Friday, October 31, 2008

What I'm Listening To Right Now: 99.5's Program With No Name

FM Royalties King DJ Logan and Tina Ryan are back on the airwaves. I'm a big fan of the two. Tina Ryan blazed the trail for the current generation of female DJs. King DJ Logan likewise pioneered the shock jock format in the Philippines with the Boogie Nights program together with Slick Rick.
The two have a program together over at 99.5 RT, Mondays to Fridays, from 6-9 in the evening.
It's worth listening to especially if you want a few laughs. Over the past few days, King DJ Logan's favorite topic has been the coño-speak of people down south (Southrn Manila, that is). Funny as hell.
And since we're already on the topic of coño-speak, I found this post about the 10 Coñomandments. If you want to be coño, maybe this will give you a few pointers.

Of Dwarves and Ghouls

I used to remember when I was a kid, our family would huddle in front of the TV at this time of the year. The reason? Magandang Gabi Bayan's halloween feature.

MGB's halloween episodes were scary, especially for a kid. One week after the watching it, I would still be haunted by white ladies, black ladies, lost souls, kapre, tikbalang and floating coffins.

Fast forward to present day - MGB is no more, and the kid that used to be scared of halloween specials has become jaded through the years. Yes, I occasionally get afraid of the dark, but otherwordly creatures do not scare me as much anymore. I'm actually more scared now of real life dwarves and ghouls running our country. ¡Que horror!

I can't find a vintage MGB halloween special, maybe this will do. I miss the old ones, with Noli's baritone voice, spooky sound effects, cheesy visual effects and all.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Birthday Shoutout!

Happy birthday ate Novs! May you have many more to come!


Despite my misgivings about Rep. Edcel Lagman, I have to commend him for spearheading the Reproductive Health Bill despite strong opposition from various groups.

What is the reproductive health bill? It is important to know what it is and what it is not. It is not a mandate to limit the number of children a married couple can have (e.g. China's one-child policy). Neither is it a bill which allows abortion. It is a bill which gives a choice as to the means of family planning.

The dissent against the bill comes mainly from pro-life and Catholic groups. They argue that based on Catholic teachings, artificial methods of family planning are against the natural law.

But in passing a law, the lawmaker does not merely look at the interest of a particular group alone. More so if the bill will benefit the majority, especially those in the lower strata of our society.

And even if we go by the church's teaching, Humanae Vitae tells us that marital sexual activity possesses both unitive and procreative purposes. This implies that a married couple does not have sex solely to procreate. Sex can also be an activity which can bond the husband and wife - a sort of a high point (dare I say climax?) for the couple. In other words, sexual intimacy is a way for husband and wife to express their love for one another. To argue that sex and procreation are inseparable would lead to an absurd situation wherein a sterile couple should not have sex since no offspring will result anyway.

It is also sort of hypocritical to favor natural methods over artificial methods since their purpose is the same, which is to defer child-bearing. So the issue for spouses is not what method to choose in family planning, but what the motivation behind the family planning is. Here is an example:

Suppose there are two married couples. With couple #1, the wife is as regular as clockwork. The husband and wife can thus time their sexual act in order to avoid pregnancy. But the reason for the use of natural methods is because they do not want to have children at all, since kids would impede their careers and their social lives. With couple #2, the wife has highly irregular cycles. The spouses are not closed to the idea of having another kid, but they want to space out the childbirth, in order to give due care to each child.

Looking at the scenarios above, can couple #2 be faulted for resorting to the artificial method? Should couple #1 be lauded for choosing the natural method?

Note: To avoid confusion (and to avoid being accused of selective quoting), Humane Vitae says that the unitive significance and procreative significance are both "inherent to the marriage act." As to the issue of artificial methods, Humanae Vitae has this to say:

Others ask on the same point whether it is not reasonable in so many cases to use artificial birth control if by so doing the harmony and peace of a family are better served and more suitable conditions are provided for the education of children already born. To this question We must give a clear reply. The Church is the first to praise and commend the application of human intelligence to an activity in which a rational creature such as man is so closely associated with his Creator. But she affirms that this must be done within the limits of the order of reality established by God.

Photo: Martin Pettitt, Flickr., Creative Commons

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Foiled Assassination Attempt Against Obama

US domestic terrorist wannabes Daniel Cowart, 20, and Paul Schlesselman, 18, were arrested yesterday for allegedly planning a murder spree that would begin with an assault on a predominably black elementary school and end in a suicide attack on Barack Obama.

These dimwitted skinheads can't bear the thought of seeing USA's first black president that they're stupid enough to hatch an assassination attempt on Obama? Dumbass bigots...

CBCP's Call for Reform

The conservative Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has finally released a statement calling for radical reforms against government corruption.

The Inquirer reports that CBCP President Angel Lagdameo said the following in a press statement:

In response to the global economic crisis that we are facing today which everybody knows about and in response to the pitiful state of our country, the time to rebuild our country economically, socially, politically, minus corruption is now.

