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. mindanaoan, that is conceptually deficient. As you pointed out, the legal system is ‘man made’. The system’s Code of Ethics is what directs a man made system’s behavior. You can try patching up or re-engineering a system with rules [aka new laws, new processes] but such attempts will be defeated if these are incompatible with the system’s underlying code of ethics. Just as the structure influences the code, the code can and does influence the structure.

    Code [of Ethics] and Structure (aka your ‘parts and relationships’) coupled with context (aka the environment) determines a System’s operation.

  2. I predict the decision will be OVERTURNED on appeal. You heard it here first…

    right. after the rounds of the media by cj puno (expressing his dismay on the sc decision), i’m sure by now those nine “jerks” are all scared to death that either they recuse themselves or they reverse their previous votes once an appeal is made. what other reason and logic could change their minds (assuming of course that they’re not “jerks”)?

  3. government is a system, Jeg

    Made of cogs and spare parts, mindanaoan? Im sorry but are you arguing against ethics in society? Im not too clear.

  4. From a System’s standpoint that i described above, CJ Puno’s expression of dismay at the SC decision is his attempt to influence the ‘environment’ and therefore change the ‘context’. This is the recourse he is taking because of the failure of the structure and internal code of ethics on the part of the SC. He is making an appeal to the environment (i.e. the people).

    If DJB (and grd’s) prediction is right (as i hope they would be), then such a reversal would have been because of the influence of the environment (aka the people).

  5. Grd, it won’t take 9 to reverse themselves. DJB pointed out that 2 of them just voted to concur with the majority and did not participate in the decision. Parang, “Sige sama na lang kami sa kanila.” Baka pag sumali na sila sa deliberations, baka ayun, mabago ang desisyon nila.

  6. Sorry, you are dead wrong. GMA will never be a Putin, that is, will never have the character of the Russian strongman. Heck, Putin is beloved by the Russian people for all his autocratic tendencies. Why? Because he loves his country as well. That can never be said of GMA.

    madonna, arroyo doesn’t need putin’s popularity. all he needs is his characteristics. “love for country”? sure, sure… same deal as marcos’s love for country too.

    anyways, what i’m saying is that i think is that “the (wo)man behind the curtain” theory is more plausible than the other theories i’ve heard.

  7. edit: anyways, what i’m saying is that i think “the (wo)man behind the curtain” theory is more plausible than the other theories i’ve heard re Arroyo after 2010.

  8. cvj, if ‘code of ethics’ = rules, yes it directs behaviour. it’s a part of the system. but ‘ethics’ = morality can be either a goal or part of the environment (i.e., outside the system) but definitely cannot determine it’s operation. it cannot be a ‘control’.

  9. DJB:

    we’re in agreement there. and Midas is an errand boy, because (in the words of a few of my female friends who are now eagerly waiting for tomorrow to see if they can join Midas in his profession) “he’s the cutest thing to ever come out of the Supreme Court. he’s so gorgeous! grabe!”

    but yes, the SC should’ve left all the talking to the decisions that they wrote. as for the media… ah well.

    (i now would like to categorically defend my friends. they are rational human beings, when not intoxicated.)

  10. cvj, on second thought, ethics should constitute one of our goals, but it cannot be a ‘part’. – mindanaoan

    Actually, viewed from within, a system does not have a ‘goal’. It only operates in relation to its internal structure and code as influenced by the environment (which provides the context).

    What we discern as ‘goals’ are attributes that we (as observers) in the environment assign to the system (e.g. ‘Justice’, ‘Freedom’, ‘Liberty’ etc.) The opposite attributes can very well be assigned to that system depending on the situation.

  11. Jeg,

    government is a system, Jeg

    Made of cogs and spare parts, mindanaoan?

    made up of institutions and people. it’s a very complex ‘soft’ system, but if you look hard, it has goals, parts and relationships, structures, organization, feedback and control mechanisms, too.

