The destruction of the presidency

Wrote Montesquieu in The Spirit of the Laws,

…it is likewise a shocking abuse to give the appellation of high treason to an action that does not deserve it. By an imperial law it was decreed that those who call in question the prince’s judgment … should be prosecuted as guilty of sacrilege. Surely it was the cabinet council and the prince’s favorites who invented the crime. By another law, it was determined that whosoever made any attempt to injure the ministers and officers belonging to the sovereign should be deemed guilty of high treason, as if he had attempted to injure the sovereign himself. This law is owing to two princes remarkable for their weakness-princes who were led by their ministers as flocks by shepherds; princes who were slaves in the palace, children in the council, strangers to the army; princes, in fine, who preserved their authority only by giving it away every day…

“[P]rinces who were slaves in the palace, children in the council, strangers to the army; princes, in fine, who preserved their authority only by giving it away every day…” This was how I began my column Scorched-earth governance, in October, 2005 in reply to those who claimed they admired the President because she’d strengthened the presidency.

My column for today, The destruction of the presidency, essentially updates the point I raised then, with five examples that have taken place since then: the foiled attempt to proclaim martial law in 2005; the foiled attempt to turn a proclamation of a state of emergency into a kind of martial law in 2006; the derailing of the President’s expected declaration she would revoke E.O. 464 by Secs. Ermita, Favila, and Mendoza a few weeks ago; and the reckless handling of our country’s relations with the United States (our international obligations abandoned because of a kidnapping) and China (every bilateral agreement mired in the quicksand of controversy) which have will have grave effects for the duration of this administration and perhaps for some administrations to come.

Yesterday I pointed out that some lawyers were comfortable with the Supreme Court’s decision, because it wasn’t a doctrinal one; but what the Supremes might have intended is different from what the consequences of the decision, this early on, have already been. Today’s Inquirer editorial, Presumptuous, points to a concrete example of the law of unintended consequences at work. A lengthy extract is called for:

Are all Senate inquiries void, because the rules of procedure governing them have not been recently republished? …Romulo Macalintal drew the sweeping conclusion soon after the controversial Supreme Court decision in Neri v. Senate Committee came down.

The day after Macalintal did so, it was Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita’s turn to extrapolate from the new ruling. Officials of the Executive Branch will skip future inquiries, he said, because they can be considered to be legally invalid.

It is difficult to imagine any member of the Supreme Court expecting the decision in the executive privilege case filed by Romulo Neri to lead to this exact turn of events. No one so much as suggested that the Senate stop all its inquiries, because of the failure to publish the rules. Inquiries in aid of legislation are not only expressly provided for in the Constitution; they are fundamental to the work of both houses of Congress. What the majority voided were only the Senate’s contempt citation and arrest order against Neri.

But the law of unexpected consequences is unforgiving. There is no appeal.

There is no appeal, if the Executive Branch itself encourages the wrong interpretation of a controversial decision. “All along the Senate has been conducting its hearings but it turns out they have yet to publish their rules of procedure,” Ermita said. “So, it turns out all their hearings can be considered constitutionally infirm.”

In fact, the Supreme Court did not say this. It had limited itself to the “subject proceedings”‚ – that is, the hearings being conducted by three Senate committees on the National Broadband Network scandal, in the inquiry Neri testified in.

If in fact all Senate inquiries are invalid, what happens (to choose one legislative measure the Arroyo administration wants passed) to the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement? By Ermita’s vested-interest logic, the hearings conducted on JPEPA must be considered to be constitutionally infirm too.

Ermita said his legal team had prepared the opinion behind the recommendation that Senate inquiries be skipped. We think Ermita’s opinion, because it was transparently tailored to fit the recommendation, is not only presumptuous, it is dangerously presumptuous.

Here’s the crux: The administration argues “presumption of regularity” when its actions are questioned or limited or even voided by the courts. But it does not extend the courtesy of the same principle to the Senate. By extrapolating a conclusion favorable to its political fortunes (that is, avoid Senate inquiries), the administration demonstrates a barely concealed contempt for a co-equal but inconvenient branch of government. If, as the administration believes, presumption of regularity were the touchstone of democratic governance, then surely (by the administration’s own logic) it must apply to other agencies of government?

Again: there are those undisturbed by the recent Supreme Court ruling, because they want to give the high court the benefit of the doubt; and refuse to see, or cannot see, why lawyers and other segments of the citizenry are alarmed. See, for example, the statement by Simbahan Lingkod ng Bayan.

