The Marcos Burial: Why I don’t care anymore

marcos-burialWhat is happening today is the product of a long time of neglect by our government and society. This time, today, is the boiling point. It is where everything goes down the drain.

In the first place, it was also Cory Aquino who lifted the ban to return the body of Marcos to the Philippines in 1991. In Fidel Ramos’s time, a memorandum was even signed to return Marcos’s remains to the country. This flip-flopping of decisions and governance gave a lot of headaches. Why gave in to the family of a deposed leader? And why were there no rallies to oppose them in those times? The cancer was in its first stage.

The Jejomar Binay recommendation to bury the body in Batac could have also sealed the issue once and for all. But it was ruled down by the former President. The indecisiveness and the political plays by our former leaders gave way to this present event. Until a leader like Duterte, once and for all, decided to put the final nail in the coffin. To silence those who only choose to blabber and complain. And no one but the Supreme Court concurred with him.

It was a good strategy for the Executive to throw the issue to the Highest Court. And who will dare question the wisdom of nine (9) justices against five (5). The question of law was legally resolved. What are raised now are emotions and questions of morality.

I myself am not agreeable (morally, emotionally). But I don’t care anymore because our former leaders and our “proactive” society did not do their jobs well.

The result explains their actions.

Why the Philippines need Leni Robredo as its Vice President

RepLeniRobredo44

I have always been of the opinion that the vice president position is a spare tire. Especially when the winner comes from a political party different from that of the president. I think that the framers of our present constitution were so stigmatized by martial law that they allowed opposing party’s candidate to independently get a chance to bag the position. This is in case the president again turned into a tyrant and is deposed.

In the contrary, I however admire the block voting format for both the president and the vice president. If the president could not finish his term, then the vice president, coming from the same party and political platform could continue the projects and programs started by his predecessor. However the setback could be, if the vice president is not a party-mate and would not cooperate with the president, he will be without any cabinet position and will remain as a gentleman or lady in waiting, wasting our tax-money in the process.

With all these in my mind, there could be no chance that I would vote for Robredo. And indeed I did not. I wanted constancy of policies. And I did block voting. But right now, I wish I had voted for her.

Several days ago, I happened to watch again the interviews on Leni and had read some articles about her. I came to realise that among the pool of candidates for the position, she has the cleanest and the most humble background, a rare plight for a person in the legal profession nowadays. But to top it all, what I like about her is that she has the charisma to stop Bong Bong Marcos from getting the second highest position in the land.

Having been taught TRUE history by some of the great minds of the State University in Diliman, I never dwindled from my academic beliefs or doubted the fact that the Marcoses’ plunged the Philippines into the dark ages. Not only did the family pillaged the coffers of the country, or tortured people who were against their rule, they also created in government a system of corruption which later permeated into the very fabric of society and everyday living. And that’s the reason why I hate each one of them.

Bong Bong’s election into the vice presidency would likewise drive the country into a quandary. Even now, the hairline gap in the counts would put into question the moral and socio-cultural values of Filipinos in the international stage. Why still vote for the family that placed you in shame and misery?

The millennials may have a different perspective of what happened in the 70’s and 80’s. But throwing remarks that absolutely contradicts the state of the nation and the fate of the people living in that era are insults to our history. Maybe our education system has failed to educate our young minds about our past.

Bong Bong’s pronouncement that a Leni victory will thwart a Duterte presidency was self-serving. He wanted to rally Duterte’s supporters to his personal ambition. However, Duterte’s remarks in the later days would show that he prefers Leni to be his vice president. It is undeniable that he still clings to the struggle and ideals of his late mother that supported the ouster of Bong Bong’s father. The reason is evident in not choosing the latter as his running mate.

From playing behind the scenes of her late husband, the reluctant mother was forced into the limelight by the administration’s desperation to bag a seat in the new government. But looking into her, Leni is not just any woman to contend with. She has the qualities of a true statesman. She is firm and can withstand pressures from all sides – even from her party mates. If given the chance to prove herself. She could very well be our next president in 2022.

