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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In Delsa's Shoes

That is where former Chief Justice Renato Corona finds himself after yesterday's historic vote of the Senate on his own impeachment trial.

Fair is fair.
(Courtesy of

Anyone who followed the events yesterday could not have missed that with at least 6 senators, part of their reasons for convicting Corona gained much traction from a decision of the Supreme Court penned in 1997. Delsa Flores was a court interpreter, who was accused of hiding a market stall in her SALN, as well as receiving double compensation.

She was found guilty of concealing vital information in her declared statements and was immediately removed from her posiiton and perpetually barred from holding any public office.

(Read for the official Supreme Court decision.)

Delsa and Renato are now on equal footing.

Both were accused of hiding required and vital information from their sworn SALNs.

Both were adjudged guilty.

Both were removed from their posts and barred from ever having any public office.

From all the interviews I've seen of her, she seems relieved, more than anything else. She kept saying that it was good that they applied the same principle in convicting Corona, that if it was good enough to get her out of public service, Corona should be bound by those same standards.

It grates on my nerves when I hear why Corona is being subjected to a "higher" standard. Putting him through the Delsa Flores standard in not "higher", it is a basic requirement: honestly fill up your SALN. (Reminds me of people accusing those who push for gay marriage as trying to enforce "special rights".)

Honesty is one sterling quality of a sterling character.

Why imbue so much power and weight to the position of Chief Justice, if we expect him to just be like everyone else? That if he makes the "bare minimum", that qualifies him to take his now-former post?

Kung sabagay (Anyway), he didn't pass the Delsa Flores standard. Why should we subject him to a higher standard, nga naman?

This would be a good time to amend the SALN as well as the FCDA law. Even though senators believe that they could be harmonized, it would be best if amendments were introduced to both, so that future discussions are not saddled by legal language that is riddled with laxity in interpretation and abundant in ambiguity, allowing the reader to apply the law as he sees it fit to his situation, and more importantly, to escape public accountability.

The amendments should leave no doubt as to what is required of public officials. With exacting verbiage as well as a clear hierarchy of thse laws, to prevent further speculations as to which law would be considered "superior".

It looks like the former Chief Justice got his wish, after all.

Renato Corona has now been officially excused as Chief Justice of the Philippines.

And if they have the same shoe size, they can double their footwear instantly.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

We Are Watching You

All eyes here, now.
(Courtesy of

It seems brief, but those four words are something that the senators should remember when they make a historic decision today, in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona, as to whether he should be acquitted or convicted.

The prosecution and defense teams have stated their cases.

We were treated to a free circus show featuring a Screaming Banshee.

We were bored beyond belief at the seemingly never ending abilities of those who have studied and mastered the practice of law to engage each other in kilometric soliloquies, leaving most of us to wonder if they just love to hear their own voices.

In the end, it comes down to 23 votes.

The 23 senators who were also voted into office by the people.

It would do the senators good to remind themselves that they are the REPRESENTATIVES of the people. They were put in power - and precisely why they were Constitutionally mandated to be the judges for the impeachment of the Chief Justice - because this is a political process, and in a democracy, it is the will of the people that should reign supreme.

Whatever happens, we can all congratulate ourselves as a nation that we underwent this tedious, wrenching, sometimes painful process. It signifies one thing: we are maturing as a democracy.

And, just before the senators forget:

We are watching you. Do not make us regret why we voted you to your current positions.

We are watching you. Do not kid yourselves into thinking that public opinion has no bearing on the matter at hand. You are mandated to make concrete the will of the people.

We are watching you.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Corona and Our (Former) Maid

How odd that Chief Justice Corona's own statements should remind me of a parallel situation he is now facing with something that happened decades ago.

The telenovela. In a legal format.
(Courtesy of

Recall that during Corona's lengthy three hour "opening statement" where he walked out of the trial - no, there is no doubt that he walked out, unless you were watching something else when it happened - one of his emotional appeals to the masa (masses) was that they don't employ maids, as proof of how "simple" they live as a family, and that he wasn't used to an extravagant lifestyle.

The situation that parallels his happened ages ago.

I would like to categorically state that I do not have maids. This occurred in my parents' house, where they did employ household help. We had a cook, and at least two other helpers to do various chores around the house.

Most of our maids were from the Visayas region (as both my parents are also) and there seemed to be an informal, revolving door system of maids coming through our house, as some of them would get pregnant, or would be homesick, or just earned enough for a certain amount then would move on to something else. In short, they were temporary in tenure (some extremely so).

One particular employee was distrusted by my mom from the very beginning. She had reservations hiring her, but the person who we can loosely call the recruitment head assured my mom that she is a hard worker and so my mom relented. She also felt that by hiring them, she was somehow nakakatulong (being helpful) so they could send money back to the provinces to help their families as well.

True enough, my mom's instincts were right: Inday (a somewhat generic term for female household help) was tasked with cleaning the rooms, and she was able to go in and out the bedrooms freely. It was during these trips that she was able to pocket some money my parents left on their drawers, toiletry/perfume products, and even a piece of jewelry (I think it was a gold bangle).

My mom asked the barangay  (village) officials into our house to settle the matter (and of course, to terminate the services of Inday). They were confronted in the presence of many people so there would be witnesses. My mom was enumerating the things that she knew were missing, and Inday issued a denial after each claim. Exasperated, she went to retrieve her empty jewelry box and showed it to everyone.

My mom asked the official what she needed to do to place Inday in jail for the theft of her jewelry. This was the point that Inday changed her tune, with a sudden rush of defiance.

"Teka lang, teka lang! Wala akong kinukuha diyan sa lagayan na yan! Inaamin ko, yung pera dun sa drawer ni Sir, pati yung mga pabango, oo, ako kumuha nun, pero yung mga alahas, di ko yan ginalaw! Mamatay ako ngayon!"

