Thursday, April 30, 2009
In my writing, I included in my introduction the party-list Akbayan. Someone who commented on the post noted that Akbayan is very different from Bayan Muna and its satellite party-lists, notably Gabriela, and Anakpawis.
The observation has been noted, and I apologize to members of Akbayan for lumping them together with the other leftist party-lists. I do remember that Akbayan is formed in part by those who broke away from the CPP, and the two sides are definitely at war with each other, as Akbayan members have strongly opposed the actions of the CPP and its military arm, the New People's Army (NPA).
For more information on Akbayan, check out the party's website FAQs.
Keeping in mind the great cost we regular Filipinos pay for the upkeep of our Congressmen, is it right for them to abandon their legislative duties in order to watch a boxing match?
If we had any say in it, I’d say no. And yet, about 50 congressmen, including House Speaker Prospero Nograles, are flying to Las Vegas in the United States in order to watch the so-called Battle of East and West, as countryman Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao attempts to keep his winning streak alive against Britain’s Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton.
Even if our representatives claim that they’re spending their own money, which, according to the news report, may come up to roughly P200,000 per congressman (and that’s probably a minimum amount), is this the right sort of example to set in a world wracked by global recession? Considering that majority of our countrymen live below the poverty line, is it right that our politicians spend so much in the face of such poverty? I think not.
In addition to the profligate expenditure, there’s also the small matter of the growing swine flu epidemic, which threatens to become a pandemic, or worldwide situation. Considering that countries, including our own, are advising their citizens to avoid unnecessary travel, is it right that our politicians endanger themselves, and, accordingly, us as well, by possibly exposing themselves to the swine flu virus?
Quezon City 3rd District Representative Mat Defensor tried to defend their trip as showing support for Pacquiao. What about the millions of Filipinos who pay their taxes in order to pay for these Congressmen’s salaries? Don’t they deserve better from their Congressmen than useless trips?
By not being present for the House deliberations, these Congressmen have effectively paralyzed the legislative process, due to the lack of a quorum. As it is, the impeachment case against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has been delayed due to this lack, although it’s also possible that members of the majority are deliberately staying away to stall the process and stymie the complainants.
On the bright side, however, without a quorum, it will be difficult for the majority to push their Charter Change agenda. As it is, Nograles, the author of one of the resolutions currently being deliberated on, is probably on his way to Las Vegas now. How’s that for effective leadership?
Ideally, what could be done is to release a list of those Congressmen who went to Las Vegas, so that the people will not re-elect these spoiled and selfish persons back into Congress next year. Of course, with the politics of guns, goons and gold so prevalent in our country, wishing for their non-reelection is tantamount to trying to win the lottery.
Hopefully, our countrymen will open their eyes and see that these so-called Representatives are not representing us, but their own selfish interests. And, if they can see that, perhaps we can rid the House of such useless appendages.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
It’s kind of funny that the militant party-list representatives, notably Akbayan’s Risa Hontiveros, Bayan Muna’s Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casino, and newly-minted Akbayan representative Professor Walden Bello, have been extremely vocal against the entry of Bantay representative and former General Jovito Palparan, when they themselves are exploiting the party-list system.
This is understandable, as given their politics and their lack of a handhold in traditional politics, it would be highly unlikely that they would’ve gotten into the House through the traditional dynasty- and personality-driven politics of the district representative. While they may be nominally representing marginalized and underrepresented sectors, it has been noted that some of these party-list groups are merely fronts for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which has espoused a violent overthrow of the government.
While it's true that Palparan's Congressional credentials are less than stellar, considering his alleged human rights record, the record of the militant left also leaves less to be desired. While the leftist militants have been very vocal about the atrocities committed by the Philippine military (and, sadly, there have been many), they remain silent about the crimes committed by the New People’s Army (NPA), the military arm of the CPP. Their silence is tantamount to supporting the criminal actions of the NPA.
It’s also interesting to note that, before their entry into the political realm, the militants were very vocal about the so-called pork barrel funds, but, now that they’re entitled to the same (although the government has withheld these funds), nary a sound of criticism has issued from the lips of the militant party-listers. Some of them even parrot the trapo’s assertion that these funds are necessary. Considering that, with 270 member of Congress now seated, thanks to the recent Supreme Court decision, P10.8 billion pesos will now be allocated for these pork barrel funds, I can think of better ways that these funds can be used, instead of giving it to our Congressmen.
