July 2012

BY REY O. ARCILLA
MALAYA

‘Noynoy’s “daang matuwid” now has several potholes, “bako-bako” in Pilipino.’

I WONDER if President Noynoy Aquino realizes that his failure to send back our ships, for whatever reason, to Scarborough Shoal is tantamount to giving up our territory by default. Possession is nine-tenths ownership, remember?

The Chinese are still there. According to reports, they have even put in place nets with floaters covering the whole entrance to the Shoal. They obviously are intended to prevent “foreigners” from entering the Shoal.

All the talk about defending our sovereignty and territorial integrity at any cost has become just that – talk. Noynoy is not being consistent with what he said in his SONA: “…if someone entered your yard and told you he owned it, would you agree? Would it be right to give away that which is rightfully ours?”

***

In the meantime, what is our “special” friend the US doing? She’s also talking, that’s what – in Washington – expressing concern about China’s new garrison, new city of Sansha, etc., in the West Philippine Sea!

Why doesn’t she instead send warships to escort our decrepit navy and coast guard to patrol and guard the areas we own? Words are cheap, that’s why. Also, she would not want to tangle with China – particularly at this time when her economy is so closely tied up with hers, the economy of Western Europe in shambles, her debilitating experience in Iraq and Afghanistan still haunting her and the fact that she is in the midst of a presidential election campaign.

***

I’m sure Noynoy and his “bunch of amateurs” (not my words but those of a real expert) are wracking their brains on what to do now – aside from keeping on mouthing the unrelenting pursuit of “peaceful, diplomatic and legal” solutions. In the meantime, China is doing what we should have been doing a long time ago – establishing her presence in the disputed areas. It’s a little late for us to be doing that now, given our military and financial inadequacies and the risk of being fired upon by the Chinese, now that they have already occupied some areas also owned by us according to international law.

***

What to do now? Here are my billion-yuan suggestions which have already been made public several times through this column and in other fora:

1. Maintain our presence (in whatever form) in the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal and other areas which are rightfully ours. I believe we can do this because my assessment is China will not risk universal condemnation by attacking us. In case she does, we take her to the UN Security Council for breaching international peace and security pursuant to the relevant provisions of the UN Charter.

2. Go ahead and unilaterally file a complaint before the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea, as Foreign Secretary Albert “Amboy” del Rosario has been “threatening” to do from day one of the dispute.

3. Consider elevating the dispute to the United Nations General Assembly, pursuant to the relevant provisions of the UN Charter – to make the world community aware of China’s aggressive and provocative actions in the West Philippine Sea that threaten international peace and security.

(The proposal of Congressman Rodolfo Biazon for a UN peacekeeping force is not feasible at this time because there is no armed conflict in the area – yet. Besides, only the Security Council has the authority to create a peacekeeping force. With China there with her veto, Biazon’s proposal will never fly.)

4. Explore other avenues to resolve the dispute without giving up our sovereignty. (The initiative taken by Filipino businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan—obviously approved by President Aquino–on oil exploration and development is one alternative we can explore/consider and weigh carefully, bearing in mind our national interest and strategic moves in the short term and in the long-run).

5. When planning our strategic initiatives, we must discard the notion that anybody will help us. We must depend solely on ourselves. Do this on our own and rely on the ingenuity of our leaders, including those in the private sector whose inputs could be immensely invaluable in reaching a mutually acceptable and beneficial solution–or option.

6. In the meantime, let us continue to modernize our armed forces. We can do this. We have the money. President Aquino, for instance, has said we have money to buy two squadrons of jet fighters from sources other than the US.

We should also make the US pay for helping her “pivot” to our region. US$30 million additional military aid next year is truly insulting. US$3 billion dollars would be more like it. Look, she is helping Afghanistan get US$4 billion a year for armaments alone! The bulk of that could only come from the US.

7. Above all, keep dialoguing with China in the search for a peaceful solution to the dispute.

In this connection, Noynoy may wish to consider replacing Del Rosario. The Chinese allegedly do not like dealing with him because he is an Amboy. I think the Chinese also stopped trusting him after the clumsy way he handled the verbal agreement to withdraw from Scarborough Shoal.

***

Noynoy said in his SONA: “And so I ask for solidarity from our people regarding this issue. Let us speak with one voice. Help me relay to the other side the logic of our stand.”

Before your bosses can heed your appeal, Mr. President, you have to inform and educate them first what the issue is all about. Unlike in China, the young and the man-in-the-street here do not have any idea at all what we are quarreling about with our northern neighbor.

For starters, you may wish to instruct your education secretary and the Commission on Higher Education to issue a directive to all schools to make the students become familiar with the issue and its implications to them and to the country.

Your press and communications secretaries (what’s the difference?) should also do their part in disseminating the relevant information as widely as possible.

We, at the Lyceum of the Philippines University, are already doing it.

***

I don’t know what it is with Noynoy that he keeps insisting the crime situation in the country has improved considerably. He obviously does not read the newspapers or listen to the radio and TV news everyday. I do not blame him. He must be too busy.

