Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Requiems

It'll be a few requiems for today, as the past few days saw a number of celebrities pass away.

Stan Goldberg

StanGoldberg11.15.08ByLuigiNovi1.jpg
Image from Wikipedia
When I was a kid, one of the comics I was into was Archie Comics. I loved following Archie's adventures and misadventures, whether as a teenager or as Little Archie.

While the late Dan DeCarlo was my default Archie Comics favorite, Stan Goldberg was no slouch either, drawing the American teenager and his friends from Riverdale for more than 40 years. Along with DeCarlo, Goldberg's interpretation of Archie would be the iconic ones, the images most remembered by readers.

Aside from drawing Archie, Goldberg is also best known for his coloring work for Marvel and DC comics; it was Goldberg who helped Marvel creators such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko develop the color designs for Spider-Man and the Hulk, among others.

Goldberg passed away last Sunday. He was 82.


Mark Gil

Image from Showbiznest
While I don't watch many Filipino films (mea culpa), I do remember watching "Batch '81" many years ago. It was a powerful and violent film, about the activities of a fraternity. Among its co-stars was a young Mark Gil, who played the role of Sid Lucero.

Gil, whose real name is Raphael Joseph de Mesa Eigenmann, would go on to be a mainstay of Philippine TV and film, essaying role after role after role.

Gil is also known for being part of the influential Eigenmann clan, which includes Cherie Gil (sister), Michael de Mesa (brother), Andi Eigenmann (daughter) and Sid Lucero (son Timothy, who took his father's screen persona in "Batch '81" as his screen name).

Sadly, Gil died yesterday from liver cancer, which he had been quietly battling for two years. He was 52.






Jimi Jamison

While I was growing up in the 80s, the movie "The Karate Kid" came out. Starring Ralph Macchio and the late Pat Morita, "The Karate Kid" was a growing up movie, wherein the main character learned how to stand up to his tormentors.

Image from Examiner
Part of what made the movie good was the soundtrack, which was headed by the band Survivor's "The Moment of Truth", an anthem for discovering one's inner strength. The song was stirring and inspiring, and, for a young judoka such as myself at the time, it was a song which taught me to rise up and do the best I could.

Survivor would be known for other stirring anthems, such as the Rocky movies' "The Eye of the Tiger" and "Burning Heart". During the 80s, Survivor would also come out with the rock love song "The Search is Over" which was a top 40s hit.
 
The lead singer for Survivor for many of these songs was Jimi Jamison, who was both the frontman and the songwriter for the band.

Jamison died last Sunday of a heart attack. He was 63.

Kurt Bachmann

One of the icons of Philippine basketball, Kurt Bachmann was part of the 1956 NCAA La Salle championship team, and represented the country in 1959 (FIBA World Championship) and in 1960 (Rome Olympics). He is also the father of former La Salle player and current Alaska team manager Dickie Bachmann.

Kurt Bachmann died last Friday of a lingering illness. He was 78.

Image from Facebook, via ABS-CBN



Monday, August 25, 2014

Quick Shots: A Look at the News

As I've said, time and time again, one of the difficulties in writing about the news is that one must be prepared to write as the news develops. When a news story becomes stale, it's difficult to write about, since few will care about it.

When I can, I may write about these news stories in more detail, but, for now, I'll just be satisfied with being able to do quick commentary on them.

Filipino ISIS Members?

Davao City Rodrigo Duterte, who has been in the news lately, and not for good reasons, has stirred the pot once again, and stated recently that the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has recruited Davao residents. While the reports are, as of yet, unverified, what makes the news troubling is Duterte's take on the issue. According to the news report, Duterte "does not condemn the decision of those who joined ISIS as long as it would not wreak havoc in the country."

Considering that ISIS has been condemned for its brutal and atrocious acts, which include beheading of children and crucifixion of non-believers, Duterte should be more judicious with his comments. Then again, having gotten a comedian declared persona non grata for an inappropriate joke, and defending his police chief who was videoed hitting his wife, Duterte seems to be oblivious about what's right and wrong anymore.

Of course, there's the off-chance that the outspoken Davao City mayor was simply misquoted, although, given his record, I doubt it.

Pacquiao a PBA Player

In a move that was both unsurprising and unsettling, boxer and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao officially became a Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) player, having been picked 11th by KIA Motors in the recently concluded PBA rookie draft. Rep. Pacquiao will also assume the coaching duties for the expansion team.

I guess KIA officials were afraid some other team would draft Pacquiao, although why an established PBA team would want a 35-year old, 5'6" rookie guard is beyond me. It's clear that KIA is going for celebrity drawing power, rather than building a competent team; for good measure, Manny's cousin Rene was also drafted by KIA.

It's also possible that KIA is hoping to build a fan base first, which may then attract good players to be part of the team in the future. Only time will tell whether it's a good move or not.

At the same time, expect that, because of this, Pacquiao will be undisputed as the most absentee congressman, a title he has held for some time now.


No-El? No Way!

The LP, seeing VP Binay's coming ascendancy, has been unable to find a suitable candidate to face him; Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, the LP's nominal flag-bearer and one of those moving for the President's reelection, becomes more and more insignificant as the days pass. The apparent lack of a viable candidate against the Vice-President in the upcoming 2016 presidential elections, explains the Party's current moves to float the idea of having President Noynoy Aquino run for re-election.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda did not help matters when it appeared that he hinted that elections may not happen in 2016; in a press conference, he was quoted as saying, "“Let’s wait for the endorsement of the President kung sino ang kanyang kandidato sa 2016 kung sakaling itutuloy (boldface mine) ang 2016 elections." "Kung," of course, in Filipino, means "if," which caused a lot of furor. Later, another spokesperson, Abigail Valte, tried to absolve Lacierda, and said that he was not that well-versed in Filipino, an ironic statement, considering that it's the month of our national language. At any rate, Lacierda's gaffe has strengthened suspicions that a possible fix is on for the 2016 elections.

