Friday, September 30, 2005

EO 464 Fallout and the Constitution

The pratical effects of EO 464 are being felt right now. Government officials scheduled to appear before 3 Senate hearings were unable to attend presumably because they failed to get pemission from the President.

Senator Francis Panigilinan is calling for a dialogue between the Senate and MalacaƱang because according to him
“We cannot allow the situation to deteriorate into a constitutional crisis,”.
I don't see why we can't. The Philippine Constitution is only 20 or so years old, a lot of its provisions are only being fleshed out. The question on when an impeachment proceedings is deemed to have been initiated was only decided by the Supreme Court last year.

This new EO by the President will test the limits of Presidential power. I can see the logic of the President reviewing with the summoned Cabinet members what he/she can discuss in Congressional hearings. I can see how members of the executive branch can be forbidden to testify on matters of national security unless the hearings are in closed session. I just cannot see how the President can forbid Cabinet members from appearing in congressional hearings without just cause.

Dialogue between the executive branch and the legislative branch might resolve this matter earlier and with less acrimony but it will not resolve this conflict with finality. Other presidents, can raise this matter again. The best solution is for the Supreme court to render a decision.

This is the reason why I do not support constitutional change, at least not in the process that is being undertaken. We have not yet plumbed the depths of this constitution, and yet we already want to change it.

Furthermore, the proponents of constitutional change right now want to completely revise the constitution. They want to propose a brand new spanking constitution that is bigger and better than this old one. Yet, I have not heard that the members of the constitutional commission are infallible, they can still make mistakes.

The present constitution was ratified in 1987, many of those who supported it were conscious of its many shortcomings. Yet it was ratified because the Philippines needed a constitution at that time. I fear that this kind of all or nothing proposition will again be the fate of the constitution today's ConCom is crafting. That Filipinos will again be forced to accept or reject a document that is good but flawed.

If we need to amend the constitution, I propose we adapt the American model, that we can only vote for one amendment at a time. that way, people who want for example a parliamentary system but do not want a federal form of governance will not have to vote yes to a constitution that have a federal form of government just so we can have a parliamentary form of government.

This way, we can be sure that the Filipino really wants that feature in our constitution.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Blueprint for a Viable Philippines

I discovered the website of the Blueprint for a Viable Philippines Project yesterday and was able to download the Highlights, Analysis and Recommendations. The blueprint is an attempt to craft a
"comprehensive, out of the box, but realistic plan for the country."
The blueprint's main proponents are Dr. Francisco Nemenzo, Renato Constantino, Jr., Randolf David, Roger Posads, Isagani Serrano and Ma. Victoria R. Raquiza. I would try give a more comprehensive comment later but if you want to read the blueprint, their website is here, and you can download the blueprint highlights here.

EO 464

A lot of righteous indignation has been expended by news comentators, members of Congress and Senate, and other pundits in the national media on Executive Order 464 issued by President Macapagal-Arroyo. The comments usually take the form of the PCIJ's "GMA Clips Congressional powers" . Yet, if you read the EO, it only states that:
"All public officials enumerated in Section 2 (b) hereof shall secure prior consent of the President prior to appearing before either house of Congress"
I cannot understand how this can affect the power of Congress. The President has administrative control over the Executive branch of government, if she wants her people to get prior consent before appearing in Congress, then that is her preorogative, it does not in any way affect the power of Congress to summon these people and ask them questions. And as the episode from the Venable hearings prove, Congress can cite people in contempt if they determine that the witness is not being cooperative or truthful. Congress can also issue a subpoena to compel any witness to appear before itself.

The EO, is not directed at Congress, it is directed towards her "official family". It is a reminder that they are under the President and should be circumspect in their utterances to the public. This was proven when Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani and Lt. Col. Alexander Balutan were relieved from their post for not seeking presidential approval before appearing in the Senate hearings on the "Hello Garci" tapes*.