("Wait a minute, wait a minute! I didn't get anything from that container! I admit, the money from Sir's drawer, and the perfumes, yes, I got those, but I never touched the jewelry! May I be struck dead now!")

My mom replied "so inamin mo rin na magnanakaw ka?" ("You admit being a thief?")

"Sa pera at pabango, oo, pero hindi ko kunuha yung alahas!" ("With the money and perfumes, yes, but I never touched the jewelry!")

And now, recall how Corona initially denied he had any dollar accounts. It was only when Ombudsman Carpio traced the AMLA report saying he had transactional balances of between $10-$12 million - an actual amount was given - that he was forced to say that he had only $2 point something million in his dollar accounts. (Actually, the initial revelation for this came from the PS Bank President who said in court that Corona has 5 dollar accounts with them. That was, of course, how the TRO against revealing their contents came into being, and in such haste.)

Corona is, in effect, admitting that he lied.

His insistence on highlighting the actual amount of the dollar accounts is missing the forest for the trees. He has proclaimed to one and all that he has no dollar accounts at the beginning of all this, and he is now saying that "it's not so bad, I only have $2 Million, and not $10, $11 or $12 Million, like what the Ombudsman said".

There is no difference with my mom's maid, who admitted that she stole.

Her insistence on highlighting the actual items stolen is also choosing to highlight a technical aspect against a substantive one: to say that "I only stole the money and perfumes, I didn't touch the jewelry, please, let's be clear on this!" does not negate the fact that she was a thief, and that she stole.

The consequence for the helper was that she was terminated, and recorded by the police as a thief. My mom didn't decide to push through with trying to have her incarcerated, naawa sya (she felt pity) knowing no bail will be posted by her family.

Are we willing to live with the consequences of having the Chief Justice of our entire country acting so blase and nonchalant about something so integral to one's character as telling the truth? That his defense for lying to our faces with a straight eye was "it wasn't that big an amount, it's much smaller"?

We cannot live with those consequences, unless we are willing to accept that truth, justice and honesty are essentially useless concepts that have no place in our judicial systems, where specific legal technicalities and loopholes are being utilized to thwart these very same things, ideas that we tell the younger generation are what our forebears fought for valiantly and must strive to uphold in our daily lives on an individual basis.

We can't live with those consequences. We shouldn't. We won't.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Matter Of Character

Since Chief Justice Corona is in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) of Medical City, the impeachment proceedings had to take a break, which left a vaccum after his dramatic walkout from the Senate a few days ago. Coupled with the fact that work was piling up, my only update was to turn on the AM radio on my way to conduct class.

In the case of Words V. Action, guess who wins.
(Courtesy of

I chanced upon Karen Davila (not sure who her co-anchor was) talking about it, and she said something that struck me. She was asking people to refrain from personal attacks on the defense lawyers.

It seemed to her that the verbal barbs against Corona's team were just a little bit below the belt, and she reminded her listeners that everyone has the right to a defense attorney, and asking people to empathize and imagine if any of us were accused of something we didn't do, we would also be relying on the services of a lawyer to state and plead our case.

On the surface, I agreed with this. Corona has all the right to hire the best lawyers money can buy - or, in his case, pro-bono, as his lawyers have stated on more than one occassion to ensure that we don't forget it. He is entitled to his day in court, he has the right to refrain from speaking on account of self-incrimination.

Which led me to wonder, why was online commentary bordering on the personal, both about Corona and his lawyers?

I can think of two reasons.

One, none of those rights are being denied.

He has a powerhouse team of lawyers, led by Serafin Cuevas, who a friend described as a "rockstar". The reason the trial came to be is that serious charges were made against him and he has a legal, official venue for stating his case and refuting them, as this is all provided for in the Constitution. No one is forcing him to say anything if he feels it will damage his case or render him in bad light.

His team has been most effective in delaying his appearance in the trial. Throwing every technicality in the book, they managed to trim down the Articles of Impeachment, they were able to prevent dollar accounts from being fact, the defenders of Corona have repeatedly ridiculed the prosecution team as inefficient because what the defense team has been doing is using every imaginable weapon provided for by law they have at their disposal to make sure that pieces of evidence are discarded or made irrelevant, testimonies are stricken out, and other actions that prop his case.

In short, he has actually utilized the law and the attendant rights to his full advantage as a defendant in this impeachment trial.

Unless anyone can pinpoint a way that his rights as a defendant have been violated, I cannot see any of his lawyers claiming the same.

And because of the efforts of his team, we have before us a sea of technicalities that do not provide us an ounce of clarification. Instead of confronting the charges head on, the thrust of the defense has been to limit the things the trial can discuss.

Most people are not lawyers, so we have a lesser appreciation of the finer points of legalistic sparring that both teams have been engaging in. But what we can see is happening is that issues are not being discussed, but rather, being prevented from being opened and dissected.

And those actions (or non-actions) are something everyone can weigh in on without the benefit of a law degree.

Our actions are a barometer of our moral compass, and our character.

Which brings me to the second reason.

It is imposssible not to be personal where one's character is concerned.

Our actions beg the question Why?

Why did you throw the trash on the pavement instead of looking for a trash can?

Why did you tell your friend's parents her secret that you swore you would never tell anyone?

Why did you choose to defend this client?

Everything that we do points to something in our personal code of ethics, our sense of right and wrong, our konsyensya (conscience) as we say it in the vernacular, and in the Safeguard commercial.

It's the inner voice we all have.

The one that tells us something isn't right if we vote for Jessica Sanchez since we are not American residents, explicitly stated in the rules as only those qualified to vote for her.

The one that tells us that President Aquino should follow through on his support of the RH Bill since he has verbally acknowledged it as a priority measure, and not to backtrack against his own word on account of the threats of a particular religion.

The one that tells us that when you try to hide things and prevent others from scrutinizing them, there must be something worth hiding, especially if the person holds a public office, paid for with public money, and demanding public accountability in our Constitution.

