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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

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Rule Of Law Is So Passe

Rule of Law is so passé

For the last so many months, the administration has harped on the necessity for the rule of law. They have exhorted the opposition, the military, and the citizenry to observe the legal processes and obey the laws.

But do they observe their own call? In a word – hardly!

First, to prevent the Executive branch from being investigated by the Legislative department, the Palace issued Executive Order No. 464. It prevented the legislature, specifically, the Senate from investigating the seeming shenanigans of the Executive branch.

E. O. No. 464 prevented National Security Chief from further grilling. It prevented Senator Magsaysay from investigating the role of Joc Joc Bolante, the paragon of what a Rotarian is, in the Agriculture Fertilizer Scam. It prevented willing Marines from Mindanao and other good-hearted military officials and their rank and file to testify to how they were manipulated by government in the last elections.

Second, to pre-empt the valid exercise of freedom of expression and to prevent another EDSA people power, it issued the Calibrated Pre-emptive Response and construed Batas Pambansa Blg. 880 in the strictest manner possible, dispersed all anti-GMA rallies, arresting people even before they can petition the government for redress of their grievances.

Third, it issued Proclamation No. 1017 and threatened press and broadcast media freedom, placed soldiers in media networks in the guise of protecting them from coup plotters, closed down the Tribune newspaper, and threatened to cancel the legislative franchise of media outlets.

Fourth, it disregarded the Supreme Court injunction that there is no enabling law to mount a people’s initiative for the purpose of revising the 1987 Constitution and coax, coerce, deceive the people to foolishly and unwittingly sign a petition to amend the constitution, coupled with the odious temerity to challenge the opposition to file a case before the Supreme Court.

All these acts clearly show that for the purpose of perpetuating itself in power and to advance its own interests, this government will go to the extent of defying the rule of law, refashion jurisprudence as it sees fit to serve its purpose and make legal what clearly is unlawful.

The government invokes the presumption of regularity in all its acts. And yet, twice in a row, the Supreme Court has struck them down albeit lamely but still a put-down. This government's arrogant attitude can only be explained either to the "brook no dissent" attitude of the president or to the fascistic tendencies of her Secretary of Justice, who incidentally, continues to show contempt for the Supreme Court which once disbarred him for precisely being a boorish and contemptuous lawyer.

No small wonder then that the opposition will use the same instrument of defiance against them, clearly evident with the various petitions for injunction filed in several regional trial courts to restrain the COMELEC from verifying the signatures.

And here, one sees the gall of the president’s lawyer declaring to all and sundry that it is illegal for the opposition to file an injunction before the regional trial courts since a case can only be filed before the Supreme Court. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, ey?

This is what this country is faced with, a government that does not respect the rule of law, will not abide by the rule of law before jurisprudence becomes final and executory, and highly doubtful that the government will observe the rule of law once it becomes the law of the land. The rule of law, as they say, is honored more in the breach than in the observance.

And as long as the government pays lip service to the rule of law, this government, its leaders and their minions will never earn the respect of its people, will never acquire legitimacy in the eyes of all, even to the most objective observers, and most importantly, will never achieve the rightful legacy and their decent place in history.

As passe the rule of law is for this government, this government too shall pass.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Panganiban's Unwarranted Candor

All too often, the 3rd branch of government, the Judiciary, has always preferred to be shrouded in mystery, the idea behind the mystery is to instill the sense of the sacred, that the justices, like cardinals, are successors to an august and exclusive clique of individuals tasked with the administration of justice.

These days, the shroud of mystery is being uncloaked by the somewhat reckless candor of the Chief Justice. Very recently, he perorated that the death penalty law is unconstitutional. Having said that, he just recused himself from sitting as one of the jurists in the event the death penalty is revisited before the High Court.

But why this seeming candor? The late Chief Justice Rehnquist of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) revealed himself through a number of books and for answering a puzzle in a newspaper.  Justice Scalia exhibits his conservative and constructionist bent in his decisions and his various speeches in law schools.  

Justice Scalia also had occasion to speak about the death penalty. But unlike Chief Justice Panganiban, he spoke of the death penalty as a measure that has long been sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church and that the Church while espousing the removal of the death penalty has never declared the immorality of the death penalty as a doctrinal dictum.

In our case, our Chief Justice is so open about the unconstitutionality of the death penalty that it is so obvious that when brought before the High Court, he would have to be removed from the case.