Unfortunately for the militant leftist representatives, their access to the pork barrel funds has been denied because, one, they’re members of the minority, and two, it’s suspected that some of these groups will probably funnel the funds into the underground movement, providing arms and supplies for the NPA.
The militant left was given more of a voice in Congress with the recent Supreme Court decision; in their vilifying of Palparan and Arroyo, they seem to have forgotten that a good number of the new party-list representatives come from their ranks. However, they cannot treat the party-list system as if it’s their own private domain. Unfortunately, owing to the broad interpretation of the party-list system, the system is open to anyone who has a particular cause or advocacy, which allows people such as Palparan, and Ma. Lourdes Arroyo, the President’s sister-in-law, to sit as party-list representatives. (See the previous post for the whys and wherefores.) Until the weaknesses in the law can be weeded out, the party-list system can be considered a free-for-all, where anyone with a cause can throw his or her hat into the ring.
What the leftist representatives can do, instead, perhaps, of working against the government and making useless noise, is work to amend and improve the provisions of RA 7941 in order to make the party-list system truly representative of the sectors it is supposed to support. However, with the current composition of the House of Representatives, it’s doubtful if such moves will bear any fruit. Still, it’ll be a start.
Quite a bit of ink has been used up regarding the recent decision of the Supreme Court to add 32 party-list representatives to our House of Representatives. Some, such as Senator Joker Arroyo, decry the Court’s supposed interference in the legislative arm of the government. Others bewail the inherent weaknesses in the party-list system.
Much of the ink has been used in slamming the entry of former General Jovito Palparan, dubbed “The Butcher” by militant leftist groups, as party-list representative for Bantay, which is said to represent armed civilian forces such as militiamen, rebel returnees and security guards. Palparan is accused of grave human rights violations against activists sympathetic to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA), although he has yet to be charged in court for these crimes.
Another target of critics of the Supreme Court decision is entry of Ma. Lourdes Arroyo, the younger sister of controversial First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, as party-list representative of Ang Kasangga, which claims to represent small entrepreneurs. Her proclamation as party-list representative will bring to four the number of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s relatives in the House, the others being the elder brother of her in-laws, Iggy, representing Negros Occidental’s 5th District, and her two sons, Mikey, representing Pampanga’s 2nd district, and Dado, representing Camarines Sur’s 1st District. It’s also suspected that she will add her voice to the ongoing Charter Change debate, of course on the side of pro-Charter Change.
One of the latest wrinkles is the assertion of
In order to understand the current situation, it would do us some good to revisit the pertinent provisions of the Philippine Constitution and Republic Act (RA) 7941, otherwise known as the Party-List System Act.
Subsection 2, Section 5 of Article VI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states
“The party-list representatives shall constitute 20 per centum of the total number of representatives, including those under the party list. For three consecutive terms after the ratification of this Constitution, one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection or election from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.”
Note that only half, not all of the party-list seats, are to be filled by the sectors mentioned above. Since the Constitution states that other sectors may be provided by law (except the religious sector), let’s look at the pertinent sections of RA 7941.
Section 2 of the law states:
“The State shall promote proportional representation in the election of representatives to the House of Representatives through a party-list system of registered national, regional and sectoral parties or organizations or coalitions thereof, which will enable Filipino citizens belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined political constituencies but who could contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole, to become members of the House of Representatives. Towards this end, the State shall develop and guarantee a full, free and open party system in order to attain the broadest possible representation of party, sectoral or group interests in the House of Representatives by enhancing their chances to compete for and win seats in the legislature, and shall provide the simplest scheme possible.”
On one hand, the section notes that representatives should come from “marginalized and underrepresented sectors”, but, on the other hand, it states that the law should “develop and guarantee a full, free and open party system in order to attain the broadest possible representation of party, sectoral or group interests in the House of Representatives” which can be construed to include even the rich, as Britanico has noted. The second part of Section 2 is broad enough to be interpreted loosely, and our politicians are nothing if astute in exploiting weaknesses in our laws.
As for the qualifications of the party-list nominees, we should take a look at Section 9 of RA 7941, which goes as follows:
“No person shall be nominated as party-list representative unless he is a natural born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, a resident of the Philippines for a period of not less than one (1) year immediately preceding the day of the election, able to read and write, bona fide member of the party or organization which he seeks to represent for at least ninety (90) days preceding the day of the election, and is at least twenty-five (25) years of age on the day of the election.
