Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Estrada's Graduation Speech: Classless

Once more, Senator Jinggoy Estrada has demonstrated how petty and small-minded he can be.

Instead of saying something inspirational for his graduation speech at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), Senator Estrada used the occasion both to defend himself and attack his detractors.

One has to wonder why on earth would PLM officials get Senator Estrada to be their school's graduation speaker, considering the cloud of controversy hovering over him. Couldn't they could have gotten someone more inspirational and less controversial? Then again, since the Senator's daddy, former President and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada is the mayor of the city, it's not too difficult how the opportunity was managed.

In his speech, Senator Estrada continued to insist on his innocence in the pork barrel scam, despite the fact that the Ombudsman has recommended charges to be filed against him, as well as his fellow Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Bong Revilla. He also took potshots at other senators whom he claimed were using the scam to play politics at his expense; while he did not mention them by name, it's clear that he was referring to Senators Teofisto Guingona III and Alan Peter Cayetano, both of whom have been very vocal in their condemnation and criticism of Estrada, Enrile and Revilla.

Estrada even had the gall to suggest that his colleagues should "learn the meaning of ethics and fair investigation." He probably should look to himself and his father regarding that topic.

Of course, Estrada raised the issue of his being more religious because of what happened. Notice how scoundrels always declare their faith publicly, in order to absolve themselves? Estrada's father has done the same thing, as well as former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was convicted in 1995 for the murder of Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez. And Estrada calls his colleagues "hypocrites"? Please.

I've been looking for the complete text of Estrada's speech online, with no success; the news website Rappler seems to have most of the juicier texts, though. I'd really like to think that there was more to his speech than just the small-mindedness, but, given the fact that, in a Senate speech, he basically tarred and feathered everyone for being involved in the pork barrel scam, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he couldn't be called upon to show a little class given the occasion.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Quick Note: Choice of Topics

Those of you readers who've been following my blog may have noticed a change in my choice of blog topics the past few weeks, as I've written more about people who've passed away, or topics of a non-political sort. I thought I'd write this just to assure you that I continue to keep a close eye on sociopolitical issues. It's just that writing about them requires time to research about them, and time is a luxury I currently don't have. As it is, it's a bit of a challenge to write posts on a fairly regular basis.

At any rate, in the future, once I have a little maneuvering space, I do intend to write about some of the more pressing issues; my notebook does have a number of outlined posts that are begging to be written. Some of the quick issues that come to mind, and some quick thoughts on them:

1. The continuing China encroachment - I've wanted to write about this for the longest time, since it's such an interesting topic. Still, it's not likely that the issue will be resolved any time soon, so I'll probably be able to write about this and still be relevant.

2. The recent Supreme Court decision on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill - I have yet to read the actual text of the decision, so I won't comment on this for now, though both sides have declared victory.

3. The pork barrel scam - One of the pressing questions in this issue is whether the President will allow charges to be filed against those of his allies who are involved; as it is, the lack of any charges filed has created the perception that the whole scam issue is being used to take out the President's political opponents.

Since all of the above issues are still ongoing, chances are probably good that I'll still be able to write about them without feeling I've missed the boat.

Requiem, Don Gabo

Yesterday, the world lost one of its literary greats, as Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away yesterday at the age of 87, leaving many of his fans, and there are many, saddened.

Truth to tell, I haven't read either "100 Years of Solitude" or "Love in the Time of Cholera," or any of Garcia Marquez's work, but I recognize the impact he's had on my friends and colleagues. Based on the posts on my social media feed, Garcia Marquez has captivated audiences with his prose and poetry, as many of my friends have posted their own tributes to the late author.

I did try, years ago, to read, "100 Years of Solitude," but I was probably not mature enough to appreciate it. Here's hoping that I'll probably regret not having read it while Garcia Marquez was alive, and that I'll finally be able to appreciate and be awed by his literary genius.

According to the NY Times article on his passing, written by Jonathan Kandell, Garcia Marquez, known as "Gabo" to his Latin American audience, was considered a master of magical realism, "in which the miraculous and the real converge. In his novels and stories, storms rage for years, flowers drift from the skies, tyrants survive for centuries, priests levitate and corpses fail to decompose. And, more plausibly, lovers rekindle their passion after a half-century apart." For his work, Garcia Marquez was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, and his work helped inspire the likes of Isabel Allende ("The House of the Spirits") and Salman Rushdie ("The Satanic Verses").

Perhaps, considering the number of health concerns (see here and here for details) the Garcia Marquez had in the twilight of his career, it's a blessing that he's finally at rest, but the world is poorer for his loss.

Requiescat in pace, Don Gabo. Your long journey is finally at an end. Rest now.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pacquiao: Some Concerns

While, like many Filipinos, I am elated at Manny Pacquiao's unanimous decision victory over Tim Bradley, there are a number of concerns that bug me.

The first concern is immediate, regarding Pacquiao's boxing career. It's clear that, from his victories over Tim Bradley and Brandon Rios, either Pacquiao has lost his ability to knock out his opponents, or he has become gun-shy about clocking his opponents. Remember, before the fight, he had promised a knock-out of Bradley, and, while he dominated Bradley, as shown by the judges' cards, he was not able to put him down. That may be a factor in his next match, whether it be Juan Miguel Marquez, or Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Still, Pacquiao's victories have shown that he will probably continue fighting for some time to come.

On an aside, kudos to Tim Bradley for showing class in his loss. Instead of blaming his loss on a calf injury he apparently suffered in the first round, Bradley was all praises for Pacquiao, calling the Filipino fighter the better fighter last night.

The next concern is about his family. While a lot of netizens were amused by his mother's "hexing" of Bradley, I agree with one of my friends that such behavior was unbecoming, especially since Dionesa Pacquiao has made a public show of her religious fervor. I guess when push comes to shove, the real character comes through. Considering that it's Palm Sunday, Pacquiao's mother's actions, which included a middle finger directed at Bradley, were unseemly, although a case can be made regarding her concern for her son. Still,

While it's likely that Pacquiao will continue fighting on, his wife Jinkee, who's pregnant with their fifth baby, has tearfully asked Pacquiao to retire. I can imagine the pain that she has gone through, especially since Pacquiao's knock-out loss to Marquez in 2012. With the win over Bradley, Jinkee said that there is nothing more that Pacquiao has to prove. There is a real concern here, in the sense that, each time Pacquiao steps into the ring, he risks serious injuries to his head and body. The Pacman should also consider his children as he continues to fight. What if he suffers another Marquez-like knock-out?

