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BY RENEE KARUNUNGAN: DEAR PNoy, COAL IS NOT CHEAP - IT COSTS US OUR LIVES


JANUARY 11 -Dear President Aquino, I was there when you made a speech at the UNFCCC negotiations in Paris, proudly saying that the Philippines is cutting its emissions by 70%. I was in the same room as you when you made a statement at the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) and said that the government is working hard to diversify our energy resources and increasingly tapping into renewables. I was cheering with the crowd when the Philippines, representing the CVF, got the “Ray of the Day” award for its declaration to achieve full decarbonization and run our countries on 100% renewables by 2050. I was there when the Paris agreement was signed and Climate Change Commissioner Emmanuel de Guzman made a statement saying how much we have fought for a more ambitious target of 1.5 degrees celsius — a goal that will encourage countries to mitigate carbon emissions — and that we will deliver on this goal. I have been following climate issues for quite some time and I know about the government’s approval of new coal power plants. I also know that you are not a fan of renewable energy. I remember your speech in 2013 when you said, “If you put up a wind-powered plant, what do you do when there is no wind? If you put up a solar plant, what do you when the sky is cloudy?” But after the negotiations in Paris, after all the promises we have made as a country, I came back home more hopeful than ever. I gave you and your government the benefit of the doubt, Mr. President. After all, we committed to the United Nations and we have been proud about those commitments. But just a month after the Paris negotiations, you inaugurated a new coal power plant in Davao. I have heard reasons why this must be done: that renewable energy is still expensive and we do not have the capacity or technology, that renewable energy cannot provide for the base load energy needed in Mindanao, that we need this to fuel our economy and to ensure that everyone has access to energy. I understand, Mr. President, that energy transitions will take a lot of time and that it will not happen overnight. However, I do not feel that the government is sincere in investing in renewable energy. How can you be sincere and approve more than 50 coal power plants? A sincere government would have started investing more aggressively in renewable energy, with or without help from foreign aid. Ethiopia, a country in Africa, has committed to become carbon negative. But not only that, they have started investing more in renewable energy. They did not use the fact that 77% of their population still has no access to electricity as an excuse. Or the fact that they are considered as a least developed country who also needs finance and technology for renewable energy. But as early as 2012, Ethiopia made it clear that renewable energy will be their key economic driver. Ethiopia, like many other countries today, know that sustainability, environment, and economics are not separate from each other. But what about the Philippines, Mr. President? When will we begin our transition? When it’s too late? When we have become a big carbon emitter? Do we really want to continue dirty energy like coal when the world has shifted to renewables? All I hear are excuses. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: By Atty Edgar Vistan II - The public's right to nice cabbies


JANUARY 14 -Passengers who fall victim to such misconduct can sue not only the drivers involved, but also the public transport operators who employ... COMMENTARY BY Edgardo Carlo L. Vistan II Edgardo Carlo L. Vistan II -  I am a Professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law, and one of the subjects I have been teaching there is Transportation and Public Utilities Law. With reports of taxi drivers verbally abusing and even assaulting passengers dominating the news the past few days, it would be interesting to ask these drivers and the operators who employ them if they know what “extraordinary diligence” means. Most of them would probably be clueless. Operators of taxis, buses, and passenger jeepneys are common carriers. Under our laws, common carriers are required to exercise extraordinary diligence for the safety of their passengers. Under Article 1755 of the Civil Code, "(a) common carrier is bound to carry the passengers safely as far as human care and foresight can provide, using the utmost diligence of very cautious persons, with a due regard for all the circumstances."  Public transport operators are therefore required to make the safety and well being of their passengers their number one priority. The same holds true for their drivers and other employees, who are the agents of public transport operators in carrying out the duty to exercise extraordinary diligence in the transportation of the riding public. Extraordinary diligence is more than ordinary diligence. We can equate ordinary diligence with ordinary care. Extraordinary diligence, then, can be equated with very special care. When public transport drivers shout at, harass, or assault passengers, there is clearly an absence of the very special care that the commuting public is entitled to receive from public transport operators and their employees. The spate of reports on taxi drivers maltreating and even physically harming their passengers demonstrate that many of our public transport operators and their employees are remiss in their respective obligations to exercise extraordinary diligence. Public transport operators should not only employ drivers that are very careful and very skilled in driving, but they should also make sure that their drivers possess good moral character so as to protect commuters against abuse and violence. Passengers that fall victim to such misconduct can sue not only the drivers involved, but also the public transport operators who employ them. There have been cases wherein public transport entities – often airlines - have been made to pay damages to passengers that were maltreated by the employees of these entities through disrespectful or inconsiderate treatment. In fact, most of the maltreatment of passengers involved in these cases pale in comparison to those seen recently on television involving abusive and violent taxi drivers. Unfortunately, to sue for damages based on such maltreatment by public transport entities, one has to go through the tedious and expensive process of litigating in court. The typical commuter who rides a taxi, a bus or a passenger jeepney would not have the resources to pursue such legal action. READ MORE...