We may not be versed in legal verbiage, but we all have what Spider Man calls his Spider Sense, a warning device that indicates that something isn't quite right.

So I'm afraid that I cannot indulge Ms. Davila in her plea to prevent us from judging Corona and his team on a personal basis.

Can't do it, Ms. Davila.
(Courtesy of

As the Chief Justice, he cannot rely solely on legal precedents and textbooks to form his opinion. The decisions he issues have a profound impact on what is to be valued, on what is defined as justice, differentiating what is legal from what is right. The very act of rendering a judgement is a testament to your own sense of right and wrong, to what values you subscribe to, and to what matters to you as a person.

It's a matter of character.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

All For Naught

That seems to be the recurring theme with the big news items this past week. Let's get on with it, shall we?

The Concert Protest

She-devil locks, according to protesters.
(Courtesy of

A group called Biblemode Youth, a city mayor, an ex-mayor who testified on behalf of one of the "news stars" this week, an election lawyer who also found posters of scantily clad men on Edsa offensive (his silence on scantily clad women is deafening). All of them protested mightily against a concert artist/performer who would've made David Bowie and TAFKAP (The Artist Formerly Known As Prince) blush, Lady Gaga.

To no avail.

Gaga opened her concert with a dress that went viral on the assumption that is was inspired by the Filipiniana (national dress), or something that was sold in Kultura, owned by SM, who also owned the concert venue where she performed. (Two of many theories about her first "costume".)

She even performed the supposedly satanic song "Judas" and made a statement to the censors, otherwise known as the local government.

As far as I can tell, none of the people who saw her perform disengaged their torsos and started flying around with their humongous bat wings scouring for commuters to feast on after the concert. I really can't say if some had a debaucherous orgy since the sex lives of others are none of my business. As for the ones who said that listening to her songs will "make one gay", how so you explain those who are gay and have never heard her songs? (Yes, I'm rolling my eyes.)

Those protests - all for naught.

Filipino Voting Power

Admit it. You opened your mouth wide also.
(Courtesy of

Spoiler alert (as if you didn't know by now): Jessica Sanchez lost AI. The WGWG, PP, won.

Yes, these terms were suddenly common for those who followed American Idol this season. AI, of course, stands for the name of the competition; PP are the initials of the winner of this season, Philip Phillips. White Guy With Guitar, now this is the first time I've heard of it. (The running in-joke being, for the past 5 seasons, it has been the WGWG winning AI.)

And Jessica? How could she have lost with the Philippines being touted as the texting capital of the world, and I wager we are in the top 10 for online voting as well?

My friend Jed theorized - and I agree with his observation - that the AI voting system was probably smart enough to invalidate any votes that were not cast from the continental USA or any of the U.S. Territories.

The rules were clearly stated in the American Idol website, as to who can vote.

I've always thought it was rather odd when I saw so many posts on my Facebook feed urging everyone to vote for Jessica Sanchez. The first thought I had was, "are we even allowed to do that? Isn't that a distant relative to, uhm, flying voters?" (Thanks to another friend, Atty. Tess, for reminding me of the term.)

I didn't say it out loud because even though I cannot be considered a fan of AI by any stretch, I didn't want to rain on the parade of so many people who were really well meaning about wanting Jessica to win.

It seems like the votes from the Philippines and Filipinos all over the world were not counted, kasi kung yan ang magiging batayan (because if that was the measure), then I have no doubt Jessica would have won.

And if money was spent in making those votes from outside the USA, guess who was winning by raking it in.

All that online campaign and voting - all for naught.

The Chief Justice's Revelations

I wanted to peek inside his script.
(Courtesy of

To my mind, this was the big enchilada this week.

After months of staying away from the actual trial - but not television stations, radio programs, and other places where he could air his side without taking an oath - Corona finally took the witness stand in his own impeachment trial.

He took his seat.

He asked that he be allowed to speak, an "opening statement", if you will. Which we all thought would be a quick summary.

He proceeded with a three hour soliloquy.

He lambasted the government.

He brought up Hacienda Luisita.

He warned of consitutional crisis.

He said his relatives were all maligning him and his wife, that they were all liars, and what they said were all lies.

He made a Powerpoint presentation to refute Ombudsman Morales' similar presentation.

He made statements about a dead man - a relative - who could not be revived to defend himself.

He wept copious tears in certain parts of his "opening statement". (I wanted the television cameras to zoom in his prepared speech: did it say (Cry here)?)

He was defended by Enrile, when the prosecution wanted to question the propriety and regularity of what he was doing, and was given extremely wide latitude by the court. (It also allowed me to crunch numbers for many reports I had to do.)

He made a show of saying that he would sign the waiver that would allow banks to open his bank records.

He then challenged the 188 congressman who signed the impeachment complaint to do the same. And Senator Franklin Drilon.

He folded the waiver in his suit pocket, saying if they won't sign, then his signature also meant nothing.

He then said, in all his majesty, "And now, the Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines wishes to be excused."

He then walked out, head high, family members on cue to also walk out together with him.

He proceeds to a fire escape, because that's where diabetics who feel their symptoms coming on naturally go to. (More eye rolling.)

He is blocked from exiting, where Cristina asks "Is this Martial Law?"

He returns in a wheelchair.

He is now in the ICU of a hospital where his son in law is a doctor, and a relative sits as one of the hospital's board of something-or-other, confined for 48 hours.

A day we all thought the truth would finally surface.

A day we thought Corona would subject himself to the rigors of cross examination, being a lawyer and the highest justice of the land. A day we thought he would use evidence, not just sparring words, to refute all the allegations against him, being a lawyer and the highest justice of the land. A day we thought he would observe the most stringest of courtroom decorum, being a lawyer and the highest justice of the land. A day we thought would be the triumph of factual reasoning, and not of emotional propaganda, being a lawyer and the highest justice of the land.

