Saturday, September 27, 2003


DISCUSSING " A FAREWELL TO ARMS", Prof. Edna Manlapaz, was at a loss for words in describing the predicament of the lovers in this great Hemingway novel. She said it was something like a famous song in the 70's. Our class was silent for a moment and then Kris Aquino blurted, "Ma'am, I think I know that.. You and me against the world." and then she sang the first part of the verse, "You and me against the world," in her characteristic semi-alto and semi-soprano voice. It was a classic Kris Aquino moment. My classmates managed to smile and Prof. Manlapaz obliged Kris with the affirmation, "Yes, Kris, that's right. That's the song."

Although I was majoring in Philosophy in the Ateneo then, I took electives in English Literature, such as the Modern Novel and Creative Writing, which accounts for my "a little more than casual acquaintance" with the Philippines's controversial celebrity icon who was an English major. Her mother was still President then and Kris walked around the campus with a pair of bodyguards in well-pressed barongs. She was an "A" student and many times I wondered how she could finish three-hour exams in one hour and got those high grades. I remember once in class she told Eric Torres, the quintessential Ateneo poet-in-residence, that she was a speed-reader and it was the reason why she could finish the semester's reading list in a week.

Yet, somehow she didn't have the skill to deal with her heart's passion -- something that she herself admitted. Already a movie star back then, Kris had an affair with a married young actor. In creative writing class, she submitted a poem about a woman caught in a rivalry for
the love of a man in love with another woman. We speculated about the identity of the man, but our teacher managed to treat the poem with the same academic detachment as with the others. Being the darling of the press, her love life was often the subject of many news and magazine features, including gossips. But the nation sort of felt a catharsis from the love bubbling out of the young lady. While attending law school, I learned from a cousin of hers the hush news that she got pregnant with an action star who was many years her senior and with whom she carried out a secret affair. From then on, Kris became the the Philippine icon of illicit love -- the kind that sought acceptance and understanding.

To everyone's surprise, Philippine society appeared to be ready to accept her moral transgressions. In spite of all her publicized affairs with married men, Kris made it big as an actress (even managing to get an award), TV hostess, and commercial model. Somehow, she mirrored the Filipinos' changing view on love and sex. Gone are the days when concubines and paramours were looked upon with hatred and contempt. Moral judgments appeared to be suspended or even re-calibrated. If there were villains in society, there were no other than those who deceived people's hearts for power and money. But for people truly in love, the Philippines says welcome. It is okay to love -- even for those who are legally and morally no longer permitted to love -- for as long as it is "true love " Yes -- Kris Aquino's candor and wit somehow affirmed the Filipino's often quoted cliche "true love conquers all."

THE OTHER DAY, AN OFFICEMATE KIDDED ME that my officemate was going to get married soon and asked if I could work on the marriage license. I replied in jest that yes I could do it in a day and I could make it a 'little defective" so that when the time comes she can easily squeeze out of it with an annulment. We laughed our hearts out. The joke is that nobody appears to be taking marriage seriously nowadays. Marriage, as a Philippine institution, is indeed in serious peril. With the speed that marriage is contracted and annulled through Family courts thanks (but really no thanks) to the 1987 Family Code, marriage is no longer the revered civil status that it once was. More and more people are getting their marriage annulled. In client meetings, I am often taken aback by people making comments about their ex-wives and ex-husbands. I do not have the exact figures but I am pretty sure that the 1987 Family Code allowed annulments of marriage actions to hit an all time high in the history of the Philippines.

