The interdiction of a witness

Even as Cardinal says Lozada’s forgiven , my column for today is The interdiction of a witness, which took its cue from yesterday’s Inquirer editorial, A nation of lost sheep. For additional background, see the Sun Star Cebu article, Cardinal explains ‘secret meeting’. What’s the worth of a Mass, anyway? I Believe 101 offers up a reflection. Meanwhile, Philippine Commentary reacts to my column and says it’s an exercise in futility. On a related note, see Red’s Herring and smoke.

Today’s Inquirer editorial, Easter settlement, praises the Sumilao farmers and San Miguel Corporation for what it hopes will be a successful settlement of the farmers’ case; and along the way praises Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales for brokering the deal.

The Malaya editorial, Abuse of executive privilege is the issue, alerts the public to the expected handing down, tomorrow, of a decision on the Neri executive privilege case, by the Supreme Court. I’ve written about this case in A color of constitutionality and It’s how you play the game; the scuttlebutt, for a time, was that the Palace was confident it would get its way, and so the President was prepared to hold off appointing a new justice; but then she made the appointment anyway, which was taken by some to be an indication she wanted to improve her administration’s odds. As it is, New SC justice’s first test of independence: Neri case.

There’s an interesting article in the Philippine Star, Palace has yet to submit Melo appointment papers, on how Congress claims it shouldn’t be criticized for not confirming Justice Melo as Comelec Chairman, when the President hasn’t submitted his appointment for confirmation. What’s noteworthy (and praiseworthy) is that Melo’s refused to occupy the position until he is confirmed.

Even as Pacquiao saddened by doubts on WBC win , I’d like to point out an interesting comparison made by John Neri between the President and PacMan. See Manny Pacquiao’s lesson in legitimacy :


Can Philippine politics learn anything from Pacquiao’s legitimacy issue?

…I thought each fighter won six rounds, with Pacquiao edging Marquez only because of the additional point from the third-round knockdown. In other words, it could have gone either way, but by the rules of the game it went in Pacquiao’s direction. No, it wasn’t a convincing win. It certainly did not put paid to the two boxers’ “unfinished business.” And it did nothing to improve Pacquiao’s pound-for-pound rankings. But do all these make his victory illegitimate? Our answers tell us more about ourselves, and about what we think of the fighters, than about the fight.

As for Pacquiao’s political patron: The President’s continuing crisis of legitimacy stemmed from her felt need to post a convincing victory in 2004. Her troubles started when she became unwilling to risk a close decision.

And then, there’s this analysis of the damned if you do and damned if you don’t nature of corruption case prosecution, courtesy of Steven Rood, in In the Philippines: Just Another Week of Anti-Corruption (hat tip, The Daily PCIJ):


The Sandiganbayan has penalized almost 1,200 public officials for administrative and disciplinary offenses from 2004 to 2006, she added.

Other measurements of corruption have indeed shown progress throughout the years. The price of textbooks in the Department of Education has been reduced, as has the price of medicines procured by cities where The Asia Foundation works to improve governance in cooperation with the city governments themselves, as well as local chambers of commerce and NGOs. Other data come from regular Social Weather Stations surveys of businessmen, which had the percentage of businessmen reporting the payment of bribes for local government permits declining from 55% in 2000 to 40% in 2007. Similarly, the percentage who reported having to pay bribes in the payment of income taxes declined from 52% in 2000 to 33% in 2007. We can say that those percentages (40% for local permits, 33% for paying taxes) is still too high, but we cannot deny that progress has been made.

And yet the PERC, based on a survey of expatriates thoughout Asia in early 2008, arrived at its gloomy judgment. This leads us beyond the realm of technical progress into that of political controversy, which can drive perceptions.

The PERC report summarizes:

“The Philippines is a sad case when it comes to corruption. The actual magnitude of the problem is bad, but it is probably no worse than in places like Indonesia and Thailand. However, it has been politicized as an issue more than in either of these countries, used by political rivals to undercut each other.”

