Thursday, January 28, 2010


When Maritess Salientes Bloom, a dual citizen from Boston, Massachusetts, appeared at a hearing before the members of the Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in Manila on January 14, 2010, she was hopeful that the commissioners would grant her petition to extend the voter registration period for overseas Filipinos.

There was, after all, no opposition to her petition and the commissioners who heard her lawyer’s arguments expressed no reservations and actually seemed sympathetic to the plight of overseas Filipinos. Loida Nicolas-Lewis, a New York resident and long-time advocate for the suffrage rights of overseas Filipinos who accompanied Maritess to the hearing, called me right after the hearing to tell me “the good news”.

“There will be an en banc hearing of all the Comelec commissioners on Tuesday, January 19, but it is all but certain that the Comelec will extend the voter registration period for overseas Filipinos,” she announced.

I was attending a meeting in South San Francisco when Loida called so I placed her on my speaker phone and all the overseas Filipinos in the room heard her announcement and her cry of “Hallelujah!” which everyone in the room joined in chorus.

It seemed too good to be true. For the last several months, I have written articles advocating for the extension of the registration period for overseas Filipinos and I had personally e-mailed each of the Comelec commissioners but all my e-mails went unheeded. Not one of them bothered to even give me the time of day.

Then on December 8, 2009, the Philippine Supreme Court (SC) unexpectedly granted the petition of Roberto Palatino to extend the registration period for Philippine voters after his petition was denied by the Comelec. After reviewing the Palatino decision, Loida and I concluded that our best hope for securing the extension of the registration period for overseas Filipinos was with the Supreme Court.

Our Philippine lawyers, headed by Atty. Jose Amor Amorado, informed us that we first had to file a petition with the Comelec, which I was virtually certain the Comelec would reject, before we could take the matter up the SC.

So our lawyers prepared the petition on behalf of Maritess Bloom, an overseas Filipino who had not been able to register before the August 31, 2009 deadline but who wanted to do so. Her petition to the Comelec was filed on January 11, 2010 and the hearing was set for three days later.

At the January 14 hearing, Atty. Amorado argued that the deadline for overseas registration should be extended by 28 days because the Comelec’s August 31, 2009 deadline was 28 days shorter than the deadline set by the Philippine Congress when it approved the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003 (RA 9189).

The shortened deadline, Bloom’s petition asserted, “effectively deprived millions of the voting population twenty-eight (28) days of opportunity to register provided to them by the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003, thereby actually amending the statute’s provision on the system of continuing registration of overseas absentee voters.”

The arguments seemed to hit home with the commissioners who did not question the petitioner or her lawyers.

Despite the early optimism, however, on January 19, 2010, the Comelec commissioners voted unanimously to reject Bloom’s petition by declaring that the 280 day "prohibitive period" applied only to the 2004 elections because Congress explicitly stated that "for the succeeding elections, the Commission shall provide for the period within which applications must be filed".

What the Comelec failed to comprehend is that when the Philippine Congress passed the Overseas Absentee Voting Law in 2003, it set a 280 day “prohibitive period” because Congress anticipated that it would take a longer time to get the voter registration mechanisms in place for overseas elections as it would be the first time it was being done. After the basic mechanisms were set in place, Congress believed that it would take a considerably shorter time in future elections to register overseas voters so it left it up to the Comelec to set future deadlines. Instead of the shorter period anticipated by Congress, the Comelec went in the opposite direction.

In denying Bloom's petition, the 9-page Comelec decision explained that it would take a longer time for overseas voting because "for the first time, the Commission shall be implementing the nationwide automated election system". But overseas voting will be manually tabulated and not automated so this was totally irrelevant.

To explain why it didn’t have enough time to extend the registration for overseas voters, the Comelec cited examples of what it has to do to prepare for the May 2010 elections like “project precincts”, and "Board of Election Inspectors" and listing the candidates for local elections. But all of these examples don’t apply to overseas absentee voters who can’t vote for local candidates and who don’t require “Inspectors” or “project precincts” as consular officials will supervise the voter registration and the actual voting.

In its decision, the Comelec boasted that it had “done its best in ensuring the success of the overseas absentee voting system” by taking credit for all the actions of the consular officials to register overseas Filipinos with their limited resources without any financial assistance from the Comelec.

The Comelec defensively insisted that it “did not sleep on its job” of registering overseas Filipinos but the commissioners’ loud snores belie this empty claim. They’re all still asleep.

In its conclusion, the Comelec stated its duty "to balance the interest of the electorate with the end in view of ensuring that the right of suffrage of our people is not deprived of them." This is actually the key to understanding the attitude and mentality of the Comelec commissioners towards overseas Filipinos.

By “our people”, the Comelec is really only referring to the Filipino voters in the Philippines. It is only their “right of suffrage” that the Comelec cares about, reflecting a consistently callous and total indifference to the suffrage rights of overseas Filipinos.

