Sunday, October 31, 2004

Kerry vs Bush

Kerry vs Bush

Updated 00:35am (Mla time) Oct 31, 2004
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the October 31, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANY Filipinos are interested in the outcome of the American presidential election this coming Tuesday. Like it or not, we have historic ties with the United States dating back to a hundred years ago, not to mention our sentimental attachment to anything Stateside like Elvis and Victoria's Secret. Additionally, the United States is playing the self-serving role, not generally accepted, of an international policeman. The results of the coming election will affect not only that country but also the rest of the world.

As an interested spectator, I am as anxious as many Filipinos over the current contest between the top contenders for the presidency of the United States. The latest surveys predict a neck-and-neck race between George W. Bush and John Kerry as if they were equine thoroughbreds. Most of these polls have been more or less accurate in the past although we can remember one surprising upset that saw the shoo-in Thomas Dewey defeated by "give-'em hell" Harry S. Truman. President Bush has a slight edge over Senator Kerry, but the margin is within what is called the margin of error.

My own fear is that President Bush will win the coming election although Senator Kerry appears to be more deserving. Merit is not always the principal criterion for choosing the President of the United States, because American voters tend to vote like the Filipino voters in recent years. We elected Joseph Estrada as president in 1998 and such misfits as Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Lito Lapid to the Senate this year.

American voters are also not always intelligent in their choices. In 1921, they elected Warren Harding who by his own admission later was unfit for the presidency. In 1952 and 1956, they preferred Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was an undistinguished student in West Point, to the erudite Adlai Stevenson. They did choose brilliant thinkers like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams but they also elevated to the highest office in the land several candidates with little formal schooling. Lincoln was one of them, but he proved to be one of the greatest presidents.

According to the polls, Bush has substantial support that may win him his bid for reelection. Dubya is not known for scholastic achievement and has occasionally mutilated the English language, but he is at least not worse, although not better, than some previous occupants of the Oval Office. As former governor of Texas and during his current term as president, he has amassed tremendous experience in the art of governance that has earned him considerable backing from his admirers.

The Democrats have faulted him for his acts as commander in chief and stress that although he may have won the war against Iraq, he is losing the peace with American soldiers losing their lives daily against the insurgents. Also challenged are Bush's domestic policies which, Kerry says, have resulted in the deterioration of the economy and the discrimination of the middle class in favor of the millionaires. Kerry also differs with Bush on various other issues like abortion, medical insurance, and social welfare,

A serious apprehension of the Democrats is that if Bush loses in a clean election, he will cheat as he did in 2000. And he can do this more easily this time, now that he is the President of the United States with all his powers and influence. Al Gore won the popular vote in the last presidential election but lost the electoral vote because of vote-rigging in Florida, where Dubya's brother was the governor. Some say that even the federal Supreme Court connived in the cheating.

At any rate, I hope Kerry will be able to affect a similar Truman upset. He is not as apparently hopeless as Truman in 1948, but he is nonetheless in serous danger of being out-maneuvered by the Republicans in power. Still, it is not always the reelectionist who triumphs in a fair election, as witness Bill Clinton who clobbered Dubya's father in 1992, Roosevelt who beat Hoover in 1932, and Cleveland, who replaced Harrison in 1892. The winners, incidentally, were all Democrats.

Intellectually, Kerry outdistances Bush by a mile and won all the three presidential debates. He even looks more presidential than Bush. He will be more imposing than Bush in international conferences with his 6'2" height and his head of thick hair with just enough gray to give him an air of serious wisdom. These may seem superficial distinctions but they may count a lot in close elections. Many women voted for Clinton because, in Hillary's words, "he looked like a Viking."

And since we are being trivial, let us remember that superstition in US presidential elections. Candidates with double letters in their names are the llamados. Thus, to cite recent examples, Bill Clinton beat George Bush, Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford, and Harry Truman beat Thomas Dewey. True, Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater who had a double letter in his name. But as a rule, the superstition has proved true for William McKinley, Calvin Coolidge, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and others. John Kerry may be next, so I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Philippine citizenship for sale

Philippine citizenship for sale

Updated 01:20am (Mla time) Oct 30, 2004
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the October 30, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

I'M not a sports fan and usually don't read the sports page, which is why I am not able to react when friends discuss the latest basketball game that has excited a lot of people. The only items that interest me are those about the progress of Maria Sharapova on the tennis court, not because of her athletic prowess but because she's a pretty girl. I was also glad over that recent bout where Mike Tyson was pummeled by a 6-1 underdog who cleansed the boxing world of his shabby opponent, a shady character finally dumped into the dustbin of has-beens.

But there was a recent report that caught my attention and, I feel, deserves a little comment. This was the decision of the Department of Justice finding five basketball players to be sham Filipinos who have falsified their records to qualify as members, nay, stars, of the basketball teams of several local companies seeking to trade on the talents of these foreigners as advertising gimmicks for their products. For this purpose, these aliens
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declared under oath that they were Filipinos entitled to play in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) competitions where only citizens are allowed. In exchange for this duplicity, they were offered and enjoyed fantastic emoluments in excess of those paid our local players.

