Saturday, December 26, 2015

97. What is your most prized possession?

Time. This is such a limited resource, and  I have to cram my life into it. A big chunk of it I give to my family and friends, an equally sized chunk for work, and a much smaller one for recreation. The rest I have to allot for exigencies that come my way. Unfortunately, not everything I spend time  on is worth it, and sometimes I cannot tell.  For whom would I give up my life? Coincidentally, I have the same answer as above. I would give it up for the same people I spend my time on and in the same order.  As for material possessions, my books are all I have. I have them everywhere in my house and in my office. I've started collecting books as a kid when travelling back and forth my hometown, Pola, Or. Mindoro, gave me lots of time to read in the long commute. Now,  I also have books in my Kindle and Audible apps in my phone. 



Specifically, if I have to travel for a month, I would bring the fiction anthology of Jorge Luis Borges and David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. These are books I keep going back to for the past five years and probably for many more years to come. If I lose them, I would not get affected at all. After all, I only need these books when I have time to burn. And indeed, I've lost them more than once before. Luckily, Jorge Luis Borges would turn up again in an old suitcase or knapsack. And David Foster Wallace -- I would buy him again, which is what I did this Christmas when I realized I may find some time to read during the break. Regarding free will and destiny, I have long concluded that it is a foolish enterprise to determine if we make our own destiny or God has provided us with definite paths and conclusions. The brains that could comprehend the complexity of this mystery do not belong to humans. So I tread along in life observing, waiting to be amazed by what turns up every now and then, and grateful for all this energy and time. 

This is a reply to F. Sionil Jose's blog post, http://www.fsioniljose.com/blog/what-is-your-most-prized-possession. Frankie's Two Filipino Women, which he later released as Three Filipino Women, was the first Filipino fiction I read. I was a twelve year old kid then and unfortunately too young to understand it. But words and images from the book would turn up in my dreams -- like Cadena de Amor and Pobres Park. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

96. A vote for Mar Roxas is not a referendum on Aquino

Unless the Aquino fans want to break their hearts or their political strategists think people are really stupid, the idea that a vote for Mar Roxas is a referendum on the Aquino Presidency should be thrashed. It is not true. The PNoy magic is non-transferrable. The approval ratings and the polls have it. This is like the Ramos endorsement of Joe De Venecia in the 1998 elections. Ramos and JDV were called the jumping twins as they went around the country jumping together on stage in an attempt to share Ramos's winning moment with Joe during the early days of the Edsa Revolt when Ramos jumped for joy amidst the initially false information that Marcos has left. Bad myth, bad execution. JDV was an unknown in 1986 and people were more enamored with the idea that Erap would be president. Thus, whoever thought  Mar would be benefitted if they peddle around the idea that a vote for him is an affirmation of the PNoy Presidency should be sent his walking papers and  learn from the writers of Kalyeserye. As a matter of fact, people are suspicious that he may be leveraging government assets for his campaign. Further, people are not entirely happy with the  Aquino Presidency. Nobody is ecstatic about PNoy anymore. If you're Mar Roxas enjoying the President's endorsement, you're handicapped, because you're not expected to criticize the administration. But people want to hear criticism. They want change, they're tired of the finger-pointing system of PNoy. They want to hear somebody speak and say this is where PNoy made a mistake, so this is what should be fixed. If you can't do that, then you are nothing but a power-hungry sycophant. In Tagalog, sipsip. In my entire life electing people from grade school  elections, PTAs, political parties, local and national elections, the sipsips never win. So, bust the idea. PNoy is not equal to Mar. Mar is not equal to PNoy. 

95. Ms. Universe should have X-Men powers

and Mars should be represented. It's (wo)man's arrogance that we have these contests, and we call the winner with a name clearly too much for the feat. Allan Carreon, intergalactic ambassador, should have been a judge in that contest instead of presidential candidate about to be disqualified by the Commission on Eliminations. Everybody's talking about Steve Harvey's mistake in announcing Ms. Columbia as the winner, but nobody noticed the worst mistake of all, they did not invite anyone outside of the Milky Way Galaxy, not a word from another star, not even a text to the black holes. I wonder what Stephen Hawking has to say about this. So, congratulations to Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, Ms. Philippines,  for winning. That was the most graceful way anyone won that title, but let's get this straight: the title Ms. Universe comes with an asterisk -- for want of human technology, no person outside of planet earth was consulted before this title was bestowed. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

94. #1 Defining Moment of the PNoy Administration: PNoy appoints J.Sereno as Chief Justice

I don't remember the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court being ever immune from politics. Teehankee wouldn't get appointed by Marcos despite his seniority. Cory Aquino would appoint him eventually after he administered her oath in one of the rare occasions that the republic had two presidents. Marcelo Fernan got appointed in exchange for his political work for Cory in Cebu. Narvasa got appointed for his work in the Agrava Commission. Erap appointed Davide as a favor to Lucio Tan. Panganiban was appointed by Gloria Arroyo for his active role in EDSA Dos and installing the acting President GMA. I'm still figuring out the story about CJ Reynato Puno, and I'm betting it's through his freemason connection as the freemasons led by then DPWH Sec. and former General Hermogenes Ebdane wielded considerable power and influence during the GMA years. When Puno retired, the post of chief justice was contested between J. Carpio and J. Corona, and GMA appointed J. Corona during the period in which midnight appointments were banned. The story is Carpio was punished, as it were, for that stinging ponencia in that PIRMA decision, which permanently shut down GMA's hopes of perpetuating herself to power. So, when Corona was impeached the big question was would the President appoint Carpio? There is no question Carpio had more gravitas. Carpio was in the mainstream pack of the legal profession. He was the founder of Carpio Villaraza and Cruz, which I would liken to the Bulls and Lakers dynasties combined in the NBA, having been plucked from obscurity by Fidel V. Ramos, leading the Estrada impeachment as well as prosecution, and having powerful government posts in the GMA era like the Department  of National Defense, Ombudsman and justice of the Supreme Court. Justice Sereno had a stellar career as well, albeit none in the judiciary. Unlike J. Carpio, she had no powerful organization backing her up like masons or a latin sounding fraternity or a law firm. All she had was a small religious organization. But Aquino appointed J. Sereno, a young jurist with no political or commercial backers. It's like one of those classic chess games in which Kasparov would offer a rook in exchange for apparently nothing and Topalov's jaw would drop. I'm still making sense of it, but one thing is sure, the appointment insulated the Supreme Court from the power brokers that dominated the judiciary for the last forty years. It's a shot to the future. Finally, no single law firm, lawyer, or litigant, can command an en banc review of settled cases at the whim of a single handwritten note, as Estelito Mendoza used to do. This is the single long lasting legacy of the PNoy Administration, a Supreme Court that would not be a rubber stamp for powerful competing interests in the republic. And Aquino would get what he wish for when the Sereno-led Supreme Court would overrule his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional. So stung was Aquino with the defeat that he went on a media rampage assailing the Supreme Court, but the deed is done. As CJ Sereno once said, "Excuse me, I don't serve Presidents."

Saturday, December 19, 2015

93. #2 Defining Moment of the PNoy Administration: PNoy eliminates Marwan, sacrifices SAF 44

This is what the Presidency is about, sacrifice 44 elite policemen to take down a wanted terrorist. Many people would not forgive the President for this, especially so that the 44 Special Action Force (44) members died in the hands of the MILF who has been talking peace with the government. I personally hate him for this because of the lies. I don't believe that former Sec. Mar Roxas and Sec. Volt Gazmin were not aware of this operation, especially Mar Roxas who's been turning up to take credit for every police matter in the country, since his appointment. Then, in the early reports on the incident he peddled the story that it was a misencounter. Rumors have it that this was a fund raising expedition as Marwan's head had a huge pot money, and the foreigners involved were bounty hunters. This is the trouble when the President himself is the peddler of lies. You can't believe anything. We only know Marwan was killed and in the process we lost 44 of the best policemen around. Many investigation reports have been released about this incident, but none with the credibilty to answer the question as simple as, why? When a new President takes over, I would propose that the erstwhile Truth Commission be revived to find out exactly what happened.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

92. #3 Defining Moment of the PNoy Admin: PNoy pursues the Spratlys claim

More than a claim for territorial rights, the Spratlys claim is about standing up to a regional bully. The geopolitical landscape has changed a lot since the Marcos years, and China has become a dominant force. The Arroyo regime flirted with this nation in more ways than one, what with NBN-ZTE deal almost coming to existence with bribery and corruption in all the high places. China has succeeded in dictating national policies, particularly the claim for the Spratlys. PNoy's decision to revive the Spratlys claim by commencing arbitration proceedings against China and rallying other asian nations against its expansionists tendencies is a big break from recent history. Never mind our poor military capability, for commencing the arbitration is a chance for the country to show the world that we are rational and non-violent people. The all star legal team sent to litigate the case before the Hague is positive we can win. Personally, I think it can go the way of Nicaragua vs. USA, which Nicaragua won but could not enforce. But we never know.

91. #4 Defining Moment of the PNoy Admin: The President signs the RH Law

I was against the RH Bill provision that allowed abortificients to be sourced and peddled with public funds. But I realize more than a population control measure, the RH Law was also about the State breaking up with the Church. There have been a lot of times that the Church was wrong, but the State cow-towed to it. The RH Law was one of at least two items that the Church has lobbied not to be inscribed in the annals of Philippine law, the other being divorce.   And so it happened, after intense debates, including the below the belt name-calling Team Patay employed by the parishes to label those pro-RH bill candidates running for the senate, the RH Law was passed and signed by the President. Lo and behold, the earth did not shake, nobody got struck by lightning, doomsday did not happen. The Churches "patay" scenarios did not come upon us. I still believe the State should not buy abortificients. But the RH Law is about statecraft, political will, and spending a lot of political capital. Whether it was a wise move is a matter that history would decide. 

