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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Learning Ethics From A Raffle Ticket

Thanks to my mom, who has declared me a "luck magnet" where raffles are concerned, I do have to confess a more-than-usual interest in reading the rules and regulations of the raffle contests I have taken part of - yes, I'm one of "those" who actually reads the fine print.

Mainly because I want to win, to use local parlance, na walang sabit. (With no hitches.)

The part that always caught my fancy as a child was the perennial provision that says: Relatives of employees of XXX Company, up to the second degree of affinity or consanguinity, are prohibited from joining the contest. I didn't know those words at that age, so I would end up always looking in a dictionary for what they meant.

Affinity is defined as a "relationship by marriage, or by ties other than blood."

Consanguinity is defined as a "relationship by descent from a common ancestor; kinship."

(Definitions provided by

I remember asking my mom about it when I accompanied (read: forced to carry the grocery bags) her to Cherry Foodarama, back then it seemed like a "hit supermarket", located at Shaw Boulevard, which still stands to this day. She knew I would ask more incessantly, as most children do, so she gave a terse, concise answer: para walang duda ang pagkapanalo mo ng raffle. (So no one would doubt you as the winner of the raffle.)

I would understand this later on, and strangely, it would be part and parcel of what formed my personal conduct.

From an ethical point of view, it certainly makes sense: A customer who wins should be drawn out randomly and should have won it fairly, using only the laws of probability. There can be no issues concerning tampering, as this would void the raffle results. Human mistakes should also not figure in, and more specifically, human intervention must not be a factor in deciding a winner. Which leads nicely into the provision about affinity and consanguinity.

Employees of a company would be privy to many data and facts that outsiders/customers would normally not be cognizant about. How many tickets are issued, what the raffle ticket serial numbers are and where were these particular numbers assigned/delivered to, how many tickets were actually returned to the company, etc. Knowledge of any one of these factors, or a combination of two or more of them, would be considered "insider information", and anyone who has them would have an advantage in trying to thwart the laws of probability.

Again, it leads nicely to the question of "who would gain from the insider information", which we have already identified as the employees of the company. Therefore, it is imperative and essential that in order to prevent any doubt as to the raffle winner results, employees are barred from entering the contest. The "affinity/consanguinity" provision (I'll call it the ACP Provision from here on out) also recognizes the possibility that employees could also ask relatives to "join the raffle" and then manipulate results in such a way that it is their relatives that end up "winning", colloquially called "kakontsaba" (working in collusion) and they can just split the spoils of war, or in this case, the raffle prize/s, into a specified arrangement later on.

I have never seen the ACP Provision stricken out, except for informal raffles in events like college reunions, which are really more of a fun activity than something open to the public, which needs to be regulated by a government agency. But let me share a true story relayed to me by a friend who recently attended her college reunion, in order for us to appreciate this provision further.

They held their reunion in a huge hotel, and after the usual pleasantries were exchanged - including snarky comments of how fat/bald/old they have all become - there were two highlights that everyone was looking forward to: the hotel's celebrated cuisine (my friend commented "I've had's not bad, but its reputation led me to expect much more") and the raffle at the end of their meal.

The chosen emcee for the night was not a surprise: she was an outspoken student leader back in the day who practiced "social friendliness" long before Facebook was even a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg's eyes. She was announcing the winners of the raffle (numbers announced were based on their meal/admission tickets) and as usual, the "top" prizes were the ones eagerly awaited for.

That list included an all-expense paid trip for two to Hong Kong/Macau, an expensive watch, and an overnight stay at a local hotel.

The emcee herself won the trip, while her boyfriend won the expensive watch.

And the emcee, owing to her sociability factor, was part of the planning committee that organized the reunion.

My friend described the reaction of the audience: It became painfully obvious that the ones vigorously clapping and cheering were the emcee and her boyfriend, there was only a smattering of polite, weak applause, people had their eyes bulging out, looking at each other. There was palpable whispering, and the general consensus was: Ano yan, linuto? (What was that, a rigged event?)

The party went on, and my friend said that she was sure the "winning couple" could feel the weight of people's stares and thoughts on their "winnings", and they were very good actors for not letting on.

Questions of credibility and ethical behavior were invariably raised because of, let's describe it as "interesting" results. I do not doubt that it is statistically possible for both of them to have won, but the probability that they would both win the top prizes is very, very, very small, which explains why everyone was straining incredulity at the results. A factor that mattered for them was that the emcee was one of the organizers of the reunion, and would have a hand in the preparation and logistics of the event.

Raffle ticket pa lang yan, ha. Ang dami nang tanong at haka haka. (And that's only a raffle ticket, which raised so much questions and speculations.)

My question then, is: Why do we demand so little accountability, transparency and propriety from our public officials? Why do we subject them to a much lower standard of ethical conduct? Are we saying, as a society, that we care more for who wins in a supermarket raffle than testing the credibility and fitness of the Chief Justice of our judicial system, or the government head of the agency that oversees gaming in this country?

(Photo courtesy of

(Photo courtesy of

Why are we misplacing where our ethical concerns should matter more?

Why should public officials - who are public servants paid with public money - be "proven beyond reasonable doubt" if they have done something unethical, whereas the "lowly" raffle ticket has regulations in place that would seem to suggest it values credibility and ethics much more? That companies who run raffle contests are being too careful, too conservative, para hindi mabahiran ng duda ang resulta ng kanilang mga pa-raffle? (So that raffle results will not be tainted with any doubt?) They even have provisions about how the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) will receive any complaints, if there are any.

In contrast, public officials who are under investigation do not go on leave while it is going on, they can even manage to prevent co-workers from testifying in an investigation.

Is this what's become of us where ethics are concerned?

In hindsight, it wasn't strange why what I learned from the raffle ticket became part of my personal code of conduct.

And I didn't need to go to law school to learn its lessons.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Little Ethical Question

If someone heading an organization is the subject of an investigation, and that organization (anyone and maybe even everyone in it) may be asked questions and be made to render facts as a matter of investigation, is it ethical for the head of that organization to stay in position while the investigation is going on?

I am lead to ask this question because right now, we have two instances of this phenomenon happening right before our eyes like a political telenovela.

