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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

Friday, September 30, 2005

Executive Ornery 464 - A Study In Acronyms

Does it not look like the E. O. issued by P.G.M.A. is a bit O. A.? I heard JDV, FVR, CCA, JEE are mad at this new SNAFU.

The E. O. was meant to keep secrets F. Y. E. O. but didn’t they know that Venable LLP will register the contract under the FARA, not Fawcett, but with the US DOJ?

And if NSA Bert Gonzales was telling the truth, why did his B. P. go north to the point that he was rushed to the ER of PHC. to be treated for severe HP, not the printer. I wonder if he took an ECG and MRI for his heart and brain. Well, being two out of 4 characters on the way to see the Wizard of Oz, with his poodle, TONTO, not Toto, ain’t bad at all.

If the Venable contract was a matter of national security, why did his fellow N.S.C. honchos of the DFA, DOJ, DOLE, DILG, DND, the ES, the VP as well as the PCLC knew next to zilch about it.

Is the M. P., the residence of PGMA so bad that they have to talk in dit-dit-dot-dot? Even their GSM phones are feared tapped. Kissinger is right after all, even paranoids have enemies. Now, we hear them using CDMA to thwart Hello Garci from happening again and to prevent PCIJ from scooping it. Incidentally, heard that ANC is in the black now with their media and political heavyweight Ms. KS anchoring the primetime show there and the belles PW and KC hugging the A.M. and P.M. newscasting.

By the way, where is FG? Is he back or did he take a PAL or NW flight back to SFO or Iligan City?

IMHO, this E.O. is supercalifragilisticexpiaridiculous. Even the sound of it is something quite atrocious. If GMA believed in feng shui, she would do well to retract E. O. 464 because in Fookienese, the numbers 464 sounds like “patay na, pinapatay pa!”

Had she consulted a geomancer, she would have numbered it, E. O. 888 but then, Ping Lacson’s website beat her to it.

So, any idea on CINC’s next move? The answer: CPR.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


GMA is a blessed individual.

Just when you thought everything was going against the president, kamikaze, a divine wind, would come around and blows back ill fortune on her political foes.

Consider Black Friday, July 8, 2005. Just when everyone thought she was on her way out of the Palace and out of the government, Hurricane Ramos came around and beat back all the doomsayers.

Consider the Impeachment Case. Just when everyone thought the Garci tapes would bring down the president in a matter of weeks or months, the President survives the threat to her political fortunes by dividing and conquering the opposition and spreading the spoils of war to her allies.

Consider the planned military uprising. Just when there was rife talk of a military takeover during the UN weekend, the president receives the warm accolade of world leaders and basked in the limelight of the world stage. At home, the people's attention is turned to the arrest of two Filipinos in the US for espionage.

Consider the various street protests against the president. Just when the street protests were getting more heated, here comes the news of Manny Pacquiao beating a Mexican for a world title, allowing the president to claim credit for his victory by way of intercessory prayers to the Christian God. In the process, diverting the attention of the people to celebrating Manny's victory with the rest of country, bottles of beer in hand.

Consider the calibrated preemptive response. Just when GMA was getting tired of chasing the bullies in the schoolyard and with protesters taunting her newfound disgust, here comes another good news of a Filipina winning the Miss International Beauty Pageant. Another break in paradise!

The divine wind is not only behind her back, it is also beneath her wings and every time the opposition seems to score, the winds lift her even higher, distancing her from her enemies. For a praying person, she attributes her fortune to St. Michael the Archangel, the fighting saintly angel, not the beer bottle.

In some other presidencies in another era, an unpopular president and his handlers would have intentionally put newsworthy items to draw attention away. With GMA, good news just comes around and surprises even her without any effort on her part to digress negative news reports. She is indeed, one lucky mama.

But while the president may be protected by the divine wind, she should be reminded that the winds blow only for so long. Unlike the Japanese kamikaze, our local hanging habagat can become treacherous and unless harnessed, she may end up reaping the whirlwind or the ipu-ipu.

All we are is dust in the wind.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A Further Case Against Executive Privilege

The Senate’s refusal to grant Mr. Gonzales an executive session is largely a result of the Executive Branch’s series of missteps.

First of all, the Executive branch seemed to have forgotten that Senator Joker Arroyo was a former Executive Secretary during the Aquino administration, probably the most tumultuous of all presidencies since WWII in the light of the series of coups launched against it by the RAM boys.

Thus, if there was anyone amongst the senators who truly understood the length and breadth of what national security is, Joker Arroyo would be it. Hence, the mere notion that the Venable contract is shrouded in national security only evokes in Senator Arroyo his oft-quoted statement when faced with a ludicrous answer: “Tell it to the Marines”.

Second of all, the Venable contract was never clothed with the raiment of national security and the Palace knew that. If testifying on Venable contract would disclose state secrets, then all the Palace or the President had to do was invoke Section 22 of Article VI (Legislative Department) where “When the security of the State or the public interest so requires and the President so states in writing, the appearance shall be conducted in executive session…

To the best of our knowledge, there was no written request from the President to the Senate to convoke in executive session or informing them that national security would be at risk if Mr. Gonzales testified in an open session.

Constitutional necessity and not merely inter-departmental courtesy could have been invoked by the Executive Department but when it failed to do so, the lapse was not due to its ignorance of the provision, far from it, but rather to a forthright evaluation from the Palace that the Venable contract had no state secrets to disclose when a hearing is done in open.

Third, the Venable contract was never discussed in any meetings by the National Security Council. Under the Revised Administrative Code of 1987, the National Security Council is tasked with the formulation, integration and rationalization of policies vital to the security of the state.

For its members, the Council is comprised of the President, Vice-President, Executive Secretary, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary of Justice, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Interior and Local Government, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the National Security Adviser, and such other government officers or private individuals that the President may appoint.

Question: If it was a matter concerning national security, why then did Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales, all members of the National Security Council, claimed ignorance about the Venable Contract?

Can we assume that Mr. Gonzales and the President did this contract on their own without consulting his fellow members of the National Security Council or is it safe to assume that Mr. Gonzales never deemed it a matter of national security to be raised before the Council because there was no state secret to be disclosed?

By all appearances, this talk of national security is a post-disaster quick fix to justify the release of Secretary Gonzales. But even then, its justification is inherently weak, more so, when the President justified the need for lobbying in the US Congress.

If we had the chance to replay this whole thing, would there be anything that could have been done to avoid the embarrassment on Secretary Gonzales.

On the part of Secretary Gonzales, he should have sought the assistance of counsel when he testified as commented by John Nery. Second, he should have immediately invoked executive session, with the President requesting in writing the Senate for an executive session.

On the part of the Senate, as a gesture of inter-departmental courtesy even in the absence of the president’s request for an executive session, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee should have considered Mr. Gonzales’ testimony as presumptively privileged and then, hold the hearing in executive session.

And if in spite of the courtesy granted to Mr. Gonzales for an executive session and he continues to be as contumacious as Jean Arnault, then by all means, have him incarcerated until he discloses the names.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Executive Privilege

In an Inquirer article, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was quoted to have said: "Executive privilege particularly applies to national security matters. This kind of information cannot be pried open by a co-equal branch of government".

His first statement that executive privilege applies to national security matters is correct. His second statement is not entirely. The judicial branch of government has had occasion to pry open claims of executive privilege.

