Monday, December 20, 2004

One Entry Before Christmas

I have discovered the lawyer's "Blog-Work Theory". The number of entries I have on this blog is inversely proportional to the amount of work I have in the office. Since I have not posted since November, you can tell the office work has been tough. I'm running 18 hour days, travelling to Central Luzon and Mindanao in a week on top of a daily grind of an average of three meetings a day. It has always been like this every December. Last year, my driver suffered a stroke after going through a gruelling December day. He is still alive, but I had to let him go take a less strenous office job somewhere. December is a hazardous month for a lawyer and his staff, just as it is for this blog.

Lest we get buried by more work, let this blogger go for one final blow:

Merry Christmas everybody!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Of creation, evolution, and monks arguing over angels doing the cha-cha

My old friend Mike Quijano, a contemporary at the Ateneo Law, once chided me for theologizing on air. And for a long time, I have refrained from making comments on theology, because it is not "my battlegound." But Sassy Lawyer has enlivened my interests on this field with a discussion on the history of man. And in spite of the risk of getting berated by Mike Q., straight from Mt. Fiji where he is based, I will indulge a bit to find out if I still have my bearings.

On the Creation-Evolution Debate

Did man get here by evolution or by creation?

If this question were asked in a courtroom, my instincts will immediately get me at my feet:

Objection, the question is misleading. It falsely assumes that the theory of creation makes the theory of evolution impossible, in the same manner, that it falsely assumes that the theory of evolution makes the theory of creation impossible.

Creation is not an event of the past. It is unfolding at this very moment in space and time. Thus, if we assume that evolution is true, it is consistent with the theory of creation, because creation posits that God created us, and is continuing to create us, just as evolution may have happened, and is continuing to happen.

Fr. Roche, S.J. my theology professor, once asked our class, when did God create the world? One classmate said, “Father, ... in the beginning.” Then Fr. Roche said,"Are you saying that God is not creating you now?”

Then he got a notebook and said, “Class, do you understand? If God decides not to create this notebook any more at this very moment, this notebook is not going to drop to the floor. This notebook is going to vanish.”

In other words, it’s not as if God created man in the beginning, and left him alone on his own. Rather, it is a creation that is happening at this very moment. It is the sustenance that has allowed us to exist since the beginning of time, until this very moment, perhaps even until tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and so on

Micketymoc comments, "according to biochemist Peter Atkins, the given physical conditions of the universe allow for an infinitely lazy Creator - a God with absolutely nothing to do! The natural processes of the cosmos take care of making the stars, the plants, and us."

My take, if God were lazy, Mr. Atkins, would not exist.

Thus, creation and evolution are not diametrically opposed concepts. Both could be true. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's Phenomemon of Man attempted to reconcile the two. I would leave this debate on this point, and proceed to be what is the heart of the matter: Whether true knowledge springs from faith, science, or both.

What's wrong with faith?

I can remember only three significant philosphical attempts to arrive at a logical proof of God.

1. St. Anselm said "God is something that which nothing greater can be thought." If this were so, then God must exist, because if God existed only in thought, then you could think of something greater than God--namely, God existing in reality, not just in thought. But you can't think of anything greater than God. So God can't exist only in thought, but must exist in reality, too. It takes a while to sink in. But check out this site for further explanation.

2. St Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica offers five proofs of God

A. The Prime Mover Argument

The argument states that all things have a prime mover who we understand to be God.

"...Whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.?

B. The Efficient Cause Argument

The argument states that God is the efficient cause which gave effect to our existence.

"In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God."

C. The Ex-contingencia Argument

Here St. Thomas goes on a reductio an aburdum argument, as he argues if nothing existed before, then nothing would have ever existed at all. Thus, something must have existed by itself to make other's existence not just possible but a reality, and that something must be God.

"We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence--which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God."

The fourth and fifth, I cannot understand. Look it up yourself here.

3. Pascal's Wager

The last one is not a proof but rather an encouragement for us to believe that there is a God. For if God doesn't exist, we lose nothing if you believe or not. But if God does exist, and you believe, then you gain all. But if you don't, then you lose all. More here.

Given that humanity is finite, as is human perception, the scientific and logical inquiry towards finding the infinite God appears to be doomed from the start. But the three propositions above are the best that humanity can come up with. I would say, they are not bad at all.

Ultimately, enlightenment comes with faith. If faith becomes the jump off point from which all inquiry about God begins, then everything appears to fall into place. I would not pretend that faith is error-free. What with all those people they executed for believing that the world is round? I would say, however, that faith seeks understanding, and with understanding comes knowledge and wisdom.

Faith as a method of knowing appears to be belittled by most thinkers. Indeed, it is not the method by which we can determine whether one plus one equals two or whather the sun is the center of the solar system. It is, however, the method by which we can know the answer to the questions that ultimately matter: What is happiness? What is death? What is life? After all, these questions have answers that no other mode of knowing can find.

What's right with science?

Can we say that the scientific method can lead us to the truth? The scientific method is not exactly bug-free, as it were.
Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions"
argues that science does not evolve gradually toward truth, but instead undergoes periodic revolutions which he calls "paradigm shifts." And through out the history of science, we find our scientists hopping from one paradigm to another, never quite getting “it” until a new paradigm comes a long. This is the reason why Newton’s Laws of Physics are completely incompatible with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. And you can bet, one day, our scientists will be ready to say that Einstein is out of fashion — just like Newton after Einstein posited his famous e=mc2 equation. The raging debate within the scientific community between proponents of quantum physics on one hand and believers of Einstein's Theory of Relativity, on the other, is a demonstration that that day is about to come.

Indeed, the scientific method has not brought us to the point where we can truly claim that the scientific theories of the day are standing on firm ground. The fact that Newton’s Law of Physics stands inconsistent with the Theory of Relativity in the same manner that the Theory of Relativity is incompatible with quantum physics, makes me wonder: Will science ever give us the answer once and for all?

I am not saying that science is useless. The advances in technology that we are enjoying today are all products of good scientific work. But that begs the question: Can science lead us to the truth? Can we break out of our paradigms and find being?

Well, our understanding of paradigms is a good start -- but what if it is in itself a paradigm? Who can possibly tell?


Which way is better?

Micketymoc asks, "How does “faith” approach the truth in any way that’s significantly different from monks arguing on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"

To which I answer with the same question, "How does “the scientific method” approach the truth in any way that’s significantly different from monks arguing on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"

Micketymoc, answers my question, "The difference between monks arguing over angels doing the cha-cha, and scientists working to understand natural processes is, scientists get results!"

What results? Ptolemy's sun theory? Newton's out of style Laws of Physics? Einstein's soon to be discarded Theory of Relativity?

Sassy Lawyer inquires, "So, are we saying that truth is a matter of faith?

I am glad she asked that question, because now we are brought to the ultimate inquiry: What is the truth about death? Corrolarily, what is the truth about life? I am willing to let go of all scientific knowledge (if there be any) and technological advancements of this world if someone could give me a certain answer on the truth about death. For ultimately, man’s mortality makes all things seem but trivial, and I believe that at some point in any person’s life, he/she would find no knowledge more important than the truth about death. Where could man turn to? Science? Logic?

And to go back to Micketymoc's question comparing the monks with the scientists, the difference is this: the monks will ask only questions that ultimately matter. While scientists study what happens when an apple hits your head, monks inquire about what happens when you die. And after scientists have created their towers in the sky, monks declare, all things must pass. "What profits a man...?"

Well, that leads me to the “R” word.

The parting shot

Micketymoc asks, "Perhaps you see the goals of science differently from those who actually pursue science themselves.

The whole goal of science is understanding - but it’s a goal that will never end. Because humanity cannot claim absolute knowledge - the best we can do is to asymptotically approach it, but never attain it."

And I have exactly the same thoughts about faith -- the whole goal of faith is understanding, a goal that may never end. And as stated earlier, given that humanity is finite, as is human perception, the scientific and logical inquiry towards finding the infinite God appears to be doomed from the start. And here is where faith scores the winning points:

Faith is open to the possibility of the divine revelation of the absolute truth. Faith prays for the absolute truth. And with God's grace, some people have been able to see the absolute truth.

So I don’t belittle those monks arguing over angels doing the cha-cha. For indeed, they may have the answer once and for all.


(second revised post)
Thanks to Sassy Lawyer and Micketymoc.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Small Drugstores to Close for Giving Tax Creditable Discounts? You Gotta Be Kidding

The Establishment has a story about the possible closure of small drugstores if the Department of Health implements the full 20 percent discount to senior citizens as mandated by law. The story is obviously a press release masquerading as news. While the story banners a cause and effect slant, it doesn't explain enough how it arrived at that conclusion. The report said that the average spread of small drugstores per drug is only about 5 to 10 percent. It didn't report, however, what percent do the senior citizens' discounts take out of the total sales of these drugstores. Or are we supposed to believe that small drugstores sell only to senior citizens? Ha -- what a joke. The drugstore receipts of my four kids can belie that claim. Besides, the discounts are tax creditable, and taxes take about 30 percent of income. This means the discounts that they give to senior citizens may be applied as tax payments. So there is no loss there at all. They have to pay taxes, don't they? These are details that were left hanging by the press release. What makes them think they can fool us? Pray these people don't grow old.

(Revised post)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Bro. Mike's Big Loan

Most recently, the Establishment bannered the story of the PHP 353 Million loan granted by the PAG-IBIG Fund, a government controlled mutual fund intended for housing loans, to the El Shaddai Group. Why a story like this deserved a banner headline complete with a three column picture is beyond me. Perhaps, the spin doctors have intended to produce the effect of a jovial atmosphere to welcome this big loan. But they’re stupid to think that we can’t see through this fa├žade.