The more obvious example would be the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona, as it has been going on for weeks.

A more recent addition to this would be the case of PAGCOR chief Cristino Naguiat, Jr., who was recently named as a recipient of "various perks" by Steve Wynn, owner of Wynn Resorts, alleging that Naguiat received hotel accommodations ($6000 a night) and that his wife was also given an expensive designer handbag (which he denied in last night's news telecast), all for the "oiling" of permits for Japanese businessman Kazuo Okada to put up a gaming resort-cum-complex in the country. (Wynn also named former PAGCOR chief Efraim Genuino as accepting gifts from Okada.)

(Photo courtesy of

(See more here:

While it is nominally seen as Steve Wynn's attempts to protect his own gambling empire's profits (in Macau), Naguiat himself admitted that he did stay in the hotel paid for by Okada, but only because it was "standard industry practice".

Excuse me?

Section 7 (d) of Republic Act No. 6713 clearly states: "Public officials and employees shall not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan, or anything of monetary value from any person in the course of their official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office."

(See entire Republic Act here:

Let's apply the parts of this Section to Naguiat's case.

Naguiat is a public official. Check. (Appointed, but public.)

He accepted the hotel room stay, and admitted this. Check.

Hotel room costing $6000 is "anything of monetary value". Check.

He was being asked to approve permits for a possible venture of a private businessman, which falls under "in the course of their official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office." Check.

Mas maliwanag pa sa sikat ng araw na labag sa panukalang ito ang ginawa ni Naguiat. (It is clearer than the rising of the sun that what Naguiat did is exactly what this provision says is not allowed by law.)

For Naguiat to say it is "standard business practice" is something I consider as a flimsy and weak attempt to justify his taking on the hotel room.

For the Congressional Committee on Games and Amusement to say the exact same thing - "standard business practice" - is a sad commentary: Our own lawmakers accept bribery and corrupt practices as a matter of course.

Pres. Aquino would be hard pressed to continue his tuwid na daan (on the straight path) goals, the way he uses it to hit Corona, if he does not apply that same standard to his own appointees. What makes it more imperative is that Naguiat is an old classmate of Aquino, and produces more ethical dilemma.

Which brings us back to the "little" ethical question: Should both Corona and Naguiat stay in their posts - how telling that both are appointed, and both refuse to leave - while they are the subject of investigations?

My own code of ethics says this is highly unethical.

(1) The person in question has to ensure to investigators that he cannot tamper with any evidence that may be used in determining his culpability, which is obviously in his purview and control as the head of the said organization which he heads. To this end, I would also posit that ANY contact (verbal, through telephone, internet, an emissary) with any employee of the said organization should be disallowed/prohibited while the investigation is going on, as a person does not have to be physically present in order to instigate a cover up of any misdeeds, and any and all contact to his files and papers related to the performance of his duties should be suspended.

(2) The continued presence of the accused head of the organization within the organization makes it difficult to extract honest, objective responses from people who may be asked to shed accounts on their knowledge of the person in question. This can fall under the Observer's Paradox in the social sciences - the observation of an event or experiment is affected by the presence of others, especially if their boss falls under "the others". Knowing fully well that their responses may "come back to bite them" should the accused be cleared of the charges, they may opt to provide "safe" answers in order to ensure their own continued existence in the organization whichever way the judgement swings.

My parents had a simpler way of articulating these two points: "Huwag kang gagawa ng anumang bagay na magbibigay duda sa pagkatao mo."

Which really bears repeating for our public officials, especially in the conduct of their duties.

Do not do anything that will cast even a sliver of doubt on your character.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Open A Branch In Manila. Please.

I'm addressing this post's title to the owner/s of Persian Palate in Cebu.

I first encountered Persian Palate about 5 or 6 years ago. I was in Cebu for a work related event and was graciously hosted by my friend Annie and her husband Jet. As foodies from way back, she brought us to Ayala Center in Cebu (which has been given a massive facelift, from what I remember) and told us to try the food in PP. I have since tried to find an equivalent for it in Manila, with little to no success.

I was in Cebu again recently, and I have to say: It really is better the second time around.

As can be gleaned from the name, Persian Palate focuses on (from their website) "the best vegetarian and non-vegetarian food with the touch of Indian,Indonesian and Middle Eastern cuisine". I was actually surprised to find they have a website, as the restaurant itself has that rustic feel, and the food is only freshly prepared when you order them, accounting for a bit of a wait for the food to arrive, all of which seemed to spell out "old-school", where no shortcuts are taken.

As soon as Art and I sat down, his eyes gravitated towards the lassi, a yoghurt drink that has been popularized in Indian cuisine as a way to refresh oneself owing to the spicy nature of the preparation of their foods. They had different flavors, all of which cost PhP 95.00. Art took the mango variant, while I settled for the banana version.

(Side note: This isn't a tablecloth/butler service restaurant, so prissy eaters who focus on tasteful, pristine surroundings way above food quality need not enter this establishment. The almost dilapidated laminated menu is a testament to this.)

We had both agreed to keep things light - we were en route to the airport for our flight back to Manila so the lassi actually raised a red flag for me, but I decided to wing it since I wasn't sure when I would be back to Cebu. So the plan was to order an appetizer to share and a main dish each.

Boy, did those prices fool us. In the most pleasant way.

We started with the Aloo Parathas (PhP 75.00), which was described as a stuffed potato patty in their menu. I had originally wanted either the Spinach or Garlic Parathas (PhP 85.00 and 75.00, respectively) - sadly, they were not available that day.

Do not let its initial appearance fool you: this appetizer is filling. There were 4 pieces that arrived at our table, and after we had one piece each, Art suggested we had the others wrapped up for our plane trip. You are instantly immersed in the scent of curry and potatoes, along with other spices that I could not really identify, nor did I want to - I was too engrossed in the heady aroma and rich taste, that I feared it would be asking the magician what's behind the curtain to do so. (Plus, I do not really cook.) It came with a siding of mango chutney, for those who like it sweet. (The dish stands on its own, in my opinion.)