I saw the pictures of these athletes and they look like foreigners, not Filipinos. The companies that hired them were apparently satisfied, perhaps happy, over the solemn assertion of Philippine citizenship by these aliens and did not bother to look more closely into their real nationality. Maybe these companies even helped in the deception. They probably felt that the truth or falsity of these players' claim of Philippine citizenship was not that important because it involved only their qualification as players in a basketball tournament. Philippine citizenship was only a formal requirement, nothing else.

I was the “writer of the original decision of the Supreme Court in the cases of Frivaldo v. Commission on Elections, 174 SCRA 245, and Labo v. Commission on Elections, 176 SCRA 1, where we disqualified the petitioners as elected local officials because they had earlier been naturalized in foreign countries and had not bothered to repatriate themselves. I said that the citizen of the Philippines "must take pride in his status as such and cherish this priceless gift that out of more than a hundred other nationalities God has chosen to grant him." Naturally, he will not share it with others not similarly blessed. "This country of ours, for all its difficulties and limitations, is like a jealous and possessive mother." It will not admit into its fold persons pretending to love it, even if they are outstanding basketball players.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez deserves commendation for his decision against the five alien athletes who have committed perjury and falsification of public records to support their false claim of Philippine citizenship. Their mercenary motive makes their offenses all the more condemnable. Gonzalez has ordered their detention preparatory to their deportation as undesirable aliens for taking undue advantage of Philippine citizenship and regarding it so lightly for merely occupational purposes.

The sanction of deportation, while merciful enough, is by itself alone hardly appropriate for the crimes the athletes have committed. Fortunately, Secretary Gonzalez has also called for their prosecution and punishment for their falsification of public documents, only after which can they be deported and good riddance. Their employers should also be punished for their possible complicity in the deception foisted by the sham Filipinos. It is highly possible that the companies that hired them directed, and in fact even actively participated in, the falsification of their credentials to ensure the victory of their teams in the PBA games. After all, winning is everything, and winning will translate to more sales and higher profits, never mind that Philippine citizenship has been degraded.

And the Department of Justice investigators should also train their attention on the local officials who helped these false Filipinos to register as citizens of this country. Several civil registrars are suspected of having falsely issued documents to prove the alleged Philippine nationality of some of the players, obviously in exchange for expensive monetary appreciation. These officials are liable for falsification of public documents and also the rank crime of bribery to sell Philippine citizenship.

The Philippines is ranked as the 11th most corrupt country in the world and has long been known as a nation of domestics for affluent societies. Yet it has not occurred to me to seek another nationality out of shame for this land of my birth or escape it for greener pastures and their material inducements. By contrast, these foreign players would eschew their own native countries and pretend to be citizens of this modest land as long as they are abundantly salaried to be sham Filipinos. This is an insult to us true Filipinos.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando

Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando

Updated 00:46am (Mla time) Oct 24, 2004
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the October 24, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

I WAS desolated to learn of the death of former Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando last week at age 89. He was one of the most erudite members of the Supreme Court, which he headed from 1979 until his retirement in 1985. An uncompromising libertarian and a staunch defender of the democratic ethic before, he impaired that image when he sided with Ferdinand Marcos during martial law and, as he put it, "legitimized" the dictator's abuses. Many of his admirers, including me, were disappointed and felt betrayed.

Until his confinement in the hospital this year, he often visited the high tribunal and attended its programs and functions. He was proud to say that many of its members were his students in the UP College of Law during his early years as a professor, along with Ambrosio Padilla, Vicente Abad Santos, and Ramon Aquino. His students on the Court during my time included Teodoro Padilla, Florentino Feliciano, Hugo Gutierrez, Marcelo Fernan, Flerida Ruth Romero, Camilo D. Quiason, and others.

I was one of them, in his class in Political Law in the first year. As I teasingly told him many years later in the presence of his wife Emma, I did not learn much from him because he was then obsessed with his future bride, who was then in the senior year. When lecturing to us, the young professor often lost his train of thought every time his lady love passed by on the corridor. The couple smiled at the recollection because it was true. Despite his shortcomings, and mine, he gave me a grade of 2, which was respectable enough for me.

When I was on the Court, he often visited me for a few minutes of conversation. I thought earlier that he must have some request or suggestion to make in connection with some case, but I learned later that all he intended was a short social visit. I think he was that way with the other justices he had taught in college. Once he invited Teddy Padilla and me (we were classmates) to lunch at a Japanese restaurant and we had an amiable time discussing not law but current political issues.

I will have to say now that when I was the dean of the Lyceum School of Law, Sotero H. Laurel, our president, sounded me off about the possible appointment of Fernando to the faculty. I objected because of his rather tyrannical manner in the classroom and predicted that his students (in the Lyceum, not UP) would protest and strike. I thought that was the end of the matter but was surprised later to learn that Teroy had appointed him just the same without my previous knowledge and consent. I resigned. Fernando knew about this but did not hold it against me. Later he called me up to ask me to take over his class when the students struck as I had feared.