Now, the President will be forced to take attention away from the more important matters such as governing the country and fighting corruption and poverty, in order to address this issue. The anti-Aquino crowd, having finally found a rallying cry for their cause, will dig in, and make it more difficult for the President to govern and push whatever initiatives he may still have in the last two years of his presidency. Even if, for the most part, the anti-Aquino crowd is all noise and little else, it is still a significant chunk of Philippine society, which the President cannot ignore, especially with his popularity ratings dropping.

Because of this distraction, necessary legislation and reforms, such as the freedom of information bill, might not prosper. It would be nice if the anti-Aquino crowd would propose viable alternative solutions, but much of its protest just focuses on the ouster of Aquino.

The moves to extend President Aquino's rule will also turn off a good number of his supporters, myself included. We've seen how a President can abuse his power just by staying in power, and there is no way that I will support term extensions. It's not as if this administration has been able to rule as competently as it should; therefore, why give it a chance to extend its rule?

That being said, I still support President Aquino, despite all of the missteps and the incompetency of his subordinates, mainly because I agree with his moves to reform the government, and I don't see anyone who is capable of continuing the crusade of reform. It's highly likely that, should the VP gain the presidency, he will undo the reforms that President Aquino has installed, especially since those reforms have hit the VP's allies hard.

At the same time, I do not recommend any move to change the Constitution in order to perpetuate those in power. Let's not kid ourselves: any move to allow the President to run again will have a trickle effect on other elective positions. A move to change the Charter to allow President Aquino's running will allow the political dynasties to strengthen their stranglehold on Philippine politics.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Musings on the Jardeleza Appointment

The appointment of Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza to the Supreme Court has raised concerns that may make this appointment the equivalent of former President Arroyo's appointment of Renato Corona as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

First of all, Jardeleza was originally excluded from the shortlist prepared by the Judiciary and Bar Council (JBC), the body which vets nominees for the courts. This was done apparently because of the opposition of Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, the issue being Jardeleza's "integrity."

The basis for this, according to Rappler, is Jardeleza's supposed mishandling of the memorandum of the Philippines to the United Nations regarding our claim to islands in the West Philippine Sea, which is being bulldozed by China. Jardeleza allegedly deleted the portion of the memorandum referring to Itu Aba, the largest island in the Spratly chain of islands, which is claimed by Taiwan. According to the Rappler report, the deletion would have been "a 'colossal mistake' undermining the country’s legal claim and territorial integrity."

It was Justice Secretary Leila De Lima who intervened and had the deleted portion restored to the memorandum, but it was that deletion that called Jardeleza's integrity into question by Chief Justice Sereno.

Because of this exclusion, Jardeleza sued the government, and asked the Supreme Court to intervene and restore his name to the JBC shortlist; Jardeleza did garner 4 out of the 6 JBC votes, which would have necessitated his inclusion in the list, if it weren't for Sereno's objection and invocation of rule 10, section 2. The section requires a unanimous vote if the nominee's integrity was placed in question.

Jardeleza's assertion was that he was not given due process, and was unable to respond to Sereno's objection. The Supreme Court apparently agreed with him, voting 7-4 to restore his name to the shortlist.

As it turned out, Jardeleza was the President's preference, and, on the last day of the 90-day required time limit, the President named the Solicitor General as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

The reaction of some of the President's critics was predictable, with the militant Left slamming the decision, and questioning the independence of Justice Jardeleza. Like Corona before him, Jardeleza faces a tough road in proving that he can act independently of the President's desires. The first acid test will be the deliberation on the motion of reconsideration over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which Justice Jardeleza defended as Solicitor General. It is expected that the newly-minted Justice will inhibit himself from the deliberations.

It really remains to be seen as to how Justice Jardeleza will decide in cases involving the government. As it is, the other Aquino appointees have demonstrated some independence from Malacanang in their decisions, a far cry from the perception that those appointed by Arroyo were more subservient. Like everything that happens in this country, vigilance is called for, in order to make sure that those in power hew to the straight road.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Remembering Ninoy

I was in Grade 7 when Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino was assassinated on August 21, 1983. Back then, the significance of the event passed me by, but I remember how my parents were galvanized into action by the event. Because of the Aquino assassination, my parents made it a point for me to be more aware of the political realities around me.

When one reads and rereads the story of Ninoy Aquino, one is struck by the transformation in the man. Before he was arrested in martial law, he had appeared to be like any other traditional politician, with a gift for gab. After having spent seven years in prison, he emerged a changed man, having been stripped of all of the amenities and privileges we take for granted. Instead of thinking of himself, he came out of prison with a renewed concern about his fellow Filipinos groaning under the burden of martial law.

There must be something positively transformative about prison; the late Nelson Mandela also underwent a similar change after he was jailed, albeit for a much longer period than Aquino. Like Mandela, Aquino demonstrated a great love for his country, so much so that, even though he was undoubtedly safe in exile in the U.S., he made the fateful decision to go back to his country. Even if he knew that it would lead to his possible arrest or even death, Aquino risked coming back to confront the dictator and lead the fight in bringing him down.

