The machinery’s in place

Back in 1997-1998, President Ramos ordered the presidential palace, rather run down and ramshackle after a decade of being uninhabited, repaired so that, as he put it, his successor would have a place fit to live in. At the time, it seemed Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would be a contender for the presidency, and I recall telling some friends (who were shocked) that if she won, you could be sure she would never step down. If she climbed the stairs of the Palace in an act of symbol repossession, I said, the only way she’d ever leave would be on a stretcher.

They asked me why I said that, and I remember correctly, I explained that she’d shown power was more important than anything else. She’d been elected to the Senate not as a Liberal, but as something else, despite her father having been one of the few absolutely loyal party men the country’s produced (DM got many people to switch parties but from the time he entered politics to the day he died, he was always a Liberal, and proud of it).

This told me, I said (engaging in some amateur psychology) that we should consider that the one, enduring lesson she’d learned from her father’s rise and fall, is that Nice Guys Finish Last. Every presidential family’s fall from power is traumatic to the members of that family, but the fall of Macapagal was followed by the longest period of political obscurity any presidential family’s had to endure: Macapagal was more often than not, used as a figure of fun by the Marcoses and so the psychological wounds would have been particularly great. The daughter had already done better than the father (DM had failed in his senate bid in the 50s), and she could look forward to not only posthumously vindicating her father by becoming president (a dream that had eluded Serging Osmena, Gerry Roxas and Doy Laurel), but also, to relishing the role of being the top dog after decades of having her family treated like dogs, relatively speaking. Like her mother, she has a long memory and nurses grudges.

What changed my mind was her biding her time, and her going for the vice-presidency: she’s capable of holding her ambition in check, I thought. And more or less I felt I’d unfairly estimated her as she proved overall, a good boss and as President, she seemed inclined to be generous to the memory of her predecessors and more inclined to institution-building. The high point of this was her announcement not to run for the presidency in 2004. I remember being quite touched and telling anyone who would listen, how proud I was to be working for such a president. This was a thing of personal importance to me, because in my article on Corazon Aquino as the Person of the Century, I’d argued that what our country has had all too little of, are leaders who willingly, and serenely, relinquish power (which is why I continue to admire Cory Aquino). And I recall my irritation when other people in the Palace (belonging to the camp of the President’s husband) were either non-committal or openly disappointed with the President’s decision.

But I began to return to my original impression of the President when she announced, a year later, that she would, after all, seek election to the presidency. Whether I should continue serving her or not was, in a sense, decided for me when the Inquirer offered me a job on condition that I relinquish any official appointment; I could return to focusing on my profession while supporting her but no longer as as part of her administration. And still, I tried to soldier on in support of her until 2005 proved that she would stop at nothing, thereby proving that, indeed, her guiding principle was, Nice Guys Finish Last. My decision to stop supporting the President has been chronicled in this blog, and there’s no need to revisit it.

An economist I recently met told me he’d had the President as his professor, and that he felt she’d been a lousy teacher. Why, I asked. She conducted classes, he said, like a bully. She gloried in bombarding her students with questions, saying it was how law students toughened up. The economist said that’s not the way questions are approached in economics, as a discipline, and that furthermore she derived too much enjoyment from demonstrating her authority every which way she could. She tried to pander to female students, he said, but the female students, oddly enough, resented it.

I do believe the President thinks she is doing the country a favor and that as she survives crisis after crisis, this belief has been buttressed by an absolute certainty on her part that she will do the country good even if the country thinks otherwise. Hers is the essentially self-defeating attitude of a weak person who becomes a bully, and thinks that it’s a virtue to hold on to power by appealing to the mercenary instincts of those who surround her. This is self-defeating because there always comes a point where someone can not be bought, and will no longer be for sale; while leaders who appeal to the higher instincts of their followers can often ask them to make superhuman sacrifices for a cause the leader’s been able to identify as a shared goal both leader and follower possess.

