November 02, 2012

Third time's the charm

I raved about his first two forays as Bond ("Best Bond in a long, long time") and ("No sophomore jinx") and I am about to do the same in this one. Definitely, third time's the charm.

For many of my generation and older, Bond was always Sean Connery. The others who followed in quick succession (Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan) were simply fillers until the producers could somehow find someone who could duplicate Connery's unique take on Ian Fleming's "blunt instrument" "on her Majesty's secret service" with a "license to kill" or find someone that Ian Fleming had in mind when he wrote Bond.

Enter Daniel Craig.

"Skyfall", the third chapter of the prequels to "Dr. No", the first Sean Connery Bond outing, is the best of the three--see "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace"--and would rank as possibly the best Bond, ever--to date, with the possible exception of 1963's "From Russia with Love" (Connery) and 1965's "Thunderball" (Connery). I will not give away spoilers but suffice it to say that there are quite a number of pleasant surprises.

The story is reminiscent of 1995's "Goldeneye" (Brosnan) and 1999's "The world is not enough" (Brosnan) only in that it involves a villain who is a former MI6 agent and the subject of the plot is revenge against M("Judi Dench").  The similarities stop there. The plot for "Skyfall" is a bit more substantive than the paper thin plots of "Goldeneye" and "The world is not enough"and Bond watchers are in for a treat as director Sam Mendes and the writers gleefully weave in many familiar items that, aptly for a prequel, usher in the basis for the Bond introduced by Connery and all the others who followed him.

A Bond staple, the over-the-top villain, is again on hand in "Skyfall" but Javier Bardem's very nuanced, multi-layered take on Silva, the disgruntled former agent with an axe to grind against M, trumps all the previous non-Connery Bond villains and ranks up there with Ernst Stavro Blofeld, for sheer campiness as well as menace.

But the two things that make "Skyfall"the best of the last three Bonds are: (a) Craig, and (b) Craig and Dench together.

It is to Craig's credit that, even for a long-time Bond watcher, he makes one forget Connery. His Bond is perfectly human--not super human.  He gets stumped, forgets things, bleeds, gets dirty, laughs, cries and gets hurt--physically and otherwise. In "Casino Royale" and "Quantum...", Craig's Bond is a brooding, tense, often indecisive and conflicted character; he struggles to hide the evident loyalty and, certainly, affection for M--particularly in "Quantum..." and fails.  In "Skyfall", it is that relationship with M that is the fulcrum on which the entire film turns and what a magnificent fulcrum it is.

The relationship between Dench's M and Bond is fully fleshed out in "Skyfall." It is, in the language of social media, "complicated." At the same time that M is Bond's superior with the authority and certainly the inclination to send him into harm's way, she is also, as revealed, much, much more than that.  "Skyfall" turns on the magnificent chemistry between the characters M and Bond and the actors Dench and Craig. It is that chemistry between M and Bond that allows for the hatred and malevolence of the villain, Silva, to take on perspective and paves the way for the denouement which, for a Bond watcher, becomes obvious midway into the film but remains a delightful revelation not tainted by anti-climax.

The chemistry between Dench and Craig is amazing.  Dench does more here than in any of her other previous forays as M, even to the extent of doing some action scenes; but it is really the way that Dench uses her voice and her eyes that reveal her depth and range. For an "action star", Craig's range is wide; his face is a blank slate until he decides to use it to full advantage.  His main advantage over the other Bonds, Connery included, is that he doesn't mind getting "ugly" and that makes all the difference in the way that he is able to convey the whole range of emotions a "blunt instrument" ought not to have. Like most of the Bonds (with the exception of the dour Lazenby and the extremely dour Dalton), Craig brings a dash of humor to his Bond but his is an extremely subtle "listen-or-you-won't-get-it" brand of laughs, not unlike Connery's sarcastic "nudge-nudge-wink-wink" quips and thankfully unlike Moore's and Brosnan's unsubtle and often flat ripostes. Craig's Bond is funny and capable of having fun; the interrogation scene between Silva and Bond is a great example with the funniest line being "what makes you think it's my first time?" but delivered with the thinnest trace of a smile and certainly no hint of it being humorous, considering the circumstances under which it was delivered.

