Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Environmental scientists do the Ondoy post mortem

Environmental scientists from the University of the Philippines convened a special meeting yesterday at the National Science Complex to do an initial post mortem of the Ondoy (Ketsana) disaster.

Our team of scientists included climatologists, meteorologists, a geological hazards specialist, ecologists and a hydrologist.

Several points were assessed

1) Comparisons with Hurricane Katrina

Ketsana and Katrina are two different tropical cyclones. Ketsana hit Manila and Central Luzon as a tropical storm while Katrina swept through southern Louisiana as a CAT 4 cyclone. Katrina generated a huge storm surge that broke the levees protecting New Orleans causing massive flooding. Mrs Gloria Arroyo got her facts right in saying that Katrina dumped about 280 mm of rain, although 380 mm was recorded in Slidell LA. Ondoy (Ketsana) dumped 455 mm of rain in PAGASA's Science Garden station in Diliman.

The massive flooding in Louisiana is due more to the storm surge. In the Metro Manila, the flooding was due to runoff which the river systems cannot handle.

While I have noted the similarities between Katrina and Ketsana, the only point of comparison between the Louisiana disaster and the one we have here is that people NEVER REALIZED NOR WERE PREPARED THAT SUCH FLOOD CAN HAPPEN IN THEIR CITIES.

2) Flooding in Metro Manila

Residents of Marikina, Cainta and Pasig (all part of the Marikina River Valley and floodplain) have experience of floods inundating their homes. My mother grew up in Malinao, Pasig and she has childhood memories of the church plaza being under waist deep of water for a month or so in the 1940s. However what struck the Marikina valley residents is that the water rose up to 3 meters or more within 15-20 minutes. This just shows how the surrounding environment was unable to hold the water.

On the Quezon City plateau, residents near the creeks that drain into the San Juan River have experience of minor flooding. Only the very low Tatalon area experiences worse floods each year. We lived in Kamias district for 30 years and I only recall one instance of flood when I was 4. In the same neighbourhood on K7 street the water rose to 4 meters in 30 minutes. In front of the barber shop I still go, the water rose to 2.5 meters. These areas are 200 meters away from Diliman creek.

In West and Timog Avenues several areas had water up to 1.8 meters deep. Once believed unsinkable UP Diliman had 1 meter of water at the amphitheater (where commencement rites are held). In front of the UP Elementary School the street was flooded 0.5 meters deep.

The same tale is told. Quezon City residents never thought that the water can rise to those heights in 20 minutes or less.

A preliminary scientific analysis of how this happened requires geographic approaches. Prof. Mahar Lagmay of the National Institute of Geological Sciences has put up a google map for people to pinpoint where the floods happened and how deep they got. It is important that people immediately document their experiences before time (and the stress!) makes them forget.

Prof. Trina Listanco of the UP Geography Department made a study (2004-2005) of Manila's flood risk. She predicted the flood heights that could happen as related to the channeling and loss of esteros. She also noted that a philosophical shift in how people viewed these waterways happened right after WWII. Whereas before, the waterways were considered more as a routes for transport (hence the need to keep these dredged and clear of obstructions) now they are merely considered as storm drains.

It is a good idea to know if her model predictions were validated. Ondoy certainly provided the opportunity.

Hazards specialists think that the disaster is largely due in fact to Metro Manila's unregulated urban sprawl. We looked at satellite maps (2007) of Metro Manila and noted that in many areas subdivision roads were aligned with permanent and intermittent watercourses. Thus in a deluge like what we had last Saturday, streets became parallel rivers (Note my whitewater account on Quezon City's Aurora Blvd) with water seeking the natural watercourses but its flow was blocked by houses and buildings. The streets became intermittent streams or as the Arabs would call it "wadis". People living in deserts are much aware of the dangers that wadis can bring.

There is likely a need to revisit our land use planning schemes. The mandatory 20 m setback from a watercourse (which is almost never followed) will have to be rethought.

Hydrological assessments of how much water can city streets carry needs to be done ASAP. Professor Listanco's 2005 study is valuable here.

3) Historical approaches

The Ondoy deluge is not that unusual in Manila's ecological history. Perhaps the most historically documented is the November 1943 flood that sank Manila. All Manila resident memoirs about the Japanese occupation have this and even my grandfather's diary (which I saved from the Ondoy deluge that flooded my QC house). My grandpa's diary survived six floods, 1956, 1962, 1971, 1972, 1987 and 2009! Grandpa mentions that their Cubao residence (near what is now E Rodriguez Avenue) flooded.

Dr Benito Legarda's wartime memoirs even documents the fall of their Faura barometer and has estimates of how deep the water got. Mr Jack Garcia's (now Sydney based) memoirs of WWII on Taft Avenue mentions the water being more than a meter deep. Another San Juan resident mentions the doctor and nurse who were swept by raging waters near where UERM is now today.

It is obvious that Greater Manila went underwater then. But UST Rector Father Juan Labrador mentions in his wartime diary that Intramuros did not sink. This is interesting.

Historian Ambeth Ocampo writes that even Blair and Robertson is a mine of climate related information. Climate scientists will have to do ecological history before concluding that human induced climate change is to blame!

4) Is it really climate change?

Since climate is always changing, then the answer is yes. But we have to recall that the popular view equates natural climate change with human induced climate change. Scientists will have to figure out if the current events deviate from model predictions made from long term data. We don't have a clear answer yet.

Climate change has now become a significant issue that attracts advocacy and science research money. Scientists will have to walk the thin rope on being objective and scientific and pandering to the NGO gallery! However based on what I saw on the NDCC TV press cons, our top scientists seem to be pandering to the NGO gallery!

However some disturbing trends can be noted in the climate/oceanographic data. The South China Sea has been unusually warm and may contribute to enhanced rainfall.

5) The social science story

What I find interesting is that Filipinos seem to have weathered the disaster quite well as compared to the Louisianians. Since I saw how Katrina did New Orleans in, I know how society becomes unraveled in a disaster. This is aptly documented in Douglas Brinkley's "The Great Deluge". This should be interesting material for our top social scientists some of which are PDI and Star columnists who have specialized too much in political science!

6) The disaster response

The centralized nature of our governance has made disaster response more effective than in the Federal System that is the USA. Brinkley's book tells how because of State Sovereignty, then US President GW Bush had to ask if the then Louisiana Governor Katherine Babineux-Blanco would allow federalization of the Louisiana National Guard. Bush had the powers to bypass Blanco but chose not to. The disaster sank Blanco's chances for a second term and Bush got a lot of undeserved flak (although his administration also carries some of the blame). So Pinoy Federalists take note!

The problem is that we don't have many disaster response assets, like rubber boats, helicopters, dinghies etc. But Congress can easily remedy that by fiat.

A centralized authority with expanded powers for disaster response for Metro Manila is needed. While the MMDA has some powers in clearing obstructions in national roads, it surely isn't enough.

7) PAGASA.... hopeless?

PAGASA was able to forecast the approach of the storm quite well but does not have the capability at present to forecast HOW MUCH RAIN will fall. Nathaniel Cruz has said on DZMM that while PAGASA has the Doppler radars needed, they still are in the process of installing them and training of people to operate then is on going. Dr Prisco Nilo said that they targetted December 2009 for operation. But then as Ondoy has it, it is too late.

Also our typhoon warning system is based on wind velocities. With Doppler radar forecasts, rain density can be assessed and people can decide on precautions to be taken based on two kinds of information. Then the days of the joke still reiterated in the media

"Signal number 2 na pero uma-araw!"

will be a thing of the past.