All this is a lengthy prelude to what we observe today. Two articles put the the recently concluded baranggay elections in perspective: Village polls become prep work for 2010 race and Arroyo seeks allies in villages, doles out more power, perks. In most healthy democracies, public opinion is what leaders aim to cultivate; in the case of the President, it is the machinery that she lovingly oils, and which hums its gratitude, in turn. This is what I called The “vision thing”, in 2005.

Yet the absence of an inspiring vision matters less than a thorough, even if contemptuous, mastery of the levers of power. A mastery that trumps everyone trying to seize those levers.

Here’s s very interesting observation in The Blog:

This entire drama is being played out between the ruling classes, and there doesn’t appear to be any space presenting itself for a legitimate democratic revolution – who would lead one anyway, with the Left bitterly divided between the powerful Communists and the less radical but more responsible center leftists?

There is one interesting possibility that should be noted. Though no space has arisen yet, there is an opportunity for some opportunistic elite politician to finally decide to take the first shot and engage with the Left (who have all but completely sat this current fight out). A leader like that, from outside the left, might be able to unite the factions and lead a legitimate democratic revolution.

In another interesting development, that I haven’t seen anyone writing about or discussing, there is a gathering storm slowly approaching Manila. Though mostly out of the headlines in the capital, the MAPALAD farmers are gathering support from communities across the Philippines in their march from Mindanao to the capitol. Their 1998 hunger strike became a tremendous media event, earned them a later-broken promise from then-candidate Estrada, and probably was the single biggest factor in the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Today, CARP is up for extension again. With the political situation as it is, if, as we suggested above, an opportunistic trapo were to bring in the Left, the arrival of MAPALAD circa Dec. 10th would present a unique opportunity to gain mass support of many in rural communities and their allies. The Communists aren’t in favor of extending CARP (they oppose reform, and seek rather to overthrow the complete system and seize the land from the current landowners), but the NPA itself expressed support for MAPALAD in 1998. The symbolic value of MAPALAD could be the catalyst and rallying point for a real democratic uheaval in this country. The space isn’t there yet, but opportunity to make it is.

The blogger, incidentally, doesn’t think the Speaker will fall (see his article in Newsbreak, Ethics Complaint vs JDV Doomed; see, also, similar views in Philippine Politics 04), but considers what will happen if he does. This involves the baranggay elections which represent a political consolidation, and an investment in the future, by the President:

With barangay elections out of the way it’s full steam ahead into the legislative session as the House comes back from recess. If JDV falls, proving me wrong and possibly ending my journalism career before it ever begins, Arroyo will likely get an ally of hers in the House. This would set the stage for another fight over ChaCha (charter change), through which Gloria hopes to reorganize Philippine government under a parliamentary system, paving the way for her to stay in power through 2010, the end of her current constitutionally mandated term.

In his column, Tony Abaya thinks he has it all figured out (and I happen to think he pretty much does):

Readers may also recall that in the latter half of 2006, there were concerted efforts to shift to the parliamentary system.

One through a people’s initiative led by the Sigaw ng Bangaw, the other through a Senate-less constituent assembly shamelessly maneuvered by Speaker Jose de Venecia (who wanted to become interim prime minister, before the whip-wielding dominatrix takes over in July 2010.

That both maneuvers failed, thanks to an outraged public opinion and an uncooperative Supreme Court, does not mean the efforts toward parliamentary have been abandoned. Less than 14 days ago, President Arroyo, out of the blue and without anyone asking her, called for a shift to a federal form of government “by the year 2012.”

This means that agitation for federalism will begin before her presidential term ends in 2010. This would be a signal for the Sigaw ng Bangaw to launch another people’s initiative towards a simultaneous shift to parliamentary.

Proof? The baranggay investment strategy, the trial balloon involving names for possible Comelec appointments (keep your friends close, and you enemies even closer), and the rallying of support of the congressmen in cassocks known as the Catholic hierarchy. A thorough analysis of the dynamics within the Catholic hierarchy is in Conservatives Now Control CBCP; Bishops Won’t Join Resign-GMA Calls:

Although Lagdameo got a fresh mandate for another two years, the bishops–in a surprise move–replaced CBCB vice president Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro.

