Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mother Teresa's Lenten Prayer

Mother Teresa has never been known for what she has said but her fame rests on the wonderful things that she has done for the poor and sick in Calcutta and the rest of the impoverished world. The prayer posted here will remain a favorite of mine because it encourages us to do good things despite what other people say and think. A timely prayer to help us through our daily lives

A Lenten Prayer By Mother Theresa - It Is Between You And God

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
 If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Impeachment In the Season of Lent




It has been a long first quarter this year where almost 35 days or roughly two months of hearings have been devoted to the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Renato C. Corona. For us Filipinos it was a big price to pay when the celebrated event hogged all of our legislators’ time to enact urgent legislation and impeded the course of some needed governmental projects. Almost a quarter of 2012 has been spent on hearing both panels’ presentation of their evidences; the defense panel trying very hard to suppress the revelations of witnesses and documents through the efforts of mainly of the wizened  and venerable lead counsel for the defense, former associate Justice of the Supreme Court Serafin Cuevas.

Atty. Cuevas has done an excellent job of singlehandedly limiting the prosecution panel’s presentation through court room savvy and a sharpness not seen even among the young members of his panel who are composed of the best and the brightest in the legal circles. He is an aging legal lion, an octogenarian with more than half a century of litigation experience tucked under his belt; an awesome sight to behold in his distinctive light coat batting down evidence after evidence, with his objections most of which had been sustained by the Chief Presiding Officer of the Impeachment Court, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. At times, Senator Enrile seemed in awe of the brilliancies displayed by his “companero” of long ago.

 “The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

At the other end of the contending teams is the prosecution panel headed by Rep. Niel Tupaz, a boyish looking congressman, a lawyer himself but not displaying much knowhow in litigation practice because his career has mostly been in politics. This was made apparent by his constant bumbling in his courtside manners and the shoddiness of his evidentiary presentations. Despite the incessant bullying of some senator jurors, together with the lead defense counsel and occasional demeaning reminders from the Chief Presiding Officer Enrile, the lead counsel of the prosecution panel, Tupaz, has maintained his cool and equanimity. His young political career may have been damaged by the scathing diatribes he got from Sen. Miriam Santiago, an exceptionally garrulous senator juror.

"The meek shall inherit..."  Beatitudes

Senator Enrile, who at 88 years, was very impressive with his knowledge of judicatorial procedures and an amazing recall of relevant jurisprudence. While Senator Enrile has displayed some admirable moments as head of the impeachment court, it was the observation of some that he had abdicated his role as moderator and allowed rudeness and indecorous behaviour among some of the senator jurors who were availing of their advantage of not being argued with, as in a privilege speech, and in so many times have resulted in boorish intimidating behaviour, using vituperative language on occasion, to browbeat the lawyers, mostly from the prosecution panel into submission.

No “sober judges” in this court. Idiom

It also seemed that in some instances Sen. Enrile was groping for procedural rulings which he could impose on the court at certain junctures. One got the impression that the set of procedures in the impeachment court was a work in progress resulting in inconsistencies. He seemed to have been blowing hot and cold. After what seemed to be a series of rulings in favour of the defense he comes back with a streak of favourable rulings for the prosecution; as if trying to make amends for having been unkind to one side of the combatants. It was probably his way of showing impartiality in the court but it sometimes looked ridiculous and unreassuring because he would have lapses in judgment as the trial wore on. "Young men think that old men are fools but old men know that young men are fools." Truman Capote

The defense panel has had little over a week presenting the case for the defense and what we have heard thus far is more of the bad mouthing, sly and underhanded tactics, and exchanges of accusations and lies more vehement than before, leaving both camps even more firmly entrenched in their respective trenches. This was the situation the impeachment process was in before the court adjourned for the Lenten season.

"Wild and wooly..." idiom

So much animosity and recrimination have been generated by the impeachment hearings not only in the courtroom but outside of it. Media exerts a strong influence on the public and the “live” broadcast of the proceedings on radio and television, and the daily take up of issues in the print media have created strong opinions for pro and con groups depending on which media facility the audience favours. Not to be outdone, viral media or the Internet has been in the forefront of message dissemination through Face book, Twitter and a proliferation of blogs who express their opinions much more undauntedly than in conventional media.

“the medium is the massage” Marshal McLuhan

What transpired may be regarded as a contemporary first quarter storm which has caused divisiveness among us; have brought out the strongest of animosities, have spawned unjust accusations, have employed dirty machinations and lies that served to discredit one another and a host of other unsavoury actions which in more clement times are not resorted to. “These are the times that try men's souls...” Thomas Paine

The season of Lent comes like a bracing summer breeze which will cool down all the heat generated from such impassioned tussles between two headstrong contending parties. Lent is a time for introspection, a time to delve into the other half of our existence, the spiritual realm which in the pressure of daily struggles and in the rat race has been relegated to just a weekend predilection. This godly season of Lent gives us more time to think about how we have lived thus far. In the dizzying pace we have moved, we are always have struggled to live a more focussed life and living within the precepts of a morality that we try hard to follow. Lent allows us to stop in our tracks, at least momentarily, giving us time to take stock of our personal growth and time to reset the keels of our life, so to speak. The resetting is a formidable task as bad habits die hard, even more difficult is the revaluation of our priorities and the way we view the world.  .

 “...because the Holy Ghost over the bent

world broods with warm breast

 and with ah! bright wings” Gerard Manley Hopkins

The impeachment proceedings have divided us into two camps totally polarized, completely at odds with each other and stubbornly clinging to whatever we believe in and with utter disrespect to any contrary view no matter how reasonable they may seem.