As we know, Senator Aquino never lived to set foot on his homeland; felled by the assassin's bullet, his body hit the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, bereft of life. However, his death, his sacrifice helped spark off the series of movements and protests that eventually led to the dictator's ouster.

On this, the 31st anniversary of his death, we remember this great man, whose supreme sacrifice led to our people's freedom. Thank you, Ninoy, for reminding us that corruption and tyranny must always be fought, no matter the cost. It is something that we, as a people, always have to be conscious of, else another dictator rises.

Image from ABS-CBN

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

To Joke Or Not To Joke

Before this week, I'd not known that the Filipino term for shrimp is used to connote something derogatory.

Now, thanks to Dutertes of Davao City and the Davao City Council, I do.

Over the weekend, Last Saturday, comedian Ramon Bautista got himself into hot water when, while appearing at a show in Davao City, he said, "Ang daming hipon dito sa Davao!" He then proceeded to encourage the audience to chant "Hipon!"

As it turned out, "hipon" is Filipino slang for a woman who has a sexy body, and a not-so-pretty face. It's a rather crass joke, but Bautista apologized for using the term later that night, after being reprimanded by Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte.

Apparently, that was not enough for the Davao City Council, which declared Bautista as "persona non grata", a declaration that appears to be more symbolic than enforceable, although, given the fact that Davao City is controlled by the Dutertes, Bautista should probably stay away from the City.

A number of netizens have found the Council's declaration as excessive. I agree. It's not as if Bautista was unrepentant for his actions; he has apologized again and again over it. I would be more understanding if Bautista had ignored his gaffe, and acted arrogantly about it.

While inappropriate, Bautista's joke still falls under the aegis of the freedom of expression, an aegis the City Council has ignored.

The Mayor's daughter Sara Duterte took to social media to air her outrage, and, having said that the city councilors are her friends, went on to call for Bautista's ban from the city, after, of course, in classic Duterte style, cursing Bautista for his joke. What a wonderful show of power by the Dutertes.

It should be recalled that Sara Duterte, when she was Mayor of the City, was videotaped assaulting a court sheriff who was implementing a legal court order. While the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo found her at fault for her actions, I don't recall any sanctions being levied against her. She was even unrepentant about her actions, and threatened the local judiciary that she would cut off their budget if they would cite her in contempt of court.

It should be noted that Bautista has repeatedly apologized for his inappropriate joke; it should also be noted that Sara Duterte has never apologized for her assault on a court official.

The Council action, of which the Dutertes have conveniently washed their hands, saying that it is the decision of the Council, not theirs, is a demonstration of the type of leadership the Dutertes will bring if they take their act to the national level.

On one hand, one may argue that, should Rodrigo Duterte be persuaded to run for a higher office, he could be the Lee Kwan Yew the country needs to shape up and become greater. It is true that he and his family have not enriched themselves, and have built up Davao City to be a model city, albeit one founded on fear. It's very possible that, given a higher office, Rodrigo Duterte could clean up corruption more effectively than his ally, President Noynoy Aquino. Just don't ask where the bodies will be buried.

Of course, the flip side is that Duterte could very well be the next Marcos should he rise to higher office. The adage of absolute power corrupting absolutely is applicable to Duterte, since criminals in Davao seem to rarely make it to court, and find themselves summarily executed. Should Duterte gain the presidency, it's anybody's guess how he will act, and what he will do with all that power.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Charter Change? Say It Ain't So, Mr. President

It's interesting looking at the social media, and seeing what issue is trending. 

Among the politically-minded in the Philippines, the current issue is Charter Change, as President Noynoy Aquino has indicated that he was interested in it, particularly for allowing a second term, and setting limits to the powers of the Supreme Court. 

Even those of us who have supported the President over past controversies (the Disbursement Acceleration Program, or DAP, in particular) are dismayed by this. The first reason, getting a second term, has been a touchy issue insofar as Charter Change is concerned, because it has always been seen as a self-serving move. 

It's touchier now because of the President's lineage. President Aquino's parents, the late Sen. Ninoy Aquino and the late President Cory Aquino, helped spearhead the fight against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who perpetuated himself in power for more than twenty years, and, now, here's the Aquinos' son indicating that he is interested in extending his term. 

While the President has made some significant gains in the fight against corruption, he has also made a number of missteps, for which he has been roasted by his critics. By indicating even an interest in term extension, the President may wind up setting back all of the reforms he has put into place, and will find it difficult moving forward as he approaches the end of his term. If he does not step away from this precipice, he will most likely find himself wasting valuable political capital on this issue, instead of using it to strengthen reforms in government. If he does not back off from the issue of Charter Change, he risks throwing away the legacy his parents have put in place.

The second reason, clipping the Supreme Court's powers, is even more insidious. Admittedly, the President must be feeling ticked off with some of the Supreme Court's decisions, such as the unanimous one on the DAP. Still, it is no excuse for going after the Court hammer and tongs, with his allies in Congress itching to take down the Court over its Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), which, the allies claim, is supposed to be the 'pork barrel' of the Court. Some have even gone as far as to threaten impeachment, not an empty claim, since the ruling party undoubtedly has the numbers to push it. 

However, the Supreme Court is the last resort of those who are in need of legal succor. The Supreme Court is part of the check-and-balance system of government; it has to be free to rule on issues, in order to check the excesses of the other two arms of government (executive and legislative). By suggesting to clip the Court's powers, the President gives credence to those who accuse him of wanting to control all of the arms of government. 

