A tale of two hearings

Updates on the intervention we filed: but first, a disclaimer, for the record. Neither the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper editors nor the management of ANC were aware of my intervention prior to its taking place. Nor was their leave, to my mind, called for because as an opinion writer, there is no hindrance to my pursuing advocacies as a citizen. But just so people know, my intervention was not sanctioned before or after by either media outfit.

For our part, see Life with Ria (and in her other blog, Alleba Politics), The Marocharim Experiment, and [email protected].

Supportive voices: from Jarius Bondoc, and in the blogs Et Cetera Et Cetera and A Filipina Mom Blogger and in BluePanjeet.Net, and Journal of the Jester-in-Exile.

A more equivocal exploration of our action by Abe Margallo in Filipino Voices.

Here are press reports: from the Inquirer (and follow-up reports), the Philippine Star, the Sun-Star, the Business Mirror, also BusinessWorld, GMA TV, Pacific News Center, and the highly incongruous report of the Standard Today. See the news story in Filipino Voices and also Technograph for the technological aspects of the whole thing.

And you may want to survey opinions in the blogosphere and the discussions taking place in the comment sections of various blogs. Two lawyers, one an intervenor, and the other, not, weigh in: see Edwin Lacierda’s blog and that of The Warrior Lawyer. You may be interested in the thoughts, from a general perspective, of a congressman, on impeachment: see Congressman Ruffy Biazon’s blog.

Let me move on to a tale of two hearings.

At the Bolante hearing, I fell asleep twice and it was one of the biggest time-wasters I’ve ever experienced (see A Simple Life). You’d think that having had two years to look into the case, and after the excellent initial spade work done by Senators Ramon Magsaysay Jr. and Sergio Osmena III (how I wish both were still in the Senate, hency my growing belief that term limits are necessary in executive positions but counter-productive in terms of the legislature), they could have tightened the noose around Bolante and begun to pick his story apart. Knowing full well it was going to be a tough nut to crack because he’s had ample time to be coached by a Palace team.

The hearing got off to a good start with Roxas laying down the five reasons the Fertilizer GMA Program was scam. But instead of tag-teaming to interrogate Bolante systematically on each of these five reasons, the senators flitted about, hammed it up, and Bolante stuck to his script and kept in character (the humble little old guy utterly misunderstood by everybody and who only wanted to be a dutiful little Rotarian). At the time I plurked my frustrations and suggested our Senate should look at how the Americans do it, where they hire counsel and let the counsel be the bad cop while they play the good cop. I’m all for political theater because it has its place in politics, but really, bad political theater is a waste of time, energy, and tax money.

What got me even hotter under the collar was the slipshod thinking and questioning of the senators, and their compensating for it by being extremely rude and obnoxious. I say this as someone with a tendency to be hotheaded, but again, in the political arena the guy who loses his cool loses, and the bully never scores points. Both Osmena and Magsaysay used to be very courteous to witnesses, which didn’t mean they refrained from asking tough questions or reaching tough conclusions. But they recognized they were public servants and that nothing is lost by being courteous and everything’s to be gained from holding off righteous indignation until actually warranted.

Still, the nine-hour ordeal did show that Bolante, for all his meekness, was dissembling, had been coached, was selective in what he remembered, at times patently contradictory in his statements, but no smoking gun, not least because other witnesses have yet to impeach his testimony and of course the Department of Agriculture is shocked, shocked, all relevant documents have disappeared. It’s also clear that the list of suspects and accomplices is so vast, politicians are having second thoughts about approaching the issue too zealously.

Today, the Senate held a hearing to inquire into the pickle former national police comptroller de la Paz got himself into in Moscow. It was undertaken in a much calmer and more efficient manner, and one can speculate on the reasons: no one wants to gang up on the cops, there’s less to be gained, what have you. But the contrast was glaring and the former could have been more effective if handled like the latter.