PAGASA can take comfort that it has Climate Change to share the blame with!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Missing in action

“It is lack of love for ourselves that inhibits our compassion toward others.” - Anonymous

GLORIA ARROYO is often likened to the late Ferdinand Marcos. Indeed, many similarities can be found. But one stark difference between them can be seen during times of calamity.

Marcos and his family were always seen giving aid and comfort to victims, even at the height of typhoons. Gloria Arroyo, on the other hand, does not seem to value being with her people during times of crisis.

In the aftermath of Typhoon Milenyo, she was photographed dressed in a cute little raincoat supervising the cleanup of Palace grounds while hundreds of thousands of victims in Southern Luzon were waiting for help.

In June 2008 she left for a trip to the US as Super Typhoon Frank was making landfall. Instead of staying with her people, she sent them a message of condolence.

“The President is so concerned about the situation there. Immediately upon arriving here in San Francisco, she convened the National Disaster Coordinating Council to be personally informed of the situation there.”

And now that Metro Manila and surrounding provinces are drowning from the floods brought on by Typhoon Ondoy, where is Gloria (and her family)?

There is a picture of Rep. Mikey Arroyo in Facebook, sitting on his haunches in front of the booze shelf at the Rustan’s Liquor Section while floodwaters were rising on Katipunan Avenue.

The caption accompanying the photo said:

“Was buying food for keeps… then we saw Mikey Arroyo in Rustan’s Liquor Section asking the salesman for a brand of hard alcoholic drink. Effin crazy! Just a few kilometers away from Katipunan, people are needing help for search and rescue, and there he was buying bottles of alcohol. See for yourself and tell me what you think.”

The kindest thought that came to me was, “Maybe Mikey was thinking of getting a little booze for the flood victims, to keep themselves warm and to help lift their spirits.”

On Sunday Gloria Arroyo had the crisis conference of the National Disaster Coordinating Council televised. I guess that was to show the public that the government was up to the task ahead. But people following the news on TV and the Internet already saw that the government, as usual, was caught unprepared and ill-equipped. So what impression did Gloria’s televised command conference leave?

“GMA presided over a Cabinet meeting in a shiny black trench coat and pink, knee-high, heeled boots with plastic covering. Oh, and yes, the boots had little black hearts on it,” so wrote a reporter from the Inquirer on her Facebook.

Gloria probably believes the best way to win the hearts and minds of the people is by showing them she’s in charge.

During Typhoon Frank, her press secretary told the folks back home, “Some 600 Filipino-Americans witnessed the President’s conduct of a video conference with the National Disaster Coordinating Council, where President Arroyo showed that despite her being out of the Philippines to foster diplomatic relations with its most important ally, she remains focused and on top of the situation back home.”

I don’t know about you, but I think one reason Gloria is so unloved is because she does not seem to have compassion for people. When she’s televised condoling with victims, she always looks like she’d rather be somewhere else. Her pakikiramay, for some reason or another, is missing in action.

SOURCE: Life in Gloria's Enchanted Kingdom

IED Blast Kills Two US Navy Men, One RP Marine in Southern Philippines

[via GMA TV News] It has been reported by AFP spokesperson Lt. Co. Romeo Brawner,  and confirmed by the US Embassy in Manila that two US Navy personnel and a Philippine Marine have been killed by the blast of an IMPROVISED EXPLOSIVE DEVICE detonated along a roadway as their convoy was making its way to a construction project site in Indanan, Sulu in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.  The identities of all three killed in the attack have been withheld.

The two American fatalities are the first killed since US troops have been deployed under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to the southern Philippines.  They have been engaged in training, support and civic works  to help combat the  Abu Sayyaf Group, which has been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S., the U.K., the E.U. and the UN Security Council.   The ASG has inflicted years of terrorist atrocities on all Filipinos: Muslim, Christian and otherwise, in the form of kidnappings-for-ransom-and propaganda, murderous rampages and rape of hostages, bombings, beheadings and mayhem.  

At the same time, the Philippine Senate led by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago,  has just passed a resolution calling upon President Gloria Arroyo to serve notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement if the U.S. won't renegotiate the VFA. 

I don't think however, that we ought to let the vital mutual security interests of the Philippines and the United States become a hostage to Maid Miriam's political plans in 2010.  She has never impressed me with her much-vaunted "foreign policy expertise" considering what a mess she made of China-RP relations during the ZTE NBN fiasco with her hare-brained comments about the Chinese inventing corruption.  Her understanding of the terrorist problem we face is underwhelming to say the least. I'm only  glad that at least for now, Sen. Santiago does not have a decisive influence upon our foreign policy. 

She's been sharpening her knives for the Visiting Forces Agreement however, ever since the Subic Rape Case unreeled and then imploded.  But given that the Philippine government is unable to provision its own Armed Forces with ammunition and fuel, and is perpetually dependent on American largesse for the bare necessities of the national defense, that Senate Resolution deserves to be given short-shrift.  

SOURCE: Philippine Commentary

Oratio Imperata Ad Petendam Pluviam

I've been looking at a Google Timeline of published news articles involving Catholic Church leaders praying for rain.

Although much of Asia was battling devastating floods in July, 2007, there were fears that a drought was taking hold in the Philippines because of the El Nino weather phenomenon, which had delayed the onset of the rainy season.  Thus...   

August 2, 2007 (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines -- Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales on Wednesday urged priests and the laity to storm the heavens with prayers and seek divine intervention for more rains to come.

Rosales said “the lack of rains in what is already the rainy season of the country calls for divine intervention.”

“Our relief will come from nature. And so we implore the Master of all creation, God, our Father, at whose command the winds and the seas obey, to send us rain,” the cardinal said in a statement.

Rosales issued an Oratio Imperata Ad Petendam Pluviam (Obligatory Prayer to Request for Rain) and Intercessory Prayers for Rain to be said in all Masses in the Archdiocese of Manila beginning Friday.

The Oratio Imperata was issued to all parish priests, shrine rectors, chaplains and school directors.

The prayer for rains will be said until the rains come, said archdiocese spokesperson Peachy Yamsuan.

Lo and behold! During the next two weeks no less than three typhoons (Chedeng, Dodong and Egay) arrive in quick succession bringing floods, devastation and catastrophe to a stunned and perhaps wondering Archipelago, finally causing the Cardinal of Manila to issue a HALT to all the previously ordered supplications to the Almighty for rain!

August 16, 2007 GMA TV News

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales on Thursday called on the faithful to stop the Oratio Imperata Ad Petendam Pluviam or the prayer to request for rain. 

In a circular dated August 15, Rosales directed all parish priests, rectors, chaplains, and school directors in the Archdiocese of Manila to lift the prayer for rain as the weather bureau announced the end of the dry spell in portions of Luzon. 

The directive came even as the country braced for the effects of typhoon 'Egay' which has gained more power as it nears the Philippines.

Only days before, the country was lashed by typhoons Chedeng and Dodong that rendered areas flooded, caused landslides, and destroyed crops. 

“The rains have come and the Philippine weather agency has pronounced the end to the dry spell. We thank God for this blessing, a sign of His providence and love for us," Rosales said. 

The cardinal had issued the circular on July 31, instructing priests to recite a prayer for rain during every Mass starting August 3.

It shall be a source of ceaseless wonder for me henceforward that the Cardinal of Manila can, within the space of a fortnight, implore Almighty God to do one thing, and having gotten quick service and satisfaction, beseech a halt to Divine Intervention!  [Vanity, thy name is Roman!]