This season of love and forgiveness should be able pry open our minds that have long been shut and adumbrated by our biases, mindless animosities, unjustified presentiments, false notions and pride. We have been at each others’ throat like misdirected men and women, however, we are not all that bad; to lesser degrees we have masked our intentions with a bit of hypocrisy. Lent gives us the opportunity to examine ourselves in depth...our true motivations and desires and often we hide our motivations with the cloak of self serving rationalizations sometimes verging into self righteousness or at times with a dose of agnosticism for comfort.

 “Men willingly believe what they wish”. Julius Caesar

Would we ever see the plainness of truth? Is there a guiding light that would enable us to see beyond what seems obvious, rending asunder the veil of hypocrisy of our own weaving. The triumphant glory of the Resurrection will provide us the glow to see the truth that we ourselves have caused to be hidden from view.

We view travesty of the law, moral atrophy, religious dishonesty and hypocrisy from a set of glasses that we have tinted and distorted to suit our views but there is the hope that in Lent there will emerge, as an inspiration from the soul, an impulse welling up, a spiritual kneejerk that has to rise up from the depths of human goodness; God’s hand removing the mote in our eyes.

If we emerge from the Lenten season with eyes, ears and heart that
 discern unadulterated and unembellished truth then the conversion 
of our convictions, either pro or con, have been inspired by the way, 
the truth and the light; the unequivocal message of His glorious Resurrection
“...And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the 
renewing of your mind...” St. Paul

Would all of us emerge from the Lenten season repentant and forgiving?...wiser and more judicious? We should pray that we will be provided with just eyes to see the truth, open hearts to be respectful to all, pray for moral uprightness for prudent judgment and for a forgiving heart to those who would be rebuked when proven wrong.

We wish these among the principal protagonists in this unfortunate drama; the lawyers of the defense team and the prosecution team; the senator jurors and the chief presiding officer, the media and more importantly Pnoy, Gloria and Renato C Corona.

We wish it for us too, who are in the peanut gallery of these grand spectacle, the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice Renato C Corona.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lenten Fasting and Sacrifice

We are well into the Lenten Season. Its 40 day period started weeks ago, beginning with Ash Wednesday, a day which rightfully reminded us of our nothingness; our humble heritage of earthly dust in which all of us are destined to return. On the last week of the season we are reminded of Christ’s sufferings in Calvary by reliving in our minds or in ritual, the Via Dolorosa through its re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. Easter Sunday marks the Resurrection of our Lord heralded by the triumphal and joyful Easter songs about the glory of the Risen Christ. Lent is the time when we take stock of our Christianity, the way we led our lives under it, our faith, the owning up on our faults, our forgiveness of those who erred against us and importantly, the resolution to further our commitment to do good as enlightened and inspired by the glory of the Resurrection.
As tradition would have it the season of Lent is a preparation of our beings and our hearts. Thus the folk practice of flagellation and being actually nailed on the cross as seen in central Luzon provinces, walking on knees in churches, and mortification customs of fasting and abstinence and little sacrifices during Lent is prevalent. The preparations are mostly meditative, inward and self gratifying; perhaps we should consider another way, by doing it towards an outward action which benefits others. Fasting and abstinence are performed, the giving up of little items of whim and caprices; these little sacrifices help shape and mould our hearts to make it more predisposed to a reliance in God. However, it is said that inward acts of piety will be God’s delight only when it brings forth an outward fruit of the devotion. Perhaps we should look at fasting as something that is not about food. Fasting should lead us to understand and to relate to those who actually experience hunger and with the realization of its insiduousness compel us to act to satisfy the wants of the impoverished and those oppressed by this deprivation. 
Giving up something during Lent does some good, but mostly to ourselves; they do not translate into something that is positive and tangible for others. Instead of giving up things we can consider doing positive outward things; transforming a passive act into something proactive and of value to other people. 
The late Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, an active proponent of liberation theology and a populist champion of the Salvadoran poor during his time, was a believer of this. He said:
 People do not mortify themselves during Lent out of a sick desire to suffer.
God did not make us for suffering, If we fast or do penances or pray, it is for a very positive goal: by overcoming self one achieves the Easter resurrection.
We do not just celebrate a risen Christ, distinct from us but during Lent we prepare ourselves to rise with him to a new life and to become the new persons that are what the country needs right now”.
He made a point about Lenten fasting as something that is very different in places where people are well fed such as the US, Japan, Germany etc. as opposed to those in the third world nations; of the starving poor in North Korea, Ethiopia, in India and the starving tribes of African states who are constantly in civil strife. They are living in perpetual Lent, always fasting. For most rich western states whose populations are up to their necks in food, Lent is a call to austerity and a call to self deprivation in order to share with those in dire need of food; a sacrifice that ennobles fasting and gives meaning to the supreme sacrifice at the cross.
Whenever we give up something that does not translate into an act which ameliorates the condition of the many poor, the suffering involved in this sacrifice does nothing more than hardens our souls. What seems an abstemious act by denying ourselves severely may just be an act that pleases us only...an act of suffering devoid of meaning and has no real value of its own except for the fact that it may be merely a test of one’s faith.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

An Open Letter to Sister Flory Basa

I am Reproducing here an open letter to Sister Flory Basa, the 90 year old aunt of Cristina R Corona, wife of Renato Corona.


An Open Letter to Sister Flory Basa

Last night, I posted in an online Inquirer article an open letter to Sister Flory Basa, aunt of Cristina Roco Corona. Almost as soon as hit the Save button, comments poured in, and people started sharing and re-posting the letter in different blogs and sharing sites. I even found a Cebuano translation of the letter just today. Although there were a few negative reactions, majority of those who commented were very supportive. I guess a lot of people share the same sentiments as I have.

I am sharing the letter in its original form, and some of the links to sites where it has been re-posted so you would be able to read both the good and not so good reactions.

