Political Science sophomore Billy Chang rose from his seat while putting on his back pack and thanking me for the hour-long tête-à-tête we had shared. The young Chinese national strode out of the burger restaurant to catch his class, happily looking forward to sharing with his teacher and classmates some ideas he had just acquired. I had of course made him promise not to identify me as the source of those ideas, and to describe them as mere opinions from a lawyer. Hereunder is a discussion of those opinions.
I find it a bit unfortunate, though not unexpected, that Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has assailed the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) as having been forged in “bad faith” by and between US Pres. Barack Obama and PH Pres. BS Aquino lll. Well, make no mistake about this: The lady who is the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is among the sharpest lawyers in the upper chamber, but she’s still human, given as she is to AGD (attention getting device) antics at moments least expected. With all due respect, I differ from her opinion for the following reasons.
1) The two EDCA signatories, National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, were no ornery “subalterns”, or subordinates who were unclothed with authority as suggested by MDS, but “alter egos” (other selves) who had been authorized by their respective presidents to act on the document in their behalf;
2) A sensitive examination of the two presidents’ demeanor, their words and manner of speaking and body language, particularly Obama’s, demonstrates a level of diplomacy that is associated with good faith; and
3) In the absence of any palpable indicia of bad faith — and there appears to be none in the premises — the universal principle of “presumption of good faith” shall prevail.
EDCA is an agreement that partakes of the nature of a treaty and, as such, should have been brought to the senate for approval, consistent with the upper house’s constitutional role in treaty making. It isn’t too late, and there should be no problem in that regard because a comfortable majority of the senators are P-Noy’s allies. Until then, EDCA remains open to question before the Supreme Court, although I believe the treaty will ultimately hold sway under its scrutiny.
And as for other EDCA-related issues that have loomed as grounds for attacking the agreement as unconstitutional, the high tribunal will hopefully see those anti-EDCA petitions as exercises in futility, given our people’s widespread pro-American culture and an exigent imperative for a counterbalance against saber-rattling China. The Court may well take judicial notice of our people’s ingrained stars-and-stripes second nature, and recognize it as its wellspring of vitality and direction in the discharge of its office. After all, the judiciary is ordained to serve, like the rest of government, the interests of its creator: the sovereign citizens.
With respect to those Maoists and other Communist-leaning militants who made a lot of infernal racket during Obama’s two-day-one-night state visit, my comment on Billy’s worry is: these Reds mouth nationalism and patriotism, but power is all they want. There is no way they can win the hearts and minds of nearly a hundred million compatriots who oppose them. Let us recall that when Martial Law enforcers hunted them down, many fled the country for Uncle Sam’s protection. During Obama’s state visit, they burned effigies of Uncle Sam. In fact, they have never denounced China’s bullying tactics!! AGD syndrome?!
Incidentally, many seriously question the quality of the United States’ commitment to defend the Philippines under the terms of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, as modified by EDCA. In this respect, I hold the view that because at that time we had not yet officially defined our West Philippine Sea territory, much less declared an adverse claim to it against the whole world, the “vagueness” of Obama’s commitment to lend us military support in case of external aggression is understandable.
However, this vagueness shouldn’t discourage us from believing that the black US President, whose great rhetoric twice brought him to the White House, used the same verbal finesse not to hoodwink us but to pledge — in the most diplomatic manner possible — America’s willingness to shed her blood in defense of her Filipino brothers in times of war.
Let Mr. Barack Obama’s ironclad pledge continue to peal in the air, in which are couched his delicate reassurances — “…Our goal is not to conquer China; our goal is not to contain China…(but) to make sure that international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of maritime disputes. We don’t go around sending ships and threatening folks.”
If “actions speak louder than words”, diplomacy may again prove more forceful than bullets.
( http://musingsbyroy.wordpress.com | 09186449517 | @rqonald8roy | #musingsbyroy)
Gauging Our Lawmakers
by ElCid Benedicto
WHAT should really serve as a benchmark in determining who among the senators, whether incumbent or retired, is considered the most hardworking or even lay claim to such title, if there’s actually any? A recent press release issued by the office of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago declared her as “one of the hardest workers in the Senate,” even as she had been downed by chronic fatigue syndrome, as she still managed to file the most number of bills and resolutions in the Senate. “Her nemesis, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile –with whom she has a running word war—filed the lowest number of bills and resolutions for the same period…. The question is whether her fame as a flamboyant workaholic will continue to prevail over her stubborn and rare illness,” the Dec. 21, 2013 press release said.
