Thursday, November 9, 2017

"Despite continued vilification and persecution, I will never be cowed into silence. They cannot break my spirit." - Sen. Leila De Lima

De Lima: "Misogynistic Politics and the Erosion of Democracy"
Press Release
November 8, 2017
On the 1st Southeast Asian Women's Summit
"Misogynistic Politics and the Erosion of Democracy"

Miriam College, Quezon City
8 November 2017

Excellencies, distinguished participants from the civil society organizations, fellow human rights defenders, the organizers of the first Southeast Asian Women's Summit, my sincere congratulations and gratitude for making this event possible. Of course, to Miriam College, particularly the Women and Gender Institute, the teachers and students present, and to my dear favorite La Salle professor, Dr. Soc Reyes, thank you very much for allowing me to convey my support and solidarity with you in this emblematic event.

Greetings from the Detention Facility of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame.

During these dark and challenging times, the opportunity to share my views with kindhearted people and kindred spirit further inspires me and bolsters my courage. I thank you all for being here to show your support and solidarity towards the achievement of our shared goals: to put an end to the madness of the vindictive Duterte regime--to uphold democracy, justice, and women's welfare and human rights.

As you might have heard last month, the majority of the Supreme Court justices dismissed my petition to nullify my arrest and unjust detention based on trumped-up charges. I am deeply saddened and pained by this decision which legitimizes oppression and political persecution by the State, brought about by Duterte's deeply-rooted vengeance against me.

Today marks my 258th day in detention - all because I dared to earn the ire of a psychopath and misogynistic President who bragged in public that he will make me rot in jail and that I should hang myself because, quote, "the innermost of [my] core as a female is being serialized everyday", unquote. My personal freedom was the price I had to pay for standing up against the killings and injustices of his failed "War on Drugs."

Just think: At least 13 cases have been filed against me since I became Senator--from drug trading, disobedience to summons, disbarment, ethics violations, election cheating, and even terrorism. All were filed within a year since Duterte became President. These charges were unmeritorious and merely fuelled by the President's vow to destroy me.

Still, I remain unbowed because the truth is on my side. I am innocent. That is why my persecutors had to resort to lies, manufactured evidence, and misogynistic remarks to curse and lambast me in public. A massive demolition job had to be set up to spread fake news about me online, with trolls attacking me to destroy my character and credibility, while portraying Duterte as the "Best President in the Solar System."

This is the same President who encourages the bloody War on Drugs which has claimed more than 13,000 lives, targeted, not big-time drug lords, but the poor, the vulnerable and the defenseless. Case in point: As of October this year, 60 children have died because of the anti-narcotics campaign, according to non-government organization Children's Legal Rights and Development Center. As of December 2016, according to news reports, there are 18,000 children who have lost their parents as a result of these brazen killings.

There is, for example, the case of 85-year-old "Lola Trining" who serves as the single parent of seven grandchildren orphaned by extrajudicial killings.

What kind of future awaits them? Do they lose their ability to care about human life? Will they also be vindictive in seeking justice for their parent's death?

Will they even have a future in the first place?

If the people currently in power had a say, they'd likely say, "No. They don't matter anyway. They can go hungry and die. We don't care. Their parents died because they're the scum of the earth, who aren't even qualified to be called part of 'humanity'." As it is was bluntly put by some keen observer of the double-standards of what is being passed off as justice these days, "Sa War on Drugs, mga anak ng mahihirap utas, basta ang mga anak at kaibigan ng Presidente ligtas."

But if people like us here today had a say, the answer would be loud and clear: "Yes. They should have a future - a bright one - along with all the opportunities that other children and other human beings are entitled to. They are, after all, our collective children, for they are part of our humanity. If we could not feel empathy for those who are downtrodden, who are we to call ourselves human beings?"

To me, that's what sets us apart from the beasts who recognize nothing but their own self-interests.

This is the very reason why I have been standing up for what is just and right, even though I know that political power is not on my side. Despite continued vilification and persecution, I will never be cowed into silence. They cannot break my spirit.  xxxx."

UN Security Council condemns violence in Myanmar

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UN Security Council condemns violence in Myanmar
Tuesday 7 November 2017 at 10:43 AM ETby Ram Eachambadi

© WikiMedia (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

[JURIST] UN Security Council (UNSC) [official website] President Sebastiano Cardi on Monday condemned [statement] violence in Myanmar's state of Rakhine and urged the Myanmar government to stop using excessive military force and "work with Bangladesh and the United Nations to allow the voluntary return of refugees in conditions of safety and dignity to their homes, on the basis of a 24 October Memorandum of Understanding [JURIST report] between the two countries."

According to the UN, Myanmar has engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleaning [JURIST report] against Rohingya Muslims that has caused the displacement of more than 600,000 people. Among other things, Cardi cited systematic killings, sexual violence, violence against children and destruction of homes as being among the many abuses and violence committed by the security forces.

In September Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile], after weeks of silence, addressed [JURIST report] the human rights violations concerns, pledging that "[a]ction will be taken against all people, regardless of their religion, race and political position, who go against the law of the land and violate human rights." But Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] was skeptical of Suu Kyi's statement, saying: "at times she and her government are still burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine State. At times, her speech amounted to little more than a mix of untruths and victim blaming." AI particularly pointed to the Myanmar government's refusal to allow UN investigators into the country.

Acknowledging the initial steps taken by the government to to provide humanitarian assistance to individuals in Rakhine, Cardi called on Myanmar to:
cooperate with all relevant United Nations bodies, mechanisms and instruments, in particular the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and to continue further consultations on opening a country office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website]. The Security Council calls upon the Government of Myanmar to urgently grant domestic and international media organizations full and unhindered access to Rakhine State and throughout the country and to ensure the safety and security of media personnel.Cardi further stressed that the Myanmar government has the primary duty to "protect its population including through respect for the rule of law and the respect, promotion and protection of human rights." Stating that the UNSC will closely follow further developments in Myanmar, Cardi requested the UN Secretary General [official website] to brief UNSC on the situation in Rakhine within 30 days of the adoption of his statement.
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SC rules with finality allowing plea bargain deals for drug cases

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SC rules with finality allowing plea bargain deals for drug cases
Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News
Posted at Nov 07 2017 05:11 PM | Updated as of Nov 07 2017 11:09 PM

MANILA - It is final. Plea bargain deals for all drug cases are allowed.

The Supreme Court (SC) junked on Tuesday a motion for reconsideration (MR) of its earlier ruling junking the prohibition on plea bargain deals for all drug cases, and striking down as unconstitutional the prohibition found in Section 23 of Republic Act (RA) No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Act).

“The court, acting on the motion for reconsideration of its decision dated 15 August 2017, denied with finality the motion for reconsideration for lack of merit,” said SC Public Information Office chief, Atty. Theodore Te, in a news conference.

The ruling is in favor of Salvador Estipona, Jr., currently detained in Legazpi, Albay for possession of .084 gram of shabu in March 2016. Estipona filed the petition through the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) in September 2016.

In its August 15 decision, the high court said the assailed provision is “unconstitutional for being contrary to the rule making authority of the [SC] in Article VIII, Section 5 (5) of the 1987 Constitution.”

In his petition, Estipona argued that “[t]hose accused of other heinous crimes such as murder, some acts of rape, and other crimes where the maximum imposable penalty is either life imprisonment, reclusion perpetua, or death, are allowed into plea bargaining under Section 1, Rule 118 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure."

He lamented how those accused of violations of RA No. 9165 have not been allowed to strike plea bargain deals. Estipona’s motion for plea bargain was junked twice by the Legazpi City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 3.

"This, despite the fact that the various pertinent violations under RA 9165 do not bare out any reason to consider a person accused under the said law as a separate and distinct specie that would exempt from plea bargaining.

"Section 23 of RA 9165 deprives not only the accused and the prosecution, but more importantly, the courts, of the benefits of a validly entered plea bargaining agreement. It is antithetical to the early resolution of cases and declogging of court dockets, especially in instances such as this case, where the prosecution does not object and both the prosecution and defense are open to the possibility of plea bargaining,” Estipona explained.