In case of a nominee of the youth sector, he must at least be twenty-five (25) but not more than thirty (30) years of age on the day of the election. Any youth sectoral representative who attains the age of thirty during his term shall be allowed to continue until the expiration of his term.”
Unfortunately, it says nothing, except for the youth sector, about whether the nominees must come from the sector he or she represents, which adds credence to Britanico’s remarks. Presumably, a rich person can be the representative of the urban poor, as long as he or she is selected to be the nominee of such a party-list group.
The decision then exposes certain weaknesses in RA 7941. There appears to be a need to be more specific in defining what groups may be qualified to run in the party-list elections, as well as specify the qualification of the nominees for a particular sector.
Unfortunately, as Philippine Star columnist Federico Pascual noted in his column yesterday, the party-list system has been “hijacked” by the traditional politicians who have flooded the party-list elections with “surrogates of the dynasties, vested interests, political parties and power blocs.” He also bewails the fact that we, the people, will be footing the bill for the salaries and upkeep, not to mention the additional pork barrel funds, for these Representatives.
As it is, Congress has yet to pass an enabling law for the Constitutional banning political dynasties, owing to the fact that it is populated by these dynasties. Since this is the case, it is unlikely that the weaknesses in the party-list system will be addressed by this or any other Congress.
Friday, April 24, 2009
With Charter Change debates underway at the House of Representatives, it’s clear that, like the various impeachment complaints, the whole issue will boil down to a numbers game, and the administration clearly has the numbers to railroad the two resolutions currently pending through.
There is no way for the opposition to stop this, considering how miniscule its numbers are in the House. At best, it can only delay the inevitable.
At stake are two resolutions: Resolution 737, filed by Speaker Prospero Nograles, which seeks to amend specifically the economic provisions of the Constitution, particularly the one limiting foreign ownership of Philippine land, and Resolution 1109, filed by Camarines Sur Representative Luis Villafuerte, which simply seeks to convene Congress into a constituent assembly, without indicating what changes to the Constitution .
Of the two, the Nograles resolution seems more benign, as it is specific about its purpose. However, the Speaker stirred up a hornet’s nest by suggesting that the amendment be treated as any other piece of legislature. In other words, for Nograles, all that is needed is for the House to pass the resolution, and if the Senate does the same, and coordinates with the House to reconcile both versions, and thus, the Charter is amended.
Unfortunately, this so-called fourth method of amending the Charter isn’t among the possible modes for Charter Change; thus, it is obviously unconstitutional and illegal.
As for the Villafuerte resolution, it is more dangerous in its possible passing, because it interprets the Constitutional provision that states that Congress can convene itself into a constituent assembly by a three-fourths vote as the Congress voting as a whole, and not as separate legislative bodies. By this manner, Villafuerte hopes to bypass the Senate, which is solidly against any form of Charter Change at the moment.
Furthermore, the Villafuerte resolution doesn’t indicate what changes will be made to the Constitution, which is tantamount to giving thieves the keys to the treasury. If the constituent assembly is convened, it will have to the power to change anything in the Constitution, and, given our Congressmen’s general personality, it’s likely that they will change the Constitution to suit themselves.
While the President, through her official mouthpieces, has consistently denied any hand in influencing the House, it cannot be denied that her sons and brother-in-law are among the prime movers for Charter Change. They may soon be joined by a fourth Arroyo, as Ma. Lourdes Arroyo, the younger sister of controversial First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, is set to claim her seat as party-list representative for Ang Kasangga, which claims to represent small entrepreneurs. How she is going to vote on the issue is practically a foregone conclusion.
At the same time, the Arroyo administration has been notorious for issuing public statements that run contrary to its actual actions. It has constantly denied influencing the House, although its monetary gifts to governors and congressmen two years ago, as revealed by Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio, showed that its denial is empty and meaningless.
It appears that the issue of Charter Change will once more rest at the feet of the Justices of the Supreme Court, but, with the composition of the Court now made up mostly of Arroyo appointees, it’s not clear if anti-Charter Change advocates will get any justice there. To be fair, a number of Arroyo-appointed Justices have shown a measure of independence from their benefactor, but, considering how crucial this issue is to the administration in general, and the President in particular, it’s anybody’s guess as to how the Justices will rule on this issue.
As it is, I do not think Charter Change is the answer to the problems besetting the country. As long as our leaders remain venal and corrupt, no change of form of government will result in any lasting change, as our politicians will continue to slant the playing field in their favor. What is needed is character change, not only for our politicians but for us Filipinos, that we be more in control of our lives, and not leave it up to government and politicians to act as our patrons. We need to eschew corruption in all its forms and not condone its presence in our government. Only then will we be able to move forward as a nation.