ALSO: FILIPINO FREETHINKERS - Does Pope Francis cry for the victims of his Church?


JANUARY 18 -POPE FRANCIS IN PH  --BY RED TANI When Pope Francis visited the Philippines last year, the most difficult questions he had to answer did not come from reporters. The questions came from a poor little girl. “Marami na po ang mga batang pinabayaan ng kanilang mga magulang,” said Glyzelle Iris Palomar, 12. (Many children have been neglected by their parents.) “Marami sa kanila ang naging biktima at masama ang nangyari, tulad ng droga o prostitusyon.” (Many of them have become victims, involved in bad circumstances such as drugs and prostitution.) “Bakit po pumapayag ang Diyos na may ganitong nangyayari?” (Why does God allow these things to happen?) She cried, and then continued: “At bakit kaunti lang ang tumutulong sa amin?” (And why are there only few who help us?) Pope Francis repeated the girl’s question and then answered: “When the heart is unable to answer itself and cry, then we can understand.” He asked the audience: “Have I learned to weep for someone who has a drug problem? Have I learned to weep for someone who suffered abuse?” A year after I first heard this story, I can’t help wishing someone had asked Pope Francis: “Have you?” One of the reasons Pope Francis is considered revolutionary is his promise of zero tolerance on child abuse. In a 2012 interview as Cardinal Bergoglio, he said that the way to deal with child abuse is to “take away the priests' licenses, not to allow them to exercise the priesthood any more, and to begin a canonical trial in that diocese’s court.” What he said runs contrary to the Catholic Church’s practice, which instead of solving it perpetuates the problem. Instead of firing abusive priests, they are often shuffled between dioceses, making it hard for authorities to investigate allegations. Worse, it puts a new batch of potential victims at risk. When priests do get caught, cases are often settled out of court. The Catholic Church has spent around $3 billion on out-of-court settlements in the US alone. Consider what Pope Francis said about beginning “a canonical trial in that diocese’s court.” He had the opportunity to ensure this happened in the case of Jozef Wesolowski. A year ago, I wrote about a poor Dominican boy who was not much older than Palomar: A poor 13-year-old Dominican boy needed epilepsy medicine, so an archbishop gave it to him in exchange for sexual acts. The archbishop would go on to abuse the boy for four more years. In 2013, minors interviewed by the police admitted to masturbating and having oral sex with the same archbishop as he filmed them. Such footage was later found in the suspect’s laptop, which contained over 100,000 files of child pornography, digitally archived in category-specific folders. What did Pope Francis when he found out about the allegations against Archbishop Józef Wesolowski as early as August 2013? Did the Pope begin a canonical trial in the Dominican Republic? No. On August 21, 2013, Wesolowski was recalled to Rome in secret, a month before an investigative report was broadcast, alerting the general public of the scandal. Before Wesolowski could be investigated by Dominican authorities he was already under the Pope’s protection. On September 23, 2014 — more than a year after the Pope knew about the allegations — the Vatican arrested Wesolowski. Instead of extraditing him, they decided to try him in Rome, the first time a high-ranking official would face child abuse charges in court. His trial was set on July 11, 2015, but was postponed due to health reasons. On August 27, 2015, he was found dead in his Vatican residence. An autopsy revealed he had died of heart problems. Although the victims of Wesolowski’s abuse could not get the justice they deserved, the situation is far worse for most victims. In most cases, the child abuse isn’t even brought to light. In 2002, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) apologized for sexual abuses by at least 200 priests over 20 years. Of these 200 priests, how many have been prosecuted? Zero. According to a missionary priest who’s been working with poor and prostituted children for more than 40 years, this is because of the CBCP’s cover-up of “rampant sexual abuse.”  “We have these bishops who have been covering up so much of this abuse, and we know that it is still going on,” Fr. Shay Cullen said. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Fr. Ranhilio Aquino - Oh, the fate of foundlings


