Friday, April 27, 2012

VP Binay Hails Court of Appeals Too Soon for the Globe Asiatique Case

Vice President Jejomar Binay may have hailed the Court of Appeals too soon for decision that allows the filing of syndicated estafa charges against businessman Delfin Lee and other executives of housing firm Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp.

A blogger known only as Antony apparently published information showing that the lawyers of Lee filed on Tuesday April  24, a petition with the Supreme Court asking it to issue an ex-parte temporary restraining order (TRO) directing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to cease and desist from filing the syndicated estafa case against him and the other respondents.

In the scanned copy of the petition for TRO filed at the Supreme Court, it states:
Lee’s lawyers said the CA also erred when it ruled that there was grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the Pasig RTC Branch 167. 
They added that the CA was mistaken when it ruled that there is no prejudicial question in theMakaticivil case filed by Globe Asiatique against HMDF in relation to the first and second criminal complaints pending with the DOJ. 
They said a requisite common to the writs of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus is that these writs may be availed of only if there is no appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law from the acts of the respondents. 
“In the injunction case with RTC Pasig 167, not only was there a plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, but respondent DOJ actually availed of the same,” they said. 
The petition for certiorari also violated Rule 46, Section 3 of the Rules of Court which provides that “the petition shall contain the full names and actual addresses of all the petitioners and respondents, a concise statement of the matters involved, the factual background of the case, and the ground relied upon for the relief prayed for.” 
However, when the DOJ filed its petition for certiorari with the CA, it failed to indicate the material dates when the motion for reconsideration and its comment was filed with RTC Pasig 167. “As stated above, this is a sufficient ground for the dismissal of the Petition,” Lee’s lawyers said.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Manny Pacquiao Joins PDP-Laban: The Wrong Angle On The Right Political Development

A couple of days ago, it was broadly announced in Philippine news media that Congressman Manny Pacquiao had joined the  Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-LABAN).

In saying that this is the wrong angle to take on a right development, I want to point out that while it can be claimed that Manny's joined PDP-LABAN because of its "ideology and platform", there seems to have been no evidence of any publicly available record of discussion over ideology or platform between the boxer and leaders of the political party.

If there were such a record and I haven't discovered it yet, it would be interesting to find out how the Pacquiao had encountered, come to terms with and eventually accepted PDP-LABAN's ideology -- which I guess is summed up in its Five Principles:
The Five Basic Party Principles 
1. Theism
2. Authentic Humanism
3. Enlightened Nationalism
4. Democratic Centrist Socialism
5. Consultative and Participative Democracy
Pacquiao's joining PDP-LABAN on the basis of ideology would be a step in the right direction because one of the hallmarks of our backward Philippine political culture is an almost absolute lack of principled politics or principled politicians.

As described in Wikipedia, a principle is:

A principle is a law or rule that has to be, or usually is to be followed, or can be desirably followed, or is an inevitable consequence of something, such as the laws observed in nature or the way that a system is constructed. The principles of such a system are understood by its users as the essential characteristics of the system, or reflecting system's designed purpose, and the effective operation or use of which would be impossible if any one of the principles was to be ignored. 
Examples of principles: 
a descriptive comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption
a normative rule or code of conduct,
a law or fact of nature underlying the working of an artificial device

Then again, as far as political principles are concerned, I guess anything can pass as a principle to Filipinos who voted for the likes of Joseph Estrada, Fernando Poe Jr., Bong Revilla, Lito Lapid, Lani Mercado, Lucy Torres Gomez, and others.

But, anyway, the principles themselves aren't as important as how they are articulated and applied.  The best expression or manifestation of ideology would perhaps be in the form of policies such as actual legislation, resolutions, or votes on certain issues.

Barring that, perhaps it would also come in the form of a platform of government or a legislative agenda.

