Friday, January 30, 2009

Can Erap Run For President in 2010?

This is an important Constitutional question looming over the 2010 elections because former President Joseph Estrada has said he would seek the Presidency in 2010 if the Opposition fails to unite under a single standard bearer. Though Erap was impeached by the House, and tried by the Senate, he was never convicted. Instead after a vote of virtual acquittal, he was replaced by the Vice President who was suddenly sworn in by HIlario Davide under the protective guns of Angie Reyes. Erap was then charged, tried and convicted for plunder. But he was immediately pardoned by President Arroyo before serving even one day of his sentence, except time served during his trial. Joseph Estrada served less than three of the six year term that he won by a landslide over Jose de Venecia in 1998.

Now that question: 

Here is the relevant 1987 provision:
Section 4. The President and the Vice-President shall be elected by direct vote of the people for a term of six years which shall begin at noon on the thirtieth day of June next following the day of the election and shall end at noon of the same date, six years thereafter. The President shall not be eligible for any re-election. No person who has succeeded as President and has served as such for more than four years shall be qualified for election to the same office at any time.
The phrase   "any re-election"  above can be interpreted to mean one of two things: either immediate re-election of the incumbent to the same office, or it can mean "election to the same office at any time." which is the usage in the last sentence quoted.

In Constitutional construction where the framers have used a different textual formulation they signal a different intended meaning, else why would they not use the same terminology?

In my opinion there is another reason why a plain understanding of the words of the Constitution in this provision would favor the possibility of Joseph Estrada seeking the Presidency in 2010.  

Look at the sentence: "The President shall not be eligible for any re-election."

Well, is Joseph Estrada "the President" now or before the election in 2010? Obviously not.  

I think the upshot of this is that all the living ex-Presidents, including Cory and FVR are eligible to run for President in 2010.

Mar Roxas Throws His Hat Into The Ring

Mar Roxas throws his hat into the ring.  The announcement is not unexpected but I thought they would start things off with that promised Fairy Tale Wedding, instead of a surly declaration from Frank Drilon that the Liberal Party will only enter into an election-time coalition if Mar is indeed the standard-bearer.  Korina Sanchez could boost Mar's less than stellar survey numbers. But here is an interesting thought...they could run as a husband-and-wife team for President and Vice-president since Mar has no stated or obvious running mate from the common stable  (only who would run for which post, the precarious mind might add?!)  I must say I was less than impressed with Mar's understanding of the public school system and the whole Mother Tongue Medium of Instruction controversy, during a recent meet-up with the Filipino Voices bloggers.  But it's early yet, and I'm still making up my mind... 
Loren Legarda's birthday party at a posh hotel was crammed and  over-crowded, with operators and sycophants everywhere.  Loren's survey numbers have always looked good, but here the jinx of being a woman is truly cruel as the conventional wisdom says the Filipinos won't want another after Gloria. Not that their sexist or anything, but another from the same Assumption Convent and with Tony Leviste convicted of homicide...hmm methinks Loren's star is fading.  She could however go for Vice President again, as she did in 2004 as FPJ's running mate.   She's played all sides of the political fence however but her popularity is keeping her in the Game.  Say maybe Mar and Loren?
Say, I never noticed that the Social Weather Stations public opinion pollster has an official "Hymn" (Music and Lyrics here.)Of course it is not their music but their stats we'll be watching.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The World Bank (Verbatim) On Debarment of Crony Firms

I am reproducing below a headline post on the front page of the World Bank website that is the most authoritative and unfiltered version of what has recently transpired.

World Bank Debars Seven Firms and One Individual for Collusive Practices under Philippines Roads Project

WASHINGTON, January 14, 2009—The World Bank today announced the debarment of seven firms and one individual for engaging in collusive practices under a major Bank-financed roads project in the Philippines. Two of the debarments are permanent, the strongest possible sanction.

The debarments, which prevent the parties from bidding on future World Bank-financed contracts, either indefinitely or for the period of the sanctions listed below, result from an in-depth inquiry conducted by the World Bank’s Integrity Vice Presidency (INT). INT is responsible for investigating allegations of fraud and corruption in Bank-financed operations.

The INT investigation uncovered evidence of a major cartel involving local and international firms bidding on contracts under phase one of the Philippines National Roads Improvement and Management Program, known as NRIMP 1. INT closely analyzed the procurement process the firms participated in and conducted numerous interviews before closing the investigations and initiating sanctions proceedings against the entities.

As a result of swift action when suspicions of collusion in the bidding process were raised by the project team, the World Bank stopped an estimated $33 million from being awarded. No World Bank funds from the NRIMP 1 project were disbursed to the now-sanctioned firms.

Leonard McCarthy, World Bank Integrity Vice President, said, “This is one of our most important and far-reaching cases, and it highlights the effectiveness of the World Bank’s investigative and sanctions process. As the World Bank Group continues to ramp up its anti-corruption work, INT will remain vigilant in investigating allegations and holding wrongdoers accountable.”

Mr. McCarthy added that INT was in the process of conducting a worldwide review of the Bank’s activity in the roads sector.

Based on INT’s investigation of the NRIMP 1 case, the World Bank’s Sanctions Board, made up of senior Bank officials and external legal experts, decided that the entities had participated in a collusive scheme designed to establish bid prices at artificial, non-competitive levels and to deprive the Borrower of the benefits of free and open competition. This constitutes fraudulent practices under the applicable procurement rules applying to NRIMP 1.