Senator Roxas came close to pinning down de la Paz on a requirement of law that demands presidential approval for expenses along the lines of the now-controversial PNP trip to Moscow. Since the law requires these activities to be approved, personally, by the President of the Philippines, did she (Roxas asked de la Paz) comply with the law and approve your trip (which, prior testimony had revealed, had all sorts of legal and procedural infirmities), or did you do it behind her back and therefore break the law? Paz froze and you could see him processing the dilemma: and Roxas warned him of the implications of whatever answer he gave. Either you incriminate the President, or take the bullet for her, basically. He took the bullet for the President.

Roxas then grilled a fellow, Aureola, who claims he asked de la Paz to pick up an expensive watch for him in Vienna, and tripped de la Paz up on the question of whether, under our customs regulations, Paz was bringing home the watch under the fraudulent assertion of “personal effects,” to avoid customs fees. Basically, Roxas called into question the entire “pabili,” “pabilin,” and “pasalubong” culture that all Filipinos, high and low, subscribe to.

Now this is something that made me wonder if, first of all, it made for good politics, since the public would look askance less at the fellow and de la Paz, and more at Roxas for hypocrisy. Second of all, this brings up an interesting point, to my mind: if a society’s practices are so deeply ingrained and not, necessarily, intrinsically evil, then shouldn’t the law be amended to permit what is normally practiced anyway, rather than confront the citizenry with regulations that are essentially unreasonable because they challenge deeply-held, and again, not intrinsically evil, practices of the citizenry? The balikbayan box privilege, for example, leads to general economic benefits all around, I’d argue; the practice of asking friends and family to buy stuff abroad and bring it home, whether for personal use or to use the items for the underground economy, aren’t matters that are less essential to attend to, perhaps, than wholesale smuggling?

the only thing worse than the proceedings in the Senate on Thursday are House proceedings, and the only things worse than House proceedings are goings-on in the Department of Justice, and the only thing worse than those are goings-on in the Ombudsman’s office.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

38 thoughts on “A tale of two hearings

  1. Indeed, those hearings, notably the Bolante episode last Thursday, were all a circus, and a total waste of time, money and energy.

    I have come to realize that most of our current Senators are either too young – or simply immature in handling investigations such as this – oddly enough some of them are supposedly really good lawyers. I agree, how I wished we still have Senators the likes of Sergs Osmena, Magsaysay…

  2. $56,000 QUESTION:Was this Roger Dubuis Bi-Retro Chrono Perpetual Calendar watch going to be the retirement watch gift to the Euro General (retired in October 2008)?

  3. on hearing: i think it has something to do with real knowledge and understanding on what is morally right and what is wrong. their real life experience and work experience no longer fit to the current needs of our country. their actions are very slow and it is very uncivilized. it’s a turn off.

    “Department of Justice, and the only thing worse than those are goings-on in the Ombudsman’s office.”

    The Office of the Ombudsman was established in 1986 as the main anti-corruption body. It has the mandate to prosecute and investigate corruption cases. Criticism of the Office of the Ombudsman has focused mainly on the overemphasis on going after petty corruption, instead of taking on the bigger ‘fish’.

    there are many instances where judges interfere in policy-making instead of simply interpreting the law. Furthermore, the judiciary is perceived as burdened by very cumbersome procedures, and it is also perceived to be corrupt. Many judges are believed to accept bribes by influential elites. This is confirmed by lawyers in a SWS survey. About half the lawyers had personal knowledge of judges taking bribes”

    The burden of corruption falls hardest to our very poor. Misuse of public funds does the greatest harm to the money available for safe water, schools and healthcare. The risks to lives are real. Yet so far, government action to stop corruption has been lacking and ineffective.

  4. when you come to think about it, the Senate should conduct an Investigation why with all the Laws on the Books already, dealing with the Crimes and Punishments of the Twins currently before them, why they are still happening and the Subjects in most cases if not all, are the very people who were: the ones responsible making the law…the ones supposed to be implementing the law…the ones supposed to be the guardians of the law and worst of all the ones sworn in to Uphold the law.

