Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Internet Hoaxes and Legends in PDI Editorial

PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER won't be feeling much Pride over its Editorial today after folks in the Blogosphere and the Email Mills have a look at the claimed Filipino inventions, which are really old-hat hoaxes and recycled urban legends familiar to many who are Online--
We can take pride in our inventors, one of whom, Eduardo C. San Juan, designed the lunar rover, more popularly known as the moon buggy. It made possible a wide-ranging exploration of the moon’s surface during the 1971 Apollo lunar mission. Among other Filipino inventions that are benefiting thousands, if not millions of people all over the world, are the incubator, the fluorescent lamp, the videophone, the one-man-band organ (that led eventually to the development of the karaoke), the bread toaster, the reflectorized circular lamp and the power tiller.
The bread toaster? Hmm, even Google doesn't seem to know the answer to that one! I never thought I would publish a line like the following in Philippine Commentary, but it's called for:


This is even worse than when the Manila Times published front page stories last year that a UP Professor working for the paper had won the Nobel Prize in Physics for disproving the 1991 proof of Fermat's Last Theorem due to Andrew Wiles, (a mathematics problem!). At least that hoax was quickly exposed with a few quick checks on the right websites. But it was a hoax the paper never acknowledged they were stung by. PDI's claims are perhaps too easy to spread before they can be refuted.

Maybe PDI will be different. Maybe they will realize how stupid and ridiculous Filipinos will sound whenever they repeat the false claims they've just read in the nation's most widely read broadsheet. PDI is not a tabloid. It's as if the New York Times editorialized that the earth is flat and an American discovered it. (It's that ludicrous!)

Filipinos will only learn False Pride from this editorial.

That bit about E. San Juan "designing" the Lunar Exploratory Module represents an ignorant misunderstanding of the huge collective scientific, engineering and operational effort the Apollo Space Program of NASA was. It's been a myth in the making for well over a quarter of a century now. E. San Juan participated in the program along with many, many others. It is the naivete of nationalists eager to raise Filipinos up to greatness with false claims and urban legends. Tens of Thousands of physicists, engineers, aerodynamicists, material scientists and technicians of all kinds worked on Apollo. The LEM itself involved a whole specialized group that numbered hundreds of people. As for the incubator, the fluorescent lamp, the bread toaster, I must leave some of the task to many others online, who will grin again as we encounter the same reluctance to just G o o g l e things before someone publishes 300,000 copies of incredible Filipino "Pride"! Yet Filipinos the world over, as the rest of the editorial correctly points out, are great human beings worthy of the nations and communities in which they work. There was no need to embellish it all with urban legends and known email sludge. (Like that a Filipino named Flores invented the "fluorescent bulb". Get it?)

But of course the editorial continues the ceaseless mythologizing about "People Power" as a Filipino "invention." Which may have been the real point of the editorial exercise. I recommend reading The Paradox of People Power here at Philippine Commentary.

SPEAKING OF INVENTIONS: Check out Bill Gates' remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He argues for equipping the poor countries with cheap mobile phones (cell phones) as a means of delivering computer power. This, as opposed to John Negroponte's much discussed $100 laptop computer idea. There's a long thread at Memeorandum Tech on this topic. I say, give us both since the laptops are really best used as NODES in a network. The network may as well be wireless. Now here's where Filipinos have made real inventions of true benefit to mankind. Like Pasa Load -- the high technology of the tingi.

Thanks to Amadeo in the Comment Thread for this correction: It's NICHOLAS Negroponte involved with the $100 laptop at MIT.
(end of the day update).

Davide and Goliath: Trust, But Automate

LECTORAL REFORM is the daunting task that must be accomplished before the next national elections, which will be either the 2007 midterm elections or an historic plebiscite on a Fifth Philippine Constitution. Yet the task is like converting Goliath to the Jewish faith. Bible-thumping former Chief Justice Hilario Davide has been appointed by GMA to take it on. As things stand, Jose de Venecia's chacha will be allowed to make just enough political noise--pro and con--to drown out the Second Impeachment moves in the House. But it will likely be ditched by the Palace at the peak of public opposition to its absurd and impossible complexities, or after it has served its diversionary purposes, which ever comes first. The Palace, through Rick Saludo, made it crystal clear last week that Chacha is Congress' Baby. Essentially following suit while attracting the oblivious media with a stentorian yet hollow moralism, the Catholic Bishops have already washed their hands of direct responsibility by saying, "We'll kibitz and be on the right side in the end, but leave Politics to the Sanhedrin, our Kingdom is not of this Earth." (although they took longer saying it.) In fine, the Pastoral Letter was half Benedict's Encyclical and half PDI Editorial. It was made with a patent self-consciousness that every sentence was a potential headline, every phrase a pssible sound bite. The CBCP has become nothing more than the editorial board of Catholic Mass Media. They should win the annual award this year. Read the Pastoral Letter carefully -- it doesn't say what the big sensational headlines say. Cardinal Sin really is dead.

UPDATE: CBCP President Archbishop Angel Lagdameo is a Blogger. He has the Pastoral Statement up as his current posting and the Comment Thread is open.

16 MONTHS TO GO I will assume we must prepare for regular, national, senatorial elections in May, 2007 under the 1987 Charter -- barely 16 months away. (Maintain the status quo. That is the true interest of the Palace. Any change is a threat.) But the incumbent Comelec itself represents the biggest obstacle to electoral reform. Calls to impeach and punish Abalos and Co. for their gross failures in the preparation and conduct of the disastrous 2004 elections, in particular their failure to automate the registration, polling, counting and canvassing of the vote.

DAVIDE AND GOLIATH But newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer is very unhappy former Chief Justice Hilario Davide has accepted the job of Presidential Adviser on Electoral Reform under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. PDI is worried that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court they hailed as Person of the Year in 2001, will now become Window Dressing for GMA. In two editorials today, "Why DAVIDE?" and "WHY, Davide?", PDI first suggests ex-Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano would fit the bill better, being a plumber who knows where the pipes are buried and GMA's alleged voterigger in 2004. The second editorial however, is not so facetious. It expresses a pained disappointment that Hilario G. Davide, Jr. has accepted the position, where PDI believes he will just be "political window dressing" for the electoral reform initiatives of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The editorial moans,

For the record, we have no doubt that Davide, once the Inquirer’s Filipino of the Year, has the moral stature, the legal acumen and the executive experience the reform initiative needs. But above all else, election reform requires political will. As a mere presidential adviser, Davide can exercise none. That makes him mere political window dressing

NOT THE BIG APPLE? There were many rumors Davide wanted instead the highly desirable post as permanent U.N. Envoy in New York, but I am not at all surprised at this turn of events. Hilario Davide is "essential personnel" to GMA, especially this year, when she faces many legal challenges, including a Second Impeachment and the constitutionality of E.O. 464. He was there on the very first day she became President, he will most likely be there in the last days of her regime, whether it lasts or not, for he is, in an ineluctable sense, an integral part of that regime. His fate and that of GMA are inseparable because they are tied together by his most awesome Decisions -- our knowledge and understanding of which, only seems to improve with greater hindsight and historical perspective.

