Monday, November 22, 2010

Liz and Da Prez

Balitang Kutsero
By Perry Diaz

The love story of “Liz and Da Prez”  is a modern-day Cinderella story:  the 50-year king of Pilipinas falling in love with his 28-year old hair stylist.  It was “love at first cut.”  Yup, the moment Liz made the first cut of Da Prez’s hair, he was bewitched by Liz’s simple beauty.  “Talagang kay ganda!” (So beautiful!), Da Prez mused.  He was never the same again.

Then, Da Prez called his spin meister Ricky and told him that Liz was “talagang kay ganda!” and that she personifies the true Pilipina.  Guess what?  Ricky called Mai Mai, Da Prez’s speechwriter, and told her that Liz personifies Pilipinas, “kay ganda!” Mai Mai immediately posted a tweet in her Tweeter and Facebook pages, “Pilipinas kay ganda!” The Tourism Secretary, Albert, read Mai Mai’s tweet and he liked it.  He took his young son’s crayons, drew “Pilipinas kay ganda!” and doodled some funny figures and the words “So beautiful” and then he announced to the whole world that that was the new logo of the Philippines’ tourism campaign.

When Da Prez asked Albert where he got the idea, Albert replied, “I got it from Mai Mai, sir.”  Da Prez asked Mai Mai where she got the idea, Mai Mai replied, “Sir, I got it from Ricky, po.”  Da Prez asked Ricky where he got the idea, Ricky replied, “I got it from you, boss.”  Da Prez said, “From me? Hmm… I must be dreaming when I said that,” and scratched his head.  He then remembered telling Ricky that Liz was “talagang kay ganda!” and smiled.

Then Ricky said, “Boss, just curious, may I know why you shaved your head, sir?”  “Huh?” Da Prez said and touched his head.  It’s bald!!!  Then he remembered what Liz did when she cut his hair.  He smiled and said, “I like it this way, and do I look now like Yul Brynner? Ahem.”  “No, sir,” Ricky answered, “You look like Boy Abunda.  Hehehe…”

Liz, Kris, and Shalani 

Onto better things… Prez Benigno “Noynoy”Aquino III’s former girlfriend, Shalani Soledad, didn’t waste any time moving on and not looking back.  She was hired to co-host the new game show, “Willing Willie,” with former Wowowee host Willie Revillame.  Indeed, when the door to Noynoy’s “Bahay Pangarap” (Dream House) closed, the door to the “world of entertainment” opened up to her.  Now she can chart her own destiny instead of waiting for six years hoping to marry Noynoy whose destiny was charted for him by others.   And there’s absolutely no truth to the rumor that Shalani was taking a course in hair styling.   She’s too “tall” for that.

As an elected councilor of Valenzuela City, the 29-year old Shalani is on a course where she can chart her own destiny.  It’s a modest start for a budding politician, but she’ll grow into a political force in due time.
Talking about destiny… Last May 2010, Noynoy was swept to victory on the promise of hope and change.  A lot of people said that it was his destiny.  After five months in office, his performance and trust ratings remain very high considering several embarrassing incidents during his first 100 days.  While it’s too early to tell if he would be able to deliver on his promises, political pundits are apprehensive that Noynoy’s “bright star” might be losing its luster soon, if not later.  They’re concerned that Noynoy was heading into the same rough and bumpy road that U.S. President Barack Obama took after he was swept to victory on a promise of hope and change.  Does that sound familiar? Déjà vu?

It’s beginning to occur to me that “destiny” is not the end of a journey but a “journey in progress.” While Obama has another year to change course in his journey to win reelection in 2012, Noynoy doesn’t have to worry because he has a six-year term with no reelection.  So he can just float around and let his journey go on autopilot until the end of his presidency in 2016. And by that time, either his journey ends in greatness or just another footnote in history.

From destiny to greatness… But there is one man who – against all odds – charted his destiny and reached the unreachable star of “greatness.”  Born dirt poor, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao slugged his way to greatness, one weight division at a time — from flyweight to welterweight – and captured eight world titles in eight weight divisions.  Indeed, there is only one man on earth today who could break his record – himself.
Quo vadis, Pacquiao? At 31 years old, Pacquiao – who is now a congressman representing the province of Sarangani — is getting older to stay in shape and win more fights.   If he continues to fight, it will just be for the moolah. Yup, he can no longer be “greater”; he is already the “greatest”!

But Pacquiao must have realized that “greatness” is not measured in terms of championship titles and wealth.  He is no longer content with the greatness that he has achieved for himself.  He probably thought that there is a loftier greatness and that would be the greatness he could achieve for his people.  Does Pacquiao have a vision for his constituents in Sarangani?  Or better, does he have a vision for the Philippines?  That’s something to ponder, right?  But don’t hurry; Pacquiao still has two decades before he’d qualify for president.  But in the meantime, he can hone his political skills.  He has to hurdle all the obstacles to the top.  And it’s not easy.  But Pacquiao could be a diamond in the rough.  Watch him!


Pilipinas kay ganda… The Philippine Department of Tourism was thrown into the dark recesses of cyberspace two days after launching its “Pilipinas kay ganda!” tourism campaign.   What happened?
First, it abandoned its website because they found out that there’s a similarity to an existing porn site which uses the key words “beautifulpilipinas.”  Immediately, they renamed the website to to “promote the P100 million new Philippines tourism brand that they have created.”

Well, it turned out that the tourism “brand” or logo that they created, “Pilipinas kay ganda,” was similar to Poland’s tourism logo.  Did it cost the government P100 million to “tweak” – or plagiarize – Poland’s tourism logo?  I hope it wasn’t paid to an account in Cayman Island.  Madaming buwaya doon! (There are a lot of crocodiles over there!)

And finally, some people were saying that the slogan seems like a “code name” for gays.  Although “Pilipinas kay ganda” translates to “Philippines so beautiful,” it also translates to “Philippines for Ganda,” which is causing a lot of buzz and fizz in the gay community. Television’s new “gay icon” in the country is “Vice Ganda,” a comedian and judge of the popular “Showtime” game show.  Ganda claims to be representing “gays who like to dress as girls.” Like they say, “Ah-ya-yay!”

Perhaps, the Philippines should go back to its good ol’ brand, “WOW Philippines!” It sold; it should still sell… and save money monkeying around with other countries’ tourism logos.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Furor over terror alerts

By Perry Diaz

During a gathering of CEOs and heads of state at the recent 8th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Yokohama, Japan, President Benigno Aquino III caught everybody by surprise when he took the floor and lashed out at the United States and five other countries for issuing travel advisories – or, more aptly, “terror alerts” – to their citizens traveling to the Philippines.   The summit,  billed “Economic Integration and the Future of APEC” and attended by 20 other heads of state and government, was thrown off tangent when Aquino launched a tirade against the six countries.

While Aquino’s courage in addressing the “terror alerts” at the CEO summit was commendable, in my opinion, the summit was not the appropriate place to lambast the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Australia, and New Zealand for issuing terror alerts.  Previous travel advisories only covered the volatile southern Philippines where Muslims rebels and terrorist groups were a threat to peace in the region, but this time they expanded the travel advisories to include Metro Manila.

Aquino claimed that there are countries that harbor terrorists who had staged attacks in other countries but are not included on the list of travel advisories.   He was probably referring to Indonesia where the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah is based but has infiltrated and conducted several terrorists acts in Mindanao before.

“We have three million visitors a year.  Some of our neighboring countries would have as high as 22 million visitors.  Unfortunately, with the terror advisories recently we were singled out as a place to avoid,” he said.

The timing of the travel advisories, which came at a time when he’s trying very hard to attract foreign investors as well as tourists, did not please Aquino.  He complained that the “imminent terror attack” warnings were not  “validated on the ground” by the Philippines’ intelligence agencies; therefore, the terror alerts should be withdrawn.

But Aquino should also realize that the countries that issued the terror alerts wouldn’t have concluded that a terror attack was imminent without validating the information gathered by their own intelligence agencies.  Indeed, one could assume that their intelligence networks, particularly the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), have wide and deep penetration into terrorist organizations such as the al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah.

