AMADO MACASAET: LEGISLATIVE PROBES AND SUB JUDICE

WHEN a case, civil, criminal, political or administrative, is pending resolution in court comments should be limited to the submissions of the lawyers of the litigants. The case is sub judice, case, the law says. This prohibition is honored more in the breach than in compliance. We in media freely express our views on a case pending in court. In fact, sometimes we take sides. None of us has been cited by any court for violating the rules on sub judice. Why should we when the Legislature, specifically the Senate, freely investigates persons perceived to be involved in the pork barrel scandal and other alleged crimes. The lawmakers practically pronounce guilt or innocence – most of the time guilt – of the persons they say are involved in a scam. The rule on sub judice cannot be sacrificed or ignored by the Senate by saying the purpose of the inquiries is in aid of legislation. To begin we have not heard of laws passed as a result of investigations always called in aid of legislation. As is widely known and accepted, lawmakers get media mileage from the investigations. Remedial legislation hardly ever follows. In fact, the committee’s recommendation to file charges against certain persons is hardly ever obeyed. As the famous English essayist and lawyer who prosecuted the Earl of Essex and led to the latter’s beheading once said “men who are great lovers of themselves waste the public.” CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: HAS POVERTY INCIDENCE REALLY IMPROVED?

Inconclusive. Government authorities report that based on the income data from the 2013 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS) conducted in July 2013, poverty incidence poverty incidence was estimated at 24.9 percent. They went on and compared it with the 27.9 poverty incidence generated from the 2012 Family Income and Expenditure Survey. But the two numbers are not exactly comparable. The APIS is based on a smaller sample (10,864 respondents) and shorter questionnaire (32 pages, 6 pages on expenditure and 19 pages on income). The FIES has a sample size of 42,618 and a lengthier questionnaire (78 pages, 47 pages for expenditure and 24 pages on income). Since the APIS results are based on a small sample, it gives the overall poverty picture for the entire country only. It cannot be used to analyze regional and provincial poverty incidence. The FIES results, on the other hand, allows a more detailed poverty picture, down to the provincial level, and hence allows more focused and pinpointed policy intervention. For sure, the availability of annual poverty statistics is welcome news. Frequently gathered social indicators are better than none. The risk, however, is that policymakers might choose to ignore the nuances of the poverty numbers, and arrive at wrong policy prescriptions. As I said, the two numbers –27.9% based on FIES and 24.9% based on APIS may not be exactly comparable. In the first place, two points don’t establish a trend. That’s elementary. Second, 24.9% means 25 out of 100 Filipinos are poor. That puts the Philippines the only country among the Asean-6 countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) with such high poverty incidence. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: HOW NOT TO CONDUCT AN INTERVIEW, KRIS AQUINO STYLE

I’d like to thank Kris Aquino for giving me a very good material in our training of journalists on how to conduct interviews. Nothing beats her interview with the stars of Spiderman2 for an example of “How not to conduct an interview.” An interview is important when doing a story because the writer will be able to present to the readers the person he will be writing about. Through well thought-out questions, he will be able to draw the interviewee to talk about his views which in the first place made him worthy to be interviewed. In an interview, the star is the interviewee. The attention should be him and the interviewer is just the facilitator, to bring out what can be elicited from him. That’s not what Kris Aquino did in an interview with Andrew Garfield who played Peter Parker, the Spiderman and Jamie Foxx, the super villain Electro. The interview was held in Singapore last month. There’s a word for what Kris did in her interviews with Garfield and Fox: nagkalat. One, she brought her son, Bimby. So improper . So unprofessional. So Kris Aquino. Two, she talked about herself- a no-no in interviews. She bragged to Garfield that the movie of her son, “My Little Bossings,” beat Spiderman in the box-office in the Philippines. It was neither here nor there. The two movies were not shown at the same time. The gall to compare a Spiderman movie to the inane My Little Bossings. It’s like comparing a painting by Ben Cab to a tarpaulin picture. What can Garfield say but “Fantastic... Well, congratulations.” READ MORE....