The Comelec decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Telltale Signs: PAULI’S DEBUT

My niece, Pauli, was only ten years old when Gene Cajayon’s feature length film, The Debut, was shown in mainstream theatres all over the US in March of 2002. Many years later, when Pauli was in her teens, she saw the movie on DVD about the Filipino American traditional celebration of an 18-year old girl’s debut and it inspired her to celebrate her own debut just the way that her aunts recounted how they celebrated theirs in the Philippines.
It’s not a distinctly Filipino tradition of course. “Debut” comes from the word “debuter” which is French for “to lead off” and can be traced back to feudal England where it was the custom of the landed gentry to present their daughters to society when they reached “marriageable age”.
When the middle classes began to accumulate large sums of money after the Industrial Revolution, the English aristocrats saw the need to cement their alliances with the new emerging entrepreneurial class by sponsoring their daughters for presentation to the Court of St. James and having their aristocratic sons marry entrepreneurial daughters.
The institution of the Debut eventually made its way to America in 1748 when 59 colonial Philadelphia families held what they called “Dancing Assemblies”, the forerunner of the Debutantes’ Ball that is still popular in the South.
In the 1960s, it was the practice of many San Francisco Bay Area Filipino American community organizations like the Pearl of the Orient Club to sponsor annual Cotillion Balls where as many as two dozen Fil-Am debutantes were presented to the public during formal black tie balls.
This past three-day weekend, my family and I flew from San Francisco to Boston to trek to the cold, snowing city of Natick, Massachusetts to celebrate Pauli’s debut.
At the request of my sister, Loida, I served as the emcee and in my introductory remarks, I asked how many of the folks gathered there had ever been to a debut or had even heard of one. None of the non-Filipinos, who comprised the majority of the guests, raised their hands.
Each of my sisters, in one way or another, celebrated their debuts in the Philippines when they turned 18 but I was unable to attend any of them because they occurred during the period of martial law in the Philippines. I was “exiled” in the US at the time and because of my anti-martial law activism found my way to the “Blacklist” of Ferdinand Marcos, subject to arrest upon setting foot in Manila. So Pauli’s debut would be my first ever.
Because so many of Pauli’s guests had never heard of the Filipino Debut tradition, I presented them with a brief history, tracing not only its European origins but also its African essence. The heart of the Debut tradition is embodied in the ancient African proverb "It takes a village to raise a child." The basic meaning of this proverb from the Igbo and Yoruba regions of Nigeria is that raising a child is a communal effort, the responsibility for which lies not only with the parents but also with the extended family and the entire community.
The debut offers the community an opportunity to formally come together to celebrate the achievements of the 18-year old girl and to wish the best of good fortune to the 18-year old woman as she embarks on the journey of her life.
A highlight of any Debut is the cotillion waltz where nine couples dance a traditional waltz. What made Pauli’s debut somewhat unique was that the debutante personally choreographed her own Cotillion dance, enlisting 18 of her friends and cousins to commit to several weeks of arduous practice.
After the Cotillion dance comes the traditional presentation of the 18 candles, (or 18 roses in some circles). In Pauli’s debut, friends, relatives and past teachers provided glimpses of her past similar to the popular 1950s TV show “This is your life” as they each lit a candle.
Among the candle lighters were Pauli’s soccer and rugby coaches who each expressed their awe of Pauli’s physical prowess on the field while a wrestling coach spoke of her awesome executive abilities as the manager of his 18-man high school wrestling team.
Other uncles and aunts shared vignettes of Pauli’s youth and of her guts to fly off to San Francisco by herself to spend several summers with her cousins and of her easy ability to forge friendships anywhere and everywhere.
As her oldest uncle. I expressed my delight at having Pauli spend several summers with my family and allowing my three sons to experience the joy of having a sister around. I also shared some practical lessons I’ve learned in life that I thought Pauli could learn from: 1) Change the oil in your car regularly; it will save you a lot of money later on. 2) Lefty loosey, righty tighty. Turn to the left to loosen it and to the right to tighten it. 3) Never, but never, put any photo on Facebook or any message on Twitter that you don’t want the world to see, because, trust me, they will be seen eventually.
After all 18 candles had been lit, Pauli called on her youngest cousins, Andrea and Ricky, to help her blow out all the candles. After that came the traditional cutting of the cake followed by the very untraditional dancing with her two fathers (Rambu until she was one and Jon for the next 17 years) while 18 years of photos of Pauli were projected on the screen.
“Thank you all for making my Debut a truly special night,” Pauli said as the brief program concluded. Then the real bogeying party began.
Many parents who can afford it offer their daughters the choice of either a car or a debut secretly hoping their daughters would pick the less expensive choice, a car. But in the course of one’s life, a girl will have many cars but only one opportunity to have a debut.
Welcome to the rest of your life, Pauli.