The firms and lengths of debarments follow:

Ø E. C. de Luna Construction Corp. and Eduardo C. de Luna, owner and sole proprietor of the firm, were both debarred indefinitely – the first permanent debarments since 2004.
Ø China Road and Bridge Corp. was debarred for eight years. The debarment can be reduced or terminated after five years if the firm puts in place a compliance program satisfactory to the World Bank.
Ø China State Construction Corp. and China Wu Yi Co. Ltd. were each debarred for six years. In the case of each firm, the debarment can be reduced or terminated after four years if that firm puts in place a compliance program satisfactory to the World Bank.
Ø China Geo-Engineering Corp. was debarred for five years. The debarment can be reduced or terminated after three years if the firm puts in place a compliance program satisfactory to the World Bank.
Ø Cavite Ideal International Construction and Development Corp. and CM Pancho Construction, Inc. were each debarred for four years. In the case of each firm, the debarment can be reduced or terminated after two years if that firm puts in place a compliance program satisfactory to the World Bank.

Another firm, Dongsung Construction Co. Ltd. (Dongsung) was separately debarred in August 2008 for four years for fraudulent and corrupt practices in relation to the NRIMP 1 case, with the debarment subject to reduction or termination after two years if the firm puts in place a compliance program satisfactory to the World Bank. Dongsung did not contest the accusations brought against it in the Notice initiating the Bank’s administrative sanctions proceedings, and the Sanctions Board, as required by the applicable Sanctions Procedures in any uncontested proceeding, imposed the sanction recommended by the Bank’s Evaluation and Suspension Officer (EO) in the Notice without review of the case.

The sanctioned entities will have their names listed on the World Bank’s website for the full extent of the sanctioned period and will be ineligible to bid on World Bank Group contracts during this period.

James Adams, World Bank Vice President for East Asia, said, “Misuse of public money is a problem for everyone. It deprives the poorest people of the development funds that are so vitally needed and it undermines public confidence in public and private institutions. This case shows our processes working as they should: we detected the possibility of collusion early, we took action to investigate, we worked with the Government of the Philippines to strengthen anti-corruption controls in the next phase of the project and after an extensive and fair process, we have sanctioned the parties involved.”

NRIMP was designed to assist the Philippines Government to upgrade its roads network and was partially financed by a $150 million loan from the World Bank. It aimed not just to build roads, but also to address weaknesses in project management, so that future roads projects would deliver more benefit at lower cost. As a result of NRIMP 1, which closed in March 2007, 1,400 kilometers of roads were built or resurfaced and management of money for roads within the Department of Public Works and Highways was improved. The second phase of the program, which is now underway, has been designed with even tighter anti-corruption mechanisms, including independent procurement evaluation, stronger internal controls and oversight of road construction by a civil society group known as “Road Watch”.

The World Bank revised its sanctions procedures in 2006 to allow the Bank to deal with fraud and corruption cases more efficiently. In the first tier of the process, the Bank’s EO reviews the case brought by INT against a respondent, determines whether or not there is sufficient evidence to support the accusations and recommends an appropriate sanction. The EO may also temporarily suspend the firm from bidding during the sanctions process. If a firm chooses not to contest the accusations against it within 90 days, the Sanctions Board will then impose the recommended sanction. If a firm disputes the findings, the Sanctions Board will review the firm’s response and INT’s rejoinder and then makes a decision. If a hearing is requested, the Sanctions Board will allow INT and the firm to argue the case orally before taking a decision.

As a result of the temporary suspensions issued by the Bank’s EO against all the entities in July 2008, the companies were prevented from participating in World Bank Group-financed activities pending the outcome of the Sanctions Board proceeding.

Based on INT investigations, the World Bank has since 1999 debarred 351 firms and individuals for their involvement in fraud and corruption in Bank-financed projects.
Both President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and First Gentleman Mike Arroyo are testing the nadirs attained by  Ferdinand and Imelda  Marcos respectively, craven avarice and power madness.

World Bank Corruption Scandal Could Blow Up In Palace's Face

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has decided to thumb her nose at institutions like the World Bank and the Philippine Senate on the matter of those blacklisted construction firms now also linked to First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. The Palace has flatly rejected Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago's call for the sacking of Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, and Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., for their failure to act on the World Bank's November, 2007 advisory against those firms. The development is a serious break with a key admin ally in the Senate, and the World Bank issue is not the only thing roiling Senate waters. The Palace Boys have to be careful with this one. The World Bank is not one of our cuckolded institutions, like the Philippine House and Senate. It has a long institutional memory, and CORRUPTION could stick to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo like a bad case of acne for the rest of her life. Over at Filipino Voices, Ding Gagelonia has the ball on this one.
The Daily Tribune has the story on the continuing saga of JocJoc Bolante, Jimmy Paule and the Gang involved in the 728 million peso Fertilizer Fund Scam. Looks like these folks are facing plunder charges.
Twenty three years later, SCoRP rules on a 1985 case! For some reason "better late than never" would be a cruel consuelo de bobo.


The music in this photo essay on Mayoyao's harvest rituals and rice terraces by GMA TV News is hypnotic. But where, o where, is our modern Masferre?

Stay tuned!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Quote of the Day -- from Fertilizer Fund Scam Hearing

From Senate President JUAN PONCE ENRILE in today's Fertilizer Fund Scam hearings, after hearing a series of incredible denials by JIMMY PAULE, (who seems destined to go to jail for plunder with JocJoc Bolante in this long-running scandal)...JPE describes Paule in Tagalog thus:

"Madulas ka talaga, Mr. Paule, parang "PALOS"
["You are really slippery, MR. PAULE, like a "LARGE SLIPPERY EEL"]

I'd forgotten or never knew that "palos" is the Tagalog word for a large slippery eel. Hearing it at the Blue Ribbon Hearing today was doubly rewarding as it was wielded by no less than the Senate President to describe the dapper Jimmy Paule one of the likely principals of the Fertilizer Fund Scam. Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Dick Gordon says the Senate is formally recommending the filing of plunder charges against former Agriculture Undersecretary Joc Joc Bolante.

