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San Juan Gossip Mills Outlet

A veritable fanatic of the Internet. His avocation is teaching while his main vocation is practicing the much maligned law profession. Currently teaching Constitutional Law at the FEU Institute of Law and a guest lecturer at the De La Salle University teaching "Freedom and Regulation in Cyberspace" in the Graduate Program of the Department of Communication. He is married to his beautiful Ateneo law school classmate and is blessed with a daughter and a son.

Location: San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Letter to Edmund

My dear Edmund,

Hearing you criticize the Justice Committee process and impassionedly pleading other solons to join the bandwagon of 79, I cannot help but be moved.

Has the truth been reduced to 79 signatures? No, Edmund, you are right. The truth cannot be diminished to a mere 79 signatures. The truth is much bigger than you and I, the legislature or even the entire machinery of government. After all, truth is no respecter of persons, of stature or of class.

But what has been reduced to 79 signatures is the constitutional mechanism by which a sitting president can be removed from office. The opposition, through its fair-haired boy, Francis Escudero, refused to participate in the process, fearful that a numbers game will be a travesty of justice. When the call for resignation did not sufficiently stoke the people’s ire, it was only then that the opposition realized their folly and began to join the process in earnest.

How can we not blame the opposition? Led by young, emotional and unseasoned players who believed that outrage in the streets will trump other constitutional options, what did you expect? Except for Suplico, where were the congressional veterans of the Davide impeachment debacle who should have spearheaded this adventure?

I do not know if you offered or was proferred to deliver the privilege speech but your credibility is a cut above the opposition. You were no part of the opposition, you played no part in the complaints, and the sole part you played was to dignify the search for the truth, even unto strong disapprobation from your own blood.

By your composure, you concealed the opprobrium, the incompetence, the immaturity of these young opposition solons, who even now, cannot face their fleeting defeat with calm and dignity. Like truth, disgrace honors no political parties and its stench rends asunder both the administration and opposition.

You accused the House where you sit that it has reduced the truth to 79 signatures. But was joy not overwrought in the 11th Congress when you secured the signatures of 1/3 of the House to impeach Erap and repaired his case to the Senate?

You accused the House where you sit that it has reduced the truth to 79 signatures. And yet, to the end of your speech, you pleaded movingly to your peers, looking around the Hall for eyes to meet yours, searching for brave souls to join and make complete the 79 signatures. Has the truth been reduced to 79 signatures? You tell me.

My dear Edmund, do not lose heart. Rage, rage against what you see is injustice for the race to 79 is far from over.

No, Edmund, the truth has not been reduced to 79 signatures. The truth is the 79 signatures. And therefore, seek out the rest because the truth is still out there. And then, we shall have the reckoning.

As always, a friend who holds you in high esteem,


¿Quo Vadis?

Not all is lost. Yet.

So, the administration solons have thrown the amended complaint into the garbage. So what? That is not the end of the impeaching proceedings. The end of the proceedings is the transmittal of the Articles of Impeachment. Unlike Ms. Susan Roces, I have yet to give up on the impeachment process. The opposition can still bring back the amended Lozano complaint.

How? Get the 79 votes.

Once the opposition gets the 79 votes, they would have complied with the constitutional requirement to shift the impeachment proceeding from the House to an impeachment case in the Senate. But before transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate, here is a concern which I shall hazard to answer.

Suppose the opposition secures the 79 votes even before the Justice Committee shall have submitted their report to the plenary, much less finish the committee hearings, will they have to wait for the referral of the report to the plenary before they can override or overturn the Justice Committee Report?

No, if the 79 signatures will be secured prior to submission of the Justice Committee Report to the plenary or prior to the completion of the Justice Committee hearings and the report, the opposition need not wait for the report to be referred to the plenary or wait for the hearings to be terminated. The mere fact that the opposition is able to secure the 79 votes already constitutes the sense of the House to transmit the impeachment case to the Senate. And according to Manuel L. Quezon III, Cong. Zamora mentioned that once the 79 votes are secured, the opposition will inform the Justice Committee by a motion and move to the plenary for debates. However, I am not certain that moving to the plenary for debates is still required.

Under the 1987 Constitution, a report of the Justice Committee may be overturned by a vote of 1/3 of the House. That presumes that at the time of referral of the Justice Committee Report to the plenary and prior to or during the debates, the solons who were not involved in the proceedings before the Justice Committee are still mulling whether to affirm or override the Justice Committee Report. In other words, there are no 79 votes yet at the time of plenary debates.

The provision however is silent as to a situation where 79 votes have already been obtained prior to the referral. Since the Constitution mandates that a vote of 1/3 of the House or 79 votes is the minimum requirement to transmit the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate, securing 79 votes prior to the plenary debates actually forecloses the plenary to conduct debates. Obtaining 79 votes render the plenary debates a superfluity because the debates will not add one whiff at all to the legality of sending the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate.

Therefore, the only role the plenary will play is: (1) to affirm that 79 votes have been secured to overturn any decision or action, if there is no report yet; or if the report has been referred to the plenary, to overturn such report; (2) to affirm the decision of the 79 votes to utilize the Amended Lozano Complaint as the basis for the Articles of Impeachment should the pro-impeachment choose to do so because the 79 votes effectively overturns the Justice Committee. Incidentally, by the 79 votes, the amended Lozano complaint shall be deemed to be sufficient in form and substance; and; (3) to transmit, by way of a House Resolution, the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate.

Whereas, it was the tyranny of the majority that dominated the hearings in the Justice Committee, the 1987 Constitution returns the favor to the opposition and gives them license to exercise in the plenary, what John Nery coins, the tyranny of the minority.

Of course, if this happens, expect my friend and classmate, Ernesto “Jun” Francisco, Jr., or any fellow wanting his 15 minutes of fame to probably file a petition for certiorari and leave his name as a legacy in another landmark case.

¿Quo vadis? Either to the dumps, to the Senate or to the Supreme Court. Get the 79 and off we go to see the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

You Decide - A Blog Examination

Unless encumbered by another round of speeches and delays, the House Justice Committee today will rule on the admissibility of the second complaint and the Amended Lozano Complaint. And one can already hazard a guess as to the outcome of the two latter complaints in the light of the ratio of administration solons vis-à-vis opposition congressmen.

The Bar Examination is upon us next week. The first subject of the first week is Political Law. Let us have our own Political Law blog exam. Let us back track and deal with the primordial issue in this current impeachment controversy and that is: When is an impeachment proceeding initiated?

First, a definition of terms.

“Initiate” - using the various definitions found in the Francisco case, to initiate means “to file” [Maambong definition]; to perform or facilitate the first action” [Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language]; “to begin, to commence or set going” [SC’s own and un-cited definition];

“Initiated” – Under the Francisco case, it means filing of complaint and referral to the House Justice Committee. This was the interpretation of Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S. J. and adopted by the Supreme Court;

Second, the constitutional provisions in question:

Article XI: Section 3. (1) The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.

(2) A verified complaint for impeachment may be filed by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any Member thereof, which shall be included in the Order of Business within ten session days, and referred to the proper Committee within three session days thereafter. The Committee, after hearing, and by a majority vote of all its Members, shall submit its report to the House within sixty session days from such referral, together with the corresponding resolution. The resolution shall be calendared for consideration by the House within ten session days from receipt thereof.


(5) No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.

Third: The pertinent portion of the 3 different House Rules of Impeachment Proceedings, to wit: (a) the 11th Congress Rules which was used in the Erap Impeachment proceeding in the House; (b) the 12th Congress Rules which was applied in the Davide impeachment proceeding; and (3) the 13th Congress Rules which cover the Arroyo impeachment proceeding:

11th Congress Rules, Rule 2 (Initiating Impeachment) Section 2. Mode of Initiating Impeachment. – Impeachment shall be initiated only by a verified complaint for impeachment filed by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any Member thereof or by a verified complaint or resolution of impeachment filed by at least one-third (1/3) of all the Members of the House

12th Congress Rules, Rule V, Section 16. – Impeachment Proceedings Deemed Initiated. – In cases where a Member of the House files a verified complaint of impeachment or a citizen files a verified complaint that is endorsed by a Member of the House through a resolution of endorsement against an impeachable officer, impeachment proceedings against such official are deemed initiated on the day the Committee on Justice finds that the verified complaint and/or resolution against such official, as the case may be, is sufficient in substance, or on the date the House votes to overturn or affirm the finding of the said Committee that the verified complaint and/or resolution, as the case may be, is not sufficient in substance.