And, this is all well-publicized since “… the media, even more than the courts, is the forum in which all sides try to wage their battles of defamation.”

All the statistics about progress against bureaucratic corruption — no matter how beneficial that progress is for the citizens of the Philippines — tend not to be perceived in the middle of political turmoil, which is beginning to seem (at least in the media) to be a permanent feature of the Philippines (the WBI’s “political stability” index has plunged precipitously in recent years).


This politicization of anti-corruption activities in the Philippines has long been a problem. More than a decade ago, PCAGC (Presidential Commission Against Graft and Corruption) Chairman Eufemio C. Domingo stated that every corruption complaint forwarded to his office was politically motivated. When such charges are used as part of the struggle for political advantage, the public can become cynical, believing that all officials are alike and nothing will change.

To fight this cynicism, people want to see the conviction of a “big fish” to demonstrate progress against corruption. While we might have hoped that the “plunder” conviction of President Estrada would count as such an achievement, the fact that he was pardoned and has since vigorously protested that he is innocent means that this goal was not really achieved. Anti-corruption civil society organizations often have a list of particular cases in which they are interested and for which they track the progress. They focus on those cases as a means of demonstrating that prosecution reinforces other tactics — preventing corruption and promoting a graft-intolerant culture — so that a holistic approach against corruption can be effective. Frustratingly for the Ombudsman, the fact that charges have been filed against Undersecretaries, Deputy Commissioners, or provincial governors does not seem to count as “catching big fish” in the public eye.


And, when the Ombudsman’s office did move on the most publicized recent case, the so-called ZTE-NBN scandal about allegations of an overpriced computer network subject to bribes that involved (again, allegedly) the Chair of the Commission on Elections and the President’s husband, the effort was attacked as “grandstanding” or as part of a cover-up.

In the atmosphere of a vigorous media in which charges of corruption are always highlighted, anti-corruption agencies are in a very difficult position. If agencies like the Ombudsman are not in the media, are not visibly taking action, they can be accused of doing nothing. On the other hand, if they do take action and publicly move forward on a particular case, they are immediately attacked as part of the “battles of defamation.” This is a classic case of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”


So, the glass is definitely half full — the Philippines is at the 57th percentile of comparator nations. International agencies issue conflicting assessments of the state of corruption in the Philippines. The Ombudsman and others point to measurable progress against corruption as they undertake efforts to ensure the glass doesn’t become any emptier. Absent “big fish” sitting in jail, opposition reactions range from disappointment to skepticism to outright disbelief.

Overseas, historian David Kaiser in his blog History Unfolding, looks at Barak Obama’s recent speech on race, and says it marks a turning point in American political history:


When I read, and then watched, his speech last Tuesday, I thought it was the most effective speech of the last 45 years or so, an extraordinarily honest attempt both to define the racial crisis (in large part, a crisis of beliefs and opinions, as I have tried to show) in the United States, and to try to move beyond it. When Obama referred to the bigoted remarks of his white grandmother, I also smiled to myself because of the kinship that I (as the product of a religiously mixed marriage) felt with him. We half-breeds, I said to myself, can’t be trusted – we have no allegiance to anything but principles and we’ll rat out anybody. (Our existence, too, is a living rebuke to bigotry. Take it from me, no one can hate bigotry more than those of us who know that if everyone were a bigot, we would never have been born.) But I admit that when I actually watched Reverend Wright’s now-notorious clips yesterday, I was shaken, both with respect to Obama’s judgment and with respect to my own ability to be consistent. Would I, I asked myself, be willing to accept as reasonable the candidacy of a Republican who for many years had attended a church whose pastor railed against godless feminists and homosexuals?


