A perfect trap

Whoever expected them to cash in so soon? See Palace: Many items in ZTE deal confidential. But then, cash in, they must, since Puno ‘disappointed’ with SC majority decision.

I myself am surprised the Chief Justice has gone beyond his dissenting opinion and made the rounds of the media outlets. But then again, with nine of his colleagues retiring next year, he is in the unenviable position of having his name attached to what might end up being called a puppet supreme court.

See SC ruling on Neri shows a Palace-controlled court: sources:

It was a case where Malacañang worked overtime lobbying with justices who could provide the swing vote, abs-cbnNEws.com/Newsbreak gathered from court insiders and observers who requested no attribution for fear of reprisal or jeopardizing their pending cases in the Tribunal.

We learned that just before the oral argument last March 4, the justices were evenly divided on the issue, a situation that did not favor Neri since he had to get an absolute majority for his petition to be granted.


It was in the two-week gap that followed that the Palace applied pressure on some justices. One justice reportedly was promised something in exchange for voting for Neri, while the loyalty check was applied on the others.

A justice known to be close to Arroyo was reportedly instrumental in the appointment of newly-named associate justice Arturo Brion, a move that assured the President that Brion would vote for Neri.

Brion, who was appointed only last week, participated in the voting.


One of the sources said the Palace learned its lesson from the Feb. 12 “Hello Garci” decision where a majority of nine justices, against six, ruled that the warning of the National Telecommunications Commission and the Department of Justice against the playing of the controversial tape is illegal.

In that case, the Palace apparently did not exert pressure on its appointees in the SC.

One of the sources said Puno was aware that the initial stalemate would not hold, and that the numbers will tilt in favor of Neri. This was why he proposed the compromise solution that would have allowed Neri to testify in the Senate but without being confronted with the three contentious questions where he invoked executive privilege.


The Senate, however, rejected the compromise solution, took the risk, but paid a heavy price.

Simply put, the Neri ruling implies that “the SC is under the control of the President and that Puno does not seem to have the majority of the justices,” the sources said. “9-6 will be the configuration for the rest of the year.”


It is one clear sign, they said, that the SC will be Malacanang’s rubber-stamp in the last two-and-a-half-years of her term. Arroyo is supposed to step down in June 2010.

One source, who has intensive background in the SC, said that from a short-term standpoint, Malacanang may control the Tribunal, but her hold could loosen in the long-term.


The justices, who are her appointees, might see the need to finally exert independence as the end of Arroyo’ term nears. “There will be a change of feelings shortly before she steps down.”

And so, if he is to be the lone warrior left in the high court, perhaps the Chief Justice wants the public to know that he won’t be tied down.

Chief Justice Puno penned a dissenting opinion with history, with posterity, in mind. It’s a dissenting opinion with future generations of lawyers, perhaps, in mind, and to this end, I find the comments of soliloquyboy, a law student, interesting:

On TV, Biazon was wondering whether or not the case would be applicable for all members of the Cabinet, or only for Romulo Neri. Sadly, that’s not exactly something that can be answered on its face. As part of our country’s jurisprudence, the case has become technically, a part of our legal system, thanks to Article 8 of the Civil Code. As my ObliCon professor Sir JJ Disini would say, time will tell whether the case is good law or not.

Think of it this way: this case, to me, is a case of Ermita-Malate Hotel vs Manila Prince Hotel. It’ll either be Ermita-Malate Hotel and Motel Operators Association, Inc. v. City Mayor of Manila , where it can become one of the most oft-quoted cases in Philippine history, especially since it’s the first or one of the few where you have two branches of government really duking it out, on the basis of executive privilege (Senate vs Ermita doesn’t count). Or it can become Manila Prince Hotel vs GSIS , where it’s a legal punchline, according to my Legal Method professor.

Back to the Chief Justice. Read his dissenting opinion, the whole thing. But for now, some extracts from what he wrote, and which gives the gist of what he was trying to argue:

The doctrine of executive privilege is tension between disclosure and secrecy in a democracy. Its doctrinal recognition in the Philippines finds its origin in the U.S. political and legal system and literature. At the outset, it is worth noting that the provisions of the U.S. Constitution say little about government secrecy or public access. In contrast, the 1987 Philippine Constitution is replete with provisions on government transparency, accountability and disclosure of information. This is a reaction to our years under martial rule when the workings of government were veiled in secrecy…

…A hard look at Senate v. Ermita ought to yield the conclusion that it bestowed a qualified presumption in favor of the Presidential communications privilege. …U.S. v. Nixon, as well as the other related Nixon cases … as well as subsequent cases, all recognize that there is a presumptive privilege in favor of Presidential communications. The Almonte case, quoted U.S. v. Nixon and recognized a presumption in favor of confidentiality of Presidential communications.