ALSO: A nation cast in darkness

There are at least three large measures with dire implications on our national patrimony and sovereignty, which the Aquino administration wants wrapped up with utter (and unseemly) dispatch. In all three, a dominant foreign interest seems to overshadow the obvious national interest. These could make the Philippines a haven for foreign interests, but not for Filipinos. They could, in fact, reshape our idea of our own country and ourselves. Yet we are the last ones to be asked what we think about these initiatives. First, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, under the active sponsorship of Malaysia, will carve out Muslim Mindanao as a new political entity for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for the Moro National Liberation Front. The MNLF, the original party to a peace agreement with the government, according to the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, and for whom the ARMM was instituted by Congress, was never asked about it. Then the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States, while professing not to create a single foreign military base, could turn the entire country into one huge foreign military base. The Senate, which is constitutionally mandated to pass upon every treaty or international agreement negotiated by the Executive Department, especially any agreement that allows foreign military bases, troops or facilities inside the Philippines after the termination of the PH-US military bases agreement in 1991, has been deliberately and completely left out. READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

LEGISLATIVE PROBES AND SUB JUDICE


By Amado P. Macasaet

MANILA, MAY 5, 2014 (MALAYA)  By Amado P. Macasaet- WHEN a case, civil, criminal, political or administrative, is pending resolution in court comments should be limited to the submissions of the lawyers of the litigants. The case is sub judice, case, the law says.

This prohibition is honored more in the breach than in compliance.

We in media freely express our views on a case pending in court. In fact, sometimes we take sides. None of us has been cited by any court for violating the rules on sub judice.

Why should we when the Legislature, specifically the Senate, freely investigates persons perceived to be involved in the pork barrel scandal and other alleged crimes. The lawmakers practically pronounce guilt or innocence – most of the time guilt – of the persons they say are involved in a scam.

The rule on sub judice cannot be sacrificed or ignored by the Senate by saying the purpose of the inquiries is in aid of legislation.

To begin we have not heard of laws passed as a result of investigations always called in aid of legislation.

As is widely known and accepted, lawmakers get media mileage from the investigations.

Remedial legislation hardly ever follows. In fact, the committee’s recommendation to file charges against certain persons is hardly ever obeyed.

As the famous English essayist and lawyer who prosecuted the Earl of Essex and led to the latter’s beheading once said “men who are great lovers of themselves waste the public.”

Why should there be such a recommendation when in some investigations the persons involved including some lawmakers are already facing charges.

This is particularly true in the pork barrel scam although it is acknowledged here that the Blue Ribbon committee has not invited or issued a summons against senators and congressmen named in the plunder cases.

I guess the purpose of prohibiting comments on cases pending in court is to prevent judges hearing the case from being influenced by what they hear and see outside the court, not by the evidence presented.

Whatever is discovered in the Senate probes is not necessarily admissible evidence in the courts, and to the justices of the Sandiganbayan in the present plunder cases that resulted from the revelations of whistle-blowers of alleged theft of pork barrel funds by some of the lawmakers themselves.

There could well be a tendency for the judges to be influenced by the results of the investigations. The sad part is the Senate is practically on a witch hunt trying to find guilt of persons named as scammers.

A legislative inquiry is never called to prove the innocence of anyone. The intention is always to find guilt so that, presumably, remedial legislation may follow.

The senators are bent on proving guilt, not innocence. In effect, they usurp the functions of the courts but the Senate cannot render a ruling on any case. That is not the duty of the senators or remembers of the House of Representatives.

I have asked members of Congress to specify the time spent on investigation or probes compared to the time wisely or foolishly used in debating a bill of any nature. I have not been privileged with a reply.

My own suspicion, based on the scant number of new laws, laws amended or repealed by Congress, is that more time is spent on investigations than on crafting a piece or two of legislation more specifically one or two passed or discussed in aid of legislation.