The long-term concern is about Pacquiao's political career, which he has mixed with his boxing career. As it is, due to his fighting and training, Pacquiao is one of the congressmen with the highest number of absences from sessions. Now, there is talk of Vice-President Binay wanting to add Pacquiao to his senatorial slate in 2016. At this point in time, it's clear that, if Binay should make that wish a reality, the VP is choosing winnability over actual political ability. We've had enough non-performers in the Senate, and adding Pacquiao will not erase that perception.

Am I being too cynical? Probably, but, while the rest of the Filipino world is celebrating Pacquiao's momentous victory, I find myself asking questions about what happens next. Most likely, the Pacman will continue fighting, much to his wife's dismay. And, most likely, Pacquiao will continue under-representing his district while he continues his boxing career. While we have an initial euphoria over his victory, when reality sets in, some hard questions will be asked.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Requiem, Ultimate Warrior

The Ultimate Warrior: One of the most intense superstars in the WWF's history
Image from Ring the Damn Bell

Back in the 80s and early 90s, the world of professional wrestling was a cartoon-like world, wherein outlandish characters were commonplace, and treated as if they were real. The Undertaker, would hail from Death Valley, and be powered by a mystical urn. Tag teams such as the Road Warriors and Demolition were tough and scary with their face-painted miens.
Then, there was the Ultimate Warrior, from parts unknown. Face-painted and be-tasseled, the Warrior would rush into the ring, fire up the crowd with his pumping of the ring cables, and basically blast his opponent within a minute or two of the match. 

I loved it, as did a good number of fans. His win over Hulk Hogan in Wrestlemania VI seemed like the passing of the torch from one generation to the next, and it seemed like the Warrior was due for a lengthy career.

It was not meant to be, however, as the Warrior dropped from sight in 1991, and would move to semi-retirement in the mid-90s, and then return to the WWE for a short stint, only to reappear in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) for a disastrous turn.

Apparently, behind the scenes, it wasn't all nice, as the video "The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior" showed. The video portrayed a man who was considered unprofessional and strange. Various wrestling personalities, from Bobby Heenan to Chris Jericho, gave their impressions and experiences with the Warrior, a lot of it negative. The treatment probably stemmed from the legal problems in which the Warrior and the WWE were embroiled, as the Warrior, whose real name was James Hellwig, disputed the ownership of the Ultimate Warrior name. Hellwig had legally changed his name to Warrior in 1993. 

Still, it seems as if the two bodies had settled their differences, as the Warrior was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame last April 5, and appeared on Wrestlemania XXX on April 6, as well as his first appearance on WWE Raw in 18 years on April 7.

It came as a shock to many when news came out today that the Warrior died suddenly yesterday. Back in the 90s, before social media was in place, there were rumors of the Warrior's death, although some of the reasons for his death, such as his arm tassels cut off his circulation, seemed outlandish. However, today's news is not outlandish; the Ultimate Warrior is truly dead.

Whatever his faults, I remember the glory days, when the Ultimate Warrior was, like the Undertaker, an archetypal force of nature, and I shall remember the joy he gave whenever he wrestled. 

Requiescat in pace, Ultimate Warrior. You shall be missed. 

WWE Requiem; The Streak

Before the events of this week, I'd thought that my fascination with professional wrestling was dead; I lost interest in it after Chris Benoit went on his murderous rampage. Still, while I did not watch any of the shows in a while, I would keep abreast of what was going on in the world of professional wrestling.

Two major events occurred this week that brought the allure of sports entertainment back. One was the end of the Undertaker's Wrestlemania winning streak. The other is the sudden death of James Hellwig, more popularly known as the Ultimate Warrior. Let's take a look at the Streak first, then the Warrior's untimely death.

The Undertaker, whose real name is Mark Calaway, has been a fixture in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) for the longest time. When he first appeared in the WWE as the Undertaker in 1990, he had an impressive debut as a fairly agile big man, whose gimmick was that he was impervious to pain. Sure enough, when it seemed that he was out on the mat, he would rise up, beat the heck out of his opponent, and finish him off with the Tombstone piledriver. 

While he was originally managed by Brother Love, it was with the late Paul Bearer (real name: William Moody) that the Undertaker's career and popularity soared. Just the sound of the tolling of the bells, the start of the Undertaker's entrance music, would get the crowd roaring with excitement and anticipation.

The Undertaker has gone through a number of image changes over the years, although the enduring one is that of the Dead Man, the invincible, unstoppable force of nature.

The other part of the Undertaker's legacy is his Wrestlemania streak, which, before Wrestlemania XXX, stood at 21. Across the years, various WWE superstars, from Jimmy Snuka, to Ric Flair, to Diesel, to Shawn Michaels, to Randy Orton, to CM Punk, fell to the Undertaker. 21 matches came and went, and 21 wrestlers went down. It's an amazing streak, even if one takes into account that the whole professional wrestling business is scripted and planned. The fact that the ones in charge of planning things are able to keep the matches interesting and entertaining makes the Undertaker's Streak impressive.

Unfortunately, while we fans would have liked to have seen the Streak continue, and the Undertaker undefeated, some things are meant to be. The reality of it is that Calaway has gone through many injuries throughout his career, and, in the past few years, really only came out to perform for Wrestlemania. It was time for him to call it a day.

What galled fans, though, it seems, is that it was Brock Lesnar who ended it. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Snowden wrote it best: 
There would be blowback on whoever eventually ended the streak. Like it or not, subconsciously or not, fans would punish whoever ended our yearly comfort food. There's pressure there for most—perhaps more than a mere mortal could handle.
The end needed a man like Lesnar, someone who doesn't need or want the crowd's love. Lesnar, in some ways, stands alone. He is of wrestling, but he is not wrestling. He's just Brock Lesnar, a superhuman beast of a man, one of the scariest human beings on the planet. 
The streak wasn't meant to be stopped short by a conventional wrestler. It demanded something more, someone who, like the Undertaker, transcends the sport itself. It needed a man like Brock Lesnar.
Whether fans will eventually accept it or not, whether the manner by which the Undertaker's streak was broken was the right move or not, will be something debated on by fans for the months, if not years, to come. What Lesnar's win did is to re-energize a business that has lost a bit of its luster, if only for the moment.

