December 29, 2006

Moleskine

One thing I got for myself for Christmas: a Moleskine planner.

Something I’d really been looking for here but which only became available recently.

Really cool, functional and handy (now, I have to get used to writing entries again with a pen instead of using graffiti with a stylus); it fits comfortably in a suit jacket pocket or even in the back pocket of your favorite jeans.

December 28, 2006

Strategic Shopping

More than ever, this year’s Christmas season really affirmed the need for strategic shopping.  I’ve always been a strategic shopper:  plan what to get for whom and where to get it and then plan  on when to get it;  all preferably within a non-extendible window of two hours (to include looking for parking and paying at the counter plus gift-wrapping).

Because I had virtually no free weekends left for December, had to do extreme strategic shopping for family members, friends and assorted inaanak.   I’m thankful for places like Fully Booked and Powerbooks (nerd ba?  I do my Christmas shopping at bookstores) where you can actually get a lot of stuff with half the hassle of going to the regular stores at the mall.  Managed to get half of my Christmas shopping done at these two places (one hour at Fully Booked Greenhills;  one hour at Powerbooks Mega) on December 24.  

Now, for the more difficult part:  the kids.  Of course, that has to be Toy Kingdom.

After a relatively painless  hour and a half of filling up a Christmas list of Power Rangers, Lisa Frank and other assorted whatnots, managed to get it done after my one hour at Powerbooks.  Had enough time to drop off some of the stuff with the intended recipients within the day.

And all had a great time with their gifts (or so I’d like to think, he he he).

Merry Christmas everyone!

December 21, 2006

Pounding on the table

I am an activist—not “was, “am.”  Even though many of my activist friends might think and say (often not to my face) that I have mellowed in my old age, I still consider myself an activist and a nationalist.  I am fiercely loyal to comrades and deeply committed to many issues.  I love this country and its people and I love the University of the Philippines, which developed in me my love for country and people.

One of the first issues I found myself identifying with as a student  was the increase in tuition at U.P.—this was way back in 82;  I would probably say that this issue got me started on the road to activism and advocacy.  I had good role models; for instance,  the Tolkien-spouting and totally charismatic Lean Alejandro [+] was still stalking the halls of Palma Hall then.  He was someone who was totally credible because he knew the issues and respected  even his opponents;  as far as I knew, he did not stoop to ad hominem argumentation but stuck to issues and on issues, there was very little his opponents could do; Lean was that good.

This is why I found myself greatly dismayed at the news that a group of anti-tuition fee increase protesters had barged into Malcolm Hall and started acting like hooligans, in the process, disrupting the traditional year-end closer of Malcolm Hall—Malcolm Madness.  

That U.P. students would resort to hooliganism is a sad indictment of activism;  that they would resort to ad hominem and character attacks is a deplorable state of affairs.  Throwing eggs at the AFP Chief of Staff and damaging the Chancellor’s car simply because they find themselves unable to “win” an argument is simply scraping the bottom of the barrel.

A few years back, a former U.P. President (supposedly Dodong Nemenzo, though I’m not sure) was supposedly asked what he thought of  the problem of student activism in U.P. and he supposedly replied, “so what’s the problem?”  I’m not too sure this would ring true now.

A few years back, the USC Chairperson would be a national figure;  Lean Alejandro was speaking on national issues even when he was in the USC and people listened—they may have disagreed with his views but very few people found him disagreeable.  Now, I am not too sure this would ring true.  

To the “activists” of today, I am one with you in many advocacies but there is no excuse for boorishness or ill-breeding.  You must realize that the medium is very often also the message.  A hooligan with a legitimate gripe will be looked at first as a hooligan and never as one with a legitimate concern.

There are many compelling arguments against the TFI even as there are many compelling arguments for it;  as advocates, we should not be afraid to have our ideas and arguments tested in the crucible of debate.  But intimidation of people with dissenting views, such as what you did at Malcolm Hall, reflects a weakness of argument and an almost-dictatorial insistence on “getting what you want.”  


I would be the first to defend your right to speak freely on pressing issues such as the tuition free increase but I would also be the first to speak out against destructive, ill-bred, uncouth and boorish behavior such as that you displayed at Malcolm Hall on December 15, 2006.  As I do now.

We have a saying among trial lawyers: if you are weak on the facts, pound on the law;  if you are weak on the law, pound on the facts;  if you are weak on the law and the facts, pound on the table.  

So far, you’ve been pounding only on the table.

December 15, 2006

Cha Cha Pop Quiz #3

JDV says con ass is dead;  Gloria says cha cha is too.  How come people are still planning  to conduct and join massive prayer rallies?

[a]  Because they can;
[b]  Because they don’t believe Gloria and JDV;
[c]  Because Gloria said “I am sorry” but really wasn’t;
[d]  Because they love El Shaddai;
[e]  Because they were told to join;
[f]  Because of the artistas;
[g]  [a], [b], [c] and [f];
[h]  [a], [b], [c] only but not [f];
[i]   None of the above;
[j]  All of the above;
[k]  Others:  (feel free to post comments).

December 14, 2006

Cha Cha Pop Quiz #2

Why are Gloria and JDV moving heaven and earth to change the charter before May 2007?

[a]  Because Chris DV is too young to run for speaker;
[b]  Because JDV is too old to go into acting;
[c]  Because Luli isn’t interested in any elective office;
[d]  Because Gina DV already runs the House of JDV;
[e]  Because none of the children of those in the majority are old enough to run for con con or congress;
[f]  Because they can;
[g]  [a], [b] and [f];
[h]  All of the above;
[i]  Others:  (feel free to post a comment)

December 13, 2006

Cha Cha Pop Quiz #1

Answering myself (see below), Gloria and JDV don’t get it because:

[a]  They refuse to;
[b]  They cannot afford to;
[c]  They are conditioned to not get it;
[d]  They cannot hear the voice of the people;
[e]  They refuse to hear the voice of the people;
[f]  Personal interests are more deafening than the voice of the people;
[g]  It is the last chance for both to remain relevant and in power;
[h]  They will be sued once they step down from power’
[i] All of the above;
[j]  Some of the above, depending on the consideration;
[k]  Others: (feel free to post comments)

They get it, why don't Gloria and JDV?

My students get it; Gloria and JDV don't.

The statement of the Law Student Government (LSG) of the College of Law (lifted from Lorybeth's friendster blog) --


A STATEMENT ON THE PRESENT MANEUVERS OF CONGRESS TO AMEND THE 1987 CONSTITUTION

It is an obvious and grave abuse of power and discretion.

The Majority in the House of Representatives have amended our system of government by using a technicality. They have effectively destroyed the safeguard afforded by the Constitution to all Filipino people.

After several attempts to amend the Constitution have failed (i.e. Concon and Pirma) last Tuesday and Wednesday evening, December 5 and 6, the Lower House amended House Rule 105 Rule XV (Proposals to Amend or Revise the Constitution), removing the sentence
“The adoption of resolutions proposing amendments to or revision of the constitution shall follow the procedure for the enactment of bills.” The Lower House then passed House Resolution 1450: Calling for the Convening of Congress to Propose Amendments to, or Revision of, the Constitution Upon a Vote of Three-Fourths of All its Members, Pursuant to Section 1, Article XVII of the Constitution. The House Majority, through Cong. Villafuerte, admits that they will be proposing to postpone the May elections to November 2007. They want term limits to be removed too. Recently, in response to pressure from various sectors , they are now singing a different tune. They have set a 72-hour deadline for Senate to respond to an invitation for Constitutional Convention.

The Law Student Government of the University of the Philippines College of Law, is not against the idea of charter change per se. However, we are strongly against the timing, and motivations behind the present attempts to change our Constitution. We believe that now is not the time to amend the constitution. The fundamental law of our country should be amended in a deliberate manner, in an atmosphere of sobriety.


When the House Majority resorted to the brash and brazen manner of the amendment of Rule 105 of the House Rules and the passing of House Resolution 1450, it left the minority lost and confused. They construed Article XVII Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution to say that House of Representatives by itself can amend the Constitution – a forced interpretation which bastardizes the intent of the very Constitution they swore to uphold. The intent of the Constitutional framers have been made clear in both jurisprudence and practice – that ours is a bicameral system of government. The records show that the framers intended for both Houses “to vote separately”. Ratio legis et anima.

With the shift from Con-Ass to Con-con, however, the pressure exerted by the House Majority to amend the Constitution remains. Now, they are even calling on the CBCP to urge the Senate to join them in supporting Con-con. From a first Concon to Pirma to Con-Ass then to another Con-con, they are pursuing all means and methods available to amend the fundamental law of our land. Their desperation to amend the Constitution before the May 2007 elections has become even more apparent.

The timing of these maneuvers seriously casts doubt as to the intent of the proponents. With the May 2007 elections in sight, and with a great number of Congressmen nearing their term limits, this is obviously a ploy to perpetuate themselves in power. The process of amending the Constitution should be done with the interest of the Filipino people in mind – not with the interests of a few self-serving Congressmen. Furthermore, if the Charter Change were to push through, there would be an inevitable need for government funds. At this point in time, the government’s budget has already been allocated for the May 2007 elections. Re-allocation of such budget for the plebiscite as proposed by some Congressmen would amount to malversation of government funds. We condemn this clear intent to violate the law.