In CBCP history, members of the permanent council usually enjoy two terms in office, with the vice president normally succeeding the president when his term expires. Ledesma, described as a progressive bishop and a Lagdameo follower, was supposed to succeed Lagdameo at the end of the latter’s term in 2010.

But breaking tradition, the conservative bishops ousted Ledesma and replaced him with Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag, considered a conservative.

A CBCP officer privy to the June election disclosed that Lagdameo in fact barely won the presidency. He had to undergo three secret balloting before he was able to garner the required majority for his reelection.

The replacement of Ledesma, as well as Lagdameo’s tough reelection, showed that most of the bishops are already uncomfortable with the CBCP’s active involvement in political affairs.

In her column, Ellen Tordesillas gives us an insight into the dynamics of the Arroyo-Estrada AgrementL

Sources privy to the negotiations of the pardon said Estrada was dictating the terms. What Arroyo wanted from Estrada is for him stop funding the protests against Arroyo and for the ousted president to rally his loyalists to support the one who engineered his ouster.

Estrada complied in his statement early afternoon Friday when the delivery of the pardon was being delayed. In a statement read by his lawyer, Ed Serapio, outside the gate of his Tanay estate, Estrada addressed Arroyo “President” and thanked her for granting him “full, free and absolute pardon midway through her term.” The sentence recognized Gloria’s Arroyo’s term stolen from his dear friend, Fernando Poe Jr.

This was the clincher that finally made Puno chopper through cloudy skies to deliver the pardon: “I believe I can best continue to repay to our people the blessings that God has so graciously given me by supporting from hereon the programs of Mrs. Arroyo that are intended to attack generational poverty and hunger.”

Arroyo must indeed be desperate to hang on to this assurance by Estrada. If she thinks Estrada’s loyalists will love her because of the pardon, she is hallucinating. The adoration of Estrada’s fans of their idol is not transferable. In fact, they see the pardon as something that she owes their idol. No thanks to her.

Estrada’s funding of rallies has long been a non-factor among the “protest community”. If he was not able to gather an impressive crowd last September during the Sandiganbayan promulgation, he is not expected to subsidize the gathering of warm bodies for any protest activity. Besides, Edsa One and Two type of protest is already a thing of the past, rally organizers concede.

Ellen points out that the President’s much-diminished core group of supporters have to be troubled by the President’s efforts to cozy up to Estrada. Not least because the apparent easing out of Executive Secretary Ermita in a showdown over strategy with Sec. Ronnie Puno, puts the President’s political prospects in the hands of someone widely assumed of being the epitome of the mercenary.

As John Nery says, in his column,

Another traditional politician is in charge of the President’s own fortunes. Ronaldo Puno is not only the secretary of the interior and local government (and thus head of the country’s police forces), he is also the presidential adviser on political affairs. He chairs President Arroyo’s own political party, Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi)…

There is no question, however, that Puno is a political animal — in Aristotle’s original sense, of a species whose nature it is to live for the State.

But his many years in government service or political work (he also served as Joseph Estrada’s interior secretary) have given Puno a reputation associated with another philosopher: Machiavelli.

I am certain he will dispute the following characterization, but his political work can be said to display a signature style. He is fond of the feint; he is a whiz at the use of funds; his trail is followed by accusations of fraud.

He is adept at diversionary tactics (his crucial role in Estrada’s pardon, effected at a time of political scandal, has been both recognized and condemned). Political operators say he knows how to use special funds strategically (his own secretary-general in Kampi, Francis Ver, was involved in the attempted bribery of opposition congressmen; his own undersecretary at the DILG just happened to be in Malacañang during the alleged distribution of cash gifts in paper bags). And fraud continues to dog his name (he has been accused of masterminding the so-called Sulu Hotel operations, which reputedly gave Ramos the margin of victory)…

The point of all this: Is Puno the right man to guide President Arroyo in the endgame?

Granted, he can win elections; indeed, his signature working style (marked by those three F-words) works best, and was perhaps first perfected, in election campaigns. But it is a mistake to treat the President’s last days in office as though it were only the continuation of electoral warfare by other means.

