Tuesday, August 25, 2015

IRONIES in the ENRILE Bail Bond Case

L to R: Justice Leonen, Justice Bersamin, Senator Enrile
I will deal with the IRONIES that personally touched me.

First, per Justice Lucas Bersamin, freeing Senator Enrile “upholds the fundamental human rights as well as value the dignity of every person” as provided for in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and enshrined in Section 11, Article II of the Philippine Constitution that states, “The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.
Isn’t this ironic? Enrile was the Martial Law Administrator during the darkest hours of our history. Together with Marcos they oversaw the sufferings endured by tens of thousands of Filipinos due to illegal detention (warrantless arrest, no bail, no charges and no trial policies), torture, killings, rape and other crimes. Not only did they fail to enforce and “uphold the fundamental rights as well as value the dignity of every person”, they have virtually violated almost all the principles underlying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Now Enrile seeks human rights law protection!

Second, that Enrile deserves to be freed for health and humanitarian reasons. When Enrile was Martial Law Administrator, there were hundreds if not thousands of requests for release by prisoners due to failing health while illegally detained. Enrile and his staff without human compassion repeatedly and automatically denied these requests. According to some accounts by relatives of victims, many died without the benefit of adequate medical attention.

Ironically, Enrile now seeks the same remedy that he denied others during their hours of need.

Third, that Enrile’s petition for Certiorari be granted because Sandiganbayan “gravely abused its discretion” in denying the senator bail.

Sandiganbayan like any other trial court went through the regular judicial process. From the determination of probable cause, the existence of prima facie evidence, issuance of a warrant of arrest, detention of Enrile, to the giving orders for him to get adequate medical attention and, of course, the denial of Enrile’s application for bail for being premature and that of his motion for reconsideration. A hearing to determine whether the evidence is strong is still to be held. But Enrile went to the Supreme Court to seek JUSTICE. Lo and behold he found not just ONE JUSTICE but EIGHT accommodating JUSTICES as Justice Marvic Leonen claimed!

I found nothing in the ponencia that shows the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion. On the contrary, it followed and continues to follow the proper judicial processes.
Fourth, that in denying Enrile bail, Sandiganbayan committed “whimsical and capricious excess of judgment as is equivalent to excess, or lack of jurisdiction.”

Determining the amount of bail is usually within the purview of the trial court or, in this case, Sandiganbayan. But Bersamin with the concurrence of seven others decided to determine the amount. According to reports, Bersamin first suggested that bail be P100,000, then changed it to P500,000 and finally, settled on P1,000,000.

Sandiganbayan relied on existing laws and well-settled jurisprudence in its judgments. In fact, there are known guidelines to this effect.

Ironically, Justice Bersamin looks like the one who sounded “whimsical and capricious” in his judgment in arriving at the right amount of the bail.

Isn’t it ironic that Enrile who is already worth millions and, in fact, accused of plundering over P170 million was initially asked to put up only P100,000 as bail by Justice Bersamin?

Fifth, the ponencia also claims that the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion because it failed to recognize the objective of bail which is to guarantee the appearance of the accused (Enrile) during trial or at any instance when the court requires his presence.

The irony is that, as provided by the Constitution and the Rules of Court in cases where the penalty is reclusion perpetua and the evidence is strong, there is a greater guarantee of appearance by the accused during trial if there is no bail.

Sixth, Enrile alleges that he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  During the entire process until briefly interrupted by the bail issue, the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan proceeded on this presumption. This is why a prima facie case was built to merit Enrile’s arrest, and preparations were made to show the strength of the evidence and to prove the guilt of Enrile beyond reasonable doubt. This was to negate that presumption.

Ironically, it was Enrile and his lawyers who actually claimed presumption of guilt when they prematurely asserted the mitigating circumstances of voluntary surrender and old age. These circumstances are usually considered during the sentencing process when the accused (Enrile) is already found guilty. They are presuming without necessarily admitting Enrile’s guilt. The prosecution may also assert aggravating circumstances if there are any at this sentencing stage.