The Greening of Nuclear Energy

It appears the Filipino People own a 620 Megawatt Nuclear Reactor that could significantly help to light up the dark alleys and decrepit neighborhoods of the Metro Manila and surrounding provinces.  I'm covering new developments involving the irrationally mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant over at Filipino Voices in Harnessing the Secret of the Stars. But just guess who is against this idea. Take one guess...
One aspect of nuclear energy I did not really tackle in the FV post is the question of the environmental impacts on Global Warming of an electric power generation strategy based on nuclear fission or nuclear fusion technologies. In Ten Myths About Nuclear Power Spiked
one discovers some surprising tidbits:
The OECD analysed the total lifetime releases of GHG from energy technologies and concluded that, taking into account mining of building materials, construction and energy production, nuclear is still a ‘lower carbon’ option than wind, solar or hydroelectric generation. For example, during its whole life cycle, nuclear power releases three to six grams of carbon per kiloWatthour (GC kWh) of electricity produced, compared with three to 10 GC/kWh for wind turbines, 105 GC/kWh for natural gas and 228 GC/kWh for lignite (‘dirty’ coal) (6).

An important concern has been nuclear weapons proliferation due to large scale nuclear power plant construction.  Paradoxically, there is an argument that says the opposite effect would be achieved!
More nuclear plants (in Britain and elsewhere) would actually reduce weapons proliferation. Atomic warheads make excellent reactor fuel; decommissioned warheads (containing greatly enriched uranium or plutonium) currently provide about 15 per cent of world nuclear fuel (19). Increased demand for reactor fuel would divert such warheads away from potential terrorists. Nuclear build is closely monitored by the IAEA, which polices anti-proliferation treaties.
But the Catholic Bishops are just plain wrong on this. Whatever happened to Satan? Why pick on poor nuclear energy?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tempest Over Kisay

REYNA ELENA, while cautiously whistling past the Valley Golf and Blogging Club,  points to those four Quezon City High School ("Kisay") students who have been suspended apparently for blogging against their Principal.  The blog God Save Scientia!  contains links to three other posts, and lively comment threads discussing the issue. I don't normally do tempests in teapots (or science high schools), except there is a literate intensity and fervour-burning evident in the posts and comment threads on both sides of the issue of whether Principal Sadsad ought to stay or go.  I suppose it's good practice for these young bloggers -- for when they have to go after Bigger Fish in Philippine society.  

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Nine Months Before 911

FATHUR ROHMAN AL GHOZI, the Al Qaeda-trained Indonesian explosives expert, was arrested on Jan. 15, 2002 for a series of deadly blasts at three separate locations in Manila that became known as the Rizal Day 2000 Bombings.  While in custoday, he revealed to authorities (possibly under torture or mind bending OPM music) the location of high explosive caches amounting to over a ton of Bali-type mass destruction. He was killed in Mindanao three months after escaping from the "High Security" detention facility of the Intelligence Services of the AFP (then led by Victor Corpus) -- by reportedly bribing his jail guards and jumping the fence to a waiting taxi outside.  Today, three of his henchmen and co-conspirators heard that they are about to become permanent residents of the New Bilibid Prison (Muntinglupa).
MANILA, Philippines – A Manila court on Friday sentenced three men to serve 20 to 40 years in prison for killing 22 people and wounding about a hundred others in the Rizal Day bombings in Metro Manila in December 2000.In a 74-page decision, Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 29 Presiding Judge Cielito Menaro Grulla declared Saifulla Yunos alias Mukhlis Yuno, Abdul Fatak Paute, and Mamasao Naga guilty of multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder, and multiple attempted murder.
The following scary thought occurs to me.  Perhaps the "Rizal Day Bombings" were really just dry runs for a one kiloton blast.    Did we dodge a Bali-type bullet in 2000, or what?  This would certainly fit the pattern of the foreign terrorist personalities that have been in Manila and used it as a testbed for various methods of terrorist attack.  Who am I referring to?  The most notorious of course are Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his nephew Ramzi Youssef--of the second and first World Trade Center attacks, respectively.

There could now be some second thoughts and second guessing on President Obama's ordered closure of the Guantanamo Bay facility within a year, with the not entirely unexpected development that  former Gitmo inmate  has reportedly "returned to the battlefield" and has become al Qaeda's deputy in Yemen.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

World Bank Acts on Philippine-China Corruption

This was a stunning act by the World Bank that is nonetheless most welcome since  under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo the Philippines has sunk to the cellar of corruption in Asia.

The World Bank had been investigating a very serious case of corrupt collusion by companies and individuals in China and the Philippines since 2003 in connection with a road building project it had funded to the tune of $150 million. I am sure that the World Bank investigators were particularly irked and spurred to complete their investigation after they saw what happened with that coverup of the ZTE-NBN deal last year, in which SCoRP shamelessly did the dishonors of saving their Mistress from yet another sensational and clear-cut case of bribery and corruption at the highest levels. Here is NASDAQ coverage of this development:

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- The World Bank on Wednesday blacklisted seven firms and one individual for alleged collusion in a Philippine roads project funded by the bank, including several companies owned by the Chinese government.

Following a major investigation spanning several years by the Integrity Vice Presidency, the World Bank found evidence of a "major cartel involving and international firms bidding on contracts," it said in a release.

That led to four Chinese state-run firms being barred for the first time from doing business with the World Bank for a period of between five and eight years - the China Road and Bridge Corp., China State Construction Corp., China Wu Yi Co. Ltd. and China Geo-Engineering Corp.

A Philippine firm E.C. de Luna Construction Corp. and its owner, Eduardo C. de Luna, were each banned indefinitely. Two other Philippine companies, Cavite Ideal International Construction and Development Corp. and CM Pancho Construction Inc., were each barred for four years.

"This is one of our most important and far-reaching cases, and it highlights the effectiveness of the World Bank's investigative and sanctions process," said Leonard McCarthy, vice president of the World Bank Integrity department, in the statement.

The investigation began in 2003 after the World Bank team grew suspicious about collusion in the bidding process for a contract during the first phase of the Philippines National Roads Improvement and Management Program. The road improvement program was partially financed by a $150 million World Bank loan, though none of the sanctioned firms received any money.