 

 

Women’s Rights: Focus on the VAWC Law

domestic-violence-and-PH-constitution-rappler-201307227

Last April, I was invited by the Philippine Embassy here in Singapore to give a lecture to on Women’s Rights. Since it was a last minute notice, I had to hurriedly rummage through my old notes (and of course Google) so that I could  come out with something substantial and coherent to present. During my lawyering years in the Philippines, I was not really directly involved in any activities or legislation concerning Women’s Rights. Although, I handled some criminal cases on bigamy, concubinage and qualified seduction when I was still practicing privately, I do not think I can already call myself an expert on the subject. As HR Director of an exclusive and high-end highland resort (just like the Genting Highlands) in the Philippines, I managed to remove from office two high level managers for rape and sexual harassment offenses.

Two months ago, my second cousin sought my help to track down the work address and contact numbers of her husband in Brunei who refused to send them enough remittances. The husband sends only 50% of his basic income to her. Their children are all minors and all are still studying. She was fortunate however with the help of Facebook, to catch her husband’s infidelity when he unintentionally posted a picture of his mistress online. The husband and mistress are both are working in Brunei. I managed to get the husband’s work contact numbers and gave them to her. She immediately called the Brunei employer and reported her husband’s infidelity and the fact that she was not being sent enough support. The employer however brushed aside her complaint and told her that the company does not involve itself with personal matters.

One of the most common problems after or during an impending marriage break up is actually support. Most men tend to renege from their obligations to their children as parents by failing to send or give them money for their daily sustenance and education, especially if most or all of their kids are still minors. Ten years ago, the only judicial relief of wives and women (who were not married) were to file a civil case of support against their husbands or the fathers of their children. However, considering the unusual length of time and sum of money one has to spend during trials and hearings, most women end up without having any relief.

Aware of the situation, Congress passed Republic Act 9262 in 2004. The law was officially called, “An Act Defining Violence Against Women and their Children, Providing for Protective Measures for Victims, Prescribing Penalties Therefore, and For Other Purposes”.  Since it was a mouthful, it was given the initials VAWC or also known as the “Violence Against Women and Children” law. It is already ten years old but most Filipinos, especially women, have no idea what the law brings.

Maybe the most salient feature of the law is classifying several acts that were once deemed only to be civil in nature as now criminal. Take for example the case of failing to give support. The VAWC law already classifies the refusal of the husband to send monetary support to his wife and children as a violent act. It says that withdrawal of financial support is considered economic abuse, and economic abuse is classified by this law to be a violent act against women and their children. As compared to the wife’s relief of a civil action for support ten years ago, economic abuse under VAWC is a criminal act. It is worth noting that the law does not discriminate whether the woman is married to the man. It focuses not on the relationship but on the abuse that happens to the woman  and the children, which arises from the relationship.

Economic Abuse or any violent act against women and children under the VAWC could be filed with the prosecutor’s office without cost and even without the need of a lawyer. If the prosecutor finds merit or probable cause, he will file it with the court and an ensuing warrant of arrest will be issued. A hold departure order (HDO) and/or cancellation of passport may then be requested from the Court by the wife or the offended woman. In almost all cases, the husbands or the fathers of the wives and children are compelled to give in to the demand of support for fear of being imprisoned, and additionally if working abroad, for fear of being deported upon cancellation of his passport. One recent example of the application of this law is the criminal case filed by Derek Ramsay’s wife against him with the Makati Prosecutor’s Office for failing to support their son.

One interesting provision of this law is classifying as criminal the act of “causing mental or emotional anguish, public ridicule or humiliation to the woman or her child”. One frequent venue for this act is the social media. The posting of photos and comments on Facebook of extra-marital affairs that causes mental torture and humiliation to the wife and/or her children falls under this provision. A Filipina Kababayan once told me that her husband posted on Facebook a photo of him and his mistress kissing. I advised her that the act may accurately fall under this particular paragraph of the law. The husband may be liable criminally. Countless possible applications may fall under this definition of a violent act.

