Upholding the Right of Reply

There are many arguments against the proposed Right of Reply bill, Senate Bill 2150, all finely articulated, high-minded and most, perfectly valid. Read today’s Inquirer editorial and Amado Doronila’s column for recent and lucid examples.

Opposition against it is snowballing, and senators who previously endorsed the measure, like Chiz Escudero, the Chair of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights and one of the bill’s authors, are flip-flopping. President Arroyo, never one to miss an opportunity to butter up to the media, is saying she is ready to veto the bill.

Everyone seems to be taking the side of traditional media which, predictably, has draped itself in the Constitution. Just to play devil’s advocate, being of a diabolical bent, allow me to argue for the adoption of the a law which allows the Right of Reply. Continue reading

Cpl. Daniel Smith to be Kept in Philippine Facility but Visiting Forces Agreement Upheld

According to the Supreme Court, convicted rapist U.S. Army Marine Cpl. Daniel Smith should be jailed in a Philippine facility “agreed on by appropriate Philippines and United States authorities” after his conviction for raping a Filipina was sustained.

Recall that in late 2006 and early 2007, Smith was the subject of a diplomatic tug-of-war between Philippine judicial authorities and the U.S. over his detention in a local jail. Bowing to American pressure, he was subsequently handed over to embassy officials by the Arroyo government. He was detained in the U.S. embassy compound while his appeals were pending.

But the decision in the consolidated cases of “Suzette Nicolas y Sombilon (a.ka. “Nicole”) vs. Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto Romulo et. al. (G.R. No. 175888), Jovito Salonga et. al. vs. L/Cpl. Daniel Smith et. al. (G.R. No. 176051) and BAYAN, GABRIELA et. al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo et. al. (G.R. No. 176222)” has some parties in a snit, particlularly those who used the rape case as a vehicle for questioning the constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement. Sorry guys, but the S.C., voting 9-4, says that the VFA is constitutional. In the words of the Court: “The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States, entered into on February 10, 1998,is UPHELD as constitutional but the Romulo-Kenney Agreements of Dec. 19 and 22, 2006, are declared not in accordance with the VFA. ” The Romulo-Kenney agreements pertain to the transfer of Smith to the custody of U.S. authorities. Continue reading

Scams Galore: From Madoff to Legacy

Bernard Madoff from cityfile.com

Celso De Los Angeles from the website of Sto. Domingo, Albay.

I haven’t blogged in almost two weeks and I miss it. Unfortunately, the demands of adjusting to a new work environment has kept me busy and too mentally exhausted to keep up with the news. I literally haven’t seen a weekday sunset for the past month.

In an effort to catch up, I checked out Manolo Quezon’s blog. The shock of seeing all the crisis situations which unfolded over the past week or so was like a kick in the balls. Between the tanking economy and retrenched jobs, to a spate of bank failures, the perennial problem of corruption in high places, to the specter of narcopolitics, my anxiety level shot through the roof. I wanted to draw the blinds and crawl back to my La-Z-Boy. I get the feeling that the worst is yet to come.

As we lurch from one economic catastrophe to another, we can take cold comfort in the fact that financial scams are not unique to us. In terms of scope, nothing can beat the con perpetuated by Bernard Madoff, until recently a lion in Wall Street, who turned out to be a rat. With apologies to the intrepid New York City rats. In yet another variation on the time-worn Ponzi scheme, Madoff scammed an estimated U.S.$ 50 billion from various institutional and individual investors spanning the globe. Madoff defrauded Jewish charities, European royalty, prominent politicians and celebrities like Steven Spielberg and Larry King, even Arab banks. According to the criminal complaint filed against him, Madoff “deceived investors by operating a securities business in which he traded and lost investor money, and then paid certain investors purported returns on investment with the principal received from other, different investors, which resulted in losses of approximately billions of dollars.” Basically, as he himself admitted, he ran a Ponzi scheme on a large, complicated and transnational scale. But like any Ponzi scheme, it was a fraudulent set-up where investors are paid out of money taken from subsequent investors instead of real business profits. Bamboozling Pedro to pay Juan, and so on. At some point, all Ponzi schemes are bound to collapse like the proverbial house of cards.

