Thursday, May 31, 2012

CJ Corona's Coviction

So much has already been said about the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona on Second Article of Impeachment and I doubt there is anything more that I can add to the hundreds of thousands or millions of words that have filled the internet by now.

After all, what is my opinion worth?

As I've probably said before, I basically see myself as a kibitzer in what I perceive to be a power game between political juggernauts.

Despite grounding the main accusation on "betrayal of public trust", I don't think all of the people involved in the "trial" could be accused and found guilty of scrupulously following a principled path.

Which, then, makes me think... What would be the reason to celebrate or grieve over?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Impeachment Court Hands Down Guilty Verdict on Chief Justice Renato Corona, 20 to 3

The senate sitting as an impeachment court voted to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona on the basis of the Second Article of Impeachment or for the culpable violation of the Philippine Constitution for his failure to disclose his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Senator Bongbong Marcos, Senator Joker Arroyo, and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago were the only ones who voted to acquit Chief Justice Corona.

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was the last to give an explanation for his verdict to convict Corona and here it is in its entirety:

The vote of the Senate President 
On Article II of the Articles of Impeachment against Hon. Chief Justice Renato C. Corona

In the entire course of this impeachment trial, I have faced many difficult challenges to my own and the Court's collective wisdom, our sense of justice and fairness, the delicate balancing act we must perform to ensure that we do not stray from the strictures of the Constitution, the law and our rules.

This trial began and unfolded against the backdrop of a highly charged and emotional atmosphere, acrimonious debate in and outside the confines of this Court, and a deep political fissure which threatened the stability of our democratic institutions.

But the impact of the many events that transpired since December 12 last year to this very day, taken altogether, cannot compare to the sense of heaviness that I feel at this very moment.

The culmination of this national drama is at hand, and the time has come for me to render judgment on the person before whom I took my Oath of Office as a Senator of the less than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Renato C. Corona.

The Respondent Chief Justice and his family understandably feel deeply hurt, pained and aggrieved.

As a lawyer, I must confess that I was personally frustrated by the loose and hasty crafting and preparation that characterized the presentation of the charges contained in the Articles of Impeachment. It seemed that the case was being built up only after the charges were actually filed. The repeated recourse to this Court's compulsory processes to obtain evidence which normally should have formed the factual basis of the charges in the first place further burdened and, at times, taxed the patience of this Court.

We have witnessed with disdain the indiscriminate, deliberate and illegal machinations of some parties who have been less than forthright with this Court in presenting dubiously procured and misleading documents which were spread to the media obviously to influence this Court's and the public's opinion.

The letter of the Administrator of the Land Registration Authority which contained, as an attachment, a list of 45 properties supposedly owned by the Respondent Chief Justice, was fed to the media even before we could begin the actual trial of this case.

Even before the Hon. Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio Morales, was called to testify before this Court, her letter to the Chief Justice requiring him to explain in 72 hours an alleged aggregate amount of US$10M in several dollar accounts was leaked to the media right before the resumption of this trial last May 7.

We have sternly cautioned against unethical and unprofessional conduct, the penchant to engage in trial by publicity, to use the media to disseminate and advance so called "information" or "evidence", to provoke and disrespect this Court and its members, and to irresponsibly hurl disparaging insinuations and accusations.

We have tried to impress upon everyone who may be similarly motivated and inclined to test our will that this Court means serious business and would not succumb to nor allow such underhanded tactics and gimmickry to deter us from our task.

Prudence and justice dictate that in determining the guilt or innocence of the Chief Justice, we must try our best to confine ourselves to the pieces of testimonial and documentary evidence that have been presented to this Court, to pass upon their relevance, and to measure and weigh their value in the light of the charges before us.

After all the accusations levelled against the Chief Justice - eight (8) charges in all comprising the Articles of Impeachment - the Prosecution chose to present evidence only on three Articles (Articles II, III and VII), and abruptly rested its case.

I have always believed that of these three, the case for the Prosecution and the Defense will rise or fall on Article II, which is the subject of this vote.

This Court, at one point, had extensive discussions and differences of opinion, to be sure, regarding the charge contained in Paragraph 2.4 of Article II that the Chief Justice was "suspected and accused of having accumulated ill-gotten wealth, acquiring assets of high values and keeping bank accounts with huge deposits".