Who brokered this deal, and how much money did he or she make? In the banking sector, a loan is deemed a sale. Sales have brokers, and brokers earn commissions. Whoever brokered this deal is now a very rich man or woman, for that matter. I don’t have any problem with that really. Commissions are part of the transaction cost shouldered by the borrower, which the borrower ultimately has to pay. So nothing lost there yet. Besides, we all are entitled to earn our livelihood. But my problem lies with the process through which this loan was subject. A huge loan like this should have been subjected to the most rigid standards of credit investigation and financial analysis. Trouble is, when you dangle a huge pile of money on the face of a decision-maker, it is very likely that the decision is corrupt. And in the banking sector, corrupted decisions do not manifest themselves until it’s time to pay back, and the borrower cannot pay back.

Further, how much of the entire net worth of the PAGIBIG FUND is this PHP 353 Million? If the El Shaddai Group defaults, will our precious PAGIBIG FUND be able to survive? In the banking sector, they have what they call the single borrower's limit, which is the limit that any single borrower can loan in proportion to the bank's net worth. The Bangko Sentral has set this at 25% of the bank's net worth. Of course, the rule doesn't apply to the PAGIBIG FUND, but prudence dictates that the handlers of the FUND should have taken this into consideration. Otherwise, they should not be sitting there playing with our hard-earned cash.

Indeed, all this is worthless speculation at this moment. Although, I’m really itching to send my associates to get a first hand account of the procedure that this loan went through were it not for the fact that this can take a huge amount of manhours, and it might not be welcomed by the big bosses who approved this loan who happens to include my Kabayan from Pola, Or. Mindoro Vice President Noli Boy De Castro . But it is something you cannot take away from a PAG-IBIG FUND contributor for the last nine years who has not earned any dividends on the fund or secured any of its loans.

So in the end, this is what I can tell Big Brother Mike: I've blogged this day so I won't forget. You owe us. PAY. EVERY. PESO. ON. TIME.


(revised post)

Sassy Lawyer's blog on the same topic here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Church and Taxes

In his column today published by the Establishment, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J. writes that "...the constitutional exemption (from payment of taxes) of churches covers only property used exclusively, actually and directly for religious purposes. It does not cover property not so used. Nor does it cover income from legitimate business operations of churches..." Full article here.

The power to tax includes the power to destroy. This is the logic that emboldens the government to impose high taxes on liquor and tobacco. Of course, the clerics were jesuitic enough to maneuver the constitutional provision exempting religious property from taxation. And Fr. Bernas claims that the "...tax exemptions for religious property are given in order to ensure religious liberty..." This means that the government will not be able to destroy the church through the power of taxation.

This leads me to the point: what about religions that advocate the destruction of government? Does this mean the government will be helpless to tax the same entities which advocate its overthrow?

I have an uncle who swears that his religion is San Miguel Beer and Philip Morris. He is a dutiful believer, and in fact, he worships them everyday. Can he invoke the constitutional provision that Fr. Bernas explained?

It's really very tricky. Nobody regulates churches. That would be unconstitutional, wouldn't it? Nobody even has a legal definition of a church. If I put up a church of my own -- say the "Sun Tzu Church of War" -- does that mean all my properties, if any, are exempt from tax? The answer is Y - E - S. Indeed, by the very nature of religious freedom, any legal challenge to my Sun Tzu Church of War is likely to be repelled. For the state has no business meddling with the affairs of the spirit, it has no choice but to tolerate it and give it tax exemptions.

Time was a person could be executed for believing that the world is round. Our forefathers have made a very significant achievement in the recognition of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. It is significant enough as to make the state helpless to tax church properties in perpetuity.

Well, the wealth witch hunt is on. Whoever brandishes wealth is suspect. Not even the church can escape from the heat. This is the reason why the church itself had to make an announcement to clarify its tax exempt privileges. But methinks, the church has done its homework (what's this centuries-old church and state relationship for?).And the government should poke it nose elsewhere -- unless, of course, we are ready to challenge the logic of exempting religions from taxes. And by doing so, are we regressing to the days when religious freedom was a dream?

By the way, you might be wondering, are there any people who will risk eternal damnation in order to save taxes? Ha -- you might be surprised, but my answer is privileged.

(second revision)

Read the Sassy Lawyer's reaction here.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Statement of Assets and Liabilities for Private Employees

The Establishment has noted a draft bill that proposes to require private employees to file their statement of assets and liabilities. Please see Lifestyle checks up for private workers (Philstar.com - The Filipino Global Community) The bill proposes to require all private sector workers, professionals and other civilians with an annual income of at least P100,000 to file their statement of assets and liabilities (SAL)in the same manner as that of public sector workers.

The idea is to force everyone to state for the record what they own and what they owe, and match this with their declared annual income. If they don't match, then the BIR can build a potential case for tax evasion. It sounds pretty good in theory, but the question is -- can the government be trusted with that data?

If you have an enemy, for example (who may be like a fomer boss, former wife, business and political rival, etc.), and this enemy gets elected into office, which allows her access to these data, you're toast. You are never going to sleep peacefully without a call from the BIR everyday of your life. Maybe if you are clean and are able to match your SAL with your income, your enemy can leak your SAL to the kidnappers and extortionists, in which case, your family is toast. You may not even be able to trust your security guard, even if you can afford one.

Even assuming that this enemy does not get herself elected to office, she can easily link with somebody in government to do that for her. And who in this country does not have a link to a government official? Even your friendly neighborhood squatter can have direct access to a corrupt congressman.

Clearly, this disclosure requirement will make private individuals vulnerable to a lot of attacks, legitimate and illegitimate. Sadly, government's record in protecting private data is poor -- and not just this government. While the proposed bill may be an efficient way to address the problem of tax evasion, the inefficiency in government, which is inherent in any organization particularly in the area of security, will bring prejudice to the individual that will outweigh the benefits of this proposed measure. We may be able to increase revenue collection, but our citizens will live in a state of anxiety -- what with their unexplained wealth (or unexplained poverty, for that matter) resting in a public database for all their enemies to see. Bottomline: we can't trust the government with our private data. Just look at how the SSS and GSIS manage to release loans to tampered accounts. The possibilities are frigthening.

What if you don't have enemies? Maybe you are already dead.

(second revision)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

My Experience as an Exorcist: The Case of the Canadian Stowaway

I have a cousin who began seeing spirits about four years ago. Let's call her KING then a teenager when these events happened. Her third eye was opened when my grandparents, who died about five years ago, tried to convey a message to us, and she was the only willing medium. They have tried to convey a message to me too through a dream, but I was too frightened to talk to them. My cousin who appeared to have been fascinated by her abilities talked to them in her dreams. As she persisted, she soon could see their spirits even in broad daylight.

Thereafter, my cousin allowed herself to be a channel for my grandparents to touch and feel the world again. This is a long story that will be subject of another post. Meanwhile, let's proceed from this premise that after that incident in which my cousin allowed herself to be the channel of my dead grandparents, things were never the same again. Spirits from everywhere have spotted her and have attempted and succeeded to take over her body. It was only through the help of a professional exorcist and her father, an enthusiast of the occult, that she was able to drive them away eventually but not until after they have conveyed the stories of how they died and what they wished for in the physical world.

In the summer of 2001, I brought my family to our hometown in Pola, Or. Mindoro. I had only two kids then. My sister and my cousins joined us in the trip. Pola (also the hometown of the Vice President) rests on the eastern part of Mindoro with vast beaches. Check out the map here. It's primarily an agricultural town, and people often come there to take a vacation after working on the big city. In the first afternoon since we got there, we went for a swim in Aguada Beach.

My cousin King joined us. We had a grand time enjoying the warm and clean water, blue sky and the fine-grained sand. We were the only ones in the beach then, and we were horsing around as if the beach belonged to us. At about 5:00 pm, we decided it was time to go. Our house was about one kilometer away from the beach, so it was a long walk.

On our way home while walking on the beach, the spirit manifested herself to King. The spirit was in distress, and she wanted to talk to King. But due to her previous encounters with restless spirits, King ignored the spirit and continued to walk home with us as if nothing was happening. Apparently, the spirit would not give up and she would follow us all the way home. We were all still clueless about King's encounter with this spirit from the beach.

King's main weapon against these spirits have always been a medal that was given to her by a professional exorcist. I don't have the details of this medal but it has proven very potent as no spirit has succeded taking over her body whenever she wore it. Meanwhile, the spirit decided to stop bothering King as my cousin went inside our house and washed up. This caused King to be a little lax on her defenses as she changed clothes and forgot about the medal that was pinned on her wet clothes. She failed to get it and pin it on her fresh clothes.

Soon after washing up, she felt dizzy and decided to go to sleep. In her sleep, the spirit started bothering her again. The spirit was begging her for help. While King was struggling with the spirit, we were all having a little snack downstairs, and were not aware of what King was going through.

Just then King ran down the stairs and cried out for her Dad. Unfortunately, her Dad was not around.

The household was terrified as we saw King get into a trance as the spirit tried to take over her body while she put up a resistance. My cousins, sisters and my wife took out their rosaries and prayed as we had been accustomed to do on these occasions. While everyone prayed, we all held King by her feet and hand to stop her from hurting anyone. King's eyes were piercing and red. She growled and scratched like crazy as we went on praying.