13th Congress Rules, Rule2, Section 2. – Impeachment shall be initiated by the filing and subsequent referral to the Committee on Justice of:

(a) a verified complaint for impeachment filed by any Member of the House of Representatives; or

(b) a verified complaint for impeachment filed by any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any Member thereof;

(c) a verified complaint or resolution of impeachment filed by at least one-third (1/3) by all the Members of the House.

Fourth, First Question: Compare the impeachment provisions of the 1987 Constitution with the three different Congress Rules on Impeachment proceedings, knowing what you know now about the various Congress Rules of Impeachment and the 1987 Constitution, which Congress Rules of Impeachment Proceedings are the most faithful to the provisions of the 1987 Constitution;

Second Question: Knowing what you know now about the meaning of initiate and initiated, and knowing what you know now about the three different Congress Rules of Impeachment Proceedings; (a) would you vote for the Lozano complaint; or (b) would you allow the consolidation of the three complaints?

Third Question: Do you agree that initiate and initated are still synonymous? If not, do you agree that initiated should be filing and referral to the Justice Committee. If you disagree with Fr. Bernas, please state your reasons.

Fourth and final question: Knowing what you know now about legality behind the whole impeachment controversy, we come back to the primordial issue, when is the impeachment proceeding initiated?

Good luck. A wrong answer here will not be taken against you. But a wrong answer in the House Justice Committee may trigger an outbreak. Let us hope they will be true to their committee’s namesake and have some sense of justice.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Frisking & Bag Searches in the US

Read an article about New Yorkers willing to have their bags searched while riding public transportation. This was in the light of the London subway bombing. The article also mentioned that civil liberties groups protested the searches as it may lead to racial, ethnic, or religious profiling. Well, from our Filipino perspective, frisking and body searches are no longer newsworthy.

I am a perennial victim of racial and ethnic profiling in U.S. airports. Four months after 9/11, I went to the States to visit my younger sister who was suddenly taken ill. While I was lining up in Detroit International to take my connecting flight to Florida, I was asked out of the line and frisked by airport personnel. In another instance, after I got my boarding pass on the way to San Francisco, I was again called out of the line and frisked. My wife attributed this to the fact that my bushy eyebrows and cropped hair made me looked like a Middle Eastern guy and that Americans are poor judges of ethnic origins. Since 9/11, I have always been frisked in US airports except in San Francisco International Airport where most of the airport personnel are Filipinos and who will definitely not mistake me for an Arab.

And about bag searches, Americans are quite squeamish with checking other people’s bags. In the many theme parks in Orlando, Florida, you have these senior citizens doing part time jobs as security personnel in the entrance gates and you get the feeling that “I hate to do this but this is my job”. But of course, being employed in the happiest place on earth, they are required to be friendly.

Unlike Americans, we take to frisking, bag searches and car searches like fish to water. I have grown accustomed to security measures which have become the norm in malls such that when I am not frisked or searched, I asked the security personnel what’s wrong.

There are certain trade-offs that I am prepared to do, if only to ensure our safety. Even our civil liberty groups have not protested these intrusions to privacy unlike their American counterparts who are so sensitive about privacy. 9/11 and the London bombing should have opened their eyes that not all constitutional rights are created equal. Some rights like privacy in public places may be diminished for the meantime as long as the danger is clear and present and can be proven. And if Americans will not allow a temporary diminution of these rights, they have only themselves to blame if another 9/11 occurs on their soil.

Meanwhile, the next time I leave for the States, I will ask my wife to accompany me to a beauty salon to have my eyebrows threaded.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Who Created Chaos?

One of the most common though not unexpected criticisms of this House impeachment proceeding is the extreme prevalence of lawyers which greatly contribute to the utter confusion and inanity in the House. Apart from the lawyer-solons, there are lawyers who appear before the ANC News and give their “expert” handle on the matter. And of course, we have Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S. J., whose legal conclusions are ubiquitously mentioned in legal fora, from within the House and without.

In today's blog, I would like to discuss some of the opinions these lawyers have mentioned or things that I have read and why I respectfully disagree with some of their held opinions. The critique is purely academic with no intent to demean my fellow brethren in the bar:

(a) Last Tuesday afternoon, ANC News interviewed a fellow Atenean and a fellow FEU law professor (though I must admit never having seen him since I teach only Constitutional Law every Tuesday night) by the name of Atty. Adel Fadel Tamano. In that interview, one of the things that struck me was when he mentioned that GMA’s then lead counsel, Atty. Pedro Ferrer’s Motion to Strike the Amended Complaint is not allowed under the 13th House Rules of Impeachment Proceeding because it is similar to a Motion to Dismiss which is a prohibited pleading under the Rules. I could not agree with my pañero.

First of all, a Motion to Strike Out a pleading is not similar to a Motion to Dismiss. Under Rule 16, Section 3 of The 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, if a motion to dismiss is acted favorably, the court may dismiss the case or may order the amendment of the pleading. On the other hand, if a Motion to Strike is favorably acted upon, the court cannot dismiss the case, it merely strikes out from the records the excised pleading. When Atty. Ferrer filed his Motion to Strike Out the Amended Complaint, it was without the intent of dismissing the case because that is not allowed but rather, to remove the Amended Complaint from the consideration of the Justice Committee so that the only complaint to be resolved would be the sufficiency in form and substance of the original Lozano complaint.

Speaking of prohibited pleadings, the rule is that only pleadings specifically enumerated are prohibited. And under the House Rules, only a Motion to Dismiss is prohibited. The Rules are silent on a Motion to Strike Out a pleading and therefore, not being a pleading specifically prohibited, Atty. Ferrer’s motion did not violate the 13th House Rules.

(b) The second opinion I chose to comment on is found in John Nery’s blog, the Newsstand, specifically, “Two Questions”. In there, he narrated the comment of our FEU law dean, Andres Bautista, wherein the latter suggested that for the amended complaint to be valid, the opposition must secure the consent of both the complainant and the endorser, Rep. Marcoleta.

I could not agree with my dean’s comments. First of all, the endorsement by a congressman is only required if the impeachment complaint is filed by a citizen or a non-member of Congress. The reason behind this is one of courtesy where a stranger, i.e., a citizen, cannot forced himself into the House but must be let in by a member of Congress. Beyond this congressional decorum, the endorser serves no other purpose. That is quite evident in the terse language of the endorser’s role in the 1987 Constitution.

Secondly, to impose upon the opposition the burden of securing the consent of the endorser for the validity of the amended complaint is unfair. Suppose there are 26 endorsers of the original impeachment complaint, and half of them did not give their assent to the amended complaint, following the dean’s formula, their disapproval will invalidate the amended complaint. It does not seem right, does it?

Let us suppose further that in spite the non-assent of half of the 26 endorsers to the original complaint, the opposition was able to garner the 79 signatures on the amended complaint, will the amended complaint still be dismissed because of the lack of assent of the 26 original endorsers? As you can see, the dean's suggestion only contributes to the ongoing legal conundrum. Hence, my disagreement.

(c) We come to my favorite Atenean and my second most admired Jesuit (next to Fr. Herbert Schneider, S. J.). In one of his Inquirer columns, Fr. Bernas considers the amended complaint as a bill of particulars. If by bill of particulars, he implied that the Lozano complaint is unclear, then in general parlance, he may be right but procedurally and substantively, he is in error. I dare not think that the eminent Fr. Bernas could have knowingly applied the term “bill of particular” loosely without inviting criticism from legal circles.

For one thing, a bill of particulars is invoked by the defendant if in his judgment, the complaint is vague or ambiguous. His recourse is to file a motion for a bill of particulars. On the other hand, if a complainant feels his original complaint is ambiguous, he can amend his complaint and substantively enlarge the scope of his complaint before an Answer is filed without requiring approval from the court. But after an Answer has been filed, the complainant must ask the court’s permission to allow him to amend his complaint substantially.

