Supertyphoon Meranti and the Forgotten Islands of Batanes

A thunderstorm in Manila is a headline, a flood in taft is news., a typhoon elsewhere is a national concern, but a supertyphoon in Batanes is gone with the wind issue… Our provincial hymn is always true “forlorn country though they say, orphans of the motherland…” But whether Manila would care or not, whether help will come or none, the stone houses of Batanes and its people molded by fierce weather thru the ages will stand strong and proud… Ivatans will bounce back in a matter of days. We are a nation on our own, we have always been…

After 3 days since the onslaught of the Supertyphoon, there was no initiative from the government,. C130 of the military is waiting for a rainbow, until a private aircraft finally decided to conduct an aerial assessment of the farthest island.



Third Millennium Equipoise (Epilogue)

Note: Shared wit the permission and encouragement of the Book’s Author, Maj.General Vinod Saighal (Ret.), a peace advocate and  a good friend.

I sit in my garden with my little son. We are thinking of planting a tree in our backyard. He wants me to plant a jacaranda. He has seen these trees elsewhere and likes the mauve clusters when the tree is in bloom. I want to plant a peepul. It is slow growing but it is ageless. It attracts a variety of birds. It is the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. It is still venerated by the people. They will spare it when there is fuel scarcity in this drought-prone region. There is great poverty around these parts. I see women and children gathering twigs all day long to cook their evening meal in their mud adobes.

I try to explain all this to my son. He listens patiently but I don’t think he understands. He sees that I have become pensive. He wants to know what I am thinking about. What should I tell him? That I am suddenly beset by doubts. Can I really plan that far ahead? Will there be anybody around to enjoy the shade of the peepul and listen to birdsong when the tree has grown. I am no longer sure. I envy my ancestors all the way back to the mists of antiquity.

Each successive generation must have had its share of joys and sorrows; they must have faced many kinds of problems but they could not have had my kind of doubt. The fruits of their labours would be enjoyed by their sons and their son’s sons. Generations to come would sing of their deeds. Somebody somewhere would keep the hearths from growing cold. Can I pass on that certitude to my little boy who now looks at me in a wonderment that saddens rather than gladdens my heart? I see a purple sunbird alighting on a slender stalk. Its plumage glistens in the sun. Butterflies and dragonflies hover about in the balmy air. I start wondering about the thousands of species that share the planet with Man. When we disappear how many of these will we take along with us. Have we arrogated to ourselves the right to be the arbiters of their fate or have we simply stopped caring. Sentience must be extending to trillions or zillions of creatures who have slowly evolved over billions of years. How much time will we take to snuff out a great majority of them?

A stray dog has come into the garden. My son and I pick up a stone. It is a reflexaction. It has become ingrained in my child at a very tender age. My arm becomes arrested in mid-air. The child completes the motion. He has found his mark. The animal gives a yelp of pain and slinks away. I have seen the dog before. My own dogs set up a furious barking whenever
he enters our compound. They are well-fed. They would not even sniff at anything not to their liking. The stray dog comes to the rubbish can to rummage for some morsels — any morsel — of leftovers. His canine brethren would begrudge him that morsel. So, it seems, would I. I wonder how that stray animal survives after being hounded all day long. What about the strays and waifs of our society? How many millions or hundreds of millions are there? On a diff erent plane is my reaction as instinctive when one of them wanders into my circle of light and warmth. Do I feel threatened or does their presence give rise to doubts I would rather keep the lid on?

How did I happen to acquire the ability to think? If happiness or self-satisfaction is all that I am looking for then would I not be better off without an intelligence that keeps leading me into labyrinths when I already possess all the ingredients that should confer this state on me. On the face of it the reverse proposition is truer: the lower the state of intelligence the greater the pleasure that can be derived from the satisfaction of basic urges. A cow is in a state of near bliss when chewing the cud. A constant supply would perpetuate that state. A simple, unlettered peasant who tills his fields is satisfied if the rain is on time and he has a square meal at the end of the day. Both these categories would be content to leave well alone. Who then disturbs the natural harmony of existence? It could not be the result of the simple urge to aggress. The tiger stalks his prey only when he is hungry. When that hunger is assuaged and he has slaked his thirst at the spring he will slumber peacefully in the dappled shade. Till his next pang of hunger he is at peace with himself and his surroundings. He will not disturb the tranquility of the jungle. The woodcutter lived in the forest. His donkey load of wood which he sold in the city met the needs of his family. They did not have many cares. They were attuned to the rhythm of the forest. Whence the urge to destroy the forest?

