From Pattaya, GMA intoned a most disturbing Easter message: "Risk all for Truth!" What callousness. What audacious hypocrisy. Easter is supposed to be about redemption and hope. But with such an official statement, the hopelessness of many only waxes further. At the very least, beyond merely pontificating about truth, she should move the pertinent agencies to do better police, legal and forensic work on all the kidnappings and killings that remain unsolved in our country. Tragically, with killings on the rise, government seems overly anxious to let murderers and rapists get lighter sentences or commutations of their prison terms. Is this Government being more Christian than the Christ? It’s very tempting to simply say that, in this country, the science of forensics is purposely left underdeveloped so that the killers (many of them probably in government) maintain their impunity. And if found guilty anyway, you can get out earlier by some pious power. No wonder many are drowning in hopelessness. Consider these: Ninoy Aquino. Lean Alejandro. Dacer. Corbito. What do these names have in common? Mystery. For who really killed them and why? Even in the case of Ninoy, the question remains for the mastermind has yet to be identified. And yes, we also want to raise the ghosts of the Dacer-Corbito case. But where is the solid forensic evidence behind these two killings? To compound matters, how can we fully trust government on this when those involved might have been government agents themselves… or are now “enemies” of the government for they purportedly support certain political interests anti-thetical to the current regime? Why are the Dacer-Corbito twin murders being revived this time around? Eleksiyon na naman? We hope government can put as much effort on other killings and disappearances especially the political ones where the military and police are being implicated. This country needs two S's--science and sincerity. More science in its system of governance. More sincerity from its political leaders. May we remind GMA, you have been called many times to risk all for truth. What have you and your minions in Congress done? So as you say that we must risk all for truth, we cannot help but ask, whose Truth? For whom? Puro patayan dito, habang nasa Patayya ka. Louie Checa Montemar, Singalong, Manila, via e-mail
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By Cristyl Mae Senajon Contributor Last Thursday I watched a film documenting the long-standing battle of the Sumilao and Negros farmers to win the legal rights over their farmlands. It recounted the farmers’ protest against government’s inaction towards implementing the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law; how this severe inaction drove the peasant groups into staging a radical move to espouse their right to their land-living. The Sumilao farmers walked the long-stretch of land from Bukidnon to Manila for a period of over 60 days in order to bring their seemingly hopeless case to the highest authorities trusting that their request for land ownership be granted to them. The Negros farmers echoed the same battle cry as they went on a 30-day hunger strike hoping that the government would heed their request for land ownership. In the end, after a decade of struggle for land the Sumilao and Negros farmers finally received their Certificate of Land Ownership Awards. Now, they could claim ownership to the land that they themselves had tilled for so many years. It is baffling to see why these farmers and probably many more others had to go through agony and hardships just to claim a piece of their constitutional rights. It is even more depressing that there had to be an occurrence of killing incidents before the government took serious actions while big landowners got away easily from law and got unpunished for felony only because they had the money, connection, and influence and only because they had seats in the congress and posts in the government bureaucracy. On another side, it never seemed easy for ordinary Filipinos like the Sumilao and Negros land tillers to have their civil rights to be even recognized because of their economic standing. When did the right of one person and of a few weigh more than the rights of the greater majority? Much less, when did wealth become the dispensation to stamp on the rights of those who had less in life? Social justice as defined is not merely the administration of law. It is generally thought of as a world which affords individuals and groups fair treatment and impartial share of society. It is absolutely unfair for a very few to enjoy a monopoly in land resources and also control the distribution of technological inputs, rural banking, farm machinery, transportation, processing, and marketing of farm produce while the rest live miserably in scarcity. These resources must be impartially enjoyed by the land owner and the land tiller. Social injustice is very much the prevalent condition of our present society. People’s rights get trampled in favor of the rights of the few. The issue on agrarian reform is still very much a concrete and clear example of this lingering social ill. Unless there is a redistribution of economic and political power, democratization, social justice and peace will not be created. In the assessment of agrarian reform, the government must impose a stronger political will while involving all its line agencies, local units and the police force in ensuring the execution of the agrarian reform program and the security of its beneficiaries. It should be at the forefront of upholding the CARL despite its ambiguities and limitations. After all, there can never be a truly working of law in the absence of fair treatment.