Granted, the Supreme Court has stumbled at times (the del Castillo plagiarism case and the allowing of the midnight appointment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona come to mind.), but, by and large, the Court has served as a bulwark against government corruption. It is to the President's credit that his appointees have proven to be more independent-minded than expected; it is proof of the even-handedness of the President's appointing powers. The DAP decision, for example, was unanimous, and, for its independence, the President wants to reward the Court by emasculating it? Say it ain't so.

The other dangerous effect of the President's move for Charter Change is that it will wind up alienating those who supported him through thick and thin. I know it's a small sample, but, having talked to my co-teachers who are Aquino supporters, we are unanimously against the move to extend his term. The lessons of martial law still burn bright in our hearts, and we do not want to see another possible dictator rise to power.

From the looks of it, the move for term extension via Charter Change may stem, in part, from the inability of the Liberal Party (LP) to promote its main candidate for 2016, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who has not distinguished himself as a potential successor to Aquino. Based on the surveys, Vice-President Jejomar Binay is firmly in the lead for 2016, and perhaps the LP controllers feel that only an Aquino run will prevent that. Well, the LP had better let go of that notion, because people are likely to revolt if they press the issue.

There's a part of me hoping that this is a mere trial balloon, to test public sentiment on the issue. Hopefully, the reaction is enough to stop the President and his merry men from embarking on a ruinous course for our country. If not, we had better be ready to fight another potential dictator.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain!

Image from grandes personages

One of Robin Williams' iconic roles is that of the teacher Mr. Keating in "Dead Poets Society." In the movie, Mr. Keating teaches more than the everyday academic lessons; he taught his students how to live. 

In the movie, he teaches his students the poem "Oh Captain, My Captain," Walt Whitman's lament for the assassinated U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. With Robin Williams' passing today, and the manner by which he died, the poem is even more linked with Williams.

I thought I would post the poem below, since it captures my feelings about Williams. I shall miss him.

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Requiem for a Master Actor and Comedian

The Genie from "Aladdin"

Popeye

Adrian Cronauer ("Good Morning, Vietnam")

Parry ("The Fisher King")

Peter Pan ("Hook")

Sean Maguire ("Good Will Hunting")

Patch Adams

Mrs. Doubtfire

Mr. Keating ("Dead Poets Society")

Mork from Ork

I can't imagine what my life would have been like without Robin Williams. Over the years, he has portrayed an amazing array of characters, all of them larger than life. I have a knack for memorizing lines, and there's probably a huge chunk in my head that's reserved for Robin Williams' quotes.

Some of the more memorable:

  • "Goooood morning, Vietnam! This is not a test; this is rock 'n roll! Time to rock it from the delta to the DMZ!" ("Good Morning, Vietnam")
  • "Phone call from God. If it had been collect, that would have been daring." ("Dead Poets Society")
  • "Well, Ali Baba had his forty thieves, Scherazade had a thousand tales, but, master, you're in luck, 'cause up your sleeve, you've got a brand of magic that never fails!" ("Aladdin")

And his comedy, oh, his comedy was sharp, biting, and hilariously funny. I remember buying a cassette tape (yes, that long ago) of one of his performances on Broadway, and I probably wore out that tape listening to it over and over and over.

Image by Dolores Freeman on Fanpop
I also remember his spiel on one of the "Comic Relief" shows, which was put up by Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg, to help the homeless. During the spiel, Williams gave a uproarious rendition of what he called porn using Shakespearean actors:

"Now, let me part you like the Red Sea and drive you to China!
Behold, your golden orbs! I shall mount you like Kilimanjaro!
Now let my mighty steed rush forth from its stable of joy!
Now, cry, 'By God and King Henry!'"

There are many memories I have of Williams' performances, but that one was one of my personal favorites.

Robin Williams was a genius, but, apparently, that genius had a dark side.

It came as a shock this morning to learn that Robin Williams had died, apparently due to suicide. Apparently, he had been battling depression, although I'm not sure what might have caused it. I do remember that, back in the 70s and 80s, Williams was heavily into drugs, but, he managed to beat the habit. I guess there are demons and there are demons; I don't know what demons were driving him, but, I hope and pray that, with his passing, he is finally at peace with himself.

Requiescat in pace, Robin Williams. Thank you for all the memories. You shall be missed.

Image from The Guardian (2009)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Impeachment Blues

The purpose of impeachment in the Philippine setting is to remove national officials who have committed grave offenses, such as, among others, culpable violation of the Constitution, graft and corruption, and betrayal of public trust.

According to Article XI, section 2 of the Philippine Constitution, the following may be removed via impeachment: the President, the Vice-President, members of the Supreme Court, members of Constitutional Commissions (such as the Commission on Elections), and the Ombudsman.

So far, in our history, there have been two impeachment trials: the trial of former President and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada, which was aborted by EDSA 2, and the trial of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, which led to his removal from office. There was also the attempted impeachment of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, which did not materialize because Gutierrez opted to resign rather than face the impeachment court.

It should be understood, though, that impeachment is a serious process, and something that should be resorted to at the drop of the hat, such as what is happening now, with two possible looming impeachments, that of President Noynoy Aquino, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno. Let's take a look at each impeachment.

President Aquino's impeachment complaints are being driven by two things: the Supreme Court's having declared the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as partially unconstitutional , and the government's Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States government. Both are considered as betrayal of public trust, and the DAP is considered to be an example of culpable violation of the Constitution.

The main drivers behind the impeachment complaints are the leftist party-list representatives under the Makabayan bloc, whose most vocal proponents appear to be Rep. Terry Ridon (Kabataan) and Rep. Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna).  Based on Reps. Ridon and Colmenares's statements, the DAP constitutes a culpable violation of the Constitution on the strength of the Supreme Court's decision; "culpable," in this instance, means that the violation of the Constitution was deliberate and wrongful.