In Fr. Bernas’ assessment, the amended complaint is a bill of particulars. But based on the rules of civil procedure and the action taken by Atty. Pedro Ferrer, Fr. Bernas’ conclusion is wrong.

The fact that GMA filed an Answer showed that either (a) she does not consider the Lozano complaint inherently ambiguous that would require a bill of particulars; or (b) the Lozano complaint is heaven’s left handed gift to the president that filing an answer will preempt the substantial amendment of the original complaint. In either case, Fr. Bernas is mistaken to describe the amended complaint as a bill of particulars. That is like calling a rooster a hen.

There are still other comments that require further elucidation. By no means is this Nestor Torre's boob tube booboos. This exercise is meant to emphasize the fact that lawyers’ opinions, no matter how well researched or argued, are not carved in stone and therefore, must be subjected to further refinements. And hopefully, in that process, non-lawyers among us will move from a sense of awe and surrender to a position of inquisitiveness or even defiance.

For just as gold is tested by fire, so must our legal opinions be refined through the cauldron of public opinion and discourse. That goes for Fr. Bernas and other legal commentators, and that certainly goes for this blawg as well.

Slo Mo

Is the opposition really serious in accusing the administration solons of delaying the impeachment proceedings? Are they really indignant that GMA’s allies in the House have stymied and drowned them in technicalities?

For starters, the move to impeach GMA has been nothing more than a fool’s hope for the opposition. They initially refused to go down the impeachment lane, insisting and preferring that the president resign posthaste. But when the Hyatt Ten, the Cory Call, and the Liberal Cabal failed to unhinge GMA from her throne of grace and seeing that the public much preferred GMA impeached, reluctantly did they agree but not before calling Oliver Lozano a stooge of the administration.

If there is now quandary in the House as to the true impeachment complaint, the opposition has itself to blame. They were so convinced of GMA's downfall on 7 July that no fallback plan was conceived in the event of failure. And by the time they realize that impeachment was the only constitutionally viable option, Lozano had beaten them to the draw with a complaint whose greatest worth is for wiping one’s arse.

Thus, when the three complaints were referred to the Justice Committee on the same day, the administration seized this technicality to insist that only the original Lozano complaint should be considered following their reading of the Francisco case. And so, here we are in the Justice Committee debating the same reasons, reciting the impeachment provisions in toto from memory, citing the holy name of Fr. Bernas over and over again as if invoking him will reflect some measure of brilliance to the invoker. Delay is everywhere.

In the meantime, one cannot believe that the opposition does not welcome the administration’s intent to slow down the process. Being an uphill journey to reach the elusive 79, the opposition must trudge the slow, weary and uphill climb. With each day that the administration dawdles on details, the opposition should strive to apply its powers of moral and legal persuasion to attract the fence sitters, sway the unbelievers, and soften the middle of the roaders to a favorable compromise. This, the opposition must earnestly do while the Eye of Sauron is fixed elsewhere.

Let the media huggers bask in the limelight of ANC News. Truth to tell, their speeches are a tad boring and the name of Bernas, like Hare Krishna, repeated so often has become a mantra and an invitation to get some shut-eye in the afternoon. Enough said already about the Francisco case. As there are many eloquent speakers in the opposition, there are just as many in the administration that speak the language of persuasion.

The opposition cannot hope to win the public debate on TV. All of it is a stage and for public consumption. What will undermine the administration stranglehold is for the foot soldiers working beyond the pale of media coverage to seek out the reluctant, the morally upright and indignant solons among them while at the same time, combatting the wiles, inducements and seducements of the administration and the Speaker. And with each day of delay, the opportunity presents itself to overcome the heavy boulder of rolling to 79.

So, let Datumanong lord it over the Justice Committee and let Paras, Suplico and Cayetano think they are the Demostheneses and the Ciceros of the opposition. The fight will not be found in the speeches and the debates. Neither will victory be achieved by invoking case law. The fight will be found in the hushed hallowed corridors of the House, in the air-conditioned offices of the solons, and in the tiny nook in a solon’s mind called conscience, that is, if they still have one. And this silent war will be won as long as the administration continues to abet in the delay.

The opposition should not insist on a swift end, not while their numbers are inadequate. The delay has started to produce some good results evidenced by five new endorsers. And whoever said delay is always a bad thing has never applied technicalities to one’s advantage. Lest we forget, the name of the game is called “creeping impeachment”.

And therefore, let the wheels of justice and the Justice Committee grind, and let it grind ever exceedingly slow. For once, let us not grumble but embrace delay.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Spare Tire

If civil society has not been able to gather sufficient outrage against GMA to mount an EDSA Tres or Kwatro, if the entire business sector has not thrown its weight behind the GMA resign movement, if the Catholic bishops could not directly demand the ouster of GMA with unanimity, if the Protestant denominations could not agree among themselves to withdraw support from the president, GMA has the Vice-President Noli de Castro or Kabayan to thank for.

To many pragmatists in and out of government, Kabayan as an alternative is simply unacceptable and perhaps, even worse. The leadership and intellectual qualifications of GMA and that of Kabayan are as far as the east is from the west. The ability of GMA to converse in economic and financial terms is alienspeak to Kabayan. To many, the contrast is so stark that GMA's choice of Kabayan was obviously not a testament to his yet untested leadership but more a pandering to the masa and a prop to her candidacy for purely political gain.

But given her current snafu and with the growing clamor for removal, Kabayan has proven to be a serendipitous choice that compels GMA to remain in office.

In this brewing controversy, many start with a premise that GMA admittedly has committed a wrong but the next question is asked: Who will be the viable alternative? That is an insulting question as though the Vice-President does not exist.

But it is that next question that prompts the people to reconsider GMA's culpability. It is also that next question that gives pause to the public not to go along with the constitutional line of succession, not out of defiance but out of fear of the unknown factor that is Kabayan. Does he have the required acumen to solve this country's ills or will he be a puppet on someone else's strings?

There is nobody to blame for Kabayan's ascendancy. We cannot blame GMA for tapping him because she needed him as foil as she already lied she will not run for president. We cannot blame the poor for voting Kabayan because he represented their aspirations, as one of their own who rose from abject poverty to the heights of power. We cannot blame civil society because like the presidential protagonists, Kabayan was the lesser of two evils and his female foe and former kumare had a political baggage surnamed Leviste whose notoriety is said to rival the First Gentleman.

But given all his inadequacies, that next question should not even be asked because for us schooled in law, he is the Vice President and is next in line. That is all that matters. It is as simple and as true as the night follows the day. No questions asked.

The opposition pays lip service to the charter when they say they will observe constitutional succession. Politically, Kabayan is not one of their own and sowing the seeds of impeachment only to let Kabayan reap the harvest is not their idea of success. But it makes one wonder that the opposition must be so pungently vexed with GMA that they are willing to do that and hand over the reins of power to Kabayan who has done nothing, in their eyes, but to stand behind the president. At least, they cannot fault him for turncoatism.

Not once, but twice did we have the chance to deny Kabayan public office, but the fact remains that he is now our Vice-President required to take the reins of government after GMA is removed. There should be no ifs or buts about his qualifications or the lack thereof. And no opposition-led people power to oust him later should he become president. He has complied with the minimum requirements under the Constitution to become Vice-President. Let us trust him to do some good. So, live with it and let us be done for.

And may God have mercy on our nation.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Not So Black And White

Ricky Carandang gave the goings-on in the Black and White Movement held yesterday. While the movement is a step in a direction aimed at galvanizing all anti-GMA forces, my somber feeling is that it will amount to nothing beyond motherhood statements.

I take aim at the name of the movement itself. It is pharisaical at its best and a show-off at its worst. The name of the movement implies a very clear divide between the forces of good and the forces of evil. But is it all that clear?

Arrayed against each other on one hand are the black ops of the GMA administration whose sole aim is for GMA to finish her term or at the very least, abbreviate her government with her honor intact. On the other hand are the white knights of civil society astride on the high moral horse seeking to move the public in a unified denunciation of the president, her removal and other needed political reforms.

