Noynoy Aquino and the Rule of Law

Talking to reporters during his retirement ceremony yesterday, outgoing Chief Justice Reynato Puno commented on the refusal of president-elect Noynoy Aquino to take his oath of office before the incoming Chief Justice, Renato Corona. C.J. Puno said that Mr. Aquino should “respect the rule of law” in answer to a question regarding Aquino’s plan of being sworn in by a yet unnamed barangay captain in Tarlac province. This as a way of snubbing GMA’s choice of Puno’s successor, a “midnight appointee” from Noynoy’s point of view. Even though the Supreme Court was nearly unanimous (Justice Carpio-Morales dissented) in declaring that the president “has an imperative duty under the Constitution to fill up the vacancies” in the S.C. even if she is set to leave in a few weeks, delicadeza be damned.

To be sure, there is nothing in the Constitution or the law which would compel Noynoy to take his oath of office before the Chief Justice. All that is required is that the person be authorized to administer oaths. For this purpose, a barangay head would be as good as any justice.

But tradition is sometimes weightier than the the letter (or non-letter) of the law. Only two past Philippine presidents (Quezon and Osmena) were not sworn into office by the Philippine C.J., during the commonwealth and war periods. All post-independence presidents took their office of office before the Chief Justice. The reason is simple: this is a recognition of the separation of powers between the three main branches of government and an acknowledgment of the respect and deference due the leader of a supposedly co-equal branch. Although in reality, an imperial presidency trumps both the legislature and judiciary in terms of actual power and prestige. Continue reading

After Automated Elections, You Can’t Go Home Again

An air of excited expectancy was palpable in our neighborhood this morning. There was a feeling that the day ahead would be full of surprises, hopefully not unpleasant. We live right across a voting precinct and the place was abuzz with activity the past few days. The poll personnel and volunteers were there a full two hours before the voting was to officially start, although the cops and military who were guarding the place were camped out days before.

As always, it’s a chaotic process: long queues, inaccurate voters’ lists, the confused electorate mingling (and occasionally tangling) with the frazzled election officials, shady characters working for the various candidates hovering in the sidelines. A crazy stew exacerbated by the steamy summer heat.

But after you get through the long lines, the voting itself is relatively quick and painless. Simple, fast and apparently transparent. The PCOS machines, at least where we voted, worked wonderfully. I saw smiling faces leaving the polling place. Even the police looked relaxed and happy. Or maybe it’s just me feeling good about politics for the first time in a very long while. Continue reading

Why I Will Not Vote for Noynoy Aquino

This is in response to a friend’s bewildered query as to why I’m not voting for Noynoy.

In September of last year, I wrote a post in which I said that we should give Noynoy Aquino the benefit of doubt until he shows us that there is something behind that bland (bald?) demeanor other than tired platitudes and empty promises, the hallmark of the trapo. Nine months on, he has not said or done anything which would have convinced me that he has the qualities to become a capable president. In addition to other reasons enumerated in another later post, the following points have convinced me that the country is in deep trouble should he succeed:

1. He did not fight a “good fight” – In the sense that St. Paul meant, that we should exhibit intelligence, humility and moral courage in all our struggles. Or at least try to.

Instead, he relied on mudslinging and black propaganda. Most of the presidential candidates did so too, but his was the most odious in terms of viciousness and because of his oft-stated claim of virtuousness by reason of parentage. This two-faced and cynical approach to politics means it will be business as usual if he gains power. While mouthing high-minded ideals, he conducted his campaign at the level of the gutter. He will bring this hypocritical outlook to Malacanang.

His true character was revealed when Chiz Escudero unveiled the NOYBI initiative to stab Mar Roxas in the back. It took him a long while to publicly repudiate the effort and reaffirm support for his embattled running mate. This despite the fact that Mar selflessly paved the way for Noynoy’s run.

It was Mar again who immediately and graciously stated that any support for the standard bearer is welcome although it might bode ill for him. Say what you will about Mar Roxas, no one can deny that he’s a class act. In contrast to Noynoy’s new buddy, Jojo Binay, who out-trapoed the trapos in order to build a dynasty in Makati. Jojemar is telling the truth though. If he wins, he’s going to do to the rest of the country what he did to Makati, which is to say institutionalize patronage politics and corruption. Continue reading

The Hope of Audacity

If anyone seems to be having the most fun out of campaigning for the presidency, it looks to me like Dick Gordon.

Just check out his video with the comedy duo Moymoy Palaboy which has gone viral. This is not the demeanor of a man lagging far behind in the polls. He looks and sounds like a winner.

The irrepressible Gordon is nothing if not audacious. After failing to keep the U.S. bases in his bailiwick of Olongapo City (God stepped in anyway with the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo to ensure that the Americans well and truly left), he turned what could have been a calamitous situation into a golden opportunity. Pushing for the establishment of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, he converted the former U.S. naval base into a thriving freeport, creating more jobs and revenue than when the U.S. military was there.

As Secretary of Tourism, he once again showed his marketing savvy (he was at one time a brand marketing exec for P & G), boosting foreign and local tourism after years in the doldrums. He was also the high profile head of the Philippine National Red Cross, making his presence felt at every natural or man-made disaster even while serving in the Senate.

All is not sweetness and light in Gordon country, however. Long-time anti-U.S. bases activist, child-welfare advocate and Gordon critic, Catholic priest Fr. Shay Cullen, paints a dark picture of a Godfather-like warlord who will not hesitate to use extreme measures to silence his critics and get his way. But this image did not gain wide acceptance in the public mind. Continue reading

Last Words of the Dying Christ

There are two (actually three, with John having Him say a matter-of-fact summation of his mission on earth: “It is Finished”) versions of what Jesus Christ said as he suffered and neared death on the cross at Golgotha. The first: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?

