More questions than answers – Lascanas retraction, EDSA people power, Duterte’s ouster

lascanas

Update: Hours after this post was published, the Senate through a vote of 10 Senators in favor against 7 who opposed, to refer Sen Trillanes’ motion to re-open the hearings on the Davao Death Squad to the Committee on public order and dangerous drugs chaired by Sen Lacson. The Senate will then meet again to discuss on how to handle Sen Trillanes’ resolution.

Yesterday, in a press conference at the Senate, lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group and Sen Antonio Trillanes IV accompanied former police officer SPO3 Arthur Lascanas where he made public the confession that the ‘Davao Death Squad’ was real, he was its leader and former Davao City Mayor now President Rodrigo Duterte was behind the DDS.

A complete turnaround of his previous testimony in a Senate investigation into the Davao Death Squad back in September 2016, that, at that time, he belied the testimony of self-confessed DDS member Edgar Matobato.

Media reports say that ‘in genral‘, Lascanas and Matobato’s testimonies match.

First question that comes to mind: Why has Lascanas retracted his earlier testimony? For sure, his lawyers from FLAG has advised that he will expose himself to perjury charges, not to mention earn the ire of Duterte’s loyal supporters. What made him change his tune? Was he being pressured back in September to deny the existence of the Davao Death Squad? Who was putting the pressure?

Will the Senate re-open its investigation into the Davao Death Squad? Sen Trillanes has already filed a resolution to do so, yet Sen Dick Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee Justice and Human rights which conducted the September investigation has given the thumbs down. For him, this matter should now be brought to before the courts.

Which brings us to the next question, can Duterte be sued for the alleged serious crimes before he became President? In other words, would Presidential immunity necessitate his impeachment first, before he can be properly charged for the murders that the so-called Davao Death Squad committed thru his orders?

This brings to mind a discussion on the Presidential or executive immunity by constitutional expert Fr Joaquin Bernas, SJ where he cited landmark cases decided by the US Supreme Court that dealt with its limits. He then moved on to a similar case closer to home: the prosecution of former President Joseph Estrada for the alleged plunder during his term, and whether he still had immunity after he has be removed from office since the alleged crimes took place while he was President. Our own Supreme Court ruled against Estrada but I don’t think it squarely applies to Duterte’s case as the allegations: murder of which he was allegedly the mastermind, are criminal offenses that took place before he became President. It seems this issue will also end up before the Supreme Court.

Going back to the impeachment of Duterte, this will not happen, yet, as he still enjoys the support of the supermajority in the Lower House. Who knows, the ever-reliable Lozano may yet again beat everyone to the punch by filing an impeachment case only to be rejected by Duterte’s allies in Congress giving the President another year of being shielded from impeachment.

What about extra-constitutional means of removing Duterte from power? Talk is ripe about a planned ouster of President Duterte that will coincide with the upcoming celebration of the EDSA People Power’s 31st anniversary. Would this happen? Is this the reason why this year’s program of commemorating the EDSA revolution has been toned down by the Palace and held within the safe walls of Camp Aguinaldo?

And what does Sec Martin Andanar knows that National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana doesn’t that he’s the only government official that’s been vocal about these so-called plans of removing Duterte from the Presidency? The press has already had its field day with Sec Andanar regarding this issue, yet the question still stands: what is the basis for his claims?

Or is this the administration’s tactic of handling the recent retraction and accusation of Lascanas? For now, we don’t know if what he has told yesterday at the Senate, that Duterte was behind the Davao Death Squad after all, or is just really another push by those who want Duterte out of power?

The lawyers from FLAG, now the laywers of Lascanas, are battle-tested lawyers for justice, human rights and accountability. They would not take on Lascanas if they think he doesn’t have the goods or he is not credible.

What will happen next? Only time will tell.

Image by ABS-BCN News

US Supreme Court: Same-sex marriage is a right

Ripples of the landmark decision of the US Supreme Court upholding same-sex couple’s right to marry have covered the entire world specially online. In a vote of 5-to-4 the Justices have ruled that the US Constitution grants same-sex couples the right to get married in all 50 states. A resounding victory for the gay rights movement. The New York Times has a good breakdown of the decision which highlights opinions from the Justices who dissented in the case.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

As the LGBT community celebrate this historic victory, observers have taken notice of the decision’s ramifications both to US domestic issues but to other countries that are faced with the same controversial issue of gay rights. The Atlantic has a good rundown of how the decision would have an impact in the US – changes to adoption laws, religious freedom and more importantly, what it means to oppose gay rights.

Here in the Philippines, a growing LGBT community has been working for more recognition for their rights. The last time the issue of gay rights have been debated on the national level was when the Ang Ladlad party-list was disqualified by the COMELEC based on religious and moral grounds during the 2010 national elections. The case was brought to the Supreme Court which ruled in favor of Ang Ladlad because of the COMELEC’s reliance on the Bible and Koran in their decision, not a recognition of gay rights.

