Two taps

The security chief of Makati City mayor Binay was assassinated over the weekend. What’s par for the provinces is now afflicting the metropolis. A colleague was able to talk to a gas station attendant where the murder took place. According to him, the attendant, who witnessed the murder, is convinced it was a military-style rubout.

“Why?” I asked my colleague.

“The victim was tapped twice,” replied my colleague.

“Tapped twice?”

My colleague pointed to his head with the thumb-and-forefinger universal hand-sign for a gun: “Tap.” Then he pointed to his chest. “Tap.” then he quoted the eyewitness as saying the assassin calmly walked away…

Read Amando Doronila’s indictment of the President’s trip abroad (one wonders how he would have handled things had his diplomatic posting been approved) and his prediction that human rights will harm the administration more than the Garci issue ever could.

In other news:

Now if it’s true, why is the Philippine Ambassador to the USA coming home again? I don’t recall the previous ambassador going home so often. The papers are screaming that Bolante wants to sing like a canary and do a deal with the Americans, a visa being the price for his testimony. Reason enough to send the Philippine ambassador scurrying home for instructions.

Electioneering already? Government salaries to go up. Read how it’s done (electioneering) in Thailand.

PCGG remains defiant vs. Senate. Solicitor-General guardedly optimistic about the prospects of constitutional amendment cases before the Supreme Court.

Pope Benedict XVI delivered a lecture, Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections which has sparked protests in the Muslim world. Read a provisional translation that first appeared, and the official Vatican English translation.

The offending paragraphs seem to be these:

I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Monster) of part of the dialogue carried on – perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara – by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.

It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than those of his Persian interlocutor.

The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur’an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between – as they were called – three “Laws” or “rules of life”: the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an.

It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point – itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole – which, in the context of the issue of “faith and reason”, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation [text unclear] edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”.

According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war.

Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”.

The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably … is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”.

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident.

But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry.

The Vatican first had a low-level cleric reject that the Pope’s speech was aimed at Islam. It was an address aimed at Christians and Western civilization. It wasn’t enough. On his first day in office, Tarciso Cardinal Bertone, the Secretary of State, released a statement (which Whispers in the Loggia thinks sounds like it was written by the Pope himself):

The position of the Pope on Islam is unequivocally that expressed in the conciliar document Nostra Aetate: “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting” (n. 3).

(See the official text of the statement). But it wasn’t enough. The outcry was formidable. The Vatican Watcher says part of the diplomatic fallout is the probable cancellation of the Pope’s visit to Turkey. Churches have already been bombed.

Certainly, I don’t think there’s anything offensive in it to Muslims. But a colleague did point out that what the Pope intended to say, or really said, may be irrelevant. How much access, my colleague wondered, do Muslims who are now upset, have to the full text of the Pope’s address? A sound-bite taken out of context could have incendiary effects; and my colleague wondered if countries with tightly-controlled media, couldn’t have released snippets of the speech, to provoke public opinion and deflect it from their own unpopular regimes. The same blog (Vatican Watcher) takes a look at Muslims and the Pope from a PR point of view:

Even moderate Muslims on TV in the last few days have criticized the Pope for making such comments when he ought to know better rather than condemning their brethren for proving the West right with their stupid barbaric behavior. The biggest problem with moderate Islam is that they have no cohesive PR strategy. If moderate Islam is in fact serious about reining in the extremists and preventing Muslim youth from being recruited, its visibility is non-existent. Then so-called ‘moderates’ get on CNN and complain that the West ought to know better. Moderate Islam’s credibility with the West crumbles every single time it fails to face reality.

The question is then what ought to be Benedict’s strategy? Being upset at the idea that his remarks have caused offense is not the answer. He may really be upset, but Benedict is a brilliant man. He ought to know better that his remarks will be misinterpreted and cause the firestorm that they have. However, this does not mean that he should not make them. On the contrary, sugar coating his remarks would only make him appear weak and wishy-washy. Being firm is no crime, no matter how many people burn him in effigy.

This is one Pope who is willing to take the Catholic Church down the road of minority status and even persecution if necessary; on the other hand, his office can’t be separated from the historical image of past popes calling for Crusades; and intellectual and doctrinal rigor must be balanced by the diplomatic effects of what he says -even to an audience of the faithful.

Read Shaykh Riyad Nadwi, who read the papal speech in full, and distinguishes between what it says, and what neocons and others want it to say.

And And here’s media’s scroll of honor.

Christopher Hitchens on Tony Blair’s lack of eagerness to leave office -curious how the British electorate seems the least significant factor here.

Bong Austero says the Senate is digging its own grave. He makes a good point about the chamber abusing its powers to compel testimony and hold people in contempt. But what he doesn’t delve into, is how the Senate has its back to the wall. No administration since Quirino, Macapagal, and Marcos has been so hostile to the Senate. But it is a sign of the low quality of the present senate, that it’s instincts are to lash out instead of subtly matching wits.

On a trivial matter… I’d been hearing about the effort to unfurl the world’s biggest flag for some time. What irritated me about it was that the proportions of the flag, as illustrated, were all wrong. Mercifully, the National Historical Institute said as much.

Anyway the effort, to the regret of its backers, failed, but they looked on the bright side of things:

Officials of PG Tower Ministries International were unfazed.

“That was inevitable, God wanted it to happen. With its sheer size, it was seen all the way from heaven,” said Pastor Fred Merejilla. “If you noticed, the torn portion was shaped like a heart. God is trying to show us that he continues to love this country, and He showed this through this flag.”

…Three persons were hurt, including an 8-year-old boy, during a stampede. According to witnesses, people panicked after seeing a herd of cattle coming towards them….

Before the flag was torn, there was high drama at the base camp as spectators watched the wind form huge bulges on the flag while volunteers struggled to hold on.

Grace Galindez-Gupana, president of PG Tower Ministries International, went down on her knees in an emotional prayer and sobbed, pleading that God would stop the wind from blowing.

The Christian group, supported by a Manila-based producer of herbal food supplements, spent about P1 million to make the 2-hectare flag.

My column for today is Party assessments. It’s the main part of a lecture for the Philippine Historical Society’s seminar on the history of party politics to be held today.

