Thursday, November 19, 2015
Monday, March 12, 2012
The circus, also known as the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, resumes today.
We expect the fireworks to be more spectacular this time around because it is the turn of the defense to take the floor at the Senate.
We want to know how Corona is going to explain the discrepancies between the items declared in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth and the bank statements presented in the impeachment court. We are being conditioned to believe that the millions of pesos in Corona’s bank accounts didn’t belong to him but to his wife’s family corporation. It seems too much of a stretch to believe that yarn because as a banker I know that most people in this country do maintain separate bank accounts for funds intended for separate purposes. It’s just so much more convenient, intuitive and commonsensical to do it that way. Then again, he has not officially presented his defense so if we must judge the man, we must first give him his day in court. He is supposed to be innocent until proven otherwise which is the reason why there is a trial to begin with; otherwise, we might as well declare public lynching legal in this country.
But granting, for the sake of argument, that there is indeed a discrepancy in his SALN that is in violation of existing laws, the question that begs to be answered is if whether such an offense has enough legal ground to impeach him. I know that there are those who insist that as chief justice, Mr. Corona is supposed to be beyond reproach and that ultimately it is a question of moral fitness for the highest judicial post in the land. I don’t particularly think that the impeachment trial is the right venue to weigh the moral character of a person but I recognize that the impeachment trial is both a legal and a political exercise. And politics is ultimately about the ethical or unethical use of power. So yes, I think that the moral angle is valid.
But if we must impeach Corona on moral grounds, we must make sure that the process we use in doing so is beyond reproach. I insist that this is the reason we have never been able to make people fully accountable for the sins they have committed while they were in office – we tend to take a lot of shortcuts and haphazard processes that end up indefensible, all in the name of good intentions. We must realize that being suffused with righteous indignation is not enough justification to convict anyone suspected of wrongdoing.
Perhaps due to certain circumstances in my family and personal life (which I cannot go into details now), there is one admonition from my grandmother that I took to heart very early on in my life: Those who preach from a high moral perch and wish to cast moral judgments on others must make sure that they have the moral right to do so and then do so the right and moral way. Put another way, those who insist on walking the straight and narrow path must make sure that they personally do not stray from the avowed path.
For example, Corona’s revelation last week that the President seemed to have broken his own hard ethical stance when he met with Corona at his sister’s house to discuss the Truth Commission was shocking. For someone who has been harping about the need to stick to the straight and narrow path, the revelation that he tried to influence the Chief Justice on something that was going to end up in the Supreme Court in a few weeks was unnerving. Was this perhaps the reason why the articles of impeachment alleging Corona’s unfitness as Chief Justice supposedly to be propped up by testimony by Lauro Vizconde, were dropped by the prosecution? If the President himself met up with the Chief Justice to discuss a potential case, why would Corona’s meeting with Vizconde be questionable?
If we come to think about it, this is the reason this particular impeachment process is deeply flawed and difficult to empathize with. The circumstances around open more questions than answers.
In the end, it requires one to have unshakable faith in Benigno Simeon Coujuangco Aquino III not to scoff or at least doubt the wisdom of this particular complaint. The problem is that the performance of this government does not really inspire that kind of faith on people other than his rabid supporters.
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
What a relief to hear no less than the prince of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, the Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Tagle, slam the growing commercialization of weddings in this country. I’m not a conservative person, but I am not blind or deaf to situations that break social norms.
In remarks delivered at the Manila Archdiocesan General Pastoral Assembly last week, Tagle chastised Filipino couples and their wedding planners and coordinators and told them to stop all the “ka-ek-ekan” (gayspeak for frivolities) associated with weddings.
I also liked the fact that Tagle didn’t deliver his message in a scathing, fire-and-brimstone manner. Instead of issuing threats and condemnations and warning people of eternal damnation in hell, the archbishop narrated vignettes culled from personal experiences while officiating during weddings.
