Wake Up, Philippines!

Settling CA mess: who broke rules?

Posted in Court of Appeals, Judiciary, Scandal/Expose/Mess by Erineus on February 18, 2009

Sans evidence of cold cash, bribery in the Court of Appeals’ Meralco vs. GSIS is unprovable. Mere say-so of contending justices cannot establish guilt. So the three investigators picked by the Supreme Court are focusing on who broke the rules. The Code of Judicial Conduct, Rules of Court, and Internal Rules of the CA were written to make fraud harder to commit. The canons also help pinpoint liability. Both professors of legal ethics, accused Justice Vicente Roxas and accuser Justice Jose Sabio know that.

Sabio twits Roxas for “unusual interest” in the case. Roxas concedes to no breaches. Still his admitted actions make the probers “suspicious”. For one, there was “unseemly haste” as ponente in issuing in June the temporary restraining order prayed for by Meralco. Roxas hand-carried the draft to the office of Justice Myrna Vidal’s and even waited for her to return from lunch — typically a task for court staff. Then, he issued a decision in July without waiting for Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr. to resolve his own plea against Sabio acting as chairman of the 8th Division. The verdict came ahead of answers to side issues, like a petition for his inhibition.

Roxas acted oddly too. He kept the rollo (case files) that normally is entrusted to the court clerk. From sheer memory he typed the transcripts of his deliberations with chairman Bienvenido Reyes and associate Apolinario Bruselas.

Accuser Sabio’s actions were odder. As he himself swore, he asked Roxas for the rollo on June 17-18, preparatory to the June 23 oral arguments. This he asserted as acting chairman of the Special 9th Division, although real chairman Reyes already had returned from vacation. Vasquez meantime reorganized the CA; ponente Roxas and chairman Reyes landed in the 8th division, with Bruselas. Seeking amity, Vasquez asked CA rules committee head Justice Edgardo Cruz to settle the Sabio-Reyes tiff. When Cruz opined in favor of Reyes, Sabio belittled him as “junior”, and sought a sympathetic view from older Justice Martin Villarama.

Under CA rules, a case moves to any new division the ponente goes — in this instance, with Roxas to the 8th, incidentally now chaired by Reyes. A case stays with the ponente and his old division-mates only when granting a writ of preliminary injunction, a new trial, or an execution pending appeal. None of the conditions existed for Sabio to stay on. In insisting on chairing the oral arguments, elbowing out Reyes, he too showed unusual interest.

Sabio swore that old pal Francis Roa de Borja had offered P10 million to swing to Meralco. Roa in turn claimed it was Sabio who mentioned P50 million as the right price to switch. He says-she says carries no weight in court. But the Code of Judicial Conduct, reiterated by the Rules of Court, states that a judge should take no part in a proceeding where his neutrality might be questioned. CA rules in turn require a justice disqualified under the foregoing canons to notify at once his division members and the raffle committee. Sabio should have reported the bribe offer to Vasquez; he did only a month later. He should have inhibited; instead he held on.

More telling was the phone call to Sabio on raffle morning from elder brother Camilo, head of Malacañang’s PCGG. Camilo disclosed something Sabio had yet to be officially told — that the case had just been raffled to him as acting chair. Camilo then unabashedly argued for Palace-backed GSIS. Sabio reported neither the leak nor the attempt to corrupt a public officer. Yet the phone call was graver reason to recuse, being a violation not just of the lawyer’s oath but the Revised Penal Code.

It’s good that everything’s out in the open. The Supreme Court now has a chance to clean up the suspicious Appellate Court.

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So you’re Chinese, pure or part, traditional or modern or somewhere in between, Christian at least in name, and conflicted with self and others. Watch Golden Child and have a good laugh or sob about yourself. David Henry Hwang’s family drama runs at the CCP Little Theater (832-3661, 832-1125 loc. 1620/1621). It’s in Filipino on the last two weekends of August; in English in extension on the first weekend of September.

