THE KILLING OF JOURNALIST NILO BACULIO: BLOOD IN THE HANDS OF OUR COURTS


 

REF. Prof. Harry Roque 09175398096

(Prof Roque represented the deceased Nilo Baculio n procuring the first ever Writ of Amparo in favor of a journalist. The CA, however, did not issue inhis favor a writ of protection)

 

Nilo Baculio, a crusading journalist from Mindoro, was reportedly killed today at about 12 noon by two motorcycle men riding in tandem. He is the latest in the increasing number of journalists who are being killed with impunity because of the failure of he P Noy administration to investigate and punish the killers of journalists in this country.

But Nilo was not just another journalist killed. Prior to his killing, he was the first journalist for whom the Supreme Court issued a Writ of Amparo. Regrettably, when remanded to the Court of Appeals for determination of propriety of issuance of a protection order, the Court of Appeals denied his plea ruling that Nilo failed to prove the threat on his life .

His killing today is what happens when the Court errs in their appreciation of evidence.

Nilo in his application for protection order stated under oath that locally elected officials engaged in the illegal drug trade are out to kill him. The CA said this was not supported by evidence beyond the say so of Nilo. Granted that the CA’s decision was prior to the ruling of the Supreme Court in the Manado brothers case where the Court said that Amparo is proper in order to release a petitioner form the threat of fear form his life, the CA, in Baculios case, wanted evidence which oftentimes cannot be provided given the nature of threats against anyone: their verification is almost difficult if not possible.

In any case, the killing of Nilo Baculio should prompt our courts to be more circumspect in dismissing applications for protection orders. While a wrongfully issued writ will not hurt anyone, a person denied of the same could result in the death of the petitioner.

There is blood in the hands of the CA Justices who refused Nilo Baculio protection.

Top ten issues for human rights in 2012


imagesHere’s my choice for the top ten most important developments for Human Rights in the Philippines for 2012:
1. Passage of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law. Unfortunately, the passage of this law was overshadowed by the passage of the Reproductive Health Law. I say unfortunate because unlike the RH Law which in jurisprudence says is a penumbra of the due process clause, the crime of “desperacidos”, which unlike violations of international humanitarian law is not considered a crime under customary public international law.

This means that a domestic law is actually required to make enforced disappearances criminal. Now that we have this law, victims of desperacidos can actually file criminal charges for enforced disappearances without relying on kidnapping, if their loved ones survive; or murder, if their loved ones are found dead.

2. Passage of the Reproductive Health Law. The passage of this law has made jurisprudence on the right to privacy unnecessary. Prior to passage of the law, women’s rights advocates relied on the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in arguing that failure of the state to provide family planning implements to those who cannot afford them is a form of discrimination.

They also relied on the US Supreme Court decision that states that the right to limit one’s family size is covered by the right to privacy and is a “penumbra” of the due process clause. With this domestic law in place, it has now become the business of government to ensure that its citizens can freely choose the size of their families.

3. Passage of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. This is in the list not because it promotes and protects human rights, but precisely because it will violate them. Unless declared unconstitutional, libel in cyberspace, which has already been pronounced as infringing on freedom of expression by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, will be even more severely punished under the new law. All future convicts will be guaranteed time in jail as the new penalties for cyber libel make them no longer eligible for parole.

Furthermore, the law’s so-called “take-down” provision, which enables the Justice secretary to unilaterally shut down Web sites, will enable the state to act as investigator, prosecutor, judge and executioner. It’s not on top of the list because of the temporary restraining order issued by the
Supreme Court enjoining the law’s implementation.

4. The Philippines’ ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention. Our ratification of the convention literally enabled the treaty to come into effect. This is the first convention that seeks to standardize the terms and conditions of employment of an estimated 50 million to 100 million domestic workers worldwide.

Under this convention, domestic workers are entitled to protection available to other workers, including weekly days off, limits to hours of work, and minimum wage and social security coverage. The convention also obliges governments to protect domestic workers from violence and abuse, and to prevent child labor in domestic work.

This will benefit at least 2 million domestic helpers locally, and millions more overseas. A domestic law that seeks to implement this convention was also passed by Congress this 2012.

5. The Philippines’ ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. This will enable private individuals now to submit their individual communications to the Committee Against Torture whenever they feel that the country has failed to protect and promote the absolute prohibition on torture. We are the first Southeast Asian country to have ratified this optional protocol.