But going beyond this particular president, the problem is that derailing the constitutional balance in this manner means that even if the President steps down in 2010, the harm she’s caused will endure for some time to come; it means, at the very least, that much of the energies of a new administration and new Congress will be spent on restoring constitutional balance -or, if the new president enjoys the Arroyo legacy of impunity, to continuing confrontations between institutions.

Rene Azurin, in his Business World column for today (unavailable online, so reproduced in full), has this to say:


René B. Azurin

A captured government

Not being a lawyer, I imagine I can be forgiven if I do not pussyfoot around with legal niceties and just call the Supreme Court decision that granted the President and her minions the power to conceal crimes under the guise of “executive privilege” downright disgraceful. Let me add that I think this could indicate that there are nine Justices willing to bend over for the President when it counts. This could also indicate that the capture of government by the present ruling group is now complete.

With a generally subservient bureaucracy and a majority of the members of Congress firmly in the President’s pocket (pocketbook), control of the Supreme Court would certainly be the final element needed to render the President and her cronies invulnerable and untouchable, no matter what they do. The ramifications of the recent 9–6 Supreme Court vote in favor of the President should thus give us all pause. Keeping in mind that 12 of the 15 Justices of the Supreme Court are already appointees of this President and the remaining 3 will also have been appointed by her before her term is supposed to end in 2010, the question must definitely be asked: is the Supreme Court still independent?

Given the executive privilege decision, the answer appears to be “no”. The arguments made by the majority give the impression that their decision was made first and then a legal basis was sought to justify it. Without going in detail into the legal issues — law luminaries can do that — I feel that the essential weakness of the majority’s decision that former Cabinet member Romulo Neri did not have to answer, on the grounds of “executive privilege”, certain questions put to him by the Senate in its investigation of the anomalous ZTE Broadband deal is that it argues that the confidentiality of communications between the President and her subordinates — even when these have not been shown to compromise national security or diplomatic relations and even when the President herself admits to being aware that this merely commercial matter involves a crime (bribery) — trumps the public’s right to know and, thereby, hold public officials to account.

In his dissent, Justice Carpio says that “even if questions call for the disclosure of confidential presidential discussions or diplomatic secrets, executive privilege still cannot be used to cover up a crime”. That, I think, should be indisputable if public interest and fairness were used as the foundations for framing the decision. Moreover, as some Justices point out, executive privilege is actually only an implied prerogative of the President and not expressly granted as a presidential power. In contrast, express constitutional provisions state that “the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest” and that “the State shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption”. What the majority Justices’ stand means, therefore, is that they believe that an implied presidential prerogative takes precedence over explicitly stated provisions to safeguard the interest of the public against officials prone to abusing their considerable power.

That makes the decision disgraceful. In effect, it would seem that the Supreme Court majority deliberately opted to take the side of the President against that of the entire community. They did not have to rule in favor of the invocation of executive privilege since they could just as easily have taken the position against it. In fact, the arguments used to support the majority position seem weaker and more legally convoluted than the straightforward logic of the dissenting opinions that argue the primacy of the public’s right to transparency in the exercise of government power.

The Justices who favored the President are saying that the Executive branch of government needs to be even more powerful than it already is and less accountable to the public than it has ever been. This suggests that those Justices want to tilt the balance of power in this country even more in favor of those with already enormous amounts of power and even more against those without any power at all.

If that is the new reality that the Filipino public faces today, it means that we citizens must now live with a system wherein we no longer have any practical means of checking the power of our highest government officials. The two branches of government — the Legislative and the Judicial — that were designed to counterbalance and constrain the tremendous power vested in the Executive branch will now have to be deemed compromised. The public has long realized, of course, that the majority of our Representatives and a good number of our Senators will not act against the President’s interests because the lure of pork barrel fund releases and other goodies (like P500,000 gift bags) is simply irresistible to them. Now, with this new decision, it is becoming clear that a majority of the members of the Supreme Court also will not act against the interests of the President even when this effectively makes them a party to the concealment of corruption and other public crimes.

This should be, for all of us, profoundly distressing. If all three branches of government are now the captured preserve of the President and her gang, what can we, the suffering Filipino public, do about it? We are told that there are prescribed processes to seek redress and we are exhorted to use those processes. But we know — not being quite as stupid as they assume us to be — that these processes and the institutions through which they flow are controlled by those able to exercise the coercive and economic might of government. We have seen how the impeachment process can be blocked completely by mercenary congressmen. It now appears that we can no longer even count on the Supreme Court to stand up for our interests and for justice, fairness, and truth. Are we lost?