After we waited for a few more minutes (approximately around 10 minutes from when we had the appetizers wrapped up to go), our dishes arrived: Art had the Chicken Kebab Wrap (PhP 120.00), which was a slice of their chicken kebab stuffed in a pita bread - a large one - along with cucumbers, tomatoes and onions, served wrapped in foil.

I know they used chicken breast for their kebabs owing to the "no fat" appearance the kebab had, and its general leanness, but what surprised both of us was how flavorful it was (an "about to be burned" taste that wasn't bitter, just tasty).

You had two choices for the dip, a green dip that was "sobrang anghang" (too spicy) as described by Art, and a yoghurt dip (white), which was better for those averse to more-than-a-touch-spicy food.

My order came along right after: Stew Tofu, Eggplant Tomatoes (PhP 165.00), which was served with organic rice. (I actually didn't notice that it came with rice, I just wanted my veggies for the day.) It had a rich coating, (I'm assuming tomato was the base as it was predominantly red), but when it hits your mouth, it translates itself into an almost luxurious feel, which was (Art and I deduced) helped by adding cheese into the sauce in some way, shape or form, not visually perceptible but our taste buds were tingling with that hint, more like an undertone, of luxury that one feels when digesting cheese. It was also tangy, which was perfect to cut through any ickyness one gets after having had more than a fair share of cheese products.

Art's reaction when it first arrived at the table (and the server had left) was "Ano yan?!?" (What is that?!?) as it was really a dark dish, so much so that it obscured the vegetable components - eggplant, and tomatoes, only "lightened" up by the tofu cubes, which were steamed. This is a must try: Art actually began placing bits of my dish inside his kebab wrap.

A contradiction was that while the texture of the sauce was almost silky, the character of the dish was swarthy: large cuts of eggplant and tomatoes looked imposing along the more modestly presented tofu slices, but because this dish was stewed, they were easily serrated through using fork and spoon. The organic rice provided a perfect canvas to showcase the aromatic flavors of this dish - I think taking the dish alone would have made it guilty of "having too much flavor".

Our bill came up to a little over PhP 500.00, which really surprised both of us. The same themed restaurants we try in Manila would set us back easily at PhP 400.00 per head, and with miniscule servings and just a merely-passable quality in terms of both authenticity and taste. Persian Palate should be the template for people wanting to find out how to make vegetarian dishes not just bearable, but also delectable and something to look forward to, instead of something to tolerate for the "sake of heath and beauty".

Mr. Ahmad Vatandoost (listed as Persian Palate's founder in its website), please consider opening a branch of your restaurant for Manila patrons. I am sure that you will be very well received, seeing as there really are not that much restaurants that have Mediterranean fare on their menus here that do it quite as well as you do.


Persian Palate
2nd Level, Active Zone
Ayala Center, Cebu 
+63 (32) 232-6898
(They also have branches in Mango Square Mall and Robinson's Mall in Cebu)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I'm Not A Lawyer

Watching the impeachment trial a little more closely this week than when it began, one question began to dawn on me: are lawyers there just to complicate things?

It may seem rhetorical, and even funny. But seeing some senator judges and lawyers act this past week, I gather they enjoy hearing the sound of their own voices just a little too much, almost as much as dazzling (in their minds, at least) the audience both in the halls where the trial is taking place as well as those watching them through other media.

On the cab ride home last night, the AM radio was turned on, and at that very moment, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago was reacting - with extreme irritation evident - to reports that the trial has become a spectacle of technicalities, with no one getting any clarification about anything. She then expounded on how the law is all about technicalities, that lawyers had to go through how many years of studying to weather the intricacies of the legal labyrinth, and that those who know nothing about law or have not studied it enough should essentially just butt out, and called people who criticized her as nagdudunung-dunungan.

(Photo courtesy of

The cab driver caught my eye, and said it plainly: "Di naman ako abogado."

It brought home a singular point: it is we, the people, who are after the truth. We, the overwhelming majority, the ones who did not go to law school. The ones who voted these senators into power. The ones who are now demanding something basic and something very simple.

The truth.



Much of what we have seen from the tactics of the defense team has been subterfuge, confoundment, endless objections, even the ability to make up unfounded rumors of bribing on the part of the executive department, with the impeachment court practically doing nothing about it, aided in no small part by the perception that senators like Santiago and Arroyo have been taking their cues from the defense panel as to what they will "make manifest".

I remember Chief Justice Corona saying he has nothing to hide, that he will gladly prove to everyone that he is innocent of all the charges hurled against him in the impeachment trial. Then his team proceeds to block every possible avenue to verify his innocence. This smacks to me of the Bart Simpson defense: No one saw me do anything, you can't prove it.

The cab driver helped me distill this trial into a simple question, and a simple quest. We are not lawyers. We are citizens of a democratic country, whose public officials, whether elected or appointed - and I would say especially those who are appointed - should be made accountable, especially since WE pay their salaries. We have the RIGHT to know.

Save your legal doublespeak somersaults for your annual lawyers' convention. The truth is always at its most elegant at its simplest.

At the end of the day, a particular saying should guide us always, something I find to be applicable whether you are a student, a lawyer, a priest, even a senator.

People may not always believe what you say, but they'll always believe what you do.

Or in the case of the Chief Justice, what he doesn't do.

Veggies In An Unlikely Place

Having had to be at Newport Mall yesterday, I chanced upon Stackers Burger Cafe. I was actually looking for brunch since I hadn't had breakfast yet and it was past 11 in the morning already.

News flash for mall goers heading here: It starts off sleepy and late; officially it's open by 11AM, but you'd be hard pressed to find more than 50% of the stores ready for business. Some didn't even have personnel - the metal gates were pulled down - while others weren't really "ready" as employees had their hair curlers and what looked like sleepwear to me still on while fixing their stores up.

Stackers was one of the outlets that looked "on time" (read: the employees got there way ahead of 11AM to prepare for the day's business) as everyone was dressed properly, the manager was present and the place was lit up. On their floor, it was either them or McDonald's for brunch choices. (Another side note: never go to stores that say they're open for business at 11AM but the lights are down. I went to the restaurant beside Stackers and they said their chef hasn't come in yet.)