I would be most unlikely to vote for such a person, of course, simply because he or she was a Republican – but eventually something else occurred to me. If that candidate (let’s call him John Smith) were to make a speech repudiating those views, specifically likening them to extreme views on the other side of the political fence, and arguing that the United States has to reject such views to move forward as a nation, I would certainly respect him. And as I write those views another thought occurs to me. Such a candidate could never be nominated by the Republican Party in 2008. That was why Mitt Romney could not simply claim a right to be a Mormon, but had to add the standard Republican nonsense about the eternal place of religion in the American public square. The Democratic Party remains the more tolerant party, and Obama simply extended its tolerance to the expression of views like Reverend Wright’s, which, as he said himself, are unfortunately common among blacks. Obama genuinely offered a way out of the box we have been living in for forty years. His opponents have not.

The Asia Sentinel looks at the two Chinas in Taiwan’s Kuomintang Return to Power and The Tibet Riots: Hu Jintao is the Biggest Loser. An article in Foreign Affairs, The Rise of China and the Future of the West, says the West can come to terms with a resurgent China; and note to self, this book looks intriguing: The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistable Shift of Global Power to the East.

In economics-related news, another article, Life Gets Tough for Asia’s Sovereign Wealth Funds , makes for interesting reading. On a related note, Slate provides Recession Literature, a reading list. On a domestic note, Is RP doing well? Jury is still out, says think tank.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

87 thoughts on “The interdiction of a witness

  1. Bencard, Modernism began as a reinterpretation of the bible from a fundamentalist to an allegorical interpretation, specifically on books like Genesis, or so I was told by my freshman theology teacher… well, freshman or sophomore.

  2. mlq3, i’ve read before, and re-read just now, your previous entry on interdict, cardinals, morals and the canon law. i think your equation still doesn’t compute. the fact that no prohibition has been made for lozada and his followers to hear mass, receive communion and other sacraments, i don’t see any interdiction or excommunication, no matter how much you stretch reality.

    evidently, you and your friends in the b&w movement, among others, are frustrated because you are expecting cardinals vidal and rosales and archbishop legaspi as against gma to follow the lead of the late cardinal sin vis a vis marcos. the circumstances are obviously different. and lozada is not the champion to tell the faithful what the “truth” is.

  3. @nash

    “Kaya tingnan mo, bihira na nauuto ng simbahan for example. Filipinos living abroad are more up to date than about what’s happening than most locals….”


  4. @Bencard : evidently, you and your friends in the b&w movement, among others, are frustrated because you are expecting cardinals vidal and rosales and archbishop legaspi as against gma to follow the lead of the late cardinal sin vis a vis marcos. the circumstances are obviously different. and lozada is not the champion to tell the faithful what the “truth” is.

    OH THIS IS JUICY NEWS!!! Manolo is with B&W Movement??? this is what I meant when I posted the question – so who is going to lead next? – on the other blog… Oooohhh, i do not know about you guys, but this B&W movement people – do you know exactly who these people are? Aren’t they the first ones to jump ship when it was starting to rock? And even if they say they were “trying to keep their morality intact” – cmon now… salamin salamin…

  5. I have been a practicing Catholic all my life.

    However, I must face the ugly reality that a relatively small number of molesting priests and corrupt bishops and cardinals have brought the Church to disgrace.

    As a result,the unthinkable has happened.The Church has lost its moral leadership in this predominantly Christian country.

    I see no difference between Cardinal Vidal,the Cardinal of the Pidals ,and other corrupt men in skirts and Mr.Esperon and other men in uniform who have sold out to the Pidals.

    May God forgive them.

  6. bencard, read again, pls. in cases of excommunication a sentence doesn’t even have to be pronounced, certain acts by their very nature, incur automatical excommunication, for ex. abortion.

    an interdict requires a formal pronouncement. the effect of an interdict can be achieved, however, by an informal gesture. that was my point: in effect, you impose an interdiction when you discourage the mass being said for someone. is it a formal interdict? no, but it strays perilously close to imposing some sort of religious sanction and my assertion is, you don’t even have to be explicit about it to have it take place -wittingly or unwittingly.

    and again based on past precedents -and you know as well as i the importance of tradition in catholicism- the opinions and discouraging by the hierarchy is unusual. which is not to say anyone questions the right of the hierarchy to establish ground rules, such as no speeches, banners, statements during mass.

    you can review the actions of the cardinal and see for yourself why i believe he has no need for memoranda to indicate to his clergy how he wants them to behave and whose side he prefers.