John could also have observed, that every President who’s relied on Puno has had their ambitions foiled: Marcos fell; Ramos had his desire for a term extension thwarted; Estrada fell. And the President?

An an altogether unrelated note, this entry in Bayang Magiliw is just an enjoyable read.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

186 thoughts on “The machinery’s in place

  1. “it’s because of her cheating” cvj.

    after all these time of not being able to prove this rap, you are still presumptuously proclaiming this to be a fact? by whose authority are you making that judgment, you puny little twerp? when will you ever learn that, in a polite and civilized society, you just can’t go around telling people that someone is a criminal just because you heard someone else said it? consider yourself lucky that you are doing that to a president who is willing to suffer even abuse of freedom (of speech). you think you would have that same luck under marcos?

  2. Bencard, every person has the authority to engage in critical thinking. Unlike you, i do not have the baggage of decades of legal indocrination so i don’t have to bother with the questions you pose. GMA is a criminal. People know it and that’s something she has to deal with.

  3. cvj, lawyers are not the only ones subject to law. even computer operators are. what makes you think you are above everybody else? don’t be too cocky, it will catch up with you yet.

  4. GMA is a criminal.

    At worst. At best, she is incompetent and has betrayed the public trust. Not crimes, but whether criminal or incompetent, either way she has to go. We can talk about charges later, Bencard, stuff that requires proof in a court of law, when the charges are filed.

  5. cvj:

    i don’t see where bencard’s legal indoctrination equates to his favouring GMA.

    despite his rhetoric, he makes a reasonable demand of those who criticize “his President”. Prove things in court.

    even i have to agree with that.

  6. Not a matter of law, oh esteemed legal eagle. It’s a matter of fact. Or if you like, a matter of politics.

    She has, at the very least, lost control of her people. A sure sign of incompetence. Whether or not she is complicit in all the crimes around her is a different matter, and needs a court of law.

  7. jeg:

    we’ve no quarrel on those points Jeg. i just think that when one looks at Bencard and his argumentation, it essentially this:

    he’ll defend his President to the death until she’s actually convicted of any wrongdoing.

  8. what makes you think you are above everybody else? – bencard

    Bencard, everybody else, regardless of his/her profession, is free to conclude that GMA is a criminal. It does not take the word of a judge to arrive at such a conclusion. It only takes common sense and critical thinking.

  9. That’s only fair, tonio. Our legal expert Bencard is a lawyer first and foremost. Whether I mean that in the best or worst possible way, I’ll leave you and the others to judge. 🙂

  10. jeg, even a matter of fact cannot be ascertained without evidence, or prejudged without due process. one doesn’t have to be a “legal eagle” to comprehend that. one only has to be fair.

    you just cannot violate the law and expect impunity by calling it a “political act”.

  11. i don’t see where bencard’s legal indoctrination equates to his favouring GMA. – tonio

    Bencard, as with other lawyers, have a certain way of determining what is true or not, a criteria which does not necessarily correspond to reality. In his case, he uses the concept of legal truth, i.e. something that has been proven in court, as a way to deny the reality of GMA’s cheating. That’s not how a normal thinking human operates. More importantly, that’s not the way other modern societies operate. His use of prove things in court is more of a caricature ala Bart Simpson.

  12. bencard:

    pulling out dura lex, sed lex already, eh?


    if there was a Bastille to storm I’d be there. but despite what everyone knows, i think people are waiting for that “incontrovertible proof” before they rise up and do anything… and even then, now that the precedent has been set (you can muck around as President, as long as your certain your successor will pardon you), you’ll have to pardon people if they see that the situation is indeed hopeless.

  13. Bencard: one doesn’t have to be a “legal eagle” to comprehend that. one only has to be fair.

    It’s all fair. We are supposed to be having a dialog and your view is not being shut out, is it? Despite it being a minority view? I submit that GMA is incompetent and has betrayed the public trust when corruption is practiced with impunity even within her own circle. And you defend GMA by saying… what exactly? That she is competent? I would that you would indeed espouse such a view. But youre just saying, ‘Due process!!.’ It’s like we’re not having the same conversation.