As can be gleaned from the name, it's primary product is a beef patty served in a bun. Or 2 burgers in a bun. Or 3...You get the drift. Which made me want to get something else, my irrational side getting the better of me. They also served fried chicken and the usual suspects, e.g. fries, the usual pair with burgers.

So it was no surprise flipping through the menu that my eyes gravitated towards the only vegetable entry I could find: Vegetable Omelette. (PhP 138.00) Of course, you could quibble that it really isn't strictly a vegetable dish, so I guess you could say this was the proverbial "lesser evil" choice (fat and calorie wise).

The food was freshly prepared owing to my being only the 2nd customer at that time, always a good sign. They have an open kitchen so you could see the preparation of your food. Utensils are provided already at the table in a basket with a linen cover, with containers of ketchup and mustard as well. (They use Heinz, which I like better than the other brands.)

The omelette was deceptively flat looking, and looked blah at first sight, even thought the hints of green were peeking under the egg cover. It came with 2 rather large pieces of bread, which had a hint of something I still can't name until now. (I should have asked the waiter about it.) It was a set order so it also came with a cup of coffee.

I decided to "butterfly" my omelette to see how big it was:

Yes, it practically covered the whole plate, including the bread that it came with.

I have to say I was not disappointed at all by the dish. The egg itself could have used a little more flavor, but the filling was pretty standard from what I normally expect and see from restaurants that offer this dish, and it sustained me until past 6PM so again, don't be fooled by how thin it seems when it's initially served at your table.

The bread was the best/unusual part, because it seemed like "plain white" but had a distinct but unidentifiable flavor that was pleasantly surprising. And the coffee was strong, the way I like it, so caffeine fiends can add this to their list of places to find unexpectedly good coffee, and I don't mean the mochfrappulatte orders we see proliferating in coffee shops, I mean actual coffee.

All in all, I had a filling experience (literally). I will have to go back in order to do justice to its namesake, that is, to actually order the house specialty.

Stacker's Burger Cafe
4th Floor, Newport Mall,
Pasay City (Across NAIA 3)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Prelude To The Main Event

This is essentially how I view the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

It is the not the main event, but we are given a ringside seat and a preview of how things will go, should the government pursue its case - is it cases? - against former President and current Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

(Photo courtesy of

You will recall that GMA appointed Corona to his current post, despite howls and cries on the legality of this appointment, of the "midnight variety". Father Joaquin Bernas, one of the framers of the Constitution, currently perceived as pro-Corona owing to the "rule of law" concept, says this in his Feb. 18, 2012 blogpost:

About two years ago I opposed the power of President Arroyo to appoint a Chief Justice during the two-month prohibited election period. I mentioned no names. I learned later that for that I won the ire of the current Chief Justice. She eventually did appoint him. I still believe it was wrong for her to exercise that power. But I am not the Supreme Court. 

(See more here:

His appointment as Chief Justice, and his response to that appointment, is the moment in time when he could have shown his moral fitness. Of course, we already know his answer.

The position of Chief Justice is unique in that it is the only "head" position (of one of the three branches of a democratic government) that is not elected by the people, but rather, appointed by the sitting President. Just to stress the oft repeated point by Father Bernas and other constitutional experts, GMA should NOT have appointed Corona at the twilight of her presidency, as there is a clear constitutional prohibition against this, during the time she did the appointment. (2 months before the national elections)

You cannot blame people for thinking that Corona will be doing all he "legally" can to ensure that should any case be filed against GMA in the Supreme Court he heads, owing his appointment to her, it will never prosper. The current tone and pace of the impeachment trial is the forerunner of what and how that scenario will unfold: technicalities to high heavens, TROs aplenty, a case where secrecy and hiding of documents seem to be the rule rather than exception, seeing as how it is "legal", "within the respondent's rights" and follows the "rule of law".

I do not know of any inquiry, scientific, legal or otherwise, where the facts/documentations/proof are hidden from scrutiny to arrive at an objective assessment, and more importantly, the truth.

Corona's lawyers are right in doing their job, that is to delay and defend their client at all costs. And, if we are to believe them, pro bono. I do not want to go into jokes about lawyers and their relationship with the concept of truth, we could be doing those until death. They are doing a marvelous job, and I would advise anyone who is facing a case right now to get the defense team services.

Oh, yes. GMA is facing those as well.

Another term has been bandied around, as to why the prosecution cannot admit any evidence. You want to talk about the "fruit of the poisoned tree"? Corona was appointed by GMA. She of the "Hello, Garci" scandal (and subsequent dubious "I'm sorry" speech), she who has close ties with the Ampatuans, she how was president when the ZTE scandal broke, the fertilizer scam surfaced.

She who appointed Corona at the midnight hour, against the Constitution.

Where were all these people then, the ones who cherish "the rule of law", who invoke it every time someone says anything about the Chief Justice?

That's one more term that has been thrown around like a badge of pride.

If the "rule of law" prevailed in 1986, Marcos is the legal and technical winner of the snap elections, duly declared by the Comelec then.

Since when did the letter of the law become superior to the spirit of the law?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wanted: Law-Abiding Lawmakers

I was about to sleep last night and just went online to check on the latest news feeds - I wasn't in the mood to hear the voices of news readers offering their opinions along with the news.

One item certainly caught my attention: A lawmaker wants the "evil" depiction of their profession in TV or films to be stopped.

(News video here:

(Photo courtesy of

The first thing that came to my mind was, "Is this a gag line?"

Rep. Aurelio "Dong" Gonzales, from the 3rd District of Pampanga, has proposed House Resolution 2140, with the rationale being "these negative typecastings influence the general public, especially the young children, into forming a negative impression about the members of the House of Representatives".

Kung hindi kami druglord, kung hindi kami murderer, kung hindi kami warlord, bakit ganyan?...Yung mga bata, may nakapagsabi kasi sa akin, ganyan pala yung mga congressman, mga masasama...

You know what they say about children, they have an instinct for cutting through the BS and just saying it straight.

Even for argument's sake that what these children said was based on how lawmakers are depicted on television and film, I have a question for Cong. Gonzales: Are you saying that these portrayals on the big and small screen have no basis in reality?