Although a “terror alert” would certainly scare tourists away, the number one deterrent has always been the prevalence of common criminals preying like vultures on foreign visitors.  The hostage-taking incident last August 23, 2010 — where the hostage-taker murdered eight Chinese tourists after a botched rescue attempt by the Philippine police – further reinforced the perception that the Philippines is not a safe place for tourists.

In my article, “From Balikbayan to Balikbankay” (PerryScope, April 28, 2006), I wrote: A sharp decline in the number of balikbayans could hurt the tourist industry and would ultimately have a debilitating effect on the Philippine economy. The proportion of balikbayans to the total number of tourists is very high, perhaps as much as 80%, or even more. With a record number of 2.623 million tourists to the Philippines in 2005, the balikbayan component commands serious attention. The government officials, particularly those at the Department of Tourism (DOT), should be concerned about crimes committed against tourists. The last thing they want to see is a ‘travel advisory’ issued by the United States and other countries like Australia and Japan.”

To boost tourism, the Aquino administration launched last November 15, 2010, its tourism campaign using the slogan “Pilipinas Kay Ganda.” But the Federation of Tourism Industries of the Philippines Inc (FTIP) said that it was not “catchy” enough to attract international attention.  “The slogan did not ignite much excitement. Maybe they rushed in coming out with a new brand. But what we need is something that would create a great impact,” said FTIP president Alejandra Clemente.

The new logo – in bold colors — shows a sun, a tarsier (a primate endemic to the forests of Bohol), the words “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” with the “L” shaped like a coconut tree with a “happy smile,” and the translation: “[kay.gan.da’] adj. So beautiful!”

Evidently, the Philippines’ tourism industry needs an “extreme makeover” to attract foreign visitors.  It’s going to take more than just a catchy slogan.   The government needs to clean up its act and address a lot of issues – including corruption and crime — that impacts the economy in general and tourism in particular.

The government needs to implement a stringent security system that would provide protection to tourists and also monitor the tourism industry’s operations and practices. A system similar to the Better Business Bureau in the U.S. would be helpful in weeding out unscrupulous operators and predatory businesses.

I also wrote in my previous article: “Tourism in the Philippines has been taken for granted for too long. Its rich culture, delicious food, hospitable and ever-smiling people, and exquisite views of its natural beauty are second to none. The Philippines could provide a better milieu than Hawaii. It is interesting to note, however, that policemen in Hawaii’s tourist areas do not wear uniforms. They blend in with the tourists. The last thing a tourist would like to see is a Kevlar-vested policeman toting an Uzi assault gun. Yet, crime rate in Hawaii is one of the lowest among tourist destinations.

“Ultimately, what would make, or break, tourism in the Philippines is the tourists’ sense of safety and security. Unless the Philippine government is willing to take the bull by its horns and deal with the safety and security of tourists, tourism will not flourish in the Philippines.” 

Indeed, the major challenge is how to reach beyond the balikbayans and make the country an international tourist destination.  Yes, the cake is already there, all that needs to be done is to put icing on the cake.   However, it is easier said than done.   But first things first, President Aquino has to address the issues of safety and security of tourists.  The last place that tourists would want to visit is one that is not safe.

In this day and age,  it’s the duty – nay, obligation — of every government to warn its citizens when they’re traveling abroad if there’s an “imminent terror attack” in the country they’re visiting.  However, nobody could second-guess when a terror attack would actually occur.  But one thing is certain: any place in the world is fair game to terrorists today.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Supreme Court asked to reconsider plagiarism ruling

By Edu Punay
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) was asked yesterday to reconsider its ruling last month clearing a magistrate of charges of plagiarism.

In a motion for reconsideration, UP professors and lawyers led by Harry Roque Jr. reiterated their allegations of plagiarism, twisting of cited materials and gross neglect against Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo.
Del Castillo penned the SC’s unanimous ruling last April junking the bid of over 70 Filipino women abused during World War II to compel the government to support their demand for an official apology and other reparations from Tokyo.

The petitioners said the SC erred in adopting the findings of its committee on ethics and ethical standards, which investigated the plagiarism issue.

The committee had ruled that the lack of attribution in the ruling was a result of “accidental removal of proper attributions to the three authors” by Del Castillo’s legal researcher while drafting the decision on the computer.
Roque said plagiarism has been “a clear pattern and practice” by Justice Del Castillo as shown by the decision he penned on the case involving the disqualification of Ang Ladlad in the last party-list elections.

He said the Ang Ladlad decision, which has a portion on page 21 supposedly taken out without proper attribution from paragraph 49 of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights on Handyside vs. United Kingdom case, shows the “indefensibility of the Microsoft defense” of the magistrate.

The activist lawyer urged the Court to also investigate this second alleged plagiarism committed by Del Castillo, which he alleged constitutes another grave violation of judicial ethics.

“His conduct in both Vinuya and Ang Ladlad has raised in the public mind serious questions on his integrity and competence. His conduct has even unfortunately caused the entire Supreme Court to suffer international humiliation,” Roque claimed.

Petitioners also questioned the conclusion of the Court that there was “no malicious intent to appropriate another’s work as our own.”

“This honorable court’s insistence of ‘malicious intent as an element of plagiarism and copyright infringement’ puts in peril the societal values it represents as the country’s supreme interpreter of the laws of the land,” they stressed.

They also alleged that the magistrate violated Canon 2, Section 3 of the Judicial Code of Ethics when he “covered up instead of initiating disciplinary proceedings against the law clerk who claims responsibility for the plagiarism and misrepresentation.”

Lastly, they said the SC violated its own rules on intellectual property and the use of information technology facilities in the court when it cleared Del Castillo.

They cited AM No. 05-3-08-SC issued on March 15, 2005, which spelled out rules on use of computer resources in the SC. Under the rules, “the use of IT facilities and computer resources provided by SC entails responsibility to use these resources in an efficient, ethical and lawful manner consistent with the mission and vision of the Court. To this end, every user must use SC’s computer resources in a responsible, professional, and ethical manner and within legal and proper boundaries.”

With these arguments, they asked the Court to reverse its decision last Oct. 12 and issue a corrected version of the Vinuya decision in the form of “corrigendum” and also ask Del Castillo to resign from his post to “save the SC from further embarrassment.”

Roque, counsel of the “comfort women,” had alleged that the justice lifted without proper attribution quotes and footnotes from: 31 parts of “A Fiduciary Theory of Jus Cogens” by Ivan Criddle and Evan Fox-Descent, published last year in the Yale Journal of International Law; 24 parts of “Breaking the Silence on Rape as an International Crime” by Mark Ellis, published 2006 in the Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law; and four parts of “Enforcing Erga Omnes Obligations in International Law” by Christian Tams, published in 2005.

But the High Court, voting 10-2, earlier ruled that the allegations of plagiarism, twisting of cited materials and gross neglect against Del Castillo lacked merit.
“The mistake of Justice Del Castillo’s researcher is that, after the Justice had decided what texts, passages and citations were to be retained including those from (authors), and when she was already cleaning up her work and deleting all subject tags, she unintentionally deleted the footnotes that went with such tags – with disastrous effect,” the Court explained.

“On occasions judges and justices have mistakenly cited the wrong sources, failed to use quotation marks, inadvertently omitted necessary information from footnotes or endnotes. But these do not, in every case, amount to misconduct. Only errors that are tainted with fraud, corruption or malice are subject of disciplinary action,” it stressed.

The SC also junked as “mystery” the allegation of lawyers of petitioners in the case led by professor Roque that the magistrate twisted the points from the sources to justify his ruling.

“Since the attributions were accidentally deleted, it is impossible for any person reading the decision to connect the same to the works of those authors as to conclude that in writing the decision Justice Del Castillo ‘twisted’ their intended messages,” the Court pointed out.

With this, the Court opted not to penalize even the legal researcher of Del Castillo.