  7. Again, all these excommunication, interdict tactics were part of medieval tools used by the Catholic Church on ignorant people during the medieval times.

    They are silly, at the least weak, in a knowledge-based, modern society.

    “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

  8. [benign0], Modernism began as a reinterpretation of the bible from a fundamentalist to an allegorical interpretation, specifically on books like Genesis, or so I was told by my freshman theology teacher… well, freshman or sophomore. – BrianB

    Trouble with this evolution into interpretation rather than literal subscription to biblical content is that a requirement for governance in this interpretation and an hierarchical organisation of people to implement this governance arose as well.

    Also I think this reinterpretation began even before the New Testament as we know it today was finalised and published. If we are to believe all the pop literature, it seems that the story of the life/teachings of Jesus Christ was embellished by the evangelists as they attempted to backward engineer the New Testament from the prophesies of the Old Testament.

    So the concept of Jesus being the ‘Son of God’ may have been introduced by these evangelists even if Jesus himself made no such actual claim in life…

  9. Simony (the making of profit out sacred things) may be medieval practices but a twirled pastoral in exchange for payolas could do well as one of its modern forms.

  10. mlq3, I believe its premature for Asia Sentinel to dismiss the sovereign wealth funds investments to US financial institutions. The near collapse of Bear Sterns has finally brought the federal reserve to put a back stop on the decline of US banks and brokerages. This has resulted in a change of sentiment at wall street with equities now going higher and commodities falling back to their lofty levels. There is an ongoing short squeeze right now in the market forcing the weak shorts to cover.

    While the subprime crises has not fully unwind yet. I believe that all the bad news have all been priced in the market. Those US banks and brokerages could easily double in two years. Those who invested when there was blood on the street will be justly rewarded.

  11. mlq3, i’m sorry if i mixed you up with b&w. my objection was against the personal attack on the cardinal. your name-calling is mild.
    but on the interdict: what kind of an interdict is this, when the man can happily have his mass elseswhere, most especially in his hometown? i think it’s so much easier to believe their difficulty is in their poor planning rather than because of an imagined interdict. just fire your planner.

  12. pasensya na po sa inyong lahat

    naikisuyo lang pinsan ko na ihanap ko daw sya ng abogado na mag aasikaso sa paglipat sa panaglan ng naiwang 8 hectares na palayan at kawayanan ng kanyang Nanay papunta sa dalawa ng nyang kapatid. Aksam sa mag asikasuhin ang pag waive nya sa kanyang pagiging heir kay sa dalawang kapatid ang lalabas na heirs ng Nanya nya.

    Wala silang tatlong mag kakapatid sa manila kaya kailanga ipadala ang mga papeles ,dito sa New York, sa Saudi at sa Saipan.

    Kung interesado ang sinuman sa inyo sa inyo, paki email na lang po ako. [email protected] Kailangan kong malaman ang mag sumusunod:

    1. Bayad sa serbisyo- (Lawyers fee?)

    2. Anu -ano ang babayaran malban sa lawyers fee

    3 Ano ang mga papeles na dapat nilang I provide para maayos na ang lahat.

    Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat.

  13. magdiwang: subprime credit squeeze is still working its way around the globe. See below re Tokyo. Makati, Singapore may be next. No casualties announced yet in Europe.
    From Tokyo : Saturday, March 22, 2008
    Japan property investor folds, a subprime victim

    TOKYO: A Japanese property investor has filed for court protection from creditors, the first listed company in Japan to collapse from tighter lending in the wake of the US subprime crisis.

    Reicof Co Ltd said it had failed with debt of 42.6 billion yen (100 yen = RM3.21) as investments in hotels went sour.

    “Financial and real estate markets have deteriorated in the wake of the subprime crisis and we were not able to sell properties or secure loans as expected,” Masaki Nogami, a Reicof lawyer, said at a news conference yesterday.

