Sunday, August 10, 2008

ARMM Elections Class Picture

Tomorrow we will walk with the people of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as they make history in voting in an automated elections. Whatever happens here will show the pathway to a nationwide, fully-automated elections in the country.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Mother's Child

I am a child of many mothers.


My mothers come in many forms, in various shapes and personalities, but all sprung up in my life in periods that they were needed. True to form, a mother recognizes a hurting child without hearing him cry, and nurtures him.


You may perhaps recognize some of them too as your own: the mother hens in our group of friends, the flamboyant mudra, the wiser (not necessarily older) bestfriend, even a former college professor and of course, our very own, whose wombs birthed us into this world.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Chief Justice Puno Denies Report of Early Retirement

Early retirement? Who? Me? Chief Justice Reynato Puno denies reports he's retiring early

Chief Justice Reynato Puno denies reports that he is going to retire earlier than 2010 due to allegations of his Court being controlled by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

An online magazine reported that Puno allegedly talked to some of his confidants about his plans of retiring early.

But the Chief Justice completely denies the said report and issued a statement which I'm quoting, in toto, below. The Supreme Court Public Information Office released the herein under quoted statement after consulting with the Chief.

April 17, 2008


I am denying the rumors and speculations that I will retire from the position of Chief Justice before May 17, 2010, when I will reach the constitutionally mandated retirement age of 70. The office of Chief Justice is a trust given by the people, and I will fulfill the trust until the end of my term by continuing to discharge my duties with independence and fairness. I was appointed Chief Justice on December 7, 2006 without any political conditions. I remain steadfast in my belief that the Supreme Court
will continue to be the defender of the Rule of Law and the protector of our people’s rights.

Supreme Court of the Philippines

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Covering the 2007 Bar Exams Results

"Abogado na ako! Abogado na ako! (I'm a lawyer already!)," an examinee shouts amidst the nervous crowd waiting for the results of the 2007 Bar Examinations at the Supreme Court.

At another side of the hall, an old man calls who could be his brother or a family member and announces the good news: "May lawyer na tayo," he says.

Pride filled the august halls of the Supreme Court. At that moment success almost feels tangible you could taste it, and happiness is not just a concept but a real feeling. One could almost see a whole new world of possibilities open.

If only for that one singular moment of victory, I would want to take the bar.

But not for now. Right now, I am an observer, a reporter covering it.

Covering it for quite a couple of years already did not make me immune to a wide spectrum of emotions from pride, to quiet defeat, to a steadfast optimism.

The Supreme Court initially announced that it would release the results Friday but postponed it to Saturday.

It was my day-off but Vic, my senior desk asked me Friday to cover it since I'm the one responsible for the justice beat.

My sources told me that we could expect the results to be released after lunch so I was at the compound at around 11 am.

Already, there were examinees outside the Supreme Court awaiting the results.

I did an advancer for Balitanghali where I reported that a source said that the results could be released at 2 p.m.

But 2 p.m. passed and still there were no results.

The waiting and growing number of examinees were impatient. They tried to enter the Court's lobby where the LCD projectors were put up. The projectors would scroll the names of the country's new lawyers. But the doors unfortunately had to be shut for fears of a stampede.

Inside, my fellow reporters from print and radio spent the idle the time chatting and taking photos. Or when these became tiring, we just sat there and listened to music which the Supreme Court PIO piped into the stereos.

While waiting, Supreme Court spokesperson Atty. Jose Midas Marquez sent a staff to ask how many mediamen were down in the hall -- so he could send over some merienda.

Feeding waiting mediamen means one thing -- the wait will be longer.

Which was what happened. Those of us who smoke, smoked outside, striking idle chatter with the guards and the examinees. At one point, an old man, most probably a father of an examinee saw one of the projectors scroll names. That particular projector had "List of 2007 Bar Examinees" as a heading.

"Ito na! (This is it!)," he shouted. Almost immediately, the crowd gathered towards the door. Some shouted. I had to tell him it was just a test run to paciyfy him, and the names were from a previous bar exam result.

After a couple of minutes more, Associate Justice Adolfo Azcuna emerged, accompanied by Atty. Marquez. We positioned our cameras, the print reporters, their recorders and the radio guys alerted their respective stations for the upcoming announcement.

Finally, Justice Azcuna spoke. "Congratulations!" he said.

He announced that 1,289 out of the 5,626 examinees hurdled the bar examinations. That's 22.91%.

He confirmed however that only 5% originally passed the exams but the bar committee decided to lower the passing rate to 70% from the traditional 75%. He attributes the low passing rate to what he terms "unusually strict corrections" made by some of the members of the committee.

After answering questions from the press, he then orders to let the projectors scroll the names of those who passed.

I had to rush to our live camera set-up to break the news. I did not anymore prepare a script but instead relied on bullets: topnotcher from Ateneo, Mercedita Ona; lowered passing rate from 75% to 70%; 5,626 examinees; 1,289 passed.