We ruled to disallow the introduction of evidence in support of Par. 2.4 which, to this day, I strongly maintain was an invalid charge, it being based on mere "suspicion", on so-called "reports", rather than on factual allegations.

The Defense and the Chief Justice himself somehow revived this issue of the nature of his assets by introducing evidence to prove that his income and assets were legitimate, and by testimony to show how he and his wife had saved and invested these savings in foreign currency over so many decades.

I wish to reiterate, for the record, that the Chief Justice does not stand accused of having amassed any ill-gotten wealth before this Impeachment Court.

Paragraph 2.2 of Article II of the Articles of Impeachment accuses the Respondent Chief Justice of failing to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth as required by the Constitution.

I submit that the Chief Justice had justifiable and legal grounds to rely on the Supreme Court's procedural and policy guidelines governing such disclosures as embodied in a Resolution promulgated way back in 1989 when the Respondent was not yet a Member of the Supreme Court.

Under the said guidelines, the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court, who is the repository of the SALN's submitted by all the Members of the Supreme Court, may furnish copies of the SALN's in his or her custody to any person upon request, and upon showing that there is a legitimate reason for the same.

The Constitution, in Article XI, Sec. 17, states that "in the case of the President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Commissions and other constitutional offices, and offices of the armed forces with general or flag rank, the declaration shall be disclosed to the public in the manner provided by law".

R.A. 6713, known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, recognizes the public's right to information on the assets, liabilities, net worth, financial and business interests of public servants. But it likewise declares it unlawful for any person "to obtain or use the same for purposes contrary to morals or public policy or for any commercial purpose other than by news and communications media for dissemination to the general public".

Whether the said guidelines violate the letter and spirit of R.A. 6713 and the principle of public accountability is not for this Court to pass upon. I grant that the Chief Justice believed in good faith that after periodically filing his sworn Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court were sufficient to allow the Clerk of Court to comply with the Constitution and the law.

We cannot ignore the fact that the failure or refusal, particularly of public officials in high government positions, to provide the public or the media with copies of the SALN's, continues to be a raging issue to this day. In fact, some, if not most of the members of the Prosecution panel itself, the Members of the Supreme Court, members of Congress and other high officials of the government have been challenged by media organizations to make their SALN's available to the public and to the media.

Paragraph 2.3 of Article II further accuses the Respondent Chief Justice, based on "reports", of not including some properties in his declaration of his assets, liabilities, and net worth, in violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act.

The Prosecution, based on the list it procured from the LRA, claims that the Chief Justice owned and failed to fully disclose in his SALN 45 real estate assets. Based on the evidence, I am convinced that the Defense has presented credible evidence to refute this charge and to explain the exclusion in the Respondent Chief Justice's SALN's of certain properties which have either been sold or legally transferred, properties which are actually owned by his children and/or third parties, and properties which were never owned by the Respondent in the first place.

I am likewise convinced that the Defense has sufficiently established that there was no ill intention on the part of the Respondent to understate or misrepresent the value of his real properties.

Proceeding now to the most significant charge involving the non-disclosure of the Respondent Chief Justice's cash assets, the Ombudsman, at the instance of the Defense, testified with a presentation of a report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), showing 82 bank accounts allegedly belonging to the Respondent.

She further testified that based on her analysis of the report, aided by the Commission on Audit, the Chief Justice had cash assets in the examined bank accounts of anywhere from US$10 Million to US$ 12 Million.

Even if we grant the existence of these 82 accounts, the amount of deposits corresponding to each of these could not just easily, fairly or logically be summed up to arrive at exactly how much cash assets or deposits, in actuality and in totality, the Respondent Chief Justice had or has at any given point in time.

Hence, the Ombudsman's reference to a "transactional balance" of about US$12 Million should not mislead this Court in its appreciation of the facts.