SEPARATE OPINION But in answer to the second editorial's question, "Why, Davide?" some interesting possibilities are suggested by the following Separate Opinion rendered by then Chief Justice Davide, who did not think the Court should have even taken up the case, which was eventually decided in favor of the plaintiff and whose decision was penned by now Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban -- when the Supreme Court killed the Comelec's Automated Counting System in ITF vs. Comelec.

Separate Opinion DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:

I join Mr. Justice Jose C. Vitug in his separate opinion and strongly recommend, for the reasons therein stated, that this case be DISMISSED.

Let me further add other compelling reasons which strengthen my view that this case should be dismissed.

The Court did not issue a Temporary Restraining Order in this case. This showed an initial finding that on its face the allegations in the petition were insufficient to justify or warrant the grant of a temporary restraining order. In the meantime then the parties were not barred from performing their respective obligations under the contract. As of today, the COMELEC has already paid a large portion of its contracted obligation and the private respondent has delivered the contracted equipment for automation. It is to be reasonably presumed that during the same period the COMELEC focused its attention, time and resources toward the full and successful implementation of the comprehensive Automated Election System for the May 2004 elections. Setting aside the contract in question at this late hour may have unsettling, disturbing and even destabilizing effect. For one, it will leave the COMELEC insufficient time to prepare for a non-automated electoral process, i.e., the manual process, which would necessarily include the acquisition of the security paper and the purchase of a “dandy roll” to watermark the ballot paper, printing of other election forms, as well as the bidding and acquisition of the ballot boxes. For another, the law on Automated Election System (R.A. 8436) and Executive Order No. 172 (24 January 2003) which allocated the sum of P2.5 Billion, and Executive Order No. 175 (10 February 2003) which allocated the additional sum of P500 Million for the implementation in the May 2004 elections of the Automated Election System would be put to naught as there is absolutely no more time to conduct a re-bidding.

Finally, there is no suggestion that graft and corruption attended the bidding process, or that the contract price is excessive or unreasonable. All that the petitioners claim is that “the bidding and the award process was fatally flawed. The public respondents acted without or excess of its jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it [sic] awarded the project.” It may be precipitate for this Court to declare void the contract in question.

Indeed in his Separate Opinion Justice Jose C. Vitug was practically scolding the Court for even taking on the ITF case:--
Justice Vitug: What appears to be a significant issue in the instant petition is the legality of respondent COMELEC’s award of the contract relative to the procurement of automated counting machines to respondent Mega Pacific under alleged questionable circumstances. The Supreme Court is not a trier of facts; indeed, a review of the evidence is not the proper office of a petition for certiorari, prohibition or mandamus.[3] These proceedings are availed of only when there can be no other plain, adequate and speedy remedy in the ordinary course of law.

In certiorari or prohibition, issues affecting the jurisdiction of the tribunal, board and officers involved may be resolved solely on the basis of undisputed facts.[4] The enormity of the factual disputes in the instant petition, among which include the eligibility of Mega Pacific to participate in the bidding process, the veracity and effectivity of the testing, and the technical evaluation conducted by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on the automated counting machine of the bidders, would essentially require an extensive inquiry into the facts. An insistence that it be resolved despite unsettled factual points would be inadequate to allow an intrusion by the Court.[5]
And Justice Dante Tinga's Dissenting Opinion was pretty strident, in a losing cause. --
But in this case, no constitutional provision or letter of a statute was alleged to have been violated. The Court nullified the contract for an automated election system (“AES”) simply on the ground that in making the award the COMELEC has allegedly violated its bidding rules and an unfounded apprehension that the counting machines would not work on election day. On the other hand, not one of the losing bidders has joined the petition, as neither they nor the petitioners questioned the fairness of the price tag for the machines.
MANUAL ELECTIONS MUST GO Moralists will insist that morality is what is missing and that what we need are honest men at Comelec. But at the heart of the problem is the manual election system itself, which truly depends on the honesty, probity and integrity not only of the Comele Commissioners, but of thousands of other people. Yet it's like running a bank without computers, security guards or auditors. We should not put elections entirely in the hands of Comelec anymore. We don't have to. We do not have to rely mainly on the honesty and integrity of Comelec Commissioners because the whole point of automation is to make cheating close to impossible. How close? I've asserted that the banking system's Automated Teller Machine network is an adequate starting model of the level of security, sophistication, operation and cost for a modernized election system. Indeed, such a network, an Automated Election Machine network, could handle the registration and verification of voters, the election polling process and the speedy counting and nationwide canvassing of the votes. A related post recently asks, Was the 2004 Election Automation Junked Deliberately? I think it was! So I don't think there should EVER be another manual election. Not anymore than that there should ever again be a manual banking system. A new election system can make reliance on the honesty of men largely obsolete, because it is possible to do so with available secure technology, and not to do so would be fooolish.

For the Goliath we face is ourselves.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Cardinal Sin Really IS Dead, Silly!

MALACANANG PALACE should be overjoyed at the Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) under the new leadership of Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo. As a fine masterpiece of double and triple meanings, with something quotable for everyone on both sides of the fence (or even painfully straddling it) this Pastoral Letter is the moral equivalent of throwing down the Shepherd's Staff and telling both the squabbling Wolves and the befuddled or oblivious Sheep, that it's really all up to them to sort things out, as long as Justice is done of course, and the Truth found out. But just don't look to the Catholic Church for the actual realization of a just outcome -- only a loud encouragment for those in the "temporal realm" to make it so. The message from the CBCP is loud and clear -- regarding the actual attainment of a just society, or a just outcome in any given controversy -- "that's just not our Department."

The Palace indeed should be happy. Despite the best efforts of the anti-GMA Mass Media (the few of them that are left still slugging it out) to cherry-pick the Bishops' missive for anti-GMA sentiments that can be turned into headlines, the plain truth is that the Catholic Bishops simply will not be the final straw that breaks the camel's back.

The CBCP's Pastoral Letter, in my opinion, is a strict application of Pope Benedict XVI's ideas on the Separation of Church and State contained in a Christmas Day Encyclical, God is Love, the first of his Papacy. I have bolded the passages of Article 28 in that Papal Encyclical, which I think the Philippine Catholic Bishops were deeply discerning about during their special Plenary Session these past three days, and which guided their own Pastoral Letter.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 25 December, the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, in the year 2005, the first of my Pontificate.

[Article] 28. In order to define more accurately the relationship between the necessary commitment to justice and the ministry of charity, two fundamental situations need to be considered:

a) The just ordering of society and the State is a central responsibility of politics. As Augustine once said, a State which is not governed according to justice would be just a bunch of thieves:Remota itaque iustitia quid sunt regna nisi magna latrocinia?”.[18] Fundamental to Christianity is the distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God (cf. Mt 22:21), in other words, the distinction between Church and State, or, as the Second Vatican Council puts it, the autonomy of the temporal sphere.[19] The State may not impose religion, yet it must guarantee religious freedom and harmony between the followers of different religions. For her part, the Church, as the social expression of Christian faith, has a proper independence and is structured on the basis of her faith as a community which the State must recognize. The two spheres are distinct, yet always interrelated.

Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics. Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life: its origin and its goal are found in justice, which by its very nature has to do with ethics. The State must inevitably face the question of how justice can be achieved here and now. But this presupposes an even more radical question: what is justice? The problem is one of practical reason; but if reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests.