At the time the petition was filed, some 82,000 persons were detained on drug charges.

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Ombudsman files raps vs Aquino over Mamasapano incident

See - Ombudsman files raps vs Aquino over Mamasapano incident

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Ombudsman files raps vs Aquino over Mamasapano incident
November 08, 2017 10:23am
Jhoanna Ballaran

The Office of the Ombudsman has filed graft and usurpation of authority charges against former President Benigno Aquino III before the Sandiganbayan on Wednesday in connection with the 2015 Mamasapano incident.

The Ombudsman charged Aquino with violation of Section 3(a) of Republic Act 3109 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), the provision on the usurpation of official functions.

The anti-graft body set the bail to P40,000: P30,000 for the graft charge and P10,000 for the usurpation of authority charge.

According to the information sheet of the usurpation of authority charge, Ombudsman Assistant Special Prosecutor Reza M. Casila-Derayunan accused Aquino of conspiring with former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima, who was then under preventive suspension, and PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) chief Getulio Napeñas in implementing Oplan Exodus, the January 2015 operation that led to the deaths of 44 police commandos, dubbed as the SAF 44.

Derayunan said Aquino "did there and then willfully, unlawfully cause Purisima to perform and/or exercise the function of the chief of the PNP over Oplan Exodus prior to and during its implementation [...] despite having knowledge that Purisima was under preventive suspension" by the Office of the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman suspended Purisima and 11 other police officials for six months in December 2014 over the alleged misuse of gun license couriers' fees.

The prosecutor said Aquino allowed Purisima to take part in Oplan Exodus by letting him go to the Jan. 9, 2015 meeting in Bahay Pangarap, where the top secret operation was planned and discussed.

Aquino also instructed Purisima to coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and communicated exclusively with the former police chief at the height of the operations on Jan. 25, 2015, the prosecutor said.

In the separate information sheet for the graft charge, Derayunan said Aquino "allowed himself to be persuaded, induced, or influence" to violate the PNP chain of command, the Ombudsman's preventive suspension order against Purisima, and officer-in-charge PNP chief Leonardo Espina's order against Purisima and other suspended police officials to cease and desist from performing duties and functions of their offices.

The prosecutor said Aquino knew "fully well [of] the Ombudsman's preventive suspension order, Espina's special order, and that it was Espina who had the authority to oversee the preparation and conduct of Oplan Exodus, to the damage and prejudice of the State."

The case was filed after the Ombudsman denied Aquino's motion for reconsideration and upheld its June 2017 resolution finding probable cause for the indictment of the former president. /cbb

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ANALYSIS: Peso fall is something to worry about

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ANALYSIS: Peso fall is something to worry about
Jose Galang – Your Business
Posted at Nov 07 2017 05:00 PM

It has become customary for the Duterte economic managers to tell the people that the recent depreciation in the peso exchange rate is “nothing to worry about” and that a weak peso benefits exporters and families of Filipinos working abroad.

READ: Peso hovers at 11-year low, BSP says no cause for worry

“Whenever you have a peso depreciation, that is favorable to our exports sector, which will then create more jobs,” Budget Secretary Ben Diokno told a press briefing in Malacañang recently. “The families of OFWs like this [depreciation] because that will increase their purchasing power,” he added.

READ: Budget chief 'not worried' over peso slide
READ: Finance chief prefers ‘slightly weak’ peso to help OFWs

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said in a separate encounter with journalists that a peso depreciation increases government tax collections more than it pushes up expenditures. A decline in the peso exchange rate is a “net gain” for the government, he said.

Such is the confidence of the economic managers that a further drop in the exchange rate even up to P52 to the US dollar will “not worry” them. The peso value at end-October stood P51.7990 to the dollar, a loss of nearly P2 since the start of this year.
READ: Peso to sustain slide, may hit P52 vs $1 next year: analyst

Impact on prices

There are other effects of a peso depreciation that the economic managers have been silent about. One of them is the faster rate of increase in prices of goods. Recent increases have been caused by higher production and handling costs incurred by import-dependent manufacturers that are ultimately passed on to consumers.

This was highlighted once more by the release of new inflation data by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). At the end of October, the PSA reported, consumer prices were up by 3.5 percent overall from last year. Mirroring the fall in the peso rate, the October inflation rate was significantly higher compared to 2.3 percent in the same month last year. The speed of price increases last October was also the fastest since November 2014.
READ: Inflation quickens to 3-year peak in October

The faster inflation rate was driven by food prices, which in October were higher by 3.8 percent from the year before. Corn, meat and vegetables were among the food items that increased the most. Also reflecting the peso depreciation, imports-related prices in housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels rose by an overall 4.6 percent, according to PSA’s calculations.

Higher rates of price increases could be expected until end-2017, given that the last two months of the year usually see brisk consumer spending driving up prices. Also, manufacturers could be marking up their prices more aggressively to reflect the costlier petroleum products, equipment and raw materials they use in their operations.

With this recent behavior in prices, obviously even the families getting dollar remittances from relatives abroad can be negatively affected. For instance, combined effects of peso depreciation and inflation could raise expenses for food, the largest item on the Filipino household budget, by over 15 percent to around P10,750 a month for a family receiving the peso equivalent of a $500 monthly remittance. That would leave around P15,150 a month, or nearly P505 a day, for other family expenses like education, transportation, medical and leisure.

In the case of Filipino families with no dollar remittances to depend on, the effects of inflation pushed higher by a weak peso can be harsh, particularly in an environment of stagnant or shrinking household incomes exacerbated by a growing unemployment rate. As of July this year, there were around 2.37 million individuals without jobs, some 1.8 percent more than last year. Another 6.54 million were underemployed.
READ: Jobless rate steady in July: gov't data

It is no surprise therefore that public satisfaction with the government’s record on 15 performance subjects has been lowest in “fighting inflation”, according to the latest “Governance Report Card” released by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).
SWS: Fewer Filipinos believe Duterte can deliver on most/all promises

A net satisfaction rating of +24 on the government’s ability to manage inflation was reported late in August by the SWS reflecting results of its survey conducted during the period June 23-27, 2017. The +24 rating on “fighting inflation” was just below the +25 net satisfaction rating on “resolving the traffic problem”, another major issue for residents of Metro Manila and a few other cities in the country.

National debt

Estimates from the Department of Finance ostensibly point to “net gains” for the government from a declining value of the peso in terms of projected increased pesos from Bureau of Customs collections, remittances from Filipinos abroad, and earnings from business processing outsourcing companies.

Still, the pesos needed to pay for foreign currency-denominated obligations are also going up. Largely as a result of the peso depreciation, the national government’s external debt (owed to other countries and foreign institutions) as of last September has ballooned by P99.4 billion in peso terms since the beginning of this year even though most of new borrowings incurred by the government are from local sources.

The total peso amount of external debt, at P2.26 trillion as of end-September, was bigger by nearly 3.4 percent from the year-ago P2.18 trillion, according to Bureau of the Treasury data. Including obligations from local lenders, total outstanding national debt came to over P6.44 trillion.

The increase in external debt’s peso value was equivalent to nearly 3 percent of the government’s total budget for this year. That increase will also eat up almost 4 percent of all tax collections this year, based on revenue expectations of the Department of Budget and Management.

Trade deficit

On trade, a peso depreciation has mixed results. Pesos generated from foreign currencies earned by exporters go up. On the other hand, exporters also need to import raw materials as well as machineries and parts regularly, and a weak currency results in more pesos having to be coughed up even for the same volume of these imports.

Exports in the January-August period (latest available) totaled $42.11 billion, higher by 13.5 percent from the same 8-month period last year. On the other hand, total imports reached $59.15 billion, up by 8.2 percent.
READ: Philippine trade gap widens in August as imports rebound

Despite the higher growth rate in exports as of August, imports still exceeded exports by $17.05 billion. The trade deficit, together with a retreat in foreign direct investment in local company equities, has pushed the overall balance of payments (BOP, a measure of the economy’s financial relations with the rest of the world) into a deficit this year from surpluses in previous years that were in part a result of strong dollar remittances from Filipinos abroad.