"Skyfall" also dives headlong into Bond's past, which it uses strategically to reveal the actual extent of Bond's relationship with Dench's M; but, in the same way, it also ushers in, logically, the future. Indeed, "Skyfall" weaves in elements of the past Bond films (M's history with Bond, for instance) but with enough of the future thrown in. It is Mendes's greatest achievement that he is able to make the transition so seamless that it is not only believable but also greatly compelling.

There are delightful performances by Ralph Fiennes ("Mallory"), Ben Wishaw (Q), Naomie Harris ("Eve"), Albert Finney (Kincaid) and certainly Javier Bardem ("Silva"); one performance, however, also stands out and it is the singer Adele, who belts out "Skyfall", with the soul, range and emotion of a Shirley Bassey, whose smokey vocals lent great texture to many a Bond theme. Bond watchers will also find great pleasure in two cameos that are made by objects--the Walther PPK that Bond prefers and the "old school" Aston Martin--which have strategic roles in the plot.

It is difficult to write much more without revealing much more.  I will just say this one other thing: George Lucas, this is the way to do a prequel, especially if you intend to do it in three chapters. Next to Abrams' Star Trek reboot and Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy, this is the best reboot of an existing icon that I have ever seen. I think that Ian Fleming would have given this "two thumbs way up!"

October 14, 2012

THE ONSET OF LIGHT, THE MANY POSSIBILITIES OF HOPE



For a non-lawyer, Marites Dañguilan-Vitug appears to know more about the inner workings of the Supreme Court than most lawyers. Those who do not know her history may think she is a Janie-come-lately, choosing to write about the court system only because of the two libel suits filed against her by an incumbent Associate Justice (the two suits have since been withdrawn).  But Vitug is certainly no Janie-come-lately as far as probing into official narratives designed to conceal the truth; well before it was safe to be an investigative journalist, she was one in a very short list of women and men who would give that description much credibility.

Her passion and pre-occupation at making the courts of the land better places for justice to take root are clear in the way she has doggedly probed and pried open, questioned and challenged existing and enduring traditions of secrecy and confidentiality that the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, have hidden behind. That same passion and preoccupation have put her at odds with Court Administrators and Chief Justices; these have also brought her to the unfamiliar legal terra firma of facing two libel suits brought by a former Court Administrator and current Associate Justice.

Marites Dañguilan-Vitug has done the country and the legal profession a signal service by shining a light into the Court’s decision-making processes through well-researched, sharply dissected and clearly written narratives, accounts and vignettes, threaded together into one compelling narrative.

In “Hour before dawn”, the second book of what appears now to be at least a trilogy, Marites Dañguilan-Vitug’s voice is clearly more confident now than in her first book on the Supreme Court, the runaway bestseller “Shadow of doubt.”  Two years removed from “Shadow…”, she picks up the narrative from the thread that “Shadow…” left dangling—the plan to make Renato Corona Chief Justice, in violation of the Constitution. By choosing to start “Hour before dawn” with the midnight appointment of Renato Corona as Chief Justice of the Philippines and ending it with her interview of the President as he is about to choose a new Chief Justice, Vitug so aptly bookends the narrative with the indelible images of the onset of midnight and the breaking of dawn.

Corona’s shadow is cast long, deep and wide over the book. The “fall” in the title of the book is traced to the “original sin” that was the midnight appointment. Vitug, however, refuses to  yield to the temptation to just let the “original sin” be the only narrative; to do so would have been a simple matter of blaming the one who appointed him and put Corona as one who simply accepted what, to many, would have been an irresistible gift. Instead, she looks into the man who played an indispensable role in the fall of the Court, into his ways of thinking and acting and into those who influenced and continue to influence him; she casts him not as a man thrust by circumstance but as one who took part in shaping the circumstances that led to his taking the center seat on the Court.  