This is the time for men and women of goodwill in the Executive branch to stand up and be counted. This is the time when Filipinos should appreciate the Civil Service law. This law, which has often been perceived as a hindrance to ridding the government of corrupt individuals can be used for its true purpose. To shield good people in the bureaucracy against revenge and the arbitrary whims of those in political power.

The test case will be that of Undersecretary Miguel Luz of the Department of Education who was relieved from his post for no apparent reason.

A lot is happening in our country, we live it is said in interesting times. I hope more people will get interested so we can affect reforms.

*As an aside, according to the Philippine Star:
"Gudani also told the Senate hearing on the alleged wiretapping of the President that he had a friend who helped First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo deliver bundles of money.

The general claimed he was told that an estimated P500 million was delivered to Mindanao for vote-buying. However, he did not identify his source."
The Senate cited Secretary Gonzales for contempt partly for not revealing who the it was that recommended venable to the government and who were those who contributed the payment for the venable contract. A contract that none in the Senate has even hinted at as being illegal. Yet they have a witness that has identified two people involved in illegal activities, that if proven could change the course of Philippine history and no one in the Senate pressed the general to reveal their names much less threatened him with contempt. Can you believe it?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Calibrated Response et. al.

The Governments policy of "calibrated preemptive response" to people peaceably assembling to rightfully petition their government to redress their grievances was demonstrated yesterday when 13 people were jailed even before they have assembled.

I do not know who in government crafted this policy but they are making a big mistake. Yes, people were complaining that the constant rallies by the anti-Arroyo organizations were creating traffic, a sign that people want to go on with their lives. But it does not mean they want government to bash in people's head when they are doing nothing wrong.

If President Arroyo gets little sympathy before, she will definitely not get any now.

Speaking of sympathy. Let me be clear, the reason for Secretary Norberto Gonzales' appearance in the Senate was silly. The venable contract was a contract between the Philippine Government and Venable to lobby the US government for funding on different government interests including the changing of the Philippine Constitution. I can appreciate Senator Arroyo's position that, the Philippine government should not solicit funds from foreign government specially when it comes to issues of sovereignty. But it is not illegal, furthermore, the contract was rescinded so the Senate should have tackled more important issues.

Saying that however, whether the Senators were arrogant and boorish in questioning Secretary Gonzales, he had no right not to answer legitimate questions from the Senate committee.

I can symphatize with Secretary Gonzales' position that he does not want to reveal to the Senate committee the names of the private individual/s who recommended Venable to the government. I would not want my friends and most of my enemies to experience what Sec. Gonzales experienced at the hands of the Senate Committee, but that reason is not enough, the private individual/s whoever he/she/they are, chose to commit a public act, recommending a lobby firm to the Philipppine government, as such they cannot hide behind being private individuals, otherwise, how can we get accountability from government?

And how can Secretary Gonzales not know who paid Venable? The contract was between the Philippine Government and Venable, the Philippine government should be aware where the funds would be coming from, otherwise, this can be a source of corruption, enter into a contract with some firm, let somebody else pay them, kickback to yourself. Not knowing who paid, if he really did not know, is plain stupidity, he was the signee, he is the one responsible, how can he fail to find out one of the most important details of the whole transaction?

To recap, I symphatize with the plight of Secretary Gonzales but the Senate had no other choice but to cite him in contempt.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Gay Penguins

Got this story from Dispatches from the Culture Wars
"This story really cracks me up. It seems that the world is suddenly overflowing with gay penguins. At Central Park Zoo in New York, there are two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who appear to be in a gay relationship. They nuzzle each other and behave just like other sets of mates. They have sex with each other. When the zoo put female penguins in to entice them to mate with them, they had no interest at all. But they apparently make great parents"

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Imelda Marcos Jr.