I remember that Jaime Cardinal Sin once used this very same MAGIC TRICK (with a perfectly straight face of course) during another period of El Nino in 1998.  It helps to know of course that an average of 20 to 21 typhoons visits the Philippine Archipelago annually, a fact known from Spanish Times,  with the traditional peak of the stormy season being in the July-August-September time frame.  After all, every drought in history has ended in rain, eventually!

Thus, any Reverend Charlattan wearing the flowing robes of holy orders, a pointy hat and a weighty ring,  can pull off the Oratio Imperata Trick with blithe aplomb.

The Catholic Church has certainly taken on some very controversial positions on environmental issues, mining, energy, pollution, nuclear power, oil and gas production, etc.  I just hope it stays out of Meteorology and Weather for a while. 

For September 2009 of course the Google Archive Timeline will contain all manner of references to Typhoon Ondoy, whose calamitous effects are still unreeling slowly, breathlessly before our eyes, as the rescue and relief efforts are only now going into high gear.  

The present catastrophe that has sunk Manila and much of Luzon this past week in veritable Deluge of biblical proportions (at least for those worst affected) has started a scramble for explanations and causes. Climate change and global warming have received much attention.

A quite remarkable and relevant speech on this phenomenon of environmentalism as a religion was delivered by the author, Michael Crichton to the Commonwealth Club of California some years back. Read it all on the official website after this
small quotation:

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday---these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs. They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know. I certainly don't want to talk anybody out of them, as I don't want to talk anybody out of a belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who rose from the dead. But the reason I don't want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that I can't talk anybody out of them. These are not facts that can be argued. These are issues of faith.

And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. Increasingly it seems facts aren't necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.

But if a moralistic approach to the environment should work towards the adoption of sane and scientific approaches to remediation and adaptation to weather and climate changes, so be it!

But no praying to Gaia okay? 

SOURCE: Philippine Commentary

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sinisingil tayo ng Kalikasan (Nature is demanding payback)

Ironically, I was in the Philippine Coast Guard typhoon response and rescue exhibit in Manila when TS Ondoy's deluge hit Metro Manila. I was following the storm on real time satellite apps on my mobile phone and was shocked to see that the storm's core was compact and consolidated. This meant a deluge will come. Checking on the PAGASA forecast, I saw that the forecast still said "gusty winds"

I have seen and experienced these kinds of storms in northern Australia. During my first year there as a PhD student in 1997, a tropical low dumped a year's worth of rain in 6 hours. The university got washed out. Cars in the student parking lot were piled on top of another as the flash flood rushed from the eucalyptus covered hills. There were no casualties. Six hours before, people were advised to seek higher ground. Those in buildings were advised to seek the higher floors and stay put. Some friends were trapped in the library building and did not go hungry since even the library had emergency rations!

Australia is prone to such disasters since the dry soils cannot absorb that much water in a short time. Water flows down the hills into the gullies. Australians especially those in the regions are aware of how bad a natural disaster could be. The Aussie Bureau of Meteorology comes out with this boing boing boing alert on TV (30 minute intervals) and the radio about cyclones.

My life in Oz primed me to be disaster alert for both of the main dangers of the dry (bushfires) and the wet (floods and landslides). This is one priceless benefit that an Australian education gave me.

So when I saw the satellite pic on my phone, I advised people that coming back to Quezon City will be hazardous but we have to try since being in Manila will be more dicey. We were on the road when the deluge hit at 9:30 AM. I noticed that street floods rose with an horrible rapidity. On Santa Mesa, we saw the water rise one meter in a few minutes and this was a portent of the dangers to come. We were able to traverse the deep water but when we got to the San Juan City-Quezon City boundary at 10:30, we were amazed to see that Aurora Blvd can give Cagayan de Oro a run for its tourist money! The whole street was like a white water rafting paradise!

All that white water was rushing towards the San Juan area in Ermitano. The water reached up to the edge of the huge Mt Carmel Church (which is built on top of a knoll).

We succeeded to pass through the little that remained unflooded in New Manila. Upon reaching the Roxas and Kamuning districts, it was just to dangerous and I told the driver to seek the highest ground. The highest one was a Catholic charismatic church. The priest had opened the church to stranded people. And we were the first to be there. And 30 minutes later, the flood of Metro Manila's environmental refugees came in.

Many of them came from areas in the city that never has been flooded at all. Whereas before many were from the lower socio-economic classes, many were middle class and one family 2nd floor condo unit sank in 8 feet of water while they were away.

With two UERMMC 3rd year medical students checking for vital signs among the refugees, we organized a sort of triage until two doctors came. I was concerned about the senior citizens caught by the flood and the small children and babies who had to evacuate without their baby bottles.

We were there for 8 hours since parts of Quezon City leading to Diliman were under 3 meters of water. Friends couldn't believe that while our car "survived" Santa Mesa, it could not survive Kamuning! This was simply unbelievable!

Anyway, one of the women from a lower socio economic background broke down and saying "sinisingil na tayo ng kalikasan" (Nature is demanding payback!). Nobody in the church blamed God or the Devil for this disaster but us. Nobody thought the disaster is a punishment from God.

The woman and her family listed the environmental determinants. 1) Garbage, 2) Too many people in the city, 3) Corruption and 4) Climate change

An upper middle class refugee said that PAGASA failed in its forecasting but I told them that given PAGASA's lack of equipment and funding, it can only forecast the best it could. It can never forecast as well as the Australians could. The Doppler radars that could have advised many on the amount of rain that would fall (worth one case of bottled water per square meter) weren't yet installed and operational.

Many were in disbelief that this kind of disaster could befall Manila.

We all are now environmental refugees.

The wages of sin on the environment is death!

SOURCE: Philippine Commentary

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Thanks to Joe Assad, who posted this letter from Alfonso Yuchengco, Jr. (Boyu) on Facebook this morning.

My name is Boyu, short for Boy Yuchengco, aka Alfonso SyCip Yuchengco, Jr.

A couple of days after Senator Lacson's "privilege" i was contacted by one of our security people who had spoken with a former PAOCTF member. This PAOCTF agent confirmed basically what we knew even then. It was me Estrada had ordered "kidnapped". Yes, kidnapped, not just arrested. And Yes, Me, not my brother, Tito.

Due to their Low INTEL, they mistook my brother for me, primarily due to the fact that my brother, Tito, and i have the same first name - "Alfonso". I, the JR, and he, the Third. The nickname "Boy" is given to the Juniors in the family. My brother, who worked at the Bank at the time, being also named after my father, 'they' simply assumed was the "Boy", the Junior. They could not imagine that there was another 'Alfonso son' lurking around in the vault.

As a result, when these men came to the Bank looking for "Boy Yuchengco", all they got was, "Boy Yuchengco? There's no Boy Yuchengco here." Wish someone in RCBC had also asked them, "You sure you have the right Bank?" Ha!

Media in general, and INQUIRER, in particular, have this thing where they just can't understand why my father never went after Estrada "long after the intimidation factor disappeared following Estrada's ouster from the presidency". (Quote from Inquirer editorial)

Well, why do you think the Chinese are favorite victims of KFR gangs and Government crooks? One, we will do anything for our children, especially when our SONS are threatened, especially when the SON involved is the favorite SON.

Two, even if Estrada had been ousted from the presidency, who says the "intimidation factor had disappeared"? Remember, you guys Set Your Criminals Free! Free to commit more crimes, more intimidation. Free to send their goons after us.

Three, We Chinese are not Ninoy. We have learned, that in the Philippines, "Kami ay laging Nag-iisa!" We cannot expect help or protection from the authorities seeing as to how it is the authorities who tend to come after us.