About thirty minutes later, a village exorcist arrived. She uttered prayers on King and spoke to the spirit in various languages. Meanwhile, King was throwing up. Based on our experience, everytime King was throwing up, it meant that the incantations were working, and the spirit was being expelled. I was beside King while all this was happening and held on to the her hand.

Alas, for thirty minutes, it appeared that the spirit was still around. The exorcist was being hostile to the spirit as she wanted the spirit to be driven away. Yet, the spirit appeared to be saying something important. But the exorcist didn't seem like she wanted to talk with the spirit, as the exorcist continued to speak to her in tongues.

Then, the spirit took over King's voice and began to speak in English. The village exorcist decided to let me speak to her. And this was how I managed a conversation with her:

Spirit: Have you seen Nancy?

MBA: What do you mean?

Spirit:Do you know Raul?

MBA: What do you mean?

Spirit: Raul, he raped me and killed me.

MBA: What's your name?

Spirit: I am Jamila Miller.

MBA: What happened?

Spirit: I am from Canada. I stowed away from my parents and went to Puerto Galera with my friend Nancy. There I met Raul who raped me and killed me and dumped me on the sea. You have to find Raul.

MBA: Do your parents know about this? How can we get in touch with them?

Spirit: There is no way to contact them. You have to find Raul.

At this point, the exorcist told me that it was time to ask the spirit to leave.

MBA: Jamila, you have to let King's body go.

Spirit: No. I will kill her. She refused to help me.

MBA: Jamila you're dead. You have to move on. Move on. We will pray for you. In heaven, you will find the justice that eluded you in this world. Move on. You will find God the Father and Mother Mary there. They will take care of you.

And the spirit left, as King was revived unto herself. King said Jamila was a caucasian teen-ager. She had long hair and a big red mark on her face apparently the result of being hit by a blunt weapon.

We wondered how a spirit whose body was apparently dumped in Puerto Galera could get to the beaches of Pola, Or. Mindoro. She may have taken a ride with the bancas and boats plying the route. But the great mystery which until now is unsolved is who is this Raul? Where did he dump Jamila's body? When? Where are Jamila's parents and relatives? Who is Nancy? Where is she?

Next post: The Return of Jamila Miller's Spirit

Friday, October 22, 2004

Singing with the Enemy

The Establishment (ABS-CBN News Magandang Umaga) carried an amusing story this morning about the lawyers prosecuting and defending the killer of Arbet Sta. Ana-Yongco.

Ms. Yongco was the prosecutor of Ruben Ecleo, Jr., a cult leader accused of murdering his wife in Cebu. She was killed on October 11, 2004 as witnessed by a ten-year old girl. The girl identified a certain Michael Favila as the killer. Mr. Favila was charged yesterday.

In the news, the Establshment showed us that after the charges were levied, and Favila was placed in custody, the lawyers prosecuting and defending Michael Favila got into a light mood, and turned the courtroom into a karaoke bar. The cameras showed Favila's lawyer belting out "Bato sa Buhangin" and thereater, the prosecutor started singing with him. And then, the prosecutor nudged the accused Michael Favila to sing along with them, and the man obliged. After the scene, the camera cuts to news anchor Erwin Tulfo, who couldn't keep himself from editorializing by saying something like, the Chief Justice shouldn't allow this to happen, because it gives the public the impression tha lawyers are not serious about their jobs.

Well, it is really absurd that things like this happen. Erwin Tulfo is right when he says that the scene gives the public a bad impression on the justice system. As regards to the defender of Favila who led everyone in the singing, it could be a ploy, a Sun Tzu technique to disarm the prosecutor and see through her weaknesses as a person (boy, did it work.) But for this prosecutor, I can't find any possible way to defend her actions. Somebody got killed. That somebody is a fellow lawyer who died on active duty, and what does the prosecutor do? Sing "Bato sa Buhangin" with the lawyer of the accused, and even nudge the accused to sing along. Talk about sleeping with the enemy, or should we say singing with the enemy.

I'm sure that prosecutor violated a rule in the book. At the very least, I think it's conduct unbecoming of a prosecutor. The question is do we have time to bother with these things when bigger injustices are left unsolved?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Super Shock Me

I've been waiting for Super Size Me to get shown in Philippine theaters, and guess what? It got shown in Rockwell for a few days, and before my wife and I could get there it was gone. Curious too is the fact that the Establishment appears to have ignored it, probably because they think it's not a good movie or some editors were paid to kill the story.

Morgan Spurlock , the film's director and narrator, shows us an experiment. which he does on himself. For thirty days, he eats nothing but Mcdonald's fast food. He imposes the rule that if they ask him to super-size his orders, he has to oblige. And, to best approximate the average American lifestyle, he doesn't exercise. He hires three doctors to establish his health status before, during and after the experiment. He shows us that when he started, he was in perfect health as certifed by his doctors. But after his experiment, the findings are shocking: His weight balloons by 30 pounds, his cholesterol goes up 65 points, his blood pressure increases, he develops a liver disease that often afflicted only alcoholics, his gets into mood swings, his energy drops, he has chest pains, and yes, his girlfriend complains that he couldn't get his thing up longer than he used to.

Of course, this experiment has limitations. But really, the thesis statement is very clear: If you eat nothing but fastfood for thirty days, you accept everything they offer you in the fastfood, including supersize otions, and you don't exercise, you will get sick, and pretty soon you will die.

Now is that a relevant statement? You bet it is. For one, that was how I managed through the months leading to my bar exams, when I lived in my own apartment, and the priority of my daily existence was to hurdle the daily reading list. I drank lots of coffee, coke, and I even tried out Jolt cola for that extra kick in caffein. My apartment was near the Tropical Hut food mart at the corner of Ayala Avenue and Puyat Avenue in Makati. My daily staple was Tropical Hut burger for lunch and Tropical Hut stir-fried beef and rice with egg for dinner. No wonder, I couldn't sleep on the eve of the first Sunday bar exams, and by the third week, I was dead tired. I even fell asleep while taking the commercial law exams. Now, that was just the diet of a bar reviewee. What about the law student, the college, high school and grade school student? They comprise a vast majority of this republic. How can the Establishment miss this movie?

After watching the DVD of this film, my wife and I made a resolution to take the fastfood out of the diet of our four kids. They will probably hate us for it, but I know someday, they are going to thank us.

Monday, October 18, 2004

An experience of the divine

Ryan Cayabyab's affair with San Miguel Corporation bears fruit.



The San Miguel Foundation for the Performing Arts has recently released "Great Original Pilipino Music by Ryan Cayabyab" on compact disc. The disc contains Ryan Cayabyab's choral arrangement of his Filipino hit songs as performed by the San Miguel Master Chorale and the San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra. At PHP 300, this is a bargain.

The first six songs were all originally performed by Basil Valdez, and prior to this recording had been often imitated by singing contest participants and new recording artists. These were the songs that defined the quality of Original Pilipino Music (OPM) back in the 70's and the early 80's. After hearing these new arrangements, I have come to the conclusion that these were never the songs of Basil Valdez, although he interpreted them well and everyone tried to imitate his version. These songs have always been the songs of Ryan Cayabyab, and he shows them why in this album. With the San Miguel Master Choral and Philharmonic, Ryan gives the songs the spin that transforms these songs into true classics for all Filipino generations to enjoy.

One song "Tunay na Ligaya" was our staple "harana" fare back in college when a group of my friends decided to do a favor for another friend who was wooing a beauty title-holder. We practised for days, and when the moment came as planned, the guy brought the lady to the back of the Pollock Center where the Ateneo campus overlooks Marikina Valley, wine and roses awaited them, as we sung "Tunay na Ligaya". Of course, the lady was tickled pink. The experience was to be repeated for all members of the group, except for me because we realized it was bad luck, the lovers often broke off after some time. Eric Yaptangco wrote a song about it, which became a gold record hit. Now hearing Ryan Cayabyab's fresh arrangement of "Tunay na Ligaya", I can't help but remember those days. In this version, two soloists, a lady and a gentleman, perform the sweetest arrangement of this love song ever heard on this planet. This is an experience worth every peso of it.

"Tsismis", originally from Ryan's ground-breaking "One" album, best exemplifies Ryan's command of the chorale music genre as he imitates the sound dynamics of gossip Phlippine style. This is an art song that has no counter-part in Billboard.

The mood turns to light and bouncy with "Da Coconut Nut", a take off from Ryan's Smokey Mountain project. My friend, poet Jim A. (now based in South Africa) once wrote in the defunct, Midweek Magazine, that Ryan's Smokey Mountain group was singing cliches. Until now I still cannot understand what he meant, because more than ten years have passed since Smokey Mountain, the singing group, was launched, and "Da Coconut Nut" is still as vibrant and as fresh as a newly-picked "buko". And, as the real cliche goes, "it's good to the last drop."

"Paraiso" is my favorite of this Smokey Mountain set. It starts off with the plucked strings on C dominant 9, and then enter the sopranos with that familiar line, "Return to a land called Paraiso.." After the first verse, the tenors come in, and then the entire ensemble syncopates to "Pa-ra-i-so". I swear I heard the sound of angels. And their voices fly off to the heights of the bridge and coda up and down the G clef and finally rest with a grand note. The experience can best be described as ecstatic. That's no cliche Jim -- never was and never will be.

The best song of the album is hands down "Awit ng Pagsinta (Epithalamium)" from the pop-ballet, Rama Hari. The material simply lends itself beatifully to the chorale music genre. Harmony, dynamics, and clarity, all qualities of good chorale music, were rendered perfectly by Ryan and the San Miguel Chorale and Philharmonic on this cut.