Dennis Garcia
Dennis Garcia is a member of the popular Hotdog band who gave us Manila Sound.

 * Dennis Concepcion of muntingtinigngpateros.com wrote to say that it was he who wrote the open letter to Sister Flory. If this is true I stand corrected. (pls see comments)

Dear Sister Flory, 
I almost gave up on the impeachment process. I thought it was going nowhere. The defense team was succeeding in their suppression of evidences. The prosecution was fumbling all over the place. Some Senator-Judges were openly showing their dogged resolve to literally look the other way as the impeached pretender to the position of Chief Justice trampled on the very basic tenets of integrity and honesty. Like you, I had left it to the Good Lord to do justice in His own time.But then your family, most especially you, came along. God indeed works in mysterious ways! The lawyers of Mr Corona and their misguided followers have done and will continue to do everything to discredit you, short of calling you a lying senile and disgruntled relative who wants more money. I saw your interview on TV, and you have that serenity about you. It is a peace of mind and soul that only true forgiveness can bring about. But you also have that resoluteness in your voice – firm, truthful and honest. You said charity made you forgive the Coronas, but truth and justice compels you to speak up and let the people confront the truth about Mr Renato Corona.God has not only been good to you, He has shown even more compassion to us the Filipino people. While a lot of people your age would have been beset with illnesses of both body and mind, you have been blest with good health and a mind still so sharp and lucid. It is not so for no reason, I am sure. When the battle seemed lost, you came forth like a shining star to remind us not to lose hope. God allowed you to outlive your siblings so that the truth may be proclaimed in all its brutal glory, and not in the convoluted version being peddled to us by those who seek to block our nation’s search for justice.Thank you for your courage in proclaiming the truth. Mr Corona might have succeeded in having his character flaws overlooked by the Judicial and Bar Council when he was planted by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the Supreme Court. He might have pushed his luck too far when he got his minions in the SC to legitimize his midnight appointment. I do not think he will be able to shut out the flames of truth that you now so resolutely hold in your hands. While they have everything to lose and will do anything and everything to cover up their lies, you only have your faith in God and his abiding fidelity to his promise that His justice will be supreme over all human frailties.If it is not too much to ask, we will be forever grateful if you will do us a great favour – please take the witness stand. Please tell this nation how this man who claims the exalted position of Chief Justice as his unalienable right has done injustice to his own kin for more than 30 years. Please tell our Senators, who have been vested by our sovereign will with power in order to protect our nation’s interest, how the same power when wielded by someone who do not have the probity, integrity and moral uprightness not to be drowned by it can abuse the same to inflict harm on the very people he is supposed to serve and protect. You, who are old and weak, you whose only weapon is the truth, can teach our power-tripping Senators a most valuable lesson in humility and fairness.I know it might be too much to ask from a frail, 90 year old servant of the Lord. But the stakes are too high – our future and those of the generations to come. If we allow this travesty to pass, we would have sold our souls to the devil. What are we teaching to our children? That as long as you can justify it in the rules of court, it is okay to be to be dishonest? That it is okay to do wrong as long as you can win it in court? That it is okay to do away with morals and the sense of what is right and what is wrong as long as there are good lawyers that you can pay to twist the facts and suppress the truth? Is this what we want for our country? Please say it isn’t so Sister Flory. For your family’s and for our country’s sake, please say it isn’t so.
And before I end this rather long letter, I would like to assure you that in case you do decide to take the witness stand and if Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago dare try to scare you off with her histrionics and self-serving plaudits to her perceived superior intelligence, and God forbids that something bad happens to you, I will march on the street even if I should do it by my lonesome self, and demand that God open up the ocean and swallow the entire Senate and everyone else who have dragged this country into the dark abyss.God is with you. We are with you. All right thinking Filipinos should be with you. Let us not stay in the dark. You have the light. Lead us to our redemption as a nation. God Bless you Sister Flory.



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Please Pass the SALN

Today’s news in the Philippine Daily Inquirer heralds that “despite misgivings by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, defense lawyers on Monday said they would go ahead with the presentation of the asset declarations of other public officials to prove that Chief Justice Renato Corona did not violate the Constitution as alleged by the prosecution.”
The defense is building up a case by establishing the fact that it is common practice to cheat in the SALN. This is known as the “peanut butter” strategy, a squid tactic that spreads the misconduct...almost everybody is doing it so it must be right. How wrong can you get! The act of cheating in your SALN is inherently and explicitly wrong and no matter how many people are doing it will never make it right...as they say two wrongs do not make a right, neither will it be right even if millions do it. Corona’s being Chief Justice should not hide behind this rationalization because he is “primus interpares” and should lead the example for everybody to emulate. It is expected of somebody who has the authority to rule on what is right and wrong in our lives to be beyond reproach and not to be washed “clean” by virtue of lawyers’ technical arguments. If such an argument prospers I am afraid that we will all be leading lives governed by lawyers; lawyers who seem to have a different social and world view from the rest of us non-lawyers. Woe to us when criminals get away from the arm of the law because of the ability of their “de campanilya” lawyers to look for flaws and loopholes to delay justice or worse to exonerate those who seem to be patently guilty. More woe to us when more cases of blatant guilt are defended by slick and glib shysters who flaunt oratory to mock and distress the innocent. And we are doomed further if the highest magistrate of the land does not have the compunction to right wrongs, is suspected to be one with the those who impugn our laws and one who relishes the provenance provided by a closely knit fellowship working as a cabal to defraud the rest of us with their evil enterprise. The last consolation for the  wretched citizenry is the faith that God, in His infinite wisdom, will take care of imposing divine justice by banishing those who have erred in this world in Gehennah, a place of  fire and brimstone. But even this comeuppance doesn’t seem to be forthcoming when you see some members of the clergy showing their inclination to side with those who make a travesty of the law, some by erudite but pharisiacal legal reasoning, others by just reciprocal expressions of gratitude for past favours granted either personally or for their parishes.
Having laws is good only when it is used to right wrongs; protect the innocent from the guilty; when it is used to ameliorate the citizens’ lot; when it conforms to what is conventionally and culturally accepted morality and what is inherently right; and more importantly, when it is applied judiciously and equitably without fear and favour to anyone. I am afraid this doesn’t seem to fit the description of what is the prevalent practice of law in our country today.
We are all being screwed and tattooed...smile it is all legal.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reprint of Ted Laguatan's Article on Corona

"Inevitably, the war against corruption is a war of good versus evil."