Of course, therein lies the question of impeachment. Did President Aquino and Budget Secretary Abad willfully violate the Constitution when they implemented the DAP? Through the presidential spokespersons, the two have asserted that the DAP was done in good faith, and such has been supported by a number of columnists and businessmen.

Unfortunately, two of the most senior Associate Justices, Antonio Carpio, and Arturo Brion, have cast doubt on this stand. Justice Carpio noted that it was surprising that Congress allowed the DAP, considering that DAP, according to Carpio, "castrates the power of the purse of Congress." Brion, on the other hand, scored Abad, saying, "As a lawyer and with at least 12 years of experience behind him as a congressmen who was even the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, it is inconceivable that he (Abad) did not know the illegality or unconstitutionality that tainted his brainchild."

Of course, these are just opinions of the two Justices, but the militant party-listers have latched on to them as gospel truth, and this is what is fueling their impeachment moves.

It'll be an uphill climb, since the President currently controls  Congress. At least a third of Congress must sign an impeachment complaint in order to convene the Senate's impeachment court, so, unless the minority has the numbers to sign the complaint, it's highly unlikely that the impeachment complaint will prosper.

As for Chief Justice Sereno, several lawmakers, including those who were involved in the prosecution of former Chief Justice Corona, are threatening impeachment over what they perceive to be the Supreme Court's intransigence in not explaining the Court's use of the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), a source of court employees' allowances. Representatives Rodolfo Farinas (Ilocos Norte) and Niel Tupas (Iloilo), two members of the House prosecution team during the Corona impeachment trial, have taken the Chief Justice to task for not appearing in the House Justice Committee hearing on the JDF.

If there is a smidgen of possibility in the Aquino impeachment, there is even less reason in impeaching Sereno. The lady Chief Justice has shown that, despite her being appointed by President Aquino, she is capable of independent thought, and has decided against the Aquino government in a number of cases, particularly that of the DAP.

The House threat seems more a means to get the Supreme Court to bow to its will, rather than an actual serious case against the Court. It's also clear that the House initiative to impeach is based on the removal of its pork barrel funds by the Court, a retaliatory punishment for having taken away the representatives' play money.

The two impeachment complaints demonstrate how impeachment can be cheapened as a tool to intimidate and coerce officials. Impeachment is a serious business, and the leftists and other House representatives have no valid reason to threaten impeachment at this point in time. At this point in time, I would rather they spend time doing what they're supposed to do, which is to craft laws to benefit our countrymen.

Around the World: A Quick Look

While we go about our daily lives, around the world, things aren't as routine. Here's a rundown of the various hot spots:

1. Ebola outbreak

Thanks to the movies and other media, people have a very graphic reminder of what the Ebola virus can do to a human body. In West Africa, the threat is very real, as Ebola has broken out in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, causing hundreds and hundreds of deaths. As it is, even Americans have been infected by it, as two missionaries have been airlifted home to the U.S. to be treated there; I can imagine that the security surrounding that operation must be airtight. (What to know about Ebola.)

Because of our globalized context, it is now much easier for viruses such as Ebola to spread, even more so since the initial symptoms of Ebola aren't that noticeable as Ebola. At this point, even the Philippines is at risk, as there are around 3,000 to 5,000 Filipinos working in the three African nations, and there are Filipino peacekeepers in Liberia. Hopefully, our local and national health officials are on the ball on this crisis, as I can't imagine an Ebola outbreak here in our country.

2. Israel-Gaza conflict

The Israel-Gaza conflict is entering its fourth week, with little indication of any resolution. The conflict, which started over the abduction-killing of three Jewish teenagers, has now claimed the lives of around 1,875 people, most of whom are civilians.

While Hamas, the terrorist group suspected of the teenagers' murders, has fired numerous rockets indiscriminately into Israel, Israel has been no less destructive, given the fact that most of the casualties in this latest conflict are civilians. It is not clear that it will face severe sanctions because of this, as its main ally, the U.S., seems reluctant to condemn Israel for its actions.

It's also not clear as to how this conflict will end, since both sides are unwilling to make any concessions. This means that the bombings, as well as the deaths, are likely to escalate as the conflict continues.

3. ISIS depredations

The links to images on social media are gruesome and horrifying: the bodies of decapitated children, crucified bodies, and bloodied corpses. Such as the depredations of the terrorist group known as ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), Sunni Muslims who are intolerant of any other religious groups, particularly Shia Muslims and Christians.

Currently, ISIS is operating in Northern Iraq, and appears to be bent on eradicating the Yazidi, which are, according to a CNN news report, "an ancient religious sect, that worship an angel figure held by many Muslims to be the devil." Around 50,000 Yazidi remain trapped on the Sinjar Mountains, with deaths occurring due to dehydration and exposure. Kurdish forces have managed to create a corridor of escape, but it is by no means secure, something for international forces to consider should they decide to come in and assist.

The U.S. has begun airstrikes on ISIS targets, in order to contain the activities of the group, although it's also unclear as to how this crisis will be resolved.

As with the Israel-Gaza conflict, children are the helpless victims of this horror.

While these are events happening far away from us, they are still events to be concerned about, to learn from, so that we can prepare for or even prevent these situations from happening in our country.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

UAAP 77: A Quick Look

It's been a while since I've managed to watch a UAAP basketball game from start to finish, but it's nice that I've been able to catch the last quarter of several games this season 77.