I could hear the shouting in the background. From where I was standing, I could see examinees jumping and hugging. While some cried in the shoulders of their friends, hugging.

I was overwhelmed, I had to breathe deep to avoid cracking my voice in the middle of my report. Moments like these, show tangibly the demarcation line between the hardships of six months of preparing for the bar and the bliss that comes after it.

After my live report, I went around to take in the euphoria, though not mine, it nevertheless felt good to stand in a celebration.

Not far away from me was a group of friends. They were very happy and they were cheering someone. I approached them and asked a girl who turned out to be a passer.

"How do you feel?" I asked, however obvious her disposition was.

"I'm so happy! Thank you for all those who prayed for me," she said.

I asked for her name for my report's chargen later on. "Caroline Exconde," she said.

"Atty... Caroline Exconde?" I repeated, stressing the new title she has acquired, and wished her luck.

In the crowd, an elderly couple, who must be in their late 60's stood out. They could not be bar takers, I thought to myself. I asked my cameraman if they had shot a video of them. He said yes, and told me they were there for their grandson who did not pass the exams.

In the office I previewed the tape and saw their interview.

The old man's name was Felipe Mariano. He said they had been waiting at the Supreme Court since 1 p.m. But when the results finally were announced, their grandson's name was not there.

Still it did not dampen the old man's spirit. "Ganyan naman yan talaga anak. Try and try until you succeed. Baka sa susunod, makuha na n'ya, (That's the way it goes, son. Try and try until you succeed. Maybe next time, you'll pass)" he said with a sparkle in his otherwise tired eyes.

Such wisdom, such hope, in the midst of chaos and jubilation.

It seemed like what he was saying was that life is a lot like taking the bar exams: we encounter defeat, once in a while. But it should not be a reason to surrender. Experiencing defeat makes victory a lot sweeter.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Reversal Has A Chance, Says Bernas

Ateneo Law Dean Fr. Joaquin Bernas urges senators to file for a motion for reconsideration of the Supreme Court decision granting the petition of CHED Chairman Romulo Neri saying there is a good chance for its reversal.

Bernas points out that there were two justices who voted "in the result" for Neri. They were Associate Justices Leonardo Quisumbing and Ruben T. Reyes. He explains that the two justices may have voted for Neri but it did not mean that they agree with the logic of the ponencia penned by Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro.

"Even those who wrote their concurring opinions, they still might be convinced," Bernas said.

If at least the two justices are swayed to vote against Neri later on, it would make the voting 7-8, against the decision.

But Bernas says there is a stronger reason for the Senate to appeal for a reversal.

"We cannot allow this case hanging this way," he says.

Bernas says with the decision of the Supreme Court, the Senate power to investigate in aid of legislation is seriously impaired.

The High Court, in its decision, was convinced that there were military and diplomatic secrets in the Neri's conversation with the President and that the President was right in invoking executive privilege to conceal these.

"The danger about this is if this is a doctrine, nobody can answer questionS anymore," Bernas says.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Third Witness A-No Show at DOJ ZTE Probe

The Department of Justice investigation of the controversial ZTE deal suffered yet another non-attendance of a witness, making the panel head think of asking for some "coercive power" to compel witnesses to attend.

Philforest Corp. Project Development Head Erwin Santos cancelled at the last minute saying he has a meeting with some investors.

This is the third time that a witness did not attend the hearings. Last week, Senate star witness Jun Lozada and CHED Secretary Romulo Neri also did not attend the hearing.

Lozada sent a letter through his lawyers and said he did not want to participate in a "political exercise," adding it was not the job of the department to conduct fact-finding investigations.

Neri also cancelled at the last minute when he read in newspaper reports that the justice department was going to file violation of the Revised Penal Code for revealing confidential information and documents regarding the deal.

With this, fact-finding panel head Usec. Ernesto Pineda said they are thinking of asking for an executive order that will give them some "coercive power" to compel its witnesses to attend.

"If they don't attend, then there would have some repercussions," Pineda said.

The fact-finding investigation was ordered by President Gloria Arroyo.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gonzalez Scolds Neri, Calls Civil Society "Evil"

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez is unhappy about how CHED Chairman Romulo Neri answered allegations that he had called the President "evil," saying it is more harmful than helpful.

"That's a question answerable by a yes or no. To respond like that is to open a jagged door of many interpretations," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said the President is not affected by it adding it was her idea to have Neri walk beside her in yesterday's unity walk at the Palace.

But if Neri indeed said that, Gonzalez said Neri has no business staying at the Palace.

The justice secretary also took potshots at civil society groups who have been pushing for the President's resignation.

"The evil,uh,civil society ..." Gonzalez said while answering a question but quicky said it was a slip of the tongue.

He said cabinet secretaries are solidly behind the President as symbolically shown in the unity walk in Malacanang grounds.

In an apparent dig at former secretaries who resigned before and are now collectively known as "Hyatt 10", Gonzalez, they would not have any of those theatrics.

"We had a cabinet meeting two nights ago and we didn't have to sing. We didn't have flowers," Gonzalez said.