Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Medium is the Mess (Part 2)

randishing National Artists awards and hoisting their professorial chairs at prestigious national universities (or perhaps hoping to eventually get the same Soviet-style distinctions), a self-proclaimed group of nationalists has filed a petition for certiori and prohibition against government orders and plans to strengthen the use of the English language in the teaching of Math, Science and other subjects in the public schools. I have already noted some of the humorous ironies and paradoxical dilemmas attendant upon this recent development and refer Philippine Commentary readers to numerous commentaries and caveats of mine and many others on Manuel L. Quezon's weblog last week.

But now it is time to get down to brass tacks, and perhaps put on the logical and factual brass knuckles...

Petitioners make a very important admission in the very first "Cause of Action" against the assailed Orders:
8.1. The provisions of EO 210 and DepEd Order No. 36 that English shall be taught as a second language starting with the First Grade violates the above-quoted provisions of the Constitution since Filipino is actually only the second language in non-Tagalog areas. The EO thus subverts the present status of Filipino in non-Tagalog areas, and violates the constitutional injunction that the regional languages shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction.
CAVEAT: They acknowledge herewith the reality that the so-called Filipino national language is really just the Tagalog of Imperial Diliman and the dominant ethnic group that led the fight for independence from Spain and later the United States of America. Although Tagalog has become quite widely used in the Archipelago, it is most certain NOT the native language or "mother tongue" of a vast number of the Filipinos. A quite up-to-date and authoritative listing of the Languages of the Philippines is maintained by in which one discovers that there are at least 175 in active use by some 87 million people in the Islands with the main ones and their native populations (those who learn the particular language at home from their mothers and fathers) as follows:
Cebuano: 20,043,502 in the Philippines (1995 census). Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Visayas and parts of Mindanao. Also spoken in USA.

Ilocano: 8,000,000 in the Philippines (1991) Northwestern Luzon, La Union and Ilocos provinces, Cagayan Valley, Babuyan, Mindoro, Mindanao. Also spoken in USA.

Hiligaynon (Ilongo): 7,000,000 in the Philippines (1995). Iloilo and Capiz provinces, Panay, Negros Occidental, Visayas. Also spoken in USA.

Bicolano: 5,000,000; Waray-waray: 2.4 million; Tausug: 900,000; and millions of others with "mother tongues" from Agta to Yogad.
I mention this remarkable linguistic diversity in order to emphasize the fact, readily admitted by Petitioners that, perhaps just as much as English is, Tagalog, masquerading as the Filipino National Language, is just as much a "foreign" language to the vast majority of the Filipinos. Of course, necessity and the realities of commerce, politics, government, mass media, telecommunications and indeed education soon enough cause both English and Tagalog to be acquired by most people as second and third languages, with the "mother tongue" relegated to the more informal aspects of life.

In light of this, Petitioners' allegation that the assailed Orders "subvert the present status of Filipino in non-Tagalog areas" is true only in the sense that government policy will not now be used to impose Tagalog on these non-Tagalog native speakers. Indeed, I aver that such a policy, if Petitioners vain prayer were granted, is bound to fail anyway for other reasons that will soon become clear to the gentle reader...

In their second Cause of Action, Petioners allege that:
8.2. The provision of the EO that the English language shall be used as a primary medium of instruction for English, Mathematics and Science from at least the Third Grade level is a clear violation of the constitutional duty of Respondents“to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as language of instruction in the educational system.
CAVEAT: In Part 1 of this series, I have already made the observation that if Respondents are guilty of the alleged violation, then so is the Supreme Court itself, the Congress, and most laughably, the Respondents themselves since the Constitutional provision cited states:
Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, the Government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.
It cannot be denied that every single Decision, Resolution, Letter and other communication rendered by the Honorable Supreme Court itself has been written in English since before 1987! Likewise, every Bill, Law, Resolution, Letter and other official communication of the Congress are likewise done in English, not Tagalog aka Filipino. Petitioners themselves submit the instant pleading in the fine and eloquent English found in the laurel-filled groves of Academe and the official Soviet-styled Nationalism of Mass Media.

In their 3rd and 4th Causes of Action, Petitioners display a good deal of clever disingenuity and intellectual dishonesty when they allege that:
8.3. The provision of the EO that the English language shall be used as the primary medium of instruction in all public and private institutions of learning in the secondary level, and the provision that encourages the use of English as the primary medium in the tertiary level, undermine both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution on the national language, which has prescribed Filipino as the medium of instruction on pedagogical grounds.

8.4. Indeed, in the 1991 Report of the Congressional Commission on Education, it was recommended that the vernacular and Filipino should be the medium of instruction for basic education. It enjoined the Department of Education to develop a plan such that between 1991 and 1998, a program for the development of instructional materials in Filipino is adopted and implemented and that, by the year 2000, all subjects, except English and other languages, shall be taught in Filipino.
CAVEAT: The 1987 Constitution is very clear (Art XIV, Section 7):
Section 7. For the purpose of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English.
There is nothing in the entire Constitution, which itself was originally written and presently adjudicated in English, whether in letter or spirit, that "prescribes Filipino" as medium of instruction on pedagogical grounds, as Petitioners allege. Moreover, the recommendations of the Congressional Commission on Education, as Petitioners well know, were merely that: recommendations that the Congress, which is empowered by the Constitution to provide by law for the use of Filipino, has not in fact seen any wisdom in what both that Commission and the present Petitioners now urge: that all subjects except English and other languages, be taught in Filipino. In order to understand WHY instructional materials in Tagalog have not been developed to teach, for example Math and Science subjects , one may well turn to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for an explanation:
The Mother Tongue Dilemma (PDF) Language and identity are linked – as the term ‘mother tongue’ implies. A healthy identity balances different aspects of our personalities. A community expresses part of its identity in its languages of instruction and a healthy society makes choices that promote harmonious communities and confident individuals. Fortunately these goals are usually congruent. Years of research have shown that children who begin their education in their mother tongue make a better start, and continue to perform better, than those for whom school starts with a new language. The same applies to adults seeking to become literate. This conclusion is now widely implemented, although we still hear of governments that insist on imposing a foreign language of instruction on young children, either in a mistaken attempt at modernity or to express the pre-eminence of a social dominant group. … Real life, however, is not always so simple. Some languages do not have the range of vocabulary and concepts to be useful beyond the early stages of schooling without additional codification and the invention of new words, which can take years.
Some readers will surely find other portions of this quote useful to their own points of view, with which I shall deal shortly, but I emphasize the latter statement to point out that for the purposes of teaching such things as Math and Science all languages are not created equal, nor suited to that purpose in a practical and realistic sense. There is NO SHAME in the fact that Tagalog has little hope of ever effectively transmitting the required information contained in Trigonometry or Meteorology or Computer Science or Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Medicine and indeed even of simple Arithmetic, Law and Finance.

The UNESCO position is clearly that multilingualism is an essential requirement in the world of the 21st Century. I think Petitioners will find much that contradicts their position that ALL subjects should be taught in a putative "national language" except for English and "other languages".

Not even Petitioners avail of Tagalog for their own professional activities as professors, pundits and Laureates, except for those whose living is actually made from the Florante at Laura and Ibong Adarna, and the making of nationalistic speeches on those rare occasions when it becomes too absurd not to do so. They could not manage to do so even in the filing of this very Petition to the Supreme Court!

In their fifth, sixth and seventh Causes of Action, Petitioners harp upon a single theme with several variations:
8.5. In 1998, the results of a World Bank/ADB education research demonstrate that the use of the vernacular in the first years of school provides the necessary bridge for a child to learn a second language (in this case Filipino or English), and that children are less likely to drop out of school during the first years of school when instruction is in the language spoken at home.

8.6. Thus, in 1998, an attempt was made to revive vernacular teaching through the use of the three major local lingua francae of the Philippines (Ilokano, Cebuano, Tagalog) as media of instruction until Grade 3 and in English thereafter, under the bilingual scheme. The pilot project was conceptualized with the help of specialists from the Summer Institute of Linguistics. The initial feedback from the pilot schools set up was overwhelmingly positive (pupils were active, not passive; they asked questions spontaneously instead of answering in monosyllables and phrases in a language they hardly understood, conceptualization especially in mathematics took place almost from the first day in school).

