Resignation isn’t a get out of jail free card

Let me pay tribute to my former professor, Alex Magno, and his column today, on Burma. I’ve often been critical of him, but this column was splendid.

Concerning Benjamin Abalos,Oragon! asks, why resign? Newsstand and Ricky Carandang boils down the whole thing to its essentials: Abalos knew he’d be impeached, and he decided to fall on his sword to spare his family dire political prospects and spare the Palace fallout. tonyo features a roundup of blogger reactions. And of course, smoke rocks (not that I always agree).

Personally, my view is simple. For those calling for his resignation for ages now, don’t hit a man when he’s down. He resigned to save his ass, but he still resigned. Give him credit for that. Now, on to the harder part, hauling him off to court. Credit is due for resigning but that’s as far as credit goes. In a country where too few resign despite the public clamor to do so, he did it; but he also did it, to avoid what could have been an historic impeachment. So a historic trial necessarily comes next.

A quick note, primarily addressed to faithful reader Bencard, who has gotten me thinking on my tendency to support leniency for former president Estrada. My general principle is imprisonment really does nothing, I think it only leads to hardened and tougher criminals. In fact, my inclination is to support imprisonment only for three kinds of criminals: murderers, rapists/molesters and big-time drug dealers. All other crimes should be handled with fines and some sort of community service truly beneficial to the public. Anyone who has ever visited a jail, talked to inmates, knows that those crammed into jails enter a nightmarish world in which crime rules every aspect of the inmates’ lives.

For political crimes including plunder, which is grand-scale theft, I really think that what that UP Professor pointed out is a good idea. He clarified that what he said was the Filipino concept of justice is restitution, not retribution, that for Estrada, what the public wanted wasn’t just for the money he stole or illegally acquired to be returned to the public, but that he should also then quit politics, having betrayed public trust.

So, I support Estrada’s being allowed to go home, but only on two conditions: that assets forfeited by the courts remain forfeited (Estrada claims, anyway, rightly or wrongly, those assets were never his) but also, a ban on political participation. He can go home, but shut up, and not even be allowed to vote. And that should be the rule for all public officials accused of illegally amassing fortunes: return the money, and quit politics. Without these two requirements, no pardon should be considered or offered, because as so many have reminded me, there is an important precedent that’s been set.

The ever-impressive Mon Casiple gives his analysis of the whole ZTE deal and its fallout:

Neri testified that the President told him not to accept the bribe. He thought that may be sufficient to end the matter, even if it puts Abalos in hot water. However, he refused to elaborate or to testify on other conversations with the President regarding the ZTE matter, citing “executive privilege.”

Of course, this puts the Neri testimony on a continuing downslide thereafter as senators expectedly try to elicit the information behind the “executive privilege.” Many do not believe he told the other half of the truth, may be not even the truth he told — primarily because of his own hypes before the Senate testimony. It is also a glaring inconsistency when he readily volunteered the fact of his talk with the President regarding the Abalos bribe, but not the other talks on the ZTE matter itself.

However, we can already glimpse something from the Neri testimony. One, there is definitely the BIG ONE in terms of information hiding behind the “executive privilege.” Two, there are possibly others–more powerful and far more vulnerable–deeply involved in the ZTE scandal. Three, the ZTE scandal has implications that go to the heart of the survival of the GMA administration and ruling coalition–possibly more than the Garci tapes scandal itself.

Secretary Neri is protecting not only the President but an entire arrangement regarding Chinese investments and loans in the Philippines. The arrangement, I think, stinks to high heavens. It is too early to say but there are certain implications already on Philippine national security, the government’s “special relations” with the United States, Philippine sovereignty and national patrimony, violations of the Constitution, and sectoral concerns.

Senator Miriam Santiago is partly correct when she raised the observation that it is all a “squabble over kickbacks.” After all, at the heart of it all is the purported availability of some $18 billion dollars for Chinese investments and loans for the Philippines–a sum approaching, if not surpassing, the money available during the Marcos one-man rule. Senator Mar Roxas himself said the ZTE deal seems to be a “supply-side” decision–meaning the availability of the Chinese money preceded the project. However, as the ZTE drama unfolds, it is slowly becoming clear that what is at stake is the survival of the GMA administration itself.