Regrettably, both the Prosecution and the Defense panels decided not to present the concerned bank officers or the AMLC to ascertain the veracity of the data allegedly provided by the AMLC to the Office of the Ombudsman, despite the Respondent's submission to this Court of a written waiver to cause the opening of all his bank accounts. Laudable as this belated act on the part of the Respondent Chief Justice may be, it would have served him better if he had just presented bank documents as evidence to either confirm or refute the documents showing his bank transactions as presented by the Ombudsman. It has not escaped this Presiding Officer that initially, last May 22nd to be exact, before he walked out of the halls of this Court, the Chief Justice signed the said waiver in open court but made the release of the same conditional, that is, after all the 188 signatories to the Articles of Impeachment and Senator-Judge Franklin Drilon have signed a similar waiver. It was only during the hearing last May 25 that the Chief Justice decided to submit the waiver to the Court without any conditions.

Moreover, even as the Chief Justice had full access to his own bank accounts and all the opportunity to introduce evidence to disprove the data, findings and analysis presented by the Ombudsman or the report of the AMLC, the Defense did not introduce any such evidence.

As it is, the Impeachment Court could only rely on the documents supplied by the Ombudsman which show the Respondent's bank transactions but which do not show the actual bank balances of Respondent's bank accounts.

Instead, the Defense presented the Chief Justice himself as its last witness and pleaded for the Court's permission to allow the Respondent to deliver an "opening statement".

This Court, out of courtesy to the Chief Justice, decided to extend its understanding and to exercise liberality in granting the request.

The long narration, where the Chief Justice touched on a wide range of issues, assertions of facts, accusations, opinions and personal sentiments, which the Respondent said he found necessary to narrate in order to clear his and his family's name, was later adopted by the Defense as the direct testimony of the Respondent. The Prosecution, on the other hand, waived its right to cross-examine the Chief Justice, provided the Defense would not conduct any further direct examination.

Nevertheless, the Respondent Chief Justice testified and admitted, in answer to questions from a member of this Court, that he had around P80 Million in 3 Peso accounts and US$2.4 Million in 4 US Dollar accounts, but that he had purposely not declared these assets for 2 reasons: (1) That his Peso accounts represented "co-mingled funds", and (2) That he was not required to report or declare his foreign currency deposits in his SALN because they were absolutely confidential under R.A. 6426.

I disagree on both counts.

If, indeed, any of the Respondent's cash deposits were co-mingled with the funds belonging to other parties such as the Basa Guidote Enterprises, Inc. (BGEI) or his children, the Respondent was still duty bound to declare these deposits in his SALN, they being admittedly under his name.

The evidence is devoid of any indication that the Chief Justice was holding these funds in trust for or that they were actually beneficially owned by any one other than himself or his wife.

Assuming that any part of such deposits in truth belonged to third parties, the Respondent could have indicated such third-party funds as corresponding liabilities in his SALN. That would have reflected his real net worth.

With all due respect, I believe that the Respondent Chief Justice's reliance on the absolute confidentiality accorded to foreign currency deposits under Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6426 is grossly misplaced.

The Constitution, in Article XI, Sec. 17, provides that "A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities and net worth. x x x "

Are we now to say that this Constitutional command is limited to a public official's assets or deposits in local currency? If so, would we not be saying, in effect, that the Constitution allows something less than a full, honest and complete disclosure?

It bears noting that the prescribed form of the SALN quite simply requires public officers and employees to declare their assets, real and personal, the latter to include cash and bank deposits, bonds, etc. It does not require the public officer or employee to indicate whether or not he or she has foreign currency notes or deposits. Neither does it require details such as account numbers, account names, bank identity nor any branch address. All that it requires is a declaration of the total amount of the funds deposited in any bank account or accounts maintained by the public official or employee concerned.

Surely, the Chief Justice knows the equivalent value in local currency of his foreign currency deposits to be able to declare the same as part of his assets, especially since the aggregate amount of these foreign currency deposits, by his own account, amounts to US$2.4 Million.

The non-disclosure of these deposits, in both local and foreign currency, would naturally result in a corresponding distortion of the Chief Justice's real net worth.

Consistent with the position taken by this Court in the case filed by the Philippine Savings Bank before the Supreme Court last February, pursuant to which the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order, I maintain that the Constitutional principle of public accountability overrides the absolute confidentiality of foreign currency deposits.

The provisions of R.A. 6426 cannot be interpreted as an exception to the unequivocal command and tenor of Article XI, Sec. 17, of the 1987 Constitution, and I regret that the Highest Magistrate of the land, no less, would think otherwise.