Wasn't Cong. Ronald Singson just released last month from his 18 month jail term in connection with the case of possession of illegal drugs, in Hong Kong? I remember because as soon as he arrived here, they held a mass to celebrate his homecoming. The juxtaposition of a jail term with the mass is something of a godsend for comedians as endless comic fodder, and thankfully, I am not a comic.

(More here:

Then there's Rep. Romeo Jalosjos, jailed for rape, and meted out two life sentences (the equivalent of 80 years) but was granted "executive clemency" by a paragon of upright morality (cough, cough), and was able to walk free last 2009. Notable in this instance is the non-admission of guilt by Jalosjos. I also just found out that all these years, Jalosjos is one of the owners of TAPE, Inc., which produces "Eat Bulaga", that long-running noontime show.


(More here:

And of course, who can forget the original "small lady", Pampanga representative and former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo? She is, as has been publicized, facing a plethora of charges: a civil case on her alleged role in the Maguindanao massacre, electoral sabotage and plunder charges as well during her reign as President.

More here:

To Rep. Gonzales: these are not the "figments of imagination" of some writers or directors who "portray" you as warlords, rapists, plunderers. These are facts. These portrayals that you deem unfair have their basis in reality. These are not kathang-isip (made up in one's mind), they were yesterday's news, today's news, and I have no doubt, tomorrow's news as well.

You do not make a resolution in order for people to have a good impression of lawmakers. You will need to walk the talk. You will have to act accordingly if you want to be accorded due respect and be seen as good examples to children. You do not go out of your way to blame artists for their ability to mirror what happens in real life unflinchingly and without apologies and reservations - they are being true to their calling, and to their craft.

As lawmakers, it is time to be true to your calling. That begins with upholding the law, not just in word, but in action and in deeds.

It's always been instilled in me by my parents that you cannot demand respect. You must earn it.

Let me know if this concept seems mind boggling, Rep. Gonzales. I will gladly patch you through to my mom for a full lesson.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Belo Irony

If you want to take a break from the seriousness of the impeachment trial hearings, nothing can be more effective in achieving that goal than the utter ludicrousness of local entertainment news.

Case in point: Dr. Vicky Belo. (And her inclusion as "entertainment news" really says much, much more than can ever be articulated by words.)

(Photo courtesy of

After her much publicized breakup with fiancee, Hayden Kho, she supposedly left the country before Valentine's Day to "heal her broken heart", and has recently arrived in Manila, amid rumors that she is seeing Mr. Aly Borromeo of the Philippine Azkals.

(See news video here:

When your romantic dalliances gain more traction than your actual work, you can congratulate yourself: you are a celebrity. And I don't mean "you are a celebrated person", but rather, like the often disparaging remark about Carmen Electra, who's famous for being famous, and not for actual work.

One can argue that the doctor has used her status as "celebrity" to further her practice, as evidenced by her opening clinics left and right. Fair enough. By all accounts, she works hard in her actual job.

But for her to decry about "privacy" is the height of irony, as she literally earns and makes a living out of her "celebrity". That is part of the deal: you get "celebrity power", your life, even the personal aspect, gets raked over. It might be a "deal with the devil", so to speak, but that IS the deal when you offer yourself up willingly for public scrutiny.

Besides, she arrived in a wheelchair, head and body covered by either a jacket or a blanket (just check the video in the link, it's all there), then stands up to give an interview when reporters are around, pleading for time to heal in privacy.

Ano ba talaga, Dr. Belo?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Miriam As Terrorist

In which "terrorist" is defined as "sowing terror in other lawyers and lawmakers".

(Photo courtesy of

Who doesn't know of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago? The picture above encapsulates what I think of whenever her name is mentioned: A finger raised for emphasis of a legal point being expounded, that stern, almost constipated look, that accent which I still can't see anyone perfecting in an impersonation act (I wonder if famed impersonator Jon Santos does or can do a good one?), and the vocabulary and speech: loquacious, verbose, prone to archaic references we mortals will never understand - nor want to - and, how do I say this last one without hurting anyone's feelings...oh, yes.


You may argue that she is merely showcasing what she has spent her whole life studying. (And also teaching in the University of the Philippines, where she also earned her law degree.) Yes, but an incident this past week at the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona served to remind us where she is coming from.

A pedestal.

She gave prosecutor Congressman Neil Tupas a "grade of 3", which means "I pass you, but I warn you", subjecting him to a lengthy "lecture" on foreign currency deposits in the country.

I am by no means a fan of Tupas, he and his team have been largely perceived with the following words: bumbling, neophytes, ill-prepared, tongue-tied. They must have done everything wrong already by this week of the trial. It doesn't help that they are pitted against a former Supreme Court Justice who would be one of the few lawyers who can go toe to toe with Miriam on the legal expertise front, Atty. Serafin Cuevas.

(Story here:

But for her to berate him, and to talk him down, as a senator-judge of the trial, treating him as an undergraduate in college while assuming the role of learned magistrate and professor, doesn't speak well of her character.

She could have merely pointed out what legal loopholes Tupas failed to consider that would allow Corona to withhold declaring the amounts in his bank accounts. She could have reminded him that Corona is using the law to his advantage, not an undue one, but one that is available to anyone else. She could have asked for a better argument, a stronger one, one that would render her speechless - wait, there isn't one invented yet to achieve that purpose.

Instead, she reveled in her "supposed" expertise: in the vernacular, wala ka sa kalingkingan ko. (The closest translation I can give is "You measure a mere pittance to the immense breadth of my gargantuan knowledge of the law.")

Her treatment of Tupas indicates one full of herself, one who thinks her amassing this much legal knowledge makes her a "better human" than the next lawyer, or even next layman, for that matter. Mixing this much ego with this much intelligence - can anyone say "megalomaniac"?

Many things in life are more important than an IQ score. Chief among them is how you use your intelligence - does it serve to help find meaning, and in this particular instance (impeachment trial), does it serve to illuminate, reveal, lay bare the truth? Or is this much intelligence employed to divert from the truth, do immense legal somersaults, obscure, make things muddled, to obfuscate beyond recognition?