  12. Bishop denies saying he won’t give Arroyo communion

    after his tantrums yesterday in front of media, bishop cruz is now singing a different tune. backing-off? media na naman ang may kasalanan.

  13. cvj, goals are central to systems design. you cannot start design without specs, your ‘goals’. are you thinking of a ‘natural’ system, like an ecosystem?

  14. tonio: whoa! where’d you get a copy of that?

    Im afraid I have to plead the fifth, tonio. 🙂

  15. jeg, i know but i was actually talking sarcastically what would be the impact of cj puno’s rounds of the media outlets on the future decisions of the 9 justices.

  16. with all due respect to justice secretary gonzales, i believe his action of publicly criticizing the garci tapes decision is injudicious, if not totally reprehensible. he already has issued a memorandom in which his views are made part of public record for all the world to see. airing his criticism on t.v. and other media outlets is, i think, a faux pas that runs counter to traditions of the best judicial temperament. it is a blatant display of the political morass in which the executive department has been perceived to have sunk.

    the supreme court is a collegial body and there’s no reason to doubt that sec gonzeles is aware of it. the prevailing decision becomes the official decision of the whole body and must be accepted and respected as such by all, including the department secretaries.

    by going the rounds of the media circuits to put down the decision, the good secretary, wittingly or unwittingly, undermines the role of the judiciary in the democratic scheme, reducing it to no better than the comelec in its quest for election manipulation.
    i believe that coming from the justice secretary, such media appearances to purvey his critical views are fodder for the pro-gma crowd and further exacerbate, rather than ease, disunity among the people.

    i really miss the days when judges were judges and politicians were politicians. in this sense, i concur with bencard’s views on “delicadeza”.

  17. Folks,
    The law as a system is NOT a mechanical system. My analogy is not to the Shuttle but to NASA. A piece of hardware cannot by itself evolve. The kind of physical system I am comparing the law to is what is called “a nonlinear dynamical system”–i.e. one that has rules which bring order to chaos, but which can itself produce NONLINEAR results. From small changes can come huge things. It is a quasi stable system that has many trajectories. But I claim “freedom” and “ethics” and “justice” are the strange attractors of such a dynamical social system, such that even if democratic constitutional systems start from widely varying initial conditions, they “tend to evolve” certain common characteristics which are the sets of conditions that those attractors define. A lil abstract, but compelling for me. This removes the need for moralistic skyhooks and inflexible dogmatic positions which only lead top fascism and totalitarian systems. Just to borrow some terms from the science I am familiar with, constitutional democracy is a nonlinear dynamical system, in which the law is an expression of FUTURE demanded by the strange attractors–the homeland of our ideals.

    Liberty is the key ingredient that allows even temporary setbacks to be corrected and the whole to return to the “right path”.

  18. DJB Rizalist, the reason ‘law as a system’ exhibit nonlinear dynamics is because it is so complex. that’s why it’s called a ‘soft’ system. “strange attractors” come from chaos theory (not system design; from science not engineering), don’t be tempted to apply it on our society! 🙂 system design applied to law was a better idea, djb.

  19. The decision is sad, but it has to be respected all the same. We have to make clear distinctions here. What civil society wants is that of the non-public use of reason, and what the SC is doing is the public use of reason. To make the right assessment, we need to distinguish between critical and deliberative democracy. Rawls and Habermas debated on this matter.

    Deliberative democracy concerns what Rawls calls the “public use of reason”. It is, according to him, the “political use of reason”, and concerns the instrumentalities of governments, i.e. courts, parliaments. He claims that the political should be insulated from our comprehensive doctrines (our beliefs) because only then can citizens under a constitutional rule work for an “overlapping consensus”. Public issues and matters pertaining to the affairs of government, therefore, belong to the forums that are constitutionally established, the constitution being a product of that overlapping consensus. Thus, complaints must be filed in courts so that both parties can avail of the due process. With regard to the ZTE issue, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the Ombudsman, are simply doing their constitutionally mandated tasks, and they will not listen to what civil society says, since the truth they adhere to is the truth, ceteres paribus, that concerns “the rule of law”, which in fact, Sec. Neri used recently to comment on the SC ruling.