But it has decided to take steps to prevent future lapses in citations and attributions in writing decisions of the Court and directed the clerk of court to provide all court attorneys involved in legal research and reporting with copies of this decision and to enjoin them to avoid similar editing errors and also to acquire necessary software for this purpose.

Chief Justice Renato Corona and nine others voted with the majority. Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales and Ma. Lourdes Sereno dissented from the ruling while Senior Justice Antonio Carpio and Diosdado Peralta were on leave.

Del Castillo took no part since he is the subject of the probe.

The High Tribunal also wants to dig deeper into the accusing statement of the faculty of the UP College of Law on the plagiarism issue, which the investigating committee has found to be “a mere dummy.”
It was discovered during the probe that the statement condemning the alleged plagiarism was signed only by 37 out of 81 members of the faculty – not including Roque.

The SC already issued a show cause order requiring the UP professors to explain why they should not be held administratively liable for their “accusing statement.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Corona Court flounders

To Take A Stand
By Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.
Business World

Right after he was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Renato Corona said: “I aim to improve the judiciary even further in every aspect possible and strengthen the great institution of the Supreme Court.” That is probably the reason that the Corona Court, after clearing Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo of plagiarism charges, came down hard on the UP Law dean and 37 faculty members who demanded the resignation of Del Castillo.

A week after absolving Del Castillo, the Corona Court issued a show-cause contempt order to UP Law Dean Marvic Loren and 37 members of the faculty and gave them 10 days within which to explain why they should not be sanctioned for such act. The court said the UP law professors’ call for Del Castillo’s resignation was contrary to the faculty’s obligation as law professors and officers of the court and violated the Code of Professional Responsibility.

In the legal community, the Supreme Court’s pronouncement is law. And any lawyer who questions the Supreme Court’s ruling can be cited for contempt. But Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales said the court’s show-cause order was “nothing but an abrasive flexing of the judicial muscle.” Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno also pointed out that “it is not the place of the Court to seek revenge against those who, in their wish to see reform in the judiciary, have the courage to say what is wrong with it. The Court finds its legitimacy in demonstrating its moral vein case after case, not in flaunting its judicial brawn.”

Ateneo Law Dean Cesar Villanueva said that the law school respects the court’s decision to absolve Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, an alumnus of the law school and husband of its former dean, Cynthia Roxas-del Castillo. But Ateneo’s Loyola Schools, the college department of the university, has said it will stick to its own Code of Academic Integrity in dealing with plagiarism cases. The act of attributing to one’s self what is not one’s work, whether intentional or out of neglect, is sufficient to conclude that plagiarism has occurred,” the Loyola Schools said.

The Supreme Court, already weakened by the legally infirm appointment of Corona as Chief Justice and by its overload of people perceived to be beholden to Gloria Arroyo, weakened further when it absolved Justice Del Castillo of plagiarism. The Corona Court declared that Justice Del Castillo did not commit plagiarism because his researcher, Michelle Juan, inadvertently deleted the footnotes while preparing the decision. The court said, “Notably, neither Justice Del Castillo nor his researcher had a motive or reason for omitting attribution for lifted passages.” Thus, plagiarism was not committed because there was no malicious intent to remove the attribution marks, said the Corona Court.

But to the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, an association of 1,290 Catholic schools, colleges, and universities, the Supreme Court decision “abets a culture of intellectual sloth and dishonesty. For plagiarism is not only a legal issue but more importantly, a moral one.” (Underscoring is CEAP’s.)
The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations, the umbrella organization of the various associations of schools, colleges, and universities in the country, expressed alarm at the Corona Court ruling that plagiarism is not committed if there is no malicious intent. The council asserted that “plagiarism is intellectual dishonesty. It is thievery of intellectual property. In the world of the academe, it is punished most severely. To treat plagiarism in a cavalier fashion is to fling the door wide open to flagrant violations against intellectual property and invite intellectual thefts without fear of punitive sanction.” The council counts as its affiliates the aforementioned Catholic Educational Association, the Association of Christian Schools, Colleges, and Universities, the Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges, and Universities, and the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities.

With 12 members of the court seen to have been appointed to the court not to serve the country and the ends of justice but to save their patron by blocking her being brought to justice, the citizenry has looked askance at the court. With the academic world practically accusing them of intellectual dishonesty, the Corona Court can only flounder from hereon.

It is ironic that the chief of the court that is said to have a cavalier attitude toward plagiarism has as one of his advocacies, according to a Judicial and Bar Council profile on him, the formation of strong moral and ethical values in the legal profession. Sardonic, too, is that the person accused of plagiarism, which in the academic world is intellectual dishonesty and thievery of intellectual property, is a pre-bar reviewer in Legal Ethics. The researcher who accidentally deleted the attributions while editing her draft taught legal research. I am certain she emphasized in class the importance of proper attribution of sources. All three are graduates of the same law school and all teach or taught in that school.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

P-Noy and Bill

Balitang Kutsero
By Perry Diaz 

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton paid President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III a private courtesy call when he was in Manila a few days ago. According to Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary, whew, Ricky Carandang, P-Noy and Bill hit it off.  The following is a transcript of their tête-à-tête:

Bill:  How are you, Mr. President?

P-Noy:  Very well, how are you Mr. President?

Bill:  Never been better!  Just call me Bill.  Can I call you Noynoy… Peenoy… Penoy…?

P-Noy:  P-Noy is just fine, Bill.  You look nice in your barong.

Bill:  Yeah, I love this bay-rong, Pee-Noy.  My good friend Glory gave this to me in one of her junkets to the U.S.  How is she, by the way?

P-Noy:  Glory? Hmmm… She’s now a congresswoman and doing very well in her new racket… I mean, new job.  Hehehe…

Bill:  Racket? Hahaha… Glory never changed!  I bet you she’ll be pigging out on her humongous pork barrel.  How much pork are you giving her?  P50 million… P60 million?

P-Noy:  Well, more than that.  She’s getting her regular P70 million pork barrel allocation.  But she’s getting an extra P50 million plus P28 million… another P25 million from the Road User’s Tax… and… uhh…

Bill:  And… what? Don’t tell me she’s getting more than that?  That’s a lot of money already.

P-Noy:  Well, actually she’s getting another P2.2 billion.

Bill:  What? Two-point-two-billion-pesos?  Holy shit!  That’s a lot of moolah, Pee-Noy!  What did she do to you that you’re giving her that kind of money???

P-Noy:  Nothing, really.

Bill: Nothing?  That’s even worse, amigo!  At least you should get something for it.

P-Noy:  Well, actually she’s the one who wants more.  Not money, but power.  I think she’s plotting to take over the speakership of the House.

Bill:  Uh, uh, you gotta watch out, pal.  I know her like the palm of my hand.

P-Noy:  Which hand?  Left or right?  By the way, how’s Mo…

Bill:  Hahaha…  You’re naughty.  I like your sense of humor, Pee-Noy.  But let’s not go there, okay?

P-Noy:  Gotcha!  Hehehe…

Bill:  You got me there all right.  Hey, I heard that you’re getting married to your hair stylist?  Is that true?  It’s about time cuz in another five years you’ll be a senior citizen.

P-Noy:  That’s just a rumor.  I’m still in the dating mode.  Hehehe… I want to make sure that whomever I’ll marry is acceptable to my four sisters.

Bill:  That’s not good.  Why do you need your sisters’ permission to marry someone?

P-Noy:  Well, you see… since my mommy passed away last year, my sisters became my surrogate mothers.  They even approve whom I appoint to executive positions and I can’t fire anyone unless they sanction it.

Bill:  Now that figures why you didn’t let go of your “shooting buddy” for running away from a hostage-taking crisis.  Pee-Noy, listen from an old pro like me.  Nobody should tell you whom to marry. My advice is: follow your heart and marry the woman you really love.

P-Noy:  Well that could be a problem.