Section 8 of R.A. 6426 provides that except with the written permission of the depositor, "in no instance shall foreign currency deposits be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office whether judicial or administrative or legislative or any other entity whether public or private."

The so-called conflict of laws between R.A. Nos. 6713 and 6426 is more illusory than real. Section 8 of R.A. No. 6426 merely prohibits the examination, inquiry or looking into a foreign currency deposit account by an entity or person other than the depositor himself. But there is nothing in R.A. No. 6426 which prohibits the depositor from making a declaration on his own of such foreign currency funds, especially in this case where the Constitution mandates the depositor who is a public officer to declare all assets under oath.

Some have raised the question: Why should the Chief Justice be held accountable for an offense which many, if not most others in Government are guilty of, perhaps even more than he is? They say that hardly anyone declares his true net worth anyway.

Here lies what many have posited as a moral dilemma. I believe it is our duty to resolve this "dilemma" in favor of upholding the law and sound public policy. If we were to agree with the Respondent that he was correct in not disclosing the value of his foreign currency deposits because they are absolutely confidential, can we ever expect any SALN to be filed by public officials from hereon to be more accurate and true than they are today?

I am not oblivious to the possible political repercussions of the final verdict we are called upon to render today. I am deeply concerned that the people may just so easily ignore, forget, if not completely miss out, the hard lessons we all must learn from this episode, instead of grow and mature as citizens of a democratic nation.

Those whose intentions and motivations may be farthest from the lofty ideals of truth and justice are wont to feast upon this man's downfall should this Court render a guilty verdict.

I am equally aware of the tremendous pressure weighing heavily upon all the members of this Court as we had to come to a decision on this case, one way or the other.

But to render a just verdict according to my best lights and my own conscience is a sacred duty that I have sworn to perform.

As one who has been through many personal upheavals through all of my 88 years, I, too, have been judged, often unfairly and harshly. But I have constantly held that those who face the judgment of imperfect and fallible mortals like us have recourse to the judgment of history, and, ultimately, of God.

And so, with full trust that the Almighty will see us through the aftermath of this chapter in our nation's history, I vote to hold the Chief Justice, Renato C. Corona, GUILTY as charged under Article II, Par. 2.3, and that his deliberate act of excluding substantial assets from his sworn Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth constitutes a culpable violation of the Constitution.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Live feed CJ Renato Corona Testifies

Here's streaming video of Chief Justice Renato Corona, he's supposed to testify today.

Streaming by Ustream

Monday, May 21, 2012

Filipino TV Crew Goes to Scarborough Shoal, gets shooed away by Chinese vessels. What's the point?

Okay, is there any point at all to bringing a Filipino TV crew to an territory that is under bitter protest?

What were you guys expecting from the Chinese? What do you expect the Philippines Government to do? What do you think your fellow Filipinos would feel?

Satanic Lady Gaga Holds Concert In Manila Tomorrow

Driving over to my house in Manila, I caught the tail end of Atty. Romeo Macalintal saying that he and a few other people would protest the holding of Lady Gaga's concert at the SM Area tomorrow.

Apparently, Atty. Macalintal is of the opinion that some of Lady Gaga's songs are Satanic in nature and he even quoted the lyrics of "Judas".

Thankfully, Atty. Macalintal didn't go into the whole ordeal of back-masking Judas because it was just too damned early to hear an old man talk about sexual perversion.

I don't know whether he had too much Dan Brown or too much Hash Brownies (oh you know what I am talking about!), but I really doubt that after listening to Judas people in the Philippines will turn into Satanistic perverts.

And if they act in any kind of perverted way, I'd suppose they were perverts long before Lady Gaga even came up with the song.

Of course, I am not discounting the fact that the sexual imagery in Lady Gaga's video will drive RH Bill advocates into a frenzy over the fact that perhaps getting exposed to more Lady Gaga music LIVE may send millions of Filipinos into an orgiastic population balloon bursting marathon of procreation.

But, I guess, that's just about as evil as it gets.

