Wednesday, March 31, 2010
"The day someone quits school he is condemning himself to a future of poverty." - Jaime Escalante
Much of what I know of Jaime Escalante comes from the movie "Stand and Deliver", where his role was portrayed by Edward James Olmos. The movie, which is based on Escalante's efforts to help his students in Garfield High School rise from their roots and succeed, shows how Escalante challenged his students and encouraged them to learn calculus. As a result, the students managed to pass the advanced placement calculus test, although the results were questioned by the Educational Testing Service, which required the students to re-take the exam. The students who did passed the exam, kicking off the school's advanced placement program; at its peak, hundreds of students were taking the advanced placement classes. When Escalante was forced to leave Garfield High School in 1991, the number of students passing the advanced placement tests dropped considerably.
Escalante continued to teach at other schools, and, in 2001, went back to his native Bolivia. He returned to the U.S. in March 2010 to seek treatment for bladder cancer. He succumbed to bladder cancer today, March 30, 2010, ending a most fruitful life devoted to teaching.
In my early years as a teacher, I would show "Stand and Deliver" to my students, and I was inspired by the example of Escalante to continue in my career as a teacher. Now, his long journey is at an end, and it is up to teachers like myself to take up the torch.
Requiem in pace, Senor Escalante.
Image taken from Hispanic Heritage
Monday, March 29, 2010
Over the weekend, two columnists from the top two newspapers focused on the veracity of a presidential candidate’s claims in his political ads, and what the two columnists revealed was quite damning.
Economist Solita Monsod in Saturday’s edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and William Esposo in the Sunday edition of the Philippine Star took a hard look at Senator Manny Villar’s ad about his dead brother, who supposedly died because the Villar family didn’t have the money for proper health care. To double-check Villar’s claims, both Monsod and Esposo cited the death certificate of the brother, Daniel Bamba Villar, and the Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) for the address stated in the death certificate.
What they discovered that Villar may have been less than truthful in his ad about his brother. First of all, Daniel Villar died at the young age of three years and eight months due to complications resulting from his having leukemia, a cancer of the blood. I would agree with Esposo when he said that in 1962, when Daniel succumbed, that leukemia was more or less untreatable during that time, since treatments such as chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants were still years away. Whether one was rich or poor, as Esposo argues, having leukemia during that time was a terminal condition.
Second, Daniel Villar spent 13 days at Far Eastern University Hospital (FEUH), which was more or less considered prestigious in a time before Makati Medical Center and St. Luke’s Hospital. In his ad, Villar claimed that his family didn’t have the money to pay for health care, so how does this explain Daniel’s treatment?
A third possible falsehood revolves around the TCT, which showed that, at the time of Daniel’s death, the Villars were living in San Rafael Village, a well-to-do subdivision in the Navotas area. The TCT also notes that the Villars paid the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) a P16,000 mortgage for the 560-square meter lot, which, back in 1962, was a lot of money considering that the peso exchange rate was less than P10 to the dollar; Monsod and Esposo have differing estimates, but the mortgage would be worth more than a million pesos in today’s money. How does that figure jibe with Villar’s claim that his family was dirt poor?
Assuming that Daniel’s death certificate and the TCT are valid and truthful, the “once poor” story that Villar has woven in order to weld the masses to him has been exposed as a myth, merely smoke and mirrors to keep the masses in awe of a rich businessman.
I echo Esposo’s questions at the end of his column yesterday: “If Manny Villar can lie and use his dead younger brother like this, what makes you think that he will really improve and not worsen your life? What makes you think that he is not as greedy as he is being charged in this presidential campaign? What makes you think that you can trust Manny Villar?”
It will be interesting to see how the Villar camp will try to explain this issue away, especially since, in the last survey results conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), Villar has once again fallen back from the pack leader, Senator Noynoy Aquino by nine percentage points, and this was before the validity of his ad was questioned. How much more if people decide that the ad was a falsehood? How will the people feel about someone who outright lied? As the TV show once said, “Abangan ang susunod na kabanata.”
UPDATE: As expected, Sen. Villar claimed that the accusations are all “lies”, and that his detractors are “panicking” because he’s beginning to attract the local politicians to support him. Unfortunately for him, the documents speak for themselves, and I guess the people will decide what they believe come election day.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Since I’ve written at length about the presidential candidates, it’s only fitting that I take a look at the individuals, who, if elected, will always be one step away from claiming the presidency, that is to say, the vice-presidential candidates. With the recent face-to-face vice-presidential debate organized by media giant ABS-CBN still fresh on our minds, it gives us a chance to form opinions about the people who often wind up being more than just a spare tire should the president ever fall flat.