    Civil society, which includes the “church, schools, the media, community organizations”, and now very recenly, bloggers like us, whose culture according to Rawls is considered as non-public, is outside the forum of the deliberative use of reason under the basic structure. This is the reason why however hard and/or valid our arguments are, they do not form part of how the SC will rule on the issue at hand.

    Habermas, of course, disagrees with this idea, for he thinks that the people have a right to voice out their concerns on important issues. Civil society, according to Habermas, can act as the people’s sounding board on issues in a democracy. It may not be the legal forum but constitutionally we have the right to protest. But it ends up there. The final verdict belongs, as always, to SC. Of course, an abusive government is perilous for a democracy. But as long as facts don’t merit such a judgment, we can only remain vigilant to protect our right to know the truth.

    My site: http://philippine-democracy.blogspot.com

  20. and your idea of a key ingredient that allows even temporary setbacks to be corrected and the whole to return to the “right path” is a description of cybernetics!

  21. “The decision is sad, but it has to be respected all the same. We have to make clear distinctions here. What civil society wants is that of the non-public use of reason, and what the SC is doing is the public use of reason. To make the right assessment, we need to distinguish between critical and deliberative democracy. Rawls and Habermas debated on this matter.”

    That implies that there is a level playing field when a decision was made by the so-called Instittions.
    How about in a situation where there is a lingering doubt on the decision-making instittions. People, per se, are not questioning the wisdom of the instiution’s decision.They could be right, after all. But waht bugs them is the integrity of the decision. ( dumping of the impeachment by way of railroading the process, investigative body selective on its thrusts, courts whose loyalty to rule of law is not beyond question)

  22. mindanaoan (at 1:11pm), i believe you’re right that ‘goals’ are central to systems design but that is only from the point of view of observers (including designers of the system) which we have to distinguish from the system’s operation. Operation is determined on the basis of structure, code (both within the system) and context (as determined by. It is only after this operation is carried out that observers (whether by insiders like CJ Puno or outsiders like DJB) can assess whether the ‘goal’ has been met. From this standpoint, the ‘goal’ is no different from any attribute that is assigned by observers.

    DJB (at 2:58pm) and Mindanaoan (at 3:30pm), the complexity and nonlinear dynamics is a result of the nature and strength of interactions, namely.

    1. the capability of the social system (or its subsystems) to observe itself (e.g. CJ Puno or the military mutineers, i.e. its reflexive nature.

    The strength of interactions between the system and its environment, the latter of which could and do involve multiple systems. Even between two physical systems, the consequences of perturbations can only be solved if such interactions are weak. Otherwise, the problem becomes intractable and the outcome unpredictable.

    The question between Waiting for 2010 versus People Power revolves mainly on the issue of predictable vs. unpredictable (and potentially catastrophic) outcomes. The level of predictability is a function of the strength of interactions between the Public Sphere and the State. Elections are a much weaker form interaction compared to People Power.

    don’t be tempted to apply [systems design] on our society! – mindanaoan

    Niklas Luhman did just that. He applied systems theory to the study of society.

  23. “Social Change Relies More On The Easily Influenced Than The Highly Influential” – ScienceDaily (Nov. 13, 2007)

    it’s not your eloquence folks, it’s your readers!

  24. Sorry, the sentence above that begins with The strength of interactions between the system and its environment…. should have a ‘2.’ before it.

  25. cvj, “don’t be tempted to apply it (chaos theory) on our society!”

