Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bill Clinton Praises Corruption Queen #131, Disses Overseas Filipino Workers

Downloadable MP3
said a Monica Lewinsky mouthful of nonsense, when he praised Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for "turning the Philippine economy around," noting how, just recently "everyone had written her off as politically dead" (referring I suppose to her impeachment troubles which could easily start up again depending on what happens to Romulo Neri's claims of executive privilege.) But like the Democratic Party in general, Mr. Clinton has always ignored Filipinos in America. He is obviously not aware that it is the hard- and painfully earned incomes of ten million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) --nurses, doctors, teachers, engineers, domestic helpers, construction workers, entertainers and care-givers, that is keeping the country afloat on an annual tide of 15 billion dollars in repatriations that is raising all boats. That includes the Ship of State, ponderous and wasteful. Whereupon the corrupt officialdom of this Archipelago, headed by the object of Bill Clinton's blind praise, makes like Ali Baba and the forty thousand thieves playing golf and scheming with corrupt Chinese bureaucrats--ahem, capitalists who call themselves market socialists.

I guess "Classmate" Bubba doesn't read Transparency International reports either (which at No. 131 just yesterday ranked the Philippines among the most corrupt in the world at par with Burundi, Honduras and Yemen, with whose long-suffering peoples Filipinos share the cellar); or those of the Heritage Foundation, which warned way back in 2005 that "Chinese influence will continue to expand while Arroyo fights for her political life," -- which qualifies as a prophetic warning come true in the wake of the ZTE National Broadband Network bribery scandal compared to which even the cartelized pricing of Globe and Smart , reportedly US $20 per Megabit per second of bandwidth, compared to 11 cents in the United States and 22 cents in Japan seems merely greedy, but not venal. I suppose what he really admires in her accidental economics is that VAT of heavy taxes extracted like blood from the Filipino people, that President Arroyo has been spending to finance the Pork Barrel instead of what she promised it was for--avoidance of more foreign debt. She has apparently entered into dozens of agreements with China that are sure to indenture Filipinos for the next few generations. It's all part of China's new East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere scheme in action.

Lookie here, Bubba. The OFWs are suffering enough as it is from the unfavorable peso exchange rates and heavy E-Vat taxation used to finance the pork barrel. Why add insult to injury by praising the economic architect of these vexations.

Of course, colossal-size corruption is just par for the course of Filipino presidents, but a lot of equally serious trouble is brewing for the Philippines because of the President's utter lack of leadership in handling the jihadist and communist insurgent threats. She is even planning to give the MILF rebels a big reward for all their murderous ambuscades and armed violence -- in the form of their own "ancestral domain" or Muslim Juridical Entity which is said to encompass 1000 barangays in Maguindanao and will incorporate what is now the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (read MNLF-Nur Misuari terriotry.) This last wrinkle will probably be enough to guarantee decades more of armed insurgency in Mindanao as the MNLF wages war on its MILF brethren. American Chronicle writer Kurt Stallings echoes our own sentiments here at Philippine Commentary that the Moro rebellion has been hijacked by the Global Jihad on vilization launched by Al Qaeda, with this analysis of the situation in Mindanao:
Abu Sayaf is not nationalist; it is international jihadist, closely allied with al-Qaeda. For them, the southern Philippines are a marvelous base from which to project terrorist activity throughout Asia.

A dangerous break toward jihadist, rather than nationalist, leadership is signaled each time MILF factions collaborate with Abu Sayaf. If that shift takes hold, the prospects of a relatively peaceful resolution to the situation substantially decrease, and the odds of terrorist activity throughout the Philippines increase.

Tragically, this comes at a time when the Philippine economy appears on an unprecedented spurt of growth. The Philippine people are already highly literate, educated and politically acute, ordinarily a recipe for refining their democracy and eliminating abuses of corruption and governmental terror tactics.

The Islamists know -- and fear -- just that possibility, which may be why they are pushing so hard to win over the new generation of young Muslim males away from the older, traditional Muslim nationalists who had been steadily gaining relative autonomy for their region within the country. The mutilation and beheading of Philippine marines this summer brought the armed forces into Muslim territories with a vengeance (literally), ostensibly seeking the perpetrators, and now mired in the jungles while the politicians try to talk it out.

For the theoretically inclined, the US Army War College periodical, Parameters has its Summer Issue out. I recommend two essays there: A Social Network Approach to Understanding Insurgency and Good Anthropology. Bad History. The Cultural Turn in Studying War.

Of course, the President is clearly basking in the afterglow of Clintonesque flattery. She needs the break, considering her own First Gent is skulking about somewhere in China, whilst she faces the prospect of Manila's seething political cauldron over the ZTE scandal and the possible breakup of her political coalition in the House. Joe de Venecia just ruled out inhibiting himself from the explosive Abalos impeachment process that was really ignited by his son Joey's testimony of a $10 million bribe offer and Romulo Neri's "200". If Abalos is impeached and tried, the radioactive proceedings could create a dangerous fallout over the Palace.

CONTRETEMPS UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has the latest on the Iowa primary and the race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton

Friday, September 28, 2007

Activist Supreme Court Usurping Executive and Legislative Powers With Writs of Amparo and Habeas Data Could Lose Neutrality and Impartiality

ABSCBN News reports SC Approves Use of Writ of Amparo
Full Text at Philippine e-Legal Forum
I am sure that the significance of the above news item is not lost on the Philippine Military and defense establishments, because the "legal innovation" being copied from Latin America is nothing less than a thinly veiled accusation against them by no less than the Supreme Court itself that they are probably responsible for the spate of "extrajudicial killings" and enforced disappearances in the country and are hiding it! Moreover, it is my opinion that the Supreme Court has embarked into uncharted Constitutional matters and is likely to make things a lot worse than they are now because the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

CHIEF JUSTICE REYNATO PUNO has delivered two noteworthy speeches on the role of the Judiciary in the protection of human rights recently.

The first was at the National Summit on Extra Judicial Killings last July. Puno's welcoming remarks The View From The Mountain Top (PDF) is posted at the Supreme Court website under the headline: CJ Puno Defends Judicial Activism in the Protection of Human Rights.

Second was at Silliman University recently. Here are the full text and an audio recording of Chief Justice Puno:
No Turning Back on Human Rights! (Word DOC)

I must salute the Chief Justice for above speech which I found to be a lucid explanation especially of the writs of amparo and habeas data.

He asserts that the 1987 Philippine Constitution does something revolutionary with Separation of Powers because it grants to the Supreme Court certain powers that are normally LEGISLATIVE in character in Artcle VIII Section 5
"In the landmark case of Tolentino v. Secretary of Finance I made the submission that “in imposing to this Court the duty to annul acts of government committed with grave abuse of discretion, the new Constitution transformed the Court from passivity to activism. This transformation, dictated by our distinct experience as a nation, is not merely evolutionary but revolutionary. Under the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, the Court approached constitutional violations not by finding out what it should not do but what it must do. The Court must discharge its solemn duty by not resuscitating a past that petrifies the present. Secondly, the paucity of power of the Judiciary in checking human rights violations was remedied by stretching its rule making prerogative.