Yes, we hope to keep the conversation going and organized, so for all comments related to stories in the Technology channel, you can place them here.
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This is In reaction to the "Telcos, not text senders, will be taxed." It’s understandable for the domestic telecom companies to block any proposals that would reduce their enormous profits. Gordon’s proposal is noble one but i think people should realize that the main issue here is the negative impact of the duopolistic behavior (forget Sun, they are not yet earning) of the two main telecom players. Congress should work hard to induce more industry competition (lower cost, better service). Better yet, investigate the respective ownership structures of these companies. My worry is that foreign interests are the ones benefiting more on the growth of the industry. Sorry but I’m just thinking aloud. paruparo via Reader's blog comments.
By Soliman Santos, Jr. THESE are initial notes based on the Supreme Court Public Information Office bulletin of October 14, 2008, titled “SC Declares MOA-AD Unconstitutional” and a quick scanning of the 87-page majority Decision of the same date penned by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales based on an 8-7 vote declaring the MOA-AD “contrary to law and the constitution.” Those who joined her in the majority are Chief Justice Puno and Associate Justices Santiago, Carpio, Azcuna, Reyes, Quisumbing and Martinez, all of whom except the last two wrote separate concurring opinions. Those who voted to dismiss the petitions were Associate Justices Tinga, Nazario, Velasco, Nachura, De Castro, Brion and Corona, all of whom except the last wrote separate dissenting opinions. (All these separate opinions are not with me as of this writing). Being initial notes, we limit ourselves to main points on the key thrusts of the Decision and their implications. The aforesaid majority declaration is based on two substantive issues:  that the respondents GRP Peace Panel and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (PAPP) violating constitutional and statutory provisions on public consultation and the right to information when they negotiated and later initialed the MOA-AD; and  that the contents of the MOA-AD violate the Constitution and the laws. [p. 36] “MOA-AD” actually refers to the final draft of the “Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain Aspect of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001.” The Decision also finds “grave abuse of discretion” in respondents exceeding their authority by agreeing to Paragraph 7 under the Governance strand of the MOA-AD that “virtually guarantees that the necessary amendments to the Constitution and the laws will eventually be put in place” which is (as far as amendments to the Constitution are concerned) a “usurpation of the constituent powers vested only in Congress, a Constitutional Convention, or the people themselves.” [p. 87] PAPP Esperon in particular was found to have “committed grave abuse of discretion when he failed to carry out the pertinent consultation process, as mandated” (by EO 3, the Local Government Code, and IPRA) [p. 86]. The Decision, in dealing with the contents of the MOA-AD, summed it up this way: “The MOA-AD cannot be reconciled with the present Constitution and laws. Not only its specific provisions but the very concept underlying them, namely the associative relationship between the GRP and the BJE, are unconstitutional, for the concept presupposes that the associated entity is a state and implies that the same is on its way to independence.” [p. 86, underscoring and bold face in the original] The effect of this ruling would appear to be to confine future peace negotiations with the MILF, and for that matter other rebel groups, “within the box” of existing provisions of the Constitution and national laws. The reported (by the SC PIO) pronouncements of the Chief Justice and others in the majority tend to reinforce this. CJ Puno wrote that “the President as Chief Executive can negotiate peace with the MILF but it is peace that will insure that our laws are faithfully executed… without crossing the parameters of powers marked in the Constitution.” He added that “respondents’ thesis of violate now, validate later makes a burlesque of the Constitution.” Associate Justice Carpio said that in negotiating the MOA-AD, the Executive branch “committed to amend the Constitution to conform to the MOA-AD.” These statements reflect a rather conservative judicial view of the MOA-AD negotiation effort that does not augur well for similar efforts. The SC PIO bulletin says that the Decision “enjoined the respondents and their agents from signing and executing the MOA-AD or similar agreements.” There appears to be nothing as explicit as that in the Decision but that could be the effect. The Decision notes that the MOA-AD, as “a significant part of a series of agreements necessary to carry out the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace” of 2001, “can be renegotiated or another one drawn up that could contain similar or significantly dissimilar [or drastic] provisions compared to the original.” [p. 84, see also p. 34] Precisely, because of this prospect of renegotiation of the MOA-AD “in another or in any form” to carry out the Ancestral Domain Aspect of the Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001, the Court was “minded