For now, the only thing for those of us against the Charter Change machinations of the administration can do is to continue closely monitoring the intramurals in the House, and be ready to join in the fight against the selfish moves of the House.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Better late than never, I guess. The National Police Commission (Napolcom) has finally placed the team that went to arrest the househelp and relatives of ABS-CBN newscaster Ted Failon under a 30-day preventive suspension, while it investigates whether there was an excessive use of force used by the team members in the arrest. Aside from the four policemen who were initially relieved, included now in the suspension are the Quezon City Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDU) chief Supt. Francis Moises Mabanag and his deputy chief Superintendent Gerardo Ratuita. Meanwhile, the investigation into the circumstances of the death of Trina Arteche-Etong will now be handled by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
The move is a welcome one, given the public uproar over the video footage which showed Mabanag and his men forcibly removing Arteche-Etong’s sister Pamela from the
The whole situation has painted the
National Capital Region Director Supt. Roberto Rosales stated in the news last night that the police force is demoralized because of the incident. If the police actually did their job properly, and respected the rights of the persons they were arresting, then this sorry situation would not have arisen.
If there is one positive thing that can be learned from this case, it’s that the public might now be better informed about the obsolete forensic procedures being used by the police, particularly the paraffin test for powder burns. Until forensic scientist Dr. Rachel Fortun explained the process, the public, including myself, had probably thought that the procedure was fairly foolproof. It was a shock to realize how unreliable the test really was; if I remember right, Fortun had cited a study where paraffin tests had been done on 40 shooters, and the test only showed positive results for two.
Another test that’s outdated is the polygraph, or the so-called lie detector test. This one I’d known for some time now how untrustworthy its use is. Since the machine is supposed to pick up unusual physiological data in the event of a person being uncomfortable with the questions being asked, one merely has to remain as calm as possible during the test; while this may be difficult, it’s not impossible, as evidenced by the number of negative results of the actual criminals.
In reaction to the Failon case, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has supposedly filed a bill calling for the modernization of the investigatory methodology of the police investigators. Here’s hoping that our lawmakers can get their act together and get this bill approved before election time. Otherwise, situations such as what happened to Failon will definitely happen again.
Monday, April 20, 2009
The way the Quezon City police force is falling over itself to absolve its men from the manner by which it has mishandled the fatal shooting of the wife of ABS-CBN newscaster Ted Failon ensures that our trust level in our law enforcement officials will remain low.
While the policemen directly involved in the aggressive and rather violent manhandling of Trinidad Etong’s relatives have been relieved, their chief, Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDU) Supt. Francis Moises Mabanag has not, even though the video footage shows him arrogantly proclaiming that he and his men needed no warrant to arrest the Etong sisters and brother for supposed obstruction of justice, as well as manhandling Etong’s brother Maximo for protecting his sister Pamela.
I don’t why it wasn’t possible for Mabanag and his men to do the questioning there at New Era General Hospital, where Trinidad Etong was brought after she was found in a pool of blood in her room’s bathroom. It was clear that the Arteches were distraught over the apparent suicide of their sister; the police’s action aggravated the situation.
I find it strange that Quezon City police Chief Elmo San Diego should be the one to investigate his own men. Isn’t there a conflict of interest?
Even the Arroyo administration has come to the defense of the police. Injustice Secretary Raul Gonzalez has been quoted as saying that he did not think “that there was an overuse of force,” and then attempted to explain away the policemen’s actions as “overenthusiasm” because they “wanted to solve the case immediately”. This, of course, is classic Gonzalez, prejudging cases, and making stupid statements at the same time.
After denying that Malacanang had a hand in harassing Failon and his family, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde called on the police “to do their job, and do it well, with the highest regard for rules and regulations.” Based on the video footage, I’d say that it’s a little late to call for that, don’t you think? (aside: to be fair, I don’t think that Malacanang did have a hand in this. Of course, Malacanang denies its involvement in all the scandals hounding it, but, seriously, I don’t think Malacanang is involved.)
Much has been said of how being a celebrity has gotten Failon into this mess. One has to wonder if the police would’ve been nicer to Failon had he not been a celebrity, or not critical of the police, or whether one could expect worse treatment because one is not a celebrity. Whichever runs true, it’s clear from the manner by which the police have so far treated this case that it has not done anything to improve the image of our law enforcement officials.