As for the Undertaker, should he retire after this loss, he does so with the fans' adulation and admiration intact. For a generation, he has done his part to entertain fans, and, if it's his time to rest, he well deserves it.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Requiem, Mickey Rooney

It would be impossible to say that Mickey Rooney hadn't lived a full life. The actor, whose 80-year career is a virtual history of film and TV, passed away yesterday of natural causes at the ripe old age of 93

Looking at Rooney's career via IMDB, I am amazed at how he has been able to keep busy all the way to just before he died. I was not able to see him in action in the "Andy Hardy" series, which was part of what launched him to fame, and I only saw him when he was much older. 

I remember him from a sketch featuring the late Sammy Davis, Jr., wherein they were hamming it up as classroom students. When Davis, who felt that it was too square to give the teacher an apple, and, instead, gave a papaya, Rooney quipped, "This guy's some kind of wild fruit." 

I remember him as the grandfather of the main character in Disney's "Pete's Dragon." 

I remember him lending his voice to "The Simpsons," wherein he guest-starred as himself giving child-actor advice to Millhouse, who was to play Fallout Boy.

He was Tod in "The Fox and the Hound."

While I probably did not get to see much of the work that made him a brilliant actor, I was able to see him as an energetic one. He never seemed to act his age, and moved with a vibrant energy that gave the impression that he was a kid at heart.

Unfortunately, his personal life was not as happy, although it was always eventful. He went through eight marriages, and his manager made off with the money Rooney had earned. Still, Rooney managed to bounce back, and, while his later career was probably not as stellar as when he started out, Rooney kept plugging away, adding to a career that looks monumental at this point.

His 80-year career will probably never be equaled; he is the last connection we have to vaudeville, and the silent movies. It shows Rooney's ability as a showman, and his dedication to his craft. We will never see his like in our lifetime again.

Requiescat in pace, Mickey Rooney. Thanks for all the memory.

Saturday, April 05, 2014


Last February, I noted that it seemed as if majority of the posts I'd written that month were requiems. Over the past week or so, reading through my Facebook feed, a number of people have passed on as well, some of them prominent, others more personal.

My condolences and prayers go out to my high school classmate, whose mother passed away yesterday. Condolences and prayers as well to my one of my former colleagues at the Ateneo, whose father passed away almost a week ago.

I'm not sure if Ma'am Alou Carvajal was a teacher of mine back when I was in grade school, but her husband was a co-teacher of mine until he retired a few years ago. I taught their son in my third year of teaching. It was a bit of a shock to hear of her passing a week ago; I didn't even hear of her being ill. My condolences and prayers to my co-teacher and student and their family.

*   *   *

In the field of news reporting, back when I was much younger, there was no one classier than Harry Gasser, who was the face of Newswatch on channel 9 back in the 70s and 80s. Along with Angelo Castro, Gasser reported the news with dignity and objectivity, something sorely lacking in today's age of bombastic and opinionated newscasters.

Gasser passed away of complications from a stroke last Thursday.

Requiescat in pace, Harry Gasser. You will be missed.

Of course, there are others who will be missed, such as those killed in the Fort Hood shooting incident last Wednesday, and former PBA player Bryan Gahol and his female companion, who were killed in a vehicular accident last Tuesday

Death is something inevitable, and, as seen in the past, can arrive unexpectedly. The best we 
can do is live our lives to the fullest, and to the best of our ability. 

Friday, April 04, 2014

Kudos, Daniel Murphy

Kudos to New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy for doing the right thing.

The Mets player, who missed two games to be at the birth of his son Noah, took flak from sports personalities and radio hosts who should have known better.

Radio broadcaster Mike Francesa of WFAN demonstrated how little he knew of parenting, when he said,
''One day I understand. And in the old days they didn't do that. But one day, go see the baby be born and come back. You're a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help.''
How insensitive can one person get. Francesa sounds like someone who has never had children, who has never held a baby in his arms, or who is the sort of person who doesn't care.

Former football great Boomer Esiason took it a step further, when he suggested that Murphy's wife could have gotten a Caesarian section operation before major league baseball's Opening Day. Then, Esiason showed what he believed in when he was quoted as saying,
''Quite frankly, I would have said C-section before the season starts. I need to be at opening day, I'm sorry,'' he said. ''This is what makes our money. This is how we're going to live our life. This is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life. I'll be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to because I'm a baseball player.''
Apparently, Esiason has kids; I wonder if he's listened to "Cats in the Cradle."

Predictably, the two idiots were lambasted over news and social media. CNN Parents' commentator Kelly Wallace took issue with Esiason's comments about C-section and collected comments from netizens and doctors about how insensitive and dangerous his suggestion was.

On a personal note, all three of my children were born via C-section, and I've seen how difficult it was for my wife to deal with the aftermath, so for someone like Esiason to suggest it as if it's a normal everyday procedure is just plain wrong.

As Wallace pointed out, Esiason is coming from a sport which plays only 16 games in the regular season, so it's easy to see that, for someone like Esiason, each game counts. However, baseball plays 162 games, so Murphy's missing two games may not have as much an impact. Also, it should be noted that, before his wife gave birth, Murphy played an average of 145 games per season ever since he became a starter, so he's definitely no slacker. For one to criticize Murphy for putting family over career is just wrong.

Kudos should also be given to Murphy's manager with the Mets, Terry Collins, who defended his player amid the criticisms. Said Collins:
''If you're accusing Dan Murphy of not wanting to play - this guy played 161 games last year, wore himself out, played through all sorts of discomfort,'' he said. ''You know, the man had his first child. He's allowed to be there. The rules state that he can be there, so he went. There's nothing against it. There's nothing wrong with it. You know, he missed two games. It's not like he's missed 10. You know, when you start attacking Dan Murphy's credibility, you need to look in the mirror a little bit.''
Francesa, for his part, claimed that he had never attacked Murphy, saying that his assertion about Murphy's coming back to play was applicable if one has "the wherewithal to maybe afford care that some people may not."

Sure, Mike, sure.

The bottom line is that a father wanted to be there when his son was born, and spend some time taking care of him. No career in sports will ever be more important than that.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tragedy in Washington State: Mudslide

In 2006, the village of Guinsagon in the province of Southern Leyte was hit by a massive mudslide caused by days of torrential rains. Among the 1,126 who were killed in the mudslide were the students and teachers in the local elementary school; classes were in session when the mudslide buried the school.