The end of 2009 found Mt. Mayon, in the Southern Luzon province of Albay, on the verge of erupting as molten magma flowed half a mile down from its crater and dark plumes of ashes filled the sky causing the evacuation of more than 20,000 residents in and around the 8,070 ft. volcano. But the feared eruption never came and the villagers returned to their homes.
Many feared that Mt. Mayon would go the way of Mt. Pinatubo which erupted on June 15, 1991 and which was considered the most powerful volcanic eruption in a century. As University of Chicago Prof. Stephen Levitt and New York Times Magazine editor Stephen Dubner describe it in their best-selling book on global cooling, Superfreakonomics, “within two hours of the main blast, sulfuric ash had reached 22 miles into the sky. By the time it was done, Pinatubo had discharged more than 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere.”
The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo devastated the Central Luzon provinces of Zambales and Pampanga causing the deaths of hundreds and the displacement of thousands of people. It also resulted in the decision by the US government to abandon its military bases in Olongapo (Subic Naval Base) and Angeles (Clark Air Force Base).
While the eruption caused severe damage to the rice fields and other crops, it was not a total environmental disaster. “As it turned out,” according to Levitt and Dubner in their book which has already sold 4 million copies, “the stratospheric haze of sulfur dioxide acted like a layer of sunscreen, reducing the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth. For the next two years, as the haze was settling out, the earth cooled out by an average of nearly one degree Fahrenheit, or .5 degrees Celsius. A single volcanic eruption practically reversed, albeit temporarily, the cumulative global warming of the previous hundred years.”
Because of Mt. Pinatubo, Levitt and Dubner concluded that carbon dioxide is not poisonous and not the culprit in global warming. They are joined in this belief by Intellectual Ventures CEO Nathan Myrvhold (former Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft) who agreed with them that “all the heavy-particulate pollution generated seems to have cooled the atmosphere by dimming the sun.”
In their book, they posed these questions: Do the future benefits from cutting emissions outweigh the costs of doing so? Or are we better off waiting to cut emissions later — or even, perhaps, polluting at will and just learning to live in a hotter world?

Their conclusion - found in the book’s most controversial chapter entitled “What do Al Gore and Mt. Pinatubo have in common?”- has been heavily criticized by scientists and economists including New York Times columnist and Nobel Laureat Paul Krugman and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The answer to the question above is that Al Gore and Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption both suggest a way to cool the planet, but with different cost-effective methods. The authors propose creating a “garden hose to the sky” to duplicate or replicate what Mt. Pinatubo achieved by funneling carbon dioxide directly into the stratosphere just as Mt. Pinatubo did.
They believe this is a cheaper more cost-effective way than to cap carbon emissions as Al Gore and virtually all of the world’s leading scientists recommend.
The authors do not dispute the reality of global warming. In an interview that was given after the book was released, Dubner clarified their position: “If global warming is a big enough problem to worry about, and we think it is, then the current proposed solutions (primarily carbon mitigation) will be too little and too late to solve the warming problem. That is a fundamentally different argument than what the carbon activists make. I don't blame them for attacking us: They have a lot at stake. What I'd like readers to walk away with is a better understanding of the scientific complexities of global warming as well as the economic realities — and, most of all, to understand how it would be a good idea to get a seat at the table for some other proposed solutions, including geo-engineering.”
Prof. Joe Romm, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) physicist questioned the authors’ enthusiastic embrace of geo-engineering and their dismissal of solar power as an effective tool to lower pollution. Romm criticized their contention that solar panels are ineffective “because they’re black” and thus generate heat that contributes to rising temperatures. In fact, as Romm points out, most solar panels are blue and the clean energy they generate greatly reduces the need to burn dirty coal or other hydrocarbons.

Their primary source for their belief that “carbon dioxide is not the villain” is Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology but Caldeira disputes the quote attributed to him. According to Caldeira, "carbon dioxide emissions represent a real threat to humans and natural systems, and I fear we may have already dawdled too long.”

The authors of Superfreakonomics endorse the proposal of Myrvhold to create the garden hose to the sky they call “Budyko's Blanket” to reverse global warming at a total cost of $250 million which they contend is much cheaper than the estimated $1.2 trillion that capping carbon emissions would cost.

In response to their proposal, Al Gore responded: "If we don't know enough to stop putting 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the atmosphere every day, how in God's name can we know enough to precisely counteract that?" The debates continue.

While the people around Mt. Mayon are anxiously waiting to see when, not if, the world’s most perfectly coned volcano will erupt and wreck havoc on their lives, there are people actually hoping that it will erupt just like Mt. Pinatubo did. Bust for the locals but a boon for the globals.