In the stages of man’s evolution he first tried to understand his environment; then he tried to live with it; and finally he attempted to overcome it. This is the stage that we are in; dominance. Domination can be achieved by a gross process (destruction) or by the subtle process (harnessing). The urge to dominate disturbs the equilibrium and the ferment thus created releases tremendous bursts of energy in the form of physical forces (gross process) and mental forces which on the higher plane become a subtle and on the lower plane a gross process. In the intellectual sphere the struggle between the gross and fine determines the path which will be followed by mankind. In the fine state as it applies to an individual, the appeasement of the basic urges does not, in itself, lead to contentment.
The realization that the satisfaction of wants cannot be the end that we are really looking for impels man to look beyond: within himself (the microcosm) and without (the macrocosm). It is the urge to excel which inheres in every man. It is the condition that can make man into superman.
In the twentieth century after the birth of Christ, in the fifteenth century after the birth of the Prophet, in the fi fth or sixth millennia of the older orders that attempted to defi ne the
basis of our existence mankind is at a watershed. It is the first time since our race began that we have a conscious choice before us: to realize our destiny which will take us beyond
the stars to fill the Universe or to sink back into oblivion –without a beginning and without an end.
It is approaching the hour of twilight. In this serene place which is still steeped in the past I can hear the tinkling of the cow bells as the herds return for the night. The lowing
of a stray calf can be heard in the distance. I can see that my son has run out of the gate. Shall I go after him or wait for him there to come back on his own. I am worried. Times have changed. There are undercurrents that reach me in my remoteness. What evil pervades the hearts of men that even in this haven of peace I feel a disquiet?
Violence and unrest are on the increase. It is the same wherever you look. From East to West and from North to South; suicide, homicide, genocide, rape, arson, pillage; urban unrest, rural unrest, popular discontent; amongst the high income groups, low income groups and no-income groups. They call it a law and order problem. Youth is on the rampage. We refuse to recognize it for what it is: UNCERTANITY. Uncertainty that whatever we attempt is futile in the face of that constant, lurking fear that it can all go up in smoke in a few cataclysmic hours. That how can you hope for rational behaviour when you live in the most irrational of environments?
Remove the irrationality and the unguent will fl ow to soothe the frazzled nerves of a despairing generation.
I do not know whether there is life after death. I do not know if that thing we call the atman (soul) perishes along with our mortal remains when we die. I do not know whether the
mystical experience (enlightenment) is simply a perception on a diff erent plane or if it is actually a realization of the Infinite. There are many things I do not know. What I do
know is that “I am part of mankind” and till the time there is one man drawing breath, now or a billion years hence, I can never really die. I am part of the life force. I am the continuum before and after. Through some strange process I inherited a quality, a thought, a racial memory from my earliest ancestor. Subconsciously I may still be influenced by a footprint left in the sands of time a million years ago and, in turn, I may yet bequeath a gene which by complex mutations will become the key to unlock some door a million years hence.
I do not know whether there is God. Like most of my fellow beings I desperately hope there is one. In a way it frees me from the responsibility for my actions or inaction. Deep in our hearts are we not all hoping that someone will lead us back before it is too late? What if there is no someone. Or if there is a someone He has left us to decide for ourselves. Will man measure up to his ascent or will four billion “little” men walk helplessly to their oblivion?

Editor’s note: Authored by Maj Gen Vinod Saighal. The book can be accessed from the author’s site www.vinodsaighal.comThird Millennium Equipoise EPILOGUE

The book can be purchased also through Amazon

Universality of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) applies universally without distinction as to race, color or nationality. We are all human and under that skin nothing differs much. I feel troubled with this emerging or recycling of the idea that the UDHR is a Western Concept that does not fit or apply to us (Filipinos). It is so alarming that vast number of the population if not majority now considers Human Rights as abhorrent and pro-criminal. It is saddening that they perceive it only as a tool to encourage criminality, they view it as a mere protection for criminals.

UDHR assures that every human being lives under the basic requirements of a dignified life. It is not meant for criminals but rather for the protection of every law abiding citizen, as well as a reminder to law enforcement agencies that they do not become criminals by themselves as they pursue criminals or in the attempt to address the ills of the society, otherwise without these reminders we are as if have opted to burn the house in order to get rid some rodents.