Over on The Explainer blog, sources for last week’s episode on Neoconservatism and The Caliphate. Tomorrow’s show will take a look at Martial Law.

Today is also a sad day for me, my father’s eighth death anniversary. Please bear him in your thoughts. And to mark this anniversary, I thought I’d reproduce one of his essays.

Democracy -Direct and Representative
By Manuel L. Quezon, Jr.

Graphic Magazine, February 8, 1967

Is it necessary in a democracy for every citizen to be heard by all?

OVER 2000 years ago, Aristotle created the classical division of different forms of government into the categories of monarchy, aristocracy, and ochlocracy (which we today take to mean democracy), according to the number of rulers who governed. He also classified the possible perversions of each form of government: tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy (what we today call mob-rule). The Aristotelian classification, based principally on the Greek political experience, is still in currency today, even if its source is largely forgotten and true monarchies and aristocracies have almost disappeared.

Today, only that portion of his work dealing with democracy seems to have any great relevance. And it is precisely this aspect of Aristotle’s thought that gives rise to the greatest misunderstandings.

It is very doubtful whether what we call democracy today would be accepted as such by Aristotle or by any of the ancient Greeks. To the ancient Greeks, democracy meant direct democracy; to us it means representative democracy. Although Athens itself had representative bodies to deliberate occasionally on certain matters and make decisions and laws, the most important decisions as well as a good number of the lesser ones, were by right, decided on by a full assembly of citizens.

A system whereby a group of persons would be chosen to legislate and govern for the citizens so that the citizens themselves cannot directly participate in such activities, such as is the case with our contemporary system of representative government, would hardly have gained acceptance as democracy among the ancient Greeks. They would, however, probably recognize democratic elements in such a system.

Which is preferable, the direct democracy of the ancient Greeks or our contemporary form of representative democracy? The answer is not quite as simple as one might suppose. There is something to be said for both sides.

Democracy has, no doubt, undergone a certain amount of watering-down in its change from the direct to the representative variety. In other words, the phrase “rule by the many” has undergone a considerable change in meaning without, however, losing entirely its original sense. It is easy to find illustrations of the change. A recurrent phrase in modern democratic constitutions is that “the people do not deliberate except through their lawful representatives.” In Greek democracy, it was precisely the function of the full assembly of citizens to deliberate.

Again, the ordinary citizen cannot address today’s deliberative assembly (the legislature) unless invited to do so by that body; he can only reach its ears or its eyes indirectly, through the mails, the press, radio, or television-methods inconvenient and impractical for the average citizen. Moreover, due to the wide divergence of interests co-existing in today’s democracies, as in all present-day nations, unbalanced legislation regarding the various interests is much more likely to be enacted when those interests are not proportionally represented in the deliberative body, a situation that comes about easily when voters do not turn up at the polls in sufficient numbers.. In democratic ancient Greece, even if only a small number of those entitled to participate in the deliberative assembly turned up, the narrow range of interests existing within the State rendered unlikely the enactment of legislation prejudicial to portions of the population. The dangers of one-sidedness in modern legislation are recognized by the common constitutional provision aimed against discriminatory and class legislation.

The most telling difference between old direct democracy and the modern representative type, however, probably has to do with the citizen’s feeling of being able to influence public affairs. Self-rule, however vaguely or inaccurately it may be understood, cannot be separated from the idea of democracy. Direct democracy necessarily gives the citizen a feeling that he really can effectively influence legislation and government, that he is, at least potentially but very truly, his own ruler. In view of the fact that direct democracy is possible only in a very small country imbuing a citizen of today’s large representative democracy with like feelings is a big problem indeed. Certainly, the average citizen can hardly hope to sway legislation in a manner even approaching that in ancient Greece. A sense of futility arises from this situation. The individual frequently asks: “What can I do?” a question that expresses an attitude fatal to democracy.

Basic Ideas on Democracy Reviewed

The question then arises: Is representative democracy a democracy at all? Disregarding cynics, skeptics; and other enemies of democracy, I believe I must answer with a yes. Such a system can truly be a democracy, that is, unless the conditions for its existence are absent or are destroyed. The conditions I refer to do not involve any begging of the question. I am not saying that representative democracy is democracy if the conditions for democracy exist, meaning by those conditions the ones present in and constituting Greek direct democracy. That would indeed be begging the question. No, by “conditions for its existence,” I mean conditions commonly acknowledged as necessary for the existence of “representative democracy” whether or not this last system can be deemed true democracy.

I would say that provided a representative democracy as commonly understood be a reality, it is truly democratic. If in theory and in practice it corresponds with what is commonly understood as representative democracy, then, it is genuine.

To understand this clearly, it is necessary to return to basic ideas, even at the cost of being trite. Democracy is a form of government which, like any other form of government, must be capable of functioning as a government, otherwise the term would be meaningless. Under present circumstances, direct democracy in the ancient model cannot be a practical possibility for nations which number millions. It does not take intellectual effort to realize that a million citizens deliberating on laws and the activity of governing would not only be difficult, it would be impossible. And how many States have populations of only one million? It is not only huge populations, however, that render direct democracy impossible today. The modern State and its interests and activities have become bewilderingly complex, so that legislation on details of its operations could simply not be deliberated on, in the sense in which we used the word previously, by millions; only a limited few could possibly equip themselves with the requisite knowledge and experience. Again, even under the impossible supposition that all citizens were endowed with the requisite knowledge and experience, the pressures of modern living, which engage individuals in other fields of activity, would prevent participation by more than a relative few in such deliberations.

Direct democracy is then a practical impossibility today, except perhaps in some tiny city-state, perhaps a protectorate of some larger state or sustained economically by the latter.