90. #5 Defining Moment of the PNoy Administration: Napoles surrendersto the President

It's probably #1 in another list of most dubious spin stories of Philippine history. Malacanang said it was like Luis Taruc surrendering to Magsaysay in the 50s. But I couldn't buy that unless they showed that that criminal also got special treatment in prison. The Napoles scandal was an obscure illegal detention case picked up by the Inquirer, allegedly fueled by a woman's wrath against an ex-lover, which uncovered what congressmen have been doing with their "soft" projects from their pork barrel for many years and across administrations in the post-Marcos era. The PNoy Administration's anti-corruption rhetoric created the conditions for this scandal to be exposed, but it was apparent it wasn't prepared to accept its consequences. When asked if PNoy knew Napoles before, PNoy would allude to his poor memory and excuse himself from giving a straight answer. Around the same time, the COA report on the pork barrel came out and one of the biggest spenders turned out to be administration ally Cong. Boyet Gonzalez, the majority floor leader of the House of Representatives, who allegedly spent about half a billion pesos in basketball leagues and burgers. Curiously, PNoy's own pork barrel records showed that he didn't get any, as the COA complained they couldn't get any records from the Department of Budget. Napoles would soon reveal that it was Butch Abad, PNoy's Secretary of Budget, who taught her how the racket works. I've been a fan of Abad since the days of Salonga-Pimentel, and I found the story really hard to believe. But you tie up this story with how PNoy received Napoles in Malacanang and how he turned her over to the PNP riding all the way from Malacanang to Camp Crame in the evening traffic, coupled with the fact that she was treated as a special prisoner, allegedly because people were out to kill her, and you suspect this defining moment is not a positive one at all. What is clear, however, is that the comparison with the surrender of Taruc to Magsaysay in the 50s is hot air and we will not get the true story until many years later.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

89. #6 Defining Moment of the PNoy Administration: Corona sitting on a wheelchair before the impeachment court

The last hold out in the regime change from Arroyo to Aquino was the Chief Justice, Renato Corona. The Corona-led Supreme Court nullified PNoy's Truth Commission and issued an injunction against the hold departure order of Sec. De Lima of the Department of Justice. Chief Justice Corona left the PNoy Administration with no choice but to take him down too, as he showed no indication that he was going to cooperate with what the PNoy Administration wanted to do, especially in the light of the Supreme Court's active defense of Arroyo's right to travel. The nation had a daily dose of a legal spectacle in the impeachment trial, and it was lawyer time again, the second impeachment trial in a span of 12 years. The drama was lost on the first day of the presentation of evidence when Cong. Barsa, who was a prosecutor, argued with Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile as Barsa asked for a postponement. Like in any other trial, there were mishaps and incidents that highlighted the unpreparedness of the lawyers, but CJ Corona's legal team showed that it had more professionalism, wit, and acumen. Unknown to the public,  the President, Sec. Mar Roxas, and Butch Abad had been talking to the senator judges secretly and were offering them additional budget allocations, later known as the "Disbursement Acceleration Program" in amounts averaging Php 50 M in exchange for the conviction of CJ Corona. Meanwhile, evidence of CJ Corona's dollar accounts were admitted with no less than the new Ombudsman Conchito Carpio Morales and Asst. Commissioner on Audit Heidi Mendoza presenting the evidence. Thus, on the penultimate day of Corona's trial, CJ Corona was forced to admit he had dollar accounts not declared in his Sworn Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth, because these were covered under the Bank Secrecy Law. He also claimed that he had saved them since he was a student. He walked out of the hearing after his speech and was barred by the Senate marshalls. His lawyers, ever so quick to the draw, crafted out an excuse that he had an attack of hypoglycemia and brought him back on a wheelchair, his face the mark of defeated man who left his fate on the hands of his enemies. When I saw this on national tv, I knew that it was just a matter of time. But Chief Justice Corona decided to wait for the voting instead of resigning, probably a wise decision on hindsight as the subsequent revelation of the DAP offered to the senators in exchange for his conviction have tainted the voting, and the three senators who voted to acquit, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Joker Arroyo, and Bong Bong Marcos, proved to be the conscience vote. I hope CJ Corona writes a book and reveal exactly what was on his mind when he was wheeled back to the Senate that fateful afternoon. He must have been aware that the senators have been dangled with the DAP as compensation for his conviction; his lawyers once protested about it for which Atty. Judd Roy was reprimanded. This is where I say the PNoy Administration crossed the line, as it were. They have used the method and implements of the despised Arroyo regime against the last remnant of the Arroyo regime and in so doing became no different from it. The Aquino and the Arroyo regimes now stood on the same side, the corrupters and the corrupt. The final box on the reform agenda has been ticked, but in the process the reform agenda lost its moral bearings too. 

88. #7 Defining Moment of the PNoy Administration: Arroyo is arrested.

I never thought I would see another ex-President of the Philippines being arrested, but I did on national tv --November 18, 2011. Personally, I thought it was an overkill. The lady looked helpless in her hospital gown, a few days off from surgery, and deprived of dignity by all that medical attachments.  Also, the paper wrestling between the Chief Justice and the Secretary of Justice was a battle that could have come out of a Grisham novel. But the present Chief Executive had to assert his authority against the ex-Chief Executive, who, even if she's been confined  to a seat in Congress, lurked with considerable clout across the entire bureaucracy. She mass promoted everyone before she left office, and the PNoy Administration had to undo that to make financial sense. So the members of the bureaucracy were used as an unwitting tool in the battle for hegemony against the Arroyo regime in the public establishment,  for who doesn't want to get promoted and why would they symphatize with the people who were nullifying that promotion. It was too much. The queen had to be taken down. Some people think it was revenge that motivated the PNoy Administration to chase Ex-Pres. Arroyo. But looking back, I think it was a strategic move for the consolidation of power, and to make sure everyone knows that there was a new President, not just by law, but also in fact.  On hindsight, Ex-Pres. Arroyo may have received a less harsh treatment if she had shown a willingness to cooperate with the PNoy Administration. But the lady had legal traps and zaps laid out for PNoy and his legal team, so the PNoy Administration was left with no choice but to chase her and lock her up in hospital prison. After all, she stole the presidency not once but twice, as Susan Roces put it, and she almost extended her term by amending the Constitution with the Supreme Court voting 7-8. She would always be a looming threat. Never mind if she was sick. In primitive societies, resistance to regime change ends in assassinations. In the Philippines, jailing ex-Presidents is the current method and style. 

87. #8 Defining Moment of the PNoy Administration: Merceditas Gutierrez resigns as Ombudsman

Merceditas Gutierrez, former Secretary of Justice and the first female Ombudsman, was the first casualty of PNoy's campaign to assert himself as the Chief Executive. Perceived as a close ally of former President Arroyo, she got impeached immediately upon the assumption of PNoy to power. She secured an injunction from the Supreme Court, but it was not for long. And with the fiasco that made Rolando Mendoza -- the hostage taker who killed the Chinese tourists in August 2010 -- go berserk, she did not have any political or public sympathy. Rolando Mendoza was upset about his Ombudsman case, and he claimed Ombudsman investigator Emilio Gonzalez demanded money in exchange for its dismissal. She resigned effective May 6, 2011, a week before the anniversary of the elections of 2010. Her own defining moment is when she wrote, the President should have an Ombudsman he can trust. That was a class act, unfortunately it wasn't reciprocated well by the PNoy Administration, which was chest-thumping and congratulating itself for the breakthrough victory. Mar Roxas was quoted somewhere that the next target was the Chief Justice. Nobody thought he was serious, but it showed that establishing the PNoy Presidency as a real force was a medium term project. Personally, I thought things were amiss in the Ombudsman when former Sec. of Justice, Nani Perez, Gutierrez's former boss at the Dept. of Justice, won a case against the Ombudsman for the inordinate delay in his case. It's like winning a case, because the other guy didn't appear, not once but many times. It wouldn't encourage trust for any incoming president, especially one who won on the promise of reform and the fight against graft. So, indeed, with Gutierrez out of the Office of the Ombudsman, Team PNoy ticked the first major item on the reform agenda.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

86. Top Ten Defining Moments of the PNoy Administration: #9 Rolando Mendoza Takes Down 8 Hostages from China

August 23, 2010 just after the triumphant celebration of his election victory, PNoy was faced with a bizarre hostage taking incident. Rolando Mendoza, a policeman dismissed from service took hostage at gunpoint Chinese tourists aboard a bus in Rizal Park. He demanded the dismissal of his case pending with the Ombudsman for which he was allegedly subject of extortion by the handling Ombudsman investigator, Emilio Gonzalez.  This wasn't PNoy's undoing obviously and it exposed the money-for-dismissal racket in the Office of Ombudsman, which was prevalent. The matter was also confined to the jurisdiction of City Mayor of Manila, Alfredo Lim, who bungled it when he ordered that Mendoza's brother be brought to the district of Tondo, which was a code word for summary execution among the police in the know. Mendoza overheard the order on the television on board the bus, and he wreaked havoc thereafter. At the end of the ten hour drama, 9 were dead including the hostage taker, and 9 were injured. The reality of societal dysfunction in the Philippines have manifested in this violent and embarrassing event. It would take years before China could be appeased. Shortly thereafter, Maria Ressa wrote in the Wall Street Journal that PNoy flunked his first test, underscoring that PNoy was Arroyo's student and highlighting as well PNoy's less than stellar credentials, considering that his academic qualifications are better only than that of Estrada who, however, had a long colorlful career as City Mayor of San Juan, something which has no equivalent in PNoy's resume.  People compared the situation with the incident in the Arroyo administration when somebody violently took over the control tower of the NAIA airport one fateful evening. Arroyo immediately called for a cabinet meeting deep in the night and ordered that the perpetrator be taken down before the first flight of the day arrived. The following morning, the newspaper carried the news, and the body of the dead perpetrator hanging by the rope from the tower was the picture in the headlines. Yet, looking back, the circumstances of both incidents were completely different and it is hard to imagine how any of the previous presidents could have acted under such extreme situation. Further, it was the City of Manila which was in charge of the operation, and PNoy, though he went to the scene, was several layers above the bureaucracy to be deemed as culpable, especially considering that the City Mayor was only under supervsion, and not under the control, of the Secretary of Interior and Local Government.  What would follow after that, however, showed an ultimate resolve to set things right, Gutierrez was impeached, Gonzales was dismissed, and the new Mayor of Manila, Joseph Estrada, succeeded in settling the liabilities with the victims and the diplomatic spat with Hong Kong. Thus, PNoy would recover and redeem himself on this issue eventually. 