Can you all not see the Fear Factor involved? If you still cannot, then, i doubt very much you guys will ever be able to reform anything in this country.

The next curiosity noted - "But, they were paid!". Forgetting that this is very much beside the point when the person didn't want to sell to begin with.

I have told some in media that they should look into the history of PLDT. This because once people know the history, know how tied to my father PLDT was from the time the Americans owned it, they might just understand why my father would never have wanted to let go of any of it.

It's as if GSIS paid the Lopezes for MERALCO, even though the Lopezes never want to sell to GSIS and GSIS sent people to threaten the life of one of the Lopez scions to force the sale anyway.

Speaking of the Lopezes, when the TITA took over, they got everything back that Marcos took from them. No questions asked, no red tapes. However, the shares of PLDT taken from my father by Marcos (Yes, this happened once before!) and given to Cojuangco to hold in his (Marcos') name is now even part of what was sold to First (Metro) Pacific by TbC.

"Tita TITA! Bakit kami hindi?" Was it because it involved a Cojuangco? Why the "Kamag-Anak Shuffle"? This is one reason i cannot kowtow to the TITA. Not that i blame her. She definitely was "Good People", no doubt about it. However, she was too naive. And, she allowed a lot of people, relatives and others, to ruin what could have been a real honest-to-goodness bloodless revolution. One that could have finally changed Flip Society for the Better and "for GOOD".

AS for the rest of the "story". I do not have first hand knowledge as to what did or did not happen. I only know of the threat to me because i had been warned by one of my sisters then to lay low. Btw, another thing that showed "their Low INTEL" - Pretending to arrest me on "trumped-up drug charges" - was that it wouldn't have worked. I was in ReHab then, had been for some time. In fact, i was already in the HalfWay House of New Beginnings when all that was happening. So, how does one arrest someone for drugs when the person is already inside the ReHab?

I am passing this information around for no other reason then to draw some of the flak from my father who is now quite old and a bit frail. I also want "them" to leave my brother alone. I also pass this around to remind people that it's easy for Actors to pretend, to fool people, even the Santa Tita. But please don't forget that the guy was, and is, a Gangster. Just look at his friends and "barkada"... You are who you hang out with.
Please pass this around. Are we all going to finally take a stand against the crooks in Government and the Private sector? Or, Nag-iisa lang ba kami ulit?

Btw, this missive in no way defends or sides with Senator Lac. As far as i'm concerned, they're all crooks and should be locked up in the same cell. I-sama na rin ninyo si GrandMA.

BUT, when are the Filipino people ever going to do this? When are we going to start sincerely helping one another rather than claw & rip off one another?

When are we all ever going to learn and live the real meaning of "Maka-Tao" ('Maki-Tao')? When are we ever going to relearn the true sense of "Utang na Loob", wherein we live for, and assist, one another because we care and not because we are being paid for it?

MaBuhay ang Pinoy! MaBuhay rin sana ang Tsinoy!

SOURCE: Philippine Commentary

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Religious Exception

Just a little over a month after Republic Act No. 9710, otherwise known as the Magna Carta of Women, has been approved, the Catholic Church is already laying the basis for an exemption from the full application of the law. In a speech during the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) national convention, Monsignor Gerardo Santos, the association's president, said the CEAP will seek exemption from the provision of the law outlawing the expulsion or non-readmission of women employees or the non-admission of women in schools, on account of pregnancy outside of marriage.

Monsignor Santos is asserting CEAP member-schools' right to academic and religious freedom and vows he will see to it that such exemption is inserted in the law's implementing rules and regulations.

If and when a case involving this issue reaches the Supreme Court it will be the second of its nature. The first that landed on the Supreme Court is the 2003 case of Estrada v. Escritor (A.M. No. P-02-1651). For the first time in Philippine jurisprudence, Escritor laid down the rule on exemption of religious conduct from the application of a generally-applicable law. Briefly, the case involves a court employee, Escritor, who has been living with a man for years without the benefit of marriage. This man also happens to be married, although separated, with another woman. When an administrative complaint for immorality was filed against Escritor, she raised as a defense that her cohabitation with another man is sanctioned by the tenets of her religion and was with the knowledge and approval of her congregation's religious leaders.

In a lengthy and exhaustive opinion that is more of a dissertation rather than a court decision, then Associate Justice Reynato Puno, writing for the majority, said that the free exercise of religion clause of the Constitution protects the rights of individuals to engage in certain religious conduct - even if contrary to the provisions of existing law (read as exemption) - as long as it is based on sincerely-held religious belief and the state has no compelling interest to burden the exercise of such religious conduct. Three years after remanding the case to the Office of the Court Administrator (Supreme Court office that investigates complaints against court employees) - to determine the sincerity of the belief and its centrality to the professed believer's faith and allow the government adduce proof of a compelling state interest to penalize the non-marital relationship - the Supreme Court found for Escritor by ruling that the freedom of religion or free exercise clause of the Constitution exempts her from the provisions of the Revised Administrative Code penalizing immoral conduct.

While the Supreme Court recognized the state's legitimate interest in protecting the institution of marriage and the family, it refused to accept the government's claim of compelling state interest on such broad and general principles; it wanted more narrow or specific interests of the government that will be subverted if the non-marital union of Escritor with another man is not penalized.

The Supreme Court laid down the following important criteria when courts can carve out an exemption from a law of general applicability based on religious conduct, namely: (1) the law burdens religious freedom; (2) claimant's sincerity in his/her religious belief; (3) there is no compelling state interest involved; and (4) the burden on religious freedom is the least intrusive means of achieving the government's objective.

It is clear from the foregoing criteria that the fact that a law burdens a religious belief and its exercise, and such belief is sincerely-held by a person, if there is a compelling state interest involved and there are no alternative means of pursuing that interest, the claim of religious exemption will fail. Thus, in the American case of US v. Lee the Supreme Court of the United States found a compelling state interest in sustaining the fiscal viability of the social security system through mandatory contributions when it denied the Amish religious group's claim of religious freedom in refusing to pay social security taxes. On the other hand, the need to maintain peace and order and punish violent crimes would be a compelling state interest that would defeat a claim of religious freedom in, for example, religious practices involving human sacrifices.

The compelling state interest test is, therefore, a check on pleas for religious exemption, while at the same time it guarantees religious freedom under the free exercise clause by requiring only the strictest scrutiny of regulations, although secular in nature and are of general applicability, that incidentally burden religious freedom.

CEAP will undoubtedly rely on the criteria enunciated in Escritor in seeking the exemption from the Magna Carta of Women. Whether or not there is a compelling state interest in burdening the Catholic Church's moral doctrine as applied to unwed mothers will be a question the courts will have to address. But what is clear is that Escritor has paved the way for religious groups in seeking exemption from a law which, although is religion-neutral on its face, has the incidental effect of burdening the exercise of religious freedom.

SOURCE: Philippine Commentary

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Good role models

“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”—Mark Twain

So what if Rep. Mikey Arroyo said his money came from unspent campaign funds that he did not report in his 2004 and 2007 campaign contributions and expenses statement to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

So what if he said his wealth came from wedding gifts that he never reported to tax authorities.

So what if Mikey’s Foster City property is still in his wife’s name and not, as he claims, under Beach Way Llc., a limited liability company not registered anywhere.

So what if he claimed he was new to filing statements of assets and liabilities and net worth (SALNs) in 2004 even if he filed his first in 1992 when he was a staffer for his senator mother.

So what if he claimed he amended his SALN even if investigative journalists found no records of his amended SALNs anywhere.

So what, so what, so what.