Should we, therefore, conclude that democracy is logically impossible? No. Here it is necessary to go deeper into the notion of democracy, to discover its truly constituent elements. Is it necessary in a true democracy for the individual citizen to take part directly in legislation or in the running of the government? Must he actually be heard by all? Must he, all alone, actually exert decisive pressure or influence on legislation or government? If the answer to these questions were affirmative, then we would have to conclude that democracy did not exist even in ancient Greece. We know for certain that the general assembly of citizens did not include all citizens do not seem to have been a practical possibility even then. The citizens, however, who did attend the general assembly were representative of the views of the citizenry, so that decisions reached in the assembly reflected the general opinion and desire of the citizens; refinements might perhaps be introduced in the course of discussions, but such modifications would most likely be representative of the thinking of other citizens. Thus, although legally and in theory, the assembly was supposed to be composed of all citizens, thereby constituting a direct democracy, in actual fact the general assembly functioned as a representative assembly, differing from modern democratic assemblies only in that under the former systems every citizen had a right to sit, although he did not necessarily exercise this right. It is otherwise in modern assemblies. Besides, as was already pointed out, certain representative groups were explicitly chosen as such. Therefore, it is quite enough that the individual citizen participate in legislation and the running of government by choosing those who shall do so and who he believes reflect his views; in broad terms, they shall act for him in deliberative assemblies or in other government organs under their own initiative, enjoying a wide scope of action and judgment necessary for government to carry on intelligently and efficiently.

Requirements for a Truly Representative Government

It is obviously not necessary for the individual citizen to be heard actually by all. While the individual citizen has the right to speak out, there is no corresponding obligation on the part of his fellow citizens to listen, so long as they recognize his right to air his views without endangering the State or the common good. But the means to make a citizen heard should be made available to him.

It is true that under present conditions the individual seems lost in the crowd. It was not much different in the past. Unless he enjoyed wide support, the individual was likely to be a voice in the wilderness. Today, however, a small group can make itself heard in a manner out of all proportion to its size and strength. That was how Fascist groups made headway in the past and how Communist groups are making headway today. Modern circumstances, in fact, render more likely the danger of small minorities giving the impression of majorities, an impression difficult to project in the past.

The possibility of making himself head today increases the individual’s capacity to influence legislation. It is not necessary for him actually to do so; the possibility is enough. If an outstanding individual wishes to influence public life, he can do so today as in the past. However, just as the run-of-the-mill individual could not sway the general assembly of times past, he cannot hope to do so today.

What then are the requirements that make a representative form of government genuinely democratic? What are some of the means that can restore to a certain extent the advantages of direct democracy?

Because democracy is predicated on the rule of the majority, it is necessary that those who represent the citizenry be truly representative of the majority. Democracy is distinguished from mob rule in that the former respects the rights of minorities so long as they are not inimical to the rights of the majority. An adequate guarantee of minority rights should therefore be safeguarded as an essential ingredient.

Those elected or appointed to positions of responsibility in government must remain under the surveillance of those who place them in such positions, and be legally and practically -not just theoretically- accountable to the citizenry at stated maximum periods. Such a provision would render it unnecessary for the citizenry to resort to violence as a defense against bureaucratic tyranny and oppression.

Since a majority view can only be considered truly such if there is adequate and intelligent discussion of issues, facilities for such discussions must be preserved and expanded, surely not an impossibility in vie of present technical advances. Fundamental freedoms must be guaranteed and protected. Are these essentials present within modern representative democracies? They undoubtedly are, but in varying degrees. They are, therefore, truly democracies, although perhaps more or less imperfect.

They could be made to correspond more closely with the old ideal of direct democracy and this goal is already being pursued in some countries. The devices of the referendum and the recall are being revived in some countries to extend the power of the citizens beyond that of electing representatives and then calling them to account for any misdeeds. So is the element of initiative.

The pressure of public opinion is becoming an ever more powerful instrument of democracy, posing the great threat to democracy of representatives taking for public opinion. In the sense of the desire of the majority what is in reality only the view of a highly vocal minority as against the true majority.
As education advances and as the means made available by technology are increasingly utilized, a representative democracy approaching in practice the old direct democracy should be possible. Government today is more and more complex, a fact which tends to justify bureaucratization. It is one of the tasks, therefore, of the present age to put its knowledge to work and shove our system in the proper direction of democracy, the direction most consonant with and upholding the dignity of man under God. Let us do what we can to make our present system more and more effectively democratic.

The alternative, if we should fail, is horrible to contemplate. –#

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

39 thoughts on “Two taps

  1. Manolo,

    One reason why I do not fail to visit your and Bong’s blog is that the two of you are coming from entirely different perspective. So that I feel Im getting the two sides of the story. I like you punditry just as I like Bongs “”HR” style of writing. But I must admit, mas nakakrelate ako kay Bong… ( siguro dahil I belong the corporate world na hinubog ang kasisipan, values and principle ng mga HR Specialist na katulad ni Bong he he he.)

  2. rego, i find bong very interesting and thought-provoking, too. he has depth precisely because of his practical experience and he seems well-read and well-versed in all sorts of things.

    actually what i find particularly interesting is that precisely, the corporate world is rather alien to me, but bong and i actually have more in common than which separates us. the prime difference i guess stems from his hr background. as you know, no department is more disliked, as a rule (maybe besides accounting) in a corporation than the hr dept. that’s because hr thrives on order, procedure, qualitiative and quantitative measurement of people -the mobilizing and use of people as resources. i think instinctively, the worker hates to be treated as a resource. so there’s an inherent tension and dynamic there that’s extremely political, though an hr dept. is the last to recognize this.

    bong’s also good at explaining his point of view and where he’s coming from.

  3. He may be clumsy in expressing his views (and a bit disingeneous), but I respect the Pope for trying to open a frank exchange across faith lines. If they don’t want their faith to be seen as condoning violence, the adherents of Islam should stop machine-gunning Churches everytime their sensibilities get offended. Quoting Manuel II Paleologus may have been a bad idea as he seems to have been as provocative as our present-day Manuels, but the Pope has apologized so hopefully this can be turned into an opportunity for further discussion. On the other side of the fence, the former Iranian President Khatami has called for a similar dialogue.

  4. who’s Bong A ? the one who claimed and spoke in behalf of the middle class ? He’s a GMA lapdog !!!

  5. Long Live the SENATE !!!
    It seems that ONLY the SENATE remains CREDIBLE in doing their role … KEEP IT UP !!!

    – Whoever says that there’s NO PAMALIT kay GMA was surely
    in the payroll of GMA.

    than the LIAR and PRETENDER – LOSER GLORIA !!!