Senator Mar Roxas (Liberal Party)
It’s ironic that Roxas is the undisputed leader of the vice-presidential surveys, when he wasn’t making any waves as a presidential candidate. It’s clear that his giving way to running mate Senator Noynoy Aquino earned him tons of brownie points with the voting public, who probably admired his sense of nobility, although cynics would probably say that Aquino was a godsend to Roxas, who was given a graceful way out of the presidential race that he was then losing.
Roxas is probably one of the best suited for the role of president-in-waiting, as he has cut his teeth both in the legislative and the executive branches of government. While he did serve during both the Estrada and Arroyo governments, it was clear that he bailed out when it was clear that both Presidents had strayed off the straight and narrow path.
It’s likely that Roxas will probably win the vice-presidency, as his opponents have been hard-pressed to find anything to tarnish his image. If he does, he will probably use the opportunity to prepare for another perhaps more successful run at the presidency six years from now.
Senator Loren Legarda (Nacionalista Party)
It’s only recently that I actually listened to Sarah Geronimo’s jingle for Legarda, and I am struck by the irony of it. In the jingle, Geronimo sings that “hindi nang-iiwan si Loren” meaning she doesn’t abandon people, but that’s exactly what she did when she wasn’t chosen as the running mate of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2004 elections: she simply jumped ship and joined the opposition, this despite her famous tearful scene during the Estrada impeachment trial. No wonder Roxas labeled her tears as “crocodile tears”. Since then, it’s been painfully clear that Legarda is simply out to get the best deal for herself, and is the consummate political butterfly.
Her pairing off with Villar is ironic since she abandoned her criticism of Villar over the C-5 controversy, and then became his staunchest supporter. The two of them make a matched pair, as both are transactional politicians to the hilt, and one can only wonder when either of them will abandon the other once a better deal crops up.
On a side note, I would've liked to have seen the portion in the ABS-CBN debate wherein Legarda claimed to be an Ilonggo, and couldn't answer Roxas' statement spoken in Ilonggo.
Mayor Jejomar Binay (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino)
The Makati mayor has been an Estrada stalwart since the former action star became president, so I guess it’s only fitting that Binay was selected to be Estrada’s running-mate. The two are evenly matched, like Legarda and Villar, and, in the PMP candidates’ case, they bring to the table a wealth of administrative experience and, unfortunately, traditional politics. In Binay’s case, he has been the virtual warlord of Makati ever since he was the city’s OIC during the post-EDSA I years. Despite this, as well as his own claims, a good number of Makati residents remain poor and unable to rise from their poverty. Is this the Makati that he claims to bring to the country? If it is, then it’ll just be more of the same.
Bayani Fernando (Bagumbayan)
The former Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) head, after being snubbed by his long-time party, joined forces with Senator Richard Gordon, and, were the Philippine voting public well-informed and mature, the two of them could have become a force to reckon with in the May elections. Instead, the so-called Transformers are bogged down, unable to gain any ground on the front runners. While I am not a fan of Fernando, as I have stated numerous times in the past, I have to concede that he is fairly competent, and willing to do what it takes to get the job done. Perhaps because of this, he has made a number of enemies, particularly among the masses, who resented his heavy-handed ways in clearing the sidewalks and demolishing the shanties. Still, it cannot be denied that he did try to bring discipline to the city, although it wasn’t always the correct way to do it.
Perfecto Yasay (Bangon Pilipinas)
The former Securities and Exchange Commission head who blew the whistle on the corruption of Joseph Estrada has allied himself with Jesus is Lord leader Bro. Eddie Villanueva, but hasn’t really seemed to gain any media coverage, except for that one time, when he apologized to the former President for supposedly having been used by persons out to oust him. This action, while endearing himself to Estrada, angered those who believed that ousting Estrada was the right and moral thing to do, given the extent of his plunder and corruption. It’s a certainty that, like his running mate, Yasay is likely to fall way short of the goal come election day.
Edu Manzano (Lakas-KAMPI)
Like many of the national candidates for the administration party, Manzano labors under the onus of being the partymate of the President, and, given the President’s dismal popularity ratings, it’s been difficult for Manzano and running mate Gilbert Teodoro to gain any ground. Despite some solid work as vice-mayor of Makati and head of the Optical Media Board, Manzano has failed to make any impact on the voters’ minds and hearts. Add to this Manzano’s assertion of lack of campaign funding, and it’s likely that the ABS-CBN media personality will remain a lightweight in this year’s elections.
Jay Sonza (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan)
With the disqualification of KBL presidential candidate Vitalleano Acosta, media broadcaster Jay Sonza is without a running mate, and, that spells trouble for what was once the dominant party in the country. As expected, Sonza has not been doing well in the surveys, and, without a presidential candidate to pair up with, it’s unlikely that he will be able to make any headway in convincing voters that he would be the perfect successor to any of the presidential candidates. In a way, it’s fitting that the party that was the cause of so much pain and sorrow in our country will likely die an ignominious death.