to render a decision on the merits in the present petitions to formulate controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, the public and, most especially, the government in negotiating with the MILF regarding Ancestral Domain.” [p. 34, underscoring and bold face in the original] Are future peace negotiations now therefore necessarily confined “within the box” of existing provisions of the Constitution and national laws? Not necessarily. Because the Decision itself provides some opening for that albeit with due regard to non-derogation of separation of powers particularly the matter of constituent powers in proposing and adopting amendments to the Constitution. In the discussion in pp. 71-73, there are these guidelines: The President may not, of course, unilaterally implement the solutions that she considers viable, but she may not be prevented from submitting them as recommendations to Congress, which could then, if it is minded, act upon them pursuant to the legal procedures for constitutional amendment and revision. “While the President does not possess constituent powers … she may submit proposals for constitutional change to Congress in a manner that does not involve the arrogation of constituent powers.” From the foregoing discussion, the principle may be inferred that the President – in the course of conducting peace negotiations – may validly consider implementing even those policies that require changes to the Constitution, but she may not unilaterally implement them without the intervention of Congress, or act in any way as if the assent of that body were assumed as a certainty. In other words, these guidelines do not necessarily preclude, but on the contrary inform, any subsequent effort to reframe the GRP-MILF peace negotiations as constitutional negotiations – which they should be, in order to settle the relevant constitutional issues once and for all, otherwise the charge of unconstitutionality will always be raised when a better form of self-determination is sought for the Bangsamoro people in order to solve the Bangsamoro problem. The Decision, to its credit, does touch a bit [in p. 69] on peace-building and constitution-making by quoting from an American law journal: “Constitution-making after conflict is an opportunity to create a common vision of the future of a state and a road map on how to get there. The constitution can be partly a peace agreement and partly a framework setting up rules by which the new democracy will operate.” The SC PIO bulletin’s quote from the dissenting opinion of Justice Nazario is what to us is the right perspective on these negotiations: “In negotiating for peace, the Executive Department should be given enough leeway and should not be prevented from offering solutions which may be beyond what the present Constitution allows, as long as such solutions are agreed upon subject to the amendment of the Constitution by completely legal means.” The other major legal guideline for any subsequent effort is, of course, that on public consultation and the right to information. This brings us back to the substantive issues that were the basis for the Decision declaring the MOA-AD “contrary to law and the Constitution” as well as ruling the respondents to have “committed grave abuse of discretion.” These rulings are reconsiderable, i.e. can be the subject of a Motion for Reconsideration. Whatever violation of constitutional and statutory provisions on public consultation and the right to information when respondents negotiated and later initialed the MOA-AD is not as sweeping or as grave as has been made to appear. The numerous documented consultation and information efforts by respondents (including in the local government units of most petitioners), even granting the consultation and information inadequacies during a process of difficult negotiation and hard bargaining, should be made clear on the record, at least for possible reconsideration of the “grave abuse of discretion” ruling. PAPP Esperon in particular is unfairly singled out to have “committed grave abuse of discretion when he failed to carry out the pertinent consultation process, as mandated… “ [p. 86] But he just got into the job in June 2008! – at the tail end of the MOA-AD negotiation process of three years and eight months since 2005. As for respondents supposedly exceeding their authority by agreeing to Paragraph 7 under the Governance strand of the MOA-AD that “virtually guarantees that the necessary amendments to the Constitution and the laws will eventually be put in place” [p. 87], this interpretation of Paragraph 7 as a “guarantee” or “commitment” to the MILF “to amend the Constitution to conform to the MOA-AD” is highly debatable, to say the least. There is definitely no “usurpation of the constituent powers…” on the part of respondents. The respondents were all along following a recommendatory mode vis-à-vis their principal, the GRP – along the lines in the above-quoted paragraphs of the Decision. As stated in the “Supplement to the Memorandum for Intervenors Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society and Bangsamoro Women Solidarity Forum, Inc.” dated 28 September 2008 in support of respondents [at pp. 47-48]: Such needed constitutional amendments, as well as needed administrative action and new legislation, in pursuit of reforms aimed at addressing the root causes of the armed conflict, are well within the authority, mandate