Given the situation that she failed to reconcile with the opposition after the 2007 elections, that she still does not have any agreement with any or all of the presidentiables, and that there is the inability (for the present) to force a martial rule, GMA is running a clear risk of going down even before the 2010 term ending. The clock is running out on her, with diminishing influence over events as perceptions increase over her lame-duck presidency. The ruling coalition does not have a viable presidentiable at this time, cannot absorb the pressures, and may disintegrate well before 2010.

The ZTE scandal may well be the Waterloo of the Arroyo presidency.

New Philippine Revolution asks, who’s next?

Meanwhile, Arroyo: Name 4 senators who leaked Neri executive session.

Yesterday’s blog entry triggered a flashback in Slap Happy: there’s a related entry in Tongue In, Anew.

Quixotic Kibitzer asks tough questions concerning the telcos and wiretapping.In an earlier blog entry, Ricky Carandang points out the AFP now has ample justifications for disciplining some of its personnel.

Manila Bay Watch tackles questions of corruption.

stories from the middle earth press room on school rivalries.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

199 thoughts on “Resignation isn’t a get out of jail free card

  1. shaman,

    Sorry about that, I was assuming what you meant by “healthcare” were the RHUs (rural health units) or centers, they actually do dispense free medicines to the rural areas and of course affordable vaccinations, etc. but you have to endure the long cue of course.

  2. Ram I’m fine, thank you. I’ve been sleeping late for 2 days now because of blogging. When I looked at the mirror, lo and behold, I have eyebags.

  3. ramrod, I didn’t say anything about a feeding program. Government can spend on means to increase the opportunities for rural folks to be more productive and augment their income – irrigation systems, farm-to-market roads, etc.

    My personal experience with government bureaucracy may be different from yours. They may be good as persons, but their work ethics leave much to be desired. I don’t think there is an assurance that giving them Internet connectivity will, as Devils said, “dramatically” improve public services.

    Meanwhile, rural folks are dying for lack of affordable health care.

  4. mlq3, the point is, government or businesses catering to the general public should treat persons or complaints equally, whether coursed through media or not. If there is a line, follow the line. And if media’s complaints get ahead of the line despite the long queue because it is the media, the media should not pretend that it did not bypass the process. It is in this light that i salute that councilor from davao (or somewhere down south) who was reported in the papers as having lined up in the emergency room despite his having been offered to be treated ahead of the persons on the line. But how many of us are ready to do that? How many in the media even acknowledge that they are getting ahead of the line to the detriment of those who have patiently endured the wait just to be told that we cannot help you? And they criticize corruption in government while not even being aware of the corruption that they wreak in the society.
    As regards tuning into a different tv/radio station or not buying the papers, well, let me put it this way: in some situations, that as may be. but take the case of the medicines available in this country, you only get the cheapest and efficacious medicine at the mercy of the pharmaceuticals, but only to the extent of the choices that they give you. Thing is, if i cannot do without the papers, then i would settle for the best available even if i do not like it that much.

  5. Karah, Well, talking legalese, is there not such a thing as positive testimony versus negative testimony? In such situation, which is supported by jurisprudence? yes, you guessed right. but who knows, with the present court, they might just overturn the prevailing doctrine.
    But that is not to say that it is sufficient to convict beyond reasonable doubt which is a completely different animal.
    By the way, semantics is dictated by context, otherwise, a meaningful conversation will not take place.

  6. cvj, I said it in the context of ramrod’s post at 5:47pm, and when karah suddenly charged with guns blazing at Beancurd, he said, “Hi, how are you? I was just kidding earlier, trying to scare beancurd.”

  7. “Artcle XI (Accountability of Public Officers). Section 2. The President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Memebrs of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman MAY BE REMOVED FROM OFFICE ON IMPEACHMENT for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust. All other public officers and employees may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment.”

