Thursday, October 31, 2013

Spirit Possession: Do Demons Exist?

 Strange incidents happened in some parts of the Philippines with teenage girls reportedly being possessed by  malevolent spirits. The phenomenon is difficult to understand considering that it happened in several places that are far apart and at different times with the victims displaying similar symptoms.

Sometime on the third week of August 2011, thirty-three students of Compostela National High School in Davao del Norte were reportedly possessed by evil spirits after they had played “Spirit of the Glass”. The students displayed unusual behavior such as speaking strange language in class, fainting, screaming and even hurting themselves. School authorities then provided religious and medical services to the victims and suspended classes.

“Spirit of the Glass” is a sort of dabbling with the occult where children innocently played it out of curiosity or fun. In the game, the light is turned off and a candle is lit on top of a glass that is turned upside down. The children then call the spirit of a departed one to get a clue or an answer to some questions.

On September 10, 2012, female students of Crossing Bayabas National High School in Davao City were reported to be possessed by demon spirits. The victims were said to be displaying odd actions such as writhing, screaming, swearing at classmates and fainting. They also displayed unusual strength when held or restrained by other people. The possession of the students happened after a Talisay tree was cut down to pave the way for the construction of a new building.

On October 7, 2012, seventeen female students of Jaclupan National High School in the hinterlands of Talisay, Cebu were reportedly possessed by evil spirits a day after an all night seminar over the weekend and after three Bagalnga trees were cut down to make way for the construction of new building. One of the victims was said to have seen a dark being that was glaring at her. The victims showed similar symptoms with those of the students of Davao City. The victims were brought to a chaplaincy which was located across the school, but the priest could not help with the situation so that they were brought to Mary’s Little Children Community to ask the assistance of Msgr. Frederick Kriekenbeck. One of the victims was said to levitate as the priest performed the exorcism rite for them.

The exorcism of the victims did not end the ordeal as their possession by the spirits continued the next day. On the morning of October 8, 2012, after the class prayed the rosary fourteen students were possessed. Msgr. Kriekenbeck went to the school to exorcise the victims and performed the rite of deliverance to rid the students and the school area of demon spirits. School authorities asked the assistance of government agencies such as the Department of Education and brought in medical personnel and psychologist to check the physical and psychological conditions of the victims.

Superstitious people said that the phenomenon was caused by nature spirits. The cutting down of trees in the school campus of Talisay, Cebu which were believed to be the abode of the malevolent spirits angered them. They got back at humans by possessing their bodies. Msgr. Kriekenbeck urged the people of the community especially the students to be more active in professing their faith to keep them from becoming easy prey of demon spirits.

If Christians and other religious groups are to be believed, the spirits that possessed people are those of demons. Demons are said to be once upon a time angels who were cast by God into earth for rebelling against Him. On earth, they try to tempt and mislead humans to keep them away from God. At times, demons cause harm to humans such as making them become sick or possessing their bodies. Humans who are mortal and physical being cannot fathom the nature of spirit because they are invisible and in other realm.

People have heard of stories through the ages of humans being possessed by demon spirits. Even the Bible contains many verses on Jesus casting away evil spirits from humans. An example of those verses is Mark 1:34: “And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.” 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Shopping Online at eBay

The internet has made it possible for people to do lot of things even in the comfort of their own home. One of them is online shopping. eBay is the world’s biggest internet site where people the world over can either buy or sell goods online. A person can shop for almost anything on eBay. Goods that can be purchased include vehicles, antiques, collectibles, clothing, watches, jewelries, electrical appliances among others.

Global merchants can have their goods listed on eBay which will be offered in auction or in “buy it now” category.  Online shoppers have to win the bidding first in an auction in order for him to buy the listed goods. The “buy it now” goods can be bought by a shopper without having to go through the bidding process.

Generally, it is more feasible to shop physically if the goods are available in the local malls or retail stores. Offline purchases are cheaper and faster and the buyer actually sees the goods before paying for them and bringing them home. But not all the goods one wants to buy are available locally, and more so if the items are rare, collectibles or whose production is already discontinued. A person may want to have again or replace those cherished things that are broken or long gone because he is ever delighted in using them or that they have sentimental value on him. A hobbyist or professional in many fields of endeavor such as sports, photography among others can spice up his activities by shopping online. At eBay he can select cheap, expensive, brand new, used, common and hard to find items that he wants to buy. He can even purchase replacement parts of his equipment or gears. “When it is in your mind, it is on eBay”, “whatever it is, you get it on eBay” are two of some of the slogans that aptly describe online shopping at eBay. However, goods whose uses are considered illegal or immoral are prohibited to be listed and sold at eBay. Pornographic materials, guns, drugs, drug paraphernalia among others are some of the prohibited items at eBay.