  26. I predict the decision will be OVERTURNED on appeal. You heard it here first

    hmmm. he must know something that we don’t. its possible that the SC is just testing the waters, as it can reverse itself later.

    but the batting average for the SC reversing itself in ‘landmark’ cases is less than 1%

    history is against the SC reversing itself

  27. cvj, you have to adopt the viewpoint of designers when talking of laws, because laws are crafted with goals in mind, and their assessment (and consideration) should always be against these goals (which in this context are called the spirit of the law). judges are not allowed to make up their own interpretation of the law, it’s always against the intention (goals) of the framers of the law.
    the constitution already spells out our system design. lawmakers are like maintenance engineers trying to make it run better in the current environment.
    your viewpoint as an observer is useful only if you enjoy watching “consequences of perturbations” like a scientist, but i’m looking at it as an engineer trying to fix problems.

  28. judges are not allowed to make up their own interpretation of the law…

    But they do. The intentions of the framers are not always taken into consideration.

    The whole problem with trying to apply the ‘scientific method’ to society is that it’s based on the premise that people are rational and act in a rational way. They dont.

  29. aww rego, you sad that CJ Puno didn’t toe the party line? boo-hoo for you..


    Pero tonio , pwede ring sabihing the 9 justice did not toe, CJ Puno’s line di ba which speaks more of his leadership.

    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.

  30. Jeg, that’s the challenge, how to achieve goals using only laws as instruments.

    The whole problem with trying to apply the ’scientific method’ to society is that it’s based on the premise that people are rational and act in a rational way. They dont.

    exactly my criticism of jcv’s idea, just replace rational with ‘ethical’ or ‘moral’. the challenge here is how to make laws to force people to become rational, or ethical, or moral.

  31. the challenge here is how to make laws to force people to become rational, or ethical, or moral.

    That’s quite a challenge. But that’s not something for laws. That’s a challenge for society; a challenge for us. Laws forcing people are a tad too… fascist for me.

  32. mag didigress lang ako sandali, may tanong lang ako tungkol sa CARP,

    1. Paano po ba ang proceso ng pag kung gusto mong is surrender ang isang lupain sa DAR par ipailalim sa CARP.
    2. Makakapamili po ba ang landlord kung ang ang parte na pwede ng i keep?
    3. Ang Absentee landlord po ( yung matagal ng wala sa pIlipinas or OFW) ay ) ay may matititra pa rin sa kanya parte ng Lupa para kung sakaling mag retire sya eh sa Pinas. Ilang hectares nman ang pwedeng ititra sa kanya
    4. Babayran ba ng Dar yung parte ng Lupa na kinuha nila? 5. Magkano po ang bayaran, yung tootong market value nba ng lupa ang basehan?
    6 Paano nag babayad ang Gobyerno? One tiem payament or installment?

    Maraming salamat po. At pasensya na lang po .

  33. cvj, “don’t be tempted to apply it (chaos theory) on our society!” – mindanaoan

    mindanaoan, it’s not chaos theory. it’s systems theory. Read Niklas Luhman.


    A number of his ideas actually favor the ‘Wait for 2010’ camp.

    you have to adopt the viewpoint of designers when talking of laws…mindanoan

    yes, designing laws is part of the operations of the legal system. however, whether such laws or the legal system itself brings about a ‘goal’ such as ‘justice’ can only be determined by observers inside or outside the system. that’s why it is not an oxymoron to say that a given law or the legal system itself is ‘unjust’.

    your viewpoint as an observer is useful only if you enjoy watching “consequences of perturbations” like a scientist, but i’m looking at it as an engineer trying to fix problems. – mindanaoan

    You just used the word ‘looking‘. Observation is a prerequisite to any attempt at a redesign. Besides, a Social System, unlike a machine, has no ‘outside’. It is easier to design a machine because the designer is a separate entity that has an existence separate from that of the machine. By contrast, we are all inside society so it is very hard to ‘design’ outcomes because observation

    exactly my criticism of jcv’s idea, just replace rational with ‘ethical’ or ‘moral’. – mindanaoan

    ‘Ethical’ and ‘Moral’ codes do exist. For example, ‘Moderate the greed’ is a form of ethical code that Neri requested Jun Lozada to enforce as part of the government procurement system. The military has its own Soldiers Code of Conduct and Esperon’s violation of this code of conduct is the reason why a number of its best officers are willing to suffer in prison. Congressmen who accept bags of cash from Malacanang follow the ethical code of the House. Much of the conflict within society is because of the differences in codes between its subsystems as well as clashes with moral codes carried over from premodern society as embodied in religious beliefs.