JANUARY 21 -FR. RANHILIO AQUINO
Does the Constitution of the Republic so ordain that no foundling shall ever be president of the land? No sleepless nights or paroxysms of angst justified in giving a straightforward answer: No, under the constitution they cannot become presidents. Is that not unconscionable cruelty towards foundlings? The emotional tingle notwithstanding, the plain answer is: That is the state of the law, and abiding by the law is exactly what a rule-based society is all about. It is the very essence of constitutionalism. We could have acceded to treaties favorable to foundlings. We could have passed laws granting them the status of natural-born citizens, by enshrining presumptions in much the same way that Italian law does. We re-wrote our Constitution twice since 1935, and did not include a provision on foundlings, although the framers were apprised of their condition and the conundrum attending it. So all this sniffling about the unfairness and the cruelty to foundlings is really misplaced. It has always been within our sovereign power to better their lot, and we chose not to do anything. And now, we urge the Supreme Court to allow a certificate of candidacy to stand that avers "nationality" to be "Filipino" when, by the candidate's own admission, she knows neither who bore her, nor where she was born. How do you make the leap from those two "unknowns" to "Filipino"? So, if by an "inclusive" and "liberal reading" of the Constitution, we mean one that makes light of textual provisions, how far does "liberal" go before we have completely left the constitution behind us? As for "letting the people decide first," I have written sufficiently on that unfortunate line. Let the people decide -- within the bounds that the Constitution allows them to decide. READ MORE...

ALSO By Atty Edgar Vistan II: Grace Poe case in the SC - A guide for non-lawyers


JANUARY 21 -Edgardo Carlo L. Vistan II When lawyers discuss a legal topic, non-lawyers would usually have difficulty understanding them because the use of legal terms cannot be avoided and these legal terms do not have simple definitions or equivalents in the vernacular. The aim of this piece is to help readers understand the concepts and terms that would be encountered if one were to follow the developments in the disqualification cases against Senator Grace Poe that are now before the Supreme Court. The major hurdles that Senator Poe has to overcome are also identified for a better appreciation of the case. If the media coverage of the first round of oral arguments in the said case is any indication, some familiarity with the legalese and issues that would be heard from this unfolding story should be helpful in understanding the case and the decision that the Supreme Court will hand down. Oral arguments before the Supreme Court are proceedings wherein lawyers of opposing sides try to explain their legal arguments to the Justices composing the Supreme Court – who are also lawyers - in attempt to convince these magistrates to decide one way or the other. One could imagine, then, that for non-lawyers watching oral arguments transpire, the exchanges can be confusing if not incomprehensible as most terms and concepts are already familiar to the main participants and are no longer explained or elaborated. To begin with, the underlying and essential questions that the Supreme Court must grapple with involve Senator Grace Poe’s possession of the citizenship and residence qualifications for President. Section 2, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution requires, among others, that the President must be a natural-born Filipino citizen. The President must also be a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding the election in which he or she would be elected President. Citizenship Citizenship should be a familiar concept to most. What may be unfamiliar, however, is the rule that under our laws, possession or acquisition of Philippine citizenship is governed by the Philippine Constitution in force at the time one is born, even if there is already a new Constitution such as the 1987 Constitution that is in effect when a question concerning one’s citizenship arises. In the case of Senator Grace Poe, she was born under the 1935 Constitution, and the provisions of this Constitution will determine her citizenship. In the 1935 Constitution, one would be considered a citizen of the Philippines if one’s father were a Filipino at the time of one’s birth. If one was born of a non-Filipino father but of a Filipino mother, one had to elect or make an affirmative act choosing Filipino citizenship soon after reaching the age of majority. This means that if one was born when the 1935 Constitution was in effect, one is not automatically a Filipino if only one’s mother is a Filipino. There are other categories of Philippine citizenship under the 1935 Constitution, but these are not relevant to this discussion. A "natural-born citizen" is one who is a citizen of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship. This concept would include those born of Filipino fathers under the 1935 Constitution. By definition in the 1987 Constitution, the concept of "natural-born citizen" includes those born of Filipino mothers under the 1935 Constitution and who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority. While Senator Poe’s citizenship would be governed by the 1935 Constitution, it is the definition of a "natural-born citizen" under the 1987 Constitution that would be used in deciding the disqualification cases against her, since the qualifications of a President under the 1987 Constitution are what she must satisfy. This manner of determining one’s citizenship based on the citizenship of one’s parents is referred to as the "jus sanguinis" principle, or "rule of blood relationship." The alternative principle, which prevails in other countries like the United States, is the "jus soli" principle or “citizenship by place of birth”, wherein one is considered a citizen of such countries when they are born within their territory regardless of the citizenship of one’s parents. READ MORE...