The LSG believes that the “Majority” in the House of Representatives is not the Majority of the Philippine Nation. We believe that there is a majority of critical-minded people able to recognize such despicable political maneuvers but who have just remained silent, and still another mass which has resorted to apathy.

We call on this majority to speak out. Together let us raise our voices in indignation & protest against the Chacha tactics of the House Majority. Let us not fall prey to the manipulations of the Administration congressmen.

We call on the minority Congressmen and the Senate to stand on their ground. We want to let them know that we are rallying behind them in their efforts to thwart the actions of other legislative leaders to perpetuate themselves into power.

We call on the Supreme Court to properly rule on the petitions asking for the proper interpretation of the Constitution. We beseech them to have in mind the intent of the framers to have a bicameral system of government in accordance with the system of checks and balances espoused by the Constitution. We implore the Supreme Court not to hide behind the political question doctrine or the doctrine of acquiescence as captured in Javellana v. Executive Secretary. We are against all this and we making our voices heard and let no one say otherwise.

We call on the students of the College of Law to study and inform ourselves about the present issue vis-à-vis the law as we have been taught, and the possible consequences of having ill-motivated Charter Change. Let us use our privileged position to discuss and share our knowledge with others. We can also help in the initiatives of our professors, who, as of the moment, are in the process of preparing petitions to the Supreme Court. And for those who wish to do so, we can let our voices be heard and participate in protest actions against the present move to amend our Constitution. Let us be at the forefront of these events which could shape the course of our Nation’s history.

Let us not get caught in the tragedy of being a law student who studies the law in a vacuum and remains in the dark in the midst of surrounding political turmoil. Let us grab this chance to learn the law not just inside Malcolm Hall but to learn it inspite of Malcolm Hall. This IS learning the law in the “Grand Manner”.

Christina Faye M. Condez
President

Lorybeth R. Baldrias
Vice-President

Faustina Victoria E. Ochoa
Secretary

Hardy B. Aquende
Treasurer

Elgene Lawrence C. Feliciano
Public Relations Officer

Leandro Angelo Y. Aguirre
College Representative

December 12, 2006

Best Bond in a long, long time

I’ve always liked James Bond movies; they are a particular guilty pleasure. Sure, they’re politically incorrect (women are celebrated more as playthings and with the insolent and cheeky humor that has characterized the Bond films, they are also given very unfortunate names). Sure, they’re violent (007 means a “license to kill” after all) and they’re racy (each Bond film generally involves him getting involved with more than one woman in an extramarital situation); and they usually involve pretty impossible situations (Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist named Christmas Jones; Denise Richards and physics can not exist in the same sentence.).

But whatever they are, the Bond films are always great fun.

Casino Royale is not, however, only great fun; it is the best of the Bonds I’ve seen in a very, very long time. The last great Bond film I watched was Thunderball with a great Sean Connery (forget Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby and please do not get me started on Roger Moore).

Daniel Craig is a great Bond; he has screen presence comparable to Sean Connery in his first few Bonds. He is the most physical and the most violent Bond but, as the 007 implies, he is after all a “blunt weapon” (a phrase that is commonly employed in the Bond books). His face is an impenetrable mask that fits perfectly the pre-Sean Connery Bond (this, after all, is a prequel).

The action scenes are not Bond-ish in that there are no gadgets at all (Major Boothroyd, or Q, does not appear at all and fans of Q must wait until a later film perhaps for the character to be resurrected). Craig’s Bond relies on his skills—something that is a throwback to the early Connery Bonds and which the later slightly effeminate Bonds like Moore and Brosnan have rejected (particularly Moore). The first real action scene on top a building crane is absolutely superb because Craig’s Bond has absolutely nothing to support him but his wits, his skills, his physique and his determination.

His is also the first Bond to really get himself dirty and bloody. None of the other Bonds, Connery included, have managed to get a scratch on him but Craig’s Bond revels in it; more than once, you see his already slightly disarranged face bloodied and even more disarranged.

Craig is a great actor as well. He is able to capture quite well the point of the movie—that Bond started as an aspiring 00; his first “kill” shows his raw skill without the finesse that the later 007 would display; he gets better at killing later on. He also manages to display an initial raw and unrefined wit and skill at repartee that would hint at a later sardonic and oftentimes cruel turn of phrase—and he does this with his “unsmiling” smirk, which makes his wit even more unexpected but truly funny. Craig also manages to show just how Bond becomes human as his heart is later captured by the Treasury agent Vesper Lynd and he, finally, displays his human side, only to lose it later.

The final scene where he now uses the now-famous “Bond; James Bond” introduction brings him full circle as Bond—no longer an aspiring, inept, unwise 00 but a more suave , confident and quite effective 007.

Judi Dench’s M is a great revelation; she is a fantastic actor but this time, she lets it rip with tongue in cheek humor—unlike the dour and humorless M that she introduced in the Brosnan Bonds. In character, Dench’s M is the closest to Ian Fleming’s M who was written as a “father figure” to Bond; while M chews out Craig’s Bond so often in this film that you have to wonder how he managed to get the promotion, we also see in Dench’s characterization of M how close the two really are; in M’s carefully subtle oversight of Bond (from installing a transponder to discreetly asking about him in person), the hint of Admiral Miles Messervy (the M in Fleming’s books) is quite clearly conveyed and the film is all the better for it.

The plot isn’t much nor is the villain but the star of Casino Royale, after all, is deservedly Daniel Craig and HIS Bond. The producers of this film may have taken a risk in replacing a charismatic and popular Brosnan as Bond by taking on a grittier, less known and “blonde” Bond but, from the looks of it, Casino Royale and Craig appear to have broken the bank.

FLAG's Charter Change Statement

Government has run amuck in its desire to change the Constitution. Recent events clearly demonstrate that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her allies in Congress will employ any means, mostly foul, to achieve their objective. They must be stopped, and stopped now, or they will destroy the law itself and tear our country apart.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s announcement yesterday shelving the constituent assembly does not mean she has abandoned her plans of changing the Constitution. Words are easy and cheap. Until the mechanisms for charter change have actually been dismantled—such as House Resolution No. 197—moves to change the Constitution by constituent assembly can be pursued at any time.

The FREE LEGAL ASSISTANCE GROUP (FLAG) calls upon the Filipino people to unite in forceful opposition against charter change, and demand that all current mechanisms put in place for changing the Constitution be immediately dismantled.

Quezon City, Philippines, 10 December 2006.


JOSE MANUEL I. DIOKNO
Chair

December 08, 2006

Bravo!

You’ve got to hand it to the man.

He’s one of the most effective marketers of the products that he hawks—from travel to newspapers to himself to the Supreme Court.  Artemio Panganiban is a very good salesman.  This much, you get from just a few minutes with the man;  don’t get him started on a speech because he’s going to give it all he’s got—with a powerpoint presentation to boot.

Yet, he has completely befuddled those who marketed him to be the Chief Justice to succeed Hilario Davide Jr.  Instead of being this supposedly political appointee, he displayed a degree of independence not expected from someone who, if rumors are to be believed, owed his appointment to political patronage.  In the one year he has been in office as Chief Justice, Panganiban struck down almost every major component of the Gloria dictatorship thrown at the Court—EO 464, Proclamation 1017, CPR and People’s Initiative.  

I wasn’t a big fan of his when he was appointed Chief Justice;  I’m still not a big fan of his  ponencias which are an acquired taste that I haven’t warmed up to yet.  But I have to give him all the credit for asserting the independence that stamped the Panganiban Court with an identity all its own.  If not for that independence, the Gloria dictatorship would be in full bloom.  For that alone:  Bravo, Mr. Chief Justice!

The Chief, Finally

They got it right, this time.

Reynato Puno Jr. became the 22d Chief Justice of the Philippines a few hours before his predecessor, Artemio Panganiban, ended his birthday.

It is one year late for the most Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, after having been bypassed for what many considered, at that time, to be a political appointment in Panganiban (who, to the surprise of many, including Gloria Arroyo, turned out to be not as malleable as Gloria’s courtiers may have marketed him to be).   Even now, he is already being painted as Gloria’s new puppet.

Chief Justice Puno must show, with his very first act, that he is no one’s puppet and that, as he promised, he is beholden only to a “constituency of one”, Lady Justice.;  Perhaps, he may do that by simply stopping De Venecia and his kennel dead in their tracks by issuing a restraining order;  better yet, perhaps he might put De Venecia and his kennel where they rightly belong—outside the house where all the poop lie.

No other act will suffice, Mr. Chief Justice.  Otherwise, people will truly start to believe that the blindfolded lady does peek—once in awhile.

Bastusan Na!


The Filipino language has a beautiful and appropriate word for what happened at the House of De Venecia (I refuse to call it the House of Representatives anymore as they no longer represent me in any way) the past two days BASTUSAN.

Resolution No. 1450 passed by De Venecia’s kennel can be best described in that one single word: BASTUSAN.

The nearest approximation that would do justice to the flavor and meaning of this one word is an abject lack of respect.

Turn about is fair play, (none of you are worthy of the appellation “Mr”, which I proudly claim, so henceforth you are simply) De Venecia, Nograles, Defensor, Lagman, Salapudin, Del Mar and everyone else, male or female, in the House of De Venecia who refused to stand on principle and give the sovereign Filipino people the respect they deserve. Bastusan na ba? E di, bastusan na nga!