Last May, openly-gay lawyer Jesus Nicardo Falcis III filed a petition in the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of the Family Code that prohibit same-sex marriage. The case is still pending before the High Court but given that our justice system follows or uses the rulings of the US Supreme Court as a precedent or reference in deciding cases as our democratic and government institutions and laws are patterned after theirs, it’s interesting to see how the case will develop and how our own Supreme Court will decide now that American counterparts have crossed this bridge.

The debate for LGBT rights have always remained on the sidelines for years, now that the US has joined other countries in allowing same-sex marriage, will the Philippines follow suit soon?

Bloggers, netizens file ‘motion for partial reconsideration’ on SC’s Cybercrime ruling

‘Don’t criminalize Filipinos’ modern, changing way of life’

Bloggers and Netizens for Democracy, the group composed of petitioners in GR 203469 (Cruz et al vs. Aquino et al), is set to file today its motion for partial reconsideration seeking to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

In its 41-page motion for partial reconsideration, BAND said that “the Honorable Court should not allow itself to be a party to the criminalization of the Filipino people’s modern, changing way of life.”

“If unchallenged and unchanged, the remnants of the Cybercrime Prevention Act, together with the Questioned Decision will make the Constitution and the people’s way of life collateral damage in the fight against new forms of crimes involving technology and the economy,” said BAND.

Blogger Tonyo Cruz, BAND convenor and one of the petitioners, said “the court should join Filipinos in making sure the Philippine portion of the Internet remains free. We wish to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Philippines’ first live internet connection which happened on March 29, 1994, in complete freedom and sans the chilling effects of this badly-crafted and unconstitutional law.”

BAND is asking the court to strike down the following provisions as unconstitutional for blatantly violating multiple clauses of the Constitution including those on Free Speech, Due Process, Against Double Jeopardy, and Equal Protection: Section 4(c)4 on libel and the libel provisions of the Revised Penal Code; Sec. 5 on aiding and abetting in the commission of cybercrime, and attempt in the commission of cybercrime; Section 6 on the application of the Cybercrime Law on the whole Revised Penal Code and the application of a heavier penalties; and Section 7 on liability under other laws.

In asking the court to void cyberlibel, BAND says the country’s criminal libel law is “a throwback to the Spanish and American colonial era when authorities criminalized all forms of dissent.”

BAND meanwhile also asks the court to uphold the Cybercrime Law’s Section 4(c)3 which seeks to regulate spam commercial messages, citing concerns that those who use and spread spam messages do so by violating the right of citizens to privacy of communication.

BAND is composed of Philippine Blog Award winners Tonyo Cruz (tonyocruz.com), Marcelo Landicho (The Professional Heckler), Benjamin Noel Espina (Atheista.net), and Marck Ronald Rimorin (The Marocharim Experiment); bloggers Julius Rocas (Four-eyed Journal), Oliver Richard Robillo (Ang Dabawenyo), Aaron Erick Lozada (Pinoy Gossip Boy), Gerald Adrian Magnaye (Noisy Noisy Man), Jose Reginald Ramos (dronthego.net) and Maureen Hermitanio (Philippine Online Chronicles); social media strategist Rosario Juan; digital marketing professionals Brendalyn Ramirez and Kristine Joy Rementilla; developer Maricel O. Gray; digital creative director Julius Ivan Cabigon; and representatives of Cebu Bloggers Society president Ruben Licera Jr.; and Philippine Expat/OFW Blog Awards coordinator Pedro Rahon.

Standing as BAND counsel is Kristoffer James Purisima, also a netizen.

Gov’t spying & Edward Snowden – a preview of the Anti-Cybercrime law in the Philippines

While we’re still waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision over the constitutionality of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, those who are still trying to fully understand the bad effects of this law gain help by reading up on the Edward Snowden controversy in which he has revealed how the US government is using laws similar to our own Anti-Cybercrime law to conduct cyber-espionage on its own citizens.

Just how are these laws used by governments in conducting their surveillance operations? Here’s a quick rundown of it all by Declan McCullagh on CNET.com:

By wielding a potent legal threat, the U.S. government is often able to force Internet companies to aid its surveillance demands. The threat? Comply or we’ll implant our own eavesdropping devices on your network.

Under federal law, the National Security Agency can serve real-time “electronic surveillance” orders on Internet companies for investigations related to terrorism or national security.

These orders, authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, are used to feed data into the NSA’s PRISM software program that was revealed last month by former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden. PRISM documents indicate that the NSA can receive “real-time notifications” of user log-ins.