I blame his crime czar, executive secretary and bosom buddy, Paquito Ochoa for feeding him erroneous information and data. Maybe he too is very busy. Besides, I don’t think the job is his cup of tea. He may be good with guns like his buddy, but that does not necessarily qualify him as a crime fighter. He should relinquish the job and ask his buddy to give it to somebody else more qualified.

Mr. President, please look again at the problem. You are annoying your bosses for dishing out information they know isn’t true. You are making yourself vulnerable to accusations of lying.

***

The government was quick to condemn the killing of 12 people and the wounding of 58 others in a cinema house in Aurora, Colorado, USA.

And yet, I do not remember the government having condemned the senseless killings of hundreds of people that regularly take place in Syria. The rampant killings of people in Iraq that normally number by the dozens have also not been condemned by our government.

Lest I am misunderstood, I am talking about condemning the killings, not the governments of the countries where they take place.

***

Reminders (for Noynoy’s action):

1) Filing of charges against officials of the National Food Administration (NFA) during Arroyo’s illegitimate regime. Noynoy himself said on several occasions that there is documentary evidence to prove the venalities in the past in that agency.

Noynoy again referred in an indirect manner to the anomaly in his third SONA. Yet he has done nothing about it. This is one of several “bako” (potholes) in his “daang matuwid”. Bako-bako na!

2) investigation of reported anomalies in the GSIS during the watch of Winston Garcia;

3) Facilitating the investigation of rampant corruption in the military and police establishments; and

4) Expeditious action by the AFP on the case of Jonas Burgos.

***

Today is the 87th day of the sixth year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.

***

From an internet friend:

The guys were all at a deer camp. No one wanted to room with Bob, because he snored so badly. They decided it wasn’t fair to make one of them stay with him the whole time, so they voted to take turns. The first guy slept with Bob and comes to breakfast the next morning with his hair a mess and his eyes all bloodshot. They said, “Man, what happened to you?” He said, “Bob snored so loudly, I just sat up and watched him all night.” The next night it was a different guy’s turn. In the morning, same thing, hair all standing up, eyes all bloodshot. They said, “Man, what happened to you? You look awful!” He said, ‘Man, that Bob shakes the roof with his snoring. I watched him all night.”

The third night was Fred’s turn. Fred was a tanned, older cowboy, a man’s man. The next morning he came to breakfast bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. “Good morning!” he said. They couldn’t believe it. They said, “Man, what happened?” He said, “Well, we got ready for bed. I went and tucked Bob into bed, patted him on the butt, and kissed him good night. Bob sat up and watched me all night.”

With age comes wisdom.

***

Email: roacrosshairs@yahoo.com

By Matthew Pennington
Associated Press
Deseret News

The city of Sansha is on an island in the disputed Paracel chain, which China now considers part of Hainan province. 

The city of Sansha is on an island in the disputed Paracel chain, which China now considers part of Hainan province. (Str,Afp/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — China has heightened tensions in the South China Sea with its new, remote island city and planned military garrison in a contested area viewed as a potential flashpoint for conflict in the Asia-Pacific.

How might the United States respond?

Criticize Beijing too strongly and the Obama administration will strain its relationship with the emerging superpower. Let it pass and undermine two years of intense diplomacy that has promoted the U.S. standing among Southeast Asian nations that are intimidated by China’s rise.

A key plank of the administration’s engagement in the Asia-Pacific since 2010 has been its declaration of a U.S. national interest in the maintenance of peace and stability in the South China Sea, where China and five of its neighbors — most notably the Philippines and Vietnam — have competing territorial claims.

But tensions have only escalated. China’s raising of the flag this week at Sansha municipality, on tiny Yongxing island, 220 miles from its southernmost province of Hainan, come as claimants jockey for influence in the resource-rich region.

China will not be able to project much military power from such a small outpost, with a population of just 1,000 people and scarcely room for an airstrip, but it has symbolic importance. Beijing says the municipality will administer hundreds of thousands of square miles of water where it wants to strengthen its control over disputed, and potentially oil-rich, islands.

In Washington, lawmakers interested in Asia policy have been quick to respond.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the move provocative and said it reinforced worries that China would attempt to impose its territorial claims through intimidation and coercion. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said China’s attempt to assert control of disputed territories may be a violation of international law.

While the State Department was careful in its reaction, it also criticized China’s “unilateral moves.”

“I think there is a concern here, that they are beginning to take actions when we want to see all of these issues resolved at the table,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday.

President Barack Obama will not want to appear soft on China as he fights for re-election against Republican contender Mitt Romney. Romney has accused the incumbent of being weak on Beijing and has pledged to get tough, in particular, on China’s trading practices.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765593034/US-dilemma-in-South-China-Sea-response.html

Source: Strategy Page

July 29, 2012: On July 24th China made it official and declared one of the Paracel islands (Woody Island) to be the center of a new Chinese municipality (city). Sansha is actually Woody Island and dozens of smaller bits of land (some of them shoals that are under water all the time) in the Paracels and the Spratly Islands to the south. In fact, the new “city” lays claim to two million square kilometers of open sea (57 percent of the South China Sea). This is part of a strategy based on the ancient principle that, when it comes to real estate, “possession is 9/10ths of the law.” It’s the law of the jungle, because all the claimants are armed and making it clear that, at some point down the road, force will be used to enforce claims. Since 1975, there have been two naval battles, and dozens of minor clashes by the rival claimants to the Paracels. With the establishment of Sansha City, China is saying the next time it could be war, because a government has to defend its sovereign territory.