The motives are genuine, the intent pure but what or who makes up the movement? The Hyatt 10 whose loyalties can no longer be relied upon? The Makati Business Club whose unelected members think they are God's gift to the Philippine economy? The members of civil society who think they are God's right hand armed to smite the enemy? The members of several religious orders who, with perhaps the exception of the Society of Divine Word and the Society of Jesus, never collectively spoke out against fascism and tyranny during the dark days of the Marcos regime? Are these the leaders of the Black and White Movement?

Ricky Carandang spoke about the movement addressing their own weaknesses. Maybe far more than their weaknesses, they should confess their faults and sins. Those who, among then, became involved in this administration directly or covertly, or those who, among them, knowingly profited from their connections with the government, or those who, among them, tolerated or participated in the illegal inanities under the Nuremberg defense of "Befehl ist befehl", by their commission or their intentional omission, they are as much a part of the blame and as much a part of the problem as they are now seeking a solution. And for these things, they must not only put on sack clothes but must do restitution, if only to give credence and credibility to this movement.

Cleansing is a necessary part of credibility. After all, without it, the administration can blast them with hypocrisy and all sorts of innuendoes, which when spun properly, can put the movement, instead of the administration, on the defense. Because of its name, this has unwittingly become a Donatist controversy. The members must be pure if they want to purify the government. That premise, of course, is not necessarily a given but a very powerful moral argument. After all, how many times have we heard both sides claiming he who is without sin, cast him let the first stone?

Moreover, these movements are short-lived once their purposes are achieved. The August Twenty One Movement effectively died after the EDSA Revolution. The Black and White Movement spoke about electoral reforms since they believe the COMELEC became an Arroyo tool to cement her victory.

But fast forward to the past, where was civil society after EDSA DOS? Did they speak of reforming, eradicating or legalizing jueteng that caused the downfall of Erap? No. They were profiting from Code NGO bonds and warring amongst themselves whether to defend or destabilize the Arroyo government. What guarantees do we have that their ideals will be carried out after seeing Arroyo gone?

The only true movements that last are the revolutionary and religious movements. Red October would not have happened without a zealous revolutionary philosophy. Nazism would not have taken a foothold in the Weimar Republic without the ultra-bigoted "blame our poverty on the Zionists" pragmatic unreasoning of Hitler and his Brown Shirts. Martin Luther King would not have dreamt his dream of civil rights equality without foot soldiers willing to be bloodied, lynched and even salvaged. Does the Black and White Movement have zealots willing to carry out the fight to the end or are they just content preaching to the choir?

If the Black and White Movement is to succeed, it ironically cannot remain a distinct movement but must become enmeshed with the public, even after its goals are attained. Its ideals must convince and persuade rather than be imposed on the public to the extent that the ideals of the movement shall have become the ideals of the people.

For instance, the people must believe in their hearts that electoral honesty is a principle worth dying for instead of adhering to the "accept bribes but vote your conscience" Cardinal Sin maxim. And for this to succeed, the members of the Black and White Movement must participate in the political mainstream, not as bloggers, philosophical advocates or outsiders but as politicians themselves.

The late President Marcos always had his favorite maxim at hand when asked to prove himself and that is: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating". I would like the philosophers and shakers of this movement to take on the not-so- black and white realm of national and local politics. Then, let us see if they will be devoured by the system and eat their words or if they can change the political spectrum from ROYGBIV to a simple black and white affair.

That will be a day worth watching in sepia.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

O Captain My Captain

By Walt Whitman

(Everyone's favorite declamation piece in high school, this poem was written by America's greatest poet for Abraham Lincoln subsequent to his assassination. But seemingly, its verses find relevance as well to Ninoy Aquino. For the 22nd year of his martyrdom)

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck the Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up --- for you the flag is flung --- for you the bugle trills,
For you the bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths --- for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning,
Here Captain! dear father!
The arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Yahoo's Board of Censors

Recently, I was sent an email invite to join our high school alumni yahoogroup. While I am already a member of my batch’s website, I decided to register in the mother alumni group.

After registering, I browsed through the site and I noticed that pre-approval was required before the messages will be posted. While Yahoo gives the owner of the site the right to review and pre-approve the messages before posting, I considered that requirement as prior restraint.

So, I sent my first message to the yahoo group which while thanking them also raise the concern about censorship. And true to their caveat, my message came out more than a day after sending the message.

I decided to unsubscribe from my alumni yahoogroup because requiring messages to be pre-approved constitute censorship and prior restraint. I received circuitously an email from the moderator informing me that pre-approval of messages was necessary because of their past experience with viruses.

Could you imagine if the whole internet was subject to pre-approval in theguise of virus protection? That would have slowed down the wealth ofinformation we now have access to. The more prudent thing to do on a possible virus infection is to take out the member whose computer has been unknowingly infected, or whose name has been hijacked, or is the unwitting source of spam and to run your anti-virus software regularly. That would have been a preferred course of action.

I am not saying I do not believe their reasoning but the point is a virus is a technical problem which can be remedied technically. Censorship is just a step way too drastic for me to accept. Maybe, it is my legal background that compels me to nitpick about censorship and freedom.

And my other point is that removing a virus requires no discretion on the moderator to act, i.e., once he sees a virus, it has to be removed and no one will question his motives. But allowing a message to pass through or not requires discretion on the moderator. He can say that a message is too vulgar, too uncouth, or too unbecoming for the site. But what would be his basis for saying so? The Bible, Playboy, Miss Manners? We don’t even know the moderators’ standards. Quite frankly, at the bottom of this discussion is really the basic issue on our constitutional rights to free speech. Anyway, so as not to ruffle any feathers in the general populace of the alumni yahoogroup, I have unsubscribed and I have no plans of visiting the site.

It is a sad commentary on my alumni yahoogroup that pre-approval was ordained to prevent a virus takeover. But between a virus takeover and loss of constitutional freedoms, I would prefer a virus destroy my PC (I hope not so backup your files) rather than toil in an atmosphere where you always have to look over your shoulders. I did not go to EDSA One to liberate ourselves from tyranny only to be excised in a yahoogroup by a moderator whom I do not even know or have not even seen. That is plain and simple censorship.

Let us not allow intellectual pygmies to lord it over us and our hard fought freedoms. To paraphrase William Wallace: They can take away my virus but they can’t take away my FREEDOMMMM! Let freedom ring forever in the land!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Hearts and Minds

It is grating to the ears to hear Rep. Francis Escudero decry the need for the President to face the impeachment court to restore her credibility. It is also insulting to hear Rep. Ronaldo B. Zamora speak of GMA finding redemption only in an impeachment proceeding.

They are both grating and insulting because the statements are both patronizing and false. Let us face it. Reps. Escudero and Zamora want GMA to face the impeachment court because they intend to remove her from the throne of grace. And the truth with the president is that she does not want the impeachment proceeding to continue because of new whistleblowers or the discovery of new and damning evidences of her culpable behavior, not to mention that impeachment is a huge distraction to her governance.

If we know and the opposition knows that the pro-GMA solons do not want GMA to face an impeachment court, then by all means, let the opposition tell it as it is. The opposition will not convert any fence sitter when it says that the impeachment proceeding is good for GMA to restore her credibility. The opposition ought to accuse the president of being scared with the amended impeachment complaint which is manifested by the continuous delays foisted by the administration solons. Even a basic and simple request of drafting a letter to the CIDG must first be debated the whole hour and if that is not foot dragging, I do not know what is.

The opposition must have a two-pronged strategy: the short-term strategy of successfully impeaching the president or the long-term strategy of tainting GMA’s place in history and among the pantheon of Philippine presidents.

The short-term strategy is to move the impeachment out of the House and into the Senate. But the short term strategy will not work as long as you have juvenile comments coming from juvenile dwarves like Rep. Joel Villanueva, Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio, and Rep. Allan Peter Cayetano. As long as they are the faces behind the patronizing Rep. Escudero, the public will not stake their future on these young but vacuous solons. Youth may be an asset but absent an intellectual framework, it is a liability.

The long-term strategy is to recognize the imminence of defeat in the House but with the end view of memorializing the cheating, lying and stealing legacy of GMA. What that means is the opposition solons must expect and be willing to lose the battle at every turn in the House for obvious reasons but in the face of defeat, the opposition will perpetuate the arrogance and highhanded conduct of the administration. What they should keep in mind is that the opposition may be willing to lose the battle but eventually win the war. And with a looming EVAT crisis in the horizon, the Filipino people will not be as forgiving on GMA as the American people were with Clinton after leaving his impeached presidency with a sunshine economy.