Those who deny the universality of Human Rights simply acknowledge or impose upon themselves the verdict that they do not belong to the humanity of men. I believe we all deserve equally to live a free and dignified life. These Rights transcend national boundaries. Though written by men they are dictated by natural law, thus, above any other laws conceptualized by human legislation, and far above the whims and caprices of self proclaimed all knowing leaders who want to impose their will on the citizenry.

UDHR assures that every human being lives under the basic requirements of a dignified life. It is not meant for criminals but rather for the protection of every law abiding citizen, as well as a reminder to law enforcement agencies that they do not become criminals by themselves as they pursue criminals or in the attempt to address the ills of the society, otherwise without these reminders we are as if have opted to burn the house in order to get rid some rodents.

Those who deny the universality of Human Rights simply acknowledge or impose upon themselves the verdict that they do not belong to the humanity of men. I believe we all deserve equally to live a free and dignified life. These Rights transcend national boundaries. Though written by men they are dictated by natural law, thus, above any other laws conceptualized by human legislation, and far above the whims and caprices of self proclaimed all knowing leaders who want to impose their will on the citizenry.


Give and Forget…

When you do kindness, do so out of pure charity and love. Think not of what will you get in return whether from the recipient or even from God. Give with total abandon…  give and forget… The fair assurance you will have is that, take care of others when you can, for when the time comes when you cannot take care of yourself, for sure someone will take care of you, someone who will take care of you without expecting anything from you…

Supreme Court Decision on Grace Poe’s Citizenship and Residence

In an article published online by Rappler Authored by an election lawyer, he justified the ruling of the Supreme Court stating that Grace Poe has all the laws and jurisprudence on her back. He claimed that under the 1935 constitution Grace Poe is a natural born citizen and that she poses the required residency period.

It is quite intimidating to question a lawyer on matters of law, but I could not stop my self but attempt and refute his position based on how I am learning it in the law school. It might sound to early for me to question a lawyer but that’s how they orient us, to question and refute when there is a good reason to do so, thus my refutation.

xxx first, reading back to the Constitutional Commission’s deliberation, foundlings are not included in the list of who would be considered as natural born, in fact they explicitly stated, “lets leave it to the legislative to decide and clarify” but to this day there was never a law passed to clarify or execute it, thus this provision is not self executing, not even Grace Poe herself bothered to draft a bill for that purpose while in the senate.

second, on the re-acquisition of nationality, what is there to recover if she does not poses it at all? thus, the answer to the second argument rest on the outcome of the first point which unfortunately SC ruled that indeed she was a natural born citizen relying on statistics and probability alone instead of DNA or more reliable basis.
Third, preparation to move to Philippines alone does not prove residence. In fact CJ Sereno in the case of Jalosjos vs. Comelec stated that “The mere purchase of a parcel of land does not make it one’s residence.” Be it remembered that the primary reason why Grace Poe returned to the Philippines was to attend to the wake and funeral of his father and not to transfer her residence. In the case of Ugdoracion vs. Comelec, the SC also explained that the fact that Ugdoracion still poses his green card proves that his residence is still in the United States. If green cardholder is disqualified how much more for a person who has refused or procrastinated the renunciation of her foreign citizenship? It is unlikely also for Grace Poe to have validly established her residence in the Philippines while her husband and children are residing in another place. Article 68 of the Family Code states that Husband and wife are obliged to live together… and Art 69 states that Husband and Wife shall fix the family domicile…, which in the case of Grace Poe is indisputably established in the US. In the case of Limbona vs. Comelec, SC disqualified Limbona citing this two Family Code Provisions stating that there is no valid reason for Limbona to establish a residence separate from her husband, and that the presumption is that which that they have established which to that day her husband resides and where she constantly returns. In the case of Grace Poe, the fact that her family was still in US in 2005, one cannot conclusively presume that Grace had animus manendi (intent to stay) in the Philippines, rather the clear presumption under the family code would be that what she has is animus revertendi (intent to return) to the US where her family still resides at that time.
As to the case of Romualdez vs. Comelec, I fully agree with the other justices that it cannot be applied in this case, Imelda never renounced her residence compared to Grace Poe. SC in that case clearly applied Art. 68 and 69 of the Family Code wherein her stay in Manila was by implication of her marriage to Marcos and that Manila was simply her residence by operation of law, while she has never abandoned her domicile by nature which is Tacloban. SC reasoned that Imelda has that animus revertendi as exemplified by her constant vacation and stay in Tacloban, and animus manendi when after the death of Marcos stayed for good in Tacloban. Contrary, Grace Poe abandoned her residence in the Philippines and renounced her citizenship, and while she returned in 2005, she only took her oath for acquisition of citizenship in 2006 and renounced her foreign citizenship in 2010, all of which clearly points to the fact that she was not totally committed on staying much more letting go of her foreign status.
Lastly, false declaration in a public document is perjury. Now with the decision that one can simply dismiss a false declaration as honest mistake, what then will be the measure and extent of honest mistake? In the case of Ugdoracion vs. Comelec, the discrepancy in the duration of his residence was ruled by SC as material misrepresentation. In the case of Imelda Romualdez, she committed mistake but was otherwise qualified, thus the correction was made to reflect the truth, as opposed to Grace Poe who stated a fact which is in fact not true.

