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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

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Fr. Bernas is Wrong

I am an unregistered, unknown admirer of of Legion. No, not the Legion of Mary but the Legion (as coined by MLQ3) of Bengzon, Orosa and LAmbino et al., otherwise known as Legion ng BOLA et al.

Far too long, I have suffered in silence against the attacks on the virtue of the people’s initiative, an enlightened provision in the 1987 Constitution.

Far too long, my ears grate whenever I hear the case of Santiago v. Comelec harped upon in ANC, the print outlet and even in the demagagosphere as though all those who have written and commented upon that case read it from incipient to prologue. I daresay that most of those who read it only bothered to read the dispositive portion. I even daresay that most have not read the dissenting opinions of Mr. Chief Justice Panganiban or Justice Puno.

Far too long, I have heard the name of Fr. Bernas, S. J., bandied about, as the pre-eminent amicus curia on constitutional matters. Frankly, I have been dulled by his monotonous, faux accent that is neither Arrneow, British or Bicolano. I am wearied hearing his arguments. What are his arguments that regurgitate in the bowels of Philippine media?

Essentially, three things in its barest minimum.

First, there is no enabling law; Second, change of the system of government is not covered by the people’s initiative; and third, the Supreme Court will preserve the wisdom of Santiago v. Comelec.

Fr. Bernas argues that there is no such law. But of course there is! The law is R. A. 6795 and the law is sound. The issue in Santiago v. Comelec is no longer the issue in Legion of BOLA’s petition. In Santiago, the petition filed before COMELEC was clearly deficient. It did not attach in the petition the requisite 12% and 3% votes as required under the Constitution. The petitioner in the Santiago case even had the gall to ask the COMELEC to accept its petition without those signatures.

But in the Legion of BOLA’s petition, the signatures were secured not only by hook and by crook, the signatures were secured by way of Jollibee, KFC, McDonald’s etc. (I should get paid for these!). But we digress.

The Santiago decision penned by former Chief Justice Davide was splitting rails. He argued that the initiative on the Constitution was an afterthought. Too much of the technicalities were highlighted. The letter of the law was stressed to kill the spirit that giveth life. Even Senator Roco, the author of the law and not exactly a friend of Mr. FVR Tabako, argued that the law was sound and capable of amending the constitution.

Fr. Bernas conveniently forgot the dissenting opinions of Puno and Panganiban who gave emphasis on the spirit of the Constitutional Commission which bear and brought forth to life the provisions on initiative and referendum. Lest anyone forget, Fr. Bernas was one of the midwives of the 1987 Constitution.

Fr. Bernas also conveniently forgets that today’s dissenting opinion can become tomorrow’s majority opinion. US jurisprudence on civil rights, right-to-life cases are proofs of such truism. But he chose to close the avenue for the Supreme Court to change their views with his body language, during his interview with Ricky Carandang, that if the Brethren do so, they will be the most ridiculous Supreme Court justices that ever sat in this jurisdiction.

Yes, Virginia, there is an enabling law and the GMA justices have but to highlight the dissenting opinions of Puno and Panganiban to find justification for the High Court to abandon the ruling in Santiago v. Comelec. The majority fiddled with technicalities, the dissenting justices harped on the spirit of the law in Santiago. For that reason, Santiago could not be ironclad in substance. And those who invoke Santiago should well be reminded that technicalities are almost always frowned upon.

Second, Fr. Bernas insists that changing the form of government is a revision not covered by a people’s initiative. Revision, amendment, what’s in a name? A muddied rose, by any other name, will still smell as foul. Again, Fr. Bernas is toying around with technicalities.

He forgets that the people have spoken and therefore, by hook, by crook, by Jollibee, KFC or McDonalds (I should get paid for these plugs), it has by means, fair or foul, become the voice of God, Lucifer, Baal, Beelzebub whatever! So, what is wrong even if we forego the consti-technical requirements? The Legion has so far complied with the 12%-3% rule. To paraphrase Congressman Cayetano, takot ba ang Black and White Movement, ang One Voice sa People’s Initiative for Charter Change ng BOLA?

At the end of the day, we challenge those who oppose charter change to fight it out in the referendum. Let all the voices be heard. Let us forego technicalities!

The charter change issue is not as clearly black and white as the opposition makes it out, it has more than one voice that needs to be heard. We need a rainbow coalition to bring about change in our country and the only way to do that, to move on and stop all these politicking is to change the constitution so that after 2010, those who are against GMA will no longer contend with a President Gloria but a Prime Minister Gloria who will lead us to higher heights of whatever, basta higher being the operative word.