Friday, April 17, 2009
I’d like to make a correction about what I wrote yesterday, regarding the comments of Injustice Secretary Raul Gonzalez regarding Public Attorney Office (PAO) head Acosta. If you’ll recall, Acosta made statements regarding the reasons behind the fatal shooting of Trinidad Arteche-Etong, the wife of ABS-CBN Ted Failon (Arteche-Etong passed away last night after lingering for about a day.). Acosta apparently stated that it was clearly a shooting attempt, for which Gonzalez ordered her to desist from interfering in the case and, at the same time, called her ‘crazy’.
While the latter comment was very impolite, after talking with my brother and wife, both of whom are lawyers, it turns out that Acosta had no business taking it upon herself to make statements regarding the case.
Actually, I was wondering why Acosta was involved at all, considering that, from what I understand, the PAO normally takes on cases of people who are unable to afford the services of a lawyer. Since such is the case, why did Acosta involve herself in the case at all?
It’s possible that some higher-up ordered her to get involved, perhaps to affirm the nature of Arteche-Etong’s death. But, considering that Gonzalez appears bent on treating Failon as a prime suspect, and considering that the PAO is under Gonzalez, who could have ordered Acosta? Is it possible that Vice-President Noli de Castro, who was a former ABS-CBN anchor, sent Acosta in an attempt to protect Failon? Since the investigation is still ongoing, hopefully, we’ll find out soon.
Until then, let’s all pray for the Failon family in their time of loss, that they may have the strength to rise above this tragic event.
* * *
It was surprising to see in the news the rather violent and aggressive manner by which the police dragged the in-laws of Failon out of New Era General Hospital, where the wife of Failon was being treated. It was also surprising to see them slap obstruction of justice charges against Failon, his in-laws, and two of his househelp.
I am not sure why the police, along with the Injustice Secretary, are acting with undue haste and violence in this case. In fact, in the haste with which they are moving, the police appear to be committing violations of basic procedure left and right. No warrant of arrest was issued against the in-laws, so why did they have to be dragged against their will to the police station?
Furthermore, the police seemed to ignore that the family is currently in grieving. Could they not have been more circumspect or compassionate in dealing with the situation? It's not like they were dealing with hardened criminals or something.
The Philippine Star's Cito Beltran put forth a theory in his column today that the police may be paying Failon back for his harsh criticisms against them, most recently over the alleged EDSA 'shoot-out' wherein police were videotaped in the act of apparently shooting suspects who didn't seem to be shooting back. If this is so, then it's the wrong way to do it. By treating Failon like an OJ Simpson, as Beltran put it, the police are exposing themselves to even more harsh criticism.
Like Beltran, I hope that Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Jesus Versoza investigates the actions taken by the police, and does so with objectivity or impartiality, as any attempt to whitewash the investigation will further lower the credibility of our law enforcement officials.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
I'm not sure why Gonzalez thinks that Failon is a flight risk, considering that Failon tested negative for powder burns, meaning he probably didn't shoot his wife. I'm also surprised at the speed by which Gonzalez had Failon placed on the watchlist.
I wonder if it has anything to do with Failon being on former President and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada's list of possible Senate candidates for next year's elections. Considering that it's still a temporary list, isn't he jumping the gun on harassing opposition candidates?
As for his comments on Acosta, I can't say that I'm surprised at that. It's classic Raul Gonzalez, making stupid remarks at the expense of others.
It's amazing that Gonzalez has remained at his post for so long, considering how many times he's demeaned his position. It can only be because he has secrets that the administration don't want divulged; otherwise, he should have been fired long ago for disgracing his office time and time again. Then again, with this administration, it's probably par for the course, anyway.
The Grin without a Cat - written by banzai cat, the blog focuses on the the writer's literary adventures, and keeps me up to date on what's happening in the Philippine literary scene.
Anthony Bourdain's blog - Bourdain is the writer of Kitchen Confidential and Nasty Bits, and is a highly entertaining food writer. He is also the host of his travel show, No Reservations, which had a feature on Pampangueno cuisine last February.
xkcd - This is the blag (no misprint; that's how the writer refers to it.) of the cartoonist of the webcomic of the same name. It's an interesting look into his life.
WWdN: In Exile - Wil Wheaton was formerly Wesley Crusher of the Star Trek - Next Generation series, but he has evolved into an entertaining writer and techie in his own right.
The Straight Dope - Want to know the answers to the trivial, the mundane, and the downright weird? The Straight Dope probably has the answers to your questions.