The statement in Senate v. Ermita that the “extraordinary character of the exemptions indicates that the presumption inclines heavily against executive secrecy and in favor of disclosure” must therefore be read to mean that there is a general disfavor of government privileges …especially considering the bias of the 1987 Philippine Constitution towards full public disclosure and transparency in government. In fine, Senate v. Ermita recognized the Presidential communications privilege in U.S. v. Nixon and the qualified presumptive status that the U.S. High Court gave that privilege…


Throughout its history — beginning with its use in 1792 by U.S. President George Washington to withhold information from a committee of Congress investigating a military expedition headed by General Arthur St. Clair against Native Americans — executive privilege has never justified the concealment of a wrongdoing… the first U.S. President, Washington, well understood the crucial role he would play in setting precedents, and so he said that he “devoutly wished on my part that these precedents may be fixed in true principles.” (emphasis supplied) President Washington established that he had the right to withhold information if disclosure would injure the public, but he did not believe that it was appropriate to withhold embarrassing or politically damaging information.


Two centuries thence, the principle that executive privilege cannot hide a wrongdoing remains unchanged.

…Article VI, Section 21 of the 1987 Constitution provides for the power of the legislature to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation. It explicitly provides respect for the constitutional rights of persons appearing in such inquiries. Officials appearing in legislative inquiries in representation of coequal branches of government carry with them not only the protective cover of their individual rights, but also the shield of their prerogatives — including executive privilege — flowing from the power of the branch they represent. These powers of the branches of government are independent, but they have been fashioned to work interdependently. When there is abuse of power by any of the branches, there is no victor, for a distortion of power works to the detriment of the whole government, which is constitutionally designed to function as an organic whole.

It will take some time for legal scholars to digest the Supreme Court’s decision but some views have begun to emerge from lawyers and non-lawyers alike (see Brown SEO, and The Philippine Experience and Dissenting Opinion). Not being a lawyer, I’m having to read and reread the decisions. But I do find Philippine Commentary’s argument convincing: The Fallacious Heart of Neri v. Senate is a False Distinction About the Powers of Legislation and Oversight.

But then, as I’ve said before, I subscribe to Woodrow Wilson’s view that Congress’ oversight power is actually more important than its law-making functions.

Read, too, what smoke has to say.

As for lawyers, I asked Atty. Edwin Lacierda, who teaches constitutional law, what his initial thoughts were and this is what he said:

It’s a really bad decision. It pays lip service to the doctrines laid down in Ermita and expands executive privilege to the detriment of legislative inquiry and right to public information.

What is awful with the decision is that the majority took as gospel truth the claim to executive privilege. This ran counter to the actual oral arguments where Atty. Bautista could not even specify how diplomatic relations with China would be damaged. Parang hindi nakikinig… sa oral arguments. The explanation of Bote was pathetic… If you go to the transcripts of the oral arguments, you will find Bote wanting and was demolished by the questions and arguments of Carpio, Puno et al.

In his blog, The Warrior Lawyer opines,

Of course, CJ Puno did not have the numbers.

This will allow Secretary Neri, and Malacanang, to sleep better at night as, unless the Court reverses itself upon motion by the losing respondents (an extremely remote possibility),Neri and members of the President’s official family now have the full weight of the Supreme Court behind their refusal to testify at future Senate hearings. Even if they appear, they will not provide the answers the Senate and the people are looking for and simply hide behind the skirts of executive privilege. Neri was a big fish that got away, leaving Jun Lozada and party high and dry.


Unless the Senate has another “surprise witness” in the wings, its investigation into the ZTE scandal is bound to run out of steam.

In his blog, A Simple Life, using a chess analogy, suggests everyone should pack it up and go home:

Three weeks ago, the essential pieces for the end game — the black rooks (senators) were busy playing arrogant by rejecting the SC compromise, and the white rooks (Supreme Court justices) were simply choosing not to get into play right away by deferring their decision on Neri’s petition.

Yesterday, the white rooks made a decisive move that caught the black rooks by surprise, a blitzkrieg move that crippled the black rooks and rendered them irrelevant towards the end game.


Since the white rooks have now effectively flanked the white king (Arroyo administration), and since the white knights (military and police) are still strategically positioned at the center of the board, ably supporting the white queen (Pres. Arroyo), the game now appears to be winnable for the white pieces.

However, since the black pawns (Lozada, et al.) and the other black pieces (anti-Arroyo groups) are still in a relentless, but ineffective checking mode (coup attempts, calls for resignations, interfaith rallies, Masses “for truth”, Senate inquiries “in aid of grandstanding”, media offensives, etc.), the game could still end in a draw — due to perpetual checking.


The black pieces should now concede to the futility of a perpetual check. It could go on forever, but it could lead to nowhere. We all should accept a mandated draw. Nobody won. We all lost somehow. The ZTE-NBN game is over.

So here we have two perspectives essentially in agreement on one thing: that the Senate hearings have been so seriously undercut as to be useless, though Warrior Lawyer thinks another witness could give the hearings a second wind while A Simple Life thinks it’s game over, folks.