    The essence of the an IMPEACHMENT is clearly stated in the above provision: TO REMOVE FROM OFFICE certain Public Officials from their position. Although it’s not EXPLICITLY said that “impeachment is deemed terminated” once the Impeachable Officer RESIGNS, it’s CRYSTAL CLEAR: How do you REMOVE a COMELEC CHAIRMAN if he’s not anymore the COMELEC CHAIRMAN? In the case of Abalos, how do you IMPEACH a Private Citizen? 😀 IMPEACHMENT is merely to REMOVE FROM POSITION the PERSON in QUESTION. Look at Section 7.

    “Section 7. Judgement in cases of impeachment SHALL NOT EXTENED FURTHER THAN REMOVAL FROM OFFICE and disqualification to hold any office under the Republic of the Philippines, but the PART CONVICTED SHALL NEVERTHELESS be LIABLE and subject to prosecution, trial, and punishment, according to law.”


    The Jurisdiction of possible CRIMINAL CASES (with CIVIL LIABILITIES) against Abalos would not be transferred to Ombudsman. Just like Erap, although he was not IMPEACHED, the time the Supreme Court a vacancy in HIS OFFICE, it automatically terminated the proceedings of the “aborted impeachment.”

  8. Well, mlq3, sure, later, very much later (and I don’t mean never), but not now.

  9. Bean The “prevailing doctrine” is still the prevailing doctrine unless overturned. I would accept the decision once the VERDICT is handed and not speculate like a Judge or a Justice as some people always do. Beancurd, are you a Judge (an innocent question)? A mere “cloud of doubt” crumples the whole proceedings of a Criminal Case. Semantics is semantics whatever banana you might want to correlate it with.

  10. My point of view on the matter would border on “the legal aspects” of the said “little chitchat” between Abalos and Neri on the phrase: “Sec. may 200 ka dito.” You have your own opinion, I have mine. So don’t come saying that your opinion is better, okay. – Karah

    In a context-free environment, anything goes, but this is hardly the environment in which those words were said. Behind that short statement “Sec. may 200 ka dito” is the background situation, the language conventions as well as the political and business culture and traditions that clarify the meaning of that statement.

  11. Rom My wheels is quite slow. I’m just riding a GOLD CART (the one used by Abalos and Neri).

  12. “Government can spend on means to increase the opportunities for rural folks to be more productive and augment their income – irrigation systems, farm-to-market roads, etc.” – shaman

    I heard about this list before, yes in the SONA. I believe what you’re referring to are in place already, especially the healthcare part, I’m sure this has been part of the budget eversince, but of course I must admit there are some health centers that seem to be “forsaken,” specifically in Samar, mountainous areas, where all they have are condoms, I know because I used to donate all my samples there when I was just a lowly medrep. It would help though if these decisions were evaluated properly (empirically) and presented clearly to really dispel any doubts.

  13. Harry Sorry Luli’s beside me in the Golf Cart. If you like, get a rope, I’ll tie you to my cart and pull you.

  14. “Devils, i come from the vendor side of the business (over 18 years) and i can tell you that a lot of the time and effort spent by our industry is to generate wants and hyping up the next big thing. – cvj

    Aha! I wasn’t able to see this earlier, now I know what to ask when the Sun Microsystems guy comes back.

  15. everybody:

    Who’s familiar with the “we roam?” (pldt), is Globe’s “visibility” really better because it has 3G already not just edge/gprs? – This is still related to broadband…

  16. manuel,

    you must be refering to this… section 5 of 3019
    “Provided, That this section shall not apply to any person who, prior to the assumption of office of any of the above officials to whom he is related, has been already dealing with the Government along the same line of business, nor to any transaction, contract or application already existing or pending at the time of such assumption of public office, xxx” (this was the exception cited by Joey…)

    It should be noted also that,
    1> when did the deal start? was it initiated before JDV entered Congress from the last term?
    2> Was his company already dealing with the government on the same line of Business, before his Dad became speaker? How about the previous term of his dad?