Dominador Chipeco Jr. (Ang Kapatiran)
Of the various vice-presidential candidates, Chipeco has been the least familiar and the least visible, and, as a result, he has been often overlooked in being invited to participate in forums and debates. While his running mate, Olongapo councilor JC de los Reyes, is at least able to remain visible, Chipeco has been more or less invisible to voters. At the rate he’s going, he’ll be lucky to get any votes at all.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
The Arroyos have ignored, time and time again, that what is legal isn’t always moral or right. In the issue of the party-list nominees, where it appears that the administration is poised to flood the system with groups of pro-administration flunkies, I have noted before that the law is very weak in setting any limits as to who can represent a party-list group. Hence, a number of party-list groups have put forth a number of high-profile personalities, Mikey Arroyo being one of them, as their nominees.
However, it doesn't seem right that Mikey Arroyo, who has already served as a district representative, should exploit the party-list system to perpetuate himself in power. Has he filed any bill that helped the sector he purports to represent (security guards and tricycle drivers)? Has he expressed any prior concern about that particular sector? What is it that qualifies him, then, to represent that sector? It is simply the loopholes and infirmities in the law that created the party-list system that allows someone like Arroyo to run. It is the same weaknesses that allowed his aunt, Ma. Lourdes Arroyo, to run under the Ang Kasangga party-list group.
The other criticism against the Arroyos is the fact that there is a clear possibility that there will be five members of the Arroyo family sitting in the House of Representatives, which is a clear view of what a political dynasty would look like. The only argument presidential spokesperson Rick Saludo could give was to point out that the Arroyos aren't the only ones who have more than one family member in Congress.
So, what, that makes the Arroyo move correct? The fact that family members have sat together in Congress is simply a fact, and that doesn't make it morally right. Moreover, the examples Saludo cites, that of the Ejercitos and the Cayetanos, only covers two family members, while the Arroyos, should they win in May, will hold up to FIVE seats in Congress, which is a glaring violation of political dynasty, assuming, of course, that that Constitutional prohibition will ever be given any teeth by Congress.
While Mikey Arroyo is correct in saying that five Arroyos in Congress will not be sufficient to elect his mother as House Speaker, it is also clear that there is a blatant attempt by the administration to stuff the party-list vote with pro-administration groups, and that, along with the current Lakas-Kampi members, might be enough to elect Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as House Speaker.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) cites the weaknesses in the law that prevent them from disqualifying nominees from running. Perhaps Philippine Star columnist Federico Pascual is correct in arguing that, until the party-list system is fixed so that it truly allows marginalized sectors to have a voice in Congress, we voters will be better off leaving that part of the ballot blank.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
With the first quarter of the year almost over, it’s interesting to note that my reading has remained consistently continuous. Granted, looking over what I’ve read over the past weeks, I’ve engaged in a lot of rereading of personal favorites, but I’ve managed to keep introducing myself to several new books as well.
Here’s what I’ve read in the first three months of this year (not in order, though):
1. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan – in the aftermath of the movie (which could’ve been a lot better), I found myself going through the entire 5-book series all over again, if only to remember why the series was so great. And, sure enough, in the rereading of the adventures of the son of Poseidon, I found myself enjoying it all over again. What was nice was that my wife Hazel also got into enjoyment of reading the series, and, in turn, narrated a simplified version to our 7-year old daughter, Gabby, who will hopefully take up the series herself when she’s older.
2. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher – admittedly, Full Moon, the first book I read of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s professional wizard, didn’t really capture my attention, as I wasn’t really thrilled by the mixture of hard-boiled detective and fantasy wizard. That was, at first, until I learned that my friend Karen’s husband actually collected the entire series (11 books so far), so I wound up borrowing the books two by two, starting with Storm Front, the first book in the series. Slowly but surely, the world of Harry Dresden took me into its folds, and ensnared me. It was easy enough reading that it took me a week and a half or so to finish all 11 books. I’ll write a more detailed post about the series in the future.
3. Leviathan by Scott Westerfield – Westerfield’s alternate history of the events that led to World War One is vividly depicted, especially in the illustrations that accompany this book. However, while the concept of Darwinists, who alter animals into weapons of war, versus Clankers, who are adept at steampunk machinery, is intriguing, a part of me felt that the whole novel could’ve been better presented in graphic novel form, as Westerfield’s descriptions seemed lacking in allowing the reader to visualize the fanciful machines and animals going to war. Perhaps the next book will be better.