In August 2008, the inquiry led the bank to ban a South Korean firm working on the roads project, Dongsung Construction Co. Ltd., for four years.

-By Tom Barkley, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9275;
In combination with that other sensational scandal, the ZTE NBN deal gone sour in the glare of publicity and Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings, the present indefinite ban on  firms on either side of the China Pond is major blackeye for President Arroyo who has effectively been referred to by Barack Obama in connection with corruption.

Earth Calling Angelo T. Reyes...

Manuel L. Quezon III notes the apparent scarcity of liquefied petroleum gas and rising prices. Well in his Grand Tour of the various positions in the Cabinet, GMA's most untouchable crony, Angelo T. Reyes is currently Energy Secretary , her durable partner in the 2001 Coup d'etat ala menage a trois with Hilario G. Davide Jr., is again lost in the space where wander all the derelicts-in-duty. He's probably admiring his smart salute in some well-lit bathroom mirror of a fancy restaurant that only uses electric cooking ranges. At least Davide, destroyer of the Constitutional order, left the country. Though he's doing the cocktail circuit in New York and enjoying the opera with nary a twinge of conscience.

Gloria Should Feel Referred To

From the inaugural speech of Barack Obama, many are picking up this quote [via MLQ3 and John Nery]
To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

Considering that the Philippines is considered the most corrupt country in Asia, Gloria should feel referred to.

Whitewash at Justice

In the wake of the Ayala Alabang Boys drug controversy, the Dept. of Justice under Sec. Raul Gonzalez cleared itself recently of any wrong doing, using its subordinate department, the National Bureau of Investigation to even threaten Major Ferdinand Marcelino of the PDEA drug agency with "obstruction of justice."  Well my title shows what many think is actually going on here.   Hit with the observation that the NBI is completely in his control, the admin attack dog is doing a misdirection play with Resado's bank account here. 

Now here is some fresh dynamite from PDEA: politicos are into the drug trade to raise campaign funds.

Impeach the Crony Ombudsman

OMBUDSMAN MERCEDITAS GUTIERREZ deserves to be impeached for a whole series of derelictions of duty in filing cases against corrupt officials of the Arroyo administration. In the latest development Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Dick Gordon is castigating the crony Ombudsman for failing to file charges against Joc Joc Bolante in connection with the huge scandal involving a fertilizer fund scam that he ran on her behalf in 2004.

Ermita: "Barack Should Learn From Gloria"

ha he hi ho hu! 
(Early morning comedy via GMA TV News)

Even admin ally Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago found Executive Secretary Ed Ermita's remarks impossible to accept. Methinks, the avuncular presidential aide is getting soft in the head. But if Gloria does have lessons for Barack--they are all by negative example!

Sullivan Asks: Barack W. Obama?

Andrew Sullivan points to Jon Stewart's take on President Barack Obama's Inaugural Address.

Reality bites back. America's interests and America's values have not changed with the election of Barack Obama. However, we may hope that they will come into much closer concordance with each other under this president and his leadership. I do not give Barack Obama the benefit of any doubt. But I give him my wholehearted support.

My recent post at Filipino Voices is America the Corrigble.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

America the Corrigible

[Cross-posting at Filipino Voices...]
If I were asked to name the strength or virtue of American civilization that I admire the most, I would immediately say it is corrigibility, the ability to recognize, rectify and learn from one's mistakes. Speaking of which, George W. Bush has reached his last day in office--which began on Saturday, 20 January 2001. By coincidence that was exactly the same day that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was illegitimately sworn in as President in the middle of a Senate Impeachment Trial by someone wearing the costume of the Chief Justice of SCoRP in front of a graven idol of Mama Mary and the hooting throng of Edsa Dos. Some would say GWB was also shoe-horned into office by SCotUS, but at least that happened in a proper judicial case brought before the honorable court.

Sto. Nino de Bernas, Conyo

This essay has also been posted at Filipino Voices today.

[R-18: Please do not touch me if for some reason you find a discussion of wooden, costumed idols personally offensive. More so avoid it, if you find a discussion of human, costumed idols offensive.]

Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J. was wearing his friar's zuccheto, a touch akimbo, in yesterday's column about the Sto. Nino feast and Chief Justice Reynato Puno where he says,
"The feast of the Sto. Niño reminds us that the earliest preachers of Christian values were lay soldiers...More than that, however, it is also a reminder that the destiny of this nation depends very much on the restoration and the strengthening of the values which Christianity first planted in the Philippines—the values of honesty, morality and love of neighbor."

One is forced to ask in all earnestness and concern: Does the good Father Bernas believe that before Christianity was planted in the Philippines that there were no honest and moral human beings who felt love for their neighbor?? Before the Catholic Taliban arrived, were we all dishonest, immoral savages, with hatred and enmity in our wild hearts?

Fray Bernas' entire rhetorical point in this column resides in a simile between Reynato Puno and famous "lay soldiers", in particular, Ferdinand Magellan--to prove the admirable point that laymen can be moral leaders too and it is not only to the Catholic Bishops that we ought to look for such leadership.

The unfortunate thing for Fray Bernas' simile is that Chief Justice Reynato Puno becomes the Right Reverend Reynato Puno every Sunday, when HE puts on the costume of a Methodist Minister! How do we know this? Well read Reynato Puno's speech at Siliman University where he mentions his Sunday morning activities.

Fray Bernas parabolically compares Chief Justice Puno first to St. John Baptist (who was the cousin of Jesus Christ, and therefore the Nephew of God the Father.) Then, lightly skipping over the Holy Roman Empire and the Dark Ages to around 1521, he finds traces of Ferdinand Magellan in the character and agenda of Reynato Puno's call for moral leaders to lift their "veil of invisiblity"
Magellan was met by King Humabon and his family, his courtiers and his followers. Filled with missionary zeal, Magellan preached to them about accepting Christianity. In their simplicity they responded and many of the natives were baptized together with the royal family.