Article VIII, section 5 (5) empowers the Supreme Court to `promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights x x x.’ Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform 1 G.R. No. 115455, 30 October 1995, 249 SCRA 628..- 4 - for all courts of he same grade, and shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights. Rules of procedure of special courts and quasi judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court.”
In the Silliman University speech, a most memorable passage has to be the following:
I respectfully submit further that the framers of the 1987 Constitution were gifted with a foresight that allowed them to see that the dark forces of human rights violators would revisit our country and wreak havoc on the rights of our people. With this all-seeing eye, they embedded in our 1987 Constitution a new power and vested it on our Supreme Court – the power to promulgate rules to protect the constitutional rights of our people. This is a radical departure from our 1935 and 1972 Constitutions, for the power to promulgate rules or laws to protect the constitutional rights of our people is essentially a legislative power, and yet it was given to the judiciary, more specifically to the Supreme Court. If this is disconcerting to foreign constitutional experts who embrace the tenet that separation of powers is the cornerstone of democracy, it is not so to Filipinos who survived the authoritarian years, 1971 to 1986. Those were the winter years of human rights in the Philippines. They taught us the lesson that in the fight for human rights, it is the judiciary that is our last bulwark of defense; hence, the people entrusted to the Supreme Court this right to promulgate rules protecting their constitutional rights.
Was legislative power really given to the Supreme Court by the 1987 Constitution? I don't think so! CJ Puno cunningly abbreviated that 1987 provision upon which the Court's activism is based. The whole provision with the words in the x x x restored seems to mean something other than the expansive interpretation he gives it.
(5) Promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law, the Integrated Bar, and legal assistance to the underprivileged. Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights. Rules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court.
It really sounds like the Constitution is merely giving the Supreme Court the right to make such changes in the rules and practices of Judiciary (courts, the Bar, etc.)--not the expansive secret weapon that he claims to have now unsheathed.

The approval for courts (even lower than the Supreme Court, including Regional Trial Courts!) to use the writ of amparo is in the nature of legislation of such a high order as to touch upon the realm of constitutive power, since, in his speeches on the subject the Chief Justice has declared that this mere change in the Rules of Court "gives life" to the people's "Right to Truth".

The Chief Justice is conscious of, but is not apologetic about leading a "judicially activist" court, noting the inutility of the political branches of the government to solve the vexing problem of alleged extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, and considering it a Constitutionally mandated duty of the Court to exercise the rule making power clearly granted by the Constitution.

I think they are stepping into a minefield here and opening up a Pandora's Box of unpredictable evils. The new rules on the issuance of writ of amparo also constitutes in my opinion an improper usurpation of the Chief Executive's Commander-in-chief powers and the intention to allow the inspection of military facilities looking for desaparecidos could create a host of unforeseeable situations and problems that not even the Supreme Court will be able to remedy.
Moreover, the CJ's claim that "in the fight for human rights" during "the winter years" of Marcos' authoritarianism "our last bulwark of defense" was the judiciary. Yet it is a matter of historical record that the Supreme Court blessed the Martial Law Constitution of the fascist dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the infamous decision, Javellana vs. Executive Secretary.

So I think it is important for the Supreme Court to think over carefully its activist innovations.
And there is more to come yet from the activist Supreme Court.

Someone has recently edited the Wikipedia entry for HABEAS DATA from which the following useful chronological and legal history of the writ of habeas data in various Latin American countries and soon, in the Philippines.
Brazil: The 1988 Brazilian Constitution stipulates that: “Habeas Data shall be granted: a) to ensure the knowledge of information related to the person of the petitioner, contained in records or databanks of government agencies or of agencies of a public character; b) for the correction of data, when the petitioner does not prefer to do so through a confidential process, either judicial or administrative”.

The 1992 Paraguay constitution follows the example set by Brazil, but enhances the protection in several ways. The Article 135 of the Paraguayan constitution states: “Everyone may have access to information and data available on himself or assets in official or private registries of a public nature. He is also entitled to know how the information is being used and for what purpose. He may request a competent judge to order the updating, rectification, or destruction of these entries if they are wrong or if they are illegitimately affecting his rights.”

the Argentinian version of Habeas Data is the most complete to date. The article 43 of the Constitution, amended on the 1994 reform, states that: “Any person shall file this action to obtain information on the data about himself and their purpose, registered in public records or data bases, or in private ones intended to supply information; and in case of false data or discrimination, this action may be filed to request the suppression, rectification, confidentiality or updating of said data. The secret nature of the sources of journalistic information shall not be impaired.”[3]

On August 25, 2007, Chief Justice Reynato Puno (at the College of Law alumni of Silliman University in Dumaguete City) announced that the Supreme Court of the Philippines was drafting the writ of Habeas Data. By invoking the truth, the new remedy will not only compel military and government agents to release information about the desaparecidos but require access to military and police files. Reynato Puno announced earlier on the draft of the writ of amparo -- the Spanish for protection -- which will prevent military officials in judicial proceedings to simply issue denials on cases of disappearances or extrajudicial executions. With the writ of habeas corpus, the writ of Habeas Data and the writ of amparo will further help those looking for missing loved ones.
[It always scares me when our native mechanics start tinkering with the Ship of State's Main Engine in order to effect some transcendentally important course correction. Must be the dumb old sailor in me.]

The Writ of Habeas Data originated in Latin America as a Brazilian Constitutional innovation of rather recent vintage--1988, younger by a year than our own present 1987 Constitution. Which however is not where the Philippine version of habeas data will be originated--unlikeBrazil. No. It is being drafted as a new Rule of Court that will soon be promulgated by the almighty Supreme Court of the Philippines as a solution to "extrajudicial killings."

I can't wait to see what Chief Justice Reynato Puno and our most honorable Judges at Padre Faura come up with in this regard. There is very little time to examine the basics of the matter...

Fundamentally speaking, there appears to be a personal private right that is sought to be protected by the writ of habeas data when issued by a Constitutional Court on behalf of a person. That right is the right to know what information about our persons exists, in government agencies and databases, as well as in any publicly or easily accessible "source of information." In Latin American countries above, the right further includes that of assessing by individual self-determination the accuracy and veracity of such data and to demand its correction or suppression.

I hope it is a wrong impression being given in the last paragraph about the Supreme Court's plans for a Philippine-style writ of habeas data. Because it appears that the new "rules" being drawn up by the High Court in fulfillment of its sacred Constitutional duty to protect human rights, may very well be limited by design, letter and spirit, to government, military, police and other "official" databases only. But I claim that would be an unjust limitation on the underlying human right sought to be protected a writ of habeas data, namely the right to know what information other people may have on you. This is a right to review and correct such any false information found by "self-determination."

Associate Justice Dante O. Tinga talked to Ricky Carandang and Marieton Pacheco this morning about it. He discusses some of the details, but I think this matter deserves everyone's circumspection, if not outright skepticism given the not exactly sterling record of the Philippine Courts. And Tinga didn't seem to understand Ricky Carandang's excellent question: Don't the new "Rules of Court" seem to negate any presumption of innocence? Take for example,

SEC. 9. Return Contents. – Within seventy-two (72) hours after service of the writ, the respondent shall file a verified written return together with supporting affidavits which shall, among other things, contain the following:

(a) The lawful defenses to show that the respondent did not violate or threaten with violation the right to life, liberty and security of the aggrieved party, through any act or omission;

b) The steps or actions taken by the respondent to determine the fate or whereabouts of the aggrieved party and the person or persons responsible for the threat, act or omission;

(c) All relevant information in the possession of the respondent pertaining to the threat, act or omission against the aggrieved party.

Blow me down! To comply with the writ, Respondent must prove a negative in 72 hours! This could turn the whole AFP into Clerks of Court, Judge and Justice! But I will reserve a detailed analysis for later, and the Supreme Court sink into self-mockery.