But could it be that all it is, is yet another stalemate: too soon to tell if the stalemate is permanent, because no new fronts can open up? Not that all previous fronts haven’t resulted in a stalemate. They have.

Last August, Randy David, in Hello Garci and Philippine democracy , observed:

Both the generals and the Comelec officials have dared their accusers to bring them to court. They know, and everyone knows, that you need solid evidence for this — the kind of evidence that precisely only an authorized and empowered investigative body can put together. But whom should we turn to for this? The National Bureau of Investigation under the Department of Justice headed by Secretary Raul Gonzalez? The Philippine National Police under the Department of Interior and Local Government headed by Secretary Ronaldo Puno?

No one trusts the independence of these government agencies, particularly when it involves Ms Arroyo. Together, Secretary Gonzalez and Secretary Puno have done more than any of their predecessors to undermine the autonomy and efficiency of the investigative and prosecutorial offices under them. This is the crux of our present institutional crisis. The imperatives of regime survival have assumed a higher priority over the integrity of our institutional system. The outcome of this has been the corruption of institutions. In turn, the weakening of our legal and administrative institutions has encouraged the politicization of almost all issues. This is what eventually turns the public against politics itself, paving the way for a government devoid of politics — a dictatorship.

What accounts for the Palace being able to hold the line?

The public insistence on constitutionality, when confronted by an unconstitutionally-inclined regime, requires those who oppose it to be in the situation of being in a boxing ring but fighting with one hand tied behind one’s back.

All the while duking it out with an opponent who is not only fighting with both hands, but who’s concealed horseshoes in both gloves. I explored this to some extent in A limited and limiting consensus last December.

I am continuously astounded by those who insist there’s no need to worry, because the present isn’t an exact duplicate of the past. Since Marcos isn’t being aped, the orangutangs in power must neither be Marcosian or up to Marcos’s tricks.

It is like saying, Marcos mugged democracy. Today, no one is bruised and bleeding, no one’s being mugged; everyone is walking around (within limits, but each limit is perfectly legal even if unprecedented!); therefore, there must be no mugging of democracy and if there’s no actual mugging, there’s no criminal, either. It ignores the changing nature of crime -and criminals. Why engage in mugging if you’ve perfected white collar crime?

It’s a perfect trap: if it doesn’t exactly act like Marcos, it can’t be a danger on par with that Marcos presented in the past; but even so: what is the alternative? The ultimate trump card. It justified the original sin -stealing the election in 2004 was excused as par for the course because it was preferable, anyway, to risking the defeat of the incumbent- and excuses every continuing crime on the basis of “I will wait ’till 2010!” And if, as I personally believe, 2010 finds her still in the saddle?

Well, that old trump card yet again: “Yes, but… who will replace her anyway?”

From my computer’s handy-dandy dictionary, comes what this perfect trap resembles:

Möbius strip /’mœ-be-as ‘strip/



a surface with one continuous side formed by joining the ends of a rectangular strip after twisting one end through 180°.

Oh well.

Mon Casiple says the Supreme Court passed the buck -to the people:

The Supreme court decision further burdened the people with the responsibility of exercising sovereign direct democratic action in settling the political crisis. All the other power institutions have failed or are failing in enforcing the majority people’s will expressed time and again in surveys, street actions, and other fora of direct democracy.

People power is on the march but it will have to spread and broaden among the people even as it develops its leaders and constituency. It will not be a simple rally in EDSA or Makati but more of the same mobilization process reminiscent of the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.

Given the required time for mobilization of the people, we are facing the real possibility of an extended political crisis in the coming months and years. The 2010 elections–far from a benign and normal democratic exercise–may be held within the context of tumultuous constitutional or extra-constitutional challenges. This may include attempts to force a constitutional change process designed to extend the power of the President, electoral machinations to have a pro-GMA presidential successor, desperate opposition moves to unseat the president, and a general political polarization.

It really depends, I suppose, on how serious one thinks the threat is, and whether the threat can be forestalled by playing for time, or playing to win. The Palace wants everyone to think that the country wins by playing for time; I think that the country loses if it plays for time, because the Palace is playing to win -and win big. But I also believe that most people want to think that the Palace wouldn’t -or won’t, or can’t- extend the game past the time limit.

Some people I talk to think that the minimum goal has already been met: that the President can’t stay in office past 2010. My response is if you believe that, well and good -then pack it up, right now, and hold your peace henceforth. the thing is, I can’t pack it up, because I’m personally convinced that the moment there’s a lull in the fighting, the trumpets will sound in the Palace and they will go on the offensive.

And part of me has the sinking feeling that those who claim they would be first in line the moment the President shows any inclination to stay on, won’t be hastening to the front.

Instead, they will shrug, and say…

“Well, she has a point. Who will replace her, anyway?”

A perfect trap. And a color of constitutionality is preserved throughout!

But then the color of constitutionality might be the only alternative for those unwilling to look down into the abyss.