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And only this Friday the 22nd at 5 p.m., till 5 in the morning, is Truthfest, a gathering because “it’s about time.” Civic, religious, political, business and environment activists join up with musicians and artists to sing, dance, paint and shout the truth. At Baywalk, Roxas Blvd., Manila, performers include Grace Nono, Noel Cabangon, Bayang Barrios, John Arcilla, May Bayot, Ballet Philippines, Tanghalan Pilipino, and various rock bands. Free, if you “will not take any more of their abuse or violence against you ever again.”

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E-mail: jariusbondoc@workmail.com

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Opinion
GOTCHA
By Jarius Bondoc

Updated August 20, 2008 12:00 AM
http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleid=80370

Court of Appeals mess

Posted in Court of Appeals, Judiciary, Scandal/Expose/Mess by Erineus on February 18, 2009

The news headlines coming out lately undoubtedly confirm that the culture of corruption in public service has been institutionalized. But this is no reason for the citizenry to accept this as a fact of life in government. On the contrary the public should be more indignant in denouncing the anomalies being exposed.

To be sure, graft and corruption is already established for quite sometime in the executive and legislative department. Hence it is no longer shocking to hear and read about deals in these offices that are grossly disadvantageous to the government. The latest expose about the CHED (Commission on Higher Education) call center project and the Land Bank loan to QUEDANCOR have just further lengthened the list of the previous scams plaguing this administration notably the Joc-Joc Bolante fertilizer fund scandal and the huge commissions or “tongpats” in hundreds of millions of US$ paid to brokers with strong connections in this administration for the aborted ZTE-NBN Broadband project and the abandoned North Rail project.

Then there are also the anomalous mega deals in the Comelec particularly the Mega Pacific Consortium automated counting machines project that was declared null and void by the Supreme Court itself because of obvious violations of law; and the infamous “Garci” dagdag bawas scandal involving some military generals who reportedly received financial rewards and promotions.

Graft and corruption in public service are now deeply rooted obviously because of the government’s reaction to these anomalies that led to lack of clear and conclusive findings. Instead of actively and expeditiously pursuing the cases and digging deeper into the truth or falsity of the exposes, the government uses “executive privilege” in refusing to cooperate with the investigators.

Instead of initiating the moves to investigate the allegations and gather the necessary evidence to determine whether its detractors are telling the truth or not, the government assails its detractors for “making accusations without evidence and privilege speeches without accountability”. The move to suppress the truth about these revelations seems to be very evident in this kind of stance.

The lackadaisical attitude and delayed action of the Ombudsman is also a contributing factor. Since the time of the exposes up to now, the Ombudsman has not come out with any resolution on these anomalies. On the contrary it has even dismissed the complaints against the Comelec officials who were found indictable for violations of law by the Supreme Court itself.

More disturbing is that certain corrupt practices have penetrated even our Judiciary. What used to be mere unfounded but apparently plausible rumors concerning the shady deals in all levels of our courts of justice circulating in coffee shops and cocktail circuits are now being denounced by some of the magistrates themselves. Now, none of the three branches of government can still categorically claim that its offices are not tainted with corruption.

This is more unfortunate in the case of the Judiciary because it is supposed to be the last bulwark of democracy, the government department where people expect to be relieved from a kind of hunger more intense than their hunger for food — the hunger for justice.

The public exposure of the behind the scenes maneuvering and bickering among the justices of the Court of Appeals (CA) on the high profile case of GSIS vs. Meralco is really unfortunate. It has further eroded (hopefully not beyond repair) the trust and confidence in our courts of justice. It could have been avoided because the issues therein are not controversial enough to
necessitate the “lobbying” of the parties involved. In other words, it is not one of those cases where the decision could be and is actually subjected to outside pressure but still looks correct precisely because the facts and the law give enough judicial discretion for the court to “correctly” decide either way without being suspected of succumbing to pressure.