Downloadable MP3

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Gloria Arroyo Schmoozes With Bill Clinton To Cozy Up To Hillary; But the Senate Again Rises

(Well, President Bush, "a lady can always change her mind" as you once said.)
Downloadable MP3
President Arroyo is in the United States for a three day "working visit". Yup,she's working alright, she's working on Hillary Clinton already as she immediately cozied up to the prospective First Gentleman, Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting (LA Times reports) and they talked hotly of geothermal energy just before she met with lots of Filipino American voters to defend her Mindanao policy. I am not sure exactly what she told them, but the true situation is this. Last April 19, 2007, the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped for ransom and eventually beheaded five students working on a summer road construction job in Sulu to earn money for college and a fish vendor who they happened to be with, dumping their severed heads in a burlap sack outside a Marine base in Sulu. That's part of them on the back of a truck. The picture is from Adrian Ayalin's blog. On July 10, Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerillas ambushed and killed fourteen Marines who were looking for the kidnapped Italian priest Fr. Giancarlo Bossi near Tipo-tipo, Basilan. Ten were later beheaded by what the MILF claimed were "unknown forces". After a Basilan judge issued arrest warrants against 130 suspects, the Peace Processors Jesus Dureza and Gen. Rodolfo Garcia stepped in, delayed service of the warrants, blamed the beheadings on "Abu Sayyaf bandits". Six weeks after the Basilan beheadings, the President supposedly launched an all-out war, but not against MILF or the MNLF who together with the Abu Sayyaf have now killed 57 uniformed Philippine soldiers. NOT A SINGLE SUSPECT in these terrorist crimes has been arrested, though the Philippine Military just yesterday reported killing 10 Abu Sayyaf gunmen in a violent encounter, (but without recovering the bodies.) The President has also announced her intention to grant, without plebiscite, 1000 barangays and all of ARMM to the MILF as their own Muslim Juridical Entity. This is Bangsamorostan for sure.

Recent Philippine Commentaries on Mindanao, the Basilan Beheadings and terrorism are numerous.

THE SENATE AGAIN RISES Meanwhile, it has been a momentous week in the Philippine Senate with two high profile investigations in aid of legislation: first into the role of major telecomms Globe and Smart in the illegal wiretapping of President Arroyo and Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano by the Intelligence Services of the AFP in 2004, and then into the National Broadband Network bribery scandal, at the heart of which also happens to be a telecommunications project involving China's 3rd largest telecomm player, Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation. The controversy may have been a factor in the just announced plunge of the Philippines to No. 131 in Transparency International's 2007 corruption ranking (down from No. 121 least corrupt in 2006).

Nota bene: Both controversies involve the telecommunications industry and government officials allegedly working together in the commission of crimes of serious crimes.

WHAT'S IN A HAND GESTURE? Language Trainers Blog has an excellent post on the The Top Ten Hand Gestures. Here is Number 3:

3. The “Moutza”
Opening your palm to your target and stretching out your fingers seems harmless enough to most Westerners. Most of us would think you’re waving. In Greece, however, the gesture is known as a moutza, and is one of their most traditional manual insults. With fingers slightly apart, you thrust your hand into your target’s face, usually coupling the gesture with a brash “na!”, meaning “here you go!”. The basic suggestion is something like “eat shit”, implying that you’re not particularly impressed and would rather the target of the moutza leave you alone – comparable to the American interpretation of the same signal as “talk to the hand, because the face isn’t listening”.

The gesture is also an insulting one in Pakistan and many parts of Africa. The Japanese use a very similar sign to insult their old enemies, the Koreans. Roughly translating as ‘animal’, the signal is similar to the moutza in every way except they tuck the thumb into the palm.

Amusingly, Microsoft used to use a very similar-looking hand signal as an icon for warning dialogs in previous versions of Windows – what Greek users must have thought of that, I don’t know… “This application has performed an illegal operation - now, eat shit!”.

In the most severe fallout over the ZTE scandal for the Arroyo administration, an impeachment case has been filed in the House by Gov. Rolex Suplico and endorsed by Rep. Teofisto Guingona III against Benjamin Abalos, chairman of the Commission on Elections for bribery, corruption and breach of public trust. Although Presidential Legal Counsel was bravely predicting a "lack of numbers" in the House for the case to prosper, Gov. Suplico told media today that his evidence against Abalos was strong since two accusations of attempted bribery against him have been given under oath and before the Senate by no less than Joey de Venecia III, the son of the House Speaker Jose de Venecia, in addition to former Neda Director General Romulo Neri. In some ways, Abalos' fate is in the hands of Speaker Joe de Venecia.

Aside however, from Neri's accusation against Abalos, he also testified to something that has gotten the attention of a lot of ordinary people. This was his revelation that Filipinos are paying US$20 for every Megabit-per-second of bandwidth, compared to 11 cents in the US and 22 cents in the Philippines, even if the technologies being used are the same: DSL, cable and wireless delivery modes. Obscene profits are thus being made, but then again it may have something to do with the fact that the Philippines has no anti-trust law, and even if it did, it is also the Archipelago the Artful Areglo. Neri's revelation was done to justify the concept of a National Broadband Network, which no one buys, but it does point to a real problem: the telecommunications industry in the Philippines is cartelized, as charged several years back by the United States Dept. of Justice.

OFWs have been the loudest at complaining about the high telecomm rates charged by Smart and Globe. Clearly some kind of competitive regime needs to be fostered to drive down the obscenely high rates being charged by the incumbent telecomms for broadband and other servies.

Today, the nail on the coffin of ZTE National Broadband Network project may have been hammered in by Deans Raul Fabella and Emmanuel de Dios of the University of the Philippines School of Economics, who delivered a paper analyzing why the deal is GROSSLY ADVANTAGEOUS to the government entitled "Lacking a Backbone."

The wiretapping investigation involves 3 Senate committees led by National Defense (Rodolfo Biazon) and including the Blue Ribbon (Alan Peter Cayetano) and Trade and Industry (Mar Roxas). But I think the tone for the whole week was set by Senate President Manny Villar as he confronted representatives of Globe and PLDT for not sending their previously invited Chief Executive Officers (Globe's Gerry Ablaza and Smart's Roberto Nazareno).

In the hearing it became clear that wiretapping CAN be done quite easily in a number of ways, if there is collusion between wiretappers and insiders within the service provider sensitive operations divisions. However, one thing that Globe's Rudy Salalima said which I found intriguing was his suggestion that ISAFP could have carried out the wiretapping with "spiked" cell phones in which the user is unaware every call he makes or receives is actually a conference call with Vidal Doble or some other agent of the MIG-21 group. This would certainly explain the description put forward by Ping Lacson of conversation signals being "split." The Senate wiretapping investigation resumes Friday.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Romulo Neri Accuses Ben Abalos of 200 Million Peso Bribe Offer; Miriam Calls China Inventor of Corruption

Former Director General of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Romulo Neri has testified under oath that Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos offered him a 200 million peso (US$ 4 million) bribe to approve a project with Chinese firm ZTE [Shenzen] to build a nationwide computer network to interconnect all government offices and agencies, the ZTE National Broadband Network Project. He made the claim upon questioning first by Sen. Loren Legarda and then by Senator Panfilo Lacson. Asked if he reported the matter to President Arroyo, he answered yes, that she told him to reject the bribe but does not know how and why the project was later approved by the President. Paradoxically, after accusing Abalos and excusing Arroyo, "opening up the conversation" so to speak, Mr. Neri refused to answer further questions about his discussion with the President about the matter, invoking Executive Order No. 464 and its provision on EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE. Under questioning by Senate Majority Leader, Neri admitted he had no written order from the President or Executive Secretary Ermita, to so invoke executive privilege. The Senate is now in a quandary about how to deal with this invocation of executive privilege when the session resumes shortly. If you ask me, the Palace may have already decided to let Abalos hang, whilst safeguarding the President.

Luckily Philipppine Commentary has many posts on this matter of executive privilege:

Supreme Court Upheld the Half of EO 464 that GMA Really Needs

King Solomon Just Cut the Baby in Half

Executive Privilege Covers Information -- Not Executives

Supreme Court Decisions As English Grammar and Composition

Before all these developments, Foreign Relations Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago delivered one of her patented tirades in which she declared China and the Chinese as the "inventors of corruption" using sex, golf and lucrative bribes "to corrupt human civilization". She called the hearings a public squabble over sleazy bribe monies, and promptly walked out.

