Thursday, July 28, 2005

Federalism: A Kind of Child Speak.

We all know about that old time joke where a certain politician promises to build some bridge in a remote locality during one election campaign sortie when someone from the crowd bellowed, “But Sir, we have no rivers here!” The politician then said, “No problem. We will build the river first.” Ha...ha…ha…This is one political joke that never fails to muster a good laugh from me, its ridiculousness is so humongous. It is so funny because somehow, the comedy speak some truth on how politics is run in this part of the globe---how rotten it is sometimes, if not most of the times. All promises, and no action.

Now, the recent move to suggest the institution of a federal system of government in our beloved country is not as ridiculous as the joke above but somehow, it is similarly preposterous and could border on the ludicrous. Not that it is an appalling system of governance altogether. In fact countries under this sort of administration are mostly affluent like Germany and Canada, not to mention the United States of America. For all we know, federalism may in fact stifle some disenchantment from some parts of the country like in Mindanao resulting from the supposed improper distribution of wealth and State resources, especially in the distribution of infrastructure developments. We all know that suspected maxim always (that bad and mean formula), where the country gets its revenues from the rich Mindanao heartlands while on the one hand lavishing the northern regions with all these riches. Clearly unfair if I may say. Now federalism could solve this problem. But the question is: “Can we afford it now?”

The institution of a federal system of government here in our lands would entail gigantic cost for it will demand so much of our already scarce State resources. In that system, each “state” or region would have to have its own legislature and Supreme Court and would have to rehash the system of governance so completely to the effect that every major public agency would have to be reformulated and overhauled. This would mean a budgeting nightmare while at the same time so very time-consuming.

Federalism is good idea but it won’t be “a manna from heaven” or a fool-proof formula for economic success and besides it would necessitate a lot of experimentation, which we could not afford at this time. It is so expensive that it won’t be worth trying. If the need for change is really adamant and steeply urgent, we can just bat for a simple parliamentary system like in France or Great Britain. No frills and it come cheaper.

Garci, Garci Where Are Thee?

In law, there is such thing as proof beyond concrete or material evidence and these is called circumstantial evidence. It is a sort of evidence where the truth can be fairly determined through the happening or not happening of certain conditions and incidents and though it is not as strong as direct evidences like fingerprints and testimonies, circumstantial evidence often consolidates the courts hold of the truth of the matter.

The weakest of all these sort of evidence is the "alibi" where usually a defendant would aver that he or she is in some other place while the crime or wrongdoing was being committed. Because it is often used in many criminal cases, it is somehow the least considered by the court. Did you know that the way you act or behave in a courtroom, while being interrogated or while giving testimony, is one way of knowing if one is guilty or not guilty, or telling the truth or not telling truth? It is called “the demeanors” of the witness on the stand. Judges often observe the actions and behaviors of witnesses and even of some other persons in the court, like the suspect himself or the counsels present there. While the written court decisions would not reflect that a judge had noted some “demeanors” of the witness or the suspect, we could be certain that often, the judge had penned and decided upon the case while depending on his/her observation of the “demeanors” of those present in court.

The strongest I think among this sort of evidence (circumstantial) is the so-called “plight” of the one most probable to have committed the crime or wrongdoing. When a suspect flees even before any search warrant is issued, you can be rest assured that 90 percent of the time, he would be guilty. More so if one is already out on bail. If while on bail, one flees, then for certain the judge would decide the case against thee. You can bet on that.

Now comes to my mind the alleged disappearance of ex-Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcilliano, where by recent reports which I have gathered from the radio, was to have been seen in the Changi Airport of Singapore upon a connecting flight to London. As you know, NBI agents have been tasked to issue summons to the beleaguered commissioner in order for him to appear in a legislative inquiry.