Tragedies such as what happened in Guinsagon are, sad to say, fairly commonplace in the Philippines, wherein a large number of people make their homes in areas which are considered to be, or are later discovered to be, unsafe.

It was unsettling to read about the tragedy in Washington state in the U.S., wherein a similar mudslide also buried houses, buildings, and people in the towns of Oso and Darrington. While the death toll is smaller than the 2006 mudslide which buried Guinsagon (as of last count, 17 people were confirmed dead, while others remain missing, so it's likely that the death toll will still rise.), the loss is no less tragic. Like Guinsagon, there are stories behind the victims in Oso and Darrington, and reading these stories and seeing pictures of the mudslide's aftermath is heart-rending.

The tragedy in Oso and Darrington is unsettling because one would think that the U.S. would have more advanced technology to determine whether the area buried by the mudslide was safe or not. It could be a case of people just wanting to hold on to what they owned; after Mt. St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, I remember the National Geographic magazine wherein stories of the victims were told. Still, given the potential danger posed by the mud, one would have thought that the U.S. government would have taken measures to either move the people or find ways of protecting them. Then again, the mysterious disappearance of flight MH370 reminds us that there are still many things about our world to which even technology has no answer.

It's still possible that people will be found alive, although that possibility grows more remote with each passing day. Prayers for the victims and hopes that others will still be found alive.

Perhaps our government, and ourselves can send whatever help we can, no matter how paltry it may seem. The U.S., along with many nations, came to our aid in the aftermath of "Yolanda". We can do no less.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Requiem, Mr. Trask

In "Scent of a Woman", actor James Rebhorn played Mr. Trask, the principal of the boarding school where Chris O'Donnell's character studied. Rebhorn's character was instrumental in putting O'Donnell's character Charlie on the spot, only to be rescued by the strength of Al Pacino's speech.

In "My Cousin Vinny", Rebhorn played the role of George Wilbur, an auto expert who helped identify the car that Ralph Macchio and Mitchell Whitfield allegedly used in the murder of which they were accused.

While those are the roles for which I remember Rebhorn the most, looking at his filmography on IMDB, one can see the variety of roles and films in which the actor appeared: "Independence Day", "Meet the Parents", "Cold Mountain", "Real Steel", "The Talented Mr. Ripley", "Carlito's Way", "How to Eat Fried Worms", and so on. In addition, Rebhorn has appeared in numerous TV series, from "Law and Order" to "The Adventures of Pete and Pete" to "White Collar" to his last series "Homeland".

All in all, Rebhorn has always played the role of the supporting cast, and, while he was never the star, his appearances were often memorable. It takes a very professional actor to be able to do what he did, and, based on his resume, Rebhorn played his roles to the hilt.

The veteran character actor passed away in his home last Friday at the age of 65. He leaves behind a wealth of work, and a lasting impression on his viewers.

Requiescat in pace, James Rebhorn. You will be missed.

Monday, March 24, 2014

More Bus Mishaps

Last month, I wrote about the bus tragedy in Bontoc, which resulted in the death of 14 people, including comedian Arvin "Tado" Jimenez. In the posts, I noted that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) should get its act together and crack down on erring and delinquent bus operators to avoid future tragedies.

Earlier, last December, another bus went off the Skyway, killing 19.

Apparently, the LTFRB needs to move more quickly, as two more accidents occurred today, and last Saturday. In both accidents, at least 40 people were injured in each. Last Saturday, a Nova Auto Transport bus slammed into a Safeway bus and sideswiped a Marikina Autoline bus in Philcoa, along Commonwealth Ave. Initially, Mario Rogelio Jr., the driver of the Nova bus, fled, but later turned himself in to the authorities.

It should be noted that there is a  sometimes-enforced speed limit along Commonwealth Ave., although Rogelio denies that he was speeding down Commonwealth when the accident happened.

This morning, a Southern Carrier bus coming from Lipa, Batangas, lost two of its rear wheels, causing it to fall on its side. At least 40 people were injured, one of them badly enough to lose a hand. According to the ABS-CBN story, authorities found a number of violations on the bus, such as a tampered name and license number, as well as alcohol and drug paraphernalia.

The two accidents show that the LTFRB needs to more quicker in ensuring the safety of the riding public.

If it were possible, all bus franchises should be withdrawn, and a strict set of rules regulating the bus companies be made. All bus operators would then have to re-apply for a franchise, and would have to comply with the rules. Bus drivers should undergo stricter psychological and physical testing, and only be licensed to operate a bus after having undergone a strict drug test.

All it takes is the strength of will to impose discipline on the bus companies, as well as other public utility vehicles. The safety of the riding public depends on this.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Week in Review

The month of March is always a rough month, given the fact that there's always a lot of year-end work to do.

A lot of issues going on here and in the world. In the world, eyes are focused on the mystery of MH370, as the airplane has yet to be found; even, in this age of information, experts are stymied as to what happened to the plane.

As of now, relatives and friends of the missing passengers and crew are undergoing a harrowing experience, as there is no indication or clue as to the whereabouts of the plane, a very modern Boeing 777.

Another big issues is the annexation of Crimea by Russia. After the pro-Moscow president was ousted, Russian troops moved into the Crimean region, and apparently forced the situation wherein the region held a referendum to become part of the Russian federation. The action, which was wholeheartedly supported by Russian president Vladimir Putin, has forced Western powers, especially to U.S., to impose sanctions on Russia and its leaders. With the way events are escalating, we could be looking at the return of the Cold War, which could explode into a shooting war if both sides continue their aggressive moves.

Here, in the Philippines, the pork barrel scam continues to hog the headlines, with more and more officials and individuals being drawn into the net of intrigue and greed. The danger here is twofold, that, on one hand, the public might become tired of the constant news barrage and lose interest in the issue. If that happens, it's likely that the scam will die a quiet death, with no resolution.

On the other hand, the sheer number of officials involved in the scam may create difficulties in filing criminal cases against those involved. Worse, only political figures who are against the Aquino administration appear to be the ones being targeted, which makes the scam look like a political vendetta, especially since criminal charges don't look forthcoming anytime soon. Still, it's one of the few times wherein the corruption and greed of our leaders have been highlighted, and it's important for us to continue being vigilant, and make sure that these greedy leaders don't get away with their crimes.

With March slowly winding down, I'm hoping to impose some regular schedule of writing for myself, so that I can continue to practice and hone my writing, and, at the same time, be able to give insights on what's happening here and around the world.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Lady Eagles Win!