The statements could damage Philippine-Chinese relations. I am counting on it! There may be dozens of ZTE-type projects from what has just been discovered here.

UPDATES: In part 2 of today's Senate hearing on the ZTE National Broadband Network deal, several senators asked a number of good questions. I have to adjust my personal evaluations of them.

Pia "Compañera" Cayetano asked a very clever question of ALL the resource persons and witnesses present, including Romulo Neri, Joey de Venecia, Mendoza, Abalos, Formoso, etc, whether any of them participated in, were the subjects of, or were aware of the "discreet investigation" into the project that the Palace claimed yesterday to have completed. Not a single one of them answered in the affirmative, nor could any of them claim to know who did participate in it. Pia ended with the most sarcastic pronunciation of the term "discreet investigation." Touché!

MAR "Mr. Palengke" Roxas meanwhile wrestled for a long time with Romulo Neri over the matter of what happened after he had reported the 200 million peso bribe offer from Abalos to President Arroyo, which seemed to be nothing. At one point, near the end, he got Neri admit that even if he knew that the project itself was tainted by briberies and corruption, he still agreed with the continuance of the project even if nothing appears to have been done about the reported irregularites. This Mar Roxas considered to be a stunning admission, wondering if this was now the level and standard of public officials in their handling of the people's money.

After Mar Roxas asked a question on behalf of the detained Senator Antonio "Sonny" Trillanes, Juan Ponce Enrile objected calling it a precedent that was not accorded to him while he was incarcerated himself. To which Panfilo "Ping" Lacson moved that the next hearing be held at the Marine HQ at Fort Bonifacio so that a member of the Upper House who is "helpless" might have a chance to participate.

The Senate has gone into Executive Session in order to find out from Romulo Neri the basis for his invocation of executive privilege.

Meanwhile, Rolex Suplico announced that tomorrow he would file a case for IMPEACHMENT against Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Merciless Bishops Soc Villegas and Gaudencio Rosales

The truth about what really happened at the San Carlos Seminary between June 10-13, 2005 is coming out at the Senate investigations into the Garci wiretapping scandal. No matter how hard Juan Ponce Enrile and Dick Gordon tried, the overwhelming preponderance of eyewitness testimonies of many well known persons there present, including Bishop Teodoro Bacani, Senator Sergio Osmena, Oscar Orbos, Mayor Jejomar Binay, and Atty. Luis Sison seemed to win the day. For one thing, the claims that Vidal Doble was being "illegally detained" at San Carlos Seminary by former NBI Deputy Director Samuel Ong are now completely unbelievable (if they weren't already before!) because of the mass of corroborating details from all these witnesses. What was really happening was that Sammy Ong, who claimed to have the Mother of all Tapes (actually four in number) given to him by Vidal Doble, was about to hold a press conference in which he would reveal everything about the scandal that had been precipitated a few days before on June 6, when Press Sec. Ignacio Bunye first revealed the Garci wiretappings. They were seeking sanctuary in the "Bahay Pari" (House of the Priests) of San Carlos, when the place was surrounded by heavily armed units of the Armed Forces, police, and the Intelligence Services. Now according to Atty. Luis Sison, who was also present during the entire three day incident, there came a point in time when Bishop Soc Villegas came to pick up Vidal Doble and bring him to General Abu at Camp Aguinaldo, where he said Doble's wife and children were waiting to see him. Doble folded and the press conference was off because of the pressure of his family being fetched all the way from Kidapawan City by Palace trouble shooter and the niece of Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, (a Ms. Medy Poblador). They were then given a deadline to leave by 7 pm June 13. Sison relates how Atty. Samuel Ong, having no other sanctuary to run to, asked Bishop Soc Villegas for just a one hour extension. The good bishop is said to have coldly looked around the room and declared, "You will be ALL out of here by 7 o'clock!!" At that point, Sison described Bishop Soc Villegas "MERCILESS." Another eyewitness, a Mr. Dan or Don Remo said that he gave up being a Catholic on that very evening. Atty. Sison also said that when he tried to explain to Bishop Soc Villegas that Sammy Ong truly feared for his life (since the Seminary was surrounded by reported sharpshooters and several armed agents had actually entered the Seminary and ended up leaving their car full of firearms on the grounds), whereupon he says the Bishop made a big show of making a phone call to the President to assure her there was no need for that and to call off any "sharpshooters."

The role played by Church personalities in that whole incident at San Carlos Seminary really needs more airing and examination. There are, I believe, CRIMINAL liabilities involved here on the part of persons like Soc Villegas and his boss, Gaudencio Rosales. (Never mind the MORAL questions, which they may answer to whatever god it is they actually pray to!)

JAMBY'S THREE EXCELLENT QUESTIONS: I hate to admit it because I deeply disagree with her leftist politics, but today Senator Jamby Madrigal got a lot of points from me for asking three excellent questions, two techie questions and one psychological during the Senate's Wiretapping hearings.

The first was about the possibility that the telecomm firm's data bases are being used for marketing efforts either by the firms themselves or unscrupulous employees who are selling them to outside marketers. Jamby herself is apparently being beseiged by offers of land, seminars, cars, houses, etc. But I think it is universal experience, much detested and ought to be more closed regulated and prevented.

The next was a brilliant technical question (which I suspect was suggested to her by former Sen. Serge Osmeña) directed at Mon Isberto of Smart and Rudy Salalima of Globe. She asked the two telecomm representatives if they had the capability to do TRIANGULATION which is a process widely used in KIDNAPPING investigations when law enforcement works with telecomm service providers. In a typical case, someone is kidnapped and the kidnappers use his cell phone to contact relatives in order to demand the ransom. Because the mobile phone networks use a collection of cellular base stations to service their customers, the distance of a given cell phone unit to nearby cell sites can be determined from the signal strength received from it when it initiates a call or sends a text message. Thus, if the distances from at least three nearby cell sites can be found, then the location of the cell phone can be uniquely found. Without going into the mathematics, the location of the sending unit is at the intersection of three circles, one each centered at the known geographical locations of the base stations, and each having a radius equal to the distance to the unit as measured from the received signal strength. With data from only two base stations, it is even possible to get two locations at one of which the cell phone is likely to be. I think most sophisticated kidnappers probably know about these techniques and so will make ransom calls while on the move, though determined law enforcers could still get an idea of velocity and direction if they work fast enough.

I think this question of Jamby's really broke the silly logjam during the hearing over whether or not the telecomms participate in wiretapping activities or have the capabilities to assist external wiretapping agents. It is undeniable that they do in the case of kidnapping cases and what Jamby really segued into was Serge Osmena (attending as a resource person) who testified to the fact that in 1999, the US Government already donated to the Philippine Government sophisticated wiretapping equipment for GSM networks. I wrote about this item here at Philippine Commentary in 2005, noting that with the knowledge of certain codes built into every customer SIM Card, it is possible to do "on-air, off-network" wiretapping because then the digital transmissions can be decrypted. I think that is indeed how it was done. In the case of the President and Garci's conversations, someone working within the Smart Telecommunications was splitting the digital signal stream to and from the target cellphones and sending a copy of it to the ISAFP Project Lighthouse GSM Decryptors, which were then being pumped into the Monitoring/Recording cellphones. In effect the GSM decryptors CLONED the target phones so they could receive and decode the arriving digital bitstreams. All Doble and his men did was actually to monitor the Nokia 3600 model units that were used as clones, to download their memories after recording their conversations, and to make tapes and CDs for their superiors to review. Indeed, that is how Vidal Doble's voice got onto the tapes, announcing time, date and conversation participants, which also by the way is the best proof that HE, Vidal Doble made those recordings!