Duterte and the Question of Substitution

We all know that Duterte did not file his certificate of candidacy during the filing period. Instead he kept denying any interest in running in the Presidential race.

Whether this is genuine or simply trying to play with the people’s mind and the loopholes of the law, they tried to play around, to which it has its own possible consequences.

Martin Diño played the safety net by filing his certificate of candidacy (COC) for the office of the President. On the day of his filing every one is well aware that there is no inherent intention for him to run but merely to secure a slot for and in behalf of Duterte who would later substitute him under Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code which states:

“SECTION 77. Candidates in case of death, disqualification or withdrawal of another. – If after the last day for the filing of certificates of candidacy, an official candidate of a registered or accredited political party dies, withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, only a person belonging to, and certified by, the same political party may file a certificate of candidacy to replace the candidate who died, withdrew or was disqualified. The substitute candidate nominated by the political party concerned may file his certificate of candidacy for the office affected in accordance with the preceding sections not later than mid-day of the day of the election. If the death, withdrawal or disqualification should occur between the day before the election and mid-day of election day, said certificate may be filed with any board of election inspectors in the political subdivision where he is a candidate, or, in the case of candidates to be voted for by the entire electorate of the country, with the Commission.”

Now, the question as to the validity of the substitution by Duterte is inevitable, considering the factual situations. COMELEC decided to declare that the question as to whether Martin Diño was a nuisance candidate was now moot and academic since he has withdrawn his Certificate of Candidacy already.

I do not possess the qualification to question comelec, however, I could not convince myself to agree that the comelec need not rule anymore whether Diño was a nuisance candidate or not. Since the validity of Duterte’s candidacy is rooted on the validity of the certificate of candidacy of Dino, then comelec must still decide on this matter, for if Dino falls under the category of a nuisance candidate, and is therefore disqualified then the validity of substitution is at stake.

Now for us to understand what is a Nuisance Candidate, Section 69 of the Omnibus Election Code state that:

Nuisance candidates. – The Commission may, motu proprio or upon a verified petition of an interested party, refuse to give due course to or cancel a certificate of candidacy if it is shown that said certificate has been filed to put the election process in mockery or disrepute or to cause confusion among the voters by the similarity of the names of the registered candidates or by other circumstances or acts which clearly demonstrate that the candidate has no bona fide intention to run for the office for which the certificate of candidacy has been filed and thus prevent a faithful determination of the true will of the electorate.

Dino from the start has manifested that he has no bona fide intention to run for the office of the President. Looking at his previous acts, he has no previous declarations, no preliminary planning or any thing that would signify his genuine intention to run for the said office. In fact, he even wrote running for the position of “Mayor” of “Pasay City”, a clear indication of his real intention.

Dino and his party filed the certificate of candidacy as Section 69 mentioned that is to “put the election process in mockery” by fielding another candidate only to be substituted later simply for political tactical maneuvers.

Now lets say, they can now escape this question, Dino is not a nuisance candidate as comelec declares, the next question is, was there a valid substitution?

Dino withdrew his COC on October 29, 2015, while Duterte filed his COC on November 27, 2015, almost 1 month after Diño has withdrawn his COC.

The Supreme Court in the case of Miranda vs. Abaya has clearly declared,

“The Court has no other choice but to rule that in all the instances enumerated in Section 77 of the Omnibus Election code, the existence of a valid certificate of candidacy seasonably filed is a requisite sine qua non.”