Currently Woody Island has a permanent population of about a thousand people who have to be supplied (even with water) at great expense from the Chinese mainland. Most are military and police personnel (who serve on the island for two years) and civilian officials (who serve six month tours). There is a small fishing community and facilities for fishing boats to tie up and the crews to come ashore for some rest. There are also some tourist attractions. Woody Island is about 340 kilometers from Chinese territory (Hainan Island) thus within China’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The expense of maintaining Sansha is a minor cost when you consider that this move makes many disputed islands, atolls and reefs officially part of China.

As a “city” Sansha requires a larger military garrison, which is expected to arrive soon in the form of several thousand troops, armored vehicles, anti-aircraft weapons, warships and aircraft. The Paracel Islands are also claimed by Taiwan, and Vietnam. In 1974, China fought a naval battle with the South Vietnamese near the Paracel islands, and took control after sinking one of the four Vietnamese warships and chasing the others away. China has been expanding military facilities on these tiny islands for several years. Among the more notable additions has been an expanded electronic monitoring facility, and a lengthened runway on Woody Island, now long enough to support Su-30 fighters. Several large fuel tanks have also been built, indicating an intention to base Su-30 fighters there. Eventually, over 3,000 civilian and military personnel will be stationed in Sansha. This strengthens claims on unoccupied islets and reefs, including many within the Filipino EEZ.

China is also concerned about the nearby Spratlys, a group of some 100 islets, atolls, and reefs that total only about 5 square kilometers of land, but sprawl across some 410,000 square kilometers of the South China Sea. Set amid some of the world’s most productive fishing grounds, the islands are believed to have enormous oil and gas reserves. Several nations have overlapping claims on the group. About 45 of the islands are currently occupied by small numbers of military personnel. China claims them all, but occupies only 8. Vietnam has occupied or marked 25, the Philippines 8, Malaysia 6, and Taiwan one.

Taiwan built a 1,150 meter long, and 30 meter wide air strip on Itu AbaCalled Taiping Island by the Taiwanese, Ita Aba is one of the largest of Spratly Islands, at about 120 acres (489,600 square meters). It has been in Taiwanese hands since the mid-1950s, and has largely been used as a way station for fishermen. The island is also claimed by the Vietnamese, who call it Thai Binh. Taiwan has long maintained a small military presence on the island, and the air strip is meant to cement that control. Protests were made by Vietnam, which controls the largest group of islands, and the Philippines, which also claims Itu Aba island. The Vietnamese earlier refurbished an old South Vietnamese airstrip on Big Spratly Island.

In 1988, China and Vietnam fought a naval battle, off the Spratly islands. The Chinese victory, in which a Chinese warship sank a Vietnamese transport carrying troops headed for one of the disputed islands, was followed by Chinese troops establishing garrisons on some of the islands. In 1992, Chinese marines landed on Da Lac reef, in the Spratly Islands. In 1995, Chinese marines occupied Mischief Reef, which was claimed by the Philippines.

http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htlead/articles/20120729.aspx

BY RITCHIE A. HORARIO, JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA AND JOMAR CANLAS
THE MANILA TIMES

LEADERS of both the Senate and the House of Representatives on Friday declared the composition of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) “unconstitutional” and the selection process for the next chief justice of the Supreme Court “unlawful.”

Because of this, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said that they have pulled out their representatives in the council’s ongoing search for the next chief magistrate.

Enrile said that the current selection process being conducted by the JBC is an “open violation of the Constitution” because its present composition is not in accordance with the Charter.

In questioning the present composition of the JBC, Enrile said the 1987 Constitution was “very clear” that the chief justice, and not any justice, “not even the acting chief justice,” can be the ex-officio JBC chairman.

“Walang chief justice ngayon, paano magkaroon ng JBC [There is no chief justice at present. How can you have a JBC]? There’s no such thing as an acting chief justice as far as that provision of the Constitution is concerned,” he said in an interview over radio station dzBB.

He stressed that it was unfair that the provision on the chief magistrate presiding over the JBC was not followed strictly, while the constitutional provision of Congress having only one representation was enforced.

“Bakit [Why] apply [the constitutional provision] only on Congress and not on the Supreme Court?” he asked.

In the case of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Enrile said that the secretary was also substituted after being nominated to the post.

“Why is she being represented by someone else, which is not authorized under the Constitution?” he added.

Boycott

The pullout by Congress from the Council stemmed from a membership issue involving Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. of Iloilo province, who are chairmen of the justice committees in each chamber.

Enrile and Belmonte made the pullout announcement on Friday as the JBC held its fourth and last grilling of nominees for the post.

“We agreed we will have to consult our respective chambers and present the problem to them. In the meantime, we instructed the representatives of the House and Senate in the JBC not to participate in the JBC proceedings,” Enrile said.