The thing is, I have probably listened to almost all the so called Satanic music and guess what? Only stupid people live out the lyrics of their favorite rebellious music.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Netizens Ask Nike To Drop Pacquiao as Endorser for Opposing Gay Marriage

Eight Division World Boxing Champion Manny Pacquiao's opposition to gay marriage may hit him where it may hurt a little and it's not in a place below the belt.

Netizens are signing a petition initiated by Gay Marriage USA via, which asks Nike to "say 'no' to hate speech" by withdrawing its sponsorship of Pacquiao whom the brand has supported since 2008.
"Following [U.S. President Barack] Obama's recent announcement of support for marriage equality, Pacquiao quoted Bible excerpts to state that homosexuals should be put to death: If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads," the petition read. 
Pacquiao was initially quoted as saying marriage "should not be of the same sex so as to adulterate the altar of matrimony, like in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah of Old."
But in a report on, Pacquiao said he is against same-sex marriage but not against gays. 
He also denied citing Leviticus 20:13, which says: "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."
This isn't the first time that Pacquiao figured prominently in a negative way online, a couple of months back he got into a row with followers on Twitter which, if I remember correctly, had to do with his opposition to the RH Bill -- another cause supported by the Philippine gay community.

In any case, my view on the whole matter is basically that our job as Christians is not the judge each other but to love each other.  Each must account for his or her own action and square up with The Creator on his own accord.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bertrand Russel's "My Ten Commandments"

I came across this and found it quite appropriate to re-here after a series of posts exposing someone's deception.
The philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote his own personal set of ten commandments. They were published under the title "My Ten Commandments" in Everyman magazine in 1930.
They ran as follows: -

1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
2. Do not think it worthwhile to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that is happiness.

Making the Philippines Better for All Its Citizens (Happy Mothers Day, Ma.)

The past couple of days weren't an absolute waste of time, even if most of my free time was spent unmasking another act of deception foisted by one misguided soul and being somewhat amused by the childish rants that erupted afterwards.

The thing is, some people believe that the only way for things to improve in this country is for massive and widespread changes to take place because everything about it is so effing wrong.

I still believe that a lot of things are wrong with this country, but unlike when I was in high school or college, I have become increasingly aware that all the wrong things in this country cannot be changed for the better by a change in leadership, government, economic policies, etcetera.

As I've grown somewhat disenchanted with the idea of panaceas for a dysfunctional society, I've also come to appreciate the simple nugget of wisdom that my mother would often tell me whenever I'd get too engrossed in one revolutionary solution or another.

She had a thousand and one ways of saying it, but the best one I remember is this:

"Nasa may katawan ang pagbabago."
-- Linda Farol

Being 80 years old, I think she can probably attest to the fact that sweeping political and economic changes won't do shit for people who expect food to land in mouths.

She also says that an improved economy won't make an unskilled laborer or peon (as she is fond of saying) won't make enough money to have a decent life and it will always take government intervention to give him that.

Moreover, she says that laws guaranteeing worker rights won't guarantee having jobs and they're useless if you're unemployed.  The best way to have security of tenure is to be indispensable to the company and the best way to secure an upward career path is to be the best at what you do.

She also says that a change in political leadership just boils down to some politician getting a promoted and it  won't mean diddly squat to you -- the ordinary citizen -- unless you're either a relative of the politician, crony, or an indispensable member of his staff.

These remarkable insights into the economy, legislation, and politics have been proven true, time and again.

Especially, if you consider that my mom is an ordinary housewife who devoted the best years of her life to taking care of her children.  

She didn't study political science, philosophy, or any of the "sciences".  If her family hadn't suffered a major reversal during World War II, I think she would have finished a college degree in nursing or education and perhaps, we (her children) wouldn't have been born.

She chose to get married in her twenties and raise a family instead.

Still wanting to be mentally active in a practical way, she taught herself how to fix car engines, embroidery, crocheting, dress making, pig and chicken raising, dog training, baking, cooking, basic carpentry, basic masonry, electrical installation, vegetable raising, how to run a business, and a whole other range of skills that helped add income or spare expenses.

Come to think of it, I don't think there is any kind of practical skill that my mother doesn't have some level of proficiency in.  (Oh, well, she can't hard code HTML or even work a keyboard, for that matter.  But she's my mother and its mother's day, so I'll look that over -- just this once.)