    Then the Senate will be conducting an Inquest that will include some or most of its members, the members of the House, the Executive, the Judiciary and that will be an all-encompassing hearing. This will be no longer an Aid, but Soul Searching.

  5. We are witnessing an almost complete breakdown of governance in the country when simple procedures on government disbursements can be so easily abused without any sort of accountability.

    Even a sari sari store owner would have better systems for such large amounts of cash disbursements.

    This culture of corruption is no longer considered corruption but a way of life. Government oversight is simply a slight distraction when it comes to the public purse.

    There are no longer effective checks existing and the balance required is non existent since there are no rules being enforced.

    It is everyman for himself. The greater the theft the better as the higher the quality of lawyers one can hire and the funds are there for judges and prosecutors.

    Lady justice is dead in the Philippines. We have all participated in dismantling stone by stone the mechanisms for a civilized society.

  6. gloria trickle-down effect: wrongful acts in government done with impunity

    the phenomenon is so pervasive that it became a way of life…a culture.

    already, when a public servant is caught, he or she expects to be treated just like a boy with the hand in the cookie jar. when the cookie is returned and the “I am sorry” recited, simply a slap on the wrist will suffice.

  7. “Lady justice is dead in the Philippines. We have all participated in dismantling stone by stone the mechanisms for a civilized society.”-hvrds

    “already, when a public servant is caught, he or she expects to be treated just like a boy with the hand in the cookie jar. when the cookie is returned and the “I am sorry” recited, simply a slap on the wrist will suffice.”-baycas

    agree with you guys. that’s exactly the reason why I am anti-gma, and why I am so puzzled by the likes of Geo’s stand rabidly defending the rule of this administration who is the main culprit in such deterioration of the justice system in our country.

  8. The World’s Biggest Liar Competition:

    “What if I swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth but I LIE ? ”

    Philippine Entries:Jok2BOLAnte,Euro Generals

  9. But there is a very visible difference between pakilabit of a $1,200-laptop or a $200-dollars worth of books and pakilabit of a $35,000 watch.

  10. And whether you are a supporter or a critique of GMA administration, she can not escape responsibilities on all the “stains” and shame of this era, she is presiding the proceedings.

  11. did our honorable senators sincerely believe Joc Joc will say what they want to hear?

    did they sincerely believe that Joc Joc will do a Chavit?

    did they forget that Chavit came out on his own, while they had to drag Joc Joc to testify?

    they already knew that Joc Joc will not tell them what they want to hear, so what’s the whole purpose of the hearings?

    i hope everybody realizes that the end result of this new but more expensive circus is just one f*c*k**g committee report!

  12. Segunda mano siguro yung Roger Dubuis Bi-Retro na pabili dahil $56k lang.

    There must be a lot of ‘trust’ between these two friends because even I would not trust my own mother to buy something expensive segunda mano for me.

    And de la Paz says the general can buy either that or an IWC. So he must really really really trust the judgement of the general who presumably knows a thing or two about expensive watches.

    Bleh, hindi kapanipaniwalang istorya.

  13. one of the purposes of the hearings —- TV time for the presidential wannabees. Truth is secondary; TV time primary… and the least of the least — actually accomplishing something.

  14. what we need to do collectively is not to support businesses who bribes and donate money to any political leaders in our country. Corruption between private-public sector is systemic, forming an integrated part of the way government works and to influence policy-making or in order for the company to keep operating within the law.

    The concentration of wealth within a small group of elite families, seen in combination with political donations, gives these families an undue advantage, and this leads to concerns as to their undue influence on both Philippine politics and business life.

    Businesses in our country should not support any politicians and we the People should not support by boycotting or buying their products and services. Business owners must invest with their people instead of investing with political leaders.

  15. but leytenian: but if businesses do not support the anti-GMA political leaders and NGO’s, can they expect funds from from the Catholic Church? from Syria?

    from OFW’s from Singapore?