Are we lost, indeed? The question hangs in the balance, but another non-lawyer, Tony Abaya, points out in his column,

All this calls to mind one of the most perceptive comments made by Engineer Jun Lozada during the Senate hearings on the ZTE scandal, which no one seems to have paid much attention to, to wit, that “in the Philippines, with our abundance of lawyers, there is more emphasis on legality than on justice, and that we have a legal system but not a justice system” How true, how sadly true.

To this non-lawyer, if this landmark decision is left as is, it means that government bureaucrats, favored businessmen and predatory politicians can now conspire with the Malacanang tenants and their relatives to raid the public treasury with more impunity than ever, or to enter into contracts clearly disadvantageous to the national interests, fully confident that they would be safe from investigation by Congress or prosecution by the courts since they can always invoke executive privilege to cover up their crimes.

Then again, a way forward is the proposed freedom of information act being lobbied for by various groups. One such group, Team RP, issued this statement today:


“The Court has always been regarded as the final bastion of democracy, a balancer of power and rights, and a champion of the public’s interest, but the recent Neri vs. Senate decision of the Supreme Court promulgated on March 25, 2008, left the public with more deepening suspicion, growing unrest and a sense of confusion with nowhere else to go.

“The decision which ruled that Secretary Romulo Neri cannot be compelled to answer several key questions about the anomalous NBN-ZTE broadband deal, in effect have left the entire nation doubting the Arroyo government in light of this corruption scandal.

“But while the decision left us uncertain, it highlighted some fundamental things which we urge the public to ponder — first, we would not have had this dilemma had our executive officials provided for effective transparency measures espousing a policy of full and authentic public disclosure as embodied in our Constitution; and second, had our legislators not been lost in the world of politicking and grandstanding, their efforts in aid of legislation would have resulted in laws supporting the people’s right to know.

“As a country that prides itself with democracy, it’s ironic that we have no real access to information. Until a policy of full public disclosure, transparency and meaningful accountability is effected, not only will large-scale corruption issues persist, but the people will remain uninformed, disempowered, marginalized and disenfranchised.

“We can only grow as a real democracy when people are adequately informed about the operations and policies of government. The right of the people to be informed should no longer be left to the sheer discretion of the Court, the inertia of the lawmakers and the caprices of our public officials.

“It is alarming that Malacañang announced that members of the cabinet would invoke the Supreme Court decision when invited to Senate hearings. It gives a blanket license with ambiguous parameters to officials to evade the reach of both the oversight and legislative powers of the Senate.

“We believe that the Palace, who has taken the role as the main crusader against graft and corruption should also take the lead not in finding ways to hide from the public’s eye but to be at the forefront of enacting these much needed transparency measures.”

Meanwhile, the debate on what to do, and what’s at stake, continues. In light of the Jesuit Province’s new guidelines on the continuing crisis, two reflections are offered up. A critical look comes from Filomeno Sta. Ana III of Action for Economic Reforms; and a friendlier look’s taken by Juan Mercado.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

146 thoughts on “The destruction of the presidency

  1. cvj –

    After looking at the attributes you’ve listed, we are not a bad people. In fact, I think we are too good for our own sake. Maybe, we need some bad attitudes to make things work and running.

    Baka masyado tayong mabait, matiaga, at mapasensiya.

  2. Maginoo, Brianb perhaps you’re right. Do you think hanging selected members of the elite (with a ‘huwag tularan’ sign) from a lamppost would do us some good?

  3. BrianB,

    Yes, you are right. Especially punishment for the bad elites.

    Copying from the great New York dame Leona Helmsley, “only the poor gets convicted” in the Philippines.

  4. “Bert, so that means Ombudsman Merceditas Guiterrez is on the right track when she found that, in the case of the Megapacific deal with the COMELEC, there was a crime but there were no criminals.-cvj

    Hogwash, cvj, the good Ombudswoman knows the real score, she’s a smart. But we should not attribute any wrongdoing to the lady else we look ridiculous. We must remember Ombudsmen in the past administration were also just as smart.

  5. mlq3, lawyers thrive in a a democracy – in a society of laws, not of men/women, or one that is ruled by guns and bullets. the number of lawyers in the philippines, as well as the number of those who aspire to become lawyers, indicate that democracy is alive and well in the philippines, as it is in the u.s. and the rest of the free world.

    despots rush in where lawyers fear to thread.