8.7. In 2000, the Philippine Commission on Educational Reforms, while reaffirming the bilingual policy and the improvement in the teaching of English, proposed the introduction of the use of the lingua franca or vernacular as the medium of instruction in Grade One. Studies have shown that this change will make students stay in school longer, learn better, quicker and more permanently, and will in fact be able to use the first language as a bridge to more effective learning in English and Filipino.
CAVEAT: Petitioners are blaming high drop out rates in public schools on the allegation that public school teachers do NOT use the vernacular in the first years of school to teach the children, as if such teachers are not the very SOURCE of Petitioners' acquired wisdom that the vernacular is the most effective tool for beginning learners! I assert that public school teachers DO USE the vernacular already in those early years, since there is no other choice in most cases. But even Petitioners do not oppose the eventual acquisition of "foreign" language skills in English and Tagalog. They merely insist upon the vernacular as a bridge to such acquisition. But I think that good teachers already implement their demand, making the petition quite moot. There is however, no practicable or equitable way of formalizing or standardizing such good practices, as Petitioners want, because our public schools, both in the provinces and the cities are necessarily MIXTURES of the various ethnic and language groups.

We should also note that in the Grades One and Two of ALL public schools, the Science Subject has been abolished since the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum was promulgated by the late Sec. Raul Roco, and that only English, Filipino, Math and Makabayan (Patriotism) are formally taught as subjects in those two critical grade levels. The latter subject, Makabayan is actually a supersubject and accounts for nearly 60% of the Curriculum, and therefore of the budgetary expenditures of the Dept. of Education. I am sure that students get more than the required dose of the vernacular in all these subjects, but most especially in the Makabayan subject area. Philippine Commentary readers may wish to review my analysis last year of Our Patriotic Curriculum and the Classroom Shortage to discover the REAL reason why kids are dropping out and not learning.

enophobia (but only ideological xenophobia of the most ludicrous and hypocritical variety) is displayed by Petitioners in Section 9 of their Pleading. Consider the following examples:
9.6. The harmful effects of using a foreign language for learning are not just limited to low academic achievement and cognitive growth; it also impairs the emotional security and the sense of self-worthiness and the ability to participate meaningfully in the educational process by lower class children who develop inferiority complex as they are stigmatized by their use of the native tongue.
CAVEAT: It doesn't occur to Petitioners that the harmful effects of using a foreign language has apparently not hindered their own high academic achievements, though I might agree with them on the matter of "cognitive growth"!

Finally, take a look at this bit of nonsense from Petitioners:
9.9. Furthermore, the use in education of English alienates children from their own cultural heritage and will produce a generation of young people who have no cultural values and who lack the traditions that make for a nation's identity. This has beclouded the responsibility of Petitioner Minors to pass on the cultural heritage of our nation to the next generations. Such a grave responsibility can only be accomplished through the use of the national language in school.
Is our cultural heritage limited to what comes to us through Ilokano, Cebuano, Pampango and Tagalog???? Isn't it through the agency of the English language that Filipinos came to know anything of themselves and the world? Wasn't it America that taught us about Spain, Greece, Rome, Christianity, Democracy, History, Science and all the rest? Why is English not considered a HUGE part of our cultural heritage? Have we not had over a century of English language achievement? Aside from the minor industry of pious nationalistic speech making, aren't the entire life's work of almost all the Petitioners themselves conducted in English? Who has an inferiority complex? Do the laurel leaves of National Artist award contain such mind-numbing toxins and vision-impairing blinders that we must be oppressed by such stupidity and ignorance?

Petitioners' own lives of accomplishment and prestige are the only rebuttal the Supreme Court needs to reject this hypocritical petition, though of course that will only increase their reputation as "nationalists"! Meanwhile the debate will continue along the moot and academic lines they have prescribed as the students and teachers continually suffer from a Curriculum and public school system that doesn't recognize the necessity of laboratories, computers, textbooks and even classrooms and school buildings in favor of puerile and infantile pieties.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Curious Paradox

Of some academic interest to the ongoing online discussion on Philippine education, the media of instruction, and a pending Supreme Court case, is the following recollection from the book, BEARERS OF BENEVOLENCE, The Thomasites and Public Education in the Philippines, edited by Mary Racelis and Judy Celine Ick, Anvil Publishing, 2001.

My Experiences as a Teacher in the Philippines (1900-1903)
by Moses D. Flint

In August of 1899 I was mustered out of the service as the regiment was about to return home and I had decided to try my fortune in the Philippines.

One day in August, 1900 upon receiving a letter from Mr. Atkinson, who was then at the head of the schools in Manila, I called at his office and accepted a position as teacher in the Second Tondo boys School where I taught for two months.

In November of 1900 there was branching out of the school system and upon request I was sent into the provinces. My first location was Cavite Viejo, the home of Don Emilio Aguinaldo.

I found there had been a so-called Spanish school in the town in which had been taught the Catholic catechism, a few prayers also in Spanish and something of manners, together with a very little of numbers. The building had been destroyed during the uprising of 1896 and the school had deteriorated even below its former low standard of instruction. The man I found in charge was ignorant old fisherman who had picked up a little Spanish in Manila. He would catch fish in the morning and about ten a.m. would come home and hear the children repeat their exercises in Spanish pronunciation and the catechism.

It was truly a novel sight to see the old man dressed in nothing but a pair of coarse pantaloons with the legs rolled up above his knees, sitting propped up against a post, mending his net, with the betel nut juice trickling down the corners of his mouth and the cigarette smoke curling above his matted chair, while he assumed the character of a teacher.

The children studied their exercises out loud in concert and could be heard more than a block away shouting at the top of their voices: "a-b ab, i-b ib, e-b, eb, o-b ob, u-b ub". They had been kept at this senseless work day after day, week in and week out, during the whole year.

The place used for a schoolhouse was the under part of the fisherman's bamboo house. It was low, uncoiled, with a mud floor, and open to the weather. In one corner was tied a pig, while on the posts were nests occupied in part by patient old biddies. there was also the ever prevalent, half-starved dog always under foot.

Upon entering, the sign which met my eyes was not one calculated to insure enthusiasm in the work. Some of the little half-clothed younsters were eating raw turnips, others were smoking the inevitable cigarette, some were having a good time gambling with pennies, while a few were shouting their lessons. Out of this confusion, I must bring order: with this material I must organize a school.

The people were very anxious to learn the new language and seemed willing to help, but when it came to supplying an adequate building and paying Filipino assistants, they were absolutely helpless. They looked to the government for everything. There seemed to be some excuse for their inability to help in this way for they had just passed through four years of almost continuous fighting and privations and had little to give but poverty.

The people were exceedingly poor and many children came to school with only an abbreviated shirt for clothing. These were, of course, sent home and in many cases could not return because the parents were too poor to clothe them. The people in the early days took the new government as natural consequence and looked to it for everything of a general nature, remaining indifferent or blaming it if it failed to keep the peace or punish offenders; but always neglecting to give any help in bringing these things about.

Toward education they were eager to show their appreciation and loud in their praises of it. The town officers would send out policemen to gather the children into the schools when they played truant or were kept away by their parents. The people seemed to think that an education was easily and quickly acquired and after one had finished, he need never work any more. Coupled with this was the Spanish belief that a gentleman never did manual labor. they were scandalized when I took hold and began making desks for the schoolroom.

In 1902 I was transferred to Alfonso, a town in the hills of southern Cavite, where the work of starting the schools had to be begun all over again. I selected some young people in the town and taught them the lessons they should teach the children the next day and giving them instruction in the evening and after school hours, I succeeded in fitting them for teachings in the primary grades.

No Americans were nearer than Indang, seven miles away, and for months at a time I would see no one who could speak English. I was obliged to learn Tagalog in order to make myself understood.

The greatest difficulties were encountered in finding school buildings and preparing the Filipino teachers for there was very little money available. It took weary months of extra work to prepare the teachers for their duties. We had teachers' classes after school hours and in the evenings and at last opened up schools in the barrios of Bailin, Magallanes and Mendez Nunez. The people of the barrios put up provisional buildings. Civil government had been established and was being appropriated for schools but the demand for new schools was greater than we could possibly supply.

The methods of instruction were very similar to those in vogue now. The pupils were first taught a number of words by the use of objects and a few action words. Then the use of these words was taught by means of conversational exercises. After this the questions and answers were written by the pupils, either copied or by dictation. The child taught to read and each new word was treated in the same way. The pupil learned to read, write and use the word the same day. Of course the pupils were older than those generally found in the first grade today. The children had a tendency to commit whole pages of the text and repeat them without any knowledge of their meaning.

As for discipline, I have never found any trouble except that at times the Filipino teachers had to be cautioned against being too severe.

Those early years were full of interesting work and even though there were hardships, privations and disappointments, I look back to them with pleasure. We, the pioneer of the work, feel that we helped lay the foundation stones of our present efficient educational system.