As of the end of September, the BOP deficit stood at nearly $1.37 billion, compared to a surplus of $1.65 billion in the same month last year. A continued weakness in the BOP position usually results in a further erosion in the currency’s exchange rate.

‘Increasing risks’

The World Bank Manila Office, in its latest Philippine Economic Update report released early in October, sees macroeconomic fundamentals remaining intact, but cites “increasing” risks to the country’s outlook.

It says that increases in the US interest rates, seen to be triggered by coming Federal Reserve Bank’s rate adjustments, “could lead to a further depreciation of the peso and continued capital outflows from the Philippines”.

“Both the fiscal and monetary space to address risks can quickly diminish and limit the government’s ability to mitigate those risks,” the report says.

Other analysts, including those at the research unit of Australian banking giant ANZ, see the Philippine peso to remain to be the Southeast Asian region’s “worst performing” currency this year. The recent period of strong growth, the researchers point out, has led to “imbalances” in the economy that are “intensifying”.

The Duterte economic managers appear to have miscalculated on their optimistic projections of a surge in investment that could add to production capacity and create more jobs. With these expectations, the economic managers went on a spending spree on long-gestating infrastructure projects and incurred big fiscal deficits as a result.

Investors have remained adamant, with some even pulling out and relocating their operations elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, manufacturing, which was viewed as a key driver to growth, has reached its operating capacity and leaves little room for growth. The entry of more new investors can improve the situation.
ANALYSIS: The ‘growth’ in foreign direct investments in the Philippines

In the coming days, the Duterte economic managers will be extremely busy as they search for schemes to rebalance the economy. They cannot continue to tell the people that the peso depreciation is nothing to worry about.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Stream - What really happened in Marawi?

The Constitution at its Margins | Dean Marvic MVF Leonen

Concerns and Emerging Trends in Family Law | Justice Flerida Ruth Romero

A General Theory of Church and State | Prof. Florin T. Hilbay

Atty. Florin Hilbay talks about the cases of detained Sen. Leila de Lima and blogger Jover Laurio amid the Duterte government's efforts to silence critics

Head to Head - Is Zionism compatible with democracy?

Head to Head - Is democracy wrong for China?

De Lima case explained

Fault Lines - Hate in Trump's America

Free Speech and Dissent During Wartime | John V. Denson

How to Reduce Debt and Grow the Economy: Milton Friedman on Budget Recon...

What Is Free Market Based Health Care? Milton Friedman - Benefits, Econo...

Socialized Medicine - Walter Block

The Economics and Ethics of Discrimination | Walter Block

Perspectives on Islamic Law Reform

Philosophical Foundations of Immigration Law

What Makes the Constitution Work (or Not)?

Access to Justice in Civil Cases 50 Years After Gideon

Just Mercy: Race and the Criminal Justice System

The need for criminal justice reform in America - Keynote with Governor ...

The Rule of Law

'Those Who Wish to Practise Law Should Not Study Law at University'?

'The Rule of Law and Human Dignity': The 2011 Sir David Williams Lecture...

Social Media in the Workplace

The South China Sea and Asia Pacific in Transition: Exploring Options fo...

The Modern Origins of China's South China Sea Claim

Corporations on Trial

What Ever Happened to the Constitution? | Andrew Napolitano

The Natural Law as a Restraint Against Tyranny | Judge Andrew P. Napolitano

Natural Law (from "The Ethics of Liberty")

The Road to Serfdom

Monday, November 6, 2017

Why federalism is not the answer

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Why federalism is not the answer
Writes a retired Supreme Court justice: 'We don’t need to change to a federal system but only push hard for decentralization to break up the concentration of power in the central government'

By Supreme Court Justice Vicente V. Mendoza [ret.]

Published 12:12 PM, October 10, 2016
Updated 12:13 PM, October 10, 2016

For better or for worse, the proposal to change our present unitary system of government to a federal system and to do this through Congress acting as a constituent assembly, if accomplished, will be a truly revolutionary one, a real paradigm shift in our constitutional order .

Those calling for the change justify it by describing the object of change “Imperial Manila” or worse “Imperialist Manila.” Wikipedia defines the term as follows: “Imperial Manila is a pejorative epithet used by sectors of Philippine society and non-Manilans to express the idea that all the affairs of the Philippines, whether in politics, economy or culture, are decided by what goes on in the capital region, Metro Manila, without considering the needs of the rest of the country, largely because of centralized government and urbanite snobbery.”

The once "distinguished and ever loyal city" of Manila must have become so hated that vivid metaphors have been employed to describe how it should be ended: “Destroy Imperial Manila,” “Castrate Imperial Manila,” and “Decapitate Imperial Manila.”

Complaint vs Imperial Manila

We have a unitary system of government, which in theory holds all power and from which all authority emanates. The complaint is that the power given to local governments is so little that they have failed to realize their fullest development as self reliant communities. With respect to public finance, the share of LGUs in the revenue from taxes, fees and charges collected by the government is fixed at 60-40 percent in favor of the central government. In addition, the complaint is that the age-old conflicts and secessionist movements in Mindanao continue to defy solution.

All these – the failure of the LGUs to develop and the seemingly insoluble conflict in Mindanao – have been laid at the doorstep of Imperial Manila.

Those calling for an end to Imperial Manila call for the federalization of the government as a means of breaking up its power and distributing it to several states so that there will be several centers of power throughout the nation. For this purpose the advocates propose the conversion of the 12 existing administrative regions into 11 states. For example, Region V, which is at present composed of Albay with Legazpi City, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, including the Cities of Naga and Iriga, Catanduanes, Masbate, and Sorsogon will become the State of Bicol, to be composed of the same provinces and cities, minus Masbate.

Under a federal system, each of the states will be independent. Each will have its own constitution, its own government, and its own court system, in contrast to local governments which only exercise power given to them by the central government.

Given the condition of the local government units, however, thoughtful citizens are asking whether we are ready for the federal system. Take for example the Bicol Region, is it ready for statehood? Dr. Jose V. Abueva, fervent advocate of federalism, estimates that ten years would be enough to make the proposed states viable. That does not seem to be a realistic estimate.

What federalization will entail

Each state, as I have said, will have to have its own constitution. This is necessary to give the states a sense that they are directors of their own political will and their political destiny. The state constitution should be prepared and approved by the local population in a plebiscite. Give the adoption of the state constitution three years.

Each state must also have its own government, consisting of legislative, executive, and judicial branches, and hold elections for some of its officials. Give the organization of the government of the state another three years.

Each state will have to have its own court system, with the jurisdiction of each court clearly defined, and provide for appeals to the National Supreme Court in some cases. The National Supreme Court will exercise original jurisdiction over interstate commerce and transportation and appellate jurisdiction over cases arising from or between the states which involve the application and interpretation of the Federal Constitution and the federal laws. Give the establishment of a state court system and the appellate or review processes up to the national level another three years. This matter should be given careful study. Much of the business of the US Supreme Court consists of adjudicating cases involving diversity of jurisdiction because of its dual court system.

That already is a total of nine years. But what about the training of leaders in public policy, since each state is now going to determine its policies? What about the development of its economy, how long will it take to grow the region so that each state can stand on its own two feet? What about preparing people for the duties and responsibilities of statehood, all cast in the context of duties and responsibilities to the broader Nation? More than the amendment of the Constitution is the amendment of men’s nature. This is likely to take a much longer period, not just years but perhaps a whole generation or several epochs.

Curiously, the ten-year period is similar to the ten-year transition period given by America to Filipinos before the grant of independence to them.When well-meaning leaders doubted whether ten years would be sufficient to prepare Filipinos for independence, President Quezon said dismissively, “I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos to a government run like heaven by Americans.” But can we dismiss apprehensions about changing the system of government when it also calls for changing the mindset and habits of thinking of people who for over a 100 years have not known of any regime but unitary system?