Iking, as his friends called him, specialized in Constitutional Law in his teaching and practice. He was more knowledgeable than many American lawyers in their own jurisprudence on the subject and could quote from memory Justices Holmes, Cardozo, Brandeis, and other eminent jurists, as well as our own Justice Laurel, for whom he had a special admiration. He co-authored a book on the Constitution with another esteemed colleague, Lorenzo M. Tañada. He was an active member of the Civil Liberties Union, together with Jose W. Diokno, Claudio Teehankee, and other libertarians. Except for his lamentable defection in support of the despot during the martial law era, he was peerless in the defense of human rights.

In my book, "Res Gestae," I made some uncomplimentary remarks about his disappointing tolerance, even active justification, of the martial law regime. I quoted a concurring opinion of his (to Justice Barredo's slavish adoration of Marcos) in which he praised "the impressive performance of the President and the First Lady in improving the quality of life of the Filipinos, reviving our valued virtues and traditions, and enhancing the dignity of the nation." Many people, especially his students, were perplexed by his volte face. His advocacy of republicanism and individual liberty had earlier earned him much popular acclaim.

Yet for all my open disapproval of his espousal of the discredited Marcos regime, Fernando exhibited no displeasure or hostility toward me. We remained friends and he made no mention at all of my adverse commentaries on his mistaken loyalties. Looking back now, I feel some remorse over my impatient criticisms. I am consoled, though, that he would have understood and defended my freedom of expression, which he regarded as an article of faith.

Fernando was first and foremost a consummate academician. He graduated magna cum laude and valedictorian from the UP College of Law and earned his masteral degree in Yale as the first Filipino Sterling Fellow. He was later conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by the Centro Escolar University and by a university in South Korea. He truly deserved to be acknowledged as an estimable and superior Scholar of the Law.

Enrique M. Fernando had his imperfections, like all of us, especially when he strayed from the path of freedom during the Marcos misrule. But he was a cherished friend for all that frailty, and I deeply grieve over his passing.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Banning the billboards

Banning the billboards

Updated 00:39am (Mla time) Oct 23, 2004
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on Page A14 of the October 23, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

I COMPLETELY agree with Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Bayani Fernando's plan to prohibit billboards along the EDSA highway, for a start. It is a valid security measure for the benefit of motorists and pedestrians using this busy highway. The ban can be sustained under the police power provided it is exercised by the proper authorities. While primarily vested in the national legislature, it may be, and has in fact been, delegated to the local governments under what is known as the General Welfare Clause.

This delegation is found in Section 16 of the Local Government Code and calls on local government units to "ensure and support, among other things, the preservation and enrichment of culture, promote health and safety, enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology, encourage and support the development of appropriate and self-reliant and technological capabilities, improve public morals, enhance economic prosperity and social justice, promote full employment among their residents, maintain peace and order, and preserve the comfort and convenience of their inhabitants."

This wordy provision covers practically every human activity, which may be regulated by the local legislative bodies, from the province and city to the “barangay” [village or neighborhood district], for any of the purposes meticulously enumerated by the Code. A more general and comprehensive statement of such purposes, as found in the original Administrative Code of 1917, would have sufficed, but Congress was probably infected by the fussiness of the Constitution of 1987 and chose to be as garrulous as that long-winded document. The legislators should have remembered that the more you specify, the more you are likely to exclude and the more you generalize, the more you can include. “Expressio unius est exclusio alterius.”

The most obvious justification for the planned prohibition is the promotion of the safety of the people, motorists and pedestrians alike, by preventing possible motor accidents because of the distraction offered by the billboards to drivers who should be paying attention to their vehicles. Some billboards can be terribly distracting, like those illustrating intimate apparel such as lingerie or even only revealing clothes worn by girls advertising tractors.

I remember that billboard I wrote about last year with a life-size picture of a beautiful model with her splendid mini-skirted legs spread apart as she reached down for I think a handbag or something. Frankly, I can't recall what she was advertising because the billboard called attention not to any article or product but to the pretty girl herself, whom the viewers appreciated with much enjoyment and probably also voyeuristic thrill. I was in that article advocating the same thing Fernando is now proposing, viz., the banning of billboards, but subject to some exceptions, like the billboard of that beautiful girl. It was admittedly distracting, but there are times when one must live dangerously.

Seriously, some attractive billboards can really threaten bodily injury, even fatal accidents at times. One need simply pass through EDSA to appreciate this statement. The pictures of beautiful girls, most of them familiar actresses, can make young men, and even old grandfathers, forget their driving in the momentary enjoyment of beauty -- and even sexiness -- on the billboards. The possible effect can be expected-minor scrapes if you are lucky or even fatal crashes. And you can't even blame the girl who caused all that disturbance because all she was doing was looking pretty, and she wasn't even there.