It becomes readily apparent to anyone who surveys the field that the biggest supporters of so-called nationalistic ideas in public education involving the use of Filipino (aka Tagalog) as a medium of instruction are actually those who are most fluent in English (as in, making a living at it either as teachers, pundits or authors) and are already very well-educated. It is quite similar to the situation during Spanish Taliban times, when the teaching of Spanish was strictly against the Church and government policies for hundreds of years. Conversely, the above testimonial and many others like it show that during American colonial times, as it is even today, it is the poor and underprivileged, the uneducated masses who avidly desire to acquire a facility with English.

I would appreciate theories from the Comment Thread on why this curious paradox exists.

UPDATE: This is a comment I posted on MLQ3's weblog that I think also belongs in this post:
The poor, the uneducated “probably” wish they were fluent in English, because it would seem to me they already feel fluent in their native tongue and don’t need further education in it. Thus even Americans and Englishmen are often puzzled at why they have to study English. Until they realize that facility, fluency and expertise in English opens the doors to professional careers, businesses, promotions, wealth.

I think the poor and uneducated are “probably” aware of the fact that their betters, like Conrado de Quiros, Randy David, Patricia Licuanan, and indeed all the substantial people of society in govt, business, academe, etc. are all English speaking in their default condition and that when they deign to speak in the vernacular it is merely to impress the poor and uneducated with their noble and generous humility.

I am guilty of that as much as anybody else.

But I am also convinced that any initially poor person won’t be that for long if he can at least read and write good English.

And so I shall do everything to help our countrymen get a leg up on the world by promoting the use of the tools that will accomplish their upliftment: Mathematics, Science and the Lingua Anglica of the 21st Century.

That is not to say that Mandarin and Japanese and French are not also worthwhile studying. Or indeed Filipino. They are!

But we are inextricably a part of the Anglosphere of this Earth. There is no shame in that. Conversely, it is a cruel and misguided notion that the feel-good nationalism these Petitioners urge will do anything but win them National Artists Awards and congratulations from their peers. In its effects, their Petition to the Court, if granted, would be indistinguishable from the language apartheid policies of the Spanish Taliban which effectively cut the Islands off from the rest of humanity for 300 years, and is therefore despicable and hateful to me.

If I am glad and proud to be part of that Anglosphere, it is because the gift of English is what awakened the Sleepers of the Centuries in this archipelago, to the history of the world, to the wonders of science, to the knowledge and notion that they too could one day be as great as their Masters. Or even greater.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Medium Is The Mess

ducational controversy makes an early appearance this season...The Supreme Court is about to receive a Pleading from various parties including Isagani R. Cruz (DLSU), Randy David (University of the Philippines) and Patricia B. Licuanan (Ateneo de Manila) involving the use of the Filipino national language. (Hat tip to MLQ3 for his blog post Language Wars.)

Petitioners quote Art XIV Section 6 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution--
"Section 6: The national language of the Philippines is Filipino. As it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages. Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, the Government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system."
and then assail as unconstitutional on that basis EO 210 and DepEd Order 36 as follows:
8.2. The provision of the EO that the English language shall be used as a primary medium of instruction for English, Mathematics and Science from at least the Third Grade level is a clear violation of the constitutional duty of Respondents “to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as language of instruction in the educational system.
Well, to oblige Petitioners and decertify the orders of Respondents President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Education Secretary Jesli Lapus promoting English as a second language, the Supreme Court would have to bring patent absurdity down upon itself, since Respondents might well ask, "How many Decisions of the Supreme Court itself, which are surely as official as official communications of the government can get, are rendered in the Filipino national language? Answer: NONE! How many have been translated into Filipino? Answer: NONE. And what of the Congress, which issues those laws it deems necessary to implement the Constitution? How much of its official communication in the form of written legislation are written in the language Petitioners claim must be sustained as the official medium of communication? NONE!

And, what of the Petitioners themselves and their official Pleading to the High Court? Does its fluent and eloquent English language rendering also follow the spirit and letter of the Constitution?? NYET!

Not only are the available math and science books in English, but 99.9% of all new science is being done in English. (Or choose any other large percentage). Therefore, we are asking to lame ourselves by demanding a translation-based education in math and science. IN the first place you need linguists good enough to be scientists and mathematicians to both understand the subjects and still be able to render it into Filipino. That is crazy given the speed and volume at which science and math developments are occurring.

The harder and more seriously you look at this petition, the sillier and more absurd it gets. Unless they can get the Supreme Court to start with itself, as the protector and interpreter of the constitution, it hardly stands to reason, or even humor, to demand that the education system do the same.

I don't know what the Supreme Court will do, but I predict either perpetual (embarrassed) silence, or a Minute Resolution throwing up "Separation of Powers" or something like that!

MLQ3 also links to speeches by Randy David (Pulitika ng Wika, Wika ng Pulitika) and Conrado de Quiros (Ang Kapangyarihan ng Wika, Wika ng Kapangyarihan) (no dear reader, you aren't hallucinating, those really ARE the titles they used!) in which the two columnists of the Philippine Daily Innuendo valiantly pour forth on this subject and in largely the same vein (with just a touch more Whitmanesque lyricism by CDQ than Randy) using a strangely familiar formal Filipino in which one can literally hear them translating from their more familiar idioms in English. Here is an excerpt from Randy David, for example:
Depende sa reglamento ng laro, kung ganon, ang wika ay kagyat na nagpapalakas o nagpapahina. [Depending on the rules of the game then, language weakens or strengthens.]
I don't think the National Institute of Language in Diliman which maintains the official parameters of Pilipino as an amalgam of Tagalog, Ilokano, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, etc, would consider this "correct" Filipino. But Randy makes his points well enough, though I am sure he would be much more comfortable writing it all out in English, as he does his weekly columns for PDI. Likewise de Quiros writes about five times more English verbiage than Randy. Both however, must've been profoundly conscious of the irony of writing this stuff out in anything but the formal if cumbersome Filipino that they attempt in these speeches.

When the Spanish Taliban made it official government and church policy NOT to teach Spanish to the indios, I always thought it was an historically selfish act, for which we have never forgiven them in the coin of sentimentality towards Spain--none of which exists in the Archipelago or the Filipino. This Pleading to the Supreme Court really is just a bunch of elitists working off their guilty consciences, isn't it?

At least, Patricia B. Licuanan makes no such pretenses, and in the link to her from MLQ3, she does indeed, in her own picturesque English expression, "cut to the chase." But it is a beguilingly puzzling claim she makes as follows among the reasons why using English would "damage" the studentry--
English as medium of instruction will widen the gap between the rich and poor in our country.
That's funny. Almost all the rich people I know speak English as a matter of course, though they are naturally, bilingual or even trilingual. But almost all the involuntarily poor people I know (there are distinctive exceptions) can only speak a vernacular or dialect.

But I must transmit the following message to Ms. Licuanan: You are my absolute idol for having written the book, The Love Hate Relationship Between America and the Philippines (A History of the Baguio Country Club), which is perhaps the most superb and enjoyable account of those second colonial times in my possession. So forgive my French, Madame, but how have you come to this pass?? Is it the pressure of Academe, the need to conform, the need to justify a National Artists Award--that system of official recognition we learnt from the old Soviet Union? {Please see MLQ3's correction to this paragraph in the comment thread. Turns out it was the mother of Patricia Licuanan, Virginia Licuanan I've been praising for this lovely book...oh well...explains my puzzlement...}

Petitioners appear to be deliberately misreading or misinterpreting the Constitution when they claim in Section 8.3 as follows:
8.3. The provision of the EO that the English language shall be used as the primary medium of instruction in all public and private institutions of learning in the secondary level, and the provision that encourages the use of English as the primary medium in the tertiary level, undermine both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution on the national language, which has prescribed Filipino as the medium of instruction on pedagogical grounds.
Yet look at the exact provision of the Constitution that Petitioners quote a few paragraphs up:
Section 7 Art. XIV For the purpose of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English.
It appears to be the Petitioners who are violating the explicit letter and spirit of the Constitution.

Reality Sets In--Communist Front Organizations Hemorrhage in April SWS Poll

"STUMPED" is how their media comrades described the reaction of the militant Bayan Muna, Gabriela and Anakpawis party list groups over a precipitous drop in public opinion polling numbers in the April 14-17 SWS-PDI survey of voter preferences for the May 14 midterm elections, which are just weeks away. The biggest loser was Bayan Muna, whose public support plunged by almost two-thirds from an euphoria-inducing high of 27.6% in March to just 10.4%; the radical women's group Gabriela went from 5.8% to 2.7% while Anakpawis likewise lost half its support dropping from 6.2% to 3.2%. Happily, my favorite party-list group, AKBAYAN has surged from 3.9% to 9.8%, threatening to overtake Bayan Muna and top the coming polls among them.