6. The periodic review of the Philippines in the Human Rights Council. Done once every four years, it is described by the UN High Commissioner as such: “The [Universal Periodic Review] is a state-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfill their human rights obligations. As one of the main features of the Council, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed.”

In its concluding observations, the Human Rights Council highlighted the need for the Philippines to take action against those who perpetrate violations to the right to life as evidenced by the high number of extralegal killings and enforced disappearances.

7. The periodic review of the Philippines in the UN Human Rights Committee. Also conducted every four years, this periodic review aims to “promote state compliance with the treaty principles and it should be an “honest appraisal of their conformity to the treaty obligations.” It is also a venue where state parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights report on “the measures [that the State has] adopted which give effect to the rights recognized” under the Covenant. In its concluding observations, the Committee asked the Philippine government to ensure
the binding and self-executory nature of the ICCPR and to inter-alia, also address the issues of libel as an infringement of freedom of expression, reparations of victims of trafficking, and also to end
impunity for those behind extralegal killings and enforced disappearances.

8. Five media killings in 2012. This highlights that impunity, particularly against media practitioners, continues.

9. Four victims of enforced disappearances. This highlights the need to implement the new anti-enforced disappearance law.

10. Failure of the Aquino administration to adopt human rights agenda. This last item highlights that while it has supported crucial legislation to protect and promote human rights, the absence of a national human rights agenda is proof that human rights is not a priority.

Awed during the second national IHL summit


222276_10151375614154289_227657715_n(I delivered the keynote address entitled “In Awe” during the Second International Humanitarian Law Summit at Malacañang yesterday. I am publishing here excerpts of my address where I explained why I was “in awe”.)

I am awed because not too long ago, civil society — which I belong to, was excluded in the task of disseminating and ensuring compliance with our state obligations under IHL. We do not know exactly why the past GMA administration opted to expel civil society from the National IHL Committee. x x x Whatever the real reasons may have been, what we are certain is that the administration that banned us was the same administration that showered adulation on a war criminal, the Butcher Jovito Palparan who today, has gone on “voluntary disappearance and is now a fugitive from justice. What we also know is the same administration that banned us was the same regime that UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston condemned for its gross breaches of human
rights law. Specifically, Alston, whom a former Secretary of Justice has referred as a “muchacho” of the UN, confirmed that extralegal killings, even if it is still unsure how many there have been, are
evidence that the Philippines is in breach of its obligation to protect and promote the right to life.xxx

I therefore stand before you today as a member of civil society- triumphant- that in an administration that has received a genuine mandate to govern, we are recognized anew as an invaluable partner of the state in the discharge of its obligations under International Law.

I am awed, too, at how a few years can indeed make the difference.

In 2009, Congress enacted RA 9851 that defined war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide as being criminal. Furthermore, it is a law that codified the applicability of the exercise of universal
jurisdiction for these crimes, the fact that these prosecutions are not subject to prescription, and the fact that the defense of sovereign immunity, including that of a sitting President, may no longer be invoked as a defense for the prosecution of these crimes. xxx

Almost immediately after assuming office, PNoy did what we all thought would talk two lifetimes to realize: he sent the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court for concurrence of the Senate, paving the way for our membership to the International Criminal Court. Our membership to the ICC is without a doubt a signal to one and all that the Philippines will no longer allow impunity to persist.

The Philippines further ratified and became a party to the 1977 First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Convention and the Optional Protocol to the Torture Convention. Under the additional protocol, the Philippines now ranks as amongst the countries that have undertaken to insulate civilian populations from the adverse consequences of war. Our ratification of the Optional protocol to the Torture Convention, in turn, had the effect of recognizing the jurisdiction of the Torture Committee, the treaty monitoring body for the Convention Against Torture, and will enable our nationals to file individual complaints with the said Committee when they feel that their rights, as provided in the Convention, are not being promoted and promoted by our government.

Finally, in recognition that enforced disappearance is the ultimate form of torture for its victims – who do not know if they should weep for the loss of their loved ones or still hope that they will be
found — Congress has passed its final version of the anti-enforced disappearance law…This promises to be the first law of its act in the whole of Asia. I am confident that the President will either sign it into law or will allow it to lapse into one.

