Sine Die

The Big Storm of 2006 brought life to a halt today. Personally, I don’t understand why we don’t use the international names for storms. As the effects of the storm are assessed, it will be a difficult time for relief agencies and the Red Cross.

I live on the 9th floor a building: leaves were blown in by the winds. Flying GI sheets everywhere but mercifully, no shoddy construction in my neck of the woods. Areas with tall buildings create all sorts of funky wind tunnel effects so at particular moments, the different gusts led to raindrops being suspended in midair for moment.

As a colleague puts it, “there’s a general consensus billboards have to go.” See the news of one dead -but also many stories of fallen billboards throughout the city. Manila in a state of calamity. Robinson’s Galleria loses its roof (well, part thereof, as did Market Market). I understand that in Lucena City, the water is waist-deep. Luzon without power.

It’s a kind of milestone I think that bloggers like mr. fuji meets manila (latest, here; but the best heading in the series: oh crap) and Tech in Black live-blogged the storm! Leigh Reyes has a YouTube video up; myka’s site also links to a video of damage in a gated community. pinoysnapshots (familiar to readers of this blog as baratillo@cubao) has, well, snapshots: a snippet from his blog:

Then the building began to wobble. A subtle wobble: a horizontal shift from left to right. At first only one person noticed it. The others notice it as well. And another person noticed it. Like an aikido master the building was dancing and deflecting against the wrath of storm. At one of the points on the office floor one could hear the flexing sound made by steel and concrete as the building did its tango with Xangsane. At the point where the sound was strongest there was a disquieting feeling. Everything was quiet except for that sound. It was most disconcerting.

Talking about swaying buildings, etc… See Grace by which I stand (on awating the eye of the storm) The Galaxy According to BalatStar (relieved to be sent home eventually), Emotions, Chit-chat, Foodstuff and More (had to restart the computer five times; those who insisted on going home had to sign a waiver) and &nsbp, along with Ahhhhh and The Wandering Knight of Solitude (worried over appliances at home) and iceuck (vibrating floors) for small but remarkable observations from those forced to go to work during the storm. How people cope: Teluride had a playlist to tide her over; scribblings of a blue kind was armed with chocolate milk.

Droll statement of the day from Madame Chiang: “it would be a major understatement to say it’s kind of windy outside.”

A Nagueño in the Blogosphere points to a site to bookmark for future reference:

Anyway, in the news… The House leadership’s announced it will resort to a sine die session to pave the way for Plan B.

The classic account of a sine die session is, of course, Nick Joaquin’s 13 o’clock, in which then Senate President Marcos kept his position by surreptitiously turning the Senate clock back on. In those days, under the 1935 Constitution, the legislature met only 100 days out of the year. The present constitution mandates what is, officially, a year-round session.

Ermita spanks Defensor. President has ordered nursing exam retake and seems nervous of a mutiny among nursing students.

In the blogosphere, waiting watching wishing, a first year law student, was among those who witnessed the oral arguments at the Supreme Court (she found some of the questions irrelevant). Edwin Lacierda, an established law professor and practitioner, did too.

dennio series 2006 reflects on a Filipino director’s views on the decline of comedy shows.

some interesting blog posts on Thailand. A foreigner who seems to be studying there, in between scathing remarks concerning Thai classmates, says teachers warned them not to discuss the coup. A Malaysian hopes his country’s politicians learn their lessons from the Thai coup. A Thai tries to explain to a foreign audience the role and stature of the Thai monarch -and expresses dissatisfaction with media coverage of the coup. A different view’s in thoughtful entry from Left Flank, who thinks the King is the ultimate culprit. He shares the skepticism of The Economist when it comes to People Power but suggests,

As I argued before, what is important is not stability at any cost, as the New York Times seems to favor, but rather, that Thailand has a constitution and governments that can redistribute the fruits of globalization fairly to all Thais. And, within that constitution, there needs to be leaders who represent all Thais fairly, not just those useful for re-election. One would think, that, after six years of a divisive American executive, the Grey Lady would not support divisive leadership for the sake of some emergency, like a war on terror or investors’ needs. Cheap healthcare and subsidies should help all citizens and enrich the nation, not exist as planks in a populist platform. Most of all, those who subvert the law, even in the name of preserving it, should be punished. As Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

The blog also refers to epilogos, who thinks the Thai generals are stuck in a trap.

