Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Right to Be Heard and the Duty to Reply

UNDERTOW publishes the text comments of Atty. Alan Paguia on Pimentel's   Right of Reply bill:
"If you criticize an individual on print, radio or television, the proposed law gives him the "right of reply." If the owner, editor or station manager fails or refuses to give equal space for reply when requested, that person incurs criminal liability, and a fine and/or an imprisonment of not more than 30 days." "What is wrong with this bill? As far as public officials are concerned, they are given the 'right,' instead of the 'duty to reply.' Thus, the bill weakens, instead of strengthens, public accountability." 
Saludo to Atty. Alan Paguia, who once more displays the  logical rigor and legal wit that has gotten him into so much trouble with the Judicial Putschists like Hilario Davide and Artemio Panganiban.   But earned him the just admiration of worthier hearts and minds for his intellectual honesty and supernal dedication to the letter and spirit of the Law.

There's worse things about this bill however...
Recall that in connection with the anomalous regime change in 2001,  Ateneo Law Prof. Alan Paguia was suspended by SCoRP  in part for invoking his Right To Be Heard by them and their Duty to Reply to him as a citizen under RA 6713 Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials of the Civil Service 
In the performance of their duties, all public officials and employees are under obligation to: (a) Act promptly on letters and requests. - All public officials and employees shall, within fifteen (15) working days from receipt thereof, respond to letters, telegrams or other means of communications sent by the public. The reply must contain the action taken on the request...
Alan is absolutely right. Pimentel's bill weakens public accountability by making it a mere "right" and not a duty under the Civil Service laws for public officials to reply to formal requests for action, including criticisms of past inaction, naturally!

The Senate website has the body of the proposed legislation:
SECTION 1. Right of Reply. – All persons natural and juridical who are accused directly or indirectly of committing, having committed or of intending to commit any crime or offense defined by law or are criticized by innuendo, suggestion or rumor for any lapse in behavior in public or private life shall have the right of reply to the charges published in newspapers, magazines, newsletters or publications circulated commercially or for free, or criticisms aired or broadcast over radio, television, websites, or through any electronic device.
This is actually the superfluous restatement of something that is obviously true under the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution. For as it is defined above, the so-called "Right of Reply"
appears to be a natural, logical derivative or consequence of the Freedom of Speech and Expression.  Of course, all persons have a right to reply to anything said about them or about anybody else, or any thing else,  for that matter!  The right to reply to anybody about anything in any medium is not restricted to criminal accusations or criticisms of lapses in behavior!  The Right of Reply, as described in Section 1 above is entirely subsumed under the Constitutional Right to the Freedom of Speech and Expression.  This is self-evident and uncontroversial. 
Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.
So far, so good, for the good Senator Pimentel's Right of Reply. But let us examine the rest of the proposed legislation, because there are credible accusations that the bill, if passed into law, would ABRIDGE the freedom of speech, which would violate 1987 Section 4. 
SECTION 2. Where reply published. – The reply of the person so accused or criticized shall be published in the same space of the newspapers, magazine, newsletter or publication or aired over the same program on radio, television, website, or through any electronic device.

SECTION 3. When published. -- [It] shall [be] published or broadcast not later than one day after the reply shall have been delivered to the editorial office of the publication concerned or to the station that carried the broadcast being replied to.

SECTION 4. Length of Reply. – The reply shall not be longer than the accusation or criticism as published or broadcast.

SECTION 5. Free of Charge. – The publication or broadcasting [of] the reply shall [be] free of charge, payment or fees.

SECTION 6. Editing Reply. – The reply shall be published or broadcast except for libelous allegations.

SECTION 7. Penalties. – The editor-in-chief and the publisher or station manager and owner of the broadcast medium who fails or refuses to publish or broadcast the reply as mandated in the preceding section shall be fined in an amount not exceeding P10,000 for the first offense; P20,000 for the second offense; and P30,000 and imprisonment for not more than 0 days for the third offense.

SECTION 8. The publicaiton of the reply does not preclude recourse to other rights or remedies available to the party or parties concerned.

SECTION 9. The Act shall take effect fifteen (15) days following its publication in three (3) newspapers of general circulation.

In the bill's explanatory note, Sen. Pimentel quotes George Orwell:
"In a society in which there is no law, and in theory no compulsion, the only arbiter or behavior is public opinion. But public opinion, because of the tremendous urge to conformity in gregarious animals, is less tolerant than any other system of law. -- George Orwell
and says, further, 
Justice Malcolm once wrote that public opinion should be the constant  source of liberty and democracy rising superior to any official, or set of officials, to the Chief Executive, to the Legislature, to the Judiciary. The value placed on public opinion is enshrined in our Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. However, the interest of society demands not merely the right to express one's thoughts but the right to an educated and enlightened public opinion. Essential to the protection of the freedom of expression is the promotion of a full discussion of public affairs. The freedom of speech and expression enshrined in the Constitution necessarily embraces a correlative right of reply, which is the right to reply to every form of  expression proteeted under the ConTBtution, especially to accusations or criticisms published or aired through the mass media. This Act enables all persons to equitably exercise their right of reply in the field of broadcast and print media and protects its exercise by providing penalties for violation of such right.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reston Ebola Virus Watch

23 December 2008
First  ebola Reston virus detection in pigs -- First Reston ebola virus detection in pigs confirmed by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in at a hog farm in Bulacan, Philippines.