With the legal, moral and religious duties that go with marriage, the perception that marriage should be permanent appears to be getting eroded. Indeed, how many times are we going to hear that comment, "why should people be made to suffer a loveless union?" But is marriage really that burdensome? As regards to legal duties, more often that not, married couples are governed by the property regime of absolute community, which means, everything is owned by the husband and wife together. Thus, neither one can execute a sale without the other having to sign his conformity. It is kind of difficult for couples to deal with this, especially when one is making a stake for having acquired the property solely on his efforts. There are people I know who cannot seem to buy the idea of having to share their salaries with their spouses. As far as moral duties are concerned, the issue occurs when one of the spouses go astray, as in become an alcoholic or a drug addict, and drags the other to a life of hell. The moral bonds of marriage would somehow compel the other spouse to help the other get out of the fix. But often the easiest solution is get an annulment on the ground of psychological incapacity. With respect to religion, my Theology teacher, Amy Tolosa Duremdes, managed to make it sink in my head that "marriage is a pathway to holiness." Thus, marriage is not the be all and end all of happiness. It is but a tool towards the pilgrimage to God from whom true happiness can be found. Unfortunately, it all sounds too good and hard for many Filipinos to understand. For what many Filipinos believe is the simple idea that marriage should always be a function of love. All these little obligations appear to be irrelevant when one is in love. Marry for love. But when love is gone, annul it. Otherwise, the legal, moral and religious duties of a married person will sink you in unhappiness forever.

PERHAPS THIS IS THE REASON WHY Filipinos are willing to forgive Kris Aquino for her affairs with married men. Recall that her major partners attempted to annul their previous marriages to fulfill a promise to bring Kris to the altar. And this effort to "go legit", as it were, appears to be the saving grace of these affairs. No longer is it necessary for Kris to blurt out her theme song, "You and me against the world." for the Filipinos are ready to accept illicit love for as long as it is true. They also encourage the annulment of marriage if it becomes an obstacle to love. For whatever it takes, illicit love should become legit. And Kris is the embodiment of illicit love that is pure and true that seeks nothing but acceptance and legitimacy. How could it be so wrong?

As I sit and type out these last few thoughts, I cannot help but feel squeamish about how this is all going to end for Philippine society. Just a month ago, a feature in Discovery channel talked about love and romance being a three-year cycle. It said that romance may actually be triggered by body chemicals that wear out in three years, just about the time that is needed to sire a kid or two. If indeed the view that marriage is a function of love is prevailing in this country, I can not help but imagine the huge number of children who will suffer the trauma of custody fights and the loneliness of single parents. The nuclear Filipino family is no longer going to be the simple father-mother-child trilogy, but will include a step-father, a step-mother and a step-child, whichever may be the case. And the Catholic Church will be increasingly bothered by a growing disbelief on one of its most sacred sacraments.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Supreme Court nullifies commercial law bar exams

It's a very unfortunate incident. Apparently, the 50 bar questions from which the bar examiner for commercial law chose the final 15 or so questions given during the bar exams leaked to the examinees. The real tragedy, however, is that the greater majority of the examinees who probably did not get copies of the leak will have to suffer the consequences of the misdeed of a few. Instead of resting after the last Sunday of the bar exams, they have to find a second wind and be up to another week for the re-take of the commercial law exams.

The Philippine Bar exams is perhaps the most difficult licensure exams in the Philippines, if not in the world. Taken in all Sundays of September every year, the Philippine bar exams covers all 8 fields of law -- political, labor, civil, taxation, commercial, criminal, remedial and legal ethics. Each subject involves thousands of cases and pages of statutes to comprehend and remember. Yet, for all its difficulty, the true test in the bar exams is the stamina to complete the four difficult weeks, the main highlights of which are the four-hour exams in the mornings and three-hour exams in the afternoons of all Sundays of September. Mind you, the exams are all essay type. So apart from the need to have a good analytical mind to comprehend the question, the examinee also needs to have a good command of the English language and a legible penmanship. That's why of the four thousand or so who take the exams every year, only about five hundred pass the same.

