Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Family is everything

My stay here in California is winding down.  I shall leave during the wee hours of the morning of Friday, Oct 26 with my niece Khriss and her husband, Nino. They have been fantastic hosts and it has always been like a  home away from home for me since I arrived.. There is no place I would have felt as comfortable as here in Olive St. in Orange County.

If there would have been a theme for my stay here in the US , it would be "family".  I started out with Nino and Khriss, a very young couple who is working out to start a family of their own. Then there is this family who has transitioned from a complete loving family losing a very important member of the house to cancer - Danny Dionisio, the patriarch and sole bread winner. We visited the wife, Rosita and I could feel the agony of the loss of a beloved husband.  I have witnessed the closeness this two have for each other and considering that practically all the children are married except for the youngest who is  now working and independent, I truly feel the pain of the wife being alone.

Then there is the family of in-laws, husband and wife Ogie, Baby, Kuya Ben's sister, and Keno, the couple's son.. They seem to be a family who is now very much in tune to the American way of life with Keno who has a stable job, promising to be a rich millennial soon.

Of course, my friends Rikki and Annabel,. always the true friends that they are, took time out to take me to the remarkable Getty museum. They have always been like family to me.  Thereafter, Khriss, Nino and I went to meet with my relatives, Ate Bini who played a very important role in my life  as she helped me transform into a decent human being.  Thanks to his son, Nats who invited his siblings to meet with me, I got reunited with the family. I shall always treasure the sumptuous seafood dinner they hosted but even more so the happy reminiscing we had of the past.

OnTuesday, my niece took me to the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art. Another noteworthy museum with a fantastic collection.  We met with former DLSU professor, once neighbor and friend, Becky Cajucom and her boyfriend Martin. They treated us to lunch and we had a great time checking the collection. We were all fascinated with a sculpture of a modern monkey that was supposed to look like a balloon tied up together.  Thereafter, Khriss and I went to visit Bong, a family friend who now lives in Buena Partk.  UInfortunately her husband Danny and her son were not there yet when we visited.

For my spiritual upliftment, I was surprised to be invited by a friend who is now a priest and the chaplain of Cal State University in Fullerton. Our tete a tete was very fruitful as we discussed wonderful things over another seafood dinner at Claws where he treated me.

Talk about reminiscing, nothing could compare with my reunion with elementary classmate and best friend, Cesar Chaingan.  He is the only classmate from my La Consolacion days that I have reconnected with. The perfect host that he is, we started out at the evening of Friday and ended up after midnight. Then we devoted our whole day the following day with his wife Carole joining us for lunch and dinner.  He has taken me to wonderful places and my fb account would testify to that --the Norton Museum and the Griffith Observatory among others being the highlights of my visit.. I even made a painting of the famous Suicide bridge where we went for a stroll just to get perfect shots.

On Sunday, I got reconnected with a very beautiful lady, Vanessa Lyon, once a model in the Philippines who worked with my two girls and now an upcoming Hollywood star. She is still that very sweet and down to earth woman I have known her to be.  Hopefully she would stay that way even when she has reached the pinnacle of her dreams.  We had breakfast at the Urth Cafe and we had a very nice conversation talking about the past and the future.

That afternoon, I met Gloria Pimentel Laven and her family. Whereas before it was just her and her husband John who I got to meet, this time I was welcomed to some sort of a family reunion and was able to meet her son, Alexander and his son, three year old Luca, her grandsons Adrian and his Filam girlfriend and another brother whose names escape me now, her 91 year old mother and sister, Sylvia.

So far, I had the opportunity to see how Filipino families thrive and survive the US and it pleases me that they are doing great! I can't wait to see how the others live at the other side of the country, the East Coast. In the meantime, I am eagerly awaiting my experience of witnessing my first gay wedding which shall be happening in Oregon. Another happy pairing and expecting a happy family of their own.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Age of discernment?