The first round ends on Wednesday, with the Ateneo Blue Eagles leading the pack, with a 6-1 card, the one loss coming at the hands of the NU Bulldogs. After the loss to the Bulldogs, the Blue Eagles then went on a three-game winning streak. However, it should be noted that each win was very close, with the last one, against UE, coming from behind a 21-point deficit to win it in overtime, 93-91.

Leading the Blue Eagles in the UE win was King Eagle Kiefer Ravena, who scored a career-high 38 points to seal the win. Von Pessumal and Chris Newsome scored 19 and 18 points, respectively, to help support Ravena.

One of the dangerous factors is the seeming reliance Ateneo has on Kiefer Ravena, who has played his heart out in each of the Blue Eagles' wins. In the lone loss to NU, Ravena was held to just 13 points, and barely got a point in the second half, a tribute to the Bulldog's gutsy defense. It's apparent that the other players have to step up, or else risk burning out Kiefer before Ateneo reaches the Final Four. 

In other developments, the UP Fighting Maroons finally broke a 27-game losing streak yesterday, with a 77-64 win over the hapless Adamson Soaring Falcons. As promised, there was a bonfire last night at the UP Sunken Garden to celebrate the win. As a UP alumnus, I am happy that UP finally won, but, at the same time, I wish there was some way to make the team more competitive and more of a threat in the UAAP men's basketball scene.

The FEU Tamaraws have a chance to create a logjam at second place, alongside NU and La Salle, by winning against Adamson this Wednesday, which, given the Falcons' showing so far, should be a lock. UST and UE will go up against each other, with both teams fighting for a favorable position going into the second round of eliminations.

However, it's clear that, after missing the playoffs completely last year, due in large part to Kiefer Ravena's absence because of injury, Ateneo is back in the championship hunt, and, going into the second round, is the team to beat. 

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Whoops! Tiglao Does It Again

It would be nice if Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao would stop twisting facts in order to push his anti-Aquino agenda.

In his latest column, he takes the President to task for having said in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July that the Aquino administration had built over 12,000 kilometers of road, which, Tiglao estimates, "could stretch from Manila to Los Angeles." Tiglao then points to a part of Aquino's SONA where the President supposedly said,
“Hanep po talaga: …(N)aipagawa (ng DPWH) na kalsada mula nang maupo tayo, umabot na sa 12,184 kilometro. (boldface mine)  Nung nakita ko po itong numerong ‘to, napag-isip rin ako: Paano ko ba maipapaliwanag ‘yung labindalawang libo? Sabi po sa atin: katumbas ito ng apat na kalsadang nag-uugnay sa Laoag hanggang Zamboanga City. National roads lang po ito; wala pa rito ang mga local farm-to-market roads o tourism roads.”
The rest of Tiglao's column is devoted to ranting and raving about the President's supposed lies, about how the President's staff is misleading him, and how inept this President is.

Of course, it takes a sharp reader (Raymart Anthony Hernaez) to comment how Tiglao seems to have dropped a portion of the President's SONA, and points out that, in the official Presidential website, the text of the SONA reads
Hanep po talaga: Kasabay ng mga natipid ng DPWH, ang nailatag, napapaayos, napalawak, o (boldface mine again) naipagawa nilang kalsada mula nang maupo tayo, umabot na sa 12,184 kilometro.  Nung nakita ko po itong numerong ‘to, napag-isip rin ako: Paano ko ba maipapaliwanag ‘yung labindalawang libo? Sabi po sa atin: katumbas ito ng apat na kalsadang nag-uugnay sa Laoag hanggang Zamboanga City. National roads lang po ito; wala pa rito ang mga local farm-to-market roads o tourism roads. 
"Nailatag, napapaayos," and "napalawak" translate into "laid out, fixed," and "widened."

Hernaez goes on to point out that the 12,000 km of roads includes those that were laid out, fixed, or widened, and wonders why Tiglao seems to have dropped that part of the SONA.

While Hernaez is polite and hopes that Tiglao was as misinformed as he claimed Aquino was, given Tiglao's checkered past in his columns about Aquino, I sincerely doubt it. With this latest column, Tiglao simply reminds me that he has no credibility, nor does he have the moral high ground to criticize the current administration.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

SONA 2014: Some Musings

How one will react to President Noynoy Aquino's State of the Nation Address (SONA) will depend on how one views the President. (Click here for the original transcript, and here for the English translation.)

If one is a member of the militant Left, it's likely that everything the President said last Monday will taken as a lie. Of course, with the militant Left, nothing any administration has done or accomplished is ever recognized. This is probably because the apparent sole goal of the militant Left is to destabilize the government so that they can take over. Until the Left is able to actually gain more followers, more than the pitiful handful who walked out before the SONA and are agitating for impeachment, this is a pipe dream, especially since it has been proven across the world that the society that the militant Left envisions simply does not work.

If one is a known critic of the President, one will be more careful about attacking the President's SONA. An educated critic will fact-check, and see whether what the President said last Monday can be verified. As it is, reports have come out debunking the President's assertions about accomplishments for victims of typhoon Yolanda. Expect critics to jump on this, as well as any other inaccuracies that may surface.

Admittedly, typhoon Yolanda caught our officials, both local and national, by surprise, and the lack of relief efforts in the initial days after Yolanda hit several parts of provinces was a huge black-eye for the Aquino administration. It did not help that Interior Secretary Mar Roxas was heavy-handed in dealing with the Tacloban mayor, who is a member of the Romualdez clan. I'm not sure where the President got his details on Yolanda; as I read in a newspaper last Tuesday, one Yolanda victim said that perhaps the President was misled by sycophantic officials wanting to get on the President's good side. Still, given the fact that Yolanda has been a sore spot in the Aquino administration, the President probably should have double-checked his details to make sure no misunderstanding occurred.