When I took the bar exams of 1995, I followed a strict 7:00 am to 12:00 midnight study schedule everyday in September. There was too much material to cover, so I had to ensure that every waking hour mattered. Thus, when I took the bar, I had enough confidence that I would pass it and the only question in my mind was whether I would get high marks. Well, I would say I had decent marks, except for embarrassing grades in political and labor law, all my other six exams were in the line of 8. But true enough, I was stressed by the third week. I found the exams quite fair but the fatigue took its toll on me that I purposedly took a 30 minute nap during the commercial law exams. It was a gamble that paid off. If I had not taken that nap, I would have committed lapses in grammar and analysis and flunked it altogether.

I did not bother myself with so-called "tips", because I had enough control of the material that I was able to predict or have an educated guess on the questions that were given. One funny incident is that of civil law where three days before the exam I was so certain that a question would be asked on alien adoption under the Family Code. I told friends to memorize the circuitous provision on this aspect of civil law and memorized it myself. Before the actual exams, I even went through the text with a classmate and recited the provision verbatim. Thus, when I read the questions during the exams itself and true enough there was that 10 point question on alien adoption, I dove right into it. The trouble was, I got too excited that I got it all mixed up. I think I was able to struggle and got a large part of the question right. But after the exams, I kept on saying, "I knew it all along. But how could I have not gotten all those ten points?"

Thus, I have some misgivings on the decision to nullify the exams. While the incident is truly despicable, I do not think nullifying the commercial law exams is necessary. This is so because the rightness or wrongness of the answers to the questions are not really the object of the exams, but the manner by which the answers were given by the examinees. In other words, examinees with poor English and poor penmanship are bound to flunk even if they got copies of the exams way ahead of the others. If the questions were the matching type exams, then a leakage would definitely call for a retake. But the bar exams is essay type. Thus, even if the examinee gets the right answer for a question, he still needs to defend and explain his answer. The explanation is the real point maker. As I said earlier, a good review of the material will make it possible for the examinee to actually predict the questions -- in spite of the expanse of the coverage. But what matters is the manner of answering, leaks or no leaks. The final word, however, is out. The Supreme Court has made a decision and all the examinees can do now is take a deep breathe and pray that there is enough energy to go for another week.

UPDATE: September 30, 2003

The Supreme Court reconsidered and ordered the cancellation of the mercantile law exams. Instead, the 15% allotted for the exams will be distributed evenly to the other subjects. See full story here.

Sunday, September 14, 2003



Democracy has an anomaly. The masses are dumb. They elect buffoons in office. They are easily fooled by propaganda. Thus, criminals and airheads get elected into office. And while in public office, the criminals commit more crimes while their intellectually-challenged colleagues do nothing. It turns into a cycle of criminality and stupidity. Soon, government is dominated by the criminals and the dumbs. Yes, what once Archibald Machleish said as the only "true revolution of today" is a failure. It did not deliver on its promises. And we have no choice but to move on towards a new paradigm of power.

Thomas Kuhn is right. There is no perfect paradigm. Pretty soon as a paradigm has settled in the people's hearts and minds, it exposes its weaknesses and flaws. And remedial measures to cure the defects lead only to more and more anomalies until the system collapses.

Democracy's most recent anomaly is George W. Rising as a political star using his dad's name and political connections, George W. also made his fortune as a crony capitalist with the help of self-dealing accountants -- who ironically gut busted during his term as President. Looking for fashionable things to do, Mr. George W., took in a group of rightists in his cabinet and threw the world at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, in the process lying very much about the justifications for the action and ignoring the United Nations completely. Apparently, he isn't just doing stupid things to the world, he is also fooling around with populist economic policies in his country plunging it into budgetary deficits unheard of in years. Now, everyone in the US is shaking their head. How can the world's most powerful nation elect a buffoon in office? No thanks to this lesson, they are now even contemplating the election of a polish body-builder actor who's movie lines never go beyond "I dunno, you dunno, we dunno." It is inevitable that this other buffoon will become governor and president one day. The masses are dumb. For so long as they vote, they will vote stupid people in office.

