Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Where is George Washington?

My wife and I are opening a children’s library to address the needs of the new generation to rediscover the pleasure of reading books. We took advantage of the discount sales in Powerbooks and National Bookstore this weekend, and we have gathered a hefty harvest of children’s books. In the course of buying the books, I managed to sneak Adrian Cristobal’s "The Tragedy of the Revolution" in the shopping list, as I argued that our children need to be familiar, if not enamored, by Philippine heroes. Cristobal’s book is full of illustrations, pictures, and even replicas of Bonifacio’s letters that could excite young and old minds alike. I thought, it might be a good start.

When we got home, I opened the big book immediately and gathered my older sons, Juancho (six years old) and Hans (four years old) around it. Juancho was particularly impressed, and judging from his reaction, I expect that he would be opening this book regularly. But Hans -- well, after I announced that the book was about Andres Bonifacio, he asked, “ Where is George Washington?”. I dismissed his question as a joke, but after I explained to him who Andres Bonifacio was, I still am not sure if he understood.

Hans’s innocent question has made me feel guilty. What are we feeding the mind of this child? Cable TV, computer games, foreign written children’s books, Pixar and Disney movies? And what a shame it is that my Filipino son knew George Washington before he knew Andres Bonifacio. And this brings me back to my point, we need to make our children familiar, if not enamored, by our Filipino heroes. For it is only through the awareness and understanding of their history that our kids will appreciate what is to be Filipinos and find their place in the world.

But for a Filipino parent, the task is difficult. Mass media is dominated by Hollywood. I have not seen a decent film of Andres Bonifacio in my life. And Cristobal’s book is one among few books on the man that is accessible to all ages. There is very little about Filipino heroes on the bookstores and video shops. In spite of the fact that our history is never lacking in material, our mass media have not given our children a decent fare of Filipino heroes. It is quite an irony that in the age of mass media, Filipinos would have to pass stories about their heroes by oral tradition.

Why? One word says it all: chicken.

Our media moguls are afraid to exploit the untried and untested as they are afraid to lose money. And so they give us their regular mediocre material that rakes in the cash. But they are unaware that if only someone would dare, they would find a generation hungry for their heritage. And it might even be a more profitable proposition, for what could be a better reward than the certainty that our kids will carry on with the ideals of our heroes and avoid the sins of their forefathers?

Hollywood did it to them. Hollywood did it to us. It took away our courage -- the courage to be ourselves. Let’s not allow it to do the same to our children. I won’t allow it anymore. No. Not to my Juancho and Hans.

Monday, August 22, 2005

History Lesson No. 1: Why the revolution failed (and probably also why this nation will)

“The Revolution failed because it was badly directed, because its leader won his post not with praiseworthy but with blameworthy acts, because instead of employing the most useful men of the nation, he jealously discarded them. Believing that the advance of the people was no more than his own personal advance, he did not rate men accoding to their ability, character and partiotism but according to the degree of friendship or kinship binding him to them; and wanting to have favorites willing to sacrifice themselves for him, he showed himself lenient to their faults. Because he disdained the people, he could not but fall like an idol of wax melting in the heat of adversity. May we never forget such terrible lesson learned at the cost of unspeakable sufferings!”

Apolinario Mabini
from Nick Joaquin’s A Question of Heroes

The full text of Mabini's "The Philippine Revolution" can be found here.

Monday, August 15, 2005

William Esposo on Raul S. Roco: Filipinos lose the best, keep the worst

I'd like to post the last paragraph of William Esposo's column today in the, if he doesn't mind. I'm close to tears after reading it. and I'd like to keep it etched in my memory forever. I hope it moves you too.

"I am sadder for the upper and middle class members of our society who found refuge in the lesser evil. I can understand how much more difficult it would be for the masses to discern what is good for them. I can understand their attraction to showbiz types who comfort, humor and entertain them in the misery of their daily existence. But the supposedly more educated, more informed upper and middle class members of society who we expect to have better sense and propriety - there is no reason at all for them to select the lesser evil.