85. Top Ten Defining Moments of the PNoy Administration: #10 PNoy's State of the Nation Address July 2010

I have to hand it to PNoy, looking back to the day he got elected, he never had it easy. The outgoing GMA Administration laid out legal traps and zaps that could have easily accelerated the incoming administration's demise. Midnight appointments and mass promotions, coupled with a bureaucracy populated with corrupt officials used to easy money and cuts and kickbacks, it is a recipe for hypertension and heart attacks -- a less healthy President would have died in office miserably. Six years is not enough, and probably another six wouldn't do either. Imagine the President as a conductor of a symphony, and as he takes his place in the stand, his first problem was to boot out the other conductor who appeared to be still in command. That was his first agenda: to establish himself as the functional Chief Executive. Then, he had to boot out heads of the departments that refused to follow his baton. Before he knew it, he was already halfway his term, and he had less than three years to get his show going. Nobody's perfect and PNoy's administration had its share of imperfections. But this is not another PNoy bashing exercise. I think what is in order is a fair evaluation. Thus, I am listing the Top Ten Defining Moments of the PNoy Administration. A defining moment is the point at which the nature of the character of a person or group is revealed. I'm not an expert and even with the benefit of Google, it is still hard to remember everything, but this is what I have:


10. PNoy's State of the Nation Address 2010.


Barely a few weeks in office, PNoy used his first State of the Nation Address to expose anomalies in the past administration,  outrageous bonuses in the MWSS, rotten rice in the NFA, and budget overspending. With a good six months to go in the year, PNoy complained that he had only 6.5 percent of the year's budget left. PNoy took corrective measures by passing the law establishing the Governance Commission on Government Owned and Controlled Corporations and appointing Dean Cesar Villanueva of the Ateneo School of Law to the office. PNoy's administration also established a reputation of underspending. While economists decry this practice of underspending as bad for the economy, it somehow creates an image of prudence. I will leave that to the economists to debate, but what is more important is value for money spending, whether the money was spent and the benefits were shared by the community and not just by the bureaucrats. Between overspending and underspending on the macro scale, underspending is correctible by spending within the budget in the remaining days of the year. But once the country has overspent, it can no longer unspend what has been spent, so to speak. It works in my household and I imagine it is so in many others, and we comprise the nation. Thus, if I have to choose, I'm okay with underspending, especially if spending will only lead to corruption. As for the NFA's rotten rice, nothing came out of it. In fact, the NFA would be rocked by anomalies of PNoy appointees, Lito Banayao and Arthur Juan. Most recently, rotten rice from the NFA warehouse was  caught in the news being buried. The Administration has been silent on this, and no one appears to be appetized to talk about it. Personnaly, I know for a fact that there is a budgetary item for rice stocks in the  warehouse getting rotten. So, what needs to be shown is if this rice being buried was within budget. Over-all the SONA of 2010 was a positive defining moment. In the end the President showed that he could walk the talk, as it were. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

84. Slapstick Politics

Wikepedia defines slapstick as "a style of humor involving exaggerated physical activity which exceeds the boundaries of common sense." When Duterte mentioned the other day that he'd slap Roxas in the face, he was actually engaging his audience with this slapstick sense of humor. Unfortunately, Roxas could not be denied a reply, dared Duterte to do it, and said Roxas would pay him a visit. I could not believe myself and checked the calendar and  confirmed that it is December  14, 2015 indeed, not 1015 AD. Yet, the amusing thing is we have full grown adult men, candidates for the presidency, engaging in slapstick banter to pander to their crowd of sycophants who seem to be up to it. I don't remember Philippine elections having gone this low. When I ran for student office in San Beda High School, we had decent speeches, and my fellow candidates and I shook hands before and after the vote. Roxas and Duterte are not in high school and they're vying for a position of authority with national, historical, and symbolic significance. Yet, this is how they choose to conduct themselves, comparable to how hogs fight for their slops. It still escapes me how slapping Roxas in the face would get Duterte some votes and how Roxas daring Duterte to do it would get Roxas his votes. They're entertaining voters of course to inject life in their otherwise hohum campaign. My kids have a term for this embarrassment, facepalm. To my generation it is simply, baboy.

83. Taga-Wharton ka, eh ano ngayon?

Michael Milken, who got his MBA from Wharton, was known as the Junk Bond King. He was convicted for securities fraud and sentenced to ten years in prison. It didn't matter which school he came from. As a matter of fact, you can even argue that his Wharton education gave him implements that he could have used for the greater good, but he chose otherwise. I am sure there are legions of good guys from Wharton, but please don't come around bragging about your Wharton education. Schools, even from the Ivy League, don't manufacture good people. In fact, they can mess up good people in the same way they can straighten messed up people. So, your school is irrelevant. You are no longer fresh out of college, and this is not your  first job.  Let's talk about Yolanda, the peace and order situation, the MRT, Mamasapano, and the years you have conjured up your great ambition, Wharton guy. I can think of a dozen people who came from obscure universities who just wanted to get things done, and who could have made a better job. 

82. Moses was a foundling too.

Imagine if the high priests of Philippine politics, some of whom have found their way in the institution known as the COMELEC, a.k.a. Commission on Elimination, lived in Moses's time. They would say Moses had no right to lead the Chosen People, because he couldn't prove he had Jewish blood, and as a matter of fact he grew up with Egyptian royalty. There is no record of it, but he must have travelled with an Egyptian passport too. Salvation history would have taken a different turn. Consider the thought, no ten commandments, no manna from heaven, no parting of the red sea, no tower of babel, no David and Goliath, no Bathsheba, no Solomon, no Torah, no Old Testament, no New Testament, no bible, no immaculate conception, no Emmanuel (no Manuel?), no Jesus, no Joseph, no Mary (no Jejomar?), no crucifixion, no resurrection, and no salvation. Yet, the gatekeepers of the Infinite Energy have willed that these high priests be born in our era and populate us with the maxim, the foundlings cannot lead the Philippines today and forever. No wonder we continue to be slaves of oppressive laws and thoughts, living like puppets to fulfill the illusions of grandeur of incompetent, self-righteous, and ambitous dynasties. Yes, Moses was a foundling too. And if he lived here with our high priests of politics in power, he wouldn't stand a chance.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

81. Suffer the Foundlings

After almost seventy years as an independent republic, I don't know why we're now picking on foundlings. It is as if it's a great misfortune to have a foundling in national office, like an idiot president, a disbarred justice, thieves in the senate, absentee congressmen, or mercenaries in the army.  Come to think of it, we already have some of those, but life goes on in the republic. So, why pick on the foundlings? Perhaps we are paranoid that Osama Bin Laden's son might become president, Hitler's daughter, the vice, Mao Tse Tung's grandson a senator, Yamashita's kid a justice, or Idi Amin's daughter a congressman. Yet, the genes of these notorious people are probably in  government,  judging by how it has been run, but that's not because of the foundlings.  The reason is not xenophobia either, albeit it's founding father Manuel L. Quezon, is highly revered in this country.  Alas, he cursed us to have a government run like hell forever.  Yet, xenophobia, like homophobia, is so 1950s. It's out of fashion.  It's been exposed as a psychiatric condition rooted in prejudice and lack of education. The reason is simply this: Grace Poe is a strong candidate for president, and some people who believe that her opponents have a divine right to the presidency would not allow that to happen. So suffer the foundlings -- the unwanted, those deprived of family and history, the expended, dispatched, thrown to the garbage, and helpless little rascals. Sacrifice them, disqualify Grace Poe, and fulfill a mad man's ambition. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

80. Why Grace Poe can still pull this off

It's not final until the Supreme Court rules. Two divisions and five of the seven Commissioners, as they voted in divisions, have ruled out Poe, but the COMELEC is not the ultimate arbiter of disqualification cases. It's the fifteen men and women who comprise the Supreme Court of the Philippines. Until the fifteen take a vote, Poe's cause for the presidency is not over. Poe's father took this path before, and the Supreme Court ruled in his favor on March 3, 2004, a good two months before the May elections of 2004. With the disqualification cases being appealed to the COMELEC en banc next week, all that Poe needs is for the COMELEC to act with dispatch so the matter can be brought before the Supreme Court at the soonest possible time. Poe's counsel George Garcia is still beaming with hope that the COMELEC en banc will reverse the two division rulings, and I have to hand it to him for being the optimist in this fight, thanks to his years walking in and out of the COMELEC hearing rooms and knowing how men and women trained in the law, logic, and deductive reasoning could change their minds. While the nation waits with bated breath, so to speak, these disqualification cases have been instructive in two things:  1. The status of foundlings is collateral damage. I refuse to believe that lawyers, commissioners, and justices would be as restrictive in their reading of the status of foundlings as natural born citizens if Grace Poe's candidacy is not on the line. Whatever happened to social justice?  Those who have less in life should have more in law?  Option for the poor? Let's put this all away, because Grace Poe should not become President? I have not known a more anomalous subversion of the spirit of the law in my career. 2. The repatriates are collateral damage too. I took particular note on the COMELEC Second Division ruling that those who are repatriated after obtaining foreign nationality lose their status as natural born citizens, save for those who serve in the US army. That means the repatriates too are disqualified for national government elective office. This has far reaching implications as many national government officials right now are repatriates, and I imagine many of repatriates are better qualified than most who are not but are in national government service. In other words, the COMELEC is disqualifying two whole subsets of Filipino citizens from the pool of possible national government officials. And this is all because they don't want Grace Poe. Dick Gordon once said, candidates don't lose elections. People do. The elections are still five months away, and I so very much want that the people do not lose this one. To the Supreme Court we go.