The danger becomes even more threatening if the model is wearing a low-cut dress or brief shorts or indiscreet underwear better revealed in the bedroom than on a billboard for all to see. And there isn't rhyme or reason for the presence of the girl in the advertisement, which is for paint, or machinery, or fried chicken. Once there was a billboard proclaiming the durability of condoms, but when I passed the same place again later, the billboard had disappeared. It appears that you can innocently praise sanitary napkins publicly but not condoms.

In the 1915 case of Churchill and Tait v. Rafferty, 32 Phil. 580, the Supreme Court affirmed the power of the legislature to regulate billboards, not principally to prevent accidents but to promote aesthetic values. "Billboards which are offensive to the sight," it held, "are not dissociated from the general welfare of the public." This brings to mind that billboard, also on EDSA, advertising an insurance company with the ordinary face of a man who is probably the head of the company and wanted everybody to know it. That billboard should have been banned as an egocentric nuisance. "A source of annoyance and irritation to the public," Justice Trent said, "does not minister to the comfort and convenience of the public."

For the nonce, let the promotion of public safety justify Fernando's proposal. We can later expand the ban to cover billboards offensive to sight, like the pictures of candidates for elective office that belong better to the rogues' gallery.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The pathetic record of our public schools

The pathetic record of our public schools

Updated 09:09pm (Mla time) Oct 16, 2004
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A1 of the October 17, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

I WAS appalled by the recent report that as many as 97.9 percent of the public high school seniors who took the National Achievement Test given by the Department of Education last April failed to get the usual passing score of 75 percent. Their mean percentage score was only 50.08 in English, 36.80 in science and 42.20 in mathematics. Of the about 956,000 students who took the test, only 20.09 percent, or some 20,000 only, got a score of 75 percent or higher.

The report added that of the 1.4 million elementary school graduates who took the High School Readiness Test for admission to the secondary level, only 64 percent got a score of 75 percent or higher. Worse, half of the examinees failed to get a grade of even only 30 percent-and there were more than 500,000 of them.

I was appalled by these results, but I was not surprised. I had not expected much from our public school students, but I was alarmed just the same by their meager and disgraceful performance. It was such a pathetic contrast to the record of our public schools before the war, when we were still under the American administration.

For all their faults, these new imperialists-compared to their Castilian predecessors-taught our masses to read and write and even chose the bright ones to go to American colleges. We learned more about Washington and Lincoln rather than Rizal and Bonifacio, but at least it was a start, and soon enough we were writing our own history. The popular education introduced by the Thomasites and continued by their successors made the Philippines the most literate country in the whole of Asia and the most fluent in English among the Orientals.

But that was in the past, and it is not true any more. Where before even the kutsero and the magsasaka could manage a halting conversation in English with the foreigner, now the ordinary jeepney driver cannot understand the street signs in what to them is a dead language. The little they know of English they have learned from the television and radio shows and not in school as before. The jingoistic view today is that knowledge of English, which other Asian nations are striving hard to learn, is anti-Filipino.

I am a product of the public school system and remember with pleasure how I studied at the Legarda Elementary School and the Mapa High School and then at the UP on Padre Faura. We didn't have computers then and I suppose the students today are taught more than we learned in our time when life was much simpler and there wasn't as much to understand as the present IT and the quantum theory. I myself don't remember much of what we studied in chemistry and calculus. But I have retained much from the poetry of John Keats, the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Mark Twain, and the wisdom of Cardozo.

The present system of public education in our country is in a sad state of neglect and deterioration. There is a dearth of competent and dedicated teachers, well-prepared textbooks, school buildings, classrooms, and campuses, adequate teaching equipment, and, yes, even of school spirit and pride. The students of the public school believe, and often rightly so, that they are inferior to the private school students who at least enjoy better opportunities for the improvement of their minds and bodies in the more salutary academic atmosphere their parents can afford or try to. The present public school in the Philippines is a poor relation of the affluent private school, where before the comparison was reversed.

One reason for the poor quality of our public school students today is the deleterious influence of show business. The movies, television and radio have conspired to cheapen the sense of values of such students in general and impaired their intellectual and other social virtues. A striking example is the decline of the simple virtue of courtesy, which was taken for granted before but is often a source of wonder now. Our generation was interested in school debates and oratorical contests, but students today would rather watch the vulgar antics of television clowns like Bong Revilla who is a comic first and a senator only second.

Senator Revilla is the current proof of the cheapening of the election process and the degradation of our democracy. He doesn't even have the good taste to honor his position as an elected senator by dissociating it from his tasteless if more remunerative role as a comedian. His undiscriminating audience obviously believes that a good buffoon will make a good senator. That audience should have learned its lesson from the laughable record of Revilla's predecessors but it had to show once again its misguided faith in the inanity of clowns in public service.