A satirical look at the decision, courtesy of Uniffors.

Or, as Ricelander’s Blog puts it, satirically, too, it was a win-win:


Two souls are at stake, his and his President’s. He tells the truth, he damns his boss. He tells a lie, he damns his own. He can’t be too selfish taking care only of himself. His boss is such a nice woman.

How do you solve this dilemma, economist-style?


Well, throw the problem to an institution. An institution has no problem about souls. The Supreme Court is an institution; it has no soul… I mean, like that supposedly humans have. Perfect shield. He answers no question, he tells no lie, he tells no truth. Two souls saved - at no cost.

Speaking of souls, and so that I might as well close this on a more optimistic note, here is, first of all, a letter of endorsement from the Jesuit Provincial, Fr. Huang:Letter endorsing Guidelines, 3-25-08, final version.pdf

The letter serves as an introduction to the following, which makes for instructive reading:SJSA Commission Guidelines for Communal Discernment and Action.pdf I can say that it is an objective document that is worthy of widespread disseminationand consideration. Consider, for example, the following:

“How does one address the GMA problem?”


d. Call on GMA to resign. There are individuals and groups who have been calling for President Arroyo’s resignation since 2005 and continue to hold that position as a matter of principle. At that time, the CBCP itself recognized the call for the President’s resignation, as well as for a “Truth Commission” and impeachment, as legitimate options under the guiding principles of accountability, constitutionality, non-violence and effective governance. While the bishops did not call on President Arroyo to step down, they asked her to discern “to what extent she might have contributed to the erosion of effective governance and whether the erosion is so severe as to be irreversible.” Therefore, those who in conscience have made a decision that the President should not remain in office deserve respect. Their call for her to resign voluntarily is one of the options provided for in the Constitution. However, it also needs to be pointed out that while this position is one of principled moral conviction, it ceases to be a real political option if GMA remains resolute that she will not resign voluntarily.


e. Cabinet declaration of incapacity of the President. The Constitution provides that a majority of Cabinet members can declare in writing to the Senate President and the House Speaker that “the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his [her] office” (Article VII, Section 11). This is a constitutional way of removing a President who is seen to be physically or mentally incapacitated, but the meaning of this provision may be interpreted more broadly. This is one scenario for an “internal or Palace coup” within the GMA regime. But such decisions on regime change tend to be elitist, as they are dependent on so few people. This declaration can be challenged, however, by the President, in which case Congress may confirm the Cabinet decision by a two-thirds vote of the two houses of Congress voting separately. Note that this requirement is even more stringent than the one-third percentage required for the House of Representatives to send an impeachment complaint to the Senate for trial.


f. Oust GMA. When faced with the President’s refusal to resign voluntarily, those who are willing to push the demand for her to step down to the point of employing even extra-constitutional means must be reminded that democratic institutions may be harmed in the long-term, especially if a political vacuum is created for groups with an anti-democratic, adventurist or power-grabbing agenda to try to seize power and hold on to it indefinitely.


g. People Power. People power is a precious legacy from the struggle against the dictatorship and the restoration of democracy in the Philippines. EDSA I was the culmination of a long process of political education, organization and mobilization throughout the martial law years and especially during the nearly three years after the assassination of former Senator Benigno Aquino. Active nonviolence was a defining characteristic of EDSA People Power. It is enshrined in the Constitution, which values initiatives from below as a way of harnessing the direct participation of the people in politics and governance. In its current usage, however, it is problematic because it is often equated with popular insurrection and takeover as a method of regime change. This creates a dynamic where crisis situations continue to be resolved through extra-constitutional means which are not predictable, weaken democratic institutions and install leaders with questionable mandates. Thus an endless series of EDSA’s spells serious instability.


h. Snap elections. Any call for “snap elections” would be extra-constitutional, since there is no such provision in the present charter. What the Constitution provides for is the holding of “special elections,” should vacancies arise in the offices of both the President and the Vice President. Therefore, those who are advocating this option presume that both the President and Vice President will step down or will be made to do so. Moreover, special elections before 2010 without meaningful preparation and electoral reforms will only lead to a contest between those already entrenched in power and thus will not produce genuine change.


i. Military intervention. Some have called for an interventionist role of the military to effect regime change. While recognizing that there are reformminded members of the military who have a genuine concern for the good of the country, military intervention in whatever form must be eschewed, especially in the present context of a weak Philippine democracy. Allowing the military to become the arbiter to resolve political conflicts and stalemates undermines civilian supremacy, long-term democratization and political stability.

j. An Independent Counsel. Some have called for an independent institution with the credibility and capacity for investigating and prosecuting government corruption at the highest levels. This proposal has been made because some see the Senate investigations as partisan, while the Ombudsman is overloaded with corruption cases and is perceived as partial to the government in power, given its recent track record. For this option to prosper, however, three difficult issues need to be addressed: (i) creating such a body through a law approved by Congress, (ii) defining the scope of its power and responsibilities, especially in relation to the Ombudsman, and (iii) giving it real autonomy, particularly from the President, who would be the appointing official.


k. Impeachment. This mechanism is provided for by the Constitution to exact accountability from the President. It is also a way by which allegations can be verified, thus giving the President a fair hearing and an opportunity to defend herself. However, impeachment will only work if people are willing to participate actively in pushing for and making sure that this process is effective (e.g. sustained lobbying, pressuring their representatives in Congress to prioritize the search for truth and accountability). Thus, it can provide excellent opportunities for active political participation, especially for citizens outside Metro Manila.