Reaching for straws, several illogical theories have been propounded by the militants and their allies to explain the disastrous loss of public support. These include the alleged loss of media attention--despite being featured in newspaper headlines, prime time broadcasts, radio interviews and being cottoned to by folks like Joker Arroyo and Ralph Recto, who naturally got the groups' endorsements today (a big red kiss of death from Jose Maria Sison, I hope.) Opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson, also playing to the peanut gallery, offered the strange idea that the presence of military officers and men in several barangays in Metro Manila considered bailiwicks of the leftists has scared people into dropping their support for the militants, which of course flies in the face of the nationwide scope of the survey, and perhaps reveals his own cast of mind.

OCCAM'S RAZOR cuts through all this differential and integral calculus and reveals what would seem to be the simplest explanation for the changed public sentiment, namely, that the Public believes the multiple murder charges filed against Bayan Muna leader Rep. Satur Ocampo may be true and aren't about to vote for an alleged mass murderer. Satur Ocampo was arrested on April 3 based on a warrant issued by a Leyte province Regional Trial Court for allegedly ordering (while under detention in Manila) the summary execution of suspected government spies whose corpses were buried and recently discovered by the Philippine Military in a mass grave in Inopacan, Leyte.

These "Killing Fields" were part of a widely reported and well-known series of paranoiac purges that seized the CPP-NPA leadership near the end of the Marcos martial law dictatorial regime that brought about a deadly killing spree throughout the insurgent rebel network. The high-flying communist party leader was released two weeks later in an extraordinary Supreme Court ruling in which, contrary to normal Court procedures, the High Court itself granted him bail, which legal practitioners say is the first prerogative of the lower courts. But then again, these aren't impartial judges on the High Bench--they're publicity hounds just like the politicians. Immediately after he was released, there was jubilation all over Leftistan, with bright predictions of rolling into Congress with a huge electoral victory. We have never seen such a massive change in SWS voter preference numbers in so short a time. It's a stampede that qualifies as an, uhmm withdrawal of support!

The comparatively moderate party list organization, Etta Rosales' Akbayan Citizens Action Party, which has accused Bayan Muna or the NPA of murdering several of its members in Nueva Ecija, meanwhile jumped from 3.9% to 9.8% and is now in a statistical dead heat with Bayan Muna. At this rate, Akbayan could indeed overtake Bayan Muna and top the party list election in May. That would suit me just fine since Akbayan was not mentioned by Joma Sison in that famous video of his bragging about and naming his various National Democratic Front organizations in the Philippines.

It is not clear now whether Bayan Muna will actually be able to keep all three of its seats in Congress. If their total on May 14 is less than 6%, they would lose one seat, two if below 4% and lose them all if they get below 2%. I am not counting on this but it could happen. Meanwhile Gabriela and Anakpawis are in real danger of losing their seats in Congress as they are both nearing the 2% threshold level to retain them since the sampling error of this survey was plus or minus three percent.

On a technical note, the rest of the field are also within the sampling error of the 2% threshold. I don't think a 1200 respondent survey with a sampling error of plus or minus three percent can reliably tell us which of the groups that are near 2% have actually exceeded it, although the SWS-PDI announcement cutely (and incorrectly) tries to squeeze milk from stone.

I do hope that the Left will someday give up its violent insurgency so that Teddy Casino doesn't have to play so cute with the Filipino people in denying that they ARE fronting for the CPP NPA. They can campaign all they want for Marxism Leninism Mao Zedong Thought, but they aren't fooling anybody with their fancy denials and hairsplitting. The people can't be infantilized by their lies about their real sympathies and secret activities. They've no credibility at all when it comes to this issue, because the people simply are not that stupid or blind to the truth. Neither should they.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Puno Has Prejudged Every Terrorism Case and Beheaded the Rule of Law

JUDICIAL IMPARTIALITY it seems, is nothing but a strange, foreign concept to the Philippine Judiciary, especially to its Chief Justices, judging by the recent Commencement Address of Reynato Puno to graduates of the University of the East. Although he did not once mention the Human Security Act of 2007 -- the Philippines Anti-terrorism Law which won't even be coming into effect until July, and which is automatically suspended for three months during every election year! -- I don't see how ANY prosecution under that law can possibly prosper when no less than the Chief Justice himself has already declared the war on terrorism to be a mindless knee jerk reaction that constitutes a diminution of "our human rights."

Many people, like my friends Manuel Buencamino (Unifors) and Anna de Brux (Hillblogger) cannot seem to understand the principle that is involved in this matter--mainly because they happen to agree with Mr. Justice Puno's personal, political and ideological opinion about the matter. The way for them to see my point is to ask themselves what their reaction would be if he got up on that podium and started ranting and raving against the Abu Sayyaf and the Communist Party and calling them terrorist organizations. I would agree with THAT opinion, but I would make the same criticism of the Chief Justice: it is NOT his place to be participating in public gatherings and expressing highly charged political opinions on Executive policy and judging the wisdom of the laws passed by Congress. I will be happy to hear from MB or HB any morally consistent counter-argument to this point.

There is simply NO JUSTICE possible without the neutrality of a cold, impartial Judge. The fatal fallacy that Kangaroo Courts such as the Permanent People's Tribunal in Geneva have fallen into and which seduces our own ambitious judicial majesties is simply this--they think it is more important to be RIGHT than it is to be FAIR!

Puno has a right to any personal opinion about terrorism policy, of course, but I think it is violation of his oath of office "to render impartial justice to every man" for Puno to make public statements that call the official government policy against terrorism and the laws duly passed by the Congress to be "mindless" or even, outright violations of the Constitutional guarantees to life and liberty. It is NOT for him to be making such statements and expressing such opinions outside of justiciable cases, because one of these days a real case could come before him AS the Chief Justice in some historic case, and he will, by moral necessity, have to excuse himself from judging the case--whichever of the two possible opinions he could have!

For example, a real case SHOULD come before the Courts against the Abu Sayyaf, led by Al-Bader Parad, who has taken responsibility for the recent beheading of seven young kidnapped road construction workers. But he only has to pull out a copy of that Commencement Address of Reynato Puno's for the best possible defense you could mount against any government charges based on the Anti-Terrorism Law. Your Defense Attorney is already a sitting Chief Justice!

Egged on, flattered, headlined and even given cushy pundit-jobs by the Big Leftist Media like the Philippine Daily Innuendo, the recent run of Chief Justices (Davide, Panganiban, and the present short-termer looking at retirement, Reynato Puno) are a despicable and ugly lot whose legacy is the beheading of the Rule of Law by putschist, activist, politicalized judges who've no conception of the harm they have done to an already legally corrupt and morally bankrupt Judiciary.

It isn't only the Judiciary of course that they have seriously harmed. It is also the entire system of checks and balances they have destroyed--that carefully devised division of labor and jurisdiction among the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial Branches of the government.

What incentive, I wonder, is actually left for law enforcement agencies like the police and the military, to uphold the laws and apprehend the criminals, like the cruel and heartless beheaders of those utterly innocent seven young men who will never have the benefit of Commencement Exercises? When no less than the Chief Justice calls their war on terror a mindless and knee jerk enterprise and the terrorist suspects the "victims" of poverty and hunger, and themselves violators of civil liberties or running dogs of US imperialism, what will they actually do out in the field? Will they actually bother to investigate WHO is really guilty, properly arrest and charge them with crimes under law, prosecute them in the Courts?

NO! They will simply execute them before they get beheaded themselves and be called fascists for it by people like Buencamino and de Brux, or character-assassinated by those communist party cells within the biggest newspapers and media outlets, not to mention politicians and officials deathly afraid of the Media's supreme power to destroy them or to make them.

When these media folks happen to agree with the opinions of a Chief Justice like Puno, they dream up of all sorts of ways to praise and butter them up. When these officials, especially in the Judiciary are "kulang sa pansin" (hungry for attention) it often happens that they themselves will pander to the Media. Out the window goes the Prime Directive that governs the judicial system: the neutrality of a cold, impartial judge. It's the power of media and publicity run amuck because of the relative permanence and influence of these institutions as compared to the short and unsure tenure there is in government--which are thankless jobs for those who want to be honest.

Terrorism is a vast and complex issue. It will strike anyone who seriously studies it how shallow Reynato Puno's own understanding of it seems to be. Worse of course is how dense and unconscious he appears to be about his DUTY as Chief Justice to uphold the Rule of Law, by keeping his opinions to himself about things that are clearly not in his jurisdiction or even competence to adjudge and comment publicly upon. His actual opinion is irrelevant to the demands of his high office, whose powers and responsibilities are independent of his person. If he cannot understand this simple idea, he has no business being a judge. He should instead join the ranks of the politicos or the punditocracy, where he can shout his head off all he wants.