  6. the so called “credible” Senate is really in it’s final days. I guess the only thing to miss are it’s fantastic production numbers that step on others & rediclues others for the sake of grandstanding.
    I can’t understand why they are considered a legislative body when they have nothing to show or very little to show in relation w/ the tax payers money they use.
    Their more of a “political police agency” also w/ no results to show & leave everything hanging anyway.
    Perhaps, even so called in aid of legislations & whatever that have no end & no results but only to entertain will be missed while the country remains forever backward.
    Perhaps better to refer to them as the “lions den” hungry for investigations that end up no where but just fed their egos!

  7. Bong Austero says the Senate is digging its own grave. He makes a good point about the chamber abusing its powers to compel testimony and hold people in contempt.

    Bong’s good most of the time when attacking the admin’s critics, or defending Arroyo’s legitimacy.

    yung tungkol sa Senate, he says the senate is “abusing” it’s powers to compel testimony and hold people in contempt.

    Pero tahimik lang Bong when his president, her evasive officials and military members hide under EO 464 and M.C. 168 to stonewall and avoid transparency and accountability. nothing here either but attacks against the senate.

    which to me seems very HYPOCRITICAL of him.

    (More on EO 464 and MC 168 from Ducky Paredes.)

    you know what bong, let’s abolish the senate na lang para wala nang effing “gridlock”, okay?

  8. One good way to dislodge Bully-lit is to constantly dig under her. Bolante seems like a weakened beam. And Sabio and company should be pressured until they collapse. The senate should show these people that they are mere pawns of Bully-lit, who wouldn’t raise finger to help them out now that they’ve found themselves deep in muck.

  9. But is that really the job of the senate? to make government officials withdraw support from the president that they serve? of bully those who wanted to continue serving the country through her leadership.

    The reader Dommingo T. Arong make a very nice observation….

    “The arrest and detention of PCGG Commissioner Sabio reminds me of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin and Edward R. Murrow in the 1950s.

    Murrow “who set the standard for television journalism” by his 1954 televised critique of what is now known as “McCarthyism.” Murrow warned: “We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.”

    And concluded with the now famous line: “And so, good night, and good luck.”

    Is the power to inquire the power to disregard the command in the Bill of Rights that “no person shall be deprived of … liberty … without due process of law”?

    Does “due process of law” allow “indefinite detention” and “warrantless” arrests?

    Does the power to inquire include all the powers the Constitution already grants to the constitutional Office of the Ombudsman?

    Is the congressional power to punish its members the authority to try and punish non-members by resorting to “trial by legislature”?

    The U.S. Congress, in fact, has “practically abandoned” its practice of detaining a recalcitrant witness as noted in Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178 (1957) handed down at the height of the “McCarthy-era paranoia”:

    “Since World War II, the Congress has practically abandoned its original practice of utilizing the coercive sanction of contempt proceedings at the bar of the House. The sanction there imposed is imprisonment by the House until the recalcitrant witness agrees to testify or disclose the matters sought, provided that the incarceration does not extend beyond adjournment. The Congress has instead invoked the aid of the federal judicial system in protecting itself against contumacious conduct. It has become customary to refer these matters to the United States Attorneys for prosecution under criminal law. The appropriate statute is found in 2 U.S.C. 192.

    “In fulfillment of their obligation under this statute, the courts must accord to the defendants every right which is guaranteed to defendants in all other criminal cases …”

    To repeat for emphasis: “[T]he courts must accord to the defendants every right which is guaranteed to defendants in all other criminal cases.”

    The U.S. Supreme Court reiterated this view in Groppi v. Leslie, 404 U.S. 496 (1972.):

    “Legislatures are not constituted to conduct full-scale trials or quasi-judicial proceedings and we should not demand that they do so although they possess inherent power to protect their own processes and existence by way of contempt proceedings. The Congress of the United States, for example, no longer undertakes to exercise its contempt powers in all cases but elects to delegate that function to federal courts.”

    The U.S. law cited was enacted in 1857 yet. Irving Brant in “The Bill of Rights, Its Origin and Meaning,” at p. 433, cites the remarks of Senator Bayard at the time the law was passed:

    “One of the greatest recommendations of this bill, said [Senator] Bayard, was that it transferred the power of punishment for contempt from Congress to a court of justice after judicial inquiry. ‘I am aware,’ said he, ‘that legislative bodies have transcended their powers–that under the influence of passion and political excitement they have very often invaded the rights of individuals, and may have invaded the rights of co-ordinate branches of government.’ if our institutions were to last, there could be no greater safeguard than to transfer that indefinite power of punishment to the courts of justice.”

    Chapter 37 of Brant’s book, aptly titled “Attainder by Congressional Committees,” is recommended reading for members of both Houses of Congress.

    To thwart any attempt in the future to transform congressional inquiry “in aid of legislation” into “congressional attainder,” our own Congress should be respectfully petitioned to adopt the solution offered above in 2 U.S.C. 192 (identical to Sec. 150 Revised Penal Code?), and let the separate, co-equal Court try, decide and punish after a “judicial” (not “legislative”) inquiry has been concluded.

    This way, “[t]he rights of persons appearing in or affected by such [legislative] inquiries” the Constitution commands Congress “to be respected” are upheld (particularly the privilege against self-incrimination).

    Meanwhile, “Good Night, and Good Luck,” McCarthyism lingers to haunt. It lurks clothed with that assumed congressional authority to “attaint” and, like the “sword of Damocles,” hangs unsheathed ready to decapitate its next victim–journalists, perhaps?.

    “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” –Thomas Paine

    Justice Rutledge quoted Paine’s line, dissenting in In re Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1 (1946), to emphasize the Court’s unwavering commitment to due process of law–the bedrock–that he viewed as having been compromised by the majority decision, and concluded forcefully:

    “That door is dangerous to open. I will have no part in opening it. For once it is ajar, even for enemy belligerents, it can be pushed back wider, perhaps, ultimately for all.”

    To that, add this dying wish of St. Thomas More—King Henry VIII’s “bosom friend” (later his “enemy”) ordered beheaded by an “Act of Attainder” in 1535, canonized 1935:

    “Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”–“A Man of All Seasons”

  10. The poor Pope thought he was preaching to the converted. Instead, he found out that he was taken out of context and that the more controversial portions of his scholarly speech were highlighted to make it appear that he was condemning the Prophet Mohammed’s teachings. Was the Pope, knowing he is speaking in behalf of the entire Catholic Church, naive to allow himself to be set up in such a way? Especially during these very combustible times? Perhaps this is a lesson for leaders like the Pope to be more careful about what they say. Even Popes have to be more prudent, if not clever, about the ways media can amplify issues out of proportion.