The decision was reached after the two leaders together with Escudero, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales 2nd and Tupas met on Friday at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel to discuss the issue.

The Senate chief said that the temporary pullout would last until the issue on Congress’ membership to the JBC “is clearly and correctly decided.”

Appeal

Enrile said that although Congress respects the decision of the Supreme Court, which ruled that the Senate and the House are entitled to only a combined one vote, they will still have to contest it.

“With due respect to the Supreme Court, Congress is composed of two houses. The Senate cannot represent the position of the House in the JBC, and neither can the House represent the position of the Senate in the JBC,” Enrile explained.

The lawmakers have filed their motion for reconsideration, appealing to the High Court to reconsider their ruling and give the Senate and the House of Representatives one vote each in the JBC.

The Court, with a vote of 7-2, decided that Congress is entitled to only one representative and one vote.

It was opined that the framers of the 1987 Constitution wanted each sector to have an equal distribution of vote. One for the judiciary, one for the legislative, one for the executive, one for the IBP, one for the private sector, one for the academe and one for retired magistrates of the High Court.

Impasse

To break the impasse, the Senate Chief suggested that President Benigno Aquino 3rd should just appoint the chief justice.

“He is the appointing power. If there is a hiatus, the president, as a matter of necessity, must appoint the chief justice. We cannot allow a hiatus to take place but we cannot allow a violation of the Constitution,” he said

For his part, Escudero maintained that the Senate is a different body from the House of the Representatives and can’t represent the latter or vice versa.

He said that each body has a separate constituency and institution and one cannot bind or represent the other.

Escudero added that the move to boycott the deliberation is to emphasize the position of both the Senate and the House of Representatives as bicameral bodies.

“We were instructed not to attend the JBC deliberation on Monday or until after our petition has been decided on,” Escudero said.

The JBC is set to vote of the shortlist of chief justice nominees on Monday, which will be forwarded to President Aquino.

Ultimatum

Meanwhile, lawyer Jose Mejia, a JBC member, said that de Lima has until July 30 to submit her clearance stating that she no longer faces disbarment and other cases before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

Under Rule 4, Section 5 of the JBC rules, any aspirant who has pending criminal or administrative cases is automatically disqualified from the race.

Mejia said that if de Lima fails to submit her clearance on Monday, she can be deemed disqualified.

De Lima is facing disbarment cases for allegedly defying the High Court’s temporary restraining order (TRO) allowing former president and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga province to seek medical treatment abroad.

Besides the disbarment raps, de Lima has a pending graft case before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly deporting 14 Taiwanese citizens to China.

She had said that she did not willingly defy the TRO and explained that it was a matter of the former president having hurriedly and prematurely tried to leave the country despite the non-service of the TRO at that time.

Blackmail

Former solicitor general Francisco Chavez also on Friday warned Tupas and Escudero that they might themselves be violating the Constitution for their decision to boycott the JBC proceedings.

“That is another violation of the constitution. It is dereliction of duty because under Section 8, Paragraph 1, Article VIII of the Constitution, Congress is supposed to send a representative to the JBC. Their refusal to do so is a gross violation of the constitution,” he pointed out.

Chavez stressed that what must be obeyed are not the wishes of the legislative but the order of the Supreme Court which says that “a representative of Congress” has only one vote.

He said that the announced refusal of Congress to send their representative to the JBC “is also tantamount to a clear blackmail to bend the will of the Supreme Court. It is also a defiance to the SC resolution that says Congress should have one representative to the JBC.”

http://www.manilatimes.net/index.php/news/top-stories/27833-jbc-selection-process-unlawful-congress

BY HANNAH L. TORREGOZA
MANILA BULLETIN

MANILA, Philippines — The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) tries to come up this week with the shortlist of nominees for Chief Justice which it will submit to President Benigno S. Aquino III, but Congress is standing pat on its decision not to send any representative to participate in the nominees’ selection.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said yesterday both Senate and House of Representatives need to consult their members in a caucus first, although he was quick to add that the decision is “neither an attempt to boycott or blackmail” the Supreme Court which had ruled that only one member of Congress can sit in the JBC.

“We are not boycotting anything. We just do not want to participate in what we consider a flawed process. We are not–even if I am kicked out of the Senate as President—that is my position,” Enrile said in an interview over radio DZBB.

The JBC postponed voting for the final three nominees for Chief Justice from Monday to Thursday this week following the pullout of Sen. Francis Escudero and Rep. Niel Tupas as Congress’ representatives to the JBC.

Over a dozen nominees last week went through intense public interviews which were aired live on television.

Enrile said the Senate would be made accountable if somebody questions the President’s choice of a Chief Justice that will come from a shortlist that was drawn up by a JBC whose composition is questionable.

The decision of the Supreme Court had the tendency to “change the relationship” of the two chambers of Congress “and that is not contemplated by the people who have formulated that organic law,” he said.

He reiterated that the decision of the Senate to recall Escudero and the House to pull out Tupas from the JBC does not mean they are blackmailing the Supreme Court.

“I understand what I’m doing. We’re not blackmailing anybody. We never blackmail anybody. We do not blackmail anybody,” Enrile stressed.