The time to start radical reforms is not later but now. The time for moral regeneration which has been long delayed, the time for moral regeneration is now.

It's about time CBCP says its piece on the matter. This is way long overdue. As a concrete measure, might I suggest that purging be made starting from the top?

<---CBCP's tool for wholesale purge

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No Peace for de la Paz

I feel kind of sorry for PNP comptroller Eliseo de la Paz. More than a month ago he was set to retire and lead a private life. But days before his retirement, this Russia incident exploded in his face, blowing his credibility up with it. Worse, he might be held liable for administrative and criminal charges.

The presumption of innocence is still on his side. However, there are just some things working against his favor.

He was a comptroller - a person who supervises accounting and financial reporting within an organization. In other words, he was a person who handled PNP money. He was held by Russian authorities in Russia because he was caught carrying oodles of money. The oodles of money - P6.9 million to be exact - were apparently not disclosed to both Russian and Philippine customs. As to why de la Paz was carrying so much money - or where he got it from - is not yet clear. The numerous versions of what transpired doesn't help de la Paz's cause, either.

So yes, de la Paz is still presumed innocent until proven guilty. But he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, so to speak. He thus has a lot of explaining to do, and a mere "I am sorry, I had a lapse" will just not cut it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Case Digest: Lozano v. Martinez

G.R. No. L-63419, December 18, 1986
FLORENTINA A. LOZANO, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE ANTONIO M. MARTINEZ, in his capacity as Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, National Capital Judicial Region, Branch XX, Manila, and the HONORABLE JOSE B. FLAMINIANO, in his capacity as City Fiscal of Manila, respondents.

Petitioners, charged with Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 (BP 22 for short), popularly known as the Bouncing Check Law, assail the law's constitutionality.

BP 22 punishes a person "who makes or draws and issues any check on account or for value, knowing at the time of issue that he does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of said check in full upon presentment, which check is subsequently dishonored by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit or would have been dishonored for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid reason, ordered the bank to stop payment." The penalty prescribed for the offense is imprisonment of not less than 30 days nor more than one year or a fine or not less than the amount of the check nor more than double said amount, but in no case to exceed P200,000.00, or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court.

The statute likewise imposes the same penalty on "any person who, having sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank when he makes or draws and issues a check, shall fail to keep sufficient funds or to maintain a credit to cover the full amount of the check if presented within a period of ninety (90) days from the date appearing thereon, for which reason it is dishonored by the drawee bank.

An essential element of the offense is "knowledge" on the part of the maker or drawer of the check of the insufficiency of his funds in or credit with the bank to cover the check upon its presentment. Since this involves a state of mind difficult to establish, the statute itself creates a prima facie presumption of such knowledge where payment of the check "is refused by the drawee because of insufficient funds in or credit with such bank when presented within ninety (90) days from the date of the check. To mitigate the harshness of the law in its application, the statute provides that such presumption shall not arise if within five (5) banking days from receipt of the notice of dishonor, the maker or drawer makes arrangements for payment of the check by the bank or pays the holder the amount of the check.

Another provision of the statute, also in the nature of a rule of evidence, provides that the introduction in evidence of the unpaid and dishonored check with the drawee bank's refusal to pay "stamped or written thereon or attached thereto, giving the reason therefor, "shall constitute prima facie proof of "the making or issuance of said check, and the due presentment to the drawee for payment and the dishonor thereof ... for the reason written, stamped or attached by the drawee on such dishonored check."

The presumptions being merely prima facie, it is open to the accused of course to present proof to the contrary to overcome the said presumptions.

ISSUE: Whether or not (W/N) BP 22 violates the constitutional provision forbidding imprisonment for debt.

The gravamen of the offense punished by BP 22 is the act of making and issuing a worthless check or a check that is dishonored upon its presentation for payment. It is not the non-payment of an obligation which the law punishes. The law is not intended or designed to coerce a debtor to pay his debt. The thrust of the law is to prohibit, under pain of penal sanctions, the making of worthless checks and putting them in circulation. Because of its deleterious effects on the public interest, the practice is proscribed by the law. The law punishes the act not as an offense against property, but an offense against public order.

The effects of the issuance of a worthless check transcends the private interests of the parties directly involved in the transaction and touches the interests of the community at large. The mischief it creates is not only a wrong to the payee or holder, but also an injury to the public. The harmful practice of putting valueless commercial papers in circulation, multiplied a thousand fold, can very wen pollute the channels of trade and commerce, injure the banking system and eventually hurt the welfare of society and the public interest.

The enactment of BP 22 is a declaration by the legislature that, as a matter of public policy, the making and issuance of a worthless check is deemed public nuisance to be abated by the imposition of penal sanctions.