So far, I haven't seen PDP-Laban's platform of government or a legislative agenda and so I wonder what it is exactly that gave Pacquiao a reason or reasons to join the political party?  In the coming days, if either the PDP Laban Platform of Government or Legislative Agenda doesn't turn up, it would tend to give rise to the speculation that all the hype over Pacquiao's joining PDP-Laban is just that -- hype.

Right now, with the way things are, discussions about the run up to the 2013 elections still centers around the personalities who are running for office.

And being personality driven rather than driven by principles, political support will gravitate around personalities and give rise to more of the personality centered factionalism we see today.

With each going their separate directions or becoming embroiled in turf wars, how can we expect this administration to move forward in one direction or another?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Platform Plez Senatorial Edition 2013

The Get Real Philippines Blog Network is famous for a number of things and one of them is Platform Plez.

Platform Plez was an online movement launched just before the 2010 elections as a way of challenging Presidential candidates to prove that they are worthy of the position they were aspiring for.

Platform Plez is a simple, easy to fill up matrix with columns in which Presidential candidates can indicate what they will do in  the areas of Economy, Culture, Human Capital Development, Foreign Affairs, Infrastructure, National Security, and Governance.

Seeing that 2013 will be basically a year where the highest official that will be elected into office will be senators, I would characterize it as an election year where we will be basically voting mainly for policy directions.

This time around, rather than put in the names of candidates, it would be better if the 2013 version of Platform Plez puts in the names of Political Parties.

Why?  It's simply because passing any piece of legislation (policy) will require the cooperation of a party's members in the House of Representatives and Senate.

There are still a few things I haven't figured out though and that mainly has to do with the fact that we won't be voting for parties but for individuals.  But still, perhaps the names of the parties laid down in the rows can be drilled down to the composition of the senatorial slate and the party's congressional candidate per district.

Anyway, what matters, really, is whether political parties can come up with a believable and executable platform that responds to the people's needs.  The dominant needs expressed, at least in one survey conducted last year, is the need to end spiraling price increases and the lack of decent jobs.  Both of which are basically economic issues.

One question, perhaps, that parties can address immediately is what set of policies will they put forward to address these needs?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Nokor Missile and Philippine-China South China Sea Stand Off

The North Korean missile that will be sailing over Philippine territory is gripping the headlines and first gaps of the news today.

In the midst of all the talk this is generating, I am thinking about whether there is anything at all that the Philippine government can do if North Korea or China (for that matter) launches a live missile aimed at Manila.

The Philippines does not have the capability to defend itself from such an attack and if we're considering the possibility of a nuclear missile attack, the effect would indeed be devastating.

It will only take two or three such missiles to wipe out Metro Manila and probably any possible resistance to an invasion that will surely follow.

In a blog post I wrote months ago that compares the military strength of China and the Philippines, it clearly shows that China is well equipped to decimate the Philippines.

While the Philippines does enjoy the status of being an ally of the United States, it would seem foolish to believe that the US will place the Philippine's interests before its own.

The US may no longer the military might that it once was at its peak and being concerned with various wars in other parts of the world where it has greater economic interests, the question is whether it will really side in a war that will engage in a conflict which may not redound to significant gains.

As such, the United States should press for another UNSC condemnatory statement that closes existing loopholes and imposes additional sanctions. Washington must make clear to Beijing that continuing to obstruct a resolute international response will only engender more North Korean belligerence and a stronger allied response—neither of which is in China’s strategic interests. 
Escalating tensions from Pyongyang’s missile launch and a likely follow-on nuclear test could even spur North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to undertake more provocative military actions. The new, untested dictator is more likely than his father Kim Jong-il to miscalculate during a crisis and stumble across a redline, unaware that Seoul is more likely to retaliate to a military clash than in the past. 
All of this could occur even as the United States fails to adequately resource the much-vaunted Asia pivot. Drawdowns in U.S. forces in Europe and Afghanistan are not shifting to address growing Asian threats—a case of robbing Peter to not pay Paul. The planned $1 trillion cuts to the U.S. military would undercut Washington’s ability to fulfill its security commitments, even as North Korea and China are acting more assertively.
The statements issued by the Aquino Administration since the "escalation" of tensions between China and the Philippines with regard to support from the US government against China should be as any form of reassurance against disastrous conflict.