He should be impeached for criminal negligence, qualified graft and corruption, and ignorance of the Law, instead of being praised to high heavens for beheading its Rule!


L. Wildhaber, President, European Court of Human Rights:
Impartiality lies at the very heart of the notion of justice and fair trial. It is therefore not surprising that it occupies a prominent place in the due process guarantees enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights. Public perception that justice is impartial is the foundation for the confidence which citizens must have in their judicial system. The requirement of an independent and impartial judiciary embraces both subjective and objective elements. It is the latter aspect which has been the focus of the Strasbourg case-law in this area and which is most obviously linked to public perception. This is expressed in the doctrine of appearances reflecting the old adage, justice must not only be done, it must also be seen to be done; in the context of the present paper, this translates as courts must not only be impartial, they must also be seen to be impartial.
The Honourable Sir Gerard Brennan, AC, KBE, Chief Justice of Australia:

Confidence in the courts would be destroyed if judicial integrity were suspect. Judicial integrity in a system that applies the rule of law equally to all is manifested by impartiality between the parties, procedural fairness and a rigorous application of the law. Impartiality, as Lord Devlin remarked, is the supreme judicial virtue. The Judge must not only be but also appear to be impartial. Lord Devlin commented 18 :

"The Judge who does not appear impartial is as useless to the process as an umpire who allows the trial by battle to be fouled or an augurer who tampers with the entrails."

Want of impartiality poisons the stream of justice at its source; an appearance of partiality dries it up.

Judicial impartiality is not a quality that is picked up with the judicial gown or conferred by the judicial commission. It is a cast of mind that is a feature of personal character honed, however, by exposure to those judicial officers and professional colleagues who possess that quality and, on fortunately rare occasions, by reaction against some instance of partiality.
From the Philippines Code of Judicial Conduct:


RULE 5.01 - A judge may engage in the following activities provided that they do not interfere with the performance of judicial duties or detract from the dignity of the court:

(a) write, teach and speak on non-legal subjects;

(b) engage in the arts, sports, and other special recreational activities;

(c) participate in civic and charitable activities;

(d) serve as an officer, director, trustee, or non-legal advisor of a non-profit or non-political educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization.


RULE 5.10 - A judge is entitled to entertain personal views on political questions. But to avoid suspicion of political partisanship, a judge shall not make political speeches, contribute to party funds, publicly endorse candidates for political office or participate in other partisan political activities.
I ask the Comment Thread: (1) after Puno's commencement address last week, what are the chances that the High Court will be seen to be impartial as regards ANY case now brought before it involving the Abu Sayyaf, the MNLF/MILF, or indeed the CPP-NPA when the Chief Justice has already declared the war against them as "mindless"? What are the chances that the military and police authorities will bother to bring such cases before them at all after this? (2) Given that terrorism policy is a major issue in the present midterm elections campaign, is not Chief Justice Puno culpable under the Code of Judicial Conduct in respect of making political speeches on this particular subject matter.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Chief Justice Puno on Terrorism -- Sophomoric, Uninspiring, Self-Loathing

The Supreme Court website has just posted in full the Commencement Speech delivered by the Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno to the graduating class of the University of the East. This is the most minor of points, but I think perhaps the text should be taken down immediately and given to a competent copy-editor for some much-needed corrections in the grammar and history department. It's numerous and obvious errors of fact and style could be attributed to flawed transcription or hurried preparation for now, but not after it's been up for a few days or weeks on the Supreme Court's official web site. I wish that its hollow and misbegotten substance could be just as easily corrected, but they are of such a basically and dangerously flawed nature that instead of praise and applause, I am forced into the unpleasant but necessary task of making this critique full of caveats and even vehement disagreement.

With all due respect to the right honorable Supreme Court, the attribution of this speech to the Chief Justice is an insult not only to sophomores everywhere, but also to the real victims of the global terrorist network, most recently those seven young innocent Filipinos in Mindanao, who were kidnapped and were having their heads hacked and savagely sawed off by the Abu Sayyaf/MNLF terrorists perhaps at the very moment that Mr. Chief Justice Puno was putting on the great velvet robes of a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, and rehearsing the lines of this mediocre and tendentious speech...

However, much more than just cosmetics bothered me about the speech. Contrary to a headline published today nowhere in the speech does the Chief Justice actually say that the war on terror is mindless. But Puno does say some truly mindless things that reveal how gravely misinformed he actually is about the terrorist problem--and how naive about the real prospects humanity has of meeting the challenge and arriving at a solution that preserves any of his own ideals and illusions.

The praise release blurb on the website about him probably contains a very painful grain of truth:
A man of Law, Prose and Religion, Chief Justice Reynato Puno exemplifies the modern Filipino intellectual.
After reading the speech yourself, and this Commentary I would be very interested in how many of these categories the modern Filipino intellectual ought to be willing to grant Mr. Chief Justice Puno exemplary powers.

It is evident that Mr. Justice Puno is familiar with only a very small smattering of one kind of opinion on the war on terror--mainly the prosaic, imitative kind one finds in our daily newspapers. From the subject speech, one must conclude that it is highly unlikely he has explored very much of the historical and factual background, and even less, the informed commentary on both sides of the issue. Thus the ideas he expresses are neither unique nor original. How can they be? With no apparent basis or preparation in past encounters with ideas, observations and experiences comparable to, but ideally, greater than his own, how can Mr. Justice Puno help himself and the graduates he addresses to surmount the gap and exceed it with some superior moral or principle. He speaks like those lucky persons who've never been mugged and robbed or maimed by thugs and criminals themselves and thus can easily afford to profess a desire and commitment to defend theirrights while ignoring those of their victims or society at large.
The Old Struggle for Human Rights,

New Problems Posed by Security*


Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno

Supreme Court [of the Philippines]
[Commencement Address to Graduates of the University of the East, April 17, 2007, Manila Philippines]

“Tomorrow begins in the East,” trumpets the motto of this venerable institution of learning. In his last moments in Bagumbayan, our national hero Jose Rizal stared at tomorrow in the eye, veered his bullet-riddled body to the right and fell lifeless on the ground --face turned towards the rising sun in the east.[1] From the cradle to the grave, Rizal consecrated his life to fight for the human rights of our people.

Today, you will be certified as a walking intellectual. Tomorrow, you will be looking at our people with a fresh eye. I urge you to use your new eye to perceive the meaning and nuances of our continuing struggle to protect and push to new thresholds the human rights of our people.
CAVEAT: I suppose it is de riguer for Filipinos making commencement addresses to piously invoke the holy memory of our heroes. But why the greatest of them must perpetually be portrayed in the defeat and humiliation of his execution and death rather than the scintillating glory and value of his life can only be explained by the crucifixion of our intellectuals to the submissive traditions instilled by the very Spanish Taliban from which Jose Rizal indeed tried to free us, but has so far failed even in the person of the Chief Justice! This perhaps escapes Mr. Justice Puno's notice, in the retelling of how Rizal turned to face his executioners at the moment of his death (desiring not to be shot in the back as a traitor)--how it is to the West that Rizal faces upon that monument to his honor at the Luneta. I choose this metaphor to describe Jose Rizal because his ideals of liberty and equality--and ours!--are clearly in fraternity with those of the West, and actually bear little resemblance to what now follows...
J. Puno (continues):

The wisdom of hindsight informs us that human rights stem from three bedrock rights: the right to life, the right to human dignity, and the right to develop.[2] From the right to life springs our right to own property, to health, to work, to establish a family. From the right to human dignity flows our right to equal treatment before the law, to freedom of thought, of conscience, of religion, of opinion, expression, and to be recognized as a person everywhere. From the right to develop comes the right to education, and to live in an environment that allows all of our rights to flourish in full.[3]