But Garci is nowhere to be found. He is close to being termed as one who is in “plight” from the hands of justice. And remember, plight is often an admission of guilt.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Bonfire of The Vanities

I am certain that many of us may be familiar with Tom Wolfe’s “The Bonfire of the Vanities”; a remarkable and era-defining book that chronicled the life of a certain New Yorker named Sherman McCoy, probably is his worst times, where at the beginning a slight car-accident tossed his life into a steep downward spiral that got worse and worse as each page is turned. There was his mistress and there was his wife and then a criminal case boiled to the hilt until the whole story climaxed into probably one of the most memorable ending in the entire history of American literature. This is a story where one bad thing gets into another bad thing, until it seems that excrements hit the fan. And foremost, this novel reminds me of the “state of our nation” nowadays; where the excrement also hits….you know what.

What we see here is a bonfire of every inanity seems possible, where it seems to me that one bad thing gets into another bad thing in this beloved country of ours. Is this what we call the disease called “The Banana Republic Syndrome”? Why can’t we be just as boring as Japan or perhaps as grandiloquent as Tahiti? Where nothing sordid can happen in these places for months and years except news on economic overheating in the case of Japan and the increase of tourism in the case of Tahiti.

But in our side of the globe, each day now bears something scandalous or mind-numbingly disgusting, and at some point, we have become a huge comedy show, with every clown and funny characters on hand, like perhaps “The Monty Python ” or a gypsy traveling show. We see the politician with his own SONA, or “TSONA” as he called it. Nothing like this happen except in this filibuster-rich country of ours. Of course, we all heard the bedroom voice of the former COMELEC guy who won’t appear in Senate, and smiles like he has more secrets to hide than Monalisa. It’s a deceiving smile from a deceitful guy as I see it. And then we heard about the Sandra Cams and the presidential sons and fathers being entangled in the web of “Juentenggate”, and got cannoned by a spitfirish and crusading priest from the Northern Lands (you know, Luzon mainland) and the last we heard about them, they took an indefinite vacation in the land where there are at least two Disneyland sites, in addition to Michael Jackson’s “Neverland”. I bet they’d be opting for the latter if they need some comical relief.

And then there was the congregation of bishops convening like the cardinals did in Rome when Pope John Paul II passed away, letting us wait in mortal thrill only to learn that they have taken the safest side while a former lady president took the other side, as if biting the bullet, and felt her admonitions backfired together with the also-comical “HYATT 10”, who thought the people would troop to take breakfast orders from handsome Hyatt waiters the moment they shoot the President behind her back----but the people didn’t. It’s the Hyatt for goodness sake. Nobody goes there except those who drive Rovers and Benzes.

Then before we were able to take a needed breather, the military underground specter soon appeared in the form of old-hat but still dangerous Young Officers Union, coming into the fray, muddling everything and making us fear again like we never have been fearing all these times. As if we hadn’t had enough. We heard about the assassination plot against the President. The inane Truth Commission. The upstart impeachment complaint. The call for charter change. The downgrading of our credit ratings from investment bodies in the First World. The mistresses of an Isafp alleged wiretapper. The lambastings of Susan Roces-Poe. The “bastos” side of the DOJ Secredretary speaking about Kris Aquino. I could go on and on listing all these inanities and we can go on till dawn tch gobbles us up.

Gee…don’t you feel like we are living inside a movie or a television soap-opera. Are our politicians acting it out right? Or are just they being bad actors and actresses? We seem to have been part of this bonfire that should be poured gasoline by the gallons and lit into the high heavens so that our misery shall go away along with the consuming flames.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

When The Truth Is Just But A Waste of Time

Senator Rodolfo Biazon is not a lawyer by training or by occupation yet he sees something what men of laws does not see, or haven’t notice just as yet. Biazon referred to the mapping out of a “Truth Commission” as direly unconstitutional and he was the first public figure to have mentioned that, at least in my case.

On the outset, nothing really in the formation of a “Truth Commission” that run directly counter against the precepts of our Constitution. Nothing in there would prohibit it straightforwardly for nothing in our fundamental laws that declares, “The State shall not cause any Truth Commission to exist…blah…blah…blah…”. Commissions are everywhere in our land. Commission on this, commission on that. We seem to have a commission for everything found above water; and even under it.

