Martial law: whose perspective?

I’m not, never will be, for martial law or any restrictions to liberty and freedom. Even if it’s a benign form of martial law, the fact that civilians are searched or required to present evidence of who or what they are to armed personnel instill an environment of distrust that in turn gives birth to other negative feelings (fear, paranoia, anxiety, more distrust, and the like) and thoughts (am I going crazy? am I the only one distressed over restricted movement?). I can’t help feel angry that I’m searched or asked for identification. Do the checkers really give a hoot about who I am or what I do? No. They only need to see that I am not one of those wanted men and women. The wanted individuals that’s who or what they care about, bottomline, which is why it doesn’t really matter to them if good and law-abiding citizens are made to line up even in scorching high noon heat. Who are being persecuted? But this is my perspective.

I do try, for my own sanity, to understand martial law or forms of restrictions from the perspective of Mindanaoans. They welcome it. People here, Moro and migrants alike, tell me, “people in Manila who are protesting and complaining about martial law here do not know anything, if they want we’ll exchange places, they could come stay here and we’ll go there. See if they don’t embrace martial law.” I have no response to such, just a smile. But I understand now that I’ve been here some time and have gone around in conflict areas where you don’t know if you’re going to be sniped at driving through a village while Michael Learns to Rock is crooning 25 Minutes Too Late in the background, or becoming a secondary victim of a blast in a shop next to the one you’re in. Such does things to your psyche. What more for folks who have been subjected to such a volatile environment for the longest time? I understand, travelling on the Pan-Philippine/Maharlika Highway to and from conflict-ridden areas, why people from Visayas and Luzon would want to build their homes here and why some people here would want to defend it at all cost. This place, this region, is very beautiful. I’m caught by the beauty of it’s landscapes, it’s wilderness. It’s a much-contested space. But I also understand what somebody who’s working in peacebuilding in the region for more than a decade meant when he said “pagod na din ang mga tao dito. Mamamatay tayo na baka hindi pa naayos itong problema (people here are already tired. We’d probably die without the conflict getting resolved).” What a sad, sad thought. I wanted to weep.

Whose voice? Whose agenda? Whose perspective? Whose future? These should guide us as we make a decision or a judgment about what is best for a community.

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Happy Independence Day!

As long as I can remember, it used to be that Philippine Independence Day (119th today) is merely a lukewarm celebration of sorts in localities dependent on the budget that a local government has allocated (which corresponds to the extent of regard local government has for the history behind Filipino liberty and freedoms). What my stay in Mindanao at this time has taught me is that independence cannot, should not be taken for granted, ever. Local governments should stage community celebration of this historical event, remembering the people in the past as well as in the present and their sacrifices in order that the country remain free and independent. Independence Day is so much more worth the public celebration than fiestas. Such would be the place to acknowledge past mistakes and our limited humanity, and in the spirit of humility resolve to do better. The aim of this community ritual, like reunions, is for community members to reconnect around a common history and purpose moving forward. We’re always blaming the Spaniards and Americans – colonizers – for our inability to break through poverty (economic as well as in attitude) but, hey, the people and governments who colonized ithe country are long dead or gone and changed. Since then we only had ourselves to blame. Just look at the state of our present-day Congress and local government units. T he other day, while out to do some errands, I had just crossed the street to the grocery when I heard a commotion among people up ahead. It turned out there was a convoy of military trucks going by. They were filled with masked soldiers, and they looked weary. No smiles to the people and vice versa. That was not a familiar sight for me. What’s familiar to me is the images of poker-faced but palpably happy and shiny cadets at the Philippine Military Academy, whether on parade or on their regimental exercise. That image the other day was the result of experiencing realities on the ground, the actual battlefield which for the most part do not jive with what students were taught in school. But, I guess, as in much of life, we don’t run away from life and our duties. We face whatever comes our way. That is the way to live, the only way in order to fully enjoy life and the freedoms that go with human life. The question in the end isn’t what did you do to care for yourself? but rather what did you do for others? Life here in the Islands is so much more safe and free if we all got one another’s back.

On the US Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage

There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.

– Martin Luther

And who is to say that a marriage is good?  Primarily the two individuals creating and forming the marriage, of course.  This is the essence of the US Supreme Court’s decision– that a couple’s happiness cannot be dictated upon by million others outside the union.