Year in and year out, reporters in both Houses of Congress—the Senate and the House of Representatives—would come up with a news item on who among its members scored a perfect attendance, most punctual, tardy and carry the tag of having “chronic absenteeism.” In the years when Senators Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Vicente Sotto III were still upper chamber president, president pro tempore and majority leader respectively, they posted perfect attendance consistently.
Senators Estrada and Sotto were “never absent or late” in the 2012 third regular plenary sessions or during the latter part of the 15th Congress while Sen. Enrile had a record of being absent once. Sen. Santiago had the lowest attendance record, having attended 94 out of the 214 session days in the 15th Congress and was absent twice and recorded sick 27 times.
The year before, Sen. Santiago and then Sen. Panfilo Lacson “topped” the list of those who incurred the highest number of absences in the first regular session of the 15th Congress. Owing to his being “in hiding” due to the arrest warrant against him that was eventually dismissed by the Court of Appeals, Sen. Lacson missed out 79 out of the 94 session days while Sen. Santiago was absent 56 times and 50 of which were filed as “on sick leave.” Yet, despite her absences, Sen. Santiago was the “topnotcher” insofar as having the most number of legislation in the upper chamber. The “bedridden” senator, who claimed to be behind the 618 bills and resolutions currently filed, “continue to work hard in her home office,” her press release said.
For most Senate observers, neither their record of attendance and number of bills and resolutions filed during the senators’ incumbency, could serve as a yardstick of their performance in the Legislature, but the number of bills passed into laws. Sen. Santiago herself stressed, in filing her resolution proposing the gradual abolition of the pork barrel system, said that senators and congressmen are expected to pass and not to build roads and bridges. “We are legislators, not public works contractors. People look up to us to make serious laws that could change the lives of a great number of people or could change the way society is run or managed,” she even added.
Ironic it may seem, most those criticized by Sen. Santiago among her colleagues, surpassed her “achievements” in having filed measures being enacted into laws. Sen. Lacson, who in the last quarter of 2013, had been added to her list of “nemesis” in the upper chamber primarily authored the following: R.A. 9160 otherwise known as the Anti-Money Laundering Act; R.A. 9163 or the National Service Training Program Act of 2001; R.A. 9166 or An Act Increasing the Base Pay of the Members of the AFP; R.A. 9416 or Anti-Cheating Act of 2007; R.A. 9484 or the Philippine Dental Act of 2007; R.A. 9485, the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 and stood as co-authors of the following laws: Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002; and Absentee Voting Act among many others.
Of late, Sen. Santiago stood as proponent in two of the most controversial measures passed into laws – the Reproductive Health, the implementation of which remains pending due to the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court and the sin tax law.
These are on top of those approved into laws credited to her name such as the International Humanitarian Law, Climate Change Act, Real Estate Service Act, Renewable Energy Act, Biofuels Act and the Magna Carta for Women.
Some Senate insiders, however, insisted that beyond the number of approved measures, what should serve as a gauge of a senator’s performance, during his or her stint in the upper chamber, should be those legislative outputs that created an impact to most Filipinos, beyond social class. Although some may not have realized it, the likes of previous Senate presidents such as former Senators Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., Edgardo Angara and the late Blas Ople, to name a few, made a mark during their stint in the upper chamber and even left behind what could be considered as legacy to their name. Sen. Ople was considered as the “Father of the Labor Code”, steering the enactment of the law after serving as labor minister during the Marcos administration and was also behind the creation of the National Manpower and Youth Council which now known as TESDA, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and paved the way as well for the establishment of the Philippine labor attache corps.
Sen. Angara pushed for some of the most notable laws such as the Free High School Act, Senior Citizens Act, K to 12 or the Enhanced Basic Education Act, Procurement Reform Act and was behind the creation of Commission on Higher Education, the National Health Insurance Act (Philhealth), the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), National Book Development Board (NBDB). He also pushed to strengthen the capital markets and the banking system, through such laws as Personal Equity Retirement Act (PERA), the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), the Credit Information Systems Act (CISA) and the Pre-Need Code and also introduced charter changes in two key financial institutions: the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC) and the Pag-ibig Fund.
Sen. Pimentel is often credited as the “Father of the Local Government Code of 1991” while also attributed as author and co-sponsor of the Generic Drugs Act, Cooperative Code, People’s Small-Scale Mining Act and paved for the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM); Philippine National Police (PNP) under a reorganized Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC). The space is not enough to mention other current and previous senators who made notable contributions in the laws of the land during their tenure in the upper chamber.