  11. rego said: “But is that really the job of the senate? to make government officials withdraw support from the president that they serve? of bully those who wanted to continue serving the country through her leadership.”

    in a country whose executive branch has perverted itself and others with impunity, other branches cannot go on performing what is normally expected of them. Bully-llit has a not so hidden agenda of rendering the senate ineffective, along with others who wouldn’t see things her way.

  12. Ricky said “in a country whose executive branch has perverted itself and others with impunity, other branches cannot go on performing what is normally expected of them.”

    Has Bully-liit (what an apt name!) perverted the Judicial branch too? If not, why has it not (the Judicial branch) taken the initiative and open up an investigation on whatever misdeed (election rigging?) GMA is suspected of doing?

  13. Mlq3,

    Right you are on your take on “Amando Doronila’s indictment of the President’s trip abroad (one wonders how he would have handled things had his diplomatic posting been approved)”

    One may truly wonder whether he’s not being in fact ‘vindictive’ because Gloria saw fit not to honor her “promise” to send him to the EU as envoy.

    Ah, for once I can’t complain about Doronila. What he says is essentially true.

  14. You said it very well, Carl “Even Popes have to be more prudent, if not clever, about the ways media can amplify issues out of proportion.”

    There are those who would pounce on any single opportunity to ignite a universal holy war. That’s got to be avoided.

  15. But the House also issues warrants of arrest when it cites people for contempt like what they did for “Garci”. Samuel Ong was also recommended to be cited for contempt by the Lower House though I’m not sure if one was issued.

    THe Senate issues them, the House issues them; unless someone can prove that the proposed parliament WILL NOT issue them; then there is hardly going to be a difference in the proposed parliamentary government in comparison with the present Congress in this regard.

    Our group fight the proposed Constitutional changes because we believe that it will be worse for the country. The Senate hasn’t been making our work easy but that the Senate will survive should we succeed for now is a small price to pay compared to what the proponents have in store for the country.

    If you feel differently about that and feel capable of defending your thoughts; there is a discussion forum I can point you to. I’ve offered it before but there seems to be no takers. Will you be different?

  16. rego, the differences are as follows.

    first, the power of the us senate was there; what was questioned was whether the power was being abused and used for undemocratic ends; the solution was remedial legislation.

    if the us senate analogy is to be used, then the solution is also remedial legislation. but until the powers are removed by law, the powers remain to be used.

    second, for what purpose were the witch hunts of mccarthy? to hunt out suspected communists, while from what i know, it was not declared unlawful to be a communist -merely considered unamerican. hence one problem.

    for what purpose has sabio been called to testify? to inquire as to whether one of his commissioners has abused his privileges as a director of a corporation with sequestered shares. from what i know, in the past, pcgg commissioners sitting in sequestered companies gave their allowances to the government; under the present pcgg, the commissioners get to keep them: one figure i’ve heard bruited about is that with multiple directorships, pcgg commissioners now make something like 300k a month. this is certainly grounds for inquiry -after all, appointed by the president, you can’t expect the president to investigate her own appointees. the specific commissioner whose actions provoked the inquiry is comm. abcede. sabio is merely taking the bullet for him.

    on principle, you say? but there is the precedent of pcgg chairman haydee yorac. when summoned by the senate, she didn’t hide behind her interpretation of the law. she went to the senate, and told them, if you have doubts about pcgg commissioners, then you have to look at the appointing authority, because after all, the pcgg chairman doesn’t appoint -and cannot remove- her fellow commissioners. only the president can. even a hostile senate had to agree with her (specifically, sen. enrile, who is causing trouble for the pcgg now, obviously for reasons of his own). now enrile is many things, but a dumb lawyer he’s not. he knows he has precedent to stand on.

    what is the pcgg defending? it’s independence? to do what? be free from any and all scrutiny? and what if remedial legislation is required -such as, a law closing the loophole enjoyed by present commissioners, a loophole that didn’t exist before because previous commissioners didn’t think it proper to pocket per diems and perks that would be ok for any other appointee to receive, but which they cannot, by virtue of their being commissioners?

  17. elinca,

    Sorry but I don’t think the Judicial branch takes that kind of initiative. A case has to be presented to it if I’m not mistaken.

  18. “Certainly, I don’t think there’s anything offensive in it to Muslims. ”

    I disagree. Certainly, Benedict’s decision to use as “starting-point” the Byzantine emperor Paleologus’ breathtakingly vicious generalization about Islam is objectionable (“Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”). Commentators have tried to soften if not excuse Benedict by describing his choice as “ill-advised,” implying that this was not a whole-hearted endorsement of the Byzantine emperor’s view.

    On the contrary, I think Benedict himself endorses the view that Mohammed’s innovations are “only evil and inhuman.” Note that he merely describes Paleologus’ comment as “forceful.”

    But the most damning part of Benedict’s lecture is this: “But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.”

    For this Pope, rationality is one of “our” categories–i.e., it belongs to the Western(Greek)/Christian philosophical tradition–but is denied to Islam. (The fact that medieval western Europe rediscovered the Greek philosophers via the Muslim scholars of the Middle East is conveniently ignored.)

    Hence, Benedict’s whole argument, made with apparent erudition, that Islam is an irrational faith which endorses the use of violence is not qualitatively different from the crude stereotype of Muslims as fanatical murderers or terrorists for the faith. Mohammed brought nothing new but what was evil and inhuman.

    Even the Muslims’ reaction to his lecture is dismissed in a similar fashion–they are incapable of a rational response, only emotional, fanatical, violent outbursts by unreasoning hordes.

  19. Doronilla: “A government that cannot protect its citizens from lawless killings loses the govern,…it has no right to rule.”

    With this administration’s track record on human rights abuses, filipinos should look back at the dark days of martial law when one ray of hope, even if it was just a glimmer, was the voice of the late Senator Jose Diokno, who, I think, was (and still is,–none of today’s politicans has even come close) the nation’s greatest defender of human rights: “No cause is more worthy than the cause of human rights. Deny them and you deny man’s humanity.”