The case of United States v. Nixon was a contentious case that dealt with refusal by President Nixon to obey a subpoena duces tecum to release certain White House tapes on the grounds of executive privilege and a violation of the constitutional principle of separation of powers.

The US Supreme Court concluded, among others, that while the president is entitled to the protection of communications between him and his advisers, the privilege is neither absolute nor unqualified. Absent a showing that the privilege is meant to protect national security secrets, the claim cannot be sustained on a generalized allegation of confidentiality.

Thus, the Executive Secretary may have been misinformed as to the nature and extent of executive privilege vis-à-vis the intrusion of the other branches of government, notably, the judiciary, on that claim.

However, with respect to executive privilege vis-à-vis a legislative inquiry, the parameters have not been judicially defined. But, we can safely hazard the proposition, as did Secretary Ermita, that executive privilege can be successfully claimed if and when it is a matter of national security.

That general principle, however, is not obtaining in the testimony of the National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales.

For one, there is no distinct national security matter that can be found within the four corners of the Venable lobby contract. The President herself said in a televised interview at ANC Channel that lobbying is an accepted practice in the United States and there is nothing inherently wrong with entering into a contract with a foreign lobbyist. If the president freewheelingly justifies the necessity of a lobby contract, what national security matter is the Executive Secretary invoking?

Secondly, all lobby contracts are required to be registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the Lobby Disclosure Act of 1995 and its 1998 Technical Corrections. The Venable contract is no exception and in fact, stipulated that it would have to be registered in compliance with federal laws.

If the lobby contract is required under federal laws to be disclosed, and its copy readily downloadable in the internet and available under the Freedom of Information Act, what national security matter is the Executive Secretary invoking?

National security has been the bogeyman invoked by the Executive Branch when it refuses to disclose certain information. While respect must be accorded to the executive department when the privilege is claimed, comity dictates that the claim must not be invoked in so facile a manner as to show disrespect or demean the intelligence of a co-equal branch of government.

In contrast to the argument hurled by the Executive Secretary, the late Justice Byron White's appreciation of national security in Mitchell v. Forsyth is far more skeptical when he wrote that “the label of `national security’ may cover a multitude of sins”.

With Mr. Gonzales at the helm of National Security, we cannot even begin to count them.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Let My Bert Go

Ever since the advent of ANC, Senate committee investigations have become theater or at the level of the masses, the new telenovela. Not only do senators play to the gallery, they have learned the difference between hot and cold mediums and have adjusted their countenance, not to mention their make-up and eye shadow, accordingly.

Perhaps, it is because of the prevalence of movie actors in the Senate or perhaps, the actors themselves consider the Senate as another movie role to play that broadcast media has indulged them with newfound attention.

We have seen witnesses make fools of themselves, or used the witness stand as a jump-off point to infamy or heightened self-righteousness. But to date, none has taken the witness stand who has fallen so low and endured such ignominious disgrace as the National Security Adviser, Norberto Gonzales.

But this is not about his disgrace. It is about whether the Senate has achieved the purpose for conducting this investigation-in-aid-of-legislation.

The purpose of the investigation was to pass a corrective law in order to avoid another occurrence of the Venable contract and to address the following queries: (a) Did Mr. Gonzales have the authority to sign for the Republic? (b) Where did and will the government source the funds for compensating the Venable law firm for its lobby efforts? Corollary thereto, who were the private donors alleged to have paid the down payment for the contract? (c) Why the attendant secrecy in inking the deal?

The hearing that ensued exposed the weak stilts upon which the Venable contract was consummated. Mr. Gonzales was as evasive in his answers as much as he was bifurcating the issues. In the end, the patience of the Senate, which was not as legendary as Job’s in the first place, was clearly exhausted and cited him for contempt.

But, not being a member of the Senate, I do not share their pain. And from a detached view, the Senate investigation on the Venable contract was unnecessary because the senators already knew beforehand the answers to the queries in aid of legislation. Even the refusal of Mr. Gonzales to answer some pointed questions would not detract the senators from coming out with a law.

And what would that be? The corrective law may, in essence, contain the following provisions: (a) No contract binding the Republic must be executed without written authority from the president, and without the a written clearance and/or opinion from the Secretary of Justice or the Presidential Legal Counsel; (b) A contract with a foreign lobby firm by the government must be disclosed within thirty days from execution of the contract; (c) No private funds may be allowed to pay for funding a lobby effort subject to certain exceptions and existing guidelines of the Commission of Audit and such exceptions must disclose the identity of the private donors and their financial interests.

Clearly, the Senate, even with the contumacious conduct of Mr. Gonzales or even without his testimony, can easily propose new legislation to prevent another Venable nightmare. Mr. Gonzales’ non-answers ironically addressed all the concerns of the Senate with the exception of the identities of the private donors. That may not even be a priority any longer considering the scrapping of the contract.

Granted that the Senate can pass the necessary legislation, should they just ignore the manner by which Mr. Gonzales treated the Senate or the insult inflicted upon the institution? By all means, the Senate can teach him an object lesson on parliamentary protocol and detain Mr. Gonzales for thirty days or so. But he must be let go.

Mr. Gonzales’ detention does not add one whit to the prestige of the Senate nor does his release diminish its contempt powers. At this stage, the Senate's exercise of its contempt powers is largely symbolic in the light of the fact that it already has the legal wherewithal to address the Venable concerns. Symbolic as it is, it nonetheless sends a stern reminder to the Executive branch that it is co-equal and not to send simpletons to confound them.

It is on that point that having the legislative query answered as well as a generous display of its magnanimity that the Senate should let the National Security Adviser go.

It would also do well for the President to let him go.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Notice Of Disconnection

Very recently, the Philippines enjoyed a respite from the slew of bad news that hounded this country since the Garci tapes surfaced.

First, the resounding victory of Manny Pacquiao over his Mexican challenger, Hector Velasquez, and bringing home the WBC Super Featherweight title to the country's pride and admiration.

The second good news is the outstanding performance of the Philippines with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presiding over the Security Council and speaking before the United Nations, mingling with various heads of State and earning the reputation of being the first Asian and first woman to lord over the Security Council. The president’s media handlers would have added “The First Filipino” to her many firsts had not Leon Ma. Guerreo and Carlos P.Romulo beaten her to the draw.

Indeed, these two achievements made the Philippines proud and for a brief moment, allowed our country to come together and celebrate in transient harmony. That said, we ponder the aftermath of the two events and come to a conclusion that some achievements are more resounding than others.

It is obvious as between the two accolades, the victory of Manny Pacquiao was the more meaningful and emotionally satisfying. The success that this simple boy from General Santos attained is an object lesson to all Filipinos that with grit, determination, and discipline, the Filipino can achieve his dream. It is a success story that carries greater significance especially in these times of economic hardships and employment uncertainties.

It is a fairy tale worth telling over and over again to give Filipinos who are bowed down by decades of neglect the assurance that we can rise above our stations in life and be all that we can be. It is the quintessential success story of Juan de la Cruz rising from the dumps of poverty and penury. It is a story of hope.

On the other hand, the success of GMA in the United Nations was an achievement derived not from her own sweat and tears but by the accidents of the Gregorian calendar. September had long been the appointed month for the Philippines to head the Security Council and the month the great tribulation that is 9/11 is commemorated. In short, like the ancient Chinese marriage practice, it was an arranged set-up.