Indeed, the whole process of federalization will involve dividing governmental powers between the national government, on the one hand, and the several states on the other. The national government will have power over matters of national concern, like foreign relations, national security, immigration, citizenship and naturalization, postal service, monetary currency, interstate commerce and transportation and communication. The state governments will take charge of local matters like peace and order, trade and commerce, taxation, natural resources, etc. It will be splitting the atom of sovereignty in order to produce several nuclei, this can be done in ten years?

Proposed federalization, a reverse process

This process of federalization as proposed is in the opposite historical direction of the formation of federal states. Federal systems are usually the results either of the agreement of several states to form a union or of the organization of several territories or colonies into a federal system by a colonial power.

For example, the United States of America was formed out of 13 colonies which, after declaring their independence from Great Britain in 1776, formed a confederation or “perpetual Union” and, when this proved to be weak, adopted the present US Constitution which provides for the present federal system of government.

Another example is the Federation of Malaysia, which was formed out of several separate units or territories held successively by Portugal, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. In 1944, the British government tried to organize them (except Singapore) into a single state, the Malayan Union, but strong opposition forced it to abandon the plan. Instead, on February 1, 1948 the Federation of Malaya, which later became the present Federation of Malaysia, was formed.

The creation in reverse of a Federal Republic of the Philippines is likely to bring about a host of undesirable effects, to wit:

The division of powers between the national and state governments will weaken the Philippines. For states coming together to form a federal system, federalism means strength. In union there is strength. Such, for example, is the United States of America, whose motto is “E Pluribus Unum,” (“Out of Many, One”). But to a unitary state converted into a federal state, federalism can mean the fragmentation, if not the disintegration, of what was once a nation.
Should the federal system thus formed fail, there will be no turning back and returning to the old system. The breakup will be more devastating in its effect on the component states than on the states in a federal system formed by the coming together of independent states. While the failure of this latter type of federation will simply mean the return of the component states to their former status as separate independent states, in the case of the Philippines, however, each component state will find itself without moorings and become prey to annexation by other states. God forbid, the breakup will not presage the spread of strife throughout the land.
Federalism will magnify or encourage regional differences. The rise of village tyrants and village despots will be more probable than the rise of a national dictator.
States may become so focused on local development and security that they neglect national concerns and issues.

At a time when regional federations are breaking up and threats to our territorial integrity are getting to be more real than imagined, is there truly a need to divide the government into national and state governments?

Decentralization is the way

Indeed, in classic political theory, concentration of power is never an issue against a unitary system of government.

In Federalist Paper No. 51 Madison saw the vertical division of power between national and state governments, along with its horizontal division into legislative, executive and judicial, as providing double protection for individual rights. Similarly, Lord Acton, wary of absolute power, thought that “by multiplying the centers of government and discussion [federalism becomes] . . . the protectorate of minorities, and the consecration of self-government.” Protection of individual rights was thus a reason for federalism.

On the other hand, Dean Roscoe Pound saw federalism as the only way for governing a large country of continental extent, like the United States, by which national policies can be fully realized by permitting regional variations according to local needs. The effective administration of a continental domain was another purpose of federalism.

No one, however, has advocated federalism as a cure for the concentration of powers per se.

The truth is that we don’t really have a fully centralized unitary government, but one with a decentralized system of local governments. Local autonomy is a constitutional policy and decentralization a constitutional mandate. Both are rights of local governments which cannot be taken away from them. Local officials are elected, not appointed by the central government, and their tenure is guaranteed. They have the power to create their own sources of revenue and raise taxes. They have a right to share in the taxes, charges and fees collected by the central government as well in the utilization and development of natural resources within their areas.

Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. argues that a federal state would enable Moros to run their government according to their customs and traditions. The Constitution already provides for autonomous regions in the Cordilleras and Muslim Mindanao with recognition of the fact that the people of these regions have a different historical and cultural heritage and different economic and social structures. Autonomous regions have their own organic acts, their own government, consisting of an executive department and legislative assembly, and special courts with personal, family and property law jurisdiction. No reason has been shown why these provisions for autonomous regions are inadequate to address the Mindanao problem. If the Bangsamoro Basic Law failed passage in the last Congress, it was because several of its provisions were perceived to be unconstitutional and that what it provided for was the creation of a Bangsamoro substate.

The argument that federalization will promote local development and encourage citizen participation in government is precisely a policy argument for decentralization. In 1967 Congress enacted the Decentralization Act (R.A. No. 5185) granting “local governments greater freedom and ampler means to respond to the needs of their people and promote their prosperity and happiness and to effect a more equitable and systematic distribution of governmental powers and resources.” Thus, “the performance of those functions that are more properly administered [at] the local level” are entrusted to local governments which are granted “as much autonomous powers and financial resources as are required for the more effective discharge of these responsibilities.”

The coming into force of the 1987 Constitution added impetus to the decentralization of the government. It mandates Congress to “enact a local government code which shall provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization.” The Local Government Code (R.A. 7160), provides in its Section 3 “Operative Principles of Decentralization” in passing local legislation. If then there is still excessive concentration of power in the central government, it is because constitutional and statutory provisions for decentralization have not been fully implemented.

We have reduced the President’s power over local governments to “general supervision.” We need to do something similar to Congress’ powers over local legislation to implement fully the constitutional policy of local autonomy. There should be not merely decentralization of local administration and functions but delegation of legislative powers, to give local governments greater autonomy. They should have power to determine what ordinances to enact, subject only to such terms and conditions as Congress may provide, with a sufficient standard to guide them in the exercise of this power. This is permissible under the Constitution. It is in fact a mandate to Congress with respect to local governments. In addition, the share of local governments in the internal revenue collection should be increased from 60-40, in favor of the national government, to 30-70, in favor of local governments given the increased responsibilities that they will now shoulder.

This is not the same as federalizing the government. Power will not be granted to the local governments as independent entities but simply delegated to them as political subdivisions of the state. National policies will still be determined by the central government, but local governments will be given broad discretion to make variations to adapt them to local conditions.

All these can be done without changing to a federal system and without having to amend or revise the Constitution, which is problematical because of controversy in the interpretation of its Amendment Clause.

For, indeed, apart from the risks of failure of the experiment, there are procedural problems to be considered as well.

Vexing problem

It is generally agreed that to change from a unitary to a federal system would require the revision of the Constitution. Revisions of the Constitution can be proposed either by Congress acting as a constituent assembly or by a constitutional convention composed of delegates elected by the people. While the President had originally expressed preference for a constitutional convention, it was subsequently announced that he chose a Con-Ass to undertake the job of overhauling the Constitution after being told of the cost of holding a Con-Con.

This decision is likely to raise anew a vexing problem that has been with us since the adoption of the Constitution in 1987: how the two Houses of Congress, when acting as a constituent assembly, should sit, whether jointly or separately. The Constitution’s meager provision gives no answer to this question. Its Article XVII, Section 1 simply states that “Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by (1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members.”

In the last Congress, views were expressed that in amending the Constitution so as to change some of its economic provisions, Congress could follow the same procedure for enacting bills.

This problem has arisen because the constitutional provision in question was originally written on the assumption that the legislative body would be unicameral. However, toward the closing days of its session, the Commission decided to have a bicameral Congress instead. Accordingly, the relevant provisions of the draft Constitution, except the Amendment Clause, were rewritten to reflect the change.