Telltale Signs/ THE RIZAL BILL

For the past several decades, it had been the practice of the San Francisco Philippine Consulate to celebrate Rizal Day on the occasion of his death anniversary on December 30 with a solemn program usually featuring the recitation of Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios” (My Last Farewell) and speakers extolling the virtues of Philippine National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal.
I was a speaker on a number of those forums because my mother was born in Calamba, Laguna, just a block from where Rizal was born, and I grew up frequently visiting Rizal’s home, now a museum, and voraciously reading everything I could find that was written by and about Rizal
There was no such program at the Consulate this past December 30 because a new law moved the observance of Rizal Day from his death anniversary on December 30 to his birth anniversary on June 19. The observance of Rizal Day on December 30 traced its historical roots to a decree issued on December 20, 1898 by President Emilio Aguinaldo and affirmed by the Philippine Commission on February 1, 1902.
When Rizal Day was observed on December 30, students were on their Christmas break and there were no school programs to honor Dr. Jose Rizal. As National Historical Institute chair Ambeth Ocampo noted, “if Rizal Day is observed on June 19, classes have just started and students would be able to actively participate in the commemorative activities.”
Even though Rizal Day has been observed since 1898, there was no systemic effort made by the government to include the writings of Dr. Rizal in the curriculum of the schools. In his novel, Noli Mi Tangere (“Touch Me Not”), Dr. Rizal sought to remove the veil of ignorance and superstition that had kept his countrymen subservient to the Catholic Church and to the Spanish colonial government.
While Dr. Rizal was honored on Rizal Day, his writings were not disseminated because of pressure from the Catholic Church to prevent his “anti-friar” novels from being widely read. This pressure from the Church continued long after the Spaniards were expelled from the Philippines in 1898 and lasted close to 60 years after Dr. Rizal’s execution by the Spaniards for his writings.
This veil was only removed in 1956 after Sen. Jose B. Laurel, Sr. and Sen. Claro M. Recto sponsored Senate Bill 438 requiring the teaching in all schools about the life of Dr.Rizal. The bill also required that Rizal’s two novels, “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo” (the Subversive), in its “unexpurgated” form, be made compulsory reading.

The Rizal Bill was strongly opposed by three senators who were known as stout defenders of the Church- Decoroso Rosales, Mariano Cuenco and Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo. (Sen. Rodrigo’s nickname did not come as short for Socrates, as many thought, but actually stood for “Soldier of Christ”, which he considered himself to be). Together, they denounced Rizal as “anti-Catholic” and charged that his writings were replete with “errors of church dogma”. They said that Filipino students were “immature” and unprepared to understand Rizal’s writings.
Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson supported the bill and famously walked out of a mass when, during the homily, the priest read a circular from the archbishop denouncing the Rizal Bill.

On April 22, 1956, a week after the Rizal Bill was introduced, the Sunday newspapers all carried a statement from the Catholic bishops describing Rizal’s works as violating Catholic canon law on heresy and schism. Joining in opposition to the bill were the Catholic Action of the Philippines, the Holy Name Society of the Philippines, the Legion of Mary, the Knights of Columbus and the Daughters of Isabela.

When representatives of Catholic schools threatened to close down their schools if the Rizal bill was enacted into law, Sen. Recto responded that he would push for the nationalization of Catholic schools if they closed down.

All kinds of compromises were proposed including one that would put Rizal’s novels under lock and key in the school libraries, an amendment which was rejected. One amendment that was approved allowed students to apply for an “exemption” for religious reasons from reading the Noli/Fili novels.

Barely a month after it was introduced, the bill was passed by both the House and the Senate on May 17, 1956. On June 12, President Ramon Magsaysay signed the bill into law as Republic Act 1425.

More than 50 years after the enactment of the “Rizal law,” Ambeth Ocampo noted that not one student applied for an exemption from reading “Noli” and Fili”.

Although the Catholic Church lost the Rizal Bill battle in 1956, it has won all other legislative battles since then. It has succeeded in preventing the passage of bills that would legalize divorce in the Philippines keeping the Philippines as one of only three countries in the world that does not allow for divorce (the others are Malta and the Vatican City) and one (the RH bill) that would provide for reproductive health education and support which would prevent more than 500,000 abortions a year resulting from unwanted pregnancies.

But the RH bill, supported by presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino, may yet follow the example of the Rizal Bill and pass if Aquino is elected president in the May 2010 elections.


About a week ago, I saw my son, Daniel, in his computer viewing a 10-minute video that had been emailed to him by a classmate who had videotaped her friends for a class project. He was in the video, Litany of Love, reciting a rap poem that he had composed and committed to memory.
I watched it with him and was impressed with what I saw. I asked my son to email the video to me and when he did, I proudly posted it on my Facebook page. Friends who watched it eagerly asked me for a copy of his poem. When I asked Daniel, he said he didn’t have it in writing but it was in his head and he would type it out. On Christmas Day, I got my wish.
When I read his poem, I was impressed by my 21-year old son’s deep insight into life and love. It isn’t often that today’s young kids talk about love, certainly not in the same romantic way that my generation did. At least that’s what I thought until I read his poem.
One generational difference I noticed is that older generations often talked romantically of finding “the right partner” or what my son refers to in the poem as “the catch”. While Paul Newman once said that it is more important to be the right partner, Daniel tells us that there is no such thing as a perfect "match" for us -“we are all catches…because we are all patches for each other’s imperfections.”
May 2010 keep us all safe from typhoons flooding, volcanoes erupting, ferries sinking, journalists killing, terrorists bombing and elections cheating. Ok, I’m not a poet but my son surely is.
Love is the next truth
By Daniel Rodis
Prone to a lonely outlook
My seeking fingers would lose hope
In the cold of uncertainty
And that’s partially because I’d lost hold of a certain she
And it burned deep.
But luckily, tucked deep in the fold of what was hurting me
I found gold and it’s working, see
The unconscious chatter of society
Although marred by an overhyped notoriety
Is making the real, real quietly.
And though truly it might lie to me
The rising word is these five to be:
Love is the next truth.
And I am calm.
Faith in the inevitable beauty of the future is a place,
And I love through you.