He said Supreme Court must explain why it allowed the JBC to appoint a replacement for Justice Secretary Leila de Lima who did not even pass through the Commission on Appointments (CA) and why it also allowed an acting chief justice to be the chairman of the JBC.

Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday urged the JBC to draw up a set of criteria for the nomination process which it can use in future deliberations.

Cayetano said that based on the apparent success of the live interviews of candidates done by the JBC in its search for the next Supreme Court chief, a set of criteria should be laid out by the Council which formally comes up with a shortlist of candidates it vets to Malacanang.

The criteria could include academic performance, management skills or experience, history of transparency and accountability and other standards it should set for future justices of the Supreme Court.

Today the JBC is expected to convene its seven members–the ones remaining after the Supreme Court stood pat on its decision to clip Congress powers in sending representations to the powerful council–to vote in the selection process.

In the House, there is a growing initiative to ask the JBC to shelve its selection proceedings and wait for the Supreme Court to decide the issue of the right of Congress’ representatives to cast two votes in choosing the new Chief Justice.

House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said the legality of the Supreme Court ruling should be addressed first before the eight-man JBC proceeds with the voting.

Last July 24, the Office of Solicitor General (OSG) filed a motion for reconsideration questioning the ruling.

“We are appealing to the constitutional body (JBC) to wait for the final ruling of the Supreme Court before picking the names of candidates for its inclusion to the shortlist to be submitted to the President (Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III),” Gonzales, the chairman of the House committee on rules, said.

“Let us remember that Congress has two institutions which are the House of Representatives and the Senate. A congressman cannot represent a senator and vice versa to the JBC,” the chairman of the House committee on rules stressed.

Insisting that Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas and Escudero, who are ex-officio members of the JBC being the chairmen of the House and Senate committees on justice, could cast their votes separately, Deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigai Valte said the absence of the congressional representatives will not affect the quorum of the JBC.

“We respect the decision of the leaders of Congress in the matter of their representation in the JBC. The JBC continues to have a quorum,” Valte said in a text message. —with additional reports from Charissa M. Luci and Genalyn D. Kabiling

http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/367831/no-boycott-blackmail

COMMENTARY
BY MANUEL F. ALMARIO

The invitation by the Judicial and Bar Council for all nominees for chief justice to a job “interview” is demeaning to both the nominees and the Supreme Court itself.

Justices of the Supreme Court are chosen; they do not apply for the job. In the United States, from which we borrowed many of our democratic concepts and practices, the President nominates the justice, and the nomination is confirmed by the Senate after a proper hearing by a bipartisan judiciary committee. When a vacancy occurs, the President conducts a search for a nominee, aided by his staff and advisors. The potential nominee is not even aware that he or she is being vetted until notification by the Office of the President.

The nominee’s background is examined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which submits a report to the Senate judiciary record to determine suitability for office, then holds a hearing to question him or her about judicial record, political philosophy, ideology, and anything else deemed appropriate. The committee then makes a recommendation to the Senate, which approves or disapproves the nomination by majority vote.

Under the Philippines’ 1935 Constitution, the procedure was for the President to make the nomination. It is then submitted to the Commission on Appointments (CA), which is composed of 24 members (12 each from the House of Representatives and the Senate). If the CA disapproves by majority vote, the President makes another selection.

Thus, there was a real check and balance, as the CA is a body independent of the Office of the President. This provision of the 1935 Charter may be considered an improvement over the US procedure, because it allowed both chambers of Congress to participate in the appointment of a justice.

Under the 1972 Philippine Constitution, only the President had the power to appoint the justices of the Supreme Court and judges of the lower courts. No check and balance, in accord with the dictatorship imposed by Ferdinand Marcos. But under the 1987 Cory Constitution, a Judicial and Bar Council was established to make a list of at least three nominees from which the President selects the justice.

The JBC has eight members, who serve for a term of four years. They are the Chief Justice, who presides as ex officio chair, the justice secretary, a representative of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), a professor of law, a retired member of the Supreme Court, a representative of the private sector, and one representative each of the House and the Senate.

Except for the two Congress representatives, all are appointed by the President and are normally expected to follow what he/she dictates. Hence, the check and balance over appointments to the judiciary was abolished. It is a dictatorship in disguise.

Moreover, legal practitioners from the IBP and the “private sector” (whatever that means) are included in the JBC as presidential appointees, injecting private and professional interest in the selection of justices and judges. Legal practitioners may expect to gain some advantage if appointed to the JBC because of influential connections to the anointed one. (That is why the IBP tended to favor then Chief Justice Renato Corona in the impeachment case.)

The JBC is a farce, making possible the appointment of mediocre and self-serving justices, and habitually kowtowing to the appointing power. We should go back to the system established by the 1935 Constitution in which a real check and balance was maintained in appointments to the judiciary.
The US system in appointing justices has worked effectively.