Jamby's second question was psychological and directed at Mrs. Arlene Doble, the estranged first wife (of which there are allegedly "three" in Doble's colorful life, including live in partner Joyce Andaya and girlfriend Mayet Santos). Jamby asked her if she still loved Vidal Doble, and in a series of gentle but eventually too painful, questions, she got her to admit that perhaps it was her anger that was causing her not to back up Doble's testimony by denying any pressure had been put on her. Biazon and Jamby herself relented and ended the line of inquiry just as Arlene Doble seemed to about to burst into tears.

But it shows Jamby Madrigal can ask "senatorial" quality questions.

Senate President Manny Villar made a short but quite meaningful appearance to make a simple but forthright statement that the Chief Executive Officers of Smart and Globe MUST make the statement under oath in the Senate that they did not have anything to do with the illegal wiretapping operations of the Isafp, and to pledge and reassure the public that they would never participate in such activities. I think he was right to make this demand, because it is really part of the Senate recovering its rightful place in the Government, to defend the right of Congress to information and to be respected by all with at least their attendance to an invitation by the Upper House. He reminds sternly that they have subpoena power over such private individuals, though I think how the telecomms are actually treated in this matter will separate the patriots from the mendicant and the beholden--both in the Senate and the Media.

RELATED: The Hello Garci Case -- Selected Philippine Commentaries

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Coming Romulo Neri Moment?

A Commenter named TDC on Ricky Carandang's blog points to this report in the German magazine Der Spiegel which fingers two Chinese telecomm firms, including ZTE Corp.
Der Spiegel

A report suggesting that the Chinese military has hacked into German government computers could have a negative impact on the prospects in Western markets of Chinese equipment vendors Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063 - message board; Hong Kong: 0763), believes an analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort .

German news magazine Der Spiegel reported recently that computers in the German chancellery and the foreign, economic, and research ministries had been infected with Chinese spyware software, and German officials say they believe the hackers were linked to China's People's Liberation Army. (See China's Premier 'Gravely Concerned' by Hack on Germany and China to Use Computer Viruses as Cyberwarfare First Strike.)

Although the ZTE project has been ordered 'temporarily suspended', as Ricky points out on his blog, the Supreme Court has already ordered it temporarily restrained.


The pathbreaking local newsmagazine Newsbreak (now mostly online) reconstructs what may have been the conversation between Romulo Neri and Benjamin Abalos when the latter allegedly offered the former a 200 million peso bribe. I won't spoil Newsbreak's "scoop" so you will have to read it all at their website. In any case the moment of which they speak, is yet to come this coming Wednesday at the Senate, when the Blue Ribbon and Trade and Industry Committees of Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Mar Roxas take up once more the ZTE National Broadband Network hearings.

There is palpable hope in the media and blogosphere that Romulo Neri will have the smoking gun on Abalos. That he will not kiss, but tell of the attempt. But Wednesday is an awfully long time from now...


It looks like the Cyber-Education project of the Department of Education will suffer the same fate as the tainted ZTE National Broadband Network. Worth 26 billion pesos, it was considerably larger than the government's internal computer system worth 16 billion. But I think the provision of telecommunications infrastructure into the public schools is a worthwhile goal. However, I also believe that the government as such is absolutely the last choice I would make to implement any given proposal. Any future Cyber Education Project should be undertaken largely by the Private Sector. Simple as that. Keep government out of it because the government is inherently incapable of implementing such projects. A key consideration is the matter of technical obsolescence and its interplay with cost and deployment decisions, best handled again by the private sector. The dismal record of DOTC in the Telepono Para Sa Barangay project certainly disqualifies them in my mind, automatically!

What then is the role of government? I think it is to do the ONE thing that they did NOT do in the ZTE NBN thing. The Government does not have a Specification of what it wants to buy. They just take whatever proposal happens to float by and take the best one, according to Secretary Leandro Mendoza in the Senate last week. I think that is nuts. Most of these projects have very good goals, but the best way to get them done is with full transparency. We cannot build complex machines in the dark, why should we attempt it with the government's computer and telecommunication's facilities?

These big complex systems should have clearly defined and publicly discussed Functional Specifications and ought to be publicly bidded out for optimal results. In fact, a BOT project not cornered by the son of the House speaker would do the job, at least for the education department. I think DOTC should not be in the telecomms business however. The government computer system should be run by the Department of National Defense.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

On the Fall and Rise of Inequality in America

Realizing there is so much more money to make in online advertising, the New York Times has abolished its pay-for-view TimesSelect feature and opened up its entire website to the global online public during the last week or so. The page Now everyone is entitled to our opinion showcases the many op-ed columnists, news writers, online exclusives and other feature that have suddenly come online and become available to everyone free from the NY Times. Whatever one thinks of its editorial policies and political positions, as a pure source of information and now instantaneous communication, the grand old lady of newspapers has become a great addition to the Blogosphere.

The quintessential liberal Op-Ed print columnist Paul Krugman (The Conscience of a Liberal) now even has a blog of the same name, compleat with an already lively comment thread. His inaugural post, Introducing this Blog does not disappoint, addressing the Gap Between the Rich and the Poor (a central theme which he calls "the politics and economics of inequality") using an intriguing graph showing the share of the richest ten percent between the years 1917 and 2003.
In fact, let me start this blog off with a chart that’s central to how I think about the big picture, the underlying story of what’s really going on in this country. The chart shows the share of the richest 10 percent of the American population in total income – an indicator that closely tracks many other measures of economic inequality – over the past 90 years, as estimated by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. I’ve added labels indicating four key periods. These are:
The main point about "the big picture" that Paul Krugman wants to make with the above plot is contained in his last line: "...the important thing is to realize that the story of modern America is, in large part, the story of the fall and rise of inequality."

The statistic that is tracked over time, and which falls and rises during the last 90 years is the percentage share of total income that goes to the Richest ten percent. During the Long Guilded Age of Inequality, the Top 10% got about 45% of total income, but drops precipitously in the late 30s and by the end of World War II we see their share plateau at just above 30% of total income, which is labelled "Middle Class America in the plot. During the 80s and 90s the share oif total income going to the richest 10% is observed to be driving back towards the 45% level of the long-ago vanished guilded age, which may now be returning. Krugman says,
"The great divergence: Since the late 1970s the America I knew has unraveled. We’re no longer a middle-class society, in which the benefits of economic growth are widely shared: between 1979 and 2005 the real income of the median household rose only 13 percent, but the income of the richest 0.1% of Americans rose 296 percent."
As a measure of inequality, the statistic shown in Krugman's graph works superbly to make the usual point: the Rich are getting richer, but are the poor getting poorer? Well yes, but only in comparison to the Rich, but not in absolute terms. I guess it would be more accurate to say that the Rich are getting richer, but so are the Not Rich, only at a slower rate.

The statistic in the historical plot used by Krugman is a tricky one, because the "total income" itself is a very dynamic and changeable number. It is related in a very complicated way I would think to the statistic that is measured and graphed, which is the share of that total income earned by the richest 10% of the population.

Suppose for example there are exactly ten people in an epoch like the "Middle Class America" period when the Richest Person got about 30% of the total income. Suppose one day, one of these ten persons , not necessarily the richest one, invents and sells something that greatly benefits everyone else, for example by cutting the cost of energy or food in half. Such an invention could certainly cause the total income to rise dramatically because of the savings in food and fuel inputs. How should the increase in income now be distributed?

Let us assume for the sake of simplicity that we are a completely egalitarian society such that all economic gains and losses must be shared equally by the Rich and the Poor. Before the invention arrives, the share of the Richest 10% is 30% of total income so we want to maintain that arrangement, more or less. Thus if the invention causes total income to double, we would want everyone's incomes to double and that would not change the Gap between the Rich and the Poor since everyone would have the same percentage share as before.