And its nine-point action agenda (along with the whole document), merits our attention, too:

Action Points


7. It is precisely during times of great upheavals and crises that the call to hope becomes more urgent. Desperation and cynicism cannot be allowed to eat up people’s inner resources. To move forward from this crisis means identifying and pursuing specific forms of action, such as: (a) joining circles of ongoing reflection and discernment, and efforts at political education and organization, including training in anti-corruption advocacy (Ehem) and active nonviolence; (b) supporting institutional efforts to get to the truth and creating a broader climate of truth-telling which encourages and protects whistleblowers; (c) joining activities that promote accountability; (d) articulating long-term ideals and policies for national political reform; and (e) establishing sectoral and multi-sectoral organizations and networks to promote dialogue and concerted action.


Concretely, eight action areas fall within the range of options which are consistent with the principles identified above, especially the need to build strong democratic institutions and promote engaged citizenship for socio-political reform:

a. Support for the ongoing Senate investigation of the ZTE-NBN case not only to bring out the whole truth on matters of public interest but also to strengthen the institutional system of checks and balances that seek to prevent the abuse of power.


b. Creation of a credible Independent Counsel, in order to ferret out the veracity of various allegations and promote accountability within the judicial system, in which unfortunately many of the official institutions are seen as severely compromised politically. Thus there is a need for an institutional venue and mechanism that will be viewed as autonomous of the government currently in power and free of the antics of traditional politicians.

c. Initiation of a genuine impeachment process, particularly by pressuring Representatives in the House to hold the President accountable for serious violations of public trust if there are sufficient bases for doing so.


d. Pursuit of reforms towards government transparency in all its transactions, especially in processes like procurement, decisions on loans, development projects, social reforms, and on issues such as mining, energy and land use that have a profound impact on poor communities and the environment. There is a need to ensure rigorous implementation of laws and policies, the institutionalization of a culture of social accountability, free access to information, and the enhanced participation of civil society in governance decisions at all levels.

e. Promotion of electoral reforms to ensure the conduct of clean, honest, and credible elections in 2010, including the revamp of the Comelec, beginning with the appointment and confirmation of commissioners of unquestioned integrity and competence; the modernization of the electoral system; the eradication of warlordism; the monitoring of campaign finance and expenditure; and the continuing political education of voters.


f. Search for worthy candidates and potential leaders, parties/coalitions and platforms for 2010, through positive preparations, planning and strategizing. This would mean clarifying political values and development priorities, candidate selection and recruitment, resource mobilization, and political organizing.

g. Organization of and support for basic sectors, to enable them to have a real say in democratic processes and to address the urgent needs of economic development and social justice.


h. Engagement of the youth in current issues, through political education, organization and mobilization for democratic institution-building, lobbying for transparency and accountability, policy reform, and involvement in electoral politics.

8. These specific and concrete calls for action are not isolated and discrete but are precisely interconnected in a framework that seeks to promote truth, accountability and reform. They address gross injustices in the country through active citizen participation that will support and be supported by efforts at political education, organization, mobilization and network-building in order to strengthen and transform democratic political institutions under the Constitution.


Responding to the Call for Communal Discernment, Conversion and Action


9. We offer these guidelines as a response to the call of our bishops for “circles of discernment” to “pray together, reason together, decide together, act together.” We trust that these reflections help clarify the context, principles and options for people — especially the youth — who seek to respond in action to the current crisis rather than succumb to the temptations of despair. For as Pope Benedict XVI has said, “All serious and upright human conduct is hope in action” (Spe Salvi 35).


Manuel L. Quezon III.

193 thoughts on “A perfect trap

  1. anthony, yes, and in fact, anybody, including you and i, can interpret the constitution subject to somebody else’s counter-interpretation. the final arbiter is the s.c, whose word is the last word binding to all within its jurisdiction.

  2. Bencard on, “reasonable rules or codes of conduct based on standards handed down by the ultimate Lawqgiver.”

    The clever doctorate president Arroyo knew about reasonable rules and how it can be used to her advantage. Facing new impeachment and people vigil at Congress, she went directly to Pope Benedict XVI in June 2006 to plead her case from notorious interferences from the powerful Bishops (which tip the balance of power in 1986) by presenting her personal gift of abolition of death penalty.