The latest issuance from the House of De Venecia in full (without annotation, as words fail to capture the venality of this piece of [fill in your own expletive])


Republic of the Philippines
Congress of the Philippines
Quezon City, Metro Manila

Thirteenth Congress
Third Regular Session

RESOLUTION NO. 1450

RESOLUTION CALLING ALL MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO PROPOSE AMENDMENTS TO, OR REVISION OF, THE CONSTITUTION PURSUANT TO SECTION 1, ARTICLE 17 OF THE CONSTITUTION AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

WHEREAS, there is a growing clamor from various sectors of oursociety to amend or revise the Constitution;

WHEREAS, it is imperative that any proposal to amend or revise anyprovision of the Constitution shall adhere to the express provision ofthe Constitution as provided by Section 1, Article 17 of the Constitution;

WHEREAS, Section 1, Sub-paragraph 1 of Article 17 of theConstitution provides that: "Any amendment to, or revision of, thisConstitution may be proposed by: the Congress upon a vote ofthree-fourths of all its members.”

WHEREAS, while there are alternate modes of effecting charterchange, adopting the afore-cited Constitutional provision quoted inthe immediately preceding paragraph hereof is the mode recommended byan overwhelming majority of the Members of Congress;

WHEREAS, in order to ensure that proposals to amend or revise theConstitution could be considered by Congress in an orderly andpractical manner, a call for ALL THE MEMBERS of Congress to propose amendments to, or revision of, the Constitution shall be made, as thisresolution proposes.

WHEREFORE, IT IS RESOLVED AS IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED TO CALL ALL MEMBERS OF CONGRESS PURSUANT TO SECTION 1, SUBPARAGRAPH 1 OF ARTICLE 17 OF THE CONSTITUTiON TO PROPOSE AMENDMENTS TO OR REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION AT THE PLENARY HALL OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, BATASAN COMPLEX, QUEZON CITY BEGINNING AT 10 O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING OF DECEMBER 11, 2006 UNTIL THE APPROVAL OF THE PARTICULAR AMENDMENTS OR REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION FOR SUBMISSION FOR THE PEOPLE FOR THE PURPOSE OF PARTICIPATION IN ACCORDANCE OF SECTION IV, ARTICLE 17 OF THE CONSTITUTION.

November 08, 2006

Not in control and loving it

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (Phil 2:14-16, RSV)

When I am suffering, this exhortation never fails to uplift me.

Paul speaks of being in prison so many times that we tend to become desensitized to just how difficult it must have been for him to preach the Gospel in his day. Yet, he did so, unfailingly, consistently and proudly.

Many times, I grumble and question—okay, almost every time—especially when things are not to my liking even if I know it is part of what God has in store for me. Loss of control is never easy and this has always been my cross.

I am, by nature, a control freak and loss of control—the uncertainty, the “not knowing” and the inability to shape what comes next—has always been cause for me to grumble and question and, often, protest. Many times, it has involved only me and God but there have been times as well when my being a control freak has affected—and hurt—others.

Recently, I was given a wake-up call to this. It was not a subtle hint nor a gentle nudge, it was practically a bludgeon—I was confronted with the many times my insistence on control affected and hurt others I love. And I was, literally, brought to my knees—not knowing what to do, what to say—and not in control. But, ironically, that was when I felt the most free.

So though I suffer many times, I try now not to grumble or question—too much. Try is the most important word in that sentence. Often though, the words of complaint and protest slip through my lips but I am quick to repent and to pray that God be in control once again.

Lord, I pray for the grace to shine as a light in the world that is in darkness; to be a voice that speaks Your truth in a world that is filled with noise and confusion; to be your face in a world that knows You not or no longer. Grant me additionally the grace to be all these without grumbling or questioning but to be simply filled with the hope that I labor not in vain but in the victory that you have already won. Amen.

November 07, 2006

Very Afraid

Since the word came out that Miriam might be Chief Justice, people have been asking if that is at all possible.  In a word: Yes.

There is no rule or law that limits the choice of Chief Justice to those who are already on the Court.  The appointment of the Chief Justice from among the incumbents is tradition but not law.  So too is the appointment of the most Senior Associate Justice to succeed the Chief Justice; this was notably not followed by Marcos when he bypassed former Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee twice.  

In the United States, Chief Justice Earl Warren was appointed directly as Chief Justice without sitting on the Bench;  so too the current Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Roberts.

Perhaps the question about Miriam in relation to the prospect of being Chief Justice is not whether it is possible but how probable it is.  Again, in a word:  Quite.  Probable, that is.

The last question that should be asked about Miriam being Chief Justice is, “should we be afraid? “ In a word:  No.  We should be VERY AFRAID.

nano disturbance

I was asked a question I dreaded yesterday by a fellow lawyer: “do you agree that Sadam Hussein should be executed?” I found myself hesitating for perhaps one nano second before I answered, “No. I do not agree that he should be executed.”

For one who has been literally rendered a one-trick pony when it comes to the death penalty, I found that nano second of hesitation surprising and disturbing because I did not know why I hesitated and because there should have been no reason for me to hesitate.

I still don’t know why I hesitated and that disturbs me—still.

November 06, 2006

Calmed, Quieted and Comforted

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
     my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.
But  I have calmed and quieted my soul,
     like a child quieted at its mother’s
                breast;
     like a child that is quieted is my soul.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
     From this time forth and forevermore.”

  • Psalm 131, RSV

A beautiful reminder to start a week that is foreseen to be stressful.

Lord, I beg for the grace to be calm, quiet and comforted.  Allow me to occupy myself with all that is truly important.  May I desire nothing more than to hope in you today.  Amen.


Big deal?

So, Nonong Cruz resigned irrevocably as Defense Secretary after Tony Carpio, his partner, wrote an excoriating majority (actually plurality) decision in the People’s Initiative case and after Raul Gonzales made public that the Firm (of which Carpio and Cruz were founding partners) was now on the other side of the Gloria fence.

Big deal!

Leaving is easy.  Public repentance is more difficult.  

Instead of a 2 sentence, 22-word letter of resignation, Cruz should have made a mea culpa mea maxima culpa letter to the Filipino people explaining just why Gloria should never have been installed in power and why she is unfit to stay a day longer in power.  Otherwise, Cruz’s resignation and Carpio’s seemingly disloyal ponencia will simply be a case of  “I scratched your back, you failed to scratch mine. . . so there.”

Stand on principle, gentlemen, and declare what you stand for.  It was wrong to have installed Gloria Arroyo (but profitable for you perhaps);  a resignation letter simply does not do the trick—a public apology perhaps would help but a public repudiation would do more.  

But that’s expecting too much.  What is it that they say about there being no permanent friends but only permanent interests?  Expect The Firm to be back soon.

Thinking of Sisyphus

Right now, I feel like Sisyphus, the King who had to keep rolling a boulder up a hill only to have it keep rolling back down on him.

The past three weeks I've been walking on eggshells--broken glass, might be more exact--around a person I've known for some time for reasons I don't really know--or at least that have not been made known to me. I don't really know what I said, did, did not say, did not do to bring about this treatment and it is difficult, to say the least. I have no equilibrium and every day I feel like I'm on free fall.

It would be so easy to just be angry; it would be so easy to just say, "forget it. nothing's worth this."

But, it is worth it. I have very few friends but I have very good friends. And the few friends I do have, I tend to keep for a long time.

So I won't be angry and I won't say, "forget it. nothing's worth this." Because this friendship is worth this and I do intend to keep it.

Now, if I could only figure out how to keep the boulder from rolling back down on me--over and over again.

November 05, 2006

Still paying off debts

Clearly, Gloria is still paying off her political debts.

The latest beneficiary--Miriam Santiago. Raul Gonzales, the oxymoronic Justice Secretary, all but confirms that she will be the next Chief Justice. The JBC, with the outgoing Chief Justice, himself the beneficiary of Gloria's graces last year all quiet on her ascension and with both Kiko Pangilinan (Raul Gonzales's partner in the infamous "noted" farce in the 2004 Congressional canvassing of votes) and Simeon Datumanong nodding approvingly from the sidelines, has practically outlived its usefulness and should simply be described for what it is--a political clearing house where all the horsetrading is done, outside the prying eyes of the taxpaying public.

Forget her media hype that she was a professor of Constitutional Law--she taught one subject in the evening section and it happened to be constitutional law; she was not a professor, that is an academic rank in the UP that should not be bandied about like cheap candy. Urban legend has it that one night, she goes to her class and reads a speech that she intended to give--that probably started all the rumors about her mental fitness.

What we should remember is this: Miriam is the worst form of political animal. And she is the worst poster girl for the administration of justice in this country.

Miriam is young enough to totally wreck an already irretrievably broken judicial system; by tht time she retires, we won't know which end is up.

God help us, truly.

October 31, 2006

Looking with new eyes

Sometimes, you need to look at things with new eyes.

Haven’t been able to blog in a while for many reasons;  just thought I’d put a new face to the blog—this is temporary, while I’m looking for a new template.  My thanks to Marlon for the previous template—which was beautiful, but which somehow got old also.    In the meantime, I’ve always liked this template which I share with Ella (who put it up first) and Red C. (check out his blog for great essays and pics).

Hope to be back soon.  See you all around.

God bless you all.

October 03, 2006

of Globe, Ateneo and others

Haven’t blogged in a while for many reasons.  So many things going on, so many things on my mind, just can’t find the disposition to write about them.