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Dear PNoy, Coal is not cheap — it costs us our lives

MANILA, JANUARY 18, 2016 (GMA NEWS ONLINE)  Published January 11, 2016 5:59pm By AYEEN KARUNUNGAN

Dear President Aquino,

I was there when you made a speech at the UNFCCC negotiations in Paris, proudly saying that the Philippines is cutting its emissions by 70%.

I was in the same room as you when you made a statement at the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) and said that the government is working hard to diversify our energy resources and increasingly tapping into renewables.

I was cheering with the crowd when the Philippines, representing the CVF, got the “Ray of the Day” award for its declaration to achieve full decarbonization and run our countries on 100% renewables by 2050.

I was there when the Paris agreement was signed and Climate Change Commissioner Emmanuel de Guzman made a statement saying how much we have fought for a more ambitious target of 1.5 degrees celsius — a goal that will encourage countries to mitigate carbon emissions — and that we will deliver on this goal.

I have been following climate issues for quite some time and I know about the government’s approval of new coal power plants. I also know that you are not a fan of renewable energy. I remember your speech in 2013 when you said, “If you put up a wind-powered plant, what do you do when there is no wind? If you put up a solar plant, what do you when the sky is cloudy?”

But after the negotiations in Paris, after all the promises we have made as a country, I came back home more hopeful than ever. I gave you and your government the benefit of the doubt, Mr. President. After all, we committed to the United Nations and we have been proud about those commitments.

But just a month after the Paris negotiations, you inaugurated a new coal power plant in Davao. I have heard reasons why this must be done: that renewable energy is still expensive and we do not have the capacity or technology, that renewable energy cannot provide for the base load energy needed in Mindanao, that we need this to fuel our economy and to ensure that everyone has access to energy.

I understand, Mr. President, that energy transitions will take a lot of time and that it will not happen overnight. However, I do not feel that the government is sincere in investing in renewable energy. How can you be sincere and approve more than 50 coal power plants? A sincere government would have started investing more aggressively in renewable energy, with or without help from foreign aid.

Ethiopia, a country in Africa, has committed to become carbon negative. But not only that, they have started investing more in renewable energy. They did not use the fact that 77% of their population still has no access to electricity as an excuse. Or the fact that they are considered as a least developed country who also needs finance and technology for renewable energy. But as early as 2012, Ethiopia made it clear that renewable energy will be their key economic driver. Ethiopia, like many other countries today, know that sustainability, environment, and economics are not separate from each other.

But what about the Philippines, Mr. President? When will we begin our transition? When it’s too late? When we have become a big carbon emitter? Do we really want to continue dirty energy like coal when the world has shifted to renewables? All I hear are excuses.

CONTINUE READING...

During your speech at the UNFCCC, you have reiterated the vulnerability of our country, that we are first to experience climate change impacts. Unless you are a climate skeptic, you would know that climate change has been caused by carbon emissions, mostly by burning fossil fuels like coal. Using this logic, shouldn’t the Philippines be one of the first countries to stop investing in coal?

But I have also heard you say that the Philippines is not a big carbon emitter, and I am afraid you have used this as an excuse to continue investing in dirty energy. We have seen the mistakes of the rich countries whose economies have been carbon based. Do we really want to take the same path?

Mr. President, coal is not cheap. You disregard that people get sick because of coal. You disregard that water and land get contaminated by coal. You disregard the environmental hazards that come with it.

Mr. President, I would like to remind you of your promises you made to the United Nations. But more importantly, I would like to remind you of your promises to Filipinos. You promised us a path to sustainability. You promised us that you will work hard for renewable energy. You only have a few months left in office. Maybe it’s time to deliver your promises. Or will it just be another one of your “pangakong napako?”

Sincerely,

Renee Karunungan Climate Activist-Planeteer

Renee Juliene Karunungan is the Communications Director and climate justice campaigner of Dakila. She is also a Climate Tracker following climate issues and negotiations both locally and internationally.


Renee Karunungan
Human rights defender | Planeteer | Feminist
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COMMENTARY The public's right to nice cabbies Published January 14, 2016 7:15am Updated January 14, 2016 7:16am By ATTY. EDGARDO CARLO L. VISTAN II


COMMENTARY BY Edgardo Carlo L. Vistan II - I am a Professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law, and one of the subjects I have been teaching there is Transportation and Public Utilities Law.

With reports of taxi drivers verbally abusing and even assaulting passengers dominating the news the past few days, it would be interesting to ask these drivers and the operators who employ them if they know what “extraordinary diligence” means. Most of them would probably be clueless.