After months of waiting, Corona enters the court, makes a speech and walks out.

All for naught.

Sayang lang.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Message for Senators Escudero and Pimentel

So we don't matter?
(Courtesy of


I saw a snippet of your interview this morning regarding the appearance of Chief Justice Corona today on his own impeachment trial. The interviewer wanted to know how much public opinion would weigh in your final decision regarding Corona.

Both of you answered that public opinion will not be a factor in any way when you arrive at a decision, in determining whether Corona is still fit to stay in his current position as Chief Justice.

Some notes:

(1) The impeachment proceedings - a political process.

(2) Why the need to televise the whole shebang if public opinion has no bearing on the proceedings naman pala? (anyway)

(3) Senators are also called Representatives. Which means you speak for us. If you say public opinion doesn't matter, who are you representing, then?

And finally, you do know your tenure is temporary at best, yes? Your evaluation will be a period known as "elections". If I remember correctly, candidates practically grovel and beg for votes during this time, walking in the sun, kissing babies, acting like teenybopper stars, singing and dancing, generally making a spectacle of themselves.

Strange stance for someone who fought tooth and nail for their position.
(Courtesy of

Something Lady Gaga does, but at least she doesn't do it under the pretense of "public service".

So, a little refresher may be in order.

It's time to reacquaint you with the power of public opinion.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Notes On The Gaga Protest

The anti-Christ is supposed to be cute and cuddly?
(Courtesy of

(1) Are you aware that the Philippines is a democratic country?
     - Yes, they drilled that to us in Social Studies. And I vote, so, yes.
     - No. Only on paper. In reality, we are a theocracy. Sssh.

These must be the strings of hell?
(Courtesy of

(2) People are free to choose their religion in the Philippines. Agree?

     - Yes. It's part of democracy. Also the reason we have action stars for senators.
     - No. If you're not Christian, you have to convert. If you don't, your civil rights will be revoked.

The look that makes people satanic?
(Courtesy of

(3) How has Lady Gaga affected your life?

     - I don't like her music. But that also means I don't give her money. Or attention.
     - Those costumes, that hair, those dancers...abnormal. She must be mental.

You still think she's innocent?
(Courtesy of

(4) If you could say one thing to Lady Gaga...
     - It's cool that you lobby against bullying. I don't have to download your tunes, do I?
     - Do you know that membership in our fellowship is only 1,000 pesos a month?

She killed animals for her clothes!?!
(Courtesy of

(5) What is your reason for wanting to ban her from performing here?

     - I don't. I told you, I don't care for her music. I like the Kermit costume though.
     - Years of guidance/indoctrination will be undone with one song of hers! Hello!

Foreign manananggal?
(Courtesy of

(6) Are you saying that she has more influence than your deity...she's more powerful?

     - Kulit ha. (So repetitive.)
     - It's a slippery slope. One song, OK. Two songs, danger. The whole album, my child is a satanist!

Need we say more?
(Courtesy of

(7) How does she compare with Madonna?

     - She has some catching up to do with Madge. But she's racking up points. I'm not interested ha.
     - They dress in almost nothing, therefore they must have been sexually active at 9 onwards.

The princess of the underworld?
(Courtesy of

(8) How does she offend your religion?

     - How can something I don't pay attention to bother me? Duh.
     - She isn't Christian. Everyone should be. That is true freedom, when no one has a choice.

This is what she will wear in the underworld?
(Courtesy of

(9) Isn't what you're doing an infringement of the rights of others who don't share your beliefs?

     - Obviously. You do know I read books, yes?
     - No. God's law is supreme...Free Will? No, I don't believe that. Only God's will.

The scepter is the proof?
(Courtesy of

(10) If your deity is all-powerful, wouldn't it be simpler to zap Gaga into smithereens?

       - Which deity? There are thousands.
       - It is according to his plan. We filed a case, all part of his plan. We march, part of his plan.

Evil has to bathe?
(Courtesy of

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Bible Quiz To Help Manny

This quiz may be beneficial to your new "quest".
(Courtesy of

Your objective:

(1) Spot how many biblical prohibitions are being committed.
(2) Support these with bible verses, otherwise they are inadmissible.
(3) Show what penalties are applicable, if any.

Bonus points: Identifying the offense clearly - e.g. abomination, displeasing, etc.


"Mom, can we please go to the mall with you and dad?"

Carla Rutherford looks at the pleading eyes of her children, Samson and Melanie. (Known collectively as S and M.) She thought to herself, how can I resist those big, dopey eyes?

"Alright...but Sammie, you must stop by Broono's while we're there, your hair is too long. And Mel, how about we take a mani-pedi session while Dad goes to his usual hardware store, otherwise known as his fantasy place?"

The children look at each other and nod vigorously. Mel pulls on Samson's arms like she usually does as the ate (older sister): "Don't go running off to the arcade again! I will not go look for you!"

Sammie makes a face and sticks his tongue out, and both kids go running to change their clothes, leaving Carla to do the same. She walks over to her jewelry collection, and sees the wedding ring from her first marriage. She sighed wistfully, remembering the time when her married name was still Carla Manalo. As Pablo was a seaman, she was used to him being away for long stretches of time. But when he never bothered checking up on her for almost a year, she started to get frantic.

That was more than 10 years ago. Calls to the company he worked for resulted in one lead: he left the ship when it docked in Greece and was never seen again. A court had ruled that her marriage was now null and void, having had no contact with Pablo for years. On the day it became official, she decided to go to Rack Well and buy something nice for herself, determined to mark the end of her sadness. That was when Patrick Rutherford happened to be strolling the same mall as well, and the rest is history.