23 January 2009 

23 February 2009
According to Sec. Duque of the Dept. of Health, up to 6,000 pigs are to be "Depopulated"
at a hog farm in Pandi, Bulacan.

24 February 2009
The DOH has announced "wider" inspections of hog farms in Luzon to check for Reston ebola virus infections or outbreaks.  The DOH also maintains an FAQ Page on Ebola Reston Virus developments.

A Stanford University Honors Thesis on the ebola virus by Tara Waterman seems to be a substantial scientific introduction.  There is a wiki on the virus, and general info on Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, which is NOT -- thankfully -- associated with Reston ebola virus infections in human beings. 

No human being has ever been known to have any illness due to ebola Reston virus. 

Let's hope it stays that way.

Monday, February 23, 2009

This Is Getting Scary

A massacre of hogs is being ordered in Bulacan because of an apparent outbreak of Ebola Reston Virus.
The Ebola Reston Virus (ERV) has spread among 6,000 pigs of all ages in a hog farm in Pandi, Bulacan, and they need to be killed or depopulated to prevent it from further spreading, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said.
There are 13 million hogs in the country and pork is a major part of the Filipino diet. The big question is will there be a major outbreak among this very large and widespread population of animals. Although the ebola Reston virus is nonpathogenic in humans, it can be fatal in monkeys. The pigs are a major source of worry though.  We could be facing a major outbreak with summer just around the corner.  The Dept. of Health has a page on FAQs on Ebola Reston.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Should You Bet On Tomorrow's Super Lotto Jackpot?

Sunday's Super Lotto Jackpot will probably top 300 million pesos tomorrow as the winning combination has not been picked for the last few weeks. What are your chances of picking the winning combination (not that most bettors care, of course)?

Well the formula for the number of sets of six numbers taken from a larger set consisting of 1 to 49 is just


So your chances of picking the winning combination at random is less than one in ten billion. You stand a far greater chance of being bitten by a King Cobra tomorrow, or being hit by lightning.

(But each ticket is just 20 pesos at Lotto outlets near you!  Hurry the lines are snaking around the corner.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Nego Supositum: Carpio Is Barking Up The Wrong Treaty

The Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines (SCORP)  upheld the Constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement, in a recent 9-4 En Banc ruling,  Nicolas v. Romulo (2009)   just as it did in the previous challenge nearly a decade ago, in Bayan v. Zamora (2000).   The controversy revolves about the following 1987 provision:
Transitory Provisions - Sec. 25. After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Philippines and the United States of America concerning Military Bases, foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.
Justice Antonio Carpio dissents from the Majority Decision and disposes as follows:
In summary, the VFA fails to comply with Section 25, Article XVIII of the Philippine Constitution requiring the United States to “recognize as a treaty” the VFA. This Court cannot allow the implementation of the VFA by the Philippine Government unless and until the United States recognizes the VFA as a treaty. This means that the VFA must be ratified by the U.S. Senate and made part of U.S. domestic law in accordance with Medellin. Only when this process is completed can this Court allow the implementation of the VFA. In the meantime, the accused Lance Corporal Daniel Smith of the U.S. Armed Forces should be subject to the same Philippine laws governing an accused in similar cases, without the application of the VFA or its subsidiary agreements.

Accordingly, I vote to (1) DECLARE the Visiting Forces Agreement incomplete and ineffective and thus UNENFORCEABLE, and to (2) ORDER the Director-General of the Philippine National Police, as well as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, to immediately cause the transfer of the accused Lance Corporal Daniel Smith from the custody of the U.S. Embassy in Manila to the New Bilibid prison in Muntinlupa pending final resolution of his appeal from conviction for the crime of rape.
The very heart of Justice Carpio's dissent lies in the SUPPOSITION that the Visiting Forces Agreement is the Treaty that allows the presence of US troops in the Philippines as required by the Philippine Constitution. 

Nego supositum!  I deny the supposition! -- as does J. Azcuna and the SCoRP majority when it ruled: 
[G.R. No. 175888] Accordingly, as an implementing agreement of the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty, it was not necessary to submit the VFA to the US Senate for advice and consent, but merely to the US Congress under the Case–Zablocki Act within 60 days of its ratification. It is for this reason that the US has certified that it recognizes the VFA as a binding international agreement, i.e., a treaty, and this substantially complies with the requirements of Art. XVIII, Sec. 25 of our Constitution.[10]

The provision of Art. XVIII, Sec. 25 of the Constitution, is complied with by virtue of the fact that the presence of the US Armed Forces through the VFA is a presence “allowed under” the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty. Since the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty itself has been ratified and concurred in by both the Philippine Senate and the US Senate, there is no violation of the Constitutional provision resulting from such presence. 
In other words, it is the RP US Mutual Defense Treaty of 1952 that ALLOWS the presence of US troops on Philippine soil in Balikatan Exercises as "visiting forces."