In this case, based on the facts and the law, the CA decision is the only correct one that could have been made. Had it decided otherwise, it would be glaringly erroneous as would easily raise the suspicion that it was pressure laden. Hence, if it were not for Justice Jose Sabio’s revelations involving internal administrative matters that do no affect the merits of the case, the  ecision looks unassailable. The justices concerned could have just threshed out among themselves this purely internal issue.

Nevertheless, Justice Sabio’s move to go public may after all be good for the country. It may, and it should trigger the needed judicial clean up that is long in coming. In going public, Justice Sabio is apparently motivated by a desire to put a stop to these undesirable behind the scenes practices in our courts. In fact, because of his bold move, Mr. Francis Borja, the unnamed businessman also had to come out and the SC had to step in.

Obviously Justice Sabio and Mr. Borja have their own version of what transpired especially on the question of whether there was a bribe offer or a bribe proposal coming from either of the contending parties to the case. This is not a question that can be decided by public opinion shaped by media on who has a better reputation for credibility. A statement coming from a credible person must also be inherently believable. Hence, since the Supreme Court is already investigating the case, it would be advisable for them to desist from further making press statements and instead show to the SC the inherent truthfulness of their respective versions.

In this judicial investigation, the SC should adopt measures that would lead to clear, credible and conclusive findings and really meaningful and lasting clean up of the judiciary. It must avoid the lack transparency displayed by other government departments without however jeopardizing the integrity of the process because of undue publicity and inaccurate reporting.

Note: Books containing compilation of my
articles on Labor Law and Criminal Law (Vols. I and II) are now
available. Call tel. 7249445.

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E-mail at: jcson@pldtdsl.net

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A LAW EACH DAY (Keeps Trouble Away)
By Jose C. Sison


Updated August 05, 2008 12:00 AM
http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleid=77341

What a mess!

Posted in Dangerous Drugs, DOJ, Drug Trafficking, PDEA by Erineus on February 18, 2009

The exchange of accusations between the Brodett clan members has made the “Alabang Boys” controversy look even messier with many side issues cropping up, pretty much like a telenovela with complex subplots featuring assorted characters. But fascinating as the revelations are — such as revenge being the motive, a marijuana-using mother, a mentally unstable sister-in-law; an undisclosed “mistah” bribing a PDEA official whose humble beginning must have made him biased against the rich — people must look at the whole issue with objectivity and not be swayed by emotion and conjecture.

Was the buy-bust operation and the subsequent arrest legal and by the book? Is the evidence against the “Alabang Boys” admissible? Was the resolution for the dismissal of the case valid? Is there tangible proof of bribery? Who did the bribing? Are the suspects really big-time drug pushers with international connections? These are questions that must be answered. But when one starts putting the issues and the people involved under the glare of publicity, then things can really get out of hand. It would be difficult to resolve these issues with impartiality because those involved would be more concerned about making themselves look clean to save their reputation. After all, the opinion of people can be colored by hearsay, their conclusions tainted by perception rather than facts or clear evidence as provided for by law.

No doubt everybody is being fried without the oil, so to speak. But what is becoming clear in this whole tangled drama is the need to review the law regarding illegal drugs and fixing the kinks in the system by drafting legislation that would put an end to the perennial conflict between PDEA enforcers and DOJ prosecutors. The proposal of Dangerous Drugs Board Chairman Tito Sotto to deploy DOJ prosecutors in PDEA specifically for drug-related cases makes a lot of sense. This way, state prosecutors could coordinate more closely with PDEA agents and advise the latter on legal aspects such as how arrests should be conducted, whether operatives can jump over the fence of a suspect’s house without being charged with trespassing, and other possible technicalities so that charges will not end up getting dismissed later on.

Aside from encouraging PDEA and DOJ people to work closely with each other, Tito’s proposal will put an end to accusations that state prosecutors are bribed to dismiss the case, and counter-accusations that PDEA agents are bumbling idiots who are not familiar with legal procedures. Even the 2008 US International Narcotics Control Strategy Report has noted that “pervasive problems in law enforcement and criminal justice system such as corruption, low morale, inadequate resources and salaries, and lack of cooperation between police and prosecutors also hamper drug prosecutions.”