To her, the accumulation of knowledge and skills that has practical use and can either earn money or save money is the best way to improve one's station in life.

I've often over-looked her formula for improving her life and the lives of people who have come into her life because it seemed corny.

But, corny as it seemed to me when I was an angst driven young man, I now look back at her corny formula for improving people's lives and I have to say, she's right.

Her formula for self improvement is simple:

1. Learn.
2. Earn.
3. Save.
4. Invest.

Nope. Not Econ lib, federalism, or parliamentary shift.

Who'd Pay to Troll You?

I should be shaking in my boots right now, but I am too busy rolling on the floor laughing out loud.

The leader of the small Facebook group who dreams of converting the entire Philippines to his "vision" for a CoRRECTED Philippines has accused yours truly of being paid to troll him.

Really?! I am soooo shocked.

Like, someone actually thought it would be worth any sum of money to annoy you?  Like who? (The voices in your head don't count.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Locsin on whether articles of CoRRECT Philippines convinced him to support Parliamentary Shift

Not wanting to let the members of a small Facebook group down, I decided to tweet out an article where the leader of the small Facebook group claims that former Makati Representative Teddy Locsin Jr. was convinced to support parliamentary shift because of their articles.

The leader says:
He (Locsin) got exposed to the numerous literature (articles and videos) that CoRRECT had created and got passed around, and thanks to the buzz that we created in making it a very important issue to look into, he not only took a second look, he also looked into the merits of why the parliamentary system is superior to the presidential system.
Locsin answered:

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

CoRRECT Philippines Claims to Have Convinced Teddyboy Locsin to Support a Shift to Parliamentary Form of Government

A leader of a small Facebook Group is claiming that his group's efforts had convinced former congressman and columnist Teddy Boy Locsin to support moves calling for the country to shift to a parliamentary form of government.

In the comment section of an updated on Get Real Philippines Community, the leader of the pro-parliamentary shift Facebook Group speculates that Teddy Boy Locsin had read articles he had written and this was what convinced Locsin to support his movement.

He, moreover, claims to have popularized a white paper supporting a parliamentary shift written by former Congressman now Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

I am reposting parts of his comment below: 

He (Locsin) got exposed to the numerous literature (articles and videos) that CoRRECT had created and got passed around, and thanks to the buzz that we created in making it a very important issue to look into, he not only took a second look, he also looked into the merits of why the parliamentary system is superior to the presidential system.  
It's starts off with creating a buzz. GRP-AP created it in 2010 when the Constitutional Reform articles started coming out. Then in January 2011, CoRRECT as a brand got launched. 
From creating a buzz and creating a comprehensive repository from which people could do their own research that is SPECIFIC TO THE PHILIPPINE SITUATION vis-a-vis the diff. aspects of Constitutional Reform, especially the much-maligned proposal to shift to the parliamentary system, numerous formerly anti-parliamentary/anti-Constitutional Reform people - including Locsin - ended up making the shift. 
Back then, in the 1990's and in the mid 2000's, there was no CoRRECT. There was no solid Citizens' Movement that sought to spread the word and enlighten the Public on what Constitutional Reform was and teach people about what the Parliamentary System is and how it works. 
Starting in 2011, CoRRECT served that purpose. (And we even ended up getting the goat of people like Esposo) 
It's easy to see why Locsin would suddenly learn about it and then agree with it NOW, as opposed to back in the old days when our solid efforts to "spread the word among ordinary educated people" had not yet existed.
He further claims, he popularized Abad's white paper proposing a shift to the parliamentary form of government:

In fact, our sites "revived" and "popularized" many old literature produced by some pro-parliamentary advocates that did not see wide distribution before. Remember how Butch Abad wrote an article that explained the superiority of the parliamentary system? Before pre-split GRP-AP first featured that on AP, that whitepaper (in PDF format) he wrote was very poorly disseminated among only a few people. It was in fact our efforts in putting it on the spotlight that did in fact help create that buzz.  
Again, it's worth looking into why Locsin got swayed to oppose it before, but only recently expressed support for it, and it is simple: Back in the old days, there was no GRP-AP-CoRRECT initiative that existed to counteract the black propaganda thrown against the Constitutional Reform initiatives. Today, there is, and that makes all the difference.
Quite curious and wishing to end all speculation, I asked Teddy Boy Locsin point blank about what made him choose to support the move to shift to a parliamentary form of government.