The stories she tells may, at first, appear unrelated to each other but after reading the narrative that runs on a single thread—Renato Corona—Vitug shows the impact of the “original sin” on the fall of the Court. The flip-flopping in the League of Cities case, the closing of ranks against the UP Law 37 in the contempt incident arising from the plagiarism accusation against Justice Mariano Del Castillo and the investigation by the Court that created more questions than provided answers, the letter-writing by counsel for Philippine Air Lines that led to a reversal of what was already a win in favor of FASAP—these and other stories are bound by Vitug, with her insistence on facts, her clarity of prose, her creative use of dialogue, and her passion for the subject, into a very compelling account of just how the Court had fallen and just how far it had fallen.

Aptly culminating the narrative with the trial and the removal of the former Chief Justice and teasing her readers with the possibility of the Court’s rise from the fall because of the then-imminent appointment of a new Chief Justice, Vitug ends “Hour before dawn”in the same way she ended “Shadow of doubt”—with a thread dangling: the appointment of a new Chief Justice. But unlike “Shadow…”, which ended on a rather pessimistic note of then-Congressman Defensor planning Corona’s midnight appointment, “Hour…” ends on a note of cautious optimism and, dare I say, guarded hope. Her interview with the President is a fitting epilogue to this chronicle of the fall and hopeful rise of the Court.

With the appointment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the inordinately heavy burden placed on her shoulder by the President, I am almost certain that Marites Danguilan-Vitug’s next book on the Court will start with the President’s appointment of the Chief Justice and, still, a critical and independent examination of the relationship between Court and Executive, Chief Justice and President—two fascinating characters who are both similar and different in many respects.

It is always darkest before the dawn and that is what Vitug’s title conveys. It remains to be seen if, indeed, the light has come for the judiciary in the Philippines and particularly the Supreme Court. That is the burden of Chief Justice Sereno but also, in a very real sense, our burden--to ensure that transparency, accountability and genuine reform are brought about in the judiciary, from selection to retirement. Vitug’s chronicles of the Court are brave attempts to do just that—to usher in the onset of light and the many possibilities of hope.

February 24, 2012

ONE WHO STAYED


As someone who suffered as much as he did for his country, no one would perhaps have begrudged him the flight--out of the country.  It speaks so much of the character of the man that he stayed.  And that in staying, he persevered.  And that in persevering, he fought.  And, that in fighting, he led.  And that in leading, he inspired.

In those dark days when law was strangled by a dictator's mailed fist, no matter that it would often be cast in a velvet glove, he stayed, fought, led, and inspired.  

When the idea of rights was aspirational and the idea of fighting for one's rights, let alone those of others, was unpopular because they proved literally hazardous to one's health, if not continued existence, he stood firm and held fast.  When the idea of law was simply what the dictator willed and the rule of law was his signature on a piece of paper, he, and a handful of others, dared say to the face of the dictator that such a perversion of law was not acceptable and that when the law becomes meaningless and itself oppressive, then the people are justified to looking beyond the law to claim their rights.  

When many of the nameless, faceless among us suffered the same lot he did, and worse--to be accused wrongly, to be charged falsely, to be detained indefinitely, or simply to be rendered literally gone, without anyone to raise a hue and a cry--he grieved in solidarity, for he (and his family) knew of that pain, that suffering;  but his grief did not allow him the luxury of inaction, instead it spurred him to action. 

Together with his old friend and comrade Tanny, one who also stayed, he would fight for those who, unlike him, had no pedigree; he would give voice to those whose voices were suppressed momentarily or stilled forever.  He and Tanny (and another named Joker) would bring together other like-minded spirits and brave-hearted souls to say loudly to the dictator "NO!" when all around the dictator, his sycophants were whispering sibilant yesses.

He would fight with what he had, what he knew, and what he held dear:  the law that he learned at his father's library and by his father's side, the intellect that was given to him by his Creator, the love of country that was innate in him, the sense of justice that he himself was deprived of by the dictator and the support of family, friends, comrades and kindred souls who never left him.  Against the devices of the dictator, they were not much but they were enough.

