How many more Mary Jane Velosos?

Update: Indonesia has postponed the execution of Mary Jane Veloso, based on the fact that the accused recruiter had surrendered to the authorities and will face investigation. While it did not commute Veloso’s death sentence, the postponement has granted her and her family a glimmer of hope, a second chance at life, if you will. Now, the ball is on the hands of the Philippine government, the Aquino administration to thoroughly investigate, prosecute and bring to justice the real perpetrators behind the illegal trafficking and using Veloso as a drug mule. Her life, literally depends on it.

In a few hours from now, Mary Jane Veloso, convicted of bringing in illegal drugs into Indonesia will face a firing squad. In a few hours from now, we will lose a compatriot to another country’s justice system. A few hours from now, human trafficking, illegal drug trade and poverty will claim is latest victim. We may not be able to save Mary Jane Veloso from the death penalty. After all, we have to respect the legal system and understand the political and social situation in Indonesia that is the context of this. Ultimately, the outpouring of support from all over the world through the internet and social media for Mary Jane Veloso should be the real “wake up” call for our own government to step up and do better for its citizens.

At home, it must lead the way in creating more opportunities for Filipinos to make decent and livable jobs that would feed their family, send their children to school and contribute to a better Filipino society. It should seriously re-think and stop its decades-old policy of exporting Filipino workers only to rely on their remittances to prop-up an economy that it failed to grow to begin with. Times have changed, remittances is no longer a viable long-term economic solution.

Government must double its efforts in going after human traffickers, drug syndicates and illegal recruiters.

Everywhere abroad, it must step up its efforts in looking after the interests and needs of OFWs. Numerous reports from both media and government have given the number of OFWs in foreign jails. What are the status of their cases? What steps the government, our diplomats and concerned agencies have done in order to save them or at the very least commute their sentences?

How many more times must we all go through all this again only to find out we’re too late? How many more Flor Contemplacions and Mary Jane Velosos must lose their lives?

Iqbal as an alias, what’s the big deal?

Despite the illegal use of a nom de guerre in negotiating with the government, Iqbal’s acts cannot be deemed invalid or illegal, provided they were done with the authority of the MILF, his principal. In point of fact, the MILF leadership has expressly affirmed his authority and the binding effect of his acts. So, what’s the big deal?

Moreover, the government’s peace panel headed by Miriam Coronel Ferrer, including Secretary Teresita Deles, admitted knowledge of Iqbal’s nom de guerre; in fact, they also know his real name. So, his use of a fictitious name is not an issue in assessing the binding effect of his actions.

Besides, once the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is approved, it would bind the Republic of the Philippines regardless of whether the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro he signed is valid or not. Indeed, the BBL—assuming it passes judicial scrutiny—would become part of the law of the land.

Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban recent column on Phil. Daily Inquirer: “What’s in a name?” Really amazed that our lawmakers have made such a big fuss over this, even to the point of stalling the peace process.

Pope Francis: Commit to Social Justice

Pundits are saying that the President and other officials of the government was lucky when Pope Francis decided to go impromptu on his homily for the mass he celebrated in Leyte – where super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) did the worst damage when it ravaged the country a little over a year ago – and put aside his prepared speech as it contained passages that fly into the face of the ineffective and short-sighted efforts of the government.

I couldn’t agree more. Just read the most powerful portions of the said speech and I’m certain Aquino and his horde are sh*tt*ng bricks:

Above all, I ask that the poor throughout this country be treated fairly – that their dignity be respected, that political and economic policies be just and inclusive, that opportunities for employment and education be developed, and that obstacles to the delivery of social services be removed. Our treatment of the poor is the criterion on which each of us will be judged (cf. Mt 25:40, 45). I ask all of you, and all responsible for the good of society, to renew your commitment to social justice and the betterment of the poor, both here and in the Philippines as a whole.

This plus how local media has focused its reporting on the trivial things about Pope Francis – his charisma, his signature smile and his sense of humor – instead of his words on certain issues like corruption, justice, development, morals etc.

How I wish Pope Francis himself would deliver this speech with BS Aquino and other government officials in the audience before he goes back to Rome.

Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

Reading up on Scottish independence

A good college friend is married to a Scotsman whom I met a couple of years back supports the Scottish independence movement. I was surprised to know that such movement exists aside from that of the Irish. With the referendum taking place on September 18 we are about to witness history unfold once more. Colin Daileda has a good piece on the pros and cons of Scottish independence which is based on this white paper produced by the Scottish government. With our own Bangsamoro Basic Law just submitted to Congress, all of these makes an interesting case study for students of Political Science and International law.

An argument over Php1.00

Yesterday’s journey back home in Manila turned out to be an interesting case of testing our values of respect for one another, the law and decency.

One of my fellow passengers on the commute from Tenement in C-5 to the MRT/LRT station in Pasay City along the East Service road was an old man and a senior citizen. The driver of the jeep was a decade younger than him, I think. For the purposes of this post, I’d refer to the passenger as ‘Manong senior citizen‘ and the driver as ‘Manong Drayber‘. Yes, I need to work on better references.

It all started when Manong Senior citizen told Manong Drayber that his change was short by Php1.00 (0.023 USD) by virtue of him being a senior citizen who is entitled to a discount on the fare under R.A. 9257 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2003. We all thought that Manong Drayber would readily give back the Php.100 but instead he replied; “Nasaan po ang [senior citizen] ID niyo?” The the following exchange took place:

Manong Senior Citizen: Hindi mo pa ba nakikita? [Can’t you see?] (referring to his obviously aged appearance and even took off his cap to show his grey hair)
Manong Drayber: Pareho naman po tayong may puting buhok. Ipakita niyo na lang po ang ID niyo. [Both of us have grey hair. Just show me your ID instead.]
Manong Senior Citizen: Ay sige, heto o. (he then took out his senior citizen’s ID) Para sa pisong iyan eh papalakihin mo pa. [Nevermind, here you go. Just for Php1.00 you would make a big deal out of it.]
Manond Drayber: Sumusunod lang po kami sa patakaran, walang ID, walang discount. Gumagalang naman po…[We are just following the rules, no ID, no discount. We also respect…]
Manong Senior Citizen: Kung ganoon wag na. Sa iyo na lang ang piso mo. Kawawa ka naman. [Never mind then. You can keep your Php1.00. You badly need it.]
Manong Drayber: Ay hindi po. Sige, eto na ang piso. Karapatan niyo po iyan. Ibibigay ko naman, ipakita niyo lang ang ID niyo. Kung ano-ano na ang sinasabi niyo dyan. [No, take it. It’s your right. I would give you the discount had you shown your ID first. You’re the one who’s making a big deal out of this.]
Manong Senior Citizen: Hindi na. Sa iyo na. Para kumita ka naman. Ibibigay mo din naman pala, mamimilosopo ka pa. Ibalik mo na yung piso sa kanya. [No, nevermind. So that you’d make a living. You did give me a discount and yet you have to be a smartass about it. Give him back his Php1.00

In between Manong Drayber and Manong Senior Citizen was a middle-aged man with his family. As in the case for anyone who sits between the driver and another passenger in a jeep, he has the customary job of passing on the fare or change to and fro. While the two Manongs were arguing, he was torn whether to give the one peso coin to the passenger or back to the driver. At the end of the two Manongs’ argument, he did a Pontius Pilate and simply put the coin on a small covered bucket thus ending his part in the whole drama.

This was the first time I encountered a jeep driver who actually asked for a senior citizen’s ID before giving the discount. Jeep drivers are folksy, well most of them are, and dispense with the formalities of asking for proof of being a senior citizen as most of us would easily recognize a senior citizen upon first look. Filipino customs and values which pays respect for the elderly also dictate that we try our best not to bother them.

Was Manong Drayber right in asking for an ID first before giving the discount? The relevant portion of R.A. 9257 says:

In the availment of the privileges mentioned above, the senior citizen or elderly person may submit as proof of his/her entitlement thereto any of the following:

(a) an ID issued by the city or municipal mayor or of the barangay captain of the place where the senior citizen or the elderly resides;

You would even see other business establishments putting up signs reminding senior citizens to present their IDs when claiming their discounts and privileges so it seems that the law is clearly on Manong Drayber’s side. However, there’s a caveat, as our customs seems to have found its way into the law itself through the operative word “may” in the above-quoted provision of R.A. 9257. You don’t even need to go to law school just to understand that the word ‘may’ means that it’s not mandatory for the senior citizen to present proof of being at least 60 years old in order to avail of their privileges.