  16. UP N,

    There should be a clear policy and ethical mandate from the private sectors. It should be disclose when filing annual return and to the public, regardless of amount. Donations on income statement should be disclosed. It doesn’t matter if the amount is changed but the name of the party receiving such donations are disclose. The same thing with any political candidate , anti or pro, all donations should be disclosed.

  17. Finally, the after-post ad is spot-on! Unlike the Bollywood-inspired one in the immediately-preceding thread, this one on Atlantica MMORPG with the tagline “Still not convinced? Then we’ll buy your character!” could never be more timely and relevant. Just perfect.

  18. Saw that Youtube video on Howard Hughes:
    I wonder who could do that here in the Philippines.
    Who could dare question the senators.

    I wonder if Howard Hughes could do that to Mirriam.

  19. 9:18 ko mali na naman ang punctuation marks.

    I saw a comment by mlq3 that they treat people like shit in senate investigations.

    I agree,akala mo diyos sila kung magtanong,mag salita ka lang pag di ka tinatanong, yari ka.

    I f you have seen the exchange between Ronnie Puno and Mirriam,you would know what I mean.

    personal ang pakay ni Mirriam,naka kuha lang sya ng magnadang dahilan para tirahin si Puno,hanggang ngayon di pa din nya matanggap ang pagkatalo nya kay ramos,dagdag mo pa yung di kasundo ng mister nya bilang usec si sec Puno.

  20. There should be a clear policy and ethical mandate from the private sectors. It should be disclose when filing annual return and to the public, regardless of amount.

    Yes, there should be.

    since the coa, doj,the ombudsman’s office were mentioned,
    why not include the SEC.

    The SEC can see this stuff.sila bumubisis ng mga annual report di ba?
    if not just the SEC, the other regulators.

    If it is just a question policies;madami na tayo nyan.
    for all we know, every policy you wished for is already there.

  21. i know KG, pero walang follow up sa Senado. everything is in place pero lahat ata sila binabayaran. may mga utang na loob sila pero tayo ang nagbabayad

  22. shame on bolante!



    my comment (awaiting moderation) in the promdiliving blog is the following:

    Swell…it’s a good thing an Augustinian reflects on one of the Augustinian Achievers (also one of the many One-of-a-Kind Alumni, http://www.usa.edu.ph/communitas/2003.07.2003.09/Communitas.pdf ).

    In July 2006, I once commented here http://www.pcij.org/blog/?p=1051 that your alma mater is silent on the issue of bolante’s involvement. I hope your reflection will reach the school officials concerned so they may also reflect on the issue. Perhaps they may be instrumental in rectifying the lies being perpetrated.

    This could probably be a challenge to you and other alumni of Iloilo’s University of San Agustin to rally on your motto and let bolante apply the virtue he has been taught the Augustinian way.

    Thanks and more power!

    – baycas

  23. Oh boy, I really love this Senate circus. Seeing all those clowns trying their darndest best to implicate the President. And then looking and feeling like fools because they cannot find even a shred of evidence. Maybe they should paint their noses red to make it look like the part. 🙂

    bloggista, I agree with you. The current Senate is NOTHING compared to the previous ones, those manned by illustrious statesmen like Salonga, Tanada, Sumulong, Recto, Manglapus, etc.

    All this do-nothing Senate does is hold circuses all day long for clowns like Lozada. I see, birds of the same feather…

    I can’t wait to see this circus come to town.. I mean, see it on live TV. I can’t get enough of this indispensable piece of Pinoy entertainment.

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  25. I thought we hit the rock bottom already, but i guess our government decided to dig even deeper. But don’t lose hope and keep fighting for our children.

  26. Unbelievable!!! Now, the Director for police community relations is praising Dela Paz as a “true officer and a gentleman”. Just because Dela Paz admitted sole responsibility for this scandal (read: crime) does not mean that he has adhered to the ideals of a good military officer and an honest public servant. He still committed a dishonest act, a lawless act, which is conduct unbecoming of an “officer and a gentleman”. He should be court martialed instead of being elevated to a pedestal. No wonder corruption is endemic because crooks in government are being praised instead of being punished.