There's an amazing wealth of blogs out there in the blogosphere; it's a pity that our time is limited. But these are a few of those which stand out. Enjoy.
With ABS-CBN newscaster Ted Failon testing negative for powder burns, it does appear that the shooting of his wife seems a suicide attempt. Trinidad Arteche-Etong (Failon’s real name is Teodoro Etong.) remains in critical condition at the New Era General Hospital with a bullet wound in the head.
It was a bit of a shock to hear the news last night, as Failon, who also served as Leyte’s 1st District Representative from 2001-2004, was someone whose private life didn’t make any loud waves, at least until now. Based on the news last night, it appears that the couple had been having financial difficulties, and had a bit of a fight the night before the tragedy, although they managed to make up afterwards.
Early speculation was that Failon had a hand in the shooting, but the negative paraffin test sinks that theory. A suicide note left by Arteche-Etong seems to point to the suicide angle. This is confirmed by Failon’s eldest daughter Kaye Etong, who also claims that her mother had attempted suicide.
Failon remains in custody as the police continue their investigations. Part of the reason appears to be that the newscaster had violated the crime scene by moving his wife and the gun, so I guess the police want to rule out the possibility that foul play was involved. For Failon’s sake, I hope not.
Events are still unfolding as I write, so we’ll just have to see how things turn out.
Monday, April 13, 2009
The House, through its Speaker, Rep. Prospero Nograles, signified that the debate for Charter Change will begin after Holy Week. To be tackled are the resolutions of Nograles, which focuses on the Constitution's economic provisions, and that of Rep. Luis Villafuerte, which seeks to convene the House as a constituent assembly.
This is an issue I continue to keep a close eye on, considering the impact it will have on our society. It remains clear that the current Charter Change movements are driven by selfish, elitist interests, and any such movements should be aggressively opposed.
Hatton vs Pacquiao
NOTE: All right, it isn't a political issue, although one can argue that the results of this match will probably have an impact on the Pacman's political plans.
With less than a month away, the much-looked forward to match between Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao and Ricky "Hitman" Hatton is revving into high gear. Already a blanket of secrecy has been thrown over Pacquiao's preparations, and I suspect the same is going on in Hatton's camp. So far, for the bettors, Pacquiao's the likely winner, but there is enough skill on Hatton's side to make an upset a possibility.
Aside from the ongoing Charter Change, the House will also tackle the impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. I'm not going to be paying too much attention to this issue, because, like the various impeachment complaints against the President, this complaint is unlikely to prosper, given the solid block of Arroyo lapdogs which populate the House.
The Global Recession
Our countrymen are beginning to feel the impact of this economic problem, as overseas jobs are becoming more difficult to come by. The impact on the nation is that the dollar flow from remittances will definitely slow down, and the government will have to deal with the OFWs who lost their jobs as a result of the recession.
Of course, one of the major stories of the year is how our politicians will maneuver themselves for next year's elections. Next year, all of the possible positions are up for grabs, which makes handicapping next year's race doubly difficult.
At the top of the heap are those scrambling for the Presidency. So far, there appear to be about 5 or 6 fairly serious contenders, with about a dozen more names thrown into the merry mix. Who will actually emerge to run is anybody's guess at the moment.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
The Premio Dardos award:
This award is for bloggers who distinguish themselves for showing cultural values, ethics, great and fun writing skills, as well individual values, through their creative writing.
The rules are:
1. To accept and show the distinct image
2. Show the link to the blog from which you were given the award
3. Choose 15 blogs to give the Dards Award (Premio Dardos)
1. DJB of Philippine Commentary 2009
2. Lori of Dessert Comes First
3. Nicole of Baking Bites
4. Joel's Switchblog
5. Carol's The Top Banana
6. Manolo Quezon's The Daily Dose
7. Tin's The Adventures of Stinky and Tin
8. Dean Alfar's notes from the peanut gallery
9. Honey's Coffeespoons
10. Elbert's Best Viewed with Eyes Open
11. Neil Gaiman's Journal
12. Katz's Credo quia absurdum
13. Rome's Finding Rome (although, sadly, he hasn't been updating this for almost a year now. Pity.)
14. Paul's Celluloid Heroes
15. redlist's Charlotte by Night
These blogs, for me, make the list, as they are all interesting to read. As Honey put it, I like the voices behind the posts.
Not a bad way to start my break. Yep, I'll be back on Monday, after Easter Sunday.