    Manuel L. Quezon Jr. said the government must be “accountable to the citizenry., such would render it unnecessary for citizens to resort to violence as a defense against bureaucratic tyranny and oppression.”

    “The alternative, if we should fail,” he said, “is horrible to contemplate.”

    I hope GMA is not dog-tracking on Marcos footsteps. I don’t think the country will ever again put up with another tyrant.

  20. renmin, your comment comes at the heels of a discussion i had tonight with someone who studies catholicism carefuly, and I myself was surprised that that person thought the speech quite unfortunate. when he explained why, i ended up having to agree.

    he said the speech was more than what i considered it -an intellectual conversation with like-minded people and not aimed at outsiders. he said, the pope’s speech was clearly not only Western-centric, but viewed the West as uniquely Christian, that Western Civilization is Christian Civilization. Which of course causes problems to secularists and of course other faiths.

    in light of that and what you said, i’m more inclined to view the pope’s speech as drawing a line in the sand.

  21. […] First of all, the quotation about Mohammed not having brought anything new but “only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached” was not the Pope’s but supposedly the erudite emperor’s and it was said by the emperor as a proposition subject to vetting by the Persian scholar. Secondly, the Pope readily acknowledged the “startling brusqueness” of the Christian emperor as the latter addressed the Muslim interlocutor. Thirdly, the indictment against conversion by compulsion would cover the fundamentalisms by either side, if viewed in terms of the “profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason.”

    Pope Benedict may have grossly miscalculated the overreaction to his speech. Given however the wider identification in the Western world – and University of Regensburg in Germany is within that realm – of the tactic of terrorism with Muslim fanatics (they are specifically named in the charge sheet but their Western counterparts remain John Does for the most part), is it possible that the analogy was in fact meant to expose our irrationality rather their irrationality? Isn’t it suggested too that because of our self-righteousness and the putative “reasonableness of our faith”, we are wont to acting upon our irrationality with impunity? For example, how do we respond in a serious dialogue to the question of accountability when we enter recklessly, at the very least, into a war? […]

  22. mlq3,

    why call it a trivial matter? I do have a problem with Filipinos attempting to break records such as longest longanisa, biggest kakanin, longest bbq grill, etc. However, this attempt to break the record of the biggest flag is far from being trivial. How could this attempt of a Filipino, after making steps to see her vision that could inspire us as a people but unfortunately fails, be called trivial? Yes there are issues such us proportions and the flag touching the ground. The impeachment was killed due to technicalities and so was this attempt. Has there been a piece written to at least give some credit to Grace Gubana and her group. Hers is a religious group so, I assume, there is no political agenda here. Again, I assume, this is a sincere effort to inspire our people. Unfortunately, they failed. In their failure, tbey become trivial. The discussion here in the blogs may be intellectually stimulating but the magtataho will never understand them. He can never ralate with this. But with the flag, he can. He could be inspired by the piece of cloth irregardless of its dimensions or shades of color. It is his symbol as a Filipino and yet, it is just a trivial matter. That is our problem. We intellectualize too much. The solution may just be beside us.

    Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas!

  23. mlq3 said: “in light of that and what you said, i’m more inclined to view the pope’s speech as drawing a line in the sand.”

    If that were the case, then he should have stood by what he said. Buckling down after drawing the line makes him even more ridiculous.

  24. In the end, the pope should have been more careful. If he wanted to rally the troops, his speech should have been completely off the record. Only for “internal consumption”. Now, if he wanted to publicly draw the line in the sand, that’s a very weighty undertaking. Once you do that, you’ve got to hold the line or else risk losing the entire Church’s credibility. Buckling under to public pressure only made the pope look wishy-washy.

  25. Thank you so much, Manolo, for the taking the time out answering my question. And I just love the your rebuttal on the McCarthy Analogy. That is exactly the reaction I wanted from the bloggers. To discuss it as to wether the analogy is indeed applicable to the RP Senate-Sabio confrontation…

    I totally agree with you when you said “but until the powers are removed by law, the powers remain to be used.”

    However the way I see it, both Senate and Sabio is invoking their respectiev power or using the applicable law to justify position. I dont see any problem here….

    The problem is when either party is insisting that each of them is wrong. And even worst is when they started blowing their tempers to each other in teh full view of the media. To thsi is wher is got sooooooo ugly. Why cant they settle their differences in a more civil way?

    As for Haydee or even the past PCCG chairman not using the EO that Sabio is using now. Thats there prerogative! The problem situation now is that Sabio is using it. And that shoudl be dealt properly. If he is right then he right if he wrong then he is wrong.

    Anyway what is important to me now is that this being elevated to the SC…

  26. I think the Pope is more of like testing the water. If it’s too hot get out in a hurry, if not that hot, let’s waddle for a while if its warm, nice and acceptable – swim..

  27. rego, i also think the pcgg provides more temptations than justifies its continued existence, even haydee yorac who i admired deeply, got frustrated, and in the end it’s only as useful as the president appointing people to it.

  28. iraya, if you viewed the full-color ads that group kept putting out (including postpoing the event after they weren’t able to do it at the luneta then up diliman), they, like quite a few fundamentalist christian groups that take out such ads, have a political agenda (and one favorable to the admin). that’s their right.

    i consider all guinness book of world records-based efforts trivial. period. of course such efforts are fun, and we’re not the only ones addicted to them -the malaysians are, too- an d if people want to spend their money on it, fine. but it’s trivial.

    also, my point -and i’ve made it time and again- about our flag is, if we want to adopt a more sensible and permissive attitude towards the flag, then get rid of the flag law. as it is, the law practically invites defiance because it’s impractical and difficult to enforce, and badly written (carelessly put together). but the law’s there and so the choice is: trivialize it, and thus contribute to the trivializing of all our laws, or make it more human and amend it.

    i am not convinced that just because we unfurl the biggest flag, people’s attitudes will change in any positive and enduring way -and i still think trying to discuss things with a mangtataho is more productive than his seeing a big flag on tv. but that’s just my opinion. you, me, and that mangtahaho are all facing a possible referendum very soon and i hope to god he’s made to think of the constitution instead of guinness book of world record-breaking stunts.