All Justice Carpio has actually done is to establish that BY ITSELF the VFA as written would indeed be Constitutionally insufficient to allow the presence of US troops on Philippine soil.  But Justice Carpio with all due respect, is actually barking up the wrong treaty here!

I shall deal with the matter of "Medellin v. Texas" in a succeeding post...

Joker and PDI: In Flagrante Innuendo

[Cross posting at Filipino Voices]

Well it looks like the VFA brouhaha has taken a turn towards the hilarious as the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Senator Joker Arroyo have kissed and made up a whopper of a headline today in SECRET VFA PAPER BARED. Their Love Quarrel over the Neri Executive Session is now forgotten and forgiven as together they battle US Imperialism. The accompanying "news" story is a breathless masterpiece of PDI's trademark innuendo wrapped in the purple, black and blue of nationalistic self-flagellation, with Joker Arroyo in the unlikely role of Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, complete with his own "Deep Throat"! The newspaper has obviously not verified or independently confirmed the authenticity of the alleged IRR as required by their own Code of Ethics, but they love it. Joker is playing the newspaper like a fiddle for the Palace, but I wonder if they haven't gotten him into some serious legal and ethical trouble with this, IF the story is not a Fairy Tale...

Joker Arroyo claims in a PDI news report that a mysterious "Learned Jurist" gave him the 14 page document purporting to be the "SECRET" Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement signed by then Foreign Affairs Sec. Domingo Siazon (presently ambassador to Japan) and US Amb. Thomas Hubbard. But if the headline and report are true, then Senator Joker Arroyo and the Learned Jurist have apparently broken several heavy jail-time National Defense and Security laws and Senate Rules, with the newspaper as an accomplice. Who is the Mysterious Learned Jurist that is Joker Arroyo's source of something that both the Presidency and the Senate have deemed wise to keep a State Secret all this time?

Maybe it is Joker Arroyo himself, in his and Miriam's fantasies as Justices of the Supreme Court! But Joker Arroyo is too smart of a lawyer to leave himself exposed to serious criminal prosecution or ethical sanction by the Senate. I think his "out" and the dead-giveaway clue that this is all one big BOLA is the claim in the front page article that the VFA's secret IRR was signed on October 9, 1998. This is one day BEFORE the VFA went into force when it was duly concurred in by the Philippine Senate on October 10, 1998. But the Spring cannot rise higher than the Source, nor the IRR come be approved BEFORE the Agreement it is to implement itself does!

The Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines (SCORP) has now ruled twice, in Bayan v. Zamora (Oct. 2000) and Nicolas v. Romulo (Feb. 2009) that the RP US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) complies with the 1987 Constitutional requirement on foreign military bases, troops and facilities in the Philippines:
Sec. 25. After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Philippines and the United States of America concerning Military Bases, foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.

But the most important thing people interested in this issue ought to know about is that the Visiting Forces Agreement is NOT the instrument or treaty that allows the presence of US troops in the Philippines under joint exercises like Balikatan. It's crystal clear from the VFA's Preamble that the legality of such presence is already assumed by the VFA's negotiators. The VFA is an implementation of the the 1952 Mutual Defense Treaty, duly concurred in by both Philippine and US Senates that IS the real basis for such presence. Moreover, since it was ratified the US Congress has expended funds to implement and execute the 1952 MDT on numerous occasions. Neither the VFA nor the 1952 MDT were considered by SCotUS to be among the treaties referred to in the "supervening event" of Medellin v. Texas, as even J. Antonio Carpio admits in his Dissenting Opinion.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Please Tell Kiko

It seems pretty obvious that our Senators do not bother to read newly promulgated Supreme Court decisions before jumping the gun and firing off fiery Resolutions that may soon have to be withdrawn in sheepish embarrassment. Take for example this Press Release from the Office of Senator Kiko Pangilinan  which reads:

Independent senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan today filed Senate Resolution No. 892 calling for the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) on the grounds that its provisions are "contrary to the 1987 Philippine Constitution."

In a two-page resolution, Kiko cited the circumstances and the decisions made in the case involving convicted rapist Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, particularly the Romulo-Kenney agreements of December 2006 placing Smith under the custody of the US Embassy, as well as the Medellin vs Texas case of March 2008, where the US Supreme Court upheld that "a treaty, even if ratified by the United States Senate, is not enforceable as domestic federal law in the United States, unless the US enacts the implementing legislation, or the treaty by its terms is self-executory and ratified by the US Senate as such."

"This clearly violates our constitutional provision on the presence of foreign military bases, troops, or facilities in the country since one of the conditions is lacking, to wit: to recognize it as a treaty by the other contracting state," the resolution reads.