The US Senate has rejected certain nominees not just for their lack of personal integrity but also for their positions on civil liberties, human rights, and social and political issues. One noteworthy case involved former Attorney General and Yale law professor Robert Bork, who was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan. His nomination was strongly opposed by civil rights and women’s groups for his “stated desire to roll back civil rights decisions” by previous courts.
The late Sen. Ted Kennedy took the Senate floor to oppose Bork’s nomination, declaring: “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is—and often the only—protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy…”

As solicitor general under President Richard Nixon, Bork was responsible for the “Saturday Night Massacre”—Nixon’s firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox and his deputies for requesting the submission of the White House tapes that implicated Nixon in the Watergate scandal. He was considered a loyal political operator of the disgraced President. (Corona was impeached by the Senate for, among other things, showing partiality to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her attempt to leave the country despite pending court cases.)

On the other hand, President Barack Obama’s nomination of Sonia Maria Sotomayor in 2009 as associate justice of the Supreme Court—its first Hispanic justice and its third female justice—was approved by the US Senate by a 68-31 vote despite opposition from the Republicans. Public opinion was sharply divided over her nomination because of her Latino background, with US Rep. Newt Gingrich at one time calling her a “racist”.
Sotomayor also refused to answer when asked what her stand would be if the decision in Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States, were brought before her. But her integrity and prudent decisions as a judge in the district and appellate courts won her the support of the Senate and much of the American public.

One would not expect the eight members of the JBC, most of whom are presidential appointees, to publicly debate over their choices for the Supreme Court. They operate as a semisecret chamber. Since the JBC was established, there has been no public debate over the qualifications, opinions and judicial records of the nominees.

In the past under the 1935 Constitution, when the President took full responsibility for the nomination of a justice, and Congress, through the CA, shared in the responsibility, the Philippines had great justices like Jose Abad Santos, Jose P. Laurel, Claro M. Recto and JBL Reyes, whose integrity and erudite decisions resonate through the years.
We should return to the CA or the Senate the power to confirm or ratify presidential appointments to the Supreme Court and the lower courts. With elected people’s representatives, and not only a cabal of eight, participating in the selection, perhaps we will get a more effective, wiser and more righteous judiciary.

Manuel F. Almario is a lawyer and journalist. He is the spokesperson of the Movement for Truth in History (Rizal’s Moth).

By Fr. Shay Cullen 

The Subanen are native to the Zamboanga Peninsula in the western part of the large southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

Some thousands of indigenous people all over the Philippines, especially in Mindanao, especially the Subaanen people, on the Zamboanga Peninsula have struggle for years to stop mining corporations from moving in to explore and mine the mountains and hills. They are victims of corrupt government officials and even judges who are captivated by the vested interest of the mining industry.

Some Indigenous people are sadly being forced to turn to armed resistance as the mining corporations move into their lands. The Subaanen people have remained steadfastly non-violent and turned to the rule of law and trust in the constitution to protect them and their rights.But is it enough?

Hundreds of thousands of hectares of ancestral land has been threatened by the illegal and corrupt acts of some officials of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Allegedly some of these officials are not on the side of the people in Mindanao but are for the rich and powerful mining interests and the banks that fund them.

They allegedly enrich themselves by giving mining permits to companies over ancestral lands which is forbidden by law. It is at this level in the provinces where the anti-corruption campaign of President Aquino is weakest. He has deposed a former president and a chief Justice but not yet the corrupt officials in Mindanao. While the president is dedicated and honestly trying to clean up the stinking garbage of corruption he cannot seemingly oust these entrenched officials, the henchmen and women of powerful political families.

They do not have allegiance to their department cabinet secretary or the president. In fact they are ones who defy the president and are the hardest to get rid off. The presidents political allies could be behind the corrupt practices that is opening the way for the illegal logging and issuance of mining permits. They are pushing the president to override the provincial governments bans on open pit mining. He must resist this pressure.

Mining companies that get a permit to explore and mine also get a logging permit for the cutting the trees in the area alloted to them for mining. This is totally destructive and is a way around the presidential ban on logging which goes on unabated. Just drive through Mindanao and you will pass twenty or thirty huge trucks hauling cut logs. I have seen them myself.

For many years the Subaanen people and their supporters have stood peacefully for their rights courageously and bravely to stop the local dynastic families and their cronies in the International mining industry from mining their ancestral lands. The Subaanen have been non-violent and trusted the democratic rule of law to save them.

Their breakthrough cam in August 2011 when the Supreme Court of the Philippines granted a Writ of Kalikasan (A protection of nature) to the people to protect the environment of the whole of the Zamboanga Peninsula. A Writ of Kalikasan is a powerful legal remedy under Philippine law which provides for the protection one’s right to “a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature,” as provided for in Section 16, Article II of the Philippine Constitution. It protects one’s right for a healthy environment against damage of such magnitude that it threatens life, health, or property of inhabitants in two or more cities or provinces. But the government officials are ignoring the Supreme Court order .

Bishop Jiminez and three other bishops and an archbishop signed a letter to the London based shareholders of the mining company RTZ-CRA trying to get the officials to stop the mining and logging wrote to the shareholders.
In part he letter said; ” Š…..Since the company has the right to expatriate all the profits, you, the shareholders, will probably earn some money. However, many of our people who own the lands where all the minerals are ,will become paupers. Our rivers and seas will become polluted, our mountains will become deserts and our ricelands poisoned. Our forest birds and animals will become extinct. The very existence of the Subaanen, a gentle and beautiful people will be put at very high risk.”