The publicity surrounding the “Alabang Boys” has caught the attention of international drug agencies like the US Drug Enforcement Administration which is closely watching developments and monitoring how this will be handled by the government. No doubt this will affect Philippine relations with other countries since drug trafficking and terrorism are closely related, whose repercussions are far more serious than people think.

Drug trafficking is a transnational crime, and the Philippines has been pinpointed as an international transshipment point. Traffickers find our porous borders, un-patrolled shores and uninhabited islands a haven for their illegal trade. According to the 2008 US-INCSR, the Philippines is a source of methamphetamine (shabu) exported to Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the US, and that chemicals for manufacturing illegal drugs are smuggled into the Philippines from China and India.

In any case, it’s about time we realized the enormity of the drug menace in this country. The report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes citing the Philippines as the country with the most number of drug users in South East Asia — estimated at 6.7 million — makes the Philippines a very attractive market for international drug traffickers, many of them from China and Hong Kong. With the number of Filipinos now estimated at 92 million, the figures could get higher and the situation worse considering that the youth comprise more than 40 percent of our population. Some sources even claim that close to 10 million Filipinos are drug addicts, with majority belonging to the 14-25 age bracket.

I personally know of young people whose lives were destroyed or worse, are now six feet under because of drugs. Pushers and traffickers mostly target people from well-to-do families, celebrities and others who can afford the stiff price of shabu, ketamine, Ecstasy and other illegal substances, but they also go for students and lower income groups. Statistics show that up to 80 percent of heinous crimes like rape and murder are drug-related with perpetrators usually high on drugs. That’s why people are beginning to rethink their position regarding the reimposition of the death penalty especially for convicted drug traffickers. Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia carry the death penalty for drug trafficking — and it’s a no-brainer why the number of drug-related crimes in these countries is low compared to the Philippines. Though they’re behind bars, traffickers — especially big-time ones — could still operate and even have an opportunity to expand their network when their cellmates are released.

At the very least, this whole messy and scandalous affair is focusing attention on the major problem of drugs that has plagued us for so many years. This is far more serious than most people think, and the government and the country’s entire leadership must have the political will to fight this growing menace. Everyone must not lose sight of the fact that the drug problem is slowly destroying this country and gradually eroding our reputation by giving us the dubious honor of being known as Asia’s drug capital.

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E-mail: babeseyeview@yahoo.com
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BABE’S EYE VIEW
By Babe Romualdez

Updated January 11, 2009 12:00 AM
http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleid=430701

MWSS must answer for La Mesa mess

Posted in MWSS by Erineus on February 18, 2009

Of the feedback to my item last week on lax security at La Mesa dam, one merits citing. Reader Proceso de los Reyes wants officials who secretly built the two residential subdivisions inside the state property jailed. And well they should be. For, their narrow-minded, selfish sleaze blinded them to threats of sabotage to the capital’s water supply. They are the best proof that corruption and ineptitude go hand in hand.

For decades La Mesa was off-limits to outsiders, except for EcoPark, a wooded fringe in Fairview, Quezon City, open to strollers. Guards drove poachers out of the 2,700-hectare reservoir and 3,000-hectare forest around it. The filtrations were deemed highest-security facilities. Only waterworks employees were allowed in, and only if on duty. Under martial law in the ’70s Marines patrolled the dam compound. Security was tightened all the more after 9/11. Military agents mobilized soon afterwards when a South Asian was spotted sneaking several times over the perimeter fence. Subdivision dwellers outside the complex cooperated; their own safety depended on the dam’s defense. Suspicious activities promptly were reported to waterworks officials. A neighbor was turned over for punching a hole through the fence and erecting a dog and rooster farm in the woods inside. It was the residents outside who first noticed and kept an eye on the foreign intruder.