Bill:  A problem?  I don’t understand.  You mean to say that you have a problem falling in love with women?  Hmmm…

P-Noy:  Oh, no!  Not that kind of problem!  My problem is that I love all the women I’ve dated.  That’s why I’m still a bachelor.  I just can’t make up my mind.  You see, the next girl seems to be better than the previous one.  So when do I settle down?

Bill: Whoa!  I like that kind of a problem.  Hey, that’s my problem too, amigo!  I love them all.  Now, we have something in common, lover boy.

P-Noy:  But you still married your wife?

Bill:  Duh? There’s nothing wrong with marrying one of the women I love.

P-Noy:  Well, you convinced me, Bill.  I’ll get married on October 11 next year, my parents’ – bless their souls — wedding anniversary.

Bill:  Attaboy!  I’ll drink to that, my friend.  Here’s to the lucky woman.  Cheers!

P-Noy:  Thanks.  But I have a little problem.  Maybe you can help me here.

Bill:  And what is that?

P-Noy:  Which one should I marry?

Bill:  Hmmm… How many girlfriends do you have?

P-Noy:  I think I have 18, maybe more.  But I’m only seeing five right now.

Bill:  Man, you’re a lady-killer.  You don’t have a “little” problem, pal.  You have two big problems!  One, you have too many girlfriends; and, two, you can’t make a decision on whom to marry.  Sorry, I can’t help you there, amigo.  You gotta make up your mind.

P-Noy:  Well…

Bill: Hey, I must go, I got a plane to catch.  It was nice talking to you, my friend.  If you need to communicate with me in the future, just have Mai Mai tweet me, okay?

P-Noy: Sucks!

Bill: What did you say?

P-Noy: Nothing.  Bye.

Disclaimer:  This “transcript” is fictional and does not represent actual events.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What Is Your Legacy

By Jose Ma. Montelibano

In a recent meeting, someone said, “This is my legacy, the one I want others to continue for me if anything should happen to me.”

I am a senior citizen. Among people my age, it is not strange for thoughts of our mortality being part of a conversation. By this time, there have been many friends and acquaintances that have passed away. Legacies, then, can be areal concern of many among us.

However, it was a young man in his early thirties, healthy and just starting his career as a painter and artist, who was talking about his the legacy he wanted to leave behind. It was so important to him that he expressed this “death” wish in writing to a few people close to him.

In that small meeting were all individuals who are in pursuit of a dream, all part of a new generation of Filipino Americans in their twenties to their forties. I was the odd man out, so to speak, being twenty years older than the youngest among them. Yet, I felt no older, and they felt no younger, in a common cause we were all part of, driven by a common dream for our people and our motherland.

In the last three years, I have been traveling to the United States every quarter as part of my work to promote Gawad Kalinga (GK). A US-based partner of GK was interested in expanding the awareness about the work to Filipino-Americans, and then, hopefully, to engage a greater number to actively supporting GK with both funds and presence. It was agreed that I would help him find ways and means to make this happen.

It has been a special experience for me, almost a spiritual journey to make not just more friends but to become more intimate with the reasons why Filipinos left their motherland for America. I had wrongly assumed that it was just for the money, but had been right that most immigrants may have considered themselves as poor but were not actually from the poorest of the poor in the Philippines. In fact, they came from economic Classes C and upper D, with some even from Class A. In other words, they were not the most financially desperate among Filipinos.

They may have had money in mind, but they had other reasons as well, maybe even more driving than just income. There have been a few waves of migration from the Philippines to America, and all may say that they were in search of greener pastures. However, greener pastures have more to do about opportunity, about choices, than just plain income. At least one reason that drove many Filipinos here for a period of about twenty years as ro escape from a country because freedom was suppressed. What was common among Filipino immigrants was a sense of desperation.

America is a dream choice among Filipinos who desperately want to have a chance for a radically new life for themselves and their families. But, then, again, America is a dream choice not only for Filipinos, so much so that the United States has to carefully control the in-migration to the country from all over the world. As a result, many Filipinos with that sense of desperation find themselves in countries they may not really prefer but find as a better option than staying in the Philippines.

Because opportunity is translated also as higher income which opens more doors, the poverty that afflicts the Philippines definitely drives many Filipinos to foreign lands. But opportunity may also mean the greater freedom for mobility, for exposure and knowledge, or for simple expression. Corruption and a feudal system which has persisted despite the political independence of the Philippines combines in a very insidious manner with poverty to limit economic growth of poor families and to suppress the freedom for most other aspirations.
Leaving the motherland is hardly because there is a diluted sense of patriotism, but because patriotism itself is denied development in a citizen’s heart. To the life of a poor person or family, what then is country? What would make a poor person or family, landless and without the right to be in any square meter in their land of birth – and without the means to rent that right? What benefits are derived from a land of obvious plenty by a Filipino family who is only a step ahead of hunger while public officials of the land can spend millions for a dinner in New York? What can make a Filipino love the Philippines other than a birth in a motherland not yet of his or her choice?

The challenge now rests heavily on the shoulders of Filipinos who have reason to love our motherland. It may be that, like me, the circumstance of birth favored me economically, socially and politically. It may be like those who built on their boldness, on their education, on their perseverance, and, most likely, on their business sense, and can now help others. It may be that, like most Filipinos, a basic goodness, a sense of bayanihan and a commitment to walang iwanan, transcends personal interest in order to give succor to a fellow Filipino. When Filipinos go beyond the boundaries of family and clan to care for another as a brother or sister of the same motherland, then even the impoverished and marginalized are given good reasons to love country and race.

The young man had said in my presence and in the presence of comrades in the same cause, “This is my legacy, the one I wish others would continue for me in case anything should happened to me.”
I have asked myself since then, “What is mine?” And I ask you, “What is yours?”

Monday, November 15, 2010

Padaca struggles to keep the faith

By Booma Cruz
VERA Files

The smile vanishes as soon as soon as she hears a deafening roar across the Abuan River in Isabela province.
“I hate that sound,” former Isabela governor Grace Padaca says. “They’re really back.”
“They” are hatcheros or chainsaw operators who are indeed back in business, cutting age-old trees in the northern Sierra Madre.

It’s not only the return of the illegal loggers that worries Padaca, whose reform movement “Kaya Natin”—which includes Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and former Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio—supported President Benigno Aquino III in the last election. She doesn’t see the reforms promised by the President during the campaign being fulfilled.

Looking at the pieces of timber scattered along the Abuan watershed, Padaca remembers a mayor who was one of her original allies. She says: “Pero dahil sa involved siya sa illegal logging e di isa siya sa pina-raid ko. Nag-iisa na nga siyang kakampi namin na original, naging kalaban pa (But since he was involved in illegal logging, we had his place raided. He was the only one of our original allies. Now he is an adversary).” The parting of ways was made more costly by the fact that the mayor headed an area whose congressman was an ally of her powerful political enemy, the Dy dynasty.

She left the provincial capitol after her loss to third-term congressman Faustino Dy III last May. Gunning for her third term, Padaca lost by only 3,438 votes in a hotly contested gubernatorial race that is now the subject of an electoral protest filed by the former governor. Her entire ticket was wiped out by the formidable Dy-Albano alliance.

Described as one of the Davids in Philippine politics, Padaca ended the 40-year reign of the Dys in Isabela in 2004 with a lead of more than 40,000 votes. She trounced another Dy in 2007.

Crippled by polio at age three, Padaca won in 2008 the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in Asia.

Now out of the capitol, one of Padaca’s fears is the return of illegal logging in Isabela. She feels it is just a matter of time before bogadors or timber transporters have a field day in transporting downstream contraband timber through the Abuan River.

Abuan River has been used to transport illegally cut logs from the forests of Sierra Madre for decades. About 1.8 million board feet worth more than P30 million—the biggest haul of illegal timber in the history of the Philippines—was confiscated here by the provincial government of Isabela at the height of Padaca’s anti-logging campaign.

Thousands of bogadors lost their livelihood during the capitol’s anti-logging operations. This cost the former governor a lot of votes in the succeeding elections. Her 40,000 lead in 2004 was whittled down to 17,000 votes in 2007.