About time someone put people to task for the way weddings in this country have become a pabonggahan (over-the-top) contest. As a teacher, I invariably get invited to a lot of weddings of former students and I tell you, there have been many occasions when I wish the bride or groom was still my student. This is so I could tell them exactly why a wedding ceremony should not be reduced to a fashion or drama production. I know what you are thinking — it’s their wedding and they have every right to make it into whatever they want. But a wedding is still a sacred ceremony that demands a certain level of solemnity and seriousness; the fact that they invited witnesses must signify their intent to keep things at a certain level of respectability. And really, if it is held inside a place of worship and officiated by a religious person, they are also obligated to show respect for their and other people’s faith.
I don’t care what people do during the reception — they can turn it into a Halloween party if they so desire. But I have serious misgivings about watching the entourage gyrating their way from the door of the church to the altar to the soundtrack of Fame, the movie. Nor is it okay for the production people who have been contracted to produce an on-site video and several post-wedding music videos to literally direct how the priest, the readers, the entourage, and the guests should position themselves or move during the ceremony just so they could get cinematic footages. The video and the photo shoot just cannot be the main consideration in the ceremony. I consider myself to have a very open mind and to have a very tolerant attitude towards fashion trends but I draw the line at flower girls dressed in evening gowns with plunging necklines and bared backs — these are kids, for crying out loud.
I’ve been to a wedding where the church decoration included live rabbits hopping around in keeping with a spring motif (I understood why the priest rushed through the whole ceremony and completed it in 45 minutes flat). I stood as sponsor in a wedding that had over a hundred members of the entourage — almost 30 flower girls and around the same number of bridesmaids (the march alone took more than 30 minutes).
I see the wisdom of having the groom and bride recite vows they themselves wrote; I can tolerate plagiarism during weddings, but one wishes some would bother to have their opuses edited for clarity or grammar. And then there are the consumerist flourishes — butterflies, confetti, bubble machines, snow makers, little animals running or flying around. Again, I don’t mind if these are featured at the reception...but at the church? Come on!
These flourishes may be important, but not really as important as the ceremony itself. A wedding is still about the vows, the sacrament, and yes, about faith. Everything else is just the proverbial icing on the cake. And people should be reminded of that.
I do understand the need to make weddings special, unique, memorable, etc. I know most people wish to get married only once in their lifetime so they want to make sure their weddings are events that they will remember forever. I also understand the need to inject their own personalities and their personal styles into the event. The key is to go for simplicity, elegance and sincerity; it’s a wedding, not a Fourth of July celebration.
If we come to think about it, it’s not the frills and the extravaganza that people will remember about a wedding — it would be the warmth, the affection, and the happiness that envelop the whole proceedings.
And by the way, I don’t really diss the Catholic bishops all the time. See, I agreed with Tagle this time around.
Monday, March 05, 2012
The irrepressible Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is once again in the maelstrom of public opinion. She, once again, lost her temper at the impeachment trial last week, called the prosecutors “g*go”, and berated them publicly for dismal performance. She also exchanged heated arguments with private prosecutor Vitaliano Aguirre after he covered his ears in public purportedly to avoid “hearing her shrill voice” and, after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile banged the gavel to declare a recess, reportedly confronted Aguirre by standing in front of him daring him to say something to her in person. The behavior was classic, very classic Miriam Defensor Santiago.
The repeated use of the words “once again” in the preceding paragraph is deliberate. This is not the first time that the senator made a spectacle of herself. It won’t be the last.
Which is why I am stupefied that people are going berserk over Santiago’s behavior. Oh come on, she got elected as senator and continue to hog the limelight precisely for being a political gadfly and for not mincing words in public. This is a woman who has never been known to do things in moderation; she has never been known to shy away from confrontations even if it reduces her to a caricature.
Wasn’t it just a few months ago when she called some people epal for claiming credit for government projects and displaying their photoshopped images in huge billboards across the country? We applauded her for that. Didn’t she get acclaim for calling some congressmen fungus-faced? In fact, I first heard of Santiago in the eighties when as a regional trial court judge she presided over the subversion case of directors Behn Cervantes and the late Lino Brocka. The two raved endlessly about the way Santiago bravely made mincemeat of the military’s attempt to fudge evidence against them.
Admit it, people. Without her outbursts, the Corona impeachment trial would not have lasted this long because we would have died from boredom a long time ago.