I have one reason to stop saying Danding should return his San Miguel shares to the people.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Wake up INQ7.net! You are the establishment.

And we, bloggers, are the alternative.

Don't pretend to be us. We won't pretend to be you.

Live. With. It.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Hollywood becomes us

With all this talk about the Filipino General who was found to have stashed hundreds of millions in kickbacks, I think it's absolutely stupid for people to think that all will be well after this "big fish" has been caught. Why? First, because we know it's not just one Filipino General. Some people say the corruption is embedded in the entire chain of command. Second, because these Filipino general and his ilk are the people who have the gun in this country. They are the ones who keep the peace. It's naive to think that we can put them in jail. What do I mean? Well, here is a variation of the monologue of Colonel Nathan Jessup in the movie "A Few Good Men" .
Great movie -- the shock of recognition still gives me the shivers.

Imagine an AFP general speaking:

Take caution in your tone, Mr. Ombudsman. I'm a fair guy but this fucking heat is making me absolutely crazy. You wanna ask me about kickbacks? On the record, I tell you I discourage the practice in acordance with the Commanders directives; off the record, I tell you it`s an invaluable part of close military operations. And if it happens to go on without my knowledge, so be it. I run my unit how I run my unit. You wanna investigate me? Roll the dice and take your chances. I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4,000 communists that are trained to kill me, so don`t think for one second that you can come down here, flash your badge and make me nervous.



And imagine him on cross-examination by Simeon Marcelo:

General: You want answers?
Ombudsman: I think I'm entitled to them.
General: You want answers?
Ombudsman: I want the truth!
General: You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Atty. Marcelo? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for the foot soldiers and you curse corruption in the military. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that kickbacks, while reprehensible, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!
Ombudsman: Did you order the whitewash?
General: (quietly) I did the job you sent me to do.
Ombudsman: Did you order the whitewash?
General: You're goddamn right I did!!


Philippine society cannot turn against the excesses of its warrior class without risking the peace. Please tell me I'm wrong.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The Legal Profession's Agenda No. 1: Open up

I think the solution to the inefficient justice system has been found: It's called the "Big G". Globalization --yes, it's the G word. Let the foreign lawyers come in.

Right now, the profession is loaded with corruptors: lawyers who bribe judges to win cases for clients. You can find them everywhere, ambulance chasing on seafarers, TRO buying on videoke bars, passing on loads of cash to prosecutors and arbiters in exchange for favorable rulings, and practically almost in every place except the courts where ideally the real action should be. You read their pleadings, and you wonder if your kid in kindergarten can do better. You hear them speak, and you try to decide whether it's better to argue on the rules of procedure or on the rules of grammar.

How do you get rid of these guys? Send them out of business. Bring in the competition who can deliver better services and who will not think twice about questioning improprieties committed by members of the bar and the bench. Bring in the Clarence Darrow types who can take us back into the time when being a lawyer meant something more than being rich (that's a myth, by the way). It's time we put our legal system back in the map.

Then, with the foreign lawyers, more business will come in. Investors will be more enthusiastic about doing business here if they have their lawyers around to draw them the legal roadmaps, instead of thugs who will just tell them who to bribe. More importantly, our own countrymen will get what they deserve: an efficient and graft-free justice system.

There are many other things that foreign lawyers can do for this country, which unfortunately our lawyers will not and cannot do. Roll out the carpet. I say bring them in.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11

Fahrenheit 9/11 is Bush-bashing through and through, but how come I like it? 1. Because I've always hated Bush (the guy looks like Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Magazine), and 2. It affirms my opinion (and of many others)that Bush took us all for a ride in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush is the kind of President that America should not have in the post-Cold War era when no single nation can challenge it, especially when it wants to violate International Law. The single principle that made the United Nations a reality is Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, which proscribes aggressive war. But look at what Bush did -- he used the events of 9/11 to create fear among his countrymen and rally them to war against the wrong guys. In the process, he ignored the United Nations and formed what he called was the Coalition of the Willing ("Weaklings" is more like it.) After Afghanistan and Iraq, the United Nations can only be labeled at best as America's lap dogs. Fahrenheit 9/11 explains very well the opinion that Bush should not have been America's President in 2000 and 2004, not just for the sake of Americans but also for the sake of the rest of us whose lives are hopelessly tied down to Amercia's fortunes. Great -- so how come I have my reservations about this film? Well, because it is clearly propaganda, and a well-made propaganda at that. I've always been suspicious of propaganda, because they mix truth with falsehoods, and also, propaganda lose their value in due time when the politics of the day has changed. This film measures up to the best propaganda film documentary as each frame of this film appears to be authentic, that is why it's very good. Yet, clearly it doesn't aspire for truth. It limits its point of view to Michael Moore's political persuasion. No problem with that really, but for the fact that I normally don't pay PHP 130 for an hour or so of political propaganda.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

INQ reads a Supreme Court decision on Work and Love

The Inquirer reports a recent Supreme Court decision upholding a pharmaceutical company's rule that prohibits its employees from marrying employees of a competitior. The Inquirer slants the lead of the story in a manner that makes the Supreme Court sound very anti-labor -- quite irresponsible of the Inquirer, I believe -- but the decision is consistent with law and jurisprudence.

The Labor Code provides that "(a)n employer may terminate an employment for any of the following causes: (a) ... willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his employer or representative in connection with his work..." (Art. 282)
If you break it down to its elements, these elements are the following: 1) an employee disobeys the rule; 2) the disobedience is something that the employee desired and not by some other third party cause; and 3) the rule is reasonably connected with the employee's work.

No problem with elements 1 and 2. The issue is number 3. The essence of the rule has to do with the time-honored value of preventing "conflicts-of-interest" between the personal and the professional lives of an employee. If an employee marries somebody from a competitor, chances are he will be exchanging trade secrets with his spouse over breakfast. Further, the employee's loyalty will surely be in question, especially so that the success of the competitor will bring him indirect benefits through the spouse who works for the other side. In the case of the couple employed with competing pharmaceutical companies, they could even get into debates such as which cough syrup will they give their son. The situation is awkard for all concerned. That's why the rule is reasonable, and no doubt it is relevant to employment.

But what does my favorite newspaper do? Spin off the story as if it were an epic battle between love and economic interest, to which the mighty Supreme Court decides in favor of economic interest. Geez, to me it's really just a story about a man, who after marrying the girl of his dreams, still wants to keep his job.

Monday, September 20, 2004

LIfe of Pi: A Review

What would happen if you put a sixteen-year old Indian boy and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker on a lifeboat adrift across the Pacific for 227 days? I'm sure Butch Dalisay, the Phlippines's best living short story writer, would approve. Stephen King might not even forgive himself for not thinking about that silly premise himself. Stephen King wrote, "the story is in the situation." And Yann Martel's situation in "Life of Pi" would have flopped were it not for his masterful rendering of the piece. Thus, what we have in "Life of Pi" is not just a premise for a story but a metaphor of the human condition: man and beast lost in the vast sea of being and nothingness, and it would be up to man to tame the beast and draw from it the spiritual strength to move on and find God. Great story. I would rate it one notch higher than Hemingway's "Old Man and the Sea" chiefly because Hemingway has no God and Yann Martel can match word for word Hemingway's style.

The main character Pi (as in 3.14 the irrational number) short for Piscine (French for swimming pool) spends his adolescence studying zoology and three unique religions. He lives with a family of zookeepers who soon decides to emigrate to Canada on a Japanese freighter, named Tsimtsum. But halfway through their voyage the ship sinks. The disaster strands Pi in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on a lifeboat with an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Soon, Richard Parker has disposed of everyone except Pi and what follows is the story of the castway with an oversized perpetually hungry feline companion. It is in this threshhold between life and death that "Life of Pi" manages to shake its reader, grab him, and take him to metaphysical heights.

You have to credit Yann Martel for managing to keep it intact for 319 pages. And as he moves it from page one to page 319, he transgresses subjects ranging from sloths, zookeeping, Hinduism, Christianity, marine life and even constipation in the high seas. Scene after scene Yann Martel's prose builds up with such realism that at the end of book, I wondered, is this true? Well, all good art is true. And this book, "Life of Pi" is definitely good art -- a great diversion from the lawyer's pre-occupation with the here and now.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Kafkaesque in the Philippines

I once received a text message from a friend asking if I could him assist him in posting bail. After having the records checked, I learned that he had been charged with Estafa, and the judge set his bail at PHP 40,000.

The following day my friend came to my office. He said he had been arrested a few days before but the police decided to set him free without posting bail. He had many visitors who came to see him, and the police had difficulty receiving them. Apparently, most of these visitors were government people and big businessmen, and the jail didn't have enough chairs to accommodate them. Embarrassed at their inability to make my friend's rich and powerful visitors at ease, the police set my friend free.

I advised my friend that we should post bail for his own peace of mind. After all, the case still had to be dismissed, and unless he posted bail, the risk of getting arrested again is great. After gathering all the requirements for posting bail, I learned that out of hundreds of licensed bonding companies in the Philippines, only one could be accepted by the court. The rest were black-listed. The bonding industry and the court system were in a crisis. The bonding firms had issued bonds to the court which subsequently forfeited them. But the bonding firms did not pay. Thus, unless the bonding companies paid their obligations, their bonds would not be honored. This meant that there were hundreds of criminals on the loose who have jumped bail, the sheer number of which is enough to cause the break-down the bonding system altogether. This left my friend with only one bonding company to assist him in his need for a bail bond.