ISSUE: W/N BP 22 impairs the freedom to contract.
HELD: No. The freedom of contract which is constitutionally protected is freedom to enter into "lawful" contracts. Contracts which contravene public policy are not lawful. Besides, we must bear in mind that checks can not be categorized as mere contracts. It is a commercial instrument which, in this modem day and age, has become a convenient substitute for money; it forms part of the banking system and therefore not entirely free from the regulatory power of the state.

ISSUE: W/N it violates the equal protection clause.
HELD: No. Petitioners contend that the payee is just as responsible for the crime as the drawer of the check, since without the indispensable participation of the payee by his acceptance of the check there would be no crime. This argument is tantamount to saying that, to give equal protection, the law should punish both the swindler and the swindled. Moreover, the clause does not preclude classification of individuals, who may be accorded different treatment under the law as long as the classification is no unreasonable or arbitrary.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Take a Break: Drop Like a Rock

Question: A politician, a lawyer and a tax collector jump off the PBCOM Tower. Who lands first?

Answer: Who cares?

Photo: Giorgio, Flickr, Creative Commons

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bravo and Gonzalez's Bravado

If a journalist interviews Raul Gonzalez, can we say that the journalist merely becomes a mouthpiece for government propaganda?

In the same vein, if a news outfit interviews a leader of a rebel group, in pursuit of journalism, does it necessarily mean that it is aiding the said rebel group?

Commander Bravo is now a public figure because of his notoriety. It is thus ABS-CBN's duty as a news outfit to interview Bravo if it has the opportunity to do so. It is not the duty of ABS-CBN, as Gonzalez wants us to believe, to give information as to the whereabouts of the rebel leader. It is the government's job to apprehend Bravo, not ABS-CBN's. Thus, what we have here is a case of harassment, pure and simple.

Ans as observed by Barangay RP:
Is the DOJ chief aware that Commander Bravo is not yet being tried and found guilty by a legitimate court? If so, then he can never call Bravo criminal at this point of time.

But if he would insist, then we might as well call the DOJ chief an anti-press freedom advocate.

Photo: Keith Bacongco, Flickr, Creative Commons

Friday, October 24, 2008

Going Against the Grain

I am for the Reproductive Health bill. Thus, the Ateneo professors' position paper backing the bill. is a welcome development. Natural methods of family planning may not be for everyone. Artificial methods may also be a useful tool for smart parenting.

The Inquirer reports:

The Ateneo professors said limiting Catholics to the natural family planning method “will be a disservice if not a grave injustice to women and couples for whom NFP simply cannot work.”

“We are thinking of women who find it impossible to predict their infertile periods, or couples who see each other on an irregular basis, or women who are trapped in abusive relationships with men who demand sex anytime they want it,” they said.

More on the Reproductive Health Bill next time.

Photo: ajagendorf25, Flickr, Creative Commons

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Case Digest: Beltran v. Samson and Jose

G.R. No. 32025 September 23, 1929
FRANCISCO BELTRAN, petitioner, vs. FELIX SAMSON, Judge of the Second Judicial District, and FRANCISCO JOSE, Provincial Fiscal of Isabela, respondents.

This is a petition for a writ of prohibition, wherein the petitioner complains that the respondent judge ordered him to appear before the provincial fiscal to take dictation in his own handwriting from the latter.

The order was given upon petition of said fiscal for the purpose of comparing the petitioner's handwriting and determining whether or not it is he who wrote certain documents supposed to be falsified.

ISSUE: Whether or not the order violates the petitioner's right against self-incrimination.

HELD: Yes.

The constitutional inhibition is directed not merely in giving of oral testimony, but embraces as well the furnishing of evidence by other means than by word of mouth, the divulging, in short, of any fact which the accused has a right to hold secret.

Writing is something more than moving the body, or the hands, or the fingers; writing is not a purely mechanical act, because it requires the application of intelligence and attention; and in the case at bar writing means that the petitioner herein is to furnish a means to determine whether or not he is the falsifier.

For the purposes of the constitutional privilege, there is a similarity between one who is compelled to produce a document, and one who is compelled to furnish a specimen of his handwriting, for in both cases, the witness is required to furnish evidence against himself. The present case is more serious than that of compelling the production of documents or chattels, because here the witness is compelled to write and create, by means of the act of writing, evidence which does not exist, and which may identify him as the falsifier.

It cannot be contended in the present case that if permission to obtain a specimen of the petitioner's handwriting is not granted, the crime would go unpunished. Considering the circumstance that the petitioner is a municipal treasurer, according to Exhibit A, it should not be a difficult matter for the fiscal to obtained genuine specimens of his handwriting. But even supposing it is impossible to obtain specimen or specimens without resorting to the means complained herein, that is no reason for trampling upon a personal right guaranteed by the constitution. It might be true that in some cases criminals may succeed in evading the hand of justice, but such cases are accidental and do not constitute the raison d' etre of the privilege. This constitutional privilege exists for the protection of innocent persons.

Note: Measuring or photographing the party is not within the privilege. Nor is the removal or replacement of his garments or shoes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why should we give a damn about the US election?