  6. Martial law will not be the way. The international community is watching (e.g. 42-member delagation led by ES Ermita to Geneva just to explain RP human rights record). Too hot in the neck (the U.S. not counting), too cumbersome, too banana republic.

    Nor charter change will be it. Too short the time, too many greedy men to be bought, too uncertain.

    The devil’s alternative will be one to ensure presidential pardon. Too smart, too dirty, too mean.

    RP is “no country for ‘tired’ men.” Too realistic, too true. Too sad.

  7. At ang mangaAbogados ay partners rin nang manga Despot at Diktador..noong panahon ni Marcos, maraming rin Abogadong ang Pilipinas, walang rin Problema, basta sunod sunoran lang sa manga batas ni Makoy ayos lang, kikita rin…weder, weder lang ang manga yon,,,

  8. Therefore, it is greed that is at the heart of the low number of lawyers in Japan. – DuckVader

    “Great nations were not built on good intentions. They were built on business sense. Real change in Pinoy society will never be achieved through the “sacrifice” of altruistic “heroes”. True change will be driven by people who find no shame in expecting a buck for their trouble.”

    benign0, 09 Jan 2005 😉

  9. cvj,

    in my view, the legal system cannot have, or should not have morality, nor does it need to understand its goal of justice. morality and justice are relative. one man’s good is another man’s evil. the legal system is, or should just be, a measuring device to tell us if a given action is in accord with a set of statements we call the law.

    the morality and justice we want to get from the legal system comes from us, the people, who cause the laws to be enacted (in our case, through representatives). the laws are the generally agreed ‘oughts’ that express our concept of morality and justice. if the legal system cannot satisfactorily resolve a question because of a lack, or vagueness of the law, it is not the system’s fault. it is our inadequacy to express our morality clearly in the form of a law, or a gap in our concept of morality itself.

    on the other hand, our legal system is manned by men (what else?) who can, and sometimes, inject their morality into it’s processes. while this can be good as when used to circumvent a law that has gone out of sync with current morality, it cannot be good in the long run. laws pass through rigorous deliberation and approval by the people, while moral injections can be whimsical and arbitrary. but until computers can replace judges on the bench, we have to live with this vulnerability.

  10. mindanaoan, i could not have said it any better. having participated in this blog forum for almost 2 years now, i have observed a prevailing impatience with the imperfections of our laws, their processes and our entire legal and judicial systems. such impatience impels many to advocate a resort to anarchy, class warfare, ad hoc government, aka, “direct democracy”. instead of just bathing the baby, they would throw the baby with the bathwater. they think the answer to our county’s problems is armed revolution, and after that, to just play it by ear as to how the survivors would be governed.

  11. The Philippines has TOO MANY LAWYERS.

    Even if we factor in our population. We still have too many of them. And we have TOO MANY OF THE CALIBRE OF siRaulo Gonzalez

    Surplus lawyers weigh down the economy too!

    How apt that Bencard uses the USA as an example. Look how ridiculously litigious that society is.

    The cost of lawyers, litigation, and legal crap is expensive.

    Why do we need laywers in some instances?
    Because we don’t know/understand our laws.
    Why don’t we know our laws?
    Because it is written by a lawyer in the most obscure language such that you require a lawyer not to interpret it (because it’s obscure to him too) but to get around it.
    Kaching! Kaching!

    Once the number of lawyers passes the optimum, additional lawyers contribute more harm than benefits to a nation’s economy. – The USA is said to need only 60% of its current number of lawyers. (Johnson)

    Thank god, Bencard left the Philippines, that’s one less lawyer 😀 The rest we can sink around the Spratlys and make them useful as artificial reefs.

    I understand that Bencard is only protecting his livelihood and that is perfectly alright. However, we can shoo away most lawyers who basically want to sell us something we don’t need.

    And to the Inquirer – STOP this glorification of the BAR exam by devoting editorials and news articles about it!

  12. I remember this guy benigno once said something on this: RP is “infested with lawyers.”

  13. But nash what happened to the law of supply and demand?

    If there are surplus of lawyers, shouldn’t that make the lawyer fees or legal costs lower?

  14. But nash what happened to the law of supply and demand?

    If there are surplus of lawyers, shouldn’t that make the lawyer fees or legal costs lower? – rego

    I think most lawyers are in fact paid really low in the Philippines. Aside from UP Law and Ateneo Law, there is a whole bunch of lawyer mills out there churning them out.