Here politics and faith meet. Faith by its specific nature is an encounter with the living God—an encounter opening up new horizons extending beyond the sphere of reason. But it is also a purifying force for reason itself. From God's standpoint, faith liberates reason from its blind spots and therefore helps it to be ever more fully itself. Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly. This is where Catholic social doctrine has its place: it has no intention of giving the Church power over the State. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith. Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just.

The Church's social teaching argues on the basis of reason and natural law, namely, on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being. It recognizes that it is not the Church's responsibility to make this teaching prevail in political life. Rather, the Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest. Building a just social and civil order, wherein each person receives what is his or her due, is an essential task which every generation must take up anew. As a political task, this cannot be the Church's immediate responsibility. Yet, since it is also a most important human responsibility, the Church is duty-bound to offer, through the purification of reason and through ethical formation, her own specific contribution towards understanding the requirements of justice and achieving them politically.

The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply.

b) Love—caritas—will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbour is indispensable.[20] The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: she is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live “by bread alone” (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3)—a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.

The careful reader will notice that most of the b0lded passages above are followed by the words "Rather" and "Yet" which introduce the opposite idea or sentiment, or qualifies it in some usually even-handed sounding way. But can such readers honestly shake the feeling that Pope Benedict is saying the Church is not responsible for what happens in the realm that Politics is responsible for? The Pope says that the Church is deeply concerned that Justice be done in temporal realm but that she is not ultimately responsible for such an outcome because her Kingdom is not of this Earth.

I think that this is a stance that deserves a recollection of Pontius Pilate, but I haven't the strength for that as yet. Though of course it jives with one very commonly held misconception of the Principle of Separation of Church and State: that the Church is not supposed to "interfere" in Politics. I think it is wrong to hold that religious professionals such as the Bishops -- the technicians of morality -- are prohibited from exercising certain Constitutional Duties incumbent on every citizen by the Principle of the Separation of Church and State. Now, the Catholic Bishops themselves seem to agree with this, and that is their new excuse for monumental equivocation on Gloriagate, the basic story of their recent Pastoral Letter, here reproduced in full:
(Pastoral statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines)

Beloved People of God:

1. We, your bishops, have collectively discerned in the light of the Gospel what our mass media, our political leaders and, above all, you parishioners in our various dioceses have been telling us. What clearly emerges is the continued and urgent need for renewal in the public life of our country.

I. Our Pastoral Situation: What Our People Are Saying

2. We have all observed the failure of political processes to make public servants accountable for wrongdoing. What we have seen instead are acts of evasion and obstruction of the truth, as in the case of the wiretapping and Garcillano tapes controversy. While we acknowledge that patriotic and sincere Filipinos have heeded our call in July 2005 for accountability in public office and sought means for the truth to emerge, we also witness those who seem to use "the search for truth" as a means of furthering their political ambitions. Pressure is thus brought on the ordinary citizen to take sides on the basis of speculation, whether this be with regard to destabilizing alliances, armed insurgency, or a brewing coup d’état. Have we become a nation of rumors and untruths?

3. As a result of all this, there seems to be a paralyzing gridlock in the political sphere, as partisan interests prevail over the demands of the common good. Enough of this destructive politics, we hear our people declare. In this situation of widespread confusion, it is not surprising that apathy and cynicism with regard to politics have taken hold of the minds and hearts of many Filipino. Tragically, many Filipinos have lost trust in political leaders from left, right, and center, and worse still, in the political institutions themselves which are perceived by many to be corrupted. Among an increasing number of our people, there is a sense of hopelessness about our country and the possibility of genuine reform.

4. While the economy at the macro-level seems to be moving along, the benefits are not sufficiently shared by the poor. What the people in our dioceses are experiencing and saying informs us that their most immediate and urgent priority is their daily struggle to earn a livelihood. Poverty remains the heaviest burden our people bear. They wonder if the political priorities that preoccupy our leaders are merely "Manila-magnified" problems foisted upon those in the provinces. They are seriously concerned that in 2006 we shall be repeating the same kind of chaotic politics that we all suffered in 2005.

II. The Root of the Crisis: Erosion of Moral Values

5. As bishops, we believe that at the bottom of our political chaos is a crisis of moral values, a crisis of truth and justice, of unity and solidarity for the sake of the common good and genuine peace. Truth has become a victim of political partisanship as well as of transactional politics. Moral accountability and justice for crimes, such as the killings of journalist and labor leaders, are yet to be realized.

6. Because of this crisis of values in our public life, the common good and the plight of the poor are being ignored. We witness the anguish of poor farmers affected by rising prices of farm inputs and decreasing prices for their products. Indigenous people, farmers and fishermen in our diocese are filled with anxiety about the negative effects of mining, commercial logging, illegal quarrying and fishing, and the continual threat of displacement from one’s ancestral lands. More regrettable is the common knowledge that many of our politicians are behind such ventures that disregard the common good.

7. As Bishops, we realize that the root cause of our debilitating situation is the erosion of moral values. Its external manifestations are deceit and dishonesty, corruption, manipulation and a deadening preoccupation with narrow political interests, perceived in practically all branches and at all levels of government. Pope Benedict XVI cites St. Augustine’s observation that "a State which is not governed according to justice would be just a bunch of thieves." (Deus Caritas Est, 28)

8. But we also recognize that our situation is not one of utter darkness. We are encouraged and inspired to see so many good and decent Filipinos, of different faith traditions, working selflessly and sincerely to build up our nation. We see public servants struggling for integrity and the authentic reform of the corrupted institutions they are part of. We acknowledge groups of dedicated laity, religious and clergy, NGOs and various associations, including police and military personnel, giving of themselves to improve the governance, education, health, housing, livelihood and environmental conditions of our people. These people, united by a vision of heroic citizenship, are reasons for hope, even in the midst of the political crisis we find ourselves in.

III. What We Need to Do

9. The mission of the Church includes the renewal of the social order and public life through the teaching and inculcation of the values of the Gospel. Because of the moral dimensions of our political and economic life, "The Church has something to say about specific human situations, individual and communal, national and international." (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 521) "Any authentic search for peace", the Holy Father stresses, "must begin with the realization that the problem of truth and untruth is the concern of every man and woman." (In Truth, Peace, No. 5) Let us all therefore address the urgent issues facing our country from this moral standpoint:

* We recommend that the search for truth be relentlessly pursued through structures and processes mandated by law and our Constitution, such as the Ombudsman, the Commission on Audit, the Commission on Human Rights, the Sandiganbayan, and Congress itself as well as other citizens’ groups. This requires that such bodies be led and run by credible people, persons of integrity and probity.

* Confidence and trust in our political processes have to be restored. As a first step we strongly urge our political leaders to undertake electoral reforms posthaste. The Commission on Elections has to be transformed into a competent and reliable body beyond reproach. The call for resignation or even prosecution of a number of the Commissioners should not be lightly brushed aside. The electoral process, including counting of votes, needs to be reformed and modernized before the next elections.

* Elections in 2007 should not be cancelled. The Church recognizes that in a democracy power emanates from the people - i.e., that "the subject of political authority is the people considered in its entirety…This people transfers the exercise of sovereignty to those whom it freely elects…but it preserves the prerogative…(of) evaluating those charged with governing, and in replacing them when they do not fulfill their functions satisfactorily." (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 395).