  3. Bencard on, “the final arbiter is the s.c, whose word is the last word binding to all within its jurisdiction.”

    Hence, Philippine SC the final arbiter in 9-6 decision institutionalized bribery under presidential discussion as protected by executive privilege.

  4. you do realize the poor voted against among ed and that his core of support came from the old families and the middle class of pampanga?

  5. isn’t it mainly the poor who are the targets of the Pinedas “envelopmental campaigning” anyway? it comes as no surprise.

  6. Sa entry ni MLQ4 sa taas sinsabi nya na worried siguro si CJ Puno sa negative perception ng madala sa kanyang pamamahala sa CJ. Personal concentrate nya eto eh, so dapat hindi idamay ang madla. Yung pag dadadakdak nya sa media ay hindi makakatulong sa kanyang gustong managyari magandang imahe ng CS sa termino nya. Mas lalo lang nyang pinapangit ang imahe ng institutosyung eto.

    I think we’re all mostly agreed that CJ Puno’s “sore loser whiney whiney” was definitely in bad taste. And yes, he way have very well undermined the credibility of the Supreme Court by engaging in such pedestrian behaviour with an all-too-eager mass media.

    But Puno should’ve realized that in the way his current Court is composed, there was really not much choice for them but to back the Palace. The currents of utang na loob run too deep. (i for one totally detest this reprehensible mode of behaviour. this utang na loob bullshit is what this entire kleptocracy is built on anyway.)

    and Rego, an MLQ4 doesn’t seem to be part of MLQ3’s plans at the moment, i reckon. hee hee hee

  7. this is not about strengthening democratic processes, this is about survival of the fattest. guess who.

  8. Man’s conduct is governed by law and how that law is enforced. It is not the culturea per se or attitudes but the enforcement of the Laws that are fair and striking down of laws that are not fair…but if the SC keep upholding laws that violates the Charter (first interpret the charter to conform the law, instead of the other way around)then the books will be full of laws that eventually guide the conduct of man the wrong way… it’s habitual…

  9. history will be judge: if among ed’s years as governor result in good stuff, the conclusion is that the burgis saved Pampanga. If by 2013 or 2014 Pampanga has worsened, then among ed is another exhibit of the middle class betraying the poor.

    background: q3’s reminder : you do realize the poor voted against among ed and that his core of support came from the old families and the middle class of pampanga?

  10. dodong,

    Hence, Philippine SC the final arbiter in 9-6 decision institutionalized bribery under presidential discussion as protected by executive privilege.

    now now, my fried. don’t be too hasty, don’t be paranoid, don’t be OA

    what institutionalized bribery are you talking about?

    do you really need Neri’s further testimony? no!

    in case you have forgotten, gloria cancelled the NBN project when the scandal reached the Senate last year.

    implication – gloria gave the go signal to the project despite Neri’s warning of a bribery attempt

    the sole issue in the Neri SC case – can executive privilege block a Senate inquiry?

    as if bribery can be stopped from being institutionalized if executive privilege is removed and Neri must answer the Senate inquiry on what was gloria’s response to his bribery warning!

    saka as if naman bribery isn’t institutionalized already!

  11. anthony,

    former US SC member: but the Constitution is what we say it is

    that’s a limitation of our system. that’s why we have 15 justices. that’s why they invented the JBC to improve the judicial selection process. that’s why SC justices can be impeached.
    that’s the nature of technology. unless you have a better idea, you have to live with it.

  12. bencard, to systems people, systems engineering is about building systems, but social engineering is not about building society. it’s about stealing passwords!

  13. Bencard, the Mafia’s Code of Honor is their internal Code of Ethics. It does not look ethical (or moral) to us because it is incompatible with our own code. However, from within their system [of organized crime], that code is what enables their system to operate which is why the Mafia strictly enforces it and harshly punishes those who violate it.

  14. anthony, on the other hand, aren’t justices paid to do just that? to tell us their own interpretation of the law?

  15. mindanaoan,

    “anthony, on the other hand, aren’t justices paid to do just that? to tell us their own interpretation of the law?”


  16. Im enjoying all the geek-speak. It’s interesting and highly educational (and yes it makes me want to read Luhman too).

    But again, science (or engineering for that matter) needs an outside observer. Since we are part of the system, we cannot be that ‘observer’. We therefore need a code of ethics from the ‘outside’ of human society. Therefore Im with Bencard when he said:

    “i think any discussions on morality and ethics must never lose sight of the fact that these two norms spring, not from man, but from a higher(est) authority outside of him. they are not “man-made” but, in the exercise of free will, man may choose to, or not to, abide by them (of course with consequences, good or bad).”

    Even if one doesnt subscribe to the existence of this authority from outside of man and society, one cannot deny the practicality of having this authority. Richard Dawkins, who is a staunch atheist, believes nevertheless in universal eternal morals as reported by this blogger.