    How well the Law delivers on its promise to a society I think is a function of three variables:

    – The quality of its legal framework
    – The ethical soundness of its legal professionals
    – The level of collective trust within the society.

    As Mr. DuckVader observed:

    That’s why the so-called “trust” system evolved in Japan — the strength of the handshake and using a network of references and connections to determine who you can trust or not trust. People and businesses wanted to avoid the cost of litigation or lawyers by vetting their counterparties beforehand through this trust system.

    Which brings up this simple question:

    In general, would you trust an agreement between two Pinoys that is sealed by nothing more than a handshake?

    Some food for thought there, folks. 😀

  15. I remember when my father died and the family decided to entrust the land to one of my older brother. I suggested that we both everything into a contract. And I suddenly became the contravida in the family kasi “wala daw tiwala sa kapatid”. So I relented. Five years later all siblings are complaining that the administrator brother is not paying the agreed rent and wanted me to talk to him. Eh di tinarayan ko lang sila ng “Sabi na nga bang magpirmahanng kontrata noon eh”.

  16. Side-topic: This is a cut-and-paste from the Washington Post. Subject – RICE.

    The price of rice in global markets has nearly doubled in the last three months, reports the Keith Bradsher, The New York Times. Fearing shortages, some major rice producers — including Vietnam, India, Egypt and Cambodia — have sharply limited their rice exports so they can be sure they can feed their own people.

    Bradsher summarizes the evidence that food shortages and inflation are fueling political unrest: “Since January, thousands of troops have been deployed in Pakistan to guard trucks carrying wheat and flour. Protests have erupted in Indonesia over soybean shortages, and China has put price controls on cooking oil, grain, meat, milk and eggs. Food riots have erupted in recent months in Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

    World Bank President Robert Zoellick rang the alarm bell in a speech yesterday. He noted that since 2005, the prices of staples have risen 80 percent. The real price of rice rose to a 19-year high last month, he said, while the real price of wheat hit a 28-year high.

  17. lawyers are the champions of the oppressed


    lawyers are also counsel for the oppressors

  18. @rego

    yes, that is indeed an anomaly. there are very few human rights or environmental lawyers for example.

    it is in our interest to get the best lawyer we can for what we are willing to pay. but then maybe blame it on the supreme court, this year they LOWERED the passing rate.

  19. @rego

    yes, that is indeed an anomaly.

    there are very few human rights or environmental lawyers for example.

    it is in our interest to get the best lawyer we can for what we are willing to pay. a ‘middle priced’ lawyer seems to be non-existent 😀 but expensive does not necessarily mean good.

    but then maybe blame it on the supreme court, this year they LOWERED the passing rate.

    my personal advice is to have at least one lawyer in the family. you know he will eventually end up in hell but hey, he/she can live like a god on earth while he is alive.

  20. @benign-zero

    “In general, would you trust an agreement between two Pinoys that is sealed by nothing more than a handshake?”

    The fact that you have to ask makes me feel sorry for you. You must be surrounded by totally untrustworthy Pinoys. I suggest you expand or change your circle of friends.

  21. The fact that you have to ask makes me feel sorry for you. You must be surrounded by totally untrustworthy Pinoys. I suggest you expand or change your circle of friends. – nash</blockquote.

    Maybe so.

    But then the original question itself still remains unanswered, doesn’t it?

    – 😀

  22. @ nash, a newly arrived Pinoy, my co-worker now, backed out in a car deal after finding a better one and was wondering why a salesman gave him a good tonquelashing when he told me he didn’t sign any paper yet, but I ask him if he did shake hands with the saleman after the talk and he said he did. I told him shaking hands after a transaction is tantamount to accepting the deal, so told him next time if you are not sure, don’t grab that hand…

  23. “Great nations were not built on good intentions. They were built on business sense. Real change in Pinoy society will never be achieved through the “sacrifice” of altruistic “heroes”. True change will be driven by people who find no shame in expecting a buck for their trouble.” – benign0

    what a good way to answer people why i quit law school and pursued masteral in economics

  24. @machiavellian etc.

    my thoughts on how this country should be run

    Lobbying are for bills,you don’t lobby impeachment IMO.

    lobbying is an attempt to influence legislators and officials for purposes ranging from funding, legislation, or other actions

  25. @benign-zero
    I speak for myself and my answer is yes. I generally accept a handshake. whether they be pinoys or not.

    when doing a handshake, remember there are two of you. of course if the agreement involves the livelihood of other people, it is sensible to draw a contract.

    but then again, in the bad instances where one fails to honor and agreement, whether you formally sign a paper or not is immaterial. you can just as easily renege on an agreement with or without a contract. (and that makes one a crook).