* While we agree that certain aspects of our Constitution may need amendments and revisions, we do not support hasty efforts to change this fundamental law of the land without the widespread discussion and participation that such changes require. We continue to believe, as we did in our Statement on Charter Change in 2003, that changing the Constitution involving major shifts in the form of government requires widespread participation, total transparency, and relative serenity that allows for rational discussion and debate. This is best done through a Constitutional Convention. The reasons for constitutional change must be based on the common good rather than on self-serving interests or the interests of political dynasties.

* We reiterate our stand in our July 2005 statement that we do not condone resort to violence or counter-constitutional means in resolving our present crisis. These measures would only bring about new forms of injustice, more hardships, and greater harm in the future.

10. We are aware that the renewal of Philippine public life will require the transformation of cultural values and structures, and will require more intensive efforts on the part of the Church. We therefore commit ourselves to the following:

* To adopt a more systematic program of promoting the moral values that are indicated in seven (of the nine) pastoral priorities drawn up at the 2001 National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal. These are: integral faith formation; empowerment of the laity towards social transformation; the active presence and participation of the poor in the Church and in society; the family as the focal point of evangelization; the building and strengthening of participatory communities that make up the parish; integral renewal of the clergy and religious; and our journeying with the youth.

* To continue the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities and other faith-communities at the grassroots, towards a deeper spirituality of heroic Christian citizenship, and towards encouraging the laudable efforts of these communities at nation-building, such as the monitoring of the IRA, bidding of public works projects, etc.

* To promote a spirituality of public service, integrity and stewardship among public servants and citizens’ groups alike. These forms of social spirituality should counteract the persistent evils of gambling, drug pushing, usury, destruction of our environment, and corruption in public office.

* To bring together various concerned citizens’ groups that are working for good governance in order to encourage better collaboration among them in the mobilization of the governed to check graft and corruption and to work for better public services.

* To declare this year 2006 as a "Social Concerns Year" under the auspices of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Social Teachings of the Church, as summarized in the recently printed Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, may be discussed, internalized, and acted upon in all our dioceses, parishes and Catholic schools.

* To accompany our efforts with prayer and penance and a deep trust in the transformative power of God’s grace in the lives of individuals as well as of societies. "Restore us to Thee, O Lord, that we may be restored" (Lam 5:21).


11. In all we have been saying here, we, your Bishops, are seeking to be faithful to the Lord’s command of love, and his call to his followers to care for all peoples, especially those whom he sees as the "least of my brothers and sisters" (Mt. 25, 40). It is this Gospel mandate we wish to see making a qualitative difference in our efforts at healing and renewing our flawed political culture and corrupted public life. In doing this, we show our solidarity with the poor who suffer most from the present state of public life and politics.

12. May the love of God in Christ, poured out upon all of us in the Holy Spirit, give us the courage and hope to renew our public life and to build up a truly moral society. And may Mary become our guide and model in this renewed pilgrimage towards Truth, Justice, Freedom and Love - the pillars of genuine peace in our land.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

Angel N. Lagdameo, D.D.
Archbishop of Jaro

29 January 2006
Cardinal Sin really is dead, silly!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Science Sunday -- Remembering Columbia


I watched Columbia fall.
I wept as Columbia fell.
How long
it seemed to take,
for that burning fireball,
caught in gravity's well,
to reach the earth,
and merciful God,
be extinguished within in its dark embrace.
Seven died in spectacle,
That we might look again
with old humility and new respect.
Terrestrial cameras spotted her first
at 220,000 feet above the earth,
plunging at 20 times the speed of sound,
descending like Tennyson's eagle,
but with the left wing, broken.
She was a meteoric fireball
in supersonic free fall,
plummeting so fast,
she outran
the very sound waves of her fiery disintegration.
Hammer blows of burning air,
like the claws of invisible velociraptors,
unzipped her ceramic skin,
untiled and bare,
they broke her titanium bones,
tore her limb from aluminum limb,
scattering her pulverized precious cargo
into the trembling atmosphere.
The astronauts in her exploded womb
all fell asleep in Columbia's dream.
Near the end,
Columbia was a ghostly, streaking hare,
chased by the wolves of her own debris.
Her melting hull was skywriting her epitaph
in the blue expanse of air.
Racing to terminal velocity,
to the finish line on earth,
she was overtaken there,
by the Tortoise,
which followed slowly, but surely, close behind,
bearing Columbia's disembodied voices,
the very last parts of her to land,
those dirge-like sonic booms,
that will echo long,
in humanity's memory and esteem--
So that there will resume
the the ascent of Man,
where Columbia fell
to kiss the Earth,

I wrote this tribute to the astronauts of Shuttle Columbia shortly after the disaster on February 1, 2003. It was published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as Monday Commentary by Dean Jorge Bocobo, a week later. The tragedy and its aftermath, including the investigations and reports are covered here. Since that tragedy, much has been accomplished in both manned and unmanned exploration of outer space. There is talk of returning to the moon and of course, the Red Planet of Mars already beckons. Our robot scouts are on its surface and circling our nearest planetary neighbor. Water -- huge frozen slabs of it -- have already been discovered there. And last week a probe to Pluto was launched. We've greeted visitors like comets with our eyes and even brought back some of the cosmic dust from its tail. Hubble sees farther and farther away, and farther and farther back to the very moment of the Beginning. Man has fallen but always he arises. Albert Einstein was right: God may be subtle, but he is not malicious.

SCIENCE TEACHERS: TUNE YOUR CLASS IN TO ORBITING SPACE SUIT NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is alerting science educators all over the world to a remarkable educational science opportunity this month:
Currently aboard the international space station is an extra Russian Orlan space suit, which has reached the end of its lifespan and can no longer be worn. To dispose of it, the crew of the space station will send it on one final mission. During a spacewalk scheduled for February 2006, the extra suit will be pushed into space, where it will become an independent satellite -- Suitsat-1.

Although no one will be inside the suit, it won't actually be empty. Suitsat-1 (also known in Russia as Radioskaf or Radio Sputnik) will carry a radio transmitter, sensors and materials created by students around the world, including voice recordings and artwork. The suit will broadcast on amateur radio (also known as "ham radio") frequencies, which are above the FM broadcast band. While Suitsat-1 remains in orbit, students, scouts, teachers, ham radio operators and the general public are encouraged to tune into the signal, which will include the student recordings, information about the condition of the suit and a special commemorative picture.

So, how will you prove to your friends that you've been hearing voices from space? Anyone who receives the voice signals or captures the commemorative picture Suitsat-1 beams down can receive a certificate. In addition, included in the transmission will be special words recorded by the Suitsat student "crew members" from around the world. Students who find these special words will receive an additional award. Because the words are in different languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Russian and Japanese), students are encouraged to work with others who speak those languages...

When Suitsat-1 is "launched" from the space station, the crew will place it in a trajectory that will cause it to de-orbit, re-enter Earth's atmosphere and burn up. How long it transmits depends on how long it takes the suit to get hot enough that it can no longer broadcast. While mission planners estimate that should take a week or two, they are not certain. Suitsat-1 could broadcast for as little as an hour or as much as several weeks, so anyone interested in hearing it should be ready to listen as soon as possible after it is deployed.