Manong Senior Citizen had a point. In his looks alone he was definitely pushing 60+ years of living on this planet. On the other hand, Manong Drayber also had a point, there’s nothing wrong in asking or expecting people to present proof to back up their claims.

Whose side are you on?

*Image by Alma Gamil. Some rights reserved.

Janet Napoles as state witness? It’s like this…

Janet Napoles as a State witness?! It’s like pardoning the Marcoses of all their crimes against the Filipino people, letting them keep their stolen wealth and even proclaiming them as the first Royal family of the Philippines. It’s like telling all the farmers to give up their rightful claims on Hacienda Luisita and adorn the Cojuancos for their benevolence. It’s like telling Editha Burgos that she should trust the AFP are telling the truth and would help them find her still missing son Jonas Burgos. It’s like telling the victims of human rights abuses, some of which are still missing today, that Gen Palparan was just doing his job as a good solider sworn to protect the Filipino people. It’s like telling our kids that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was right in calling a Comelec Commissioner during the canvassing of votes and that God chose her to be our president.

It’s like Sec Coloma was just right in pointing out that there are alternatives to the MRT and that the commuting public is to blame for the terrible state the LRT/MRT system is in. I could go on and on but you get the picture.

If the government really plans on letting Janet Napoles off the hook by turning her into a state witness it would be the undoing of everything the Aquino administration has done so far in the fight against corruption. Although it is a valid observation that so far, those who have been prosecuted are politicians who are potential opponents of whoever the Administration’s presidential bet would be in 2016, bringing to justice those who have raided the public coffers must be done with no special favors or treatment to anyone whose hands are dirty, be it a member or friend of the administration or the opposition.

Ellen Tordesillas said it well:

Iba na raw ang kuwento ni Napoles nang binisita ni De Lima sa Ospital ng Makati. Nagdawit pa raw siya ng maraming senador at congressman. Merong may nagsabi na 19 na senador daw ang sa kanyang affidavit, meron namang nagsabing 12.

Ngunit hindi raw nila pinag-usapan ang pagiging state witness ni Napoles.

Sinong tanga ang maniniwala na kakanta si Napoles na walang kapalit? Konsyensya daw.

Ginu-goodtime lang tayo nito. Pumayag naman si De Lima sa drama. Halata namang nagta-trial balloon lang sila.

Mabuti naman at umalma ang publiko. Kasi naman kung gawing state witness si Napoles kapalit ng kanyang pagsabi ng katotohanan kuno tungkol sa raket ng PDAF (Priority development Assistance Fund), idi-dimis na lahat na kaso laban sa kanya.

Ang swerte naman niya kung mangyayari yan. Limpak na limpak na salapi na ang kanyang nakuha sa taumbayan. Nakabili na ng maraming ari-arian kasama pa ang isang hotel sa Amerika. Hindi lang siya, pati na rin ang kanyang mga galamay kasama na doon si Ruby Tuason at si Dennis Cunanan, na kumita na rin ng husto.

With this trial balloon shot down, the Aquino administration should take notice that it continue the same path it started on with resolve and expediency. With only 2 years left in its term, there’s no assurance that next administration might continue with the prosecution of Janet Napoles and all of her cohorts nor will it be as receptive to public sentiment so as to allow for more responsive governance.

Enough with the charades, file the cases and prosecute.

Slow internet speeds for most of April

The last time there was a major slow down of internet speed in the country was back in December of 2006 when an earthquake that struck off the coast of Taiwan damaged major undersea cables that provide connectivity to the country.

With incidents like these, even the biggest ISPs like PLDT and Globe were at the mercy of international groups that maintain the undersea cable connections’ ability to repair the damage.

The recent damage hit the undersea cables lying in areas between Taiwan and Japan, and China and Korea. Latest reports say that repairs are expected to be completed by around mid-April. Hopefully.

On the other hand, this recent incident is actually less worse compared to the 2006 incident. Back then, connections were literally lost. For weeks, DSL modems were not able to sync with ISPs and those that were able to, had practically useless connections. The current slowdown, is just that, a major slowdown instead of a general loss of connectivity.

With this, the regional consortium that maintain these undersea cables deserves some credit for they have learned the lessons of 2006 – they added new lines and systems to mitigate the ill-effects of cable damage.

These recent slowdown is surely a major inconvenience, but it’s much better than having a total loss of connectivity. So for now, we all just have to deal with it.

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.