There is no human without any right. The caveman and the civilized man have the same natural rights. Human rights inhere in all of us as human beings, as beings higher and different from other creatures. Since they are innate to man, since they are inherent to his being, these rights are inalienable and cannot be taken away; they are inviolable and cannot be waylaid by any might of man; their preservation is an obligation shared by the rulers and the ruled alike.
CAVEAT: As a political conservative, I am automatically suspicious of innovative reformulations of such basic principles as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness--even when they are derived from the writings of such great civil libertarians as Jose W. Diokno and expounded upon by a supposedly learned Chief Justice. Words are among the most ancient artifacts of humanity, and though these from 1776 are of fairly recent vintage, there is a broader and deeper understanding of their meaning and significance, nuance and application, among the peoples of the whole world than the ones Justice Puno has chosen: "the right to life, the right to human dignity and the right to develop." In a very general sense, the truth of both formulations or summaries of what the "bedrock" of human rights consists of, is self-evident. But something very subtle disturbs me about Puno's explanation of them. Granted these are all "natural rights" of man, but Puno will be seen throughout this speech as ignoring the fact that for almost all of human history, even right up to the second half of the last century, and perhaps to this present day, MOST human beings have not been in effective possession of those rights we regard as "natural". Cavemen were in a very different position than civilized men, because it required the invention of democracy and constitutions ratified by the majority of its citizens to guarantee such freedoms as those life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and their deprivation from individuals only under the due process of the Law. Without constitutional democracy and the coercive force invested by it in the Law, we would again be cavemen subject to the arbitrary savagery and barbarism of others. In all of human history FREEDOM has had to be WON from slavery, oppression, exploitation and the greed and venality of other men and nations. It is not a matter of preservation alone, unless it is something already handed down from our forefathers and jealously guarded by all that have come before us. Contrary to Mr. Justice Puno's claim, these rights ARE alienable and HAVE BEEN taken away from us, they ARE violable and they have been "waylaid by the might of men" in the past. And when these rights do have to be defended and preserved, it is usually with our very lives and all of our treasure, with guns blazing and flags unfurled, because those who would deprive us of them are deadly serious themselves about their evil and lethal enterprise. In the above passage, I am utterly beguiled by Justice Puno's statement that "From the right to develop comes the right to education, and to live in an environment that allows all of our rights to flourish in full." The cynical might say that the Chief Justice is merely playing to the crowd of students a throwing a cheap sop at the red-hot issue of Global Warming. But it is a statement that also gives rise to a suspicion on my part that Mr. Justice Puno does not understand or recognize the difference between the equality of opportunity that democracy seeks to establish with constitutional guarantees, and the guarantee of results that totalitarians and communists have always promised in the Workers Paradise of their ideology. More than a right to its benefits, I believe that every citizen has the DUTY to develop himself to the best of his abilities and given the hand that is dealt him by fate or divinity. What happens to each of us cannot possibly be the responsibility of the State
J. Puno (continues):

Our history tells us that in this small patch of the earth, our forefathers pioneered in planting the seeds of human rights when it was far from being the fad and fashion of the day. On May 31, 1897, they established a republican government in Biak-na-Bato. It had a Constitution advance on political and civil rights. With serendipity, its authors Felix Ferrer and Isabelo Artacho embedded in it four articles which guaranteed freedom of the press, the right of association, freedom of religion, and freedom from deprivation of property or domicile except by virtue of judgment passed by a competent court of authority. They entrenched these radical ideals in 1898 when Aguinaldo established a revolutionary government and adopted the Malolos Constitution.
CAVEAT: "With serendipity"? But it is a known fact that the Malolos Constitution of which Justice Puno speaks was a nearly verbatim copy of the Cuban Constitution of Jimaguayu, in its turn a copy of US and French documents. It was certainly an advance on Spanish colonial obscurantism, but Biak-na-bato is hardly a thing to be proud of, in my book, for treachery of the Filipino leaders that ensued and caused them next to be living it up in Hong Kong! There is nothing wrong with such plagiarism as Malolos was, in my opinion, but proper attribution ought to be given, rather than this obsession of Filipinos for greatness based on uniqueness.
J. Puno (continues):

Then came our war against the United States. American President McKinley sent the First Philippine Commission headed by Jacob Gould Schurman to assess the Philippine situation. On February 2, 1900, the commission reported to the President that the Filipino wanted above all a “guarantee of those fundamental human rights which Americans hold to be the natural and inalienable birthright of the individual but which under Spanish domination in the Philippines had been shamefully invaded and ruthlessly trampled upon.” (emphasis supplied) In response to this, President McKinley, in his Instruction of April 7, 1990 to the Second Philippine Commission, provided an authorization and guide for the establishment of a civil government in the Philippines stated that “(u)pon every division and branch of the government of the Philippines. . . must be imposed these inviolable rules…” The “inviolable rules” included, among others, that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

The “inviolable rules” of the Instruction were re-enacted almost exactly in the Philippine Bill of 1902, in the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916 or the Jones Law, and in the 1935 Constitution.

The 1935 Bill of Rights was carried into the 1973 Constitution with a few changes, and finally in the 1987 Constitution. As an aftermath of the martial law regime of the Marcos government, the 1987 Constitution, enshrined a Bill of Rights which more jealously safeguards the people’s fundamental liberties. In clear and unmistakable language, the Constitutional proclaimed as a state policy that “(t)he state values the dignity of very human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.” In addition, it has a separate Article on Social Justice and Human Rights, under which, the Commission on Human Rights was created.
CAVEAT:With regards to America, the undeniable facts are these. She invaded, conquered and subjugated the First Philippine Republic in 1898-99 which was already the first constitutional democracy in Asia (ahead of both Australia, 1900 and New Zealand, 1906). But why did America, in that FIRST IRAQ, establish here a democracy in her own image complete with elections, education, a purposively trained elite of business and civic leaders and a Legislature, even a Judiciary? Why did tens of thousands of young, idealistic American men and women, missionaries and civilians, come to these shores to give us the gift of the English language that ever was selfishly denied us by the Spanish? This is the question I've asked myself over the years: Why did America come to recreate herself in this Archipelago on the other side of the world? Ever pondering the minds of men like President William MacKinley, William Howard Taft, and Dean Conant Worcester, and examining the record of their alleged "Empire" here, I have arrived at the following theory which I humbly offer to the reader for his reaction--America came here and did the benevolent things she did out of a guilty conscience for the genocide of her own indios --a tragic process virtually complete by the end of the American Indian Wars of the 2nd half of the 19th Century. America came here, in part, to redeem faith in herself and her democratic traditions. It is my only explanation for such mysterious acts as that of the First Civilian Governor General, William Howard Taft, when, at the height of the Philippine American War in 1901, just months before the great Katipunan victory at the Battle of Balangiga, he established the Bureau of Public Instruction!
J. Puno (continues):

The horrors of the World Wars warn us that the protection of human rights is a duty we owe to generations to come. In 1945, the peoples of the United Nations (UN), declared in the Preamble of the UN Charter that their primary end was the reaffirmation of “faith in the fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small,” in order “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

The promotion of human rights is also the indispensable predicate of peace and progress. For this reason, on December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its two implementing covenants are the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These instruments not only denounced nazism and fascism, but also recognized that the “security of individual rights, like the security of national rights, was a necessary requisite to a peaceful and stable world order.”
CAVEAT:How easy it is to forget or ignore the historic fact of that War--that SIXTY MILLION human beings died to defend freedom and democracy from the global threat of the Axis of Evil then in German Nazism, Italian Fascism and Japanese Militarism, which came so close to conquering the world. As for the UN Charter, its piety has certainly not prevented the scourge of war nor the deprivation of human rights. International Communism saw its zenith and nadir during this period, yet something of it survives in vital form in Europe, in the United Nations and even in the Philippines which still has an active Maoist insurgency seeking to overthrow the government.
J. Puno (continues):
The interesting question is what has happened to human rights in this new millennium? The end of the Cold War ended the bipolar world starring the West led by the United States and the East led by Russia. The end result of that clash of civilization is the emergence of a unipolar world dominated by democracy as the political ideology and the triumph of capitalism as the bible of economics. With communism out in the cold, the world awaited with bated breath the dawn of universal peace and order. But when peace appeared to be within mankind’s grasp, 9/11 shattered to smithereens its illusion. 9/11 gave birth to new realities on ground with grave repercussions on the human rights situation in the world, especially the most vulnerable sector, the poor who are many, the many yet the most impotent.
CAVEAT:These are the words of an armchair spectator of world events! During the time that Mr. Justice Puno "awaited with bated breath the dawn of universal peace and order" at the end of the Cold War, the United Nations fought the only officially sanctioned war in its entire history (aside from the Korean War of the 1950s which only happened because the Soviet Ambassador was taking a leak!). That 1990 war was the First Persian Gulf War against Saddam Hussein after he invaded Kuwait. It was also in the 1990s that Iraqi agents Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Ramzi Youssef linked up with Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah in none other than the Philippines to begin developing the tactics that were used in the 9/11 attack, in the bombing of airliners and other means of mass transportation. And it was on Rizal Day, December 30, 2000, nine months before 9/11, that Al Qaeda launched a major attack on the Philippines when the notorious Indonesian terrorist, Fathur Rohman Al Ghozi bombed the LRT in Manila, killing dozens of innocent men, women and children with a deadly cell-phone activated explosive. It was also throughout the 1990s that the MNLF, the MILF, the Abu Sayyaf and the New People's Army launched hundreds of attacks on military and civilian alike and carried out their still-ongoing activities to overthrow the government and supplant our democracy with their own concepts of "human rights."
J. Puno (continues):
On the universal level, 9/11 altered the face of international law. As the worst victim of terrorism, the United States led the fight to excise and exorcise terrorism from the face of the earth. It pursued a strategy characterized by a bruising aggressiveness that raised the eyebrows of legal observers. The leader country of democracy did not wait for the United Nations to act but immediately sought to search and destroy terrorists withersoever they may be found.
CAVEAT: The United States is not the "worst victim of terrorism" as Mr. Justice Puno claims, even compared to the Philippines, which has suffered poverty and stunted development from decades of Islamist and communist terror--insurgencies that have prevented the full bloom of its tourism potential, its industrial, agricultural and technological development. And I must say, Mr. Puno displays an embarrassing ignorance of the historic events that followed upon the heels of 9/11, when the most extraordinary alliance of nations formed around America in order to destroy the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. I challenge the good Chief Justice to declare as mindless the outstanding achievements that humanity has made in THAT little patch of earth, where men, women and children have been freed at last, at least in part, from the enshrouding bourqa of fundamentalist, theocratic Islam, from the dictatorship of the Taliban. Even though that work is far from complete, even though Iraq is a mess, who would not chafe at Mr. Justice Puno's own mindless parlance?