I stand today before you also in awe with the tremendous challenges ahead of us …our burden to discharge our obligations under the aut dedere aut judicare principle, or that states must investigate and punish those who commit international crimes, can only be discharged if our domestic legal system is able to investigate, prosecute and punish those who will commit war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Already, our experience with the prosecutions of ordinary murders,such as the Ampatuan massacre case, the Doc Gerry Ortega case, the Binayug torture case and the unresolved enforced disappearances of Jonas Burgos, the three Islamic scholars who disappeared in the sterile premises of Terminal 3 of the Naia in January of this year, and even the disappearance of prominent lawyer, Atty. Frank “Joe” Zulueta, underscore a tremendous structural challenge now facing us. And while
we acknowledge that the destruction of our criminal justice system was the handiwork of the past dispensation, the task of governance demand that it is this administration that should now rebuild these damaged institutions.

Let us now build the capacity of the PNP to utilize forensic evidence rather than rely on testimonial evidence. The latter is oftentimes cheap or readily available through resort to torture. Let us demand from the National Prosecution Service a better conviction rate- definitely better than its current 1 percent conviction rate for cases involving extralegal killings as reported in the Pareno report commissioned by the Asia Foundation.

Let us dialogue with the Judiciary and discuss if we should instead adopt the inquisitorial system where it is the judge that gathers the evidence in the resolution of a judicial dispute rather than the current adversarial system where the judge is a passive recipient of evidence adduced by the parties.

Perhaps, the ultimate challenge is to aim for the time when IHL becomes a purely academic field of study in this country. This will only happen when we have achieved a lasting and just peace, when armed conflicts remain part of our history, but no longer a part of and not our daily lives. In sa Allah.

A band-aid solution to gangrene


The country’s failure to protect and promote the right to life has taken center stage anew. On the eve of the third anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre, President Benigno Aquino III signed Administrative Order No. 35 creating a super-body headed by Justice Secretary Leila De Lima. The body would lead the effort to investigate and prosecute cases of extralegal killings and enforced disappearances in the country. The Secretaries of both the Departments of National Defense and Interior and Local Governments were likewise made members of this super body.

And then, there was the third anniversary of the massacre itself.

Unfortunately, the occasion did not warrant even a presidential remark other than a statement made by the President in a media summit that the government was looking into the cases of media killings. Then, late Tuesday, I received word from media contacts that the Court of Appeals had declared De Lima’s creation of the second DOJ panel to conduct a preliminary investigation into the Doc Gerry Ortega murder case null and void.

How are these three events connected?

Simply put, they explain why killings and enforced disappearances will continue in this country.

The creation of AO 35 was ill-advised. Already, we have at least three serious studies on what steps should be done to put an end to impunity. These are the Melo Commission Report, the Alston Report, and the Asia Foundation’s Parreno report. None of these recommended the creation of yet another body to deal with the killings. In fact, all these inquiries were issued when there was already some sort of super body in existence. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo created Task Force Habagat in the Philippine National Police followed by Task Force 211, also an inter-agency body. The killings and the disappearances continued despite the existence of these bodies.

The Alston report then concluded that the Philippines is in breach of the duty to protect and promote the right to life because of a lack of political will to prosecute those behind these killings. It made special mention of the Office of the Ombudsman, which, despite its constitutional and legal mandate, has failed to investigate and prosecute even a single state agent for these killings and disappearances.

The Asia Foundation-funded Parreno report, in turn, concluded that the National Prosecution Service is largely to blame for the problem of impunity. To begin with, the NPS has a measly 1 percent conviction rate for cases of extralegal killings.

If at all, this last report has at least identified the weakest link in the fight against impunity: the Executive.

The reality, though, is that decisions such as the Court of Appeals’ nullification of Secretary De Lima’s creation of a second preliminary investigation that charged former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes and his brother for the murder of Doc Gerry Ortega highlight the Judiciary’s role in this culture of impunity.

While I have not seen this decision of the CA, it does highlight why a super body within the executive branch of government alone is not the solution to impunity. While the Parreno report did not identify the Judiciary as the weakest link, it has noted that institutional weaknesses within the Judiciary itself, including notorious delays and perception of corruption, also afflicts the system.

But where does the Ampatuan massacre come in?

It serves as the case study on what happens when there is institutional breakdown of the country’s criminal justice system. The fact remains that while Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes and all the lawyers connected with the case, both prosecution and defense, are doing the best that they could to afford justice to both the victims and the accused, it is the system itself that is responsible for failure to accord the parties to the case an adequate remedy under domestic law.