People in the metro discovered recently they can live without electricity (for a short while), without water (for even a shorter while) or without cable tv but they can’t live without texting.  When the lights went out due to Milenyo, cell sites failed also.  And that’s when you heard the howls of protest (mine included).

That’s the effect of  connectivity.  And that’s what happens when connectivity is gone, you feel lost.

In a way, that’s what I feel when I can’t pray—disconnected from the Source:  lost.

It’s a good thing that, despite all that’s going on, the grace to come before the Source is still there; even if, on many occasions, I have to literally BEG for the grace, it does come and in great abundance.

Lord, allow me to hold fast to the truth that You are the Master of the storms in my life;  remind me never to whine to You about how big the storms are in my life but always remind me to tell the storms how Big a God You are.


Ateneo lost; in overtime; to UST; in a tournament where La Salle did not play.  That hurts;  a lot.

I feel for JC Intal, who missed two crucial baskets in regulation that could have won them the game outright and again missed two baskets in overtime that could have won them the game. He played his heart out, however, and that is something to be proud of;  that’s probably also why he cried his heart out too.



September 19, 2006

Farce

On the 1st year anniversary of the passing of Haydee B. Yorac (former Chair of the PCGG), the current Chair of the PCGG Camilo Sabio was arrested by the Senate for refusing to appear before one of its committees and testifying on anomalous transactions involving a sequestered company.    After he was arrested, all the rest of the Commissioners went into hiding (!);  not too different from felons fleeing the scene of a crime.

It is farcical that the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) would be the entity to hide behind immunity and refuse to be transparent.  

Haydee’s eyebrow is probably raised to stratospheric heights right now.

With incidents like these, it almost makes you want to do a Jim  Paredes and take a leave from being a filipino—but wait, isn’t Jim Paredes back in the Philippines doing that rip-off show on ABS-CBN?  

Now, I’m really confused.



August 27, 2006


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August 25, 2006

Worth your while

If you can tear yourself away from your Ipod or from the usual stuff on FM radio or even your favorite CDs, try listening to AM radio (yup, you heard that right—AM radio) from Mondays to Fridays, 9:00 to about 9:20 in the morning, over 594.  Its DZBB, the radio station of GMA Network and the show is “Dobol A sa Dobol B” with Arnold Clavio and Ali Sotto (hence the Dobol A) as hosts.

For about 20 to 30 minutes at the start of the show, the two (with the assistance of their accomplices Orly Trinidad and their keyboardist Anton) come up with a musical satire on just about anything under the sun—in Filipino rhyme and with great vocal harmony at that.  It is not only great to listen to, it is absolutely hilarious as they poke fun at just about anything and just about anyone.  It is what they call the Jeng Jeng portion, which refers to the background lyrics that Ali sings.  It is hard to describe, it has to be heard to be believed.  A new portion that has been introduced is the tigidong portion which is, again, hilarious because Ali Sotto makes use of her considerable musical talents to sing a satire with old-style Filipino music accompaniment.

Arnold and Ali and Orly are talented librettists and quite good singers;  of course, a younger Ali Sotto used to be known as Aloha but Arnold and Orly are the revelations here—they not only carry a tune well but they have fantastic comic timing which very frequently leaves Ali in stitches with that very distinctive laugh of hers.

There’s a lot of garbage over the airwaves, over both AM and FM;  I have been a listener of AM radio for close to ten years but have yet to encounter anything like this.  For those with biases against AM radio, cast these off and listen to 594 DZBB from 9-930, believe me, it is worth your while.

Balut penoy politics

Someone tell the Congressman from Balut country that less is, often,  more.

He has never been a likeable—and particularly simpatico—fellow but, with all his theatrics, glibness, and ready ripostes to every imagineable statement on the impeachment, he has crossed the line from not likeable to detestable.

Learn from Chiz who speaks with the gravitas that youth frequently is not associated with;  pick your battles, choose your statements and, for God’s sake, stop with those theatrics already.

Missing You

John Waits had a song in the 80’s called “Missing You.”  

In the necrological services for the still-born second impeachment complaint, I find myself missing two men who gave me a lot of inspiration in fighting for the people:

Edcel Lagman.  Representative from Albay.

Teddy Boy Locsin.  Representative from Makati.

Hope they show up soon.

Wasted energies

Many people have asked me why I never took part in the impeachment  proceedings before the House—the first and the second time they tried it.  Some, who don’t kow me very well, have even wondered—to my face—if I was in favor of Gloria.

There is a long and short answer to why I never bothered to join or even volunteer to help in the impeachment proceedings.  The long answer I will not put here because it is, well, long; the short answer is that you will never impeach Gloria for so long as impeachment is a numbers game.  The vote at the plenary showed that, quite dramatically.

I believe in choosing my battles.  Putting my energies into two impeachment bids in a house known for its venality is a waste of energies—apologies to my good friends Erin and Risa who are part of the House.  Besides, I cannot reconcile being on the same issue as the former dictator’s daughter even if it is to get rid of the current dictator; and please don’t get me started on the balut congressman.

I believe, with all my heart, Gloria will be removed but, as the events of the past years have shown, it won’t be by short cuts and by grandstanding.  Also, I believe, with all my heart, that Gloria and her family and her cronies, will be held accountable to the people of the Philippines and to God.

If a fist clenched in anger will not remove her, then perhaps arms linked in solidarity and hands clasped in prayer will.


Freedom and accountability

If there is one thing this blog celebrates, it is freedom;  if there is another thing it celebrates, it is accountability.

I believe in freedoms---to think, to have faith, to pray, to express yourself, to live, love and let be; but I also believe in accountability and responsibility—to respect others, to own your ideas and principles and be ready to defend them and be challenged for them. I also believe that these freedoms should never be abused and accountability forgotten.

My post on MY PERSONAL STAND on fraternities and fraternity violence has spawned almost 50 comments and has now led to gay bashing and mudslinging.  While I am flattered that there are more than 3 readers out there, I am outraged that these “anonymous” writers would trample on the freedom and accountability that this blog represents and celebrates.

So, to those of my friends and responsible readers who wish to comment on my blog, I am moderating the comments section to filter out Isagani Cruz wanna-bes and fraternity drones who mouth the virtues of their fraternities like mantras for the mindless.

You know who you are: get a life;  better yet, get a spine.

August 11, 2006

Michael Mann gets it

He does.

His movies are big on mood which he creates using light, sound and scenery.

1. The Last of the Mohicans—remember that scene when Daniel Day-Lewis chases after Madeleine Stowe and there’s no dialogue only music and Stowe’s (and Day-Lewis’s) beautiful face; that’s how a movie climax should be made.

2. Collateral – the only Tom Cruise movie (its technically his but Jamie Foxx stole it, hands down) that I truly enjoyed. Again, mood prevailed—sounds, light and scenery.

3. Heat - Pacino, De Niro, Kilmer. Three actors famous for not smiling put together in one movie; remember that shoot out in the middle of the street?

And now,

4. Miami Vice—I practically grew up on the 80’s tv series but the movie is way, way, way better. There is no trace of pastel anywhere in this movie and its practically night time all throughout but its great. The mood is just right and the blacks and grays make for a great metaphor---for Crockett’s struggle to stay right side up as he gets deeper and deeper into what he does. The dialogue is all mumbly but somehow you manage to understand what’s going on. And, Gong Li is beautiful here (never mind her atrocious accent).

Michael Mann gets it, he really does.

July 30, 2006

Crossroads

I had an interesting conversation with a priest at lunch today—no, it wasn’t over confession, but over spaghetti, chicken, iced tea and coffee.  Over coffee (tea for me), he asked me straight out: “so what do you plan to do with your life, Ted?”;  he asked it as if I hadn’t been doing anything with my life for the past several decades.  

It didn’t offend me, it actually got me thinking.

Right now, I’m holding down the equivalent of five (5) full-time jobs:  a partner at a law firm, a full-time coordinator position with a lawyers’ non-government organization, a full-time faculty position at U.P., a directorship at its Legal Aid Clinic and branch leadership of a Catholic community for single professionals.  Despite all these, I sometimes feel that I’m not doing much with my life—don’t know if this makes sense but this feeling does come over me sometimes—and that perhaps I should be doing more.  That was why the question, “so what do you plan to do with your life?” hit home earlier.

I’m still thinking about it.  I don’t really know what the answer is;  I don’t know if I’d like the answer.  Whatever the answer is, I pray that God will be at the center.  I pray for the grace to be able to know His plans for me and the added grace of being able to act on His plans for me.  

July 20, 2006

Studying Law

Now showing at the Law School (courtesy of Portia Sorority): The Paper Chase.
(maraming salamat Tere for the invitation and for the copy--don't worry, I won't tell Mr. Manzano.)

The basic plot revolves around studying law in Harvard where a stern but fair Contracts professor Kingsfield (terrific John Houseman) terrorizes a first year law student Hart (Timothy Bottoms) who idolizes him (and also loves his daughter, Susan--played by a pre-bionic woman Lindsay Wagner).

There are many memorable moments in this film about studying law; many memorable lines which law professors have imbibed into their everyday line up of one-liners and sarcastic comebacks to hapless student foibles in law school.

Among the most memorable from Kingsfield: "You come in here with a brain full of mush and leave here thinking like a lawyer."