The resolution calls for the expression of "the sense of the Senate that Philippine sovereignty should be respected by other states and should in no way be put in jeopardy by any treaty or agreements previously entered [into] by the Philippine Government."

The resolution also asks the President to "re-visit the provisions of the VFA and accordingly exercise our right to terminate the Agreement considering that supervening events have rendered the VFA as unconstitutional."

"Their Supreme Court rendered the VFA unconstitutional in the Philippine territory and now they invoke this unconstitutional agreement to keep a convicted rapist out of our reach," Kiko pointed out. "Have we no self-respect? We shouldn't be groveling at their feet. The President should terminate the VFA now if we are to preserve whatever respect we have left. Any national leader of a self-respecting nation would do the same given the lopsided circumstances."
The good Senator makes several claims which are however directly and explicitly contradicted by the ponencia of retiring Associate Justice Rodolfo Azcuna in the 9-4 resolution of the case, Nicolas v. Romulo (2009)

(1) He claims that RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement is unconstitutional. Yet twice already, the Supreme Court has unequivocally upheld the Constitutionality of the VFA, both in the present case and in Bayan v. Zamora (2000).

(2) Kiko cites the decision of the US Supreme Court in Medellin v. Texas and though he interprets the meaning of the case correctly, it is irrelevant and immaterial to the VFA because, as J. Azcuna succinctly explains, the VFA is considered by the US as a self-executing agreement duly registered as such as required by the Case-Zablocki Act which gives treaty force to these agreements even without formal Senate ratification.  
J. Azcuna: "The fact that the VFA was not submitted for advice and consent of the United States Senate does not detract from its status as a binding international agreement or treaty recognized by the said State. For this is a matter of internal United States law. Notice can be taken of the internationally known practice by the United States of submitting to its Senate for advice and consent agreements that are policymaking in nature, whereas those that carry out or further implement these policymaking agreements are merely submitted to Congress, under the provisions of the so-called Case–Zablocki Act, within sixty days from ratification.[6]  

Accordingly, as an implementing agreement of the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty, it was not necessary to submit the VFA to the US Senate for advice and consent, but merely to the US Congress under the Case–Zablocki Act within 60 days of its ratification. It is for this reason that the US has certified that it recognizes the VFA as a binding international agreement, i.e., a treaty, and this substantially complies with the requirements of Art. XVIII, Sec. 25 of our Constitution.[10]"
(3) Regarding the alleged violation of the ban on foreign troops on Philippine soil without a treaty,  J. Azcuna likewise instructs the young Kiko...
J. Azcuna: "The provision of Art. XVIII, Sec. 25 of the Constitution, is complied with by virtue of the fact that the presence of the US Armed Forces through the VFA is a presence “allowed under” the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty. Since the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty itself has been ratified and concurred in by both the Philippine Senate and the US Senate, there is no violation of the Constitutional provision resulting from such presence."
To summarize the salient points in the Decision that the good Sen. Pangilinan evidently never bothered to read:  (a) The VFA has now been declared "Constitutional" by the SCoRP twice; (b) it is a duly registered executive agreement with the force of a ratified treaty under the Case Zablocki Act; and (c) the "treaty" required by the constitution to allow US troops on Philippine soil is not Visiting Forces Agreement but the 1951 RP US Mutual Defense Treaty, which WAS duly concurred in by both US and Philippine Senates and continues in force.

Kidnap for Territory--A New Terrorist Tactic

The Philippines is presently home to at least two groups of apparent war criminals: the New People's Army for their recent use of internationally banned land mines and the Abu Sayyaf Group of Albader Parad, for their kidnapping of three Red Cross workers in Mindanao and a whole slew of recent kidnappings.

In a new twist perhaps necessitated by an apparent inability to extort a monetary ransom, the ASG leader Albader Parad, (who has been responsible for many kidnap capers including Fr. Giancarlo Bossi which led to 10 Marines getting beheaded in Basilan) has told the media they would not negotiate the release of the Red Cross workers unless the Philippine Military first withdraws from "their territory" in Basilan and Sulu.

I do believe that this is an ongoing terrorist crime under the Human Security Act that is being commited in flagrante delicto by Mr. Parad. He is commiting an "index crime" -- kidnapping -- and he is making a clearly illegal demand on the government -- that it withdraw from Philippine territory.

It's time to take this piece of  inhuman trash out. 

Abrogating the VFA Would Only Free Daniel Smith

If we unilaterally abrogate or suspend the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),  Daniel Smith would escape Philippine Justice.   Why? Because by ending the VFA we would have removed all the guarantees of a fair trial, due process, equal protection, and protection against double jeopardy that are the only reasons the US allows any of its troops accused of crimes while off duty to be processed under Philippine jurisdiction, but not full custody and detention until "all judicial proceedings are completed." But without the VFA, the US Military would be under a moral obligation to evacuate Daniel Smith immediately since his personal, civil, political and human rights would no longer be guaranteed by the Philippine government and he could be exposed to mortal danger or unjust and inhumane treatment.

