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, 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.