Thus, in the following cases, it was provided that the two Houses of Congress must meet in joint session but vote separately:
To declare the “existence of a state of war.” (Art. VI, Sec. 23 (1))
To confirm the President’s nomination of a Vice President whenever there is a vacancy in the office during the term of the Vice President. (Art. VII, Sec. 9)
To revoke the President’s declaration of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. (Art. VII, Sec.18)
To canvass the votes for President and Vice President and proclaim the winners and, in case of a tie, to break the tie. (Art. VII, Sec. 4)
To decide whether the President, who has declared himself unable to discharge the duties of his office and subsequently claims to be fit to resume but his cabinet disagrees, is fit to discharge the powers and functions of the Presidency. (Art. VII, Sec. 11)

It was only through oversight that the Commission failed to make the corresponding changes in the Amendment Clause. But, as Commissioner Suarez, the Chairman of the Committee on Amendments and Transitory Provisions, said when asked what his committee would do in the event the Commission decided to have a bicameral legislative body, they would include the words “IN JOINT 

Indeed, if Congress is required to meet in joint session but vote separately in performing the functions just enumerated, it stands to reason it must be required to observe this same procedure when performing its highest function of amending or revising the fundamental law. To contend that Congress can propose amendments to the Constitution in the same way as in passing ordinary legislation is to forget the lesson of Marbury v. Madison that “as a superior paramount law, the Constitution is unchangeable by ordinary legislative acts.”

There is furthermore a benefit to be gained by having Senators and Representatives meet and discuss matters together face to face. As the Supreme Court has pointed out, the “Senators and members of the House of Representatives act, not as members of Congress, but as component elements of a constituent assembly.” (Gonzales v. Comelec, 21 SCRA 774, 785 (1967); Tolentino v. Comelec, 41 SCRA 702, 714 (1971)).

To sum up, we don’t need to change to a federal system but only push hard for decentralization to break up the concentration of power in the central government, and therefore we don’t need to amend or revise the Constitution. And if Congress has to act at all as a constituent assembly, its two Houses must meet in joint session but vote separately. –

The author is a retired justice of the Philippines’ Supreme Court and a professor of constitutional law at the UP College of Law.
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Maria Ressa receives W. Averell Harriman Democracy Award from National D...

"Democracy under threat: We will shine the light, we will hold the line."

By Maria A. Ressa
Published 11:20 AM, November 03, 2017
Updated 8:55 PM, November 03, 2017

Lord, forgive us and heal our broken land.

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FULL TEXT: Villegas homily on 'Lord, Heal Our Land' Sunday

Start the healing by repenting now,' says outgoing CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas on 'Lord, Heal Our Land' Sunday in EDSA Shrine

By Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas
Published 3:56 PM, November 05, 2017
Updated 9:57 PM, November 05, 2017

MOTHER AND SON. Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas prays before an image of Our Lady of Fatima in an anti-EJK event at the People Power Monument on November 5, 2017. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Below is the full text of the homily prepared by Archbishop Socrates Villegas for his Mass at EDSA Shrine for "Lord, Heal Our Land" Sunday, a huge gathering against the killings in President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs

Sa bawat pag-aalay ng Misa ay paulit-ulit nating naririnig ang mga salita ng Panginoon na binibigkas ng pari: "Ito ang aking dugo na ibubuhos para sa inyo." Sa pagbubuhos ng kanyang dugo, itinuturo ng Panginoon ang tunay na kapangyarihan. Ang tuktok ng pag-ibig ay ang pag-aalay ng buhay para sa minamahal.

Leadership is for service. Service is dying that others may live.

Kapag bumuhos ang dugo ng Panginoon, bumubuhos ang pagpapala at biyaya. Ito lamang ang pagbubuhos dugo na may bungang biyaya. Kapag ibinuhos ng tao ang dugo ng kanyang kapwa, wala itong dulot na biyaya kundi sumpa at parusa. Nang unang dumanak ang dugo ng kapatid dahil sa pagpatay ng sariling kadugo, sabi ng Panginoon, "Ang tinig ng dugo ng iyong kapatid ay dumadaing sa akin mula sa lupa" (Gen. 4: 10).

Ang pakiusap na itigil na ang patayan ay panaghoy ng mahigit sampung libong kababayan nating nabaril dahil nanlaban daw o kaya ay binaril ng 'di makilala. Ito ay hinagpis ng mga ulilang magulang at anak, mga maagang naulilila sa asawa. Ito ay pakiusap mula sa mga matang luhaan at kaloobang sugatan. "Tama na po. May test pa ako bukas."

Kapag hindi natin itinigil ang patayan, may sumpang parusa ang bayang pumapatay sa sariling kababayan. Sabi ng Birhen sa Fatima, "Tigilan na ninyo ang pagsuway sa Panginoon sapagkat labis labis na siyang sinasaktan ng mga kasalanan ng tao."

Ano ang panawagan? Ano ang dapat gawin? Magbalik loob upang maghilom. Repent so healing can begin. Stopping the killing is only one big step. The journey of healing for the values of our nation turned upside down will be a long journey still.

Bayan ng Diyos, bumalik na tayo sa Panginoon. Naligaw na tayo ng landas at pinili natin ang kadiliman kaysa liwanag. Bakit tayo pumapalakpak sa patayan? Pinili natin ang karahasan kaysa kapayapaan. Pinili natin ang magsinungaling kaysa katotohanan. Pinili natin ang pagtawanan ang malaswa sa halip na iwasto. Pinili nating manahimik kaysa makisangkot. Sa maling akalang ito na ang huling baraha, nasubukan na natin lahat ng uri ng pamumuno… kumapit na tayo sa patalim. Ang dating bayan ng mga bayani ay naging bayang walang pakiramdam at walang pakialam. Magsisi ang manhid.

Hindi ito ang Pilipinas. Hindi ganito ang Pilipino! Ang inaawit natin ay "ang mamatay nang dahil sa 'yo," hindi "ang pumatay nang dahil sa 'yo."

Call for repentance

Let us return to the Lord, seek His pardon, and promise to reform our lives NOW!

Peace to you, brother bishops and priests, let us be the first to repent and turn away from sin. For falling for the lure of comfort and the attraction of convenience, for giving in to the temptation to be powerful and popular rather than be humble and faithful, for our tendency to judge rather than seek unity, for keeping quiet when we should speak and blabbering when what is needed is silence, God forgive us, leaders of your Church. Have mercy on us.

Healing for you all civil servants and honorable officials in government in the majority coalition or in the minority opposition, let politics serve the poor. God forgive those of you who use the poor. When party loyalty prevails over love of country, we need to repent. Let civility and courtesy prevail over curses and lies. Let the institutions of democracy be revered and safeguarded; let dialogue prevail over the many reasons for division. When mediocrity in social services becomes normal, the poor suffer first.

Honorable servants in government in the administration or in the opposition, what will it profit you to gain the world, ensure that your wife or husband or daughter or son will win in the next elections… but lose your soul? Walang gobyernong forever. Walang politikong forever. God lang ang forever. Turn to the Lord and turn away from destructive politics. Peace to you all! We respect you and we call you "honorable." Be worthy of it.

Peace to you in the armed forces and the police. Stop the violence and uphold the law. Seek justice, not revenge. Choose to be respected rather than feared. If you have stumbled and waltzed with graft, rise up, men and women in uniform. Demand ethical leadership from your officers. Choose integrity not the quick fix. Remember that power belongs to the people, not to the weapon holder. Serve your countrymen, not the politicians. Edify us through your self-discipline. Return to the Lord and obey God rather than evil men.

Call for healing

Paghihilom sa inyo mga ulila sa EJK na nasa gilid gilid ng lipunan. Kung totoong drug users kayo, tama na at magbago. May pag-asa pa! Kung naulila kayo dahil napagkamalan, dahil nanlaban daw, dahil wala na raw kuwentang tao ang drug user, huwag kayong padala sa simbuyo ng paghihiganti. May awa ang Diyos. Magbagong buhay na tayo, kasama ako. Bumalik tayo sa Panginoon. Naghihintay ang Diyos. Ang simbahan ay handang umalalay sa inyo. Do not be afraid to ask pardon. Tell us what help you need.

Peace to you the murdered brethren and victims of extra judicial killings. May the Lord give you peace in His kingdom, that peace that the world failed to give you! May your blood speak to us, disturb us and move us to act to resist violence. No more killings! Pray for our healing. EJK poor souls killed by even morally bankrupt poorer souls, patawarin ninyo kami. Rest in God now.