Corona trial relates to the just war against corruption
8:01 pm | Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
The Constitution provides for an impeachment process to immediately remove from office  a key official who betrays the public trust.
However, in the warped Philippine socio-political setting, successfully removing an official through the impeachment process  is as likely as the Ampatuans becoming Carmelite nuns.
Removing erring Philippine officials, no matter what process is involved,  is extremely difficult. Even Justices and judges with notoriously questionable reputations and exorbitant lifestyles that reek of corruption remain unchecked and unpunished. Enough effective mechanisms are just not there to correct the whole sorry mess.
The impeachment process is inherently defective and bound to fail in accomplishing its purpose of removing key officials who ought to be removed. We have seen the systemic defects  in the Estrada impeachment trial. We are seeing it again  now.
For lack of imagination, the framers of the Philippine Constitution simply followed the American Impeachment Court model.  In the U.S.,  the 2/3 vote needed to remove a key official amounts to 67 Senators and the 1/3 vote needed to acquit amounts to 34 Senators.
In the Philippines, 16 Senators are needed to convict whereas only eight Senators are needed to acquit. It seems grossly unfair to the citizenry that their future well being can be sabotaged by just eight people – who might not be that concerned about the national welfare.
In general, the system works in the U.S. because democratic institutions are deeply embedded and more Senators are involved which means more thinking heads. The system does not work well in the Philippines.
We really ought to get away from this colonial mentality of thinking that what works well in the U.S. will also automatically work well for us. The factual cultural settings in America re political, economic and social situations are far different from those in the Philippines.  It’s best for us to do our own original thinking to solve problems unique to our situation.
This monkey see, monkey do approach – when conditions are different – often result in solvable problems becoming more complex and unsolvable. Such is the case with the impeachment process in the Philippines which is a time consuming expensive exercise in futility. It simply does not work in efficiently and effectively removing officials who betray the public trust.
The  cold undeniable reality is that the Impeachment Court is composed of politician Senator-judges. Too many of our politicians do not think in terms of primarily putting truth, justice, honor, morality and the national interest above partisan and personal considerations. Our leaders have consistently betrayed us.
Hunger, ignorance, disease, homelessness and other forms of human sufferings resulting from mass poverty is a common countrywide situation.  National and local politicians on all levels of government make inane policies and  decisions – focused not so much in solving problems but based on  partisan or personal selfish agendas. As such, neighbor countries refer to us as “Asia’s basket case”.
This impeachment trial is a classic illustration of what is wrong with the Philippines. Here, the national interest is clearly involved. The country needs an honest and efficient judicial system in order to bring justice to the people. If all the Senators were in good faith and cared more for the interest of the people than their own selfish personal and partisan interests  - they would be able to easily focus  on accomplishing the purpose for which the Impeachment  Court was instituted.  It would then not take long for them to make a decision.
They would immediately concentrate on getting any and all relevant information relating to the alleged wrongful acts of the accused and his moral character – in order to properly decide on whether to acquit or find him guilty.
If Corona were truly innocent and wanted to vindicate his honor – he also would want the entire truth about his actions and character to be revealed. He can then explain his circumstances.
Corona apparently has enormous wealth. He declares an annual fixed salary and some perks as his only income but these appear insufficient to justify his numerous real estate holdings and millions in  peso and dollar bank deposits. He also does not report his true wealth  in his SALN. To  common ordinary citizens,  these series of omissions and misrepresentations persuasively suggest that Corona appears to be engaged in dishonesty and is receiving  huge sums of money from some sources.
It is very conceivable that the discovered Corona assets is just a tip of the iceberg. People will never know and he will always be under a cloud of suspicion unless he himself acts in good faith and reveals all of his holdings – including  deposits in other banks, additional  real estate properties and corporate shares.
His lawyers have been moving heaven and earth to keep evidence related to his financials from being admitted. Some Senators  have noticeably also been involved in excluding the admission of a lot of damaging evidence against him – citing all kinds of legal  technicalities.
The main issue in an impeachment trial is the moral character of the accused who as a public servant is supposed to be an honest moral person. Any evidence that relates to his moral character should be material and relevant.
Here, the rights and interest of the people to obtain justice and have honest public servants should weigh heavily against the rights of the accused re exclusion of evidence.  Senator-judges can and should in fact consider even evidence and facts not admitted technically in court. They should fill in the blank spaces to see the truth and the big  picture about the accused – when they decide on his guilt or his innocence.
This Corona Impeachment Court has ruled repeatedly against admitting evidence touching on the wrongful acts or moral character of the accused. In fact, the very first ruling of the Court was to excuse Corona and his family from appearing in Court. The Presiding Senator reasoned that their appearances would violate their right against self incrimination. I went to law school in the United States and have been practicing law here for more than thirty years. I still have to see a court stand in the shoes of the defendant and on his or her behalf  claim this Fifth Amendment Constitutional right against self incrimination.
This right or privilege against self incrimination is personal and belongs to the accused. It is when he is being asked a question or being asked to testify during a court or related proceeding that he can assert this right. Here the Court’s  Presiding Senator Juan Ponce Enrile asserted this right for Corona and his family without them being present in court.  Technically,  Enrile has no legal standing to do this even if he might have been in good faith in zealously protecting Corona’s Constitutional rights. Enrile may have made a mistake but nevertheless, a majority of the Senator-judges affirmed his ruling. The country has to live with this mistake.
Not even President Bill Clinton was excused from appearing in his trial. The Presiding Officer did not excuse his appearance on grounds that the trial might infringe on his right against self incrimination as nothing would have prevented Clinton from asserting this right  during his  trial and related proceedings.
How can Impeachment Court Senator-Judges determine the moral character of the accused public official Corona and the extent of his wrongdoing – if evidences of his wrongdoing are kept from being admitted? How terrible is the injustice inflicted on his victims – the Filipino people – when it is some Senator-Judges themselves who are engaged in preventing  relevant evidence and facts from being presented?
Some  Senator-Judges  rationalize their actions in preventing damning evidence against Corona from being admitted by citing rules of evidence or displaying mock concerns for the civil rights of the accused or by pointing to the incompetence of the prosecution.
Rules of law, whether regarding evidence or on some other issues – are meant to serve the ends of justice. They are not meant to be abused by the accused to hide his guilt. The accused’s civil rights are not violated if he is given the opportunity to explain and to be heard.
Our people groan from the heavy burdens caused by mass poverty and widespread corruption. They cry out to the high heavens for justice. Dishonest calloused Justices and judges are deaf to their cries. They will groan and cry some more if they feel that they are again being screwed in this impeachment trial. We cannot allow ourselves to forever be victims of dishonest greedy officials placed in power to serve but instead  betray us.