First, the Philippine National Police did not investigate the massacre in a manner that would result in conviction. This much the authorities have admitted, saying that many of their men failed to execute the requisite affidavits of seizures and arrests for fear of retaliation. In like manner, the police have also failed to apprehend about half of the 194 accused charged in the case. The National Prosecution Service, for its part, did not coordinate with the PNP in conducting the investigation of the case to ensure that evidence gathered will stand in court. This was one of the conclusions made by the EP-Just program of the EU: that prosecutors should work hand in hand with the PNP to ensure that the evidence gathered by the police would result in convictions. Then there is the Court that to begin with, is not equipped with rules to handle this many accused for no less than 58 counts of murder.

Yes, the super body created by AO 35 is good copy. Unfortunately, it is a band aid to the “gangrenous” wounds that afflict the pillars of the country’s criminal justice system. In the end, with government offering yet another super body to address impunity, the citizenry is left only with prayers as their ultimate tool against impunity. Let’s pray very hard.

PNOY’S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD


 

NOY’S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD

Geneva, Switzerland. The Philippines will be the object of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May of this year by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Council is a body composed of 47 states tasked with the protection and promotion of human rights. The Council seeks to achieve its purpose through this periodic review, where states are asked by other states on the level of their compliance with human rights norms. This in turn is premised on the assumption that no state would want to be declared to be in breach of its human rights obligations. It also works through expert rapporteurs, both thematic and country specific, whose function is to conduct investigations to determine states’ compliance with their obligations.

As an adherent of humanitarian law that utilizes penology as an enforcement mechanism, I have been critical of how the UN implements human rights through this shaming machinery. But I had a different insight into the human rights mechanism when I saw it up close. To begin with, the world’s civil society is active here to ensure that non-compliant states are in fact shamed to the fullest. Further, one certainly gets the sense that with all states dutifully attending the many meeting of the UN here in Geneva, states do abhor the prospect of being branded as a violator. Judge Rosalynn Higgins said it succinctly: while violations of the rights of human beings are rampant, states will opt to deny that their conduct violate these rights and will instead argue that their conduct is either compliant or justified. She cited the case of torture. Amnesty International, who together with the German Action Network Human Rights-Philippines, are my hosts here- has once declared that almost all states commit torture. And yet, not one state will acknowledge this and all will still maintain that torture is illegal.
Why am I here? To participate in a side event to discuss human rights under P Noy and to lobby states to question the Philippines why extralegal killings (ELK’s), torture, and enforced disappearances (ED’s) persist.

I argued that extralegal killings, torture and enforced disappearances continue even now because their perpetrators have not been investigated, prosecuted and punished for their acts. Here, I traced the problem to a breakdown in the country’s pillars of its criminal justice system. First, the police do not know how to investigate. A recent study revealed that 8 out of 10 policemen are not trained and are hence incompetent to investigate crimes. There too is the PNP procedure that seeks first to identify the perpetrator of a crime before gathering and processing of physical evidence. Worse, in almost all the heinous crimes that I have been involved as a private prosecutor: the Maguindanao massacre, the Evangelista torture case, the Tanauan massacre, the Bicutan siege, to name only a few, policemen are the perpetrators of these crimes. How can they investigate themselves?

Second, the National Prosecution Service has failed to prosecute. The Perreño report commissioned by the Asia Foundation revealed that their conviction rate for Elk’s and ED’s is a measly  1% . Over-all, no less than the President has said that their conviction is a low of 14%. There may be many reasons for this -including lack of resources and manpower. But what appears to be obvious for now is their adamant refusal to be involved in the investigation of these crimes is responsible for their low conviction rate. Under human rights law, it is the state, acting through the police and the prosecutors, who must investigate and hence gather the evidence to meet the minimum threshold of evidence.

The Courts have at least, through former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, acknowledged that it is also in breach of their duty to protect and promote the right to life. This is due to the perennial problem of court delays and even the incompetence and lack of integrity of some of our Judges.

The decision to make the presentation here was not easy to make. I have been supportive of the administration of P Noy and make no apologies for it. But I opted to attend and am currently even lobbying the international community to confront the Philippines with the issues of ELK’s, torture, and ED’s for two reasons: one, a belief that true friend of an administration should not just sing odes of praise.  A friend should commend when it is deserved, and should criticize, when necessary. This is   not to overthrow it, but for it to become better. Secondly, I am here because you and I could be the next victims of these crimes.