True, she was a catch,
But the real catch is
That we are all catches
So it doesn’t matter who matches,
Because we are all patches
For each other’s imperfections.
And through our personal affections, and gravity
We’ll align and happily
We’ll combine for this simplest of lines…
Love is the next truth.
And let it be
Let it be meaning, submitting to our dreaming
And start being the living word.
Giving birth to word is born
And giving earth to a new world dawn
In a circle
And in our cycle, sometimes you gotta lose your first to get a real tooth
As if sadness must crack the embryonic youth
To open up
For universal love:
The next truth.


Responding to a plea to extend the time to register to vote in the May 2010 elections, the Philippine Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision on December 8, 2009 extending the voter registration period to January 9, 2010. Because the decision only covers voters in the Philippines, a petition to the Court to extend its ruling to cover overseas Filipinos will be filed this week.

Filipinos in the Philippines had until October 31, 2009 to register to vote in the May 8, 2010 elections while those outside the country were given only until August 31, 2009 to do so. The period of voter registration for the former lasted eleven (11) months starting on December 1, 2008 while those for the latter lasted only seven (7) months starting on February 1, 2009.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Palatino v. Comelec directed the Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec) “to proceed with dispatch in reopening the registration of voters and hold the same until January 9, 2010.”

Citing Section 8 of the Voter’s Registration Act of 1996, the Court held that Congress determined that the period of 120 days before a regular election was enough time for Comelec to make all the necessary preparations with respect to the coming elections. According to petitioner Raymond Palatino, Comelec had “usurped the power of Congress to legislate” by deciding that it needed 69 days more than what Congress had determined.

The Supreme Court decision did not cover all voters because the Palatino petition only involved the registration of Philippine voters which is covered by one Republic Act, RA 8189 (The Voter Registration Act of 1996) while that of Filipinos abroad is governed by another, RA 9189 (The Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003).

Why did the Comelec set different expiration dates for the registration of voters in the Philippines and those abroad?

According to the Comelec, they were complying with Section 6 of RA 9189 which provides “that all applications for the May, 2004 elections shall be filed with the Commission not later than two hundred eighty (280) calendar days before the day of elections.” August 31, 2009 is exactly 280 calendar days before the May 2010 elections.

But the very next line of that sentence in Section 6 stated: “For succeeding elections, the Commission shall provide for the period within which applications to register must be filed.” The reference to the 280 calendar days only applied to the May 2004 elections and not to “succeeding elections”. The Comelec was not barred by RA 9189 from setting a different deadline.

In fact, Comelec had the power to allow for a shorter preparation period as the 120 day timeline mandated by Congress only applied to RA 8189, voters in the Philippines. More Comelec resources are required to register voters in the Philippines while minimal Comelec resources are needed to register overseas voters as that function has been handled by Philippine consular officials.

A local consul disclosed that the Comelec’s role in registering overseas voters was simply to provide the consulates with voters’ registration machines, which are all still in the consulates and have not been shipped back to the Comelec. It will not take much to get the machines back into operation, the consul said.

The Comelec had set a goal of registering one million new overseas voters but fell far short of it, as only 225,000 new voters registered.

The Comelec’s failure to meet its stated goal may be due in part to the limited registration period. Instead of beginning registration on December 1, 2008 as it did with Philippine voters, it delayed overseas registration to February 11, 2009.

The Comelec also did not allocate funds and resources to publicize the registration of overseas voters (like placing ads in Balitang America), leaving that responsibility entirely to local consuls to do what they could with their own limited resources.

A review of Comelec press releases showed one that related to overseas voters: on July 13, 2009, the Comelec declared its intention to “tap the Iglesia ni Cristo, the Jesus is Lord Church and the overseas Filipino workers’ (OFW) group Migrante International to help them in its campaign to increase the turn-out of overseas absentee voter (OAV) registrants.” That was it.

Why did the Comelec wait so long to do so little?

One clue to the answer is the identity of the “Comelec Commissioner-in-Charge for Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV)”. It is none other than Nicodemo Ferrer, the same Comelec commissioner who rejected the lesbian gay party-list group, Ang Ladlad, from party-list accreditation on “moral grounds” even quoting from an internet Christian website that described homosexuality as "unseemly" or "transgressive" to support his position.

When challenged about his religious views, Ferrer moved away from his “moral grounds” rationale to his unsupported claim that there there were already too many gays in Congress so there was no need to accredit a gay party-list group.

Nicodemo Ferrer is also the same Comelec commissioner who issued rulings to unseat three incumbent provincial governors – all members of the Liberal Party - Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca, Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio and Bulacan Gov. Joselito Mendoza - in favor of administration party challengers.

When the registration period for overseas Filipinos ended on August 31, Sen. Noynoy Aquino had not yet announced his candidacy as the Liberal Party presidential standard-bearer and many overseas Filipinos did not yet have a presidential candidate to support.

This week, lawyers for the newly-formed US Pinoys for Noynoy-Mar ( will file a petition with the Comelec to extend the Palatino ruling to overseas Filipinos. Given Comelec Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer’s track record, he will likely reject the petition, which will then be appealed to the Supreme Court.