  14. tonio: i think people are waiting for that “incontrovertible proof” before they rise up and do anything…

    Perhaps youre right. But I have the sneaking suspicion that they will not do anything even with such proof. Theyre looking for a leader they can trust but no one is stepping up to the plate.

  15. I need some help here, since I am not a lawyer, I would like to find out what is the basis( or bases) of a lawyer in accepting a case (defending a client in court)?

  16. cvj, what kind of truth correspond to reality? the kind you read in the papers, see on tv or hear on the radio? or is it the kind that lacson or cayetano, or bro. villanueva, or bishop cruz says is true? or maybe it is what my cumpaneros lozano and pulido say is the truth? this is how your modern society, or “thinking human” operates in arriving at truth?
    aha, maybe it is what tordesillias write in her blog, huh?

  17. sigh. once again we are debating what is the nature of an impeachment? how much of it is a political mechanism, and how much of it is a legal mechanism?

    is it another court, or is it a unique political and legal creature?

    this is where bencard’s background is actually crucial because i have the highest respect for thomasian logic (bencard and mlq went to the same law school).

    in an impeachment, the house acting as the fiscal decides if certain officials have committed acts deserving of the penalty of expulsion from office (and nothing else: unlike a criminal case, impeachment does not deprive a person of life, liberty, or property, only office, and possession of office is not an inalienable right). while the constitution enumerates the acts that deserve this penalty, some are so vague as to be a gigantic political loophole.

    in the past, impeachment required a tremendous majority to prosper. under the present constitution it only needs a significant minority. yet both provide for the house to decide on impeachment ultimately not on the basis of the validity of the charges, but on the strength of congressional opinion. the rules exist to minimize this possibility but not to eliminate the possibility outright.

    and as we saw in 2000-2001, between the initial charges and the house deciding to prosecute the charges in the senate, the charges themselves can drastically change (what was approved by the house was in many ways very different from what was actually transmitted to the senate as the articles of impeachment).

    the house, acting as the prosecution, then argues its case before the senate which acts as a panel of judges, slightly different from the american practice where senators view themselves as a jury. i myself didn’t like this innovation, when enrile and company insisted they be called senator-judges and who insisted they ask questions themselves unlike the more sensible american practice where the chief justice presides (alone, and not jointly as our senate insisted in 2000) and asks the questions submitted in writing by the senators.

    while the senate adopted the rules of court, the nature of impeachment is such that if a hanging senate is elected, that is all that ultimately matters; it is also why a senate inclined to support the impeached official can simply acquit the impeached official on a party-line vote.

    the relative laxness in comparison to the high standards required of the courts is possible in an impeachment trial because again, what is at stake is not a human right, but an official dignity which the congress is authorized to deprive someone of, if in its judgment the public interest is served. this is why jail terms and other punishments are not part of impeachment, they would only be imposed if, in a strictly judicial trial, the impeached official is then charged and convicted by the courts on violations of the law.

    bencard can define the difference between moral certaintly and legal certainty. the house only has to be morally convinced of the guilt of an official; the senate, too; both in turn get their cue, to a large extent, from the public exercising its power of opinion, because it is public opinion and not legal certainty that drives the impeachment process.

    the ultimate question before the house is, does an official, say the chief executive, deserve to have his term preterminated? if so, articles of impeachment are sent to the senate; the senate decides if the official should be removed from office or not. whether acquitted or convicted in the senate, an official who loses or retains office is still subject to prosecution in the courts.

  18. Jeg, i think Bencard (and to a certain extent Tonio) is arguing from the point of view of a methodologist (aka referee). To him, the legal methodology is the only way (or at least the favored way) of admitting (or disallowing) reality in a manner that favors his side. He is playing a dual role, that of a participant in a dialog and a referee. We would of course be stupid to ignore what is staring us in the face in favor of such an artificial construct. That’s not the way people operate in real life.

  19. ramrod, alleged is BS. i think one defect of Philippine society is *not* that we have too many lawyers. Rather, our defect as a society is that too many of us engage is lawyerly (as opposed to scientific) style of thought.