The misuse of time spent on investigations is not remotely related to the crime of stealing tax payers’ money. But a “crime” is always a crime when tax money is wasted in Congressional investigations that, by and large, do not result in remedial legislation. The big difference between this “crime” and plunder is that none of the lawmakers get the opportunity to pocket taxpayers’ money in the process of investigation.

The lawmakers simply refuse to consider that “time is golden.” Time ceases to be gold if it is used purportedly in aid of legislation but actually for publicity which, unfortunately, cannot be proven to be their intent.

Many investigations are comparable to libel. The reputation or character of persons invited to testify against another is invariably maligned.

The only recourse they have is daring the lawmakers to repeat their charges outside of the halls of immunity so they can even up the score by going to court.

I have not heard of lawmaker accepting the challenge. He or she is probably scared of being sued for libel knowing that what is divulged is falsehood, not exactly the truth. Thus, the persons maligned are left absolutely helpless.

The refusal of lawmakers to accept the challenge of repeating their charges outside of Congress is the clearest manifestation or evidence of the glaring abuse of parliamentary immunity.

Immunity must be restrained. Since the lawmakers are the only abusers, we do not imagine them discussing a bill eventually passing it that limits their immunity from suits.

Lawmakers make heroes of themselves by pointing to unproven guilt of others. Yet some of them – there are more in the House of Representatives – are allegedly involved in the pork scam and in fact are to be sued for the heinous crime of plunder.

This proves the truth of the old adage “the pot should not call the kettle black.”

HAS POVERTY INCIDENCE REALLY IMPROVED? By BENJAMIN E. DIOKNO | May 05, 2014


BENJAMIN E. DIOKNO

Inconclusive. Government authorities report that based on the income data from the 2013 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS) conducted in July 2013, poverty incidence poverty incidence was estimated at 24.9 percent. They went on and compared it with the 27.9 poverty incidence generated from the 2012 Family Income and Expenditure Survey. But the two numbers are not exactly comparable.

The APIS is based on a smaller sample (10,864 respondents) and shorter questionnaire (32 pages, 6 pages on expenditure and 19 pages on income). The FIES has a sample size of 42,618 and a lengthier questionnaire (78 pages, 47 pages for expenditure and 24 pages on income).

Since the APIS results are based on a small sample, it gives the overall poverty picture for the entire country only. It cannot be used to analyze regional and provincial poverty incidence. The FIES results, on the other hand, allows a more detailed poverty picture, down to the provincial level, and hence allows more focused and pinpointed policy intervention.

For sure, the availability of annual poverty statistics is welcome news. Frequently gathered social indicators are better than none.

The risk, however, is that policymakers might choose to ignore the nuances of the poverty numbers, and arrive at wrong policy prescriptions. As I said, the two numbers –27.9% based on FIES and 24.9% based on APIS may not be exactly comparable.

In the first place, two points don’t establish a trend. That’s elementary.

Second, 24.9% means 25 out of 100 Filipinos are poor. That puts the Philippines the only country among the Asean-6 countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) with such high poverty incidence.

The Philippines poverty record would be comparable to our poorest ASEAN neighbors Laos (27.6%, 2008) and Myanmar (26.5%, 2009) rather than our richer counterparts. Even Cambodia, a poor emerging country has lower poverty incidence (20.5%, 2011) than the Philippines.

Third, the poverty threshold used in the APIS study appears unreasonably low. According the Philippine Statistical Authority press release: “During the first semester of 2013, a family of five needed at least PhP5,590 on the average every month to meet the family’s basic food needs and at least PhP8,022 on the average every month to meet both basic food and non-food needs. These amounts represent the monthly food threshold and monthly poverty threshold, respectively. They indicate increases of about 2.4 percent in food threshold and 2.6 percent in poverty threshold from the first semester of 2012 to the first semester of 2013.”

How can an individual survive on P31.13 daily for basic food needs or P53.48 daily for both basic food and non-food needs? The arithmetic is simple: the lower the poverty threshold, the fewer the poor.

But that’s solving the poverty incidence by statistical trickery. Drawing a poverty line much lower than appropriate creates an illusion of reducing poverty, and it might only lead to perverse policy action.

