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.