Operators of taxis, buses, and passenger jeepneys are common carriers. Under our laws, common carriers are required to exercise extraordinary diligence for the safety of their passengers. Under Article 1755 of the Civil Code, "(a) common carrier is bound to carry the passengers safely as far as human care and foresight can provide, using the utmost diligence of very cautious persons, with a due regard for all the circumstances."

Public transport operators are therefore required to make the safety and well being of their passengers their number one priority. The same holds true for their drivers and other employees, who are the agents of public transport operators in carrying out the duty to exercise extraordinary diligence in the transportation of the riding public.

Extraordinary diligence is more than ordinary diligence. We can equate ordinary diligence with ordinary care. Extraordinary diligence, then, can be equated with very special care.

When public transport drivers shout at, harass, or assault passengers, there is clearly an absence of the very special care that the commuting public is entitled to receive from public transport operators and their employees. The spate of reports on taxi drivers maltreating and even physically harming their passengers demonstrate that many of our public transport operators and their employees are remiss in their respective obligations to exercise extraordinary diligence.

Public transport operators should not only employ drivers that are very careful and very skilled in driving, but they should also make sure that their drivers possess good moral character so as to protect commuters against abuse and violence.

Passengers that fall victim to such misconduct can sue not only the drivers involved, but also the public transport operators who employ them. There have been cases wherein public transport entities – often airlines - have been made to pay damages to passengers that were maltreated by the employees of these entities through disrespectful or inconsiderate treatment. In fact, most of the maltreatment of passengers involved in these cases pale in comparison to those seen recently on television involving abusive and violent taxi drivers.

Unfortunately, to sue for damages based on such maltreatment by public transport entities, one has to go through the tedious and expensive process of litigating in court. The typical commuter who rides a taxi, a bus or a passenger jeepney would not have the resources to pursue such legal action.

READ MORE...

I believe that it is time for Congress to enact a law that would establish a more affordable venue for commuters to seek speedy relief against public transport entities. This would be in addition to administrative sanctions such as cancellation of franchises by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, which have obviously failed to ensure that the commuters receive the very special care to which they are entitled under the law.

A venue similar to the National Labor Relations Commission where workers can file labor cases without much cost and even without a lawyer would be a good alternative to our regular courts for commuters who may want to sue public transport operators and their employees. It may even be possible that our courts would welcome such an innovation, as they are plagued with the problem of case congestion anyway.

Finally, it may also be time to make sure that, somehow, public transport operators and their employees know what “extraordinary diligence” is and why they should know everything about it. —BAP, GMA News


Edgardo Carlo L. Vistan II Senior Associate
THE BENGZON LAW FIRM


FILIPINO FREETHINKERS Does Pope Francis cry for the victims of his Church? Published January 18, 2016 10:48pm By RED TANI


BY RED TANI

When Pope Francis visited the Philippines last year, the most difficult questions he had to answer did not come from reporters. The questions came from a poor little girl.

“Marami na po ang mga batang pinabayaan ng kanilang mga magulang,” said Glyzelle Iris Palomar, 12. (Many children have been neglected by their parents.)

“Marami sa kanila ang naging biktima at masama ang nangyari, tulad ng droga o prostitusyon.” (Many of them have become victims, involved in bad circumstances such as drugs and prostitution.)

“Bakit po pumapayag ang Diyos na may ganitong nangyayari?” (Why does God allow these things to happen?)

She cried, and then continued: “At bakit kaunti lang ang tumutulong sa amin?” (And why are there only few who help us?)

Pope Francis repeated the girl’s question and then answered: “When the heart is unable to answer itself and cry, then we can understand.”

He asked the audience: “Have I learned to weep for someone who has a drug problem? Have I learned to weep for someone who suffered abuse?”

A year after I first heard this story, I can’t help wishing someone had asked Pope Francis: “Have you?”

One of the reasons Pope Francis is considered revolutionary is his promise of zero tolerance on child abuse. In a 2012 interview as Cardinal Bergoglio, he said that the way to deal with child abuse is to “take away the priests' licenses, not to allow them to exercise the priesthood any more, and to begin a canonical trial in that diocese’s court.”

What he said runs contrary to the Catholic Church’s practice, which instead of solving it perpetuates the problem. Instead of firing abusive priests, they are often shuffled between dioceses, making it hard for authorities to investigate allegations. Worse, it puts a new batch of potential victims at risk.

When priests do get caught, cases are often settled out of court. The Catholic Church has spent around $3 billion on out-of-court settlements in the US alone.