But as some people pointed out to me after I published a post about Santiago in a social networking site, am I not bothered that she called the prosecutors gago in public? Oh please, let’s stop pretending that our leaders are still capable of civility or niceties when dealing with their detractors or foes. Matagal na tayong nagbabastusan sa bayan natin. I can give you many examples such as when the prosecutors and defense panels make pronouncements or attack each other in media deliberately ignoring specific instructions from the impeachment court to stop subverting itself, or when the President picked Conchita Morales Carpio to administer his oath of office, or when the chief justice struts in public like a politician rather than highest magistrate in the land.
It amuses me no end when I come across comments in various social networking sites that put Santiago to task for not showing (or earning) respect and then in the same vein attack her using the foulest language and the most convoluted logical acrobatics. Many people put her down for saying “g*go” in public, and then let loose a volley of invectives directed at her.
Besides, I am not sure that I would not have done the same thing if I were sitting as a judge in a trial where the prosecutors distinguish themselves for rank incompetence. The prosecutors were strutting all over the place just a couple of months ago, swaggering with confidence and braggadocio about “hundreds of witnesses and tons of evidence.” It turns out they had nothing because they wrongly assumed that the chief justice would resign to avoid humiliation. Unfortunately, the chief justice has been unmasked as having a face just like theirs - thick as hide. Actually, I use even more incendiary language to describe Rep. Niel Tupas and company for wasting precious time and money on an impeachment complaint that they couldn’t prop up.
Do I like Santiago? Not specifically. But I think she is the most truthful person in the whole impeachment court. Call her arrogant, crazy, emotionally unstable, intellectually snobbish. But we all can live with a little provocation every now and then to jolt us out of complacency.
If only people were honest with themselves, they would admit that they hate her for her latest outbursts simply because these did not help the prosecution, otherwise, she could have burst a vein, done hara-kiri, or regurgitated invectives that would have put a Tondo criminal to shame and we would have given her a standing ovation. Really, guys, if she does the same thing to the defense panel next week, would we still be calling her the same things?
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
The question that was top of mind over the weekend was: After 26 years, are we better off as a country and as a people? Put another way, have we successfully purged from our system the evils that we swore would never again bedevil this country and the Filipino people? After 26 years, can we categorically say that we have regained our freedom and our democracy? These are painful questions to ask because we all know the answer to each of these questions. It’s a resounding no.
The President, himself, called on the people “tapusin na natin ang laban ng EDSA” (let’s bring to its conclusion the fight we started at EDSA). The fighting words only served to highlight the fact that practically nothing has changed in this country after 26 years. The fight has not ended; nor has it really brought significant changes in the country’s life.
Yet another Aquino, the son of the woman who rose to power on the wings of the people revolution, is in power. The Marcoses, the Romualdezes, and even the Estradas are back in power. The body of Benjamin Romualdez was welcomed like a hero in Tacloban City over the weekend and Joseph Estrada linked arms with the President as they vowed to continue the moral fight.
The yellow forces are once again proclaiming the absolute ascendancy of their own brand of morality. It’s the kind of selective morality that favors supporters—for instance, note how the head of the National Bureau of Investigation was unceremoniously kicked out of office without any benefit of a hearing on suspicion of wrongdoing while the chief of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation is being hailed as a victim despite existence of proof of wrongdoing. Ask anyone who deals with government agencies and you will be told the same thing – corruption has grown worse.
The country is still a Third-World country, corruption is still systemic, oligarchs continue to rule, and the numbers of those who are hungry and without jobs continue to increase dramatically.
We make speeches about how freedom and democracy have been restored in this country and close our eyes to parallels between the years leading to 1986 and the present. I was a student activist when Edsa 1 happened. I spent years fighting an authoritarian regime that had the whole country under a tight grip. We successfully kicked out a dictator in 1986; a despot who tried to impose his own version of what was right and desirable for the country, a dictator who controlled the Supreme Court and the military and had no qualms about using the resources of the whole government bureaucracy in support of a new moral order he called “The New Society.”
Of course it is being argued that the authoritarian tendencies of the Aquino government are justified because they are in pursuit of “The Straight and Narrow Path” which is supposedly for the good of everyone. But then again, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, the worst kind of tyranny is the one that is “exercised for the good of its victims; those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they so with the approval of their own conscience.”