If this is his idea of having a transparent Supreme Court, he has his priorities misaligned. First of all, if he wants transparency, let the deliberations before the SC be broadcast live. Second, let their Statements of Assets and Liabilities be released to the public.

Although the SC has declared the SAL as off-limits because they are private in nature with the presumption that they cannot be bribed, still, public interest requires them to show to the public that they are paragons of virtue and honesty and that there is nothing to hide when cast before the light of public scrutiny.

Third, publish the budget and itemized expenditures of the Supreme Court and the entire Judiciary. This was the bane of the former Chief Justice Davide whose stewardship of the judicial branch led to the first ever attempt to impeach a Supreme Court Justice, and a Chief Justice at that.  Doubts continue to remain considering that impeachment was dismissed on a technicality.

Fourth, publicize the proceedings in the Judicial and Bar Council so the public may know how the deliberations in the JBC are conducted and to further apprise the public of the quality of the judges or the lack of it which the JBC are recommending to the president for appointment to the bench.

All these are institutional attempts of transparency which will augur well for the judiciary rather than an ambush interview with the Chief Justice.  

And his greatest legacy can come not in the form of casual responses to interviews, his greatest legacy can come from issuing decisions that show their independence from the Palace and those that seek to put the three branches of government in their rightful place and the protection and maintenance of any citizen’s bill of rights.

Then and only then will his place in judicial history be assured.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

CPR Declared Void - Comments & Questions

Today, the Supreme Court handed down a decision, BAYAN et. al., versus EDUARDO ERMITA et al., declaring two things: (a) declaring B. P. Blg. 880 otherwise known as the Public Assembly Act constitutional; and (b) declaring the policy of Calibrated Preemptive Response unconstitutional. In the words of Helga, YEBAH!

Two things noticeable that were unanswered: (1) if CPR is unconstitutional, does it follow all charges filed by the PNP against any rallyist subsequent to the imposition of the CPR policy should be dismissed, their acts being violation of freedom of expression?

And (2) since the local governments failed to enact freedom parks for a good twenty years, inspite of the injunction contained in B. P. Blg. 880, does it not follow that the rallyists should not be charged with violation of B. P. Blg. 880 since the local government officials either deliberately or negligently failed to implement the letter of the law, i.e., to establish freedom parks within their respective jurisdiction where rallyists can peacefully gather? Is it not logical to expect that B. P. Blg. 880 should be held in suspended animation while there are still no declared freedom parks?

Like the E. O. 464 decision, this decision will require further stretching from lawyers of both sides as to how to prosecute or defend a case.

I believe the petitioners should also file either a Motion for Reconsideration or a Clarification as to the status of the arrests made pursuant to the void Calibrated Preemptive Response Policy of the government. Otherwise, we will be left again to the discretion of police officials whose minds have been made up against those who wish to seek redress for their grievances.

A general statement of policy declaring all arrests void as a result of CPR would go a long way to enhancing and institutionalizing freedom of expression against a repressive police force and government.

Friday, April 21, 2006

E. O. 464 and Mayuga

Now that E. O. 464 has been rendered inutile, at least the parts crucial to the Arroyo government, Senator Biazon can call all the witnesses to the Senate that Admiral Mayuga claimed to have but never interviewed and to re-start the investigation on the role of the generals in the last election.

Since there is a possibility that Admiral Mayuga and the Palace will invoke Executive Privilege as basis not to appear before the Senate, Senator Biazon can always go the roundabout way and summon all those Marines who texted him and to testify to their perfidious use by the administration to rig the last elections. What the Senate cannot do directly, let them do indirectly.

Which brings us to who the next Chief of Staff will be.

General Esperon has not been confirmed yet. There are talks that Admiral Mayuga may be a possible contender for the Chief of Staff after Gen. Senga retires but given the Byzantine manner by which the Mayuga Report (or Trash) was massaged and released to the public during Holy Week while everyone was out, except Ces Drilon and the ANC guys, Admiral Mayuga’s willing participation in the conspiracy to muddle the findings should put a dent to his ambition to become Chief of Staff.

The Commission on Appointments, at the very least, can stifle and delay his rise but it would do well for the politicians in the Commission not to appoint someone like Admiral Mayuga who has seemingly become a poster boy for cover-ups and obfuscation. If this administration wants another rankling from the military, appointing Mayuga to Chief of Staff would be the equivalent of the gift that keeps on giving.