At Filipino Voices today I ask, Does the US Consider the VFA a Treaty?

One of the greatest intellectual disservices being committed by the mass media right now is not explaining the correct and simple answer to this question to the Public. Instead they have picked up on the jingoistic passions of the leftist lynch mobs with long historical axes to grind and allowed various misconceptions about this question to proliferate. With the help of guys like Professor Harry Roque and the grand titan of that ole time nationalism, the venerable Jovito Salonga. In this post, I beg to disagree with these men who are far more educated in the Law than I, but with whom we all share the common crafts of English Composition and reading the topologies of our consciences... Besides I just read the celebrated ponencia of the retiring Justice Adolfo Azcuna in the 9-4 SCoRP decision entitled, Suzette Nicolas y Sombillon v. Alberto Romulo (GR. No. 175888)

He explains the answer superbly...

FOREIGN TROOPS are not allowed on Philippine soil except as the 1987 Constitution provides in its Transitory Provisions:
After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning military bases, foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.

A controversy has been raised over the FACT that although the Philippine Senate duly concurred in the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement, this VFA was never referred to the United States Senate to be ratified as a treaty. Why? Justice Azcuna explains:

The provision is thus designed to ensure that any agreement allowing the presence of foreign military bases, troops or facilities in Philippine territory shall be equally binding on the Philippines and the foreign sovereign State involved. The idea is to prevent a recurrence of the situation in which the terms and conditions governing the presence of foreign armed forces in our territory were binding upon us but not upon the foreign State.

Applying the provision to the situation involved in these cases, the question is whether or not the presence of US Armed Forces in Philippine territory pursuant to the VFA is allowed “under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate xxx and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.”

This Court finds that it is, for two reasons.

First, as held in Bayan v. Zamora, the VFA was duly concurred in by the Philippine Senate and has been recognized as a treaty by the United States as attested and certified by the duly authorized representative of the United States government.

The fact that the VFA was not submitted for advice and consent of the United States Senate does not detract from its status as a binding international agreement or treaty recognized by the said State. For this is a matter of internal United States law. Notice can be taken of the internationally known practice by the United States of submitting to its Senate for advice and consent agreements that are policymaking in nature, whereas those that carry out or further implement these policymaking agreements are merely submitted to Congress, under the provisions of the so-called Case–Zablocki Act, within sixty days from ratification.

The second reason has to do with the relation between the VFA and the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty of August 30, 1951. This earlier agreement was signed and duly ratified with the concurrence of both the Philippine Senate and the United States Senate.

J. Azcuna notes that the RP US VFA was indeed registered with the US Congress within 60 days of its signing under the Case-Zablocki Act and an implementation of the Mutual Defense Treaty (as declared in the VFA's Preamble!). Thus in a sense, it WAS automatically ratified by the US Senate. Or the legal effect on the US is the same.

J. Azcuna concludes that therefore, that it is in fact the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, duly ratified by both Senates which "allows" the presence of the US troops on Philippines soil. The VFA is merely an implementing agreement that addresses the legal status of US service men who are part of those visiting forces. That is why it is mostly about mundane stuff like visas and customs. Less than 4 or 5% of treaties and international agreements that the US enters into ever requires US Senate concurrence. One reason is that the US has Status of Forcess Agreements and VFAs with over 90 countries.

So the answer, as SCoRP has now said twice and explained with crystal clarity is: YES the United States is bound by the VFA and the MDT as tightly and compleatly as the Republic of the Philippines is. Tighter!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Now They Tell Us!

For years, the Male Chauvinists of the Philippines have claimed that unlike almost every other country in the world, the so called "weaker sex" of females actually dominates Philippine Society financially, socially and emotionally, that this is in fact a modern Matriarchy. Now, Dr. Romulo A. Virola, Secretary General of the National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB), confirms that long standing accusation with stunning scientific data collected from 79 provinces of the Philippines under a special survey program sponsored by the United Nations Development Program. In a recent post on his online corner of the NSCB's official website, Statistically Speaking he asserts that Gender Equality does exist, but in favor of women. Analyzing statistical data from 2000 and 2003, the NSCB shows that in the key areas Income, Health and Education, women in 70 out of 79 Philippine provinces are way ahead of men.

Women outperformed men in all the three dimensions of development in both 2000 and 2003!

Women gained higher achievements than men in all three dimensions as indicated by the higher than one levels of GER for health (1.0248), education (1.0583) and income (1.2299) in 2003. In fact, the advantage of women in the income7 dimension grew bigger as the GER in income increased from 1.1170 to 1.2299 (Table 3). (Possibly one of the reasons why this year’s Women’s Month theme is “Babae, Yaman ka ng Bayan!”?)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Why Not Jail Daniel Smith In America?