Unlike Pacquiao, the president’s success is not a story worth repeating because there is no object lesson to be learned; no impetus for the ordinary Filipino to be the first Ilocano or first Visayan to address the United Nations. No magic moment when the puny Jack killed the mighty morphin ogre of the beanstalk. No tall tales worth exaggerating in Starbucks drinking oodles of latté nor bragging GMA's feats in the tambayan sa kanto over bottles and bottles of beer on the wall.

Unlike Pacquiao, the president’s achievement was not earned through the sweat of her brows. The road before her performance has been paved by diplomats and technocrats, position papers and draft speeches such that her success was a result of a tactical and surgical operation, an antiseptic procedure, if you will. In short, it was emotionless, quite unlike the intense Rockyesque training that precedes the fight with Goliath and the sweat filled victory that follows a bruising brawl.

It is that emotional disconnect with the president’s success why most Filipinos do not seem to gloat with her. And that same emotional detachment was evident while watching the president speak on television of her overseas success. It was not a victory that evinced emotional exuberance and unbridled pride among Filipinos. Cleary, she was no Manny Pacquiao.

If she can achieve success by proxy preparations and serendipitous appointment, pray tell, where is the gloria in that?

And the unkindest cut of all to our president? To come home and share the headline with two Filipinos caught in espionage. As a believer in Divine Providence, the president cannot construe this as mere happenstance. It is a stern reminder kay Lord that though the impeachment case is dead, there is still evil to be undone.

For which we say Amen and amen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

One-Term Wonder

One of the most significant changes brought about by the 1987 Constitution is the one-term limit of the Presidency. Largely a reaction to President Marcos’ generational occupation of the office, the Constitutional Commissioners deigned it prudent to prevent a twopeat or a threepeat.

One would think that with a one-term limit, a president could buckle down to work and spend his political capital to promote the needed economic reforms, the promotion of foreign investments, the institutionalization of electoral and judicial reforms, the strengthening of the civil service, and the long march to curb graft and corruption in government. It would have been nice to see our economy really take off, and not always simmer on the verge of a fiscal and economic smackdown, to borrow a term from my nephew's favorite wrestling show.

But gauging the performance of the occupants of the office after the enactment of the 1987 Constitution and subsequent to Mrs. Aquino, the political capital always seems spent elsewhere.

While it is true that President Fidel Valdez Ramos did a splendid job of bringing in foreign investments and earning the respect of his peers in Asia, the rest of the world and until February 2004, a place in the Carlyle Group, his political capital was invested in amending the 1987 Constitution with the end view of extending his presidency. But we will never know since Cardinal Sin and Mrs. Aquino joined hands to foil his attempt. And so, off he rode to the sunset.

But unlike the good soldier that he ought to have been, FVR did not fade away. Instead, he extended the national nightmare beyond July 8, 2005 at a steep price of charter change. In doing so, he exacted his revenge on Mrs. Aquino and what he could not oblige Cardinal Sin personally, he inflicted and divided his confrere-bishops.

While it is true that President Joseph Ejercito Estrada won a plurality of the country’s votes, his political capital was spent in nocturnal gatherings with his drinking cronies, cooking up mergers and acquisitions above and beyond his duties as a President, without mind you, stealing a centavo in the nation’s coffers.

His political capital was further spent in the promotion of our country as the gambling haven of Southeast Asia, devising a creative numbers game for the purpose of generating revenues, again without mind you, dipping his fingers on the national treasury.

No small wonder he has consistently maintained his defense that he never stole from the government, only from the poor, the ignorant and gullible players of jueteng and from big shot beneficiaries of those mergers and acquisitions who graced him with their beneficence.

While it is true that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a respected economist and the first two-term president under the 1987 Charter by virtue of a constitutional loophole, her political capital has been a mixed bag.

While she pushed for hardnosed economic reforms and revenue enhancement measures, her political capital in the first term was spent trying to outspend Fernando Poe, Jr. in the last elections and by appointing men of dubious fealty to the Constitution like Mr. Hello Garci to de-institutionalize the COMELEC and by further engaging the military and some generals to alleged partisan electoral manipulation in the South.

While she pushed for the enactment of the EVAT law to save the Republic from a spiraling debt trap and ever widening fiscal chasm, her political capital in the second term was spent in ensuring the dismissal of the impeachment complaint in the House and in the process, compromising her resolve for an economic take-off evidenced by her lackadaisical support for the EVAT implementation. Likewise, her political capital is being spent to change the charter under the guise that this Constitution is defective and unresponsive.

In the light of these evidences, should we scrap the one-term limit since presidents do not use their political capital in earnest and for the commonweal? Do we adopt the parliamentary proposal of Speaker Jose de Venecia which was seconded by the president?

The legacy of Marcos’ abuses of the office of the presidency may have been lost on the present generation. And that is more reason why we must not rely on politicians who speak so eagerly of charter change, vilifying the 1987 Constitution as though it is the Scarlet Letter. On the contrary, there is nothing inherently wrong with the 1987 Constitution, nothing so unresponsive in the charter that a selfless legislature cannot remedy. But alas, we dream!

Whichever way we choose will depend on the historical evidence and perspective that can be explained to the electorate by historians. Manuel Quezon III comes to mind. It is historians like him who have the gift of hindsight coupled with the long view that we must listen to without doubting their motives. To their views we winnow, and from the parting of the chaff from the grain, we can arrive at an informed decision that we can live with proudly and not regret for the remainder of our days.

But until that day comes, we must not speak of the 1987 Constitution as though it is a cuss word. It may not have been written in stone but it is a document forged from lessons learned during our darkest days and of blood shed and lives sacrificed in order for our generation and the next to see the rise of a new dawn.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

By The Way & Body Language Etc.

Last night, ANC’s taped interview of Max Soliven, the By the Way columnist and Philippine Star publisher, with the president was an exercise in symbolism, in facial and body language as much as it was her coming out party, as it were.

First, her outfit. She was a woman dressed blue. In politics, blue symbolized authority. By donning a blue outfit, she heralded to the public that the mace of authority has been restored in the palace. And whatever turmoil that will ensue, fear not says the President. The leadership and authority that once were lost have now been found.

She chose blue because she could not possibly wear the white of the two widows. Otherwise, to do so would have invited a disparaging contrast with the two women who have come to symbolize the purity of their cause against the iniquity of their foe who adamantly refuses to relinquish power.

The President’s blue was likewise her manner of assuring the people that she is one of us, the blue collar workers, whom she will protect from the oncoming ravage of the VAT law by disingenuous arguments, and if disingenuousness cannot convince, by delay, and if delay cannot be avoided, by denial of a fiscal problem.

Truly, a portrait in blue. Had Thomas Gainsborough been alive today, his painting would not have been “The Blue Boy” but rather.

Second, non-verbal language. The president is convinced that the worse is over and none more obvious than the hearty laugh she belted early in the interview. This full laugh was noticeably absent in her sycophant-filled post SONA photos and her previous interview with Korina Sanchez. She is over the hump, she has overcome.

Noticeably absent too from last night’s interview was the ubiquitous handkerchief of yore which she held tightly in her Korina interview. The absence of a handkerchief allowed her to make gestures with open palms suggesting perhaps that she is now more open to unsolicited advice on how to be a good president. Gladly then, let us indulge her in our blogs.

That also perhaps, an open palm is a manifestation of a reforged GMA made in the image and likeness of Lupita Aquino Kashiwahara. Indeed, a clenched fist and hanky are things of the past. Bukas-Palad is her new ministry.