Now of course the Inventor Person would seem to be unfairly treated, and such a purely egalitarian arrangement would not give him or her any new incentive to reveal a perhaps even more marvelous but difficult invention that could potentially quadruple the total income.

This only means that during times when the total income is rapidly increasing, we should expect this "gap between the rich and the poor" to increase rapidly also, because I think one is actually a measure of the other. This is evident even during the Middle Class America period, which I interpret as follows. After WW2, there was a tremendous economic expansion in the United States as millions of war veterans went to college, established new families ("the Baby Boom") and earned significantly greater income than generations before them. So the "drop in inequality" as measured by the share of the Rich from the long guilded age level which is observed in the Great Compression is really due to large numbers of people greatly improving their income earning capacity. During the ongoing Great Divergence, new wealth of all kind is being created by all kinds of innovative new economic the revolutionary technological innovations that have forced the New York Times into the Blogosphere.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Just and Fair Resolution of the Case of Joseph Estrada

A complex moral dilemma clearly faces the country as a result of the plunder conviction of Joseph Estrada and the evident plan of the Palace to get him to accept a PARDON of some kind. Now whether you are pro- or anti-Erap or neither, let me for the sake of the argument layout this moral dilemma.

A moral dilemma means it is not clear to moral and reasonable human beings what the right thing to do is in a given situation.

That situation, if I may summarize the matter in a few quick steps is:

(1) The democratically elected President Joseph Estrada was removed from Office in 2001, more than three years short of his Constitutionally mandated six year term.

(2) Joseph Estrada was charged with and convicted of plunder in 2007, six years later.

If Erap accepts his conviction and does NOT appeal his plunder conviction in the Supreme Court, the President can grant him pardon. If Erap appeals his case, and maintains his innocence, the President can NOT grant him pardon, absolute or otherwise.

The dilemma lies on the Chief Executive, in whom alone resides the power of executive clemency for convictions that are deemed final and executory, a matter to be declared by the Supreme Court. (That is why the earliest Erap could be pardoned is Christmas, according to Ronnie Puno).

If Erap does not appeal, should the President pardon him for committing plunder?

Frankly I think it would be morally bankrupt of her to do so, for what kind of example and precedent would that set? Who's next? The Marcoses? The Abu Sayyaf beheaders? Jose Maria Sison? Benjamin Abalos, Mike Arroyo, herself? It would establish a new tradition for getting away with plunder and its hairier siblings, in which every President gets to break the law and steal the citizens blind, knowing full well that pardon awaits, from his or her successor.

Although I don't believe it some people are floating the idea that Erap is open to the idea of an "absolute and unconditional pardon". [Update: Here is Atty. Rufus Rodriguez's denial they are negotiating for a pardon. ]

This would erase not only the sentence of reclusion perpetua (20-40 years in jail, no "life imprisonment as such under Philippine law). It would also restore to Erap the civil and political rights stripped by conviction, such as the right to run for public office. Erap has expressed complete disinterest in returning to politics, professing a desire to do Museum Work for the rest of his natural life. But that could change and it could become a testable political question whether or not he could run for President in 2010. He doesn't have to since he has the professed support of most of the 2010 front runners like Manny Villar (who headed the Genuine Opposition last May) and Mar Roxas (I don't know why.)

I think a swift pardon is an immoral, unjust and unfair resolution to the dilemma because it mocks the sentence of punishment deemed appropriate to the crime of plunder by the Sandiganbayan, reducing it in effect to time served in Tanay.

Moreover it does not resolve the real moral dilemma at hand. For surely, the most important issue is not whether Erap has suffered enough or has been punished enough, but whether our system of justice has worked justly, fairly and morally in his case. In deciding what to do now, our greater interest cannot possibly be in Erap per se, but in the welfare, peace of mind and lawful order of our society.

For it must not be forgotten that there were TWO steps that set up this dilemma: (1) as president, he was removed from Office and (2) as ordinary citizen, he was criminally charged and convicted of plunder.

I frankly don't think there was anything "wrong" with the procedures of the Sandiganbayan in Step 2, but there was something stupendously wrong with the first step: how he was removed.

I believe he was removed illegally and unconstitutionally, others think otherwise.

But it is precisely this DISAGREEMENT that must be settled with definiteness and finality in a full blown appeal to the Supreme Court, because IF President Joseph Estrada was removed illegally and unconstitutionally then he should be acquitted by the Supreme Court of plunder on the grounds that the Sandiganbayan never acquired legal jurisdiction over him.

If the Supreme Court however insists that its Chief Justice's acts on 20 January 2001 were indeed justified and legal, and if they uphold the Court's decision in Estrada vs. Arroyo in March 2001, then they MUST convict Erap with finality of the charge of plunder.

Therefore, I think that the just and fair resolution of the moral dilemma presented can only be accomplished in the Supreme Court in the context of an Erap appeal.

A pardon would be morally ultra vires until after such a determination by the present Supreme Court of its honest judgment of what a past Supreme Court had done.

In so much as the case of Joseph Estrada involved a titanic and destructive clash not only between individuals and social classes, but also of the three main institutions of government, the Presidency, the House and Senate and the Supreme Court, it's resolution is as much about them as it is about him.

RELATED: Our Bantay Salakay Supreme Court and Separation of Powers

Senate President Manny Villar praises Filipino maturity for generally accepting the verdict, but expresses the opinion that Erap is not guilty of plunder.
Senator Mar Roxas has filed a resolution urging the President to pardon Erap on humanitarian grounds "at the appropriate time" and "in order to finally and sincerely put a just closure to national divisiveness".

The Left Has No Monopoly In The Fight For Freedom

ehn Cervantes and Neri Colmenares were talking to Ricky Carandang just now on Dateline Philippines...I'm getting really sick and tired of these old Leftists like Behn Cervantes (an old friend and comrade, actually, who abused the letter "h" in proper names long before it became bakya to do so) spinning and weaving and embellishing the myth that the anti-Marcos struggle was primarily conducted by the Left. Now, don't get me wrong, I had lots of personal friends lose their lives and families in those dark days, but it is no use today grousing about the fact that lots of other people back then did not support the Left against Marcos either. Then, as now, the Left has no monopoly in the fight for freedom. In fact, what many Filipinos have come to see is that the Left is not and has never been truly interested in anything but a dictatorship of the professoriat of Jose Maria Sison and the rest of the Nice People's Army in the Utrecht Space Station. Proof of that would be Behn's own protest right about now that HE doesn't support such a totalitarian regime either. He is, as he puts it, "a cultural warrior."

So let me quarrel with him about his take on "culture". In my opinion, the main reason for the Philippines unexplained poverty, despite its rich natural and cultural heritage, is this longest running communist insurgency, which too many Filipinos speak of with a weird kind of pride, as if such a thing were like an Eight Wonder of the World, a kind of bloody Rice Terraces uniquely our own. In part, that is because cultural warriors like Behn have convinced many people that we have to fight for some kind of --(here is that magic word again)-- indigenous culture that is somehow free of the culture and idiom he is himself using to conduct the same fight! For him Spain and America are still "foreign" cultures to the Filipino, and deserve to be rejected because of what them thar imperialists did to us. That position, which I can only describe as aboriginal ignores the facts and realities of the last four centuries of Philippine history. What is ironic is how oblivious Behn is to his anti-Americanism being a form of colonial mentality of its own, of which he ought to be justly proud, as it comes straight from Mark Twain (of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn fame) and the US Anti-Imperialist League. That is how unavoidable America is in our culture! Even our anti-Americanism is soooo recognizably--American!