Over and above the bills filed and passed and recorded perfect attendance, what could probably serve as a criterion in “judging” the performance of the country’s lawmakers, are the occasions or the crucial hours where they managed to rise above self interest and ambition.
Their conduct as Senators of the Republic is for the entire nation to judge, whether fairly or unfairly.
“This Chamber has its own honor to uphold and its institutional integrity in the end means more to the people than all of us combined,” Sen. Enrile said in his valedictory speech delivered in June 5 last year, the same day when he announced his irrevocable resignation, having been hounded for months by criticisms and accusations of venalities and anomalies in running the Senate.
JPE vs Miriam : HOW IT STARTED
By ElCid Benedicto
AS TO what really caused the tiff between Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago that has escalated into a bitter exchanges, rearing its ugly head on the floor of the upper chamber, remains a mystery for most of their colleagues. Not even the most senior and veteran reporters who covered the Senate beat, including those travails of the two lawmakers dating back the administration of the late President Corazon “Cory” Aquino, could pinpoint where and how the “falling out” between Enrile and Santiago started. Based on their respective narration of events in their now infamous privilege speeches, the straw that broke the camel’s back, appeared to be already decades-old or during the time when Sen. Santiago—a former underling of Sen. Enrile when he was still the minister of justice during the Marcos era—was still a trial judge.
As to the circumstances of their squabble is only known to them although both made mention of an incident involving the release of a white Toyota Celica sports car reportedly owned by a former PNB vice president Toots Trinidad from the Bureau of Customs (BOC). Some former and current senators known to be personally close to Sen. Enrile expressed belief that there’s more serious issues other than the said case but could not pinpoint it due to sheer lack of knowledge. “There’s more to it than that car issue. It could not have triggered all these display of their fury against each other,” one former colleague who asked not to be identified, said. Another senator whom Sen. Enrile has been closely working with in the Senate in the last couple of years, likewise admitted ignorance to what really triggered the falling out between the two.
While it was obvious that even before Sen. Santiago joined Sen. Enrile in the Senate sometime during the 1990s, the two had not been seeing eye-to-eye, it has only been the last two years that their personal differences had been made glaring to the public.
Some Senate insiders noted though that during the time of the Estrada administration, when they were both members of the upper chamber, there had not been a clash of sort whether on the floor or outside of the premises of the Senate.
The two are known to be personally close to former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, and even bonded together in defending him in the aborted impeachment trial until his downfall. “Remember they were even nearly charged with sedition during the EDSA 3 protests when they urged the crowd to siege and attempt to break into Malacanang?” a former Senate beat reporter recalled.
The incident was the reported rebellion that erupted in the early morning of May 1, 2001 when thousands of “pro-Erap” supporters stormed towards Malacanang Palace and several broadcast vans and crew cabs of ABS-CBN were torched.
Some policemen and soldiers were also not spared as they were assaulted by the lynch mob sympathetic to Estrada.
Both Sen. Enrile and Sen. Santiago were then senatorial candidates under the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) coalition seeking reelection at that time and both lost in the polls. Sen. Santiago, according to Sen. Enrile himself, was hired by him immediately after her graduation from the UP College of Law and her bar examination in 1969 in the then Ministry of Justice.
“When she got married, she asked me and my wife to be her wedding sponsors. When President Marcos transferred me from the Department of Justice to the Department of National Defense on February 10, 1970, my association with her ended, until we became colleagues again here in the Senate for the first time in 1995, under the Tenth Congress,” Sen. Enrile said in his privilege speech last November 27.
“I can only surmise, Mr. President that her deep-seated animosity against me arose from two events: One was when I opposed her confirmation as Secretary of Agrarian Reform during the administration of President Corazon C. Aquino. Another was when I refused to include her in the majority bloc when I was elected Senate President in November 2008 and, again, in July 2010.
“During the hearing of the Commission on Appointments on her confirmation as Secretary of Agrarian Reform, testing the suitability and qualifications of the nominee then, I asked her if she was ever under the care of a psychiatrist. She admitted that she was. She said that she was treated by a psychiatrist at the Makati Medical Center.
“In the same Commission on Appointments committee deliberation, I asked her also what grade she got in her bar examination. She replied that she got 76%. That meant that she obtained low grades in all her bar subjects. In fact, I remember that she got a grade of 56% in Ethics, the easiest bar examination subject.