The real source of Mikey’s wealth is not the problem. The real issue is who are his role models.

In 2004 in a live television interview with the late Max Soliven, Gloria Arroyo, after pointing out that making deposits under fictitious names was not illegal at the time, said the money in the Jose Pidal account came from unspent contributions to her 1998 vice-presidential campaign. But that’s not the good part.

The good part is Mrs. Arroyo’s report to the Comelec. Her vice-presidential campaign contributions and expenses were as follows, “Campaign Contributions: P50,211,432.00/Campaign Expenses: P50,211,432.00.”

So where do you think Mikey might have gotten the idea to cite nonexistent unspent campaign contributions as the source of his wealth?

From 1992 to 2004 the joint SALNs of Mikey’s parents did not include four of their California properties.

There were two residences, one in Daly City and the other in South San Francisco. Both were bought in July 1992 within a week of each other, transferred to an Arroyo firm, LTA, on the same day, June 18, 1998, and then sold in December 1998 (Daly City house) and March 1999 (South San Francisco unit).

Two others were buildings in downtown San Francisco. One was bought four months after the houses were acquired, transferred to LTA also in June 1998 and sold a year later. The other was also transferred to LTA in June 1998 and sold three months later.

The Arroyo couple said they didn’t declare the properties and the transactions because they were only trustees for Ignacio Arroyo, the younger brother of Mike.

However, reported in May 2005:

“But the documents gathered show that the filing of LTA Realty Corporation in the Office of the Secretary of State of California was under the name of Mike Arroyo and the properties acquired and sold were done in the names of himself and wife now President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.”

Now where could Mikey have gotten the idea to claim that Beach Way Llc. owns the Foster City home when it is actually registered in his wife’s name?

Every child needs a role model. Mikey is lucky to have two.

SOURCE: Life in Gloria's Enchanted Kingdom

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why the Pope can save Richard Dawkins and vice versa.

The latest tome to come out from the laptop of the famed atheistic, scientistic Don of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, Richard Dawkins is appropriately titled "The Greatest Show on Earth, The evidence for evolution". Now the title to me seems a bit desperate. Why on heaven and earth should one call evolution as a "show"? This smacks of intelligent producers and intelligent stage designers, something that a Roman Catholic evolutionist like me won't touch with a 10 meter pole! (Who ever heard of intelligent producers anyway?)

Yes my dear readers, there are Roman Catholic evolutionists. The fact is that despite what many think, the Roman Catholic Church is hospitable to evolutionists as long as they aren't professional practitioners of the faith. But even then the Jesuit Father Teilhard de Chardin was an evolutionist but when he started including Christ in his theory of evolution, the Holy Office told him to shut up and prevent publication of his theological works but not to STOP doing science.

In 2009, the present Pope, Benedict XVI praised Teilhard's work.

The first chapter of the Dawk's latest book sets the stage for the argument for evolution. I did not buy the book at a 20% cut price at National Bookstore to be converted to evolution but to read the philosphical argument that Dawkins uses.

And voila, I was pleasantly surprised that the Dawk uses precisely the argument that Papa Ratzinger uses. Papa Ratzi is at war with relativism and the Dawk is too!

While Papa Ratzi's works as a Cardinal and his papal encyclicals are a bit of a heavy read (after all the theologian-professor has a lot of cross references to historical literature), the Dawk's is a bit light.

The Dawk starts out history deniers beginning with the hypothetical Roman history deniers and the very real Holocaust deniers.

Now the Dawk would do Ratzinger proud when he writes

" Fashionably relativist intellectuals chime in to insist that there is no absolute truth: wheher the Holocaust happened is a matter of personal belief; all points of view are equally valid and should be 'respected"."

And that's where the Dawk realises that the Roman Catholic faith and Science share the same philosophical baseline. Both systems of knowledge requires one to susbcribe to objective truth and reject the heresy of relativism.

It isn't a surprise. Science is the most famous child of the Roman Catholic faith! The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

No wonder the Dawk writes with rationalist Anglican sarcasm that the Pope has no problem with evolution give or take the odd wobble on the precise paleontological juncture when the soul was injected. Oh c'mon Prof Dawkins, Pope John Paul II was not into paleontology but ontogeny. But that is another matter that we can debate with Catholic theologians.

Unfortunately, the Dawk enlists the Anglican bishops and not the Catholic ones to his cause. The Anglicans as comprehensive they are do not subscribe to a final authority and waffle much on the basic issues of the faith. They plan to have women bishops and go into knots over interpreting the Holy Writ. Too bad the Dawk is so Oxfordian and Anglican. He could start reading Pius XII's Humani Generis to the latest encyclicals of Pope Benedict XVI.

To get certainty, the Dawk has to subscribe to an infallible authority. Maybe Papa Ratzi can help. Well that should not harm a scientist, after all the Pope is a razor sharp thinker.

Conversely the Dawk can save the Pope (a lot of effort in his pastoral mission) by discarding his atheistic scientism and accepting that philosophy alone (even if it is of the science type) can make you conclude that there is a God, the "intelligent producer".

But I doubt if the Big Guy upstairs would like being called a producer!

SOURCE: Philippine Commentary

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Will of the Frailes vs. the Will of the People

Now that Speaker Nograles has signaled a call for a debate and a vote, the CBCP has called on its legion of rabid fanatics to punish members of Congress who are supportive of the Reproductive Health Bill. This is to be expected of course, given that our sainted frailes have closed their eyes and ears to the plight of the common tao.

What I do not understand is why they are singling out Noynoy Aquino for having co-authored the Senate version of the RH bill. The CBCP is playing favorites. To be consistent, they should also call on the unthinking faithful to pillory ALL candidates seeking public office. Let me be of assistance to our esteemed frailes and list down these condom-loving sinners.

Sec. Gilbert Teodoro has expressed his support of "freedom of choice" in this Radio Veritas interview last May:
Well ako po ay for freedom of choice informed freedom of choice ng mga tao. Ako personally ay meron akong paniniwala that I am for freedom of choice na yan ay sang-ayon sa ating Saligang Batas na my freedom of thought ang freedom of religious na Religious Freedom na tinatawag.
In this article that came out in Malaya last July, former Health Secretary and staunch RH advocate Alberto Romualdo also lists Sec. Teodoro as among the decisive supporters of the RH bill. This same news article is on Sec. Teodoro's website. His wife, Rep. Monica Prieto-Teodoro is also a co-author of the bill.

The same article names Senators Manny Villar, Mar Roxas and Chiz Escudero as 'neutrals' because they have not given unequivocal support nor have they expressed rejection of the bill. Perhaps they are afraid of the consequences of standing up to the frailes? Sen. Escudero is a particular disappointment because his father Rep. Salvador Escudero is co-author of the HB5043. And so is Sen. Villar since his wife Rep. Cynthia Villar is a co-author and vocal RH advocate.

Vice-president Noli de Castro has been mum on RH, as he has been on anything else really.

In the Countdown 2010 Presidentiables Forum held recently, Mayor Jejomar Binay and ex-President Joseph Estrada both categorically expressed support for the bill.

Sen. Loren Legarda is co-author of the senate version of the bill.

The panel debates should have started today but has been postponed til Tuesday next week. As has been the trend the past few weeks, the House adjourned early for lack of quorum. Forgive me then for coming to the conclusion that the postponement could not have been because our hard-working members of the lower house are up to their ears drowning in work. So what is the cause of delay? To give the CBCP 5 more days to pummel Noynoy on this issue?