Peace to you beloved Philippines. Mahal naming bayan. Patawad po sa aming baluktot na pag-iisip, sa kamay na amoy pulbura at pag-iisip na kasinlamig ng baril. Patawad po sa pagpapahalaga muna sa sarili sa halip na sa bayan. Patawad po sa pangungunsinti sa pandarambong basta may balato kami. Nakakahiya po. Sorry po, Inang Bayan.

'START THE HEALING.' Archbishop Socrates Villegas presides over the Mass for 'Lord Heal Our Land' Sunday at EDSA Shrine in Quezon City on November 5, 2017. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

We need to repent as a nation. Hamon ni Kian, "Tama na po may test pa ako bukas."

Bayan, tama na! May test pa tayo sa Diyos – baka mamaya, baka bukas, sino ang nakatitiyak kung kailan. Haharap tayo sa Panginoon. Hindi atin ang panahon. Magbago na habang may panahon. Repent now. Time is not ours. Start the healing by repenting now. We cannot heal as a nation by blaming others. We have only ourselves to blame first. Let the healing begin here… in each one here.

Lord, forgive us and heal our broken land. –

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Chinas’ military buildup

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Chinas’ military buildup
posted November 06, 2017 at 06:17 am 

China’s military buildup has become a serious concern to its neighbors in the region. Chinese leader Xi Jinping claimed it’s a self defense measure after a century of humiliation at the hands of Western powers who occupied China. Chinese defense expenditures, placed at $215 billion in 2016 leaped three times its previous amount as Beijing builds fighter jets, aircraft carriers and a modern army complete with high tech weapons to play catch up with the United States,

The Chinese budget for military spending is still three times smaller than that of the US whose pivot to Asia and the Pacific indicates Washington’s strategic stakes in the battle for prospective oil, minerals and gas under the South China Seabed. The US rebalancing of American forces from Europe to Asia also reinvigorates its self-proclaimed role as a Pacific naval power. The US west coast faces the Pacific Ocean while its eastern seaboard the Atlantic Ocean. This move plus the armed strength of US allies—Japan, South Korea and Taiwan—is seen by Beijing as an attempt to surround China with a ring of steel. Xi in his address to the Chinese communist politburo, the top echelon of the Beijing leadership , said the People’s Liberation Army must be upgraded to keep it at par with US forces.

Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile read it right when he said the implication of the Chinese buildup could force Japan to match the muscle flexing of the giant neighbor it once occupied. The Stockholm Institute for Peace also said China’s military buildup would trigger an arms race in the region. Japan and South Korea, two of America’s staunchest allies in Asia, have no recourse but to prepare against a rising China’s quest for hegemony in the region. Throw in Taiwan which China considers a renegade province and you have an alignment of forces that has heightened tension in Southeast Asia.

North Korea, the closest ally of China, meanwhile, has not let up on its threat to wipe out its enemies from the map of the world. His continued testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles and sending them across Japan might have already crossed the red line that could tempt the US to unleash a preemptive strike into the heart of Pyongyang.

Technologically advanced Japan for all we know already possess a nuclear bomb but keeping it under wraps. Constrained from having an army except for self defense under the conditions and terms of its surrender to the US in World War II, Japan has been trying to amend its Constitution to modernize its own army, air force and naval fleet in the light of a rising China that is already dominant in the region.

Its decades long territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands which the Chinese call Diaoyu is another factor in the historical enmity between Beijing and Tokyo. Then there is the territorial dispute between Vietnam and China over the resource-rich Paracels which has erupted in a naval skirmish several years ago which adds to the explosive situation in Southeast Asia.

Malaysia and the Philippines are also contesting China’s sweeping claim of the entire South China Sea. Manila though is a placid player with President Rodrigo Duterte already locked in the embrace of China’s Xi Jinping who has showered the Philippines with money and weapons to fight terrorism and the drug menace.

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Why judges must do philosophy

See - Why judges must do philosophy
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Why judges must do philosophy
posted November 06, 2017 at 06:11 am 

At some time in the past, legal philosophy was part of the curriculum of law students—and was gradually eased out for more “practical” subjects. By “practical” was meant more of the “how to” stuff with which the law student’s program of study brims over: how to draft contracts, how to get persons released who have been unlawfully detained, how to get corporations to cut on taxes, how to apply for a franchise, etc. And when both the Supreme Court, by an administrative order, and the Legislature, through a statute brought the Philippine Judicial Academy into existence, while there was established a Department of Jurisprudence and Legal Philosophy—that I have chaired since—it was never a favored subject among judges who almost always and invariably demand more sessions on remedial law: how to—how to rule on objections, how to deal with motions, how to pen decisions.

In the Old Testament, when Moses spent most of his day resolving the interminable disputes of his querulous people, he was advised to select “sagely men” who would be judges over them. That exacting criterion—wisdom—continued to be expected of those who sit on the Bench in judgment over others, obviously a very high bar. For in Aristotle’s reckoning of what he called “the intellectual virtues,” wisdom ranked even higher than science. “Scientia” meant that you knew a thing through its causes. But “sapientia” demanded that you knew the ultimate causes of things.

But judges in fact are called upon to do a lot of philosophizing, and it starts with the very way they treat the text of the law. Are they to read the provisions of the Constitution or of the Civil Code in the manner persons of average intelligent understood them at the time they were crafted, or as the words stand, or as they ought to apply to our very fluid, often radically different circumstances? There are many maxims the judge can always invoke, but these maxims are by no means consistent nor coherent and many contradict each other. And so a judge must make a philosophical choice of the canons of interpretation that he applies. And as in most things, a critically recognized philosophy is to be preferred to one that is operative but unrecognized and uncriticized.

While it is not difficult to recognize highly philosophically charged issues that the Supreme Court is frequently called upon to resolve—when does human life begin, what are the parameters of that privacy that befit the human person, are rights owed only to positive law such that they do not exist absent a positive provision guaranteeing them—judges in lower courts must also wrestle with philosophical issues. Do you penalize a person under the provisions of B.P. 22 when he issues a bad check in order to pay someone who has blackmailed him, or in discharge of an unconscionable interest? To what ends is the law applied? “Dura lex sed lex” is no magic formula that resolves every knotty issue for there is the invincible conviction that somehow, all law must be “ordo rationis,” an ordinance of reason!

When a provision of law is ambiguous—either textually or in its application—then it must be presumed that the Legislature intended “right” and “justice” to prevail. But these are two extremely nettlesome problems. What is a right? How does one know that a person makes a valid and enforceable claim to a right? Does one go the way of positivism? And what are the demands of justice?

Somehow, when Philippine law incorporated the American doctrine of “binding precedent” we traded in the thoughtfulness that often accompanies the European tradition of “doctrine” that will be found in the writings of jurists and publicists who are cited with great deference bordering on reverence by Spanish, French and Italian lawyers and legal scholars. For sometime, Manressa meant a lot to the Philippine legal scholar. And Tolentino cited Ruggiero, Capetant, Castan and others in his masterful treatise on the civil code. Alas, those days of thoughtfulness seem to be behind us now, as the overriding passion of the law student—and the judge—is to get his hand on the latest pronouncement of the Supreme Court hardly ever bothering to distinguish between “ratio decidendi” and “obiter dictum”. It seems to be enough that one can quote a paragraph, a line, even a phrase, and then cite the correct G.R. number and its date to clinch a convincing argument.

In the belief that we can and should do better—and that our judges can approximate that wisdom demanded of all of all judges—philosophy remains and should remain an important part of the judicial curriculum.

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Lawyers and law students against EJKs

See - Lawyers and law students against EJKs
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Lawyers and law students against EJKs
posted November 04, 2017 at 12:20 am 

Last Thursday, Nov. 2, Mga Manananggol Laban sa Extrajudicial Killings was launched. Manlaban is broad, non-partisan alliance of lawyers and law students that is focused on stopping extrajudical killings and making sure that those responsible for EJKs are held responsible.