Worse, this bonding company refused to accommodate his application.The agents of the bonding company said that the lowest bond denomination they could issue was PHP 300,000. Anything below PHP 300,000 to the bonding company was a losing proposition.

Thus, my friend had no choice but to raise a cash bond. I then applied for a reduction of the bond to allow my friend to post a cash bond. Fortunately, the court granted the request and reduced the bond. Long out of job, my friend begged his relatives to help him raise PHP 22,000 for his temporary liberty.

When the day of the arraignment came, my friend appeared, entered a plea of not guilty, and prepared for our defense. The judge set the pre-trial date in December last year. My friend was righteous about his case. He said he was just a fall guy. He merely witnessed the transaction. He could not have been involved with the fraud.

Yet, the complainant never appeared. On the first day of the pre-trial and upon learning of the absence of the complainant, I moved for the dismissal of the case. The court denied my motion because the notice of pre-trial sent to the complainants had no registry return. According to the court, it had no proof that the complainant received the notice. The court claimed that the mail was sent too late and it may not have reached the complainant on time. This happened thrice: every time the complainant was absent, every time I moved for dismissal, and every time the court said it did not have a registry return. I decided to ask the court to send the notice by personal service. For this, my poor friend had to shell out PHP 500 for the process server's transportation expenses: the only reason why I did not ask for a personal service much earlier. Alas, the court finally learned that the complainant no longer resided in the address indicated in the records. The complainant had moved out and left with no forwarding address. Yet, it was not the end of it.

The prosecutor claimed that she had another address and thus requested the court to serve the notice on the other address. I objected vigorously to the request, but the judge refused to hear me.

In the meantime, my friend's health began to deteriorate. He never told me what was wrong with him. But he appeared more sickly each time we attended his hearing only to be told that the hearing was going to be reset.

Due to increasing back pains, my friend did not attend the next four hearings. In the same four hearings, the court determined that the complainant could not be reached. The prosecutor's new address was likewise no longer valid. I argued that clearly the complainant had lost interest in the case, and thus the case may now be dismissed. Yet, the court refused to dismiss the case due to the absence of my friend. The court did not honor the medical certificate attesting to my friend's poor health and warned that it would not dismiss the case unless my friend appeared.
To settle the matter once and for all, I asked my friend to come, even if he had to be carried in a stretcher. My friend, who all the while accepted his predicament with stoic dignity, broke down and expressed disgust and disappointment at the unreasonable strictness and grand scale mediocrity of the court. I couldn't tell him anything. It was settled that a provisional dismissal needs the consent of the accused, and the judge merely wanted to see the accused personally express his consent to the dismissal. And so gathering whatever was left of his resources and strength, my friend attended his last hearing on a stretcher. The judge, who probably had long lost her faith in medical certificates casually signed by doctors to absolve lawyers and litigants from absence in hearings, looked shocked to see my friend in his medical state. Sure enough, the complainant did not come, the court asked my friend whether he consented to a provisional dismissal to which my friend answerd yes, and then the court dismissed the case.

A few weeks later, my friend died of cancer in the spinal column.

Today, his widow is wondering how to encash the PHP 22,000 check issued by the Clerk of Court in the name of his late husband whose cash bond was cancelled as a result of the dismissal of the case. Apparently, bank regulations prohibit her from encashing it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

How did we ever get here?

The headline is all over the place: The President has admitted that the country is in a fiscal crisis. It means we are about to default on our obligations to our creditors or the government will stop working.

Litigation lawyer that I am, my first impulse is to ask, are those debts really valid? Did we really contract those loans? Did we get the proceeds? Did we get fair deals? Given the propensity of Goverment to disarray, I believe a big chunk of those debts are probably not in order.

The current buzz in political circles is that one of the reasons why we are in serious debt is that some officials made money on commissions on those debts. For banks and financial institutions, getting somebody to borrow their money is deemed a "sale". Thus, the more people who borrow, the more sales they generate. And to motivate governments to borrow, financial institutions paid sales commissions. To whom? Let's just say this scheme is probably the best explanation why our Government had so much appetite for debt, in spite of the fact that we have been under heavy debt burden since the Marcos years.

I say we audit those debts and find out which ones we should not pay.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

ARETE MAGIS FIDES

(Text of the speech of Atty. Marvin B. Aceron before the General Assembly of students of Araullo University School of Law on July 22, 2004)

Mr. Chito Salazar, Atty. Rudyard Avila, Atty. Reymon Fabros, my dear students of Araullo University School of Law, ladies and gentlemen:

When I was asked to prepare an inspirational talk yesterday for today’s General Assembly, my immediate reaction was to say no. I thought I would need more than just a ten-hour preparation for a big assembly as this. Besides, you all look like you're enthusiastic enough with your studies and don’t need anymore inspiring from anyone. However, after thinking about it, I changed my mind because I think I have something to tell you. And if this would the first and only opportunity for me to address you as a body, I would regret it if i miss it.

LIFE AND ENTROPY

Let me start by saying that I think I already have some idea about what life is all about. When I was a philosophy student at the Ateneo, one of my teachers once said that life is the temporary suspension of entropy. Let me say that word again: entropy. To those of you who graduated with degrees in the sciences, like your dean Atty. Avila who happens to be a medical doctor aside from being a lawyer, entropy might sound like an ordinary word. But to the rest of us, mere mortals, as it were, entropy could be explained as the habit of things to move from a state of order to a state of disorder. Entropy is the reason why nitrogen neatly packed in a box would explode at the push of a button. It explains why the universe, huge and wide, is expanding towards self-destruction. Even now as I speak, the earth has about five billion years left before it disintegrates. Entropy also explains why microorganisms, plants, animals and human beings are moving from a state of life to a state of death. You might also want to say that entropy is the reason why society behaves from a state of morality to a state of immorality, or from a state of law and order to a state of lawlessness and chaos.

That is why to live is to struggle against entropy. To live is to be an energy, a force or a spirit to halt, even for a fleeting moment, this habit of moving from a state of order to a state of disorder. Think about it.

in the meantime let me pose this question: How are we as rational human beings to deal with this nature of life?

One way is to live and let die. Accept that this power is upon us and it is hopeless to struggle against it. A lot of people have lived their lives according to this thinking.

Another way is to struggle to assert our humanity against this tide. Boats against the current, as it were. To live is to have order and to keep things in order. Some people have lived life in this manner.

The good news is this problem is not new. A lot of people who have lived before us have been confronted with this question and have shown by their examples that there is hope in our existence.


ST. THOMAS MORE

Let me relate to you the life example of St. Thomas More. St. Thomas More lived a prosperous life as a lawyer in England at about the same time that Magellan was discovering the Philippines in the early 16th Century.

At that time, England was ruled by a king named Henry VIII. Originally, it was Henry’s brother, Arthur, married to Catherine of Aragon, who was king. But when Arthur died, Henry VIII became the successor to the throne. There was some trouble after Arthur’s death as he left a widow in Catherine of Aragon. Because somehow, the marriage of Catherine and Arthur symbolized the alliance between the United Kingdom and Spain, people prevailed upon Henry VIII to marry Catherine. This marriage, however, was against the law of the Church, which prohibited the marriage of a man to his brother’s widow. It was considered incestuous. Yet, because the alliance of the nations had to be maintained, the pope was prevailed upon to give a special dispensation to allow the marriage of Henry VII to his brother’s widow, Catherine.

The marriage appeared to all right for the initial years until Henry VIII met Anne Boleyn. Henry VIII fell in love with Anne Boleyn and wanted to marry her. But of course it was not possible because he had already been married to Catherine. But Henry VIII thought his marriage with Catherine should be annulled because it was against the law of the Church. Further, he had a particular desire to leave his marriage with Catherine because it failed to bear him a son and the thought of him not having an heir son to the throne horrified him.

Of course, the Pope would not agree to the annulment of the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine because the infirmity was dispensed with earlier by the Church and to annul it after giving it dispensation would be like to treat the law of the Church as if it were connected to a switch that could be turned on or off at the whim of the King of England.

Thus, Henry VIII decided that the best way to deal with the objection of the Pope was to break the link between the Church of England and the Catholic Church and find himself a bishop who would agree to what he desired. Henry VIII had his parliament pass a law making him the head of the Church of England and requiring everyone in England to take the Oath of Supremacy which meant that Henry VIII was more supreme than the Pope.

All of England approved of Henry VIII’s plan except one man, Sir Thomas More. Thomas More was a scholar of the church and famous lawyer. He was even a friend of Henry VIII. But to him Henry VIII’s Oath of Supremacy was nonsense and he would not bear to take the oath that would make him repudiate the truth about the Catholic Church. As a result of his stubborn conviction, Thomas was jailed. His friends and his family told him that it was wiser to take the oath even if he did not believe in it for then, he would have preserved his status in the English society. But Thomas would not budge. As a playwright puts it, “When a man makes an oath, he takes his life like water in his hands. If he opens it, it will fall.”

Unfortunately, for his open defiance against the will of the King, he was tried for treason and was sentenced to death. On the moment before he was beheaded, he declared that he was the “King’s true servant, but God’s first.”

Henceforth, people remember Thomas More for his struggle to live by the truth in the face of Henry VIII’s desire to divorce his first wife to marry another woman. You might say that Thomas More’s own struggle against entropy is a major struggle for not only does it highlight the battle between truth and falsehood, but also it marked the fight to preserve the integrity of the Catholic Church.