Friday, December 11, 2015

79. Prof. Alfredo Tadiar

Prof. Alfredo Tadiar taught me arbitration, not in school, but in actual arbitrations. My first arbitration was in 1998 about millions of collectibles from the construction of the Cebu airport, and my poor client's only defense was improper venue. On my first day in the arbitration table, there he was in his suit, knowing I was a neophyte but he kept me at ease, while talking about his Macs when Windows was in fashion. Prof. Tadiar never sneered at our case, which due to our desperation, was a cause we brought all the way to the Supreme Court. And after many years, he remembered and even said, maganda naman yung depensa mo, and we chuckled at the memory and triviality of it all. I nominated him again as an arbitrator at the biggest construction dispute in Philippine history, and he engagingly obliged. He was a tiger, at one point berating our side for not knowing how to cross. This is how it's done, he told us.  And we pushed and didn't let him discourage us. I was having fits of dizziness and high blood pressure for the stakes were high. In one hearing, I irritated him for asking more than the questions he had allowed,  so he cut off my mic. I stared at him for his rudeness but he dismissed me and proceeded. Never mind.  Atty. Saklolo Leano, sage lawyer par excellence saved us all. We won that one and laughed all the way to the bank. I had him again in 2012, and poor lawyers from the other side, got intimidated by his stern demeanor and knowing theirs was a helpless cause, settled before any hearing could begin. We signed a compromise agreement and Prof. Tadiar seemingly irritated by the early surrender and the consummate perfectionist that he was,  inserted a word about the unenforceability of our compromise. I wanted to tell him, does it matter as we already got our check? Finally, we nominated him again, this time in an international arbitration, and it has been nothing short of an educational and fun experience. He's been humoring us every hearing, once about hard it was for the arbitrators to collect their fees. He showed us why it was not going to be a walk in the park. Our proceedings are going to be examined before international courts, so we went by every rule in the book, which he pointed out every now and then. I felt like a kid every hearing listening and probing at how Prof. Tadiar and his co-arbitrators were thinking. And I marveled every time with what I saw. Unfortunately,  a few days before our final hearing, he suffered a stroke and died. He was 85. Prof. Alfredo Tadiar is the lawyer for all seasons.  Good humored, tech-savvy, clever, perfectionist, energetic, well-read, fashionable and world-class. The man drafted the Katarungang Pambaranggay Law and it is through his stewardship that arbitration and alternatives modes of dispute resolution is a thriving practice in this land. Goodbye Prof. Alfredo Tadiar. I have learned a lot from you, probably more than from any lawyer I have met in my career. Thank you. I already know how it is done, but never close to how you used to do it.  You are finally with the Ultimate Arbitrator. I pray you rest in peace. 

78. Election by Elimination

If Mar Roxas wins, he would accomplish something that has never been done before, probably one for which he deserves full credit, albeit he wants to deny it: getting elected by disqualifying all formidable opposition, election by disqualification. When he gets proclaimed in May 2016, we would call him President by Default, not President-Elect. It wouldn't make a difference. He'd still be President, commander-in-chief, driving with car plate #1, father of the nation, chief executive, a co-equal of the Chief Justice, Senate President, Speaker of the House, he with the power to declare martial law, whose portrait would hang in the Palace along with his grandfather, the first Manuel Roxas -- the first President after World War II -- and all the presidents before and after, he who has fulfilled every Filipino child's ambition with his own private golf course and official residence in Baguio, he who would have a daily view of Juan Luna's Pacto de Sangre and the awesome sculpture of St. Michael the Archangel Killing the Dragon by an unknown sculptor in Paete, Laguna, he who would sign the trillion peso budget of the Republic and all legal tender issued by the Bangko Sentral, he with the power to veto every brilliant and stupid law passed by Congress, and he, His Excellency. How cool is that? Poe is DQed, Binay in jail, Duterte relegated to Pasay City mayoralty candidate, Miriam, sick, and my personal favorite, Allan Carreon, intergalactic ambassador, declared a nuisance. No, Mar Roxas has no hand in how they would all get eliminated from the race. The universe is conspiring to make it all happen. He would just be the beneficiary, President by Default. Let's congratulate him, he deserves it. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

77. Medical Test

Let's pretend we have a presidential candidate who is blind and has no hands. I thought it was irrelevant until I checked Article 7 of the Constitution, which says the President should be able to read and write. I'm sure Mar Roxas and his dirty tricks department would waste no time in having that candidate disqualified if the candidate would pose a challenge to his run. In the case of Sen. Miriam Santiago who once admitted to be cancer stricken, her cancer would not pose as an obstacle to her candidacy, unless in the course of the campaign she loses the ability to read and write. Yet, by not disclosing her current medical state, nobody knows what's going to happen to her, that is if her cancer would take her to that vegetative state, God forbid, during which she would lose control of her faculties, and even the ability to think, which curiously was left out in the requirements for candidacy. Of course, when she says she is fine, that is a medical opinion, which she is not qualified to make even if she were a doctor herself; it's like a barber cutting his own hair. Yet, she is not a medical doctor, and thus whatever she says about her medical condition is self-serving. In the 80s when Marcos got sick and had his kidney transplant, the matter was kept secret by the State. This fuelled speculations about the Executive Committee, which he claimed would take his place under the semi-parliamentary system. He lived through those times and  even cheated his way to the February 7, 1986 elections, dextrose and dialysis machines in tow. But we all know he lost his touch, which eventually led to his ouster three weeks after the elections of 1986. Had we been invaded by China then, we would have been toast. This brings us to the conclusion that leaders or candidates who decide not to disclose their medical condition are not being responsible. In the case of Sen. Miriam, she's like saying she can do this job, when she very well knows she can't if she's sick. She lamented in her speech during the votation for CJ Corona's impeachment that she was nearing the end of her life. Yet, Sen. Miriam would be Sen. Miriam, and notwithstanding the polemics on her health which has animated her career, she would be headstrong in her position that her health is none of our business. Well, we'll be watching her, as long as she can read and write, never mind think, there is no debate she's qualified. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

76. The Vice President

... is a spare tire. That's what I can remember from the Joaquin Bernas lectures for the Ateneo Law JD Class of 1995. Nothing much could be added to that description, except that the spare tire may be appointed to the cabinet and would not be punished for taking double pay for that. Yet, for the May 2016 elections, the Office of the Vice President  (VP) appears to have the most number of legitimate aspirants, some of whom are sharing presidential candidates with others. Erap Estrada has set this trail when he slid down for the VP position in the 1992 elections and handily won against Lito Osmena, who was the VP candidate of Pres. Fidel V. Ramos. Gloria Arroyo was Erap's VP, and we all remember how Susan Roces chided her for stealing the presidency "not once, but twice." Yet,  I have nothing against political strategy, unless it highlights nothing but ambition for the politician. And this VP contest is one that underscores the weak and spineless  crop of politicians we have in this country. The office of the VP as a spare tire was intended as a stop gap measure in the event of vacancy in the presidency. It is a pointless job, because it has no official function, and when the vacancy  in the presidency occurs and the vice president ascends to the presidency, a new vice president takes over, with the same predicament, he or she has nothing to do. So, when somebody aspires for the vice presidency, especially if he or she has no president or is sharing one with others, we can be sure that he has no agenda but power. For whatever campaign promise the VP candidate makes, without a president, it is not doable. The VP has no actual function.  The VP shouldn't even have a budget, except probably for medical and security services. Thus, if this VP candidate wins,  whoever becomes president would have to put a batallion of spies on the office, to make sure the VP doesn't steal the presidency again, so to speak. Of course, I have a VP candidate that I like and I think the foregoing description is not true of all the VP candidates. Yet this VP circus is too much to be ignored. 

75. Black Propaganda

The Great Gatsby opens with the character Nick Carraway quoting his dad and saying, “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had." And I wish our politicians had Nick's dad for their dad's, or at least, had  read just even the first line from Fitzgerald's classic. Yet, instead we have black propagandists for politicians,  masquerading their pointless ambitions with benevolent righteousness. Beyond their circle, they have no manners; they brand their enemies, the sickly, the traitor, the corrupt, the villarrayos, even allies with potentials of being enemies, abnormal or psychiatrically challenged. These black propagandists with sick minds and sick ambitions have given aspiration to leadership a bad reputation.  In Plato's Republic, the leadership is given to he who doesn't want it. And our politicans penchant to use black propaganda underscores why Plato, writing thousands of years ago, is relevant in the Philippines and its elections on May 9, 2016. For those who lust for power for power's sake have been corrupted by their lust,  and they will not stop. They will use words, good and bad,  to entice voters or make voters detest others. And the elections, which could be an exercise for dialogue and education among the polity, is turned into a gossip game. If they get elected, they do nothing but run after their enemies, whom they will brand enemies of the state. They would be oblivious to the true situation of the state, because of their vanity. They would not distinguish truth from flattery or truth from criticism. They would claim credit for achieving what others achieved and blame others for their mistakes. Plato is correct. There is no way our democracy can succeed, unless we take the politics away from the politicians. Perhaps, we can start by not electing the black progandists and their masters.  