The Small Minded Thinking Behind Saving Baguio City Pine Trees

A couple of months back, I was among the few that was somewhat outraged by the planned balling and transplanting of a number of pine trees in Baguio City by the gargantuan Mall and Real Estate Corporation SM.

My outrage didn't stem from the tiny brained rants that abound among cave dwelling environmentalists, it had more to do with preserving the vestiges of the Baguio City of my youth.  Although some say that Baguio City's decline has been happening for decades, I believe I still had a chance to see it during its better times in the early eighties.

Apart from the cold weather, what made visiting Baguio City a real treat for me was the vista on top of session road back then.

From the top of the steps leading to the Baguio Cathedral, one could see thousands of pine trees surrounding the city and that was what really justified the city's other moniker which is "the City of Pines".

Perhaps the value of the pines that are inside the city itself is perhaps more ornamental or aesthetic than ecologically functional.  It filled up the open spaces which were in the design made by Daniel Burnham for the city and somewhat made the city feel more like a part of its surrounding wooded areas.

Now, over the decades, the wooded areas surrounding Baguio City gave way to the sprawl of houses and buildings.  This happened in such an unplanned way that it destroyed the vistas that once made Baguio City really remarkable.  

In 2003, I was with the DTI Secretary Mar Roxas when he had a "dialogue" with market vendors from the Baguio City Market at the foot of session road.  Even then, there was opposition to the building of the SM mall on top of Session Road.

The market vendors then feared it would kill the historic Baguio City Market and appealed to Roxas for help in the matter.

I scarcely remember what commitments were made by Roxas (whose family still owns a large piece of property in front of Wright Park), but the former DTI Secretary advised the market vendors to come up with a plan to revitalize the market so that it can compete with the mall.

Remembering that meeting about ten years ago while visiting the Baguio City market in 2011, it seems none of the market vendors really worked on making plan to improve their market.

It's still as crummy, hard to navigate or walk through, and disorganized.  People still report being victimized by pick-pockets or being harassed by "porters".

The shops and businesses lining up session road when I walked down session road from the recently restored historic hotel Casa Vallejo (which sits on the side opposite from SM Baguio) still seemed to have the rundown feel.  It reminded me of those dingy places in Binondo or Ongpin where it seems no one really give a crap about making the front of their establishment less of an eyesore.

Sadly, the shop fronts that seemed to scream out of the general mess are those of KFC, McDonald's and 7-11's.  It is sad because these gaudy frontages don't blend in and actually destroy the look of a grand avenue that in its prime reminds one of those charming small American towns.

Baguio, perhaps in a bid to embrace commercialism in a misguided way, completely forgot that what makes a place worth visiting is its distinctness.

If Vigan has its Spanish Period houses on a small stretch of road, Baguio City could have had something that perhaps could be look like an avenue during the 40's or 50's period. Or at least, manifest an attempt to make its look consistent with an over-arching aesthetic guide -- building on or reflecting its pedigree as a design of Daniel Burnham.

Anyway, the business about SM killing trees is really a small part of what is really happening in Baguio and other parts of Benguet (the province where Baguio is).

If you're saddened by the plight of Baguio's pine trees, a quick tour of areas just outside Baguio will bring you face to face with entire mountains converted into vegetable terraces or occupied by huge clusters of houses on stilts.

Clearly, the problem with Baguio City and its pines is not one of commercialism killing nature, but of a resistance to the implementation of a sound land use policy.

If you want to have a deeper and broader idea of what is happening in Baguio, you have to locate it within the city's struggle to tame its squatting problems.

In the sixties, squatting was already a problem in Baguio and it was perhaps exacerbated by the repeal of the anti-squatting law.