    If this isn’t so serious, I would have laught at what Bataoil has said. If I know, he has probably heaved a big sigh of relief that Dela Paz did not implicate other members of his “esteemed institution”.

    Please excuse me while I go to the toilet and cry!


  27. So much for the circus in the senate.
    We now have JPE as our senate president.
    Matanda na daw sya pagbigyan na daw natin sya sa mga shortcomings nya.

    People forget anyways,nalimutan na nga natin ang role nya sa martial law eh.

    what about the port irene smuggling issue,wala na.under the rug na.

  28. “but leytenian: but if businesses do not support the anti-GMA political leaders and NGO’s, can they expect funds from from the Catholic Church? from Syria?

    from OFW’s from Singapore?”-UP n

    UP n,

    My answers:

    -OFW from Singapore…yes they can, always, but not very substantial.

    -Catholic Church…no funds there, they’d rather receive than give, but they have the warm bodies and that’s enough to tip the balance. Of course they will wait for the high tide before they move.

    Syria? ah, uhm…………………………..no comment.

    Business? They will always support those who are spreading the butter for them, whether anti or pro, the side with the more butter prevails with them.

  29. EQ VIEW:I’m no Villar fan BUT why replace him with ENRILE???
    It shows that all the presidentiables are willing to make FAUSTIAN bargains to advance their own ambition

  30. oh my GOD!! what the hell is going on with our country!!! enrile as senate president!!! oh really??? GOD help us all!!!

  31. I can sense your frustrations, Manolo.

    There is a lot of dead-ends in the Philippine settings. Plus the fact that the majority are willing to embrace Arroyo regardless of corruptions because of “no evidence” by Geo, and lawyers can do magic per Scalia which is true considering Philippines is a small country with largest lawyer graduates.

    Sometimes you have to ask what lawyering profession have done good to Philippines for the past 50 years with so much political chaos.

  32. The senate presidency is back to another lawyer from prestigious Harvard law school who helped design martial law and survived it after it became unpopular. A tax expert who made smuggling legal in his region by token payment of duties.

    Again, another lawyer at age 84 that have done a lot of ills to the country though his resume is as sterling as the Marcos heroics claims.

  33. istambay_sakalye :

    “oh my GOD!! what the hell is going on with our country!!! enrile as senate president!!! oh really??? GOD help us all!!!”

    courtesy of your idols – the bright people of the ‘united’ opposition

  34. Nagkalat lang si Sen. Jinggoy Estrada noong inimbestigahan si Jocjoc Bolante. Bakit ‘ka mo? Eh biruin mo naman kung magtanong parang sanggano at parang nakikipag-usap lang sa kapwa niya siga. Para siyang hindi senador, para siyang lasing kung makipag-usap. Wala naming kwenta iyung mga tinanong niya. Isang nakakatawang tanong niya eh noong tinanong niya ang isa sa mga taong nasa likod ni Bolante. Sumagot iyung lalaki na “I’m Attorney……” Biruin mo, bigla ba naming nagfollow-up question si Sen. Jinggoy na “Are you a lawyer?” Attorney nga eh siyempre lawyer ‘yun! Nakakataas talaga itong si Sen. Jinggoy oo. Kawawa naman ‘yung mga bumoto sa kanya.
    Ipinakikita lamang ni Sen. Jinggoy na wala siyang malay sa kanyang trabaho. Bilang senador, dapat magpakita siya ng katalinuhan at kagandahang asal dahil sa maraming mga kabataan ang tumitingala sa kanya bilang isang halal na opisyal ng bansa. Tsk tsk tsk!
    Mabuti pa iyung tatay niya na si former President Erap Estrada. Kahit medyo mahina ang ulo sa larangan ng lehistratura eh nagpakita naman ito ng modo noong senador siya (kasi hindi naman sumasali si Erap sa mga usapan, tahimik lang ito lagi ‘di natin malaman kung naiintindihan niya ang mga tinatalakay).

    Karla Lean de Guzman
    [email protected]

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