and parameters of the GRP Peace Panel to submit by way of recommendations to the Executive as a result of long discussions and eventual consensus at the negotiating table. Thereafter, the Executive may consider these for appropriate action by itself, or coordination with and referral to the Legislature which may then take the necessary legislative and constitutional processes. As also argued in that CBCS-BWSF Supplement [at pp. 54, 78], Paragraph 7 under the Governance strand of the MOA-AD should not be seen negatively as “making the Constitution conform to the MOA” but rather as a matter of good faith implementation of peace agreements through constitutional processes that may include any necessary amendments or revisions of the Constitution, as would be the approach too with certain international obligations. In the context of recommendatory amendments to the Constitution to address pursue reforms to aimed at addressing the root causes of the Moro armed struggle, it is unfair to the MOA-AD negotiation effort and the whole GRP-MILF peace negotiations to prematurely shoot down a mere preliminary (to a final) peace agreement just because the Decision finds that on its face, “The MOA-AD cannot be reconciled with the present Constitution and laws. Not only its specific provisions but the very concept [associative relationship] underlying them.” [p. 86] This early shooting down preempts and prejudices the whole peace process effort. For the Decision to say that “the concept [of associative relationship] presupposes that the associated entity is a state and implies that the same is on its way to independence” [p. 87] is again highly debatable. There are states and there are states, including constituent states in a federal republic and associated states. But these said states are not sovereign independent states. There is nothing in the MOA-AD about a grant of independence to the Bangsamoro – even if they have good grounds for this (and maybe the Decision has just reinforced those grounds). These questions of substantive constitutionality of the MOA-AD’s key provisions, as well as the numerous documented consultation and information efforts by respondents, were presented and discussed in the CBCS-BWSF Supplement [pp. 50-52, 56-79, also Annexes 3 & 4], even as these were not presented and discussed in the Memorandum of Office of the Solicitor General. Unfortunately, it appears that the Decision had not taken note of that CBCS-BWSF Supplement and its considerable set of Annexes, including especially information materials on the ancestral domain negotiations. As we said, this is just an initial quick reading and commentary on some key thrusts in the Supreme Court Decision declaring the MOA-AD “contrary to law and the Constitution.” There is no doubt more to be done in terms of deeper and more thorough reading and study of the Decision, as well as the separate concurring and dissenting opinions, including their discussions of international law and indigenous peoples rights in relation to the peace negotiations. This is more than an academic exercise, for what really matters is its implications on the fate of the GRP-MILF peace negotiations, which is basically to say the fate of war and peace in Mindanao.
Statements made by Cebu Representative Eduardo Gullas that two oil companies have raked in P70 billion over the last 10 years reflect the utter ignorance or rather the brutal imbecility of politicians in this country when it comes to economic matters and the proper functioning of the price system in a free market. Do politicians think that businesses will ever get into business without the promise of a fair return on capital. For one thing, oil companies operate on a free market basis. Unlike public utilities like Meralco, consumers have a choice in buying from any of the oil players large or small. Consumers can actually by-pass oil companies by forming cooperatives and importing petroleum products themselves. But why don't you think this is happening? The answer is pretty obvious -- the risk on capital, Mr. Congressman. The oil business is a very risky business. Imagine if you stocked up on oil last week and the price dropped (as it did) by $10. Not to mention the risk of shipping oil from overseas in these huge tankers, storing them in depots and moving them to the gas stations. Are you aware of how much pilfering happens in the distribution system? Please realize that if we did not have free enterprise to facilitate that process, we would not have oil products available to us at reasonable prices; yes, even at P60, petroleum prices are reasonable. Have you ever heard of scarce resources, Mr. Congressman? Of course, there is no scarcity of politicians running for office. If you ask me, I would rather live with petroleum prices at this level because I have a choice of using my cars or taking public transport or even walking (which, by the way, I have been doing to save money). However, when I look at the prices the citizens of this country has to pay for maintaining congressmen and senators and all politician for that matter, I can see the real place where the Filipino people is really being ripped off. And it is not at the gas pump. Gus Cosio, Quezon City (via e-mail)