Let us remember however that the envisioned “Truth Commission” is not just any other commission like say the one on good government (PCGG) and on horseracing (PHILRACOM). It is a sensitive body with only one predecessor in recent memory and would act not like a commission at all, but more like a court of law, and this is where the problem lies, as it becomes a patent redundancy to our judicial systems. Why the hell did we have courts of law in the first place?

The “Truth Commission” would be a fact-finding outfit just like the Agrava Commission back in Marcos years, and similarly, it would take on a very high profile and extreme visibility. It will have the sine qua non power of summons and orders, the examination of testimonies and the production of evidences. This is why it becomes a freak of administrative fiat where a platypus is created, where it looks like a combination of many things, a non-judicial body having foremost judicial powers. Well, we all know that other administrative agencies like the LTFRB already has quasi-judicial functions yet I have a feeling that the “Truth Commission” would be demanding more than just petty judicial muscles because in order for it to be effective as it is visualized, it must have more teeth than what is necessary. Everything except the power to convict and imprison.

This is where my problem with this commission comes in. In the end, all it can give us would be some lame endorsements for prosecution because no matter how it finds the “truth” or the “untruth”, it won’t convict anyone and being a GMA creation, what makes us believe that nobody is telephoning somebody again in the dead of the night, telling somebody else to make some “small” favors. Aren’t we just fooling ourselves?

And mainly, the “Truth Commission” would be such a redundancy to our crime-solving bodies, especially to our courts of law, that it becomes entirely violative of the “due process clause” of our Constitution. For the commission to yield the complete truth, then it must have the presence of former COMELEC Commissioner Garcilliano before it, including his admission or non-admission, otherwise the truth is not complete. If you were Garcilliano, would you appear in it knowing your rights and liberty may be jeopardized without the due process of law? In this sense, the formation of the “Truth Commssion” would be gravely UNCONSTITUTIONAL, patently in contravention of the due process requirements of our Constitution where it is inculcated in it like gravestones that “no life, liberty or property may be taken by the State without the due process of law” and the “Truth Commission” does not partake of due process and due notice. Due process demands other legal modes like warrants of arrest, search warrants, right to counsel and right to remain silent, the right of confrontation, the production of testimonies and evidences, the presumption of innocence, of custodial investigation and such other like matters as embodied in the Bill of Rights.

In the end, the “Truth Commission” would just be a grand wastage of public money, a grand spectacle and a carnival full of clowns. We the public will not benefit from it except the “entertainment” that we could possible get from it. Oh yes, we Filipino love this kind of real-time, real-life soap operas.

We might as well bat for and support the institution of an impeachment proceeding against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, where despite the odds in numbers of Senators in her favor, there always remain a chance, when she would be found almost guilty of election rigging, that we will get the result we wanted. We need results. And a “Truth Commission” would never give us the result that we desire if finally the “truth” or “untruth” is brought into the great wide open.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The London Subway Experience

If memory does not fail me, I believe I was tuned in to CNN the very moment numerous blasts shook the length of London, as breaking news just came in announcing in such a dire manner that something so grave happened beneath the streets of London, in its labyrinth subways. The grievous incident came almost exactly a day after I was stuck to the same cable news channel taking part in the exhilaration of an Olympic city selection, which by some coincidence, was won by this city now thrown into tumult and confusion.

What follows then, for hours after hours, nothing was televised by the Atlanta-based CNN except that singular shot of a London street where apparently the bombs hit the worst. As I see police officers cordoning the entrance to the subways and people strutting away from the scenes of explosions, I was then hoping that it wasn’t any bomb that rocked the city at all, that city so famously known by many of us by way of the children song we often sang then, about some bridge falling down and a fair lady. I was in fact wishing that somehow some major power breakdown occurred, one that may have cause certain damage but not as sinister as a terrorist act. I was then more inclined to believe that some electrical machinery might have malfunction causing the five simultaneous explosions, crossing my fingers on this.