    He made a giant self-refuting argument regarding morality. He stated that since there is no God and no moral reality, there is no morality that should be held by all persons at all times. Classic post-modernism. In “The God Delusion,” he strongly argues that morality evolves and changes with society (“the moral zeitgeist”). However, he went through a list of morals that should be held by all people at all times at the end of the presentation.

    We need someone or something from the outside.

  17. GRD,

    Maraming maraming salamat sa reply dun sa mag tanong about CARP. Makakatulog na ng maayos ang pinsan. Halos isang linggo na rin akong binbulabog kung ano ang gaagawin nya doon sa 40 hectare na naiwan ng Nanay nya.

  18. jeg, who is to objectively know that that “outside force” will still exist without man. what bencard raises is an issue on the level of theological. universal human law can still exist even for atheist (not that am one–far from it). that force is only meaningful then if it makes sense to man: call them inherited cultural memes–people before the 10 commandments were written on the tablet already have a sense of morality because that sense subsides from BE-ing human (pagka-tao natin). it’s basically anthropoligical.

  19. universal human law can still exist even for atheist (not that am one–far from it).

    Yes of course. But I believe what Bencard raises is ‘quo warranto’. By what right?

    By what right, for example does any man propose a universal set of eternal morals? For example, Professor Dawkins proposes universal morals, but why should we believe him? I can propose universal rights that say ‘Survival of the fittest in all things’ which makes the practice of Eugenics legal, and I would have as much right as Prof. Dawkins (assuming of course that Im as smart as he is). The practicality of the existence of someone from the outside who has warrant to propose universal rights is what made our civilization possible.

    (Just in case, Id like to point out that this isnt an argument for the existence of God of a higher power; that is a personal thing. It is instead an argument for the utility of believing in higher power who has the right to codify a set of universal eternal morals.)

  20. Jeg, i agree that it may be practical to have such an ‘outside Observer’. In pre-modern society, religion did provide people that comfort. I suppose that’s the blessing for those who believe in their God as they do not have to grapple with the matter of intellectual honesty. However, absent such an outside Observer (either in real or practical terms), then we are faced with the fact that all of us observers exist inside the Social system. Luhmann’s body of work explores and deals with this implications of self-reference i.e. from the point of view of Society as whole, there is no ‘outside’. I’m interested in what he has to say in part because he provides a possible way around post-modernist relativism or nihilist dead-ends in a Society that has lost belief in an absolute reference.

  21. Jeg, we are already outside government. we are part of society, which is the government’s environment. we can therefore play design-reviewers.
    and we don’t need the “practicality of having this (outside) authority”. the government and it’s legal subsystem was built for the goal of “the common good”. and that’s what all actions of should be measured against.

  22. “you do realize the poor voted against among ed and that his core of support came from the old families and the middle class of pampanga?”

    I was there in action and saw it. A substantial number of poor voted against Among Ed because of poberty (they were paid 1 thousand each). An equallly considerable number of poor voted for him out of idealism and because of the influences of the churches and the rich who supported Among Ed.

  23. The Ca t, i play chess and i can see an analogy. can you tell me your point?

    Then you should know that the endgame has not yet commenced with all those chess pieces he mentioned still in on the chess board.


  24. The Ca t, white is winning, and black intends to play perpetual check (let’s grant that he can). so if they don’t call it a draw, we’ll have to leave them. there’s nothing more to see. i don’t know about mandated draw though. it’s not in the rule book.

  25. mlq3 on, “you do realize the poor voted against among ed and that his core of support came from the old families and the middle class of pampanga?”

    Manolo – there is slightest hope if the trend can go nationwide however weak against the massive votes of the poor for popularity and entertainment.

  26. scalia on, “saka as if naman bribery isn’t institutionalized already!”

    Not in a Supreme Court decision. In this case, the Supreme Court has seriously damage its image approaching that of rubber stamp Supreme Court of Enrique Fernando during Marcos years. One of its enduring images is that of the chief justice holding the umbrella for the flamboyant Imelda Marcos through crowd of admirers.

  27. dodong,

    are you sure on what you are saying?

    remember the SC decisions on Sigaw, the controversial EOs and PPs?

    what ‘rubber stamp’ are you talking about?

  28. jeg, i believe any code of human conduct, be it law, ethics, morals or ecclesiastical, has to have sanctions to have force and be of any meaning or utility. ethics, morals and ecclesiastical norms derives it’s obligatory force from spiritual sanctions, i.e., intangibles such as dishonor, guilty conscience, eternal damnation; whereas law derives force from both spiritual and physical sanctions, i.e., tangibles such as corporal punishment (since outlawed), incarceration, banishment.

    a law or code that is only obligatory solely because of physical sanction, and devoid of any spiritual suasion, is, more often than not, an unjust law. it is, in essence, an instrument of coercion as a loaded gun is. the mafia code is a good example of it.

  29. The lawmakers, in the meanwhile, should go back to wordsmithing-201 classes and figure out how to ask questions which, even with “…executive privilege/no comment”, still moves the truth-seeking 💡 forward.