In the end, it was the Cinderella team that won it all, as the Ateneo Lady Eagles beat defending champion La Salle by taking all three sets in the penultimate game today. The Lady Eagles showed a lot of heart, and overcame La Salle's thrice-to-beat advantage in order to win their school's first women's volleyball championship.

A lot of credit goes to the players, many of them rookies, and their coach. By keeping his players loose and happy, coach Tai Bundit managed to win the hearts of Ateneans with his creation of the word "heartstrong". Truly, the Lady Eagles displayed this heartstrong mentality in overachieving this season, and winning the crown.

As for La Salle, I am reminded of the New England Patriots, which carried an 18-game unbeaten streak into Super Bowl XLII back in 2008, only to lose in the end to Eli Manning and the New York Giants. Likewise, the Lady Archers swept the elimination round, which forced the other teams to stepladder their way to the Finals. However, in the end, they were beaten by a team that wasn't supposed to make it to the Finals. The pressure of winning apparently got to them.

And so ends another UAAP sports season, with Ateneans cheering on their players, win or lose. One big fight!

Friday, March 14, 2014


Tomorrow's final game between Ateneo and La Salle for the women's volleyball championship will show which team has the strength of character in order to win.

Going into the finals, La Salle seemed to have the upper hand. It swept the eliminations, forcing the other three teams in the Final Four to stepladder their way to the finals. The Lady Archers have shown pluck and skill, being a virtual juggernaut in blazing its trail to the finals.

On the other hand, there were no high expectations this season for the Lady Eagles, being composed of a lot of young players; it was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the team. However, through will and luck, the Lady Eagles proved their mettle this season, getting into the Final Four, and disposing of a highly-regarded NU team. In the Finals, it's clear that Ateneo is the Cinderella squad of the season.

And it has continued its Cinderella run into the Finals, being burdened with a thrice-to-beat disadvantage. However, the Lady Eagles have rose to the challenge, upsetting the juggernaut Lady Archers in Game One, and escaping with a hard-fought victory in Game Three, setting the stage for tomorrow's final game.

A lot of credit must be given to their coach Tai Bundit, who has been rah-rahing his team, celebrating each point scored with joyous abandon. His sum-up of his team's key to success, "heartstrong" has resonated with fans, and has become the rallying cry for the Lady Eagles.

The big question for La Salle will be how its players deal with the pressure; their backs are against the wall in their quest for a fourth straight title. The losses in the Finals, their first this season, must be weighing heavily on the players' minds. There are only two possible outcomes: either the Lady Archers will dig down deep and find the will to win once more, or they will bow to the pressure and fall by the wayside.

Ateneo has the momentum, and the Lady Eagles have nothing to lose; already in the minds of their fans, they are winners for having gotten to this point. This will probably keep them loose and ready in their attempt to take down Goliath.

In the end, tomorrow's game will show which of the two teams is truly heartstrong.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

2016: The Rest of the Field

In the previous post, I took an initial look at the two perceived front-runners in the 2016 presidential election. In this post, I'll take a look at the rest of the field.

1. Senator Allan Peter Cayetano

Senator Cayetano recently declared his intentions to run for the country's top post, and, on the surface, there are a number of factors that may make him seem a favorable candidate: he is very vocal in going after corruption, and he carries himself well in the Senate. One may remember his going after former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo during the presidency of Gloria Arroyo. However, despite his very visible profile, Senator Cayetano has yet to put any real substance into his vocal efforts; for one, his accusations against the First Gentleman have gone nowhere.

At the same time, it's doubtful if Cayetano has a real popular base from which to launch a presidential run. Given the fact that there are two heavyweights in Vice-President Jejomar Binay and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas who are likely to run, the realistic expectation for Cayetano in 2016 is to steal votes away from either major candidate, the same way former Senator Panfilo Lacson affected the 2004 presidential run of the late actor Fernando Poe, Jr.

It's also possible that Cayetano's announcement is merely political maneuvering in order for him to gain concessions from the other candidates. It will be something to take a look at once the picture for 2016 becomes clearer.

2. Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.

The recent spate of attempts to revise history and paint the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos could be a ploy in order to boost a possible presidential run by Marcos' son, Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. Admittedly, the younger Marcos has been very careful in crafting his image; unlike Senators Estrada, Enrile, and Revilla, Senator Marcos has not been implicated in the pork barrel scam. His efforts and accomplishments as Governor and Congressman of Ilocos Norte also speak highly of the Senator.

However, it cannot be ignored that Marcos has not apologized for, and even defended the excesses of his father's martial law imposition. This blindness towards the realities of martial law will probably work against him, because, while the younger generation have been swayed by the revisionist history, there are still enough people who remember the horrors of martial law. It's likely that these people will speak very loudly and passionately enough to derail a Marcos bid in 2016.

3. Senator Bong Revilla

Despite the assertion of Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez that Senator Revilla's alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam will not affect a presidential bid, I beg to disagree. Revilla's stint as Senator is shadowed both by his support of former President Gloria Arroyo, who is currently facing plunder charges, and his involvement in the pork barrel scam. Sure, Revilla remains popular, but so was former President, Manila Mayor and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada. Popularity doesn't equate into character, and a solid character steeped in integrity is what the country needs in a leader.

4. Senator Grace Poe

The neophyte politician, who came out of nowhere to garner the most votes in the Senate race in 2013, is being considered by some for the presidency on the basis that she is not perceived to be corrupt, and she seems willing to learn the ropes.

Senator Poe's possible 2016 bid will probably be marketed in a similar way as President Aquino was in 2010,and his late mother in 1986, as an alternative to the trapos currently in the field. Like Corazon Aquino, however, Poe poses a risk because of her inexperience in leadership; she's an unknown.quantity, and voters may shy away from her because of that.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

2016: An Early Prognostication of the Top Two

Aaand they're off.

I'm referring, of course, to the 2016 presidential candidate wannabes, because, politics is the name of the game in the Philippines. While the landscape is still very hazy, some notables have emerged, and some have proclaimed their availability to run for the top position in the land.

Let's look at some of those who either have been considered as presidential timber, or those who, in a supreme display of ego, believe that they have what it takes to become President.