This impeachment case is crucial in this war against corruption.  The country needs an honest and efficient judicial system to rid the country of corrupt government officials through proper prosecutions and trials. The Chief Justice who leads the Judicial Branch, like any leader, is supposed to lead by example. The country cannot have a clean judicial system if its head and the other Justices have questionable integrities and perceived as lacking the moral authority to lead.
This impeachment trial relates to President Aquino’s all out war against corruption which the people support.
Can President Aquino and the people afford to lose this war?
This war against massive corruption in the country has to do with improving the lives of all our people. This impeachment trial is directly related to that war. The Chief Justice of the highest court in the land is undergoing trial in a confused Senatorial Impeachment Court proceeding. The people cannot rely on an unreliable impeachment system to rid the country of undesirable erring officials.
This war is between the Corona and GMA forces on the one side and the good people of the Philippines and President Aquino on the other side. Inevitably, the war against corruption is a war of good versus evil.
Like a politician, Corona holds rallies giving the impression of mass support – but attended mostly by forced to attend INC members – who certainly do not represent the sentiments of millions of Filipinos.
On the people’s side in this war against corruption are millions of common Filipinos: taxi,  jitney and tricycle drivers, farmers, factory workers, clerks, computer workers, office workers, businessmen, dentists, doctors, accountants, engineers, students, lawyers, academicians, teachers, nuns, priests  and hundreds of thousands of overseas Filipinos (toiling in distant lands because of corruption in the homeland).
Like them, I have nothing personal against Corona – but just want a better life for all Filipinos. We cannot have that unless we rid the country of institutionalized corruption. How I wish Corona and some Arroyo appointed Justices would just resign and redeem themselves by helping to clean out the judicial system and make it more efficient for the good of all. Within all of us are seeds of good and evil – and we are always free to decide one way or the other.
On the people’s side also is President Simeon Benigno Aquino who wants to rid the country of corruption.  Some well-meaning Senators are also on this same side.
The people need to now support Aquino’s  all out war against corruption. This is a rare national opportunity to bring about significant lasting reforms.
Four years from now we will have a new president.  In our history, only two presidents are known not to have engaged in corruption so the odds are against us. If the next one is corrupt, then we are back to square one. Worst because then the country would be drowned with a sense of hopelessness and the thought that we had a chance to rid the country of corruption but it did  not happen.  Many will then also conclude that it is impossible to have reforms through peaceful means.
This Impeachment Court will likely not succeed in removing Corona as Chief Justice – even if he deserves to be removed. As a removal system for erring key officials, it is dysfunctionally ineffective. Having politician Senators as judges is simply not going to work. Partisan politics and personal agendas will simply prevent the gathering of 16 votes necessary to remove him from office. It did not work in Estrada’s impeachment trial. It’s not working now nor is it likely to work in future impeachment cases.
Given that the system is defective and that the Constitution need to be amended in order to fix a broken impeachment system, should the people then just accept the partisan and personal agenda based decision of eight or more Senator-judges – that will drastically affect the future well being of millions of Filipinos? The people and Aquino should refuse to be fools and fight tooth and nail for the common good.
If eight or more  Senators  acquit Corona despite enough evidence showing that he is not morally fit to continue on as Chief Justice, they will likely justify their decision by claiming that the prosecution did not do a good job. The prosecution’s competence or lack of it will be used as a convenient excuse to justify the unjustifiable even if  the real issues are Corona’s guilt and moral character and not the prosecution’s competence.
In the Estrada impeachment trial, which was watched closely on TV, radio and printed media – the people concluded in their hearts and minds – that Estrada was guilty as hell. Correctly, they resorted to defending the people and used their numbers  to forcibly excise him from office when they concluded that many of the Senators were betraying them. The country belongs to the people and not to a crooked few.
If the system does not work, the people must protect themselves and future generations using alternative means in removing erring officials.  People power is a legitimate means of protecting the people’s interest when the mechanisms of government fail to do so.
The US Constitution was written by very wise men who learned from the lessons of history that at any time, government can fall into the wrong hands and can be used to oppress and/or steal from the people. Modern examples are the governments of Marcos, Mugabe, Khadafy, Hussein, Ceseascu, Mubarak, etc. As such, they made sure that the people had the right to bear arms and wrote this in stone in the US Constitution – in case the people needed to defend themselves against the government.
The people are looking to President Aquino to provide strong leadership in this war against corruption and by implication against the Corona forces. He was elected by millions of people based on his anti-corruption promise and continues to maintain their trust.
Aside from this mandate, he also has the support of the United States and a sympathetic global community in the fight against corruption and the quest for a better life for all Filipinos.
Capitalizing on all of this support and utilizing his legitimate powers, aside from the impeachment process, Aquino can bring down erring Justices and judges using other legal means in order to clean up the judicial system.
For example. Corona apparently has enormous wealth. The fact is that at some points of time , he continuously was earning huge sums of money from  either legitimate or illegitimate sources – in order to acquire his various real property holdings and millions of peso and dollar deposits.  He obviously did not declare these incomes in his annual income tax papers. This alone  provides enough probable cause which opens him to all kinds of possible charges including  income tax fraud, misrepresentation, conversion, etc.
Many other legal tools can be used including the mutual legal assistance treaty with the U.S. to help criminally prosecute erring officials with assets in the U.S. Aquino’s government should use all of the resources available.
Aquino should also have the Department of Justice recruit many sharp idealistic young lawyer prosecutors and honest intelligent investigators – in order to successfully prosecute as many corrupt officials as possible. He needs this special team to rid the country of mass corruption. This is an absolute necessity to accomplish the difficult task of eradicating mass corruption. All this talk  about us being his bosses, “daang matuwid”, no “wang wang” – is just empty talk, meaningless slogans and vocal cosmetics – if no significant major speedy measurable reforms result.
Corona was elected as Chief Justice by only one person who is presently detained. His patroness former President GMA, who is widely perceived as corrupt – is accused of plunder and election sabotage among other serious charges. Millions of honest citizens elected Aquino whereas only one non-credible person  elected Corona.
Politically, Aquino cannot afford to lose to Corona in this war. If with all his powers as President and the support of the people and the international community, he is still unable to influence the removal of Corona from office through this impeachment process or by using other legitimate alternatives – he will lose face and credibility. People will lose their faith in him and see him as a weak leader. Then he and we are all screwed.
Neither Aquino nor the people can afford to lose in this all out war against corruption and mass poverty. So much is at stake. We need to end mass suffering and fight for a better future for all. It’s a now or never situation. To be involved in this effort to create a better Philippines if not a better world – is a sacred obligation to God, our fellowmen and ourselves.This endemic culture of corruption which permeates government and Philippine society from the very top to to the very bottom must be vaporized – eradicated – if we are to change the lives of millions of Filipinos for the better. Who else will be involved in this all-out war in the Philippines except us Filipinos wherever we are in this world?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Juan Ponce Enrile at 88