On this occasion, as was the practice of conquistadors, Magellan left gifts behind. It is almost certain that one gift he offered was an image of the Sto. Niño.

That was in 1521. But as we know Magellan and his crew were driven away by the natives.

Well this is definitely one for the Textbook Crusaders like Antonio Calipje Go! Listen to what AMBETH OCAMPO says in his column of 14 January 2009:
Humabon Conversion Wasn't For Religion!
Historically, the image of the Santo Niño venerated in Cebu is the oldest image in the Philippines, unless this is challenged by the image of the Virgin of Ermita that was also found or “recovered” in the islands by the Legaspi expedition in the 16th century. The image of the Santo Niño was presented to the wife of Rajah Humabon when she was baptized in 1521. She was shown a crucifix and an image of the Virgin Mary but the Queen of Cebu, who was baptized and given the name Juana, was attracted to the Santo Niño and asked for it. Magellan was happy to part with it and after the Battle of Mactan, the Santo Niño remained in Cebu and was found by one of Legazpi’s men in 1565. We will go into the historical details about the Santo Niño in a succeeding column because when I re-read the account of the conversion of Humabon, as narrated by Antonio Pigafetta, chronicler of the Magellan expedition, I realized there was nothing religious about it at all. Magellan threatened the “heathens” who refused to be converted with bodily harm; on the other hand, he promised aid and power to the king so that the latter could subdue his enemies.

Pigafetta described Magellan and Humabon embracing and later sitting on chairs of red and violet with chieftains and other notables on cushions: “The captain told the king through the interpreter that he thanked God for inspiring him to become a Christian; and that (now) he would more easily conquer his enemies than before. The king replied that he wished to become a Christian, but that some of his chiefs did not wish to obey.… Then our captain had all the chiefs of the king called, and told them that, unless they obeyed the king as their king, he would have them killed, and would give their possessions to the king.… The captain told the king that he was going to Spain but that he would return again with so many forces, that he would make him the greatest king of those regions, as he had been the first to express a determination to become a Christian.”

I have not read myself Pigafetta's diary of the Magellan voyage. But I think Ambeth's interpretation, based on just such a direct reading is more true-to-life. The boastful Magellan had convinced Humabon he would take care of Lapu-lapu. Instead he was, in the understatement of Fray Bernas, "driven away by the natives."

However, Magellan's death at the hands of Lapu-lapu is definitely proof-positive that he was an honorable man and that his pledge to Humabon to defeat his enemies was in earnest (after all he had threatened Humabon with the same if he did not convert!) Thus, when the survivors of the expedition (who had been dirven away by the natives) limped back to Spain and forty years later Miguel Lopez de Legaspi came calling, what should he find but the emblem of Magellan's compact with Humabon, the miraculous wooden idol, the Sto. Nino de Bernas, err, Cebu.

Now of course, Joaquin Bernas is better known as a "Constitutional Expert" and Dean of the Ateneo de Manila Law School, if I am not mistaken. He should stick to that and avoid trying to become a Catechism-cum-History teacher because this is most undignified and embarrassing for him. Why he mounted such a pathetic attempt to explain that it is okay for laymen to call for moral regeneration, is beyond my powers of Ignatian discernment. Does he really think the Catholic Church represents "moral leadership" to the Filipinos when their entire appreciation of History and their role in it is perverse and conceited.

But with the Swinging Door of Observation slightly ajar, let me call everybody's attention to the fact that although both Bernas and Ocampo are OpEd columnists, they are both widely cited as authoritative references by teachers and textbooks. But I wager that Bernas' take on Magellan will miseducate many more Filipinos about their history than Ambeth Ocampo's allergy-ridden sojourns into dusty libraries could ever remold. PDI's website claims millions of readers daily, both online and in print.

Sto. Nino de Bernas, conyo!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

SCoRP: Outpouring of Support for Chief Justice Puno

The Supreme Court webmaster is working overtime with this breathless email and post that has gone out to all correspondents in the wake of rumors that Chief Justice Reynato Puno may be impeached or otherwise ousted from his position:
Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno today was visited by “Running Priest” Fr. Robert Reyes who joined the men and women of the Judiciary, private individuals, and multi-sectoral groups who have expressed their full support for the chief magistrate and appealed that he and the Supreme Court be spared from politics.

Fr. Reyes, who runs to bring attention to his advocacies, prayed for Chief Justice Puno inside the chief magistrate’s chambers. Fr. Reyes was with the farmers-group Ugnayan ng mga Nagsasariling Lokal na Organisasyon ng Mamamayan sa Kanayunan-Southern Tagalog (UNORKA-Southern Tagalog), one of the multi-sectoral groups which manifested support for Chief Justice Puno. The group presented Chief Justice Puno with a letter written in Filipino expressing their full and unwavering support for him.

In separate manifestos of support, the Philippine Judges Association (PJA), the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, and the Las Piñas City Judges Association expressed their unqualified and unwavering support for Chief Justice Puno in face of reports saying that the chief magistrate is in danger of being impeached by Congress over the alleged non-promulgation of a purported SC decision in the case of Biraogo v. Nograles and Limkaichong, a case questioning the qualification as to citizenship of Representative-elect Jocelyn LImkaichong. They denounced the alleged threats to oust Chief Justice Puno.

Aside from the issuance of a manifesto of support for Chief Justice Puno, the Metropolitan and City Judges Association of the Philippines (MeTCJAP), headed by its Executive Vice-President Judge Jaime B. Santiago of the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court, stated that it will hold an emergency meeting this Friday to discuss its course of action. In a statement, MeTCJAP said that it “sees the recent events as a political maneuver to destroy the integrity of the Chief Justice and the institution he is representing as a whole.”

PJA President Antonio M. Eugenio, Jr., in a statement, said that the PJA is “opposing any ‘contrived plot’ against Chief Justice Puno and any attempt to oust him before he retires in May 2010” and that the Judiciary “should be spared from ‘partisan manipulations.’”