We are in the classroom of life, Senator. There are no numeric grades to be given, because as adults, we are responsible for our actions. And there are no "repeats" or "warnings" in the real world, we take things as they come, based both on our actions and by circumstances. Not everyone is impressed with excess verbiage.

I wish all lawyers would be required to recite Occam's Razor as their oath.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The World According To Lagerfeld

"Celebrated" fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld of the House of Chanel (clearly, I'm not one of those celebrating, as I have no interest in women's fashion) has made his feelings clear regarding Adele, the barely-in-her-20's singer from the UK who has, judging by both her record sales and critical acclaim, taken the music world by storm this past 2011.

She's too fat.

(Photo courtesy of

Let me rephrase; the exact words were "a little too fat".

As if the insertion of the qualifier "little" makes it less uncouth and rude.

(See more here:

It doesn't matter that Adele is a heavy favorite - pun intended in this sad, twisted context - to make a sweep of the Grammys. It doesn't matter that people I know are genuinely surprised to see a Caucasian girl upon their first time seeing the video of "Rollin' In The Deep", her soulful voice seemingly suggesting otherwise. It doesn't matter that Billboard has made her the Artist of the Year.

All that matters to Lagerfeld, one of the fashion world's heavy-hitters, was that Adele was too rotund for his taste.

The backlash over cyberspace was felt almost immediately, with showbiz news outfits reporting online slogans like "If you like Adele, boycott Chanel" as the response of fans incensed by Lagerfeld's remarks. In fact, Lagerfeld himself has issued a retraction/apology - I'm not really certain that it was either - saying his remarks were taken out of context. And Adele, in a recent interview, also made it clear that she never aspired to look like the women in magazines, and that she is comfortable with herself, representing the majority of  real women in the world.

Let me make one thing clear: it is a fact that obesity has increased, at alarming rates, and that we should all strive to lead healthier lives, if only to enjoy a better quality of life. Many of our fatal diseases are preventable through changes in physical activities and diets. Childhood obesity, in particular, is on the rise, given our propensity for "fast foods" and lack of exercise, aided in no small part by computers and devices that do all the work for us. Striving to be healthy is a goal that could save one's life, and that is to be lauded and promoted.

But to publicly humiliate a person for her perceived size - what else is a remark like Lagerfeld's supposed to achieve? - is not at all in that category, or even universe. He is not her doctor, and is in no position to judge her health. His very statement is focused on how she looks, and not one motivated by a concern for her health.

I suppose his statement is not really surprising. Long revered as one of the "godfathers" of the fashion world, Lagerfeld has been part and parcel of a superficial, egotistical world, the ones responsible for dictating what it is that women see in fashion magazines, both online and in print, and what is supposedly deemed "desirable" - like that model with a 20 inch waist. The industry, one that is worth billions of dollars, preaching to all that failure to buy a particular dress or not undergoing a certain surgical procedure to "enhance" one's looks will spell your doom and destruction, in the social sense.

So his gaffe of negating Adele's magnificent vocal prowess is par for the course: he, like anyone else deluded in that preposterous world of equating the size of their waist with their self worth, can no longer see other humans as multi-faceted creatures that are complex, deep and reverberating a profound inner life. Dreams, talents, aspirations, fears - none of these concepts factor in for someone who has made it his mission in life to tell women to be dissatisfied with how they are naturally endowed.

In place, they would impose their tyranny of all women looking the same, with the body measurements of mannequins - if they had their way.

That really is the point I rail against: this notion that women have to achieve a certain look and size in order for them to be able to feel good about themselves. (And to also wear the wares they peddle.) That women should consider themselves as "failures" if they look even the slightest bit different from the "perfect women" who strut down the catwalks during Fashion Week.

Or a little too fat.

I have only recently seen pictures of Adele plastered all over. My first connection with her - and judging by her sweep of the just concluded Grammys, it will continue - has always been to her music. She made reference in her acceptance speech (as predicted, she won all the major Grammy awards) why her music seemed to connect with people, intimating that songs  like "Rollin' In The Deep" hit on something we've all been familiar with - "a rubbish relationship".

It is something that speaks of anguish, self searching, and of epiphanies about relationships, the shared human experience, and life itself.

I've always believed that an inner life, one that is content with herself and is at peace, will always exhibit radiance on the outside.

(Photo courtesy of, a preview of the March 2012 cover of Vogue featuring the Grammy winning singer.)

And here is Lagerfeld's version of radiance.

(Photo courtesy of

Judging from Lagerfeld's statement, it would seem that the fashion insider is, for once, in a world where the internal life is valued supremely over one's outer shell, an outcast.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Flashback To My Corona Years

An afternoon of driving through hellish, insane traffic conditions (the C5 stretch from Makati to Libis, then to the Ortigas area and the Makati-Mandaluyong Bridge) was tiring and stressful, as expected, but making the unintentional gesture of turning on the AM radio magnified the "news item" of the moment: the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, and pulled my focus away from the traffic I was stewing in.

(Photo courtesy of

As the radio commentators were going off on the undisclosed millions in his bank accounts (not disclosed in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth), it got me to thinking about the time when my family was in a similar position.

No, my father was not a Chief Justice. But he was a congressman. For three terms, to be exact. So I know what it means to be "in the public eye". My parents would always berate both my sister and I to be self conscious because how we acted reflected on my father's public perception. My mom was the disciplinarian - oh, the stories I could tell on how she wielded discipline in our home - and I knew my dad had little to worry about in that respect, as he was, for many times, too occupied with work.

But even though my mom never let us forget that our dad was a public official, I never did notice a perceptible change in the way we live, what we colloquially refer to now as "lifestyle". See, before Congress, my dad was a lawyer and an accountant, but not for Big Business, and while we were never hungry or ill-clothed, we would never be considered "rich" by any standard. In fact, judging by my dad's occupations, we were the epitome of a middle-class household. Both my parents were educated in good schools, and that was their ultimate goal for their children: to sum up my mom's statements, my sister and I would "go to UP or nowhere else".

That "no change" feeling became even more pronounced in high school. By then, the kids knew each other, almost all of us having gone through the same classes in elementary. I went to a private Chinese Christian school, and knew that our alumni included many successful business people. At the time I was there, I knew kids whose families owned a softdrinks company, one of the most mentioned architecture firms up to this day, a sardines company, a plastics giant, the most sought after restaurant in the Quezon City area, a printing press company - in short, there was no shortage of "luminaries".