St. Thomas More’s life is something for all of us to emulate in our own struggle against this habit of life. This entropy. As you go and study the law and eventually became lawyers, recognize entropy when you see it. Fight it like St. Thomas More.

And to conclude, let me just share with you three words to help you get by. Three words I have learned when I was about your age finding a way to sort things out of this entropy.

Arete. This is the Greek word for virtue. However, a direct translation of the word is “to be the best of what you can be.” That is my first word. Arete, Be the best of what you can be. Never be contented with what you have done. Maximize your potentials. You can be better.

Magis. It is the Latin word for “more”. Do more. Give more. Love more. Pray more. You will always have plenty to give. You can never give enough. Magis. More.

Fides. Faith. In your life, you will have plenty of occasions to deal with the darkness of the night. Have faith. All things will come to pass. And in the end, only your faith will save you.

Life is a temporary suspension of entropy. St. Thomas More struggled with entropy and showed us that there is hope. Arete. Magis. Fides.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

POWER TO THE WISE
 
This is what the shift to pariamentary system is all about: to eliminate the chances of having the likes of ERAP and FPJ from getting a serious crack at the presidency ever again. Under the proposed parliamentary system, the head of state will be elected by and among the members of parliament. He should be man (or woman) who will earn the respect of his peers. Nobody gets respected in this place unless he knows how to please everyone. To please everyone, one should know which interests to protect. The dumb can only go so far. No more cinematic political shows. No more rhetoric to rally the masses. In the proposed parliamentary sytem, things willl get done through back channel wheeling and dealing. Wouldn't it all be a bore? It wouldn't matter now. I look at the presidential timbers for 2010 and it's gotten me scared: The time has come to end this farce. Let's move to parliament and give power to the wise.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Way to Go ACY!

My boss over at the National Food Authority has just been named by the President to be the next Secretary of Agriculture. Arthur C. Yap will serve as one of the youngest, if not the youngest, secretaries of agriculture ever. He brings with him his experience as the first president of the Philippine Trading Corporation (PITC) to register a profit for the government trading corporation and the NFA Administrator who offered the best hope for the rice farmers with the Gloria Rice hybrid seedlings. With the Gloria Rice seedlings, the Philippines is posed to re-enter the rice export market in the next few years. As NFA Administrator, he followed a tight schedule that allowed him to go around the NFA offices in the provinces and ensure that the forefront of the agency was doing its job. He is actually the real Mr. Palengke as he has visited more palengkes than any other government official in his tenure as NFA Administrator. Best of all, ACY is a master tactician and a fellow believer of Sun Tzu's Art of War. I don't know if I'll be part of his team at the Dept. of Agriculture. But I sure am happy, we are leaving the NFA alive and unscathed.

Monday, June 28, 2004

To my students in Securities Law from Araullo University School of Law, I've set up a blog for our class. You may find it at http://securities.agalaw.net . Feel free to drop by.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Scenes from the Firm (Timog Branch)
Part 1

12:00 noon June 16, 2004

Accountant to Managing Partner: Sir, sweldo na po. Can we credit our employees salaries today?

Managing Partner: Talo Lakers. Walang sweldo.

Accountant: leaves the room scratching her head.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Charlie Co on our front desk


To decorate our reception area, the Managing Partner of our fledgling firm Guerrero Aceron & Avila just recently wasted 4,500 bucks on a multimedia graphic image of a waterfalls (complete with moving waters, chirping bird sounds and clouds being blown away!). I threatened to end the partnership if the picture didn't go soon. To find a suitable replacement, I then went to SM Megamall Galleria Duemila which is running an exhibit of the works of Bacolod Artist Charlie Co. Having viewed the exhibit, I remembered what NVM Gonzalez used to say: there is genius in the Filipino race. Charlie Co's material is world class. Alice Guillermo has a review of the show which appears in Today Newspaper. The online copy is found here. The moment I saw the above image, entitled "A Clown and the Three Puppets", I knew it was the painting that should meet our clients on the front desk. Hear No Evil. Speak No Evil. See No Evil. Pure lawyerly stuff -- half serious, half comic. He he he. And it has three clowns too. Just like the three partners and the three associates. A bit self-deprecating, but definitely better than the waterfalls.

(The above image was taken from the Galleria Duemila website.)

Other works of Charlie Co are found here.

His bio appears here.


Another review of his works appears here.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Texting from Vietnam

I just came from an overnight trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on a business trip to pave the way for the entry of major Philippine products in the emerging tiger economy of Vietnam. And boy -- there sure is a lot material to blog about for the next few days: great food, interesting culture, warm people and many more. But let's start with the cellular phone service. Both my Globe prepaid and Smart postpaid accounts were in full working condition in Ho Chi Minh City. Global roaming worked well with Vinaphone for Globe and Mobiphone for Smart. The weird part is midway my Globe phone roaming shifted from Vinaphone to Mobiphone. But I had strong phone signals all over the City, in the major thoroughfares, the outskirts of the city and in Chinatown. I had no problems attending to other businesses unfolding in Manila.

My Globe pre-paid account global roaming was activated upon request. The rates were PHP 80 per minute incoming and outgoing. Incoming texts were free but outgoing texts cost PHP15.00 each. I guess a bit pricey so I skipped the "k" text replies to Manila. When people from Manila called, their numbers did not register on the screen. I had to answer each call that came to make sure that I didn't miss client calls. The hard part is if one gets a call from somebody in Manila dialing a wrong number. he gets hit with an PHP80 charge. It happened to one of my companions. It was just like giving away money for free.

Another concern in global roaming pre-paid was that to make a call to Manila, I had to type in *151* before the country code and phone number. So the phonebook had to be edited before making the call. Also Globe had instructions to ensure that the phone didn't run out of credits. Otherwise, the global roaming would be lost. To prevent it from happening to my phone, before going to Vietnam, I loaded PHP 2,000 worth of phone cards. By the time I got back it was down to PHP 800++. Not bad for a busy day.

As for the Smart postpaid account, I also had to request activation of the global roaming service. They asked me to deposit PHP 2500 because I was just on a Plan 800 which could be easily used up. They didn't tell me the rates, probably because I didn't ask. I dread to see the bill because before going back to Manila I had a 30 minute legal discussion with a counterpart counsel in Manila over a major transaction. It might be the cost of another overnight stay in Vietnam, but it was very important call so I didn't have any choice.

My companion had a better idea. She bought a prepaid sim card from Vietnam and used it to call Manila. The card was compatible with her usual phone. She said it was a lot cheaper to call Manila on Vietnamese prepaid account than to use global roaming. Well, had I known that, I would have done the same. Although, the prepaid sim was worth PHP 1450-- really expensive compared to sim cards here which cost only about PHP 150 in the Philippines with a bonus Happy Meal.

All together, the visit to the original Saigon was just like going to a major city like Cebu or Davao in the Philippines. The City that Hollywood portrays as a war zone turned out to be a business zone raging with activity and a cellular phone service at par with the best of the world. But for the rates, I had no trouble texting and calling from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Next Edition: Impressions on Business in Vietnam

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Supreme Court dismisses Case versus the President on electionnering issue.

I'm taking a break from a successive string of loaded working weeks to note that the case filed by senatoriables Boots Anson Roa and Amina Rasul against the incumbent President was dismissed recently by the Supreme Court. See Inquirer report here. I've been really annoyed with the propaganda that followed the filing of that case, especially the song and dance routine that Boots Anson Roa did over several TV channels on the alleged misuse of public funds ek ek chu chu. So they went to the Supreme Court to ask the Court to tell the President to resign or take a leave of absence to prevent her from using her position to campaign for her re-election. I don't really mind the comments that the sudden vibrance of public programs sponsored by the President like the Kalsada ni Gloria is just a ploy for the President to have her name and image plastered all over the Philippines -- They might even be right. But to go the Supreme Court for this? My goodness -- the first and last thing one learns from Constutional Law is that the President is immune from suit. You can shoot her, but you can't sue her.

Ask the Supreme Court to tell the President to resign or take a leave of absence on a Mandamus remedy? Susmaryosep -- Mandamus can only be done if the action required from the public officer is ministerial. That means the action should not involve discretion -- an act that she doesn't have to think about, like a clerk filing a piece of paper. Since when has resignation and taking a leave of absence been ministerial and non-discretionary?

Besides, one of the very few things I learned from my Election Law class with Justice Maambong is that in general, when a public officer files a certificate of candidacy, he is considered resigned, EXCEPT when he is running for President or Vice-President.

Good politics. Bad lawyering. This is one of the reasons why justice is delayed in this country. I have several cases that have been pending with the Supreme Court for years. But because idiots like the lawyers of Boots Anson Roa and Amina Rasul keep on clogging the dockets with baseless cases like this one, I have no choice but to wait until the Supreme Court finds the time to attend to my cases while it bothers itself with nuisance suits.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

THE SUPREME COURT ON THE PRIVILEGES OF THE INCUMBENT PRESIDENT


When an incumbent President, who is also a candidate for re-election, implements a program of government, she does so as the Head of State of this country. That is her duty. The fact that it has partisan political color is merely secondary and even incidental. Indeed, she doesn't stop being President just because she is running for re-election. In other words, when she doles out those Philhealth cards with her picture, she doles them out as President not as candidate. Sori na lang po sa oposisyon.


What is my basis?


UNIDO V. COMELEC (G.R. No. 56515 April 3, 1981).