The bottom line is that poverty in the Philippines remains serious -- perhaps the most serious challenge for our national leaders. There is no room for smugness. Next year, poverty numbers generated by APIS might show no progress – worse a decline -- as economic forecasters predict a slower economy this year compared to 2013.

The lesson for policymakers is to take the dismal poverty situation seriously. Rather than focusing on how to manage the news, they should concentrate on how to create a lot of jobs for the 11 million unemployed and underemployed Filipinos. Remember: self-respecting, able-bodied individuals prefer jobs to charity.

In order to create a lot of jobs, the Aquino III administration should increase the infrastructure budget from 2 percent of GDP to 5 percent of GDP. Not a novel suggestion but worth repeating.

But public infrastructure should not be limited to large-scale, capital-intensive projects. Equal weight should be given to productivity enhancing, labor-intensive public works projects in the countryside.

The administration should invest in rural, agricultural communities. That’s where most of the poor reside. Developing the rural areas might also help decongest cities, avoid urban sprawl, and improve the overall quality of life of many Filipinos.

HOW NOT TO CONDUCT AN INTERVIEW, KRIS AQUINO STYLE By Ellen Tordesillas | May 05, 2014 -


By Ellen Tordesillas

I’d like to thank Kris Aquino for giving me a very good material in our training of journalists on how to conduct interviews.

Nothing beats her interview with the stars of Spiderman2 for an example of “How not to conduct an interview.”

An interview is important when doing a story because the writer will be able to present to the readers the person he will be writing about. Through well thought-out questions, he will be able to draw the interviewee to talk about his views which in the first place made him worthy to be interviewed.

In an interview, the star is the interviewee. The attention should be him and the interviewer is just the facilitator, to bring out what can be elicited from him.

That’s not what Kris Aquino did in an interview with Andrew Garfield who played Peter Parker, the Spiderman and Jamie Foxx, the super villain Electro. The interview was held in Singapore last month.

There’s a word for what Kris did in her interviews with Garfield and Fox: nagkalat.

One, she brought her son, Bimby. So improper . So unprofessional. So Kris Aquino.

Two, she talked about herself- a no-no in interviews.

She bragged to Garfield that the movie of her son, “My Little Bossings,” beat Spiderman in the box-office in the Philippines.

It was neither here nor there. The two movies were not shown at the same time. The gall to compare a Spiderman movie to the inane My Little Bossings. It’s like comparing a painting by Ben Cab to a tarpaulin picture.

What can Garfield say but “Fantastic... Well, congratulations.”

But in a way, Bimby did something good because while she was asking Garfield about Spiderman 2, Bimby, whose movements were distracting during the interview, he blurted out that she fell asleep while watching the movie. Kris had to explain that she was tired, etc. etc. Served her right.

In her interview with Foxx, she bragged that many consider her “the Oprah of the Philippines.”

Jesus. Foxx replied, “Oh, is that right?”

Kris asked Foxx, who is known to be a good friend of Oprah Winfrey to tell the American TV superstar about she (Kris) is her fan.

Thanks Kris. In the next journalists training by VERA Files, I will use the video of your Spiderman2 interviews with the advice:”Huwag tularan.”

A nation cast in darkness By Francisco S. Tatad | May. 05, 2014 at 12:01am

There are at least three large measures with dire implications on our national patrimony and sovereignty, which the Aquino administration wants wrapped up with utter (and unseemly) dispatch. In all three, a dominant foreign interest seems to overshadow the obvious national interest. These could make the Philippines a haven for foreign interests, but not for Filipinos. They could, in fact, reshape our idea of our own country and ourselves. Yet we are the last ones to be asked what we think about these initiatives.

First, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, under the active sponsorship of Malaysia, will carve out Muslim Mindanao as a new political entity for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for the Moro National Liberation Front. The MNLF, the original party to a peace agreement with the government, according to the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, and for whom the ARMM was instituted by Congress, was never asked about it.