Not a few of us doubt that the former Speaker has plenty of beans to spill. But we likewise doubt his willingness or courage to face the consequences of surfacing in the Senate as witness against the President. I think it would be more self benefiting for him to paint a pragmatic excuse to stay in safe waters far from pressures that may be worse than those that Jun Lozada went through. A wise politician and businessman formerly allied with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would be better off playing ball with Malacanang's occupants than turning against them, because the process could be ugly and painful in the immediate and long term. However, if, as the congressman says, his revelations may "bring down the presidency" because of the enormity of evidence he can show, then let it be so -- if that would be finally good for the country. De Venecia would be a credible witness considering his affiliations and affinity to those who were and are in power. But if in his heart De Venecia discerns that he is only motivated by vengeance and his subconscious desire to wrest back his great political powers, then I think he should take back his words humbly and sink into a peaceful state of ignonimity. On the other hand, if he truthfully believes that he has what would make this country take the path of moral revival and recover from its sinful and corrupt governance (as is seemingly the commonly accepted impression or nationwide belief) then, unfortunately for him or not, the moral responsibility rests on his shoulders to cooperate with the Senate and give all that he has to give in an objective, fair, and just volume of information. De Venecia's situation is like that of an officer in Mel Gibson's "We Were Soldiers" -- he called in a "Broken Arrow" condition and had bombs dropped a few meters from his own lines, placing even his own self at risk of getting napalmed but in the end saving the battalion from certain annihilation. Such is the call that would need courage and true patriotism. because the officer believed he was fighting for a good cause. Now, for De Venecia, he would have to ask himself if he has the same kind of cause. If not, then the Senate better forget his appearance and submit its report "finished or not finished." Victor Manalac, Taytay, Rizal (via e-mail)
I find it painfully hypocritical that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) would suggest not giving communion to members of the church simply because of their stance on family planning. What about other members guilty of other "sins?" What about the politicos who steal from the people and still have the gall to show their faces at church every Sunday? That's been going on for decades, and yet they pick this as a reason to kick somebody out? Why not also refuse to give communion to Gloria's entourage who flew overseas just to watch Pacquiao's bout, even as we were still reeling from Typhoon Frank's aftermath? Talk about double standards. While I don't agree with Gabriela on many matters, I will side with their point that abortion happens simply because many women here have neither the financial nor the emotional means to care for their child. There are probably more reasons, but given our level of poverty, this is the most likely cause. If the church is so against abortion, then why don't they care for the unwanted child? Or would they rather he or she grow in "a situation of sin," where starvation and neglect will push them to resort to drastic actions just to stay alive? I am angered especially because I am also a practicing Catholic. Since when did we end up with leaders with this backward thinking. Family planning does not equal anti-life. If anything, it ensures that the couple will have the means to properly care for their offspring. As for the argument that sex education would lead to immoral acts, this flow of logic implies that reading about lock picking will also encourage us to commit thefts, or that reading about serial killers will turn us into murderers. Except that this doesn't happen normally, unless the one reading is already mentally disturbed. This only reveals that the CBCP is selling their pulpit's common sense and integrity short. We are smarter than that, and we certainly deserve better leaders than that. -Antonio Yang III, Sta. Mesa, Metro Manila (via e-mail)
WHY does Mr. Winston Garcia insist on representing the Government Service Insurance System in his fight with the Lopezes? Does he really think that just because of his position in the GSIS, he represents all government employees? Has he tried to get their opinion? He is gambling with these employees' future. The pension fund is not his alone. He is just its caretaker. He will soon be out of office as soon as his bosses in Malacañang are either booted out or their terms expire. What will he do then? In my opinion, Mr Garcia might be diverting attention from his management of the pension fund altogether. His strategy seems to be to go after his neighbor's trash so that his own trash won't be looked at. The Senate should start looking at the management of the pension fund. I'm not saying they'll find anything there, but it's worth it to take a cursory look at how it's being managed being that it affects all past, present, and future government employees. Look at how the money is being invested, look at the balance sheets. It's only fair we take a look at Mr Garcia's backyard as well, not just the Lopezes. I'll bet there are unwanted weeds and trash in his backyard that'll need cleaning up or may lead to the eviction of its occupants. -- Bong Dignadice, Fontana, California (via e-mail)