It was the residents too who noticed the surge in vehicle traffic to and from the dam five years ago. City hall had spanned a bridge to EcoPark, for tourists and heavy trucks of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System. But jeepneys, taxis, and cars kept rumbling over the aqueduct that was not meant to carry such load for long. Reporting to barangay officers, the residents discovered the twin rackets inside the complex. Policemen to whom the MWSS had turned over the task of securing the reservoir and filtrations were exacting fees for motorists to illicitly shortcut to and from Fairview and Novaliches. Worse, MWSS trustees crookedly had awarded themselves and key managers residential lots in the state land, and then built houses. The aqueduct, actually the dam’s spillover to Tullahan River but asphalted for occasional light vehicles, became their private driveway. A terrorist could rent a trustee’s house, or ride one of the vehicles passing over the aqueduct, and throw poison into the reservoir below. A plain vandal could wreak similar damage to the tap supply of millions of Greater Manilans.

MWSS trustees couldn’t care less. They illegally had parceled state property to themselves and their favorites. Having built homes inside the dam complex, they now gaily treat it as their private preserve and motor even in restricted areas. They can’t tell the cops to stop letting outsiders through the aqueduct. What moral ground would they have if told to mind your own racket while the cops go about theirs? Both are in violation of the Water Code of 1976, the Forestry Code, and the Clean Water Act, though.

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E-mail: jariusbondoc@workmail.com

Opinion
GOTCHA
By Jarius Bondoc

Updated February 18, 2009 12:00 AM
http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=441323&publicationSubCategoryId=64

Tagged with: ,

Relaxing the rules

Posted in Labor, Labor Law, Laws, Supreme Court Decisions by Erineus on February 18, 2009

Rules of procedure should not be applied in a very rigid and technical sense if the ends of justice will be defeated. This is once more illustrated in this case of Ed.

Ed was employed in a cement company (UCC) in 1996 starting as a planner in the motor pool section. In the course of his employment he was assigned and promoted to different positions. But when he was already in a supervisory level position, he got involved in an alleged theft of company property and after investigation establishing his culpability, was dismissed for loss of trust and confidence.

Thus Ed filed an action against UCC and its plant manager for illegal dismissal before the NLRC. In its decision the Labor Arbiter (LA) found UCC guilty of illegal dismissal as it failed to establish the commission of the theft much less Ed’s culpability. So the LA ordered Ed’s reinstatement with back wages plus moral and exemplary damages all totaling P1,185,835.25. Initially this was affirmed by the NLRC modifying only the award of moral and exemplary damages into P100,000 and P50,000. But on UCC’s motion for reconsideration the NLRC reversed and set aside its previous ruling and dismissed Ed’s complaint.

Posthaste, Ed filed a petition for certiorari in the Court of Appeals (CA). But the latter dismissed his petition outright for deficient payment of docket fee, failure of his counsel to indicate his Roll of Attorney’s number and the date and place of issue of his IBP OR, failure to append a legible copy of annex “E” and improper verification as it is not based on personal knowledge since it was only done by his wife as attorney-in-fact.

Ed filed a motion for reconsideration explaining the procedural lapses pointing out that: the petition itself contained a reservation on his willingness and readiness to pay the deficiency that may be further assessed as the fee he paid was based only on a prior inquiry via long distance. To settle the deficiency, he sent a postal money order for P1,000; the roll of attorney’s number as well as the IBP OR also appeared in the petition but in other parts; the illegible copy of annex “E” is only one of the annexes that should not merit outright dismissal and to cure it, he submitted a clearer copy; while the verification was executed by Ed’s wife whom he constituted as his attorney-in-fact only because he was then already working abroad.

Notwithstanding the exhaustive explanation, the CA still denied his motion for reconsideration. Was the CA correct?

No. Subsequent and substantial compliance by the appellant may warrant the relaxation of the rules of procedure. The rules of procedure are mere tools designed to expedite the decision or resolution of cases and other matters pending in court. Strict and rigid application of technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice must be avoided. Case should be determined on the merits after full opportunity to all parties to ventilate their causes and defenses rather than on some technicality or procedural imperfections.