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

74. KBL

The story goes that Levi Celerio, the great lyricist and leaf flutist, composed the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) theme in the toilet of a restaurant and got paid handsomely and immediately for it. The word "bago" and its derivatives are repeated seven times in the music set to elegant march. Yes, I counted them while singing every word of the song before I wrote the preceding sentence, which is either a testament to a middle aged lawyer's alcohol-ravaged but surviving memory or the timelessness of the enduring and memorable musical hook. Considering that Levi was eventually awarded as a National Artist, I suppose it is more of the second. It's been more than 43 years since KBL became a political byword, and it has gone full circle from conception, installation, disposition, and resurrection. With the election of Senator FM, Jr.  as senator, the stage has been set for its re-establishment. I told a group of anti-Marcos friends that FM Jr. is not the same as the Sr., neither in brilliance nor audacity, and the old World War II buddies and cronies of Sr.  have all gone to the great beyond. Thus, it is a fallacy to think that the re-establishment of KBL under FM, Jr. would bring us back to the same regime of FM Sr., Imelda and Enrile, who slowly but surely are pushing on to retirement, notwithstanding. Looking back, the nation has been so kind as to afford the Marcoses a chance for retribution and redemption after driving them out of power. Many world dictators and their families met violent ends in ways that demonstrate the ruthlessness of humanity. Yet, we are not that kind of people, and there are legacies of the KBL that could still hold out on their own versus the post-1986 Presidents. Thus, FM, Jr.'s decision to put himself as a candidate for Vice-President is a chance for the nation to evaluate how far we have gone since KBL was disposed. And perhaps, we would know if we have moved on if the KBL is no longer the standard by which we judge our governments. Meanwhile, let me start by saying that so far no political jingle post-1986 can equal that timeless Kilusang Bagong Lipunan theme. Levi Celerio deserved every peso of his pay. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

73. The Nuisance

It sounds heroic if I start by saying that the COMELEC rule disqualifying nuisance candidates for President is unconstitutional. After all, being a creature of the Constitution, the COMELEC cannot add or subtract from the qualifications as outlined in Article VII. Accordingly, the COMELEC may not define a nuisance candidate and provide that aside from the qualifications for President as stated in the Constitution, a candidate must prove he or she is not a nuisance candidate, or otherwise face disqualification. But heroism or strict constitutionalism is not going to work in a country where the right to run for public office can be, and is often, abused. Theoretically, there is no limit to the number of candidates who can run for the position of President. But it will not take a wise guy to know that if 1,000 people do, the COMELEC would not be in a position to handle the nightmare it would entail to administer the elections for that enormous number of candidates for one position alone. It would likely result in a failure of elections. Accordingly, affording the COMELEC the power to exclude nuisance candidates might be constitutionally infirm, but it is a sound management tool for a democratic country. Yet, I am not about to let this go, because my concern is to keep the doors open of the Presidency to the philosopher king. In Book VI of the Republic, Plato likens the business of running a country into the task of navigating a ship and compares the citizens of a state to a shipowner who lacks knowledge in seafaring. The sailors are the politicians, while the ship's navigator, a stargazer, is the philosopher. The sailors claim knowledge of sailing,  but know nothing of navigation as they constantly vie  for the approval of the shipowner to captain the ship, going so far as to intoxicate the shipowner with drugs and wine. And they dismiss the navigator as a useless stargazer, yet he is the only one with the knowledge of seafaring who can direct the course of the ship. In the Philippines, that philosopher king might be the head of the philosophy department in an obscure Mindano university, or a merchant in Ongpin, Binondo, Manila, or a nomadic taong grasa who roams the streets of Loyola Heights, or ahem a sleepless blogger. What I am saying is that the COMELEC rule throwing out the nuisance candidates from the presidency might keep us from electing the philosopher king, for like the navigator of the ship of state, he does not appear like the standard politician. And we would be stuck with our ship of state which is run by the politician sailors who know nothing of running it. We would never know. As I finish this piece, the news is out that the quintessential presidential candidate Ely Pamatong has just filed his certificate of candidacy for President, a likely prospect for disqualification for being a nuisance. Ely Pamatong is probably not the philosopher king that Plato said is the ideal leader for the ship of state, but we could be wrong. And I recall with a smile, Pascual Racuyal who last ran against Cory Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 as well as Manuel Quezon and the others in all the presidential elections since the Commonwealth era. I wonder if anybody ever asked him about his ideas. For one thing is certain, in our history as a democratic state, Plato has been proven right; our country has not gone far with our politicians, and so we must keep watch for the philosopher king, who truly knows this business of sailing the ship of state but who may come in a package that the COMELEC defines as nuisance. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

72. Binay

I overheard a conversation among businessmen about politics, and someone said that, assuming all the Presidential candidates are corrupt, Binay is the only one who can get things done. True enough, Mar Roxas would always carry the mess that was the Yolanda rescue and rehabilitation, and the embarassment that was, is, and would forever be the MRT, no matter how hard he tries to dodge the blame to the agencies in charge with them. And Grace Poe, whose charm is her sincerity and  her non-initiation to the dark world of politics -- we sincerely hope she would not dare thread that path -- has no track record for getting things done on a local or national level. But Binay -- he has built a welfare system in Makati. He's given a lot of life perks for the senior citizens, such as free hospitalization and movies, and for Makati's children, free education with textbooks, uniform, and all. Then, to project himself on the national scale, he made every city or municipality a "sister" of Makati and gave each free ambulance and medicine. How this adds up on Makati's balance sheet could be the work of the David Copperfield of accounting or simply by a good manager. You compare that with six years of PNoy and you have to credit the idiots in his government for allowing the proposition to be reduced to no longer a question of integrity, but of competence. They wasted all that mandate for the work of the Ombudsman and promised weird stuff like rice sufficiency, which sounded well but was clearly not doable. Does anyone have any other lingering image of the Aquino administration other than the wheelchair-bound former President Arroyo gasping for a seat in the first plane out of Manila in hospital attire or the wheelchair-bound former Chief Justice Renato Corona on the days before he would be impeached by DAP-fed senators? No one cares anymore, for all that glory was fleeting. We cannot blame Makati if it wants to sustain a Binay Dynasty, even if Binay has not chased a single robber out of Ayala Avenue or jailed a pimp in Burgos Street. Binay built the model franchise for a semi-socialist state in the seat of capitalism in the Philippines, and, because its impact is more enduring, it goes with a bonus manual on how to perpetuate oneself and family in local politics. I doubt it if Kid Pena, the Liberal Party stooge who took over from the disgraced Binay Junior, would have the skill set to outdo the Binay franchise in Makati. In fact, I pity the kid, for so much is expected of him, but once his patrons are sent packing out of the Palace, it would be every man for himself, and he would be left to fend for his own skin against the remnants of the Binay Dynasty, which with all that loot can evolve and come back strong. And without a doubt, with the Binay franchise and its track record still fresh in Makati's life and imagination, Kid Pena would find it hard to even hold out on his own against the Binay family dog or cat or whoever or whatever is next in line. 

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

71. Sen. Joker Arroyo

It is quite a coincidence that one of the Republic's most revered politicians is a guy named Joker. I was a high school student in the early days of the Cory Aquino presidency when I read a headline that said something like "Reeducate the military -- Joker Arroyo." The rightists were agitating for his ouster as Executive Secretary due to the perception that he was a communist, but to the average citizen, those red baiting headlines and rumors  didn't really add up to a fair conclusion that he was a red or that being so meant he must be removed. Fast forward to the Erap Administration, and Joker was considered a front runner for Speaker, except that Manny Villar had the numbers. So, I heard Joker on the radio lambasting Villar for having used his office  as congressman to ensure passage of laws that would facilitate housing loans that ultimately benefitted Villar's housing companies. Joker would drift away from public view after that and soon reappear as lead prosecutor of the Erap Impeachment. That opening speech of his that ended with a statement that we could not have a President who is a thief should be a favorite elocution piece for high school speaking contests.  It was  brilliant and it captured what we had in our raging hearts in those days.  Then, this magical photo of Joker leading the prosecutors in a huddle during a break in the impeachment appeared in the front pages; it made me proud of being a lawyer for it is one of the high points of the legal profession in this country. It showed these valiant men of law so skilled and so sharp they roused the Republic to revolt and oust a buffoon from the Palace. I voted for him when he ran for the Senate in 2001 and missed the voting for 2007 because of election work. But I kept track of him as one of the few senators who didn't touch his pork barrel. I listened to Senator Joker's speech at the close of the Corona impeachment in 2012 and wondered why Joker had a different vote. I suspected  something was amiss. Atty. Judd  Roy declared that the senators were bribed with 50 Million Pesos worth of pork barrel each from Malacanang, but the case seemed like it was not necessary. Joker gave  a short speech in that voting, and I was cheering him on half-wanting for a conviction and half-wanting for an acquittal, because Joker was for acquittal, which only shows what lesser minds we are compared to this genius. I only had one chance of meeting him in the Senate where he once chaired the Committee on Public Franchises. It was a pleasant meeting as he assured us of his support, and true enough he delivered on his promise as we got the approval of the Senate for a franchise, no sweat.  We have to credit the Republic for having elected Joker to the public office, several times to Congress and twice to the Senate -- proof that our people can  recognize and vote for great men to lead them. I shall be saying this over and over again to my grandchildren when I'm old, one of the greatest politicians in this country was a man called Joker. Goodbye good senator. Thank you for your service to the Republic. 