It was only when she had fallen - hard - for him, that he revealed he was in the process of divorcing his wife, whom he married straight from high school. (California laws make divorce very complicated.) But she stuck by him, and Carla convinced him to "turn Catholic" (even if only for show) so that everything would be aboveboard when they faced a priest in what both would call their second marriage.

While perusing through her closet, she saw the rows of cotton-polyester shirts her husband loves to purchase more than wear, and spotted an unusual color that reminded her of steamed crabs. She used her palm to hit her head, remembering just then to call for reservations at their all-you-can-eat crustacean place, which was definitely standing room only on a weekend.

"Ma'am Carla!" A familiar voice greets her, their favorite waiter, Rod. "Wag kayo magalala. (Don't worry) Your table will be ready by the time you all get here. And para ke (for) Sammie-boy, double porkchops, as usual?"

"Salamat, Rod. Oo, kasi allergic sya sa alimango, eh." (Thank you, Rod, yes, because he's allergic to crabs.)

After putting the phone down, she spots her favorite pair of jeans and decides to wear it, since she will be getting down and dirty using her hands, anyway. She snaps on her pearl earrings, and steps on the weighing scale. She decides to read it in kilos, because she never likes the figure when it is in pounds.



Answer Key:

(1) Getting a haircut.
     "Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard."
     (Leviticus 19:27)
     No punishment stated.

(2) Women are not permitted to teach men. (2 counts: Mel to Sammie, Carla to Patrick)
     "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man, she must be quiet."
     (1 Timothy 2:12)
     No punishment stated.

(3) Gold and pearls are forbidden to be worn.
     "I also want women to dress modestly...not with braided hair...or gold or pearls..."
     (1 Timothy 2:9)
     No punishment stated.

(4) Secular declarations of nullity are of no consequence in unions "presided by God".
     "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh...what God has joined together, let no man separate."
     (Matthew 19:3)
     No punishment stated.

(5) Carla and Patrick are committing adultery, since the Bible hardly acknowledges divorce.
     "If a man be found lying with a woman married to a husband, then they shall both of them die."
     (Deuteronomy 22:22)

(6) More than one fabric on clothes is not allowed.
     "Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material."
     (Leviticus 19:19)
     No punishment given.

(7) Crabs do not have fins or scales.
     "Anything living in the water that does not have fins or scales is to be regarded as unclean by you."
     (Leviticus 11:12)
     No punishment given.

(8) Pork is also forbidden.
     "And the is unclean for must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses."
     (Leviticus 11: 7-8)
     No punishment given.

(9) Women must not wear pants, as it is manly.
     "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man...all that do so are abomination..."
     (Deuteronomy 22:5)
     No punishment given.

(10) The weighing scale is abominable when it shows kilos and pounds.
       "Diverse weights...and measures, both of them alike are abomination to the Lord."
       (Proverbs 20:10)
       No punishment given.


So, Manny, how did you do?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On Lady Gaga And The RH Bill

Unless you've been living under a rock these past few years, you would know who Lady Gaga is by now. Her "blood soaked" performance at the Grammy Awards, the sure-to-be-talked about "clothes" (the meat dress, the bubble wrap ensemble, literally wearing Kermit the Frog), her music videos that leave viewers wondering "What the...?!?". Anything and everything she does is almost guaranteed to keep people buzzing.

She's not blood soaked here.
(Courtesy of

As a child of this generation, the pop star has utilized platforms like Facebook and Twitter almost fully to her advantage: based on sheer online influence and reach, last year, she was named Time Magazine's Most Powerful Celebrity, knocking Oprah Winfrey off the top spot. It underscores the importance of social media in this day and age. (News for news and other media outfits who are still not on the cyberspace wagon: Get on it. Remember the dinosaurs.)

In what universe would she and the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill be sharing the same space?

The unlikely answer comes from Indonesia.

News reports have indicated that Indonesian authorities have revoked Lady Gaga's license to perform in that country (she was slated to perform there in June as part of her Born This Way Ball tour) after preselling 30,000 concert tickets. The reason: three Islamic groups have registered their protest and displeasure at the upcoming event, accusing the singer of promoting "satanic teaching".

(More here:

I initially dismissed the news item as a sad consequence of living in a theocratic country, until I read it further: did you know that Indonesia is a secular state?

Just like we are. Supposedly. But reading another news item yesterday - a priest urging people not to vote for lawmakers who support the RH Bill in 2013 - I began to see that, however unlikely, Lady Gaga and the RH Bill are actually occupying the same boat, on a route to nowhere. All because they both offend the sensibilities of a particular religious group.

Ever since our colonization from Spain, we have been subjugated by one sector long after the Spaniards have left us, and that is the Catholic Church. They have been so interwoven into our lives, they are already considered part of Philippine "culture", and no one blinks anymore at their blatantly direct involvement in politics. You can't get any more "direct" than stating to your religious flock who not to vote for.

As if you needed more proof of this meddling, the RH Bill has been languishing in Congress for decades. The most vociferous critic of the proposed measure is the said religion, with both overt and implied threats of their "voting power", rendering legislators largely immobilized by fear that they won't be voted into power for another term.

Most of the opposition of the Catholic Church stems from its reading of the RH Bill as a measure that supposedly will push people into having sexual encounters 24 hours a day, because artificial contraception is the "hidden" agenda of the bill. Online commenters who openly oppose the bill on the same religious grounds usually have the same retort: Bakit? Makakain ba ang condoms?!? (Can condoms be eaten?!?) It proves that there is a myopic, constricted view of what the bill is all about: sex.

It's not so different from one of the Indonesian religious leaders protesting Lady Gaga, who said that "she's a vulgar singer who wears only panties and a bra when she sings".

This obsession about sex reminds me of a statement by Stephen Fry, comparing it with people on a restricted food diet, who, because of the unnatural state, are naturally the ones most obsessed about food.

Dieters don't expect everyone else to go on the same restriction just because they voluntarily do it, do they? This analogy pretty much answers which group is most obsessed about sex.