“The PJA calls upon everyone to observe the Rule of Law, not to callously trample upon it for self-serving aims or purposes. More importantly, the PJA makes known its intentions that all legal measures and stops will be taken in order to see to it that the herein support being extended to Chief Justice Puno will be put into further action, if need be,” said the PJA. The PJA, an organization of around 900 RTC Judges nationwide, said that the attempt to impeach Chief Justice Puno is “a sickening reflection of how low ‘power-hungry’ individuals would go in order to put [the chief magistrate] in a bad light and promote their ‘sinister agenda.’”
The judges and employees of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila dismissed as “unfounded and baseless” the accusations against Chief Justice Puno. “We extol the Honorable Chief Justice in his efforts to cleanse the Judiciary, and we urge the citizenry to support him in this endeavor,” the manifesto stated.

The RTC of Manila underscored that Chief Justice Puno “has shown his integrity, uprightness, independence, impartiality, industry, and competence, with the decisions he has rendered, and his unblemished record, free from influence and corruption.” They commended Chief Justice Puno for initiating judicial reforms to win the trust and confidence of the general public.
The Las Piñas City Judges Association echoed the sentiments of the PJA that Chief Justice Puno should be spared from partisan manipulations. It described the alleged ouster move as among the “scandalous efforts…being exerted by seemingly ill-minded individuals to promote their political agency at the expense of every democratic institution in the country.” It vowed to take all legal measures and steps to ensure that its support to Chief Justice Puno will be put into action if the need arises.

Chief Justice Puno has also received letters of support from private law firms, including the Chua Law Office, expressing their support and deploring the ouster allegations. They also volunteered to act as counsel for the chief magistrate.
Hmmm, I wonder what ethical codes the SCoRP website adheres to? Clearly the Chief Justice enjoys the adoring support of this department.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Exposing the Half Truths Peddled About Mother Tongue Instruction

Blackshama's post on multilingualism started this topic off at FV, so my article today at Filipino Voices is on UNESCO and the "scientific research" it has conducted over the years on "mother tongue instruction" which is at the heart of a re-ignited controversy over "medium of instruction" in the public schools. In it I expose how ideologues posing as nationalists have presented a remarkably one-sided version of the Unesco findings, which are distinctively politicized to begin with, but which are still far more balanced about the use of mother tongues as media of instruction, noting huge practical, logistical and intellectual resource problems with mother tongue instruction on a large scale in a poor country. By ignoring or even covering up these well-documented problems and tall hurdles in establishing a givenmother tongue as fully functional medium of instruction, local advocates have thus manufactured a fake 'scientific controvery' against the use of English as a medium of instruction by citing "across the board studies" and "scientific evidence" for the singular benefits of using mother tongue instruction. They are careful never to cite the Unesco sources of their familiarity with these studies, because these studies also explicitly lay out the difficulties and pitfalls of using mother tongue instruction in public schools.

TOWER OF BABEL They are insisting on a multi-lingual education policy, similar to Senator Nene Pimentel's proposals for up to ten languages to be used as official media of instruction, thus requiring textbooks, teacher's guides and instruction materials in Reading, Writing and 'Rithmetic --to be rendered in Iloko, Pangalatok, Kapampangan, Tagalog, Bicolano, Waray, Binisaya, Tausug, Maranon, as well as English and the mythical Pfilipino national language. One might think, naively, that it would be just a matter of translating say an existing English textbook into these dialects. Even if it were, and publishers and authors will tell you that it ain't, there are further difficulties involving qualified instructors, linguistic experts and reviewers in obscure or little used dialects, which however cannot be treated as second class baggage and be ignored or neglected.

What has emerged is this: fifty years of research shows that mother tongue instruction has its pluses and minuses, that children do learn faster, at least initially, in a language used at home, compared to some strange foreign tongue. But there is huge conceptual and logical leap from this commonsensical and plausible notion to the insinuation that ANY mother tongue is a suitable and wise choice for use as medium of instruction for 25 million public school students studying 5 different subjects (Math, Science, Makabayan, English and Pilipino) at ten different levels (Grades 1-6 and High School I-IV) spread out over 40,000 barangays in an archipelago with 170 ethnologically recognized living languages spoken by what will soon be 100 million human beings.

The House is about to pass overwhelmingly HB 5619 -- An Act Strengthening and Enhancing the Use of English as Medium of Instruction -- authored by Cebu Rep. Ed Gullas. But the bill is being opposed by ideological heavyweights in media and academe. Lately it has become the mantra of a certain genre of propaganda that using English is a form of colonial mentality and that we ought to use our various "mother tongues" instead as medium of instruction. For example, in its editorial, King's English, PDI says

To be sure, the state should be in the business of looking for the best way to effectively transmit knowledge in its education system. But studies across the board show that the mother tongue is the best conveyor of instruction.

To some extent, the Gullas bill recognizes the above. It gives schools the option to use English, Filipino or the regional language as the teaching language from pre-school up to Grade 3. But from the intermediate grades up to high school, English will be the teaching language, except in Filipino as a course.

Just the same, the bill’s “English myopia” is hegemonic, and overlooks scientific evidence showing the mother tongue to be the best medium of instruction."
Now, it has always puzzled me that those who have been making these claims never cite the original sources of this "scientific evidence" or the "across the board studies" that established the Mother Tongue Hypothesis. Now I know why--because I believe I have discovered the Mother Lode of that "evidence" for the benefits of Mother Tongue instruction in this position paper (PDF) by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco). Published in 2003, it reprises fifty years of Unesco research into mother tongue instruction and related language issues in education worldwide.