Individuals are free to choose with whom they want to form good marriages with.  Gender is beside the point as men and women are both capable of forming “lovely, friendly, and charming relationship or communion”.

Moreover procreation is not the be-all and end-all of marriage.  The stigma on unions of the same sex is rooted in the universal conviction that the ultimate purpose of marriage is procreation.  How could there be different standards applied to marriage between man and woman and marriage as between men or women and God? Isn’t rather the end goals of all marriages communion, joy and happiness however these are defined by the couple?

This is what the ruling is saying. For those who are happy with a traditional relationship, marriage between the opposite sexes is not going away.  It’s just that the right to marry is expanded to include once-excluded others.

However this doesn’t mean that, as Curtis Sittenfeld at The New York Times writes, now that same-sex marriage is legal… plenty of gay people won’t get married just because they can, just as plenty of straight people don’t, because the decision to marry, for gay or straight, is a deeply personal one. 

On the state of affairs at Camp John Hay Part IV: Role of Government

In Part III, it was mentioned that special economic zones are instruments to jump-start or boost a country’s competitiveness, to raise it at world class standards.  Here, Part IV, discussion is on the role of the public sector, the government, in the task.

The legal, regulatory, and institutional policy frameworks applicable include the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016Special Economic ZonesPhilippine Foreign Investments Act, and Public-Private Partnerships.  The Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, for instance, outlines the results framework for national competitiveness in which the goal is a globally-competitive and innovative industry and services sector contributing to inclusive growth and employment generation, among which strengthening special economic zones is a strategy.

In the global competitiveness ranking for 2014, the Philippines moved up by seven points from 2013, however, there remain persistent issues that continue to keep the country from finally emerging as one with a developed economy.  For example, in 2014, the top five most problematic factors for doing business in the country were

  1. Corruption
  2. Inadequate supply of infrastructure
  3. Tax regulations
  4. Inefficient government bureaucracy
  5. Tax rates

One notices that the above are factors from the government side.  Take no. 2 (inadequate supply of infrastructure).  The SEZ is a fine example of the truth behind the adage ‘no man is an island’ in that although it is an enclave from the rest of the community, it needs infrastructure support from that community which is represented by it’s Local Government Unit.  In the case of JHSEZ, for instance, critical infrastructure systems needed to enable it to operate as planned would include reliable electricity and water supply, telecommunications that comply with international quality standards, roads, market linkages, and sewage lines and facilities.  If the SEZ was to build and manage all of these, where is the incentive in investing and operating a SEZ?  The country might as well scrap it’s SEZ and Foreign Investments Acts.  Moreover, with the SEZ being a place where growth policies are pilot tested, it is the LGU’s role, the challenge it faces, to link the zone to the rest of the community, the nation, in tandem with the national government, and the world.  In essence, selling a brand.

How will the LGU do that?  First, it has to step away from a traditional mindset and practices that don’t work.  For instance, in the realm of economic policies and financial instruments.  Raising the competitiveness level of, say, Baguio City (with it, JHSEZ), folks at City Hall need to overcome reliance on just it’s annual allocation from the national coffer (or, the Internal Revenue Allotment) and as it’s mandate via the LGU Code think up modern ways, so to speak, of raising capital.

If only public officials and officers do that, they will find that there simply would be no more time to think up ways to one up the other.  In this case, the BCDA one upping it’s investor-partner.  The headaches that BCDA gave to the developer of JHSEZ since the start of their partnership in 1996 had been costly and wasteful in terms of people’s money and resources.  If these had been instead spent on strengthening the JHSEZ, as it is national government’s mandate on itself, the Camp would’ve been by now achieved it’s goal of a world class tourist destination.

Also it is a shame that locals especially those with vested interest in the Camp have remained silent in the course of this debacle and as such showed themselves as opportunists.  The Golf Club, for instance.  Who is the Club?  Are not they – locals – the Club, at least as partly owning it?  Having followed this news topic, I had long expected these locals to be the first to bang on the court’s door and make a case for government to leave them in joyful enjoyment of the golfing sport and Sunday buffets, free from the drawn out political push and pull.  The Club is a candidate of the Guinness Record as probably the only golf club in the world which if it happens is forcibly taken over by national government, and with it violation of individuals’ liberties and rights (i.e. freedom to pursue and practice hobbies or past-times, forced eviction from a property that was essentially put up via individual owners’ monies and with the forced eviction absence of private property compensation plan from government, to name a few).

