June 2009

My Dear Fellow Ilonggos,

Please please DO NOT ELECT RAUL GONZALEZ as mayor.

Do I really need to explain why?

On May 19, 2009, the UN released the Concluding Observations of the Committee Against Torture on the Philippines’ report.

The entire statement of observations (it’s only 12 pages) can be found here: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/docs/cobs/CAT.C.PHL.CO.2.pdf.

Some highlights:

Section A. Introduction

2.  The Committee welcomes the submission of the second periodic report of the Philippines, which, while generally following the Committee’s guidelines for reporting, lacks statistical information and practical information on the implementation of the provisions of the Convention and relevant domestic legislation. The Committee regrets that the report was submitted 16 years late.

Section C. Principle subjects of concern and recommendations

7. Torture and ill-treatment and insufficient safeguards during police detention …the Committee is deeply concerned about the numerous, ongoing, credible and consistent allegations, corroborated by a number of Filipino and international sources, of routine and widespread use of torture and ill-treatment of suspects in police custody…including:

a)   Failure to bring detainees promptly before a judge, thus keeping them in prolonged police custody;
b)   Absence of systematic registration of all detainees, including minors, and failure to keep records of all periods of pretrial detention; and
c)   Restricted access to lawyers and independent doctors and failure to notify detainees of their rights at the time of detention, including their rights to contact family members

9. Impunity…credible allegations of torture and/or ill-treatment committed by law enforcement and military services personnel are seldom investigated and prosecuted and that perpetrators are either rarely convicted or sentenced to lenient penalties that are not in accordance with the grave nature of their crimes.

The Committee reiterates its grave concerns over the climate of impunity for perpetrators of acts of torture, including military, police and other State officials, particularly those holding senior positions that are alleged to have planned, commanded or perpetrated acts of torture.

11. Human rights defenders and other individuals at risk …The Committee notes with concern the numerous documented reports of harassment and violence against human rights defenders that hamper the capacity of civil society monitoring groups to function effectively. The Committee is also concerned at reports that others are also commonly victims of serious human rights violations, including torture, ill-treatment, killings, disappearances and harassment. Among those so affected are indigenous rights defenders such as Lumads of Mindanao and Igorots of the Cordillera, trade union and peasant activists, journalists and reporters, medical personnel, and religious leaders.

12.  De facto practice of detention of suspects …The Committee is deeply concerned about the de facto practice of detention of suspects by the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in detention centers, safe houses and military camps.

15. Prompt, effective and impartial investigations State  bodies lack independence to review individual complaints about police and military misconduct.

18.  Sexual violence in detention [There are] numerous allegations of cases of rape, sexual abuse and torture committed against women detainees by the police, military and prison officials/personnel. .. officials continue to place women together with male inmates, and that male corrections officers continue to guard female inmates in violation of agency regulations.

19.  Children in detention the Committee is concerned that a significant number of children remain in detention and at reports of a de facto practice of not separating children from adults in detention facilities throughout the country

21. Witness Protection detainees who suffer ill-treatment are often coerced by the police to sign waivers or statements to the contrary.

25. Domestic violence the Committee expresses its concern about the prevalence of violence against women and children, including domestic violence. It is further concerned about the lack of State-wide statistics on domestic violence and that sufficient statistical data on complaints, prosecutions and sentences in matters of domestic violence were not provided.

26. Human Trafficking the Philippines continues to be a source, transit and destination country for cross-border trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation and forced labour. The Committee regrets the  very limited number  of cases of filing, prosecution, and conviction of perpetrators of trafficking with many of those cases being dismissed at preliminary stages.

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As if we needed another reason to have nonviolent discipline.

This column appears every Thursday in BusinessWorld. The one below appeared on  June 11, 2009.

René B. Azurin


Obscene is the word that best describes what the public saw. But it wasn’t a “gang rape” as some thought to describe it. What we saw were 174 whores spreading their legs or bending over in unison in exchange for stolen loot. What politicos will do to obtain releases of their pork barrel is obviously without boundaries. Unlike honest prostitutes just trying to make it out of poverty, these political whores will not only sell their bodies, they will hock their unprincipled souls. Mephisto must have had a good harvest that day.

