Is Poverty Illegitimate?

How did I get to that question?

I was mulling over how many reads my article “Legalizing Prostitution in the Philippines” has had recently. It must be posted on someone’s Facebook or other account because it is getting a lot of looks.
The thoughts came at me in this order for reasons I am not empowered to understand:
  • I wonder if people who live in Manila understand what life in the poor rural areas is like.
  • I wonder if they realize many people don’t even have birth certificates and some government documents require Filipinos to declare themselves “illegitimate” if their parents weren’t married.
  • An “illegitimate” child is the child of parents who are not married.
  • Many people in rural areas have “common law” marriages because husband or wife have no birth certificate and therefore they can’t get married. They also don’t have the money to pay what the Civil Registrar requires, or the marrying authority, or for the medical tests, or for the NSO registration.

  • My visits to the NSO office to get proper certificates for my wife and son were unhappy occasions. The NSO officials were mindless and rude, treating people as if everyone were illegitimate.
    • I wonder what would happen if NSO recognized it’s job is not to label people “illegitimate” but to make sure poor people know they are worth something, that they are not just legitimate, but are VALUED by a nation that is proud of its struggles, its history, its heritage and its people.
    • Is poverty illegitimate?
    • I wonder how we can make the poor within the Philippines feel valued.
    That is one huge challenge for the Philippines, ending the disenfranchisement of the poor. Bringing people of little means into the prosperous, productive Philippines.
    I personally don’t think this can be done by giving out money as is currently done. Nor can it done by stamping “illegitimate” on people’s birth certificates, or the foreheads of their esteem.

    Article 176 of the Family Code of the Philippines states the rights of illegitimate children:
    Illegitimate children shall use the surname and shall be under the parental authority of their mother, and shall be entitled to support in conformity with this Code. However, illegitimate children may use surname of their father if their filiation has been expressly recognized by the father through the record of birth appearing in the civil register, or when an admission in a public document or private and written instrument is made by the father.  Provided, the father has the right to institute an action before the regular courts to prove nonfiliation during his lifetime. The legitime of each illegitimate child shall  consist of one-half of the legitime of a legitimate child.
    Emphasis in bold by JoeAm

      So I guess an illegitimate Filipino is only half a real Filipino, eh?

      I went to dictionary.comfor the definition of “illegitimate” because I am very serious as to this point. There is no need to burden Humpty Dumpty with a definition.

      Illegitimate (adjective): (1) born of parents who are not married to each other; born out of wedlock; an illegitimate child. (2) not legitimate; not sanctioned by law or custom. (3) unlawful; illegal: an illegitimate action. (4) irregular; not in good usage. (5) logic; not in accordance with the principles of valid inference.

      So the definition of the word is pejorative, “having a disparaging, derogatory, or belittling effect”.

      It is prejudicial  to the child. Disparaging. Derogatory. Belittling. It continues to disparage when the child reaches adult-hood and requests government services.

      Is this necessary, this taking away of a person’s self worth? This declaration that so many Filipino citizens are unlawful or irregular or not in good usage?

      I think not.

      How can we grant all citizens a right to be whole and healthy and proper if they are born in the Philippines? How can we help people without much money feel they are an important of the Philippine social fabric?

      Well, a positive first step would be to require an attitude adjustment at NSO so that the organization does not posture its clerks as inspectors of Philippine legitimacy. NSO should be conducting outreach to welcome newborns as if they were valuable, cherished, even. No matter the situation of the parents. NSO ought not expect parents to come into the office begging for recognition as if they were a burden to the Philippines. The NSO responsibility should be like that of the Census: get out into the field to make sure all Filipinos are  recorded in the registry of citizens and have proper documents. Free documents. As if the State values their birth and citizenship and enjoys having them.

      • Enough NSO scowling.

      Second, children of unmarried parents should not be declared “Illegitimate”. I don’t care what the Churches say, and if the law demands it, change the law. Why slander a child on his first day on earth? Why stamp a brand on his esteem “irregular”. Record the child of unmarried parents as “freeborn” or some other positive description. Or simply ignore the distinction, for it OUGHT TO BE meaningless to a child’s well-being. Each child is innocent upon birth, unmarked.