The vengeful and bloodthirsty in the mainly leftist lynch mob that wants to treat Daniel Smith like an effigy of Uncle Sam won't like my suggestion. But I think it would be in the Philippines' enlightened self-interest to allow Daniel Smith to serve out his sentence in the United States (assuming his appeals fail at the Court of Appeals and the SCoRP, which could be years from now).  That delay becomes a perpetual golden opportunity for the CPP NPA NDF and its allies to assail whatever relationship the RP and the US happen to have.  Groups like Gabriela have already been using "Nicole" as a Battering Ram against the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Balikatan anti-terrorism and anti-insurgency exercises.

But I think it is impossible to guarantee the safety and security of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith in a jail like Bilibid Prison in Muntinglupa.  My proof of this is the further assertion that we cannot guarantee the safety and security of even Filipino citizens in Bilibid Prison, much less a hated icon of Yanqui Imperialism and US Aggression.  In Nicole, we are asked to see the whole Filipino nation being gang-raped by Uncle Sam, at least by certain pundits like Rina Jimenez David and the Gabriela Gang.

If and when he is put there by the Lynch Mob, and if and when he is gang-raped himself and we find our proud country and its infamous jail system all over the CNN-CBS-NBC evening news or even BBC specials, then will we rue having insisted on punishing him here.

There are a number of excellent American jail facilities that would render Justice unto Daniel Smith more reliably and be less vexing to us in the long run.

Let's make a gesture of trust and friendship towards our ally and the new Obama administration, by sending Daniel Smith to the maximum security prison in Illinois. 

Monday, February 9, 2009

Listening to the Beagle Diary for Darwin Day

FEBRUARY 12, 2009 is the Bicentennial of the birth of Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution by natural selection is one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time and stands at the very foundations of modern science.

Darwin Day celebrations are building up to a quiet crescendo all over the world, billed as an annual celebration of Science and Reason. I've downloaded a copy of Darwin's Beagle Diary audio book in five episodes and will be putting it on my IPOD for great listening on my morning bicycle runs this week. The complete works of Charles Darwin are available online here.

My recent posts at Filipino Voices have focused on the Science v. Religion debate, expecially Sto. Nino de Bernas, Conyo and Democracy Has Morality But No Theology.

In the New Republic, Jerry Coyne looks at the never-ending attempt to reconcile science and religion, and why it is doomed to fail.

There is quite a lively discussion over Bad English (by Marocharim Experiment on FV), where the topic is "sick books" and the phenomenon called Antonio Calipje Go.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sweden Scraps Ban On Nuclear Power In Big Reversal

The Swedish government this week announced the reversal of a 30 year old policy banning the use of nuclear power, reportedly in a bid to boost the country's energy security and to address the issue of carbon emissions and global warming. Rolando Simbulan and the anti-nukers won't tell you that nuclear is the greenest of the many alternative sources of energy that we ought to be exploiting as far as the global warming problem is concerned. Much less than solar, wind or tidal which all would require significant infrastructure development for the scale required, compared to nuclear power plants.  A recent post at Filipino Voices on the issue comes from Blackshama, Going Nuke.

An old essay of mine is still online at odious debts.

Robots and War

The Three Laws of Robotics (Isaac Asimov, Runaround 1942)
(I) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

(II) A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

(III) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
I remembered Asimov after recently reading Military Robots and the Laws of War  an essay in the The New Atlantis magazine, adapted from the new book, Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century, by P. W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the director of the institution’s 21st Century Defense Initiative.  

Singer offers some interesting stats:
When U.S. forces went into Iraq, the original invasion had no robotic systems on the ground. By the end of 2004, there were 150 robots on the ground in Iraq; a year later there were 2,400; by the end of 2008, there were about 12,000 robots of nearly two dozen varieties operating on the ground in Iraq. As one retired Army officer put it, the “Army of the Grand Robotic” is taking shape.

It isn’t just on the ground: military robots have been taking to the skies—and the seas and space, too. And the field is rapidly advancing. The robotic systems now rolling out in prototype stage are far more capable, intelligent, and autonomous than ones already in service in Iraq and Afghanistan. But even they are just the start. As one robotics executive put it at a demonstration of new military prototypes a couple of years ago, “The robots you are seeing here today I like to think of as the Model T. These are not what you are going to see when they are actually deployed in the field. We are seeing the very first stages of this technology.” And just as the Model T exploded on the scene—selling only 239 cars in its first year and over one million a decade later—the demand for robotic warriors is growing very rapidly.
It's a long sobering essay that concludes with three points of Singer's own:
In time, the international community may well decide that armed, autonomous robots are simply too difficult, or even abhorrent, to deal with. Like chemical weapons, they could be banned in general, for no other reason than the world doesn’t want them around. Yet for now, our laws are simply silent on whether autonomous robots can be armed with lethal weapons. Even more worrisome, the concept of keeping human beings in the loop is already being eroded by policymakers and by the technology itself, both of which are rapidly moving toward pushing humans out. We therefore must either enact a ban on such systems soon or start to develop some legal answers for how to deal with them.

If we do stay on this path and decide to make and use autonomous robots in war, the systems must still conform with the existing laws of war. These laws suggest a few principles that should guide the development of such systems.