A popular, hard-hitting radio broadcaster before entering politics, the feisty Padaca has made Manila her home base to distance herself from Isabela politics. She enjoys the freedom of being an ordinary citizen but feels sorry for her province whenever she hears bad news from supporters and concerned citizens.

The new administration has reportedly changed some of the major policies implemented by Padaca. Foremost is the additional P3 per kilo subsidy from the Capitol budget for the purchase by the National Food Authority of palay and corn from the farmers.

Sources say the current subsidy has been reduced to only P2 and covers only corn and not palay. Isabela is considered the rice and corn granary of northern Philippines.

Padaca counts the increase in the income of farmers due to the additional subsidy as her biggest achievement. With her departure from the capitol, farmers rue that the old prices of corn and palay are back again.
Grappling with mixed emotions about her recent visit to her province, she says: “Ayoko kasing lumalim ang mga observation ko. Kasi nga pag nakakakita ako, pressure sa akin ‘yun to do something, (I don’t want to know more because if I do, I am pressured to do something).”

Padaca had already texted President Aquino to ask about the pending appointments of corrupt environment officers she had removed while in office and the retention of police officials allegedly involved in vote-buying.
According to her, the President used to answer her text messages, but today their SMS conversations have become few and far between. Padaca understands that the President cannot answer all text messages he receives.

The concern of Padaca over the performance of PNP provincial director Jimmy Rivera, particularly what she claims was his open bias for the Dys and the Albanos during the election, has been the subject of so many letters and follow-ups with then Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno and PNP chief Jesus Verzosa.

It was the first issue that the former governor raised with Secretary Robredo who referred the matter to Undersecretary Rico Puno, the official assigned by President Aquino to take charge of police matters in the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Padaca personally delivered her letter to Puno together with a note from Robredo. Still no action has been taken.

The former governor does not hide her discomfort—and, at times, disgust—with the agenda of some people close to the President.

“Ibang klase talaga. Kung paanong from one administration to another, kayang-kayang mag-reinvent ng kanilang sarili ang mga masamang damo para laging ang gusto pa rin nila ang nangyayari (They’re really something. They reinvent themselves with every new administration so their agenda can be fulfilled),” she adds, without naming names.

There are issues that Padaca feels strongly about that are apparently not a priority in the Aquino administration. One such concern is jueteng.

As governor, Padaca fought hard against jueteng but failed to eradicate it in the province. All efforts to stop jueteng proved futile because of the alleged support of Malacañang to the illegal numbers game.
Padaca sums up the problem by comparing jueteng to water flowing. She says squeezing a portion of the hose to stop the flow will not do the trick.

“You just need the President to close the faucet and it will stop,” she says.

Despite the many missteps of the new administration, Padaca is still hopeful that the President will be able to govern effectively and immediately address pressing issues such as illegal logging and gambling.

“Malaki ang pag-asa ko kay President Noy. Kung effective president sana siya, kahit di na ako mag-governor. Sana magamit niya ang power niya to do things (I have high hopes for President Noy. If he turns out to be an effective president, I don’t have to be governor. I hope he is able to use his power to put these things in order),” she says.

Padaca believes the President and his men are in a period of adjustment and need a little more time to settle into their new jobs.

She cites her own experience as a newbie in politics. “I could not have been expected to hit the ground running, literally and figuratively,” she says with a hearty laugh.


(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Alarming Falsehood and Half-truth

By Erick San Juan

In today’s world of high technology and as the world becomes smaller through fast paced means of communication, ordinary people now find it hard to sift through all the information they are getting. But for those who are aware of the daily spins where the mainstream media, most of the time became the witting and unwitting tool in feeding the public, it is easier to draw the line between truth and a lie. As an observer of events unfolding here and abroad, we can say that where fact ends, lies and bigger lies begin to condition the minds of the people who are afraid to think beyond what is being forced to them to believe. Thus, creating delusion in the process. For as long as there are people who are willing to believe and for others, to be willing tools to the myth – mongering, humanity will suffer the consequences.

Take for example the recent bomb scare allegedly found inside an ink cartridge in a plane bound for Chicago, USA. The alarming truth to this false alarm was clearly reported that – “After having examined the suspicious ink toner device for six hours and found it to be a dud, bomb experts at East Midlands Airport only reversed their decision after being ordered to re-inspect the package by US authorities following President Obama’s Friday afternoon speech in which he claimed that the devices did in fact contain explosives”. (Did Obama order British Authorities To Find Non-Existent Ink Bomb?, Paul Joseph Watson of Prison The telling contradiction in the timeline of the cargo bomb plot fiasco proves that the story was being hyped and manipulated from the very early stages.

However, despite the fact that authorities not only in the UK but also in the cases of the Newark and Pittsburgh packages, initially gave the “all clear,” according to CNN, President Obama, having already been informed of the plot the night before, simply contradicted the very experts who had dismissed the devices as duds, claiming the packages contained explosives. This soon mushroomed into a media scaremongering blitz about powerful explosives that could have knocked dozens of planes out of the sky. (Ibid)
Now that the predicate was laid, it is but logical to ask – who benefits? (Note: I will elaborate this terror scare in global perspective on my next article. Let me focus first here at home.)

It is quite obvious that our country is one of the casualties here, as one foreign government after another gave their travel advisory that RP is faced by an imminent terrorist attack, particularly – Manila. We can’t help but cite here the statement of the good Ambassador, Harry K. Thomas, Jr., a day after the inauguration of President Aquino III (this was only last July 1, 2010) : “I don’t see the Philippines as a breeder of terrorism but I see the Philippines as a partner to rid the world of terrorists.”

And at the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) change of command ceremony last July 3, Amb. Thomas said that the rebel groups Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah and Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM) have become much weaker.

With the above mentioned reports, as a loyal ally and friend of the rest of the community of peace-loving nations, why is it that the US government was among the first who issued the travel warning against the Philippines?

Again, we have nothing against the Americans, like us, majority of them are being taken for a ride here on the global war on terror (GWOT) which took effect after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. But let us all be clear here as to the credibility of the said terror threat. As a nation that had suffered enough especially in our tourism industry in the aftermath of the hostage crisis three months ago, we just cannot take this sitting down.

It is good that President Benigno Aquino III said that foreign governments were wrong in warning of an imminent terrorist attack in Manila. Government security forces even downplayed the separate arrests of five men and the seizure from them of explosives, which evidently were meant for fishing rather than bombing. It was President Aquino’s strongest statement yet in the past few days against what he had described as unsubstantiated intelligence reports on the supposed terror strike in Metro Manila.

Filipinos should unite in support of our leaders against this terror myth affecting us as a nation. A group headed by a certain Professor Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR), after they announced that the “bomb expert” with links to the regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and who stayed in Mount Cararao in Maguindanao in the last few months has made contact with the Sulu-based bandit group Abu Sayyaf, travel warnings were issued. It became a “gospel truth” after his group predicated it at an international security forum at Dusit Hotel last October 29. In local lingo-”NABILI NA YAN.” “LUMANG SCRIPT NA YAN.’

Who are we going to believe? Marine General Ben Dolorfino, a converted muslim and a real expert on jihadists or a certain “security expert” Prof. Rommel Banlaoi? Who is he really working for? PIPVTR should have coordinated what they know, as courtesy to our DND, NSC, NICA or ISAFP so as to assist in apprehending these terrorists and neutralizing them..

There is no hope to this country if our fellowmen themselves will be part of the scare-mongering. Let us stop this and be steadfast in protecting our nation against state-sponsored terrorism slowly eating into the minds our citizenry and the rest of the world. The alarm bells for truth should be louder than that of the false alarms being concocted by some evil-minded heartless individuals who could be working for foreign governments or vested interests.