      • We ought to make sure that kids are uplifted by the State, not put down.

      Third, during school make sure kids know they are important members of the State’s wealth, health, productivity and success. Introduce the idea that they are an important part of an economic model that cherishes skill and opportunity.

      • Give kids a path to grow richer and they will grow richer. And so will the nation.

      Fourth, upgrade TESDA so that everyone has a career in sight, whether they go to college or directly into the job market.  TESDA has been created to build skills. Make sure the skills taught are actually needed in the Philippines.

      • Orient training to the economy’s need. Create an upward pull to worker success.

          Fifth, get more manufacturing going in the Philippines by ignoring the artificial patriotic standard of whether the owner is Filipino or Foreigner.

          • Foreign investment is not inherently a security risk.

          Sixth. Emphasize career opportunities everywhere and stop filling jobs with favorites and friends. Pass an Equal Employment Opportunity Law. Give more people the pride of being upward bound. That sense of opportunity – of hope – will eventually work its way into poorer areas of the Philippines.

          • What distinguishes American productivity from Filipino? The motivation that comes from believing that there is OPPORTUNITY for a hard-working person.

          Poverty is the most significant element contributing to the INSECURITY of the Philippines. It is more threatening than a bullying China. More dangerous than Muslim terrorists. More intimidating than NPA rebels.

          So it seems to me that is the challenge.
          Bringing poor people in from the cold, in from their role as outcasts from the robust, growing Philippines. Seeking to make them LEGITIMATE participants in an economic model that cherishes skill and opportunity.
          Government should be investing in a social infrastructure of INCLUSION and OPPORTUNITY. NSO is key. So are schools and TESDA and getting manufacturing into the Philippines. So is promoting a sense of opportunity in the job markets, rather than the blessings of favor and family.
          And mediocrity.
          And exclusion.
          And a nation of way too many poor people considered substandard at birth.
          25 Responses to “Is Poverty Illegitimate?”
          1. Edgar Lores says:

            1. There are so many diving platforms in this essay that I do not know where to dive off from.2. First off, hats off to a six-point program to eliminate poverty. I was going to say that points 3 – 6 are core, but no, all are important and of equal significance.3. Before Step 1: Contraception is a solution. To illegitimacy, to STDs, to poverty and to overpopulation. It is not corruption. So, Church, cut the crap.4. Step 1: The judgmental attitude of NSO is, shall we say, counterproductive. Apparently they do not have an inkling of one of their prime missions, which is the vital importance of accurate statistics for national profiling and planning.4.1 In Australia, most births occur in hospitals and the paperwork commences at that point. Birth certificates are required for everything from child vaccination to schooling to compulsory voting. Homebirths are limited to 0.5 percent, but even so birth registration can be initiated online.5. Step 2: Should the word “illegitimate” be banned? Of course, except when you want to emphasize its ironic application to mean exactly its opposite, like “badass”. As in, “Wow, that’s some illegitimate car you have there!” or “Wow, illegitimate boobs!”5.1 I love “freeborn” or “born-free”. I wish I were! But we have to Filipinize it. No, not “libreng bata” or “batang-libre.” In Tagalog there’s the ironic poetic term of “batang hamog” for indigent street children often engaged in criminality, literally “child(ren) of the dew”. Along similar lines, I would simply suggest “batangueno”, meaning from Batangas. So there is no slanderous connotation and we’ll have humorous situations where people with Visayan accents claiming, “Ala, eh, Batangueno ako, eh!”6. I’ll skip Step 3 – 6 and leave that to the government.7. We’re going great guns for the new year. I can hardly wait for the election fireworks. I may want to get out of the kitchen, which I have been threatening for some time. But I don’t know. It’s a relief to pour out the toxins at brekkie. (That’s Strine for breakfast.)