70. Isa't isa

Other than jolens, I don't know of any backyard game where you can derive a situation that is known as "isa't isa". A loose English translation is one and one. One chance to win or lose. The object of the game of is to finish a course of four holes forward and backwards. A player finishes a hole by rolling the marble or jolens into it, or by hitting the other player's marble. If your marble gets hit, you reset to the first hole no matter how far you've gone on the course while the hitter advances one hole. Isa't isa happens when one player is in the last hole going back and is about to finish the game with his marble a few inches away from the mark, while the other player is catching up, trailing one hole behind. The player who is behind can go over to the home base and take the chance to win  by hitting the other player's marble. If he misses, the other can roll the marble into the hole, and the game is done. If he, however, hits the other marble, he wins the game. The alternative is to attempt to roll the marble into the hole, beating the other to the last mark. The moment is testy, and either you crack or croak, blaming yourself for having allowed the game to get this bad. The skill of hitting another marble or rolling one into the hole takes a lot of practice and the stakes are high, usually the bragging rights of being the neighborhood hotshot. I have found myself in this situation many times and I can recall it ending with heckling or some punches being thrown. Yet, soon before I could learn any of those adult mindfulness techniques, I would find a way to prevail with  a composed hand. The best move was to roll the marble into the hole, looping it a bit and giving it a spin. And at times it would be a heart breaker as the marble rolls into the hole only to spin back out of it. Yet, soon enough, I mastered  the right angle of the loop with the exact amount of spin. I look back at those days when playing jolens was all the world to me, for many times I've recognized myself in this moment of isa't isa, not with a game of marbles, but with a business or strategic decision to make with so much to win or lose. Meeting the person that could make a deal, finding the evidence that could win the case, writing the email to win over a foe, making the phone call that could turn around a souring relationship -- sometimes the work of many years could all boil down to an isa't isa moment. And I ask myself how bad do I want this done, then it is all up to the skilled hand to find the right loop and proper spin to win or lose it all. I've out grown this game jolens, a Filipino childhood game of the 70s, but isa't isa and the lessons it taught linger on.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

69. Political Parties

I can only identify the extreme lines as the clear political parties of this country: the Makabayan bloc, which advocates state socialism, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, which promotes the restoration of the Marcos family and cronies, and the Federalista, the Cabangbang movement for US statehood. The other political parties, such as the Nacionalista, Liberal, Nationalist People's Coalition, Lakas, and other derivatives of the old Laban of Ninoy Aquino mean nothing any more.Through-out the post-Marcos political era, these other political parties have meshed and disbanded like electrical particles zapped and un-zapped with bolts of ambition and greed. If you're looking for a political platform, I once told a political organizer, all you need to do is copy the 1987 Constitution, and pretty much you will have the best sounding political verbiage in the most elegant legalese you can find. I have not found the occasion to read these parties' platforms but I have a suspicion they're plagiarized versions of the Constitution indeed, which underscores the point that these other political parties are nothing but vehicles to launch careers in government and not real entities with vision and organization from the great western traditions. Chiz Escudero makes an interesting point with what he calls Partido Pilipinas. He said this is how the Poe-Escudero Team would launch their campaign. The weird part is it is just a name, it has no registration, no vision, and no organization, and yet he calls it the people's party. Obviously, Chiz is a non-believer of the political party system. At least, he doesn't pretend in his belief that the political party system is a joke, although I would have laughed harder if he announced that it's real name is Children's, as in Children's Party.

Monday, October 05, 2015

68. Leni Robredo

I was hoping Leni Robredo would run for President, but the political gods had willed that she would be slated for the Vice Presidency for the 2016 elections for the meantime. So, it shall be. Leni, wife of Jesse, the Magsaysay Awardee for public service, will be my candidate for Vice President. But I'm not voting for her,  because she is his wife, but because precisely she's demonstrated she's not just his wife. Two items in her resume stand out -- lawyer, Public Attorney's Office (PAO) and lawyer, SALIGAN. These are jobs that I would have wanted to take, but due to exigencies in my own life, I decided to take on the path of a corporate lawyer. Corporate law has been fun, and I've learned and I'm still learning a lot from my work, but whenever I'm around PAO lawyers or former SALIGAN lawyers, I'm always in awe of the kind of work they do and the things they've done. Somehow telling people I've done mergers or have set up and sold utilities, pale in comparison with the accomplishment of the PAO lawyer who had an indigent acquitted of a false accusation of theft or the SALIGAN lawyer who fought a land conversion. I've told myself anything a lawyer does with integrity has its own crazy social relevance, but whatever the PAO or SALIGAN lawyer does has a direct bearing to society and the social relevance is never crazy. She, like the many lawyers who worked for the PAO and SALIGAN, deserves recognition for all the work she has managed to do, for all the financial sacrifices she's made, and for all the dignity that she has brought to the legal profession. One from the ranks of the PAO and SALIGAN should be Vice President or President one day. That can only be Hon. Leni Robredo. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

67. The Politics of Exclusion

The bloodline school of determining nationality is no doubt akin to the Divine Right paradigm of power. I imagine, however, that there is nothing fundamentally and biologically different in the blood of citizens of different countries. For that reason, this country has outlawed the Divine Right paradigm, and we elect our leaders by popular election, never mind if their bloodline is tainted by the blood of plunderers or dictators. Yet, in spite of the obvious fact that human blood is all the same, our Constitution has adopted the bloodline school in excluding the non-Filipinos from the real ones. Thus, you're a Filipino if your father or mother is a Filipino. The worse anomaly that can happen to you is if you're born here of foreign parents, because you follow the citizenship laws of your parents; but if your parents' nationalities adopt the place of birth school of thought, then you're neither a Filipino nor a citizen of your country's parents. This makes you stateless. I suspect that this is not an accident of history; our forefathers have envisioned the bloodline theory of nationality to exclude the foreigners and deny them the right to own land and exploit the country's natural resources. In 1954, seeing that the foreigners have dominated the retail trade, Congress passed the Retail Trade Nationalization Law, which would prohibit foreigners from owning not a single percent of interest in any retail trade business. This would be relaxed in the Estrada era with the passage of the Retail Trade Liberalization Law. But the politics of exclusion at the core of the bloodline school is clear. The occasion to revisit this principle of citizenship under the Constitution may never come, but the underlying assumptions that made us impose this on ourselves are outdated. People born in the Philippines should be Filipinos. People born in other countries of at least one Filipino parent should also be Filipinos. Excluding those of foreign blood, even if they were born here, also excludes the country from the benefit of their skills and talents. It works both ways. In the end, the wider we keep our gates to allow more Filipino citizens gives us more chances of getting good ones. And the bad ones, hopefully don't get elected, but sent to jail.

Friday, September 25, 2015

66. Art and Propaganda

Somewhere in my old stacks of books and magazines is a quotation that goes, "All art is propaganda, but not all propaganda is art." I mention this because a friend of mine is concerned that "Heneral Luna" is officially entered to the Oscars, and the film ends with the American generals laughing at the Filipinos. The implication to the "amor propio" of the country, especially so that it is Hollywood's most prestigious awards, couldn't be more alarming. In other words, Heneral Luna may arguably be good art, but it is definitely bad propaganda. The political reading of Heneral Luna, as far as Fil-Am relations are concerned, puts the Filipinos in very bad light. As the film lifts Luna, it puts down Aguinaldo, Mascardo, and the rest of the Kawit command, most of whom were shown to have lacked the discipline demanded by the war.  I told my friend the historical consequences after Luna's death may not be altered, and those American generals laughing may not have happened but the statements were quoted accurately. Still my friend asks, "Why do we have to do this to ourselves?" Well, we did it already, and we would do it again and again as the Luna story attracts more followers while our young nation matures. We would only stop once we find a way to reconcile Luna's death and that of Bonifacio's with our continued patronage of Emilio Aguinaldo and his brief stint as the first president of the Philippine Republic. That is only possible if we downgrade the status of Aguinaldo and put him on the level of Andres Bonifacio and Antonio Luna, the other heroes he had killed or allowed to be killed, that would necessitate us marking Manuel L. Quezon as the first president  of the Philippines, which is a historical fact. Manuel L. Quezon is another one of Aguinaldo's men in the Fil-Am War, and he beat Aguinaldo in the first presidential elections after Quezon hammered in on the issue of Bonifacio and Luna.  Yet, of all the generals in Aguinaldo's army, my personal favorite is Artemio Ricarte who up to his death never gave up on the revolution, even as he suffered many years in prison for his persistence.  After serving sentence for his refusal to pledge allegiance to the American flag, Ricarte was asked to make the pledge, and he refused again. This prompted the Americans to have him exiled. As luck would have it, Ricarte found his way to Japan, and he would return to the country during the Japanese invasion collaborating with the Japanese and its politics of the Great East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Artemio Ricarte's stature as a patriot is thus mired by the stigma of his Japanese collaboration, notwithstanding the historical reading that his return as a Japanese collaborator was him carrying on with the Philippine-American War and the Philippine Revolution. Nick Joaquin and F. Sionil Jose both posit this political line, but whether it will make good art is another question. I hope some indie producer finds Ricarte's story worthy of a decent and well-funded film production,  as that one has better possibilities as art and propaganda than Luna's. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

65. Adobo is French?


(Adobo by La Seda Hotel Davao City)

Someone wrote that adobo is of French origin, which I think may have some truth to it, considering that braising the protein in vinegar, soy sauce, and spices is peculiar to this Filipino dish. This chemical process of braising the protein, be it pork, chicken, or beef, has the effect of infusing the color, taste, and the spice on the meat and magically appetizes the foodie's palate. This is similar to how braising meat in wine does the trick. Whenever I travel around the country for work and I see the adobo  on the menu, it is, hands down, my chosen meal. Some of the more memorable ones is the adobo I order from a hotel in Pagadian City, which, although a little bland, is full of aroma because of the bell peppers they mix in it. Pamana Restaurant in Tagaytay serves it three ways of which what stands out is the one braised in coconut milk. Coconut adds the sweet coco flavor that is a Bicolano staple.  By far the tastiest adobo I have eaten is the one they serve in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija, which is made from the meat of farm rats. I told my wife, Celeste, to credit the culinary genius of the people from Cabiao to cook adobo rats.  They removed the hairy skin, chopped off the head, tail, and legs so what remained are little drumsticks no different from the drumsticks we derive from small gaming birds. I asked them if there was any other way to serve farm rats, and the people I met in Cabiao said the adobo way is the only way, as it removes the stench of the meat completely. Cooking adobo rats not only puts food on the table, it also eliminates the pests. The Cabiao folks have turned the problem of pestilence into a feast. How much more Filipino can they get? Perhaps, Albert Camus's The Plague may have ended differently if the French author casted somebody from Cabiao to turn all those pests into an exotic culinary dish as adobo rats. It hits the existentialist school in the gut.  If such were the case, then there is more compelling reason to say that adobo is French.