Transmissions from Suitsat-1 will be on a frequency of 145.990 MHz FM. They can be picked up easily with a VHF hand-talkie ham radio, and can also be heard with other FM VHF receivers, such as police-band scanners. Using an external or ground-based antenna will make it easier to receive the signal and to hear it longer during each pass.

Suitsat-1 is sponsored by the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station group. ARISS is an organization of volunteers from national amateur radio societies around the world and the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation.
I'm not sure if the transmissions can be picked up in the Philippine Archipelago, but I know there are quite a few ham radio operators around -- so pass the word and check out the NASA site for more information. I may even take a crack at this! Here is a really nice writeup on SUIT SAT 1 from Frank H. Bauer Chairman of Amateur Radio on the International Space Station.

ENRICHING URANIUM: The Belmont Club, writing in The Coming of the Bomb, points to this US Army War College PDF Getting Ready for a Nuclear Ready Iran. If you read nothing else but above two articles regarding this past month's biggest story related to nuclear weapons proliferation, you'd know more about what's behind the headlines than most people in the world. Certainly than you might read in the main stream Filipino media. This stuff is not for the feint-of-heart in habitually introverted Philippines. I realize of course that some folks may think "enriching uranium" has something to do with the "gap between the rich and the poor" so let me point to this Wikipedia entry on enriched uranium which explains the basics.

My simplified explanation: Naturally occurring uranium is composed of three isotopes--about 99.3% U238 and 0.7% U235 and U234. Enriching uranium is the process required to increase the percentage of the U235 isotope to "useful levels".

MAKING ELECTRICITY: For example, at 20% U235 in a given mass of uranium, you have the fuel needed to make electricity in a Light Water Nuclear Reactor (like the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, regarding which see my post at Odious Debts dot org: PPA the Bitter Fruit, BNPP the Rotten Root)

WEAPONS GRADE: At over about 80% U-235, any Tom, Dick or Hadj-Murad could build a small uranium fission bomb to take out Tel-Aviv or any other infidels that stand in the way of a nuclear-powered mullah like Iran's current leader, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

CELLCOS GETTING 3-G SPECTRUM FOR FREE? This is gonna make a lot of folks really mad. Lito Banayo in Malaya OpEd has the scoop from Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano on how the Philippine cell phone companies, mainly Globe and Smart have gotten the bandwidth needed for 3-G operations for free from the Philippine government, even though other countries, like the UK, Germany, the US and even Indonesia have made billions of dollar auctioning the rights to frequency space.--
Alan Peter S. Cayetano is what my daughter would call a "tech-kkie". I purposely spelled or misspelled it that way to show how this young congressman from Taguig and Pateros is so in love with the gadgets of computer development.

When we were in Hong Kong recently, I was amazed at how he knew where to buy whatever latest gigabyte-optimal accessory there was to an I-Mac. And all I asked was where I could buy an iPod for a daughter’s long delayed Christmas gift, at a bargain, hopefully.

One morning when he joined me for breakfast at a hotel coffee shop where the "purser" waiting on us was Filipino, he pointed to an article in the Hong Kong Standard, where the Indonesian government was going to bid out third-generation, or 3G mobile telephone licenses. And their telecommunications officials expected to generate 500 million US dollars from the tender. And he told me, ruefully, that the Philippines, yes, this poor country whose officials splurge at Las Vegas and parts beyond as if the world would end tomorrow, specifically, our National Telecommunications Commission, gives our 3G licenses for free. Yes, you read right – for free!
And they won't help with the darn Garci investigation either, the bums!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

America Should Withdraw Support For GMA's Mob Rule

RELATED: America's Interests and the Fate of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
There is simply no more reason -- moral or political -- for the United States and the American people, in particular Filipino-Americans, to give aid and comfort to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It would be deleterious to the national interests of the United States to continue to support her failed regime. She has severely damaged Philippine democratic institutions like no other leader since Ferdinand Marcos, by selfishly betraying the center of the Republic and only envigorating both rightwing and leftwing fascists. By deftly wielding the political Mafia which runs Congress yet is beholden to the Palace, GMA has managed to supplant the Rule of Law by the Rule of the Majority in such a clever mutation that many are stunned into inaction by incomprehension at the magnitude of what she has been willing to do thus far. GMA has taught us all a lesson in how little difference there can be between a legitimate government and Mob Rule.

JB BAYLON of newspaper Malaya has a slightly different name for all this: BANDIT DEMOCRACY.

But GMA has prevailed by confusing the enemy, who cannot seem to see just what it is that hits them and foils their every move. Yet, in saving herself, GMA created a Gordian Knot of Gridlock that the country does not deserve. Though her ally Jose de Venecia crows about the productivity of his Congress as a promise of parliamentary things yet to come, the 2006 Budget has not been passed, stymied in the Senate by E.O. 464. In a cruel twist, an automatically re-enacted budget is actually favorable to the Palace, since about P100 billion becomes available for "realignment". Thus even gridlock is enlisted in the aid of GMA's self-preservation. Not passing the budget--again-- is a desirable goal for the Palace.

Gloria has also damaged the common national security interests of both countries by her changing stands and policies with respect to the war on terrorism and in our relations with allies. She has allegedly prostituted the Philippine Military to partisan political purposes, alienating the people from its own Armed Forces and hurting the morale of men fighting the NPA and the terrorists. Several disasters are thus waiting to happen under her failed and divisive leadership. These can be averted, at least in part, by the withdrawal of US support for this tragically flawed and egotistical leader of the hapless Filipino nation.

Filipino-Americans on the Continent should call on the US government and American social and political leaders to join Presidents Cory Aquino, Fidel Ramos, and Joseph Estrada, Senate President Franklin Drilon and the various civil and religious societies in the Philippines in a united call for GMA to voluntarily and peaceably cut short her hold on power, for the good of the nation!

The Catholic Bishops did not overtly join this call last July when GMA's regime was teetering on the brink of resignation. But when they issue a second statement on the Gloriagate crisis this Sunday, they will surely come closer, not farther, to that call.

Under GMA, the Philippines has been designated by Freedom House International as only "partly free." And things are going to get worse. In any event, the relationship between America and the Philippines is an old and historic one. It has a logic and reality of its own, and would easily survive any regime change..

Unfortunately for us, where Erap was drunk on alcohol, Gloria is addicted to autarky and won't let go the teat of absolute power. Yet, I think everyone knows, (even the U.S. State Department), that she's just got to go sooner or later folks, because the bus is headed off a cliff with her at the wheel. Simple as that.

"Who would replace her?" I hear you asking. Well, just think of all those successful Filipinos in America-- doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, engineers, fathers, mothers, worthy citizens and residents all over the American Continent. There is plenty more here in the Philippine Archipelago where they came from! The Gene Pool has not run out as some Filipino-Americans self-servingly sigh as an excuse for mental laziness in the matter of Gloriagate. Also there is still a Constitution in force, with a clear line of succession, and a public not so easily cajoled to march into the streets in the name of some purported savior. "Regime change" can certainly be done constitutionally.