He would speak, over and over again, of law, of development, of sovereignty, of peace, justice, of change and of hope--everywhere he felt he could make a difference.  In that deep gravelly voice with a distinct diction, he would also teach. He would teach lawyers, law students and members of the basic sectors; he would talk about paralegalism, about a new kind of lawyering which he would call "Developmental Legal Aid", he would teach people to be aware of their rights, to be aware of their situation; he would teach people that their right to self-determination would bring with it the right to hope because change would come only when those who desperately need change desire it equally desperately.  For many people, lawyers, law students and ordinary people oppressed by the dictator's "rule of law", he would change the way that people saw the law, their rights and their country.

Memorably, he would sum up what filipinos were fighting for in his inimitable turn of phrase, "to sing our own songs."

He would also speak of what it took to be good citizens, to be good people and of the country's need for these. In one of his many letters to his children, he would say:

"...the truth remains true that never have our people had greater need than today for great lawyers, and for young men and women determined to be great lawyers.

Great lawyers–not brilliant lawyers. A scoundrel may be, and often is, brilliant; and the greater the scoundrel, the more brilliant the lawyer. But only a good man can become a great lawyer: for only a man who understands the weaknesses of men because he has conquered them in himself; who has the courage to pursue his ideals though he knows them to be unattainable; who tempers his conviction with respect for those of others because he realizes he may be mistaken; who deals honorably and fairly with all, because to do otherwise would diminish him as well as them–only such a man would so command respect that he could persuade and need never resort to force. Only such a man could become a great lawyer. Otherwise, “what you are speaks so loudly, cannot hear what you say.”

For men and women of this kind, our country will always have need–and now more than ever. True, there is little that men of goodwill can do now to end the madness that holds our nation in its grip. But we can,even now, scrutinize our past; try to pinpoint where we went wrong; determine what led to this madness and what nurtured it; and how, when it ends, we can make sure that it need never happen again.

For this madness must end–if not in my lifetime, at least in yours. We Filipinos are proverbially patient, but we are also infinitely tough and ingeniously resourceful. Our entire history as a people has been a quest for freedom and dignity; and we will not be denied our dreams.

So this madness will end; the rule of force will yield to the rule of law. Then the country will need its great lawyers, its great engineers,its great economists and managers, the best of its men and women to clear the shambles and restore the foundations of that noble and truly Filipino society for which our forefathers fought, bled and died."

And when the madness did end and change did come on that day that the dictator fled, he was, deservedly, among those feted and hailed for bringing freedom back. And, perhaps, because of all that he had done, many would not have begrudged him the luxury of no longer fighting, no longer leading, no longer persevering, no longer inspiring.

But no sooner had things changed than it would be revealed that many things remained the same.  And in the face of what he saw, as the change he had fought for for so long started to go the way of things that were before, he knew that he could not stay; he knew that he could not keep silent; he knew that he could not not fight on.

And so he did. Tasked with heading the first Human Rights Commission in the country and with leading the peace talks, he could not keep silent in the face of all that was wrong;  when barely a year into the new government, the democratic space that he and others had fought for constricted into a death grip with the massacre of farmers marching towards the palace of the president he helped put into power, he knew he could not keep his peace.  And so he "walked his talk" and left a government that could not walk its talk.

Less than a month after, cancer would claim him, a day after his 65th birthday and two days after the first anniversary of the revolution he helped inspire.  His voice would be stilled but his visions of law, of justice, of development, of sovereignty, of helping, of hoping would live on--in many iterations and incarnations of the small band of lawyers and paralegals he first trained, formed and inspired.