Consider what Pope Francis said about beginning “a canonical trial in that diocese’s court.” He had the opportunity to ensure this happened in the case of Jozef Wesolowski.

A year ago, I wrote about a poor Dominican boy who was not much older than Palomar:

A poor 13-year-old Dominican boy needed epilepsy medicine, so an archbishop gave it to him in exchange for sexual acts. The archbishop would go on to abuse the boy for four more years.

In 2013, minors interviewed by the police admitted to masturbating and having oral sex with the same archbishop as he filmed them. Such footage was later found in the suspect’s laptop, which contained over 100,000 files of child pornography, digitally archived in category-specific folders. What did Pope Francis when he found out about the allegations against Archbishop Józef Wesolowski as early as August 2013? Did the Pope begin a canonical trial in the Dominican Republic? No.

On August 21, 2013, Wesolowski was recalled to Rome in secret, a month before an investigative report was broadcast, alerting the general public of the scandal. Before Wesolowski could be investigated by Dominican authorities he was already under the Pope’s protection.

On September 23, 2014 — more than a year after the Pope knew about the allegations — the Vatican arrested Wesolowski. Instead of extraditing him, they decided to try him in Rome, the first time a high-ranking official would face child abuse charges in court.

His trial was set on July 11, 2015, but was postponed due to health reasons. On August 27, 2015, he was found dead in his Vatican residence. An autopsy revealed he had died of heart problems.

Although the victims of Wesolowski’s abuse could not get the justice they deserved, the situation is far worse for most victims. In most cases, the child abuse isn’t even brought to light.

In 2002, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) apologized for sexual abuses by at least 200 priests over 20 years. Of these 200 priests, how many have been prosecuted? Zero.

According to a missionary priest who’s been working with poor and prostituted children for more than 40 years, this is because of the CBCP’s cover-up of “rampant sexual abuse.”

“We have these bishops who have been covering up so much of this abuse, and we know that it is still going on,” Fr. Shay Cullen said.

READ MORE...

It’s 2016 and there’s no reason to believe things will get better. A week after Pope Francis visit, Anne Doyle of BishopAccountability.org sent a letter to Patricia B. Luna, OIC-Executive Director of the Council for the Welfare of Children.

The letter drew attention to 12 priests in the Philippines, most still active in ministry, several having “worked at some point in the United States but were banned from U.S. dioceses following serious allegations of child rape and molestation.”

In another letter sent the following month, Doyle explained that “Filipino bishops know of the serious allegations against these priests but are keeping them in ministry.”

Those bishops are just following protocol. The CBCP policy on child abuse betrays the fact that Pope Francis has not fulfilled his promise of zero tolerance. Philippine Bishops are not required to report abusive priests to authorities or even to remove them from active ministry.

Doyle explained that the reason there seems to be “zero tolerance” in the US is because of the public outrage in 2002, which prompted the US bishops to ask for special measures — measures that are much stricter than the official Vatican policy enforced in other countries.

The most progressive thing Pope Francis has done about clerical child abuse is admit the cover-ups. After meeting with abuse victims, Pope Francis told reporters that “those who have covered up these things are also guilty… Even some bishops [who] have covered [this] up. It is a very bad thing.”

Does the Pope weep for the victims of child abuse? I would like to think so. But seeing how he’s handled cases like Wesolowski’s and how he’s kept the defective policy on abuse, I hope he does more than just cry.

Red Tani is the president of Filipino Freethinkers, an organization of atheists and free thinkers in the Philippines working for a secular Filipino society by promoting reason and science.


Red Tani 200 RT: I'm the founder and president of Filipino Freethinkers, a group of individuals with different religious affiliations but have reason, science, and secularism as shared values. Although most of our members are atheists (including me), our goal is not to promote atheism but to foster the kind of society that is accepting of atheists and is able to question not only religion but ideas that are held religiously (that is, without any skepticism or critical thinking).


COMMENTARY Oh, the fate of foundlings Published January 21, 2016 9:53am By FR. RANHILIO AQUINO


FR. RANHILIO AQUINO

Does the Constitution of the Republic so ordain that no foundling shall ever be president of the land? No sleepless nights or paroxysms of angst justified in giving a straightforward answer: No, under the constitution they cannot become presidents.

Is that not unconscionable cruelty towards foundlings? The emotional tingle notwithstanding, the plain answer is: That is the state of the law, and abiding by the law is exactly what a rule-based society is all about. It is the very essence of constitutionalism.