And indeed, we find in the Unesco documents substantial confirmation of the claims being made by PDI and the supporters of mother tongue instruction here in the Philippines. And more...much more! Because in this very same paper, in the very same section that praises the benefits of mother tongue instruction we also find,-- lo and behold! -- substantial objections and caveats to mother tongue instruction that are not mentioned by the PDI editorial. Here is an extended excerpt from the Unesco PDF which gives a far more balanced view of the use of first language or mother tongue instruction:

Mother tongue instruction generally refers to the use of the learners’ mother tongue as the medium of instruction. Additionally, it can refer to the mother tongue as a subject of instruction. It is considered to be an important component of quality education, particularly in the early years. The expert view is that mother tongue instruction should cover both the teaching of and the teaching through this language.

The term ‘mother tongue’, though widely used, may refer to several different situations. Definitions often include the following elements: the language(s)that one has learnt first; the language(s) one identifies with or is identified as a native speaker of by others; the language(s) one knows best and the language(s) one uses most. ‘Mother tongue’ may also be referred to as ‘primary’ or ‘first language’. The term ‘mother tongue’ is commonly used in policy statements and in the general discourse on educational issues. It is retained in this document for that reason, although it is to be noted that the use of the term ‘mother tongue’ often fails to discriminate between all the variants of a language used by a native speaker, ranging from hinterland varieties to urban-based standard languages used as school mother tongue. A child’s earliest first-hand experiences in native speech do not necessarily correspond to the formal school version of the so-called mother tongue.

It is an obvious yet not generally recognized truism that learning in a language which is not one’s own provides a double set of challenges, not only is there the challenge of learning a new language but also that of learning new knowledge contained in that language. These challenges may be further exacerbated in the case of certain groups are already in situations of educational risk or stress such as illiterates, minorities and refugees. Gender considerations cross cut these situations of educational risk, for girls and women may be ina particularly disadvantaged position. In most traditional societies, it is the girls and women who tend to be monolingual, being less exposed either through schooling, salaried labour, or migration to the national language, than their sons, brothers or husbands. Studies have shown that, in many cases, instruction in the mother tongue is beneficial to language competencies in the first language, achievement in other subject areas, and second language learning.


The application of the principle of mother tongue instruction nevertheless is far from being the rule. Some of the difficulties encountered by the use of mother tongues as languages of instruction may include the following:
_sometimes the mother tongue may be an unwritten language;
_sometimes the language may not even be generally recognized
as constituting a legitimate language;
_the appropriate terminology for education purposes may still have
to be developed;
_there may be a shortage of educational materials in the language;
_the multiplicity of languages may exacerbate the difficulty
of providing schooling in each mother tongue;
_there may be a lack of appropriately trained teachers;
_there may be resistance to schooling in the mother tongue by the students, parents and teachers.
ETHNOLOGUE claims that there are 1 71 living and 4 extinct languages in the Philippine Archipelago, and lists each one along with the estimated number of active speakers. These are the MOTHER TONGUES of the various tribes of the Filipinos, some with millions like Cebuano and Tagalog, others with just a few hundred, like Agta-Aeta, or a few hundred thousand like the Spanish-based pidgin, Chavacano. Please peruse the's fascinating!

In the Comment Thread to our colleague Blackshama's post on this topic, I already mentioned my own independently conceived objections to the Mother Tongue Hypothesis, including that the medium of instruction ought to be a written language and that the Philippines lacks the resources, both material and human, to support a plethora of mother tongues being used as media of instruction.

So I am gratified to now be able to say, just like PDI, that there is scientific evidence to support my objections to their position. In fact that scientific evidence is the same source of their scientific evidence in support of the mother tongue instruction.

Except I am presenting ALL of Unesco's scientific evidence!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Black Nazarene Goes to Mindanao...Ngek!

First let me say, I am glad to see that the religious impressarios organizing the annual Black Nazareno procession wisely decided to move its usually crowd-lethal starting point to the Luneta since fatalities and injuries had been multiplying in the last few years. On second thought, I detest the idea that they chose the Luneta. Methinks the Catholic Bishops and the Philippine Daily Innuendo were actually rubbing salt in the wounds of the Other Hero and Martyr there present. Frankly, if I were to succumb to the Mass Idolatry on offer, I would pick the German-made graven image in stone, not the Mexican Wooden Indio pretending to be the Son of God in Pinoy drag.

What were we just talking about on Rizal Day?
As the Catholic Taliban Sing Hallelujah!

But listen to this, folks...The Roman Catholic Church of the Philippines has recently cloned the original and true miraculous wooden idol called the Black Nazarene of Quiapo--a kind of graven image of a graven image--and sent it off to Cagayan de Oro because "there are so many devotees there". At a time when all-out war is being threatened if not quite carried out by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, honestly folks, how smart of an idea IS this??

Video Embed Courtesy of GMANews.TV


The Catholic Bishops seems blithely oblivious to effects of their actions in this matter, claiming "Cagayan de Oro welcomes the Black Nazareno."

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, January 8, 2009─ The archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro welcomed the pilgrim image of Black Nazarene accompanied by seven members of the Hijos del Nazareno from the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo last January 5.

The pilgrim image of the famous icon arrived in Cagayan de Oro City at about 7 a.m. last Monday aboard Air Force C-130.
So let me get this straight...there is now a PILGRIM IMAGE of the Black Nazarene and a FAMOUS ICON STAY AT HOME Black Nazarene...both channeling the Son of God with equal transmittivity...
Best photography of the event seems to be at linophotography.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gonzalez Should Apologize to Marcelino