I have said often enough that the best way to cure our ailing democracy is to educate our people on the proper exercise of their suffrages. That is why it is imperative that we improve the quality of our schools as a first step toward civic consciousness. This is where we may begin to elevate their present pupils from mindless fans of undeserving harlequins to responsible thinking citizens. They must understand that public office is a serious business and certainly no joke.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Cleansing the Armed Forces

Cleansing the Armed Forces

Updated 01:00am (Mla time) Oct 16, 2004
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the October 16, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE REVELATION of the incredible wealth of Major General Carlos Garcia, as recently exhibited by his two sons and later his wife to the US customs authorities, has again focused public attention on the anomalies, real or imagined, in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

There were reports of irregularities in the disposition of its retirement funds, the alleged corruption in the acquisition of military equipment, the mansions and luxury vehicles of some of the generals, and even the sharing of kidnap ransoms by certain field commanders with Muslim rebels and the Abu Sayyaf bandits. But all these suspicions did not go beyond the usual investigations after the grandstanding of the legislators.

The military had earlier been regarded as a mere ordinary agency of the government, but it acquired a new image under martial law as the loyal protector of Ferdinand Marcos. The effect was devastating. Generals began to swagger like congressmen, whom they learned to disdain as inferiors. Sergeants started acting like colonels. The strong-arm stalkers of Colonel Rolando Abadilla wielded a deadly terror against the enemies of the new regime.

Marcos saw to it that the soldiers were well treated -- indeed, spoiled -- lest they turned against him. Their camps were improved, their perquisites increased. Even officers who had retired from the military were retained in the government as civil officials although there were better available civilians.

The constitutional mandate that civilian authority shall be supreme over the military has become a farce. Even after the downfall of the dictatorship, the Armed Forces have retained their power and prestige. The succeeding administrations have seen to that. The civilian presidents seem to be so terrified of a coup d'état from the retired officers that they think it best to keep them contented. The way to do this is to appoint them to civilian offices for which they may have neither qualifications nor experience.

Eduardo Ermita is now the "little president" as the executive secretary. Leandro Mendoza is the secretary of transportation and communications. Angelo Reyes quit as defense secretary but has returned to supervise local governments. Many retired generals now occupy subordinate positions in the Cabinet where they may be groping in unfamiliar terrain. Victor Corpus, who recently finished his stint in the AFP, will be back as "reforestation czar," an office to be created particularly for him despite his lack of credentials for the job.

Back to Garcia, his superiors in the AFP earlier decided to have him charged before the civil courts rather than face court martial proceedings. Their reason was that they might be accused of a whitewash if the accused was acquitted. The AFP afraid? Was it considering a possible acquittal? We do have the presumption of innocence, but it may be rebutted with proof beyond reasonable doubt. Garcia will be hard put at justifying his extraordinary fortune -- and in US dollars yet -- with his monthly basic salary of only P19,381.

The latest report, however, is that they will court martial him, after all. Talk of indecisiveness -- and from the top defender of the nation. What if we're in a war?

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo seems to be anxious to have no part in the prosecution of the general and is leaving it to the chief of staff to do whatever he feels should be done. This is a wonderful opportunity for the commander in chief to assert her authority if only to show her direct interest in maintaining the integrity of the AFP. Strangely, however, she would rather steer clear of this delicate and unwelcome responsibility. A stronger female president would have seized this opportunity to prove her mettle, but President Arroyo is no Prime Minister Thatcher leading the British forces to the Falkland Island.

Whatever the outcome of the case against Garcia, I hope it will lead to the wider investigation of the venalities in the AFP that triggered the failed Oakwood uprising last year. The Feliciano Commission that investigated that aborted coup suggested that a serious effort be made to study and correct the mutineers' grievances that were prima facie valid. Has the President acted on that suggestion?

Besides Garcia, several other officers are reportedly being investigated for discovered assets grossly disproportionate to their salaries. Another general is charged with falsifying his birth record to avoid his retirement two years ago. These cases may be only the tip of the iceberg, and a more serious examination of the conduct of military men may reveal more scandals. Past misdeeds that may have been covered up may even be reopened as part of the general cleanup of the AFP.

President Arroyo can vastly improve what she calls this strong Republic by cleansing the Augean stables in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. All she needs is the moral courage to face up to the crooked generals and other military grafters who have dishonored their now disreputable institution. She is, or should be, their constitutional commander in chief. She should have the will and the guts to act as such unless there are serious secret reasons for her dormancy.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

On turning 80

On turning 80

Updated 04:30am (Mla time) Oct 10, 2004
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the October 10, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

CONGRATULATE me, and thank you very much. Tomorrow I'll be 80 years old. I'm still up and about, by the grace of God and my dear wife Sally, who has taken care of me since our marriage 52 years ago. My children have all been a joy to me and have given their parents little trouble except the usual youthful mischiefs that they have now outgrown. My grandchildren have added happiness to the twilight of my life although I will not be able to see the youngest of them grow up. Cara just turned 10, Bala is 9, and Bea is only 4 months old. I have written a letter to Bea that she can read 10 years from now, when I'll no longer be around.