    The other part of the provision under the same section will not be applicable to Joey DV… as the concern here is…when was the bidding? Was it before or after? Wasn’t Joe DV Speaker on 2006? Consider also please that the proposal/bid of Joey DV in 2006 was unsolicited…

    It so easy to say that he is part of the exception…analyze it perhaps….The exception is not in any way cumulative. Each exception cites different situations….not being covered by the other provisions wouldn’t mean that he is exempted already.

    He may be in business, yes. But as dealings with the Government? Were there previous transactions? It started during his Dad’s previous term…which should be clearly a violation….the culmination of the deal was after the re-election. Did the election exonerate him from last term’s violation?

    The senators seem to agree that he is exempted… but is he really?

  17. “He may be in business, yes. But as dealings with the Government? Were there previous transactions? It started during his Dad’s previous term…which should be clearly a violation….the culmination of the deal was after the re-election. Did the election exonerate him from last term’s violation?
    The senators seem to agree that he is exempted… but is he really?” – cesar

    The way I saw it from the beginning, this guy JDV3 has been directly/indirectly bidding/winning government contracts due to his father’s “clout” he may have fancied himself as an “unstoppable force” in this arena until he met with Abalos, the “immovable object” also in this arena.

  18. been reading this blog for quite some time but am a passive reader. kinda sick and tired of politics so i don’t participate.

    is there a possibility we discuss other topics other than politics in some future articles? it’s quite evident that everything is focused on gma, abalos, and neri.

    at the end of the day, what we can contribute to society is not what we blabber about but what we do and act in our own little way. just my two cents.


  19. harry, this is mainly a political blog, but will bear that in mind.

    also, in inquirer current, i also bring up broader themes from time to time, you may want to check that out.

  20. Hi Harry, how are you? I’m not so much into politics either but because this case is all over the television, its become quite interesting. Good thing you came out, I was about to yell “Expecto Patronum!”

  21. “been reading this blog for quite some time but am a passive reader. kinda sick and tired of politics so i don’t participate.”

    kinda contradictory since Manolo’s blog is mainly a political blog. weird you’d been reading here for “quite some time” when you’re “sick and tired” of politics. maybe it’s karah eh? *wink*

    lot of other interesting blogs out there. check out the top pinoy blogs, one out there might interest you. heck, check my blog if u want (nowhere near as interesting as the top blogs). but i do write abt other topics aside from politics. i’m more into poetry, prose, and philosophy.

  22. mlq3:

    thanks for the reply as well as for considering my suggestion. will check out inquirer current?


  23. ramrod:

    i just read the blog entries to find new information and some opinions but my opinion i’d rather keep to myself. yes, the issue on the zte-nbn deal is all over the papers, the airwaves, and the net.

    i’ll reserve my “expecto patronum” charm on the dementors (some of them are in this blog, kidding).


  24. This would be a shameless plug. i’ve redirected my link (for now) to my new blog at blogspot. im currently writing something. need feedback if its good or not. jz follow the link by clicking on my handle. thanks.

  25. devils,

    Hey, I was reading the other blog, the one with the “Bloody Sword” or something, it reminded me of a play I saw in college called “Rashomon” and I have Jonathan Livingston Seagull and The Little Prince.
    I also saw cvj’s blog, very interesting…I would like to try making one myself, can blogs like this be made by non techi guys like me or you need to know some technical stuff?

  26. “i just read the blog entries to find new information and some opinions but my opinion i’d rather keep to myself. yes, the issue on the zte-nbn deal is all over the papers, the airwaves, and the net.”

    I’ve been doing that myself, at least if you visit this blog I can pick out salient facts or opinions already summarized. Honestly, my colleagues enjoy my reports lately because of “political” situationers not just the usual numbers. The insights you gain are also priceless.

  27. ramrod, creating a blog is very easy. there are a lot of free blog hosting service out there. i suggest you use blogspot. all it needs is that you have a gmail account. you’ll be guided step by step on how to create your blog.

    as to what you’ve read in my friendster blog, it’s title is Blood-Spattered Sword and it’s a Ruruoni Kenshin fanfiction. I know Rashomon. It’s written by Akira Kurosawa. I’ve yet to read or watch his works. I know he’s an excellent filmmaker, I jz cnt find the time to look for his films.

    this piece im currently writing will be extensive. i plan this to be a whole book, so id really appreciate some feedback while im jz starting.