Everyday, these kids would come through the driveway in luxury cars, with drivers and maids afoot. They had the "latest" signature bags and accessories (it was the height of the Esprit vs. Benetton dichotomy), and in a totally unheard of act at that time, one high school student gained instant fame after she supposedly "tossed" a hundred bucks as a tip at a local eatery.

Seeing that standard of affluence, I knew we were never on that plane, to begin with. My mom did explain to me one time, that being a public official was never the secret to financial success. She saw that in my dad - he never did steal a single centavo. In fact, if memory serves me right, he would painstakingly account for each and every expense that he made every day - maybe the accountant in him is what kept him with that practice. And I think his colleagues in Congress saw in him that same attribute, as he was Chairman of a Committee that was very sensitive regarding fiduciary matters.

We had a driver, and two cars. That was it - we had to carpool whenever our mom had things to do, and sometimes we would wait long hours at school because the driver - just one - was driving for everyone in the family. We didn't have millions in the bank, and certainly not billions. My dad was also a model for punctuality and attendance - he was present at Congress for most of the time he served, and there were years he was at the required meetings 100%. (They compile statistics like who had the most absences, who had the most money requested, etc.)

My dad has been long gone from the public eye, but when we talk about the state of affairs in the government now, and how corrupt and ingenious some public officials are with regards to wealth accumulation and hiding it from view, he would sigh audibly and shake his head. There was a time my dad was in power, but he never used that authority to abuse or enrich himself.

Sometimes I wonder if my dad was just naive, that he didn't know some of his colleagues are capable of such things as well. Until he said "You know, I could have worked for a multinational company if I wanted to be rich. Or a prestigious law firm dealing with high profile cases with settlements in the millions. But I knew what I was getting into when I ran for Congress. It's public service. Nowhere in those two words can you justify enriching yourself."

Those words now ring truer than ever, in light of the current impeachment process.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Religiosity As A Photo-Op

There should be a ban on taking pictures in religious places.

(Photo courtesy of

What conceivable purpose does it purport to exhibit other than the parading of how pious one supposedly is?

Lately, the "talk of the town" regarding boxing superstar and Philippine Congressman Manny Pacquiao is how he has become a "changed man": how he has incorporated Bible studies into his routine, how he has given up his gambling and womanizing ways, how he has more time to spend with his wife and kids.

I'm perfectly fine with him claiming to be "changed". I'm actually happy for his wife, who used to be interviewed all the time whenever there are rumors that Manny was seeing this starlet, or that woman. At least she doesn't have to field those kinds of questions, which are uneasy ones, to say the least. And the children get to see their father more - now who doesn't want to champion that?

And, as Manny is now benefitting from this right under a democracy, this should be made patently clear, anyone can change their religion. As a legislator who, in recent times, has been one of the Catholic Church's mouthpieces in Congress - especially where the RH Bill is concerned - he seems to be in a grey area these days: supposedly, this transformation is the result of his close association with either a born-again or Protestant pastor.

(For more information, please read:

Interestingly, the Catholic Church is claiming him as a "child" still: "Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez told reporters...that a Protestant pastor was guiding Pacquiao but that the pugilist has not changed religion."

One has to wonder why no religion would like to relinquish ties with Manny.

But I digress.

It really isn't my - or anyone else's - business what religion Manny chooses to affiliate himself with and believe in. That is one of the most potent signs of a democracy, the ability to choose one's religion without fear of being denied other rights, or suffering secular laws that favor one religion over another.

What I find disturbing - to the point of offensiveness - are the pictures of Manny, or anyone else, splashed across the front pages, barging in our purview, in an (unconscious or conscious) effort to communicate the supposed level of piety one is "into" right now.

In the picture above, you not only see him kneeling in prayer, you also find other politicians like former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza who just so happened to be right beside him doing the same thing.


It is taking all my powers to strain disbelief that this is exactly the kind of opportunism that politicians are known to salivate for, in the hopes of somehow currying favor with constituents and potential voters, and securing their tenure in public office.

Isn't faith supposed to be a matter of privacy? It would follow that since it is no one's business what anyone chooses as their religion, then the practice of your chosen faith should remain that way: private.

Yet, time and again, pictures of (especially) politicians (but also of people who live and breathe with any form of publicity, e.g. social climbers) fill up the front pages of our papers, participating in various religious rites and rituals, space that could have been utilized for more informative and worthwhile news reports, the kind that impacts our very lives, and not a bald faced attempt at lengthening some politician's career.

If I remember correctly, Jesus openly rebuked the Pharisees, who made it a point to show off their piety, and only for that very purpose: for show.

Something to think about, considering most of these people photographed claim to follow Jesus.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Till Annulment Do Us Part

Watching the news last night, I was struck by the headline: "Kris Aquino and James Yap's marriage officially annulled." Not because I am a starstruck follower of local show business - anyone who knows me would balk at the thought of my being one - but because it follows the news-making saga (still ongoing) of Rep. Ignacio "Iggy" Arroyo, and his death which revealed that he and his estranged wife have filed for annulment, and their marriage was also the result of the annulment of Arroyo's first marriage.

Of course, Kris was never acquainted with the word privacy - who else has the panache to discuss the dubious delights of contracting an STD on national television but the (self-dubbed?) "Queen Of All Media" - so the public is well aware of the annulment proceedings with her, I suppose we can call him ex-husband now, James. As for the title appropriated to her, she's certainly made it a point to bombard every public avenue possible to give us every scintillating detail of her life.

(Photo courtesy of

Even when no one was asking about them.

In both cases, as with many, many, many other marriages in our country, the only way to end a marriage while both parties are living is to file for an annulment.

Despite whatever legal somersaults lawyers put us through to spell out the "many" differences between a divorce and an annulment, they amount to the same thing: the dissolution of a marriage. In other words, di na kasal. It is only how they are viewed in legal terms - and more importantly, how they are viewed by both the predominant religion and society, that spells the difference.

And what a difference it makes in a Catholic country.