Yesterday, Congresswoman Imee Marcos revealed the reason why she skipped out of the country during the voting on whether the House of Representatives should adopt the Justice Committee report that dismisses the impeachment complaint against President Macapagal-Arroyo. According to Congresswoman Marcos
"Mas matindi and nanay ko sa 51 na bumoto. Mas maigi na umiwas na lang ako," (from the The Philippine Star)
She is basically saying that she did not want to argue with her mother, who supports President Arroyo, so she skipped so she would not have to vote. Her actions that day indicates, to me, her true attitude regarding cheating in Philippine elections.

Before the voting she was one of the point persons of the opposition taking up television airtime and newpaper columns to criticize President Arroyo, yet, when push comes to shove, she would rather not argue wth her mother rather than take a stand on her "principles".

Her action tells me that her criticisms were posturings to get her face on the news. I hope people remember this fact when Imee Marcos runs again and not vote for her.

Random Shorts

I forgot to to mention that the Statment of Unity I posted on September 5 was from the blog of Manuel L. Quezon III

Newspapers today carried the story of Gwen Aguilar, who has apparently been accused by the Singaporean government of killing another Filipina. The newspaper stories are sober compared to the television news stories which are more emotional. I hope the Philippine media will not fan hysteria just so they can get higher ratings or readership.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Why open source makes sense for non-geeks like me

From Leon Kilat of the CyberCafe Experiment

Why open source makes sense for non-geeks like me

"If you hold a gun to my head demanding that I write a PHP code to print “Hello World” without searching the web for hints, I’d be dead in a minute. I do not know how to program - in any computer language. If the technology world were J.K. Rowling’s universe, I’d be a squib.

And yet I was able to install and deploy various content management systems for my Cybercafe experiments, personal sites as well as sites of my friends. I was also able to deploy an online classroom for participants of both my and my wife’s lectures as well as classes under Newsletter Solutions. I was also able to deploy a newsroom intranet system (using a discarded PC) with a portal, an online news style guide and a searchable database of new sources.

I was able to do all that because I use open source scripts."

Monday, September 05, 2005

Statement of Unity

Statement of Unity
Bukluran Para sa Katotohanan

We come from all walks of life, from different political, cultural, and economic persuasions, different points of view. But in diversity, we find a cause for unity. That cause for unity is our common objective to secure the truth.

We all seek the truth. We want the truth to come out. And yet every means for seeking the truth has been frustrated; every avenue for arriving at the truth has been blocked; and every opportunity to find the truth is being closed.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s response to our call for the truth has been to suppress evidence, hide her accomplices, engage in a grand cover-up, sow fear, foment distrust and use every instrument at her disposal to encourage division among our people.

We will not be divided in these critical times.

We say with one voice, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo must go. For the good of the country, she must go. For the sake of our nation’s future, she must go. For the preservation of hope as a motive force in our national life, she must go.

We are united by the belief that this crisis must be resolved in a manner that is peaceful and democratic. Without the truth, there cannot be peace; without the truth, there is no genuine democracy. The truth must set our nation free.

Unite for the truth. Demand the truth. Defend the truth.

Kami ay ang Bukluran Para sa Katotohanan.

Action for Economic Reforms
AKBAYAN Citizen’s Action Party
Ateneo Concerned Faculty and Youth
Bangon, Pilipinas
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)
Be Not Afraid
Black & White Movement
Citizens for TRUTH (Transparency, Responsibility, Unity, Trust, Hope)
Citizens for Truth, Resignation, Impeachment, or Ouster (C4T)
Coalition for National Solidarity
Counsels for the Defense of Civil Liberties (CODAL)
De La Salle
FPJP Movement
Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)
Interfaith Movement for Truth, Justice and Genuine Change (IFM)
Kilusan ng Makabansang Ekonomiya (KME)
Laban ng Masa
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)
Peoples Assembly for Genuine Alternatives to Social Apathy (PAG-ASA)
Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP)
Union of Muslims for Morality and Truth (UMMAT)
United Opposition (UNO)
Unity for Truth and Justice
UP Diliman Student Council (UPD USC)
White Ribbon Movement
Women March
Youth DARE