taken a revived interest on the Vizconde Massacre albeit, on a different light. Crucial details and untold stories from the trial that ran for years have surfaced. These include a denied request for DNA testing by Hubert Webb's camp, inconsistencies in eye witness accounts, an unacknowledged note verbale from the US government, and so on.

It seems that the quest now has become Justice for Hubert Webb.

* * *

I find all those details disturbing. For somebody who literally grew up with the slow development of the Vizconde Massacre case, I had to rack my brains to find out why I was bent on believing certain things at the time the Paranaque RTC trial ran from 1995 to 2000. (Of course, given my age then, my opinions were not as better-founded as now.)

It has been 15 years since the name of Hubert Webb surfaced as a prime suspect in the Vizconde Massacre. If Hubert Webb was innocent, then it means that he lost 15 years of his life by being kept in bars for a crime he did not do. Likewise, it means that justice has never been really served for the Vizcondes.

The Supreme Court should assess the case of the Vizconde Massacre with a fresh perspective. This time, they should put due consideration to the evidences presented by Webb's camp, which were mostly not accepted by the RTC and Court of Appeals.

I refuse to take a stand regarding the guilt or innocence of Hubert Webb; instead, I call for due process and a fair trial. Justice should not be about putting men behind bars just for the sake of naming perpetrators. It's easy to lose the essence of the quest for justice along the lines of power, politics and personalities.

The Vizconde Massacre remains unsolved.