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.