Real changes in this country can only come if our leaders and those in a position to make changes stop romanticizing and moralizing our problems. We need to wake up and see the grime, smell the decay, and realize that our problems are much more complicated and systemic and cannot be solved by rhetorical discourses and populist posturing. For example, corruption cannot be solved by running after a few people and embarrassing them in public; we need comprehensive strategies and institutionalized value formation programs that strike at the core of the malaise. But as we speak, there is no program to speak of; there is no roadmap to guide the journey. What we need are real leaders, people with strategic vision for the country who are willing to work hard and dirty their hands and not sit around and bark orders like despots. And certainly, we don’t need more preachers who see themselves as belonging to a higher moral order; we have more than enough bishops in this country.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
how can we follow up on the situation when in fact most of our family is in the province and the investigation is being conducted in Manila?
Monday, February 27, 2012
Marvin Reglos, freshman law student at the San Beda Law School, died last week in the hands of people he aspired to call brothers. He wasn’t the first to offer his life in the name of brotherhood. He wouldn’t be the last.
In the same week that Reglos was murdered, hazing was very much in the news as the Supreme Court handed down the final decision on the death of Lenny Villa, victim of the same circumstances that killed Reglos. It took 21 years before the Villas got justice — and it wasn’t even the kind that solved more than two decades of pain and longing.
In the same period, key personalities in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona openly acknowledged each other in the middle of the proceedings as “brods.” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile recognized the following as his fraternity brothers: Corona’s chief defense counsel former justice Serafin Cuevas, members of the prosecution team Raul Daza and Arthur Lim, and Senator Judges Edgardo Angara and Franklin Drilon. Sigma Rho is indeed an influential fraternity and the open recognition and public recognition of affiliation must have sent many members of the fraternity giddy with pride. Thereupon, pundits also pointed out the other configurations present in the trial — most members of the prosecution, defense, and senator-judges inevitably got classified into Aquilans, Utopians, Alpha Sigmans, Upsilonians, Alpha Phi Betans, Delta Lambdha Sigmans, etc.
The power structures in this country are deeply intertwined with the fraternity system. Right now, it is bad; very bad news.
Any doubts about just how prevalent and deeply ingrained Greek-letter organizations are in Philippine politics and society should have been obliterated with the admission of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima that she was co-founder of Lambda Rho, the sister organization of Lambda Rho Sigma — the very same fraternity whose name was embossed on the shirt that Reglos was wearing on the day his body was badly mutilated and reduced to pulp.
De lima has vowed an “honest-to-goodness” investigation into the death of Reglos. There’s a part of me that desperately wants to believe that she can do it. After all, this was the same woman who openly defied the Supreme Court last year. But in the same week that she mouthed those assurances, the leader of the fraternity was able to appear at a press conference as a non-suspect despite the fact that a car present during the hazing rites was already traced to a relative of his. I am not saying that the Justice Secretary is incapable of going against his “brods” but we can’t help noting how she said she would “appeal” to them to cooperate; a complete departure from the fighting stance that she uses to treat everyone else.
It will take more than fighting words to eradicate a system that is considered hallowed and sacred. Being part of a fraternity is considered a badge of honor, particularly if the fraternity is a major force in this country. These fraternities deliberately make admission to their ranks difficult, thus the continued proliferation of hazing despite a law (Republic Act 8049) that specifically renders it illegal.
The death of a young and promising man is tragic and I am sure many among our leaders will huff and puff in public. But we all know how all these will end. The death of Reglos will be another sad footnote to a system that considers such tragedies as unfortunate aberrations and exceptions to the illustrious history of the system. Oh sure, two or three people will probably fester in jail. But those who prop up the system, those who lend their names and provide all kinds of support and resources to glorify the system — they will continue to be worshipped and exalted.
This is the way we do things in this country. We make some token sacrifices, make a few fighting speeches, demonize certain people because these represent the easy way to gain popularity and project the impression that we are doing something. We all know, however, that the bigger problem continues to fester under the fluff and is threatening to surface later in far more ugly ways and forms. But who cares, right? That’s for another leader to take care of. And we wonder why things don’t really get fixed in this country.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Aurelio Gonzales, the honorable representative from the third district of Pampanga, has raised a howl over what he perceives as unfair depiction of congressmen in Philippine movies and soap operas. He filed Resolution 2140 appealing to the local movie and television industry to “minimize, prevent, or stop typecasting congressmen and congresswomen as villains or crooks in movies and television telenovelas, in order not to create stereotypes or negative public perception against members of the House of Representatives.”