First, since it will be very difficult to guarantee that autonomous robots can, as required by the laws of war, discriminate between civilian and military targets and avoid unnecessary suffering, they should be allowed the autonomous use only of non-lethal weapons. That is, while the very same robot might also carry lethal weapons, it should be programmed such that only a human can authorize their use.

Second, just as any human’s right to self-defense is limited, so too should be a robot’s. This sounds simple enough, but oddly the Pentagon has already pushed the legal interpretation that our drones have an inherent right to self-defense, including even to preemptively fire on potential threats, such as an anti-aircraft radar system that lights them up. There is a logic to this argument, but it leads down a very dark pathway; self-defense must not be permitted to trump other relevant ethical concerns.

Third, the human creators and operators of autonomous robots must be held accountable for the machines’ actions. (Dr. Frankenstein shouldn’t get a free pass for his monster’s misdeeds.) If a programmer gets an entire village blown up by mistake, he should be criminally prosecuted, not get away scot-free or merely be punished with a monetary fine his employer’s insurance company will end up paying. Similarly, if some future commander deploys an autonomous robot and it turns out that the commands or programs he authorized the robot to operate under somehow contributed to a violation of the laws of war, or if his robot were deployed into a situation where a reasonable person could guess that harm would occur, even unintentionally, then it is proper to hold the commander responsible.
I like the brevity of Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, but then again he also took many novels and short stories exploring their consequences and possibilities...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rodolfo Garcia, Jerk

More quick notes on the ABSCBN special this evening, Mindanao: The Way Forward:

LISEO MERCADO makes the cogent point that the utter lack of trust in President Arroyo (as confirmed for example by several years of SWS and Pulse Asia nationwide survey results) made it impossible for the people to accept the MOA-AD last year, especially given the complete lack of public discussion and consultation of so sweeping a "Peace Agreement." The people's instincts and angry rejection of the MOA-AD was merely confirmed by that unanimous SCoRP decision that scathingly struck down the MOA-AD. 

And to think, it was all just Gloria wanting a cheap headline out of her SONA 2008.

MILF head honcho MOHAGHER IQBAL told the ABSCBN panel that there was no relationship between the MILF and Jemaah Islamiyah that he knew about. Yeah, right!  What a liar he was made out to be, however, by MARIA RESSA who revealed what Mrs. Sophie Dulmatin told them after she was apprehended and before being deported back to Indonesia. That they were staying in the residence of Chairman Hashim Salamat inside Camp Abubakr before some kind of policy change did result in their being turned out of the MILF camps -- after several years of training rebels there in the fine arts of Bali Bomb Making!

I suppose it's possible that Mohagher Iqbal did not know Dulmatin and his wife were living with Salamat. . . Naah!

But the Biggest Jerk of the Evening prize goes to Gen. Rodolfo Garcia, the real totum factotum of Gloria's peace panel just before he handed off his handiwork to Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, who got to be scapegoat in North Cotabato vs RP.  Like the cat who ate the canary, he just smiled as Esperon took the heat for the most embarrassing fiasco in the entire Mindanao peace process under GMA.

How Gloria Caused Last Year's War In Mindanao

On the ABSCBN News program discussing the Mindanao Peace Process tonight, Moro Islamic Liberation Front consiglieri Datu Michael Mastura's cheekily insisted that the MOA-AD should still be accepted by the Philippine Govt as a "compromise agreement". But Governor Manny Pinol shut him down with the observation that this was useless appeal considering the unanimous and strident decision of the Supreme Court striking down the MOA-AD as brazenly unconstitutional, and possibly leading to partition (and civil war.)

But the comment that got my attention --because it possibly explains what happened last year -- was from Irene Santiago of the Mindanao People's Commission who observed that the signing of the MOA-AD itself was "tactically wrong" because it wasn't even necessary at that point in the peace negotiations. After all, the whole process began in 2001 with the so-called Tripoli Agreement and still required a "Comprehensive Compact". The MOA-AD signing was NOT NECESSARY for anything other than Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's SONA 2008.

Hahaha! So that's probably what happened. The President wanted to be able to make that "big announcement" of a peace deal with the MILF, so she rushed the signing of a MOA-AD that in the final analysis was only a framework towards the Comprehensive Compact anyway. It blew up in her face and on the poor people of Mindanao, Christian and Muslim that were then plunged into war.

Still Outside the Obama Kulambo


ABSCBN News is reporting tonight that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did not even come close to meeting with President Barack Obama during the latter's First National Prayer Breakfast, despite ever-so-fervent hopes for such a meeting being assiduously stoked by Malacanang Palace. This as the President's party scandalously spent a bunch of the Filipino people's money lolly-gagging around Washington D.C.'s poshest hotel. Meanwhile there is a rumor that Senator Chiz Escudero has been briefing Obama insiders about the situation in the Philippines...(psych!) But he is in Washington D.C. trying to get a hold of that World Bank report on bid rigging corruption in the Philippines. I don't agree with Sen. Miriam Defensor that it is incumbent on the World Bank to supply a SECOND copy of the Report to the Senate. I wish it would, but isn't it a shame the Philippine Senate cannot get a copy from the Philippine Ombudsman?