          2. Ahahahahaha, "illegitimate boobs!" It took me 5 minutes of laughing before I could get back to the rest of the reading.Thanks for the additional perspectives, and the Filipinization of the "freeborn" descriptor. Batangueno certainly rips trippingly from the tongue.Your 3. is nicely succinct.My only authorized job in the kitchen is over the sink scrubbing. So I hang out at the keyboard instead . . .No worries . . . there will still be good issues here whenever you pop out.

          3. andrew lim says:

            Edgar,Corona, Bishop Arguelles and the 4 reps who voted no to rh will resent the use of "Batangueno". That is one area where the confluence of politics and rh issues may converge into an anti-admin vote. Joe, Im practically finished with my piece, but let's wait for a more appropriate time to publish it. It's still relatively quiet, election wise. I am too legit to quit!

          4. JosephIvo says:

            Strange, I had exactly the same experience.Last year we wanted to give an acquaintance the birth certificate she was dreaming of all her live, being a real person, a official citizen. Her mother was single and 15 years old when she gave birth, she rejected her freeborn child when she got married a few years later and the child was adopted as helper at the age of 5. At 10 she moved to Cebu, “rescued” by an uncle. For the birth certificate 60 years later, we needed 2 witnesses to testify she was born. I explained that that as difficult and expensive even dangerous as she was born in a unsafe area of Mindanao. At the counter the clerk told me that that was not necessary, I only had to find 2 elderly people in our area willing to testify she was born in Cavite. ( Later in the corridor when I asked for help in return for some money he advised to get some fake identity papers in Chiapo.) So NSO was advising to cheat to make their job easier!Long time ago a 5e grader, the daughter of a fisherman neighbor, was correcting my English, not to difficult but very courageous to correct a Kano. I sponser her studies since then, Last year turning 18 she called me in panic, she found out that she was ILLIGITAMATE!!! After some talking I could convince her to consider it as an honorary title. With her top grades in Siliman being illegitimate, who else can say that?What to do about it? Some additional thoughts1- Empowerment of women. At the poorest levels only women drive progress, mothers keep fighting, whatever the circumstances. The RH bill as important step. 2- Make it more difficult to steal from the poor men (cock fighting, Jueteng, 5/6, …) Men give up, when they can’t be providers anymore they hide in drinking and/or gambling. 3- Stop corruption. The Marcos loot alone of 10billion$ equals P4,000 from each Filipino or P20,000 for a family of 5! 4- Recognize outstanding community workers, outstanding mayors. “Nobel Price” type of competition? Reward them, analyze their processes and characteristics, copy… Anything the blogging community could do?

          5. Ha! Andrew, thanks for the update. "Too legit to quit." Love that line . . .

          6. What a wonderful (horrifying) testimony of the point I was making. Your four suggestions are also excellent.The blogging community can indeed do more. It is, I think, growing in influence in the Philippines as the loud voice of social media in general. Any reader can help by finding important articles (perhaps like this one, including your comment) and dropping them off in a facebook profile or commentary to other blogs and newspaper/rappler articles. Push, push, push.That's what I figure to be doing . . .

          7. Edgar Lores says:

            Thanks, Andrew.Ah, so the good bishop presides over that see. We should ask him if would be honored to adopt these love children as his own, seeing that he is partly responsible.On using that word to describe a woman's assets. It struck me that it could be used in its ironic or true sense!And thanks, Josephlvo, we can use it to describe excellent grades.

          8. Cha says:

            Well, never mind about the attitude of the NSO clerk, who is probably just a couple of pesos better off than the people he thumbs his nose at. What about those who are much better off, better educated and holding stable jobs, who blame the poor for the sorry state the country is in? How many times have I seen people in social media comment that the poor are to blame for voting corrupt and incompetent politicians into office? Some would even go so far as suggesting that the poor and uneducated should not be allowed to vote!How come no one seems to blame the rich who contribute to the politician's campaign funds that are then used for buying votes? How come no one seems to blame the moneyed businessmen, contractors, real estate developers etc. who offer bribes, give "commissions" that further enrich the trapos and boost their chances of winning even more elections? How come no one seems to blame the handsome and beautiful artistas who are paid to attend campaign sorties and draw the C, D, E crowds in? So how do we make the poor feel more valued in the Philippines? How about we make the rich more accountable? And stop using poor people as the escape goat.