I am one of the convenors of the group, which includes statesmen like Senator Rene Saguisag and former UP Law Dean and prominent constitutionalist Dean Pacifico Agabin. Other convenors are Edre Olalia and Neri Colmenares of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, Dean Jose Manuel Diokno of the De La Salle University College of Law and chair of the Free Legal Assistance Group; Dean Ernesto Maceda Jr. former law dean of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila; June Ambrosio, who heads the Integrated Bar of the Philippines National Center for Legal Aid; former congressman and human rights lawyer Erin Tañada; Commissioner Roberto Cadiz of the Commission on Human Rights; professors Victoria Avena and Roel Pulido; Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center; feminist lawyer Evalyn Ursua, and Judge Cleto Villacorta III.

Aside from prominent lawyers, student representatives from the Association of Law Students in the Philippines, Paralegal Volunteers Organization–UP Diliman, NUPL-UP Diliman, and the UP Diliman College of Law Student Government were also at the launch. The fight against EJKs needs to be scaled up. We need many paralegals for this work. We also have to link up with Church groups and other stakeholders to win this.

During the launch, I was asked how we would react if newly appointed Presidentual Spokesman Harry Roque would throw hollow blocks at us. I said we would throw back pan de sal. I actually wasn’t joking when I said that as we we were in Kamuning Bakery, so it was the right metaphor. Both Dean Agabin and I have known Secretary Roque for decades and consider him our friend. We will not needlessly criticize him. He will have to do his job; we will do ours. But human rights definitely is not something we should fight and throw hollow blocs over. I consider convening Manlaban as a patriotic act, an act that helps the government and it helps the state in stopping EJKs.

I am glad that Secretary Roque welcomed the formation of our alliance. He has been quoted as saying we could help the government determine whether EJKs were actually taking place. We will gladly do that. But definitely we are not an opposition alliance. In fact when I was asked last Thursday if we will work to have Duterte impeached, I immediately said no. Our priority is to stop the killings. It’s not acceptable to those whose profession is the advocacy of justice to have EJKs done with immunity. In my view, EJKs are also not an invention of the Duterte administration. We have seen journalists, activists, Lumad leaders, etc. killed under the Aquino and Arroyo administrations. But the scale is different now and because the victims are the poorest in our society, they happen to be the most powerless and need lawyers the most.

There are already many initiatives to fight EJKs. Among lawyers, Centerlaw (co-founded by Roque), FLAG, NUPL, and the IBP have assisted families of victims. Cases have been filed and will continue to be filed. Manlaban will hopefully help scale up this effort. Let it not be said that the legal profession stood idle by while many of our poor countrymen were killed.

As Dean Agabin pointed out in the Manlaban launch, the war against illegal drugs is not a war because it is one sided and the poor victims are not fighting back. This point was well illustrated by the story shared during the launch by Niks Bisuña whose brother Angelo was brutally tortured and executed in a Caloocan jail (the claim is that he died of an infection which the Bisuña family denies).

Below are excerpts from the MANLABAN SA EJK Unity Statement:

“We lawyers, including law professors and judges, and law students, have banded to form an organization demanding a stop to extrajudicial killings and the escalating human rights violations. The country has been experiencing a spate of extrajudicial killings in the midst of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war” against drugs. The casualties since he took office last year reportedly reached at least twelve thousand, most of them coming from the poor communities. In a blatant disregard of the right to life, thousands of victims who are poor and powerless have been targeted and brutally, nay mercilessly, executed by the State, its agents and proxies with blatant contempt and disregard of due process.

The Duterte administration has also launched vicious attacks against individuals, groups and institutions, including international human rights advocates, that it perceives to be critical of its human rights policies which not only instill a chilling effect on, but is a threat to freedom of expression.

President Duterte’s public order for the police to shoot human rights activists if they are “obstructing justice” not only endangers human rights defenders but is an outright attack on human rights and freedoms. With violence on all fronts of Duterte’s “war,” there is deep fear indeed among the living that death will come, for virtually any one, sooner at the door.

Drugs, according to Duterte, is the main reason for crime and one of the country’s biggest problems. But the effective solution to the drug problem in the Philippines is cleaning up government of officials, including the police and politicians, who protect drug syndicates, effective prosecution of all involved especially big drug lords to dry up the supply chain, and inclusive economic development to uplift the people from penury and thus stem the demand for antisocial vices like drugs. Extrajudicial killings have not worked before and will never work now.

* * *

Members of the legal profession and law students who value the sanctity of human rights and the equitable rule of law, cannot stand idly by in the midst of these attacks on the right to life, liberty, dignity and security of the people. Today we join the ever growing voices of protest against rampant killings which target the poor, to defend rights and demand accountability.

* * *

MANLABAN SA EJK will fight for human rights especially the sanctity of life. It will help unite and bring together members of the legal profession opposed to institutionalized denials of due process and violations of the rights to privacy, presumption of innocence, and other basic rights to life, liberty and security which victimize and threaten the people and make a mockery of the democratic principles and tenets we have learned or taught.

We will do advocacy campaigns such as conduct forums or provide platforms on the issue especially in law schools. We shall also come out with statements and opinions from a legal perspective on human rights issues, join or initiate mobilizations, and use our legal skills to provide concrete legal assistance to victims and help in putting a stop to extrajudicial killings and rampant human rights violations engulfing the country today.

MANLABAN SA EJK will join forces with other sectors and groups struggling against the descent of the country into the dark abyss of lawlessness, persecution of the poor, attacks against critics and human rights advocates and authoritarian methods or rule.”
It is not a coincidence that Manlaban was launched on Nov. 2, All-Souls Day. There is unrest in the land of the souls, where many have been killed without remorse, their humanity denied and taken without mercy. Hopefully, Manlaban will give them comfort that the nightmare that led to their deaths will soon end.

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MEL STA. MARIA | Is President Duterte unraveling?

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MEL STA. MARIA | Is President Duterte unraveling?
By Atty. Mel Sta. Maria
| November 3, 2017, 10:28 PM

President Duterte in an impassioned speech. Reuters file photograph

Atty. Mel Sta. Maria is the Dean of the Far Eastern University Institute of Law and Professor at the Ateneo de Manila School of Law.

“SOLIPSISTIC”. This was the characterization of US President Donald Trump’s behavior by well-renowned psychiatrist Dr. Robert Jay Lifton in his interview with journalist Amy Goodman in her program “Democracy Now”. Goodman asked, “what do you mean solipsistic?”

Lifton replied:

“Solipsistic – from within the self. In other words, he only sees the world from within his sense of self. He can’t have empathy for others. He can’t really think into the future the consequences of his actions, because he’s totally preoccupied with the immediate event and how he can deal with it or manipulate it as emerging through the perception on the part of his sense of self.”

Dr. Lifton also noted “his difficulty with crisis and his extreme behavior and attack mode instead of any kind of balance – any kind of balance that a president needs to deal with a crisis.” He further said that being solipsistic was President Trump’s “relation to reality” and that it was “untenable and dangerous to everyone.”

How about President Rodrigo Duterte, is he also solipsistic?

President Duterte is definitely neither insane nor crazy. But a number of his actuations rouse many to question whether or not he is befitting of a Chief Executive, Commander-in-Chief, and Chief Architect of our Foreign Policy.

The “new normal” seems to be his usual “attack mode” of blustering and ranting against those disagreeing with him or, simply, not of his liking. On his war on drugs which is perceived to have resulted to thousands of extrajudicial killings, he addressed the drug pushers: “I will kill you” – a declaration which is outright discordant with the rule of law. Referring to 3,000,000 drug addicts, he openly stated “I’d be happy to slaughter them”. He even threatened to include human rights advocates by warning “I will include you because you are the reason why their numbers swell.” Are these statements a kind of “extreme behavior” borrowing the words Dr. Lifton?

And commenting on former United Nations Secretary General Bank Ki-moon’s observations on the Philippine human rights situation, President Duterte in September 2016 said: “Pati ito si Ban Ki-moon, nakihalo … Sabi ko, isa ka pang tarantado.”