A good reading of the law would reveal numerous provisions safeguarding the welfare of women and children. Some lawyers would often exaggerate their applications and would try to cover all cases under the sunBut one good thing happened for sure under this law. It gives women more rights to uphold and defend themselves. The only thing that is left to be done is how to spread it for everyone to know.

 

 

 

The Rehabilitation of EDSA

edsaTwo days ago, my cousin who returned from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia decided to take transit here in Singapore to visit us, before she flies back to the Philippines. I promised that I will fetch her at the airport. So, around forty minutes before she arrived, I drove my car out of the parking lot and headed to Changi Terminal 2. The airport is 32 kilometers away from our place and I have to traverse two major highways: the BKE, (Bukit Timah Expressway), and the PIE (Pan Island Expressway). I have to travel 3 kilometers of BKE and 24 kilometers of PIE. The remaining distance of the 32 kilometers covers inland roads and the airport boulevard. I left our place at exactly 12:10 noontime, and arrived at Changi Terminal 2 at around 12:35. Travel time was only 25 minutes for a 32-kilometer distance during the peak of the day.

I tried to compare the driving time if I were to travel the whole length of EDSA via car at  same time from Monumento to Pasay City on a regular weekday. By the way, the distance from Monumento EDSA to Pasay EDSA (corner of Roxas Boulevard) is only 23 kilometers. It will be a miracle if I reach the other end within 25 minutes.

I read today that PNoy suspended the planned rehabilitation of EDSA because he was not satisfied with the proposal made by a combined group of government agencies. The proponents were given a second chance to further develop and revise, if possible, their hasty act.

I believe that there are only three basic ingredients needed to change EDSA. The first is to build a wider, durable and safer roads; second is to reduce traffic, and third is to discipline motorists. In simpler language, make the roads wider, limit the vehicles that pass through, and kick the hell out of unruly commuters. It seems easy, but it is not. It takes a lot of political will to do it.

First

The present EDSA is never symmetrical in all its length. There are segments or portions of the avenue that are wide, while others are very narrow. These disproportionate widths cause bottlenecks, which in turn cause heavy traffic during rush hours. It is thus better to widen those parts that are narrow so as to attain a symmetrical width. If it started in Monumento as a six-lane road in both directions, it should end as such in Pasay City. I know the act of widening is a bloody exercise because several business establishments will be affected. If the stalls are merely squatters occupying the sidewalks with no legal papers to show, kick them out of the way. If they have good legal documents to show, and they are indeed owners of the place they occupy, expropriate part of their properties. There is no better reason for expropriation of property than its use for the common good.

I likewise see that everything is wrong with the way the MRT was constructed in EDSA. It has a very large base that occupies a larger width of the road. And worse, it only carries small-width carriages that can, the most, accommodate two persons standing between the two seats. I think the design of LRT 2 (Recto-Santolan) is way better than the MRT. This is beyond the fact that the road it occupies is a four-lane street.

With regard to a durable and safer road, it is all technical, and the absence of corruption.

Second

It is not because a new road is renovated or built, everyone can already use it. Hell, no. Careful planning should be made on how many buses should ply the EDSA route. It is not because a bus company is granted franchise to service EDSA, it has already the liberty to provide unlimited number of buses. The DOTC should conduct bids to transportation companies, and select only those transport corporations that can provide good service. Two bus companies servicing EDSA or only one may be feasible.

Moreover, the winning bus company/ies should not be given a free hand on what design the buses should look like. It should be the DOTC that should provide for the design and make of the buses. To make it easier for the DOTC, it can copy and specify in the scope of works the designs of the buses in Singapore or in Washington D.C. Lowered steps, with digital signage of its route (so as to easily change them) complete with CCTV cameras monitoring the inside, larger aisles, and wider windows. The cost of buying these buses will easily be offset by revenues for an number of years. The location of bus stations must be carefully planned. Information [encased in glass] of the route of the buses as well as the fares must be placed conspicuously in  each station. Maintenance of the bus stations may be left to the bus company. Bus drivers must be salaried and fares must be paid via cards. A tie-up between the MRT and the selected bus company to share the same card for the fares is not difficult.