  20. I wonder, in the US they have the jury system right? Are there instances that the jury decided in favor of either plaintiff or defendant based solely on how they viewed the case or do they have to follow the weight of evidence presented by either lawyer? Is the evidence really the sole basis or the argument of the lawyer?

  21. I don’t get Bencard at all. Whenever there is something highly questionable that emerges involving the administration (just to give one recent example, the undisputed giving out of half-million peso bundles of cash at Malacanang), Bencard cries out that there is no legal evidence. And then when something incontrovertible does come out that offends even him, such as the Erap pardon, he just bows his head and says, “Amen.”

    This administration can do no wrong, eh, Bencard? Especially in the name of political survival?

  22. cvj:

    despite the virtues of Bencard’s position (because I believe that if we are to have any society after the pox that is Gloria we must respect the institutions of this society), i think what’s so grating is how his statements are an infringement on others’ freedom of thought and expression. to wit:

    if unproven in court and concluded without the benefit of due, legal process, then apparently we don’t have the basis to make all the noise we want and believe what we want and react the way we want to react by what we see and hear around us about Bencard’s president. this is what i think is wrong.

    and forget all the admonishments about how we abuse freedom of speech under the Gloria administration. part of the reason why none of her people can conclusively silence the voice of opposition against her is because there’s a kernel of truth in the things that are being said, due process or not.

  23. Off topic for a while. I kept reading Justice Artemio Panganiban’s name in the blog but because I was not so involved in Philippine politics for some time I couldn’t relate. But when I scoured my bookshelf this morning I saw his book “Leveling the Playing Field,” and I remembered, he gave it to me personally during one function, a copy each actually to several of us. He’s a relatively small guy right?

  24. Bencard might actually be one of those who admired Marcos for legally imposing martial law, and then making all his subsequent actions legal by writing his own law through his rubber stamp Batasan. Everything’s legal, everything’s right, eh, Bencard?

  25. Legal and moral relativism are for those that worship at the temples of man.

    “By any legal standards except those rubber-stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago. As Andrew Sullivan, once a Bush cheerleader, observed last weekend in The Sunday Times of London, America’s ”enhanced interrogation” techniques have a grotesque provenance: ”Verschärfte Vernehmung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the ‘third degree.’ It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation.” Frank Rich, NY Times

    Torture as defined by Bushies in the Justice Department is when enhanced interrogation techniques cause organ failure.

    “In a four-page letter to the Judiciary Committee, Mukasey walked a tightrope by outlining the laws and treaties forbidding torture and other cruel treatment, and explaining the legal analysis he would undertake of “coercive” techniques, while generally declining to render judgments.” Washington Post

    “Mukasey said that techniques described as waterboarding by lawmakers “seem over the line or, on a personal basis, repugnant to me, and would probably seem the same to many Americans.” But, he continued, “hypotheticals are different from real life, and in any legal opinion the actual facts and circumstances are critical.”

    “Mukasey also said he is reluctant to offer opinions on interrogation techniques because he does not want to place U.S. officials “in personal legal jeopardy” and is concerned that such remarks might “provide our enemies with a window into the limits or contours of any interrogation program.”

    “His arguments are similar to those advanced by the Bush administration in its refusal to discuss waterboarding or other interrogation techniques.” Washington Post

  26. Mike:

    touché. i think it’s a little crazy myself, but if taken to its conclusion, that’s essentially what his position works out to, eh?

  27. mlq3, i salute you for the succinct and i think accurate primer on the impeachment process, as distinguished from a judicial process. as you can see, what i was trying to point out to cvj and jeg is that evidence and proof are necessary for a just verdict whether in a court of law, in an impeachment tribunal, or in the bar of public opinion. it’s all a matter of fairness. even a required majority in congress or senate cannot achieve “moral certainty” and therefore justly adjudicate an issue without proof of facts. while an impeachment forum is a political forum, it cannot be capricious and arbitrary. the same is true with “public opinion”.

  28. MLQ3: …the house only has to be morally convinced of the guilt of an official…

    Morals? Youre asking too much of the House, MLQ3.

    Seriously, I too am a person of hope, and I hope that the house finds its missing compass.