Third, her verbal communication. She was forward looking. Her answers said so eloquently. Of course, that was to be. Of what value was there talking of a checkered past? What decent woman would wish to revisit a reviled past of cheating, lying and stealing? Even Jean Valjean had to reinvent himself but eventually, it was truth that redeemed him in the eyes of the people he loved most. Does the president possess the grace to tell the people she most cherishes the truth of the tale of the tapes? As a leader who deeply relies on Divine Providence, she must have the grace and must believe that truth is like surgery, it hurts but it heals.

As to Mr. Max Soliven, his countenance on ANC was a cut most unkind. This was no venue for small talk and yet he discoursed like a drunk who would tell a joke, comparing Monica Lewinsky to Hurricane Katrina. But like Queen Victoria, the president was not amused. His notes were all over his lap and he was eaten alive by the economic numbers the president spewed out like fire in her belly. If this interview was unscripted, Mr. Soliven looked like a harried schoolboy before a teacher ready to devour his every question.

As to his questions, Mr. By the Way appeared to be more than willing to let her be. All he threw were softballs. But what the public wanted to know was not what will be but what was. And to the few questions Mr. Soliven asked concerning impeachment, he never followed through. Mr. Soliven was a pandering, patronizing publisher who papered over the president’s past. And for that, I left the show dazed, distracted and disheveled.

In hindsight, it would have been better if the president was interviewed by a panel to test her intellectual mettle and her moral integrity. Unfortunately, the interview was as stage managed as her “I am sorry” spiel and Mr. Soliven did not help erase that suspicion. I suppose, the president was not ready to face the firing line. It was not a murderous evening!

Murder most foul, as in the best it is. (Hamlet, Act I, Scene V)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

God Or Mad

Growing up in a household where Protestantism and Roman Catholicism were distinctly practiced by each parent, I learned to become lukewarm to both faiths. While baptized a Roman Catholic, attendance in Sunday service at an Evangelical Baptist church was one of my father’s reminders that Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.

As a growing teenager, faith was not exactly one of my greatest pursuits. Until I hit second year in college when I attended a talk entitled "Who is Jesus Christ?", the main proposition being the statement by C. S. Lewis that one either considers Jesus as God or dismisses him as a raving madman and goes further to set him apart from the founders of other world religions.

That particular challenge was raised in his book “Mere Christianity” and I quote the pertinent portions:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of thing Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God?”

- o -

'There is no halfway house and there is no parallel in other religions. If you had gone to Buddha and said 'Are you the son of Brahma?' he would have said 'My son, you are still in the veil of illusion'. If you had gone to Socrates and asked, 'Are you Zeus' he would have laughed at you. If you had gone to Mohammed and asked 'Are you Allah?' he would first have rent his clothes and then cut your head off. If you had asked Confucius 'Are you heaven?' I think he would probably have replied, 'Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste.' The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion which undermines the whole mind of man. If you think you are a poached egg, when you are not looking for a piece of toast to suit you, you may be sane, but if your are God, there is no chance for you. We may note in passing that He was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met Him. He produced mainly three effects — Hatred — Terror — Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.'

I realized that I could no longer take Jesus for granted. At the very least, if I did not believe his claims of Godhood, I would be liberated from living a lie, from the fear of death and the somehow “karmic” idea of reaping what you sow in the after life.

But if I believe that He was indeed the God-man who came down to bridge the great divide between the secular and the divine, between the Creator and his felled creatures, then I must live a life worthy to be called his disciple, I must be willing to take up his cross and follow him.

Or maybe, unlike C. S. Lewis, I can remain an affable agnostic, and like Gandhi, ascribe to Jesus the greatness of his teachings without necessarily surrendering my all to Him.

But the one reality that hit me was that the claims of Jesus demanded a response, one way or the other.

Subsequent writers have tried to picture the challenge of C. S. Lewis as a false dilemma. But however the arguments, the response to Jesus’ claims could not forever reside on an emotional plane because the selfless life that He led and the claims that He set out are so mind boggling that the intellect must either reject Him as a charlatan or acknowledge Him as God.

I have learned to accept His claims as the Son of God. This was arrived at neither by force of Catholic tradition nor by continuity of ecclesiastical habit but singularly, by an exhaustive intellectual assent to Jesus’ claims.

I have followed Jesus in earnest since my second year in the university. And while I may have frequently fallen and tried to look back at times, the Hound of Heaven has patiently kept pace with me and given me strength and courage, both in spirit and my intellect.

The journey is far from over and is often traversed with great difficulty and temptation but the passage is worth the taking because I am not alone in my walk, his rod and staff, they comfort me – until my course is run..

Praised be God.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Tolerance and Mediocrity

I had the same problem as Sassy. After that endless downpour two nights ago, I woke up yesterday morning with a downed PLDT dsl. I am in dial-up hell!

First, I had to inquire if my difficulty was peculiar to my modem. I called up two of my high school batch mates to inquire if their dsl was working. One experienced a similar problem. So, I presumed it was a network problem and since misery loves company, I was consoled with the fact that I was not alone.

Then, my other batch mate texted me and said that his dsl was working. But having experienced a downed dsl not once, not twice but so many times, he suggested a class suit against PLDT.

I do not know much about telecommunications law. That is a field of expertise of Atty. J J Disini and Prof. Punzi but certainly, consumer protection laws and complaining to the National Telecommunications Commission might offer me some wee solace.

For someone who has tried calling up the PLDT tech support number, 172375, one will experience déjà vu or I submit, his reincarnated past. You will be thrown back to an era where rotary phones were still in vogue, where waiting for a dial tone takes longer than the time you talk to the other party, or where the Pony Express would seem to be a faster mode of communication. This may be hyperbole but waiting for tech support is terribly longer than waiting for Godot.

Which brings to mind the Filipino tolerance for mediocrity and the lack of outrage for poor service.

Certainly with some exceptions, we, Filipinos, are generally tolerant of other people’s mediocrity when they render service. We justify the tolerance because (1) we are a religious lot and patience is a virtue; (2) these people providing the service are not well paid; (3) we are centuries behind the concept of customer support and should learn to accept it; or (4) let’s not complain or else, these poor people, who can hardly get by, may be terminated by their employers. I am sure that there are a couple of other reasons why we are largely tolerant.

I wonder if the same justification can be invoked by a government, especially, their leaders and I wonder if we should offer them the same leeway that we give to the poor, huddled masses yearning just to get by every day.

Arguably no.

We cannot sit by while the government and its leaders pillage and plunder the national treasury for pork barrel or discretionary funds and then tell us to brace for higher gas prices or value added tax on goods and services.

We cannot sit by while some Rasputins in government do a pseudo-James Madison on our Constitution by hiring foreign mercenaries for a princely sum and then barter away our economic rights

We cannot sit by while a moral crisis of leadership is taking place at the highest levels of government, rationalizing that the successor is a dunce and then, insinuate that the economy will be better off with a proven leader though questionable moral values than a successor with untested leadership values.

If we cannot feel outrage on the simplest, basic service that we are entitled to and demand rectification for such lousy service, how can we succeed in demanding justice on a larger scale?

Admittedly, that is a non-sequitur. But it reflects a strong sense of apathy and a lack of justified outrage pervasive in most Filipinos. That where it matters most, we rationalize and we “pragmatize” in order to avoid a moral and legal resolution to a problem.