I think Sen. Benigno Aquino III should be awarded laurels for remaining steadfast to his commitment to women and to the Filipino family. He has been a long-time advocate of RH, even when he was in the lower house. Unlike his mother, he owes no debt to La Iglesia Katolika and her sainted clergy. Balls you say? Step out of his parents' shadow you say? Be his own man you say?

9 out of 10 Filipinos support the RH bill. I am calling on all members of Congress to heed the will of the people.

And to our religious hierarchy - a shame. You would doom your flock to Bayani Fernando, the only presidentiable who blindly follows your call.

SOURCE: {Caffeine_Sparks}

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Just a lucky sperm?

I want to make democracy work, not just for the rich and well-connected, but for everybody.—Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino

When people began talking about the rebirth of the Edsa spirit and a possible candidacy for Noynoy Aquino, cynics immediately suggested that he was nothing more than a lucky sperm.

Lakas-Kampi stalwart Prospero Pichay said, “Noynoy’s greatest achievement is being the son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino.” Palace mouthpieces, a few bishops and anyone who felt threatened by Noynoy’s candidacy echoed Pichay. “He has to be his own man,” they said.

The negative comments got me thinking, the man served three terms in the House before going to the Senate, and he has done nothing?

I decided to do a little research; it’s a lot better than taking the word of cynics, Palace factotums and user-friendly clerics and pundits, none of whom, I’m sure, bothered to look at Noynoy Aquino’s record as a senator.

Here’s what I learned about the senator. He is not a manic legislator who authors hundreds of inconsequential bills a year. He authored nine bills over two years in the Senate.

The bills seem to show that the senator is committed to making democracy work for everyone. Two of them sought to improve the welfare of workers.

Senate Bill 1370 grants “an annual productivity bonus for all workers in the private sector.”

Senate Bill 2036 increases “the penalties for noncompliance of the prescribed increases and adjustments in the wage rates of workers.”

Four of the senator’s bills are aimed at curtailing corruption.

Senate Bill 2160, an amendment to the Government Reform Procurement Act, plugs loopholes that mega scams like the ZTE-NBN project and the CyberEd project slipped through. It’s a vaccine against deadly swine influence.

Senate Bill 2035 is a bill requiring contractors “to handle the regular maintenance and preservation for public infrastructure after the end of the project.” A contractor who skimps on the construction phase of a public infrastructure project eventually pays for it in higher maintenance and repair costs.

Senate Bill 2978 puts “parameters for the selection of PNP provincial directors and city/municipal chief of police for local government units” because personal discretion in law- enforcement matters is the root of corruption.

Senate Bill 1710 bans “the reappointment of a regular member of the Judicial and Bar Council who has already served a full term.”

Two of Noynoy’s bills address the checks and balance on the power of the Executive.

Senate Bill 1719 limits “the reappointment of presidential nominees bypassed by the Commission on Appointments.”

Senate Bill 3121, or the Budget Impoundment Control Act, strengthens the Legislature’s power over how the Executive spends appropriations.

His bill on human rights would make commanders accountable for the actions of their subordinate officers. Senate Bill 2159 “adopts the doctrine of superior responsibility to all actions involving military personnel, members of the Philippine National Police and other civilians involved in law enforcement.”

Noynoy’s nine bills address the welfare of workers, corruption, checks and balances on Executive power, and human rights. That’s not too shabby for a lucky sperm.

SOURCE: Philippine Commentary

The Explainer on Political Rehabilitation and the 2010 Elections

This is the Monday September 14 episode of The Explainer With Manolo Quezon on ABSCBN ANC showing on Mondays at 6pm and 1030pm.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Defeating the Intent of the Law

With 11 justices concurring and three dissenting, the Supreme Court, in Roque, et al., v. Comelec, et al., G.R. No. 188456 (September 10, 2009), voted to deny the petition questioning the legality of the poll automation contract entered into between Comelec and Total Information Management (TIM)-Smartmatic to fully computerize the 2010 national and local elections.

On July 10, 2009, Comelec awarded the poll automation contract to TIM and its foreign partner Smartmatic. The purpose is to implement a nationwide automation of elections in May 2010 pursuant to R.A. 8436 (Poll Modernization Act), as amended by R.A. 9369. But UP Law Professor Harry Roque and the Concerned Citizens Movement (petitioners in the case) questioned before the Supreme Court the validity of the contract on the following grounds: (1) lack of a pilot testing for automated elections; (2) validity of the joint venture between TIM and Smartmatic; (3) failure of the Precinct Count Optical Scans (PCOS) machines to meet accuracy requirements; and (4) abdication by Comelec of control over the electoral process.

Since the interpretation of section 5 of R.A. 8436, as amended by R.A. 9369, is the most contentious, I will limit my discussion on this issue. The pertinent provision reads as follows:

Sec. 5. Authority to use an Automated Election System.- To carry out the above stated-policy, the [Comelec], x x x is hereby authorized to use an automated election system or systems in the same election in different provinces, whether paper-based or a direct recording electronic election system as it may deem appropriate and practical for the process of voting, counting of votes and canvassing/consolidation and transmittal of results of electoral exercises: Provided, that for the regular national and local elections, which shall be held immediately after the effectivity of this Act, the AES shall be used in at least two highly urbanized cities and two provinces each in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to be chosen by the [Comelec]: Provided, further, That local government units whose officials have been the subject of administrative charges within sixteen (16) month prior to the May 14, 2007 elections shall not be chosen. Provided, finally, That no area shall be chosen without the consent of the Sanggunian of the local government unit concerned. The term local government unit as used in this provision shall refer to a highly urbanized city or province. In succeeding regular national or local elections, the AES shall be implemented nationwide.
Interpreting the above provision (particularly the highlighted portion), the Court ruled that the requirement that in the regular elections to be conducted immediately after the effectivity of the law automation shall be conducted in at least two highly urbanized cities and two provinces each for Luzon, Vizayas and Mindanao is not an indispensable requirement for full automation in 2010. It is not a condition precedent or a condition sine qua non for full automation in 2010.

The majority refused to characterize said provision as "pilot testing." But as Chief Justice Puno observed in his separate opinion, the intent to test an automated election system (AES) is evident from the amended text of Sec. 5 of RA 8436. There is no rhyme or reason why Congress would mandate Comelec to use the AES first after effectivity of the amendatory law (RA 9369) in at least two highly urbanized cities and two provinces for each of the country's major islands if it were the intention not to pilot test. This is clear from the following statements of Senator Richard Gordon, cited by the chief justice, during deliberations on the automation law:

Mr. President, this is precisely why we are starting the automation in two provinces and two cities so that we do not take a big bite right away. And I accepted the amendment of the Minority Leader precisely because we want to make sure that the bite is sufficiently enough for us to be able to run the automation. . . . Now, the sample is only two provinces and two cities, Mr. President, so that we would be able to get a gauge.
Now I don't know what the words "to get a gauge" means, as used above, if not to test, check, determine or judge.

The Court determined that a pilot test is not necessary by saying that (1) the limited application of automation to two cities and provinces, as provided by Sec. 5 of RA 8436, refers only to the elections immediately succeeding the effectivity of the amendatory law (RA 9369), which is the 2007 elections and (2) by holding that the last sentence of Sec. 5, as amended, stands independently of the rest of the section. The last sentence of Sec. 5 states that "[in] succeeding regular national and local elections, the AES shall be implemented ." The majority views this provision as a mandate for full automation in 2010, regardless of the holding of a limited automation during the 2007 elections.