Major banks worldwide which were affected include the Spanish bank Grupo Santander SA, at least four French banks including BNP Paribas and Societe Generale, Britain’s HSBC Holdings PLC and Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, and Japan’s Nomura Holdings. Even financial powerhouse J.P. Morgan almost got burned but managed to pull out a few months before Madoff was arrested, under suspicious circumstances and without informing its clients who remained exposed to the risks of Madoff’s spurious hedge funds. Not a few Morgan investors who lost their shirts are now contemplating a lawsuit against the bank. Continue reading

The Pangandaman Libel Suit Against Bambee

Over the past few days, I have been queried by bloggers about the possibility of facing a criminal case for libel for something they post online. It seems their anxiety, in part, has been fueled by the reported filing of a libel suit by Mayor Nasser Pangandaman, Jr. against Bambee De la Paz before the Lanao del Sur Prosecutor’s Office in Marawi City. It was Bambee’s blog which brought public attention to the mauling incident at the Valley Golf Club, for which Mayor Pangandaman and his companions, including his father DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, Sr., are allegedly responsible.

I have previously written about the legal ramifications of libel on the internet, which can be read here and here.

The Unlawyer has also written a lucid overview on the nature of libel as it relates to the Pangandaman-De la Paz feud. Likewise, the Cebu Daily News previously carried a comprehensive two-part article on libel, it nature, remedies and venue by Judge Gabriel T. Ingles, which can be accessed here and here.

The legal aspects of libel having been covered extensively elsewhere, I need not repeat them here. But to address the question posed by some bloggers on whether there is possibility that they can be sued for libel for something posted online, the answer is yes. There is always the chance that they might publish something (blogging is a form of electronic publication) which will offend some person or institution for which they will be hailed to court. Continue reading

A Boy’s Death

Here’s a moral and religous dilemma which I pray no one would ever face, but which will happen to a fair number of us in the light of advances in life-sustaining technology.

When does death occur ? More to the point, when is it morally proper to pull the plug ?

Motl Brody of Brooklyn, N.Y., was pronounced dead last November 4 after a half-year fight against a brain tumor, and doctors at Children’s National Medical Center in Wahington D.C. say the seventh-grader’s brain had ceased functioning entirely. He was brain dead. His orthodox Jewish parents went to court to maintain the boy on life-support, essentially to compel the hospital to keep him alive indefinitely through mechanical means by keeping his heart and lungs functioning. Under some interpretations of Jewish religious law, including the one accepted by the family’s Hasidic sect, death occurs only when the heart and lungs stop functioning. The hospital argued that its “scarce resources” were being used “for the preservation of a deceased body.” Continue reading

Why Intervention in the Impeachment Case vs. Arroyo is Proper and Should Be Allowed

An intrepid band of bloggers (and sundry interested citizens) filed a complaint for intervention seeking to include the thwarted Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the charges in the impeachment complaint against President Arroyo.

The text of the complaint itself, and the events which transpired this morning during the filing are set forth in revealing detail in Manolo Quezon’s blog. I especially enjoyed reading about the discomfiture of the House Secretary-General, Marilyn Yap, in dealing with the “unprecedented” complaint.

The intervention move seeks to include among the grounds for impeachment GMA’s complicity in the aborted MOA which would have established a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity and effectively given away a significant chunk of the republic to the MILF. This can be viewed as treason. As pointed out in the complaint, the Supreme Court ruled on the unconstitutionality of the executive actions meant to conclude the agreement one day after the present impeachment complaint was filed in the house. The ruling by the High Court adds significant weight to the grounds for impeachment. And the intervention is timely as the original complaint has not yet been referred to the proper committee for evaluation. Continue reading

Executive Clemency for Teehankee a Betrayal of Public Trust

A rightful outcry has been raised over the grant of executive clemency and midnight release of convicted murderer Claudio Teehankee Jr., son and namesake of the late Chief Justice. Teehankee shot to death two people in cold blood, 16-year old Maureen Hultman and 21-year old Ronald Chapman, and seriously wounded the victims’ companion, Jussi Leino, who lived to tell the tale.