JPE at 88
JPE, at this stage of his life and career may now be thinking about the legacy he would leave behind for posterity after having been part of the nation’s history, sometimes as hero and sometimes as villain, but, in both cases, so clearly a conspicuous shine, either brightly or darkly in the political firmament of the country. In his youth he was outstandingly intelligent, a fact which his errantly fecund father could not help but recognize and took him in his aegis  and welcomed him into the respectability of his legitimate household. His academic record is par excellence having graduated with honours in the state university despite the fact he was a working student. His academic history is capped by having completed post graduate studies in Harvard.
In the impeachment trial it is disappointing to see him vacillate in his rulings, blowing hot and cold, favouring a technicality then going back to the search for truth modality expected of an impeachment court.  Perhaps he finds himself in a quandary in the desire to payback an old lawyer friend who was instrumental in exonerating him from rebellion charges in the dark distant past. This lawyer friend is none other than, Serafin Cuevas, the lead counsel for the defense of the impeached Corona. JPE has had moments forgetting his role as presiding officer of the impeachment court. The countervailing force may be his earnest desire to be seen in a heroic light, fair and truly the venerable statesman dispensing equitable justice towards all. After achieving power and pelf one aspires for honour, perhaps as an attempt to put an icing to cover the pragmatic and less noble ways one had employed to achieve wealth and influence.
Who would have thought that JPE would be such a wimp and allow his court to be overrun by the overbearing lady senator whose intractable behaviour remained unchecked throughout the whole impeachment proceedings. This weakness was carried over by his reluctance to fight for the integrity of his impeachment court by allowing the Supreme Court to defy the subpoena orders issued by his court. He reasoned out that he was avoiding a clash between the Supreme Court and the Senate which may lead to a constitutional crisis. He opted to play “chicken” in what was a confrontation between the wills of two powerful coequal branches of government citing the doctrine of “last to act” to avoid a collision. Both are governed by the same doctrine and the Supreme Court could have played “chicken” but was more unshakeable than the presiding officer of the impeachment court. What seemed apparent was his evasion of any conflict with the stalwarts of the defense either in admonishing the boorish loudness of Miriam, checking the loquacious but sagacious Cuevas both of whom have knowledge of the law in depths rivalling his own. There were times that one might suspect that he, not to be outdone, joined in the ego tripping of Cuevas and Miriam and lectured in a condescending fashion the members of the prosecution team.
What goes on in the mind of a political Titan in the twilight of his years: intimations of mortality, the life hereafter, divine justice, past glories, leaving a fine footprint in history and having a chance at greatness in the eyes of his countrymen? The other side of the coin is the infamy of being regarded as one of the dark lords during the reign of the dictator Marcos, as a lackey of the former dictator, an architect of the rapacious martial law regime and the gang leader of a coup attempt of the newly installed Cory government. He was a man disgraced but through the magnanimity and a non-rancorous Cory leadership and a nonindignant citzenry has allowed him to bounce back unfettered by his past sins and have risen to lofty enough aspirations, not as a president of the republic but as Senate President.
Is he his own man still or is he nothing more than just a befuddled old man torn between die-hard bad habits versus his concern about leaving a positive legacy for his name or even making peace with his maker before the curtains fall?
Worldly successful old men at their end of days often reflect on the biblical question; “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but suffer the loss of his soul?” If “...loss of his soul” means having distanced himself from the truth (...the way and the light) then it is equivalent to the perdition of losing one’s desired place  in history and being in hell. JPE is faced with the question of holding on to his hubris or renounce it by a last act of avoiding a collision with what is right. It should be an easy one for JPE to decide.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Scream