I met him only once but my memory of that meeting remains. I had been asked by someone (I do not remember anymore who) to bring a document to him at his residence (the famous 55); I was in my first year of law school and largely indifferent to staying on;  but of course, I had heard of him and read of him (I had read his letter to his son) but I had never met him.  I dutifully went to his residence and when admitted, saw him and his wife (Ka Nena, of whom I have fond memories as well, who often greeted me, as she did that day, with "kumain ka na ba?" ["have you eaten?"]);  I do not think I even introduced myself, so uncertain was I of how I was supposed to comport myself;  I remember handing him the document and being greeted with a smile and a "thank you." And I remember being asked what I did and when I said I was in law school, being greeted once again with that smile and a conspiratorial, "good."   

Revolutions are waged and won not only because numbers are superior or voices are louder but because there are people who stay on, who persevere, fight, lead and inspire.

To one who inspired, fought, led, persevered and, most importantly, stayed--Faithful, Fearless and Filipino-- to the very end. Jose W. Diokno, "Ka Pepe", on his 90th birthyear, on the 25th year since his passing.

March 27, 2011

A FAUSTIAN DEAL?

It pays to wait--and also to have friends in high places apparently. That is the message I get from the successful evasion by Ping Lacson of his arrest while he awaited the quashal of the arrest warrant and the Information charging him for the Dacer-Corbito murders. All he needed to do was leave the country, cool his heels while there and then return as if nothing had happened.

In the meantime, a tectonic shift in perspective apparently had happened. The Secretary of Local Government, who is nominally (is Rico E. Puno still around?) in charge of the PNP, forgot who he was and became his de facto media liaison, even predicting that he would soon surface. The President even welcomed him back (as stated by his spokesperson), conveniently omitting to mention that Lacson had evaded arrest after congratulating new graduates of the PNPA (that's the POLICE academy--which we certainly hope is not the same academy in the four, or is that five, films) and exhorting them to avoid corruption.

Even before he can face a questioning and curious public, to whom he is accountable, he is eagerly welcomed by his Senate colleagues, not only by his mistah who knows a thing or two also about evading arrest (though not quite as successful as Ping) but even by those who never wore a uniform or a badge in their lives. The reason for the warm welcome? "We need all hands" in the senate trial of Merceditas Gutierrez.

More than the legal technicalities of a Senator and former PNP Chief successfully evading arrest for one year, what is more revealing in Lacson's successful evasion of arrest is the lie that he has put to the capacity of law enforcement agencies (PNP and NBI) to successfully locate and arrest suspects.

Lacson is not a nobody. He has run for President and his face has been plastered across the country before. He is instantly recognizable (even with his preferred disguise apparently, which is described as "a bonnet and dark shades") and short of a face transplant would not be mistaken for anyone else. He is quite the rake and I cannot imagine him dressing up in rags, even if just to conceal himself, and so a well-dressed, tall, fair-skinned, well-coiffed man looking like Ping Lacson would certainly, quite literally, sound the alarms.

There are two possible explanations why Lacson was able to evade arrest. I don't like both simply because if either or both are true, then we are in very, very deep doodoo indeed.

The first would be absolute incompetence. This would explain how, despite the police and NBI looking high and low, neither was able to find hide nor hair of him. If I presume regularity in the performance of their duties, then this explanation is the only one that makes sense.

The second would be corruption and connivance, which in this context would mean the same thing. For this, a presumption of good faith does not exist as this would be the only other explanation for how, despite the Secretary of Justice's pronouncement that the govermment would go all-out, he still remained hid. This might also explain how, despite a cancelled passport, he managed to enter the country.

I don't like the implications of either explanation. Unfortunately, the President appears to not be too disturbed by it as shown by his statements, made through his spokesman; and this saddens me the most.

The President was elected on the highest moral standard possible--a standard he himself set. Remember "tuwid na daan" and "kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap"? The "straight and narrow" road is a road that requires a lot of witnessing, i.e., walk your talk even when--or especially when--it is difficult and it is painful. That would also mean calling the attention of those on your team who do not walk their talk and holding them accountable.

Where was tuwid na daan in the Lacson evasion? Where was "walk the talk"?