Although some say that I don't look and act like an octogenarian (that's an intimidating word), there are times when I wish I still had the vivacity of my younger years. I especially miss the nocturnal adventures that gave Sally and me six healthy children at almost annual intervals. They were five boys in succession-Cesar, Claro, Celso, Carlo and Isagani Jr.-before we finally got a daughter, Cynthia, who is the apple of my eyes. Although I don't blame them, my regret is that they have been rather sparing with their progeny. My own parents had 18 grandchildren from us six children while my own six children have produced for Sally and me only seven grandchildren.

Since the luxury of old people is remembrance, I will tomorrow look back to some of the more beautiful memories of my happy life. They will be like roses in December as Sir James Barrie would put it. Many of them were retained in a photo album lovingly kept by my mother (she had one for each of us children) that I have, sadly, misplaced. It contained one important picture taken when I was chosen one of the officers during the yearly Boys Week in Manila and we were all taken to Malaca¤ang to visit Governor General Frank Murphy. I approached him and a cameraman took our picture together-Murphy to later become justice of the US Supreme Court and I to become justice of our own Supreme Court. I was only 10 years old then.

When I graduated from the Legarda Elementary School and missed top honors in favor of a girl classmate, all the boys struck and boycotted the commencement exercises. At the Mapa High School, I won an Eversharp fountain pen in a writing contest and earned P2 every time I was published in the Graphic student literary page. At an alumni reunion five years ago, I was widely applauded when I said I was the first editor in chief of our student organ, the Mapazette. I was in UP when the Pacific war broke out and all of us ROTC students were required to report for eventual detail to fight in the front. On Christmas Day, however, we were disbanded and told to go home, leaving what could have been our last feast of lechon and other comestibles.

Like most young men then, I had my share of female friends and had a special girl friend named Chitang. She had a pretty face and a wonderful figure. One day we had a quarrel and I let it be known to her that I was leaving for Baguio, where my friend Fred was bound the next day. I asked him to send for me a telegram to Chitang reading "I miss you so much. Oceans of love." I learned later that this led to Fred's arrest by the kempetai, who suspected he was talking of MacArthur's return. They kept tapping his head with a steel ruler to force him to confess but finally let him go.

I studied law first in UP and later in MLQ, where I graduated in 1951. I had two sweethearts, Sally in the morning and Caring in the afternoon. When Caring noticed I was wearing Sally's school ring in the afternoon, she broke up with me and for several days attended classes without makeup. She recovered soon enough with Bart, whom she later married, and during our bar review gave me a pile of law books to read. What a sweet girl! I was disappointed later when I placed eighth in the bar exams, a justice of the Supreme Court having earlier congratulated my brother Virgilio that I was No. 2.

As a struggling young married lawyer, I started practicing and later teaching. I chose Political Law at the suggestion of Dr. Jose P. Laurel of the Lyceum, where I in time became dean. Before long, I was a bar reviewer on the subject in practically all the law schools in Metro Manila and was named chair of the Code Commission. When martial law was declared, somebody I did not know saved me from being picked up by the military for attacking Marcos in my lectures. Edsa I saw my appointment to the reorganized Supreme Court, where I stayed for eight and a half years until my retirement in 1994. Now I head another law college in Las Pi¤as and have been writing this column for the past 10 years. Last April I was conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by the MLQ University.

It has been a satisfying life so far, but I am not yet ready to write finis to it. That is not for me to do but for Somebody Up There who, I think, is my friend. I will continue to live as I have done these 80 years, worshiping God, respecting my fellow human beings, loving nature, and protecting the little children who will inherit this earth. Then, ad astra.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

The meaning of 'mere'

The meaning of 'mere'

Updated 00:53am (Mla time) Oct 09, 2004
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A12 of the October 9, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

A READER who did not choose to identify himself wrote me recently with a mild reproof. He says that for "one who is a stickler for words," -- his own phrase -- I should not have made the mistake of describing Senator Bong Revilla in my article on "The three misfits" (June 13, 2004) as "a mere high school graduate." He particularly regrets my use of the word "mere" because he believes it was derogatory not only to the senator but to all other persons who, like him, have not reached college level.

As the criticism is unfair, I will plead innocent right away. It was never my intention to belittle high school graduates per se for not having entered college. There are various reasons for this decision and lack of intelligence is only one of them (although being a college student does not automatically make one intelligent). Among the other reasons are insufficient funds, loss of interest in pursuing more studies, marriage and the demands of other activities, poor health, and even boredom. Many persons feel that graduation from high school should complete their education and it is time to make a living.

In fact, a college education is not necessary to complete a person's formal studies. A person may graduate from college without learning anything; on the other hand, a person who has never studied in college may be more learned from his own self studies or even because only of his native intelligence and talents.

My best example of the accomplished individual is one who never even finished high school but so distinguished himself as a writer -- essayist and storyteller and poet -- and justly deserved the title of National Artist and the admiration of the literary world. This man was the multi-awarded dropout from high school: the late Nick Joaquin. I would never have described him as a mere high school graduate (as he was not even that in fact) nor could anyone else with a string of academic degrees look down on him for his meager formal studies.