  26. It is only fair — there is no shame to do it, it is respectful to do it — to compensate others for the value of their effort and contribution.

    It is only fair — there is no shame to do it, self-respect asks for it — to request ompensation for the value of one’s effort and contribution.

  27. @vic

    😀 wala bang “we guarantee the best price, if you can find one lower, we will reimburse the difference”…..

    baka nabighani ng konti yung kaibigan mo sa sales talk ng car salesmen (c’mon we know how sleazy car salesmen are)…instead na “i’ll think about it and give you a call” while shaking his hand napasabi na “yes, I will buy this car”…(but not necessarily from you…)


  28. Mindanaoan your statement above (at 3:55am) about the system not having any goals is more or less in accord with my description of a System’s Operation in Manolo’s ‘Perfect Trap’ thread (at March 27th, 2008 at 1:02 pm) which i’m reproducing below::

    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.

    Where we disagree is the degree and manner to which we, who are on the outside but nevertheless have to live with such a system, should intervene.

  29. The need for lawyers in modern society:

    “Technology is built on mathematics, science, and engineering.” – Intel

    Then lawyers come in to protect patent and trademark.

    These can’t be done with a handshake, even in Japan.

  30. what a good way to answer people why i quit law school and pursued masteral in economics – Liam Tinio

    Specially when one considers that it was ultimately from economics that the Law evolved. 😉

    but then again, in the bad instances where one fails to honor and agreement, whether you formally sign a paper or not is immaterial. you can just as easily renege on an agreement with or without a contract. (and that makes one a crook). – nash

    Reneging on one’s word is just as crooked as reneging on a contract, I believe. Trouble is, the legal system works on documentation and hard evidence. Therefore breach of unwritten agreements is next to impossible to prosecute. And whereve there is a lusot, Pinoys will always be the first to lusot.

    It’s kind of like the difference between spirituality and religion.

    The merely religious rely on hard-coded dogma to govern their practice whereas the truly spiritual have internalised the whole point of the practice.

    These can’t be done with a handshake, even in Japan. – Maginoo

    Nobody here is saying that there aren’t any lawyers in Japan or that documented agreements are not used there at all, dude.

  31. Nobody here is saying that there aren’t any lawyers in Japan or that documented agreements are not used there at all, dude. – Benign0

    Of course I know that. I exaggerated the stretch, fella.

  32. Interesting topic on why there are very few lawyers in the “chopsticks” economies.

    From being some of the oldest existing command feudal societies – Japan and China, there was no need for lawyers and accountants. Till today accounting standards in Japan are way behind the West. Japan is a semi -command economy that gave rise to a one party system.

    I have a close and dear friend who landed with Gen. MacArthur when he went to Japan to accept the Japanese surrender. He was at the signing ceremony.

    He remarked that when they drove into the city , the road was lined up with soldiers who faced away from the road. He made a lot of contacts and because he was with the general, he parlayed his contacts into a big business with the Japanese later. However he married a Pinay.

    In corporate Japan questions of accounting and legalities were handled by the Yakuza.

    They have very strict rules for their division of labor. Contractors and subcontractors were bound to their mother corporations. Employees then were there for life. Off course the crisis of overproduction has hit them and their style of command society in the workplace in exchange for lifetime employment is now being dismantled as they try to move to systems more akin to the West.

    The social contract in Japan which is being followed by the PRC is simple, economic well being but no political rights.

    From the strict feudal system they have been able to industrialize and modernize their economy all the while and still keep their cultural integrity intact.

    The culture of “questioning city hall” is foreign to the Japanese. So how are lawyers to survive in such a system?

    The so called Confucian values of all the chopsticks economies stand out.

    A hybrid culture like the still evolving Indio culture with the remnants of the colonials at the top now being taken over by the Chinese with the rest of the small middle thrown to the winds so to speak, you get a cacophony of rationales with the lowly Indio still lost trying to live of the land.

    Here lawyers park their desks on the sidewalk to sign notaries and I would say the majority of them would steal their mothers gold teeth while they are alive.

    The American common law system gives wide discretion to judges to interpret laws as the value of their standard of living requires.