I empathize with the congressman. In general, I object to any form of stereotyping, especially negative stereotyping. But I would have empathized with the congressman more and would have joined his advocacy if his resolution were more inclusive. Unfortunately, it seems the guy is also afflicted with an acute case of myopia—his ego is clouding his judgment and he couldn’t see beyond his interests as a congressman. Just like Niel Tupas, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut over matters and in times when not saying anything would have been the wiser course of action. I would have supported him if he riled against stereotyping of the elderly as senile and unproductive people, of women as sex objects and baby factories, of gays and lesbians as promiscuous objects of ridicule, of deaf people as mute and stupid, of… well, I could go and on, but you get the drift. There’s a long list of people in this country, mostly minorities, who have long suffered and continue to suffer from unfair stereotyping and bear the brunt of far more negative repercussions than just “negative public perception.” But Gonzales does not care of about them; he is caterwauling only because he thinks his image as a congressman is affected.
For crying out loud, how exactly does a “negative public perception” against them translate into actual harm? Philippine movies have always featured elected officials— congressmen, governors, mayors, even the President of the Philippines—as villains or as vacuous people from as far back as I can remember. We still continue to elect them into office, get them as sponsors in baptisms and weddings, give them choice seats at public affairs, and tiptoe around them. What exactly is the imminent danger to congressmen who are not exactly underdogs or considered a minority in this country? There is just no way that congressmen can be considered victims—they who wield considerable power such as impeaching a chief justice without the benefit of a hearing and conjuring small ladies and other various tricks to miraculously produce bank statements. Certainly not, if one has millions of pesos of pork barrel at his disposal!
A congressman whining publicly about being stereotyped is absurd because there are many more groups of people in this country that are in far worse situations than the imagined victimization of congressmen.
At any rate, I do not think that the depiction of congressmen as criminals is a norm in Philippine movies and soap operas. I don’t think that congressmen in particular are singled out as default villains in movies and telenovelas the way governors or mayors are. And in movies and telenovelas that do, I don’t think the use of congressmen (or other authority figures) as villains is a reflection of bias against them; rather, it’s a reflection of sloppiness and just plain lack of artistic talent on the part of writers and producers. It’s a trite plot device and everyone knows it. Taking offense and imagining slight is not just indicative of lack of a sense of humor; it is also quite frankly, indicative of a closed and intolerant mind.
So Congressman Gonzales, it’s not really personal, sir. It’s a literary device. It would be absurd if doctors watching, for example, Budoy, would take offense at the fact that the villainess in the soap opera happens to be a doctor. Or if businessmen were to take offense at the fact that almost all movies feature a sleazy and unprincipled businessman. Or what about the fact that there is always a corrupt policeman in every telenovela? Movies and telenovelas need to illustrate ethical dilemmas and the fact that they feature an occasional congressman as crook is not a slap on the face of each congressman. I can point out that my grandfather used to say that whoever says “ouch” got hit, but let’s not go there.
I think it is important to remind Gonzales that respect is earned and that a good image is something that is cultivated and nurtured consistently and painstakingly through hard work. If congressmen do their jobs well and lead clean lives, no amount of typecasting in movies and telenovelas would affect them.
Monday, February 20, 2012
I have long given up illusions of the impeachment trial being fair, impartial and an exemplar of outstanding—or at least competent—legal wrangling. As I have said in the past, there is only so much certain people such as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile can do to maintain the integrity of the proceedings.
All the ingredients for epic failure just happen to be present. First, you have a complaint that was rammed through Congress without the benefit of a hearing and subsequently found to be so defective that the Chief Justice’s defense team has been able to make mincemeat of it without breaking sweat. Second, it now appears that the prosecution had no evidence to speak of prior to the impeachment hearing (no wonder it objected vigorously to a pre-trial). Third, the prosecution team has repeatedly shown what can only be described as gross incompetence all throughout the hearings, enabling the defense team to gleefully—and sometimes, irresponsibly - take advantage of the blunders to embarrass, lecture, or even ridicule them. Fourth, and probably most important of all, the political nature of the proceedings and the political leanings of the characters in the impeachment trial have become increasingly obvious some people don’t even bother with subtleties anymore.