God bless the Philippines!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

‘Pork’ by any other name is still ‘pork’

By Perry Diaz

Recently, members of the House of Representatives were thrown into disarray on the allocation of pork barrel.  A small but very vocal group of congressmen threatened to block the 2011 national budget if their pork barrel allocations weren’t increased.  What caused the revolt was the disclosure that Gloria was allocated P2.2 billion of pork barrel funds for her 2nd congressional district for the year 2011.  To placate them, each of the 278 congressmen were given an additional pork barrel of P50 million from the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPHW) and another P25 million from the Road User’s Tax.

It turned out that Gloria used her influence during the last year of her presidency to secure loans from “multilateral lending agencies” from Japan and South Korea specifically for her congressional district.

Evidently, she already had her mind set on running for Congress although she disclaimed any intention of doing so until just a few weeks of filing her certificate of candidacy.

With P2.2 billion pork barrel funds to be spent in Gloria’s district in any which way she wants, a lot of legislators are concerned on how the money would be spent – or misspent.  Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano raised a good point when he said during a radio show: “What I wanted was a review of midnight foreign borrowings for Arroyo’s home province, before we start losing the papers.”  Knowing the extent of corruption in public work projects during Gloria’s presidency, including the controversial Diosdado Macapagal Highway, the P2.2-billion pork barrel could become the golden goose of politically connected contractors.

And the strangest thing happened when no other than Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda came to the defense of Gloria.  He said that the lump sum “pork barrel” allocation was “not pork.” “The P2.2 billion is foreign-assisted. Local portion is P542 million and foreign is P1.68 billion,” he said during a Malacañang press briefing.  He said that the money would be used for flood- and lahar-control works around Mt. Pinatubo and for a road between Pampanga and Nueva Ecija.

But the nagging question is:  If the P2.2 billion lump sum allocation is not “pork barrel,” why is it then that it’s going to be controlled by Gloria and not by DPWH?  With Gloria controlling who gets the contracts and how much to disburse is wide open to manipulative actions that could lead — as in the past — to massive corruption.

P-Noy’s budget secretary, Butch Abad, pitched in and said, “If Congress will stop the project to be funded by the P2-billion foreign loans, the foreign financiers will definitely air their opposition.” So what?  The money hasn’t been released or used yet, what’s stopping the Aquino administration from canceling questionable loan transactions secured by the Arroyo administration to be used during the Aquino administration and paid for by the Filipino people?  It’s analogous to Gloria getting a loan to build a house in her property and then asking her neighbors to repay the loan.

If the loan is to be paid back by the Philippine government, then the Philippine government should allocate the funds borrowed equitably across the board, not just one specific district.  That is the right – and straight — thing to do.

And the ultimate question is:  Why is P-Noy allowing this to happen?  What happened to “daang matuwid” (straight path) and his vow to fight corruption?

In a press release by “Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change,” P-Noy was criticized for “allowing Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to hog P2.2 billion funds in infrastructure projects for her congressional district in Pampanga.” Pagbabago! spokesperson Fr. Joe Dizon said,  “Pres. Aquino in the past lambasted Mrs. Gloria Arroyo’s lathering of funds for Pampanga. But now, he is simply letting her off the hook. Aquino’s pronouncements are turning out to be empty rhetoric.” Then he asked P-Noy how can he make Arroyo accountable for multibillion-peso plunder cases on various anomalous projects in the past when he doesn’t use the Budget Department and the pro-P-Noy majority in Congress on the simple question of realigning public funds?

Last November 9, 2010, the IBON Foundation issued a press release, to wit: “VAGUE, HUGE LUMP-SUM FUNDS IN 2011 BUDGET GO AGAINST GOV’T THRUST OF TRANSPARENCY.
“With the 2011 national government budget approved by the House of Representatives in its third reading, research group IBON expressed concern over the PhP245-billion in vague lump-sum funds, or some 15% of the total budget.  These funds, composed of big budget items for no properly identified purpose, run contrary to the Aquino administration’s declared thrust of transparency and accountability.” 

The lump sum funds identified by IBON are: (1) P66.91-billion unprogrammed funds and PhP1-billion contingent fund subject to essentially presidential discretion; (2) P29.29-billion fund for the greatly expanded Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program (4Ps) and National Household Targeting System, even as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has yet to properly establish its capacity to implement the huge increase in the program and budget; (3) P15-billion fund divided equally among three ambiguous “public-private partnership support funds” under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and Department of Agriculture (DA); (4) P2.34-billion fund to the military for “support to national development” which is even a matter more appropriately left to civilian departments; (5) P1.46 billion in intelligence funds, which is PhP403 million more than in Arroyo’s 2010 budget; (6) P1.19 billion for “major information and communication technology projects”, which is reminiscent of the failed NBN-ZTE deal; and (7) The P24.82 billion for the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which increased from PhP10.9 billion in 2010.

According to IBON, “these huge lump sum items should be thoroughly justified with their purposes, programs and project specified. There should also be a significant, if not full, audit and itemization of funds use in time for the budget season next year. These, the group said, are some steps towards greater transparency.

“Lastly, the powers of the Executive to withhold budget releases should also be clipped as these lump-sum funds often function as presidential pork barrel. Doing this undermines their patronage character and will make them less prone to abuse.”

At the end of the day, no matter how P-Noy justifies this “pork barrel” spending, in the minds of the people, it would still come down to political patronage.  Indeed, “pork” by any other name is still “pork.”


Friday, November 12, 2010

A bully Supreme Court

On Target
By Ramon Tulfo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MORE citizens and groups are standing up to the Supreme Court on the charge of plagiarism against one of its members.

The latest groups to pick a fight with the high tribunal over its defense of an alleged plagiarist, Justice Mariano del Castillo, are the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) and Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea).

The CEAP counts on 1,290 Catholic schools, colleges and universities as members throughout the country, comprising millions of students.

The Cocopea, on the other hand, has more students in its fold than CEAP since the latter is just one of its members.

The sheer number of people under them makes CEAP and Cocopea the largest and most powerful groups to take on the Supreme Court.

In a half-page advertisement (the other half was occupied by Cocopea) in the Inquirer Tuesday, CEAP said the Supreme Court condoned plagiarism when it cleared Del Castillo of the charge that he copied the words of foreign legal minds without attribution.

“The highest tribunal has set a higher threshold for plagiarism to be punishable, and so may in fact abet plagiarism,” the CEAP said.

On the other hand, the Cocopea took issue with the high court’s claim that Del Castillo did not commit plagiarism since he didn’t do it with “malicious intent.”

The Cocopea went on: “How can we now discipline our students who copy the works and writings
of other authors without attribution when they can simply take refuge behind the Supreme Court ruling?”

* * *

Fr. Gregorio Banaga, CEAP president and Cocopea officer representing Adamson University, said it took them a long time to decide to come out against the high court’s “no malicious intent” ruling.

“We had to come out because it involves a moral issue,” Banaga said in my interview with him on my TNT program on dzIQ-Radyo Inquirer (990 AM).

“Plagiarism is not only a legal issue, but a moral one. We teach our students morality,” the academician-priest said.

* * *

The CEAP, in a half-page ad it titled “In Defense of Honesty and Integrity,” called on the high tribunal to withdraw its threat of sanction against 37 professors of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law.
The Supreme Court has ordered the professors to explain why they should not be punished for questioning its decision absolving Justice Del Castillo of plagiarism.

Del Castillo’s defense was that his researcher forgot to acknowledge the authors of passages used by the justice in a decision.

The threat of sanction against the UP professors for questioning the high court’s decision has exposed the present crop of justices’ intellectual arrogance.

In plain language, this is a bully Supreme Court.

Bullies always meet their match; in this case, the enraged educators.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tweeters and Tweakers

Balitang Kutsero
By Perry Diaz 

Mai Mislang and P-Noy with friends at a "drinking session" after P-Noy's election victory

President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III’s speechwriter — or ghostwriter — Assistant Secretary Carmen “Mai” Mislang, turns out to be a “tweetwriter” too.  Little did Mai realize that the tweets she posted on her Twitter account were accessible to everybody.  So when she tweeted her boss, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang, her world turned upside down.  Mai, mai, what happened?