1. Vice-President Jejomar Binay

The VP has never been shy about his presidential ambitions, having practically declared his intentions from his stunning upset of former Senator (now Interior Secretary) Mar Roxas. While Binay is undisputed as the front-runner in the 2016 election, there are a number of concerns regarding a Binay presidency, notably his dynastic practices and his association with politicians such as former President, Manila mayor and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada and former Marcos Defense Minister and current Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

There is no doubt that the Vice-President is building a dynasty that could very well be one of the strongest political families in Philippine history. Two of his children are leaders in his bailiwick of Makati City: his son, Junjun, is mayor, while daughter Abigail is one of the city's two House representatives. His other daughter, Nancy, is currently a Senator, by the sole virtue of being his daughter, as the VP has expressed. While this is a violation of the Constitutional prohibition of political dynasties, the absence of an enabling law is what allows families such as the Binays to run roughshod over the Constitution.

Already, there are signs of abuse, if the incident in Dasmarinas Village last December is any indication. One can only speculate what the Binays would be capable of should the patriarch become President.

The second concern is that Binay's allies are of questionable value. Two of them, Enrile and Estrada, have been implicated in the pork barrel scam, and the fact that this doesn't deter Binay from possibly selecting Estrada's son, Jinggoy, as a potential vice-presidential candidate speaks volumes of the traditional and corrupt politics that the VP practices. It should be noted that the younger Estrada is also implicated in the pork barrel scam.

One should also take a look at some of the candidates being considered for the Senate by Binay's new party. The fact that boxing congressman Manny Pacquiao is being considered indicates that a candidate's winnability will be taken over actual ability, as far as the VP is concerned. While Pacquiao has brought glory to the country with his boxing prowess, his legislative career has been far from stellar. Despite this, Binay wants to put him in the Senate? That will probably help in cementing the mediocrity of discourse in the upper House.

While I would shudder at the thought of Binay becoming President, that seems to be the immediate reality, as Filipinos have a maddening penchant for not really thinking about their vote. In the end, money and popularity will talk big in 2016, and, unless something major derails his train, Binay will be the man to beat come the presidential elections.

2. Interior Secretary Mar Roxas

While it seems that Secretary Roxas has a bit of an advantage as far as resources are concerned, there are two factors which make his possible run for the presidency in 2016 problematic: one, the fact that Binay beat him for the vice-presidency in 2010, and, two, Roxas is tainted by his less-than-scintillating performance in the wake of typhoon "Yolanda".

While Filipinos admire the underdog, there isn't much to put Roxas in a positive light. In 2010, it looked as if he would cruise to the vice-presidency, but Binay snuck up from behind and whupped him. Perhaps Roxas got too complacent behind the glowing survey ratings of the President. The fact that he'll be going up against the man who beat him isn't going to win him any brownie points with the voting public.

However, more than his 2010 defeat, Roxas will have to wrestle with the perception that he mishandled the relief efforts in the horrifying aftermath of "Yolanda". The viral video of him speaking to Tacloban mayor Alfred Romualdez has been spun into such a negative image for Roxas that it is likely that its specter will rise up in 2016.

At the same time, Roxas has not trumpeted much about his accomplishments, if any, as Interior Secretary. This is both a plus and a minus. The fact that he's not one to brag about his accomplishments (although I'm sure there are some who will say, "What accomplishments?") speaks positively about his character. Unfortunately, it's a two-edged sword, since people will not be aware of his accomplishments, and, thus, will not have any positive persuasion to vote for him.

Unless Roxas does something spectacularly beneficial for the Philippines in the next year or so, it's almost certain that, should he run, as in 2010, he will fall flat on his face.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Catching Up

Another busy week, another period of break from writing.

It's been a busy week in current events. Key events in the news are the continuing crisis in the Ukraine, and the missing Malaysian Airlines flight whose abrupt disappearance remains a mystery.

On the surface, the Ukrainian crisis is entering a serious phase, as the pro-Russian parliament of the Crimean peninsula, nominally part of Ukraine but with a predominantly Russian ethnic population, has voted to cast its region's lot with Russia, and scheduled a referendum to formalize its geopolitical move. Earlier on, Russia moved in forces, ostensibly to protect its interests in the region, but Western leaders have condemned the move as a militaristic grab for land. Threats of economic sanctions have been levied against Russia and its bulldog of a leader, Vladimir Putin, but, it doesn't look  like such threats will faze the Russians.

On our side, it would be interesting to see how the West deals with this crisis, considering that our country is facing bullying tactics from Russia's southern neighbor, China. If the West blinks and folds in the Ukrainian issue, China might be emboldened to take stronger steps to ensure its control over the Southeast Asian area. If the West continues its aggressive stance against the Russian occupation, it may give the Chinese pause on their own actions, although, given their past actions, I doubt that they will.

*   *   *   *   *

Last Saturday, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing, and disappeared somewhere over the Gulf of Thailand, leaving experts bewildered over how a large and modern airplane could simply vanish without any sort of warning; while there are several scenarios being theorized, none have been proven. Search and rescue teams are currently scouring the area for any sign of wreckage or clue to the plane's whereabouts, but, so far, there's been no sign of the plane, which was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members.

What I wonder about is why the plane or its pilots were unable to send any sort of emergency signal, since it's doubtful any emergency would prevent a signal being sent off. At the same time, if it were a terrorist event, how would the terrorists be able to control an entire plane, unless they found a way to incapacitate the everybody? Until the plane is found, questions about what happened will continue.

Prayers for the plane's discovery continue as family and friends of the passengers and crew hold on to the hope that the plane will soon be found.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

"Sinta" and Sibol Hesus School

It's been a long while since I was able to watch "Sinta" at Dulaang Sibol. When I was recapping it with my wife, I guess the last time we watched it was back in the 90s. Before that, I was able to watch it in the 80s, when it was still most of the original cast; from what I remember, Jimmy Hofilena, Stella Pagsanghan, Fred Ortiz, and Henry Totanes were in that presentation.

At any rate, when my coordinator, the youngest daughter of Sibol's long-time mentor, Dr. Onofre Pagsanghan, said that tickets were available, I readily asked to reserve tickets for me and my wife and kids. As it turned out, my kids were still tired out from their camping activity the night before, so it was I, my wife, and my sister-in-law who got to go last night and watch. Needless to say, we weren't disappointed.

For the uninitiated, "Sinta" is Dr. Pagsanghan's translation of the Broadway musical "Fantasticks", which is loosely based on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet". It's a story of two feuding households, with a twist, as the fathers are keeping up the feud in an attempt to get their children to fall in love. It's also a story of growing up, as the two lovers are exposed to the realities of life. In the end, they find each other again, older and wiser.