This would not be the first time US Pinoys would go to the Supreme Court. In 2004, the Comelec issued a ruling that dual citizens were not eligible to vote in Philippine elections because they did not satisfy the residency requirement. Loida Nicolas Lewis, Greg Macanbenta, Alex Esclamado and other Filipino American leaders filed a petition with the Philippine Supreme Court to nullify the Comelec ruling.
On August 4, 2006, in the case Nicolas-Lewis v. Comelec, the Supreme Court overturned the Comelec and allowed dual citizens the right to vote in Philippine elections stating that the essence of the dual citizenship law is to “enfranchise as much as possible all overseas Filipinos.”

In filing the petition with the Supreme Court to extend its Palatino ruling to overseas Filipinos, the Court will be reminded of its decision in Nicolas-Lewis v. Comelec and in the principle that the right of suffrage which is a fundamental right in a democracy must be treated as a higher right than the power of the Comelec to regulate the conduct of elections.


Just exactly why did Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo file her Certificate of Candidacy to run for a congressional seat in her home province of Pampanga?

Her political opponents and press pundits speculate that she did so as a first step to seek and win the post of Speaker of the next Congress, a position from which she can then move to change the constitution to a parliamentary form where she can then become Prime Minister. Others argue that stepping down to a congressional seat was simply a clever means for her to avoid future prosecution by securing parliamentary immunity.

The first claim never did make much sense. If Pres. Arroyo couldn’t secure a change to a parliamentary form of government (with con-ass and cha-cha) when she had all the vast powers of the presidency at her command and all the funding means at her disposal (pork barrel allocations, fertilizer funds), I just do not see how she can get it done as just one of 250 members of the House.

But the second contention may actually have merit. Those who dismiss it argue that being a member of Congress did not save Rep. Romeo Jalosjos from imprisonment and it won’t save Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Jalosjos was elected to the Philippine Congress in May of 1995 to represent the First District of Zamboanga Del Norte. Jalosjos, previously married to the late movie actress Nida Blanca, was a family man with a dark secret: he was a pedophile. His secret was exposed in 1996 when 11-year old Rosilyn Delantar accused him of repeatedly raping her.

Jalosjos was arrested, charged with two counts of statutory rape, and convicted by the Regional Trial Court of Makati. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Bilibid National Penitentiary. While his case was on appeal and while serving his sentence on a non-bailable offense, Jalosjos ran for reelection in 1998 and was resoundingly reelected.

Jalosjos then filed a motion for release with the Philippine Supreme Court asking the Court to allow him to “fully discharge the duties of a Congressman”.

The case presented the Supreme Court with the “first impression” issue of whether membership in Congress would “exempt an accused from statutes and rules which apply to validly incarcerated persons in general”.

Jalosjos argued that his reelection to his congressional seat was an “expression of popular will… which should not be rendered inutile by the police powers of the state” and that depriving his constituents of their elected representative would amount to “taxation without representation”.

The Supreme Court weighed the competing principles of election as the “expression of the sovereign power of the people” with the “incontestable proposition that all top officials of Government… are subject to the majesty of law.”

In the end, the Supreme Court unanimously denied the petition of Jalosjos but on the narrow “equal protection” ground that other “validly incarcerated persons” who are not elected officials would be treated differently and that would not be fair.

When GMA is elected to Congress in May of 2010 (she has no significant opponent) and corruption charges are filed against her, there may be moves to remove her from office while those charges are pending. (Given the slow snail pace of the legal process in the Philippines, it will take years before there would be a resolution of the charges against her.) Under the Jalosjos decision, unless and until GMA is actually incarcerated, she can not be removed from office.

But there is another ominous unanimous Supreme Court decision that GMA may rely on for the legal proposition that she cannot be removed from office for any acts she did as president prior to being elected to Congress. This is the Aguinaldo decision.
Along with Col. Rolando Abadilla, Col. Rodolfo Aguinaldo was among the worst violators of human rights during the Marcos dictatorship. But of course Aguinaldo was never charged for the murder and torture of his many countless victims. After the fall of Marcos, Aguinaldo joined the RAM renegade forces of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Gringo Honasan and attempted to topple the government of Pres. Cory Aquino in 1989 (after six previous failed attempts).
Prio to his involvement in the coup attempt, Aguinaldo ran for governor of Cagayan province in January of 1988. In a New York Times article about his candidacy that was published just before the elections (“Renegade Officer Seeks Philippine Governorship” January 18, 1988), Aguinaldo told the Times reporter what he would do to anyone who tries to disarm his 1,400 renegade troops:
''They just start trying to disarm my men and I hit their houses and I wipe them out. At a given signal, we chop off the heads of anybody who is foolish. We will send them straight to hell, from the grandfather to the grandson.''

Needless to say, no one disarmed Aguinaldo’s men and he was easily elected to a 4-year term as governor.

Because of his active involvement in the December 1989 coup attempt, Aquino’s brave Secretary of Local Government Luis Santos issued an order removing Aguinaldo from his post as Cagayan governor. Aguinaldo appealed the ruling and while the appeal was pending, he ran for reelection in May of 1992 and easily won again. He then filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him on the basis of his reelection.