This must not happen ,we must do all we can to see the rule of law prevails and justice is done and corrupt officials are ousted and permits cancelled. shaycullen@preda.org

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Contact Fr. Shay Cullen at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines.
e-mail: preda@info.com.ph Website: www.preda.org

Pagtanaw at Pananaw
Ni Bert de Guzman

Kung noong araw ay may tinawag na “Pingpong Diplomacy” na lumusaw sa mahabang panahong iringan ng United States at China at nagpanumbalik sa relasyong diplomatiko ng dalawang bansang magkaiba ang ideolohiya, posible rin sigurong mangyari ito sa Pilipinas at China sa pamamagitan naman ng “Water Diplomacy”.
Ang Pingpong Diplomacy ay naganap noong panahon ni ex-US President Richard Nixon na sumikat at napahiya dahil sa Watergate Scandal na naging sanhi upang siya ay magbitiw bilang Pangulo ng pinakamakapangyarihang bansa sa mundo. Ang tinutukoy namang Water Diplomacy ay naganap sa pagitan nina Pangulong Noynoy Aquino at Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing na dumalo sa inagurasyon ng La Mesa Dam Portal, Quezon City noong isang linggo. Ang La Mesa Dam ang nagsusuplay ng inuming-tubig sa milyun-milyong residente ng Metro Manila.

Ito ay pinondohan ng multi-billion loan (P5.3 billion) ng China. Nagpasalamat si PNoy sa tulong na ito ng dambuhalang China, pero nagpasaring na higit na kailangan ang kooperasyon at pagtutulungan ng mga bansa, at igalang ang soberanya at integridad ng kapwa-bansa. Siyanga pala, may 77 Chinese fishing vessels na raw ang nasa West Philippine Sea, partikular sa Panatag Shoal, at patuloy sa pangingisda. Ano ang gagawin natin?

Sana ay iparating ni Ms. Keqing ang kagandahang-loob ni PNoy at ng mga Pilipino sa liderato ng Chinese Communist Party, ang pasasalamat sa pagtulong sa tubig. ang pag-ayaw ng Pilipinas sa away upang ang Water Diplomacy ay magtagumpay at tuluyang mapawi ang tensiyon sa Bajo de Masinloc at iba pang parte ng Spratlys.

Isang pulis-Quezon City ang naging kakatwang (ironic) “biktima” ng NO WANG-WANG POLICY ng binatang Pangulo. Si SPO2 Ricardo Pascua ay iniimbestigahan dahil diumano sa hindi pagbibigay-puwang sa presidential convoy lulan si PNoy sa Commonwealth Avenue noong Martes ng umaga para dumalo sa inagurasyon ng La Mesa Dam Portal. Arogante diumano ang pulis na ayaw tumabi kahit sinesenyasan na ng PSG escorts! Itinanggi ito ni Pascua. Di gumamit ng wang-wang convoy.

Nang dahil sa KAPE, nahaharap ngayon sa kasong pandarambong (plunder) ang ilang dating pinuno ng PAGCOR dahil diumano sa pagbili ng may P1 bilyong kape para sa mga player ng casino. Buti na lang at hindi ako nakainom ng gayong kamahal na kape! Bert de Guzman

By Jon Carlos Rodriguez
ABS-CBNnews.com 

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Veteran journalist Marites Vitug on Thursday said the acceptance of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima of the nomination to become the next Chief Justice is “not a good sign.”

Vitug said the secretary’s acceptance came as a surprise following reports that she initially declined the nomination.

De Lima is a known ally of President Benigno Aquino III and testified in the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

“Apparently, it was confirmed that President [Aquino] met with her and apparently convinced her to accept the nomination. So that’s not a good sign, isn’t it?” Vitug told ANC’s “Prime Time.”

Vitug also said that although de Lima performed well in her interview with the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Tuesday, she wasn’t given the chance to share her ideas on judicial reform.

“She is able to present her arguments quite clearly. But beyond that, there are also other requirements such as reform ideas because that’s the crying need of the moment,” she said.

Vitug added that the panel should have asked de Lima if she was able to improve the disposition of cases as Justice Secretary.

In her interview with the JBC, de Lima said she will not be beholden to the President if ever she is appointed as Chief Justice.

De Lima said she will not be the President’s alter ego and that their perceived closeness is merely speculation.

“I will not have accepted the nomination if I am not sure of the strength of my character,” she said.

On Monday, the JBC will decide if de Lima is qualified for the nomination due to pending disbarment cases filed against her before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

Transparency

Vitug, author of “Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court,” welcomed the televised interviews of Chief Justice nominees, saying it is a good step towards transparency.

“It’s a great improvement. It’s no longer midnight in the court,” she said.

Vitug also said the involvement of social media was a welcome development in the process of selecting the next Chief Justice.

“I was surprised that even questions from Facebook and Twitter were being asked, there was really public interest. It’s a sign that it is being opened to the public,” she said.