          9. Ah, my, what a stunningly clear call, Cha. Indeed, how can we allow the powerful to escape accountability? Thank you for that important redirection of the argument. I climb on the Church now and then for failing to accept accountability for the moral laxity in the Philippines, and it is fair to lay blame for the economic malaise on the Congress and the President and the Cabinet. And the courts, for not providing a forum for the redress of damages.I shall take that theme and run with it. Or invite you to in another of your superb writings.

          10. How do "common law" couple divorce under divorce bill ? Since they are cohabiting without church approval, by using We-Are-Sinners-Because-Adam-and-Eve Sinned, their illigitimate children will go to hell as well. Since they are illigimate therefore the children are ILLEGALLY IN THE PHILIPPINES. Therefore, they should be deported. To where? According to divorce bill draft, for "common law" couple to apply for divorce, they have to marry first then divorce later. Then, what happens to the illigimate child? Getting a divorce in the Philippines will be expensive. THEREFORE, divorce is only for the rich ?In the absence of divorce bill, an alternative is Annulment is more expensive than divorce it only applies to the rich, famous and well-connected.

          11. I AM AN ILLEGITIMATE FILIPINO, here are whys:1. I pledged allegiance to the American flag only one flag and one nation. Not two. Therefore, I am a ILLEGITIMATE FILIPINO living illegally in the Philippines. To North Koreans, I AM A SPY !!!!2. I was poor in the Philippines, therefore, I do not deserve respect. Therfore, I am an ILLGEGIMATE FILIPINO. But now that I am rich and famous. Speak goot englischtzes. Non-adobo-eating Tisoy. FILIPINOS CLAIM me as FILIPNO when in fact I AM PROUD AMERICAN like Filipina JESSICA SANCHEZ she is PROUD LATINA3. I was baptized have baptismal certificate to show but I do not believe in Filipinos God, therefore, I AM A ILLEGITIMATE FILIPINO.4. My poor "common law" parents brought me to the world in a manger. No birth certificate. No authenticating documents. Parents brought me for baptismal when I was 6-months-old. Church asked for birth certificate. No birth certiciate. Church asked for affidavits and witness accounts from our neighbors. My parents cannot afford a lawyer and a typist for affidavit. The priest baptized me anyways, so, therefore, I am an illegal Roman Catholic with no papers.5. In the '70s my parents smuggled me to the U.S. No papers. No birth certificate. Only baptismal certificate. Thanks to Reagan I BECAME LEGAL. Now I am a U.S. Citizen. NOT ILLEGITIMATE FILIPINO ANYMORE. BUT REAL AMERICAN U.S. CITIZEN. SPEAK GOOT ENGLISCHTZES. 6. Thanks to the drivers of American C-140. They gave my parents safe passage without papers but by pure heart and purest of intention. NOW I AM WEALTHY AND GAY.

          12. I suppose that is what troubles me, the artifices that are attached to laws that are totally not compassionnate or respective of the conditions of a huge percentage of the population. Education is not free, thus discriminating against the poor. I've seen parents simply give up because they can't come up with the money for school as well as rice. So the government solution is to give money to people if they keep their kids in school, and 10% of the people receiving that money are con-men and con-women who don't qualify. It's Peter robbing Paul with John sticking his hand into the pile of money as it changes hands.I read that some 45,000 Filipino kids were abandoned by their US fathers. Many are black and have been punished all their lives. The mothers abandoned them, too, because they couldn't support the kids. The judicial finding was that the State had no responsibility for the kids because their mothers were probably prostitutes, which is illegal.45,000 kids thrown to the garbage piles. And today the nation is going crazy about two kids killed by stray bullets (certainly tragic, by any standard). So is throwing away 45,000 kids.Divorce is a step in the right direction. Small, perhaps, but the right direction.

          13. Cha says:

            Oh yes, please do that. Will also work on a piece myself but it might take a while. It's school holidays in Oz and we're going interstate in a couple of days. (You wouldn't happen to be interested in a travel journal, would you? Ahaha)

          14. I think those words, illegitimate and legitimate have no meaning. The words ought not be applied to kids who arrive in innocence, surrounded only by the lunacy of values that instantly discriminate against them.I rode in a C-130 once.No stewardesses.