And since we are speaking of the mere non-graduates, let us not forget the erudite Blas F. Ople, who entered law school but never finished the course because of other callings. He spoke better English than college professors and knew more of Philippine history and politics, international affairs, and philosophy and letters than many of his colleagues and contemporaries. In the Senate where he sat with be -- degreed alumni from post-graduate courses abroad, not a single one of them could claim to be more intellectual than Ople.

In my recent article on the American presidents (Sept. 11, 2004) I mentioned nine of them, including Washington and Lincoln -- and Truman too in the last century -- who received little or no formal schooling. Yet some of them acquitted themselves favorably in office and could not be considered "mere" students because they had no college degrees. By contrast, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has described the chamber to which she belongs a "Senate of idiots" although all its members have what she calls "reasonable resumés" and can recite scripted speeches ghost-written for them by others.

I had a classmate in the Legarda Elementary School many decades ago who was brighter than many of us. He enrolled with us at the Mapa High School when we finished grade school but had to stop during his first year because he had to help his mother earn a living for the family when his father died. He was working in a printing shop the last time I saw him, and I am hoping that he eventually got to own the business, given his native abilities. I would never have described him as a mere high school student inferior to other persons who got to study in college and even managed to graduate at last after a lot of flunking grades.

So my dear anonymous friend who would chide me for calling Bong Revilla a mere high school graduate, please understand that I did not mean to underrate him as such. I do not consider high school students inferior because they are lower than college students. They are lower in rank, but not necessarily in intelligence. The fact is that I used the word "mere" only in a comparative sense to distinguish high school students from students on the collegiate level. That is all. It is like saying that one is a mere freshman compared to the other students who are sophomores and juniors and seniors.

Let me take this occasion to comment on the modesty of my colleagues on the Supreme Court when we were there who had taken post-graduate studies in foreign schools and had earned impressive-sounding academic degrees. I never had their opportunities but not a single one of them flaunted his distinctions before me like a pretentious and patronizing pedant. I truly appreciate that none of these humble peers considered me a "mere" justice because I was land-locked, so to speak, and had not studied abroad like them.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Oakwood affair again

The Oakwood affair again

Updated 00:57am (Mla time) Oct 03, 2004
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the October 3, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IN APOLOGIZING for the Oakwood mutiny last year, its leaders who were so brave and even arrogant before have confessed to their crime of plotting to usurp the legitimate government of the Philippines and replace it with their own brand of military adventurism. After a few days of swagger, during which they impressed not a few sympathizers and malcontents dissatisfied with the present regime, they meekly surrendered to the lawful authorities and were placed under detention to face prosecution for their rebellion.

Many people praised them for their idealism in resisting the irregularities being committed in the Armed Forces of the Philippines to which they belonged, and the failure of their superior officers to cleanse the institution of its widespread venalities. They claimed they had even complained of their disenchantment to the President as their commander in chief but to no avail. Even the Feliciano Commission, which was later created to investigate their aborted uprising, recognized the reasons for their discontent while at the same time reproving them for their methods in trying to solve it.

The apology expressed by the junior officers elicited general approbation, particularly from the top officials of the country led by President Macapagal-Arroyo herself, who said she felt no rancor against them although it was her government they sought to destroy. Others said it was a good ending for the unfortunate affair. There was a discordant note from the counsel of the accused young men who asked why, if the apology had already been accepted, his clients were still under detention.

I for one am not impressed by the apology and do not share in the jubilation. To answer that confused counsel, his clients are still in the stockade because they have not yet been acquitted nor have the charges against them been withdrawn by the government.

And, of course, they cannot be pardoned at this time because a pardon can be extended by the President only after the conviction of the accused. That is what the Oakwood rebels are looking forward to, which is the real reason for their contrition at this time.

There is no question that they will be convicted of the court martial charges; their public and voluntary confession of being guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman has seen to that beyond the whisper of a doubt. Such offense carries with it a heavy penalty in imprisonment as well as the end of the life career for which they have prepared themselves and the future they could reasonably expect if they had not allowed themselves to be misled by their advisers. These advisers have conveniently absented themselves from the sordid affair that has enmeshed their believing pupils even as they themselves are enjoying undeserved liberty.

The Oakwood mutineers are no longer the young idealists they were a year ago. Now they have become hard-nosed pragmatists, a little wounded and scarred, to be sure, but definitely much wiser and practical now, like those safer in the higher line of command. They have realized that there is not much point in holding fast to their principles when they can do this only in the confinement of their prison cells while the military superiors they have denounced continue to savor their ill-gotten gains and enjoy their still honored names.

An accompanying report in this paper described the financial difficulties of the rebels, who have not received their salaries for more than a year since they mounted their their armed challenge to the government. As military men, they should have known the basic rule that an army marches on its stomach. They had funds for their insignia and arm bands and their hotel accommodations and that caricature of a Philippine flag to identify their illicit group, but they did not have the foresight to provide for the needs of their families. Did they expect to seize the National Treasury and its empty coffers?