Miriam’s Moments of Madness

(sources:  spot.ph and other newspaper anecdotal accounts)

When the picture of Atty Vitaliano Aguirre appeared in the dailies looking miserable with his hands cupping his ears I was reminded of the paintings of Edvard Munch, a Norwegian symbolist painter, who explored the themes of love, fear, death, melancholia, and anxiety.One of the more popular paintings of Munch was entitled The Scream which depicted a man with hands cupping his agonized face shrieking in what seemed to be an excruciating experience. My analogy may be a tad exaggerated but so was Atty. Aguirre’s pose, but, it did convey the fact that Miriam may have overstepped her bounds by inflicting aural and emotional pain to the members of the prosecution panel.

As pointed out by several observers prior to the ugly confrontation between Miriam Santiago and Atty. Vitaliano Aguirre, the chief presiding officer of the impeachment court, JP Enrile seemed to have abdicated his role as moderator of the court and have allowed senator jurors, the lead defense counsel and even himself to debase and ridicule the prosecutors in the prosecution panel. The phrase “sober as a judge” has been given new meaning in the impeachment court when decorum and sobriety were thrown out of the window. The prosecution panel became daily fare for the sadistic penchant of some of the senator jurors, more specifically Miriam Santiago. She had taken fancy on Rep. Niel Tupaz who became her favourite target for her sarcastic and demeaning tirades, gave him a grade of 3 (conditional?) in case presentation with a few expletives thrown in. The portrayal of Niel Tupaz as a bumbling buffoon may have hurt his political reputation to the delight of his political foes, namely the Defensors of Iloilo to whom Miriam is closely related to.  The prosecution, an aggrupation of congressmen and a few private prosecutors might have been guilty of poorly crafting the impeachment papers and for ineptness on litigation procedures relative to legal lion like the lead defense counsel, but surely did not deserve the bamboozling that they got. It is to their credit that they have maintained their cool but not until Atty. Vitaliano Aguirre showed a quite passive protest gesture by cupping his ears. This was not allowed to be passed up by Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who made much of the gesture as an act of disrespect to the whole Senate impeachment court. Miriam made a motion to cite Atty. Aguirre in contempt which was followed forthwith by a seconding of the motion by Senator Pia Cayetano. The senators should have been more sober and judicious to just allow something so petty just pass and not make drama out of such a trivial matter, besides this was precipitated by Miriam’s scathing verbal abuse delivered in a paroxysm of rage for effect. While Senator Peter Cayetano concurred with the citing in contempt of Atty. Aguirre he couldn’t help himself but quip “having Atty Aguirre listen to Miriam for 24 hours would have been a fitting penalty”, wittingly or unwittingly agreeing that a voice like a screaming banshee is indeed intolerable.

JP Enrile has been praised for some judicious rulings in the course of the impeachment proceedings but, by and large, had made the impeachment rules as if it was a work in progress, going as his mood and spirit moved him. This led to inconsistent rulings to the dismay of the prosecution panel. He has been timid to chastise the uncouth behaviour of senator judges and has allowed himself to be cowed to go against the manifestations of a slick and savvy lead prosecution counsel (in an interview by Karen Davila of ANC’s Headstart the lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas intimated that he once saved the chief presiding officer, JPEnrile from the case of rebellion filed by Cory’s government, also, Cuevas was the one swore in Arturo Tolentino as president as ploy so that Marcos can reclaim it when comes back from exile; now that explains a lot of things). The impeachment proceedings transformed itself into a three ring circus with feral felines clawing and roaring without a lion tamer is the fault of the presiding officer.

If it’s any consolation, the testy lady senator from Iloilo does not discriminate on the object of her affections or affectations. She has been on a ballistic spree and has been cutting down people on camera at every opportunity ever since god knows when.  

 Here are just a few examples of bad language from Miriam that would put Tiger Woods’ demeanour and gutter utterances, when trapped in a cavernous bunker, look innocent and benign:


Miriam told the prosecution that they are all “gago” and that all that they have been doing are “kagaguhan”. This led to one of private prosecution lawyers, Vitaliano Aguirre, to be cited in contempt for cupping his ears to avoid the shrill screams of the enraged Miriam.

--Santiago reacting to state prosecutor’s cupping his ears while she was talking - From the Feb. 29 Impeachment proceedings

The fig leaf has to go

 Told UP students who conducted a survey (500 sample) to leave UP for displaying stupidity. The “Oblation” should take off his fig leaf, perhaps in reference to transparency when she asked them to reveal their backers. In the survey the results show that 75% voted to have Renato Corona resign from his post. 

--Santiago reacting to UP students’ survey on Renato Corona Feb. 29, 2012 Impeachment proceeding

Provocative Look

"May I request the Chief Justice to discipline. Or, at the very least, admonish and reprimand this group that sees itself so high above the law."

--Santiago to Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. in 2001, during the impeachment trial of then President Joseph "Erap" Estrada. Santiago was irked by a group of spectators in the Senate gallery whom she claimed looked at her "provocatively." The spectators were asked to leave the gallery.