4. Reaper Man by Terry Prachett – as I’ve probably stated before, Prachett is one of my favorite authors, and it was fortuitous that the National Bookstore along Quezon Ave. stocked almost the entire Discworld run on its shelves. Reaper Man, one of my acquisitions from that collection, revolves around Death, and how he is asked to retire from his job of collecting the dead. What happens as a result is both interesting and humorous, which is the general effect of reading Prachett’s books.
5. Harper Hall trilogy by Anne McCaffrey – McCaffrey’s world of Pern is one of the wonders of sci-fi, seamlessly blending fantasy with science fiction. In a world threatened by the organism Thread, young Menolly of Half-Circle Sea Hold struggles to practice her talent of music despite the efforts of her parents. Running away from the hold, she befriends nine fire lizards, and is rescued from Thread by a dragonrider. At the rider’s Weyr, she is discovered by the Masterharper of Pern and invited to become a Harper. The trilogy, which chronicles both Menolly’s adventures, as well as that of her friend, Piemur, shows us not to let anything get in the way of our dreams.
6. The Empire series by Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts – the series revolves around Mara of House Acoma, who is suddenly thrust into a leader’s role with the death of her father and brother on an alien world. Her efforts to survive the Game of the Council show a young girl who displays a great amount of shrewdness and luck, as her fortunes, as well as that of her House, increase. I like the series because it presents a world rich in culture and sights, similar to that of Japan’s shogunate era.
7. Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien – This is probably the 17th time I’ve read Tolkien’s masterpiece, and, with each reading, the story never grows old. Granted, it’s been several years since I last revisited the trilogy, but I always manage to find something new to appreciate when I read it. And this go-around is no exception, as I found myself noting the rich description of Middle Earth, as Tolkien paints colorful word pictures to make his fantasy setting come to life.
Monday, March 22, 2010
With the presidential campaign in full swing, and a little more than a month to go before the elections arrive, it’s a good idea to take a look at where each of the candidates stand at the moment.
Senator Noynoy Aquino
The apparent heir to the Aquino legacy, Sen. Aquino has found it increasingly difficult to gain lost ground, as his survey results continue to decline. One of the major problems, I think, is that of image, as his campaign managers try to combat those who attack the Senator’s capability to be President. While the Liberal Party appears to have a clear platform, Sen. Aquino lacks his father’s oratorical skills in order to present it to the public; as a result, his ratings have gone down.
It doesn’t help that he has shown too much focus in attacking the incumbent President, promising all sorts of things in order to bring President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to justice. While it is clear that Arroyo must answer the various charges against her administration, continuously harping on this is a tired theme for many, and I think Filipinos would rather hear what concrete plans the good Senator has to help the nation rise from the slump that it’s in.
I think there are many of us who wish to vote for Aquino, if only to stymie traditional politicians such as Senator Manny Villar and former President and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada from becoming President. It’s just that he should, in turn, give us a solid reason for us to vote for him.
Senator Manny Villar
Whoever is managing Villar’s campaign has been a PR genius, managing to package the former Senate President and House Speaker as a desirable candidate, despite all of the controversies he has faced. The jingles and the TV ads are marvelously done, with a simple message that Villar is (supposedly) one of the poor, and has the wherewithal in order to uplift the nation.
However, from what we have seen of the man, the whole campaign is merely smoke and mirrors, as Villar has shown himself to be a capable transactional politician, managing to bring together such diverse factions as the radical Left (party-list Representatives Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza) and the vestiges of martial law (Ilocos Rep. Bongbong Marcos) into his Senatorial line-up, as well as gain yet another transactional politician, Senator Loren Legarda, as his running mate.
What concessions he promised in order to rig this lineup together remains to be seen. What cannot be ignored are the enormous sums of money Villar is spending in order to get himself elected. Some see it as buying the Presidency outright, which is why, at this point, Senator Noynoy Aquino still leads in the surveys.
The fact that Estrada has managed to gain a respectable third in the surveys is proof of the Filipinos’ forgiving nature and notoriously short historical memory. It does not faze his followers that, in the two and a half years of his presidency, he managed to tarnish the office in a much shorter time than it took President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to do so. His so-called love for the masses hid the fact that the man engaged in corruption and gambling so badly that he was impeached by the House, and ousted from power when it was clear that he would escape justice through the twelve senators who protected him during the impeachment trial.
If Estrada somehow manages to win, then there is no hope for our country, for we truly deserve the government we elect into office.
There are a lot of positives for the former defense secretary; the fact that he is educated, well-spoken, and possessed of a quiet charisma makes a number of people at this point deciding to vote for Teodoro, especially in the colleges and universities. Unfortunately, the student bodies make up a small portion of our voting public, which means that Teodoro still has to work hard at making himself a desirable candidate.