But I digress.

All I want for now is to get back my dsl connection and demand a rebate on this billing cycle. And if my brothers in the bar will take up the cudgels for internet users like me who are constantly preyed upon by lousy service, I am willing to stand up and be counted.

Or better yet, for our country’s sake, let us all take a stand and learn not to count the cost.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Under what constitutional authority did the President have when it refused the recommendation of the Board of Generals to appoint the eminently qualified General Samuel Bagasin to head the Southern Command and instead appointed General Edilberto Adan who never handled a division.

At first glance, the answer would be simple. Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution states that the President is the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines. As to her appointing power, Section 16 of the same article provides that the president has the power to appoint generals with the consent of the Commission on Appointments.

Given these two constitutional bases, do the officers and men of the Armed Forces just grin and bear when their professionalism appears threatened?

I think the answer lies beyond a mere restatement of the cited constitutional provisions and demands a conceptual overhauling of the constitutional thinking and interpretation of the commander-in-chief clause.

In the first place, and quite oddly, the Constitution takes for granted the meaning of the term “commander-in-chief”. The records of the Constitutional Commission bare no discussion on the meaning of those words. When referred to, the debates would revolve around putting legislative oversight on the president’s power to declare martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

The U.S. Constitution likewise has the same commander-in-chief clause. But in their jurisdiction, the term generally implied the president’s theoretical responsibility “for tactical command of training military forces and conducting hostilities” (Tribe, American Constitutional Law, 3rd Edition, volume 1, p. 665, 2000). Like our constitution, it is silent on presidential authority over military affairs.

In short, when the commander-in-chief clause is invoked, it always refers to the president’s use of military forces to perform a public good when a danger is clear and present or to conduct military campaigns and hostilities towards enemies of the state to preserve the integrity of the national territory.

But having said that, does the commander-in-chief clause likewise extend to arbitrary decisions of appointing a fellow not recommended by the professional Board of Generals on the basis of political expediency?

The answer is difficult as it is controversial. To answer in the affirmative is the easier path because the letter of the constitution clearly provides the president’s pre-eminence in the military hierarchy.

But it nonetheless does not settle the president’s unprofessional manner of appointing unqualified generals because first, being a professionally run armed forces, the president is required and even mandated to lead the military in an equal, if not, a more professional capacity. She must, and ought to be as, Caesar’s wife is.

Second, concurrent with the president and perhaps even more so, the military, as a professional corps of soldiers, is constitutionally bound to protect the people and the State. The military must balance the interests of the Office of the President or the person who sits upon that throne as against the interests of the general public and sometimes, these two interests may not converge harmoniously. In that instance, it should be a no-brainer as to whose interests the military will defend.

And third, even if the president is the commander in chief, that position is a constitutional fiction derived from historical tradition for the purpose of emphasizing that the military is not a separate co-equal branch of government but is placed under that branch that wields the sword. This means that in theory, while she may head the armed forces, in practice, she has no actual command of soldiers.

Thus, if the president acts in a manner totally alien and beneath the standards of professionalism required under the mandates of the armed forces as well as the 1987 Constitution, does the military have the right to act in self-defense to protect its own integrity and eventual survival? Like any juridical or natural entity following the immutable laws of nature which man-made deeds like the constitution must abide by, the inevitable answer must be a yes. Adherence to authority is one thing but blind adherence is what has already been proscribed in the Nuremberg Principles and should find no basis in a professional army.

As to what course this “yes” must take, the military must construe according to its wits and let the generals search their souls. Or better yet, seek out Fr Joaquin Bernas, S. J. After all, he is the loyal son of Ignatius Loyola, a Basque soldier who founded the militant Society of Jesus and organized it along military lines. They may find common cause with him.

Or maybe not.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Advise And Consent

For a Constitutional Law professor, one of the great joys of having internet connection is to be able to watch C-Span in streaming video. Especially, at this time watching the Senate confirmation hearings of Judge John Roberts as President George W. Bush’s nominee to be the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This is in line with Senate’s constitutional mandate to provide advise to the president and to give their consent to the nominee if passed muster.

It was exciting watching John Roberts verbally fenced with equally competent senators from both sides but more so with Democratic senators who, after all, believe that John Roberts is a strict constructionist and conservative judge who will undo women’s reproductive rights (euphemism for abortion) and overturn the landmark case of Roe v. Wade which laid the constitutional justification for abortion.

While the exercise may do nothing to stall the confirmation of Judge John Roberts as Chief Justice, at the very least, the American public already knows the judicial philosophy of their justices.

Which brings to mind our country’s perverted method of appointing justices to the Supreme Court.

In the United States, the first order of business in filling a vacancy in the Supreme Court is for the president to appoint a nominee, and then allow the nominee to go through the wringer in the Senate Judiciary Committee, be grilled morally and intellectually. If the nominee shall have satisfied the qualms of the senators in the Judiciary Committee, his nomination shall be endorsed before the whole Senate to be voted upon. If confirmed by the Senate, he takes his seat as one of the 9 Brethren.

In the Philippines, the order is reversed. When a vacancy arises in the Supreme Court, names are submitted to the Judicial and Bar Council, a constitutional body tasked to investigate and interrogate possible judicial nominees. After going through interviews with the members of the Judicial and Bar Council, it will submit at least three names to the President from which the latter will appoint to the Supreme Court.

In paper, the exercise looks insulated from politics. But on the contrary, the whole process is so tainted with politics that a review of the appointment procedure ought to be called into order.

This JBC, as it is called, was the brainchild of the late Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion who felt that during the pre-martial law years, the judicial appointees were at the mercy of the Commission of Appointments who demanded favors from appointees and brazenly played politics.

The JBC is composed of the Chief Justice, the Secretary of Justice, a member of Congress, a member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, a law professor, a retired member of the Supreme Court and a representative from the private sector.

While it sounds august, the problem with the JBC is that nobody knows what goes on in the deliberations except the members and the nominee himself. Recent measures have been implemented to make the hearing public but suspicion still persists that all a nominee has to do to get the nod of the JBC members is to secure the endorsement of a senator or a congressman, talk to padrinos or talk to the members individually to secure their endorsement. Tales have been told of judges-nominees visiting the law office of legislators just to curry their favor with the legislators demanding a quid pro quo in the event a case which their firm handles lands on the nominee’s sala.

On top of that, the JBC is required under the Constitution to nominate at least three nominees to the President and to let the President finally decide who to appoint. Again, at this instance, the President can demand concessions from the justice-nominee or payback in the future in the event a case against the president or her acts are questioned before the courts.

Thus, you have politics at two levels, on the level of the JBC and on the level of the President. Are we better off with the JBC? No, we are better off without it.

We should bring back the Commission on Appointment or if not, have the Senate Justice Committee grill the potential judicial nominee to determine a nominee’s philosophy and not his political connections.

I wonder, prior to the justices being appointed, did we know at all what were the judicial philosophies of Justice Panganiban and Justice Carpio on the issue of judicial legislation or judicial intervention on a legislative action? All I knew was that Jovito Salonga strongly endorsed Atty. Artemio Panganiban’s nomination. All I knew was that Atty. Tony Carpio was the consiglieri of the Arroyo family and before that, had the ear of FVR. But did we ever hear about what they really stood for? Are endorsements sufficient grounds to hail them as Supreme Court justices?