But hours after, it was confirmed beyond doubt that the explosions were caused by bombs let off by identified terrorists, and was even tagged as perpetrated by a close allies of Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair referred to the attacks as a craft of an “evil ideology” and not by a “clash of civilizations”, between Moslems and Christians or by the West against the East. I agree with Mr. Blair so thoroughly on this. These importuned acts must not bring more division amongst the peoples of the world, where there are already enough torment brought about by prejudice and misunderstanding among the world’s many cultures and race. I know Islam as a belief does not in any way foment these kind of beastly acts, where innocent people die in vain, dying for the cause of false assumptions and crooked objectives. I must know somehow.

Almost two weeks had passed after 7/7 (what the London subway incident is now more widely known), but still my mind can’t escape examining the humanity within such horrendous event. It was so dire for me to try to understand and contemplate on what kind of hate or what magnitude of anger does some individuals have for them to ever think of taking away the lives of ordinary people who are the fathers of some daughters, the mothers of crying sons, brothers and sisters of those who grieved (In fact, the sister of one of our fellow bloggers, Shalimar, was one of those affected in the incident), and children of those who would mourn so gravely. Are they devoid of such human consideration? Have they lost their entire senses? Have they lost any hint of humanity and became beast themselves whose face only them could comprehend? I could not fathom their logic and neither will I understand their notions.

And as the blood of the innocents lay spilt on the tarmac, do they howl like hyenas in celebration of their violent exertions? I bet they are evil and killing innocent people is not lesser than the handiwork of Satan.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

My Funny Revolution

And so it seems that in this beloved country of ours, mob revolution is one familiar feeling that we are feeling again, just like in a song. Just like Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Day, where every so often, from time to time, it comes to us and happens almost as if we had expected it to happen once in every number of years, or even in every generation passing.

If once again, the angry marches in the wide avenues of Manila would spark again “an unforgettable fire”, one that would never be put off and continues to rage until it brings down once again yet another government, I have this strange but certain feeling that this will not be the last time that we will march on the streets to urge a bedeviled leader to step aside, or step down due to some colossal indiscretions. Even if we change the seat of power now, “people power” would be like Valentine’s Day that we could expect it almost to come after the passing of quite sometime. Future governments may still be disturbed upon their sleep, over burning beds, to be besieged once more by the specter of a systemic transitional process that can now be considered entombed as an “invisible law”, one that is unseen and unwritten but strong enough that it can be likened to rushing giant waves that could scuttle away even the mightiest of cliffs. Somehow, it is beneficial to us this “invisible law” for we keep our leaders up on their toes, but are we really comfortable with this vicious cycle? Only if we were in a parliamentary form of governance where by then, we need no more enormous marches on the streets and parkways, and where violent military takeover may not be as threatening as it is right now.

Today, hordes of soul marches again down the carless avenues, risking life and limbs and surviving the penalties of the weather as well as the pangs of hunger in their tummies. The drum beats roll once more to the suasions of a hundreds of thousands of souls--angry souls--that thunders down the alleyways, all the way to Malacañang where someone is for sure crossing her fingers, wishing so darnly that the miracle of the “people power” would not descend upon us once more, at this particular time.

Let me reminisce once more. I remember those slow but excruciating hours leading to the downfall of then President Joseph Estrada; those dangerous hours that is so familiar to us at these very moments, where everything seemed to have happened so fast that the braggadocio of a macho President sputtered away pitifully like dried peas and when the smoke had cleared, we saw the once mighty President ushered away by the very people who were once his strength but later on became his captors.

Indeed, I can softly remember those days when I had taken it that President Estrada could seem to do no wrong before the eyes of a continually forgiving public, like he could go away from murder, where it had seemed the people who had rocketed him to the highest seat would forever be starstruck by his legend as an affable and indefatigable movie icon. But the worst things indeed happened as his people walked out of him one by one until the military, that ever requisite factor of a successful uprising, finally quitted on him, and urge him to step down almost upon gunpoint.

And now today, as we hold our breath, everything may happen so fast, like lightning. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should examine all her sides, especially the police and the military, and check on her loyalties often like she breathes, and to expect almost everything that is worst and hope that tomorrow will be another day and every document in Malacañang would still bear her signatures. The sun will come out tomorrow as the old familiar song says.