Because of them, the lesser evil has made our country a virtual hell."

No Sun Tzu today.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Saklolo Leano: A Seasoned Litigator to the President's Defense

Two years ago, I summed up my list of Ten Best Lawyers in the Philippines.Today, the number 8 man on my list hit the headlines: Saklolo Leano. According to news reports, Sak -- as people are fond of calling him -- was appointed as co-counsel for the defense of the President in the impeachment trial.

I blogged:

"8. Saklolo Leano

He is considered as one of the few experts in aviation law, and is constantly battling the world's best lawyers in this field. I had the privilege of working with him in the multi-billion peso construction arbitration case against a French contractor and would forever be in awe of this great lawyer. Sak was our hitman against the French's expert witness, a lawyer-engineer with very impressive academic and professional credentials. Sak cross-examined the expert witness like a cook peeling off the skin of an onion. He was subtle, precise, organized, logical and persuasive. The French tried his best to live up to his client's expectations but he was no match. At one high point of the cross-examination, Sak, with his pleasant and clear voice told the witness, 'Mr. Smith, I am very sorry to say this but you do not have the slightest respect for the Philippine courts.' We won PHP 700 million in that case."

Legal 500, a publication, which rates and recomends lawyers based on their expertise, lists Platon Martinez Floes San Pedro & Leano, Sak's firm, as one of the top litigation firms in Manila.

Unlike the defense lawyers in the impeachment trial of Erap Estrada, Sak is a charming mild-mannered lawyer. He doesn't have a reputation of being a cheat. And he is not likely to offend people in the event that he has to object to every question of the prosecution team a la Atty. Flaminiano in the Estrada impeachment. The only factor that might go against him is that Sak is now in his late sixties or early seventies. I hope he will be able to stand the rigors of this impeachment trial. But I'm sure, he will be able to live up to his reputation, give the President a fair trial, and help the nation uncover the truth.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Raul S. Roco: grand answer to the clarion's call

I took this photo on December 30, 2003, the day Senator Roco filed his certificate of candidacy for President, and also my wife's last day as a reporter for ANC.

The last line of the San Beda College alma mater song goes "Bedans will answer the clarion's call, for San Beda, our country and God." I thought that it was a cliche, but we sang that hymn every school day in high school. And each time we did, my schoolmates and I got a little more committed to its meaning. Raul S. Roco wrote that line, and the rest of the lyrics of the Bedan hymn in his youth. And somehow, in his death, we can say his place in history is secured, his life highlighted by the lyrics he wrote for his fellow Bedans.

He was an English major. He claimed he wanted to be a poet, but because of the urgings of his dad, he turned to law. And poetry's loss was law's gain. Of the many laws he authored as a congressman and senator, one of the most important is the Securities Regulation Code. The law was passed as a reaction to the BW Scam. It demutualized the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), removed the broker's monopoly of the PSE, and transplanted key concepts of American securities law to the Philippines, such as tender offer, independent directors, and the code of corporate governance. What is amazing is that then Senator Roco was successful in getting this key legislation passed while being an opposition senator. And President Estrada, who is blamed for the BW scam, even affixed his signature on it.

During the impeachment trial of President Estrada, Senator Roco was the sage voice among the senator-judges. When Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago questioned Jasmin Banal, a young lawyer witness, for moving from a high paying law firm to a low paying law firm, and insinuated that the move was unbelievable, Senator Roco rose to save the lady and the rest of the legal profession from embarassment. He asked Jasmin Banal what was written in the marble etching at the Malcolm Hall of the UP College of Law, where Jasmin Banal and Miriam Defensor Santiago studied. Roco guided Jasmin as they quoted Oliver Wendell Holmes. "The business of a law school is not simply to teach law or make lawyers but to teach law in the grand manner and to make great lawyers." And it served as a reminder to all lawyers that the business of lawyering is not simply to practice law (and make a lot money) but to practice law in a grand manner and to become great lawyers.