Of course, studying law in U.P. is not the same as studying law in Harvard--it's much more difficult in U.P. and the professors are much, much better (and kinder). However, oftentimes, you do get tempted to do a Kingsfield. The challenge to my students is to make Kingsfield's bold predictions ring true by "slaying" their own Kingsfields. I wrote about that in 2000 (here). Otherwise, Kingsfield's other famous prediction will ring true:

Kingsfield (to Hart): "Mr. Hart, here is a penny. Go call your mother and tell her there is grave doubt that you will ever become a lawyer."

July 16, 2006

Omerta and Impunity:Two sides of the same rotten coin

Omerta.  The Code of Silence.

The very same Code that made the mafia so effective.  The very same Code that makes fraternities so effective.

The mafia treats breakers of Omerta swiftly and decisively:  they leave the earth permanently through:  (a) a swim with a slab of concrete for flippers, (b)  a permanent third eye, or (c) a permanent second smile.

While I have not heard of local fraternities dealing with Omerta breakers that decisively, the effect of the use of Omerta in the fraternity system has allowed violence to be done with impunity.  The culture of violence does not end because those responsible know that Omerta will not be broken by their “brods”, past or present.

Omerta thrives on an enforced silence;  an absence of sound that is not peace but a festering quiet.

On a much larger scale, Omerta is seen in governments;  and not surprisingly, because a lot of these governments are populated by frat members.  That is why governments deal in impunity because they thrive on Omerta.

Ed Delos Reyes and Cory Dela Cruz, both police officers, broke omerta when they told the truth:  that in May 1995, eleven (11) unarmed and handcuffed civilians were killed in cold blood along a highway in Quezon City at dawn;  this led to the Kuratong Baleleng rub-out cases.  Where are Ed and Cory now?  They are out of the country and paying for their courage with “new lives.”  Where are the killers now?  Some are in very high places.

I have not heard of a hazing case that has prospered because a courageous frat man has come forward to denounce a killing done in the name of “brotherhood.”  My disclaimer:  I am not neutral on this issue:  my office is handling a murder that arose out of a supposed hazing and no witnesses will come forward because omerta is being enforced not only within the fraternity and sorority but also on the witnesses.  So, will the guilty ones get away?  Yes, most probably.  But, to paraphrase George W. Bush (and this is irony, for those who know me and my relationship with Dubya), they can run but they can’t hide.  They may have run away from a  long prison sentence but they cannot hide from their conscience and from their God.

End the rule of impunity.  Shatter Omerta.  Now!




Criminality and Cowardice

Warning:  this is a rant.  It contains language that is not for the faint of heart.

A reader who prefers to be anonymous asked for my comment on this issue (I suppose s/he is a law student because I am referred to as “sir” and perhaps s/he would prefer not to be identified for fear of reprisal).  This is my comment on this issue.

The only way I know how to describe grown men beating each other up in private or public is as a criminal act.  As a criminal law professor, a lawyer, a reasonably rational person, this act is, shorn of any euphemism or candy coating, attempted or frustrated murder or, depending on the fortune of the victim, serious physical injuries.  In extreme cases, it is MURDER (with pre-meditation, treachery and abuse of superior strength).  Ask any first year law student (especially those who have been in my classes) and they will tell you that there is no other way to describe it.  So, pardon my French, but let’s cut the crap:  Beating other people up in the name of a fraternity is simply lawlessness; plainly and simply, it is STUPIDITY!  Beating other people up in the name of a fraternity with hoods is not only lawlessness: it is COWARDICE (if you are “brave” enough to beat someone up, at least be brave enough to show yourself)!

For frat men from the law school who read this blog:  GROW UP! If you think beating other people up in the name of brotherhood makes you a man, then you are utterly and totally misinformed:  a real man knows when he is strong and retaliating or initiating violence does not make you a man.  I have absolutely no respect for a “man” who would retaliate or initiate violence against any person and I never will.  My friends know me to be a stubborn and opinionated person and I am stubborn and opinionated on this: I WILL NEVER HAVE ANY RESPECT FOR YOU FOR SO LONG AS YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW TO BE A REAL MAN!  And, as far as you’re concerned, you have the burden of proof to show me that you are entitled to ANY RESPECT.

“But I’ve never participated in any violence,”  you protest.  HAVE YOU SAID SO IN PUBLIC?  HAVE YOU TOLD YOUR “BRODS”?  HAVE YOU RENOUNCED YOUR TIES TO THESE VIOLENT ORGANIZATIONS?  If you have not, then you are every bit as guilty as those who have lifted a hand, brought down a fist, picked up a bat, fired a gun.  EVERY BIT AS GUILTY!

You feel judged?  Tough.  Tell that to the many innocent victims of the fraternity system’s stupidity.  I’m unfair?  Tough.  Tell that to the parents of Lenny Villa, Dennis Icasiano, Marlon Villanueve and all the other nameless, faceless, unknown victims of hazing, initations rites, and rumbles.

So, for my frat men friends, students, readers:  you want to be a REAL MAN?  QUIT YOUR FRATERNITIES NOW, MAKE THAT PUBLIC AND MAKE PUBLIC WHY—BECAUSE THE CULTURE OF VIOLENCE THE FRATERNITY SYSTEM PERPETRATES IS SICKENING, IS DEBASING, IS STUPID AND IS BARBARIC!  

You want to be a real man?   Buy a copy of the best-selling book of ALL TIME, flip to any of the four versions of the Gospel and look up the life of a real man.  You want to be real man?  Don’t look to Manny Pacquiao or any of your fraternity leaders or “brods”, you simply have to turn to the one who is beside you for all eternity—even if you don’t acknowledge Him—our brother:  Jesus Christ.  It’s not too late:  do it now.

June 29, 2006

Silliness

The College of Cardinals is not determined by proportional representation.  So the number of Catholics there are do not determine the number of Cardinals a country gets in the College  of Cardinals.

Saints do not become so by application or, worse, by patronage—at least not in this day and age.  There must be proof that miracles have been attributed to them by people who have asked for their intercession (wait;  if this is the criteria, what does that make of Garci who pulled off a miracle in 2004?).

Where do Gloria’s people get these ideas?  

There is no other

Jessica Z said it before in her blog and I’ve been noticing it also in my own blog. The Comments section really starts to take a life of its own.  I’m starting to recognize some of the “anonymous” bloggers as well as those who have been signing their names.  I do appreciate the comments;  what I do not appreciate are personal attacks that do nothing to contribute to any debate or thought formation but debase the writer, i.e., me.

My last post on Gloria Arroyo drew a comment from someone I “met” in email—Auntie Beth;  I do appreciate her comments and I understand what she’s saying and where she’s coming from.  Auntie Beth’s comment also drew an “anonymous” post from someone I presume is (was) my student “defending” my statements on Gloria Arroyo.  I won’t pit the two against each other as that really isn’t something I would want to do.  

I do, however,  want to comment on Auntie Beth’s statement that she misses the “other Ted”, presumably referring to the posts that speak of God and my relationship with Him and my postings on my faith.

I realize that it can be disconcerting to read my blogs that speak lovingly of God and His people and harshly of Gloria Arroyo.  I, however, find no contradiction.  Those who have met me and know me well will not find it strange that I can speak lovingly of God and so harshly of Gloria.

Its easy to speak in loving terms of God and His people simply because I owe everything to God.  It is not as easy to speak in loving terms of Gloria who has done nothing but cause hardship to Filipinos in the name of staying in power at all costs.

Is it un-Christian to speak harshly of Gloria?  I do not think so.  Even Christ had harsh words for the Pharisees;  and believe me, Gloria is light years beyond the Pharisees.

Is it un-loving to call Gloria a dictator?  I do not think so.  Especially when she cheated in the last elections and enjoys no mandate whatsoever;  especially when she, only a few months ago, arrogated unto herself powers the Constitution does not give her;  especially when the Supreme Court has categorically told her that she can’t do what she did when she proclaimed CPR, Proclamation 1017 and EO 464.

Is it wrong to speak out in the face of a clearly manipulative attempt to curry favor by using every thing or person available?  I think not.  Especially when  the subject of her manipulation is no less than the Holy Father himself.  We must not forget that it is this very same Gloria Arroyo who, when she was still Vice President, declared that John Paul II had confirmed that it was perfectly alright to go ahead with her destabilization attempts against Erap;  we must not forget that it is this very same Gloria Arroyo who, upon visiting Benedict XVI, now intones through her mouthpiece Mr. Bunyi that the Pope has also given his go-signal for her government to continue doing what it is doing.

Is it wrong to speak out in the face of such utter silliness as Mike Arroyo’s statement that Gloria will “lobby” the Holy Father for more Cardinals and for the application of two more Filipino saints?  I do not think so.  

Auntie Beth, I apologize if my harsh words against the dictator turn you off but I am the same person—not two persons—who is a Christian, a human rights advocate,  a lawyer, a law professor, a Filipino.  I cannot speak lovingly of my God and lovingly of a dictator;  I believe absolutely and, wholeheartedly, in telling the truth and the truth is “Gloria must go.”  There is no “other Ted”,  what you read is what you get.