And so, what I feared most has come to pass. The conflict between the executive and the judiciary branches of government has now degenerated into a street brawl, with no less than the President of the country and the Chief Justice engaging each other in a very public, very ugly exchange of unsavory accusations and innuendoes. In the past, the President was content with making innuendoes and simply allowing his lieutenants to do the attacking. He has dropped all pretenses of leaving the matter in the hands of the senators and has signal the launch of a more mass-based campaign to oust the Chief Justice.
Chief Justice Corona has likewise shunned the dignified and venerable image that has traditionally cloaked justices of the Supreme Court and has decided to engage his detractors mano-a-mano. He told the President to also explain his own Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth as well as make public his psychological records. Corona’s attack was unprecedented. Justices of the high court usually behave with probity and propriety. But then again, his supporters say he has been provoked enough or driven to desperation.
If the top officials of the country are now throwing mud at each other and calling each other names, it’s only a matter of time before things make a turn for the worse.
There are those who think that the whole downward spiral could be averted if Corona makes the ultimate sacrifice and resigns his post. Unfortunately, Corona’s supporters also argue that a resignation would precisely defeat the essence of what Corona is fighting for which is the independence of the judiciary and the authoritarian tendencies of the current administration. Besides, the stakes for Corona are already too great—his personal and professional reputation as well as that of his family is already on the line. The impeachment trial was supposed to be the constitutionally provided avenue to get out of the impasse. But the way the prosecution has been bungling the case does not exactly inspire confidence.
Of course the kind of information that is being revealed in the impeachment trial are too damaging for Corona that it seems a resignation even after an acquittal seems necessary. It seems this is his game plan, anyway. However, it would be irresponsible to make a judgment at this point when the defense has not even started presenting its rebuttal and its own witnesses.
But it is obvious that what we have today is a leadership crisis. So far, only Enrile is stepping up to the plate, all the rest—and I do mean all, including those in the Judiciary—seem oblivious to the great need for leadership and stewardship at this critical junction. In fact, this whole series of events could have been avoided if diplomacy, some strategic thinking, a win-win approach to negotiation, and just a little less pride and obstinacy were practiced. Unfortunately, we live at a time when some people think such things as popularity and a mandate and a sense of moral authority entitle them to do whatever they want.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Take the case of the Catholic bishops’ recent thinly veiled threat to government on the issue of distribution of condoms on Valentine’s Day. Consider what the archbishop of Jaro Angel Lagdameo said: “The Church is against the distribution of condoms especially on Valentine’s Day because we know how the use of contraceptives affects the morality of our people and our society in general.” By saying “they know” how the use of contraceptives affects the morality of our people, are our bishops talking from personal experience? I’m not being facetious. The church is establishing a causal relationship between contraception and morality so they must know something scientists don’t. No wonder the whole church is caught up in a series of sexual scandals.
The Church does not want people to use condoms, but is quite happy and content to ride along with the hoopla and the gimmickry that encourages people to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Sure, they prattle on and on about fidelity and chastity but don’t really back their words with specific and concrete actions and programs. In fact, most religious organizations sponsored mass weddings to celebrate Valentine’s, effectively sending the message that as long as people get married eventually it is okay to indulge in sexual relations.
The whole world is involved in a global conspiracy to pressure people into celebrating love in big, grandiose and passionate ways. Malls and department stores, media channels, and everyone else scream exhortations for people to go out and express their love for each other. Establishments in the hospitality industry from restaurants to hotels to motels roll out the red carpet, complete with rose petals and crispy pata. The church doesn’t direct its ire on the whole phenomenon that for all intents and purposes pushes people into having sex on Valentine’s Day; it just doesn’t want the government to distribute condoms. In short, they don’t care if people have sex, they just don’t want them to use condoms. What hypocrisy!