Feral Scholar uses a conversation on the Thai coup to promote the idea that a little pitchfork-wielding by angry mobs might be healthy (a defense of the Jacobin urge, she explains). He (a feminist) says, “the fear of disorder is a male-constructed fear”.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

18 thoughts on “Sine Die

  1. Even if they insist on their interpretation regarding 3/4’s vote of all the members of the Congress (including the Senate), if the Senate will not participate in it, there is no way they can claim that they are complying with the constitution to amend or revise the constitution. This means that ALL MEMBERS should vote, therefore without the Senate only 90% of the Congress are voting (or that is 100% if they all voted for it of the 90% of the whole Congress, not 3/4 or more than 3/4 of 100% of the whole Congress).

  2. I think Plan B looks good for the pro CHA-CHA crowd. The Constitution couldnt be any plainer: 3/4 of all the members of Congress. No ‘voting separately’. This might not be what the framers meant, but as cvj pointed out in another comment section, the Supreme Court would have to pretend that theyre all dead.

    We could stil defeat CHA CHA in the plebiscite, then maybe after that an amendment could be made via People’s Initiative (pause for irony) to amend the constitution to state 3/4 of all the members of Congress voting separately.

  3. Thanks for reading and linking my blog to yours. I appreciate your time in knowing my experience and shallow happiness with the typhoon.

  4. during the time when i am feeling the building sway, i am watching the 911 World Trade Center mysteries ( it said there that an airplane hit is nothing compared to the continuous strong wind of a storm. i think even if GT tower in Makati is to be hit by a jet liner, it would not disintegrate like WTC.

  5. Here in Cebu, although there are ocassional rainshowers and gusty winds yesterday, the effects of Xangsane were minimal.

    The only heartbreaking consequence of the said typhoon was the fact that some (if not all) major banking institutions in Makati had a system shutdown yesterday. The release of paychecks of some companies here were unfortunately delayed to Monday of next week.

    oh well

  6. Jeg,

    when fr. joaquin bernas, sj (1987 constitutional commission member) was asked about this ‘confusion’, he offered the following explanation: the framers certainly wanted both chambers to vote separately on ANY issue requiring Congress approval.

    as to the omission in print, if contextualize way back 1987 times, Cory A. revolutionary govt. is saddled with real and imagined threats both from Gringo and pro-Marcos forces and the framers were acutely aware of this–in a way, pressed for time to come up with something to legitimize Cory’s rule. the time honored wisdom of sieving through the fine print was made secondary, if not completely forgotten.

    it is NO secret that the framers, in their haste, practically copied almost ‘in toto’ the 1973 Marcos’ constitutional proviso creating the UNIcameral Batasan Pambansa (equivalent to Congress).

    if equated as a toss-up between ‘intention’ AND ‘not clarified nor written’, the former is always given more weight in any lucid arena for appraisement of facts–including the court of law.

    however, since ‘Pinas has now become the Bastusan Republic, am not sure anymore if this is still given any value…

  7. Im sure youre right, freewheel. I myself dont understand the rule that says we cant present testimony from the surviving framers in a case that seeks to determine intent.

    As for ‘intent’ and ‘what is written’, absent any testimony, I would think that the latter would be given more weight because without testimony, establishing intent would be like second-guessing the framers. That would lead to other provisions in the constitution being open to second guessing by a Supreme Court.


  8. Hi, I’m the foreigner studying in Thailand! As for the coup, times have been very interesting. I’m here midway through my politics/international relations major, and I have found the situation has offered me an interesting view which I have never managed to glean from academic sources. Here I have learnt about the ‘vicious cycle of Thai politics’, countless coups, some violent some not, since the early 1900s. From what I have seen of the education here, the inherent political instability is not surprising. Education here is still very much for the rich, and rather than the division of ‘nerds’ and ‘jocks’ in western schooling, I have not witnessed one Thai classmate who is engaged or interested in the academic world around them. Here students are taught to memorize, not think, again, we wonder why the government is so unstable, the economy is so ‘chaotic’, and the people are so uncaring in general. Yet there is still a fear, or a concern among the people I know. Teachers warning us not to speak of the coup on exam papers submitted to private universities, Thai friends talking about ‘secret news’ (seemingly an oxymoronic term!), these things do not point towards the stereo type of Thai people, subversive and suspicious. I have learnt here that people are not what they seem, and more then I could ever understand from sitting in a classroom, social-economic and political circumstances have deep running causes that begin with the most basic of principles, education.