The war over the hearts and minds of our countrymen is underway. And as long as the opposition continues to act like wimps or spoiled brats, either impeaching the president or staining the president’s historical legacy will seem to be a bridge too far.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Joyful Reconciliation

I have been a member of Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon Community, a Catholic charismatic renewal group that has been in existence for 30 years. I joined the Community, as we call it, 23 years ago right after I graduated from De La Salle University.

The Community was founded by a number of men but the leader among them was Fr. Herbert Schneider, an American Jesuit based in the Loyola campus for more than 30 years now. Among the Jesuits, he is jovially called the representative of the Holy Spirit owing to his association with the charismatic renewal. But more than that, he is an expert in biblical exegesis known around the world and is a kind and wonderful priest.

People carry a negative and funny impression of charismatics. What comes to people’s minds are the followers of Mike Velarde’s El Shaddai waving handkerchiefs and dancing to non-stop music or watching the followers of Eddie Villanueva praising and dancing in a choreographed manner. There is more to the renewal than singing and dancing.

While it is true that there is much singing and dancing and raising of hands, these things should not really be a sense of bewilderment because we do the same singing, dancing and raising of hands when we watch a basketball game.

We cheer, we shout, we stand up, we holler, we raise our hands in victory, we raise our clenched fists in defeat as we sing our college theme. All these are perfectly normal in a basketball setting. But it becomes abnormal in a religious setting because religious observance is supposed to be silent, gloomy and meditative. These external manifestations are not the end all and be all.

The renewal delves beneath the surface. It really focuses on the changing of the heart, the renewal of the intellect, and the healing of relationships.

My community, Ligaya ng Panginoon, is a simple organization of men and women trying to make a difference in the world they live in, trying to be honest in one’s dealings, and striving to bring joy, hope and light in the person of Jesus to others who are down and in doubt and to those who dwell in darkness.

Not many outside of Ligaya know that Ligaya established the now famous or infamous Couples for Christ depending on the politician you know. It was meant to be an outreach for married couples but some years back, the vision Ligaya had for Couples for Christ and the vision of the leaders of the Couples for Christ diverged in separate ways.

As a result, there was acrimony. Pride and prejudice got in the way and like a doomed father-son relation, the two groups became ships passing through the night. Over the years, Couples for Christ grew in strength, drawing people to Christ and by choice, became a national political force while Ligaya remained simple and true to its name to be a joy and light to others.

I share my community in the blogosphere because very recently, the two communities have reconciled with each other. For some time, their silent hostility was a blot to our evangelical calling to spread the good news. Now, the leaders of Ligaya ng Panginoon and Couples for Christ have asked forgiveness from one other. The reconciliation has ended the hidden shame and both bodies can boldly lay claim to be true disciples of Christ.

The renewal is more than what we see in television, more than the physical manifestation of tongues and praises. It is the call to be holy in this world, a call to repentance, reconciliation and shedding of old wineskins, a call to be a fool for Christ’s sake in this age of sarcasm and modernity and a call to raise men and women to take the extra mile in loving and serving God and others with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your soul.

Monday, August 15, 2005


Why is it when the government speaks of cost escalation and price increases, the poor gets affected directly but when government speaks of prosperity, the poor experiences a mere trickle down effect;

Why is it when the government played the Bunye tapes, it was called the truth but when the opposition played the Garci tapes, it was sedition;

Why is it when oil companies increase gas prices, they call it under- recovery but when they profit from our misery, they still call it under-recovery;

Why is it when Dinky Soliman asked GMA to resign, she was called a heroine but when Bong Revilla asked Erap to resign, he was called “traydor”;

Why is it when GMA urged the military to be professionals, the military urged the politicians to stay away;

Why is it when Bishop Cruz said he no longer had witnesses in the Senate jueteng investigation, the opposition senators started producing their witnesses;

Why am I not surprised that we have the same clowns involved in both the Erap and GMA impeachment in the House and why am I not surprised that the ending will still be the same three-ring circus;

Why do I think that GMA will suffer the same fate as Erap whenever I hear Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Juan Ponce Enrile defending GMA the same way they defended Erap;

Why do I think that the impeachment complaint will not stand the test of legal and congressional scrutiny when the very foundation is the Garci tapes and the rest of the allegations merely used boilerplate phrases to denote crimes but which may not necessarily be impeachable offenses

Why am I afraid that charter change will be inevitable and JDV will force the hands of the legislators to elect him as this country’s new Prime Minister and his wife, Gina de Venecia as Prime Mistress(?);

Why am I afraid that if GMA is not impeached, the First Gentleman will come back with a vengeance and do a Shylock on all his accusers;

Why do I think that once GMA escapes impeachment, her hold on the presidency will be more tenuous and will be subject to further compromises and favors from all and sundry who propped her up; and

Why do I think Mike Defensor is the embodiment of the phrase “There is logic in his madness” and why do I think the administration has cried havoc and let slipped its dogs of war.

Just musings and thoughts. One of those days when you wished if only God could now separate the sheep from the goats, and pray for the coming of His Kingdom to end all this political insanity.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Blogosphere: Where are the GMA Forces?

Why is the administration silent in the blogosphere? Don’t they realized that a campaign is being waged here just as feisty as it is in the mainstream media and no soul brave enough from the administration is countering all the blog blitzes here?

With only one’s wit and prose and without editorial control other than oneself to restrict the language, and coupled with ready-to-made blogging templates and instant transmission of blogs through cyberspace within seconds, a blogger can just as easily advance any policy advocacy, critique any action and even frame flaming issues of the day with impunity.

A slew of political blogs in the internet would seem to suggest that anti-GMA forces have taken hold of the blogosphere and that its advocates have seen fit to harness its pervasiveness to spread their leanings. Opinion writers from the mainstream media have taken this new forum to further advance their ideas, drawing strength, compliments or criticism from other bloggers and even expounding their hostile views on GMA and the administration.

On the other hand, journalists and media reporters who cannot not appear to be objective have poured their inner thoughts, and personal onus on their own blogs, and discovering for themselves the liberating experience of candidly sharing their daily confrontations with the powers-that-be.

Which brings me to the question: Where are the defenders of GMA in the blogosphere? It is as though (1) the GMA defenders are so reticent with the deluge of anti-GMA rhetoric that there is no sense in advancing her cause; (2) the blogosphere is still a limited and budding medium that language and costs have prevented the hoi polloi from attaining critical mass and so there is no need to worry; or (3) only the elite have access to the internet and their loyalties are a foregone conclusion.

There may be other reasons for staying out of this sphere but if the absence is unintentional, it shows despite its avowals of coping with new technology, the administration is still the same crawling leviathan that lags behind the private sector. However, if its absence is by choice, it shows the unwillingness of pro-GMA forces to engage the bloggers on an intellectual level. Perhaps, because the blogosphere is unwieldy, confronting all the issues in the blogosphere would require a full time personnel to rebut all arguments.

But most intriguing as well is the absence of pro-GMA private bloggers. They seem to have left the building. In all likelihood, they see that evidences confronting GMA’s culpability are overwhelming that defending her on a purely legal basis such as admissibility of the Garci tapes is best left for lawyers to debate.

Likewise, defending GMA’s continued stay in office on the basis of the lesser of two evils or who can best lead the country are not exactly strong arguments vis-à-vis the moral fitness of the president and the continued and pervasive influence of jueteng money in the highest levels of the Executive Branch.

While these arguments appear to be insurmountable, the pro-GMA bloggers need not be stymied by how anti-GMA bloggers frame the issues. There is no shortage of spin anyway in media. The same spin can be applied with greater efficacy in the blogosphere because of the natural chaos that abounds in the medium and its lack of cohesive unity other than links and comments. Divide and conquer is another strategy that one can use. At the very least, some measure of defense must be advanced, otherwise, the opposition can claim to the entire lay of the land.

Sadly, we find no credible defense of the president in the blogs. We can rail against some obnoxious figures in the opposition but the thrust of the political blogs have been pretty solid against GMA. Even journalists-bloggers who tread a thin line often come out with blogs seemingly anti-GMA.