Lagdameo’s gibberish was amplified by Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo who used Valentines day to assail the reproductive health bill pending in Congress. He said that the RH bill, when passed, “would boost sex liberalization in the country, which could also lead to an increase in sex crimes.” There is no scientific data that backs up the statement. The bishop packaged a personal opinion as a definitive statement of fact. It was an irresponsible statement to make.
It should be pointed out that the strict morality imposed by the Church among its members has not really prevented sexual crimes within the hierarchy. The church spends too much time talking about sex liberalization and sexual crimes but refuses to acknowledge the alarming levels of sexual crimes committed by its members. Again, what hypocrisy!
But then again, the Church has been at it for centuries so I can understand the reason behind the bishops’ doubletalk. What I cannot understand is why the government is kowtowing to the bishops on a matter so grave that it makes the difference between life and death for many. Responding to questions on whether the government intended to distribute condoms as HIV/AIDS prevention strategy on Valentine’s Day, Health Secretary Enrique Ona parroted the bishops stance by saying the government “was promoting abstinence and monogamy among Filipinos to combat the disease.” Let’s cut the crap and simplify what he really means— the government under his watch is not doing anything at all to stop HIV/AIDS infections.
Ona is oblivious to tons of scientific data that prove the efficacy of promoting condom use among certain populations to manage HIV/AIDS infections. For the first time in three decades, we have a health secretary who just does not care about the rising rates of HIV/AIDS infections. And yet this government actually crows about “caring” for the people and “serving” the people. The dismal failure does not just smack of hypocrisy; it’s a crime.
Monday, February 13, 2012
So I am aghast at the pronouncements of the bright boys from Malacañang that the TRO was “a brazen effort to derail the proceedings.” The TRO was issued because PSBank sought to protect its name and take up the cudgels for the banking industry. Peso deposits is another thing, but the law on foreign currency deposits in this country is clear and absolute: these deposits are protected by law and not even a court order can compel a bank to reveal information relating to these deposits. This law actually makes sense. Foreign investors need to be protected. Otherwise, they can be held hostage by competitors, corrupt judges and officials, and people with connections. Banking is primarily built on trust. If customers cannot expect banks in this country to safeguard the confidentiality of accounts, then we will be in serious trouble.
The TRO may be related to the impeachment, but the TRO issue is larger than the bank accounts of Corona. PSBank did not seek to derail the proceedings unless the President and his spokesperson are insinuating that PSBank - and Metrobank, the second largest bank in the country which is the mother bank of PSBank—are in cahoots with the Chief Justice, which, if we come to think about it, is ludicrous because no tycoon in his right mind would dare cross a President bent on staking everything to get Corona.
PSBank has courageously stood its ground, as it must. The reason may have nothing to do with Corona. The bank is not playing politics. It has to protect its name as a trustworthy repository of not just the money of its clients but of their trust as well. I am sure that all other depositors of PSBank are closely observing the impeachment wondering if PSBank can stand its ground for their sake.
If media will just bother and get the views of the leaders of the banking industry they will find that most if not all support the stand of PSBank. One pillar of the industry was overheard last week saying he would be more than happy to go to jail for the cause.
The President’s lecture about how the foreign currency deposit law was not meant to protect criminals is appreciated, but he used the wrong context. There is an anti-money laundering act in this country and there are ample safeguards to ensure that the system is not used for criminal purposes.
It is quite irresponsible for many pundits to insinuate that banks are doing the country a disservice by supposedly “not helping in the quest for the truth.” Oh please, this quest has long resembled a witch-hunt. Besides, such a quest does not have to result in wanton disregard for existing laws. We don’t have to burn the whole house down in order to flush out a suspected criminal—we just need to do our jobs better. The problem is, our leaders want to do things the easy way and strut around like everyone owes them a favor for doing their jobs.
Our senators and congressmen must be reminded that they have a solemn duty to uphold the laws in this country. They create the laws, for crying out loud. They should stop flailing around if banks adhere to the laws of this country; if they think the laws are wrong, they only have themselves to blame for not doing their jobs, which is to amend laws.
And there’s really an effective and quicker way to get out of this impasse. All our leaders—the President, members of the cabinet, senators, congressmen, local officials should all declare publicly to allow banks to reveal the contents of their foreign currency accounts. Until then, let’s stop the hypocrisy and stop asking banks to break the law.