  29. mlq3,

    Thank you for the response.

    Unfurling the biggest flag is not and should not be an end in itself. It is a step in the direction of raising our sense of nationhood. We can engage on endless debates on what is wrong in our society but it will be just that, debates. You and other known personalities may wield some level of influence in this powerplay but at the end of the day, we Filipinos remain divided. The attempt is in the direction of forging unity. I have no problem if you put politicl color in the activity. But for me, the flag has no political color.

    My personal vision is seeing Filipinos displaying our flag proudly. When I ride the LRT, I see some ordinary homes displaying our flag. Be it on their roof top or their windows. It is a common sight to see vehicles with our flag. Some even have flaglets. But unfortunately, it is also commonplace to see torn and tattered flags. NO the flag will not solve our problems. It may not build a taho factory for our magtataho. But it may inspire our magtataho to do his sacred duty as a Filipino, to vote wisely come referemdum or election day and other sacred duties as a Filipino citizen. It is not about our magtataho seeing a big flag on tv. but it is about a sustained campaign coming from the middle class to inspire those who have less in life. Had the attempt been successful, my question would have been what’s next?

    Yes, breaking the record may be trivial but our flag is not. You put emphasis on the record breaking attempt and I put emphasis on our flag. As you said, we need to get rid of our flag law. Have there been attempts in that direction? I have read sometime ago in your Inquirer column with regards to your stand on this issue. I don’t find any disagreements with your arguments. Then what? Do you think it is an advocacy worth pursuing?

    Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas!

  30. iraya, like you, i love our flag, and i think our flag inspires in all of us a feeling of warmth for our country. but we also sense, instinctively, when we see torn and tattered flags, that things just aren’t right.

    i do have a personal bias against the mass display of flags, for a practical reason. if it’s a citizen doing so, that’s fine -but when government does it, government breaks its own rules and probably ends up spending a fortune for what? degrading the flag.

    a citizen’s movement to display the flag with pride is unquestionably good -best of all, if accompanied with an effort to respect the flag while displaying it.

    i wanted to file a taxpayer’s suit about the flag law, but haven’t found a group willing to do so (and then the political crisis made me set the idea aside as it would become politically colored). and there are too many members of Congress who sponsored the flag law to support any revisiting or revision.

  31. mlq3,

    now we’re talking.

    as you said, you have a personal bias against a mass display of flag initiated by politicians. i have the same feeling. every May, Manila’s cultural office adorns the street of Manila with our flag. the first thing that i ask myself, how much did they spend and how much did they pocket. i have no trust in whatever government projects. i always equate one to corruption. once they have put up our flags, they simply leave them to the elements. instead of being inspired, i instead feel sorry for our flags and the people at city hall are smiling their way to the banks.

    yes, that is what we are trying to do. form a citizen’s movement to display our flag with pride and respect. but we will go beyond that. hopefully, through our flag, we could inspire the practice of GOOD CITIZENSHIP even to our magtataho. it is nice to know that we have a kakampi.

    i am part of another group, Flag Society. i will open up to them the possiblity of pursuing the taxpayer’s suit about the flag law. since the group is apolitical, political color will not be an issue.

    Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas!

  32. Hello! 🙂

    This is a speech given by Pope Benedict in a meeting with Muslims last year in Cologne. I hope you will find it helpful.

    Dear Muslim Friends,

    It gives me great joy to be able to be with you and to offer you my heartfelt greetings.

    As you know, I have come here to meet young people from every part of Europe and the world. Young people are the future of humanity and the hope of the nations. My beloved Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, once said to the young Muslims assembled in the stadium at Casablanca, Morocco: “The young can build a better future if they first put their faith in God and if they pledge themselves to build this new world in accordance with God’s plan, with wisdom and trust” (Insegnamenti, VIII/2, 1985, p. 500).

    It is in this spirit that I turn to you, dear and esteemed Muslim friends, to share my hopes with you and to let you know of my concerns at these particularly difficult times in our history.

    I am certain that I echo your own thoughts when I bring up one of our concerns as we notice the spread of terrorism. I know that many of you have firmly rejected, also publicly, in particular any connection between your faith and terrorism and have condemned it. I am grateful to you for this, for it contributes to the climate of trust that we need.

    Terrorist activity is continually recurring in various parts of the world, plunging people into grief and despair. Those who instigate and plan these attacks evidently wish to poison our relations and destroy trust, making use of all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a peaceful and serene life together.

    Thanks be to God, we agree on the fact that terrorism of any kind is a perverse and cruel choice which shows contempt for the sacred right to life and undermines the very foundations of all civil coexistence.

    If together we can succeed in eliminating from hearts any trace of rancour, in resisting every form of intolerance and in opposing every manifestation of violence, we will turn back the wave of cruel fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinders progress towards world peace.

    The task is difficult but not impossible. The believer – and all of us, as Christians and Muslims, are believers – knows that, despite his weakness, he can count on the spiritual power of prayer.

    Dear friends, I am profoundly convinced that we must not yield to the negative pressures in our midst, but must affirm the values of mutual respect, solidarity and peace. The life of every human being is sacred, both for Christians and for Muslims. There is plenty of scope for us to act together in the service of fundamental moral values.

    The dignity of the person and the defence of the rights which that dignity confers must represent the goal of every social endeavour and of every effort to bring it to fruition. This message is conveyed to us unmistakably by the quiet but clear voice of conscience. It is a message which must be heeded and communicated to others: should it ever cease to find an echo in peoples’ hearts, the world would be exposed to the darkness of a new barbarism.

    Only through recognition of the centrality of the person can a common basis for understanding be found, one which enables us to move beyond cultural conflicts and which neutralizes the disruptive power of ideologies.

    During my Meeting last April with the delegates of Churches and Christian Communities and with representatives of the various religious traditions, I affirmed that “the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole” (L’Osservatore Romano, 25 April 2005, p. 4).

    Past experience teaches us that, unfortunately, relations between Christians and Muslims have not always been marked by mutual respect and understanding. How many pages of history record battles and wars that have been waged, with both sides invoking the Name of God, as if fighting and killing, the enemy could be pleasing to him. The recollection of these sad events should fill us with shame, for we know only too well what atrocities have been committed in the name of religion.