In my case, I still support President Aquino, and I applaud his efforts to get our country back on the right track. As I have said before, he has taken much effort, and has spent political capital, to fight corruption. At the same time, I recognize that he's not perfect, and, like many of us, he has committed mistakes, that his critics have harped on. Still, as I've mentioned before, if one compares his administration to at least the previous two administrations (Estrada and Arroyo), he has accomplished much more than these two.

It's impossible to expect that the President will be able to address and solve all of the ills of the country. I will be satisfied with the accomplishments he has achieved, particularly the heightening of people's perception of corruption, which has caused more people to be vigilant about the government use of the people's money and the government's ability to provide the basic services to the people.

His SONA was not as belligerent as his previous SONAs, as the President mostly refrained from comparing his administration with the previous administration of former President Gloria Arroyo. Nor did he attack the Supreme Court over its unanimous decision to declare the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as partly unconstitutional. While he did mention the DAP in his SONA, it was to point out the benefits the program had provided and how, because of the Supreme Court decision, it would be necessary to ask Congress to approve a supplemental budget, to be able to fund some of the DAP-funded projects.

He also did not make any mention of the three Senators who are currently being detained over charges of plunder; it seems that people were predicting that he would do so in the SONA. Perhaps he realizes that, whether he likes it or not, he will have to deal with these Senators and their allies in order to get anything done in the legislative arm of government. I hope, though, if this is the case, it does not mean that he will be lenient on Senators Estrada, Revilla, and Ponce Enrile.

All in all, it does look as if President Aquino is starting to look at the legacy aspect of his presidency, as he softened his tone during the SONA. He still listed down his achievements, and, near the end of his speech, he called on the Filipino people to help carry on the idea of good governance that he helped plant in the minds of our people. It's something to take forward into the future, for all of us to continue working for the good of the country.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

SONA 2014: Whither FOI?

So, what's the state of Freedom of Information (FOI) bill?

It was one of the most glaring omissions in President Noynoy Aquino's State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday, considering one of the President's spokespersons promised that the President would push for the bill in his SONA. The FOI bill is an important component of transparency and accountability in government, as it is envisioned that citizens would be able to access information about the government, particularly how the government is spending the Filipinos' money. At this point, the Senate has already passed its version of the bill, putting pressure on the House of Representatives to do the same. Four months have passed, and there seems to be no word regarding the FOI bill's progress through the legislative grind.

Based on what I have been able to find regarding the bill's progress, there appears to be two sticking points that is keeping the bill's progress in the House at a snail's pace.

One appears to be the so-called right of reply, wherein aggrieved parties could demand equal media space to answer accusations or charges against them. Quezon City 2nd District Rep. Winston Castelo has opposed the inclusion of right of reply in the FOI bill, and has proposed that right of reply be separate from FOI, and rightly so. Right of  reply is a different issue, and would only complicate the already-difficult sections in the FOI bills.

The other appears to be the discussion of exceptions to the FOI bill. Admittedly, determining what should and what shouldn't be disclosed is always going to be a tricky issue, with some probably saying that there are too many exceptions and others will probably say that there are too few. I'd rather, of course, that there be few exceptions to accessing information.

A word from the President regarding FOI in his SONA could have spurred the House members to speed up work on consolidating the various pending FOI bills. However, there being no mention, it is likely that the House will continue to sit on the bill, perhaps until time runs out in 2016.

I'm also not sure why the President did not mention FOI in the SONA, but it's likely that his spokespersons will explain that in the coming days. Still, it's not reassuring that, in the most public of forums, the President chose not to mention the inclusion of transparency in his government.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The President's Upcoming SONA

It's been a hectic week, what with school work and parent-teacher conferences taking up much of my time.

Much of the week's news focused on the upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Noynoy Aquino. Speculation has abounded regarding what the President will include in his speech this year.

Of course, he's going to deliver a litany of accomplishments his administration is supposed to have achieved over the past year, but, what else will he mention? Will he address the various bills that he'd said in his previous SONA were urgent (Where in the world is the freedom of information (FOI) bill?)? Will he continue to bash the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)? Will he continue putting down his predecessor, former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?

Of the various questions, it's likely that he will address the DAP, considering his differences with the Supreme Court over the matter. Given his tirade against the Supreme Court shortly before typhoon Glenda descended on us, the President will continue to insist on the correctness of the DAP. While there appear to be commentaries in support of the DAP (see here, here, here, and here), considering that it has not been proven that the President has personally benefited from the funds, the fact that the Supreme Court decision was a unanimous one is a difficult obstacle to overcome. The President will be wiser to let the matter go, and move on; there are more pressing concerns that are in need of his attention. However, since the President is not one to mince words, it is certain that he will mention the Supreme Court's decision on the DAP in his SONA.

It's also likely that he will not call for the resignations of officials close to him, such as Budget Secretary Butch Abad, who is seen to be the architect of DAP. I'm on the fence when it comes to Abad, since I've always seen him as an honorable person. It may reach a point, however, that keeping Abad in the Cabinet may do more harm than good in terms of the President's moving his programs forward, so it remains to be seen whether he will actually let go of his Budget Secretary.

It's likely that the President will list the accomplishments of his administration. That's nothing new, as each President has always crowed about his or her accomplishments. It would be nice if he would also admit where his administration is lacking, and what steps he will be taking in order to address those concerns. If he is able to do that, I will admire his honesty in doing so.