Third

Discipline is one of the most important ingredient to stabilize EDSA. It may be solved partly because as of present the most undisciplined motorists in this road are the buses. The main concern of this third ingredient is how to discipline private motorists. First, a no-contact policy must be strictly implemented with respect to apprehension of unruly vehicles. Personal apprehensions by MMDA traffic enforcers may be made only on jaywalking and other non-vehicle related traffic offenses. Cameras must be mounted on all possible “violation” spots. I believe the MMDA has been doing this exercise a few years now. The use of lanes and primary-secondary intersections must be strictly observed as their misuse often lead to accidents and traffic.

I believe that in solving problems, one must simplify the problem first, then give practical, simple, and direct solutions. It is actually we that make everything complicated.

Carlos Celdran and the “Damaso” Predicament

damaso-imageOn December 14, 2012, the Honorable Judge Juan Bermejo of Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila [Branch 4] promulgated a decision convicting Carlos Celdran y Pamintuan of the crime of “Offending the Religious Feelings” penalized under Article 133 of our Penal Code (Criminal Laws). Celdran was sentenced to 2 months (minimum) to 1 year (maximum) imprisonment.

Since this is a Metropolitan Trial Court, promulgation of judgment is usually not read in the presence of the accused. It is oftentimes mailed to the lawyers of the parties. The decision was maybe only received yesterday or this week (last week of January, 2013) by Celdran’s lawyer through mail. It however immediately became a national topic. Several editorials made it their early morning cup of coffee. Several hasty reactions were thrown. Even the President made his own remarks on the issue. The last time I checked, Celdran is bent on appealing the case to a higher court than applying for probation.

I have rummaged through the decision of Judge Juan Bermejo, the magistrate in this case. By the way, I’ve known him for some time. We had a long and good conversation then when he visited the law office of Justice Bellosillo in Roxas Boulevard, Manila. I was still then an associate of the good Justice.  I may say that Judge Bermejo is a relative because he married a “Vista”. He is also close to my Tita Cely Calupig and often visited her house at Kalayaan, Global City.

There was nothing really to prove much when it comes to what Celdran did because it was photographed and covered  by the media when it happened in September, 2010. It also became a headliner for several national newspapers wherein the views of Carlos Celdran were well-taken and conveyed by reporters to the people. The case then only boils down to the question of whether what he did was a criminal or not.

Let me reproduce to you the provisions of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code:

Art. 133. Offending the religious feelings. — The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.

As I see it, the penalty of imprisonment handed down by Judge Bermejo is within the parameters set forth in the particular provision of the law. You may refer to Title 3 of the Revised Penal Code for better understanding of the Spanish terms.

On the other hand, Article 133 has been dissected and formed to comprise two (2) elements:

1) The acts complained of were performed (1) in a place devoted to religious worship, or (2) during the celebration of any religious ceremony; and

2) The acts must be notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.

The first element can be said to have been easily satisfied with, because Celdran raised the placard “DAMASO” and uttered the words “Don’t meddle with politics!” inside the Manila Cathedral.

The second element however is vital since it determines whether the overt act he committed was criminal or not. The witnesses presented, who are “faithfuls” of the Catholic Church testified that what Carlos Celdran did had offended them. With the term “faithfuls” we mean bona fide Catholics and NOT followers of other religions or sects.

Judge Bermejo citing the case of People vs. Baes, G.R. No. L-46000, May 25, 1939, correctly justified that witnesses presented should be faithfuls of the Catholic Church –

Whether or of the act complained of is offensive to the religious feelings of the Catholics, is a question of fact which must be judged only according to the feelings of the Catholics and not those of other faithful ones, for it is possible that certain acts may offend the feelings of those who profess a certain religion, while not otherwise offensive to the feelings of those professing another faith.

To elucidate, the prosecution presented four witnesses, three of which are lay persons and the fourth is a priest. All of them testified that they were offended when Celdran raised the placard and shouted those words. Celdran, on the other hand, presented only two witnesses to defend his case. The two witnesses testified the contrary.