The US presidential election is first and foremost a domestic concern. Americans will be the ones directly affected by the outcome of the voting, especially now when their economy is wobbly. And as a sovereign nation, no one can blame them even if they choose a president who is vilified across the globe (i.e. Bush). It's akin to Filipinos caving in to our ASEAN neighbors' demand as to who is fit to lead our country, even though the Pinoy preference is different.

However, that doesn't mean that we should not give a damn about who the next US president will be. Every country will be affected by the choice that US will make on November 4. After all, whoever will become the US president will become the most powerful man in the planet - a modern-day king. While he'll be directly accountable to 300 million Americans, he'll also become the de facto leader of the 6 billion people living outside the United States. As the head of the US hegemony, his policies will have ramifications for US citizens and non-US citizens alike, whether he likes it or not. Whether WE like it or not.

So I'm interested as to how you will vote in the US election if you were allowed to. Please participate in the mock poll seen on the left side of the blog. Will you go for the Democratic ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden? Or will you choose the Grand Old Party's John McCain/Sarah Palin tandem?

Photo: Les James Humor, Flickr, Creative Commons

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pabibo Kasi

The Australian has this for yesterday's headline: "Arroyo ridiculed over phantom fund." The article goes on to read:

GLORIA Arroyo has been ridiculed as "lost in space" and "publicity-hungry" for trumpeting a phantom $10 billion rescue fund for Southeast Asian nations suffering from global financial turmoil.

The Philippines President's defenders scrambled to explain her gaffe as "over-excitement", after World Bank officials denied the claims and the IMF refused to confirm any multilateral rescue plan.
Filipinos are, of course, used to rubbish spewed out by GMA. In GMA's own alternate universe, whatever comes out of her mouth is gospel truth. Outside of it? That's another story. With this faux pas, all the queen's horses and all the queen's PR men would have a daunting task in putting her fragile-as-egg international credibility together again.

Photo: aussiegall, Flickr, Creative Commons

Philippine Pool's Silver Lining

I drafted this post after the culmination of the WTBC and forgot all about it. I'm posting it now, kasi sayang naman.

As I have said in a previous post, the trouble between BSCP and BMPAP has led to Pinoy pool stars' boycott of the just concluded World Ten-Ball Championship.

But this story has a silver lining.

Because of the boycott, the burden of carrying our flag was passed to the young guns of Philippine pool. Before the tournament, they were unknowns to the casual pool fans. After the tourney, we may be seeing their names more often. The two whose stars shone bright were Jericho Bañares and Demosthenes "Plungplung" Pulpul

I saw Jericho Bañares play, and boy is he good. I saw his match against former champion Thorsten Homann, and he played like a veteran.

Don't let the name fool you, but Pulpul is no fluke. I haven't seen him play, but judging from his finish and the players he eliminated, he is surely a high-caliber player. We may hear from him more soon.

The WTBC showed that we have a deep pool talent in the Philippines, and there are many more players willing and able to step into the shoes of giants like Efren Reyes and Django Bustamante.

In which case, BMPAP's ploy is doomed.

Photo: paparutzi, Flickr, Creative Commons

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Spam Sunday: Titanic

Spam Sunday is a repository of nonsense found in the web in the past week.

The video clip is a Cliff Notes version of the 3-hour long movie Titanic. Enjoy!

Ever wonder how superheroes cope up with the hard times? Click here.

Express yourself with Art Pad where you create art as unique as you are. Wanna see my attempt at a Jackson Pollock painting? Click here.

See the anatomy of a Lego man here.

"I am Under 18" Button Clicked for First Time in History of Internet.

Take a Break: Missing the flight

Did you hear about the jet-setting lawyer who missed his flight?

He was driving along when he came up with the sign that said, "Airport Left," so he went home.

Photos: mrbill & srslyguys, Flickr, Creative Commons

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rationalizing Sin Taxes

Sin taxes (or excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol products) are once again in the limelight, as the government is looking for ways to increase its revenues.

Malaya reports that Senator Francis Escudero said that "additional taxes on cigarettes and liquor products is not the correct approach to weather the financial fallout in the United States."

On the other hand, Manila Standard Today reports that Health Secretary Francisco Duque hopes that the increase in cigarette taxes would make cigarettes so expensive that the poor can’t afford to buy them.

I'll take the middle road.

Secretary Duque's wish will most likely fizzle, given the fact that the government is bent on increasing public coffers, not protecting public health. In the House deliberations (dated October 27, 2004) for the Excise Tax Law of 2004 (R.A. 9334), Rep. Teddy Locsin revealed the obvious: "The government - The Philippine Government - is not famous for taking care of the health needs of their people." He added that for all intents and purposes, "the sin taxes bill, along with other revenue measures, are intended to raise revenue to narrow the fiscal gap." In other words, any increase in sin tax will not be so prohibitive as to turn away cigarette/liquor patrons. It will be pegged at the optimum amount where the higest possible tax revenue can be achieved.