Legally, an annulment essentially says "the marriage never existed". This is exactly the part of law I detest and despise: with just a few verbal hoops, suddenly, one did not "put asunder" a marriage, because there - supposedly - was no marriage that took place.


Didn't these brides order a custom made wedding gown?

Didn't they have a wedding reception?

Didn't they give marriage vows in front of God, priest and every one in the barangay?

Didn't they have two beautiful kids? (One in the case of Kris and James.)

Didn't they remind you of their anniversary with a "thanksgiving party"?

Let's cut the crap, the endless rationalizations, all the BS.

Annulment gives couples a way out that is Catholic-approved, without ever crossing the divide, over to the dreaded D word.

A way to say to one and all, "Excuse me, our marriage was not valid from the beginning! I am still clean and holy in the eyes of God and the church!", maintaining a ridiculously hypocritical moral high ground despite the plain fact that a marriage was dissolved.

Don't bother selling me more BS. I've heard those for more years than I care to count.

It's no different from so many other stands people in this country take that perpetuate the myth of a pious, religious people, when the reality is, they are merely taking the method that allows them to justify doing exactly what Catholicism specifically prohibits.

If you think this is biased conjecture on my part, go to any online site that discusses divorce in the Philippine context, and you will see a common answer emerge from those who oppose it vehemently: "I am against it because we are a Catholic country".

I seriously doubt that the representatives who intend to file the divorce bill in Congress will succeed: People generally want to have their cake and eat it too.

That's what annulment does for this Catholic country: it ends the marriage, with minimal to no social stigma, leaving the parties free to remarry until the next annulment, and best of all, earning brownie Catholic points for "staying true" to church doctrine.

Besides, I've never heard of a church that gave back refunds for annulled marriages.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Stupefying Hypocrisy

Grabbing the headlines lately - other than that snooze of an impeachment trial - is the tempest brewing over who is to be recognized as the rightful "heir" of Rep. Ignacio "Iggy" Arroyo, who passed away in London a few days ago.

And brings forth the massive level of hypocrisy front and center.

The main characters: Aleli, the second wife of Arroyo, who married him after insisting he have a church annulment with the first wife, and both are in the process of annulment themselves when the untimely death happened; and Grace, the current partner of Arroyo.

(Photo courtesy of

Aleli's lawyer, known "celebrity" lawyer Lorna Kapunan (who represented James Yap and Hayden Kho, Jr. at different times) uses that worn out line people throw around to feel morally superior, but only given cursory acknowledgement where real-life actions are concerned - "what God has put together, let no man or woman put asunder."

Yet her very own client is undergoing the process of annulment herself - now moot with Arroyo's death - and insisted during their courtship days that Arroyo get both a civil and church annulment from his first wife, as a condition to get her acceptance to marry him.

Attorney, is it comedy hour? These revelations were given by you yourself. Using the vantage point of religion as your mantle of superiority is making me bowl over at whatever possessed you to even cite that admonition, seeing as to how your own client has been an active participant at least twice of the same thing your statement is admonishing against. Why the need to invoke some Biblical incantation, when clearly, everyone in this scandalous tale is of the fallen variety - at least by the standards of the religion you so assiduously cling to now, using its morality clauses as some kind of galvanizing weapon in order for you to induce shame in your client's opponent?

(Read more here:

As someone mentioned quite clearly to me, "Galit si No. 2 sa No. 3?"

It dawned on me - actually, again and again in our predominantly Catholic country - how unfazed we already are by the double standards we witness on a daily basis. It's come to a point where second wives who filed for annulment themselves see it their "right" to be called the "legal wife".

Yes, yes, I'm sure lawyers would love to pounce on me about how Aleli is legally within her rights to claim the title - one she got by inducing annulment in another marriage, lest we hide that under the rug so quickly - but seeing this sordid tale play out, hearing the impeachment trial over a couple of weeks, and recently catching a  rerun of Law Abiding Citizen starring Gerard Butler, is just driving home a most salient point - and an unwelcome one in a country like ours - that just because something is "legal" or "accepted by our religion" does not make it right or moral.

And so, it comes as no surprise that we have an abundance of  mind twisters (I had a different word in mind, self-editing in progress), from the land that cultivates hypocrisy proudly:

Anti-RH (Reproductive Health Bill) proponents practically screaming how "evil", "unlawful" and "sinful" it is because it promotes contraception - "clearly against God and our Constitution!" was how one post from cyberspace put it - but when they are reminded that natural family planning - the Catholic-approved birth control method - is also a form of contraception, with the end being the non-union of the egg and sperm, they twist themselves into monstrous pretzels just to rationalize their way out of it.

"It is open to the possibility of life!"
"There's no egg to fertilize, so it's technically not contraception!" (Which runs smack into one of their favorite religious stand-bys: every sex act is supposed to be procreative, and couples who engage in it without an egg to fertilize would be, to use their own religious standards, sinning.)
"The pope/priest said so, it's not contraception, and they are to be followed in medical matters."

And what about our opposition to divorce, on the hilarious grounds that "we are a Catholic country!!!", yet couples everywhere applying for annulments left and right, on the idiotic idea that "the marriage did not exist!" - despite the wedding gown, the expensive gifts received, the 3 children from this so-called non-existent marriage, and those darned lovely wedding photos - or accusing the other partner of being "unstable" or "incapacitated" despite having no basis in (medical) reality.

"It's Catholic-approved, so it stays!"
"Annulment is worlds apart from a divorce, it has no relation, they are completely different!"

Or telling gay people that they are "disordered" but still accepted by the predominant religion, as long as they do not "engage in acts of your sinful nature". That makes just about enough sense as telling a chef that he can proudly claim himself as one, yet barring him from ever cooking inside a kitchen ever made or ever holding any kind of utensil.

And when this stupendous level of hypocrisy is ever so slightly hinted at in the presence of overbearing religious zealots, they resort to the woe-is-me defense: "How dare you attack my religion!!! How dare you attack my constitutional right to choose my religion - and use that religion to enact secular laws that will legally compel even non-believers to comply with my freely chosen religion!!!"

Oh, look. A stack of plates. I have to go break them now.

You know, because everything's peachy.