64. Blogger's block

A couple of false starts and I still couldn't get a paragraph done. It was probably because of the rugged schedule yesterday, which had me occupied by hearings for an entire day and the preparations for another trip to Davao today. This is not my first encounter with presumably a writer's block, but this is the first time I am addressing it directly by writing about it. In the past sixty three days, I have only skipped a paragraph once, due to unusually heavy workload; I feel though it was not about an inability to  write, but more of the scarcity of time to get it done. Yesterday, however, was a different case. I was shuttling between two hearings at high noon in EDSA from Quezon City to Pasay. And to relieve myself of the stressful condition of being in heavy traffic while time is ticking before the next hearing started, I tried to write a couple of lines, but there was no paragraph to be had. The same was true in the evening even as the hearings have finished.  I am reminded of Kobe Bryant's high school coach who taught him of the need to have a bread and butter shot. It's the high accuracy and all weather shot that he could make if necessary when a shot couldn't be sourced from anywhere. Kobe Bryant, whose phenomenal career as a basketball player is legendary, can make shot at will, even at the worse game situations. I watched him make two free throws shortly after his Achilles' heel popped out.  How that relates to writing the paragraph is likened to a bread and butter piece of writing -- it has to be a topic that I should be able to write about confidently and with undying inspiration, if the need arises. And the bread and butter paragraph should be the answer to the impending writer's block -- the one that I could still write even as my Achilles's heel has popped-out, so to speak.  It should be the topic of paragraph 65. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

63. Justice Carpio spoils the party.

NVM Gonzalez used to say, "Every reading is an opportunity for misreading." And I am revolted by the news of the misreading of the Constitution by a senior justice of the Supreme Court. Yesterday, Justice Antonio Carpio disclosed his position before the hearing on the Senate Electoral Tribunal that Sen. Grace Poe is a naturalized Filipino, and not natural-born, unless she can prove she had blood relations with Filipino parents. I reviewed my paragraph 58 which outlines my own thinking, and it seems that Justice Carpio's position is the middle ground of the two opposing schools of thought on this issue. This interpretation arises out of the literal reading of the meaning of natural-born and ignores the textual definition found in the Constitution that one is natural-born if one does not have to perform anything to perfect one's citizenship. The weight of the opinion of the senior justice is indicated by the sudden decision of George Garcia, Sen. Grace Poe's counsel, to reveal that Sen. Grace Poe's DNA are now being matched with possible blood relatives. This indicates that Sen. Grace Poe is about to do a Cinderella-like search in  a blood pool of Ilongos that hopefully has not been inundated with false leads that would not only make the search long, but also expensive. There are three justices of the Supreme Court and six senators appointed by party affiliations in the Senate Electoral Tribunal. David, the petitioner who sought the disqualification, would need two more votes from the senators to unseat Sen. Grace Poe and jeopardize her presidential run -- the justices appear to share the same opinion as Justice Carpio. Justice Carpio's resume is nothing to sneer at. He was at the top of his class, and his law firm rose from obscurity to become the darling of the Ramos era. They helped convict Estrada for plunder. And when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became President, they got their partners appointed to key positions in the government, such as the Ombudsman and Secretary of Defense. Justice Antonio Carpio was Pres. Arroyo's first appointee to the Supreme Court. When Chief Justice Renato Corona got impeached, thanks to the impeachment complaint which that law firm drafted, I thought Justice Carpio was a shoo-in for the position. But it was not meant to be, at least not yet. This is an interesting development, albeit a heart-breaking one. NVM was right about misreading, which in the case of a legal decision eliminates all possible readings, including the right one, unless appealed. I am shaking my head as I imagine Michel Foucault in the room saying, "Truth is what the powerful says it is." 

Monday, September 21, 2015

62. Unwashing the Brainwashed

Our teacher in Grade V Social Studies, Mr. Bravo, once got furious, because no one among us in class could tell what was the number of the official proclamation of Martial Law. He sent us out of the classroom to find out before the class ended in an hour. It was 1981, and we weren't even teenagers, and I thought it was unfair of him to expect us to know something that nobody taught us before. Of course, that was my view then, and I have so far been awakened into the evil that was Martial Law. But thanks to Mr. Bravo, my classmates and I would probably never forget what Proclamation No. 1081 meant. 



In high school, after the departure of the Marcoses, somebody passed me a copy of the book, "Conjugal Dictatorship," by Primitivo Mijares and pointed me to the chapter on Dovie Beams. Of course, the chapter would hardly qualify as porn, but to teenage kids, the Dovie Beams chapter was our initiation to the sex lives of the rich and powerful, and we were deciding between condemnation of the sexual transgressions of the dictator or cheering on the virility of the old man. But there are other pages that showed the cunning disregard of Marcos to the rule of law, particularly the chapter on Oplan Sagittarius. This would further shape our young minds that things have been set up by a power hungry Marcos couple. I'm sure I bought a copy of that book, then a pricey PHP 75 per copy, but it seems to have fallen out of the publishing reprint list, because nobody is selling it anymore.  Our teacher in high school, Mr. Bango,  said they used to pass around photocopies of the book in their days because it was prohibited. Now, that I'm a forty-five year old bookworm, trained in reading bullshit pleadings and political propaganda, it would find me a more discerning reader, who may evaluate its pages, like a reader of the future, eager to know how the republic unwashed the brainwashed minds of the Martial Law babies. To his credit, Marcos did not abolish law schools and universities, and Imelda would allow artists and writers to flourish during martial law.  Otherwise, they would have turned us all into minions incapable of thinking for ourselves. For, as many suffered during the dark night that was martial law, a generation of discerning teachers, academicians, lawyers, writers, and artists would survive and nurture our country's love for freedom, hold vigil to unwash our brainwashed minds, and  see this love coming out with all its might in the days of February 1986. It would carry on henceforth. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

61. Luna

The temptation in watching a film like "Heneral Luna" is to compare it with a book, such as Vivencio Jose's Rise and Fall of Antonio Luna. But the historical fact hunter in me gets parried by the visuals in that cabinet meeting scene at the start of the film as soon as Pedro Paterno appeared. I blurted out to my wife,  Celeste, "I hate that guy." And it was all suspension of disbelief from there. 


Apparently, Aguinaldo did not know how to facilitate a cabinet meeting, people were talking at the same time, and he didn't have the voice nor the gavel to quiet down everyone. When people were almost about to come to blows,  he would not call for a break, so they could cool it down. I am reminded of Joker Arroyo's quip about a student government running the Aquino Administration, which I pray is inaccurate, but Aguinaldo's won't even pass as a student government.  No wonder the revolution was doomed. Antonio Luna running the army, however, was different story. He knew what to do. Arthur MacArthur, the American general, wondered if they might be reading the same books, because Luna's strategies were familiar. Yet, to MacArthur's good fortune, Luna's army was fractious. I've read a lot of books about the Philippine revolution, and until now I haven't seen an organizational chart, which gives me the suspicion that there was none. This leads us to the counterfactual that had Bonifacio lived and organized the government himself, with Aguinaldo still leading the army, and Luna at his helm, the results might have been different. But Bonifacio would die, and Luna would die, and Aguinaldo would survive them all. And so the result was an embarrassing defeat. "Heneral Luna" the film was spot on.  Antonio Luna's death in the hands of the Philippine Revolutionary Army marked the watershed event of the Fil-American War, and the movie makes a compelling case that it could not have been that way had he lived. He had a plan; the Cordilleras provided the natural fortress for the protection of the President and the base to re-build a guerrilla army. Unfortunately, Aguinaldo appeared to be half-hearted about fighting. Apolinario Mabini wrote in his own summation of the "Philippine Revolution" that, 

To say that if Aguinaldo, instead of killing Luna (allowing Luna to be killed), had supported him with all his power, the Revolution would have triumphed, would be presumption indeed, but I have not the least doubt that the Americans would have had a higher regard for the courage and military abilities of the Filipinos. Had Luna been alive, I am sure that Otis's mortal blow would have been parried or at least timely prevented, and Mr. Aguinaldo's unfitness for military command would not have been exposed so clearly. Furthermore, to rid himself of Luna, Aguinaldo had recourse to the very soldiers whom Luna had punished for breaches of discipline; by doing so Aguinaldo destroyed that discipline, and with it his own army. With Luna, its most firm support, fell the Revolution, and, the ignominy of that fall bearing wholly on Aguinaldo, brought about in turn his own moral death, a thousand times more bitter than physical death. Aguinaldo therefore ruined himself, damned by his own deeds. Thus are great crimes punished by Providence.