Seventh, the ponencia asserted that Enrile’s poor health justifies his admission to bail. Dr. Jose Gonzales certified the medical condition without the benefit of direct and/or cross-examination. Justice Bersamin claims that the Sandiganbayan arbitrarily disregarded the health condition of Enrile.

The facts of the case seem to belie this claim. Enrile virtually lived at the Philippine National Police General Hospital during his entire detention. The Sandiganbayan issued a couple of orders authorizing the Director to allow the transfer of Enrile to a more adequate private or public medical facility in case of emergency or of medical necessity.

Furthermore, Enrile never asked for the granting of bail for health reasons. Neither do existing laws and jurisprudence allow medical reasons as grounds to obtain bail in cases involving capital offenses like plunder.

Yet, ironically, for failing to give what was not asked and for adhering to the law, the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion per Justice Bersamin.

Eighth, on Enrile, Justice Bersamin wrote this in his ponencia, “With his solid reputation in both his public and private lives, his long years of public service, and history’s judgment of him being at stake, he should be granted bail.”

In search of grounds other than those provided by law, the ponente found more to add – solid reputation, long years of public service, and history’s judgment being at stake.

I know a lot of people who would strongly disagree with Bersamin’s view. Officially recorded are tens of thousands of affidavits of Martial law victims and relatives claiming damages for their suffering. Enrile’s role in those critical times will not be ignored by history. Many of the victims and their descendants are writers who will not make the current and future generations forget.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Philippine Presidential Elections: Winners and Losers

I am reiterating my suggestion regarding the formidable Roxas-Poe tandem for the 2016 Presidential Elections in the Philippines. I am still convinced that on a long-term basis, it is best for the country, and for the Filipino people. The necessary consequence is also beneficial to PNoy’s legacy, to the candidacies of Roxas and Poe, the Liberal Party, its allied parties, the Yellow Army and supporters from the civil society.

Although certain circumstances and reactions since I made the suggestion are beginning to becloud my judgment, I am still sticking to it. I know of fewer facts to claim a more enlightened discernment.

This is also because PNoy and his anointed presidential candidate Roxas continue to believe in the viability and winnability of the tandem for the sake of continuity and long-term stability of “Daang Matuwid”. They have looked at Grace Poe from a different and higher perspective as well as greater empirical exposure that we just have to give them our trust.

Of course, I am fully aware that as PNoy and Roxas are patiently waiting for Grace Poe’s decision, they and the party organization already put Plan B and even Plan C in operation. Poe and her group remain as Option A but regardless of her decision, PNoy, Mar, and the LP machinery are ready, no doubt about it.


Grace Poe on the other hand has her own options. First, she has to decide whether she should run for a higher office or not. Second, if she decides to run, should it be for President or Vice President? Third, if Vice President, should it be with Roxas or as an independent? 

Poe has a self-imposed deadline for her decision. She refuses to tell the press but I suspect that she must have told PNoy and Roxas. Winners appropriately do! Losers do not!

There are questions regarding Poe’s residency and citizenship qualifications. The spokesman for UNA and VP Binay openly brought it up. Some legal luminaries and experts that include a couple of law school Deans and one respected international lawyer support the views of the spokesman. VP Binay also shares similar views. A defeated Senatorial candidate named Rizalito David filed a case before the Senate Electoral Tribunal as well as one before the COMELEC.

A team of top-notch lawyers is defending Grace Poe – Romulo Macalintal, Katrina Legarda, and Lorna Kapunan.  Several legal experts led by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Art Panganiban share the opinion that Poe possesses the residency and citizenship qualifications.


Winners usually face the issues, fight the challenge confidently and find solutions. Losers look for people to blame. What Grace faces are legitimate legal issues that should be properly resolved. Confronting Roxas if he is behind those questioning her qualifications is an action more appropriately attributed to a “loser”, sorry to say.