The big negative, of course, is the fact that he is the administration candidate, which means that, like it or not, he will have to answer for all of the controversies and scandals that the Arroyo administration had gotten itself into. While Teodoro has been quietly distancing himself from his patron, as seen in his call for the President to exercise prudence and allow the next president to appoint the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, it will probably not be enough, and, in the end, Teodoro is likely to fall by the wayside once all the votes have been tallied.
Senator Richard Gordon
With a mature voting public, who would have a solid grasp of issues, Senator Gordon would’ve stood a good chance of getting elected. He is an achiever and a doer, and has the will in order to get things done. Such qualities would’ve been seen as desirable by a voting public which understands the issues.
Unfortunately, this is the Philippines, where personality politics is king, and voters often base their decisions on criteria that have nothing to do with issues. In addition, Senator Gordon threw his hat into the ring a little too late, which means that, like Teodoro, personally a worthy candidate, Gordon will be disappointed in the final tally.
Bro. Eddie Villanueva
When the Jesus is Lord (JIL) leader ran in 2004, he lost and lost big to the front-runners of the race, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., and President Arroyo. Now, he is trying his luck again, this time running with a vice-presidential candidate (Perfecto Yasay) and a partial senatorial slate.
As shown by the surveys, it is likely that Brother Eddie hasn’t managed to resonate with the Filipinos perhaps due to his religion (the Philippines is predominantly nominally Roman Catholic), and perhaps due to the fact that he has not managed to draw any big names in Philippine politics to ally with him. On a personal note, I find his speaking style of referring to himself in the third person a little disconcerting. If others feel the same, it might explain why they are hesitant to vote for a preacher for President.
Senator Jamby Madrigal
Ever since she became a Senator, Madrigal has been somewhat of a loose cannon, allying herself with the radical Left, and clumsily crossing swords with more veteran Senators. In addition, it appears that she has made it her personal crusade to hound rival candidate Sen. Manny Villar over the C-5 controversy, an issue that the Nacionalista Party candidate has endeavored to avoid facing head on.
Such a one-track minded campaign isn’t going to resonate well with the voters, who expect Madrigal to show competency in other national issues. In addition, she has always come across to me as a person who had no business being in the Senate.
She has also shown an appalling lack of loyalty to those who have helped her in the past. During the campaign, she even managed to alienate actress Judy Ann Santos, who was instrumental in Madrigal’s getting elected to the Senate; Madrigal was quoted as saying that using an entertainer to get elected was a mistake.
The businessman and environmentalist has managed to come across as serious in his campaign, as he has shown competency in various issues that the candidates have been asked to talk about. However, he is still a small fish in a very large lake, and, while he may be a competent candidate, there is no way that he is going to win.
JC de los Reyes
The Olongapo councilor, a nephew of rival candidate Senator Richard Gordon, has come across as sincere in his beliefs and well-meaning in his desire to serve. Unfortunately, his forays into the forums have shown that he still has a lot to learn in order to be considered as a serious candidate.
I’ll probably revisit the candidates one more time before May 10, but, in the next posts about the elections, I’ll begin focusing on the other positions up for grabs, particularly the Senate, which has been regarded as the bastion which has held its ground against the Arroyo administration. Will the Senate maintain that image? It remains to be seen.
In the meantime, it appears that, for the presidential candidates, the campaign is still very fluid, and it is likely that, before the elections actually arrive, there will still be a lot of movement in the surveys, particularly with the front and middle runners.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
One of the more colorful and controversial figures of the administration, former Justice Secretary and current Chief Legal Counsel Raul Gonzalez, has weighed in on the issue by attacking the late President Corazon “Cory” Aquino. He questions why Arroyo is being pilloried for having packed the court with her appointees, when President Aquino also did the same in the aftermath of the ouster of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Gonzalez argues that that court should’ve been named the Aquino court, just as the current members of the Supreme Court have been labeled as the Arroyo court.
Of course, Gonzalez is trying to divert attention from the President to himself, to be the lightning rod of the administration. The current Supreme Court has been labeled as the Arroyo court because, at least in this current decision, penned by Justice Lucas Bersamin, it appears that the nine justices who voted in favor of the ruling acted with undue haste and reinterpreted the Constitution in order to fit President Arroyo’s desire to name the next Chief Justice. In contrast, the Aquino appointees weren’t labeled as the Aquino court because they weren’t perceived to have done what the current justices have done.
Gonzalez’s argument is both specious and disrespectful beyond the pale, since President Aquino is no longer alive to answer it. Since we Filipinos do possess a reverence for the dead, it is likely that Gonzalez’s words are going to come back to haunt the administration. Then again, Gonzalez has been a nobody since he left the Department of Justice, so it’s also likely that no one will notice, or simply attribute his behavior to senility or derangement.