For example, should GMA and Noli de Castro voluntarily resign (for the good of the country) there would be democratic elections in a few months and we could be out of this dangerous quagmire soon enough. There is a Senate full of potential leaders who can't be any worse than Gloria and are likely going to learn from her heedlessness. With no particular preference, any of the following would be okay with a lot of reasonable people here: Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Rodolfo Biazon, Dick Gordon, Manuel Roxas III, Alfredo Lim. And who can neglect the towering presence of Senate President Frank Drilon, who has been a beacon of hope and principle, and is third in the line of Constitutional succession, and would oversee regular elections that would follow a vacancy in both top posts.

In other words, Philippine Democracy is not so weak that it cannot replace Gloria Macapagal Arroyo with someone else better than her. A change will have to come, sooner or later, but I think the chances of that change being peaceful and democratic could be greatly increased if America were to now withdraw support for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It would have the same magnificent effect as Ronald Reagan's almost forgotten message to Marcos at a crucial point in Philippine history: "Cut and cut clean!"

As much as the courage and valor of the Filipinos massed in defense of the mutineers against Marcos on Edsa that one glorious week in 1986, Ronald Reagan certainly contributed much to the peaceful victory of the Edsa-1 People Power Revolution. As I asked in The Paradox of People Power, what would have happened if Reagan's message to Marcos had been, "Go ahead, do whatever you want, the US will continue to support you." ?

I believe that President Bush can help to avert several disasters that are about to happen in the Philippines by a similar simple message for GMA to cut and cut cleanly too.. Heck, even former President Fidel Ramos has already made such a call for the President to cut short her term. Why not Bush?

If you love and cherish the Philippines and care that it not be so badly led that some disaster should happen, please send this posting to your Congressman and to President Bush. Or write one of your own.
President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear President Bush,

It's time for a little straight talk, Texas style.

First let me say that I am a loyal American citizen living in the Philippine Archipelago. Actually, I am also a loyal Philippine citizen -- a natural-born dual citizen of both countries, just like many other Americans, such as Britons and Canadians, who also have, by accidents of birth and Constitutions, a hyphen in their belonging to America. But of whatever category there are at least four million of us Filipino-Americans, whose love for, and allegiance to both countries, can never be separated, nor diminished, only disappoined. We are salt and pepper already mixed together in the melting pot of the world's cultures that is America. And our blood too, waters the purple flower that grows in Babylon. Our treasure of Liberty is your Liberty, Mr. President.

I know of course, how busy you are with all those other projects in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea and New Orleans -- but next month Gloria's gonna try and drop by the Ranch on her way to Europe. I thought I better give you a Heads-up on what's really going on. She's gonna give you a bunch-a-bull, so I need for you to listen to this please, Mr. President, just for a few more minutes...

(1) Despite her promises after 9/11, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has failed to secure an Anti-Terrorism Law in the Philippines, mainly because she has failed to make the case with the Filipino people and its Congress which she controls, to join in the Global War On Terrorism. I think this is because she is at heart, a politician, who saw GWOT just as a way into America's good graces. Sorry to let you know this, but she used you and she used our great nation, pretending to be our friend, when really all she wanted was to win an election in 2004, by hook or by crook, by golly or by Garci.

(2) Despite her promises to the Coalition of the Willing in Iraq, she negotiated with and capitulated to hooded terrorist kidnappers holding Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz hostage. Spooked by the local antiwar Media and the Left, she gave in to the terrorists' demand and pulled out the Philippine humanitarian force.

(3) Despite fulsome support of the American people and the US Congress for her administration up until that point -- and indeed to this very day [sic!] -- Gloria then high-tailed it off to China to play that game of modern promiscuity that is the vice of Third World leaders who don't really want the Cold War to go away. It was always in pitting one Big Power against another during that long struggle, that the craftiest among them thought they found "an independent foreign policy." In my opinion, for Gloria this two-step process of abandoning the Coalition in Iraq and jumping into the Chinese-canopied bed in Asia was actually done in anticipation of a DEFEAT for the Republicans and George W. Bush in the 2004 US national elections. Analysis of the Palace's moves and statements in the crucial month before the November, 2004 polls shows that Malacanang was already betting on and backing a win by JOHN KERRY. Gloria did not believe you were going to win a second term, W.

(4) Despite her promises of reform in the Armed Forces, the Oakwood Mutiny has flared up again, and everything that happened after it was put down in 2003 only confirms the accusations of Lt. Trillanes and the men of the Magdalo that rampant, systemic corruption paralyzes the Philippine Armed Forces and saps its morale.You know what really happened at Oakwood, Mr. President? Before the Mutiny, there is some reason to believe that these officers were actually secretaly supplying President Arroyo with intelligence on the Mafia of corruption in the Military. But she betrayed them to that very Mafia, which precipitated the Mutiny. Then Gringo Honasan stole Erap's money and they landed in GMA's jail. Now they're busting out and I don't know who they are loyal to. But you must leave open the possibility that they are patriots of a new kind, or an old kind, if you know what I mean, Mr. President. To them applies the following dilemma which your great abolitionist forefather, Justice Frederick Douglass once said --"Your forefathers were men of peace; but they preferred revolution to to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forebearance but they knew its limits. They believed in order but not the order of tyranny. With them nothing was "settled" that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were "final" -- but not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men, for they seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defense. Mark them."

(5) Despite GMA's promise not to run in the 2004 elections, she did indeed run, and yeah, I agree with you Mr. President, "a woman's entitled to change her mind." But you don't know her like we do. She never changed her mind the way you said it, because she always intended to run in that election. Majority even believe she cheated and voterigged it if truth be told. And now the worst of the things she said she hoped to prevent by not running, have indeed come to pass. The nation is hopelessly divided against its government, Gloriagate has become a Gordian Knot of Gridlock.

(6) Despite her oath of Office as President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to protect and to preserve the nation, to uphold its freedoms and its democracy, under President Arroyo the Philippine Military was evidently prostituted to partisan political purposes in a wiretapping operation that bears some resemblance to your own troubles in that regard. But you should see WHY she was doing the wiretapping here. It had nothing to do with National Security.

YOU TOO MADE A PROMISE ONCE, President George W. Bush -- at the National Endowment for Democracy in November, 2003 -- when you said that America would never again support brutal dictatorships in the world as she did in the Cold War. I think it is time you redeemed this promise in the case of the Philippines, the First Iraq. It's the least you can do, and actually fixing this broken democracy in the Philippines would be much easier than Iraq. Mr. President, If you joined Cory and the Good Guys in calling for GMA to just leave and let the rest of us fix everything, America would surely be met with flowers, chocolate and street dancing. GARONTEED, Dubya!

With all due respects, of course,

Your friend,

Friday, January 27, 2006

Why the Five Congress Committees Failed


That is how Congressman Roilo Golez of Parañaque describes Executive Order 464 which he says killed the wiretapping investigation of the Five Congress Committees. They were looking into the Garci Recordings and the associated wiretapping charges against the Intelligence Service of the AFP.

Rep. Golez is right of course, and should the proper case be brought before the Supreme Court, perhaps, E.O. 464 will be struck down as unconstitutional, a well-deserved fate for this lil bit of Arroyo fascism.

But I think there is another reason the Five Congress Committees effectively failed to get to the bottom of the Garci Recordings and speaks more to the Opposition's approach in the matter than that of the Palace's obstructionist tactics.