More recently, a position paper on revising Baguio City's charter makes a few points worth considering with regard to its land use problems.

From Bad to Worse 
The proposed Baguio Charter through House Bill 2813 introduced by Hon. Mauricio Domogan in Congress contains questionable provisions, which are bound to turn the Baguio land situation from bad to worse. 
The most salient features of the proposed Charter revisions can be found in Article II: Alienable and Disposable Public Lands of the Baguio Townsite Reservation. The gist of this article is the titling of all alienable and disposable public lands in the name of the City with the objective of boosting the city's revenue generation capacity. 
The proposed Charter provides for the "Conduct of Massive Subdivision Survey, the issuance of Original Certificate of Title for all alienable and disposable public land in the name of the city, Awarding of lands based on the formula of DENR, Composition of Awards Committee, Moneys acquired through the sale of land, and the NCIP provisions on Ancestral lands in Baguio". 
A subdivision survey is not enough to solve the gargantuan land problems besetting the city. The solution to the land problem should be based on a comprehensive study that would include land classification and usage, an updated land map and the resolution of conflicting land claims. Without this, there is a danger of manipulation that could lead to the encroachment of lands that are not included in the alienable and disposable public lands. This study should be treated as a pre-requisite to the charter revision, in order to make the Charter responsive to the actualities happening in the city. 
Also, while the Charter revision states that those ancestral lands recognized under RA 8731 or the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (IPRA) are not covered by the titling, ancestral land claimants are currently under-going the tedious processes of land registration due to conflicting land laws as stated above, including the IPRA law. Even the landmark Carino Doctrine recognizing the indigenous peoples' claim to their ancestral lands has not been implemented.
Once passed, the Domogan bill would include these unsettled claims to ancestral lands among the public lands to be titled to whoever City Hall pleases. The Ibaloi ancestral land claimants would be subjected to further dispossession in clear violation of the indigenous peoples' inherent right to their ancestral land. 
House Bill 2813 would also perpetuate the tedious and expensive Townsite Sales Application (TSA) as the primary mode of land acquisition in Baguio. Applicants would still be burdened with the public bidding requirement under the TSA which directly limits the opportunities for land acquisition to those who have the capacity to bid. 
In addition, complications in the processes of land acquisition has inherently entrenched graft and corruption in such processes. According to its author, the Charter revision is aimed at curbing this problem. But giving the same powers to the city mayor without overhauling the process would only mean a transfer of corruption from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to the city government. 
While it is not proper to pre-judge the integrity of whoever will sit in the said office, common sense would tell us that giving this power to a person with political interest would also politicize the process. There is a big possibility that the awarding of lands, through the revised Charter would be tainted with corruption and political favors.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

SM Baguio Killing Pine Trees is just Part of the Problem

Most kids half my age in Manila probably won't understand why Baguio City holds a special place in my heart. This is probably because most of them didn't see Baguio City when vestiges of its glorious past were still prominent.

Apart from being almost unbearably cold at night and early in the morning, Baguio City twenty 30 years ago still had the smell of pine -- an endemic species of pine that can be found all over Benguet -- and a distinct feel about it that is unlike any other place in the Philippines.

Much of that feel has been replaced with the dirty, sooty feel that prevails in any congested city in the Philippines.

The buildings that you see in this vintage photograph of Session Road are almost all run-down and some have been turned into Ukay-Ukay bazaars while others have been boarded up or turned into shops of one sort or another.  The road is almost always crammed with jeepneys, FX taxis, and cars.

Recently, Filipinos online have been ranting about SM balling up pine trees on session road.  But I think all the fuss about the trees are just way too late because all the pine trees that used to grow on mountain tops surrounding Baguio City have already been chopped down a long time ago.

From where I am seeing things, all this "environmental" online lobbying seems funny -- just as a bald man ruing the loss of his last few hair follicles would be funny.
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