This year will see the ASEAN Economic Integration hence the ASEAN Economic Community coming to fruition.  Among this Community’s objectives is a highly competitive economic region.  This implies that localities need to align themselves to that objective.  Doing so entails critical reforms, specifically, in line with preparations for the APEC Structural Reform Ministerial Meeting in September this year, on behind-the border barriers, or structural policy impediments (that) have become the more important obstacle to economic integration.  (These) barriers may come in the form of poor infrastructure, unclear property rights, complex licensing procedures, weak enforcement of contracts, excessive regulation of some industries, or an inadequate legal framework for competition.  (The) structural reform will open new opportunities for the private sector, especially for the small and medium enterprises, to take advantage of the gains that the economic integration can provide for local and international businesses.  The government, national and local, leads the way in these reforms, mindful that in no way will investor harassment and individual rights violations produce results that are in line with the desired economic objectives relative to SEZs. Beyond SEZs, government cannot claim to be a real reformer and peace maker when it reforms one and doesn’t the other or makes peace with one and snubs the other.

Rogue investigations

It’s happening again, this time with the alleged overpricing of cakes and parking building of the Makati City Local Government Unit.

What rules do the Blue Ribbon Subcommittee follow when conducting investigations?

The Filipino public doesn’t know.  There’s no information posted on the Senate website, just the Committee’s jurisdiction. And that’s the problem.

The public, at least those who know what rules of investigation, conducted in a court or the Senate, are fair and not, is aghast at how the Subcommittee has been conducting it’s proceedings.  From within it’s ranks, Senator Joker Arroyo has commented on unfair rules, and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile himself a former trial lawyer has said of the pork barrel scam proceedings, a parody of justice.

The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations under the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has a similar jurisdiction, and it has explicitly laid down the rules.  From these, the Filipino public can get a sense of the rules in fair investigations:

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RULES OF PROCEDURE FOR THE SENATE PERMANENT SUBCOMMITTEE ON INVESTIGATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS AS ADOPTED FEBRUARY 26, 2003

1. No public hearing connected with an investigation may be held without the approval of either the Chairman and the Ranking Minority Member or the approval of a majority of the Members of the Subcommittee. In all cases, notification to all Members of the intent to hold hearings must be given at least 7 days in advance to the date of the hearing. The Ranking Minority Member should be kept fully apprised of preliminary inquiries, investigations, and hearings. Preliminary inquiries may be initiated by the Subcommittee Majority staff upon the approval of the Chairman and notice of such approval to the Ranking Minority Member or the Minority Counsel.  Preliminary inquiries may be undertaken by the Minority staff upon the approval of the Ranking Minority Member and notice of such approval to the Chairman or Chief Counsel. Investigations may be undertaken upon the approval of the Chairman of the Subcommittee and the Ranking Minority Member with notice of such approval to all Members.

No public hearing shall be held if the Minority Members unanimously object, unless the full Committee on Governmental Affairs by a majority vote approves of such public hearing. Senate Rules will govern all closed sessions convened by the Subcommittee (Rule XXVI, Sec. 5(b), Standing Rules of the Senate).

2. Subpoenas for witnesses, as well as documents and records, may be authorized and issued by the Chairman, or any other Member of the Subcommittee designated by him or her, with notice to the Ranking Minority Member. A written notice of intent to issue a subpoena shall be provided to the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member of the Committee, or staff officers designated by them, by the Subcommittee Chairman or a staff officer designated by him or her, immediately upon such authorization, and no subpoena shall be issued for at least 48 hours, excluding Saturdays and Sundays, from delivery to the appropriate offices, unless the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member waive the 48-hour waiting period or unless the Subcommittee Chairman certifies in writing to the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member that, in his or her opinion, it is necessary to issue a subpoena immediately.

3. The Chairman shall have the authority to call meetings of the Subcommittee. This authority may be delegated by the Chairman to any other Member of the Subcommittee when necessary.