At each of the Congress interrogations of ex-Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano since the latter emerged from some secret hiding hole last November, what the Opposition congressmen were trying to do was to get Garcillano to commit an act of self-incrimination in the matter of the conversations heard in the Garci Recordings.

But the reason the hearings ended up in a stalemate -- a complete and utter draw in which the Congress effectively got nothing because Garcillano gave nothing -- has something to do with this principle:

The wall that separates the Right of the Public to Know from every citizen's Right to Privacy is the Constitutionally-guaranteed Right Against Self-Incrimination.

Every question asked of Virgilio Garcillano effectively tried to breach this wall, but failed, because as a lawyer and alleged master elections operator for 30 years, he knew his rights. His appearance at the Congress was merely the necessary penalty of emerging in order to file his two petitions with the Supreme Court, which are going to be the true killers of the wiretapping investigation. It was really a minor inconvenience in exchange for a possible burial of the Garci Tapes for good by the Supreme Court in House vs. Garcillano.

As I've pointed out before, there were two separate sets of crimes that were putatively committed in 2004: one of voterigging and another of illegal wiretapping. Because the Opposition and the Public have always regarded the Garci Recordings as evidence that Garci and GMA together rigged the 2004 polls, but because no one ever denied they were illegally recorded conversations produced by wiretapping or digital splicing, their legal standing has never been clear. Everyone accepted that they were illegal wiretaps and so Garci could rightly refuse to answer anything that were based on their supposed content. But what the Opposition never quite got I think, until it was too late, is that the mere existence of the Garci Recordings bespoke of culpable violations of the Constitution in the use of the military's intelligence service for PARTISAN POLITICAL PURPOSES.

TEDDY BOY'S ALL WET I was absolutely flummoxed by Rep. Teodoro Locsin of Makati, for saying strange things like that the Five Congress Committees had uncovered evidence of a plot to overthrow the government using the Garci Tapes. I hope I heard the TV wrong because I think that is BALONEY! The Garci Tapes are physical evidence of crimes associated with Republic Act 4200 -- the Anti-Wiretapping Law. Period. Heck they even contain the voices of the WIRETAPPERS themselves, for crying out loud. They should have been investigated as such and prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law.

The Five Congress Committees failed because its chairmen, like Teddy Boy, led it in the wrong directions -- him in circles, the Opposition into the impossible attempt to get Garci to admit to impeachable crimes.

I said it before: Only the Opposition can save GMA.

Well at least Senator Rodolfo Biazon is on the job at the Senate Defense Committee.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

VFA--Will GMA Do Another Angelo de la Cruz?

ANGELO DE LA CRUZ was the greatest accomplishment of the Anti-war Movement and the Left in the Philippines since the Coalition of the Willing was formed to overthrow the dictator and terrorist training camp patron, Saddam Hussein.

ABROGATION OF THE VFA would be an even greater victory that would be warmly cheered by the aging wards of the Dutch welfare state who run the terrorist CPP-NPA, and gleefully noted by their jihadi allies in the AQ, the JI and the ASG. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is hoped by some to be on the verge of doing another Angelo de la Cruz, this time over the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Subic Bay Rape case. Here the human tragedy engulfing a 22-year old Filipino woman and four US marines charged with raping her, has been deftly used as a prop on a stage for the rites and rituals of the victimology at the heart of a defensive, resentful, self-absorbed and ultimately failed brand of Filipino nationalism. The same coalition of anti-American media outfits and organized Leftist forces that spooked Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the Angelo de la Cruz kidnapping affair in Iraq is busily at work again. The Philippine Left, has of course engaged the help of its Continental allies in Leftist America, while local media comrades try to raise a lynch mob in the Archipelago over the "insult to sovereignty" -- a Visiting Forces Agreement suddenly discovered to be unequal after six years of mutually beneficial operation. (No more headlines with Abu Sayyaf terrorists flaunting their hostages...now that was taunting our sovereignty.) Today the Left's real goal, having already gotten the Philippines out of the Coalition of the Willing, is to get the Coalition of the Willing out of the Philippines. It has nothing to do with rape per se, or justice, but radical international politics.

Using political melodrama before the willing media platforms, I recall them pressuring the Philippine government to accede to the Iraqi terrorist kidnappers' demands to pull out the small humanitarian force the Philippines had sent into Iraq after Saddam Hussein was overthrown. (Here's Ka Roger. the CPP's mercurial local spokesman whom the AFP hasn't caught in 20 years, yet almost anyone in Media seems to know his cell phone and can easily tell on some class enemy.) These pro-appeasement forces convinced GMA that she would be ousted from the Presidency if she did not capitulate to the demands of the Iraqi hoods holding Angelo de la Cruz hostage. So, in a selfish, shortsighted and utterly selfish overnight flipflop heard throughout the world in Jay Leno's joke about the retreating Filipinos fitting into a HumVee, GMA did indeed walk out on the Coalition of the Willing in Iraq and straight into the arms of ... China! See the post: America's Interests and the Fate of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The reaction from Filipinos abroad was of course shame at what GMA had done, though everyone was glad for Angelo de la Cruz and his family. But there was emphatic disdain from Michelle Malkin. and the sober analysis of the Belmont Club.

The retreat and capitulation in the Angelo de la Cruz affair, was a great victory for the Left and its allies, but a great defeat for the Philippines which still suffers today from the stigma as inconstant and unreliable ally, who will go back on their own word never to negotiate or capitulate to terrorists, who will abandon their allies when the going gets tough, and for whom international treaties are hostage to powerful domestic ideologues.

Today, the same strategem of intimidation by media-dramatized street protests and ideological pontifications from the news and editorial pages. is being employed to break an important project of common defense and security interests in the Visiting Forces Agreement. The same people who have made a business and profession of hating America want the Visiting Forces Agreement abrogated. This, the Left and their media comrades have been trying to do for years, from even before the Agreement was signed, and long before the present controversial rape case. This time it is not the blood of Angelo de la Cruz they are parading before GMA's imagination, but rather, the stain on the honor of Philippine Sovereignty arising from a completely regular and lawful operation of the VFA itself. The investigation and trial are done under Philippine jurisdiction, while the accused are held by the US Embassy in Manila. But Philippine jurisdiction over the case and the speediness of the proceedings so far, (lightning by Philippine standards) do not seem to be enough. The Mob would have the soldiers under its custody. -- as if the Revised Penal Code's punishments for rape include a public lynching and a relegation to a jail system whose conditions are violative of all human rights, Filipino or American.

Unfortunately, the Philippines inteligentsia has not yet evolved to the stage of granting that America too is entitled to nationalism, that Americans too have human rights, that their government has Constitutional obligations to its citizens to protect those rights. It is perhaps because the Filipinos have such scarce experience of a real government exercising its duties the best it can, and upholding their rights as a matter of principle and not convenience that some would now demand the US Government abandon its military to the tender mercies of Gabriela or the PDI editorialists I wrote about in A Little Yellow Journalism from Leftist Hatemongers. There are awesome stakes in the global war on terror right here in the borderlands of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Yet people who call themselves nationalists are working with the Left to sabotage an already frail alliance between the Philippines, the United States and Australia, all of whom are engaged in a major fight with and hunt for terrorist operatives in Mindanao. These reportedly include the Bali Bombers and the "genius of the Jemaah Islamiyah" Dulmatin, still missing and wanted dead or alive for US $10 million.