Some Internet companies have reluctantly agreed to work with the government to conduct legally authorized surveillance on the theory that negotiations are less objectionable than the alternative — federal agents showing up unannounced with a court order to install their own surveillance device on a sensitive internal network. Those devices, the companies fear, could disrupt operations, introduce security vulnerabilities, or intercept more than is legally permitted.

“Nobody wants it on-premises,” said a representative of a large Internet company who has negotiated surveillance requests with government officials. “Nobody wants a box in their network…[Companies often] find ways to give tools to minimize disclosures, to protect users, to keep the government off the premises, and to come to some reasonable compromise on the capabilities.”

Recalling the provisions of the Anti-Cybercrime law here in the Philippines, there would be not much difference between how the US government is doing it and how our own Philippine government would go about doing it once the Anti-cybercrime law is upheld by the Supreme Court.

Your ISPs and telcos would soon become tools of the state in conducting their own intelligence gathering operations. Now Google and Facebook have spoken out against such accusations that they have become conspirators with the government in spying on the American people as they, not just the government, would suffer from public outrage. Will our local ISPs and telcos be brave enough or be complicit pawns of the state in the biggest edition of ‘Big Brother’ in history?

You still think government spying as portrayed in Hollywood films like Enemy of the State, Eagle Eye, the Jason Bourne films are still fiction? As the Edward Snowden controversy continues to unfold, you really have to think twice before going online or even opening your smartphone.

Statement of the new group Bloggers and Netizens for Democracy (BAND) on the TRO vs. Cybercrime Law

TRO vs. #cybercrimelaw, an initial victory for freedoms, democracy

Bloggers and netizens who sued the government over the Cybercrime Law today rejoiced over the Supreme Court’s reported issuance of a temporary restraining order against its implementation.

If confirmed, this is a victory for citizens vigilant about their freedoms and about democracy online and offline,” said Tonyo Cruz of the newly-formed group Bloggers and Netizens for Democracy (BAND).

Cruz described the report as: “Bad news for President Aquino, good news for netizens of world’s social media capital.

This is a bad omen for President Aquino who is remorseless, arrogant and unrepentant about the law he signed,” said Cruz.

Cruz said “the fight continues online and offline” until the court decides to side with petitioners and nullify the law.

The BAND is composed of the bloggers and netizens who filed the 10th Petition challenging the constitutionality of the Cybercrime Prevention Act on 04 October 2012, entitled Anthony Ian M. Cruz, et al. v. His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III, et al., and docketed as G.R. No. 203469.

Bloggers Petition against RA No 10175 or Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012

Some of you may have thought that I’ve stopped blogging about what’s going on in society, that I’ve become a silent observer now in the background, a former shell of a once activist-blogger from years ago. Entirely not true. Today I break the silence by publishing here, a copy of our petition for Certiorari & Prohibition [With Application for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction] against Republic Act No 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 which has been recently enacted into law by the Aquino government. It was docketed as G.R. No 203469.

The reasons why I oppose the anti-Cybercrime law are all enumerated in detail within the petition I filed along with other bloggers and netizens who will not sit by silently while a government led by the son of the supposed “icons of Philippine democracy” implement a law that throws us back to dark ages of repression and tyranny in this modern, connected age.

Bloggers Petition Certiorari & Prohibition [With Application for the Issuance of a Temporary Restra…

For those who have difficulty understanding the language of the pleading, we’ve made available a summary written for a much lighter reading.

Petition Summary

I urge every concerned citizen, active online or not, to join us in fighting for our rights and freedom, for progress and development, to stand together in opposing this draconian law that is the anti-Cybercrime law.

Bloggers’ first hands-on of poll automation

As a blogger or Filipino are you concerned about our democracy and the future of our country especially now that 2010 Presidential elections are just around the corner?

If so, Bloggers’ Kapihan is inviting you to an event that will be a step in the positive direction:

What: Bloggers’ briefing on poll automation

When: July 19, Saturday, 1:00pm – 3:30pm

Where: COMELEC Automated Electoral System Information Office, ground floor, Palacio del Gobernador Bldg. Intramuros, Manila (near Manila Cathedral)

The Commission on Elections will give a special briefing on poll automation to 20+ bloggers on July 19.

COMELEC and its technology suppliers will conduct actual trainings on the usage of electronic voting machines and automated counting machines. Video presentations and tutorials will also be shown. The voting machines will be used in the ARMM elections next month.

The briefing will also be an opportunity to hear the feedback of voters and bloggers about the poll automation program of Comelec.

Program

1:00 Opening remarks – Mr. James Jimenez, Comelec Spokesperson

1:05 Comelec presentation

2:40 Reaction from Bloggers’ Kapihan

2:45 Open Forum

Due to limited seat, we urge the interested participants to send an email to mongpalatino[at]gmail[dot]com.

Hello, it’s the blogosphere

I tried to ignore this but hey, the commotions and agonies and some mud-slinging has finally provoked me to share my two-cents.