C.S. Lewis, paraphrased many times by the late Cardinal Sin, once said, “hate the sin, love the sinner.”  I believe that, with all my heart.   That is why I speak out against Gloria Arroyo, who is, like me, a sinner.  If I keep my peace in the face of all the corruption, all the killings, all the anomalies, all the irregularities, then I would not only be loving the sinner but also loving the sin.  Believe me, I do pray for Gloria Arroyo but not that she stays on because, believe me, I also pray for my country, which  I love more than Gloria, sinner and daughter of God that she is.  

And the most loving thing I can do for my country right now is to pray that Gloria goes--soon.

June 27, 2006

Looking a gift horse in the mouth

“Please sign.  Now , please resign.”

That’s what I would have said to Gloria Arroyo at Malacanang last Saturday during the signing of the law repealing the death penalty.

The consummate trapo (contraction for traditional politician;  vernacular for dirty rag—whichever, it fits) that she is, she now brings the law to Pope Benedict XVI as a gift to him from the Filipinos;  never mind that when she was a senator, she voted yes (by default) to the death penalty law as a fence-sitter;  never mind that when she was Vice President, she marched with a hanky-covered “Baby” Echegaray along Ayala with the likes of Jamby Madrigal (another famous chameleon), Loi Estrada clamoring that Leo Echegaray be killed;  never mind that from 2001, when she took over from Erap, she never certified abolition bills as urgent and even went to the extent of saying that she would continue to execute kidnappers and drug dealers;  never mind that she only discovered that she was “pro-life” when she was teetering on being removed and she needed the support of the bishops; never mind that she changes her “principles” as quickly as she loses her temper or Mike Defensor changes his stands on many things.  Never mind all these things, mind only that she has repealed the death penalty law and gotten a pat on the back and a “well done” from the Pope.

People ask me if I’m happy now with Gloria that she has repealed the death penalty in the Philippines.  For my answer, scroll up to the top of this post.

June 26, 2006

Life and death

It’s finally dead.  The death penalty in the Philippines, that is.

Last Saturday, Gloria Arroyo signed into law Republic Act No. 9346 formally ending the regime of capital punishment in the Philippines.  A few weeks before the formal signing, the Chief Justice created a stir by announcing publicly that the Supreme Court had committed a grave error by ordering Leo Echegaray to be executed.

Because the death penalty is an issue that I can no longer avoid, I’ve been asked many times by many people how I feel about the repeal of capital punishment and about the Chief Justice’s comments on judicial error.

Honestly, similar to how I felt when I watched Leo Echegaray and Bobby Andan murdered in front of me, I don’t really know how I feel;  at least, I can’t really describe it.

I know I should be happy that something I (and my colleagues at FLAG and the FLAG Anti-Death Penalty Task Force) spent more than a decade fighting for has finally happened.  Strike that, I know I should be ecstatic.  But I actually am not.

Maybe its because the death penalty repeal came many, many years too late; perhaps its because the abolition came seven (7) lives too late.  I just cannot get myself to be ecstatic at the repeal because I keep remembering the 7 people whose lives were claimed at the altar of capital punishment and the more than a thousand lives who suffered due to the stigma and the burden of being sentenced to die at the hands of the State.

People ask me if I’m vindicated by the Chief Justice’s comments on the Echegaray conviction;  I actually don’t feel vindicated even if that is what we had been saying all along.  What good are his words when Leo and six (6) others have already been killed?  What good will the acknowledgement of judicial error do when so many people have already been scarred by capital punishment?

People still equate me, 8 years after Leo’s execution, with him and I don’t find that I mind at all.  It is my burden to carry his name along with mine; and, in a very strange sort of way, it is an honor.

The death penalty is dead.  Long live life.

June 22, 2006

Wearing the colors

The few games of the NBA Finals that I had gotten to watch—I was amazed at one thing (and this I noticed in the Miami games):  when Miami played, it was to a backdrop of white shirts (white being Miami’s home game colors).  Everyone was in white!  Now, that’s intimidating to an opponent who goes into the arena looking for some measure of comfort or appreciation.  And, that’s comforting to a home team that goes into the campaign looking for support.

It’s a good analogy for Christian commitment.  

Are we ready to wear our colors proudly?  Are we ready to be one with other Christians in being identified as a Christian?  Its similar to wearing  white in the Miami Heat basketball arena—you identify yourself with the home team to the extent that you would proudly display your colors.

God doesn’t ask much from us—just that we make a choice, we stand by it and we be proud of it.

For all those who have made that choice, let us stand by it and be proud of it.  Wear your colors proudly, God’s child!

Flash and Zo

The Miami Heat finally won its first championship since it came into the league as an expansion team more than a decade ago.  They’re not my favorite team—Boston is, but they suck big time now (I wish Larry Bird would be hired by Red Auerbach to do in Bean town what he did for Indiana as Coach and later President of Basketball ops)—but I prefer Miami over Dallas.  I’m happy though that Miami won, for two reasons.

The first is NOT Shaq.  I don’t like Shaq—I think he’s overrated (I mean, what should you expect from someone that tall and that big?  If he doesn’t score or block in the double figures and he doesn’t make you change your shot in the lane, then you didn’t get your money’s worth—for the ticket or the contract).  He’s like Superman as against Batman—dude, no contest; even the colors are better on Batman (red underwear worn over blue tights, huh?).  

The first reason is Dwayne Wade. Now that’s the  player for me.  He’s not that tall (officially 6’4”; though NBA books tend to exaggerate a little when it comes to height) but he plays BIG!  He flies—to dunk or block or score in the lane;  he shoots from mid-range or closer;  he’s even known to take a few shots from outside the 3-point line;  he rarely shows negative emotions on the court, except directed at himself and he has an almost preternatural ability to take over the game when it counts.  He doesn’t mind being the last person to take the ball when it counts—regardless of glory or shame.  He’s being compared to Michael Jordan—unfair, definitely, to Wade.  Jordan does not compare to Wade—Jordan was largely a creation of media (fine, he dunks well and he flies but that’s probably propelled by the helium in his ego) which he manipulates quite well; also Jordan isn’t that much of a poster boy for good values.  Jordan often pointed fingers at others for losses and pointed a finger at himself for wins;  Wade hardly blames others for losses and usually credits others for wins.  Jordan v. Wade—no contest;  Wade wins, hands down—in ALL respects.

The second reason is Alonzo Mourning—Zo!  He, with the unique last name.  He, with the kidney transplant and the overwhelming desire to win a championship before he retired.  He, who was willing to take on a supporting role in a team which he had led before he fell ill.  Now, that’s character!  Zo didn’t transfer back to Miami demanding things—even if the team probably would have given in to many of these—he moved back knowing he would be the oldest player on the team and a role player;  now, that’s a bitter pill for a perennial starter (at Georgetown and at Miami) and a double-digit scorer and blocker.  But he took the pill, knowing that he would be able to help Miami win one.  And he did.  In the final game, he took over from a foul-ridden Shaq and contributed his share of points, rebounds and blocks.  In the end, all the trouble he went to paid off—he finally won one.  And I am sure this one is the sweetest in his books.

Wade and Mourning.  Two players who show good and positive values  in a league dominated by an overriding concern to look out for number one--oneself;  two players who display character in a league dominated by supersized egos.  Wade and Mourning. Refreshing gusts of fresh air in a league that parades as  its poster boy a spoiled brat like Kobe Bryant.

June 08, 2006

The Day After

It’s over-finally!

It is the day after and the death penalty is dead.  The bicameral conference committee of the Senate (led by Senator Joker Arroyo—one of my former clients) and the House (led by Representative Edcel Lagman—another of my former clients) concluded its deliberation in record time and finally ended the reign of the death penalty in the Philippines.

All that it is needed is Gloria’s signature.  And with all her political maneuverings, I have no doubt she’ll sign it—she needs the endorsement of the Catholic church and other pro-life denominations, particularly because she is currently so in love with mining (which the Church opposes).

From 1994, a few minutes after the ink dried on the Death Penalty Law, abolition has been one of my issues, one that has occupied top tier in my agenda;  it has given me so many experiences and has made me many friends as well as enemies.  It is hard to believe that it is finally over.

I won’t miss it—the death penalty, that is.


The death penalty issue has made me grow up a lot—in many ways.  

As a lawyer, I have grown up in ways that I could never imagine; from arguing my very first Supreme Court orals at the ripe old age of 30;  witnessing two executions in the same year—Leo Echegaray on February 5, 1999 and Pablito Andan on October 26, 1999;  presenting position papers and engaging experts in round-table discussions here and abroad;  learning new things (such as use of DNA forensic technology in criminal cases) and being looked upon as the savior, hero and role model (three roles that I am absolutely uncomfortable with).  

As a person, I have become more open to many new ideas and to new ways of invigorating old ideas;  I’ve also learned what’s truly important:  a healthy acknowledgment of just how weak we all are, just how human, just how imperfect but also a healthy realization that, despite our weakness and our frailty, we are called to do extraordinary things by simpy living our ordinary lives.

As a Christian, my brushes with death on those two occasions when Leo and Pablito were executed right before my very eyes have shown me just how much love is missing in our lives right now;  when the ultimate cruelty of man can be used to justify a perfect justice that only God is capable of, the issue of life and death takes on new meaning.  My journey towards abolition has also led me back into a journey with the Lord who has given me everything, and, truly, it was only by His grace that I, and my companions on this journey, were able to accomplish so much.  To Him is the glory.