 

 

 

 

Pray for you lives and be safe


The recent death and burning of used car dealers Emerson Lozano and Venzon Evangelista highlight anew President Noynoy Aquino’s most pressing challenge: the restoration of the rule of law. I have said it before and will say it again: these killings are happening because of a lack of political will to make the criminal justice system work. Unless P-Noy recognizes the gravity of the problem and take bold and decisive moves to overhaul the system, no Filipino will be safe.
There should be no difference if the victim is killed because he is a political activist, journalist, or everyday folk. These killings are happening because their perpetrators are not apprehended, prosecuted and punished. Already, the reasons for this impunity are very clear: all the pillars in our criminal justice system are defective and require through overhauls.

First, our police apparently do not know how to investigate. A recent newspaper report indicated that 8 out of 10 of our policemen handling police investigations lack formal training and skills. Even prior to the release of this report, doctor Raquel Fortun, in her lectures on the investigation and prosecution of extralegal killings sponsored by the Center for International Law, complained that existing PNP investigation protocols ask police investigators to identify the suspect first before they are asked to gather evidence. In other jurisdiction that are able to punish killers, the procedure would be to gather evidence first, particularly physical evidence, or the type that does not lie, before they identify the suspect. Worse, in addition to lack of skill, our police of late have become notorious for being criminals themselves instead of being their pursuers. The 62 policemen indicted for the Ampatuan massacre, Sr. Inspector Jose Binuyag and his colleagues at the Asuncion Community Police precinct of the torture video notoriety, and PO 3 Antonio Bautista, who was accused of raping a detainee for vagrancy at the police station itself, are only some of the notorious policemen who have spurned public indignation.

Two, there is the National Prosecution Service with its 19-percent conviction rate. Part of the problem is that cases are lost due to sloppy police investigations. And yet, despite the knowledge that this is partly to blame for its dismal conviction rate, public prosecutors are altogether averse to involving themselves in police investigations despite existing executive orders compelling them to do so. One would think that if inept investigation is the problem, then the involvement of lawyers should be the solution. But no, our prosecutors will continuously invoke their alleged status as quasi-judicial posts as justification for their refusal to be involved in police investigations. One former American federal prosecutor, Christine Chung, also formerly a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, did not mince her words. In her view, the problem is that Filipino prosecutors are lazy. Full stop.

Three, there is the Judiciary. While our judges today could no longer complain of being underpaid, as in fact, their salaries today, courtesy of recent legislation and allowances from the local government units, are now almost at par with lawyers from the private sector; still, their pay hikes have not been accompanied by a corresponding improvement in their overall efficiency. Judges continue to hear cases at snail pace oblivious to the state obligation to finish the trial of cases involving extralegal killings with dispatch.

Finally, there is the citizenry who have either become jaded and hopeless, on one hand; or have completely lost all belief on the rule of law, turning instead to vigilante killing as the preferred means to maintain peace and order. This is prevalent in areas where vigilante killings are more of the norm rather than the exception. Davao City is one such place where ordinary folks have learned not only to accept the death squads. More alarming is the fact that they have become supportive of such groups.

How should P Noy deal with this single most pressing challenge? Well, he can begin by acknowledging that there is in fact a problem. After which, he should redefine his priorities in the justice front from running after tax cheats and smugglers, as he has asked Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to do; to making the investigation, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators of these killings as his absolute priority. Anything short of this would only strengthen the culture of impunity that already exists in our land.

Meanwhile, dear readers : pray for your lives and try to be safe.

The First Aquino SONA


I’m happy that two of my most important advocacies, the investigation and prosecution of extralegal killings and the reform of the Witness Protection Program, figured in President Noynoy Aquino’s first State-of-the-Nation Address. While I would have preferred an express mention of the Maguindanao massacre in the first Sona since the massacre took place, and specific promises that he had for the victims of the country’s worse massacre ever, either in terms of reparations to the victims who were killed by state agents or a specific time frame within which to finish the prosecution of the case; still, P-Noy did promise in general terms that “killers would be prosecuted” under his administration. It was good that while he acknowledged that the killings continue until today, the difference is that in the three weeks that he has been in office, half of the extralegal killings that welcomed his administration had been investigated and now being prosecuted in court. Contrast this with the almost 1,000 killings under nine years of the Arroyo regime with only about three convictions, all of them involving only gun men, and none of the masterminds.
Under international law, the duty of civilian presidents is to prevent the loss of the right to life and in default of this, the further obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators thereof. Civilian heads of state will in fact incur criminal liability if they fail in this duty to investigate and prosecute. How, in turn, is this duty to investigate triggered? For military commanders, it is if it is shown that a commander in control of his subordinates had knowledge of the commission of the crimes or should have known about the same had he not turned a blind eye to the crimes. Civilian presidents have a similar duty, except that it must be shown that they actually knew that the crimes were actually happening and did nothing to prevent or investigate them. This duty to investigate is triggered , among others, by news reports and reports of human rights organizations. While these reports are hearsay insofar as the truthfulness of their contents are concerned, they are, however, sufficient basis to trigger the duty to investigate.