What is disturbing about the warm welcome Lacson got from the President and the Senators, despite a clear and documented evasion by Lacson of a then-valid order of the court involving a very serious criminal charge, is the ethical ambiguity that their acts show. It is "the end justifies the means" reasoning--we need every senator willing to convict Merci, so we welcome him back and never mind that he actually did the very thing we would condemn if it were done by any other person.

It is a deal much like Faust's and it is a deal that I cannot live with and a deal I cannot accept.

When we become the very thing we hate in trying to stop that which we hate, what's left of us?

REVILLAME, ET AL.

Yes, Revillame is a hateful, insensitive, and crass man who simply does not belong in polite company let alone public television. I do not believe in censorship in any form, manner or circumstance but if I were to indulge a hypothetical, he (and one other) would be the best excuse for censorship.

He is not however the first and only one to "abuse" children or women on television for the sake of "entertainment" and of course for profit. Other shows on other networks also have done so through the years, though perhaps not to the same degree of crassness.

The formula of showing scantily-clad women gyrating their hips in unison for no discernible purpose didn't start with Revillame. That started a long time ago with another show.

The discovering of talented kids who would dress up like adults and would sing and dance like adults didn't start with Revillame. That started a long time ago also with that other show.

The only difference perhaps is that Revillame simply elevates crassness and insensitivity to a totally different level. If there were dementors for politeness and decency, Revillame would be the chief dementor; the five-star dementor as he simply sucks out all the decency in everything he touches.

Yes, Revillame is accountable for the utter insensitivity he showed to the 6-year old kid but also to his viewing public whom he continually insults with every word out of his mouth. But he is not the only one accountable. The parents of these children, the producers, the advertisers and the networks are also. Most importantly, so also the viewing public which does not switch channels or shut off the television.

File a case? Cancel the franchise? Boycott the show? Boycott the advertisers? All these are legitimate responses to Revillame's latest display. They, however, will not ensure that Revillame or others who wish to become like him will not do it again to yet another 6-year old or other scantily clad contestant on their inane segments.

You want to make sure something like this does not happen again? Change the way you view the people who view your shows. Do not pander to the least common denominator, instead raise that denominator. Put on shows that will raise awareness, educate, inform, provoke discussion (not revulsion) which are well-written, well-made, well-produced and are hip and fun enough to make sure that people do not switch channels. They may not earn as much money but they will earn you the gratitude and respect of your viewing publics. They may not rate as well as a show with scantily-clad gyrating women or kids forced to endure insults and taunts but they will certainly be remembered with great fondness and with much gratitude many years from now.

You do these? Then, Revillame et al. will have no choice but to find work in another solar system far, far away.

February 13, 2011

ADHD NATION

As a nation, we just can't focus on one thing at a time and finish what we're doing.

All this controversy that arose out of Angelo Reyes's death and the "taming" of the Senate is just another manifestation of the ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) we have as a nation. We swing from one end to the other, as our mood pleases, and lose track of what needs to be started, done and finished before we
move on.

This whole AFP pabaon mess isn't new. Mr. Rabusa had already been summoned before, and he told a different tale. Sordid stories of large-scale graft and corruption that would make even the Banana Republic dictators blanch had been told even then. And the Senate and the House had gotten into the action already. But what happened? After the klieg
lights went off and the cameras stopped rolling, suddenly the investigations stopped. What is more, no reports were submitted, no laws were amended, no indictments were recommended. No closure. All start, no finish. In the meantime, shift to another topic that's more controversial.


We've had a trail of state witnesses (legit ones like Ed Delos Reyes, Cory Dela Cruz, Jane Gomez, Mandy Capili and Mario Enad) and some stool pigeons (like Chavit Singson and Rosebud Ong) and some repentant accomplices (like Jun Lozada and yes Rabusa) in our checkered history as a nation.

And then we get someone like Heidi Mendoza, who, from all angles, looks like the real thing.