The entire play is in Filipino, and is set to rhyme, which, for a two-hour, two-act play is an achievement in itself. At the same time, there's a lot of improvisation, especially in the jokes, as "Sinta" is both a drama and a comedy. As a result of the improv, no two presentations of "Sinta" are exactly alike, as the actors and actresses bring their own special flavor to each performance.

I'm not sure who played the fathers last night, but they were hilarious, as they hammed it up with joke after joke, leaving me and the rest of the audience, I'm sure, holding our guts in unadulterated laughter. The girl who played Sinta was also exemplary, as her voice was lyrical and powerful.

The current run of "Sinta" is special for two reasons. For one, the current run is staged, not by the high school students who make up Dulaang Sibol, but rather the alumni of Sibol. As a result, the current run is "age-appropriate", particularly the fathers. It's also interesting to see how the alumni have aged and developed in their craft; having more experience has helped each actor grow in the role.

The other reason for staging "Sinta" is for fund-raising. More than a decade ago, Mr. Pagsi, as he is fondly known by students, helped found the Sibol Hesus School, which helps talented public high school students realize their dreams of quality education. Through the efforts of those who give of their time, effort, and money, these students are able to go to exclusive private schools such as the Ateneo de Manila High School, and, with it, gain a chance at a better future. Sibol Hesus is the realization of Mr. Pagsi's dream of providing these students with a better life.

For this coming school year, Sibol Hesus Foundation, Inc., aims to provide scholarships to deserving students. The staging of "Sinta" is part of the foundation's efforts to realize this goal.

I'd like to help by devoting space here to promoting Sibol Hesus School. Below are the ways by which you can help; I'm providing the information from the brochure that was given last night.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Jojo Mendoza
Tel. No. 929-8832

Dr. James Simpas
Tel. No. 426-6001 loc. 5690

Tito Lopez
Tel. No. 982-3500

Donations may be deposited in or remitted to the following accounts:

Peso Savings Account
Banco de Oro - Loyola Heights Berkeley Branch
Account Name: Sibol Hesus School Foundation, Inc.
Account No. 3-570-087-241

Dollar Savings Account
Banco de Oro - Loyola Heights Berkeley Branch
Account Name: Sibol Hesus School Foundation, Inc.
Account No. 1035-7008-8825
Swift no. BNORPHMM
Routing no. 021-000089

Please make checks payable to the order of
Sibol Hesus School Foundation, Inc.
TIN 004-987-948

Let's all do our part.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Requiem, Egon Spengler

I didn't realize that much of my enjoyment of American comedy was thanks to the brilliance of Harold Ramis.

  • "Stripes" was a hilarious parody of life in the army, and was one of my first forays into comedy when I was a kid. 
  • "Caddyshack" was memorable for me because of Bill Murray's numerous and unsuccessful attempts to eliminate a gopher on the golf course.
  • "Ghostbusters", of course, was a seminal blockbuster, chock-full of memorable scenes and lines. 
  • "Groundhog Day" was a reflective comedy on one's attempt to better oneself. It remains one of my all-time favorite romantic comedies.
  • "Analyze This" paired off comedian Billy Crystal with respected actor Robert de Niro to great effect.
  • While Ramis only acted in "As Good As It Gets", his brief appearance as a doctor who helps Helen Hunt's character was memorable.
Ramis helped bring the movies mentioned above to the big screen either as the writer, director, producer, actor, or, sometimes, a combination of them. While there was enough visual comedy in them, a good number of them were also pop culture touchstones and elicited thought-provoking questions; "Groundhog Day", in particular, has been thoroughly analyzed. 

As an actor, Ramis normally played the straight man to the likes of Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd, letting the comedic actors work off Ramis' often serious mien. Even then, he was able to deliver some memorable lines (memorable, for me, anyway), such as the following from "Ghostbusters": 
"Well, let's say this Twinkie represents the normal amount of psychokinetic energy in the New York area. Based on this morning's sample, it would be a Twinkie... thirty-five feet long, weighing approximately six hundred pounds."
"Sorry, Venkman, I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought."
Thanks to his contributions, Harold Ramis added a reflective dimension to comedy, moving it away from cheap slapstick.

Sadly, Harold Ramis passed away yesterday due to complications related to autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, at the age of 69. He leaves behind a treasure trove of film work.

Requiem, Egon Spengler. You will be missed.

An EDSA I Reflection: Never Forgetting

While there are some who will argue that the late President and dictator Ferdinand Marcos contributed much to the country's infrastructure, and rank that achievement over what both Aquino presidents have accomplished, I, for one, agree with today's editorial in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and I will "remember the plunder."

While it's true that Marcos placed a lot of effort in improving the country's infrastructure, a needed development for the country's economic progress, that effort came with a great cost. Notes the Inquirer,
"Big-ticket items such as the construction of the country’s first light rail system or the ill-fated nuclear power plant in Bataan were perceived as especially favored and speedily expedited, at high cost. It may be said that the Marcos regime reached its decadent phase when the signs of plunder could no longer be hidden or disguised: lavish residences for military and police generals; Imelda Marcos’ infamous shopping sprees in world capitals; above all, the foreign debt incurred by the government, which metastasized from approximately $1 billion when Marcos assumed the presidency in 1965 to about $26 billion in 1986." (PDI editorial, February 25, 2014)
At the same time, aside from placing our country into enormous debt, the plunder the Marcoses committed made it into the Guinness Book of World Record. The Inquirer editorial continues
A World Bank case study summed up the case succinctly. “[Marcos] is estimated to have siphoned off between $5 and $10 billion. This ill-gotten wealth was accumulated through six channels: outright takeover of large private enterprises; creation of state-owned monopolies in vital sectors of the economy; awarding government loans to private individuals acting as fronts for Marcos or his cronies; direct raiding of the public treasury and government financial institutions; kickbacks and commissions from firms working in the Philippines; and skimming off foreign aid and other forms of international assistance. The proceeds were laundered through the use of shell corporations, which invested the funds in real estate inside the United States, or by depositing the funds in various domestic and offshore banks under pseudonyms, in numbered accounts or accounts with code names.” (PDI editorial, February 25, 2014)
Despite this, the Marcos family, and their cronies remain unpunished for their crimes; indeed, there is a growing belief that they have rehabilitated themselves, thanks to the fact that, except for Irene Araneta, the immediate family remains a political force in the country. As EDSA I draws further and further away, our short historical memory forgets, the horrors and crimes of the Marcos era erased by the current problems of our country.