Mark and Matthew attribute this to the dying Christ. It has been interpreted through the centuries as a cry of utter despair and fading hope.

Luke, perhaps finding such words repugnant as it suggests a slide into black doubt, says that Christ’s words were actually: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” Modern believers are more comfortable with Luke’s version, as His dying words are more in keeping with common doctrinal teachings that God will look after us and never leave us.

For all we know, He may have uttered both, they are not incompatible. Continue reading

The Villar Conundrum

Do you trust Manny Villar (to be the next president of the Philippines) ?

The answer to this question is the stumbling block of the Villar campaign and must keep the candidate awake most nights. That many Filipinos are undecided, at best, about how they would reply if asked is why Villar trails at the polls, albeit closely nipping at the heels of Noynoy.

He certainly has a reputation for being an astute, even ruthless, businessman. This is partly because an instinctive mistrust of the very wealthy. He could not have gotten his fortune without having done something bad, the thinking goes. But this only accounts for a small percentage of his detractors.

The main reason is that he has more than a few skeletons rattling in his closet, the scariest being the C-5 scandal. Thus, despite all the money and effort poured into his run he has to play catch-up in the homestretch. And why the smear campaign about his being “Villaroyo” has taken its toll.

But Villar also has a lot of things going for him, which is why he has a good chance of defeating Noynoy Aquino and his fearsome yellow army. And I don’t mean just his money. At a certain point in the election (and I believe this point has been reached), money becomes less important. All the money in the world will not get you elected if you’re truly unelectable. Cash becomes critical as election day nears only as a means of ensuring the party machinery is kept well greased and to keep your capos and foot soldiers happy and motivated on the day itself. You will need warm bodies and money to safeguard your vote. On this score I believe Noynoy and Villar have achieved a rough parity. Continue reading

Desperately Seeking Noynoy

More than six months ago I wrote a post on how Noynoy Aquino lacks substance. Nothing that has happened since has changed my view. If anything, I feel stronger than ever that he is just not the right person to lead this country for the next six years.

Though I have to admit is it’s not hard to like the guy. He’s a decent and well-mannered fellow. Noynoy’s like a buddy from high school who you may not have seen for a number of years but you instantly feel at ease with if you unexpectedly bump into each other. The kind of guy you want to have coffee with or knock down a few beers while watching the latest Pacquiao fight.

But as the next Philippine president ? The prospect makes me very uneasy. Considering his undistinguished public life, no one can deny that he has gotten to where he is solely because he is Ninoy and Cory’s only son. The presumption being that since his parents were historical giants, their progeny will prove to be noble and outstanding as well. History has proven that this is not necessarily so, Gloria Arroyo being the most obvious example. As is Noynoy’s sister, Kris. Continue reading

Are the Ampatuans Rebels or Murderers ?

The government says they’re both.

But under the present state of the law, they cannot be charged with rebellion and still stand trial for murder. Murder, and all other incidental crimes related to rebellion, will be subsumed in the latter charge. And while the Penal Code allows separate prosecutions for either murder or rebellion, rebels cannot be charged for both where the indictment alleges that the former has been committed in furtherance of or in connection with the latter.

The Ampatuans can literally get away with murder if they know how.

However, most people know them to be just plain murderous cutthroats.

So what happens now ? Continue reading

Martial Law Just A Ruse Although Teddy Boy Was Right

So martial law in Maguindanao has been lifted. It was just a very clever ruse all along. It hate to say it, but the entire exercise was masterfully done. Practically the entire country has been outfoxed yet again by GMA and her gang. It would now appear that the main objective of the week-long declaration of military rule in the province was to neutralize the still-formidable Ampatuan forces accused of carrying out mass killings to keep the clan in power. And it looks to have worked. It has been reported that at least a total of 529 people involved in an alleged rebellion (the primary ground for declaring martial law), including key Ampatuan family members, leaders and supporters, have been placed under military or police custody. All with little or no bloodshed.

Arroyo knew that the proclamation of martial law had no factual basis and would have eventually been exposed as a sham, if not by Congress, then by the Supreme Court. Hence, the immediate lifting which now renders all the challenges hurled at it moot and academic.

Of course, much of the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth were entirely justified. Nobody really knows what Arroyo has up her sleeve. Continue reading

Why Gibo Matters

Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard bearer Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro has been quoted as saying that he will run a “positive campaign.” No mud-slinging and black propaganda. Presumably, this means no dirty tricks, no “dag-dag bawas”. This is what he says and he may actually mean it. Whether this will actually come to pass is another matter, contingent on a number of factors, like how desperate the administration is to have its candidate win.

For whatever reason I can’t explain, I believe he’s sincere. He looks and sounds like a decent and upright fellow. He was a year or two younger than me in law school and although we were never friends, or even acquaintances, he came across as quiet and self-effacing. Brilliant academically. He was certainly not political, as politics was defined in U.P. during the 80’s, despite his formidable political pedigree.

But going by the recent surveys, his chance of becoming president by votes alone ranges from slim to nil. According to Pulse Asia, 79% of the respondents said they would “surely not vote for” (43 percent) and “probably not vote for” (36 percent) a presidential candidate endorsed by Ms Arroyo. The widely-perceived and well-founded “kiss of death” from GMA. Continue reading