“F**k You” with an obscene middle finger gesture was also President Duterte’s immediate message to the European Union (EU) when it commented on the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. Instead of taking it as constructive criticism aimed at maintaining the no-tariff privilege of about 6,300 Philippine products exported into the EU, President Duterte responded with patent antagonism.

We also witnessed President Duterte’s attacks against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsperson Conchita Carpio-Morales. Apparently, this was provoked respectively by the Chief Justice’s generic message (without explicitly referring to President Duterte) to Ateneo graduating students to be always vigilant against government abuses and by Ombudsperson Morales’ openness to his investigation. Challenging them to reveal their accounts and to resign, President Duterte warned of the extreme alternative of military intervention by saying: “Who will decide? The Armed Forces and the police will decide it for us so that the nation would not plunge into chaos”.

Again, this is not the kind of response expected of a head of state sworn to uphold the constitution enunciating that the civilian authority is superior over the military. The military temporarily takes over only when there is actual invasion or rebellion seriously endangering public security. Is President Duterte erroneously treating his own personal bias as equal to that of the public interest, thus making him believe that criticisms against him are automatically against the common good? Is the President confusing his own personal situation with the condition of the country?

The speech during the installation of the Davao officers of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines was just replete with expletives. Responding to the comment of being “onion-skinned”, President Duterte irascibly said:

“And you just say ‘do not be onion-skinned.’ Who the fuck are you to tell me, in face of fabricated evidence. Sinabi ko na sa before the election wala ako niyan, at wala ako ngayon… Ihampas ko sa mukha mo yang putanginang papel na yan,”

With respect to the striking jeepney drivers, President Duterte blustered: “I am the president. Either you kill me or you follow me. If the law is not followed, son of a bitch, we have to kill each other”. He continued:

“Mahirap kayo? Putangina. Magtiis kayo sa hirap at gutom, wala akong pakialam. It’s the majority of Filipinos. Huwag ninyong ipasubo ang tao.”

These attack-mode statements are condescending and, to others, insensitive. Certainly, there must be other ways to communicate a message. Even if the jeepney drivers are not the majority, is it not the essence of good governance that the minority must also be heard and protected? Is he “seeing the world from within his sense of self” such that “he can’t have empathy for others” just like Dr. Robert Jay Lifton’s description of President Trump’s behavior?

Where is the balance in his responses? From what we are witnessing so far, is President Duterte unraveling?

Unbalanced reactions lead to irrational judgments. And though the person making them may egotistically satisfy himself/herself, he/she may bring senseless hardships to others. For instance, many believe that President Duterte’s retaliation against the European Union in May 2017 ending the Philippine’s funding agreement with the EU was an inexplicable mistake. This unexpected move even surprised the EU representatives here. The Philippine Star reported on May 19, 2017 that this meant “the loss of about 250 million Euros or 278.73 million worth of grants.” One could just imagine the various projects – beneficial to many people – derailed for lack of funds.

Recently, President Duterte again lambasted the EU saying “Don’t f**k with us” and added a disconcerting declaration apparently showing that “he can’t really think into the future consequences of his actions” (using the words of Dr. Lifton). He impetuously said:

“You think we are a bunch of morons here. You are the one. Now the ambassadors of those countries listening now, tell me, because we can have the diplomatic channel cut tomorrow. You leave my country in 24 hours, all, all of you.”

Even if this remark were a knee-jerk reaction, it is disturbing. Had the threat materialized, it would have severed diplomatic relations with twenty-eight (28) European countries from where more or less US$901 million dollars in export-income are earned. These are also the places where thousands of OFWs are working hard to provide a living for their families in the Philippines. In one-fell-swoop, all the efforts exerted throughout the years in developing, nurturing and sustaining friendly and productive relations would have been rendered for naught.

Defending President Duterte against his detractors who commented that the president was “paranoid” in suggesting the establishment of a “revolutionary government”, Secretary Martin Andanar said “that’s their opinion and we don’t share it. We have been working closely with the President and we can assure you that his mind is sound.”

The need for Secretary Andanar to respond only proves that the issues are joined. Whether or not President Duterte’s “mind is sound”, as Andanar puts it, is an unavoidable part of all political discourse or debate examining the President’s capability or incapability to meaningfully lead the country. The discussions may be sharp and tasteless at times but they are necessary. Citizens have to talk about it in a vibrant and robust democracy.

It is a matter of national interest, especially considering the readiness of his allies and/or followers – in his own cabinet, the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Supreme Court – to champion not only his every decision and bias, but also his whim and caprice – a sure recipe for a conniving autocracy.

To be effective as the head of state, President Duterte must demonstrate a sense of balance, composure and objectivity focusing not on how quickly he can attack his critics but on how well he can build on criticisms for the betterment of all, including those who do not agree with him.

x x x."

Friday, November 3, 2017

In defense of IBP

See - In defense of IBP

"x x x.

In defense of IBP
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:10 AM October 26, 2017

I am writing this in reaction to “Lawyers don’t ‘hide’ their misdeeds” (Letters, 10/23/17). I feel sorry for the frustration of Juniper Dominguez over a case he filed against a certain lawyer, who notarized two deeds of sale. I do not know if this is already a decided case by the Supreme Court. If it is not, then confidentiality rule applies and we cannot discuss this in public.

However, I take exception to what he said that “IBP is a livelihood center to protect erring lawyers.” Such statement is not fair. Having been a commissioner of the Commission on Bar

Discipline for 12 years and past Integrated Bar of the Philippines governor in Central Luzon, I cannot accept a statement that dishonors the IBP and the Supreme Court.

Commissioners decide all administrative cases based on merit since it is the duty of the complainant to prove the case. The burden of proof lies on the complainant. The reason for dismissal is due to the failure of the complainant to prove the case against a lawyer. The Board of Governors reviews the findings and makes recommendations, but it is the Supreme Court that will ultimately decide.

We do punish lawyers who commit infractions and the Supreme Court website will show how many lawyers were either suspended or disbarred. However, we have no other choice but to dismiss cases where the complainant was not able to prove the cause of action against the respondent. Definitely, the IBP being an independent body, is not a livelihood center as erroneously concluded in the letter.

JOSE I. DE LA RAMA JR., dean, Tarlac State University College of Law
x x x."

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SC: New lawyers must provide free legal service

See - SC: New lawyers must provide free legal service
"x x x.

SC: New lawyers must provide free legal service
October 23, 2017 07:09am
Marlon Ramos

Rookie lawyers will now have to render free legal aid before they can aspire to be legal eagles.

In a historic move, the Supreme Court has unanimously mandated incoming lawyers to provide 120 hours of pro bono legal work for poor litigants as part of its efforts to champion the constitutional guarantee to "free access to the courts and quasi-judicial bodies."

"The legal profession is imbued with public interest. As such, lawyers are charged with the duty to give meaning to the guarantee of access to adequate legal assistance under Article III, Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution," the tribunal said in an order.

"As a way to discharge this constitutional duty, lawyers are obliged to render pro bono services to those who otherwise would be denied access to adequate legal services," it said.

The rule, which the court promulgated on Oct. 10, will be implemented starting with the successful barristers who are scheduled to take this year's bar exams during the four Sundays of November.

New lawyers who are already working in the executive and legislative branches six months before they hurdled the bar exams will be exempted from the requirement.

Also spared are those who have finished the "clinical legal education program" and have already rendered pro bono legal work prior to their admission to the bar.

The magistrates said lawyers must ensure people's access to legal services "in an efficient and convenient manner compatible with the independence, integrity and effectiveness of the profession."

The 15-member high court tasked the Office of the Bar Confidant and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the country's biggest lawyers' group, to oversee the compliance of the new lawyers with its order, titled "Community Legal Aid Service Rule."

Under the rule, rookie lawyers are given one year after signing the roll of attorneys to complete the required 120-hour free legal services in criminal, civil and administrative cases.

Besides indigent litigants, also entitled to pro bono legal aid are groups, individuals and organizations that cannot get the services of the Public Attorney's Office due to conflict of interest.

The new lawyers may also render their professional services for public interest cases and legal issues which affect the society.

x x x."