Where do I stand on this you might ask? Only if we could determine beyond doubt that GMA had really cheated in her winning the last presidential election, then it would have been easier to take sides. For certain, the cheater has no business ministrating upon millions of Filipinos suffering already from economic woes and won’t take anymore yet another rotten governance.

As a student of law in the past and until now, I was trained to respect the Constitution and hold it dear like a fragile but all too rare and precious of gems. We have been inculcated to see it that way, to respect and revere the Constitution like it is the Holy Grail, to protect it at all cost and from every trespasser.

If it were up to me, I hope violent transfer of power would not ensue and no blood of any of our countrymen would be spilt on the tarmac of revolution. Constitutional transfer of governance is deemed the best solution, if not the only solution.

Setting aside the present constitution may prove to be all too costly for us and in fact may be gravely time-consuming. We may have to painfully pass thru a messy labyrinth of conventions, plebiscites and arduous campaigning only to expect that another “people’s revolution” may scuttle it away in the future---like we are Sisyphus ever pushing that rock over the steep hill. It may seem like we are always destroying temples and rebuilding it in three days, like we are all like Christ Himself.

If the angry street marches we have now may become overly thundering, GMA may be left with no choice but to face impeachment for betraying the public trust, or resign her office outrightly. By then, the Vice-President may assume the empty seat as the constitution mandates. This way, we can evade bloodshed and at the same time preserve the constitution.

And by then, all sectors---the government, the opposition leaders, the religious people, the businessmen and the civil society---may come together at some appointed time and place, like in a summit, and determine wholeheartedly if we really need to shift to the parliamentary form of government, where we can change bedeviled leaders without risking lives and limbs and without doing away with constitutions which we have spent for and sacrificed for so heavily, and where general violence as a manner of takeover may be not as threatening as it is at present.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Ingredients of A Revolution

These are dangerous days. Something is cooking. It seems to me that almost every element of a modern-day revolution are already set in place and we are waiting on a standstill, just standing above a vocanoe that is about to explode.

Consider this. If one is to cook a revolution, what he or she needs are the following ingredients:

1. A President embroiled in a major scandal, say a whistling buzz on gambling payolas.

2. A First Lady or First Gentleman fiddling into marvelously and ubitiqously dirty activities.

3. A presidential son or daughter earning the public's ire for some grave indiscretion.

4. An oppossition bloc who is getting louder by the day---where stinging remarks is breakfast stuff.

5. A Church disenchanted.

6. People marching like ants in the streets of Manila, specifically along EDSA.

7. Backpedalling or loyalty-shifting cabinet members.

8. A change of face by the military, at least the higher ups.

9. And finally, a central political figure that can easily replace the President when called upon.

As we speak now, we are feeling that familiar feeling again where something is on the brink of happenstance, where something must happen within days and if such would not happen accordingly, then it would not happen at all.

If President Gloria Macpagal Arroyo could withstand this windstorm that bedevils her administration like no other, where she remains in power for the rest of July, then most probably she would stay in power until her terms expires. Probably, the opposition movement would die down for lack of vigor and perseverance. For a "people power" revolution to succeed, conviction of the heart and strength of protest is primordial and conditions precedent. This happens only when people would stay in the streets for days and days to go, and even in the face of hunger and physical discomfiture, nobody gives in. That's when the people's voice becomes God's voice. Vox populi, vox dei.

At these heavy hours, we watch a brimming revolution upstarting but what's cooking is something not yet smoldering. If the Church would eventually support GMA's ouster, and if the military backs out of her wings then, then we may see yet another government toppled by the "street parliament" that we Filipinos are so well known for all over the world, at times notoriously.

And remember, we are yet to see an alternative central figure that can unite the opposition. One that is enigmatic enough and likeable enough that can be acceptable to all sectors. Susan Roces may be that one person but not all agree. Noli de Castro should be a shoo-in in a constitutional turnover of power but street protesters often barks at his being just another GMA-clone. Meaning the same status quo will remain in a De Castro administration.

Altogether, I am not being a doomsday prophet. I in fact pray that the Lord Almighty above will continue to guide the Filipinos in these dangerous hours. God bless the Philippines!!!