This nation will be great again.

And those who oppose the Legion, who obfuscate the issues, who muddle the discussions, who refuse to engage us in a referendum, and those who pontificate like Fr. Bernas and Manolo Quezon, those bishops who have abandoned their shepherd staff and taken on the sword, these are the people who have continued to restrain these country from its economic take-off. We have remained a midget economy through no fault of our president but due to these equally pompous fellows who think they are God’s gift to the Filipino people. And the Legion, are we not as well?

What these blundering fools refuse to believe is that the people are long suffering and tired and weary of politicking. Fr. Bernas is just the epitome of what is wrong with this country.

Therefore, let us join Legion’s campaign for charter change. We have nothing to lose but our minds!

And if you are convinced by BOLA's arguments, let us go and get the vote. Let us have a referendum! That is the gist and strength of our arguments.

Takot ba sila?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Remembering Ninoy

1983 was my senior year in De La Salle University.  That year, I defended my Communication Arts thesis, a film project entitled “Kahapon Hanggang Bukas” where my film collaborator was Emmanuel “Nuel” Naval. Unlike me where I proceeded to study law, Nuel pursued his film craft and eventually became an Urian Awardee.  To the best of my knowledge, he is currently connected with Star Cinema and directs some episodes for  ABS-CBN’s “Maalaala Mo Kaya”.

But in August 1983, I was just about to finish my university education.  It was the last term of my schooling and all I had were the minor subjects which I have purposely left behind in order to focus on my major course.    

That morning of the 21st, I remember being on the 3rd floor of the Benilde Building. The day before, there was talk that Ninoy Aquino was coming home to engage the Marcos regime once more.  I had seen and heard Ninoy speak through smuggled video cassette tapes. I remember one particular video cassette where he spoke on a podium and spoke flawlessly, without an idiot board, on  the Marcos regime, Marcos’ poor health and his conversion experience in prison.  I could not help but be dazzled by his delivery and the substance of his speech. No wonder Marcos felt threatened with his return.

And so, on that fateful morning, while waiting for my next class, we heard that  Ninoy’s plane has landed.  And even if most of my generation never knew the pre-martial law Ninoy, most of us in La Salle were exhilarated to know that Ninoy is coming home to fight the evil empire.  There was a barker who kept us all informed of the goings-on in the Manila International Airport (“MIA).  Then, we heard what would become THE watershed event for the last half of 20th century Philippines.

Ninoy was shot.

The whole student population in Benilde Building just exploded.  Some in anger, some in shock, some were outrage, and most of us were in disbelief.  How could Marcos possibly do a brazen act in the light of day and in the presence of local and foreign media? I just could not believe that this could be happening.  That day, the students did not care what the teachers were teaching, the teachers taught lackadaisically and La Salle, known for its snootiness, became politicized overnight. Superman died that day in MIA.  

On that day as well, his immortal words “The Filipino is worth dying for” suddenly gained currency and relevance among disbelievers, skeptics and the apathetic middle class.
His death was not in vain.  People ran out of the streets, demonstrations became widespread, criticism became more common and bolder, the opposition eventually learned to shed off its crab mentality and eventually, galvanized the populace against Marcos, culminating in the First People Power Revolution where I, along with others, contributed to the downfall of a repressive regime.

Ninoy’s 23rd death anniversary is approaching soon and we see a people similarly situated and similarly apathetic.  It is this reason that GMA has brazenly murdered the democratic institutions with nary a whimper from the middle class. The latter is much divided, the opposition has no frontliner and she rules with an iron hand and runs roughshod over what is good and righteous.

On August 21, let us take stock of what transpired the day Ninoy Aquino was shot and the lessons learned from his death.  Let us also compare the situation we have today, the government’s attitude of impunity, brazenness and total disregard for the rights of its people.  

It is for those of us who believe that Ninoy’s death has meaning to stay the course and fight the good fight.  It is for those of us who believe that the Filipino is worth dying for to continue hammering on justice and good government.  We who benefited from Ninoy’s death and have tasted what true freedom is can not afford to be complacent and indifferent to the political crisis that besets this country.  We cannot move on until and unless justice is served.  

At the very least, we owe it to Ninoy.

At the very least, Ninoy expects it no less from us.