Luna's death elevated him to the status of a Filipino hero for all time. The movie's penultimate sequence where as Luna was playing his guitar, Luna's mother enters, and the film drifts to a flashback of Luna's days gone by, gave me the shock of recognition, it's Joseph Campbell's "The Hero of a Thousand Faces". Luna could have stayed in Madrid and continued chasing the bohemian life of the defunct Propaganda Movement. He could have skipped the war and returned as a doctor when everything was all over; but Luna -- he was going to come back and lead the war against the Americans. His days as a young writer for La Solidaridad that initiated him to the quest for Philippine independence were marked in his soul. It was the inspiration of Rizal's friendship and tragic death that helped him keep the faith. It was his mission and calling. Fighting the war for independence was his bliss, and his death, his own fulfilment. Punyeta, ang ganda!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

60. FPJ's legal roadmap for Sen. Grace Poe

In paragraph 59, I wrote that Sen. Grace Poe only needs to substantiate her allegations that she decided to re-establish her domicile to Manila after the death of her father, Fernando Poe, Jr. in December 2004. But my real concern is how the dispute can derail the election process. In Tecson v. Fornier (G. R. 161434 March 3, 2004), the Supreme Court decided Fernando Poe, Jr.'s disqualification case barely two months before the elections of May 2004. He filed his Certificate of Candidacy on December 31, 2003. Victorino Fornier and the other oppositors filed their Petition against him on January 9, 2004. In ten days, the COMELEC Third Division received the evidence and by January 13, 2004, the challenge was dismissed. Upon the filing of a Motion for Reconsideration, the COMELEC en banc dismissed the case with finality on February 6, 2004. The Petitioners brought their case to the Supreme Court on February 10, 2004. But the Supreme Court dismissed the Petition on March 3, 2004. That is exactly sixty-three (63) days from the filing of the Certificate of Candidacy by Fernando Poe, Jr. By the standards of the Philippine judicial system, that was very quick. It could not have happened if the COMELEC and the Supreme Court did not have the resolve to swiftly decide the matter of such great importance during those days. Yet, I can think of a hundred permutations that would have complicated everything, especially if Fernando Poe, Jr., did not lose in the counting. The COMELEC en banc could have reversed the Third Division and removed his name from the election returns, and he could have missed the voting altogether if the Supreme Court did not act. This is, of course, speculative but I mention it here, because I think the ideal scenario for Sen. Grace Poe is for the COMELEC and the Supreme Court to match the timelines and milestones of her dad's disqualification case. Based on the election calendar for the May 9, 2016 Elections, the filing of the Certificates of Candidacy shall be from October 12-16, 2015. Thus, Sen. Grace Poe has an additional seventy-six (76) days from the filing of the Certificate of Candidacy leading to January 1, 2016, after which the administrative tyranny of the looming May 9, 2016 elections would wreak havoc on her campaign. Yet, this is a different COMELEC and Supreme Court, and they are not bound by the timelines from the Fornier case. Accordingly, while I think the legal challenges to Sen. Grace Poe's candidacy have no merit as discussed in paragraphs 57, 58, and 59, there is still a danger that the legal process would be used to derail her run. Vigilance is the key. Her first test to the complex world of politics and law is how not to get disqualified by her enemies. Thanks to her dad, there is a roadmap.

Friday, September 18, 2015

59. Domicile, Residence, Citizenship

Sen.  Grace Poe's residence is the last focus of the disqualification case against her fitness to run for higher office, because the Constitution requires that a candidate for the presidency must be a resident of the Philippines for ten years. Yet, this argument is "dead in the water" so to speak, by simply clearing up the legal concepts of  domicile, residence and citizenship. First, citizenship is not synonymous with residence. Citizenship refers to the oath of allegiance to a state; residency relates to the place of abode. A person can be Filipino citizen and a resident, or a Filipino citizen and a non-resident. Conversely, a non-Filipino can be a resident of the Philippines. Applying this distinction, it is now easy to see that Sen. Grace Poe's residency has nothing to do with her brief status as an American citizen, which we discussed in paragraph 57. These are two matters that cannot be confused. The second point is that whenever the law speaks of residence for purposes of election, it refers to domicile. The ordinary meaning of "residence" is the place of abode, whether permanent or temporary. Meanwhile, domicile means a fixed permanent residence to which, when absent, one has the intention of returning. Domicile is residence coupled with the intention to remain for an unlimited time. It is the place of habitual residence. For election purposes, a temporary residence in one place does not change a domicile, which may be in another place. In the case of Imelda Marcos vs. COMELEC G.R. 119976, September 18, 1995, the Supreme Court noted that Imelda established her domicile as an eight year old in Tacloban, left for Manila in 1952 to work with his cousin and then got married to Ferdinand Marcos, registered as a voter for Ferdinand's congressional district in Ilocos Norte,  moved to San Juan, Metro Manila, when Ferdinand became a senator, then moved to San Miguel, Manila when Ferdinand Marcos became the President, then she claimed they got kidnapped (?) and brought to Honolulu, Hawaii in 1986, after which she returned  to San Juan,  Metro Manila in 1991 and ran for President, until she finally decided to return to Tacloban to run for Congress. Said the Supreme Court, 

None of these purposes unequivocally point to an intention to abandon her domicile of origin in Tacloban, Leyte.
That's almost a forty-year adventure out of Tacloban for Imelda that had her travelling around the world, so to speak, not counting the acquisition of real estate in New York and the bank accounts in Switzerland. Yet, her domicile, said the Supreme Court, has always been Tacloban. As for Sen. Grace Poe, she has to satisfy the requirement that she has been a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding the elections in May 2016. So strictly speaking, she has to show that her domicile from May 2006 onwards has been the Philippines. Her press kit says she decided to return to the Philippines for good after the death of her father Fernando Poe Jr. in December 2004. From then on, she moved her domicile here, which she demonstrated by a series of activities, such as moving residence here, enrolling her kids in Philippine schools, buying her family's abode, and selling her American house. Most of these activities took place in 2005, which is safe enough to qualify for the ten year threshhold. Of course, by applying the all embracing precedent set by Imelda Marcos's case, the residency issue against Sen. Grace Poe is clearly settled. There is, however, a controversy as to her personal declaration in her application for certificate of candidacy for the Senate where it was inscribed that she's been a resident only for  six years and six months prior to the May 2013 elections. If the declaration were to be read on its face, it would make Sen. Grace Poe a resident only from December 2006, about five months short of the threshhold. Yet, this was the same situation in the Imelda case where the Supreme Court ruled that it is a non-issue as those declarations in applications for certificate  of candidacy are outweighed by the actions of the candidate, which ultimately determine the domicile. It would therefore be a matter of evidence on the part of Senator Grace Poe to show by testimonial and documentary proof that she has moved her domicile to the Philippines after December 2004. This is where I think the procedural hurdles would be thrown, which should be subject of paragraph 60. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

58. Foundling, Citizenship, and Adoption

In paragraph 57, we discussed that the Maquiling case did not have any relevance in determining Sen Grace Poe's legal fitness to run for public office. I am not a lawyer of Grace Poe, so I am writing this for my own legal satisfaction. In fact, it may be different from what her lawyers are saying. Nonetheless, as her candidacy has been announced last night, I might as well discuss the other legal hurdles that she would go through to complete her run. The argument has been raised that she is not a natural-born Filipino, because she was a foundling. Her bio says she was adopted in accordance with law by Fernando Poe, Jr. and Susan Roces, after she was found as a baby in a church in Jaro, Iloilo City. Under the Constitution, natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship, (Section 2 Article IV 1987 Constitution). Meanwhile, Filipino citizens are those 1) who are citizens of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, which was October 15, 1986; 2) those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines; 3) Those born before January 17, 1973, of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority, 4) those naturalized in accordance with law, (Section 1 Article IV 1987 Constitution). (See also Art. 48 of the Civil Code). The argument is that, being a foundling whose real parents are unknown, Sen. Grace Poe cannot establish that her blood parents are Filipinos as defined above. Thus, she is not a natural-born Filipino. The underlying proposition is that foundlings in the Philippines are born stateless and remain stateless in spite of the adoption. As being a natural-born citizen is traced through bloodlines, the argument is that a foundling's bloodline is untraceable, and therefore the foundling is stateless. This argument proposes a strict application of the bloodline principle, and demands the burden of proving the bloodline on the foundling, which is the opposite of how it operates in real life. A foundling rescued in the Philippine is always treated as if the foundling had Filipino parents. Thus, when the foundling is subjected to adoption proceedings, the foundling's citizenship is presumed to be Filipino. Our law office, which handles adoption by specialty, have never been asked by a judge to prove the citizenship of a foundling. If, by any chance, any one were to challenge the citizenship of a foundling, the burden is on the challenger to show the foreign lineage and not on the foundling. This practice arises out of the Philippines' assent to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which mandates the recognition of every human being's right to a nationality from birth. The UDHR, along with other human rights treaties, are considered part of the laws of the Philippine as binding customary international law.  In addition, I think the key to further neutralizing this argument is Article 189 of the Family Code, which defines the effect of adoption as follows: 

"For civil purposes, the adopted shall be deemed to be a legitimate child of the adopters and both shall acquire the reciprocal rights and obligations arising from the relationship of parent and child, including the right of the adopted to use the surname of the adopters".
In other words, once the foundling is adopted, the adoption creates a legal fiction, which deems that the adopted is a legitimate child of the adoptee. The effect of the legal fiction between adopter and adoptee is restricted to that relation. Yet, my view is this is not so in the case of citizenship, as the Constitution and the Civil Code state that one is a Filipino if her father or mother is Filipino without qualifications. This should apply to both natural parents and adoptive parents as the law does not distinguish. It goes without saying that the foundling did not have to perform anything to acquire or perfect the citizenship, because being the subject of adoption proceedings, the foundling or the adopted does not take an active role in her adoption; the adoptive parents are the main participants in the foundling's adoption proceedings. In other words, not only is the foundling regarded as a Filipino upon birth, once the foundling is adopted, the foundling acquires the rights of a legitimate child, which includes the citizenship of the adopters. Thus, the argument of the stateless foundling is not just unkind -- the foundling normally does not come with a passport -- but also inconsistent with the presumptions mandated by the adherence of the Philippines to international treaties on human rights, and  the basic law on adoption as defined in Article 189 of the Family Code of the Philippines and the Constitution.