I don't agree with Senator Escudero's opposition to the amendment of the excise tax, but for different reasons. I don't mind amending the current excise tax law, as long as it is for the purpose of rationalizing the prevailing tax rates and tax base of cigarette and liquor products. The current law breeds inequality among new and old cigarette and liquor brands, and it is time to amend the law now in order to achieve uniformity in taxation.

R.A. 9334 has provisions that unnecessarily favor existing tobacco and alcohol brands over new brands (possibly due to the lobbying of you-know-who). One such provision reads, "The classification of each brand of cigarettes based on its average net retail price as of Oct. 1, 1996, as set forth in Annex D, shall remain in force until revised by Congress." This seemingly neutral provision has a major implication. It has given unfair competitive advantage to the brands already existing as of 1996 (i.e. those listed in Annex D) over those introduced after that year, because the latter pay sin taxes based on their current net retail prices, while the former pay taxes based on their net retail prices in 1996.

Still sounds Greek? Let me give an example:

Brand X, a new cigarette brand, has a retail price of P19 per pack (before excise tax). Accordingly, it is taxed P26.06 as set in the law. The total price would then be P45.06 per pack after tax.

Winston Lights, an old brand, has the same current retail price of P19 per pack. But its retail price as set in Annex D is pegged at P5.44 per pack. In other words, the P5.44 figure is set in stone, whether Winston Lights' price increases in the future or not. And since the retail price is pegged at P5.44, the tax rate is also pegged at P5.85. The total price per pack: P24.85 (compare with Brand X's P45,06).

As you can see, Brand X is taxed P21 more than Winston Lights (even though they are essentially of the same retail price, kind and quality) only bcause Winston Lights is included in Annex D. That P21 (multiplied by how many Winston Lights packs are sold) should have gone to the government if only there is no distinction between new and old brands.

By the simple act of deleting the unfair provisions, the law will hit two birds with one stone: it will create a level playing field for cigarette and liquor manufacturers and it will effectively result in more government revenues.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Not Budging on the Budget

With the looming global economic problem, we all have to do our share to ease the sting that it might give. Individually, we have to take stock of where we are. As in my previous posts , I have called for a little belt tightening whenever there is an oil price increase or an economic downturn, as a way of precaution.

That call includes the national government. Unfortunately, that call will most likely go unheeded. As reported in the Inquirer, "the proposed 2009 budget is bigger by 15.3 percent, or P188.3 billion, than the current national allocation."

I have no beef with budget increases if I can see public funds well spent. But if the money will just go to double appropriations, or Oplan Bantay Laya, or Quedancor, or questionable use of "intelligence funds," then forget about it. Slash the budget, if nothing good's going to come out of it.

But if Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya had his way, he wouldn't want the budget to be slashed because such a move would mean "sacrificing economic growth." I'm not sure where secretary Andaya is coming from, but if cutting the budget means less money for Gloria to entice congressmen to strike down an impeachment complaint, or for unnecessary junkets for officials and their entourage, or for the nth basketball court in the undeveloped lands of congressman so-and-so - then let's slash the budget and sacrifice "economic growth" by all means!

Here's a news flash, my good sir: give up the money, because it's not yours. If you want it, be accountable for it. Grow up and take responsibility.

Photo: Bludgeoner86, Flickr, Creative Commons

Thursday, October 16, 2008

JPEPA People

So that we may know who we will commend/condemn in case JPEPA brings us joy/suffering in the future, I'm listing the parties involved in JPEPA:

Treaty signatory- Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2006)
Main proponents in the Senate: Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Mar Roxas

Senators who ratified the treaty:
Manny Villar
Miriam Defensor-Santiago
Mar Roxas
Francis Pangilinan
Edgardo Angara
Rodolfo Biazon
Alan Peter Cayetano
Jinggoy Estrada
Juan Ponce-Enrile
Gringo Honasan
Panfilo Lacson
Loren Legarda
Lito Lapid
Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Jr.
Juan Miguel Zubiri

Senators who voted against the ratification of the treaty:
Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.
Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III
Francis Joseph Escudero
Jamby Madrigal

(Joker P. Arroyo Pia Cayetano were absent. Antonio F. Trillanes IV, facing mutiny charges, is barred from attending sessions)

Photo: futureshape, Flickr, Creative Commons

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Buhay Pa Tayo

This post is my take on Blog Action Day 08 - Poverty

Why are Filipinos poor? That is the one billion peso question which has hounded us for the past decades.

More than a hundred years ago, Jose Rizal gave his piece about the Philippines' state with an article entitled The Indolence of the Filipino.

He wrote, "Before the arrival of the Europeans, Malayan Filipinos carried on an active trade, not only among themselves but also with all the neighboring countries," He added, "Wealth abounded in the islands." Filipinos were described by early historians as "well-featured, with good aptitudes for anything that they take up, keen and susceptible and of resolute will, very clean and neat in their persons and clothing, and of good mien and bearing."