    That makes the Philippines also a very litigious society as bad lawyers are the ones who could keep cases in court for ten years while good ones could keep issues in court for more than 20 – 30 years.

    Having experienced both trial systems in civil courts here, NY State and the U.K., the Philippine court system is in the best tradition of old Tammany Hall system in New York City under the Irish during the 19th and 20th centuries.

  33. Rego said:
    But nash what happened to the law of supply and demand?

    If there are surplus of lawyers, shouldn’t that make the lawyer fees or legal costs lower?

    Haven’t you noticed the surplus of notary publics who charge low rates? Or the relative ease with which you can file a BP22 or unlawful detainer case?

    But once you get into the “real” cases the cost goes so much higher. There is a lot of lawyers, which is why notaryo is cheap. But if you get charged with murder and you had the money, there are about only at most 50 lawyers with whom you would trust your case. A few in ACCRA, a couple in Sycip, maybe 2-3 from Bautista, etc. Just choose the top 15 law firms and there are about 2-3 criminal law litigators in each that I would trust with my life.

  34. And to the Inquirer – STOP this glorification of the BAR exam by devoting editorials and news articles about it!

    well ventilated, nash. like as if it’s news worthy. maybe we ought to barrage the newspapers with protest letters for this misdirected deification. thing is, the newspapers only give the angle of how difficult the exam was; not one was nosing around to find out that despite all the reviews conducted in preparation for the exams one wonders whether it’s a failure of the instrument or the failure of comprehension on the part of the test-taker. and that cuts across not just in law exam but also in nsat, neat, csat, etc.

  35. Apologies, but for anyone who’s interested. Some exaggeration, but the key points ring true.

    From the SCMP.
    Arroyo’s achievements don’t address fundamental issues

    By Jake van der Kamp

    “President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo spent the past three days in Hong Kong, touting her government’s economic achievements at an investment summit. But back in Manila some economists are voicing suspicion about the country’s record 7.3 per cent growth rate last year.”

    I ask you to imagine the scenario of a senior economics professor at Hong Kong University getting in front of the microphones on a public podium to brand his ultimate paymaster, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, a “liar” because he differs with him on matters of statistical interpretation.

    Requires a lot of strain on the imagination, doesn’t it?

    Yes, this sort of thing could only happen in the Philippines, a wonderful but goofy sort of place that drifted across the Pacific Ocean from Latin America 500 years ago and still lies closer to Mexico than Malaysia.

    The fundamental predicament of the Philippines, however, has nothing to do with whether someone may or may not have cooked the books on the country’s growth rate of gross domestic product last year.

    It has to do with the Latin American style ownership of land and resources. A few families with names like Aquino and Arroyo own it all and the rest pay rent and work for wages. There is an enormous polarity of both income and ownership.

    This might not be so pernicious if the people who have the money also invested it in their own economy. But they mostly don’t. They’re wealthy enough not to bother with the risk and work and headache of adding to their wealth this way. If it’s not an easy win they generally scorn it.

    The have nots, meanwhile, have no money to invest and, in any case, nothing to invest it in as the haves own everything and are not parting with any of it. The result is the lowest capital formation ratios in all of Asia. Statistically, this economy doesn’t look like an Asian one at all. It looks like a Latin American one.

    Mix all this in with the fact that the president first took her job as a usurper who claimed authority on the basis that her predecessor, an outsider to the big families, had resigned office when he set foot outside the Malacanang Palace and you might appreciate why she is not always the favourite of the entire population.

    But I have to be fair about this. Among the more immediate
    problems of the Philippines for many years was the fact that the government did a poor job of collecting revenues. Too many people had too many exemptions and taxes were too easy to evade.

    The result was chronic fiscal deficits that were occasionally trimmed back in times of economic boom but mostly were a drain on resources and contributed to inflation and currency weakness.

    Gloria has gone a long way to fixing this problem. The big
    achievement of her presidency has been to reform taxation and tighten collections. It has worked. As the first chart shows, the fiscal balance is back in balance after being in deficit by more than 6 per cent of GDP.

    Among the many benefits of this has been a stronger currency and an inflation rate that is now lower than the average of the rest of Asia instead of being considerably higher.

    And this being one of those macho economies where the women actually do all the work, the other big lift for the Philippine economy has come from all the maids sent abroad. Remittances from overseas contract workers have risen to the equivalent of more than 10 per cent of GDP. It’s a huge boost.