PNoy and Roxas offered her the Vice Presidency – convinced of her qualifications. I have expressed the view that while I find no problem defending her residency qualifications, I see the citizenship part to be a little bit tricky. But I made the Roxas-Poe tandem suggestion anyway, and actually proposed a couple of solutions for her legal problem that PNoy, Roxas, the LP and its allies in Congress could actually help deliver. These are actions of confidence on Poe and those of “winners” not “losers”.

The only relevant and accepted principle in International Law involving “foundlings” is the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The problem is that the Philippines is neither a signatory nor has it acceded to it. The solution is for the Philippines to sign and accede to it or if it cannot be done immediately, take some steps that indicate acceptance to the principles that the convention provides.

There are two bills in the Senate that protect the rights of “foundlings” – that of Senator Poe and the other of Senator Lapid. Pushing the former would be perceived as self-serving but passing the latter with some amendments would be an added solution.

Either the international or domestic legal solution may turn out to be unnecessary but either guarantees a clearer interpretation and legal cover supporting Poe’s cause.

POLLS/Market Surveys

Polls like market surveys help measure the demand or marketability of the product that is for sale at the time the survey is taken. The numbers change depending on what the customers know about the product, the competition, the places surveyed, and the dates when the surveys were taken. It is about measuring the demand for the product as the people perceived it.

“Winners” take notice of the surveys and use them to devise or revise their sales and marketing plans. “Losers” rely on the surveys alone to determine the viability or marketability of their product. They do not consider the need for a broader distribution channel and a larger, organized, committed, and well-motivated sales force.

“Winners” plan, organize, lead and control efficiently and effectively. They recognize the need for well-oiled Machinery; sufficient Monetary and Material resources; a large and committed army of volunteers and paid Manpower; a clear, catchy, and resonating Message; and an efficient and competent campaign Management. Those who do not recognize these are “losers”. 

PNoy is a winner by all standards. He aptly portrays the meaning of this quote:

            “Watch your thoughts, they become words;
              Watch your words, they become actions;
              Watch your actions, they become habits;
              Watch your habits, they become character;
              Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

His “Daang Matuwid”, “Walang corrupt, Walang mahirap,” and “Walang Wang-Wang” were words that became actions; actions that became habits through the GPS (Government Prosecution of the Sleazy); habits that built his character and those of his Cabinet led by the “Furies”; and a character that guides not only his personal destiny but also most especially that of the Filipino nation.

PNoy anointed Mar Roxas not only for the words that they share, but their common commitment to action. He is convinced that Roxas is “in the best position to continue the gains of Daang Matuwid.” 

Both personify the right character for the Presidency: Honesty, Humility, Hope, and Honor. PNoy has chosen a winner because he is a winner. The current surveys do not bother him. He will lead the strongest sales force or campaign machinery like no other. He and this machinery will promote his anointed “horse” by informing the public of his record and how he was and is an effective partner of the still unfinished “Daang Matuwid”.  He and Roxas will create a new and greater demand.

Grace Poe? She should start acting like a “winner”. She should not put things off. She should understand the value of time. Life is limited and every moment counts. Spending endless discussions with President Aquino and his potential successor Mar Roxas about her plans could have been spent more productively.

She claims to be preparing a “Platform of Government”. Running the Philippine Government with all its extensive bureaucracies is not running a Student Council. I know whereof I speak. PNoy and Roxas are offering her a winning, ready-made and successful platform resulting from experience, empirical studies and learning from mistakes. She is given 6 years to experience and learn the art of governance as preparation for an eventual Presidency.

For fear of being dubbed a “loser”, I am repeating my suggestion involving the Roxas-Poe tandem for the last time.