This was his answer to me on twitter:

His response, if I am reading it correctly, is that he chose to support parliamentary shift because he believes there is no longer a threat of a single party dictatorship.

No references to CoRRECT Philippines or any of its articles.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Facebook Soldiers: Why CoRRECT is WRONG

First, let me start by saying that, in general and broad term terms, the idea of pushing for a Parliamentary Shift, Economic Liberalization, and Federalism are all very good ideas that are worth discussing.

A large amount of literature has been published regarding these three ideas, where some of the country's best minds articulated the merits of having a parliamentary system of government, an economy that is more open to foreign investment, and a Federal government which would allow provinces to organize themselves into states.

In fact, the ideas of Parliamentary Shift, Economic Liberalization, and Federalism has some of the biggest names in Philippine politics behind it.  

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte have, in fact, said that they fully supported amending the constition's economic provisions.  

I once called the restrictive economic provisions as the “original sin” of our economic development policies. They constitute the main reason for the country’s limited access to foreign direct investment capital that the country has sorely needed since independence. 
These policies not only served to limit the inflow of foreign capital into the country. They also set the tone for the nurturing of a narrow economic nationalism as a dominant component and thinking about practical economic policies in the country for years. The end result is that the growth of output and of productivity in the country had also suffered immensely.

In 2010, Enrile and Belmonte agreed not to entertain discussions on proposals for revising political provisions in the constitution.  (Although, recently, Enrile came out with several statements proposing the re-establishment of Senatorial Districts.)

But despite the good that these ideas represent, their adoption and implementation in the real world of Philippine politics and economics have been thwarted by and large for many reasons.

In the X number of times that Constitutional amendments have been discussed formally in Congress as well as in the Senate, the stumbling block has always been amending provisions which have to do with the terms of office -- specifically that of the President.

Even during the Ramos Administration, when it seemed the country was flying high under his leadership and there was at least some reason to want to give President Fidel Ramos another term, there was great opposition to changing the Constitution to allow the sitting President to seek another term.

During the Estrada years, the move to amend the constitution was less visible but discussions continued and to some extent, these discussions were even backed by President Joseph Estrada.

It was during the latter part of the Arroyo Administration's term that the idea for amending the constitution resurfaced again and was opposed.  Again, the main object centered around giving a term extension to the sitting President.

What escaped the public eye back then was all the behind the scene work focused on coming up with amendments to the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
A friend who was somewhat involved in coming up with the amendments related to me that most of the proposed amendments, at the beginning, were actually economic in nature and there was a prevailing agreement that no proposals for changing the constitution's political provisions would be entertained.

The focus on proposing amending the Constitution's economic provisions stem from the idea that the country's biggest problem is poverty and that amendments to the Constitution should focus on lifting the restrictions that were perceived to be holding back the country's economic growth

Also, by focusing narrowly on changing the constitution's economic provisions, they believed proposals on this merit would be more widely accepted and supported.

The only contention against changing the economic provisions of the Constitution would perhaps be provided by protectionist groups.  These groups would probably argue against opening the economy fully to foreign investment because it would lead to the drowning out of Philippine businesses.

This is a valid concern which can lead to serious opposition, but, it is also something that can be addressed more easily with the right policies -- emanating not from the Constitution itself, but from the Senate and House of Representatives.

Now, one small group on Facebook seems bent on pushing for Parliamentary Shift, Economic Liberalization, and Federalism in a manner which is somewhat disconcerting -- to say the least.

I don't know if it is at all an "intelligent" or "subtle" or "enlightened" way of pushing for very good ideas, but declaring war on one of the more popular pages on Facebook will actually help make the group's chosen "advocacies" to prosper.

Tangina This is actually about 10,000 times larger than the smaller Facebook group that is declaring war on it and despite the fact that I believe principles should win over popularity, I really haven't seen it work out well in a street brawl for people siding with principle.

The Facebook soldiers, egged on by their leader by capslocking TULTA MUNILLE in what appears to be a message exchange on FB that was reposted in another group, might be setting themselves up for miserable failure and might even be damaging all the good work already done to push for changes in the Philippine constitution.