Like it or not, the blogosphere is the next agora where the war of ideas will be waged, battled and tested. And unless some giant can advance an intellectual and spirited defense of the president, from an IQ viewpoint, her administration will be remembered where intellectual orcs roamed free and where the talents like reasoned and enlightened thinking were all hidden in a bushel.

Unless someone comes to the rescue, the House of Arroyo will not be the House set on the hill.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Let's Kill The Lawyers

My banker friend sent this to me. As usual, it is about jokes on lawyers. According to her email, the jokes were based on a book called "DISORDER IN THE AMERICAN COURT". I tried looking it up at the Amazon but it was not in their catalogue. So, I doubt it if this is true. Anyway, these are things people said and published by court reporters who copiously transcribed the stenographic notes patiently and "gigglingly".

With all the lawyers gearing up for the impeachment trial strutting their peacock feathers, it is good to read these jokes to keep lawyers grounded. So, enjoy your weekend.


A: JULY 15

















A: NO.
A: NO.
A: NO.
A: NO.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Whither the Ombudsman?

If there is a set of provisions in the 1987 Constitution which has largely proven inutile in this present political crisis, it is the provisions dealing with the Ombudsman.

Under the soon-to-be-mangled 1987 Constitution, one of the powers of the Ombudsman is to investigate any act or omission by any government official or employee which appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient.

If there is a time that the Ombudsman should be doing its job, that time has come to pass to investigate all these jueteng induced electoral fraud, jueteng infected public officials, the so-called jueteng Witness Academy and the so-called jueteng Witness Prevention Program.

But in all these hullabaloo, where is the Office of the Ombudsman and where is its head, Simeon Marcelo? As members of the peanut gallery during the Erap impeachment trial, we first witnessed Simeon Marcelo, a former partner of the Carpio Villaraza and Cruz Law Firm, GMA's private legal counsel which is derisively called the Firm, handle the direct examination of Gov. Chavit Singson. When the Office of the Ombudsman became vacant, GMA appointed Simeon Marcelo to head the office.

Nobody hollered when he was appointed and nobody sensed the appointment was improper. Under the 1987 Constitution, one qualification the Ombudsman must have is "proven probity and independence". But how could one possibly infer that Mr. Marcelo has proven his independence when as a partner in the Firm, their longstanding client is the First Couple and which relationship is shrouded or rather clouded by the attorney-client privilege.

Upon his appointment, Mr. Marcelo promised to remain independent from Malacañang. That promise is honored more in the breach than in the observance. If he was truly independent, Mr. Marcelo should have tackled the alleged anomalies committed by the President and brooked no running interference from any minion of Malacañang. The fact is the opposition can not trust the Ombudsman owing to his past association with the First Couple. The fact is his inaction is quite obvious that it renders itself a useless appendage of the 1987 Charter. The fact is his muted silence begs me to scream for the scrapping of the Ombudsman in the next Charter.

What we must have in lieu of an Ombudsman is an independent counsel who is not appointed by the president, who has fiscal autonomy and the mandate to investigate the president or other high officials without fear or favor and to call crime a crime.

In the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, the case against him was built up by the tenacious investigation of Team Kenneth Starr. At the time of his appointment, Kenneth Starr was a known Republican and a former solicitor general in the first Bush administration. In the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan years, the independent counsel was Lawrence Walsh, a judge who incidentally was a staunch Republican.

In both instances, the independent counsels that were tasked to investigate the alleged anomalies were not appointed by the president. That ensured impartiality and certainly, nobody accused them of being lapdogs of the president.

It is time to revisit the provisions on the Ombudsman. His probity and proven independence must exist prior to his appointment and must subsist beyond the four walls of the written charter. If the Ombudsman is to be an effective channel for cleansing and to make straight the paths for government officialdom, he must not hesitate to act even against his own masters especially when the highest law of the land bids him.

But if he cannot do so, Mr. Marcelo must do the noble act of relinquishing his post. Otherwise, what use is the Latin legal maxim "fiat justitia, ruat caelum” - Let justice be done though the heavens fall - when the price of justice can be bought by the sound of silence.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Age of Snitches

Why do so many snitches abound in this administration? From the start of her governance, and from the point of view of testimonies against her administration, we are witnesses to a parade of Benedict Arnolds, if you will or plain snitches.

From Dodong Mahusay, to Sandra Cam, Richard Garcia, Dinky Soliman, Louie Zuce and today, Marlon Mendoza, we have seen various persons testify or willing to testify to alleged covert deceitful government conduct. They have their reasons to turncoat. But never have we seen so many witnesses testify against an administration until this Arroyo government. Even in the Erap era, greed was what compelled Gov. Chavit Singson to turn against his friend but then, he was only one.

I do not wish to talk about the motives of these people because motive is a complex and internal thought process that is hard to prove and pursuing that process is a slippery slope that can lead only to speculations, conjectures, innuendoes, and name-calling, one that the self-righteous madam, Sandra Cam, seems to be revel in nowadays.

I am curious to know why our society tolerates and even encourages snitches. Is it because we despise the president and her spouse so much that we will believe any person who has some ill thing to say against this government? Is it because the snitches’ sponsors are men of good will like the good bishop Oscar Cruz whose only benchmark for truth is for the snitch to execute an affidavit and which can easily be recanted? Is it because evidences of malfeasance against the government are so difficult to come by that we treat a snitch’s word as gospel truth? Or is it because they are simply telling the truth?

And if this is the measure by which we intend to bring down any government, what does it say about the hierarchy of virtues which we esteem? (a) that it is justified to turn against your friend if you have lost faith in her as in the case of Dinky Soliman? [This seems to be a perverse application of the doctrine of justification by faith]; or (b) that my loyalty to the country begins where my loyalty to my president ends? [How many political hacks cloaked themselves as Manuel L. Quezon wanna-bes? Which much to the consternation of his grandson, Manolo, would paraphrase U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen and say to the wanna-be: “Senator, I knew Manuel L. Quezon. He was my grandfather. You’re no Manuel L. Quezon.”]; or (c) that truth is no respecter of persons as typified in the words of Aristotle: “Plato amicus, magis amica veritas” Plato is my friend, but a greater friend is truth.

But whichever means we do to justify snitches to change governments in the short run, we damage our national character in the long run. That is the reason perhaps why snitches abound in the Arroyo government because the very foundation of the Arroyo government was built on the shifting sands of an Ilocano snitch, overwhelmingly approved by the unthinking throngs of EDSA Dos, including myself, and overtly granted imprimatur by the Papal Nuncio, Cardinal Sin and the justices of the Supreme Court. If a “Witness Academy” now exists, as claimed by Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, its nursery was established in the Senate impeachment court and its kindergarten cultured on the steps of the EDSA Shrine.

We need to establish a more decent method to handle snitches. Turning them from unreliable snitches to decent whistleblowers would be a step in the right direction. Mere affidavits are not enough. Enacting a whistleblower law and protecting them from the vagaries of influence and corruption would go a long way in the credibility of their testimonies. And with a qui tam provision, whistleblowers can be encouraged to curb corruption not only in the highest echelons but in all levels of government.

It is time to put a stop to this charade Senate investigation where the witnesses are paraded either to be insulted or used for political mileage. If we fail to institutionalize the system of whistleblowers, we will reap the whirlwind of false witnesses and earn forever the deserved reputation of a nation of liars, cheaters, and thieves. And I do not intend to live with that.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Raul S. Roco: In Memoriam

In 1989, a month after taking the September bar exams, I applied as an underbar at the law firm of Roco Buñag Kapunan & Migallos Law Offices which was then located at the former Anscor Bldg. in Ayala Avenue. At that time, the law firm was fairly young since the founders were former partners and associates of the ACCRA Law Office where they broke away.

For whatever reasons, I got a call the next day and I was scheduled for an interview. So, off I went to their office the day after the call, and a few minutes after sitting on the couch, I was called in by the secretary of then Congressman Raul S. Roco. He was the first partner who interviewed me. It was the first time I met a politician and although he would not be the last, he was the first one to impress upon me that politics is a public trust and a sacred duty. If politics was a religion, he was the high priest in the Holy of Holies.