It happened during P-Noy’s junk… err… state visit to Vietnam.  P-Noy’s Vietnamese hosts honored him and his entourage with a sumptuous state dinner. That means that if you’re a guest, you wouldn’t dare criticize the food.  Well, Mai – maybe because of her ignorance or arrogance, or both – tweeted Ricky saying that the wine served at the dinner “sucks.” Then she tweeted, “Sorry pero walang pogi dito #vietnam” (Sorry, there are no handsome men here) and “Crossing the speedy motorcycle laden streets of Hanoi is one of the easiest ways to die.”

Mai’s faux pas would have been serious enough for her to be fired from her job.  But coming to her defense was P-Noy himself who said that Mai is “young and could easily make mistakes.”  That confirms what a politician once said: the government is being run like a student council… and, I might add, by juveniles.
It’s bad enough that Mai’s tweeting has become an embarrassing cause célèbre. But what followed was a bunch of tweakers who tweaked Mai, Ricky, and P-Noy.  One tweaker posted: “Exposed for the twit she is, keeping Mislang is a reflection of the competence and character that the Pnoy administration foster.”  Another tweaker posted: “Mislang will stay! How can Noynoy fire her when the other cabinet members made more graver faults yet were not fired?”

But it was Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s tweak that hit home: When you are with the entourage of the President, you should be very careful, even with the way you walk, the way you eat, the way you speak. Whatever you do would reflect on your boss.” Well, maybe P-Noy should conduct a “pre-tour” orientation class for his entourage and show them how they should walk, eat, and speak.  The class can be aptly called “Robotics.”  Yup, it would turn them all into P-Noy robots.

This is very important because his next junk… err… foreign visit will be to Japan to attend the Asian Pacific Economic Conference (APEC).  The Japanese people are very regimented especially when it comes to etiquette at the dining table.   It’s customary for dinner guests to burp after dinner.  It’s a mandatory compliment akin to saying, “The food is great! Thank you verrry much.” Yup, if you don’t burp, that’s considered rude.  Now, it is important that P-Noy demonstrate to members of his entourage how he burps.  There’s a short and a long burp.  The long burp means you’re very satisfied with the food.  So the long burp is diplomatically correct.  Try it… “burrrrrp.”

But P-Noy is not taking any chances so he decided that Mai would not go to Japan.  Yup, the last thing P-Noy wants to hear is Mai tweeting the whole world that the sushi sucks and the sake tastes like basi mixed with vinegar.

Peripatetic prez… The APEC event in Japan would be P-Noy’s third foreign trip since he became president four months ago.  According to him, he has received invitations to visit six ASEAN countries.  Well, it looks like he’s going to be as peripatetic as former prez Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Hey, that hotdog in New York must have tasted really good that P-Noy wanted to taste all the hotdogs in the world.  However, he should be careful cuz in some countries, their hotdog tastes like… a hot dog.   And that’s another reason why Mai should never travel with P-Noy again.  Imagine her tweeting, “Gee, the hotdog here tastes like my lolo’s ‘azucena’ in Baguio.” Woof, woof.

Battle of the tweeters… Soon after Mai posted her controversial tweets about Vietnam, her Facebook account was flooded with “hate” posts from her erstwhile “fans.” Within a few days and by the time she closed her Facebook and Twitter accounts, there were more than 800 “hate” posts including demands that she quit or be fired.

Then, one of Mai’s supporters created another Facebook account called “We love you Mai Mislang”.   The account administrator challenged Mai’s “haters” to a debate on “what good acts they can do for the country.”  Hey, anybody can do a hundred acts better than saying “the wine sucks”!
One of Mai’s defenders posted on Mai’s new Facebook account a picture of what seems like a “drinking session” showing Mai with P-Noy and several others.    Now, I can see why P-Noy wouldn’t fire Mai.  Like his “shooting buddy,” Rico Puno, whom he didn’t want to fire after Rico ran away from the August 23 hostage-taking crisis, Mai is P-Noy’s “drinking buddy.” Since P-Noy is a non-drinker, Mai does all the drinking and P-Noy does all the BS.

Shalani tweets… Meanwhile, P-Noy’s former girlfriend, Valenzuela City councilor Shalani Soledad, tweeted in her Twitter account, “No matter what, he will always have my support. That you can count on. Good morning.”  That’s called “love at hindsight.”

There have been sightings of P-Noy together with his hair stylist and alleged new tweetheart, Liz Uy.  It must be quite interesting – and challenging – styling P-Noy’s hair to give him that “distinguished presidential look.”
Wouldn’t anyone be surprised if P-Noy appointed Liz to the PAG-IBIG Board of Trustees just like what ex-prez Gloria did when she appointed her manicurist to the PAG-IBIG Board?  Hey, why not?  The position pays P130,000 a month!  And the Board convenes only once a month.  That’s what I call a “tweetheart” deal.


Gloria’s tweetheart deal… How in Heaven’s name did Gloria get P2.2 billion in pork barrel funds allocated to her congressional district for 2011?  According to her spokesperson, Gloria negotiated these loans from Japanese and South Korean lenders specifically for projects in he home district when she was still president.  But can’t P-Noy cancel these loans since he is now the president?  The deal is analogous to Gloria getting a loan to build a house in her property and all her neighbors will repay the loan.   That’s not fair!  But who says life is fair in the Philippines?

Only in the Philippines… News report says: A Philippine village watchman mistook an actor for a real masked gunman, jumped onto his moving motorcycle and fatally shot him.” According to the police, as the director shouted “Action!” actor Kirk Abella began to speed away on a motorcycle with a masked driver.  The watchman, Eddie Cuizon, grabbed Abella by the shirt and shot him.  Cuizon said he was just responding to a report about the presence of armed men in his community and didn’t realize that they were just “shooting” a movie.  Well, these days you don’t know when people are just acting or doing the real thing.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Theres The Rub
By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer

I’M GLAD the University of the Philippines is fighting back. In a statement entitled, “No to plagiarism! Asserting academic freedom!” the UP Diliman executive committee threw its weight behind its law faculty. It said: “The high court has undermined academic freedom by threatening to discipline 37 faculty members of the College of Law for taking a principled position on a grave academic concern.”

In fact academic freedom is the last thing the Supreme Court has undermined. Even the law is the last thing it has undermined. Common decency is first.

Its clearing of Justice Mariano del Castillo from the professors’ charge of plagiarism “for lack of merit” already constitutes an undermining of common decency. Its argument, that the plagiarism came from the accidental deletion of quotation marks by his legal researcher, is lamer than a polio victim.

At the very least, what’s wrong with it is that a student may commit accidents, a justice may not. A student’s accidents can affect only his grades, a judge’s accidents can affect other people’s lives. If you can be sloppy about your quotation marks, you can be sloppy about other things. Such as overlooking evidence that makes the accused innocent, or guilty.

In any case, you get caught for accidentally missing out on the quotation marks, you say sheepishly, “Ay mali! Sorry about that, it won’t happen again.” You do not mount your high horse and say haughtily, “You fools, I’ll give you an accident you won’t forget!”

But it’s more than that. You want “lack of merit,” don’t look at the UP professors’ complaint, look at Del Castillo’s accident. Let’s grant that Del Castillo made “tipid”, and hired someone who is an accident waiting to happen. Or let’s grant he made “sagad” and slave-drove the poor person to death, or to forgetfulness. But how explain how the accidentally quoted portion got to mean the opposite of what it originally did?

I’ve always wondered why people keep referring to the problem as plagiarism. The problem is not plagiarism—or not just plagiarism. The problem is the lifting of a portion from another person’s work and perverting its meaning. The plagiarized author himself, Evan Criddle, pointed it out: “Speaking for myself, the most troubling aspect of the Court’s jus cogens discussion is that it implies that the prohibitions against crimes against humanity, sexual slavery, and torture are not jus cogens norms. Our article emphatically asserts the opposite.”

That is not an accident. It explains why the quoted portion had no quotation marks and attribution. A reference to Criddle would readily have shown he was supplying an argument for the comfort women, not against them. The UP professors who discovered it do not deserve contempt, they deserve medals.