However, the controversial decision, unlike Gonzalez, will continue to make waves in the media, and will likely be an issue until the fateful day, May 17, 2010, when Chief Justice Reynato Puno steps down, and the nation will wait with bated breath whether President Arroyo has the prudence or delicadeza to think twice about naming Puno’s replacement.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Still, it doesn’t mean that I’ve been ignorant of what’s been going on. I’ve been keeping track of the presidential campaign, of the various personalities, such as Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, head of the religious sect "Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above Every Name”, who has been trying his hand at playing king maker. I’ve also taken note of Senator Noynoy Aquino’s falling ratings, and his almost-obsession in painting the President as the main cause of our country’s troubles, as well as his rival Senator Manny Villar’s apparent attempt to simply buy the presidency outright.
However, while the above topics are fodder themselves for blog posts, I’d like to concern myself with the current hot issue, that of the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday to allow the President to appoint the next Chief Justice.
From what I’ve read so far (I’ve yet to read the actual decision; I’m basing my thoughts on what is in the newspapers), the basic argument of the decision, written by Justice Lucas Bersamin, hews to the premise that the stated appointment ban in Article VII of the Constitution is limited to appointments to the executive branch, and that the judiciary is covered under Article VIII, and is thus exempt from the ban. The decision also made the claim that the election ban on appointments is longer than the 90-day period that is given to the President to appoint a member of the Supreme Court.
The decision also attempts to qualify the Supreme Court decision in 1998, which nullified the appointments of Judges Mateo Valenzuela and Placido Vallarta to the regional trial courts for violating the constitutional ban on midnight appointments. However, the justices were split on this matter, as five of them said that the ban exempted the entire judiciary, while four said that only Supreme Court appointments were exempt.
Of those who participated in the vote (Justices Antonio Carpio and Renato Corona, as well as Chief Justice Reynato Puno inhibited themselves), I think that the correct vote was cast by Justices Presbitero Velasco, Jr., and Eduardo Nachura, who both stated that ruling on the matter would be premature at this time.
It is the correct vote because the actual issue, that of the President appointing the Chief Justice despite an apparent ban on such appointments, hasn’t happened yet. Chief Justice Puno is scheduled to retire on May 17, 2010, and it is only then that the issue should be resolved. In spite of this, nine justices decided to rule in favor of the President in this issue, and this decision is likely to have repercussions in the future.
The most serious repercussion is how people will now view the Supreme Court, and how its credibility will be affected by the decision. As it is, except for Justice Puno, the other justices have all been appointed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and it should be noted that the nine justices who voted in favor of allowing her to make the appointment are the most recent ones appointed.
Like the vote over the fateful envelope by the Senators perceived to be loyal to then-President Joseph Estrada during the impeachment trial, the vote may be seen as a clear skewing of favor towards President Arroyo. And if such is the case, then the Supreme Court’s perceived independence, as well as its credibility, will have come to an end.
Another repercussion is the issue of whether the entire judiciary or only the Supreme Court is exempt from the ban. I am not sure why Justices Brion, Mendoza, del Castillo and Peralta made this argument. According to their own decision, the judges and justices of the lower courts also belong to the judiciary branch, so, based on their argument that the ban only holds for executive positions, why would they argue that only the Supreme Court is exempt?
It appears that Senator Aquilino Pimentel’s accusation that the nine justices had twisted the meaning of the Constitution bears weight in this issue, since it appears that they themselves have problems in justifying their decision.
Unfortunately, the decision has been made, and, unless the justices reverse themselves (unlikely), President Arroyo is now empowered to appoint the successor to Chief Justice Puno. Now, whether she will do so is still up for conjecture, since, for all we know, she may decide to practice delicadeza (a long shot, I know), and let the matter be taken up by her successor. This is unless, of course, the conspiracy theorists are correct, and she plans to stay in power past her time, which means that having a subservient Chief Justice will be perfect for her plans.
As always, for us regular folk, we have to remain vigilant and make sure that Arroyo delivers a peaceful transfer of power to whoever is elected in May. In addition, we have to watch Justice Puno’s retirement very closely, and see what move Arroyo will make in the wake of it.
In the news:
The Philippine Star and the Philippine Daily Inquirer's reports on the matter.
The Philippine Star chronicles the reactions to the decision. Columnist Federico Pascual's comments on the issue mirror my own.
Contrary to the justices' argument, the Constitutional Commission did not exclude the Chief Justice's appointment from the ban, according to Con-Com Commissioner Christian Monsod.
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Despite the rosy economic figures President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been touting as the strength of her administration, her own economic adviser Albay Gov. Joey Salceda has admitted that, while the economy has grown under Arroyo’s watch, the benefits did not trickle down to majority of Filipinos, as the poor have apparently grown poorer, and the rich have apparently become richer. In short, the President’s claim of economic growth has only benefited those who do not really need it.