What really mattered here most, according to the judge,was how the four witnesses delivered their testimonies as against how the witnesses of the defense delivered theirs. The Judge observed that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses were straightforward, natural, spontaneous, and credible. It means that the witnesses’ declarations that they were offended as Catholics are true. The testimonies of the four faithfuls outweigh in greater length the testimonies of the defense’s two.

My Opinion on this ISSUE:

I won’t go farther into the decision of the court. It is, as of this moment, considered lawful (until reversed, if reversed by a higher court in the future) and just. What I hate is the current media mileage given to CELDRAN. Worse, most people in the so-called intellectual and liberal corners of Manila wanted Article 133 of the RPC repealed, or they termed it “revisited”.

These people are trying to bring in their American style freedom of expression and force it to the Filipino culture. Celdran always boasted that he was molded in New York, and he brought with him this free-wheeling right of expression to the country. Yes, we were under the Americans for what? Fifty years? And we think we are whites.

But NO SIR. We have a different culture. We should have a different way of treating our freedom of expression. For all those dimwitted who does not know their rights – this particular “Freedom” is NOT ABSOLUTE.

The best example of our own true culture is our Penal Code. Look at the provisions there that clip our most espoused freedom of expression. The Penal Code is the true sentiment of the people. It tells us who we are as Filipinos. We cannot just bring in a foreign idea because it is COOL and integrate it into our system.

Celdran committed a criminal act and he must be punished. At the end of the day, it will always come to the conclusion that the “law is harsh, but it is the law” [Dura lex sed lex.] So, why make so much fuss about his predicament?

Celdran was barking at the wrong tree. He should have lobbied in Congress for the bill to be passed, and not malign another person or institution because it has the opposing view. He has gone too far with his cause.

I think it is HIGH TIME to discipline Filipinos. Celdran must be jailed to send a message to the whole word that we are not a BUNCH of F*%$ED UP people who play with our laws. We must show the world that we are dead SERIOUS with people who violate our rules. That’s why we have not gotten anywhere, all these years, because we treat everything lightly. We make rules, then we also bend them if they do not fit our likings. We are a land of JOKERS if that is such the case.

Link to the FULL DECISION –

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0ByIQb2-6J40ISGVXOTdXXzFpRGM/edit?pli=1

Part III: Is the Bureau of Immigration Pushing Beyond its Powers and Violating the Filipino’s Right to Travel to Singapore?

LuckyPlazaI and my wife went to visit Lucky Plaza at Orchard Road in mid-October to do some late-minute bank transactions. For those who are not familiar with the place, it is a ‘popular’ mall among Filipinos situated along the bustling business and shopping avenue in Singapore. Filipino boutiques and stalls are lined-up inside this newly-renovated shopping center. Once you enter the place, you can feel a homy atmosphere because majority of the people speaks Filipino. Even the Singaporean-Chinese and the Singaporean-Indian merchants would greet you simple tagalog phrases such as “Bili na”. Try closing your eyes and you seem to be teleported to Farmer’s Cubao in the Philippines.

As we enter, my attention was caught by a  skimpily-dressed Filipina with dyed-blonde  hair. She may pass as Chinese cum Spanish mestiza. She had another Filipina companion – a morena who is a little bit shorter than her. They were in a rush as if trying to catch someone. The guy was a 50-ish Caucasian with a large frame coupled with a bulging belly. I could mistake him for a tourist, since most expats at those very hours were wearing coats and ties or office attires. This one was wearing a loose collared polo. The Filipina eye-balled him, smiled and greeted ‘hi’. The white man just went his way.

I already heard stories of Kababayans frequenting the Lucky Plaza; hunting for tourist clients – selling sex. I was not very receptive to that fact until I had seen one. To make it worse, these Filipinos are not work pass holders in Singapore. They are also tourists in Singapore who were granted a 30-day visit pass.

After we completed our transactions, we returned to the adjacent mall where we parked our vehicle. On our way, I again saw the two Filipinas sitting on a bench along the avenue side street, smoking. Facing them is a cafe-slash-beer hub where many white tourists conjoin.