And what does Congress do? Treat her testimony like so much free political mileage instead of ensuring that her testimony, taken together with others, would finally allow us to cast our net and catch us the biggest fish in the ocean. Instead of quiet case build up and careful evaluation of her testimony, she is paraded like a celebrity, to be vetted by a public that cannot have enough of her. The net effect? Even before she steps foot in court to testify, her warts and all (if there are any) would be in full view of all and all her statements under oath would already have been judged not by a court of law but by a public so desperate for a hero.

IF Jinggoy Estrada has the goods, he did not need to taunt Angelo Reyes in the Senate hearing; he did not need to lead Rabusa through the script. He could have simply put all the goods together, put a nice ribbon on it and sent it with his compliments to an appreciative Secretary of Justice. After all, the Secretary of Justice is the one who can decide who to prosecute (I am pretending, for the moment, that we do not have an Ombudsman, because for all intents and purposes, while Gutierrez sits, we don't).

IF Sonny Trillanes has the goods, he did not need to publicly humiliate Angelo Reyes. He could have simply executed an affidavit and specified what he knew UNDER OATH. The vindication of their two-hotel caper would have been the best motivation for ensuring that all these pieces of evidence are not wasted because they would secure convictions for the people.

But, forgetting that the actual focus of the investigation that led to the taunting of Reyes and his eventual suicide was actually this felon Carlos Garcia and the toxic deal he made with a consenting Merci Gutierrez and her subalterns, the Honorable Congress of the Republic switched focus--from Garcia and Merci to Reyes and the whole parade of former Chiefs of Staff. And suddenly, no one's talking about Garcia, Gutierrez and the toxic deal.

And everyone else, riveted to the drama that was a 4-Star General taking his life, also forgot what we were talking about, as a nation.

Yes, the pabaon issue is important. But its more important that this gets ventilated in a venue where it will do the most good--in court, where we can convict these people and set an example; not in Congress where laws are never amended as a result of congressional investigations in aid of legislation (I wonder which laws Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada amended as a result of their Katrina Halili investigation).

Jinggoy Estrada could do the nation a huge favor by simply documenting everything and sending the evidence to the one department that can make a difference--the Department of Justice (Of course, I know the biggest favor he can do to the nation, but I am being kind here).

We never achieved closure with Marcos, with Cory, with Ramos, with Estrada and certainly not with Gloria. Its about time we decide to focus and finish what we're doing. Then, we can truly move on to other things that are equally important.

January 28, 2011

THE POVERTY OF WORDS

Listening to the public hearing called by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate the toxic deal entered into by the Ombudsman and the Special Prosecutor with former AFP Comptroller Carlos F. Garcia, I realized the poverty of the English language in expressing the sense of anger, outrage, and disbelief that I felt while listening to Angelo Reyes, former AFP Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense, and a former comptroller Jacinto Ligot publicly claiming convenient memory loss in relation to charges that Reyes and other AFP Chiefs of Staff received retirement money running to as high as Fifty Million Pesos and monthly stipends of about Five Million Pesos.

"Angry", "Enraged" and "Appalled" fail to scratch the surface in describing the emotions running through me as I listened to a public airing of dirty linen in the AFP hierarchy by its former budget director. There were no words then and there are none now, at least in the English language, to describe the anger, the rage, the utter sense of disbelief at the moral depravity of these "officers and gentlemen" in their cavalier treatment of people's funds.

Handing out the people's money to Generals to welcome them into the fold or send them off into yet another cushy job was apparently a way of life for them, and the monies that they handed out were not petty cash. These ran into the tens of millions, and not for one occasion but were given monthly! In what government manual these comptrollers saw the justification for being able to hand out money like that I will never know; I work for the government and I have yet to see a government manual that will allow me to hand out the people's money like it was a personal expense account.

Never mind that the money that was being handed out could have been used for soldiers' welfare; never mind that it could have gone to basic, minimum, and much needed protective gear and equipment like combat boots and field rations; never mind that it could have gone to housing, let alone better housing; never mind that it could have gone to better use for our soldiers in the field.