As Sir Yuga summarizes, it all started out when Noemi rang the bells after finding out(?) that the blog of a 13-year-old kid who’s been making money, making it big in the blogosphere and helping other bloggers to be the same has not been totally honest in terms of blog ownership and authorship, or so the critics cry out.

“Honesty is the best policy”

Or so the convention says, this is at the core of this entire brou-ha-ha in the Philippine blogosphere.

Mix in ethics or the morals of parenting (Christian morality in this case), making money online from a popular blog and that “Blogger’s Code of Ethics” is being tested once more. More so, this controversy has revealed some interesting inner-workings of the Philippine blogosphere. Something we’ve seen last year in the aftershocks of Philippine Blog Awards. And just recently from the mixed, yet profound reactions about the results of the recently-concluded search for the most influential bloggers in the Philippine blogosphere.

I agree that “honesty is the best policy.” But it’s a custom, a norm, a common practice; it’s just like the “Blogger’s Code of Ethics.” Sociology teaches us that customs, norms and common practices change over time as society changes. What could be right or morally acceptable today (again this depends on what morals are we talking here) could be the opposite tomorrow.

Plugin in the internets

Just now, as this latest controversy is showing us courtesy of the blogging and the blogosphere, the norms, morals, and ethics of our society has changed, and continues to do so. To drive home my point, I quote the comment I made on SexyMom’s say on this controversy;

It’s the price of being famous at such a young age. A completely honest disclosure is a remedy here. Hopefully it will close this chapter and help people, especially the concerned bloggers to move on.

A side of me is saying it’s “The old refusing to give way to the new.” -Avlin Toffler, Future Shock

Besides, it’s their own blog [so] unless they’re spamming you or hacking your own blog, let them be. If you can’t stand the way they blog, don’t read their posts, [and just] delete their feed from your reader.

Sure there’s that “Blogger’s Code of Ethics” but it’s not a binding contract or law or convention on all bloggers. It’s a ‘guideline’ a reminder of some sorts on how one should blog or should not.

But here’s where our dilemma starts, “Ang tama sa iyo ay mali sa tingin ng iba” this is from Joey Ayala’s song “Magkabilaan” it basically translates into “to each his own”. Now if you’re going to impose your own view of what’s ethical or not on somone just because you view yourself as a standard or vangaurd of that particular ethics, customs or norms and you don’t approve of others’ own view of what’s ethical or not; what’s your right to do so?

[inserted just now]
Is it because we’re famous or influential? Is it because we’re better-off than others? Is it because we’re surrounded by people who nods to almost everything we do or say?

And so we ask ‘who’s being unethical now?’

I know by this time I might be drawing some flak now, but I’ll go back to what SexyMom has pointed out [and has cleverly observed], it’s the parental instincts that are clashing here. One set of parenting standards and practices standing against another.

But hold on, do they really need to be opposing each other?

More so, should we tell parents what to do with their own child considering the fact parents would [inserted]almost always act in the best interest of their child?

Should we cast judgement on mere hearsay or observations?

It’s a good thing Sir Abe has done something which is what should’ve been done in the first place; meet and talk with the 13-year-old-blogger and his dad.

Hopefully things will be sorted out.

UPDATE:

Finally, something more sensible and more just has been done. Sir Abe has just shared some enlightening truths about Carl and his ‘partner-in-crime’ father.

Hopefully, in closing, it will end as I agree with what Dave Starr said;

One of the reasons I live in the Philippines is because there are not 10,000 “go-gooder” busybodies telling me what to do (and what not to do) every minute of the day. Now, do to the “magic” of the Internet … and a lot of people with too much time on their hands … it appears the suffocating US-style “child-smothering” approach to life has followed me here. I wonder why these crusaders aren’t worried about the 14 yo girl with forged papers who is working as a GRO or the 14yo boy with 2 years of schooling who spends 14 hours a day in his uncle’s jeepney collecting fares or the 14 yo girl who cleaned our house yesterday because her mom )who usual works for us one day a week) was sick and if the girl didn’t come by and work … and get paid … they wouldn’t have eaten last night?

Let’s put things in perspective here. A bright and interesting 14yo boy and his dad are collaborating on a blogging effort. How much does Carl do and how much does his dad do? Yuga took the time to give us a pretty decent perspective, but the bottom line is .. what difference does it make? If you think using a 14yo’s persona to make a blog better read and more interesting is ‘exploitive” of the child then I would submit you have a _lot_ to learn about exploitive behavior. Carl is not being “exploited” at all. How I wish I could have worked together on something like that with my dad when I was 14 … no matter which of us was the better “wordsmith”.

Here’s one last tip, go out into the streets, look for a sari-sari store and you’ll see that a vast majority has named their litlle businesses after their favorite child.

Should we call Bantay Bata now?