I wondered why these Filipinas had set foot in Singapore when our Bureau of Immigration is so strict in permitting passengers to board their flights. Is there some sort of hullabaloo here where those who legally wanted to travel are off-loaded, while those under the stables of criminal syndicates are allowed to enter the country?

As of present, the Bureau of Immigration is still off-loading passengers to Singapore under the color of authority granted by a memorandum, the Bureau itself issued – MEMORANDUM ORDER RADJR NO.-2011- 011. The memorandum orders its immigration officers to “Offload passengers with fraudulent travel documents, doubtful purpose of travel, including possible victims of human trafficking.”

I have three questions in mind when confronted with this immigration authority issue.

First – Is the Bureau of Immigration indeed mandated by law to offload passengers bound for other countries? Second – Is this provision in Memorandum Order RADJR No. 2011-011 valid? Third – Are abuses in discretion happening as a result of this Order?

First Question

The Bureau of Immigration has indeed authority to offload passengers bound for other countries ALBEIT for only very limited reasons, and that is, in its exercise of ministerial duty. And what do we mean by ministerial duty? A ministerial act or duty is a function performed without the use of judgment by the person performing the act or duty. When we say, “without judgment”, the authority acts on what he objectively sees and not on what he personally feels about the situation. To apply, an immigration officer can offload a passenger when he discovers that the passenger has a forged or invalid passport; or when the passenger lacks the necessary documents required by law to travel. This duty is plainly mechanical. How do you determine if a passenger has a forged or invalid passport? His passport could be scanned and his name does not appear in the DFA list. How do you know if someone lacks the necessary documents to travel? Simply because the document or the documents are not with him.

Now, going further into the question of whether the BID is given authority by Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 to offload passengers. A full reading of the law does not provide any provisions giving the BID authority to offload passengers suspected of anti-trafficking. Even the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the law does not provide also. So where did the BID get its authority?

Second Question

I am not saying that the full memorandum [MEMORANDUM ORDER RADJR NO.-2011- 011] issued by the BID is invalid. I only zero-in on the provisions of Section 4(A)(iv). This portion of the memo states –  “All TCEU officers and members, in accordance with the AOD organizational structure, shall perform the following duties and functions: During Departures, TCEU officers and members are duty-bound to: Offload passengers with fraudulent travel documents, doubtful purpose of travel, including possible victims of human trafficking.”

My question is, do you exercise ministerial duty when you offload a passenger [with a complete and valid (on-its-face) documents and passport] based on your personal judgment that his purpose of travel is doubtful? I fear not. You are already exercising discretion. You are already putting your own judgment over the sets of standards determined by law. Likewise, when you give authority to offload passenger based on your operatives determination that POSSIBLY the traveling person is a victim of human trafficking, is it a delegation of ministerial duty? No, definitely not. It is already soothsaying.

Every Memorandum issued by any government agency must be pursuant to any mandate made by law. I don’t think this provision in the memorandum is a delegated authority.

Third Question

Will abuses in discretion manifest as a result of this Order? Yes, definitely it will, and are already happening as of present. There are reports that some BID men ask considerations in exchange for allowing passengers to travel. And some who did not want to pay were offloaded. It is not appropriate to give such authority to this kind of people in government, whose discretion were already questionable at some point in time this year. Remember what happened in the Governor Reyes’ case? Immigration officers were directly involved in his escape.

The Letter of INVITATION

The Letter of Invitation is an offshoot of this so-called authority granted to Immigration Officers. As far as I know, those Filipinos who wanted their relative to come to Singapore must first secure a Letter of Invitation from the Philippine Embassy as it is required by the BID upon exit by the invitee from the country. The authentication of the letter costs S$54.00 or around P1,800 in our currency. This is a big burden to our OFW “Bayanis”. What makes it worse, is that, even armed with the letter of invitation, one is not guaranteed to leave the country. So what does the document stands for?

This is the last part of my article on this issue. I hope this will be given attention and necessary actions made.