Here are some interesting columns to reflect on for this Holy Week:
Cito Beltran takes a hard look at Philippine Catholicism.
Anna Marie Pamintuan examines how we look at morality in our country.
Rina Jimenez-David reflects on the Gospels of today and tomorrow.
Fr. Manoling Francisco has an interesting reflection on the Crucifixion.
That's all for now. I'll be posting again starting next Monday.
Monday, April 06, 2009
It’s clear that the Speaker’s statement is meant to cast doubt on the integrity of Duterte, considering that the two have long been bitter political enemies. It’s also clear that, while he has promised not to interfere in the investigation of the 800 or so unexplained killings in Davao City being done by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), he is not adverse to making sure his rival gets all the negative attention he can get.
Nograles is a disappointment as Speaker, having proven time and time again that he is a traditional politician, or trapo from head to toe. Of course, he has no honor of which to speak, considering that his qualification for his current post is how much of a toady to the administration he is.
At the same time, Duterte has laid himself open to investigation after being candidly clear on his stand that criminals in his city do not deserve to live, having stated in the past that such individuals are targets for assassination. It doesn’t take a leap of imagination after such a statement to connect him with the DDS, considered to be responsible for the various killings within his domain.
However, such a tactic is in itself a crime. While there are some such as Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo who celebrate the deaths of criminals, killing them before they come to court takes away their right to a fair trial, considering the legal tenet of “innocent until proven guilty”. The DDS short-cut indicates a breakdown of legal processes in Davao City, and should not be tolerated.
It’s also disturbing that among the dead are several hard-line critics of Mayor Duterte. Is Duterte bankrolling the DDS as his personal problem-solver, taking care of those who oppose his rule? This is something that the CHR and the courts must prove.
Of course, Duterte is innocent until proof that the DDS exists, as well as Duterte’s alleged connection to the unit, is forthcoming. But, so far, no one has come out to testify as to the veracity of the DDS’s existence. Is it because people would rather rely of extra-legal means to solve the problem of crime, and the DDS is the answer to the problem? What does that have to say about the rule of law in Davao City?
Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson has been an early target, although it’s not merely Malacanang’s machinations that are doing him in. Ghosts from his past have risen up to haunt him.
One of his former associates from the Philippine National Police, Cezar Mancao, has resurfaced, and, once he is extradited, he has promised to tell all he knows about the double murder of publicist Bubby Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito back in 2000. And, according to administration personalities such as Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Mancao is pinpointing Lacson as the one who ordered the killings.
Of course, Senator Lacson denies this, and claims that Malacanang is behind this, in order to derail his bid for the presidency next year. However, it is Lacson’s own checkered past that comes back to haunt him. It is easy to believe that Lacson is capable of having Dacer and Corbito murdered, considering his time as a military man during the martial law years of the late President Marcos, where he was likely to have participated in the atrocities at the time. Add the more recent alleged rubout of Kuratong Baleleng gang members back in the 90s (deemed a shootout by authorities at the time), and it is not a quantum leap of imagination for Lacson to have ordered the deaths of Dacer and Corbito.
At the same time, however, Mancao has not yet been extradited, and whatever information regarding his affidavit that currently exists is being released by Malacanang officials, so it is not unbelievable that the whole affair has been orchestrated by the administration, with the goal of making sure that Lacson’s bid for the presidency is derailed.
However, according to surveys, Lacson isn’t even within striking distance of winning, so why would the administration waste time and effort in order to take him down? If it is true that the administration is bent on eliminating the opposition, should it train its guns at the survey leaders, namely, Senators Villar, Legarda and Escudero, not to mention convicted plunderer, former President Joseph Estrada? Or is the Lacson affair the start of even bigger demolition jobs that will target the survey leaders? One can’t say for certain.
What’s interesting to note that Senator Lacson is currently the chair of the Senate Ethics Committee, which investigates complaints against fellow Senators. And yet, despite the charges filed against him by the daughters of the late Dacer, he has not stepped aside from his post, or even inhibited himself from investigating fellow presidentiables Senator Manny Villar, who is facing charges of having made double insertions in the budget to benefit his followers, or Senator Richard Gordon, who is accused of holding two government posts.
Neither have his colleagues called for his inhibition, considering the gravity of the case against him. As columnist Alex Magno noted, is it because he is a member of the opposition, and calling for his inhibition will weaken the opposition in the Senate? Such two-faced hypocrisy is what causes a person to think twice about supporting the opposition, because it is crystal clear that it is self-interest, and not noble intentions, which drives the opposition to rail against the administration.