Then the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States, while professing not to create a single foreign military base, could turn the entire country into one huge foreign military base. The Senate, which is constitutionally mandated to pass upon every treaty or international agreement negotiated by the Executive Department, especially any agreement that allows foreign military bases, troops or facilities inside the Philippines after the termination of the PH-US military bases agreement in 1991, has been deliberately and completely left out.

The Senate was not even furnished a copy of the agreement, said Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who chairs the Senate committee on foreign relations.

Finally, upon the initiative of the foreign chambers of commerce, a proposal to amend the Constitution is now stealthily making progress in our widely corrupted Congress to grant all foreigners the same rights as Filipinos to own land, operate public utilities, and exploit natural resources in the Philippines. There are no public debates anywhere about this. The public had no part in any preliminary discussion thereof. Only Aquino and the Congress leaders who had totally discredited themselves when they took a bribe in order to remove a sitting Chief Justice and railroad a constitutionally disputed Reproductive Health Law, are vigorously pushing it.

On each of these three issues, the people have a right to be abundantly heard. But instead of being heard, they are drowned in excessive noise in the Senate and in the conscript media, on the so-called P10-billion pork barrel scam involving Janet Lim Napoles and some members of Congress, even though nothing is being done to translate all the sensational statements into actual charges before the anti-graft court.

The Napoles scam is not forgettable nonsense. It is the biggest such that ever blew up in the face of the government. Aquino could say (correctly) that the present crime happened before his time, but his failure to identify all the culprits, including his own political allies, and to document the same crime that continued after he took office in 2010 makes him much more accountable than his much-maligned predecessor. It is fully within his power to do right, but he has refused to do so. He has encouraged the Secretary of Justice and the Senate blue ribbon committee to “investigate,” even though the committee is run by Senators who should themselves be investigated first. But he has shown more interest in trying his perceived enemies by publicity than in pressing for a quiet and fair Sandigan trial without live TV coverage.

Before undergoing a recent major surgery, Napoles was reported to have submitted to Secretary Leila de Lima a long list of politicians who were supposed to be involved in her alleged scam. Unsure of what could happen during her surgery, Napoles reportedly named 10 to 12 senators, not just three, in her list, and identified a top Aquino Liberal Party ally as the real “mastermind” of the scam. Until now, the media has given this “distinction” to Napoles, but appears that she merely ran errands for the “big man” who had partied the most often at her mother’s mausoleum at Heritage Memorial Park.

Whether the “tell-all” list will be finally revealed through the Blue Ribbon committee or the Ombudsman is anybody’s guess. But speculation on it is certain to generate more sensational headlines to entertain the mob without teaching them anything, and without moving the case forward against those guilty of plunder.

And so the entertainment goes on.

Years from now, a curious young kid will ask her ageing grandfather how we lost Sabah to Malaysia forever, and how the new political entity in Muslim Mindanao fell into the hands of foreigners while hosting a base for drones; how the entire country became a virtual US military base and our external defense fell into the hands of “visiting forces”; and how foreigners came to own every piece of prime real estate, every public utility, every natural resource, including deuterium, and our entire electoral system, while homeless and landless Filipinos scrape for a living.

The older man will have to answer, it all happened when nobody was looking, when they were all too busy being entertained by the government’s noise machine, and all the sensational headlines and the blinding light of the TV screen brought darkness everywhere. For this is where we are right now—in the dark. In the dark on the CAB, in the dark on the EDCA, in the dark on the proposed amendments to the “economic provisions” of the Constitution, in the dark on Napoles, in the dark on the nation’s agenda for the future. And because B. S. III operates more freely in the dark, the darker the night, the more uninhibited he is. The more bogus victories he claims at our expense.

Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro

But in our time, we have to ask a few searching questions on each of the three measures. And we have to demand that Aquino answer them with candor. First, on the CAB.

What qualified Malaysia to become the facilitator of the government’s peace agreement with the MILF, after having tried to dismember the Philippines by arming, training and funding the Moro insurgents in Mindanao for years? Recall that when Indonesian President Sukarno launched his confrontation policy against Malaysia, President Diosdado Macapagal did not join him: he chose instead to pursue the Philippine claim to Sabah by peaceful means.