Did we ever ask the judicial philosophy of Justice Puno on the right to privacy? Is it really guaranteed under the Constitution or not? Did we ever wonder what would have been the answer of Justice Carpio-Morales on the constitutionality of euthanasia in the light of the right to life provision of the Constitution?

We never knew their philosophies because we were never given the opportunity to prod their intellect nor did we bother to insist on one. Unlike in the United States where comparison is inevitably made, it is said that some of the appointments to our Supreme Court were not made on the basis of intellectual prowess but on political insurance for future cases, an amicus curia, if you will, not in its true Latin sense but a friend in Court to ensure a vote. Is this true? One can only hope not.

Chief Justice Concepcion decried politics in the confirmation process of the Supreme Court justices but what he failed to realize that with certain exceptions, he, along with the other members of the Supreme Court of yore, stood a foot taller in intellectual competence and independence.

We need to reverse the appointment process in the selection of members of the judiciary, more so, the members of the Supreme Court, to truly shield the High Court from the wiles of politics. We need to be especially assured that these justices will make decisions not out of political accommodation but being the last line of defense of an ordered, civilized society, the gavel will equally fall on the just and the unjust.

I hope I do not do a Purisima for this.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Mosquito Press

Now that there is a clamor for a People’s Court, my question is when will I see the evidences that Atty. Harry Roque so boastfully stated are so voluminous that they take up space equivalent to one whole room?

And while they are discussing the mechanics of a People’s Court which Manolo Quezon thinks will be a kangaroo court, when will Dinky Soliman or the Hyatt 10 present their damning evidences. Now that “their proper forum” has been squelched by the House of Unrepresentatives, will they consider the People’s Court their new proper forum?

Between Harry Roque’s wall-to-wall evidences, the Hyatt Ten’s confidential evidences and the creation, preparation and finalization of a People’s Court, is there a way by which these evidences can be disclosed to the people at large at the soonest possible time?

How about a mosquito press?

Ms. Eggie Apostol did it prior to and during the Erap impeachment hearings, Jose Burgos did it during the harsh, dark days of the Marcos regime. Why not now?

Sure, we have the Inquirer, Newsbreak and the PCIJ. But they are not as nimble. The Inquirer has other issues to cover and has grown to be the biggest newspaper organization in the country. Newsbreak and the PCIJ come out only so often. The Inside PCIJ, while highly provocative, is limited only to internet users and paid hackers.

Right now, there is this great search for truth and Garci. The administration has done its best to present their side and colors the truth in shades of grey while the opposition has done its best to agitate and titillate but has no single bullet to shoot down the president. Nature abhors a vacuum and so far, ignorance, propaganda and amoral pragmatic reasoning are filling in the empty spaces which we, the Filipino people, are exposed to on a daily basis. When will we ever see and hear the real truth?

We need a press that can buzz like a mosquito and sting like a bee. So, how about it? It’s time to dengue-ize people (from the administration and the opposition) who propagate falsehoods, who are callous to public opinion, and impervious to shame. Maybe then, we can unearth all the truths that Congress so willingly quashed for a million and one reasons.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

GMA's Debts v.1

No doubt, the impeachment case is dead. But it was not won through the strength of reason but through the force of numbers. To bastardize Scriptures: “Not by right but by might”, says JDV.

So, let us engage in satire and see who are going to call on the president to demand their debts be paid and in what form, to wit:

1. FVR – Charter Change and memorialize me as the father of the Sixth Republic; How about Puppet Master or Darth Sidious?

2. JDV - Charter Change and make me Prime Minister (PM). Finally! After so many long ears of waiting!

3. Erap – bail me out or let me live my heart in San Juan. My knees are killing me just to go to the outhouse;

4. Imelda – let Andy have his place among heroes. The electric rates in the mausoleum are staggering;

5. Chavit – Jueteng to spread my bets again; and again; and again;

6. Edcel Lagman – Deputy PM for I was the legal wind beneath your wings;

7. Boy Nograles – Deputy PM for I kept the party mates in line;

8. Luis Villafuerte – Deputy PM for I made myself a fool for you and brought levity to the House;

9. Couples for Christ – The new DSWD – for not coming out in force;

10. Ateneo – GMA’s presidential library and papers - for not coming out in force;

11. Mike Velarde – the new Grigori Rasputin - for not coming out in force;

12. Marcoleta – a franchise of Ricky Reyes’ hair salon – Ang sop! Ang ganda!; and

13. Garci – Hello M’am, hello! May I go out now?

(Feel free to add to the list because according to Congressman Teddy “Boy” Locsin, they have yet to determine the provenance of these tales)

Where Are The Jesuits?

Something is awry in the parliament of the streets. There seems to be no participation from the Ateneo community or a tacit collaboration with the Jesuits.

Back in the inglorious days of the Erap presidency, the Ateneo was the venue for the meetings and conferences of civil society. Now, the gatherings are held in de la Salle University in Taft or the high school branch in Greenhills.

For the first time, the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian School, otherwise known as the La Salle brothers, have spearhead the moral battle against the Arroyo administration. With the exception of the Jesuit law expert, Fr. Bernas, whose name has become a household word, the Jesuits have been largely missing from the throng just like Imee Marcos, Bingbong Crisologo, Oscar Malapitan or Antonio Serapio, much to the dismay of the anti-Arroyo forces. What is the deal with the Jesuits?

Does it have to do with the fact that their new Jesuit Provincial, Fr. Daniel Patrick Huang is an apolitical priest not in the mold of Fr. Robert Drinan or Fr. Romeo Intengan?

Without help from the Jesuits, the movement seems to lack the intellectual and moral muscle that these footsoldiers of Inigo Lopez de Loyola have been trained to provide. The La Salle Brothers, while always generous in the use of their facilities especially during election time, have never presented themselves as heavyweight equals of the Jesuits. Thus, for an outsider, the absence of the Jesuits, both in body and spirit, is all the more prominent.

What will take them to be convinced of the righteousness of the parliament of the street or what is within the parliament of the streets or from without that give them pause to extend their support? Their silence is deafening. Or could it be they are just waiting for the appearance on the stage by the Apo Hiking Society before they join the bandwagon?

Whatever it is, come out out wherever they are. And act in a manner that is truly reflective of the motto “Lux-in- Domino” - Light in the Lord.

The night is fast falling and we have yet to see the Lord's light.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The House of Shame

If the House of Representatives bragged about having the longest privilege hour yesterday in its annals, it would not be a baseless boast. But it would not be because they spent an entire night without sleep and toiling laboriously the night away. Rather, it was the longest hour where the majority of the House unhesitatingly sacrificed the privilege to seek the truth, paraded to dishonor the House, and sold their souls to a committee report which was substantially deficient as much as it was legally untenable. It was indeed their finest moment

Of sham for every method was contrived to prevent the transmittal of the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. Sham because the procedure was designed to hamper the reception of evidence to determine the truth or falsity of the charges. Sham because the men and women wish to see not, hear not, and speak not the truth. It was indeed their finest moment

Of shame because the House conspired to affirm the Justice Committee Report where facile legal arguments became legal doctrines and where judicial doctrines spliced to make Fr. Bernas sound less than what he meant. Shame because the House conspired to affirm the Justice Committee Report where 2 complaints dismissed on the pretext of prohibited pleadings when case law and procedural rules spoke otherwise.