    The study of society is a science. We just shouldn’t confuse it with mechanical engineering. It’s not that simple.

  34. Sorry, the above should read …it is very hard to ‘design’ outcomes because observation and operation happen almost concurrently.

  35. chaos theory will say that a Canadian backpacker running in the streets of Lhasa, Tibet can cause ripples in Makati or Johannesburg.

    Eyewitnesses Recount Terrifying Day in Tibet
    How a Protest Became a Rampage

    By Jill Drew
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Thursday, March 27, 2008; A01

    BEIJING, March 26 — In the moment, Canadian backpacker John Kenwood recalled, he was “young and stupid, and it was all adrenaline.” He was running, one in a mob of 200 or so, screaming, “Free Tibet!” and chasing riot police down a narrow street in downtown Lhasa in the early afternoon of March 14.

    It was a heady feeling, being part of a howling pack that had forced police to turn tail and run, some dropping their shields as they fled a barrage of rocks. Then the Tibetans in the crowd slowed and began turning back, grinning and patting one another on the back. The ebullient mood did not last long. The pack broke into smaller groups, gathering rocks and pulling out knives, looking for the next target.

    “There was no more crowd to be part of. It looked like they were turning on everybody,” said Kenwood, 19, describing the scene to reporters last week when he arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal, after 10 days in the Tibetan capital. “It wasn’t about Tibet freedom anymore.”

    What he witnessed next was a violent rampage unlike any in decades in Lhasa, a city where Tibetan Buddhism’s most revered temples sit among office buildings and concrete markets built by Chinese bent on developing the remote Himalayan region. Hundreds of mostly young Tibetans broke up into roaming gangs and attacked Chinese passersby and vandalized shops, killing 19 people and injuring more than 600 over two days.

    During the riots, looters set fire to a clothing store, burning to death five young employees who were huddled on the second floor. Most police officers kept their distance while the center of Lhasa descended into chaos.

    Nearly two weeks later, there are still more questions than answers about what sparked the violence. But several witness accounts suggest that what began as a small protest by Buddhist monks on the morning of Friday, March 14, turned quickly into ethnically charged rioting, possibly fueled by rumors that monks had been roughed up by police. Some outside experts cite another factor behind the uprising: Tibetans’ awareness that the world is following news of their cause more closely as China prepares to host the Olympic Games in August.

  36. Ang dapat na Trabaho nang Korte Suprema ay magdecide kong ang “Law” na nasa Harapan nila ay sang-ayon o libag sa Constitution..Sa kaso ni Mang Neri ano Batas ba ang pinag-usapan dito? yong power nang Senate mag cite nang Contempt? Anong provision nang Constitution and naviolate nito? Siguro Unusual and Cruel Punishment sa Sobrang Pilit Kay mang Neri na sagutin yong manga Tanong na halos lahat ay Alam naman kong Ano ang Pinag-usapan nila ni Aling GMA..liban lamang sa manga lubos na naniwala kay GMA at marami din sila…

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

    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.

  38. Q3 and others have suggested the role of personal economics re the recent Supreme Court decision. So why not do further broadbrushing and accept the possibility that CJ Puno’s blitz is from fees he gets from certain media outlets?

    Action: raise the salaries of supreme court judges, then make formal the expectation of “no post-decision commentaries” during the first 10 calendar days after each court decision. Better it’s the taxpayer who pay these Supreme Court judges than special-interest-groups.