Why was there no mention of Sabah at all during the top-level conversations between Aquino and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, before and after the signing of the CAB and all its annexes, especially in light of the earlier Lahad Datu incident in which several supporters of the Sultan of Sulu were killed while trying to call attention to the claim?

Will Aquino now declare once and for all that the Philippines has officially abandoned its claim on behalf of the Sultan of Sulu, and that it has nothing at all to do anymore even with the Sultan’s proprietary rights? And will he at least inform the nation and the Sultan of Sulu the price for such abandonment?

Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement

Second, on the EDCA. What overriding national interest compelled the Aquino government to renounce, repudiate and reverse the “nationalist victory” the country achieved in 1991 when it allowed the military bases agreement with the U.S. to lapse, and the Senate rejected Cory Aquino’s treaty extending the bases’ term by another ten years?

Aquino may be right, and the 1991 Senate wrong, but why has this never been discussed? Two constitutional provisions—Sec. 21 of Article VII and Sec. 25 of Article XVIII—require all international agreements to be concurred in by the Senate, especially in the case of one that allows foreign military bases, troops, or facilities in the Philippines. Why does Aquino believe he can set aside the Constitution, and deal with the US like a despot?

Although the agreement takes care to say the US troops will not establish their own bases, it provides said troops access to agreed locations for various purposes, including “prepositioning of equipment, supplies, and materiel; deploying forces and materiel; and such other activities as the parties may agree.” Will this not have the effect of making the entire country one large foreign military base? And what control will the Philippine military authorities have over these troops and the prepositioned facilities and equipment? Nothing.

“The prepositioned materiel shall not include nuclear weapons,” the agreement says. But the U.S. policy is neither to confirm nor deny the existence of nuclear weapons on board any of its public vessels, aircraft or anywhere else, and the Philippine government does not have the authority to board any US vessel, aircraft or facility for inspection. It will be at the mercy of the US authorities.

In the seventies, during the US Senate hearings on US overseas commitments by Sen. Stuart Symington, the US President signed a directive saying the storage of nuclear weapons anywhere would be covered by “executive privilege” and not be divulged to the Symington subcommittee during the investigation. But a secret document declassified by the National Security Archive based in George Washington University has shown that a “top secret” memo signed by US career diplomat Robert McClintock in 1969 said nuclear weapons had been stored and remained in the Philippines during that time without the knowledge of, and prior consultation with the Philippine government.

At that time, the Constitution did not ban nuclear weapons within the Philippines, as the present Constitution does. But there is no known record that those weapons were ever pulled out. More than 50 years have passed since, but the US has a duty to assure us Filipinos that they were indeed taken out, and that it has no nuclear weapons implanted anywhere in the Philippines. For its part, the Aquino government should insist on being able to verify it.

Now, what do we get from the EDCA? The agreement says the use of Philippine facilities will be free of rent, like the old Military Bases Agreement. Even the dumbest Aristotelian cat learns not to lie on the same hot stove twice. When the US Navy carted away its last toilet bowl from Subic in 1991, it left the country naked in the wind: no navy, no air force of its own. This should never happen again. So a fair exchange would be full support for the Philippine defense modernization program that would allow us at the end of ten years to own a few surface and subsurface naval vessels, including a couple of nuclear submarines, if possible. That could put us in the same position as Finland vis-à-vis the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Constitutional amendments

Finally, on the proposed con ass (constituent assembly) amendments. The Constitution needs to be overhauled, not just its economic provisions. But this should involve the Filipino people, not just the thieving class. After the last Congress sold its soul to the devil, the present Congress, many of whose members were in the previous Congress, lost any moral authority to speak for the people. We need a constitutional convention to rewrite the Constitution, with all the delegates freely elected by the people on the basis of their demonstrated patriotism and competence rather than on the basis of manufactured popularity ratings.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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