“In that same Commission on Appointments committee deliberation, I asked about a white Toyota Celica sports car that the nominee then was said to be driving as her personal car when she was a judge in Quezon City. Toots Trinidad, a former PNB Vice President, owned that sports car. He shipped it back to the Philippines upon his return from the United States after his surgical operation for a brain tumor at the Stanford University. That sports car disappeared from the compound of the Bureau of Customs when it arrived in the Port of Manila.
“Toots Trinidad learned that his sports car was with a judge of Quezon City. Toots Trinidad asked then Judge Miriam Defensor Santiago to give the car back to him. She refused. I was told that she claimed that her husband, Narciso Yap Santiago of the Province of Tarlac, who was at that time employed in the Bureau of Customs, gave her that sports car as a birthday gift. Later on, I found out that the car was registered in her name in the Bureau of Land Transportation in the Province of Tarlac.”
“As a consequence of my opposition, and among other concerns taken into consideration, the Committee on Agrarian Reform of the Commission on Appointments voted to reject her appointment as Secretary of Agrarian Reform,” he said.
In her version of the story, Sen. Santiago claimed in her privilege speech last Wednesday that the minority leader was allegedly “brokering” for the smuggling of the said vehicle into the country.
“Enrile violated the law, when he tried to pressure my husband, then a customs collector, to release a smuggled Toyota car, forfeited for failure to pay correct customs duties and charges. At that time, the policy of the Bureau of Customs was to forfeit smuggled cars, and to use them as official vehicles for authorized senior staff. My husband was only one of the many staff who earned this privilege by exemplary work, evidenced by annual certificates of commendation issued by the customs commissioner. And yet Enrile zeroed in only on my husband. Enrile kept threatening to oppose my confirmation as agrarian reform secretary, unless my husband released the smuggled car to the smuggler. As a former customs commissioner, Enrile wanted to bend the law for his illegal clients. In time, my husband and other senior staff returned the smuggled cars to the BOC.”
“I owned and drove a Mercedes when I was a trial judge. Enrile’s charge that I registered the smuggled car in my name in Tarlac is inane, and the product of his febrile imagination. My husband already owned and drove a Ford Mustang sports car as a senior in law school. This tale of a Toyota is a non-issue,” she said.
Some veteran Senate reporters who could relate to the incident narrated by Sen. Enrile on Sen. Santiago’s confirmation proceedings recalled that they were told that the minority leader was actually just bluffing her, supposedly, when confronted with her clinical records.
“What he was holding then were actually just press releases. He did showed some stacks of documents but those were press releases and yet she caved in,” they claimed. On the day of the “counter-speech” of Sen. Santiago to the privilege speech of Sen. Enrile last Dec. 4, the minority leader arrived at the plenary hall armed with a thick envelope and insinuated to reporters, during an interview, that those were supposedly some incriminating documents.
He did mention on the floor after Sen. Santiago delivered her speech and left the session hall that he has in his possession some of her supposed medical records pertaining to her mental health but did not elaborate further. As to how this wrangling between the two warring senators would end is yet to be known although there’s an effort courtesy of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada to have them bury the hatchet.
by Ronald Roy
IF English dramatist William Congreve (1670-1729) were alive today, he probably would apply to Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago (MDS), alleged PDAF scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles (JLN) and Supertyphoon Yolanda his most famous quote (The Mourning Bride): “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell to fury like a woman scorned.”
The much-awaited appearance of JLN before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee (SBRC) last November 7 turned out to be a big disappointment for viewers and listeners nationwide. For hours they held their breath — from the moment she stepped into the senate session hall escorted by a horde of policemen garbed in full battle gear, until adjournment — expecting holocaustic entertainment, but nothing like that happened.
I was amused for the first hour or so, then I got bored. Sure, I admit I was out for entertainment, but heck, I thought that a bloody confrontation between JLN and all of them was what we needed to be set free by the truth.
It’s baloney that the SBRC Chairman, Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona, Jr., purposefully convened the investigation “in aid of legislation”. But I do not blame him for having done so. Otherwise, he would have been criticized for having lent refuge to his confreres undergoing trial, including himself. For him it was a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t dilemma which would give him flack either way.
As for the forthcoming SBRC investigation of JLN’s husband, Jaime Napoles, there is no reason to expect any enlightenment coming therefrom, as he will be at least as clever a witness as his wife, if his being a PMA co-graduate and RAM buddy of Sen. Gringo Honasan is any indication. But the scheduled hearing will proceed just the same, the utter waste of people’s money and the investigation’s futility notwithstanding.