Going back to Senator Lacson, it is important for him to clear his name if he is serious about mounting a bid for the presidency in 2010, rather than meet the unsubstantiated (so far) accusations against him with equally unsubstantiated accusations about the administration’s involvement in the case. Otherwise, people will be inclined to believe that the charges against him are true, which will definitely derail his plans for the presidency next year.
Friday, April 03, 2009
If the Manson family committed those crimes here in the Philippines, they would be out in less than two decades, thanks to the administration's automatic clemency policy.
The latest recipient of the President's executive clemency is the mastermind of the 'Cochise-Beebom' double murder case. Rodolfo Manalili, who ordered the abduction and subsequent killing of UP students Ernesto “Cochise” Bernabe II and his girlfriend Ana Lourdes “Beebom” Castaños, had his double life sentence commuted by the President a week ago.
It should be remembered that the murder was a case of mistaken identity, as Manalili ordered his accomplices to abduct the killer of his brother Delfin. The thugs apparently got the wrong people, but killed them anyway. For this, the court sentenced them to double life imprisonment, which was effectively amended to triple courtesy of the Supreme Court. And, out of the possible 120 years they served, they get out in less than 30? This is justice?
I've lost count of the prominent criminals who either have been pardoned and released, or had their sentences commuted over the course of the Arroyo administration. Romeo Jalosjos. Claudio Teehankee III. Rolito Go. The Aquino-Galman murderers. Joseph Estrada. The list keeps getting longer as this administration approaches its twilight. Is it trying to set a record for the most number of convicts freed during its time? Your guess is as good as mine.
Who's next? Former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who's serving a life term for the rape-slaying of Eileen Sarmenta and boyfriend Allan Gomez, is probably a good bet.
No amount of explanation by government mouthpieces will assuage the grief and pain of the victims, who had assumed that the cause of their pain would be locked away for life. It's almost as if the administration enjoys rubbing its pardons and commutations in the victims' faces.
The administration's apparent disregard for the victims, wherein the criminals are pardoned and released long before the end of their sentence (In former President and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada's case, he never spent any time in jail; he was almost immediately pardoned after his conviction.), shows a lack of actual reflection or concern about the state of crime in our country.
No wonder such entities as the so-called Davao Death Squad are tolerated or even celebrated, since the government's lack of concern for the victims must drive people to take the law into their own hands, to punish criminals with finality.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
My apologies to readers if this post seems repetitive, but the subject just keeps on coming up.
It seems that the members of the House of Representatives simply will not give up on the subject of Charter Change, considering that one of the first things they intend to do after the Holy Week break is to tackle the resolutions calling for Charter Change.
While, on the surface, the intent, to revise some of the economic provisions, appears well-meaning, given the fact that this is a Congress populated mainly by the elite and corrupt, one has to question whether this body is the right one to propose changes to the Constitution. Remember, this is a Congress that has done everything in its power to keep the President from being impeached, being completely in the administration’s control.
It is this control which creates suspicions that the whole Charter Change movement is a machination of Malacanang’s minions. The mouthpieces of Malacanang cannot brush this connection off by saying that the House is a co-equal arm of government, and the President cannot dictate to the House on what it must do. Having seen the administration’s long arm in action during the annual impeachment complaint filings, I, for one, am doubtful whenever the various mouthpieces deny any Presidential involvement or influence in House matters.
I have said in the past, and I’ll say it again, that I am in favor of revising our Charter. It’s a ponderous document, which majority of our countrymen cannot understand. However, the manner by which it should be revised is definitely not the one being proposed by our politicians, which is a constituent assembly. Any changes should be considered after the next elections, not before, to avoid any partisan color.
Perhaps, during the 2010 election campaign, we should pay close attention to the candidates’ stands on the issue, so that we may be better informed about our choice come election day.
UPDATE: It appears that the administration lackeys in Congress have finally surrendered to the inevitable: that Charter Change before 2010 is not possible. The Lakas-NUCD, led by former President Fidel V. Ramos, has stated that it will no longer support moves to revise the Charter, while Kampi, the President's own party, has conceded that that, after all the moves and possible Supreme Court challenges, Charter Change will not be possible by the time the elections come. Hopefully, our Congress can focus on the more pressing issue of the global financial crisis and its impact on our countrymen, and figure out ways and means to ease them through this dire situation. Then, when the climate improves, we as a nation can tackle the thorny issue of Charter Change.