We could have acceded to treaties favorable to foundlings. We could have passed laws granting them the status of natural-born citizens, by enshrining presumptions in much the same way that Italian law does. We re-wrote our Constitution twice since 1935, and did not include a provision on foundlings, although the framers were apprised of their condition and the conundrum attending it.

So all this sniffling about the unfairness and the cruelty to foundlings is really misplaced. It has always been within our sovereign power to better their lot, and we chose not to do anything. And now, we urge the Supreme Court to allow a certificate of candidacy to stand that avers "nationality" to be "Filipino" when, by the candidate's own admission, she knows neither who bore her, nor where she was born. How do you make the leap from those two "unknowns" to "Filipino"?

So, if by an "inclusive" and "liberal reading" of the Constitution, we mean one that makes light of textual provisions, how far does "liberal" go before we have completely left the constitution behind us?

As for "letting the people decide first," I have written sufficiently on that unfortunate line. Let the people decide -- within the bounds that the Constitution allows them to decide.

READ MORE...

As for dismissing constitutional provisions and other legal requirements as "technicalities," that is surprising indeed!

Law structures; law regiments; law stabilizes behavioral expectations. It has to be technical. It must involve technicalities.

That to marry, one needs a marriage license, that is a technicality -- but not one has seriously proposed that as a "mere technicality" a marriage can legally proceed without it. That after the Supreme Court's judgment has attained finality -- no matter the sound and the fury against it, and the errors that future generations of legal scholars will make sport of -- there is no way to avoid it. That too is a technicality, but it is one that judicial process cannot do without.

So let us, with due sobriety and intellectual acuteness, return to the fundamental issue: Is she a natural-born Filipino citizen? And to answer that, we must have the answer to the question: "Was she born of a Filipino father?"

Nothing distractingly technical about that -- simply the exercise of sovereign power to decide who are qualified for the highest office of the land. Unfortunately, when you can answer neither, it is not that there is a lacuna in the law -- because there is none. It clearly provides who are liable for the office.

The simple result is that one who does not know who one's parents are, nor where one was born cannot, without conjecture or, worse, blatant dishonesty, declare that one is a natural-born Filipino -- until we decide to amend the laws, pass new laws, or re-write the Constitution -- and the Supreme Court is certainly not the qualified forum for that task!

Fr. Ranhilio Aquino is the dean of the San Beda Graduate School of Law.


Grace Poe case in the SC: A guide for non-lawyers Published January 21, 2016 3:42pm By EDGARDO CARLO VISTAN II


Edgardo Carlo L. Vistan II

When lawyers discuss a legal topic, non-lawyers would usually have difficulty understanding them because the use of legal terms cannot be avoided and these legal terms do not have simple definitions or equivalents in the vernacular.

The aim of this piece is to help readers understand the concepts and terms that would be encountered if one were to follow the developments in the disqualification cases against Senator Grace Poe that are now before the Supreme Court. The major hurdles that Senator Poe has to overcome are also identified for a better appreciation of the case. If the media coverage of the first round of oral arguments in the said case is any indication, some familiarity with the legalese and issues that would be heard from this unfolding story should be helpful in understanding the case and the decision that the Supreme Court will hand down.

Oral arguments before the Supreme Court are proceedings wherein lawyers of opposing sides try to explain their legal arguments to the Justices composing the Supreme Court – who are also lawyers - in attempt to convince these magistrates to decide one way or the other. One could imagine, then, that for non-lawyers watching oral arguments transpire, the exchanges can be confusing if not incomprehensible as most terms and concepts are already familiar to the main participants and are no longer explained or elaborated.

To begin with, the underlying and essential questions that the Supreme Court must grapple with involve Senator Grace Poe’s possession of the citizenship and residence qualifications for President. Section 2, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution requires, among others, that the President must be a natural-born Filipino citizen. The President must also be a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding the election in which he or she would be elected President.

Citizenship

Citizenship should be a familiar concept to most. What may be unfamiliar, however, is the rule that under our laws, possession or acquisition of Philippine citizenship is governed by the Philippine Constitution in force at the time one is born, even if there is already a new Constitution such as the 1987 Constitution that is in effect when a question concerning one’s citizenship arises. In the case of Senator Grace Poe, she was born under the 1935 Constitution, and the provisions of this Constitution will determine her citizenship.

In the 1935 Constitution, one would be considered a citizen of the Philippines if one’s father were a Filipino at the time of one’s birth. If one was born of a non-Filipino father but of a Filipino mother, one had to elect or make an affirmative act choosing Filipino citizenship soon after reaching the age of majority. This means that if one was born when the 1935 Constitution was in effect, one is not automatically a Filipino if only one’s mother is a Filipino. There are other categories of Philippine citizenship under the 1935 Constitution, but these are not relevant to this discussion.