And this will be the well spring of the new paradigm. The inherent inability of the people to think and act to their best interest, the fundamental sickness of forgetfulness of what is good for them -- this will be cause of the new paradigm. What will be its shape and form? I do not have the slightest idea. But what I do know is democracy sucks. And we are all finding out about it.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Can the Senate jail Ignacio Arroyo for refusing to answer questions regarding the Jose Pidal accounts?

Senator Angara points to a precedent in the 1950s in the case of Arnault v. Nazareno. See the decision here.

The question, however, is this: should Arnault v. Nazareno be upheld? In this age of the individual, can we afford to affirm the lack of power of the individual against the abusive transgressions of the police state? With all its resources and might, the Philippine State has become susceptible to abuse by politicians who care not for public service but cater solely to personal and crony interest. There is no doubt that the Jose Pidal expose is motivated by political interest -- vengeance, resentment, political leveraging, what have you, but definitely not for the public interest or in "aid of legislation". The State is imperfect. Should it have the power fit only for a perfect State?

Everybody appears to disgree with the invocation of this right in this particular case. Yet, imagine for a moment, that Mr. Arroyo is not the brother-in-law of the President. Imagine that he really did this to hide his wealth from kidnappers and a former wife. Take this case in isolation of the political reality. Is it really proper for the senators to feast on his bank transactions, especially when the man who started this conundrum is just leveraging the murder cases filed against him by the administration? Is it right for the senate to pry on anybody's bank account? Is it right for the State to meddle with anybody's finances -- be it in the multi-million sums or measly change. Do we all have to explain to the Philippine State why we have that much or that little in the bank?

The Philippine State -- with all its bureaucrats and politicians -- does not know how to handle power. It should not be given too much of it.

UPDATE: October 13, 2003

Senate Committee Chair upholds Ignacio Arroyo's right to privacy. Full story here.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Note: We're starting a blog on the Philippine Elections of 2004. It can be accessed at What follows is our first entry.

PING LACSON EXPOSES: What's the point?

Yesterday, we found out more about the activities of the First Gentleman from Sen. Ping Lacson. No use repeating them here. Just follow this link for details. Of course, the effort to connect the scandal to the President is there but so far the President has been successful in distancing herself from the onslaught on her husband. Yet, at the end of the day, what will Sen. Ping Lacson achieve? How do these exposes turn into votes for Sen. Ping Lacson? After Ping has dished out everything on the First Gentleman, people are not necessarily going to vote for him. He doesn't have that cathartic angst, as it were, that Joker Arroyo (no relation to the President and the First Gentleman) had when Joker was running after then President Estrada -- the primary factor why it was easy to translate anti-Erap exposes into votes. But true or not, Sen. Lacson's allegations are sure to damage every bit of goodwill that the First Gentleman has built in the two and half years that Mrs. Arroyo was President.

The word from the Sen. Ping Lacson's camp is that all that he is afraid of is the revival of the Kuratong Baleleng case and other cases purportedly filed against him by the President's men. Some of the cases appear to be unbailable, thus the worst case scenario is that Sen. Lacson may have to campaign in jail. If you have cornered a guy who has the goods on you, you can no doubt expect a fight to the end. And this appears to be the point of this hoopla.

Here then are the scenarios we can expect:

Ping Wins

The President resigns or is removed from office. The Vice President takes over or a military junta assumes power. Parokya ni Edgar sings Kuratong Baleleng and that is all we remember about it.

Arroyo wins

The President survives the attacks and a warrant of arrest is issued against Sen. Lacson for the Kuratong Baleleng case. He goes into hiding or campaigns in a cell.

Win Win Solution

Ping stops and the Kuratong Baleleng cases are dropped or archived. We will have peace to dismay of the newspapers.

Nobody wins

Arroyo is forced to resign or not to run again. Ping goes to jail. And finally, justice triumphs in the end.

No doubt the circus called "Philippine Elections" has begun.