The only one thus far who has not have a whiff of scandal would be the Air Force General Reyes.

My hunch is: while General Esperon has yet to be cleared of all wrongdoing, General Reyes will sanitize the position. And that makes the revolving door policy of chiefs of staff all the more a political reality in this administration. Damn the reforms!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Jesus In The Time Of GMA

This being the Holy Week, let us focus on how Jesus would have fared in these times of 880, 464 and 1017. Warning: This is an irreverent take. Not your usual Holy Week reflection. So, please don't crucify me. I take my Sacred Triduum seriously too.

On Palm Sunday, before entering the boundary of Metro Manila, Gen. Vidal Querol would have received very raw and very incompetent intelligence reports that a rabble-rouser from the province named Jesus would be entering Metro Manila. Consequently, he ordered several hundreds of PNP lowlifes to prevent his entry.

Peter and James, second lieutenants of Jesus, would have already scouted precautions being undertaken by the PNP. They would have informed Jesus the precarious situation. That notwithstanding, Jesus would have said: “Be Not Afraid. Weather-weather lang yan”.

With an intransigent mindset, the first thing that would greet Jesus on a donkey would not be “Hosannahs” or “Praise the Lord”. Instead, He would have been confronted by the PNP commander on the ground and ordered to turn around or face the legal consequences. And Jesus would have said: “You have no power over me” and promptly get arrested for (a) violation of the B. P. Blg. 880; (b) Grave Coercion; (c) Sedition and (d) Driving a donkey without a license.

And since Jesus had lawyer-friends from among the Scribes and Pharisees, he was released immediately pending further investigation.

Come Thursday, during the Last Supper, the house where they will sup will be guarded by PNP security personnel on the pretext that they are preventing would be assassins from attempting to hurt Jesus.

Apparently, the government has already planted and paid Jesus’ follower, Judas, 30 pieces of silver, the value of his soul, to betray Him. Judas was ordered to say that Jesus was conniving with the communists for the purpose of toppling the government. And Jesus looked upon Judas with pity and said: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, become president, prime minister and dictator for life and loses her own soul?” And Judas said: “Hey Rabbi, I’m not the first. The Garci tapes can prove that!”

Between Thursday night to Friday morning, Jesus, groggy from all the corporal punishment received from Scribes who ordered Him to swallow the Mongol lead pencil, was charged, without due process, with violation of 880 and 1017.

His friend Nicodemus argued that his life should be spared since He is the Way to a genuine transformation of society, the Truth of the Garci tapes, Agriculture Fund Scam will come to light, and that He is the Life after GMA is removed. After hearing the passioned arguments from Old Nic, they retired to their jury room and without so much a deliberation and with total apathy and indifference, ruled that Jesus be executed on Friday at 3, Filipino time.

On Friday morning, Jesus is allowed his final shirt and He chose the color black with the words “PATALSIKIN NA. NOW NA!” . For His final meal, He ate Norwegian salmon and those who were with Him in prison experienced a miracle. There were plenty of salmons to spare. Apparently, He multiplied the salmons without asking them to sign a people’s initiative to set Him free.

That morning also, He was interviewed by Ricky Carandang of ANC. Jesus revealed he was appalled at the barbarity of the present dispensation. “Ang kapal nila, si Justice Secretary Raul Herodias Gonzales wanted me put to death by crucifixion, buti na lang, Mike Defensor had some moral sinew left and pushed for lethal injection. Not much help anyway but at least, he has some soul left. Eventually, however, the Cabinet agreed on crucifixion. The blood be on their hands!”

On Friday afternoon, Jesus was asked to carry the crossbeams, and walked from Capas to Tarlac and helped all the way to Bataan, to the Dambana Ng Mga Bayani where he was slated to be crucified and hanged. Along the way, he complained that the DPWH continues to be a corrupt agency with all the potted holes that caused him to fall, not once, not twice but thrice.

At 3 in the afternoon, dark clouds hovered over the horizon. And before He expired, He shouted: “Mga HOY! Walang himala, walang Da Vinci Code at hindi ko asawa si Maria Magdalena, pwede ba?

At this, He cried out: “It is finished”. And Jesus expired. To rise again and bring havoc to the Empire. Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.