In August of 1992, in the case of Aguinaldo v. Santos, the Philippine Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Aguinaldo stating that:

“The Court should never remove a public officer for acts done prior to his present term of office. To do otherwise would be to deprive the people of their right to elect their officers. When a people have elected a man to office, it must be assumed that they did this with the knowledge of his life and character, and that they disregarded or forgave his fault or misconduct, if he had been guilty of any. It is not for the Court, by reason of such fault or misconduct, to practically overrule the will of the people.”


In the weeks following the Ampatuan Massacre, I scoured through hundreds of news articles and opinion columns about the barbaric slaughter of 61 innocent people, including 31 working journalists. I also saw posted on the Internet gruesome close-up photos of the mangled, brutalized bodies of the victims, images which still haunt me.

One columnist, Jose Ma. Montelibano, wrote that he was “crushed by the Maguinadano massacre and the congressional run of a sitting president". I emailed him and asked him how he could possibly compare the two events and place them both on the same scale. I told him it diminished and trivialized the most brazen, barbaric act in recent memory to include it in the same sentence with the latest political ploy of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) to remain in power.

In response, Montelibano wrote that he agreed “the barbarism of the Maguindanao massacre is a class of its own in the history of brutality in the Philippines.” But, he insisted, “the barbarism happened because the barbarians were encouraged by their unholy alliance with Gloria that anything goes for as long as they do their part in keeping Gloria in power. The arms that have been discovered so far around the barbarians' complex also came from the AFP and DND as well as from other sources. The unholy alliance gave not only a signal of encouragement but arms to affirm support beyond the law.”

“The lust for power is the cause for barbarism with impunity and official power,” he wrote. “Such brazenness would not have been possible without presidential support, even presidential initiatives asking the barbarians to do everything possible to ensure political victory and control.”

I understood his point but I also expressed my view that the issue went beyond GMA and that even if Fernando Poe. Jr. had been president in November of 2009, the Ampatuans would still have been the warlords of Maguindanao and the ARRM and this same massacre would have likely still occurred. The cancer of feudal warlordism is more deep-seated and existed before GMA became president and will continue no matter who is elected president in May 2010.

I would also add that it is not only the “lust for power” that causes barbarians to act with impunity, it is also the fact that in the history of the Philippines, people in power and even those out of power enjoy de facto immunity from prosecution. Unlike South Korea, Taiwan and Peru where former presidents were arrested, charged, imprisoned and convicted for corruption, that has not been the case in the Philippines.

The closest we ever came to such justice was when Erap Estrada was charged and convicted of plunder. But before he could even spend a day in the Bilibid prison, he was quickly pardoned by his successor GMA. It is understandable that GMA did not want to create a bad precedent for former presidents.

In May of 1970, a young warlord from Vigan, Ilocos Sur by the name of Vincent “Bingbong” Crisologo, the son of Gov. Carmeling Crisologo and Rep. Floro Crisologo, brought his private army to descend on two hapless towns whose people did not vote for his mother. The Bantay, Ilocos Sur towns of Ora Centro and Ora Este were razed to the ground and many villagers slaughtered to teach the people of Ilocos Sur a lesson similar to the lesson that another young warlord, Andal Ampatuan Jr., wanted the people of Maguindanao to learn. Don’t mess with the Crisologos then, don’t mess with the Ampatuans now.

Bingbong was arrested and charged with the pillaging of the towns and the murders of innocent civilians. He was convicted and sentenced to two life terms. While he was serving his sentence, however, Bingbong became a “born again Christian” and was pardoned. He is now in the Batasan serving as a congressman for Quezon City.

Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos committed countless crimes during their 20 years in power, including 14 years as conjugal dictators, ordering the tortures and executions (“salvaging”) of their political opponents and the theft of billions of dollars of the people’s treasury. But they never spent a single day in jail for their crimes.

Imelda even got the Philippine Supreme Court recently to order the return to her of the $650-M in jewelry that she stole fair and square. Imelda is now running for the Ilocos Norte congressional seat being vacated by her son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., who is running for the Philippine Senate under the presidential banner of Erap Estrada.

During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos were tortured and killed by the Japanese imperial forces aided and abetted by their Filipino collaborators led by Jose B. Laurel, president of the puppet republic. Laurel’s sons even went to Japan to study and they ate the finest food in Malacanang while the people suffered. When the American forces returned to reclaim the Philippines as an American commonwealth, the Japanese command flew Laurel and his family to Japan fearing American retribution against them for their collaboration.

Laurel was arrested by US authorities in Japan and extradited to the Philippines to stand trial for treason. But Laurel was never tried. Manuel Roxas, who was himself a member of Laurel’s puppet government, was elected president in 1946 and he immediately proclaimed an amnesty for all political prisoners including Laurel.

I believe Imelda Marcos ordered the assasination of Ninoy Aquino and Erap “Bigote” Estrada similarly ordered the executions of Bubby Dacer and Edgardo Bentain. But they will never be charged with those capital offenses because nobody ever really pays for their crimes in the Philippines.

That is the nature of our damaged culture that allows warlords and ambitious ruthless politicians to commit crimes against the people with impunity fully confident that if they're ever caught, they can always be pardoned.