SECRETARY RAUL GONZALEZ was full of it to overflowing yesterday when he browbeat PDEA's Major Ferdinand Marcelino at the House hearing on the Alabang Boys Bribery scandal. He accused Marcelino of making war on the Alabang drug pushers "just like you did in Basilan"--referring snidely and snivellingly to the young major's honorable Marine service fighting Abu Sayyaf and MILF insurgents in Mindanao. Maybe it was Marcelino's association with Magdalo, but Sec. Gonzalez does not realize he has simultaneously defended both drug pushers in Alabang and insurgent beheaders in Basilan whilst casting undeserved aspersions on the law enforcers and Marine soldiers fighting the same with dedication and self-sacrifice. By implying there was something wrong with Marcelino's service in both struggles, the SoJ dishonors the sacrifice of those fallen and still fighting in those arenas. What an SoB. Then, when Major Marcelino replied, most respectfully, that the war in Mindanao was very different from the Ayala Alabang buy-bust operation, that he was only doing his job as a Marine and a PDEA agent, Gonzalez popped a vein and artery, exploding angrily, with eyes like a croc in the headlights, shaking and ululating, "Don't you dare talk to me like that!" Well what a prickly situation SOJ Gonzalez is in, after all. Right there under the Skirts of Lady Justice, in the very shadow her mighty and awesome Sword, under the supervision of the dapper and debonaire Sec. Raul Gonzalez, the bribery allegations are like a large lump of radioactive waste at his throat. What do we see but an earnest young soldier doing his Duty as he sees it, telling the Truth as knows it, only to be scolded by an apoplectic Goliath, for being spoken to "like that" .

Here Major, take these ball bearings for your slingshot...between the wild canine eyes with the hubristic glint and bared teeth would be good...and we'll make sure the Jerk at Justice gets spoken to "like that" for a while.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Crisp Salute to Major Ferdinand Marcelino

The House probe on the Ayala Alabang Boys Drug-Bribery Case has just gone into Executive Session after an emotional testimony by members of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, led by Director Gen. Dionisio Santiago and the arresting team leader, Major Ferdinand Marcelino. The strong impression on the House Committee seems to be that if there are any villains here, they are at the Department of Justice, in the offices of Sec. Raul Gonzalez and Chief Prosecutor Jovencito Zuno. 

Among the revelations to emerge from the hearing came at the end in the form of information that the defense lawyer, a certain Atty. Felixberto Verano, was the professor of the chief investigating prosecutor Rizado at the FEU Law School--and that the Resolution dismissing the case may have been written by the professor and not the student.

This should be an interesting hearing tomorrow when the irascible administration attack dog, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, appears to explain why his Department looks like it is rotten from head to toe, why indeed all the little drug cases get prosecuted but the big fish all seem to get away.

Let it be said that in a way Major Marcelino is another J-Lo--another whistleblower who has suddenly become a vulnerable target for the sub rosa operations of a Mike Defensor, a Mike Arroyo, a Ronnie Puno.  

I hope the Congress ends up finally passing a proper Whistleblower Protection Law to aid, abet and safeguard these modern day law-enforcement heroes.

Major Marcelino is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy and is commissioned as a Marine officer.  


Pat Mangubat covers this story for Filipino Voices in The Truth About Alabang Druggies.

Monday, January 5, 2009

What Will Change Everything?

From EDGE DOT ORG comes the year's "big" question:

"What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?"

All the brilliant, clever, thoughtful answers from the world's thinkers are here. But posing the question contained this observation:
Through science we create technology and in using our new tools we recreate ourselves. But until very recently in our history, no democratic populace, no legislative body, ever indicated by choice, by vote, how this process should play out. Nobody ever voted for printing. Nobody ever voted for electricity. Nobody ever voted for radio, the telephone, the automobile, the airplane, television. Nobody ever voted for penicillin, antibiotics, the pill. Nobody ever voted for space travel, massively parallel computing, nuclear power, the personal computer, the Internet, email, cell phones, the Web, Google, cloning, sequencing the entire human genome. We are moving towards the redefinition of life, to the edge of creating life itself. While science may or may not be the only news, it is the news that stays news. And our politicians, our governments? Always years behind, the best they can do is play catch up.
For the Philippines, we could well ask the same question.


Ilustrados Bravos!

Bloggers are the New Ilustrados. Like our forefathers before us, who seized pen and ink and paper to make lethal weapons out of the strangest notions, we are story-tellers, we are pundits, we are dream catchers, we are bullshit detectors, we are critics and gossip-mongers. We are jesters, exiled to a vale of tears. We are sitters in catbird seats who would set the world on fire with the sounds and sparks of occasional genius. Ours, is the tintinnabulation, the tingog of voices raised in outrage or disdain. But as well, we are a cerebral zone where the loudest voices are the fittest, most viral ideas, most convincing of arguments, most irresistible rhetoric. There is nothing benign about us, for we are trouble makers, all of us. We are heretics to the various sects of political correctness, apostates from the cult of hypocrisy and innuendo. We are the carriers of mental virii. The kind that infect the brains of readers and listeners such that they cannot but think the thing their own and gladly, if secretly, surrender to the logic of being convinced, of being inspired and energized to act, to think, to feel. Or to violently disagree. But do it well, Blogger. Do it beautifully! For there is precious little bandwidth here for the trivial, the banal, the boring, the vain, the boorish, the abusive, the automatic. It is the fittest meme that will inherit the earth. Make yours so, give us your best, as we all plunge back into the common dream…


Saturday, January 3, 2009

From the Big Picture, here is a big roundup on the Financial Crisis, aptly titled: 2008, Annus Horribilis, R.I.P. It's painful reading, kinda like an autopsy...

Friday, January 2, 2009

My post at Filipino Voices this past week was on José Rizál:
As the Catholic Taliban Sing Hallelujah!
This is much more than the December 30 vs. June 12 matter...

I sorta miss leafing through the ole LIFE Magazine, capturing moments that would be etched in the memory of generations. Here is the year 2008 distilled in a series of amazing photographs at Boston Dot Com with that "lifelike" look and feel.

Were the mammoths killed off by a comet or asteroid impact too? Scientific American reports on the discovery of nanodiamonds from 12,000 years ago that suggest this possibility.

Yeah, I say, kill'em all, nasty bloodsuckers!

Things are really getting messy (and exciting!) in cosmology and astronomy, what with the totally mysterious "dark matter" and "dark energy" phenomena sneaking up on everybody all of a sudden. Now, it appears as if the Universe is lopsided...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year To One And All!