  28. Punishment for serious crimes not intended for Rehabilitation but for Retribution. If everyone here can recall, Capital Punishment for Capital crimes just abolished in the Philippines, but still in Force in the U.S. Unusual and cruel punishments is Unconstitutional, and if the Courts determine that Incarcerating convicts in Jails not fit for Human habitations, then the Judge may order another form of punishments, such as house detention or may order the Government to fix the situation or relocate the inmates in some comfortable lodging…

    Plunder and Official corruptions are serious crimes. Incarceration will act as the main deterrents plus lawsuit by the authorities to recoup all the losses plus punitive fines. People who commit such sustained crimes knew what they are doing, compares to impulsive criminals that could be mentally sick and can be rehabilitated… Crime and punishment what makes the human being behave. Take away the deserving punishments and we might as well live in the jungle…

  29. “this piece im currently writing will be extensive. i plan this to be a whole book, so id really appreciate some feedback while im jz starting.devilADV”

    write short stories for Helium( and earn some $

  30. TDC, thanks for the heads up. will appreciate it if you could drop by my blogspot and give me some comments on the piece im writing there. (will check out the site u mentioned)

  31. TDC, i just tried to check Helium’s page but I think they’re currently updating their site. you can’t enter the site unless they’ve released their version that is specifically tailored for your country

  32. vic, i agree. there should be no compromise with plunder. there is a good reason why this particular crime was originally punishable by death. a strong message that society will not tolerate or forgive such a heinous crime. using one’s office to steal hundreds of millions of pesos from the people ranks up there with first degree murder, rape with murder, and genocide, among other capital offenses. any kind of pardon (absolute or conditional) for these kinds of crimes, to me, is unacceptable.

    retribution is an element of justice. a crime is meaningless without penalty and the penalty must be commensurate with the gravity of the wrongdoing. while rehabilitation is an object of correctional administration, this should be limited to non-capital offenders who have been proven to have committed their offenses without moral depravity or with conscious evil. surely, no one wants a psychotic serial killer, a habitual child molester or serial rapist roaming around free to inflict more harm to society.

    it will help immensely in fostering a national discipline to treat criminals the same way without regard to their social status, or lack of it, or their wealth. no convict should be allowed to serve his sentence in his private mansion no matter how exalted his former position had been.

  33. btw, and to equate advocating commensurate punishment for estrada for the crime he committed, and opposing pardon, to “beating up a dead horse” is pseudo-humanitarianism, if not aberrant sense of justice.

  34. mlq3, i don’t understand why you insist that plunder is a “political” crime. it is not. there’s nothing political about using one’s office to steal a fortune that rightfully belongs to the people. as i said, plunder was originally punishable by death. the apparent intent of the law is, first and foremost, deterrence. a pardon sends a wrong message. for a nation that has been reeling from the onslaught of rapacious public servants for so long, conviction of a former president is a whiff of fresh air from a rotting carcass, only to be rendered naught by an act of political expediency. think of the lesson that could be learned, from an appropriate retribution, by future plunderers, and individuals inclined to commit graft and corruption, from a lowly janitor all the way to the chief executive, chief justice of s.c., speaker of the house and senate president?

    i have no reason to doubt, mlq3, your sincerity and zeal in your desire to fight graft and corruption, especially in high places of our society. convicting a former president was a breakthrough, an almost impossible task in a society such as ours. we should not let it go to waste.

  35. Bencard, if the original sentence for Plunder was death, and the foremost intent was deterrence, how come no one was deterred all these years?

    and don’t mind me. I agree with you as well, that pardoning serves nothing except encourage more of the same. i think we should even up the ante and sentence plunderers to death by slow roasting.

  36. I agree with Bencard that plunder is not a political crime. It’s just that it’s the politicians who commit plunder that are put in the limelight. If you come to think of it, businessmen who cheat on taxes bigtime are plunderers themselves.

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