However, Vitug noted that the deliberations of the JBC should also made public because according to her, “that’s where the lobbying can be seen.”

“Lobbying is going on as we speak so it’s important to open the deliberation,” she said.

She also said because of the live interviews, the JBC seems to be more prepared in their line of questioning, but stressed that the more “provocative” and “enlightening” questions remain unasked.

Vitug cited as an example the voting record of Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, which was never raised in her interview on Thursday.

Vitug said the panel never addressed the “elephant in the room,” referring to de Castro’s voting pattern on cases such as the constitutionality of the Truth Commission, the impeachment of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, and the temporary restraining order on Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s watchlist order.

“The judges’ core work is their decisions. It shows their integrity and their competence,” she said.

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/-depth/07/26/12/did-pnoy-urge-de-lima-accept-cj-nomination

 

BABE’S EYE VIEW
By Babe Romualdez
The Philippine Star

In a country where chismis, rumor and innuendo can breed suspicion and muddle issues until they get blown out of proportion, there is nothing like transparency for government to dispel doubts and negative perceptions. The live coverage of the interviews for those aspiring to be the next Chief Justice was the best decision ever made by the Judicial and Bar Council, making the nomination process absolutely transparent.

Anything cloaked in secrecy automatically makes it suspect, and rumors make it even worse. The Supreme Court has been shrouded with an aura of secrecy and hounded by allegations of backroom deals and corruption – with the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona reinforcing these suspicions.

Appointing the next Chief Justice is definitely going to be one of the most important decisions the current president is going to make because so much is at stake in reforming our society and the future of this nation. If Cabinet Secretaries with limited terms are subjected to open examination to assess their suitability, why not the Chief Justice who can sit “for life” (or until the mandatory retirement age of 70) and can only be removed via impeachment?

As I have said in previous columns, the next Chief Justice should be reform minded with a clear vision of what must be done to undertake such reforms and bring justice to everyone regardless of stature. The chief magistrate must have intellectual pre-eminence and independence in the sense that he or she can decide on the merits of a case without being constrained by alliances or biases.

Most importantly, the next CJ must possess impeccable integrity and credibility to restore the people’s faith in the judicial system and undertake the Herculean task of “cleaning up” the Judiciary. People especially those who have had first-hand experience with judicial corruption certainly appreciate the candor of Associate Justice Roberto Abad in admitting that corruption and bribery have indeed been happening in the courts.

Watching the nominees hurdle the questions and present their priorities and intentions, it is becoming quite clear that a lot needs to be done to assure the public that everyone whether rich or poor would have equal access to the law. Although the interviews had been a long process, people are beginning to appreciate the merits of each nominee, their interest holding until such time as President Aquino announces his choice for the position.

Interest in the appointment was sparked by the Corona impeachment, plus the live TV and online coverage that allowed viewers to participate by tweeting, posting and texting their questions and comments. That’s one of the great things about technology – it enables the public to keep track of important issues, like the cases filed against former president Gloria Arroyo. No question this has to be monitored to make sure that both accused and accuser are given a chance to present their positions before the court.

I was at the grand 25th anniversary celebration of TV Patrol at the Manila Hotel last Friday and I congratulated Gabby Lopez for the ANC network’s excellent live coverage of the JBC proceedings. The focus has been unprecedented, and people were absolutely gratified to see that what was once regarded as a “secret” process has become open to everyone through the TV coverage mainly of ANC and the summaries provided by other networks and social media sites.

To many, one of those most qualified is senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who squarely faced the question about his ties with the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo Angangco Law office (better known as “The Firm”) which he co-founded, denying rumors of influence-peddling and deal making. In fact, a business associate who did not want to be identified told us of his firsthand experience. He wanted to hire “The Firm” to handle a case thinking he would be assured of a win since Carpio was the ponente, but a senior partner of “The Firm” flatly told the businessman he would be better off going to another law office, guaranteeing his case will not prosper with Carpio around. Carpio has been known to inhibit himself in all cases handled by his former law firm.

Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno is another leading nominee who has the advantage of one who has been an outsider and now is an insider. Her credentials particularly as consultant for judicial reform and her experience as litigation lawyer both in the Philippines and international courts certainly makes her very qualified, her supporters pointed out.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is perceived to be a frontrunner but mainly because of her current association with the Aquino administration. On the other hand, the other two lady nominees who made quite an impression are Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro (who said her priority would be to pursue reforms and decongest the courts by speeding up the adjudication process), and SEC chair Tess Herbosa – a grandniece of our national hero Jose Rizal – who is known for being a level-headed person. Businessmen were especially impressed by her emphasis on good corporate governance as well as her aplomb in answering what were perceived to be “personal” questions. PCGG chair Andy Bautista also stood out for handling tough questions and proposing a seven-year term limit for the Chief Justice.

In any case, we commend the JBC especially acting chairman Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta for the way he has handled the public interviews. People should realize that we are making history and taking a significant step in transforming the judicial system in our country. When all is said and done to paraphrase what George Washington said – the firmest pillar of any government is ensuring the administration of justice.

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E-mail: babeseyeview@yahoo.com

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?publicationSubCategoryId=64&articleId=832238