I am not sure how Arroyo’s spin doctors are going to deal with the fallout from Salceda’s admission; a good guess would be to deny what Salceda said, and claim that majority of Filipinos have benefited greatly from the economic growth. However, the damage is done. Salceda is perceived to be close to the President, and his admission appears to ring true.
It’s not like Gov. Salceda’s admission is anything new to those of us who have been keeping a close watch on this administration. It has been clear that corruption has played a large part as to why our countrymen have not profited from the supposed economic gains. This administration has been host to scandal after scandal, with no clear retribution on those responsible for any of them, since the President and her allies have always managed to cover their tracks. Due to this culture of impunity, it’s obvious that others have exploited the situation for their own gain. Of course, the Filipino people are the ones who suffer from this.
It is important, then, that in this coming presidential election, that we vote responsibly, and choose a leader who has the integrity, the charisma and the political will in order to fight the corruption that has pervaded our society. Otherwise, we will just get more of the same.
Saturday, March 06, 2010
In the PGH directorship, the timeline of the controversy appears to follow this order:
December 18, 2009
The Board of Regents (BOR) met to appoint the next director, who would be replacing outgoing director Dr. Carmelo Alfiler. A point of order was apparently made by BOR member, retired Supreme Court Justice Abraham Sarmiento, as the Student Regent, Charisse Banez, was not currently enrolled, and, thus, the BOR had to settle whether she was eligible to vote on the PGH director’s appointment. After some discussion, during which Ms. Banez was asked to leave the meeting room, it was decided that she could vote. The result of the vote was close 6-5, and Dr. Jose Gonzales emerged as the PGH director.
January 7, 2010
Dr. Gonzales was sworn in and immediately began buckling down to work.
January 29, 2010
University of the Philippines (UP) President Emerlinda Roman apparently nullifies the BOR vote, on the basis of Banez’s ineligibility, and orders a new election be done. This time, the organic regents supposedly walk out, and Dr. Eric Domingo was elected “unanimously” by the six remaining Regents.
March 1, 2010
UP faculty and students protest what they deemed the “illegal” ouster of Dr. Gonzales and rally in front of PGH. Dr. Gonzales barricades himself in the office, while Dr. Domingo sets up office in another room.
What’s difficult to understand about the whole mess is why Banez was allowed to vote in the first place, if she was ineligible. However, the BOR apparently settled the matter, and allowed her to vote, so why did Roman nullify the vote?
The issue becomes clearer when one factors in the long arm of Malacanang. It should be noted that Dr. Domingo is the son of former Immigration chief Andrea Domingo, who was supposed to have run this year for Congress in the 2nd district of Pampanga, where the President, surprise, surprise, is running for Congress.
In other words, some quid pro quo was apparently struck between the Domingos and the President, and, thus, the PGH director vote was manipulated so that Dr. Domingo could be installed. It should be noted that, in the December 18 vote, Dr. Domingo was not even considered for the directorship, because, at the time, he was apparently not qualified as he was not a tenured professor.
It should be noted that the Commission for Higher Education (CHEd) head, a member of the BOR, originally voted for Gonzales, but, in the subsequent vote, changed his vote to Domingo. Since the CHEd head is an Arroyo appointee, it isn’t hard to surmise that he was “persuaded” to change his vote.
It should also be noted that, while Banez was disqualified, three of the BOR members, including Justice Sarmiento are overstaying, having been appointed two years ago as “acting” members, as pointed out by former UP Law Dean Raul Pangalanan in his Thursday column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The Administrative Code, Executive Order 292 states that a temporary appointment can only last for a year. Of course, the BOR is now saying that there’s a difference between “acting” and “temporary”, which can only happen through some thoroughly convoluted logic.
The PGH issue is similar to what is happening on the national front, where the elections of several anti-GMA governors were overturned by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), and the President's allies were proclaimed the winners. As of now, nothing can be done about the overturnings, but they remain questionable acts by the Comelec.
It remains to be seen how the whole issue will be resolved. But it is clear that the President is flexing her muscle in this issue, and, unless something is done about it, the culture of impunity will continue to spread its malaise and continue to corrupt our value system.
Friday, March 05, 2010
I am yet to find a presidential candidate that I can stand behind. Before, I voted for someone because I felt the other candidate could win and I did not want that candidate to win (clue: ayoko ng artista). The other time, I voted for someone who was sick and the other times, I voted for someone who was from the same province my parents were from. I guess I don't know whom to vote for because I haven't met the "president of my dreams" yet. Thus, I decided to write down a list of traits or characteristics that my president should have.