    Anyone wants to chat more of this, drop by the site.

  9. Jeg, although it is not specified in the Constitution, by tradition, the Senate and the House of Representatives are treated as co-equal houses. Any ambiguity should be resolved in favor of this principle. If the JDV interpretation is adopted, then that would mean that in matters having to do with Constitutional amendments or revisions, the House is orders of magnitude more powerful than the Senate. This does not make sense because, as DJB has pointed out, this Section potentially touches upon the very existence of the Constitution.

  10. Thanks for the insights of the storm,feel more connected to my pinoy roots.I only experienced snowstorm and its not as bad as the Milenyo typhoon,anyways pinoys are very resilient race either
    natural or man-made calamities. Keep up the good work,and love to be in touch with Philippines

  11. Let’s hope so, cvj. Although Im not too optimistic. Traditions should be embodied in a new Constitution if the framers wanted them to be, but in this case, by omitting the crucial wording, it could indicate that in this case, they do not deem the tradition that important, placing more weight to local representatives (which ties in with People’s Initiative, which is local by nature).

    Im hoping the SC interprets it your way, cvj, but Im just pointing out that the fight is going to be tough.

  12. forgot inadvertently to mention that the Bastusan Republic, a term describing the present day Inang Bayan, was first coined by a very prolific blogger named anna de brux.

    maybe inspired by mlq3’s past post on ‘bastusan’.

  13. Jeg, i agree with you that the framers, by omitting some words, have made our lives more complicated. Considering the circumstances (as described by freewheel above), they should have concentrated on clarity of wording and internal consistency rather than on jampacking the fundamental document with their pet political and social agendas (which accounts for its verbosity). The Supreme Court can very well choose to act like Bible-literalists and interpret the provision in favor of JDV, but while the fundamentalist preachers have the benefit of God not being present, the SC still has to contend with Bernas and the rest of the surviving framers.

    Here are some of the approaches by which the Justices might go about their interpretation (as taken from Wikipedia) and my corresponding guess of the outcome based on the approach:

    Strict constructionism – “a philosophy of judicial interpretation and legal philosophy that limits judicial interpretation to the meanings of the actual words and phrases used in law, and not on other sources or inferences. Adherents look strictly at the text in question rather than relying either on legislative intent (as gleaned from contemporaneous commentaries or legislative debate) or on metaphysical ideas such as natural law.”

    My guess: ruling in favor of House of Representative’s position.

    Original intent – “maintains that in interpreting a text, a court should determine what the authors of the text were trying to achieve, and to give effect to what they intended the statute to accomplish, the actual text of the legislation notwithstanding.”

    My guess: ruling in favor of Senate’s position. ( Assuming the framer’s upon being called as witnesses, or upon review of their writings at the time the 1987 Constitution was being drafted, give the impression of a consensus as to this intent.)

    Original meaning – “is a Formalist theory, and a logical extension of Textualism. Textualists believe that a statute means whatever the plain meaning of its words is, as opposed to other potential meanings, such as what those who drafted the law or voted for it intended it to say… contends that the terms…should be interpreted as meaning what they meant when they were ratified, which is to say, it asks the question: ‘What would a Reasonable person living at the time of ratification have understood these words to mean?'”

    My guess: ruling in favor of House of Representative’s position. I think this approach adheres most closely to the line of reasoning you have adopted above.

    Living Constitution – “Generally regarded as a liberal judicial philosophy, its central premise is that the Constitution should be seen, to some degree, as dynamic. As the direct counter to originalism, the judicial philosophy centered on meaning at the time of constitutional ratification, a Living Constitution suggests a document whose meaning is often dependent on the age and society in which it applies.”

    My guess: Provision under contention will be considered the subject of a political question which requires a plebiscite in order to determine the currently accepted meaning.

    If the Court has common sense (which is hard to define), they will rule in favor of the Senate, but there is also enough room to rule in favor of the House if the Court adopts (consciously or inadvertently) some sort of tunnel vision. To me, the fairest ruling would be to declare the matter a political question subject to the people’s judgement.

  14. Jeg, I certainly hope the Supreme Court decides the issue as “voting separately”. If they don’t and this thing gets to a plebiscite, it’s a cinch Gloria will sit “forever”. With Esperon already confirmed, she has completed her election A-Team. The APE triumvirate – Abalos, Puno and Esperon. Oh, what electoral magic these trio can do.

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