What then do we do with a House that could not handle the truth? If the House, where the very heart of representative democracy rests, cannot bring itself to allow safe passage for truth, what then is the purpose of having men and women represent us and once in office, turn around and represent the interests of the very iniquity sought to be exorcised? If the House, where the power of the purse rests and which dictates the budget by which other branches of government may live by, can be persuaded by promises of aid and comfort, what then do we do with that House where most of its members will sacrifice the truth for an alleged higher deed of robbing Peter to pay Paul?

And what of the 23 gutless men or women who refused to reveal themselves? For the 23 gutless solons, this was but a game of hide and seek. Hide me if you have not reach 79 for I will not sign. Seek me if you secure 79 for then shall I subscribe. What profiles of courage! For this to them I pray: I wish you no ill in this lifetime and I pray that in the life after, may your souls enjoy everlasting peace in Dante’s Inferno.

What then do we do with the House? Do we burn down the House so that the evil they did will be interred with their bones? Do we put to the stake the witches and warlocks of foul play so this evil may not be conjured up again? Or do we immolate them all and let the fire fall on the just and the unjust?

Desperate times do not necessarily compel us to require desperate measures. But desperate times call for men and women of God to rise above their fears and weaknesses and let truth breathe free. Indeed, these are the times that try men’s souls.

To some, the avenue of dissent has been prepared, no less by two widows, for those who seek to take to the streets. Join them if the events of the House impel you. For others, the avenue of judicial review has been initiated the very moment the House dismissed the impeachment case. Let us then pray for heaven’s light and let it be the lamp to our path and the light to our feet in our search for the truth.

One thing is certain. September 6, 2005 was indeed the House’s finest moment. And it will long be remembered as its glorious day of infamy.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Case For Judicial Review

Even as I write, the House of Representatives is in the end stage of affirming the Justice Committee Report dismissing the three complaints. The opposition has taken a two-pronged strategy. One, reviving the parliament of the streets headed no less than former President, Cory Aquino, and Ms. Susan Roces and second, the filing of a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court.

Among the two, the parliament of the streets requires critical mass. Many commentators have taken the dim view of people power. Fatigue has allegedly set in and the people have tired of changing governments by taking to the streets. Whatever it is, people power may take days or weeks and it is best left to the veteran leaders of EDSA 1 and 2 to mount an EDSA 3.

But it is to judicial review that this present controversy may well be finally settled.

For sure, JDV, the Speaker of the House, will invoke the “political question” doctrine. That the decision of the Lower House, being a sovereign act of the House, is an exercise of its wisdom and therefore, the decision must be respected by a co-equal branch of government. In laymen’s terms, being on equal footing, the Supreme Court has no right to trample on the House’s decision and must by force of law, respect its will.

The political question doctrine was the refuge of the Marcos regime when political cases were filed against it and its main evangelist was none other than former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza. As a result of that negative experience, former Chief Justice and Constitutional Commissioner Roberto Concepcion emphasized and recommended during the Constitutional Commission debates that the Supreme Court must be given the power and primacy to delve into political questions. And so, they did.

Thus, since the 1987 Constitution came into effect, the Court has time and again waded and intruded into the realm of the legislature not for the purpose of questioning its wisdom or discretion but to dwell on the legality of its acts.

The Supreme Court should not deny itself the right to review this case. More so, when it enumerated in the Francisco case the many times it ruled on the legality of the acts of the legislature. For this reason, it is with confidence that a resort to the Supreme Court will finally put to rest the issue and legality of the three complaints for which the House has confirmed the dismissal of the impeachment case against the president.

For the Supreme Court to entertain a case questioning the decision of the House, it must deal with the legality of the 3 impeachment complaints and the exclusion of the 2 other complaints in the light of the Francisco ruling.

The issue must be: If the Francisco decision defined “initiated” as filing of the complaint and referral to the Justice Committee, did the 3 complaints fall within the period of initiation? And assuming that the 3 complaints fell within the period of initiation, did the Justice Committee commit an error when it dismissed the two subsequent complaints as prohibited pleadings which is proscribed in the 1987 Constitution.

This issue will be primordial. Because if the SC rules that the 3 impeachment complaints fall within the purview of the definition of “initiation”, then that means that the Lopez complaint and the amended Lozano complaint are valid complaints that should have been considered by the Justice Committee.

A practical consequence of that decision would be to overturn the House decision and remand the 2 impeachment complaints to the Justice Committee for reconsideration.

And insofar as the Lozano complaint is concerned, having been discoursed lengthily but dismissed for lack of substance by the Justice Committee, it stands to reason that the Justice Committee will not reverse itself on the original Lozano complaint. Thus, the only complaints that should be discussed will be the Lopez and the amended Lozano complaints for a determination of sufficiency of form and substance.

The issue before the Supreme Court must touch on the legality of the act and not on its wisdom. How will the Supreme Court rule? Legally, the weight of jurisprudence appears to support the opposition but we do not know what goes on in the hearts and minds of these brethren. We can only but pray to Lady Justice to show them the wisdom and to rule as one, without fear or favor, without purpose of evasion or hesitation. And so, we pray to her: “Fiat justitia ruat caelumLet justice be done though the heavens fall.

Monday, September 05, 2005

A Third Way?

Last week, the Justice Committee dismissed the original Lozano complaint. Earlier, it dismissed the amended Lozano complaint as well as the Lopez complaint.

This week, under the 13th Congress Rules, the Justice Committee will submit its resolution and report to the plenary and the latter will decide with finality whether to affirm or override the Justice Committee Report. Under the 1987 Constitution, the action of the plenary appears to be an either-or proposition. It either affirms the report or overrides it. But is it?

What if there is a third way and that third way is for the plenary to remand the report to the Justice Committee for further review and consideration? It has its pros and cons.

This will give ample time for the President to save face while in the company of other heads of state in the United Nations. Dismissing the impeachment process now may be a far worse cure than having the report remanded. Already, the Bukluran ng Katotohanan or the Coalition for Truth, by all accounts, was a successful gathering of different forces representing contrasting political persuasions. It is the new political front from which to launch the anti-GMA offensive.

Their message is convincingly simple: GMA is afraid of the truth, GMA’s minions in Congress suppressed the search for truth, GMA does not want the truth to be out, and therefore, there is but one truth left they will accept and that is: GMA must go. Unite, demand and defend the truth.

With a logic so forceful and so elementary, GMA and the Speaker’s minions in Congress run the risk of infuriating the general public who up till last Friday has shown a level of complacency far pathetic than the response to the call for GMA’s resignation. If indeed, the Palace is monitoring all the developments in the impeachment process, it would do well for the Speaker to hold on to the final vote and let the President parade her prowess before the United Nations.

At the very least, the President can plausibly spin an argument that her country has a vibrant democratic system and she cannot dictate to a co-equal branch of government what to do. It would appear less embarrassing for the President to have the impeachment proceedings continue inside the House rather than for her to see, before Fox News or CNN and be confronted by them, the violent dispersals of endless rallies outside Congress or the seeming growing chaos in the metropolis.

On the part of the opposition, the lull will give them time to recruit more votes to reach 79 while the Justice Committee reviews its own findings. In addition, they will be given the chance, which they have been loudly protesting, to present prima facie proofs evidencing the President's culpability.

Appearing before the ANC program "Talkback" last night, I opened the possibility of a third way to Cong. Noynoy Aquino and to former Congressman, Atty. Eduardo Nachura, both members of the Liberal Party but the former, being the son of Cory Aquino, is with the pro-impeachment forces and the latter, one of the brighter constitutionalists in the House, is a legal resource person to the presidential defense team.