Thursday, February 09, 2012
Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Monday, February 06, 2012
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Monday, January 30, 2012
There are those who go through the motions of following the proceedings of the impeachment trial purportedly for the purpose of discerning for themselves the real value of the tons of evidence presented thus far, or conversely, ascertaining the real merits of the spirited arguments of the defense panel.
There continue to be many who pretend that they have not made up their minds yet about the guilt or innocence of the Chief Justice—and I am not necessarily talking about Senators Frank Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, or Ralph Recto.
Let us get real, people. Most of us who give a flying fig about the issue have already made up our minds a long time ago. And many of us made the decision based on party affiliation, our degree of affection or dislike for the main protagonists, and other subjective considerations.
The only people who haven’t made up their minds yet are those who just don’t care one way or the other. These are the people who cannot and do not see how the impeachment of the chief magistrate will affect their lives or improve their lot, those who tend to see the whole thing as a very costly exercise with dubious practical value, or those who are disenchanted with the way the stink of politics tend to dirty everything else in this country.
Please spare me the lecture about how the impeachment process is the bedrock of democracy and how everyone should be presumed innocent unless proven guilty or at least allowed to defend himself against his accusers.
Please stop telling me that the whole process is designed to ensure fairness and to usher out justice. We all know that the impeachment trial is not about fairness or justice regardless of the number of times these words are invoked like an all-encompassing mantra by the senator-judges and the members of the prosecution and defense panels.
Impeachment is a political exercise. And sadly, the level of political maturity in this country is not something we can crow about. We’re still electing clowns and their wives to public office. We’re still relying on sheer charisma and political machinery to propel people into office. We’re still mistaking looks, eloquence and pedigree for competence. And worse, we still continue to strengthen political patronage and use political largesse to buy affections, affiliations, and yes, votes.
The prosecution panel wants to convey the impression that it wants to try the Chief Justice based on the rules of impeachment. What balderdash! Any person with eyes, ears, and half a functioning brain can see what the prosecution is up to. It just wants to overwhelm everyone with accusations. It is not interested in building a tight case—it wants to instigate a mob and force a decision based on outrage and emotions.
The defense wants to convey the impression that it is scoring points during the impeachment hearing because its lawyers are able to outwit, out-argue, out-maneuver the prosecution. They can score points inside the hall, but I doubt very much if they can claim that they are winning the public relations battle.
The bright boys at Malacañan Palace has been trying to pretend that they are leaving Chief Justice Renato Corona’s fate up to the senator justices. What hogwash! The government has marshaled the resources of the whole bureaucracy in support of the impeachment. Is there anyone in this country who believes the Bureau of Internal Revenue came up with the kind of information they were able to present to the impeachment court in a matter of days with just one person working on it?
And let’s all face it. No less that the President of the Republic of the Philippines has been strongly championing Corona’s impeachment. Benigno Simeon Aquino III has not made secret his overwhelming and consuming passion to oust Corona from the Supreme Court. In fact, if we are to interpret the President’s pronouncements on the issue sans the diplomacy that a head of state is supposed to observe, it would be this: I don’t care what it takes or how you do it, just get that son of a b*tch out of there as soon as possible, preferably right this very minute.
In fairness to some of the senator judges, in particular, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, there are efforts to imbue the proceedings with as much integrity and fairness as possible. But then again, we all know how politicians in this country conduct themselves when push comes to shove. Lest we forget, 2013 is an election year and half of the people sitting as senator judges are running for re-election. They cannot afford to waste political capital.
So must of us watch the impeachment trial for our own reasons. There are those who watch it for entertainment, like it’s the biggest and most spectacular soap opera ever produced. And if we come to think about it, the costs associated with this trial are staggering. For example, the legislation has virtually come to a halt with the trial. Lawyers and law students watch it mainly for its educational content, like it’s a law school on air where Justice Serafin Cuevas is professor and people like Niel Tupas are, well, the clueless students.
But seriously guys, who are we kidding? The end result of this impeachment trial is already a foregone conclusion. What we are seeing are valiant efforts to just prove a point or two.