Which is really the astonishing thing about the Supreme Court’s persistence in persecuting them: The justices should in fact even now be falling on their knees and thanking them for saving them from a fate worse than death: dishonor of monumental and international proportions. Do they really think they can dispel the shame by shifting the blame? This won’t be Renato Corona’s crowning glory, this will be his crowning despair.

I don’t know where Del Castillo took his law, I don’t know where Corona took his law, I don’t know where the other justices took their law. But UP at least subscribes to US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ idea, emblazoned on the façade of its law school, that “[t]he business of a law school is not…to teach law or to make lawyers, it is to teach law in the grand manner and to make great lawyers.” And therefore the business of law is not to preach law and resort to lawyerly tactics, it is to practice law in the grand manner as befits great lawyers. One should think this idea would be fully grasped by judges, too, above all the ones whose breadth of wisdom is presumed by the word “supreme.”

This wrongheaded vengefulness is not grand, it is pathetic.

By the way, the UP College of Law puts its mantra in quotation marks, and makes the proper attribution.

* * *

I don’t know which is worse, the transgression itself or the lack of appreciation for its implications.
That is Mai Mislang’s now famous tweets from Vietnam. Specifically, “The wine sucks,” after Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet hosted a state banquet, “Sorry pero walang pogi rito sa Vietnam,” after presumably scouring the place, and “Crossing the speedy motorcycle laden streets of Hanoi is the easiest way to die” after presumably crossing one.

Ricky Carandang says “it’s pretty harmless,” “she had no offense meant to anybody,” and “as far as we’re concerned, that’s over, that’s gone now.”

You’re a silly person visiting Vietnam with your silly boyfriend and you say those silly things in public, they are pretty harmless, or you harm only yourself. You’re a silly public official visiting Vietnam with your serious boss, the President, and you say those silly things in public, they are not harmless, you harm your boss. By now those tweets will have been read by the Vietnamese Embassy and the other Asean embassies. At the time Mislang put them out, P-Noy was telling the other Asean countries to “speak with one voice.” The irony will not be lost on the people in those embassies, not all of whom are silly.

Besides, if you can be tasteless in this respect, what makes you think you can’t be so in others? If you can be tasteless in this respect, what makes you think you can tell good wine from bad? If you are tasteless in this respect, what makes you think you can tell pogi from not?

If you can be tasteless in this respect, what makes you think the Vietnamese ambassador might not say, “We’d be most happy if you’d cross our streets more often”?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Judicial Voodoo vs. Rule of Law

By Perry Diaz

The recent Supreme Court decision absolving Justice Mariano del Castillo of plagiarism stirred a hornet’s nest in the international legal community.  And, at home, the high court’s subsequent action, which threatened to sanction 37 faculty members of the University of the Philippines College of Law, ignited a firestorm of controversy that questions the infallibility of the Supreme Court.
It all began in April 2010 when the Supreme Court dismissed the petition of 70 Filipino “comfort women” (Vinuya vs. Romulo, G.R. No. 162230) to compel the Philippine government to get a public apology from the Japanese government including reparation to victims of sexual abuse by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.  Justice Del Castillo penned the ponencia.


That would have been the end of it.  But Marvic Leonen, Dean of the U.P. College of Law, learned from a student of international law that Del Castillo lifted quotes and footnotes – without crediting the authors — from three internationally published articles.   Consequently, lawyers Harry Roque and Romel Bagares submitted a motion for reconsideration on the comfort women’s petition and also accused Del Castillo of plagiarism.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mark Ellis, one of the authors whose work was plagiarized, sent an email to the justices, which says:
“In particular, I am concerned about a large part of the extensive discussion in footnote 65, pp. 27-28 of the said Judgment of your esteemed Court. I am also concerned that your esteemed Court may have misread the arguments I made in the article and employed them for cross-purposes. This would be ironic since the article was written precisely to argue for the appropriate legal remedy for victims of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.”

Pretty soon, calls for discipline against the 10 justices — including the ponente, Del Castillo — snowballed.   Chief Justice Renato Corona created a five-member committee on Ethics and Ethical Standards, headed by him, to investigate the complaint of plagiarism.  The problem is that all five justices assigned to the committee had concurred with the ponencia in question; therefore, if they recommended disciplinary action, they would be incriminating themselves.

Consequently, the 37 U.P. College of Law faculty members issued a public statement on the allegations of plagiarism and misrepresentation of the Supreme Court, to wit:  
“It is within this frame that the Faculty of the University of the Philippines College of Law views the charge that an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court committed plagiarism and misrepresentation in Vinuya v. Executive Secretary. The plagiarism and misrepresentation are not only affronts to the individual scholars whose work have been appropriated without correct attribution, but also a serious threat to the integrity and credibility of the Philippine Judicial System.” They deplored the act of plagiarism as “unacceptable, unethical and in breach of the high standards of moral conduct and judicial and professional competence expected of the Supreme Court,” and demanded the resignation of Del Castillo to save the “honor and dignity” of the Supreme Court.

Last October 15, 2010, the Supreme Court — on a 10-2 decision — absolved Del Castillo of plagiarism for “lack of merit.” The two justices who voted against the ruling were Conchita Carpio-Morales and Maria Lourdes Sereno.  Justices Antonio Carpio and Diosdado Peralta were on official leave while Del Castillo did not participate in the proceedings.

Judicial voodoo

In the ruling, the majority said that Del Castillo couldn’t be faulted because the alleged plagiarized material was “accidentally deleted” by Del Castillo’s court researcher.  They also said that Del Castillo and his researcher could not be held liable for plagiary because Microsoft Word, the software used in writing the ponencia, could not detect “copied” material without the proper attributions.  “Microsoft Word program does not have a function that raises an alarm when original materials are cut up or pruned. The portions that remain simply blend in with the rest of the manuscript, adjusting the footnote number and removing any clue that what should stick together had just been severed,” the ruling said.   The majority also accepted Del Castillo’s explanation that there was “no malicious intent to appropriate another’s work as our own.”

The Supreme Court ruling defied conventional logic and used convoluted rationale that could only be construed as an aberration – or abrogation – of established norms and standards.   It was classic case of “judicial voodoo” taking precedence over the rule of law where the magistrates used mumbo-jumbo reasoning.

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sereno said, “Plagiarism thus does not consist solely of using the work of others in one’s own work, but of the former in conjunction with the failure to attribute said work to its rightful owner and thereby, as in the case of written work, misrepresenting the work of another as one’s own.” She also said that claiming “lack of malicious intent” would not “change the characterization of the act as plagiarism.” Indeed, Sereno’s rebuttal exemplifies logical rationalization predicated on the rule of law.

Desperate act

And in a desperate act to salvage what is left of its credibility and integrity, the Supreme Court tried to muffle dissent and criticism by threatening to impose sanctions against the 37 faculty members for their purported violation of the lawyers’ “code of ethics.” Little did the Supreme Court realize that its action would only provoke and infuriate the media and the academia; thus, further intensifying demands for Del Castillo’s resignation.  Indeed, it’s a rude awakening for the Supreme Court justices who had gotten away with controversial decisions in the past which were accepted as “infallible” and therefore beyond reproach.   Not anymore.

Quo vadis, Supreme Court? 

The Supreme Court’s controversial ruling that totally ignored Section 15 Article VII of the Constitution — which bans “midnight appointments” — and allowed then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to appoint Justice Renato Corona as Chief Justice during the prohibited period was another process that could only be construed as “judicial voodoo” where rule of law was debased for the purpose of circumventing the constitution for the aggrandizement of a few.

Sad to say, with Corona at the helm of the Supreme Court until 2018 — when he reaches mandatory age retirement — and the other Arroyo appointees holding a majority until then, the Aquino administration would be under the spell of “judicial voodooism” for a long time to come.

Are these the signs that portend to the coming of the Dark Age in Philippine jurisprudence?  Or, are we already in that age?