4. If at least three Members of the Subcommittee desire the Chairman to call a special meeting, they may file in the office of the Subcommittee, a written request therefore, addressed to the Chairman. Immediately thereafter, the clerk of the Subcommittee shall notify the Chairman of such request. If, within 3 calendar days after the filing of such request, the Chairman fails to call the requested special meeting, which is to be held within 7 calendar days after the filing of such request, a majority of the Subcommittee Members may file in the office of the Subcommittee their written notice that a special Subcommittee meeting will be held, specifying the date and hour thereof, and the Subcommittee shall meet on that date and hour. Immediately upon the filing of such notice, the Subcommittee clerk shall notify all Subcommittee Members that such special meeting will be held and inform them of its date and hour. If the Chairman is not present at any regular, additional, or special meeting, the Ranking Majority Member present shall preside.

5. For public or executive sessions, one Member of the Subcommittee shall constitute a quorum for the administering of oaths and the taking of testimony in any given case or subject matter.

Five (5) Members of the Subcommittee shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of Subcommittee business other than the administering of oaths and the taking of testimony.

6. All witnesses at public or executive hearings who testify to matters of fact shall be sworn.

7. If, during public or executive sessions, a witness, his or her counsel, or any spectator conducts himself or herself in such a manner as to prevent, impede, disrupt, obstruct, or interfere with the orderly administration of such hearing, the Chairman or presiding Member of the Subcommittee present during such hearing may request the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate, his or her representative, or any law enforcement official to eject said person from the hearing room.

8. Counsel retained by any witness and accompanying such witness shall be permitted to be present during the testimony of such witness at any public or executive hearing, and to advise such witness while he or she is testifying, of his or her legal rights; provided, however, that in the case of any witness who is an officer or employee of the government, or of a corporation or association, the Subcommittee Chairman may rule that representation by counsel from the government, corporation, or association, or by counsel representing other witnesses, creates a conflict of interest, and that the witness may only be represented during interrogation by staff or during testimony before the Subcommittee by personal counsel not from the government, corporation, or association, or by personal counsel not representing other witnesses. This rule shall not be construed to excuse a witness from testifying in the event his or her counsel is ejected for conducting himself or herself in such a manner so as to prevent, impede, disrupt, obstruct, or interfere with the orderly administration of the hearings; nor shall this rule be construed as authorizing counsel to coach the witness or answer for the witness. The failure of any witness to secure counsel shall not excuse such witness from complying with a subpoena or deposition notice.

9. Depositions.
9.1 Notice. Notices for the taking of depositions in an investigation authorized by the Subcommittee shall be authorized and issued by the Chairman. The Chairman of the full Committee and the Ranking Minority Member of the Subcommittee shall be kept fully apprised of the authorization for the taking of depositions. Such notices shall specify a time and place of examination, and the name of the Subcommittee Member or Members or staff officer or officers who will take the deposition. The deposition shall be in private. The Subcommittee shall not initiate procedures leading to criminal or civil enforcement proceedings for a witness’ failure to appear unless the deposition notice was accompanied by a Subcommittee subpoena.

9.2 Counsel. Witnesses may be accompanied at a deposition by counsel to advise them of their legal rights, subject to the provisions of Rule 8.

9.3 Procedure. Witnesses shall be examined upon oath administered by an individual authorized by local law to administer oaths. Questions shall be propounded orally by Subcommittee Members or staff. Objections by the witness as to the form of questions shall be noted for the record. If a witness objects to a question and refuses to testify on the basis of relevance or privilege, the Subcommittee Members or staff may proceed with the deposition, or may, at that time or at a subsequent time, seek a ruling by telephone or otherwise on the objection from the Chairman or such Subcommittee Member as designated by him or her. If the Chairman or designated Member overrules the objection, he/she may refer the matter to the Subcommittee or he/she may order and direct the witness to answer the question, but the Subcommittee shall not initiate procedures leading to civil or criminal enforcement unless the witness refuses to testify after he or she has been ordered and directed to answer by a Member of the Subcommittee.

9.4 Filing. The Subcommittee staff shall see that the testimony is transcribed or electronically recorded. If it is transcribed, the witness shall be furnished with a copy for review pursuant to the provisions of Rule 12. The individual administering the oath shall certify on the transcript that the witness was duly sworn in his or her presence, the transcriber shall certify that the transcript is a true record of the testimony, and the transcript shall then be filed with the Subcommittee clerk. Subcommittee staff may stipulate with the witness to changes in this procedure; deviations from this procedure which do not substantially impair the reliability of the record shall not relieve the witness from his or her obligation to testify truthfully.