What are these instances in section 77? These are the instances when the candidate sought to be substituted died, disqualified or has withdrawn. It must be understood clearly though, that the existence of COC does not co-exist with the person of the candidate, such as when a candidate died, his COC still validly exist, and therefore a substitute COC may be filed as a replacement. Same is true with disqualification, a candidate maybe disqualified but it does not follow that his COC is automatically cancelled, thus substitution of a valid COC but with a disqualified candidate is possible. However, with regard to the case of withdrawal, it is quite tricky, and for an unlearned or careless mind, a fatal mistake may be committed. Common sense will clearly reveal that after withdrawing your COC, there is no more COC to speak of, therefore it follows that there is no more COC to substitute.

The SC in the case cited above simply stated “Even on the most basic and fundamental principles, it is readily understood that the concept of a substitute presupposes the existence of the person to be substituted, for how can a person take the place of somebody who does not exist or who never was.”

How then is substitution possible in case of withdrawal as stated in Sec. 77?

The only possible way is a simultaneous withdrawal of the first COC and filing of the Substitute COC, so that the cancelation and acceptance of the new COC happen on the same time or simultaneously.

After withdrawal of a COC, that COC is cancelled, so that there would be no COC to substitute later on. In the case of Duterte and Dino, the time difference is so huge.

Even with the justification that the party has declared their nomination of Duterte as substitute has no force at all. Filing of a COC is personal, it cannot be imposed upon anybody. Duterte decided to run several days after Dino’s COC has been withdrawn.

Supreme Court on Grace Poe’s Disqualification Case

SC seems to be having a hard time deciding on the disqualification case of Presidential candidate Grace Poe. Aside from the factual and legal considerations, SC has to weigh two opposing forces, the public which is throwing its support to Grace Poe (who is leading the surveys) or to uphold the rule of law and the existing doctrines laid down by the Supreme Court itself.

If SC decides to rule in-favor of Poe’s disqualification, I could only imagine the possible public actions by her loyal supporters. There will be chaos on the streets, and expect horrendous traffic. On the other hand, ruling in favour of Poe will have serious legal implications, this will ultimately mean SC has reversed or over turned the existing jurisprudence that is renunciation of a foreign citizenship is not a mere lip service, and that public documents enjoy presumption of regularity and a person’s declarations in a public document are binding upon the declarant and is stopped from questioning the same.

The requirement that the renunciation must be made through an oath emphasizes the solemn duty of the one making the oath of renunciation to remain true to what he has sworn to. Allowing the subsequent use of a foreign passport because it is convenient for the person to do so is rendering the oath a hollow act. It devalues the act of taking of an oath, reducing it to a mere ceremonial formality (Maquiling vs. Comelec)

If the SC would rule that the subsequent use of US Passport by Grace Poe is compatible with her renunciation made previously would lead to the door of bastardization of our laws. Not only by those politicians wishing to run for public office but by everyone-renunciation will be reduced to merely a non-sense ceremonial act without any material meaning at all.

As to the issue of declaration in a public document, to agree that the claim with regard to her residency period made on her certificate of candidacy when she ran for senator, is a matter of honest mistake, then everybody can now easy make an excuse that an erroneous declaration, or wilful misdeclaration was made in honest mistake- this simply means perjury is almost inapplicable. The question would be what would be the measure of an honest mistake?

But while the Supreme Court may be caught between two strong forces-they are no less than the Supreme Court who has the last say on what the law is. SC can always get a good excuse/exit by making an exception.

Now for those who would say let the election decide if she is qualified or not, leave the decision to the people. My simple answer is, what then is the use of our laws, then let’s leave everything to the people’s decision…

Who should prevail, the millions of Filipinos supporting Grace Poe or the rule of law? The Supreme Court in the case of Miranda vs. Abaya has answered this question eloquently; “The Court cannot accede to the reasoning that this Court should now acquiesce and submit to the sovereign will of the electorate, as expressed by their votes. We should always be reminded that ours is a government of laws not of men. If this Court should fold its arms and refuse to apply the law at every clamor of the majority of the supposed constituency, where shall order and justice lie? Without the least intention to degrade, where shall people power end, and where shall law and justice begin? Would the apparent results of the canvassing of votes justify this Court in refusing to apply the law instead? The answers to the foregoing are obvious. The Court cannot choose otherwise but to exercise its sacred duty to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the Republic for and under which it exists.”




My Ideology

I was asked if what is my ideological leaning, left or right, liberal or conservative? I said, my ideology is the welfare of the people at large, with sensitivity to the voices of the minority…