Grace Poe: Be a Winner!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

2016: Age of Discernment

Pope Francis’ Prayer:

“On the President and people of this beloved land of the Philippines, I ask Almighty God abundant blessings of wisdom, discernment, prosperity and peace,”


Discernment has been defined as ”little more than the ability to decide between truth and error... the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. It is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically.”

There are no ambiguities. If it is wrong for your Uncle Jojo, it is also wrong for Tiangko. If it was wrong yesterday, it is also wrong today.

The 2016 Presidential election requires enlightened discernment on the part of the country’s movers, shakers and sovereign people. This is why Pope Francis’ prayer for abundant blessings of discernment on the “President and people of this beloved land of the Philippines” was both timely and fortunate.

PNoy went through a process of discernment on this one as he has done on other significant issues during his entire tenure. But it carries greater weight because of its historical importance and its effect on current and future generations.

PNoy’s Endorsement of Mar Roxas:

“I trust that you are aware that a lot is at stake, and you can't just leave anything to chance – maybe they would continue what we started, maybe they would hold accountable those who are corrupt, maybe they would improve on the economic gains and delivery of services. Maybe they would remain on the straight path.

But for me, why would we be enticed by a 'maybe' when we have the sure thing? Number one, someone who's certainly competent, certainly with no other boss but the people, is not indebted to anyone, and certainly has no other interest but the nation's.”

Aquino also addressed Roxas' low popularity ratings, which he said would go up once he is "introduced well" to the people.

“If his current numbers are low, this only means we have to work harder on making him more well-known," the President said.

While a not so well known Mar Roxas has been generating a not so great a demand, a truly better described and promoted Mar Roxas as a “supply” would definitely create its own higher demand.

I wrote it before, and I am writing it again, “The next President of the Philippines is the one endorsed by PNoy.” This is, of course, based on the assumption that the necessary factors are in place – meaning, that Roxas does not take things for granted and that the LP Machinery, its supporters, its resources, and its Message are efficiently and effectively managed.

Many political pundits and analysts are of the view that historically, the endorsements of incumbent Presidents did not help their chosen candidates. Joe de Venecia who was endorsed by President Ramos lost. Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ) who was endorsed by President Estrada lost and President Arroyo’s candidate Gilbert Teodoro also lost.

Discerning certain facts belie such a historical analysis. First, President Cory Aquino helped Fidel Ramos win. PNoy would actually be repeating history. Second, when Presidents Ramos and Arroyo endorsed their candidates, each had a low net satisfaction rating of +19 and -17 respectively. Third, when Estrada endorsed FPJ, the former was detained and no longer in government. Furthermore, FPJ was cheated out of the presidency. Most importantly, PNoy has a net satisfaction rating of +30 and climbing. He has a successful record to boot, achievements attained, and reforms to be continued. He is an Aquino who is in full control of the government machinery and has the loyalty of the Yellow Army.

In an earlier column, (Read http://benmaynigo.blogspot.com/2012/08/mr-palengke-in-dilg.html), I suggested for all its worth, that Mar Roxas be put at the helm of DILG. I wrote, As I mentioned above, if PNoy wants continuity and stability, he should put Roxas at the helm of DILG immediately. The latter has PNoy and Robredo as role models and standards. He would have about three years to meet, show, or if necessary be trained and molded to fulfill the required role. Macho he must be.

‘Since Robredo is a “tough act to follow”, it would be cowardice to avoid it. Roxas must accept the challenge. He must ask, in fact, demand that PNoy appoint him as DILG Chief. He must assert his leadership at the LP and get the party to endorse him precisely for the party’s and the country’s future.

‘I am convinced that it is in DILG that we can find a new generation of young leaders who would emulate PNoy, Robredo and possibly Roxas in preparing and instituting social, political and economic reforms for the sake of the current and the next generations.”

Roxas became the DILG Secretary. If he did what I expected he would do during his tenure, Roxas should be more than ready for the presidential battle. He can count on Pope Francis’ prayer and PNoy’s endorsement as additional blessings!