I am almost done with these reflections about this serio-comic exploit of the future generals of our country except to ask this remaining significant question: Who was their leader? The Philippine Revolution of 1896 was led by young and courageous activists, but none of the Oakwood mutineers had their vision and energy, not to mention courage. As for their general, he would remain secret until his hirelings will have succeeded, when he would then conveniently step forward as their Leader. Who was this clever segurista?

Former Secretary Joey Lina of the Department of Interior and Local Government was sure it was then Sen. Gregorio Honasan, but the experienced coup d'etat leader during the administration of President Aquino has not been touched so far. He questioned his investigation by the Department of Justice but was not sustained by the Supreme Court. That investigation, however, has produced no results so far. Perhaps Lina can testify against Honasan in that probe so we can determine what role, if any, the respondent former senator played in that unfortunate Oakwood affair. The public has a right to know who was the prime culprit of that pathetic exploit gone kaput.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The folly of legislative investigations

The folly of legislative investigations

Updated 10:43pm (Mla time) Oct 01, 2004
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the October 2, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

NOW that the new Congress has distributed its committee chairs among its favored members, you can expect them to start showing off again in the exercise of their right of legislative investigation. This is now expressly limited by the Constitution, but that is no hindrance to legislators who believe that this power is an opportunity for them to impress their constituents and the public in general. Many of them believe in their supposed abilities (supposed by them) as experienced cross-examiners and feel the people should know about their hidden talent.

The art of cross-examination is something that eludes even the most experienced lawyers as one of them demonstrated at the Joseph Estrada impeachment trial when he tried to catch a witness in a lie. The witness was too clever for him, however, and it was he who retreated with his reputation in tatters. But such humiliation does not intimidate our pretentious lawmakers, who believe that their election entitles them to act foolishly in the once august halls of Congress. Thus, you can expect them to ask the most stupid questions, and in the most pompous manner, to the hushed admiration of their “bakya” [low-class] admirers.

I do not include all the members of Congress in this observation, for there are indeed a goodly number of them who deserve the respect of the public. But they still constitute a small minority of the generally bungling roster that is a disgrace to the Filipino people. The trouble with the legislature is that all its members have an equal right to speak, even foolishly, and each of them may invoke parliamentary immunity to escape deserved punishment for his (or her) shameful conduct. Their language may be "propesterous," but they are the elect of the people whose voice is, in most cases, described sacrilegiously as the voice of God.

The power of legislative investigation used to be one of the most effective fund-raising schemes of the old Congress, an engine for malice of its less than worthy members, or at the very least, an opportunity for grandstanding. The Constitution now wisely lays down express restrictions to prevent its abuse, to wit, it must be conducted in aid of legislation, in accordance with pre-existing rules of procedure, and with proper respect for those attending or affected by it. Still, the power continues to be exercised with little regard for public sentiment and public funds.

In fairness, some notable legislative investigations have redounded to the public good by exposing and correcting irregularities. A memorable example was the probe of the purchase of the Tambobong-Buenavista estate for which Congress appropriated P400,000 to whom the witness Jean Arnault could not remember paying; he was, for his forgetfulness, held in contempt of the Senate and ordered imprisoned indefinitely until his memory improved. (Whatever happened to him?)

Other investigations have not been as significant or even serious. One recalls with amusement the investigation of the so-called Brunei beauties, the scrape of the NCAA basketball players, the non-admission by a Catholic university of a sexy starlet who made a sensational personal appearance in Congress, and the alleged unhealthy processing of “taho” [bean curd]. Only recently, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, chair of the committee on labor employment and human resources, investigated the employment of prostitutes and their congressional customers who had so cheapened the legislature.

While these investigations were taking place, the national economy continued to plummet, peace and order deteriorated, and graft and corruption increased on all levels of the government.

There are two legislative investigations I have followed with keen interest that have produced exactly nothing to date. The first is the Panfilo Lacson investigation that was begun three years ago and is still on indefinite hold today. The other is the investigation of noise pollution by the airplanes flying over the Merville subdivision, where I live, and other neighboring subdivisions in Parañaque city.

The investigation of Lacson by three Senate committees was concluded on Sept. 5, 2001, and was calendared by majority floor leader Loren Legarda for deliberation by the Senate plenary several times. It was blocked as many times, the last by Senator Tito Sotto, until Legarda herself joined the opposition. Legarda and Sotto and Senator Robert Barbers, the chair of the lead investigating committee, are no longer in the Senate, and the Lacson case is now in rigor mortis.

The Blue Ribbon Committee that investigated the intrusion of the noisy airplanes received the solemn promise of the Air Transportation Office to limit their flights between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily, but we are still awakened by these nuisances at 5 a.m. or even earlier, and on Sundays too. We have complained to Senator Joker P. Arroyo, the committee chair, but even he seems to be powerless against the owners of Cebu Pacific Air and Air Philippines, who must be untouchable. So how about us ordinary citizens of Merville in our besieged and defenseless area? We are expendable.

And so another Congress has begun (and recessed), and the comedy continues.