          15. Ha, sure, I'll publish about anything, ahahahahaha. And if you get to Alice Springs send me a photo. I never got there.

          16. Proud Pinoy says:

            Mariano,Let's get this straight: Jessica Sanchez, Vanessa Hudgens, and Phoebe Cates ARE ALL FILIPINAS just like Bruno Mars and Rob Schneider ARE Pinoys.Anyone can google this or check wikipedia if you don't believe me. Please stop spreading disinformation.Thank you.

          17. Attila says:

            Proud Pinoy:Typical Filipino style desperation. You have low self esteem and what you do is cling on to Someone like Jessica Sanchez to feel better about yourself. Ok let's get it right: She is first and foremost an American. Her ethnicity is a mix of Filipino and Mexican. That's it.If I follow your brilliant logic you could also be a Filipino Gypsy. Hey you never know.

          18. Attila says:

            Mariano:Ahahahaha, that is hilarious! Keep up the good work on venting here.

          19. Anonymous says:

            One thing I find so admirable about the Philippine intelligentsia is the superior intellect they exhibit when producing a seemingly endless amount of good words. I would read documents produced by the government and I am humbled. I would read the articles written by the media and I am dazzled. I would read the comments written by online bloggers and I am awed. One can gets the feeling that with talent and ability abounding, this country should be highly competitive if not world dominant. But, alas, turning good words into good deeds, and ultimately good results might be easier said than done considering the country's current state of affairs. Could it be that democracy, with its challenges and imperfection, be the problem?

          20. Proud Pinoy says:

            Attila,She is officially in the Filipino List: it and weep. The list is amazing. Makes me really Proud to be a Filipino!Now, instead of trying to be an Anti-Pinoy, wouldn't your time be better spend doing something constructive. Try making a Hungarian List. I'm sure it won't be as impressive.

          21. Proud Pinoy says:

            Anonymous,Don't worry. This is the Philippine Century. The Philippines shall finally rise into a global power. Stop listening to the Anti-Pinoys and have faith in our great culture.

          22. Ah, Anon, very interesting observation. Yes, it's true, isn't it, the endless amount of good words. Even the Constitution is wordier than the American version on which it is based. Somewhere around here I have an article from a couple of years ago where I opined that American style democracy is not really the best for the Philippines. That it would benefit from being structured along the lines of a corporation with a Board of Directors instead of Congress. As I see how powerful the cities and clans are outside the national government, I am even more convinced that a different form is needed.But I hold the wordiness comes from the absence of conceptual discipline, a focus on trees instead of forest. But I see signs this is changing. I was touring the Ombudsman's web site today, and there is a superb 7 year plan there. Concise and to the point. Also, the schools teach feeding back information rather than creating and organizing information for greatest impact. So the discipline coming out of schools is weak.Great point you raise.

          23. Attila says:

            Proud Pinoy:You are asking me to make a Hungarian list?Just for starters we have 11 Nobel Price Winners. Among them the most important was for giving the world Vitamin C. Here is the link to read about them all. Just copy and paste the links in to your browser. Hungarian athletes have won a total of 476 medals at the Summer Games. 157 of those are gold medals. Inventions: They are shown in these 2 entertaining videos. You will learn that there is a very long list from Computer to Rubik's Cube from ballpoint pan to Helicopter and so on. you get your own medicine. You asked for it.

          24. Anonymous says:

            "Foreign investment is not inherently a security risk."But you wouldn't want your media, communications, transportation, utilities in the hands of foreigners. That would be a security risk. For as long as we live in a world of nation-states, there will always be a conflict of national interests, there will always be the danger of war. Today's friend could very well be tomorrow's enemy. So you don't want those things I mentioned above in the hands of a potential enemy. For obvious reasons. Foreign ownership of those sectors are inherently a security risk of the highest order. – MB

          25. Yes, good point. There would have to be rules. I agree.

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