    Japanese banks are getting cold feet on property, analysts say, only giving 60-70 per cent of a building’s value compared to 80-90 per cent a couple of years ago.

    Industry officials say investors are pulling back from Japanese properties as they eye better opportunities in the United States and Europe to pick up distressed assets.

    Japanese real estate stocks have been halved in value since mid-2007, also hit by troubles in the residential sector after tighter building codes were introduced.

  14. @UPn
    “Industry officials say investors are pulling back from Japanese properties as they eye better opportunities in the United States and Europe to pick up distressed assets.” -News report

    Many hedge funds also made the right bet. Shorted the financials involved in sub-prime, turned around, and picked up the same stocks at fire sale prices. JP Morgan could have set up its purchase of Bear Stearns. The CEO, Jamie Dimon, is really good.

  15. UPn, cvj: I believe the subprime debacle will continue to hound the financial markets for a while. I wont be surprised that we will still see some hedge funds and regional banks implode. However; The fed has drawn a line in the sand in bailing out the crooks in wall street.

    The US equity market in my opinion has turned around. The shorts will probably test one more time the january lows but will fail. Commodities like oil and gold will fall Its time to go long on equities at least in the short term. This is not to say it could not change dramatically as the market is fueled by greed and fear.. Do DD and be nimble enough to navigate the markets.

  16. mindanaoan, im a member of bnw. anyway, a bishop has jurisdiction over his territory, in a sense, his word is law only in his bishopric for such things.

  17. Diego,

    Not necessarily. Back home, there were people who got excommunicated because of “schism” or something. They spent years doing a procession in the afternoon carrying crosses and praying the rosary in the middle of the road. They had bullhorns and everything. The humiliation. They ended up forming their own sect. The sin of schism? They didn’t like the non-Latin Mass.

  18. So the concept of Jesus being the ‘Son of God’ may have been introduced by these evangelists even if Jesus himself made no such actual claim in life… – Benign0

    Unfortunately for “pop literature”, not only are the evangelists the most reliable source we have for knowing about Jesus (certainly far more reliable than “pop literature”), but they were also considered reliable by the early Church fathers. And when John says, “And the Word was with God and the Word was God,” you know what they believed.

    In the following comment, I’ll post a link to a list of New Testament passages where Jesus claims divinity. (So the spam filter doesn’t block my whole message. 🙂 )

  19. @UP n

    “The bishops have clout. Evidence : no-divorce in the Philippines.”

    So true, this clout they have.

    Buti nalang madalas lumabas ito sa trivial pursuit “Which two countries in the world do not have legalised divorce….” Ka-ching! Alam lahat ang sagot.

    I have a friend, binubogbog siya ng asawa niya. Sabi nung Obispo “Let us pray that your husband may be enlightened by the bible…..” The following week, ihinampas sa kanyang mukha yung bible, ayun bagong pasa nanaman…

    Thank God they split up but they could not divorce. The expensive school ng aking pamangkin requires baptism certificate and marriage contract of the parents! Then you might say, naku, you are so stupid, why do you insist then on putting the child in Catholic school? Ah, eh, wala lang, so the child can experience the same torture and live with guilt all his life like us…Tsaka kasalanan ulit ng simbahan, they want to overpopulate us so the public schools will be overstretched, so ayun, kikita ng malaki mga schools nila where they teach you never to use contraception so that you can eventually contribute to their core businesses of baptisms, marriages, and education.

    The church should incorporate itself. I will buy lots of shares as they are unaffected by the subprime crisis and business cycles.

    (end pointless rant about church clout….)

  20. i should say: excommunication is the EFFECT, not the CAUSE of divorce, as well as ABORTION.

  21. The bishops have clout. Evidence : no-divorce in the Philippines.

    more evidence: the failed population control program of the govt due to the church opposition.

    the influential r.c. church has continuously taught over the years that birth control is inappropriate or sinful in the marriage relationship arguing that marriage is for the purpose of procreation and that any attempts to circumvent this purpose violates God’s command to “go forth and multiply.” never mind if the people are suffering from poverty.

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