While both men were open to the possibility of a third way, Congressman Aquino appeared to be less than enthusiastic. According to him, the Justice Committee will merely review the original Lozano complaint which leaves much to be desired. As a pragmatist cognizant of the political powers and forces within the House, he may have a point. But the idea behind the referral back to the Justice Committee is the implication that the manner, the proceeding, and the conclusion it reached was not only not credible but the whole process had no appearance of credibility at all. Hence, it is a possibility, albeit remote, that the Justice Committee will not only reexamine the original Lozano complaint but the two other complaints may be equally revisited and with more reason.

But who am I to judge the misgivings of Congressman Aquino? I teach in a perfect world where cases are discussed in a hypothetical bubble. I suppose in the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king. However, I wonder if the land of the blind is my classroom or the House of Representatives. My first year Constitutional Law students may be ignorant of judicial precedents and doctrines but most certainly, I and my students are not blind to the truth. Equally I cannot draw the same conclusion for the august members of the House, the Justice Committee or the Speaker of the House.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Second Wind

However the opposition’s vehement denial that the impeachment process is a race from start to finish, last night’s gathering at La Salle Greenhills cemented the reality that it is one. The opposition just got their second wind.

Just when everyone was predicting the demise of the process, when everyone was already burying the yet to be dead proceeding, the opposition got a boost from not one, but two powerful symbols of Philippine politics, former President Corazon Aquino and the prettiest first lady the Philippines will never have, Ms. Susan Roces.

From the start, the fight to 79 needed to be shepherded. But the young ones were fickle, hasty and undiscerning. The old ones were laid back willing to let the little lambs lead the way. Up till Friday, the process appeared headed for the rocks, the opposition ship helmless, listing and rudderless, battered to and fro by the administration in a stormy sea of political confusion.

And whatever legal, documentary and evidentiary arsenal they have conjured, the opposition could not seem to dent the hide of pro-GMA solons. Even Edmund’s plea appeared contrived and focused on the wrong audience. For all their posturing and bravura that they are at arm’s length of 79, the opposition was already at its wit's end.

What the opposition needed was to regain the high moral ground but none among them could muster the moral purity required to fend any attack on their virtues or their lack thereof. And who could better rally the cause than the white clad Susan Roces symbolizing purity and the yellow laden Cory Aquino symbolizing peace. Between them, they bridge whatever moral chasm or credibility gap which the opposition sorely lacked.

Their combined presence have recharged and united the opposition, civil society, political left and the middle forces, at least from where I sit. Let us see if their reinforcing presence come next week will influence the solons of the Lower House to pass the baton to the Upper House. At least, with Congressman Roman, they did.

And however the opposition’s vehement denial that the impeachment process is a race, they just got their second wind, whether they admit it or not.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Medium is the Message

If GMA escapes unscathed (well, not entirely) in this impeachment controversy, there will be the eventual soul searching, head banging, paralysis analysis (an intentional invert) that will probably dominate the opposition, civil society and media in the next few weeks.

And if I may start the ball, este boulder rolling, let me say the failure of the opposition and civil society to vanquish GMA was in large part due to ignoring Marshall McLuhan’s maxim, i. e., “The medium is the message”. The medium is just as or more important as the message itself.

The series of events that eventually led to the impeachment process showed a gap of crediblity of the messengers and players of the opposition. That while Arroyo could have been rightfully removed, the specter of an unproven leader or the return of power to an even more unmanageable president failed to generate the critical mass to launch a September revolution.

First, we had the jueteng investigation. While Bishop Oscar Cruz was a credible figure, the people in the Senate were not. We laughed and sneered at the lying Mosqueda who squirmed in his seat.

But while we knew he was a lying, cheating and stealing sonofagun, we were equally aghast with the questions by the mother-son senators which were never in- aid-of-legislation but in-aid-of-purgation, especially the young senator charged before the Sandiganbayan who dared to call the kettle black.

You also had this senator born with a silver foot in her mouth whose every utterance is an invitation to a midday slumber and where her “kulitus maximus” questions were a test on our finite patience. Along with her, you have the junior police-senator whose seeming purpose was to fragment the opposition during the election and to expose, for show, evidences of wrongdoing by the Arroyos without a follow through. As disgusting as the tribe of Arroyo was, these senators’ insincere posturings appallingly reminded us of the previous administration's gambling policy and where the seat of government transformed itself into a drinking brothel at the stroke of twelve.

Then came the Garci tapes. As much as we knew in our hearts that it was GMA’s voice on the tapes, we were puzzled why the holder of the mother of all tapes refused to appear before the House committees to shed light. Instead, he hid himself within the walls of San Carlos Seminary claiming sanctuary. Brave men have died for lesser causes but this man would not even bring himself to face a congressional investigation. For this, hell hath reserved for him a thousand deaths for his cowardice.

Are these the mediums who will tell us that our future and my children's future rest in good hands?

Then, after promising to hold on together, you have Dinky and the gang betraying the president’s trust. Doesn’t Dinky realize that even if what she revealed was true, the fact that she was the alter ego of the president made her a traitor in the eyes of the public with her willful revelation to bring the president to her knees?

Coupled with that is the fact that while the president has remained silent on her betrayal leaving to her subordinates to defend her, Dinky has continued to spew spite on the president while professing respect and love for her. What madness is this? Is civil society in such short supply of virtuous men and women that they would have to rely on snitches to bring the president down?

True, what are we telling our children if we say it is alright to lie, cheat, and steal? And what too are we telling our children if we say if it is alright to betray your friends? Last time I heard, the traitor hanged himself on a tree. Indeed, God knows Hudas not pay.

Is this the medium upon which we teach our children the value of virtues?

Ah yes, we have these young spritely solons of the House. You have Congressman Cayetano praising God to high heavens between invectives against the president. You have Congressman Joel Villanueva, the son of a preacher man, who thinks the House is his church to be preached to. You have Congresswoman Darlene Custodio who speaks before she thinks. You have Congressman Paras who stalks the aisles seemingly looking for a fight. We blame the young ones for the opposition’s failure but equal to the blame are the opposition elders like Ronnie Zamora and third termers and party mates of Erap who failed to give counsel to the youthful solons. For just as they were first-termers in the 11th Congress that failed Erap, they are now the third-termers that disappointed the Filipino people in their failed quest to give GMA her day in court.

Why did we not capitulate to their reasonable remonstrations? Was it because their message was not spoken loud enough for all to hear? Was their message not justified to create an outrage or was it because these purveyors of impeachment did not have the moral gravitas in and of themselves?

The entire event leading to the impeachment fight would have done better if the people who led the fight were men and women of pure heart or at the very least, perceived to be of pure heart because this was a fight beyond legalities and technicalities. It was a morality battle fought on the most fundamental arena of decency. And he who alleges decency must come to court with clean hands. The opposition had no Sir Galahad to lead and pick up the fight. The Siege Perilous remained vacant. This is where the opposition failed. It was not so black and white after all.

Congressman Cayetano spoke of not shooting the messenger. He must have been oblivious to Marshall Mcluhan’s study of media ecology. And for as long as the messenger is not sufficient in credibility, there is no choice but to doubt the message even if it be the third secret of Fatima.

I hope this rolling stone review is as premature as their walkout.