The following words of the chief justice in his separate concurring opinion are illuminating:

The respondents’ reading of Section 5 disregards the tenor of the entire provision. A rational reading of the entire provision will show that the different parts isolated and then interpreted by the respondents are connected by the conjunctions provided, that and provided, further that and provided, finally that. These conjunctions signify that the clauses that follow the conjunction are a pre-requisite or a condition to the fulfillment of the previous clause. The words provided, that mean the same as “as long as,” “in order that,” and “if only.” . . . In this light, Section 5 should be interpreted to mean that the COMELEC is authorized to use an AES as long as the following requisites are complied with: (1) for the regular national and local elections, which shall be held immediately after the effectivity of the Act, the AES shall be used in at least two highly urbanized cities and two provinces each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao; (2) that local government units whose officials have been the subject of administrative charges within sixteen months prior to the May 14, 2007 elections shall not be chosen; and (3) that no area shall be chosen without the consent of the Sanggunian of the local government unit concerned. And, when the above conditions are complied with, the AES shall be implemented nationwide in succeeding regular national and local elections.

As regards the last sentence of Sec. 5, this is what he said:

The last sentence of the provision which provides that “[i]n succeeding regular national or local elections, the AES shall be implemented nationwide” may appear as not connected to the enumeration of requirements for the use of an AES. But this does not mean that it can be read in isolation and independently from the rest of the provision. Section 5 expressly declares that the COMELEC's authority to use the AES on a nationwide scale is contingent on the prior conduct of partial automation in two provinces and two highly urbanized cities each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
But the chief justice, while recognizing the necessity of a pilot testing before full automation is implemented, stopped short by siding with the majority in holding that with the enactment of RA 9525 on March 5, 2009, which appropriated Php 11 billion for the 2010 elections, the pilot test requirement has been dispensed with. The argument is that it is the congressional intent in enacting RA 9525 to make way for full automation in 2010 despite the failure to implement a limited AES (two cities and two provinces automation) in May 2007.

The argument, however, of the petitioners is equally persuasive, if not more convincing. According to them RA 9525, particularly Sec. 2 thereof - as relied upon by respondents, has not impliedly repealed the pilot testing requirement of Sec. 5 of RA 8436, as amended, but in fact reinforces it as can be read from from the following proviso of Sec. 2: "the disbursement of the amounts herein appropriated or any part thereof shall be authorized only in strict compliance with the Constitution, the provisions of Republic Act No. 9369 and other election laws . . ." In other words, the utilization of the funds allocated by RA 9525 for poll automation shall be made strictly in accordance with RA 9369. As already discussed, Sec. 5 of RA 8436, as amended by RA 9369, mandates the two cities and two provinces application first of an AES.

A rational reading of Sec. 5 of RA 8436 shows the unmistakable intention of the law to pilot test first the implementation of an AES by limiting it to at least two cities and two provinces each for Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. There is no other purpose that can be gleaned from said provision but to see first how automation can be carried out with limited application, before making it nationwide in scope. And this is but proper, considering that it will be the first time that automation will be carried out in the election of national and local officials.

Since the initial requirement for full automation has not been complied with in the 2007 elections, that does not mean the same rationale is no longer applicable. Now, if the pilot test required by law was not implemented in the 2007 elections for practical reasons (due to time and funding constraints), there is no reason why, for practical reasons also, that said testing cannot be implemented first in 2010 before we embark on full automation. To be sure, the limited application of AES madated after the effectivity of RA 9369 was not just inserted there by Congress for no reason at all. It was meant to pilot test automation first, plain and simple. To repeat, just because automation was not undertaken during the 2007 elections does not mean that the purpose behind a pilot test no longer applies.

Applying the pilot testing requirement of Sec. 5 of RA 8436, as amended by RA 9369, in the 2010 elections would not violate the law anymore than its non-application during the 2007 elections violated the law. On the contrary, it will serve and implement the clear intent of the law.

SOURCE: Philippine Commentary

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Who's to blame?

It is God who puts ideas in my heart.—Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Reacting to the latest Pulse Asia Survey showing that his boss continues to enjoy dismal trust and approval ratings, Cerge Remonde blamed the “relentless barrage of attacks by the opposition against the President.”

I guess Remonde was referring to attacks stemming from the relentless barrage of scandals starting with the Impsa deal all the way to Macapagal Boulevard, fertilizer scam, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration funds, PhilHealth cards, NorthRail, SouthRail, NBN-ZTE, CyberEd, Executive Order 464/Memorandum Circular 108, “Hello, Garci,” 2007 Election, bastardization of institutions, bribery of local officials, bribery of Church officials, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, immoderate greed, treason, cronyism, obstruction of justice, indiscriminate use of public funds, Spratlys deal, Venable contract, Philippine Sports Commission horse importation, road-user’s tax, Transco bidding, protection of smugglers, jueteng pay-offs, and the swine scam, to name just a few. (List lifted from blogger Schumey of the Philippine Experience.)

So I sympathize with Remonde. He is besieged. Gloria Arroyo stands accused of more transgressions in any given year than her predecessors, Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada, were accused of in their entire terms. Remonde’s job is not easy; he has to defend the indefensible. And he has to do it in English.

Anyway, how does Gloria Arroyo deal with all the distrust and disapproval?

“As we all know, the President is a very prayerful person. She attends Mass, goes to confession every day. And I think this is where she draws strength from. I think this is what enables her to weather all of these problems,” said Remonde.

And he went on to tell politicians that Malacañang would appreciate those who follow Gloria’s example.

“We will appreciate other political leaders who would adopt this attitude of prayerfulness, especially when having to make major decisions. This is something that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been doing, not only since Day One of her presidency, but I think in all the days of her life.”

And so Noynoy Aquino, not necessarily because of Remonde’s suggestion, went to Zamboanga to pray with the Carmelite Sisters before making a major decision.

And what did Remonde’s subaltern have to say about that?

“We respect whatever gimmickry, whatever ways on how he can arrive at a decision,” said deputy mouthpiece Anthony Golez.

He added, “If that is part of his spiritual strategy, then I can call it a strategy. Our leaders will always have forward planning and they think 10 steps ahead of us. It’s how they plan.”

So it’s prayerfulness if it’s Gloria doing it, but political gimmickry if it’s Noynoy.

But I’m glad Golez didn’t repeat what Ignacio Bunye once said of Corazon Aquino’s prayerfulness—“Which God is she praying to?”—to attack Noynoy’s motive for going on a spiritual retreat.

The Carmelite Sisters pray to a God who stands for truth, honesty, justice and fair play, so resurrecting Bunye’s infamous snipe at Cory would only revive the question about who is telling Gloria that it’s okay to lie, cheat and steal.

Going back to Remonde blaming the relentless attacks of the opposition for Gloria’s dismal ratings, I suppose Gloria could have saved herself, and the opposition, a lot of trouble and grief, if she had simply stayed honest. But I guess God has not gotten around to putting that idea in her heart.

So who’s to blame for the low approval and trust ratings?

SOURCE: Life in Gloria's Enchanted Kingdom

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Why Don't You Sue Me in Court

Thus cavalierly challenged presidential son and Pampanga 2nd District Representative Mikey Arroyo in response to probes and criticisms about his questionable Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN). Such arrogance and blatant disregard of the meaning of public accountability by an elected government official is, of course, not something new. It is certainly not news, but definitely a cause for outrage by every citizen who stands against the excesses of officialdom.

A little review of our Constitution tells us that a public office is a public trust, and public officials must at all times be accountable to the people. From this lofty principle proceed all our laws on the conduct of public officials, such as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, the Ombudsman Act, Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, provisions of the Revised Penal Code on crimes involving public officers, laws requiring public disclosure of officials' assets, law penalizing plunder, etc. A public officer, like Congressman Mikey Arroyo, holds a position of trust and the public is, as it were, his cestui que trust (the beneficiary of the trust). He acts solely for the benefit of the public he is sworn to serve. And every trusteee owes accountability to his beneficiary by being answerable for his conduct and acting with complete transparency.