However, Rizal explained that, "A fatal combination of circumstances... has led to the decline of labor. He cited a number of reasons why the Filipinos of his time had become indolent: wars and internal disorders, gambling, overdependence in religion, lack of capital, absence of means and even the hot climate.

But Rizal intimated that there were really two main causes, which are: defects in training (Very limited training at home, tyrannical and sterile education of the rare centers of learning, the blind subordination of the youth); and lack of national sentiment (The absence of all opposition to measures prejudicial to the people and the absence of any initiative in whatever may redound to its good).

More than a hundred years after our national hero's observations, the Philippines is still hounded by the very same problems that has kept us poor: substandard education and lack of national identity.

It's easy to blame the government for poverty in our country. And make no mistake about it, it shares a big part of the blame, since it is the one steering the ship. The government, it seems, is being run by people who look out only for themselves. Education has taken a back seat. Taxes are increased irrationally without the requisite improvement in tax administration. 'Reforms,' which in reality are dressed up dole-outs, are paraded to the people to give the illusion that things are being done. Such a dismal state of affairs just makes even the most patriotic say "to hell with the Philippines!"

But individuals are part of the blame too. We cannot really expect the government to do everything for us. The last time I checked, we are not a communist country. We have to do our part too. A little pride and accountability can go a long way in our fight against poverty. And it starts from the simple things: throwing the trash in the proper place, following traffic rules, paying the correct taxes, objecting when the government does something wrong, applauding when it does something good. We can do big things by doing the little ones right.

And while we are still a long way from eradicating poverty, and despite all the seemingly insurmountable obstacles, we are surviving.

A great many examples abound as to the resilience of the Pinoy to survive: The OFW who risks life and limb in a foreign land, away from loved ones, just to send money back home; The teacher, with her many sidelines just to get by; The sidewalk vendor who hawks his wares day in and day out, knowing that anytime the MMDA would swoop down and confiscate everything. The list goes on and on.

Indeed, we play the hand that providence dealt us. Good thing that the Filipino has the resilience of a sturdy tamaraw and the disposition of a singing maya. We're still hanging on despite all odds. Buhay pa tayo.

Photos: Kevin and Siomuzzz, Flickr, Creative Commons

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Impeachment, Again and Again

Push for impeachment, because there are impeachable offenses committed.

Push for impeachment, because the president was never elected.

Push for impeachment, because seven years of bad rule is enough.

Push for impeachment, because one year more of ugly rule will possibly become our downfall.

Push for impeachment, because not doing so means that we don't care anymore.

Push for impeachment, because the administration may be callous enough to think that we don't oppose how the government is run right now.

Push for impeachment, because the position of President is further bastardized under the present regime.

Push for impeachment, because there is this nagging feeling that she won't leave her seat unless forcibly removed.

Push for impeachment, because there is always hope that our congressmen will grow a conscience, and entertain the impeachment complaint.

Push for impeachment, because it is the right thing to do.

Photo: Editor B, Flickr, Creative Commons

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Spam Sunday: Monkey Waiter

Since it's a Sunday, I figure that today is the best time to post some light stuff. Things I will be posting every Sunday starting today will be useless/irrelevant information I might have received in the mail or encountered while surfing. For the inaugural Spam Sunday, let me present you with the monkey waiter from Japan.

No, it's not a slur. It's really a monkey... who waits tables...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bullied into Agreement

With a vote of 16-4, the Philippine Senate got enough votes to meet the 2/3 requirement to ratify the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

What is JPEPA anyway? What's the big deal about this particular treaty?

While the more famous items in JPEPA are the nurses for toxic wastes, the treaty covers the gamut of industries, goods and services that can be opened up for trade between the two states. It also includes agreement on the lowering or elimination of tariffs on certain goods and services.

It sounds advantageous, or at the very least, harmless.

Believe me, it's not.

For the pros:
1. It is possible that the Philippines can gain as much as $419 million-worth of agricultural and fishery exports to Japan through tariff eliminations and other improved market-access concession.

2. As for healthcare workers, Japan reportedly first agreed to allow a limited number of nurses (100 in the first year) to stay beyond the current four-year time limit if they acquire a Japanese licence. In the final agreement, the quota was raised 400-500 per year.

For the cons:
1. This is a treaty which considerably favors Japan, not the Philippines. As stated in
A comparative study on the commitments and concessions of the Philippines and Japan reveals that the JPEPA is primarily for Japan’s benefit. While Japan insisted on excluding, for purposes of protection, more than 200 (651 tariff lines) of its products (mostly agricultural and fisheries), the Philippines only chose to protect two of its products (6 tariff lines) by way of exclusion (rice and salt).
2. Article 29, Number 2 of JPEPA provides that tradeable goods include:
(i) articles collected in the Party which can no longer perform their original purpose in the Party nor are capable of being restored or repaired and which are fit only for disposal or for the recovery of parts or raw materials;
(j) scrap and waste derived from manufacturing or processing operations or from consumption in the Party and fit only for disposal or for the recovery of raw materials;
(k) parts or raw materials recovered in the Party from articles which can no longer perform their original purpose nor are capable of being restored or repaired;xxx
This simply means that toxic wastes and scrap materials, denominated as "goods," can be "traded" to us. It is funny to note the irony of the words used to sugarcoat garbage.