A "natural-born citizen" is one who is a citizen of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship. This concept would include those born of Filipino fathers under the 1935 Constitution.

By definition in the 1987 Constitution, the concept of "natural-born citizen" includes those born of Filipino mothers under the 1935 Constitution and who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority. While Senator Poe’s citizenship would be governed by the 1935 Constitution, it is the definition of a "natural-born citizen" under the 1987 Constitution that would be used in deciding the disqualification cases against her, since the qualifications of a President under the 1987 Constitution are what she must satisfy.

This manner of determining one’s citizenship based on the citizenship of one’s parents is referred to as the "jus sanguinis" principle, or "rule of blood relationship." The alternative principle, which prevails in other countries like the United States, is the "jus soli" principle or “citizenship by place of birth”, wherein one is considered a citizen of such countries when they are born within their territory regardless of the citizenship of one’s parents.

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The problem Senator Poe is facing on the issue of citizenship stems from the lack of information about the identities and citizenships of her father and mother. Thus, by the rules of citizenship governing those born under the 1935 Constitution that were anchored upon the citizenship of one’s parents, Senator Poe cannot stake a claim to Philippine citizenship, much less natural-born Philippine citizenship.

As reported in the news, Senator Poe is considered a “foundling”, or one who was deserted or abandoned as an infant and whose parents and circumstances of birth are unknown.

Residency

The other issue confronting Senator Poe is her possession of the ten-year residence qualification for President. The sense that the term "residence" is used here is "permanent residence" or "domicile." One's domicile is one's place of habitual residence, or that place that one has established as his or her permanent home and to which one intends to return when, for one reason or another, one has to stay for some time in another place.

In this regard, the point that Senator Poe has been having difficulty dealing with, among others, is the rule that a foreigner who has not obtained the appropriate visa from Philippine immigration authorities cannot be allowed to establish permanent residence or domicile in the Philippines.

Counting back from the May 2016 elections, the required ten-year period of residence would include months during which Senator Poe was still an American citizen who had not obtained a visa allowing her to be a permanent resident of the Philippines.

During those months at the beginning of the required ten-year period, Senator Poe was not even a dual citizen, that is – one who is a Filipino and an American citizen at the same time. The argument against her is that she cannot satisfy the required ten-year residence in the Philippines if she could not have been allowed to establish permanent residence here as a foreigner during the earliest months or stages of the required period.

Comelec jurisdiction and the PET

Senator Poe's camp has argued that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) does not have jurisdiction to pass upon Senator Poe’s qualifications for President because it is the Presidential Electoral Tribunal that supposedly has exclusive jurisdiction to pass upon such qualifications.

The term "jurisdiction" in this context means the authority to decide a case. The "Presidential Electoral Tribunal" or PET, on the other hand, is actually the Supreme Court en banc, or with all Justices participating.

The Supreme Court is called the PET when a case involving the election and qualifications of an elected President or an elected Vice-President is brought before it.

The Supreme Court already clarified this in the case of Tecson versus Comelec (G.R. Nos. 161434, 161634 and 161824, March 3, 2004) wherein the Supreme Court ruled that the Comelec had jurisdiction when the latter decided that Senator Poe’s father, the late Fernando Poe, Jr., was qualified to run for President in the 2004 national elections. In other words, when the qualifications or eligibility of a candidate for President are being questioned, the Comelec – not the PET – has jurisdiction, as the jurisdiction of the PET is limited to cases involving an elected President or an elected Vice-President.

Grave abuse of discretion

Then there’s the phrase "grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction”. In deciding the disqualification cases against Senator Poe, the Supreme Court will be determining whether or not the Comelec committed such grave abuse of discretion in deciding against Senator Poe.

While there is more to the concept of "grave abuse of discretion," ultimately, what this means is that the Supreme Court must decide whether or not they agree with the Comelec’s decisions to disqualify Senator Poe.

The Supreme Court would rule that Comelec "committed grave abuse of discretion" if it would not agree with the Comelec’s decisions. On the other hand, the Supreme Court would rule that there was "no grave abuse of discretion" on the part of the Comelec, and therefore uphold the Comelec’s disqualification of Senator Poe, if the highest court of the land agrees with the latter’s conclusions.

Atty. Edgardo Carlo L. Vistan II is a member of the faculty at the University of the Philippines College of Law.


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