Mind only that the money lined the pockets of those few, those exalted, those influential, those connected enough to make it to the top tier of the AFP hierarchy; mind only that they think they are "entitled" to this money because they have stars on their epaulets while our soldiers gaze at the stars in open battle fields wondering when the wars will end; mind only that even as their pockets, wallets and bank accounts are filled to bursting with these amounts that they conveniently forget receiving such amounts.

The King's (or Queen's) English is such a beautiful language, yet on this occasion I find it so poor, so mendicant, so totally insufficient and inadequate to express what I, and I am certain many others, feel while listening to an account of plunder that would stir even the most jaded of hearts to anger.

Filipino is a much more beautiful language. It conveys feelings, emotions, passions and desires with greater profundity than English. Reflecting on how I felt, I thought that perhaps nakakagalit, nakakapoot, nakakapanlumo could better capture what was stirred in me by the revelations at the hearing yesterday.

I do not profess expertise in either English or Filipino and thus may correctly, under these circumstances, profess to be a "man of few words."

And so I sit here, trying to conjure up words like nakakagalit, nakakapoot, nakakapanlumo to express how I feel more profoundly than being "angry", "enraged" or "appalled"; and the realization strikes me that while these filipino words indeed scratch the surface, they nonetheless fail miserably at conveying the depth of anger of a soul reduced to simmering silence by the stark poverty of words.

January 20, 2011

NOT IN MY NAME

The President expressed his reservations about reimposing the death penalty because the judicial system isn't perfect. He used to be for it but has changed his mind. The President is right on this issue and here is why.

In People v. Efren Mateo, G.R. Nos. 147678-87, the Supreme Court made a landmark admission that the judicial system isn't perfect and how! Citing cold, hard statistics, the Supreme Court said that:

"Statistics would disclose that within the eleven-year period since the re-imposition of the death penalty law in 1993 until June 2004, the trial courts have imposed capital punishment in approximately 1,493, out of which 907 cases have been passed upon in review by the Court. In the Supreme Court, where these staggering numbers find their way on automatic review, the penalty has been affirmed in only 230 cases comprising but 25.36% of the total number. Significantly, in more than half or 64.61% of the cases, the judgment has been modified through an order of remand for further proceedings, by the application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law or by a reduction of the sentence. Indeed, the reduction by the Court of the death penalty to reclusion perpetua has been made in no less than 483 cases or 53.25% of the total number. The Court has also rendered a judgment of acquittal in sixty-five (65) cases. In sum, the cases where the judgment of death has either been modified or vacated consist of an astounding 71.77% of the total of death penalty cases directly elevated before the Court on automatic review that translates to a total of six hundred fifty-one (651) out of nine hundred seven (907) appellants saved from lethal injection." (underscoring provided, citations omitted)

The death penalty is the most final of all penalties. It cannot and should not exist where the conditions for determining guilt or innocence are so imperfect--as admitted by no less than the Supreme Court itself.

I have witnessed two executions. It is an experience I do not wish to inflict on my worst enemy. In the only triple execution so far (three convicts in one day, one after the other), at least one of the three who was killed was widely acknowledged by the inmates in Bilibid to be absolutely innocent.

My heart goes out to the Lozano and Evangelista families and all the others who have lost loved ones in the cycle of senseless violence but more violence is not the solution.

By all means, hunt down those who inflict this senseless violence, arrest them, build up cases against them, charge them, try them and keep them in jail. This must be done for every criminal who kills, who steals, who pillages, who plunders for it is this certainty that one who breaks the law will be held accountable that deters a criminal; it is not the severity of a punishment the criminal is confident of evading because he can get a good lawyer, can intimidate or kill witnesses and occasionally may even buy off judges.

Martin Luther King Jr. said it best and most memorably:

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars."

The death penalty is State-sanctioned murder.

The greatest irony and tragedy is that it is carried out in the name of the People.

I raise my voice to join the President's.

I OPPOSE THE DEATH PENALTY IN ANY FORM, MANNER, INSTANCE OR CIRCUMSTANCE.

DO NOT KILL IN MY NAME.