But I wonder if GMA isn't taking everyone for a ride as she goes to America, Europe and Saudi Arabia next month. She's a lot harder to spook nowadays, having so marvelously survived Gloriagate so far. I speculated on what is really going on in: The Leftists and the Trapos United In GMA's Gambit.

Maybe this time GMA is using them.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Garci is a Test of the Supreme Court's Independence

Supreme Court Public Info Officer, ISHMAEL KAHN has a PDI Commentary today disputing the recent statement of former Justice Isagani Cruz, who recently wrote in his own PDI opinion column that, "Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has so far never lost a case before the highest tribunal and it is not unlikely that her record will remain unbroken." Kahn writes--
This statement is inaccurate, to put it mildly. In fact, the Supreme Court ruled that Fernando Poe Jr. was a natural-born citizen, thus enabling him to run against her. Just a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court ordered the government to pay more than P3 billion to Piatco before it could take over the spanking new Naia 3 airport terminal. On the Mining Act decision, Justices Antonio Carpio, Conchita Carpio-Morales and Romeo Callejo Sr. -- all Arroyo appointees -- dissented from the majority who upheld its constitutionality. So did Justices Renato Corona, Adolfo Azcuna, Dante Tinga and Cancio Garcia who partially dissented on the more recent 2005 expanded value-added tax law. All this just goes to show that Supreme Court justices are their own men and women, beholden to no one, as they have always been since the time that Justice Cruz himself sat on the Court when its entire membership owed their appointment to President Cory Aquino.
Unfortunately for everyone the past record of the Supreme Court does not bespeak of Independence of the Judiciary, being marred by a number of horrendous failures. For example, in 1973 there was the infamous Javellana Decision essentially blessing Marcos's martial law coup d'etat. Then in 2001, the decisions Estrada vs. Arroyo and Estrada vs. Desierto, similarly blessed the Edsa II judicial coup d'etat. Accepting for now that these things are "water under the bridge," we may be consoled by the notion that no decision of the Supreme Court is actually final, since a future Court may reverse any past decision. (Note for example that the US Supreme Court engaged in over a century of pro-slavery decision making, before the arrival of Abe Lincoln changed it all.)

In that sense, the best attribute of a Supreme Court is its CORRIGIBILITY. Every new Supreme Court has the historic opportunity to inspire the people with Decisions that ring true in their hearts, that right old wrongs, or demonstrate that Justice can be secured through its wisdom and impartiality.

A TEST OF THE SUPREME COURT'S INDEPENDENCE presents itself in the Second Petition of Virgilio Garcillano. Recall that this particular fugitive from Justice emerged from some as yet unknown hiding hole last November. His most significant act to me has been the filing of two petitions with the Supreme Court. The First Garci Petition has already been dismissed (it was moot anyway, having to do with his arrest warrant on contempt of Congress, already voided or not exercised). But look at the Prayer of the Second Garci Peitition in the Supreme Court:
THE PRAYER WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed that this Honorable Court issue a Resolution:

(a) ordering the immediate issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction restraining and preventing the House of Representatives Committees on Public Information, Public Order and Safety, National Defense and Security, Information Communications Technology, and Suffrage and Electoral Reforms from making use of the sound recording of the illegally obtained wiretapped conversations in their Report for the inquiries conducted relative thereto, or from otherwise making use of said recordings for any purspose; and,

(b) Granting the issuance of a Writ of Prohibition by commanding the Respondent Committees to strike off the record of the proceedings any and all references to the illegally obtained wiretapped recordings, and to desist from further using the sound recordings of the illegally obtained wiretapped conversations in any of its proceedings.

Other reliefs, just and equitable under the premises are likewise prayed for.

SIGNED (22 November 2005) EDDIE U. TAMONDONG (Counsel for Petitioner) and VIRGILIO O. GARCILLANO (Petitioner)
I think the burial of the Garci Recordings is essential to killing the Second Impeachment Complaint at midyear. Here is a case that matters a lot to the Palace -- else why did Garci emerge from hiding to file these cases with the Supreme Court? Certainly with no expectation of losing. This should be a good test of who is right or wrong--Isagani Cruz or Ishmael Kahn.

Noel Blinks, GMA Winks, Is Chacha Dead Til 2010?

GMA has established who really wears the pants in the Lakas Family now--not FVR and not JDV--although both were given stellar roles in the carefully scripted meeting of the Council of State yesterday at Malacanang Palace.

FVR was allowed to register his warning that cancelling the 2007 elections was "a disaster waiting to happen" but not his earlier sensational call for GMA to step down after six years in office in 2007. The Council's heed of his warning is today's PDI headline.

JDV meanwhile delivered a lecture on the urgency of Charter Change and the "clamor" of the people and their leaders for it. Later, talking to Media, he said the Senators in attendance were impressed by this clamor and broad support for his ideas. Really? A clearly irked Senate Majority Leader Francisco "Kiko" Pangilinan and Sen. Ralph Recto put the lie to that . They apparently expected to tackle something less lofty but concrete, like say the unfinished 2006 Budget. Sen. Dick Gordon, also thought political and electoral reforms have to be tackled before Charter Change can even be contemplated, because any change will have to go through a plebiscite. Given the total lack of credibility of the Commission on Elections after the Gloriagate mess, I agree: the next election, whether plebscite or regular elections, will determine the fate of Philippine democracy. Newspaper Malaya reports

With its main Transitory Provision dead ("No Elections in 2007") what will now happen to Chacha and the Constitutional Commission's Draft Charter containing JDV's absurd Franco-Anglo-Filipino Parliamentary Model? Asked about it last night by Pia Hontiveros, the mercurial Palace operative, Rick Saludo, made it clear that Chacha was Congress' baby -- and that the Palace will just as soon see it trashed too, though he didn't quite say that except by his body language, which was slyly dismissive of Chacha.

Perhaps Chacha will be used like Virgilio Garcillano, as a decoy target for the Palace's critics in the Opposition, the Media and even the Senate, like those toys used to infuriate fighting pit bulls -- to give them something to chew on, to debate, to criticize and to waste their time and energies on -- instead of going after the wiretapping and voterigging charges against GMA in a Second Impeachment attempt, or passing a budget that would NOT have all those juicy items for the Palace to reallocate at will in a perforce re-enacted budget.

More than likely, JDV's Chacha will enjoy a heyday in the Lower House, but it will surely suffer a slow, ignominious death on the steps of the Senate, which really cannot be ignored on the matter. Like Noel, JDV's fantasy of a Parliament-in-the-Sky, with Jose Abueva's architectural drawings, can be allowed to take up time and energy in the Congress this year until the Second Impeachment crisis is past, (sometime in July)

Actually, I think that JDV's Chacha is dead, just like FVR's Cut Your Term Short. The proposed transistion from a French style (strong President, weak Prime Minister) between 2007 and 2010, to a British Model (strong Prime Minister), is just too contrived and impossible. The Palace really has no stake in Chacha, except as a prop in a diversionary play that can be shoved aside at the proper moment. The real concern has got to be those Senate Defense hearings on the ISAFP wiretapping and the coming Second Impeachment.

Oh and today, there's more of Garci at the last hearing of the hapless Five Congress Committees...Ugh!