I will miss it—not the death penalty but the campaign and the many friends and comrades who have enriched my life through the years.  Through the years in the campaign, these were the lives who touched mine and I salute them: my colleagues from FLAG, Cookie, Chel, Arno, Pablito, Ed, Jun V., Milabel, Bombi, Chito, Ida, Weng, Glenda, Gilda, Leo, Domy, Ming and all the FLAG lawyers;  my colleagues from the FLAG ANTI-DEATH PENALTY TASK FORCE:  Fr. Jun Jun Borres, SJ, Fr. Roy Cosca, SJ, Fr. Robert Reyes, (Bishop) Rudy Diamante, (Cardinal) Tax Tan, Lydia and Dolly Pangilinan and everyone from Samahan ng mga Pamilya sa Death Row (SPDR), Brenda, all our clients from ALIS-DR, Maricel, Bing, Precy, Mike, Cora De Ungria and her staff at the DNA Lab;  Racquel Fortun, our friends from the PAO Appeals Division;  our volunteer lawyers who signed up for the TASK FORCE:  Karreen, Ella, Jig, Lourie, Joji, Rhon, Lezyl, Jun, Dondon, Tel, Fe and many others whose names I don’t remember at the moment.   I salute all of you and thank you.  May we have many more journeys towards the attainment of fundamental freedoms together.

June 06, 2006

sound and sight


What I'm watching on video--season 2 on bootleg DVD;



What I'm listening to now.



One more nail. . . one more House

The Senate of the Philippines just passed the abolition bill! One more chamber to go--the House, unfortunately.

One more nail in the coffin before the death penalty is dead--again (in 1987, the Constitution abolished the death penalty; in 1994, it was restored).

I pray that the majority of the members of the House can rise above themselves to vote on the abolition bill so that, finally, the death penalty can be removed from the statute books.

Sudoku

I’m addicted; to Sudoku, that is.

It’s a numbers puzzle and the object of the game is to fill in the grids provided so that every row, every column and every 3 x 3 box contains the digits 1 through 9.

I first saw it on a Newsbreak issue and wondered what it was; I went online and managed to get it downloaded into my PDA.

Now, I’m hooked. Try it, you’ll see why.

June 01, 2006

Apt Anagrams

I got these from Rocky. While some of these have been making the rounds of the various egroups, I still found them a lot of fun—especially in the wake of the Da Vinci Code controversy.

DORMITORY = DIRTY ROOM
PRESBYTERIAN = BEST IN PRAYER
ASTRONOMER = MOON STARER
THE EYES = THEY SEE
GEORGE BUSH = HE BUGS GORE (ha ha ha; he bugs me too but that’s not an anagram)
THE MORSE CODE = HERE COME DOTS
SLOT MACHINES = CASH LOST IN ME
ANIMOSITY = IS NO AMITY
ELECTION RESULTS = LIES - LET'S RECOUNT
MOTHER-IN-LAW = WOMAN HITLER (can’t relate)
SNOOZE ALARMS = ALAS! NO MORE Z'S
A DECIMAL POINT = I'M A DOT IN PLACE
THE EARTHQUAKES = THAT QUEER SHAKE
ELEVEN PLUS TWO = TWELVE PLUS ONE

I especially love “Election Results”, “The Eyes” and “The Earthquakes.”

May 28, 2006

Pass the cheese, please.

Before I forget, another line from X-Men III that had me cringing:

Logan, ending his version of a pep talk to Bobby Drake, who had correctly pointed out that there were only six of them to Magneto’s Army, “We’re X-Men.”

Whoa.  Is that supposed to make me, like, fearless, bub?  

I wanted to laugh out loud but my companions and everyone else behind me probably would have stoned me as it was apparently the dramatic high-point of the “action” movie (similar to Filipino movies where the lead explains the whole plot while hiding behind a crate and shooting an unextinguishable clip of bullets), so I kept my peace.  But, man, that was such a cheesy line.

Maybe if Logan had been told that X-Men in the Philippines has been taken to refer to persons of chosen gender, he might have hesitated before saying that line.

Still and all, X-Men III is worth watching.  Don’t mind me, I just have a terminal aversion to cheesy movie lines.

X-cited!

I grew up on books and comic books. For the longest time, I could remember my brothers and me waiting for each to finish so that we could swap issues. And, for the longest time, I could remember being very selective about the comic books I read; I was never a big fan of Superman—he was bland, shallow and too good to be true—and besides, he’s not even from earth. I was a bigger fan of Batman—now, that’s a superhero—who continues to do battle not only against crime but also against his own self and often straddling the line between giving in to his twisted side and letting his dark side win. For a young kid, that was something that caught my imagination.

One other title that caught me early was The X-Men. And I’m referring to the original team of Professor X (as he was then known), Scott Summers aka Cyclops (the team leader), his girlfriend then Jean Grey, Henry “Hank”McCoy aka The Beast (the team’s brains apart from Xavier), Warren Worthington III aka Angel and Bobby Drake aka Iceman. At that time, the word “mutant” was not too frequently used and they were just known as a group of youngsters under Xavier’s tutelage. Magneto was already around, together with his children, Wanda aka Scarlet Witch (who would team with The Avengers) and Pietro aka Quicksilver (who would start out as a villain and later join up with The Avengers and later become an X-man). It would also be during this period that villains like Juggernaut (aka Cain Marko, Xavier’s half-brother) would be introduced.

Years passed and the comic book needed to be revitalized and, thus, The Uncanny X-men came along with new members coming in and old members leaving. The very first issue saw Angel, Beast and Jean Grey leaving and Cyclops and Iceman remaining; for the first time, we saw people like Ororo Munroe aka Storm and Logan aka Wolverine (who had previously debuted in The Incredible Hulk as a villain) and Pyotr “Peter” Rasputin aka Colossus; much much later, we would get Kitty Pryde aka Shadowcat, Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler, Rogue, Forge, Cable, Gambit, Longshot, Dazzler and many, many others. The word “mutant” would be used more and more often and The X-men (and many other related X-titles or mutant titles such as X-Factor, Excalibur, New Mutants and Alpha Flight) would blaze the trail for issues and topics hardly ever discussed in comic books; even before the world spoke of Aids, the X-men were already grappling with the Extermination agenda, a virus so lethal that it could wipe out mutants; it was already grappling with hate, bigotry on top of the daily angst that teenagers thrust into superhero work went through. It helped that the comic book was written by many good writers, among the best of whom was Chris Claremont, and that it was drawn by many good artists.

Imagine my excitement when X-men finally hit the big screen. Although, I knew not to expect the heroes of my childhood to be portrayed in the same way, it was still so cool to see on live action something that I, as a kid, only imagined growing up. So while Wolverine was this 6 foot plus lean Australian hunk instead of a short, squat and swarthy Canadian and Scott Summers, whose mutant power aside from laser blasts for eyes was his leadership, was portrayed as a wimp, I suspended my disbelief and just simply enjoyed myself.

I recently watched X-Men III (aka The Last Stand) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. There is hardly any dialogue (except one, which I will talk about later) that matters as it is the action that moves the film and move the film, it does. Brett Ratner knows where he is strong and he capitalizes on that in this third installment of the X series. From start to finish, it is action-packed and X-afficionadoes are treated to many, many more mutants not revealed from X-Men and X2.

Worthy of mention is a delightful Kelsey Grammer (aka Frasier) as Hank McCoy; he is great in the role. Not so notable is Ben Foster as Angel, who is hardly given anything to do (compared to hism comic book treatment as one of the original X-men and who later turns to evil after being taken and changed by Apocalypse into Archangel. . . but that is several X movies down the line, I think).

The Rogue-Bobby Drake-Kitty Pryde tri-angle is well-made and quite realistic; Rogue’s angst about not being able to touch Bobby (because of her mutant power to absorb the life essence of anyone she touches with her bare skin) is quite moving and is one of the real reasons why the “cure” spoken of in the film becomes relevant. Her decision and her dialogue with Logan (who enjoys a paternal bond with her, as shown in the previous films) is quite compelling; Ana Paquin may not have done much with her powers in this film, but she does quite well as the tortured Rogue.

The actress who plays Kitty Pryde is well-cast. She calls to mind the playful child in the comic book who can phase through walls. Colossus is . . .well. . . big and metallic. I did have a hoot though with the “fastball express” (comic book readers will know what this is) between Logan and Peter and this happens twice—at the start and at the end—and enjoyed seeing this scene, done in so many comic books (and even filched by Peter Jackson in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King; see the part where Gimli tells Aragorn to throw him), come to life on the big screen.

My main complaint is Phoenix and the way they explained her. It’s lame. The entire Phoenix saga is one of the X-Men’s highest points and to have it reduced to Jean Grey having a multiple personality is a big let-down. Famke Jannsen is appropriately menacing as Phoenix and while she doesn’t really say much, the characterization of Phoenix as the mutant everyone (including Xavier and Magneto) is afraid of is quite good.

The part where I went “Oh man” is near the end when Logan, as the only one impervious to Phoenix’s power because of his mutant healing factor, manages to draw himself close enough to Phoenix to kiss—or kill—her is asked, “would you die for them?” Predictably enough (and even before this scene, I was cringing already waiting for some sappy ending between Logan and Phoenix), the response from Logan was sappy, “no, I’d die for you.” At least, it wasn’t the sappy ending I was dreading—Phoenix backs down because Logan affirms his love for her and yada yada yada yada and all that bunk; but it was bad enough.