When Behn speaks nostalgically about the Sixties, he strums my own heart-strings, but I am afraid his sentimentality for the Protest Culture that accompanied Flower Power, has ossified and degenerated into what I call a "protest attitude" that is endemic in the modern Filipino Inteligentsia (yes I know the latter is an archaic term, but I am just an old fogey), in the Media, Academe and the professional activists. When one adopts the Protest Attitude one does not need to examine the actual progress or lack thereof in society at large for protest is enough to fulfill one's moral duty. But I think we delude ourselves when we believe that Protest is good in and of itself because the Root Conditions of society are so deeply embedded and wide spread that we cannot go wrong protesting something or even anything. Such protest activities are directed at eternal enemies--imperialism, feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism and take on the trappings of a Fight Between Good and Evil. Once the protest attitude gets there, the transmogrification is complete from protest to moral copout.

When Behn demands that we fight for "a change in the basic structure of society" (even if it is just the management of the Cultural Center and the NCCA) he expresses the biggest justification for a never ending protest movement, protest culture, protest attitude and protest ideology, because that is essentially "moving the goal posts" as they say in a certain foreign land. It is a goal that can only be asymptotically reached, as in the ends of Ideal Grace.

I think the solution to poverty is getting rich, not protesting it forever. The OFWs have led the way with Virtues Greater Than Nationalism, not the activists. It is the global Filipino whose rising tide of hard earned bucks is what is raising all boats. Meanwhile, in the Archipelago, the boys and girls with their deadly toys and even more lethal ideas are keeping the tourists away from what should be Hundred Hawaiis and the "foreign" investors from 7100 Singapores. They just have to get out of the way and not insist on "changing the basic structure of society" using the methods of protracted warfare and cultural self-mutilation.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Our "Bantay Salakay" Supreme Court and the Separation of Powers

Tagalog term, "bantay salakay" is almost impossible to translate into English. Roughly speaking, it means a guardian who attacks that which it must guard. In this case, I am referring to the Supreme Court itself, and its history of destroying the Constitutions it has been given to defend.

I have already considered in great detail (in the Commentary entitled The Law As Prediction: Javellana at 33) the historic dereliction of duty of the Supreme Court in the matter of Ferdinand Marcos' Martial Law Constitution of 1972 when it issued the infamous Decision, Javellana vs. Executive Secretary in which the Court proclaimed a new principle of surrendering to fascism: the principle of political acquiescence, by which we the People are said to have acquiesced to a new Constitution by a mere show of hands under the watchful eyes and guns of the fledgling Fascist Dictator.
My own disgust for Ferdinand Marcos and his legacy is rather COMPLEAT: it is personal, political, ideological and even religious. I visited his floating cadaver in Sarrat once just to savor the Ozymandian truth that only words and ideas survive, not men and their power--only now to realize that the evil Marcos did lived on after him -- specifically in the Supreme Court of the Philippines--even after he was overthrown.

Many others are commemorating this week the imposition of martial law in 1972 and are worth reading:

Conrad de Quiros who compares Gloria to Marcos when he says, "People who are not bothered by the crypt that holds the remains of the national hero won’t be bothered by the papyrus, or its modern equivalents, that holds the essence of their being, also called their word."
Manolo Quezon who asks the philosophical question: "Why do we look back at the lives of people like Ferdinand E. Marcos? As long as humanity is around, a fundamental question will always be, how is power gained, maintained and ultimately for what purpose is it wielded?"

In a democracy, power is gained by free, fair and regular elections of representatives of the people in whose name and for whose benefit that power is wielded. But power in a democracy is invested in a divided government composed of a Legislature to make the laws, an Executive to enforce and apply the, and a Judiciary to resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise among men and institutions. The secret of maintaining power within beneficial bounds in a democracy lies in this principle of the Separation of Powers in a divided government in which the separate parts serve as check and balance on each others hold on power.

Without a strictly and scrupulously obeyed Separation of Powers, there is actually very little to distinguish a democratic government from an authoritarian or autocratic state in which power is indeed, concentrated in one man or one party.

That of course was the evil in the Javellana decision: it acquiesced to the monopolization of power in one man, Ferdinand Marcos, and later on to that of his party of relatives, cronies and sycophants when it blessed their criminal wrong doing in case after infamous case.

But was Javellana the nadir of the Supreme Court's history of moral and intellectual failures? I don't think so! At least in that case, the ACTS sought to be over-ruled in the Supreme Court were acts of the President turned fascist dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. What they blessed in that instance was an act of the Chief Executive to inaugurate a new regime: Marcos' New Society. However, in 2001, in the equally historic decision, Estrada vs. Arroyo, the Supreme Court touched an even lower level when it blessed an unconstitutional ACT of the Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., in which the principle of Separation of Powers was violated directly by the Supreme Court itself!

For the little-recognized FACT explicitly stated in the Constitution is that the Supreme Court has NO JURISDICTION, not even JUDICIAL REVIEW when it comes to the question of how this Democracy decides upon the removal from office of Constitutional Officers, like the President and the Chief Justice themselves by a process other than election or appointment, namely that of IMPEACHMENT.

The matter is exhaustively examined in a recent post that looks at the true limits of SupremeCourt power, What Is Fair Has Just Priority Over What Is Good.

Many Filipinos, for one reason or another, have come to regard the Supreme Court as the secular equivalent of the Roman Curia of the Catholic Church--such that when it speaks through the Chief Justice or when it rules upon a case before it--then it is just like the Pope teaching the Catholic Magisterium, interpreting the Word and Will of God, in this case, the People and their Constitution. In other words, being the good Roman Catholics that they are, (and even when they are not!) too many Filipinos actually believe that the Supreme Court is largely infallible, or at least, unquestionable and unassailable. It is even believed that every Supreme Court decision is final, as if the Supreme Court has never reversed itself.

It has become almost impossible for many Filipinos to even imagine that the Supreme Court's powers are actually limited, and that there are cases in which it has no jurisdiction and does not even have the power of judicial review.

This is a "childhood" illusion, an infantile phase of our advance to political maturity in which our faith and understanding of Democracy is still largely mystical and not rational. Filipinos have not yet come to appreciate the genius of Democracy as a system of checks and balances in which a well-defined separation of powers MUST be maintained if the machine that we call the Government is to function smoothly and beneficially. This idea of democracy as a machine with separate parts comes from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

The Supreme Court, which is the only Constitutionally vouchsafed part of the Judicial Branch of the Government, actually has a very well-defined JURISDICTION or domain of justiciable cases that are within its power to adjudicate and rule upon.

Is there anything the Supreme Court may not decide upon?
Are there JUSTICIABLE cases that are OUTSIDE the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court?

YES there are, a big one being the entire matter of how this society gets rid of criminals it finds in high office. It is a two step process in which the official must first validly be removed from office and deprived of the particles of sovereignty won at election, a step EXCLUSIVELY and SOLELY invested in the House and Senate as the political departments of the government; then, and only then, do they fall into the jurisdiction of the Judiciary for criminal prosecution.

In 2001, the Supreme Court usurped the Congress' powers, with ACTS and WORDS that surpass Marcos' own duplicity and his fascistic violation of the separation of powers with their own judicial putschism. They are worse than Marcos in the sense Conrad de Quiros mentions: for we have have acquisced to their "papyri" -- to the evil content and consequences of their written words.


Davide's Chicken Is Coming Home To Roost

The Paradox of People Power

Laughable Textbook Errors In Crucial Supreme Court Decisions

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Arroyo Blinks

Text Message suggests a new alphabet that goes:
(or Abalos, ZTE, First Gentleman)

In a reversal which could be momentously significant, President Gloria Arroyo this afternoon has just ordered three of her Cabinet members to attend Thursday's Senate hearing on the ZTE National Broadband Network deal, which only this morning she had been deriding as "vaudeville show."