And we say: Amen and amen.

Postscript: An investigation was later conducted by the Senate but all those responsible for the death of Jesus invoked E. O. 464 and refused to appear without presidential consent.

Thus, except for Judas who committed suicide, the Senate Committee failed to identify the perpetrators of this heinous crime. To this day, sedition is still a crime in the Revised Penal Code. But driving a donkey without a license has been repealed.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Safe Journey

My bosom friend is leaving the country for good.

My friend is not a lawyer. A management engineering graduate who has the singular privilege to practice what was learned from Melchor Hall of the University of the Philippines, my friend views things and situations differently - more objective, less passionate, more grounded, less pedantic.

My friend solves problems based on the time-tested scientific method, not on scholastic argumentation and debate. There is no leap of logic or faith, only a step-by-step approach to an objective conclusion. The arrival to solutions comes only after exhausting all possible variances. In short, my friend believes God exists not because the Bible tells it so but because there is an ordered universe. To which I reminded that we lawyers had to create God to get us out of the chaos we devised.

We lost touch after graduating from secondary school. But quite recently, we renewed our friendship after a chance encounter. I believe in chance encounters, my friend does not, she believes in fate. And as is wont with anybody who have not seen someone for the past quarter century, there was so much catching up to do, reliving tales of adventures and misadventures, yarns of past crushes, the who-is-with-whom and the why-did-they-end-up-together, the what-happened-to-this-guy-or-girl, the romantic escapades, trysts and heart-breaking episodes of the past, etc. In short, what every Filipino excels in: tsismis.

Till now, we never run out of stories to tell. The past is an endless meandering of misdeeds, misdemeanors, and misbehaviors which we still live to tell.

Sadly, I learned their petition to migrate years ago has been approved and my friend is leaving today for good. The whole family will be uprooted not to seek greener pastures, after all, they are well-off. They are leaving to secure a better future for their children.

I will miss the friendship, the conversations, and the arguments. I will miss the hearty laugh, the sarcastic wit, the animated contorted face while my friend yarns off a funny tale. I will miss the coffee while engaged in polemical argument about life, religion and politics. But most of all, I will miss a pearl of great price, a friend who once I lost but now have found. Thank you for the brief encounter.

Safe journey, my friend, and as you go forth, may the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Winnie's Comeuppance

John's blog yesterday was about Solita Monsod's outrage over the Cha Cha train. He posits that where Winnie is, there the center will be.

I think not. In fact, I wrote so in his comment why I think where she stands is not necessarily where the center is. I reproduced the comment but with added thoughts here:

"I am not sure I agree with you that the center is where Solita is. She is incensed only because the unreformed COMELEC is going to do the cooking.

The people's initiative will be another opportunity for the COMELEC to handle and we very well know that electoral reform has always been the quixotic advocacy of Christian and Winnie Monsod.

Quixotic not because of Abalos but because of the woman who placed him there. And yet, the Monsods seemed unmindful and unable to make the leap of logic. They have refused to blame the lady for the commission of various sins and glossed over her misdeeds because despite her cheating, the Monsods relied more on the surveys. Pragmatism over morality.

Her anger is really more personal rather than reflective of the sentiments of the center, if there is one at all. The call to slaughter was too loud that had the Monsods remained in thunderous silence (an oxymoron, if you please), their credibility would have gravely suffered. Hence, predictably, she follows, rather than leads the cry of the center.

She has arrived late in the day and perorates about the immorality of the whole enterprise. But where was she when Joc Joc, Raul and Norberto Gonzales were making the government bureaucracy look like a feast of fools and a den of thieves. Where was her genuine outrage?

Still, it is a welcome surprise that Winnie's anger is real. For someone to cry karma, this train must have hit a raw nerve in Winnie. And as they say in Filipino: "huli man daw..."

So, welcome, Professor. If at all, this Cha Cha train was your comeuppance for stubbornly defending her and for refusing to believe that truth does not come in shades of gray.

Thank you Winnie and I hope you say goodbye to all your rationalizations."

And thank you too, John, for giving us the heads-up. Frankly, I don't understand where this enmity between bloggers and journalists is coming from. Is the conflict contrived or is the debate meant as a justification for creative tension? As far as I'm concerned, I am a simple blogger who appreciates the presence of journalists like you and Ellen in the blogosphere. In your presence, I am diminished not one bit!