His work as Education Secretary is likewise remarkable. He was the only Education Secretary who successfully implemented the scheme of paying teachers' salaries through automated teller machines (atms). For years, syndicates resisted the scheme, because they made money on teachers who had to encash their pay checks from banks. Capitalizing on the teachers' needs for money, the syndicates discounted their checks at usurious rates. And teachers had to live day by day on their low salaries that get even lower when discounted with loan sharks. The atm machine removed the syndicates from the equation as teachers got their salaries in full through the atm. The scheme also eliminated the teachers who existed only in the payroll and saved the department a lot of money for other things. In one forum, a teacher complained that she was too old to go to an atm machine. Roco's undersecretary Ernie Pangan quickly remarked, if you are too old to go to an atm machine, you are too old to teach.

For two years, I had the opportunity of negotiating corporate acquisition deals with his law firm. He hovered in the backgound, but his associates' work bore his marks; they were meticulous, competent, persevering, and ethical. His law firm and its work is also one other lasting legacy he would leave the legal profession and the nation.

Roco never became President of this Republic. But even then, he became a great lawyer, congressman, senator, and education secretary. True to his word, he answered the clarion's call, and he did it in the grand manner. He made us all proud we are Filipinos. May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Second test on Zuce's story: What dinner at the lower level?

Zuce's affidavit states that "Upon arrival at PGMAs residence, they were brought to a lower level where the dinner tables had already been arranged but we waited for 2 hours before GMA arrived at around 9:00 P.M."

He said "lower level". Note this detail. They didn't have dinner in a room or in a garden. They had it at the "lower level".

The term "lower level", does this mean the basement of PGMA's house in La Vista? Why then didn't Zuce say it was the basement? Does this mean that PGMA's house in La Vista has a lower level, which is not necessarily the basement of the house, and 27 people or so would fit and have dinner there with tables arranged? This is easily verifiable.

And if the Administration's attacks against Zuce is true (that he was a minor functionary and therefore could not have been involved in sensitive matters), how come he is familiar with PGMA's house in La Vista? Are minor functionaries of the government allowed at PGMA's private La Vista house? What kind of security guards do they have in that subdivision that minor government functionaries are allowed to have dinner at the President's private home? Perhaps, Zuce is a minor functionary, who is major enough, as it were, to be allowed to go to the President's private abode.

Maybe Zuce is just imagining that PGMA's house has a lower level where 27 people could have dinner?

The devil is in the details. Does PGMA"s house in La VIsta have a lower level?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

How to Test Zuce's Story

Two words: "Travel Reports."

Every government official who is sent to "out-of-town" meetings is required to make a travel report soon after arriving from the trip. In this travel report, she states the itinerary for the trip, the time spent on a particular place, the purpose of the meeting, and a liquidation of advances for the trip. She is also required to attach the plane ticket, the boarding pass, the airport terminal stub, and the official receipts for food expenses. This type of paper work is a serious matter attended to normally by government officials, because a mistake in the travel report here and there can spawn a few administrative and criminal cases. A supervisor level official in the government has made enough travel reports in her career to get to that level.

Michaelangelo “Louie” Zuce, the presidential staff officer, who presented an affidavit, stating that 27 COMELEC provincial election supervisors from Mindanao were treated to a dinner in the La Vista residence of the President sometime in January 2004. See PCIJ background article here. Zuce claims that GMA arrived at 9:00 pm after dinner. Baby Pineda, wife of Bong Pineda, introduced the COMELEC officials one by one to the President. The President then asked the COMELEC supervisors to support her in the 2004 presidential elections. Other things happened that night, but at the end of the night, Zuce writes that "While we were living, Mrs. Pineda gave RD Johnny Icaro of Region 4 white envelopes for all of us. When we opened them in the vehicles, we found that each envelope contained P30,000."

Did this happen? Is Zuce a fake? Check the travel reports. They should be in the Finance and Administration office of the COMELEC regions.