I've been told that the small facebook group thinks that charter change is being thwarted by some conspiracy organized by members of the country's political and economic elite as well as the communists.

This is something that I find a bit laughable because, the fact is, members of the political and economic elite have as much to gain from changes in the constitution or even more.

In any case, what people are really opposing or find repugnant -- as far as this group is concerned -- is not the proposed changes in the constitution itself, but the manner in which this group undertakes its campaign.

First, there is the bit of deception when it comes to their stated purpose.  While its leader says their group is espousing Economic Liberalization and Federalism, what he is really pushing for is a shift to a Parliamentary form of government.  

This was revealed in a conversation on FB I had with their leader, wherein I confronted him with the fact the Enrile and Belmonte both said they wouldn't go for amending political provisions in the constitution.  Their leader insisted, based on old article already rendered MOOT by recent pronouncements, that Enrile -- in his heart of hearts -- was still going to push for a parliamentary form of government.  I pointed out that he was speculating on Enrile's future action and that's when he lost his marbles.

It was plain to see that all he was really interested in was having a parliamentary form of government and he would have none of economic liberalization or federalism if it didn't include a shift away from the current presidential form.

So, in the end, instead of getting economic liberalization (which would help boost the country's economy for millions) or federalism (which could actually end the conflict in Mindanao), he'd rather just have a parliamentary form of government.  The first two, in his mind, are optional and he has put it out there as some scheme to merely attract people.

But attracting people who can really help is not the leaders' forte.

(More to follow)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Happy Labor Day?

Given Diaz' global audience, I'd probably be right in thinking that he sends out his happy greetings to laborers in countries where their wages actually allow them to live a decent and comfortable life.

But in the Philippines, greeting laborers "Happy Labor Day" is somewhat odd and out of place -- to say the least.

Despite the various laws in place that are supposed to uplift their standard of living, protect their rights and promote their welfare, Filipino laborers are among the most exploited and abused in the world.

Let's start with one of the more obvious gripes of the common Filipino laborer -- wages. 

The minimum wage for agriculture and non-agriculture workers for National Capital Region is P389 to P426 (or about 9 to 10 dollars) a day, which is probably the highest wage level set for a region in the country.

Perhaps the gripe starts from the idea that the minimum wage of a laborer is hardly enough to provide for the basic needs of his family -- food, shelter, clothes.  Never mind health insurance and medicines, a pension fund, housing fund, or any of the other things that laborers in more developed countries enjoy as part of their basic compensation package.

The Filipino laborer's wages are even smaller if you subtract what he has to spend everyday just to get to work and this can be easily somewhere between P30 to P50 a day.  This whittles down his actual pay to around P330 to P375 a day.

Assuming the laborer has a spouse who is not working and just two children, keeping his entire family well fed three times a day is going to be tough.  Let's assume that the laborer just spends P150 for three meals a day.  This will further take out a sizeable chunk of his wages and reduce it further to P180 to P225.

Assuming he works 20 days a month, he'll have about P3,600 to P4,500.

Shelter is a monthly expense and if a laborer rents a room within 8 kilometers of his work site, that'll set him back by around 1,500 a month.  If he has electrical appliances (probably a fan and a radio), his electric bill may be around P300 a month.  Water bills may be at the same level.  Total monthly expenses will total around P2,100 a month.

This should leave him around P1,500 to P2,400, which actually looks good -- if you assume that the laborer gets paid the right wages.  The reality is that he doesn't.

Employers in Metro Manila often pay much lower wages, often exploiting exceptions and this can mean actual daily wages may be around P300 to P350 a day.

Recomputing everything at this wage level, results in a month income of P6,000 to P7,000 a month.

Minus 1,000 Daily Work Expenses
Minus 1,500 Rent
Minus 3,000 Family Meals
Minus 600 Utilities

At a Monthly Income of 7,000, the laborer may still have around P900 to spare.  At 6,000 a month, he'd be in the red by P100 a month. 

Of course, this assumes he does work 20 days a month all throughout the year.  However, the reality is that most laborers do not work all months in the year.

This also doesn't factor in sick days or medical expenses.

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