Exactly what is wrong with a unicameral parliamentary system was showcased vividly with the airing of House proceedings where representatives belonging to the pro-administration majority bludgeoned the minority and rammed through passage of a resolution for members of Congress to convene as an assembly to amend the nation’s Constitution. If we had in fact a single-chamber parliamentary government, then it would be all over and the ruling politicos would already have what they desperately want.

After viewing the vulgar display of how politicos will so readily sacrifice public welfare to advance selfish interests, no thinking Filipino should ever consent to a system of government where those in power can screw the public with even fewer restraints than are now in place.

But what exactly was the object of House Resolution 1109? If it was in fact to effect the desired shift to a parliamentary form of government or an extension in the term of the president by removing the ban on presidential reelection, it did not really advance that agenda one bit. With no more time to waste for that enterprise to succeed before the scheduled May 2010 elections, the imperative move was to already take up and approve the proposed shift to a parliamentary system or, alternatively, the deletion from Section 4, Article VII of the present Constitution of the sentence, “The President shall not be eligible for any reelection.” Of course, we know now from House insiders that the pro-administration majority could not then muster the required three-fourths vote to pass such a charter-changing bill. That being the case, one must wonder why they bothered to railroad the insignificant resolution 1109 and risk stirring up the public prematurely and, for their purposes, unnecessarily.

In fact, allocating reasonable periods of time for each of the processes necessary to implement the desired charter change will lead to the conclusion that this change is virtually impossible within the required time frame. For it to happen, the desired charter-changing bill must be filed and approved immediately after Congress resumes its sessions on July 27. This means that they must, by then, be able to muster 220 congressional votes. The Supreme Court must then favorably resolve in record time the main legal issue that will be raised against the bill (the “voting jointly versus voting separately” issue) and dispose (likewise in record time) all incidents and motions for reconsideration, the Senate must quickly approve a bill calling for a plebiscite and approve a budget for the same, the Commission on Elections must immediately schedule such a plebiscite in the prescribed “not earlier than 60 days nor later than 90 days” thereafter, the Supreme Court must quickly dispose any legal issues that will be raised against the conduct of the plebiscite, the Supreme Court must also quickly dispose any questions raised to it during the canvassing of the results of the plebiscite, and the results of the plebiscite must be proclaimed by the Comelec without any significant delay. All this must happen either before any candidate files a certificate of candidacy for the May elections in November or before the campaign period for the May elections starts in February (this timing is another issue).

The sheer formidableness of the time (and other) constraints against a successful charter change initiative at this time has led some rabid proponents to entertain the notion that the required plebiscite can be done simultaneously with the voting for the May elections. Under this scenario, the charter change proposal will incorporate a transitory provision that will effectively say that, if the charter change amendment is approved in the concurrent plebiscite, then the winners in the May elections will occupy certain new positions consistent with the amended Constitution, e.g., senators and representatives become members of parliament. Certainly, the legality of this will again be questioned in the Supreme Court. It would be conceptually simpler, probably, if the proposed charter change amendment will simply seek to remove the ban on presidential reelection.

In the former case, Mrs. Arroyo must presumably run for Congress in the May elections so that she will be a member of Parliament if she wins in her district and the shift to a parliamentary system is ratified in the plebiscite. In the latter case, Mrs. Arroyo must presumably file what is essentially a conditional candidacy for president, to become operative if the removal of the ban on presidential reelection is ratified. In both cases, this seems to be uncharted legal territory and serious legal questions will definitely be raised. A related (and crucial) one will be whether Mrs. Arroyo must resign her current presidency to run under a potentially amended charter.

It seems to me unlikely that presidential strategists will place their bets on all these difficult issues getting resolved and all these twisted pieces falling into place in the available time. In truth, the enormity of the hurdles to be breached leads me to believe that charter change is not the real object of the exercise. Any competent strategist will not put into motion a series of events if the chances of the desired final outcome are virtually nil and the potential consequences of failure are serious.

What then are they thinking? If we assume that hanging on to power is the primordial and non-negotiable object, the more realistically attainable option is a declaration of martial law. Under the current Constitution, this only requires a presidential proclamation that “the public safety requires it”. This initial declaration of martial law can stay in force “for a period not exceeding sixty days” but Congress, “voting jointly” and by a simple majority vote, may “extend such proclamation… for a period to be determined by Congress”. Of course, a provision exists allowing any citizen to question before the Supreme Court “the sufficiency of the factual basis for the proclamation of martial law”. Notwithstanding, what is required from both Congress and the Supreme Court under this option is conceivably easier than what will be required of them for an amendment of the Constitution in the manner envisioned.