3. There are too many provisions that are inconsistent with our Constitution. Among the issues in question are the ownership of land; lifting of citizenship requirements for certain industries; right over marine resources; and preferential use of Filipino Labor.

4. There are smaller issues involved which are too many to mention. For a litany of the cons, click here and here.

In an era of multilateralism, a bilateral treaty like the JPEPA is a peculiarity. Japan, in an effort to protect her hide, has been aggressively (albeit quietly) pushing for EPAs with her neighbors one by one, proposing bilateral treaties away from prying eyes. And Japan, in her take it or leave it stance, has bullied the Philippines into acceding to the treaty. Unfortunately for us, our politicians easily caved in to the pressure and ratified the treaty without giving a fight. The result? A lopsided "agreement" which we may very well regret in the future.

Japan screwed us over back in World War II. They're doing it again today, with chump change in return for the screw job.

Photo: Joe Shlabotnik, Flickr Creative Commons

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Filipino Stereotype Abroad

This particular clip from a BBC comedy show called Harry and Paul. It caused an uproar because it portrayed a Filipino maid in a bad light. Representative Risa Hontiveros even asked the BBC to issue a public apology.

On the one hand, the racist claim against BBC is a serious charge. BBC itself reports that one of its own calls the broadcasting corporation as "one of the most racist institutions in England."

On the other hand, maybe we should have seen this coming. Filipinos are being stereotyped as maids and sex workers because we do send ourcitizens around the globe to be maids and sex workers. Yes, it is sad to realize that other people see us in such a way. But if people of other nations encounter Filipinos only in the maid's quarters and brothels, can they really be blamed if the stereotype is being reinforced?

In one column tackling the Desperate Housewives incident, Conrado de Quiros offers a way on how we can go about a situation like this:

Just as well, I don’t know that we can’t do with some serious self-examination and look at the quality not just of our education but our lives today. I myself found Danes’ description of Manila tremendously inspired. It’s brilliantly surreal: “The people have nothing—no arms, no legs, no eyes.” It’s almost like Dante talking about one of the circles of hell, to which, if we still have at least the eyes to see it, we now find ourselves in.

There are two ways to treat a messenger’s bad news. One is to shoot the messenger and hope the message goes away. Two is to change things so that there won’t be any bad news. Japan didn’t just do the second, it turned the bad news into good news. Shortly after the War, Americans also had a field day making fun of the label, “Made in Japan.” Today, well, Sony owns a great deal of Hollywood. We can either spend our time lodging diplomatic protests in defense of our diplomas or produce brilliant doctors. The choice is ours.

Wrong Turn

As I have said in my previous post, it is the president's prerogative to grant clemency. Asking her why she pardoned Teehankee is like asking her why she prefers her hairstyle, or why she hasn't stepped down. Maybe you'll get a wink (if you're tight) or a shove from a PSG personnel (if you're not). In other words, it's futile to ask why.

But there is something wrong with the exercise of her power. You can feel it in your bones. I myself was looking for the right words to express it. I didn't have to, as Makati Business Club hit the nail right on the head with its press statement on the matter.

Here is an excerpt of the Malaya report with MBC's statement:

"However, in resorting to this argument to parry widespread criticism (in the Teehankee case) the government betrayed a disturbing lack of respect for victims’ rights and the public’s right to information," it said, adding that the government’s "mishandling" would only further erode the people’s trust in public institutions.

"The lack of transparency in the granting of the pardon, given the sensational nature and public attention that surrounded this case, can only lead people to question the motives behind the Arroyo administration’s actions," it said.


Photo: flattop341, Flickr, Creative Commons

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Begging Your Pardon

The brutal shooting incident by Claudio Teehankee of Maureen Hultman, John Chapman and Jussi Leino (resulting to the death of Hultman and Chapman), was one of the most infamous crimes of the 90s, along with the Go-Maguan case and the Vizconde-Webb et al case. The three cases have one common denominator, which is that the convicts were well-off financially. Indeed, many of the convicted persons in the said cases come from de buena familias. Those were high times for Philippine prosecution, because we were given hope that lady justice might truly be blind, after all.

So the executive clemency comes somewhat of a surprise. What was GMA thinking? She is not satisfied with her low ratings that she wants to lower it even further?

But seriously, it is the president's prerogative to give clemency. She alone can exercise that power. That is that. End of story. We really cannot question the wisdom of the president in granting the pardon, however questionable the wisdom of the act is.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Weird Law: Tattoos

In LA County there is a law that all tattooing has to be done with FDA-enforced ink. Which is a problem because there is no FDA-enforced ink.