My Ideal Man (or Woman) President:
1. He or she should be genuinely COMPASSIONATE. This person must have so much love for his neighbors that he or she cannot help but help. He or she is motivated to do what is best for most and not just for a few.
2. He or she should take BE WILLING TO TAKE RISKS AND TO OWN UP TO HIS OR HER MISTAKES. He or she cannot just make decisions based on how popular it would make him or her. He or she should be able to say, "I have to do this because this is what is best for all of us, even if it means we have to sacrifice a little." When this person makes a mistake, he or she is willing to say that he or she is wrong and that he or she will do everything to rectify this mistake.
3. He or she is OPTIMISTIC AND REALISTIC at the same time. He or she knows that his or her hard work has to pay off because his or her motivations are based on what he or she sees fit. He or she will not lose hope no matter how dire things have become because he or she will do his or her best. He or she is constantly in touch with the reality, with what is happening around him or her and the information that is gathered will propel this person to make sound decisions.
4. He or she should be SMART. I cannot tolerate having a leader who is stupid.
5. He or she should be TRUSTWORTHY. People will blindly follow someone whom they know have the best intentions for them; no matter how difficult times may be, they know who has their backs.
6. He or she should have FAITH not only in himself but in others. This FAITH comes from the fact that he has FAITH in God. He or she is guided by a moral compass and this makes him or her rely on the people around him.
7. He or she COMMUNICATES WELL. It doesn't matter if it's a joke or a serious topic, he or she must learn to say what he or she means to say. There is no room for any misunderstanding brought about by poor communication skills.
8. He or she should be in GOOD HEALTH because if he or she dies, we will be in trouble (no good enough VPs for me too).
9. He or she has INTEGRITY. What he or she means to say, he or she means to do it.
10. Finally, he or she must be WILLING TO LOVE even the most unlovable kinds of people. A person who knows how to love is someone who knows that he or she can only do her best and that the people around him or her will help and that he or she is never truly alone because not only has he or she gained the love of others but he or she is willing to do all for the sake of those whom he or she loves most in life - his or her God and country.
Perhaps the pronouns get in the way of what I want to say but I think, the list that I have is enough. Is there anyone out there who fits the bill?
Sadly, though, I'm afraid no one candidate fits all of these.
Monday, March 01, 2010
This time, Liberal Party (LP) director general Chito Gascon accused Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) vice-presidential candidate Senator Loren Legarda of being a “political butterfly”, having moved from political party to political party “for political gains”. Legarda is the running mate of Nacionalista Party (NP) Sen. Manny Villar.
In response, NPC spokesman Rex Gatchalian pointed an accusing finger at the LP’s vice-presidential candidate Sen. Mar Roxas, saying that Roxas was himself a political butterfly. Gatchalian pointed out Roxas was once the Trade Secretary of ousted President Joseph Estrada, and then shifted to calling for his boss’ ouster. After Estrada stepped down, and then-Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became President, Roxas joined her government as the Trade Secretary, only to resign in the aftermath of the “Hello Garci” scandal. Gatchalian then extols the virtues of Legarda, whom he claimed was a oppositionist “since 2004 when she ran as vice president of the late Fernando Poe Jr.”
On the surface, it does look that way, but, one could interpret Roxas’ actions as serving the government, and then leaving when it was clear that the president had lost all moral authority to govern, as was the case with Estrada, and is the case with Arroyo. I would think that loyalty to the country would supersede the loyalty to a President.
In addition, as far as I can remember, Roxas has always been a member of the Liberal Party, unlike Legarda who has moved from party to party in order to further her own agenda.
It should also be remembered that Legarda joined the opposition when it was clear that she would not be the running mate of Arroyo. So much for her supposed intention “to serve the people”. Ever since she joined Poe, it was clear that Legarda’s main concern was for herself.
Even her joining Villar appears to be questionable, considering that she was one of those senators who had supported the investigation of the controversial C-5 project. Now, she’s one of his staunchest defenders. One can only surmise what she was promised in order to join Villar’s camp. Given Villar’s own transactional style of political maneuvering, the two are tailor-made for one another, although should both win (and I hope they don’t), I can only imagine them walking the halls of Malacanang with daggers behind their backs ready to strike.
For all intents and purposes, then, Legarda is more of a political butterfly than Roxas. And, once again, the forces of Villar simply resort to table-turning when an accusation is hurled their way; they simply accuse the other side of being the same.
At the same time, I wish the LP would focus more on presenting a clear platform of government and get the message across, instead of continuing to hammer away at Villar and his allies. While I realize we have to question Villar and his motives, hammering away at him gives him the image of the underdog, and Filipinos are suckers for underdogs. Instead, I hope the LP candidates take the high road and tell us what they plan to do should they win. Otherwise, we may be looking at a Villar presidency.