    And yes, I did find it strange that our senators are also judges in an impeachment trial. Too sloppy.

  29. Gentlemen,

    I believe we are united in our common search for truth and justice though we differ in methodology let us take counsel from the words of former Senate President Jovito R. Salonga ” DISAGREE WITHOUT BEING DISAGREEABLE” and ” DIFFER WITHOUT BEING DIFFICULT.”

  30. Bencard: while an impeachment forum is a political forum, it cannot be capricious and arbitrary. the same is true with “public opinion”.

    I share your view on this, Bencard. As does most people who frequent this forum. So it is not fair to declare as ‘capricious and arbitrary’ views contrary to your own. What are your views on GMA, by the way? Is she a good president? What are your criteria? I ask because it is necessary for dialog.

  31. mike, an unreasonable law in every manner, shape or form, has no validity whatsoever. it may be carried out by brute force but still void and without legal effect. your speculation about whether i admired marcos was partially correct. i did before he imposed totalitarian rule.

    everything legal, everything right? WRONG, mike, WRONG!

  32. tonio, i completely agree with you’re 2nd and 3rd paragraphs. However, on the virtues of bencard’s position, i don’t see them as virtues at all. Any system, even the legal system, can be subverted to harm the people it’s supposed to serve. In this case, due process is being used to sustain an oppressive order. Is it really in the interest of a civilized society to allow this to continue?

  33. bencard,

    Apparently, GMA has already been tried, convicted, and is awaiting sentencing in the court of public opinion (at least this court). It is close to impossible at this point to gather solid evidence, or file a case, as she is still free to prevent these actions. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the glaring allegations (to most are facts) and doing so will constitute an irresponsible neligence of preserving “fairness.” We have to look at all possibilities, not just the hard evidence, at least for the time being…

  34. jeg, ask bencard, being morally convinced of something has a precise meaning for lawyers. not being a lawyer, i became aware of this when i encountered a transcript of a press conference where mlq discussed an investigation into jueteng. you can read it here:

    i think bencard will agree that the transcript (it was confidential at the time, that is, what was discussed is what journalists today would call “background”) shows the limits an official has to operate under, in terms of the law. what convinces you of the truth of a charge may be different from what is required to uphold that charge in a court of law.


    thank you for your comment, but you also need to consider that while some expressed their moral conviction in a call for resignation, most people have been content to give a chance for the proper forum to operate. in this, the public has been remarkably consistent, whether in terms of estrada or arroyo. in both their cases public opinion expressed an overwhelming desire for impeachment to be the proper venue to resolve charges of unfitness for office. you also have to understand the accompanying frustration over the incompetence of the opposition (i agree with teddyboy locsin, for example, who felt that the opposition was more interested in sparking an “edsa moment” than in resolutely pursuing the case, which is why the went along with approving flawed impeachment rules for the 13th congress) and the president, in turn, abandoning all pretenses to actually wanting to vindicate herself and relying, instead, on massing the machinery to block an impeachment trial.

    the limitations of the law, i think, are clearly demonstrated by the tactic of filing weak impeachments which leaves the opposition, when it does try to build a solid case, being beaten to the punch. strictly speaking, it’s all perfectly legal but it’s also fair to say this is a strategy effective only because no reasonable, constitutionally-conscientious person would have considered it fair and thus, possible.

  35. mike, an unreasonable law in every manner, shape or form, has no validity whatsoever. it may be carried out by brute force but still void and without legal effect. your speculation about whether i admired marcos was partially correct. i did before he imposed totalitarian rule. – Bencard

    So you see, even for Bencard, the legalistic methodology has his limits. In the case of Marcos, I don’t think he needed a court of law to make the conclusion for him. The only difference is that he refuses to recognize the similarity between Marcos and Arroyo in their subversion of our legal and political institutions and apply the same manner of reasoning to the latter.