The interview was short. He merely asked about my grades, my background, the languages I spoke and my undergraduate degree. In little less than 20 minutes, he told me I was hired but had to meet the other partners. Maybe, he hired me because my mom was from Bohol as was his wife, Sonia. So, he introduced me to Atty. Jose Mario Buñag (the present BIR Commissioner) who was no stranger since he was my Taxation I professor at the Ateneo, and to Attys. Lorna Kapunan and Babsy Migallos. I was to work at the law firm and not his Congressional office where his chief of staff that time was Joey S. Salceda, now congressman from the 3rd District of Albay. I was told to report for work on the first day of December 1989.

But this was not to be. On 1 December 1989, Col. Gringo Honasan launched his most deadly coup against the Aquino administration and nearly toppled her were it not for the US F-15 jets buzzing over Malacañang airspace. I finally went to work on December 9 which I distinctly remembered was a Friday. When RSR (as the lawyers called him) came to the office, he gathered all 11 lawyers and three underbars to a conference.

It was the day after the cessation of hostilities and RSR wanted to confer emergency powers on President Aquino. And so, he ordered us all to research available Supreme Court jurisprudence on rebellion, sedition, murder, the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, martial law as well the constitutionality of granting the president emergency powers. The reason why I knew December 9 was a Friday was because we were told to work over the weekend, to submit a memorandum of law to him by Sunday. The entire law firm finished the work and came Monday, he delivered a rousing sponsorship speech granting President Aquino emergency powers.

Despite numerous queries from the Floor on its constitutionality, RSR fielded all the questions with supreme confidence and aplomb. It was as though he literally threw his whole weight on the bill itself. The solons could hardly put up a decent opposition. The bill passed the House and eventually, it became known as the Emergency Powers Act.

As a congressman, RSR left the day to day law office work to his other equally competent partners but whenever he was in the office, he would needle us with what little law we, young practitioners, knew then and proceeded to gently lecture me.

One time, while having lunch with us, I asked him how was he able to persuade the Supreme Court that the case of San Miguel Corporation versus John Gokongwei which dealt with a director's conflict-of-interest in a corporation could possibly be a matter of public interest. He convinced the justices that San Miguel Corporation contributed 6% to the Gross National Product and to allow Mr. John Gokongwei, the owner of a competing firm, to become a director of San Miguel would be inimical and detrimental to national interest. That day, I learned the importance of adopting a multi-disciplinary approach to a legal problem.

But all was not about law. In another instance, RSR once barged into my room wanting to know the name of the main protagonist in the play "Waiting for Godot". Like him, I was stumped but promised to get back to him. Eventually, the answer was given and I realized that despite his hectic legislative workload, his appetite for knowledge went beyond the law. He always had time to drown himself in arts and literature. I supposed that is because he was an English major in college.

Some say RSR had a bad temperament. I do no think so. While I never experienced tongue-lashing from him, his fits of anger were neither arbitrary nor whimsical. He just did not suffer fools gladly. When you worked for him, you naturally rose to the level of his excellence. The atmosphere in the law firm just reeked with utmost competence and excellence. And so, in a sense, it was unforgivable to be left behind. But like any sermon, there was purpose and the lesson would not be lost on the reprimanded.

I lost track of him after I left his firm. But through the years, I followed his successes and accomplishments. And when RSR heard excellent things about his former junior associates, he would boast to his friends that he trained them. And that was not an empty boast. What we have become in the practice of law is in large measure a product of our training under his tutelage. And I am quite confident that all the lawyers who passed through his portals would affirm the same bragging rights.

The last time I saw him was after the 2004 presidential elections in Enchanted Kingdom where he kept pace with his grandchildren at play in the fields. I greeted him and even if he was already gravely afflicted with cancer, he kept a gentle and happy composure, proud of what I have done with my life. Though much thinner, he was no less the great man I knew 15 years earlier.

But the most lasting statement that I shall forever remember was when he told us young lawyers then "to dazzle me with your brilliance or baffle me with your bullshit". Well, I am sure that he is in the halls of Asgard right now dazzling the angels and saints with the breadth and depth of his intellectual brilliance. I wager he can even debate Thomas Aquinas on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Raul S. Roco will forever be remembered for his greatness in the halls of the House of Representatives and the Senate floor and for his incorruptible accomplishments in the Department of Education. But I will always cherish him as my first teacher in the law profession who took time to train the humble and the lowly, to emphasize that right is might, the primacy of country over one's own, public service over private greed and faith in man's goodness over pessimism and hopelessness.

Fare thee well, RSR. Enter heaven, good and faithful servant, your earthly task is done!

Cha Cha Or Dirty Dancing?

As a layman, I am puzzled by all these chatter about charter change. Especially when I see House Speaker Joe de Venecia on various talk shows discussing the merits of a parliamentary system. He speaks of the political and economic benefits of a unicameral system which is but sheen to his ambitions for ascending the throne. But that is another story.

I agree that the economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution ought to be amended. Those provisions were framed under an atmosphere of nationalism and thus, economic exploitation of natural resources was limited to Filipino citizens. But with the advent of globalization and the recent flip-flop of the Supreme Court on the mining industry, it is quite obvious that the constitutional limitations on the development of the national patrimony have become outmoded.

But if we are talking about the imperialism of Manila and the need to decentralize, does not the Local Government Code (“LGC”) suffice? Was it not the purpose of this LGC to devolve powers, functions, funding from the national government to the local government units? And assuming the LGC does not sufficiently empower the local government units, why not further enhance and amend its provisions? I should think we have had enough time to observe the effects of the LGC on the local and national political structure to tinker and fine-tune it further to be more responsive to local needs.

But if we are talking about shifting from a bicameral to a unicameral legislature, are the laws to be passed under a one chamber body better than laws enacted under a bicameral setup? I can appreciate that lawmaking may be swifter under a unicameral system but swifter does not mean better. Speaker Joe de Venecia speaks of unicameral legislatures found in all Asian tiger economies. But those legislatures are largely kittens groveling at the foot of the Prime Minister. You see that in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand where the parliament rubber stamps the wishes of the Prime Minister.

Moreover, what is the problem with lawmaking anyway in this country? Is it not generally considered a fiat that the Philippines is not lacking in good laws, the problem is their implementation. Our legislature has passed laws that are the sanest, if not one of the most enlightened, in all of Asia, despite electing mediocre people to both Houses. Unlike Singapore, our laws do not allow an administration politician to sue a rival for libel or sedition just because nasty things were said in the campaign and get to bilk the defeated candidate millions for damages. The quality of our laws is at par with First World countries. So, what is the fuss with converting into a unicameral legislature?

When I was studying at AIM, my seatmate then and noted business strategy consultant and Human Relations practitioner, Tita D. Puangco, would remind us the following HR maxim: “Structure follows strategy”. If the strategy of Speaker Joe de Venecia is to convert the Philippines into a tiger economy, does a parliamentary government guarantee the answer to all the ills our country faces today?

In addition, if the presidential system is so unresponsive that it needs to be scrapped altogether, can someone explain why in spite of being in a presidential state of government in the 50’s and 60’s, the Philippines arguably had one of the best economies in all of Asia, second only to Japan? And if one is going to point a finger on the origins of our present state of beggar economy, didn’t the decline of our economy start under the rubber stamp, quasi-parliamentary structure under Marcos? And if one is not willing to blame the parliamentary system for the country’s woes in the 70’s and 80’s, why are we now blaming the presidential system in this new millennium? And if one lays the problem during the 70’s and 80’s at the foot of Marcos, does it not prove that it is not the system, whether presidential or parliamentary, that has foibles but the actors on stage?

I do think amending the charter’s economic provisions must be done posthaste to be competitive in this global village. But the skeptic in me cannot accept the rationale for overhauling the political system. There must be an easier and less expensive manner of addressing the ills of our country.

To date, while the US Constitution has lasted for more than two hundred years with amendments now and then, no Philippine constitution has ever lasted for 50 years. We change it as fast as dancers change their wardrobes in a concert. Dancing to Cha Cha may be dangerous to our health. Perhaps, a slower dance like dirty dancing may suit us better.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Sesame Street

Behind every conceivable move by the administration and the opposition, there is an unseen hand controlling the flow of events.