The President also promised reforms in the Witness Protection Program.

This is vindication of sorts since until today, government prosecutors, in addition to former Secretary of Justice Alberto Agra, have not acknowledged that “Jessie”, the murdered eye witness to the Maguindanao massacre, should have not died if only those charged with the implementation of the WPP bothered to listen to what he had to say. At the very least, the President’s promise to reform the WPP is evidence that the witness “Jessie” probably did not die in vain. Hopefully, he will heed the recommendations of professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extralegal Killings, to separate the WPP from the National Prosecution Service to insulate the program from the biases of government prosecutors. It is further hoped that these much-needed reforms in the WPP would finally accept how difficult it is for witnesses to gruesome crimes perpetrated by state agents to trust the WPP. Maybe, the Supreme Court, as an immediate remedial measure to address this issue of mistrust, should accredit soonest the list of organizations that can provide private sanctuaries.

I am happy that the President also repeated his promise to curtail graft and corruption in government. It was good that he singled out his marching orders for the Department of Justice and the Bureaus of Customs and Internal Revenues to file new cases against big-time smugglers and tax cheats on a weekly basis. I thought though that the President should have mentioned more specific means of how his administration would deal with the problems of corruption beyond mentioning the Truth Commission anew and promising to issue the Executive Order detailing the workings of the commission within the week. Perhaps though, he should have been more clear on how he intends to deal with the biggest obstacle to the fight against corruption: Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. With the administration Liberal Party now a Juggernaut in the House of Representatives, I am sure that his party mates were more than eager to find out how he intended to deal with the problem that is the Ombudsman. I would also have liked to hear the basics, that is, he will send thieves in government, including the Arroyos and their cohorts to jail. But maybe he thought mentioning this would be a superfluity given his repeated promises of “no reconciliation without justice” during the campaign. We hope this is in fact the case.

I’m not sure I liked Aquino’s having singled out the excesses of the board of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, though. Having had the opportunity, albeit all so briefly, to act as corporate secretary of a government-owned and -controlled corporation once, I do not find the P2 million per annum compensation for board members particularly scandalous if only because almost all of GOCCs of the same size as the MWSS probably have the same levels of compensation. I’m sure this sum is either the same or even bigger in the boards of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Government Service Insurance System, Social Security System, PNOC-Energy Development Corporation, Development Bank of the Philippines, Land Bank of the Philippines, to name only a few. The issue should not have been solely focused on the remuneration of the MWSS Board. The President should have raised how much all board members of GOCCs should make.

Anent the hoard of rice stocks that the National Food Authority imported, the President remained quiet on what made these importations even more reprehensible. That hat is, in addition to rotting rice stocks and overpriced warehouses, there is the greed of those who obviously made money out of these importations. To quote Jun Lozada, “they failed to moderate their greed.”

On his legislative agenda, I hope the anti-trust bill is finally enacted into law. There has been a pending anti-draft law in Congress since the 8th Congress in 1988. I should know since I drafted one such version of the draft bills which I pattered after the American anti-trust law. It has since gathered dust for the past 25 years despite the fact that we need the law badly, what with the proliferation today of monopolies and oligopolies which render free competition in the market illusory.

The call to re-examine our codified laws was also welcomed particularly by the University of the Philippines College of Law community. Individual members of the faculty have been engaged in the re-examination of these codes ranging from the Revised Penal Code, to a proposed Code of Commercial Laws, an amended Environmental Code, and even amendments to the Family Code and other laws affecting persons and family relations.

By and large, the President stuck to a tried-and-tested formula in speech writing: use short sentences that are direct to the point. Still, where it was lacking was the lack of an action plan. Maybe that will come as soon as the respective heads of the executive departments have finalized their action plans.