We must never forget what the Marcoses and their ilk have done to our country, because, in forgetting, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and future generations. In forgetting, we may very well allow another martial law era into being, which will be a tragic commentary on our inability to learn from the past.

Monday, February 24, 2014

An EDSA I Reflection: The Long Road to Change

As we go through the daily grind of everyday life, it's difficult for us to get a perspective on social change, as there are just too many priorities calling for our attention. Because of this, we lose sight of the big picture, and we think that change is impossible to attain in our lifetime.

Our media seems to bolster this belief. When we read the opinion pages of the newspapers, we find column after column after column of diatribes calling our leaders, and, sometimes, ourselves, to task for failing to change our country for the better. However, if one has a perspective, the mere fact that columnists are even able to voice out this negative opinion is already a large step in the right direction, since, in our not-too-distant past, such actions, the critical negative opinions, would have gotten one jailed, or, worse, killed.

The problem is that social change takes time, and, often, that time will outlive our natural lifespans. Take, for example, the continuing struggle of African-Americans to achieve an equal status to that of white Americans in the U.S. Despite the fact that the current U.S. President is an African-American, racism is still alive and well in the U.S., even more than a century and a half since Americans fought each other over the issue of slavery and the state of the Union. 

For instance, former rocker Ted Nugent got himself into hot water after calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel." While Nugent later apologized for his statement, he still tried to qualify what he said as "street-fighter terminology," which, for me, nullifies the apology. 

The point is that the fact there are still people such as Nugent who verbalize such slurs demonstrates the long road ahead if social change is something to which we aspire. Bringing the issue closer to home, majority of our countrymen continue to live in poverty, while the rich and powerful lord it over them. Political power is available mostly to dynastic families, who are often seen as powerful patrons to the masses in their respective bailiwicks. To be able to effect any reasonable change, to even out the scales and distribute power and resources more equitably, would require years, if not decades, of constant reform. 

As it is, the political dynastic families have been around even before the martial law era, to be suppressed when Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, only to be reinstated in the aftermath of EDSA I. If there is one thing the late icon of democracy President Corazon Aquino failed to accomplish after she helped rally Filipinos to oust the dictator, it was to bring a more equitable distribution of political power. Instead, she helped bring back the old political dynasties, and even helped establish new ones, such as the Binays of Makati.

On this, the eve of the 28th anniversary of EDSA I, it is best to remember that social change is something that we have to keep working on, not for ourselves, but for future generations to be inspired by our example, and continue working at the change themselves. While we may not see the change we've been striving for in our lifetimes, our efforts will help establish the building blocks upon which our children, and our grandchildren, will make their own contributions to change in our society.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Kudos, Michael Christian Martinez

I would be remiss if I did not devote some space to the achievements of Michael Christian Martinez.

As many now know, Martinez was our lone representative to this year's Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia. As many also know, he is the first representative from Southeast Asia in the field of men's figure skating. And, finally, there are few Filipinos who are not aware of his brilliant and scintillating performance on the first day that catapulted him into the top 24 and placed him in men's finals. While he eventually finished 19th overall, he has nothing to be ashamed of, having proven that he, a person from a tropical country, can skate with the best of them.

Because of Michael Christian Martinez, the sport of figure skating became more familiar with Filipinos. Like many, I had to look up what an Axel and a Salchow was, and had to educate myself on the finer points of figure skating, which was a difficult task, since the finer points of figure skating remain arcane and confusing.

His performance calls to mind the movie "Cool Runnings", which is, admittedly, an almost-fairy tale treatment of the efforts of the first Jamaican bobsled team. However, Martinez's performance outshines this story.

Not bad for a teenager who'd had to battle asthma and numerous injuries before coming into the spotlight on the world stage.

Martinez's accomplishments should be an inspiration to our youth, for them to dream high and dream big, and work towards achieving that dream.

Musings on the Supreme Court Decision on RA 10175

Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued its ruling on Republic Act 10175, otherwise known as the Cybercrime Law. While I haven't been able to locate a copy of the decision, because I'd rather comment when I have all of the details, what's clear is that online libel, according to the Supreme Court, is the same as libel, except that only the originator of a libelous online post is liable for libel, not those who share or like the post.

In addition, the so-called "take down" clause, Section 19, which allows the Department of Justice to "restrict computer data on the basis of prima facie or initially observed evidence," was also considered to be unconstitutional. Also considered to be unconstitutional were the sections which would have allowed law enforcement authorities to collect computer/online data in real time, as well as the prohibition on using electronic communication to "sell, advertise or offer for sale products and services." The rest of the focus of the law, which was cybercrime such as pornography and the like, was upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court. 

Already, the reactions have been swift. The militant left has condemned the decision, because of its implications on the freedom of speech, and will appeal it. Some Senators, such as Senators Teofisto Guingona III, Francis Escudero, Edgardo Angara, and Alan Peter Cayetano, have already signified their intent to file and push for bills which decriminalize libel in all its forms

Feisty Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago went one step further, and stated that the Supreme Court's decision was wrong. Her argument was that the decision went against constitutional law principles against vagueness and overbreadth; it would be difficult to determine the original sender of a libelous post, because of the ability to use fake online identities.

Strangely, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III defended the criminal aspect of libel, saying to reporters last Thursday, "'If we decriminalize it, more people would feel they’re victims of injustice because they’ve been libeled, and they don’t have a remedy. We don’t want people to take the law into their hands because of (an) inefficient justice system.’"

I think he ignores two things: one, that libel does have a fine attached to it, aside from the criminal aspect, although admittedly, it's rather puny (P200 to 6,000); and two, libel cases in the Philippines have been used by the rich and powerful as weapons against the press. A case in point was former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo's libel cases against the press. To be threatened with jail time can be a strong deterrent to writing negatively about the powerful, even if it happens to be true.

It should be remembered that the freedom of speech is not absolute, especially if it infringes on the rights of others. This is why libel, when it occurs, should be dealt with, but not with jail time, especially since the justice system in our country is rather skewed to favor those in power or with money.

Apparently, the text of the decision is not yet available online. I hope that it's released soon, so I read what the decision actually says, and be able to react to it more carefully.

Note: It's interesting that this post is the 1,400th post I've put up on this blog, since it focuses on the topic of online posts.