10. Any witness desiring to read a prepared or written statement in executive or public hearings shall file a copy of such statement with the Chief Counsel or Chairman of the Subcommittee 48 hours in advance of the hearing at which the statement is to be presented unless the Chairman and the Ranking Minority Member waive this requirement. The Subcommittee shall determine whether such statement may be read or placed in the record of the hearing.

11. A witness may request, on grounds of distraction, harassment, personal safety, or physical discomfort, that during the testimony, television, motion picture, and other cameras and lights, shall not be directed at him or her. Such requests shall be ruled on by the Subcommittee Members present at the hearing.

12. An accurate stenographic record shall be kept of the testimony of all witnesses in executive and public hearings. The record of his or her own testimony whether in public or executive session shall be made available for inspection by witness or his or her counsel under Subcommittee supervision; a copy of any testimony given in public session or that part of the testimony given by the witness in executive session and subsequently quoted or made part of the record in a public session shall be made available to any witness at his or her expense if he or she so requests.

13. Interrogation of witnesses at Subcommittee hearings shall be conducted on behalf of the Subcommittee by Members and authorized Subcommittee staff personnel only.

14. Any person who is the subject of an investigation in public hearings may submit to the Chairman of the Subcommittee questions in writing for the cross-examination of other witnesses called by the Subcommittee. With the consent of a majority of the Members of the Subcommittee present and voting, these questions, or paraphrased versions of them, shall be put to the witness by the Chairman, by a Member of the Subcommittee or by counsel of the Subcommittee.

15. Any person whose name is mentioned or who is specifically identified, and who believes that testimony or other evidence presented at a public hearing, or comment made by a Subcommittee Member or counsel, tends to defame him or her or otherwise adversely affect his or her reputation, may (a) request to appear personally before the Subcommittee to testify in his or her own behalf, or, in the alternative, (b) file a sworn statement of facts relevant to the testimony or other evidence or comment complained of.  Such request and such statement shall be submitted to the Subcommittee for its consideration and action.

If a person requests to appear personally before the Subcommittee pursuant to alternative (a) referred to herein, said request shall be considered untimely if it is not received by the Chairman of the Subcommittee or its counsel in writing on or before thirty (30) days subsequent to the day on which said person’s name was mentioned or otherwise specifically identified during a public hearing held before the Subcommittee, unless the Chairman and the Ranking Minority Member waive this requirement.

If a person requests the filing of his or her sworn statement pursuant to alternative (b) referred to herein, the Subcommittee may condition the filing of said sworn statement upon said person agreeing to appear personally before the Subcommittee and to testify concerning the matters contained in his or her sworn statement, as well as any other matters related to the subject of the investigation before the Subcommittee.

16. All testimony taken in executive session shall be kept secret and will not be released for public information without the approval of a majority of the Subcommittee.

17. No Subcommittee report shall be released to the public unless approved by a majority of the Subcommittee and after no less than 10 days’ notice and opportunity for comment by the Members of the Subcommittee unless the need for such notice and opportunity to comment has been waived in writing by a majority of the Minority Members.

18. The Ranking Minority Member may select for appointment to the Subcommittee staff a Chief Counsel for the Minority and such other professional staff members and clerical assistants as he/she deems advisable. The total compensation allocated to such Minority staff members shall be not less than one-third the total amount allocated for all Subcommittee staff salaries during any given year. The Minority staff members shall work under the direction and supervision of the Ranking Minority Member. The Chief Counsel for the Minority shall be kept fully informed as to preliminary inquiries, investigations, and hearings, and shall have access to all material in the files of the Subcommittee.

19. When it is determined by the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, or by a majority of the Subcommittee, that there is reasonable cause to believe that a violation of law may have occurred, the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member by letter, or the Subcommittee by resolution, are authorized to report such violation to the proper State, local and/or Federal authorities. Such letter or report may recite the basis for the determination of reasonable cause. This rule is not authority for release of documents or testimony.
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These are the kind of information that the government is obligated to provide the Filipino public and which the Filipino public should know.  The right to a fair trial or investigation is a fundamental right in democracies.  Pulse rate is a basic and fundamental check that doctors make on their patients to ascertain health.  So is the right to fair trial, relative to a country’s health.