The murderous jackal, Andal Ampatuan Jr., may take comfort in this sorry history of impunity. After all is said and done, like Bingbong and Bongbong, he may yet serve as a future congressman.


For millions of Americans, including many tens of thousands of Filipino-Americans, who are struggling mightily to pay their bank mortgages and stay “above water” to avoid bank foreclosures, a recent decision by a New York judge may offer much-needed relief.

On November 19, 2009, New York Judge Jeffrey Arlen Spinner issued a decision canceling the $527,437 mortgage of a Long Island couple whose bank refused to negotiate a modification of their mortgage loan that would have allowed them to keep their home. In his decision, the judge criticized the bank’s "unconscionable" lack of good will in refusing to help the couple avoid foreclosure.
The couple, Diana Yano-Horoski and Greg Horoski, originally secured a $292,500 loan in 2004 with an adjustable-rate mortgage at 5 percent that ballooned to anywhere from 10 percent to 13 percent in the four years that followed. They had originally obtained their mortgage loan from Deutsche Bank which was serviced by IndyMac, until it collapsed with the mortgage crisis and was bought by a group of billionaire investors who renamed the California bank as OneWest Bank.
When the Horoskis fell behind in their mortgage payments, OneWest Bank immediately filed a complaint to foreclose on the property. A judgment of foreclosure and sale was granted on January 12, 2009.
In accordance with New York law, if the loan is deemed to be “sub-prime” or “high cost” in nature, the defendant homeowners can request the court to convene a settlement conference, which the Horoskis asked for. Their plea was granted and a settlement conference was set for February 24, 2009. Because the bank refused to attend the settlement conference, it was postponed on five separate occasions.
As a result of the bank’s “intransigence in its continuing failure and refusal to cooperate, both with the Court and with the Defendants’ multiple and reasonable requests,” the judge ordered the bank to produce an officer of the bank to attend the sixth scheduled settlement conference on September 22, 2009.
OneWest Bank assigned its loss mitigation manager, Karen Dickinson, to attend the hearing but, at the hearing, she refused to even consider the offer by the Horoskis’ daughter, who lived with them, to buy back the home at fair market value or to help finance a modification with income from her job.
At the hearing, according to the judge, Dickinson made it “celeritously” clear that the bank "had no good faith intention whatsoever of resolving this matter in any manner other than a complete and forcible devolution of title from the Defendants”. In other words, it was the bank’s way or the highway.
The judge found the bank’s attitude “deeply troubling” especially since the county’s courts had been successful in securing loan modifications from banks which had issued sub-prime loans in cases where the lenders relied on “the income of non-obligors who reside in the premises under foreclosure”.
At a final hearing on November 18, 2009, the judge asked the plaintiff for the amount it claimed as the principal balance. Ms. Dickinson informed the court that as of September 22, 2009, it was $527,437.73. But the Horoskis produced two letters from the bank stating that the principal balance they owed as of February 9, 2009 was $285,381.70 and $283,992.48 as of August 10, 2009.
After the hearing, the judge reviewed the documents and issued a ruling the following day declaring that it is the court’s obligation to determine issues regarding credibility. Citing the Latin principle “Falsus in uno, falsus in omni” (“false in one, false in all”), the judge wrote that “the Court has been unable to find even so much as a scintilla of good faith on the part of the Plaintiff.”
“Plaintiff comes before this Court with unclean hands yet has the temerity to demand equitable relief against the Defendant.”
The judge noted “as a relevant aside” the “greater social problem…of housing those persons whose homes are foreclosed and are thereafter dispossessed. It is certainly no secret that Suffolk County is in the yawning abyss of a deep mortgage and housing crisis with foreclosure filings at a record high rate and a corresponding paucity of emergency housing.”
If the bank would only be reasonable and work with the Horoskis on a reasonable settlement, then, according to the judge, the Horoskis would “continue to maintain the property’s physical plant, pay taxes thereon, and the property would retain or perhaps increase its market value….(the bank) would receive a regular income stream…without sustaining a loss of several hundred thousand dollars. In addition, no neighborhood blight would occur from the boarding of the property after foreclosure which would, in turn, avert problems of litter, dumping, vagrancy and vandalism as well as a corresponding decline in the property values in the immediate area.”
It could have been a “win-win” for all the parties, the judge opined.
After “careful consideration”, the judge then ruled that the indebtedness of the Horoskis to plaintiff OneWest Bank shall be “canceled, voided and set aside…to decree anything less than the foregoing would be for the Court to be wholly derelict in the performance of its obligations.”
"I was just actually surprised and elated that a judge finally came down on the banks who have been extremely uncooperative in negotiating equitable settlements with borrowers," said lawyer Anthony Michael Camisa about the ruling.
In a written statement, the bank said it would appeal. “We respectfully disagree with the lower court's unprecedented ruling. The law does not authorize a judge to cancel a borrower's loan obligation because he did not like the way loan modification discussions were handled."
The appeal process may likely take years. But until it is reversed, homeowners in situations similar to that of the Horoskis may take a similar course of action and just hope that they find a similarly thoughtful judge.
(Please send comments to or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call (415) 334-7800