How Erap Can Become President Again

I now seriously doubt that Joseph Estrada could file his candidacy for President of the Republic in the May 2010 elections, and survive the certain challenge in the Supreme Court (SCoRP)to disqualify him  based on the 1987 prohibition against any re-election to the Presidency.   By then, all the sitting justices will have been appointed by Gloria, too.

But there is no prohibition against Erap running for the Vice Presidency in 2010, which he would surely win by a huge landslide. And his Long Coattails could easily sweep whoever his running mate might be into the Presidency.  Said Running Mate could then validly resign (or *wink* send a fax to the Supreme Court declaring himself or herself "permanently disabled" and inviting the Honorable Supreme Court to administer the Oath of Office to the Vice President, say in front of the Edsa Shrine?).
An important ingredient of this idea is that the presidential ticket would also bring to power a political party to control the House and Senate for a series of impeachments and trials, investigations and prosecutions of errant government officials under the Arroyo administration.   The Ombudsman would have to be impeached since her term does not end in 2010, in order to straighten out the graft and corruption cases, from JocJoc to Mike Arroyo to DOJ. Everybody!

The 1987 Constitution declares
Section 1. The judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law.
Clearly, not ALL of the judicial power is invested in the Supreme Court, since the Congress can apparently establish lower courts which would share such power. Indeed the Congress can even abolish any lower court than the Supreme Court.

Observe that in this case the Judicial Power is being shared by the Supreme Court and the Congress.  That is not unusual under our system of Separation of Powers, which might be more illuminative if it were termed "Sharing of Powers"!  Consider further that the Legislative power is also shared by the Congress and SCoRP since the decisions of the courts become a "part of the Law of the Land."

Of course SCoRP gets the lion share of the judicial power and its jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases is unmatched by any other department of the government. Except in one very special category of legal cases involving the highest officials of the land, including the honorable Justices of the SCoRP itself.  

I am referring to all CASES of IMPEACHMENT  of the exactly 31 impeachable officers of the Republic, the so-called "Constitutional Officers": 
15 Supreme Court justices; 
7 Comelec Commissioners; 
3 Commissioners on Audit; 
3 Commissioners of the Civil Service; 
Vice President and 
Ombudsman (now na!)
In a stunning display of how Separation of Powers works, consider that all cases of impeachment under the 1987 Constitution, from beginning to end, are entirely under the jurisdiction of the Congress.
Article XI Accountability of Public Officers.
Section 3. (1) The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.
(6) The Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment.
These categorical provisions covering all cases of impeachment are not controversial. They mean that the verdict of the Senate Impeachment Court in all cases of impeachment is final and executory. It may not be appealed to the SCoRP or reversed, amended, or diddled with in any way by SCoRP.

For in all cases of impeachment, the "supreme court" is not SCoRP but the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines.

This may seem to be a totally academic point. And of course it is.  Except for one thing. Edsa Dos and what happened there.  Remember that all of that folderol happened in the middle of the biggest Case of Impeachment ever in Philippine History: the trial of then President Joseph Estrada at the Philippine Senate. 

This blog has been all over the ground that covers Edsa Dos.  But in this post I simply want to make the point, that the roots of today's seemingly dysfunctional  and cuckolded Senate suck deep waters from what happened at Edsa Dos, and bears everyone's careful consideration as we approach the point at which Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her avaricious gang of bloodsuckers are gonna have to let go of the Teats. 

The only deserving Next President is whoever understands what happened and has the moral authority to investigate, prosecute, and punish the craven vampires that have bled us dry for eight long years, robbed us blind, brought us to the brink of partition, and feasted on moneys both domestic and foreign through bid rigging, bribery, graft and corruption, the works.

Who would that Next President be?  Now of course there would be so much poetic justice in it, that a President Joseph Estrada would make for a very interesting turn of events.  

Since  there is no prohibition against Erap running for Vice President and succeeding to the Presidency should the elected President resign. Erap would become President the same way Gloria did, and from there punish the principal crooks of this administration.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Stench Ever Rises

Daily Tribune details the First Gentleman's alleged take in the Bid Rigging Scandal exposed by the World Bank.
Intense interest is swirling around this Japanese contractor who claims to be an eyewitness to the First Gentleman's involvement in bribery.
Like the ZTE-NBN deal, there also seems to be some kind of "China Connection" in the World Bank's Bid-rigging expose.
Well Ping, bring it on already, I can't wait.

Over at Filipino Voices, Ding Gagelonia has Ebdane by the tail...

MLQ3 has a comprehensive roundup and points to an interesting blog watching the Legacy Group, one of the companies involved in this bid rigging humdinger.

The waters are certainly rising now on Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, one of the world's longest running corruption queens. It's a long way to May, 2010. Who knows what shoe may drop next?

But really, why haven't they subpoenaed the Final Report of the World Bank on the bid rigging investigation transmitted to Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.