Congressman Arroyo has a lot of explaining to do on his SALN, considering that his net worth skyrocketed from Php 5 million to Php 76.9 million in just a span of three years from 2002. His 2008 SALN shows that his net worth has reached Php 99 million. But instead of providing a clear explanation, he passes the buck to his lawyers and challenges anyone questioning him to sue in court. The public that reposed its trust on Congressman Arroyo deserves an answer; if he truly believes he did nothing wrong he should clarify the entries on his SALN, rather than pass the burden to the public. As former NEDA Secretary Winnie Monsod aptly said, it is he who owes the burden and is not for the public to prove whatever is wrong with his SALN.

Okay, Congressman Arroyo did say he is not yet versed in accomplishing a SALN when he was still a vice governor of Pampanga in 2002, thus apparently attributing the relatively small sum of his declared net worth in 2002 to an honest mistake. He also explained that his wealth increased due to campaign contributions, the gifts he received when he got married, and as a result of some investments. Regarding the Beachway house in California, which was not listed on his 2008 SALN, he said it is owned by a company (Beachway Park LLC) and he merely owns a stake in said company.

Let us see how these explanations can hold water. To be sure, everybody is entitled to make mistakes, but to say that one can forget the extent of his wealth - unless you are as extremely rich as Bill Gates or Warren Buffet - is beyond belief. How could Congressman Arroyo forget to include his other assets? To say that the ballooning of his assets from Php 5 million to Php 76 million was merely the result of failure to include his other assets due to inexperience would be outrageously ridiculous. How in the world can Php 71 million be forgotten? Okay, maybe I am exaggerating and this is not really the extent of the undeclared assets, but how about his claim that he was assisted by his - take note of the plural - lawyers. Is he telling us that his lawyers failed to get all relevant information from him or they forgot to include all his assets?

It gets even worse when Congressman Arroyo said his wealth increased due to campaign contributions and wedding gifts. Is he telling us that he did not use all his campaign contributions and instead pocketed the rest? I wonder what the congressman's donors will say. How much did he receive by way of campaign donations? Can the congressman stand firm on this claim when Comelec filings of his campaign contributions and expenditures are bared? How about the wedding gifts? Again, questions of propriety will arise here because if this is true we are not talking only of small amounts. We are talking in millions of pesos! How can someone amass a fortune through wedding gifts? If some of the donors are not relatives, as I'm sure there are, the receipt of such huge sums of money by a public official - regardless of the occasion - violates ethical and legal standards, considering that he was a public official when he received such gifts.

Congressman Arroyo would also like us to believe that he had some investments. But his 2008 SALN shows that the earliest investment he acquired was in 2006. How could such 2006 investments earn him P 71 million in 2005 or earlier?

Regarding the California property, the congressman claims it is owned by a company in which he holds an interest. A limited liability company, like a corporation in the Philippines, has a legal personality separate and distinct from its members. The implication is that the company's properties are technically not owned by the members. So he could probably be excused in not declaring the property as legally he does not directly own it. But as established by Vera Files, the group blogging site that exposed Congressman Arroyo's property, the house is in the name of the congressman's wife and their investigation into the records of California yielded no results for the company. The law requires properties in the name of spouses to be declared in the SALN as well, which Congressman Arroyo did not.

Given these implausible explanations, should the public be blamed for seeking more information and clarification? By not giving straight and clear answers - which Congressman Arroyo can do even without his lawyers and the courts, if truly he is not guilty of any wrongdoing - he is only fueling further doubts on his integrity.

SOURCE: Philippine Commentary

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tapped phone calls

“What's wrong with playing golf with Chairman Abalos? What's wrong with having lunch with ZTE people?" – Romulo Neri

I received two CDs in an unmarked envelope. I don’t know who sent it or why.

CD1- The Secret

“Hello? Hello Romy?”

“Ma’am? Yes, ma’am, this is Romy.”

“Are you still in Hongkong?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good. If you need anything just call Manny Gaite.”

“Thanks, poh, but it’s summer here so I won’t need half a million pesos for a winter overcoat. Is there anything I can do for you, ma’am?”

“I just called to tell you how sorry I am that the Ombudsman charged you over the ZTE-NBN deal.”

“Me too, ma’am.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m surprised I was charged, ma’am.”

“Well, I want to assure you that you can count on my full support.”

“Thank you, poh. And I also want to assure you that I will never reveal what you told me after I told you that Abalos offered me 200. I will take that conversation to my grave.”

“Of course you will, Romy.”


“Nothing. Anyway, how is your golf?”

“My golf? Still the same, poh.”

“You still play in Wack-Wack?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I like Wack-Wack. It’s full of history.”

“Yes ma’am many of our leaders, past and present, belong to the club.”

“Did you know that Jose P. Laurel was shot there while he was playing a round of golf?”

“Yes, ma’am. There’s a marker where his attempted assassination took place. I pass it every time I play.”

“A grim reminder.”


“But Wack Wack is much safer now… although you never know…that’s why it’s always better not to make enemies.”


“By the way, my people will meet you at the airport. It’s for your own protection, don’t worry.”


CD 2 – The Lawyer

(Phone ringing)

“Ben’s Borjer, how may I help you?”

“Hello? Hello Ben?”

“What’s your order, please?”

“Ben! Thish ish…”

“Ay kayo poh pala, ma’am. Sori poh. What can I do for you, poh?”

“I just called to tell you how sorry I am that the Ombudsman charged you over the ZTE-NBN deal.”

“Me too, poh.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m surprised I was charged, poh.”

“Well, I want you to know that you can count on my full support.”

“Thank you, poh, ma’am.”

“I saw you on TV.”

“Yes, ma’am. I was saying the Ombudsman was not fair. I was only being nice to ZTE and she charged me with brokering a deal and asking for commissions.”

“Hay naku.”

“Opoh, ma’am. At least she never questioned the propriety of you and FG Mike enjoying a golf game and a luncheon with ZTE officials while their bid was being evaluated by NEDA (The agency then headed by Romulo Neri).”

“That’s an entirely different matter, Ben.”



“May I invite you to Ben’s Borjer one of these days, poh?”

“I would love to go but I can’t. My son, Mikedin, told me it’s beneath my dignity to eat in a hamburger stand.”

“I understand. Pang fine dining lang poh kayo.”

“It’s nothing personal.”

“Ma’am, may I ask you a question about my problems with the Ombudsman, poh?”

“Yes, of course. But I must remind you that I have no influence over Merci (Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez). None whatsoever.”

“So I am on my own na, poh?”

“Of course not! I’ll always be around to help you, Ben. As a matter of fact, I told my lawyers to make themselves available to you should you wish to avail of their services.”

“That’s very nice of you, poh.”

“Who do you want, Romy Macalintal, Jess Santos, Ruy Rondain, Oliver Lozano, Ruel Pulido, all five of them?”

“Thanks poh, but I already hired a real lawyer.”

“You have a lawyer already?”

“Yes, poh.”

“That’s quick.”

“Kasi, poh, my lawyer guaranteed that he would get all the charges against me dropped.”

“Wow! Really? How?”

“He said he would call someone who can’t say ‘no’ to him.”

“Interesting, who is your lawyer?”

“Attorney Garci, poh.”

SOURCE: Life in Gloria's Enchanted Kingdom