  39. “strange attractors” come from chaos theory … don’t be tempted to apply it on our society!

    i hope that’s clearer.

    cvj, you have to include your feedback-control mechanism (which measures and adjusts how far you are from your goals) in your design or your will have an unstable system. in the government, feedback-control is performed by the courts. they tell you if an action is consistent with our goals (constitutions and laws) and can also compel you to be so.

    study is science. design is engineering. and systems are systems, whether it’s your payroll system or insurance system or electoral system or the government. they differ only in complexity. it’s not that simple, but it’s actually the simplest way of looking at it.

    “Our merged party (Lakas/Kampi) will be a colossus that calls to mind Mahathir of Malaysia, whose decades-old dominant political machinery, supported by key business groups, provided the underpinning for Malaysia’s development,” GMA

    Gloria’s idol, Mahathir, ruled Malaysia with an iron hand for 22 year, always took a tough stand against political opponents and had a scant regard for human rights.

    From all indications, Gloria is acting like a very political president in spite of the fact that she is barred from running in the 2010 Presidential polls.

    The reason is very simple: she has no intentions at all of giving up power peacefully by 2010!If she has her way,with the support of Lakas/Kampi super party,she wants to replicate Mahathir’s authoritarian rule of more than two decades!

    It will just be a matter of time when she reveals her real intentions to aggressively push for charter change to remove any legal obstacle to her staying in power beyond 2010.

    In other words, Gloria WILL DEFINITELY NOT ALLOW THE HOLDING OF THE 2010PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS (under the current constitutional framework) .

  41. Equalizer: GMA needs charter-change for parliamentary to be new law of the land. The current constitution bars her from staying in Malacanang after 2010. The current constution remains operative even during martial law.

  42. rego,
    check chanroblesdotcom law library. they have the complete file for the: COMPREHENSIVE AGRARIAN REFORM LAW OF 1988. REPUBLIC ACT NO. 6657.

    based on a cousin’s experience:

    1. DAR initiates acquisition of the land and will give notice to the owner either by personal delivery or registered mail.
    2. yes, makakapamili ka ng parte ng lupang gusto mo.
    3. ang alam ko pag wala ang land owner at hindi nakareply sa sulat ng DAR, they will initiate transfer of the title to the beneficiary that’s what happened to my cousin but she was able to contest the action of the DAR and retained the minimum entitlement due to land owners (I think 3 or 5 hec).
    4. yes babayaran.
    5. yung value ay base sa tax declarations ngproperty, and the assessment made by government assessors. ang sa kaso ng cousin ko ay napakababa ata ng payment (hindi yung amrket value)
    6. DAR will pay through LBP either partly by cash or LBP preferred shares of stocks.

  43. “strange attractors” come from chaos theory … don’t be tempted to apply it on our society!

    actually, it was a pun. i wanted to add ‘it will result in chaos!

  44. mindanaoan, it’s DJB who subscribes to chaos theory view of society, not me.

    i agree that the courts function as a ‘feedback control mechanism’ just as ‘impeachment’ and other such processes within the institutions of government. i also agree that leaving such mechanisms alone (i.e. benign0’s prescription for political apathy) tends to promote ‘stability’ (in the sense of predictability) because the system’s operation is not disturbed from the outside. However, are ‘stability’ and ‘predictability’ the highest values in the present context? Do these systems exist for their own sake?

    As you implied above, the Constitution was designed and ratified by the people to promote certain ends (or goals). It happens that just as people form the environment of the political and legal system, the political and legal system are also part of the environment that we the people have to live in.

    Unfortunately, as i keep saying, absent an internal code of ethics, there is nothing inherent in the system that can keep it from being subverted. There is nothing in the justice system that can guarantee that it promotes justice. Judges can be bribed. There is nothing in our democratic system that can guarantee that it does promote democracy. Politicians can sell their allegiances. The ‘goals’ of a system (as determined by its observers) can and have been subverted. There is a point when the system is unable to fix itself and starts to harm its environment i.e. the Filipino people.

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