Reading through the RH Bill and its provisions (there are several sites online that you can peruse), it is overwhelmingly a bill that pushes for education about reproductive health, and a measure that respects people's choices, religion being one of the bases for those choices. It will not, as one comment I've read puts it so animatedly, "sasaksakin yung condoms sa baga natin" (shove the condoms down our lungs).

But then again, most of the major world religions are not fond of the terms "education" and "choice". How could they, when they all insist that their body of knowledge - such as it is - is the only way to go, and any deviation from their religious code is an affront to their deity and beliefs?

At least, in Lady Gaga's case, all that will be affected will be her ticket sales. She earned $90 million last year, so I doubt her non-concert in Indonesia will cause a blip in her financial standing.

But what is the cost for the non passage of the RH Bill? We now have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Southeast Asia. I saw a newsmagazine show over the weekend that featured a town filled with teenage moms, one of whom was still playing with dolls because she was still a child herself, barely a teenager.

Without education, there is no way people can arm themselves.

And as for choice? Well, the 30,000 tickets that were presold proves that Lady Gaga has fans even in conservative Indonesia. Similarly, in survey after survey conducted by reputable firms, people in "the Catholic bastion of Asia" favor the passage of the RH Bill.

People can live without seeing a Lady Gaga concert.

Wearing animal rights on your sleeve. Or body.
(Courtesy of

But people are dying needlessly while the RH Bill gets kicked around as a political-religious football.

It is time for the government to score a goal for the RH Bill.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Corona Should "Come Out"

Coming Out is a term used in the LGBT community to describe the process more completely labeled as "coming out of the closet". It means a decision to lay waste to subterfuge, deception and fear, and allowing your real self to be exposed, and to publicly identify oneself as a member of the LGBT community.

(I have known of the term LGBT since the late-80's, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. I was surprised when one of my readers had to ask me what it meant, proving once again that the struggle of the LGBT is far from over, when the very term that describes the community remains unknown to some people in 2012.)

You should really consider coming out. Now.
(Courtesy of

So, why should Corona "come out"? He is, by all accounts - all 82 of them, sorry, I had to go for the in-joke - as straight as they come, so it has nothing to do with his sexual orientation or identity when I say that. But as I intimated, coming out implies one to be honest with oneself and with the world. There are similarities for both him in his particular situation, and for those of us who have made that trek. (So graphically described as pagladlad ng kapa in local parlance, or an unfurling of the cape. Not too incidentally, I believe this is where the LGBT group Ladlad derives its name.)

(1) Aren't you tired of hiding yet?

People who have come out of the closet - voluntarily, let me qualify that - are those who are tired. Tired of all the little stories they had to tell people as to where they really went over the weekend, who they were really with at the movie premiere, tired of having to sit through another heterosexual fix-up. Tired of hanging out with the "buddies" having beer and ogling half naked women in an attempt to be "one of the guys".

In Corona's case, isn't he tired of all the stress that he is going through? He has proclaimed, at the start of this trial, that he will face all charges "in due time". We only saw him on the first day of the trial in the audience, then poof! He has made himself scarce - in the trial that is. Yet, he goes on national TV, on various stations and even on radio, to "air his side".

Clearly he has something to say - saying it on trial will make it official. Much like those who have come out of the closet, who see it as an official break from their old life, one characterized by lying and putting up a face.

Or more likely, a farce.

(2) It becomes easier to see who matters and who don't.

One thing that became evident when I came out: I saw who, among those who identified themselves as my "best friends", saw me for who I was, and those who did not because I failed to conform to some "ideal", and that any break from that supposed ideal meant I was not worthy of being called a friend (let alone a best one).

Once you come out, you become quite adept in determining which people are worth your time, your affections and even your love. You learn quickly which relationships do not matter, or which ones are those you should cherish.

Has Corona considered what this trial has done to his family? They have been dragged into this, for public scrutiny, all because he is steadfastly clinging to his guns, trying to hide and make things murky, having TROs (Temporary Restraining Order) issued by the court he heads, having his lawyers resort to technicalities, in attempts to conceal information rather than to reveal.

(Of course, his wife is in the center of the BGEI scandal, so she has to answer for those herself. But the children, who have lives of their own, and are not in the country...they are now part of the vernacular, as party to something sordid, all because he has refused to be open about the details of his conduct.)

The common perception is that he is holding on to his position because he has to protect the person who gave him - illegally - his current position, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He is seen as someone who can provide legal obstacles to anyone who dares to bring Arroyo to be accountable for all the horrendous transactions and practices that happened during her term. (ZTE, fertilizer scam, "I am sorry"...I don't think we can list them all.)

If Corona comes out with the truth, it will be easier to see kung sino ang mas matimbang (who weighs more): his family or his benefactor.

(3) It decreases the chances of someone "blowing the whistle".

No matter how much you suppress who you are, if it's part of you, it will be revealed, sometimes sooner, sometimes later, but it can never be completely hidden. Related to the first item, it takes work to construct a "fake life" - just ask the government agency in charge of the witness protection program. LGBT people still in the closet spend considerable amounts of time, effort, energies, all into making sure that other people remain "comfortable" in their presence.

And is a classic recipe for paranoia: "Did someone just see me buy this book?"; "I hope no one saw the card I sent her that said "I can't wait to be with you, Claudia."" Your next note, your next purchase, someone could see it as a betrayal of your membership in the LBGT community.

And someone could spill the beans and force you to come out.

I don't think we need to regale yesterday's events one more time. Wait, I think we do, since Corona hasn't considered this point.

Now that is publicly outing someone.
(Courtesy of

Ombudsman (woman?) Conchita Carpio Morales has revealed in her investigations that Corona has dollar accounts with transactions that occurred in the millions. His blanket denial of the existence of the "$10 million account" now stands as a record of just that, a denial of the truth.