  36. incidentally, an interesting point, for me, is that the nature of an impeachment trial, where playing to the gallery plays a significant role, accounts for the problems faced by the defense in 2000-2001. estelito mendoza can’t be beat as a trial lawyer but he found himself outmaneuvered and outfoxed because he viewed his role in traditional terms: mastery of the intricacies of the law, and an assumption the judge(s) thought the same way (as most, exemplified by enrile, did).

    problem was the the senators who were more interested in playacting as judges and not in their essential role as jurors, were being judged in turn by a public that adopted the role of jury-at-large enthusiastically. a point of law that would have clinched a case for mendoza and convinced people like enrile was unconvincing to the public.

    the result is that while lawyers seem to agree the senators that voted to suppress the second envelope were legally right, the public was morally convinced otherwise. and you then finally had people power.

  37. The public has the right to have absolute confidence in the man in the government service. [The] minute there is reasonable ground for doubt as to the honesty of the man in the government service, he should be out of the service because one must have absolute confidence in the man in the government service, absolute confidence in his integrity, and if there is doubt as to his honesty, to ask for his resignation. — Manuel L. Quezon, 1936 press conference (from the link by MLQ3 above).

    I say, Amen.

  38. While I was reading this blog at 8:05 pm in Palo Alto, CA (god knows what time that is back in the PI), the earth shook, rattled, and rolled…neighbors rushed out and asked “Did anyone feel that?” I was a mere 20 miles away from the epicenter of a 5.6 on the Richter quake. My neighbors, most of whom are foreigners, had no idea what just happened. Of course I acted like these things happen here everyday, as if to say “Ain’t nuttin but a thang”. My neighbors looked at me like I was out of my mind.

  39. re her teaching style: I heard from an economist i worked with that her classes were a waste of time because she name dropped a lot about whose parents she met at parties.

  40. Betol,

    I’m glad you found time to visit my hometown, Cebu, though you should have checked in at the Mactan Shangrila, its a lot nicer. You overpaid the taxi driver, its probably around 120Php or 2.7Usd. We Cebuanos may look very simple but we are well informed (or at least try to look like it).

  41. kate,

    I couldn’t care less if GMA was a good teacher or bad. I would give my left nut to be in her class, not for the lesson itself but for her insights, the way she perceives things, the way she prioritizes, organise, and generally just to feel the presence of someone destined for greatness (position wise/otherwise). I envy MLQ3 for having worked for her also and knowing her firsthand.
    Though I may not like her, I reserve a certain degree of respect for people who are audacious enough to reach for their dreams…

  42. The public has the right to have absolute confidence in the man in the government service. [The] minute there is reasonable ground for doubt as to the honesty of the man in the government service, he should be out of the service because one must have absolute confidence in the man in the government service, absolute confidence in his integrity, and if there is doubt as to his honesty, to ask for his resignation. — Manuel L. Quezon, 1936 press conference (from the link by MLQ3 above).

    I had a meeting last Monday with one of the country’s prominent businessmen and he had the same sentiment. Not only must a leader possess integrity and honesty, he said “she must have the competence to control her people, and even if she is innocent of all wrongdoing, if she cannot command respect enough to restrain, even reform her staff, she has to relinquish her position as she has does not deserve the leadership position at all.

  43. The Sunday Times of London, America’s ”enhanced interrogation” techniques have a grotesque provenance: ”Verschärfte Vernehmung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the ‘third degree.’ It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation.” Frank Rich, NY Times


    You left out “electrocution” and “sustained harassment.” Its obvious that whoever wrote this article had no firsthand experience in “torture.” As “inhumanity to a fellow human” is not a natural act, it has a traumatic effect on the one applying torture himself. One must be preconditioned to apply it or has proper training so he knows the minimum and the maximum without actually killing the patient also. In some places we call this “training for torturers” – “hazing” or “carino militar.”

  44. “a leadership grounded not in ambition (however laudable the goals that may have accompanied that ambition), but in a moral purpose.”

    Power (with the exception of Cory Aquino) comes to those who actively seek it, those capable of doing whatever it takes, and those who have no hesitancy to wield it, the laudable goals come in as a luxury, almost an eccentricity.

  45. Just out of curiosity, Bencard, do you believe that the Garci tapes are authentic? And if so, what do you make of their contents? Sorry if you’ve answered this before, I failed to read it.

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