J. Puno (continues):In less polite parlance, the search and destroy strategy gave little respect to the sovereignty of states and violated their traditional borders. The strategy which is keyed on military stealth and might had trampling effects on the basic liberties of suspected terrorists for laws are silent when the guns of war do the talking. The war on terrorism has inevitable spilled over effects on human rights all over the world, especially in countries suspected as being used as havens of terrorists. One visible result of the scramble to end terrorism is to take legal shortcuts and legal shortcuts always shrink the scope of human rights.
CAVEAT:In less polite parlance, Mr. Chief Justice, you bet your sorry ass that traditional borders are being violated--for what borders, traditional or not have the terrorists respected? They have no cities of their own, no populations to defend, no capitals to secure, yet they threaten all of our cities, all of our populations, all of our civilization. As Mohammed el Baradei said upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize last year, there is no greater threat to humanity today than nuclear terrorism from organizations like Al Qaeda and those nations and individuals who would supply them with the means to Armageddon.
J. Puno (continues):

These shortcuts have scarred the landscape of rights in the Philippines. In March 2006, Amnesty International issued a public statement expressing grave concern over reports of an ongoing pattern of political killings of members of legal leftist organizations in various provinces in the country. It also stated that in the wider context of continuing nationwide counter-insurgency operations against the New People’s Army (denounced as terrorists) periodic human rights violation, including arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions and torture, continue to be reported. Aside from them, community activists, church workers, lawyers, journalists and others perceived as sympathetic to the communist movement suffered violation of their human rights. Not to be outdone, the NPAs are also reported to have lawlessly retaliated against their opponents.
CAVEAT: Coming from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, I find this description of the anti-insurgency campaign in the Philippines to be entirely upside down. Is that what the NPAs are doing with their organized criminal activities of extortion, blackmail, kidnapping, murder and illegal collections of "revolutionary taxes" and permits to campaign? They are retaliating against their opponents? It almost sounds like Mr. Justice Puno thinks the NPA is justified in its activities! Read on to see how it isn't just "sounds like" with this particular apologist for terrorist insanity.
J. Puno (continues):

The escalation of extra judicial killings in the Philippines has attracted the harsh eye of advocates of human rights. The UN Commission on Rights has sent Prof. Alston to look at the Philippine human rights situation. Some members of the International Parliamentary Union are in town for the same purpose. Their initial findings are not complementing to our Constitutional commitment to protect human rights.
CAVEAT: Perhaps the UN Human Rights Council and all those UN rapporteur-schampporteurs would like to investigate how those seven innocent heads heads came to be separated from their seven innocent bodies! And while they are at, Mr. Justice Puno can ponder on the real meaning of terrorism when his nose isn't stuck in the UN's humanitarian gobbledygook lawbooks that Jose Maria Sison loves to stand upon as a global soapbox in the hallowed halls of Geneva. Perhaps we should add for their examination and erudite perorations the remains of the hundreds of victims of the CPP NPA's paranoid purges in the 80s and 90s.
J. Puno (continues):As young graduates, you may be asking yourself the relevance of these ongoing violations of human rights to your life, especially as you embark on your journey to improve the economic aspects of your life. I submit that the fight against terrorism and the battle to preserve human rights have high impact on the right of young people to live with dignity. One of its ill-effects is the massive displacement of young people in areas where the fight against terrorism tramples on human rights. These young people are compelled to migrate to seek greener pastures in hostile environments and, worse where they find their human rights subjected to new abuses with near impunity. Figures show that this problem of displacement will get worse in the coming years because of the galloping growth of the youth population. The United Nations predict that some 138 countries will have growing “youth bulge”; its calamitous consequence is that youth unemployment will skyrocket to record levels with the highest rate in the Middle East and North Africa. The UN findings further reveal that at least 60 million people aged 15-20 will not be able to find work and twice as many, about 130M, cannot lift their families out of poverty. It will not take a prophet to predict that countries that cannot give decent life to their young people will serve as incubators of extremism that may end up in terrorism.
CAVEAT: This appears to be Mr. Justice Puno's feeble argument against the OFW phenomenon, his imitation of Conrado de Quiros' famous accusation that OFWs are the "toilet bowl cleaners" of the world traitorously and selfishly leaving the homeland for greener pastures. Well, thirteen billion dollars a year repatriated by the OFWs has done far more to lift the Philippines out of UN-declared poverty than any of their illogical arguments ever will.
J. Puno (continues):

And this leads me to the proposition that we need to give a broader, innovative view on our efforts to protect the human rights of our people which should consider our distinct social, economic and political context. Defying the cult of comformity and comfort, I submit that this view should consider the following facts and factors:

One. Terrorism is just one means of violating our human rights, especially our right to life itself, and should not consume our entire attention. Often, terrorism attracts universal attention because of its cinematic impact – the shocking violence, the bravado of the villains, the heroism of the victims’ rescuers, the sickening loss of lives and property and the dominance of the animal in man. Terrorism is terrible enough but the mindless, knee jerk reaction to extirpate the evil is more discomforting. The quickie solution is to unfurl the flag, sing the national anthem and issue the high pitched call to arms for the military and the police to use their weapons of destruction under the theme victory at all cost. To put constitutional cosmetics to the military-police muscular efforts, lawmakers usually enact laws using security of the state to justify the dimunition of human rights by allowing arrests without warrants; surveillance of suspects; interception and recording of communications; seizure or freezing of bank deposits, assets and records of suspects. They also redefine terrorism as a crime against humanity and the redefinition is broadly drawn to constrict and shrink further the zone of individual rights. If there is any lesson that we can derive from the history of human rights, it is none other than these rights cannot be obliterated by bombs but neither can they be preserved by bullets alone. Terrorism is a military-police problem but its ultimate solution lies beyond the guns of our armed forces.
CAVEAT:I think it is only Justice Puno, with his nose safely in some dusty lawbook, who would find "the knee jerk reaction to extirpate terrorism" more "discomforting" than terrorism itself. Hey, tell that to those guys that just got decapitated in Sulu by the Abu Sayyaf's beheading-jerks, or those good folks whose legs were blown off their knees by the NPA's remote controlled land mines.
J. Puno (continues):

Two. In fighting terrorism, let us not overlook the non-military aspects of our national security and their impact on human rights. The scholar Michael Renver hits the bulleye with the following analysis:

xxx terrorism is only symptomatic of a far broader set of deep concerns that have produced a new age of anxiety. Acts of terror and the dangerous reactions to them are like exclamation marks in a toxic brew of profound socioeconomic, environmental, and political pressures forces that together create a tumultuous and less stable world. Among them are endemic poverty, convulsive economic transitions that cause growing inequality and high unemployment, international crime, the spread of deadly armaments, large-scale population movements, recurring natural disasters, ecosystem breakdown, new and resurgent communicable diseases, and rising competition over land and other natural resources, particularly oil. These “problems without passports” are likely to worsen in the years ahead. xxx They cannot be resolved by raising military expenditures or dispatching troops. Nor can they be contained by sealing borders or maintaining the status quo in a highly unequal world.
CAVEAT: Non military aspects of the fight against terrorism? But I thought it was mindless knee jerk reaction to pass anti-terror laws that allow surveillance of suspects, interception and recording of their communications, seizure of their bank deposits, assets and records? And where in the anti-terror law is a warrantless arrest allowed that is not already justified
J. Puno (continues):