“Mga Talakitok”

"If you can't find enough number of senators as a bloc, then bumili ka doon sa (buy some at the) House. Mas marami sila, di mas mura sila. Para silang mga talakitok (There are a lot of them, so they're cheaper. They're like fish)."

--Santiago in full-on sarcastic mode in 2007, when her anti-billboard bill just got swept under the rug.

Don’t text While I Talk

"May I just say to those two girls there... Will you please stop smiling and looking at your cellphones. If you're not listening to my speech, please step out! Now! Nakaka-insulto ang ginagawa ninyo sa Senado ng Pilipinas (What you're doing is an insult to the Philippine Senate)."

--Santiago to two women in the Senate gallery during her 2009 privilege speech, which criticized government officials who appeared in infomercials. The two women were, of course, asked to leave the gallery.

God's Power of Attorney

"Who knows what God is? Who understands the mind of God? Who has a direct line to God so that he or she can ask God what is right or what is wrong. Pag sinabi mong Diyos at mali ang ginagawa ng iba ayon sa Diyos. Ikaw ang nagsasalita para sa Diyos. (You refer to God and you say there are other people doing things wrong according to God. Then you're the one speaking for God.) I would like to see the appointment papers of the Black and White people from God, signed by God, appointing them, giving them powers of attorney."

—Santiago to Dinky Soliman, on December 14, 2011, at what would have been the confirmation hearing of the latter as Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary. Santiago had grilled Soliman and even asked her about her membership in the Black & White Movement, an organization of concerned citizens that was formed in 2005 primarily to call for the resignation of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

 Pa Epal Epal

"Therefore it behooves us to start with this principle: 'Justice delayed is justice denied.' Huwag na tayong magpa-epal dito dahil nawawalan ng gana ang nanonood. Tama na 'yun. Dumaan na tayo doon (Let's stop grandstanding because viewers are losing interest. Enough of that. We've been through that)."

-Santiago on Day 5 of Chief Justice Renato Corona's impeachment trial, on January 24, 2012, somewhat warning everyone not to waste time with rhetorics. Shortly after this, Santiago ended up berating Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. for not immediately knowing how many witnesses the prosecution team was going to present.

Incompetent and “Duwag”

"Tila hindi n'ya naintindihan and ginagawa n'ya, in which case incompetent s'ya. O alam n'ya pero pibapabayaan n'ya, in which case duwag s'ya (It seems that he doesn't understand what he's doing, in which case he's incompetent. Or maybe he knows what he's doing but he's just letting things slide, in which case he's a coward)."

--Santiago talking about Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno in 2009. She was incensed because she thought he couldn't control the so-called warlords in Maguindanao.

Flouting the Order of the Senate

"What kind of public officials are Secretary Gary Teves and Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez that they will not act on a cause of action that brings national embarrassment to the entire Philippine government in the international community? How dare they flout the order of the Philippine Senate?

--Santiago talking about Department of Finance Secretary Margarito "Gary" Teves and Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez in 2009. She was enraged that they had snubbed a Senate hearing on the blacklisting of three Filipino contractors for alleged corruption.

The Honourable Spittoon Face

“I spit on the face of Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban and his cohorts in the Supreme Court, I am no longer interested in the position [of Chief Justice] if I was to be surrounded by idiots. I would rather be in another environment but not in the Supreme Court of idiots.”

--Santiago reacting to her being disqualified from the nomination of candidates for Chief Justice position 

I Can Scream Can’t I

"Please don’t treat me as a mere observer. I am a judge in this proceeding! In any trial court, you should not speak, you should not take any behavior at all unless with the consent of the presiding judge. Don't drown me out by screaming in this courtroom! Only I can scream here and my fellow judges!"

Santiago berating private prosecutor Arthur Lim, on January 25, 2012. Santiago was irritated that Lim once again brought up issues that had already been decided on by the court.

Miriam’s Sensitive Ears

"What the heck is so important? Is it going to change the configuration of the astrophysical universe? This is the last warning. I will cite you for contempt!"

--Santiago to people whose cellphones kept ringing during a 2010 Senate session. Prior to the start of the session, Santiago had asked everyone to turn off their cellphones.

Gunfight at OK Corral

"I challenge the shadowy faces behind this corrupt media blitz. Come on you hypocrites, stop being sneaky. Be men, come out of the bushes, and reveal yourselves. Since you have chosen to engage in character assassination, let us have a showdown at the OK Corral in full view of the public."

--Santiago to her detractors at the height of the NBN/ZTE Broadband controversy in 2007.

I don’t think we will ever see Miriam donning repentant rags in atonement for her profanities and uncharitable behaviours against other people during the season of Lent. She said she is not changing her personality for the countless and nameless faces who disapprove the way she talks and fires up, especially against people who challenge her. ''I cannot please all other people all of the time. I'm only addressing my own constituents, the university students and urban professionals,'' she said, in characteristic “taray”, excluding the rest of the marginalized Filipinos who wallow in ignorance and poverty from the rest of what she considers as her kind of people; how elitist! what arrogance!

She said of her detractors, “This is a personality attack. They want me to change my personality. Hindi na possible 'yan because I was born this way,'' It’s just like saying that she was “pinanganak at pinaglihi sa sama ng loob”. This as an  excuse for antisocial boorishness, penchant for unbridled ad hominems and low regard of others including her peers is not acceptable and has no place in decent society. She should be exiled in an unpopulated desert island where cursing her existence and everybody else’s would be justified or encourage her to join an obscure cult whose abode would be the fastnesses of the mountain ranges of Afghanistan were communications would be limited to the occasional sounding of a highland horn blown by a Taliban terrorist.