There is a proposal to lower the age of criminal responsibility from fifteen to twelve years old.  This proposal, known as Senate Bill 2026, is filed by no less than the present Senate President, Vicente Sotto III. This idea arose from the increasing cases of misdemeanors committed by minors. The move is set on the idea that lowering the age of criminal responsibility will deter minors from committing a crime.  The question is will it really solve the problem?
I will leave it to the experts who have the means to use and/or do extensive research on the various aspects – professionals who are more qualified  to argue for or against. Neither do I have the expertise nor the time to do an extensive one.  Yet, I do have, at this time, an opinion regarding the matter based on gut feeling and my, hitherto, sense of logic.
My position is that the issue at hand is the same as the age-old debate on capital punishment.  Will the re-imposition of capital punishment, for heinous crimes, at least, be a deterrent to committing a crime? My answer is in the negative. I believe that a person who commits a crime, especially heinous ones, never considers the result of his/her wrongful act.  A crime is committed willfully and without regard to whatever consequence shall befall the offender for such is committed only with the selfish purpose, whatever that may be, the offender has. I have yet to see a rapist, for example, stop his craving for sex simply because he knows that the punishment, if caught and proven guilty, is death.  No, his or her evil intentions should be fulfilled regardless of what the outcome of such a dastardly act shall be. The same thing is true with a criminal who will kill someone just so his purpose is served. More importantly, capital punishment is anti-poor.  Rich offenders can pay their way to freedom no matter what crime has been committed.  Only poor people who cannot defend themselves are incarcerated. Secondly, capital punishment is final. There is no more hope of reformation – the true idea behind putting an offender in jail. It is merely a vengeance to make the victim or the relatives feel good.
By the same token, lowering the age of criminal liability will not solve the current situation of minors committing a crime.  The issue is even more complex than we think it is.  Criminal responsibility is set because we believe that it is the age when a person has reached fully the age of discernment -meaning that said person has truly grasped the difference between right and wrong. What this age is is still unknown. There has been no standard and each country has set its own. This fact is simply because no study has been made that has proven what such an age actually is. Psychologists will argue endlessly the point and will never come up with a solid, acceptable answer.  Think about it! We incarcerate people who have done something wrong in the hope that they can be reformed.  That does not usually happen. On the contrary, people who are taken to jail even become callous and numb and more likely to be hardened by the experience. If such is the case with mature adults, this will be doubled in the case of minors who are more susceptible to his/her surroundings. Put a minor in jail and chances are he/she is more likely to become a grievous offender in the future. Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) policy and research officer Jackielou Bagadiong says, To put children in jail would be like putting them in “school(s) of crime. She elaborates by saying,  If a child enters jail, one can be assured that when he or she comes out, she will have had a network of criminals that can assist him or her later on. 
One of the arguments given by those in favor of the bill is that lowering criminal responsibility will put an end to syndicates using children do their work for them. The problem with this argument is that the real offenders are the syndicates, not the children. Why should the children be punished when they are just being used unwittingly to commit a felony? Why not go after the real culprits and punish these usurpers of innocent children? Lowering the age will not deter the syndicates from using children for they do not care what happens to their pawns. What is worse is what will stop them from using even younger kids? When they do, we are not just back to square one but we will find ourselves in a deeper hell hole than we already are.
It is true that the government should look at ways for its people to have peaceful, contented lives. According to Thomas Hobbes, a government’s main function is to protect and provide. A government should ensure the safety and protection of its people from each other and from foreign foes. To do this, government as protector requires taxes to fund, train and equip an army and a police force; to build courts and jails; and to elect or appoint the officials to pass and implement the laws citizens must not break. It is very clear that government should protect its citizens.  This being the case, the government has the responsibility to take care of its minors.  It has to ensure that the minors receive total protection and assurance that they shall all be taken care of.  To do this, it is the duty of the government to strengthen the family as a very important unit. In the absence of such for an unfortunate child, the government should assign one for the child to ensure that he/she grows up a responsible, conscientious adult. Thus, the government should make laws to make sure that parents take full responsibility of their children as they should.  Keep them off the streets, nurture, educate and love them for they were the ones who brought their children to the world.  Education is the key.  If these children are given adequate, quality education, they would have sufficient knowledge to get by rather than fighting for their very existence in the streets.  Lowering crime responsibility is not the right response to the problem. It is merely a short cut for law makers.  What we should do is strengthen the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, the very law that addresses the problem of erring juveniles. Bagadiong states that with the JJWC, the child still has this liability … it would harm our future generation if we do that. I totally agree.