In this case Ed readily corrected the procedural lapses in his petition cited by the CA as reason for the dismissal thereof. In all, he subsequently and substantially complied with the procedural requirements initially found lacking or defective by the appellate court.

Undeniably, the CA was correct in dismissing outright his petition for certiorari. However, upon motion for reconsideration and with a full and complete explanation, the CA should have reconsidered its prior dismissal and reinstated the petition. It is not remiss for the CA to adjudge Ed’s case based on the merits especially with the conflicting decisions rendered by the NLRC (Hipol vs. NLRC etc. G.R. 181818, December 18, 2008).

Note: Books containing compilation of my articles on Labor Law and Criminal Law (Vols. I and II) are now available. Call tel. 7249445.

E-mail at: jcson@pldtdsl.net

A LAW EACH DAY (Keeps Trouble Away)
By Jose C. Sison
Updated February 18, 2009 12:00 AM
http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=441325&publicationSubCategoryId=64

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Dependence

Posted in DFA, Foreign Affairs, VFA by Erineus on February 18, 2009

This is what Paragraph 6, Article 5 (on criminal jurisdiction) of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) says:

“The custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with the United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”

Paragraph 3(d) of the same article also states:

“Recognizing the responsibility of the United States military authorities to maintain good order and discipline among their forces, Philippine authorities will, upon request by the United States, waive their primary right to exercise jurisdiction except in cases of particular importance to the Philippines. If the Government of the Philippines determines that the case is of particular importance, it shall communicate such determination to the United States authorities within twenty (20) days after the Philippine authorities receive the United States request.”

I guess the Philippine government did not consider the case of US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith of “particular importance.” And even if Manila did, and had notified the US, lawyers can split hairs and argue that the VFA does not specifically require the US to give up jurisdiction over its military personnel.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and US Ambassador Kristie Kenney agreed that Smith, following his conviction for raping the Filipina woman known as Nicole, must be turned over to US custody and detained at the US embassy compound. Smith, escorted by Philippine cops, was spirited out of the Makati City Jail in the dead of night.

Why were those provisions in the VFA approved? We should ask the diplomats who negotiated the agreement during the presidency of Joseph Estrada.

The VFA is patterned after similar agreements the Americans have with several other countries. Washington considers these mere executive agreements that need no ratification by their Senate. But we insisted on ratifying it. Why did our Senate, again during Erap’s time, ratify the VFA with those provisions?

The Supreme Court, acting on petitions filed by Nicole, Bayan and a group led by former Senate president Jovito Salonga, upheld the VFA but ordered Smith’s transfer to a Philippine prison.

Perhaps the SC considered Smith’s conviction by the Makati Regional Trial Court the completion of all judicial proceedings. The conviction was handed down within a year after the crime, again in compliance with a VFA provision stating, “In the event Philippine judicial proceedings are not completed within one year, the United States shall be relieved of any obligations under this paragraph” – including making Smith available for further investigation or judicial proceedings. “The one year period will not include the time necessary to appeal.”

Smith is appealing his case. But if the period for completion is one year, excluding the appeal, are judicial proceedings completed in his case? Then he can be turned over to Philippine custody.

Malacañang obviously is not about to insist on this, especially not with the US Congress just recently approving compensation for the remaining Filipino veterans of World War II as part of US President Barack Obama’s $787-billion economic stimulus package.

Such is the state of the nation. We cannot assert sovereignty because we remain dependent on Uncle Sam and many other countries. We are even starting to develop dependence on China.

We congratulate the veterans, of whom only about 18,000 are left in the Philippines and the US. But it would have been better if they had received that kind of compensation from their own government. After all, they were defending their own country, not the US.