Are you waiting for more people to blow the whistle? Coming out is the best "defense" against people trying to find "dirt" on you. Once facts are exposed, they lose their power over you, and your life will not be ruled by fear and paranoia anymore.

(4) Your path becomes clear.

By extension of the second item, it will become clear what you will do next. For most in the LGBT community who have made this decision to come out, it is liberating not to be weighed down by societal expectations - should marry by this age, should have kids by now, etc. - and the future becomes something exciting, because truly, the possibilites will seem endless as to what "the next step" will be.

This is where it diverges for Corona, though: when he comes out, it should become clear to him that his duty, as a public official, is to be accountable to all of us. He is imbued with great powers, so great that he can thwart a government's attempt to stem the tide of corruption that has long plagued our political life that we accept it as a given already.

He may have gotten his post because of GMA, but it was not her post to give: the power of that post emanates from all of us, citizens in a democratic country. It is we who desire for justice and truth to be served, not the capricious desires of a former President who is so drunk with power that she refuses to give up political privilege, even clinging on to a "lower post" just so her ego can be assuaged and her anomalous dealings kept hidden from scrutiny.

I would like to share this quote from one of my favorite writers, Deb Price. What she said about being in the closet was in reference to the LGBT's struggle, but it also aptly describes what Corona's situation is like now.

"One of the great American myths is that the closet is an uncomfortable but safe place. In reality, it is an exceedingly dangerous place that can feel comfortable simply because it is familiar."

And, might I add, it feels comfortable because it lulls you into believing that you do not have to be honest to yourself and accountable to others.

As Harvey Milk once said, coming out is a duty. Heed his call, Corona.

Come out, come out.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Motherhood Is A Privilege

Three decades later, I understand my mom better.

This past week, two news items seemed to underscore the truth of this post's title.

The first one was a video that has gone viral, of what turned out to be a Malaysian mom beating up her baby - why would these people agree to have themselves recorded?!? - to the outrage of netizens here (many of whom mistakenly thought it was a Filipino mom). The authorities there clarified that this happened months ago and that the said mom has long been incarcerated and serving her jail term.

The second one was a news item of a mom in her early 20's, who shook her baby to death, all because the baby "distracted" her from her Farmville game.

If there was some kind of licensure for motherhood, they would have been irrevocably revoked for these two examples.

All over the world, fertility clinics are booked solid with women who truly define the term expectant moms, because they are really expecting to be able to bear a child after costly treatments and procedures and investing so much time and effort into experiencing the joy of motherhood.

I've seen countless interviews of moms here with upwards of 10 children, who say that the more "blessings" they have, the more possibility there is of one or two of them being some kind of Manny Pacquiao who will turn the family fortune - such as it is - around and be the "answer from heaven" financially.

Some women will remain celibate - a portion by choice, but a portion are those who believe in religion doctrine that says they cannot have children without a husband, and will never experience motherhood.

And I know of some women who are adamantly against motherhood - not in the sense that they want to deny the privilege to others, but in the sense that they refuse to be defined by it in their own lives, and refuse to accept how societal norms insist that they are somehow "incomplete" without children, who know that they are not exactly "maternal material" and have fulfilling lives nonetheless.

Then there are the men - I think we all know who these are - who insist that women are nothing more than baby making machines, and a woman who doesn't do her "duty" is somehow thwarting some cosmic/divine purpose and is "sinning".

All these have given me the perspective that motherhood truly is a privilege.

Those who have it sometimes waste it, use it selfishly, or seem to think so little of it.

Those who can't have it are sometimes the best candidates for it, but are unable to do so.

Those who don't want it are sometimes the ones most capable of having the resources to provide the best environmental support for it.

And on this day, Mother's Day, I dedicate this post to those who have been fortunate enough to experience a mother's love, whether from our family of origin or our family of choice. We, who have experienced how a mother would sacrifice all to give to her children; who knows that a mother will be the last one to fall asleep when we are sick; we, who suffered through corporal punishment, who later realized it was because a mother could not bear to leave this world without imparting what she knows to be right or wrong and wanting us to always remember it; we, who felt our mom being the biggest cheerleader for all our personal triumphs and our counselor when we needed someone to get us through a rough spot.

To those of us who have experienced a mother's love, and are still experiencing it, we are privileged.

It doesn't happen for everyone, despite what Hallmark may want us to believe. I know well enough about the world to know that sometimes, being a mother or having one doesn't mean a bed of roses; there are mothers who actually do more harm than good.

Appreciate mothers while they are alive, because many of us do not have that same privilege already. My heart goes out to them, who long to confide in their mothers but cannot do so anymore. But they should still feel privileged, because they knew of a mother's love in this lifetime.

And to my mom, from whom I derive my (some would call very strong) sense of right and wrong, who taught me to think for myself, for reluctantly giving me my independence and always being open to welcoming me back in her arms, I am privileged to have you as my mother.

Happy Mother's Day to you and to all mothers who viewed motherhood as a privilege, because our lives were enriched because of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dimsum. And Then Some.

A day after the local protests against China and their actions where Scarborough Shoal is concerned happened, Arthur and I went to Passion, the Chinese themed restaurant of Maxim's Hotel, one of the three hotels housed under the mega-entertainment complex known as Resorts World Manila. A friend who knew of our trip messaged me privately to say "what you're doing is so subversive in light of the protests". (I'm still trying to figure out how.)

I haven't been able to take part of the All-You-Can-Eat Dimsum spreads of either Shang Palace or Lili, which seem to be "the" places recommended by food writers and bloggers for the said type of feast. But as I was browsing online yesterday, an ad came up announcing that Passion had the same offering, at a price that is markedly lower than the two other places I mentioned (it was PhP 750 nett). I understand the other two to be priced in the four figure range after taxes/charges, or close to it.

Art suggested we give it a whirl, and so we did one fine Saturday morning.