    The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other’s identity. The defence of religious freedom, in this sense, is a permanent imperative, and respect for minorities is a clear sign of true civilization. In this regard, it is always right to recall what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said about relations with Muslims.

    “The Church looks upon Muslims with respect. They worship the one God living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humanity and to whose decrees, even the hidden ones, they seek to submit themselves whole-heartedly, just as Abraham, to whom the Islamic faith readily relates itself, submitted to God…. Although considerable dissensions and enmities between Christians and Muslims may have arisen in the course of the centuries, the Council urges all parties that, forgetting past things, they train themselves towards sincere mutual understanding and together maintain and promote social justice and moral values as well as peace and freedom for all people” (Declaration Nostra Aetate, n. 3).

    For us, these words of the Second Vatican Council remain the Magna Carta of the dialogue with you, dear Muslim friends, and I am glad that you have spoken to us in the same spirit and have confirmed these intentions.

    You, my esteemed friends, represent some Muslim communities from this Country where I was born, where I studied and where I lived for a good part of my life. That is why I wanted to meet you. You guide Muslim believers and train them in the Islamic faith.

    Teaching is the vehicle through which ideas and convictions are transmitted. Words are highly influential in the education of the mind. You, therefore, have a great responsibility for the formation of the younger generation. I learn with gratitude of the spirit in which you assume responsibility.

    Christians and Muslims, we must face together the many challenges of our time. There is no room for apathy and disengagement, and even less for partiality and sectarianism. We must not yield to fear or pessimism. Rather, we must cultivate optimism and hope.

    Interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends.

    The young people from many parts of the world are here in Cologne as living witnesses of solidarity, brotherhood and love.

    I pray with all my heart, dear and esteemed Muslim friends, that the merciful and compassionate God may protect you, bless you and enlighten you always.

    May the God of peace lift up our hearts, nourish our hope and guide our steps on the paths of the world.

    Thank you!

  33. The problem is when either party is insisting that each of them is wrong. And even worst is when they started blowing their tempers to each other in teh full view of the media. To thsi is wher is got sooooooo ugly. Why cant they settle their differences in a more civil way?

    Arroyo appointee and PCGG commissioner Camilo Sabio, like most Arroyo cabinet officials and military people, refused to attend hearings to testify and answer questions relating to their work, especially re anomalies and possible corruption issues in their departments.

    From the Malaya:

    A DEBATE on a two-decade-old executive order issued during the revolutionary government of President Corazon Aquino resulted yesterday in a shouting match between Sen. Richard Gordon and Camilo Sabio, chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government who has been under Senate detention since Tuesday.

    Sabio appeared at the resumption of the Senate investigation on the reported anomalous losses of the Philippine Holdings Corp. (PHC) but remained defiant and refused to answer questions from senators.

    Read the whole thing. I’m effin’ glad somebody from the Senate finally GOT ANGRY about the snubbing of hearings and the evasiveness that Arroyo officials have been displaying since GLORIAGATE came out last year.

    And this is not the first time an Arroyo official refused to answer questions and claimed to be sick.

    Remember Norberto Gonzalez?

    As for Gonzales, he is still in contempt of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Sen. Joker Arroyo for refusing to answer questions on the Venable contract that he signed. First, he feigned illness so that he would be confined at the Heart Center instead of in the Senate; then he asked for a “medical leave” so that he would be set free temporarily while still undecided on having a “heart bypass operation.” Then he returned to work at the National Security Office without answering the senators’ questions on the Venable contract. And the contempt citation and the questions were forgotten by the senators, especially Senator Arroyo, as though they were suddenly stricken with amnesia. Not a peep out of them.

    More on Norberto Gonzalez and the secret Venable deal from PCIJ.

  34. Dante,

    The current pope has elevated to a higher importance the issue of reciprocity (e.g. if Muslims can freely preach in Christian Europe, then Christians should be allowed to freely preach in Muslim countries). This item — reciprocity — is not well-received by all Muslims. Below is a cut-and-paste from the Turkish Weekly:

    Reciprocity Key for Dialogue With Islam: Pope Print

    Wednesday , 17 May 2006

    Pope Benedict XVI said on Monday, May 15, that reciprocity is the cornerstone of a successful dialogue with Islam.

    “The importance of reciprocity in dialogue is more and more evident,” the pontiff told a Vatican conference on immigration to and from Islamic countries, according to the Italian news agency (AGI).

    He said Christian minorities in Muslim countries should be given the same rights Muslims generally have in Western countries.

    Pope Benedict hoped that “Christians who emigrate to countries with a Muslim majority find welcome and respect for their religious identity” without naming any countries.

    The one-day conference was called to address the Church’s growing concern over the number of Muslim immigrants in Europe and how to ensure peaceful coexistence of Christians and Muslims in countries with an Islamic tradition, according to Italy’s ANSA news agency.

    Islam guarantees the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) the same basic rights enjoyed by Muslims, chiefly freedom of religion.

    “Christian Proposal”

    Pope Benedict said that “religious problems” faced by some Christians should not stand as an obstacle to present the “Christian proposal” to the world.

    “We are living in times in which Christians are called to cultivate a method of open dialogue on religious problems, not renouncing presenting to interlocutors the Christian proposal in coherence with their own identity,” he said.

    This was a reference to the Church’s position that, even without aiming to convert, Christians had a duty to spread the gospel message and proclaim the word of Jesus to all, according to Reuters.

    The Pope said the question “deserves particular reflection, not only because of its extent but also because of the religious and cultural characteristics of the Muslim identity.”

    “Individual believers are called to open their arms and their hearts to each person, whatever country they are from, leaving it to the authorities responsible for public life to establish the laws held opportune for healthy cohabitation.”

    The pontiff said Christians “must open their hearts particularly to the small and poor.”

    Protestant and Orthodox churches are spearheading a drive with the Vatican to forge a code of conduct on religious conversion and proselytism.

    The initiative is aimed at addressing long-standing concerns about how far religions around the world can go to seek out new faithful.

    Several press reports have warned that missionary work in poor Muslim provinces basically in Africa and Asia is taking place under the guise of aid relief.

    Italian News Agency (AGI) via & News Agencies
    May 16, 2006


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