From Victoria Finlay's Colour

Photo: freakychick, Flickr, Creative Commons

Sunday, October 5, 2008


In case you haven't noticed, the World Ten Ball Championship (WTBC) is being held in Manila. In fact, today is going to be the last day. Games are being televised on Studio 23 in the wee hours in the morning.

Glaringly missing in action are our own major pool players. There is no Bata Reyes, no Django Bustamante in the field. No Alex Pagulayan and Ronnie Alcano. The biggest Filipino names in the event are Marlon Manalo and Jeffrey de Luna, who are already out of the competition. The relatively unknown Demosthenes "Plong Plong" Pulpul led the Philippine contingent, who reached the semi-finals. He lost to Taiwanese phenom Wu Chia Ching.

Without the big Filipino pool players, there are less sponsors, less excitement and less fans watching. There are so many vacant seats in the venue that you'd think you're watching third-rate players competing in the Brgy. Captain Alvarado Cup.

How has it come to this?

There are many issues involved, including the competency of the BSCP leaders, their leadership style, the Pagulayan incident, and the conflict of interest. Let me dwell in the biggest one, which is conflict of interest.

On one side is the Billiard Managers and Professional Players Association of the Philippines (BMPAP). BMPAP is an organization composed of pool managers (e.g. Aristeo Puyat and Perry Mariano) and the top players in their stables (e.g. Reyes, Bustamante, Alcano, Kiamco, Orcollo etc.). They are asking that BSCP Chairman Yen Makabenta should resign from BSCP because of conflict of interest. Makabenta heads Raya Sports, which organizes pool events in the country (e.g. World 9-Ball Championship and the current WTBC). BMPAP stresses that its members will not join any Raya-organized event unless Makabenta resigns from BSCP.

On the other side of the fence is the Philippine Olympic Committee-accredited BSCP and Makabenta. Makabenta argues that BSCP is still a private association, despite its NSA status (Take note that being an NSA has many perks, including the authority to sanction a sports event, and to make the prizes tax-free). He said:
The suggestion that to avoid 'conflict of interest' a BSCP official must be free of business or professional interest in our sport would negate the very purpose of our association. It would consign the BSCP to the leadership of individuals who can't do anything to help Philippine pool development. xxx

On the other hand, I contend that there is a real conflict of interest when player managers become also the organizers of pool tournaments. There is conflict because managers have an interest in their players' winning the tournaments and promoters are obligated to be impartial and fair to all the players in the tournaments, who pay good money to join and also seek to win. The basic principle of fairness is strained because managers naturally favor their players in various ways, from entry into the tournament to event formatting to arrangements.

I think both camps have a point. In Makabenta's defense, he is not Raya and he is not BSCP. It is an elementary rule in law that a stockholder/member has a legal personality distinct from the corporation. Unless BMPAP shows proof that Makabenta has actually used his influence in BSCP to favor Raya Sports to the prejudice of other organizers, he can't really be forced out of BSCP. In other words, it is not really a question of the legality of Makabenta's acts. It is more of propriety.

In BMPAP's defense, the managers and the players have made Philippine pool what it is today. We would not be known throughout the world as a pool mecca if not for Efren Reyes and the other Pinoy pool legends. And our pool greats would not be known if not for the managers like Putch Puyat who bankrolled Reyes and other players to the U.S. to blaze the trail for our young guns. Of course they have a stake in BSCP. If they have any beef as to the leadership style, competency or integrity of the people in BSCP, then they have every right to raise it. However, the manner of of their protest (boycott/blackmail) is suspect.

As you can see, what we have here is one big mess. Mas magulo pa sa b*lbol, ika nga. And I think we are on the point of no return. It is highly improbable that the protagonists will sit down and talk the problems through. We'll just have to wait to see who blinks first. I just hope the blinking happens sooner rather than later, before we ruin one of the few good things we have going for the country.

Photo: W1LL13, Flickr, Creative Commons

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Window of Opportunity

I remember when I was a little kid - fresh cow's milk was a weekly staple. They were placed in reused Magnolia bottles, with banana leaves serving as stoppers. The milk had a peculiar taste to it, setting it apart from milk of the canned or powdered variety. As I grew older, drinking processed milk became the norm, as drinking fresh milk became less and less frequent. But its peculiar taste I will never forget. A single drop of fresh cow's milk touching my lips brings me back in time, when the world was younger, without fail.

With the China milk scare/crisis/fiasco/scandal in our midst, it's a great opportunity for own milk industry to make a wave, or even a little splash. It is a given that our local cattle raisers will not be able to compete with the Australian dairy industry. But for heaven's sake - the gates, doors and windows are gaping wide open for our dairy industry players to step in and make a dent. It takes little imagination to market the homegrown, au naturale milk.

Just don't give me that mother's-milk-as-substitute crap (see breast milk ice cream), an idea that is just wrong on so many levels.

Photo: ThunderChild tm, Flickr, Creative Commons

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