The entrance sign was an LED screen that occasionally changed, so getting a shot of it meant patience. The LED stood in contrast to the interiors of the restaurant, which is really what I expect of a "typical" Chinese restaurant as interpreted overseas from its home country: opulent tones, rich colors and furnishings, white linen on tables, lots of wood-based carvings, and red lanterns.

Our waiter Odyssius (yes, that is what it says on his name tag) served us boiled peanuts (shell off) to start us off as appetizers.

He then produced a small rectangular card that would list all the items included in their All-You-Can-Eat Dimsum Buffet, where you tick off your choices. They would then take the list and procure the said items and you had to wait as they prepared it only as soon as you ordered.

The menu card was divided into three sections: "Dimsum", "Sauteed & Congee, Noodles, Rice", and "Desserts". Two pieces of advice: (1) Go here in a larger group, maybe 5 or 6. While the dimsum servings are good for one or two people, the "main" dishes are served in a larger plate. (2) If you go as a couple, pace yourself. The offer has a strict No Leftover, No Sharing policy, and those little treats are deceptive because you think you're having "small bites" only.

We had the following dishes, which did not exhaust the list we were given.

Sliced Beef Congee With Century Egg
Excellent congee, flavored well, and anything with century egg is a winner.

Steamed Giant Dumplings With Shrimps
Biggest shrimps in hakaw I have ever seen. Very fresh. Must-have on the list.

Steamed Pork Dumplings With Shrimps
I've always loved the pork-shrimp combo, and this makes the cut.

Special "Lauso Pao"
I ticked this off on the basis of two bloggers' recommendations. What's the surprise inside?

A sweetish egg custard like center. Gooey, rich, gooey.

Wok Fried Shrimp With Black Bean Sauce
Another must have for shrimp lovers. The sauce was perfection. Apologies to those with shrimp allergies.

Fresh Shrimp in Crispy Net Spring Roll
Shrimp plus fried crispy coating equals an obvious thumbs up.

Sauteed Turnip Cake With X.O. Sauce
Deceptively filling. Do not order this at the end of your meal, you might be penalized for leftovers.

Stir Fried Chicken Cutlets In "Kung Po" Style
Delicious but a bit more spicy than I would've wanted. Art kept commenting on my sweating.

Steamed Chicken Feet X.O. Sauce
Loved the sauce for this dish. Art's first time to eat this - no pictures available.

Steamed Spare Ribs With Black Sauce
Art found this okay, I was a bit disappointed. Not too tasty, a bit bland. Surprisingly.

Deep Fried Taro Puff
I'm a sucker for this, ever since a waitress in another restaurant called it "Taro Fupp". Tasty and filling.

Steamed Fresh Scallop Dumpling With Shark's Fin
I loved how translucent the wrapper is around the meaty center.

Shrimp overpowers the scallop. No complaints from my end, though.

Braised Fish Fillet With Salted Preserved Vegetables
It was a little bit too salty for my taste, if they had taken the sodium down a notch, it would've been good.

Steamed Fish Fillet With Garlic Sauce
Very, very lightly flavored, and a delightful contrast to the sharp garlic taste. Yum.

Fresh Shrimp And Spinach Dumpling
Love both these ingredients so it's a no-brainer that it would end up on the table.

A more equitable distribution of the spinach vs. shrimp.

Pan Fried Soya Noodles and Yang Chow Fried Rice
Seriously, pass on them both. Filler, or something to buffer salty dishes. 

Deep Fried Stuffed Sesame Balls With Lotus Paste
Fancy name for what we call buchi, just the right amount of sticky sweetness.

Chilled Almond Jelly With Mixed Fruits
The almond jelly is always a welcome palate cleanser.

Sweetened Taro Puree With Tapioca
My favorite among the three desserts, it was like ube ice cream with sago balls. Yum.

We missed out on so many other dishes from the list, but Art and I had to practically stagger out of the restaurant. This was a good benchmark for me to have for dimsum "feasts". The other dishes we missed were:

Steamed Glutinous Rice Dumpling With Abalone
Steamed Bean Curd Skin Roll With Mixed Mushrooms
Steamed Barbecue Pork Buns
Steamed Pork Buns With Cabbage
Deep Fried Ham Shui Kok
Deep Fried Wanton
Szechuan Spicy Dumpling
Chao Chow Dumpling

Wok Fried Romaine Lettuce
Sweet And Sour Pork With Fresh Fruits
Wok Fried Pork Face Meat With X.O. Sauce

They had a set up "buffet table" where the congee, rice and noodles were located, as well as some of the dimsum choices. You could choose to get these yourself, or since they were on the list, the waiter assigned to your table would gladly get them for you. 

Another point I want to emphasize: the waiters were excellent doing what they do. Always attentive (filling up our tea cups and water glasses), could advise you on which sauces to go best with what dishes, courteous without being annoying and gave you "space". (I'm not really a fan of waiters who hover over your table like flies.)

A sour point was when we tried to reserve in the morning. No one was answering the direct line of the restaurant at 9AM. I decided to call the trunkline and the operator said that the restaurant, like the dimsum buffet, opened at 11AM and that no one would be available to take a reservation request. I asked if he could pass on the request and he said it was not possible for him to do so. Not really feeling the six-star service with that response. (On their website, Maxim's Hotel identifies itself as a six-star establishment.)

Last tip: this will be your best friend in between the baskets of steamed goodies coming one after the other.

This was an excellent spread, one I recommend to those who love their dimsum. The sauteed dishes were in large servings, and Art and I remarked on how firm the dimsum wrappers were. If you are a fan of Chinese food - despite our current situation with them - then you can't go wrong with this restaurant.


Second Floor, Maxim's Hotel
Resorts World Manila (across NAIA3), 
Pasay City
11:00AM-2:30PM (lunch); 6 to 10PM (dinner)