On this track, the martial law declaration must ideally take place because of widespread violence erupting as a result of disputes related to the May elections. A failure of elections can then be used to justify (or at least rationalize) the continued holdover of incumbent officials, including the president.

In the end, what all this means is that most of our politicians do not seek or occupy their positions of power because of principle or policy goals. They are there simply because positions of power allow them to put their snouts in the trough of political spoils. This is a tragedy.

A list of the congressmen who voted for Resolution 1109 is circulating in the Internet. Get a hold of this list so you will know who these political whores are. Then, you can choose to not play golf with them, not talk to them at social gatherings, and not vote for them come May. They must be considered enemies of the people.

(You may address reactions to this article to <editor@bworld.com.ph> .)

Just fill it out and bring it and your passport to any Philippine Consulate or Embassy!

But hurry! You only have until August 31, 2009


Con-ass: The debate on the street

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Alam na alam namin

From the Akbayan Executive Committee

June 3, 2009



Stop Gloria Forever Moves! Kick ConAss!


There are many uncertainties about the legal meaning of the passage of House Resolution 1109. What is crystal clear is that Gloria has not given up on remaining in power after 2010. Despite its patent illegality, despite divisions in the ranks of the GMA forces in the House, despite the withdrawal of HR1109’s main sponsor, Cong. Villafuerte, GMA’s people forced HR1109’s passage.


This move should be opposed in the strongest possible terms, using all means available for people to express their opposition – in the courts, in the Congress, most importantly in the streets. A broad coalition of civil society groups, political parties, religious groups, youth formations have already begun. Opposition has to be organized outside Manila. We encourage party units to take the lead in mobilizing opposition in the provinces.


What is HR1109?


HR1109 calls on Congress to convene as a Constituent Assembly. It specifically says that the House, without the Senate, can propose amendments to the constitution. It says that if the House can secure three fourths of all the members of the House and the Senate225 votes in all, it will fulfill the requirements under Article XVII of the Constitution.


By itself, HR1109 will have little effect except to declare to the Senate and to the public that the House is interested in convening a ConAss for the purpose of  proposing amendments/revisions to the Constitution. It does not propose any specific amendments/revisions yet.


There are disagreements on the legal implications of HR1109. Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia, an HR1109 proponent, characterizes it as a mere “call to convene”, and an invitation to the Senate to join the House in convening a ConAss.  If the Senate does not “accept the invitation” – does not pass a resolution convening a ConAss – there is no legal basis for a ConAss.


But the immediate purpose of the hurried passage of HR1109 is only to create a semblance of a justiciable issue that may be raised before the Supreme Court. Gloria and her operators believe that they have enough people in the Court who can secure a decision accepting the voting formula contained in HR1109.


It is clear that GMA has not managed to secure the 225 votes needed to pull off the charade of fulfilling the Constitutional requirement of a three fourth’s vote of the members of both the House and the Senate. Their hope is that if the Supreme Court says ConAss without the Senate does not violate the Constitution, they will be able to secure the remaining votes.



Legal Obstacles


Lawyers in the opposition say that the passage of HR1109, by itself, does not create a “justiciable issue”. The expression of an intention to convene a ConAss without the Senate is not illegal. If the Senate rejects it, or chooses not to address it at all, then the entire move to convene a ConAss will remain in limbo.


There are indications that to force the issue, GMA’s people will go ahead and convene a ConAss, elect officers, and propose amendments. But without the 225 votes, the process will not even fulfill the requirements of HR1109 itself which calls for a three fourths vote. They won’t even have an argument to make to the Supreme Court.



Political Means


Under conditions of legality, if the Supreme Court does what it is supposed to do, it should be easy to stop HR1109. Because Gloria has a long record of illegal moves, in the end, Gloria’s chacha can only be stopped politically.


§         We should tell Gloria’s people in the House that we will mobilize against them in the 2010 elections,


§         We should let Supreme Court justices know that they cannot violate the Constitution with impunity,


§         We should express our anger in our schools, in the halls of Congress, most importantly in the streets (maski na umuulan)

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