The operations of eBay are localized in thirty countries. One who wishes to do transaction at eBay should first register in its site and at PayPal. Payments on purchases are made via PayPal. Customers can pay through their credit or debit card. If a customer is a debit card holder he must see to it that his bank account balance is sufficient to cover the cost of his purchases. PayPal will automatically convert one currency into another in a situation where a customer from an eBay host country buys goods from another eBay host country. My favorite site is the US eBay because it offers wider selection of goods that are listed for outright sale or auction.

Just like physical shopping one must first check the goods he is to buy online before placing his purchase. The item should be without defect if it is brand new, or that it should meet his standard if it is used. Goods listed at eBay have pictures that can be enlarged for inspection by the buyer. In addition the seller has to describe his items and state its condition to include defects if there are any. A buyer too can communicate with the seller regarding the item/s he wants to buy. A buyer should also look at the rating of the seller and the comments made by those who have purchased his goods. A higher rating and favorable comments suggest that the seller is trustworthy and that the buyer can exactly get what he expects from the money he spends on his purchase.

Goods bought on eBay are sent through regular mail, express mail or courier service.  Arrival time of goods depends on the buyer’s and the seller’s countries of origin and the type of delivery services the former selects for the transport of his goods. Regular mail is the slowest and courier service is the fastest. Some sellers offer free shipping on their goods while others require the buyer to pay additional cost on shipping. Goods sent through the mail are picked up at the post office while courier service companies make door delivery. In some cases, items that are categorized as luxurious and bought outside of one’s country are assessed at customs bureau especially if it is sent through a courier service company. A buyer then has to pay more for the goods in terms of custom duties.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Decisive Victory of Government Forces over Misuari's MNLF in the Siege of Zamboanga City

Pres. Aquino
After Nur Misuari’s declaration of independence of the Bangsa Moro Republik in Talipao, Sulu on August 12, 2013, his more than 200 armed Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) followers led by Ustadz Habier Malik sneaked into the coastal villages of Zamboanga city on September 9, 2013, to hoist the Bangsa Moro Republik flag at the front of the city hall.

Maria Isabelle Climaco- Salazar, the mayor of the City, refused to give in to the demand of the armed groups, and this led to firefights between the combined city police and the military personnel that were assigned in the area against the intruding militants. The fighting forced civilians to leave their homes and to evacuate in safer places at the heart of the city. As the fighting continued more people left their homes to seek refuge in evacuation centers. In addition, the conflict forced business, schools, airports and other establishments to shut down. Mayor Climaco sought the assistance of the national leadership to help her deal with the crisis.

President Benigno S. Aquino III ordered Manuel Roxas III, his DILG Secretary, to go to Zamboanga to oversee the police operation against the militants. As the battle raged on and the number of evacuees increased, the president also ordered Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and AFP Chief of Staff Gen Emmanuel Bautista to go to Zamboanga to further strengthen police and military actions there. Later, the president who is also the commander in chief of the police and the armed forces joined his troops in Zamboanga.

Having previously warned Misuari’s group that the government would not hesitate to use its power and its resources against those who would break the law, the president made good his words. Aside from the troops that were already on the ground, he called in the most elite fighting units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines such as the Scout Rangers and the Special Forces to further strengthen his forces. In addition air assets and naval ships were also directed to bear down on the militants.

The forces of Misuari led by Ustadz Habier Malik however were unyielding. Since they could not engage the government forces head on, they took some civilians as hostages to shield themselves  from government forces’ fires. The militants were even accused of deliberately burning houses to conceal themselves and slow down the advance of government forces.

Eventually, the MNLF forces were pushed and constricted into the coastal villages but were still holding some hostages and exchanging fires. Despite their difficulties, the militant refused to capitulate and gave the government forces as good as what they got. They might have think that by prolonging the battle as long as it take would exacerbate the crisis and bring it to the attention of international media, the intervention of the United Nations or the Organization of Islamic Conference. Moreover, the destruction of homes and properties, the paralysis of businesses and the increasing number of evacuees were about to create a humanitarian crisis in the city. These situations might prompt the government to initiate a ceasefire, a development that would be favorable to the militants.

Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay had a communication with Nur Misuari on a ceasefire between the government forces and the latter’s armed group. The Vice President then reported to the president in Zamboanga to present his proposal to him. However, the president turned down the idea.               