What I would have wanted to see and hear was a no-holds-barred SBRC session involving a furiously questioning MDS, a furiously answering JLN, and other senators furiously defending their integrity, such as in the following scenario.
After JLN has taken her oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, Chair TG allows MDS to fire the first salvo. MDS: “Do you know who I am?” JLN: “Yes, you are Sen. Miriam Defensor…Defensor…what’s your surname na ba?” MDS: “Don’t play games with me!” JLN: “I’m sorry that I cannot remember your name. But why do you ask me, ma’am, don’t you know your own name?” MDS: “Hoy, buang ka, ha?!” JLN: “Buang ka rin!!” MDS: “Gaga ka! I can have you cited for contempt, and that means we can jail you!!” JLN: “E, kung hindi ka naman mas gaga, sa kulungan na nga ako nakatira!!” MDS: “Hoy, if you do not stop your kabastusan, I will shoot you!!” JLN (taking off her bullet-proof jacket):”Go ahead, shoot me!!”
Instantly, security details have completely surrounded JLN with firearms aimed at MDS, the senators and the gallery. Pandemonium ensues. Everyone is screaming and taking cover, Chair TG fires a 45 cal. pistol in the air, and order is gradually restored. Session is suspended for 15 minutes, after which he yields the interrogation to a lady colleague (LC).
LC: “Can you tell us if anyone here has in any way diverted his pork barrel allocation to his pocket?” JLN: “Yes, ma’am, you. I personally gave you your kickback in your bedroom.” LC: “What?! Let me remind you you’re under oath!!” JLN: “Precisely, that’s why I am telling the truth, ma’am.” LC: “$&@%#!!!” JLN: “$&@%# also!!!” Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
I am certain that if the foregoing imaginary scenario had happened, the general public would have appreciated a clearer picture of the pork scam. More importantly, it would have quickened the pace of imprisoning guilty parties. Incidentally, some people suggest the PDAF and DAP scandals will continue to wreak havoc on us for karmic reasons.
Hmmm…I wonder if the fury of Yolanda, the Category 5 Supertyphoon, is karmic.(In Hindu and Buddhist theory, karma is the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding the fate in future existences). How then can Yolanda be explained?
What foreign experts say
Courtesy of the Inquirer, WASHINGTON — Nature and man together cooked up the disaster in the Philippines. Geography, meteorology, poverty, shoddy construction, a booming population and xxx climate change combine to make the Philippines the nation most vulnerable to killer typhoons, according to several scientific studies, xxx and Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) was one mighty storm.
What P-Noy says
Tacloban City was ruled by anarchists after Yolanda battered it. Vandals and looters smashed open stores and the San Miguel Brewery plant to take everything they could get their hands on. Clearly, there was a breakdown of law and order — a “lawless violence” condition that justified martial law under his mother’s Constitution.
Well, P-Noy is reported to have said to a local city leader, who proposed the imposition of martial law, ” Ha?! Bakit, buhay ka pa naman, e! “, thereby betraying a childish bias against anything reminiscent of Ferdinand E. Marcos.
What a reader says
Expressing the sentiments of many citizens, a reader texted: “I’m ashamed to be a Filipino. A CNN team reached Leyte ahead of our national officials by coming one day before Yolanda struck! Then something extraordinary happened: The President disputed CNN’s estimate of 10,000 people dead with a more accurate count of around 2000 dead. 10,000 fatalities would have drawn a lot of assistance, but he chose to be honest!!
On balance, you’re okay, Sir!
(http://musingsbyroy.wordpress.com | 09186449517 | @ronald8roy | #musingsbyroy)
- Miriam to Napoles: Tell all before senators kill you (rappler.com)
- Senate probe comes to nil (manilastandardtoday.com)
- Full text: Enrile on Miriam’s lies, ‘deep-seated animosity’ (rappler.com)
- ‘Yolanda’ death toll now 5,500, says NDRRMC (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- The Scam Queen at Philippine Senate (wildandfreeandme.wordpress.com)
- Pacquiao brings momentary cheer to Yolanda survivors in Tacloban (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Napoles should admit guilt first – De Lima (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Shutterstock’s Pixels of Fury Gets Furiouser: New Dates and Locations + Recapping The Fury So Far! (shutterstock.com)
- The Fierceness of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago (natividadplance.wordpress.com)
- Rappler Newscast | November 7, 2013 (rappler.com)