Still and all, X-Men III manages entertain those not familiar with the series; it manages, as well, to placate a grizzled X-fan like me into really enjoying the film. Can’t wait for the next one; if not an X-movie, possibly a Wolverine movie.

(deleted for being a spoiler; sorry, didn't realize it when I first posted it.)

Oh, and by the way also, wait for the credits to end before leaving the movie house.

May 27, 2006

Bonfire of Inanities

I am a Catholic—a renewed Catholic at that. I am also a lawyer—a human rights lawyer. Let’s get those two things out of the way at the start.

I will never condone, tolerate, allow, leave unaddressed any challenges to my faith; I love being a Catholic and I will use every ounce of my strength to defend it.

But I draw the line at book burning. The Philippine Daily Inquirer today carries a story about a group burning copies of the Da Vinci Code, in book form as well as in bootleg DVD form.

I draw the line at any book burning because it is censorship and it violates the right to free expression. I AM ABSOLUTELY AGAINST ALL FORMS OF CENSORSHIP (yes, that’s why I tolerate Kris Aquino and Boy Abunda being on the air; I exercise my right to free expression by switching the channel and not watching anything with them on it. I will, however, not interfere with any one else’s right to be “entertained” by Kris Aquino or Boy Abunda and their ilk.)

I previously posted that I would watch the Da Vinci Code (I read it many years back and found it a delightful suspense thriller with an ingenious plot albeit with sophomoric and quite shallow writing—Dan Brown is no Ellery Queen, he’s not even close to John Grisham, who’s good for comfort room or airplane reading—that’s how quickly you can read his books) and I did. I found it the worst movie I’ve watched this year (my review of DVC in two words for those who don’t want to go to the previous post: IT SUCKS!).

I see no reason (good or otherwise)—other than publicity—for book burning. For one, you destroy the environment by polluting it; second, ultimately, you waste the sacrifice of the many trees they cut down so that Dan Brown could come up with his books.

Burning books is a throwback to the burning of witches, which symbolizes a fear of the unknown, a fear of matters we cannot address; in the olden days, “witches” would be burned at the stake on mere suspicion. In 2006, a book is being burned unread by those burning it.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me, goes a child’s taunting chant. And, yes, there is a lot of truth to that.

If we have faith smaller than a mustard seed, it would still be enough to counter the lies of Dan Brown. Burning books and DVDs is not the solution. A little more RESPONSIBLE READING and RESEARCH is; motherhood statements about blasphemies is not the solution. A little more effort at EXPLAINING THE FAITH TO OTHERS IS.

At the risk of sounding self-righteous, perhaps those who allow themselves to be affected by a badly-written work of fiction and a badly-made film without reading the book or watching the movie have faith even much smaller than a mustard seed. Sticks and stones may indeed break our bones, but will words like Dan Brown’s hurt my faith?

Not if we are zealous at defending our faith through a clear, well-discerned, well-presented and sober discussion on why Dan Brown is lying and why his book should be read as fiction (and perhaps fittingly so, only in the confines of the comfort room)—not with burning of books and censorship. Even the Vatican has not called for a ban on the book or the film—and who are we to be more pope-ish than the Pope?

Instead of burning the DVC, whether symbolically or otherwise, why not read the repository of ALL TRUTH? My book burning friends, have you read your (and I’m presuming here) Bible lately?

Instead of railing on tv and radio about the lies being propagated by Dan Brown (who’s laughing all the way to the bank), why not go on tv and radio to share about the beauty and the power of God’s transforming love?

Instead of misleading the faithful about a book you have not read and a movie you have not watched, why not lead the flock to a better understanding of God’s Word and God’s Love.

But, then, these would be a lot harder than burning books, wouldn't it?

May 22, 2006

Identity crisis

I’ve never been overly-concerned with my identity in the sense that I’ve never really taken people to task for mistaking me for someone else. And believe me, that happens to me quite often.

One of the most amusing episodes happened in the gym.While at the drinking fountain, a lady approached me and said, “I know you, you’re that lawyer. What’s your name now?” I replied, with a sheepish grin, “I’m Atty. (and I gave my name).” Then she replied, “No,you’re not. You’re Atty. Fortun! (the reference is to any of the two Fortun brothers who garnered their share of fame or notoriety, depending on which side you are, because of the impeachment trial of Estrada)” Honestly, I didn’t know how to react to that.

Ironically, I would most often be identified with the younger of the two Fortuns; although people also mistake me for someone else less “notorious.”

On Mother’s day last week, while waiting for my family at Gateway, I heard someone say toward my direction, “Hi Fr. Jboy!” (the reference is to Fr. Jessel Gerard “Jboy” Gonzales, SJ, who, at a young age, is already gaining a reputation for being a very inspired and inspiring homilist; check out his blog here.) He’s a good friend of mine so I turned to see where he was before I realized the lady was in front of me and was greeting ME. We both had a good laugh when she realized I wasn’t him and I realized she mistook me for him!

Only yesterday, after mass, another lady accosted (she came up to me, blocked my path and “forcibly” shook my hand) me and said, “Hi, I know you. You’re Atty. Fortun!” Again, I didn’t know how to react to that.

Mistakes in identity happen. They’re often funny (as in my situations) but they can also have serious consequences--I’ve had many cases involving mistaken identity where people were arrested, tortured, killed or disappeared. Despite the differences in features, personality, look, these mistakes happen and its part of life on earth so we don’t really need to get so strung out on these mistakes.

I rest assured though of One who never mistakes me for anyone else. The One who knows me inside and out, who never fails to pick me out in any crowd, the One I can never fool regardless of what I put on or become, the One who knows my heart and its ways (Ps 139:23) because He has made me fearfully and wonderfully (139:14). My One Lord and Master. Before Him, I need not be anyone else for my identity is secure, my identity is clear, my identity is precious: I am His beloved. He has called me by name and I am his (Isaiah 43:1) and no one on earth can take that away from me.

I thank You, Lord, for giving me this unmistakeable identity as Yours. May I respond in a manner befitting Your call to me.

What's the fuss? Tell me whats-a-happening?

The title comes from a song in the Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Webber 70s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar which, during its time, earned (undeservedly) its share of brikcbats as it showed an all-too human side of Jesus. The song is sung by Magdalene, Peter and the apostles and is one of the catchiest songs in the entire musical. I thought of that line while watching another film about Jesus's humanity which has earned (deservedly) its share of criticism.

I watched The Da Vinci Code yesterday and truly regretted it—it was a waste of hard-earned money and precious time.

Without a doubt,--and please quote me on this--, it is ONE OF THE WORST MOVIES TO COME OUT THIS YEAR! Considering that it is Oscar winner Ron Howard who directed it and it has in its smorgasbord of stars, Oscar winners Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen and established veterans like Jean Reno and an intriguing Paul Bettany, it is a movie that truly disappoints.

The plot is confused and confusing (Akiva Goldsman, another noted screenplay writer, disappoints with this outing); the characters are very shallow and the pace is uneven and at crucial stretches dragging; I nodded off at the pivotal scene among Leigh Teabing [McKellen], Langdon [Hanks] and Sophie Neveu [aka anak ni Jesus, Audrey Toutou] where Teabing discourses about Mary Magdalene and Jesus and the Knights Templar and even the part (inserted by Goldman and Howard) where Langdon debates with Teabing (not in the book). It is that boring and that dry.

Midway through the film, you start to ask yourself, what’s the fuss all about? The movie does not even explain valuable premises and leaves the audience to wonder what the characters who, owing to the heavy French accents and overtones apparently keep mumbling to themselves about many things (if you want to see two excellent movies about mumbling, see The Godfather and The Godfather Part Two and even the particularly refreshing and delightful licensed parody The Freshman with the always delightful Matthew Broderick and a very hammy—in many ways than one-- Marlon Brando. But I digress.)

You never get to the thriller part—as in the book, which, at least is a good suspense-filled read—because every scene is so predictable. You also never get to the faith part because by then you’ve probably nodded off. Even the treasure hunt that is the basic premise of Dan Brown’s novel is shallow—I’ve seen better treasure hunt premises in The Amazing Race and Alias.

Ron Howard tries to stave off controversy involving the Opus Dei and the Vatican as well as from Christians worldwide by making Langdon a more sympathetic figure—at one point, he even challenges Teabing on the latter’s belief—and makes the Langdon character’s views less dogmatic (which, in the book, is clearly held by the Langdon character with all the lectures the character gives there). In doing so, Howard misses the entire point of the book. In trying to make it less controversial, Howard misses Dan Brown’s point—he (Brown) truly believes in what he wrote (don’t believe the balderdash that he is merely echoing the words of others; if Brown were a man of integrity—which he obviously is not—he would stand by what he wrote, especially in the first page where he says everything contained in the book is true). By trying to make the movie less controversial, Howard manages to confuse everyone and, in the process, comes up with one of the lamest excuses for a movie in recent years. What makes it truly confusing is this: in the end, Langdon “kneels” before the sarcophagus of Mary Madgalene and, in the process, reveals himself to be a believer and, thus, reveals the intrinsic and patent flaw of the characterization.

All in all, The Da Vinci Code (The Movie) sucks. Please quote me on this: it sucks. You would be better served to watch another movie or read the best selling book of all time (hint: its not by Dan Brown).

So tell me, what's the fuss? tell me whats-a-happening?