Apparently the president made the right move in rejecting a ceasefire because it would enable Misuari’s troops who participated in the siege to get away with their deeds. A ceasefire could also be misinterpreted that it was the militants who had the control of the situation, and Misuari might later exploit it to his advantage. A ceasefire would also have given a morale boost to the remaining MNLF fighters and restore the sagging image of Misuari as a leader of the Moros. On the other hand, a ceasefire declared by the commander-in-chief when his troops had already taken a number of casualties, and when they were in the upper hand in the battle would have demoralized them.The surrender of the militants to end the fighting would have been more acceptable to them.

With no ceasefire effect, the remaining militants took a beating from the government forces. As the fighting continued, they ran low on ammunition, and they starved because their supporters could not penetrate food supplies past the cordon of troops. Slowly but surely, the remaining militants surrendered or were killed. It was a surrender or die situation for them. On September 28, 2013, the government declared an end of military operations when all of the remaining hostages were rescued by the soldiers. However, the fate of Habier Malik, the leader of the militants in the siege of the city is still unknown. He was not among those who were captured or had surrendered, and the troops could not identify him among the dead militants either.

The government declared the end of the crisis on September 28, 2013. But losses in terms of lives and cost of properties were enormous. The MNLF suffered 183 killed and 192 members captured. The government forces had 25 soldiers (two officers) killed and 184 wounded. On the civilian side there were 12 dead and 70 wounded. There were about 10,000 houses that were burned and more than one hundred thousand people were displaced. It is estimated that the government must have to spend billions of pesos to rehabilitate Zamboanga City and help its people that were affected by the armed conflict.

The government forces under the leadership of President Benigno Aquino III have decisively defeated the forces of Nur Misuari in the siege of Zamboanga. Many however are perturbed with the massive destruction suffered by the city as a result of the siege. But it is the responsibility of the president to impose his powers under the law to protect his people and assert state’s sovereignty even if the price of doing so is heavy.

Friday, October 4, 2013

14th Month Pay, Anyone?

Senator Vicente Sotto III, the Philippine senate minority floor leader, has proposed a bill that would grant rank-and-file employees from the government and public sectors a 14th month pay.

Despite the supposed benefit to employees, most people give it a cold shoulder treatment with good reasons. The proposed bill came in the midst of the pork barrel scandal which exposed the extent of wide spread corruption committed by elected high government officials and some heads of the government agencies. Some people think that the proposed bill is intended to subtly deodorize the politicians allegedly involved in the scandal.

If the bill filed by Senator Soto becomes a law, the 14th month pay will effectively increase the cost of labor in the manufacture of the company’s finished products. As a result, the price of goods and services will also increase because businessmen will pass the additional cost to the consumers. An additional pay to a salaried worker is always beneficial to him, but not so with other people who do not depend on it for their income. People such as the self employed, pensioners, and those who are paid on commission, boundary and task basis and most especially the underemployed will even have the purchasing power of their income diminish because of the increase of the price of goods and services that they will have to pay for. And this is not to mention the unemployed who have no income at all.

The proposed bill would probably discourage new investors, both local and foreign, to put up their business in the country.  If the Philippines would like to be competitive in attracting foreign investors, then it should offer better investment incentives than those of its neighboring countries such as China, Thailand, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia among others.  If the cost of doing business in the Philippines is too high because of high labor cost and taxes then the foreign investors will skip the Philippines as its destination in favor of countries that have friendlier atmosphere in doing their business.

Workers in the Philippines are protected by the government for their wages and benefits and employers are even obliged to give 13th month pay to their rank-and-file employees. However, it is believed that some of them do not even pay the basic minimum wage to their employees as mandated by law. Some employees tolerate this practice thinking that being underpaid is much better than having no pay at all because of having no jobs. It would be more prudent for the government to see to it that employees are paid what is rightfully and legally due to them first before proposing new payment schemes that will not be followed by some employers.

I think that beyond the pays and benefit currently set by law, any extra pay to the employees should be determined by the economic factors prevailing at a certain time and the productivity of the employee. Although there are some companies that exploit their workers, there are others which are generous to workers in terms of giving benefits. Business entities fall in bad or good times. In good times they can pay bonus to their workers. But compelling them to pay their workers more when business situation is bad may cause them to go bankrupt.

Senator Vicente Sotto III, the proponent of the 14th Month Pay Bill, should have to make further study of his bill because if it becomes a law it could have a far reaching implication of the country’s economy as well as the well being of the people. The advantages derived from it should outweigh its disadvantages.