That being said, I'm not sure as to how to grade his administration so far. Admittedly, I'm one of those who voted for Aquino, in the belief that he will be able to get this country back on track. To some extent, he has done so, as he has made strides in fighting corruption and getting the country's standing in international investment upgraded. At the same time, there are instances of incompetence, such as the failure to deal effectively with the devastation wrought by typhoon Yolanda last year.

There is also the perennial problem of poverty, a Herculean task no President has been able to address. Unfortunately, unless there is a great change in our culture, and we are able to rise above our corruption, it's likely that the problem of poverty will continue to bedevil succeeding administration.

There is also the matter of the manner by which Aquino speaks on matters, which is blunt, and often without filters. In that, he's his sister Kris' brother, as neither have shown that tact is an element of their speaking repertoire.

But, then, not one of us is perfect, and it is unfair and unrealistic to think that President Aquino is greater than any one of us. He has his faults, but he has not equaled neither the corruption practiced by his two previous predecessors, nor the magnitude and enormity of the crimes of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. For his critics to even suggest that shows their lack of appreciation of history.

In the end, I will say that the President has been doing relatively positively so far. There are still lapses and matters of incompetence, but I believe the positive that the President has done outweighs the negative.

Thus, come Monday, I will try to listen to the President's SONA with an open, but critical, mind.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Requiem, Fr. Jack

I remember Fr. Jack Carroll, S.J., for two reasons.

One is that I would often run into him (not literally, of course) at the college covered swimming pool. While I would be doing my laps, he would be floating and paddling a bit, under the watchful eye of his caregiver. I never really got to talk to him during these times, but he was a familiar sight to those of us who frequent the college pool.

The other reason I remember him is because of his insightful columns in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, wherein he would share his thoughts and insights on social issues. His last column was published last March, and, in it, he analyzed the flaws of the EDSA revolution. He wrote:
Edsa was a political revolution, not a social revolution. The faces changed, initially for the better, but the social structures—the landholding and legal systems and the educational and tax systems—did not change sufficiently to change the lives of the poor. In the first election under the new government, the traditional local elites reasserted their dominance, and shortly after that the House of Representatives emasculated an already weak agrarian reform bill. And so it has gone on for 28 years, with small, marginal changes in response to the growing frustration of the poor. ("'Miracle' at Edsa?", March 1, 2014)
Sad but true.

During the great furor over the reproductive health (RH) bill, Fr. Jack was invited to give a talk to the faculty about it, and, during the talk, he outlined what he believed were possible talking points over the RH bill. While he did not support the abortion-related aspects of the bill, he, along with Fr. Ritchie Genilo, S.J., looked for the middle ground.

Like Fr. Reuter and Fr. O'Brien before him, Fr. Jack, despite being an American, embraced the Philippines so lovingly that he was probably more Filipino than a lot of us. It was in reading his columns and listening to him that his love for his adopted country rang through.

Fr. Jack rejoined his Creator last Thursday, at the ripe old age of 90. He will be sorely missed.

Requiescat in pace, Fr. Jack. Rejoice in the company of our Lord.



Portrait: RIP, Fr. Jack Carroll SJ. 
born Jan 16, 1924, entered july 30, 1943, died july 17, 2014

Wake Masses, Loyola House of Studies:
July 18-20,Friday to Sunday, 8PM

Funeral Mass, Loyola House of Studies
July 21, Monday, 8AM

Interment: Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches
right after the funeral mass

Event of the Week: Flight MH17

Aside from 'Glenda', the other big news is the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 last Thursday.

One has to wonder what Malaysian Airlines had done in order to deserve such a situation.

In the span of four months, the beleaguered flight was hit by two tragedies, with flight MH370 mysteriously disappearing last March, and, more recently, the downing of MH17. There was a horrific video that went viral, showing wreckage, and bodies of the victims. The area wherein the plane apparently broke up into pieces covers a large swath of Ukrainian soil. That, and the lack of clear protocols in a disaster will likely hamper investigators and recovery crew's efforts to make sense of the tragedy.

The casualty list, numbering 298 passengers and crew, includes, at least: 189 Dutch, 27 Australians, 44 Malaysians, 12 Indonesian, 9 U.K. citizens, 4 Germans, 4 Belgians, 3 Filipinos, and 1 Canadian; the 3 Filipinos, Irene (54), Darryl Dwight (20), and Sheryl Shaina (15) Gunawan were on a summer vacation. I offer my condolences and prayers to all of the friends and family of the victims.

It is still not clear as to who is responsible for the downed flight, as Ukrainian and Russian officials trade accusations of blame. The fact that the plane was hit over an area that is currently controlled by pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels makes it difficult not to blame the rebels, although the rebels have denied complicity in the act, and have even assisted in the recovery efforts. Still, suspicion rests strongly on the rebels.

What is known is that the flight, which started from Amsterdam bound for Kuala Lumpur, was flying in Ukrainian airspace (33,000 feet) when it was apparently shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Who fired the missile is still the subject of much debate, and is likely to escalate tensions in the complicated Ukraine-Russia conflict.

CNN posted a list of questions that help clarify what happened, although, admittedly, a good part of it remains speculative. It's likely that the questions will remain unanswered until more information is released.

I'm hoping and praying that the wanton destruction of MH17 does not lead to more conflict between the U.S. and Russia, but, if it is proved that the missile was indeed Russian, and that the Russians provided the rebels with the missile, there will be hell to pay.