Perhaps hoping to avert a major collision with a Senate that is becoming more and more assertive of its institutional rights and prerogatives, the President has ordered Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza, Trade Secretary Peter Favila and Romulo Neri, former National Economic Development Authority to answer questions on the controversial deal with a government-owned Chinese firm, the lid on which blown wide open Tuesday with explosive testimony from telecommunications entrepreneur (and the House Speaker's son from a previous marriage) Joey De Venecia III.

The President had only the unpleasant option of forcing another battle with the Senate in the Supreme Court, but she has to relent because even her Senate allies like Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago "had no objection" to issuing subpoenas and making petitions to the Supreme Court to compel the attendance of high government officials at Senate hearings. The magic words are "in aid of legislation" since the landmark 2006 decisions, Senate vs. Ermita and Gordon vs. Sabio, both unequivocally upheld the obligatory nature of answering a Senate summons to appear and testify before it.

Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Alan Peter Cayetano also demolished the original excuse of
Sec. Mendoza that because of a pending case in the High Court involving the ZTE contract, the matter was "sub judice" and he could therefore not testify. The DOTC lawyers have apparently not read Gordon vs. Sabio which rules otherwise:
"Let it be stressed at this point that so long as the constitutional rights of witnesses… will be respected by the respondent Senate committees, it is their duty to cooperate with them in their efforts to obtain the facts needed for intelligent legislative action."

"The unremitting obligation of every citizen is to respond to subpoena, to respect the dignity of the Congress and its committees and to testify fully with respect to matters within the realm of proper investigation."
Although the ZTE controversy is huge in its own right given that First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos, are involved in alleged criminal wrongdoing of plunderous proportions, perhaps the even more significant issue is the disordered relationship between the President, the Senate and the Supreme Court.

Ever since the issuance last year of Exec. Order No. 464, and even after the Supreme Court issued a unanimous but ambivalent decision questioning it, the rights and obligations of Executive Dept. officials with respect to Congressional investigations and hearings can only fuzzily be limned and and can only be tentatively construed from the ruling in Senate vs. Ermita.

In my post last year analyzing the Supreme Court Decision, I thought that King Solomon Just Cut the Baby In Half.

Today, President Arroyo may have blinked and may now be forced to admit that the true Mother of Public Accountability and the true repository of the Public's Right to Know, is indeed the Congress of the Republic of the Philippines.

On the hand, she may yet cling on to the half the Supreme Court did give her, a matter I have addressed recently in How the Supreme Court Upheld the Half of EO 464 GMA Really Needs.

Also, I've been considering the limits of Supreme Court Power and myth of the Supreme Court's supremacy and posted a preliminary salvo against its despicable record in the commentary, What Is Fair Has Just Priority Over What Is Good.

In the latter, I advance the theory that in EDSA DOS the Supreme Court basically USURPED the sole power of the Senate over all cases of impeachment and removal of public officials, which the Constitution unequivocally invests in the Political Dept. of the government, namely the Congress as House and Senate. The implications of this anomaly and its continuance and amplification under the Arroyo administration can explain much of the dysfunctional situation we are observing in the government. More on this in coming posts.

Still Keeping An Open Mind About Closed Caskets?

After 14 Philippine Marines were ambushed by MILF rebels and killed on July 10 near Tipo-tipo, Basilan looking for the kidnapped Italian priest, Giancarlo Bossi, the local RTC Judge Leo Principe issued 130 Arrest Warrants against the suspects in their gruesome deaths, which included the beheading of ten of them. The ambush was readily admitted by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. But the MILF quickly denied being involved in, or even knowing who carried out the decapitation, mutilation and robbery of the dead or dying Marines, despite claiming that they killed the Marines for daring to enter "their territory" without "coordination." At the point when local police were going to serve the arrest warrants and detain the suspects, Peace Advisors Jess Dureza and General Rodolfo Garcia stepped in, illegally stayed the arrest warrants, organized a "joint independent investigating committee" that included MILF representatives, then took a week to add four names to the list of suspects, submitted its report but never released it, and blamed the whole incident on "lawless elements of the Abu Sayyaf". Then an "all-out war" was declared, although there was really little evidence of that, but it naturally attracted the 100 point headlines from the usual Media Leftists, who suddenly found it profitable to publish front page pictures of cute, wide-eyed toddlers in the foreground of arriving tanks and and heavily armed soldiers. This lasted for about a week, while peaceniks got a chance to remember with self-satisfied nostalgia what it was they used to believe in with such passion. The deaths of the soldiers were blamed on all sorts of other things than the murderous intent of the rebels, who only want Peace in the Archipelago. (Or is it a PIECE of the Archipelago?) Since those events, a total of some 57 Philippine Marines and Army servicemen have been killed in action in Mindanao.

I'm beginning to wonder if there is anything at all connected to the outside world inside all those OPEN MINDS arguing that all these are WASTED LIVES, that Law Enforcement is nothing but "all-out war" when directed at "defenseless" Muslims, and that "peace talks" are the only way to alleviate the "root conditions" that are the alleged true causes of lawless violence and savagery. They fumed and fulminated at all the war mongers "hungry for vengeance" and "full of blood lust" while counseling that everyone keep an open mind and not lose their heads [sic!].

The problem with heartless intellectuals is...they are heartless intellectuals!

Fact is, there never was an "all-out war" --only a half-hearted and showy effort-- to arrest only the beheaders of those Marines, because it so happens that their ambush-killers are all the government's "partners in the peace process" -- the MILF in Tipo and-tipo, the MNLF in Maimbung, killed the majority of those 57 soldiers in Mindanao since July 10.

It's all been one big moro-moro of a whitewash perpetrated by the patrons of Eid Kabbalu and Hashim Salamat within the administration, who had to delay "peace talks" for a month to let things cool down a little after their murderous ambuscades these past few months. Of greater conern to these big-time patriots is that the United States might get involved and decide to "violate Philippine sovereignty."

And that is why not a single one of those killers or beheaders has been brought to Justice, and probably never will be. Some of them are probably on the Peace Panel sitting across their counterparts in the peace process, waiting for the President's grant of Ancestral Domain, aka Bangsamorsostan, whose hard, cold soil is warmed and watered by brave Filipino blood.

Related: Zamboanga Journal reports on the Abu Sayyaf's foreign funding efforts.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Joey de Venecia Names First Gentleman Mike Arroyo As ZTE Mystery Man

Senate Testimony of Mr. Joey de Venecia September 18, 2007
Downloadable MP3
The son of House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Mr. Joey de Venecia and a principal in Amsterdam Holdings, Inc. has just implicated First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo as the "Mystery Man" involved in the highly controversial ZTE National Broadband Network project during a hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee headed by Senator Alan Peter Cayetano. In a signed affidavit and testimony under oath, Mr. Joey de Venecia also named Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos and Dept. of Transportation and Communications Secretary Lito Mendoza as principals in what he called an overpriced deal prejudicial to the interests of the government. On questioning and in interviews with the Media in the past few weeks, Mr. de Venecia asserted that a 100% overprice is contained in the US $330 million deal to connect government offices to an Internet backbone, representing alleged kickbacks to various government officials.

Mike Arroyo quietly left for Hong Kong yesterday, according to news reports.

Ricky Carandang
has the inside scoop on this matter -- it's worth watching his blog for updates.

An interesting issue emerging as a result of the ZTE National Broadband Network controversy is the issue of OBSOLESCENCE. Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Alan Peter Cayetano pointed out that the government has a dismal record in managing high technology projects, and even Administation stalwart Sen. Joker Arroyo admitted a prejudice against the Comelec under Ben Abalos because of the earlier Automated Counting Machine scandal, under his watch in the last Senate.

Abalos is headed for impeachment, I reckon.