"....(I)t is undeniable and but natural that the head of state of every country in the world must from the very nature of his position, be accorded certain privileges not equally available to those who are opposed to him in the sense that, since the head of state has the grave and tremendous responsibility of planning and implementing the plan of government itself, either by virtue of the popular mandate given to him under the corresponding provisions of the Constitution and the laws or any other duly recognized grant of power and authority, the opposition cannot be placed at par with him, since logically the opposition can only fiscalize the administration and punctualize its errors and shortcomings to the end that when the duly scheduled time for the people to exercise their inalienable power to make a better choice, the opposition may have the chance to make them accept the alternative they can offer.

Therefore, when the head of state is afforded the opportunity or when he feels it incumbent upon him to communicate and dialogue with the people on any matter affecting the plan of government or any other matter of public interest, no office or entity of the government is obliged to give the opposition the same facilities by which its contrary views may be ventilated. lf the opposition leaders feel any sense of responsibility in the premises to counter the administration, it is up to them – and they are free – to avail of their own resources to accomplish their purpose. But surely, it is not for the administration to hand them on a silver platter the weapon they need. We are not aware that there is any existing system of government anywhere in the world which is mandated to be so accommodating and generous to the opponents of the current administrators of the national affairs.

In instances where the head of state is at the same time the president of the political party that is in power, it does not necessarily follow that he speaks with two voices when he dialogues with the governed. Unquestionably, there are matters of vital public interest wherein partisan considerations could in some degree be involved, but then such partisan interest would be purely secondary. The President/Prime Minister of the Philippines is the political head of all the people. His is the sacred responsibility to protect and defend the security of all the people, the stability of the government and the integrity of the national territory, not only for the tenure to which he has been elected but for all times. When, as in the instant situation, he deems it warranted by the circumstances to present to them a plan of government which includes the modification of the existing structure of government together with its concomitant allocation of governmental powers, it is not only his right but his duty to take the people directly into his confidence and impart to them to the fullest measure of his capacity and by all available adequate means the reasons therefor and the corrollarily advantages thereof to their welfare. The opposition, if it opines otherwise, has naturally the indisputable right to make every effort to thwart his objective. But, surely, this is far from saying that it is the duty of the administration to generously grant to them the means to wage their campaign against it."

Thursday, March 11, 2004

THE SUN TZU IN ERAP

Sun Tzu says,

"Those who are skilled in warfare will always bring the enemy where they want to fight and are not brought there by the enemy."

In this morning's Inquirer, a newswriter reported that Erap has started to distribute video CD's showcasing his side of the story in his plunder trial. Knowing that the courtroom is not his battleground, Erap has decided to bring his case to the court of public opinion. With a directed and even fictionalized account of his version of the story, how could Erap lose? No cross-examinations. No legalese. Erap's VCD stands as his Memorandum to history.

What does this mean? Erap is going to use public opinion to get himself out of jail. Public opinion will elect Poe as President. Public opinion will "convince" Poe to give him executive clemency. And in the event that GMA wins, public opinion will stir another EDSA TRES.

Interesting times we live in.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Will Brother Eddie Appoint Jesus Christ to the Cabinet?

As the campaign heats up, Brother Eddie appears to be the only true alternative to the traditional politicians. The others in the opposition are simply loaded with the politicians of old. FPJ has Manong Ernie Maceda and Manong Johnny Ponce Enrile in his senatorial slate. This only goes to show that the Erap gang is behind his candidacy. Raul Roco while seemingly loaded with political neophytes in his slate has Edno Joson in his list. Well, Mr. Joson was Erap's NFA Administrator so I count him out of my list too. Ping has the Zamora Brothers. But Bro. Eddie? He's on his own. So is he the true alternative?

Not so fast. A few years back, I remember Bro. Eddie getting involved in a little fight with Bro. Mike Velarde over channel 11. The two had joint venture agreement when they acquired Channel 11. As both leaders accepted the other as co-equal, they agreed that Channel 11 would be ran by a Management Committee composed of three. Who were the members? Bro. Eddie, Bro. Mike and Bro. Jesus Christ. No kidding. No wonder the two got involved in a bitter fight and no less than Pres. Fidel V. Ramos had to mediate the dispute between the warring religious leaders.

Now, can somebody ask Bro. Eddie if Jesus Christ would get a cabinet position in his presidency? He keeps on saying it was God who told him to run. So will he return the favor with a juicy appointment? "God" must really be fickle. As far as I can remember it was also "God" who told Gringo Honasan to push through with his coups in the 80's and early 90s. It was also God who told Pres. Arroyo to renege on her promise not to run for re-election and to give the presidency a second shot. It's a nutty world we live in.

I guess it's Eddie Gil then.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Pop Views

You can group the reactions my wife and I got when we began announcing that our fourth kid has been conceived into the following categories:

ONE: The Concerned Grandparents

Blank stares with large scripts on their foreheads that state:
"We hope you can handle a fourth kid."

TWO: Business associates going for their first TEN MILLION.

"What? You're over-populating the world!"

THREE: Our Focolare friends

"Que bono. That is a gift from God!"

Yes, my wife is about three months pregnant and I can certainly claim that that kid is destined for greatness because he had weathered all natural obstacles to his conception when his legal age was still zero. Indeed, nowhere in my life has my views on population control been appropriately challenged but now. The concerns are all valid. Just imagine the tons of diapers I would have to buy on top of what I've already bought for the first three. What about the milk, the clothes and the educatonal plans? A minimum wage earner would have gone insane.

But everything has to answer to the bottomline: What is it in life that really matters?

Is it the economic difficulty that goes with raising a family? Is it the statistics on population growth and the diminishing world resources? Or is it simply that God, in all his infinite wisdom, has decided to assign us to mentor another one of his angels and experience the joys and pains of fatherhood for the fourth time? After all, as Einstein put it, God doesn't play dice with the universe.

I look at my three kids Juancho, Hans and Tressa, my wife Ces and I imagine how my fourth kid will look like. And I manage a smile with the thought, we are blessed.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

THE HUBERT WEBB MEDIA PLAN

Why is it that all of a sudden everybody in the mainstream media is writing about the Hubert Webb case? Mind you, they are all pro-Hubert. Is a media plan in place to condition the minds of the public to accept the eventual acquittal of Hubert? Who is funding it? And why does it seem like the columnists are already aware of the acquittal when the matter has not been officially decided yet by the Supreme Court?

A year ago, I've written the observation that Mario Ongkiko, one of the best lawyers in this country, would probably win the appeal for Hubert Webb. As a lawyer of the accused, all that Atty. Ongkiko had to establish was "reasonable doubt". In other words, even if Jessica Alfaro, the state witness of the crime proved to be very credible, if an independent evaluation of the evidence did not yield moral certainty of guilt, then the accused should be acquitted. Moral certainty? It probably means that the judge should be able to sleep at night after handing down the decision. If he can't, then the accused must walk. In the case of Hubert, the tons of evidence that Atty. Ongkiko presented showing that Hubert was abroad and which curiously the presiding judge just brushed aside as a product of former Senator Freddie Webb's influence, may have established "reasonable doubt." As the cliche goes, "It's better for ten guilty men to be set free than for a single innocent man to be jailed.'

Yet, the decision of the Supreme Court and the media plan for Hubert are two different things. In a normal world, the Supreme Court should rule whichever way it wants to rule and the media should write want they want to write. The public can form their opinions on their own. The public is not even supposed to know the decision until it's promulgated by the Court. But with the strange circumstance that it is happening now where big time mediamen are obviously preparing us for a Hubert Webb upset, it gives me the feeling of uneasiness, a feeling that something isn't right, a feeling that a conspiracy has been hatched upon the public by men who should be just going about their normal businesses.

Then again, I'm just reading the situation through Sun Tzu's eyes. Really, that book has made me very suspicious of people's actions. Plus, I know by first hand experience that there is nothing random about how mainstream media choose their topics and their angles. Some intelligence funds can point them to the right direction. But we will find out if I'm wrong once that decision is handed down soon.

UPDATE:

REACTION

We got the following email from Gary Ramirez:

Hi Marvin, Read your post regarding Hubert. I am Gary, a cousin of
Hubert. The columnists who wrote about him has from the very start believed that
he is innocent. We are talking about Solita Monsod, Teddy Benigno and Mon
Tulfo. These people have been ridiculed and crucified dating back to the mid 90s.
Just like everyone in the family, I have followed Huberts case and believe me that there are overwhelming evidences that prove his innocence.

My challenge to All non-believers are:

1) Aside from Alfaro and the maid, Show us a person who can say that he
or she has seen Hubert Webb anywhere in the Philippines from March 2001 to
Oct. 2002.(The crime was committed on the latter part of June 2001)
2) Anyone who can prove that evidence submitted by the defense are fake
or counterfeit. These are:
a) FBI investigation Certification
b) INS records
c) State Department Note Verbale, signed by Secretary of State
Warren Christopher and another one signed by Madeleine Albright. ( Tolentino
did not want the testimony of the US Embassy but wanted Albright to go to
her court instead. How absurd can that be.)
d) California DMV drivers license
e) United Airlines Manifest
d) ETC.
3) Prove that any of the 100+ witnesses who saw Hubert in the states
are lying.(Tolentino dismissed all the witnesses because they are
relatives,friends or acquaintances. Even an old salesman where Hubert
bought a bicycle from was dismissed. Note that his purchase was done
give or take a few hours when the crime was being committed. This man had no
connection with Hubert whatsoever. If you where in the States, will you
live or hangout out with total strangers?)