We saw these clearly last July 8. On that day, a series of Manila bombings, as it were, laid siege on Malacañang Palace. From the clarion call of Cory for the president to resign, she was followed by the resignation of the Hyatt 10 echoing the same demand. To Greenhills where we heard the stentorian voice of Senator Drilon bellowing the same outcry and finally to the Makati Business Club calling out in unison for resignation. These were events that could not have occurred by happenstance.

From the opposition, we saw heaven's gate opened with the anonymous Garci tapes. Proceeding from the tapes, we saw the author of the wireless intercepts, Sgt. Doble, seeking sanctuary behind hallowed grounds for fear of government liquidation, as if he was not one of their own. To the congressional hearings on the Garci tapes which enraged the people and confounded the administration to force the president to issue her "I am sorry" speech. To the impeachment rules and finally, to the appearance of the Girth One, Louie Zuce. The opposition is overjoyed at the turn of events but again, these incidents could not have occurred serendipitously.

The administration is frustrated at the besetting turn of events and wonders when all these will end. The opposition continues to pray for protracted hearings in the Justice Committee so that more witnesses with sudden pangs of conscience will surface and be the next Clarissa Ocampo.

Who are the puppets and where are the puppeteers? The unseen hand has not manifested itself. And there are many that can easily fit the bill. The administration must seek out this unseen hand. The opposition can only gloat at the fortune that has providentially befallen them. The longer this political tragicomedy plays out, the bolder the puppeteers twist the puppets and the marionettes, traversing like chess pieces, strangling every conceivable pass and choking every possible move of the Queen until she is checked mate and falls.

And even now as the Queen is besieged, her armed forces are being tarnished with talks of electoral fraud. While loyal to the Queen, the military is equally, if not, more loyal to their own institution. In the end, left to their devices, they will not hesitate to sacrifice the Queen if only to preserve their status quo and to perpetuate the constitutional fiction that they are the protectors of the people. And for the military to turn their backs on her, that is her greatest fear.

And the left, sensing the growing frustration and the lack of leadership in the opposition, will mobilize its committed forces, stir chaos and anarchy and launch a Red October redux. Unlikely to be successful, it will gain greater foothold on the next regime as a political accommodation, as spoils of war.

In all these slew of events, we must not allow ourselves to be manipulated by the puppeteers or be the puppets of other puppets. But I am afraid it may be a bit too late.

Sometimes, to stop the enemy from taking advantage of us, it is wise not to play chess at all. And sometimes, it is preferred to watch Sesame Street. On that show, while we do not see the strings and the puppeteers, at least we know and we are not fooled that the muppets are being manipulated. I wish I could say the same for us gullible folks.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

All The President's Men

Every week in this administration is not without surprises. Just when you thought the President got a lift from her recent SONA speech, here erupts anew a damning scandal, the Zuce Episode. One wonders if this administration is trying to outdo film trilogies in the areas of scandals and public embarrassment.

To be sure, most articles will deal with the origin and credibility of the Girth One (if I may be so politically incorrect). But my issue is: Are the President's Men doing the right thing?

After the 8 July incident, it was not even the President’s Men who came out to sanitize effectively the President’s odiousness. It was her daughter, Luli, who did not hesitate to shed tears in front of the cameras to firmly and gently accuse Dinky Soliman of betraying her mother’s trust. It was Luli, more than anybody, who humanized her mother and showed the nation that like Shylock, her mother bleeds as we bleed, and weeps as we weep.

It is good that Secretaries Rigoberto Tiglao and Ricardo Saludo have come out blasting the Judases among the cabinet in talk shows while Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita provided the calming and paternal defense of the President. These three fellows have far weightier chutzpah between them than the spins and defenses put up by Environment Secretary Mike Defensor, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales combined. The latter group cannot hold a candle to the former when the president’s defense required an intellectual and impassioned response to a clamor where everyone is asking for the head of John the Baptist.

And now, the Zuce Episode. A former president’s man, the Girth One has oodles of evidence documenting the president’s participation of wrongdoing and in her very own abode. Another Quisling in the horizon, far more devastating than the wanna-be celebrity vixen, Sandra Cam.

But this time around, on the day of the expose, Political Affairs Adviser Gabby Claudio came out attacking the incredible yarn of the Girth One wondering how a minor functionary could have been invited to the President’s house. And rising from the sickbed, death bed or hospital bed depending on how the Palace characterizes his ailment, Zuce’s former boss, Joey Rufino, has denied everything Zuce exposed to the public. Even Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo spoke of his non-knowledge of the Girth One in the Palace. This latest scandal has penetrated the inner circle. It is now a war among the president’s men themselves. If that is so, how can a house divided stand and last long?

Be that as it may, the administration has learned from each scandalous episode it faced. From using emotional blackmail (as in the case of Dodong Mahusay) to marital threats (as in the case of Doble) to a non-apology apology (Garci tapes) to a frontal intellectual assault on the Hyatt 10, and now, the President’s Men appear to employ character assassination, pathos, empathy, financial assistance and threat of litigation, a classic case of carrot and stick. We do not know how this latest scandal will end. But one thing for sure, Darwinian evolution is at play and as to who among the fittest will survive will largely depend on the political environment that the survivor will manipulate to his favor.

In the meantime, let the President’s Men take the bullet for her. Let them defend the president. Let them proclaim the innocence of the president intellectually, assiduously and unabashedly. That is their calling and their blood oath. After all, it would be the height of their incompetence to allow the President to suffer the indignity of being asked questions where her only response can be: “I am not a crook!”. And we know what happened to that president after uttering those famous last words.

In law school, we were taught that if one is in the defense, one stategy is to obfuscate the issues. I do not know if the Truth Commission, the Charter Change were matters raised to obfuscate the present crisis. I do know that this present trouble requires a response beyond a textbook strategy.

But maybe, the strategy is simply elementary, if not subliminally childish... and that is to make sure that the President does not sit on a wall in order that she will not have a great fall. Well, the President has sat on the wall far too long. It is time for the President’s Men to step up the plate and bring down the wall before all the President's Men could not put her back together again.

Monday, August 01, 2005


If there is one thing our country is awash with, it is religious bigots. I do not mean bigots who are against other religions. I mean men of religion who think they are God’s cure to our country’s ills but spew spite on their enemies.

Take Bro. Eddie Villanueva of Jesus Is Lord Fellowship or Bishop Eddie, if you are his adherent. From the very start of his born-again ministry, he vilified the Catholic Church for being the whore of Babylon, the great deceiver, and the papacy as the Anti-Christ. From vituperous beginnings, he gained followers convinced that the Roman Church is the greatest abomination.

And after gaining critical mass, he received a divine calling from God to lead the country out of darkness. Of course, this was after having tasted the temptation of being patronized and wooed by big politicos like FVR. And of course, this was after having acquired his own television station, ZOE TV.

And so, he ran under the banner of God’s appointed and campaigned that only the righteous will deliver our nation from ruin. But the secular and the divine failed to heed his call and lost in the elections. Of course, like any politician, he cried foul but unlike any pastor, never extended charity to his political foe. His TV station became his pulpit, and his son, Joel Villanueva, became his doppelganger.

And now, with this scandal ridden administration, he rises up once again and calls for a transition government above and beyond the pale of constitutional cover. On what ground? That God has forsaken this country and only the righteous will lead our nation from ruin. And of course, no God-thinking Catholic, except his Couples for Christ spokespersons, Louie Sison and his wife, will link arms with him. His son, Joel, the sectoral representative, joins in the invectives against the president instead of offering sobering thoughts to still the storm we are in.

If these are the religious leaders we have, what need do we have to turn our faith from political leaders to the religious ones? What difference will there be if they talked from the same vile script demanding blood instead of fraternal correction? Whatever happened to charity for all even when the president is intransigent? Is the Old Testament demand of an eye for an eye far more in keeping with today’s political atmosphere than the New Testament virtue of turning the other cheek or going the extra mile?

It is dangerous to elect religious leaders to government, Christian, Catholic or otherwise. More so, when they believe in an absolutist Manichaean worldview - we are evil and they are the righteous elect. We must not permit our political discussion to be mingled with religious fanaticism. We have seen how it works in the Islamic context. We cannot afford to have it in our midst. Let them win our souls but let them leave our votes.