Today and yesterday’s broadsheets bannered the news about the stranglehold of poverty in the Philippines. The World Bank says that about 15M or 19% of Filipinos survive on less than $1 a day. Our National Anti Poverty Commission disputes the figures and claim that only 10.5 M Filipinos live on $1 a day. To the unsophisticated in the esoterics of economics, this is a distinction without difference for the cruel fact is that poverty stalks this land of plenty and hunger is still the best food seasoning of its people. In poor countries, it is poverty that truly terrorizes people for they are terrorized by the thought that they will die because of empty stomachs and not that they will lose their lives due to some invisible suicide bombers. In poor countries, it is also poverty that renders the poor vulnerable to violation of their rights, for the poor will not vindicate their rights in a justice system that moves in slow motion and whose wheels have to be greased with money. And would any dare to doubt, that our national security and our human rights are more threatened by the fear that we face an environmental collapse if we do not take immediate steps to save our seas and our forests from the despoliation to satisfy the economic greed of the few. Again, the realities may be uncomfortable but let the statistics talk and they tell us that in year 2000 for example, 300,000 people all over the world died due to violence in armed conflicts but as many people die each and every month because of contaminated water or lack of adequate sanitation.
CAVEAT: We arrive at last at the argument that every paleoliberal defender of a permanent protest culture or long-running insurgency reaches for when pandering to the crowd--the argument from root causes like poverty and hunger. It is surprising to find it used so clumsily by none other than a Chief Justice. It's more exciting and stimulating to get it from one of the usual pundits who are better at creative writing and published melodrama.
J. Puno (continues):

Three. The threats to our national security and human rights will be aggravated if we have a state, weakened internally by a government hobbled by corruption, struggling with credibility, battling the endless insurgence of the left and the right; and, by a state weakened externally by pressure exerted by creditor countries, by countries where our trade comes from, by countries that supply our military and police armaments. A weak state cannot fully protect the rights of its citizens within its borders just as a state without economic independence cannot protect the rights of its citizens who are abroad from the exploitation of more powerful countries.

Fourth and lastly, the business of safeguarding our national security, the obligation of protecting human rights is a burden shared by all of us. It is not only the military that should tackle our problem of security for it is our security that is at stake, not their security. Security interest is a collective interest where everybody has a significant stake. In the same vein, the rich and the powerful should not consider the protection of the rights of the poor and the powerless as peripheral problems just because for the moment their own rights are unthreatened. Sooner or later, they will find that they who default in protecting the rights of the many will end up without rights like the many. The apathy of those who can make a difference is the reason why violations of human rights continue to prosper. The worst enemy of human rights is not its non believers but the fence sitters who will not lift a finger despite their violations. “If we have learned anything from September 11” wrote New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman, “it is that if you don’t visit a bad neighborhood, it will visit you.”

Our work of protecting human rights is not yet finished. With the incursions and threats of incursion to our human rights at this crucial moment in our history, the clarion call to each one of us is to consecrate our lives to the great cause of upholding our human rights. When Rizal turned his face towards the rising sun, he saw hope in a heroic people carrying on the fight. Let us not allow the shadow of ignorance, indifference or indolence eclipse this hope so that we may continue to see a tomorrow begin in the East.
CAVEAT:More than a corrupt government, the threat to national security and human rights comes from a supine and anaesthetized citizenry that refuses to make the sacrifices and take responsibility for that security. It is natural and expected of human beings that they should love comfort and shirk the ugly necessities such as war and bloodshed to defend those freedoms and arrangements that even Justice Puno here pays obeisance.
J. Puno (continues):

Thank you and again, congratulations.

* Delivered on April 18, 2007 on the occasion of the conferment of the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of the East.

[1] Zaide and Zaide, “Martyrdom at Bagumbayan” in Jose Rizal: Works and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist and National Hero (1994).

[2] Diokno, J. A Nation for Our Children (1987), pp. 4-5.

[3] Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Leftist front organization, Kabataan party-list, gave the Chief Justice a mocha cake in appreciation for his remarks--which some newspaper saw fit to print in the form of a free campaign publicity gimmick. Anything for the Cause, wot?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Media Corruption--the Untouchable Story

AMANDO DORONILA of the Philippine Daily Innuendo would have us believe that the run of journalists being attacked or killed in the country is because the Philippines has become a Noam-Chomsky-style "failed state." You know, the kind of country whose main characteristics are one, "the inability or unwillingness to protect their citizens from violence or even destruction;" two, "their tendency to regard themselves as beyond the reach of domestic or international law, and hence, free to carry out aggression and violence." Doronila squarely locates the Philippines among such outlaw states "...whose leaderships dismiss international law and treaties, with contempt. Such instruments may be binding on others but not on the outlaw state.” (You know, like the United States of America and its allies like Israel and the Philippines.) I am sure Mr. Doronila also has in mind those UN Rapporteurs and Unelected Judges in Geneva's Permanent People's Tribunal, as the ones whose decrees and findings are being ignored by such outlaw states as the US and the Philippines that have recently been judged guilty of "crimes against humanity"--after they heard the testimony and viewed the "evidence" presented to them by Jose Maria Sison, who is the author and leader of the longest running communist insurgency in the history of the world and currently under the tender loving care of Dutch friggin' welfare.

But before Doronila stands up with Philip Alston to sing the praises of the Internationale Community and such outstanding defenders of human rights in the United Nations as the People's Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Iran, perhaps we should examine a different theory about the spate of journalists being killed or attacked in the Philippines.

It has to do with the issue of MEDIA CORRUPTION, a subject you will never find discussed very much at all by the Main Stream Media pundits, broadcasters and other "professionals". Yet it is no secret at all that the Mass Media as an institution is not very different at all from other institutions in the Philippines like the government. Although they like to congratulate themselves over how they are the institution people turn to for justice and retribution, the truth is that the Mass Media are just as corrupt as any other government agency, and far more cunning and hypocritical in denying and hiding the fact. Like any good Mafia, omerta is an unwritten rule never violated by members of the media. Even if reporters, broadcasters and pundits are on the take at many--no, ALL--media organizations, you won't ever hear a word of it mentioned in...the Media! Try as hard as people like Doronila might to portray the media as selfless defenders of Press Freedom and the Public's Right to Know, the reality is, the Mass Media is just as corrupt and dishonest as the people and institutions they attack, criticize, expose and defame.

Right now being election campaign season, for example, money and favors are raining down on the Media. What are the chances I wonder, that among all those deals and arrangements that have been made between politicians and officeholders on the one hand, and reporters, broadcasters and station managers on the other, that none will go sour? That no one will be betrayed or disappointed? That no one will be killed or revenged upon as a result?

We must allow for the possibility that not all of these journalists involved in drive-by shootings are also involved in deals gone sour or are the target of local warlords and illegal interests that they have indeed exposed. But it stretches believability for Doronila to claim that they are all the result of a state failing to protect defenders of Press Freedom from exposing local venalities and corrupt officials. Perhaps too cynically, many Filipinos actually believe these journalists deserve what they get, or have it coming to them from enemies of the friends from whom they have been on the take. Extortion, blackmail and influence peddling are clearly not the exclusive province of the warlords and the politicians. Increasingly, the power of mass media is being turned to personal profit by journalists and other media practitioners. The violence we see, is at least in part, the result of all this business that really has little to do with journalism as such.

The analogy I really like is that between modern day Journalists and the Spanish era frailocracy--mainly because the quality of the hypocrisy and the degree of self-righteousness between these two groups is roughly the same in that whilst both were officially fighting social evils and working for the common good, the reality was, and is, that many of their members and adherents were as much participants in that evil and venality whilst outwardly denouncing them.
There is a deeper connection between Mass Media and the old frailocracy too. It has to do with the Separation of Church and State, which the Spanish Taliban clearly did not subscribe to; and the Separation of the Press and State, by which I mean that like the frailocracy, the Media have come to a point of power and influence that they actually "set the agenda" for discussion and debate by the people and the State. Virtually nothing happens or is paid attention to that the Media does not put in headlines or prime time newscasts, whether at the national or the local level.

Until and unless the Mass Media can regain its reputation for professionalism and impartiality, as opposed to being willing tools of one or the other political and economic interest, whether traditional politicians or politicians of the Left, I don't think its practitioners should look to Public Outrage for protection when their deals go sour or they are seen by deadly and serious forces as taking sides for their own profit and advantage.