Please forgive me if I sound too emotional. Its just that Hubert has
been in jail and prison for 9 years now. It will really destroy us inside if
we do not get justice.

I would also like to assure you that It is not in the Webbs style to set aside a budget for a media campaign to condition the peoples minds.

Thanks for your time and congratulations on the coming baby.

Gary

Sunday, February 08, 2004

It's gadgets time again



I went home last Monday with a Fujitsu Lifebook P1120 on loan from a client and all of a sudden my life is changing. I'm surfing the web on this petite beauty, typing my pleadings in a coffeeshop and emailing from wherever there is a phone line or wi-fi service. This is a long way to go for a boy that learned how to type with the "pindot system" in an old reliable Olympia typewriter from my Grandfather's workstation in Mindoro. I then moved to a PC XT running on DOS and wordstar 4.0 in an apartment in Project 2 Quezon City, then to a PC running Windows 98 in an Intel celeron processor in a big firm in Makati, and just recently to a Pentium II running windows ME in Roxas District.

Of course now, I'm still a boy (my wife calls me her third son). But I am now toting around this 2.2 lb touch screen laptop (no bigger than a hard bound bestseller) with Windows XP. If you were to ask me, I was happy with wordstar 4, until the internet boom came. So I conceded that maybe windows 98 with microsoft office 98 was a good upgrade. But Windows XP? After connecting to the web for thirty minutes, my little gadget got the worm called "luvsan" which terminated the system in 60 seconds. It's a good thing google led me to the cure. For three days, I've been trying to figure out how to send email with an attachment from yahoo in 60 seconds from login to click send.

So how is this lifebook affecting me? Well, I've been very distracted. Instead of being able to write the stuff I needed to write, I'm installing programs here and there. Just a moment ago, I connected it to a toy video camera and wondering if it can help me edit my first motion picture which I plan to call "The Lord with No Rings". Tomorrow, the palm hotsynch, then the printer driver, then quicken, then photojam, then the CD ripper and mp3 converter.

A lot of work this gadget is giving me -- for a machine that is supposed to make life easier. But it doesn't really matter, I'm looking forward to watching a VCD movie with it from a porch in a restaurant in hilly Tagaytay. The ultimate thing is I can blog from a Seattle's Best coffee shop. Hopefully, it can improve the frequency and quality of my posts. I guess they don't call it the "lifebook" for nothing.

Saturday, January 31, 2004

MODEST PROPOSAL FOR A
NATIONAL DAY OF CONTRITION


I have lately been terrified by news all around about the rampant kidnappings happening in this country. The real terror is knowing that if it ever happens to my family (oh, heaven forbid!) I would have nothing to pay those kidnappers with but perhaps -- dig this-- my services as a lawyer. Indeed, it cannot be ignored that everyone in this country with a little money can be a target for a kidnapping.

Why did we ever get into this mess?

It occurred to me today while looking at the parking lot in Eastwood, Libis, Quezon City. The Volvos, Bmws and SUVs in that parking lot have a combined value of at least PHP 50 Million -- about a million dollars, enough money to generate hundreds of jobs for our poor people. But too bad for us, the rich people who own them have chosen to burn their money on those fancy cars. Thus, those poor people who could have taken those jobs are now plying other trades such as drug dealing and kidnapping.

Yes, kidnapping in this country is one of the curses that was brought about by the apathy of the elite.

It is time we realize this. Had the rich of this country given the poor people the chance to prosper on their own, given them jobs, given them opportunities, given them loans without charging them usurious rates, educated their children, paid their taxes properly, ran the government well, thought about them for one second -- it would not have come to this. We wouldn't be what we are today -- a rich country with lots of poor people some of whom have made a cottage industry out of kidnapping the children of the rich.

Can we ever undo the sins of the past? I don't know. Perhaps we can start by admitting that each one of us has somehow contributed to this mess. Let's say we're sorry for every selfish thing we did in this country that pushed our brethren to the dark side. Let's all make our act of contrition and let's have it on a national day.

Just one day. Let's say sorry for the selfish things we did and think about the others.

And perhaps after this one day, there will be another and another and another, until finally everyday our people, rich and poor alike, will have a genuine concern for others and find the peace and prosperity that eludes most of us.

A National Day of Contrition -- when? Today sounds like a good start.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

OUR ROMANCE WITH THE SOIL


(Image taken from Philippineartists.com.The copyright on the image has expired.)

In recent days, a little debate was played up in the papers between the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the National Food Authority (NFA) on whether it is worthwhile for the Philippines to pursue self-sufficiency in rice production. It is quite a surprise that IRRI, the lead organization in rice research and technology, appears to be throwing in the towel, as it were. It's arguing that given that it is too expensive for the Philippines to plant and grow rice on its own, it might be better off importing rice from its neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam where rice is produced more efficiently and with a lot less expense.I have not been able to follow the conclusion of the debate. I, however, have been giving the proposition a lot of thought recently knowing that it is one of the side debates in this big globalization issue that has gotten this country divided.

Coming from a trip from Baguio City, I noticed that vast tracks of land in the central plains of Luzon that used to be planted with rice have started to disappear. In their place instead where Jollibee, 7-11 and Mcdonald's and other stores. This appears to be a clear indication that those folks who owned those ricelands near the highway have found it more profitable to put up the commercial shops than to maintain their farms. I guess it supports the IRRI argument somehow.

But what has gotten me into thinking is the realization that the Filipino culture is deeply rooted in farming. If we were to give up farming, then our culture will also be uprooted from the land. We are going to give up our nation's romance with the soil.

Our nation's romance with the soil has been wrought with happiness and pain. The experience has been inscribed in our poetry, songs, images, myths and stories. Yet, this early I am wondering how my kids could relate to the song "Planting Rice". My grandparents were all farmers but my parents and I have chosen the city life. My grandmother used to sing that song to me. During dinner time, when she finds that I have not cleaned up my plate, she would often say that I should eat every grain of rice on my plate because in the farm she would painstakingly pick each grain that fell from the sack and put it back with the rest. I guess, succeeding generations of my family will become less and less familiar with the song and with these words of my grandmother as members of my family become more and more detached from the soil as shown by the fact no one among us have been minding the farm. "Planting Rice", Jose Rizal's homage to the Filipino farmer, would be then just a play of words to my kids to the kids of their generation.

It's also the stories. The literature of NVM Gonzalez, who spent a lifetime writing the stories of the kaingin farmers of Mindoro, would be harder to comprehend for the new generation of readers who would not have the amazing experience of planting and growing their own food.



(Image taken from http://www.gbtate.com/auctionsales.html I believe it is now part of the public domain, although the painting remains the property of its current owner.)

And what about Amorsolo's paintings on the life in the farm? This wealth of images from our past remain valuable as they are for so long as our people can relate them to their experience. Indeed, the globalization of agriculture is not just an economic issue but also and more importantly a cultural issue. The side bar to the argument is whether we are prepared to shed our agriculural heritage -- generations of songs, images and letters -- and break from the past for the promises of the green bucks.

The next question is what are we going to be if we are not going to be farmers anymore? Our grandparents who lived through the horror of World War II decided they were sticking it out with the soil. War and famine they fought with the backbreaking work of planting and growing their own food. The generation that succeeded them have tried out the city life even going international -- doctors, nurses, construction workers, seafarers, domestic helpers, and entertainers. They are making big money, but their families are paying the price for separation. Now that the few who have decided to remain as farmers are being egged by global economics to give it up and be something else the question should not be ignored: what are we going to be if we are not going to be farmers anymore?

A few months back, CNN had a feature about the hunger in Ethiopia. They had this reporter live with the villages of Ethiopia for nine weeks and had it documented with a crew of cameramen and lightsmen. It was a little mean because while the members of the crew were allowed to bring their own food supplies, the reporter had to eat what the villagers eat. And when they had nothing to eat, the reporter also didn't eat. Thus, the documentary captured the angst and pain of hunger as reported by somebody living through the experience. What caught my attention is the fact that Ethiopia, or at least the villages that were subject of the report, did not seem to know that it was possible for them to plant and grow their own food and not to rely on aid. It didn't seem to occur to them, that the wild cabbage that they hunted could be planted and harvested with the passing of the season and that chickens could be raised from the backyard and be their food. The idea of agriculture as a way of life is simply not there.

And this brings me to my last point why I hesitate to buy IRRI's proposition of global economics: If we break away from agriculture, we may also be taking away the ability and disposition of our people to plant and grow their own food. Sure, we can probably buy food from our neighbors who may be able to produce them abundantly for many years. But how sure are we that the food they make is not going to run out one day. How sure are we that there will always be food to buy? The harder part is knowing that the moment we break away from our agricultural past, it would take years for our people to go back, if at all. Just look at Ethiopia and behold a nation which doesn't know how and does not want to feed itself. The very moment food supplying nations refuse or fail to sell us food, Ethiopia can happen to us.

In 2003, our farmers have produced 94% of our food requirements. This year, the number would probably hit 100%. But the folks in IRRI are not impressed. It's cheaper to buy rice than to plant it. The collective consciousness of the decisions makers of this world appear to be taking the road to globalization. The magnificense and beauty of a world without borders, a world where countries become increasingly dependent on each other, cannot be ignored.




(Image taken from http://members.surfeu.fi/filippiinitseura/kulttuuri.html. Again, copyright on this image I believe has expired.)

But are we really going to give up our romance with the soil? The issue of globalization is not only about economics, but also about culture, identity and national security. Surely, questions like this deserve a lot of thought and prayer.