    So if Gloria wanted to come to Hong Kong to crow a little in front of a big investment conference about how things look much better in the Philippines these days, well, she has a point and any number of people calling her a liar and cheat ought to recognise it.

    But it doesn’t fix that fundamental defect of the Philippine economy that the wealth is concentrated in a very few hands and those hands will neither do much with the wealth nor let any of it go. Gloria is still more of the problem than the solution to this.

  36. rego, bencard, thanks.

    cvj, what i said was, the system doesn’t need to know its goals, because it is our (the designer’s) goals. your concept of goals is something you theorize for the system. obviously, in the context of law-making, my idea of goals is what is relevant.

  37. I agree with many of van der Kemp’s points as these are the ones that i have been raising time and again. I differ with him though when he writes that the Philippine economy “looks like a Latin American one” because at this point, i think our economy now has more similarities with those in Africa in terms of resource extraction as a strategy for growth, dependence on inward flows (via remittances) and geopolitical relationship with China.

  38. here’s a good quote

    If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.

  39. Mindanaoan (at 12:49 pm), i agree with your description but disagree with the use of the word ‘need’ because we have to distinguish between a System’s Operations and its capacity for self-observation.

    What you just described above (at 3:55am) is the legal system behaving just like any other bureaucracy where its operations are carried out for its own sake, in this case, to uphold the ‘law’ whether or not such upholding of the law is beneficial to the environment in which it operates. While there’s room for such behavior, we should not stop at this point.

    This is because lawyers and judges (and other agents of the system), in their capacity as thinking human beings, are also capable of reflection to determine whether what they are carrying out are in keeping with the values of ‘Justice’ or ‘Order’ and the like. The results of this reflection can then be fed back to adjust the operations of the system. This is one of the ways by which a system learns.

  40. LT,
    maybe lobbying is the problem, why do we need influence peddlers?

    many laws are signed that cannot be implemented at all.
    like that irigation law,for some reason, it was signed into law;but unfortunately legislation has nothing to do with implementation.

    citing Cielito habito on his inquirer article about rice:

    Irrigation coverage, the single most important determinant of our rice productivity, had reportedly even declined (to less than a third of our total irrigable area), due to deterioration and non-maintenance of existing facilities through the years. And this happened notwithstanding a law passed in the 1990s (albeit unenforceable from the start) that would have us attain 100-percent irrigation coverage in 10 years—proof that a country cannot simply legislate its way out of a problem.

    Why do we need influence peddlers or lobbyists for anything including legislation and the others you mentioned.


    instead of questioning your views till I run out breath, or words; why not look at the bright side of the things you said.

    Why do we need to many auditors?sa corporate world me internal audit me external audit tapos madami pang kasunod ito.

    sa afp ang dami ding auditors,of course for obvious reasons.

    to many layers even in auditing,always defeats the purpose.

    walang kinaiba ang layers of auditing to any bureaucratic red tape, it leads more to nothing.

    with in the decade dahil sa ENRON nauso ang corporate governance,public governance etc.

    dito ewan ko, siguro dapat nga magresort tayo sa codes, even mythical ones like the code of KALANTIAW.
    Kaya siguro sinabing mythical dahil unwritten dati,tapos ginawang libro.

  41. On Singapore’s justice rushed is justice denied.
    setting aside that singapore is just quite bigger than metro manila; Singapore is wired,kungbaga they have a backbone.

    tayo kailangan din natin mawired,yes we need this broadband deal,but as one commenter rebutted once, we need it but it has to be overboard.

    now as to the road to perdition is paved with good intentions, but most often it is with cruel intentions.

    Since we are talking about roads let me share with you G.R. 167919

    it is an unfinished crusade by my dad and his classmates in the pma questioning the procurement law,etc. zeroing one one company out of many. nadismiss ito ,sayang it could be a basis for avoiding anomalous foreign funded projects.

    here is the link:


  42. @KG

    legislators also hold the power to decide for the budget of the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) through budget review conducted by Congress..

    the cause of the deterioration of our irrigation facilities for rice is not neglect, but a positive effort in the side of the government, particularly Alex Magno of DBP in discarding, or at least toning down, irrigation for purposes of rice cultivation as it is in their (Magno, etal) opinion that “putting precious water resources” for use in water-intensive low-yielding crops like rice would very much endanger the laws of efficiency.

    being in DBP, allows you a huge clout in determining where funds for development can be used.. and he can use this clout to influence legislative proceedings on the budget of NIA..

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