On the night of July 13, 1991, without apparent reason or provocation, Teehankee accosted the victims as they were on their way to the Hultman residence in Dasmarinas Village, Makati. He shot Chapman first and, as Maureen Hultman begged for mercy, shot her point-blank in the head. She went into a coma and never regained consciousness until her death months later.

Out of stupidity or arrogance or both, Teehankee, rumored to be a drug dependent, never even bothered to hide. He was quickly identified by witnesses, including Leino who miraculously survived despite a near-fatal head wound, and apprehended. Teehankee, affectionately known by family and friends as “Bobbin”, was convicted in December 1992 for the two killings and the frustrated murder of Leino. He had drawn a life term and two lesser sentences but was in jail for only 17 years. Continue reading

Cheating in the Bar Exams

Smoke made an interesting post recently on the widespread practice of distributing “tips” to bar examinees. These “special notes” or “tip sheets” are forecasted questions, with their supposed correct answers, put together on the basis of “a lot of strong analysis of past questions, trends, and a reasonably good guess as to the identity of the examiner”, according to Rom. This is supposed to give a “scientific” basis for generating the content of such tip sheets.

This questionable practice of giving out tips near or on the eve of the bar exams (or even just a few hours before the exam itself) , started with the frats who wanted to get a leg up on the competition and who had the connections and wherewithal to cobble together a last-minute guide for their bros. But this has now become widespread and institutionalized, with the law schools themselves at the forefront of putting out pointers for the exclusive use of their graduates. Which, of course, quickly spreads among the rest of the bar community. All part of the so-called “Bar Ops”.

Unfortunately for me, when I took the bar, the now commonplace bar ops were in their infancy. And thus the crafting of tips were haphazard, hit-or-miss affairs, more cross-eyed crystal-ball gazing than anything. Consequently, I never got a tip worth a damn, or maybe I was just too jittery on the eve of the tests to absorb the jumble of Q & As contained in the blurred photocopy handed to me. Or it could be my school or frat was just not connected enough to be able to pull the correct rabbits out of the hat. Although each tip was rumored to be a “sure thing”, a perception born of desperation, wishful-thinking and caffeine-induced, sleep-deprived delusional thinking. Continue reading

The 2008 Philippine Bar Exams End Today: Is It Still Necessary ?

Updated April 2 : Check the list of 2008 Philippine Bar Exams Results.

Today is the 4th Sunday of the bar exams and for the record-breaking 6,533 examinees, this marks the culmination of all their efforts throughout law school. Each examinee harbors in his or her heart the burning wish to be among the 20% or so who will make it or roughly 1 out of 5. While the arduous trek is done, the takers are in the unenviable position of not knowing whether they have arrived at their longed-for destination. The 2008 Philippine Bar Exam results will not be released until another 6-7 months and the agony of waiting is oftentimes more painful and distressing than knowing the news outright, whether it be good or bad.

I read that the present crop is exceptionally resilient, there having been no drop-outs from among the bar takers during the entire four weeks. This includes an 81-year old man taking the bar for the first time. Continue reading

More on Bar Exams

Pam Mueller in The Situationist asks a few intriguing questions.

The process of studying for the bar takes thousands of intelligent and accomplished law students and transforms them into anxious, self-doubting creatures whose exam-induced neuroses often extend beyond the confines of the test…

How does this stressful situation impact the lives of these formerly confident and capable law students? How can these students get past the power of the situation to let their proven capabilities carry them through the bar exam, as they have carried them through other difficult situations? Does empirical research shed any light on the subject?

Continue reading