    That, and do the Trojan-horse thing. Invite XYZ to the Senate to answer questions A, B and D, then throw them into custody (by senate sgt-at-arms) if the invitee keeps saying “executive-privilege” to evade questions X, Y and Z.

    The Executive Department can not violate the inner sanctum of the Congress, can it? Hah…. our senators and/or congressmen can be having a sex-orgy and no one can go inside Congress’ inner sanctum. Thank goodness our congressmen have an internal code of ethics. 😉

  30. upn, but the executive (the pres. is commander-in-chief) has the military, the guns, the tanks, etc. which i don’t the senate sgt. at arms can match (just kidding…lol).

  31. The Cat says: “Then you should know that the endgame has not yet commenced with all those chess pieces he mentioned still in on the chess board.


    Who said that the endgame has commenced? The analogy was talking about the “essential pieces for the endgame” and situations “towards the endgame”.

    mindanaoan is correct: “The Ca t, white is winning, and black intends to play perpetual check (let’s grant that he can). so if they don’t call it a draw, we’ll have to leave them. there’s nothing more to see…”

    But: “i don’t know about mandated draw though. it’s not in the rule book.”

    The rule book says: if the same position with the same player to move is repeated three times in the game (in this case, perpetual checking) the rule mandates that the player to move can claim a draw.

  32. The Cat says: “Many months ago, when I presented a chess analogy, MLQ3 curtly replied that he does not play chess.

    Now I believe him.

    Because the chess analogy that he linked is not a chess analogy at all. If you are really playing chess, you will see why.”

    Oh, I’m sorry to hear that MLQ3 did not take on your own “chess analogy”. Mwehehehe…

  33. The Ca t, white is winning, and black intends to play perpetual check (let’s grant that he can). so if they don’t call it a draw, we’ll have to leave them. there’s nothing more to see. i don’t know about mandated draw though. it’s not in the rule book.

    with the gueen, the bishops and the rook flanking the King, how could the black make a perpetual check?

    Baka di pa sila makarating sa paroroonan nila, kain na sila.

    Tssk tssk

    pilit na analogy

  34. The rule book says: if the same position with the same player to move is repeated three times in the game (in this case, perpetual checking) the rule mandates that the player to move can claim a draw.

    How can the situation given by the commenter lead to perpetual checking eh marami pang move ang white at ang defense ay di pa nila mapenetrate what with the queen and the bishops still on the chess board.

    Sa pawns ? hahaha you make ma laugh. nakabasa ka lang ng rule, pinaste mo na rito.

    Applying that to the politics, as he was saying, Lozada,is
    represented by a pawn. Agree. But this “pawn” will never have the chance to be promoted as Queen (queening. The support of the bishops is gone. Even the queen got sick. And another knight died. I am sorry to hear those bad news. sooner or later Lozada will be gobbled up may be by another pawn or by the rook or by the queen.

    Maglaro ka na lang checker o sungka. mwehehe

  35. dOdong, your premise that there was “bribery” that was institutionalized is a classic example of “begging the question” a fallacious premise that results in a fallacious conclusion. you have to prove first that there was bribery before you can say that it was institutionalized.

  36. ethics, morals and ecclesiastical norms derives it’s obligatory force from spiritual sanctions, i.e., intangibles such as dishonor, guilty conscience, eternal damnation;

    not so, bencard, not so. i suggest keeping an open mind and read michael shermer’s science of good and evil. your concept of obligatory force only demotes the meaning of free will, i.e., from a theological perspective. but if you have to argume from a theological standpoint, my take on this is simple: as creatures in the image and likeness of God, that sense of morality resides within and does not need an objective outsider.

  37. The Ca t, that’s why there’s a parenthetical “let’s grant that they can”. and it’s not hard to imagine that the anti-gma camp can come up with all kinds of ‘checks’. i therefore vote to allow the analogy under the long established tradition of ‘poetic license’.

  38. The Ca t, you forgot that the black pieces have been checking the white king, long before the white pieces got better positions on the board.

    You should have known that the white pieces made a series of bad moves before, and that the white rooks did not flank the white king, until much later in the game. Before that, the black pieces were “almost unhindered” in their advance.

    As a chess luminary, you should know that things could happen in chess, especially when chess masters like you play against chess morons like me.

    C’mon, not everyone is as brilliant as you are in chess.

    Still, black is checking, albeit white is in advantage now.

    I guess you have to live with that.

  39. Bencard on, “you have to prove first that there was bribery.”

    Lifted from

    “Petitioner’s discussions with the President dealt not on simple bribery, but on scandalous bribery involving high Government officials of the Philippines”

    “Petitioner admits, and there can be no dispute about this admission, that his discussions with the President dwelt on a bribery scandal involving high Government officials of the Philippines.”

    Bencard – clever enough the defense rested entirely on the suppression of proof protected under executive privilege. Same strategy invoked during investigation of military in the 2004 cheated elections.

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