How much is that lump sum of $9,000? Less than P500,000. That’s a total of less than P6 billion for the 12,000 surviving veterans in the Philippines. Our leaders can spend P123 million for overseas junkets, but prefer to rely on Uncle Sam to take care of our own war veterans.

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And we rely on Uncle Sam for many other things. Which is probably why the original decision on Smith’s case was half-baked and confusing.

Even if Nicole had flirted with Smith, sex with a drunken woman was Smith’s undoing. How drunk was Nicole? She could remember how many and what types of drinks she had, but the judge decided she was drunk enough.

The sex occurred in a van driven by a Filipino, with Smith’s fellow soldiers in it, all rushing to return to their ship. Whether or not they cheered Smith on, their failure to stop a rape made them accessories – including the driver, who insisted he did not think Nicole was raped. So why were the other soldiers cleared?

Either they should have all been convicted, with varying degrees of punishment, or else they should have all been cleared together with Smith. Either there was rape, witnessed by several men in a closed van, or else there was none.

The decision merits a closer review. But after the Makati court managed to comply with that one-year deadline, the case is now bogged down in the usual mire of the Philippine justice system. The Supreme Court ruling covers only custody; Smith’s appeal of his conviction is still with the Court of Appeals. How long will that case gather cobwebs before it reaches the SC?

Until that final SC ruling, it looks like the Americans intend to hold on to their Marine. And it looks like Malacañang does not intend to challenge it, regardless of the SC order on custody.

Can a Supreme Court order trump an executive agreement with a foreign government? It makes for disastrous diplomacy when international commitments made by our government is worth less than toilet paper.

We can scrap, amend or renegotiate the VFA. If it is scrapped, we also throw out all the US troops here. Washington isn’t sending its soldiers to non-war zones where there are no rules governing its troops.

If we renegotiate, we cannot change the rules in the middle of the game. The result of any renegotiation cannot be applied retroactively to Smith’s case.

In the meantime, because the venue of his detention was agreed upon by Romulo and Kenney, perhaps the two can meet again to amend their agreement. Diplomacy could offer a way out of this mess.

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Opinion
SKETCHES
By Ana Marie Pamintuan

Updated February 18, 2009 12:00 AM
http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=441324&publicationSubCategoryId=64

Majority of Manila residents support Reproductive Health bill

Posted in Abortion, Contraception, Family Planning, Reproductive Health, Surveys, sws by Erineus on February 18, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – A recent survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that a majority or 86 percent of Manila residents support a law on reproductive health (RH).

The SWS survey, conducted last Dec. 27 and 28, also revealed that 88 percent of the 600 respondents agree that Manila should have a policy on reproductive health, while 95 percent say that the city health centers should further improve its services.

The survey results were presented by the SWS during a forum in Quezon City organized by The Forum for Family Planning and Development (The FORUM).

The study entitled “SWS December 2008 Special Omnibus Survey on General Health in Manila (MLA 12-08),” used face-to-face interviews of 600 men and women from the six districts of Manila.

“We do hope that with this latest survey result, our respective legislators in the House of Representatives won’t have any qualms on passing the Reproductive Health bill which would benefit the majority of Filipinos especially couples. The survey is echoing the voice of the true constituency of Congress,” The Forum president Benjamin De Leon said.

De Leon said majority of the respondents agree that there should be a law requiring government to distribute legal contraceptives like condoms, IUDs, and pills to people who want to avail, as well as providing of free supplies or services to the poor who wish to use any modern method. The survey also revealed that 92 percent agree that students aged 15 to 24 years old should be given adolescent health education.

De Leon said the revised modules, which include teaching notes on pre-marital sex, commercial sex, abortion and homosexuality, and high-risk sexual practices, are geared to inform the youth on the long-term health and social consequences of sexual risk-taking.

However, the new textbooks emphasize sexual abstinence among adolescents, and ask teachers to lead discussions on the advantages of delaying sexual activities during adolescence.

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Breaking News
By Helen Flores
Updated February 18, 2009 06:04 PM
http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=441452&publicationSubCategoryId=200