Agenda item for 2012
By JUAN L. MERCADO, email@example.com
Call this the
“Deadbeat Bill”. When Congress reconvenes after the Christmas break,
it should make time for House Bill No. 2009, despite the impeachment
trial for Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona If approved into
law, the measure could help stem today’s flood of government officials
who welsh on settling cash advances.
Failure to settle,
within a whittled-down period, becomes “prima facie proof of
malversation of public funds”. That’d call down jail terms and fine
Cash advances that
national government officials failed to settle exceeded P4.8-billion
in 2005 alone, says bill author Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo “This is
a disturbing situation… What about the succeeding years to the
Consider the advances
that then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took out for foreign and
local travel. In 2009, the Office of the President exceeded P594
million allocated by Congress for this purpose. Worse, over P367.3
million in cash advances for travel remained unliquidated as of August
31 this year, Commission on Audit records show.
“Efforts to identify
officials, who whelshed on payments, were hampered, Executive
Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. admitted. Lists of those who traveled
with the President were not available. Some former disbursing officers
National officials do
not command a monopoly on this reluctance to pay back what government
advanced. Flip through the latest Commission on Audit’s latest annual
financial report on Local Governments (Vol III).
This documents an
epidemic of local officials, thumbing their notes at government bill
collectors. The contagion cascaded from Tugegarao in the north to
Tawi-Tawi in the south, from Palawan in to west to Samar in the East.
Here are some telling excerpts from the auditors:
On the western
Philippine flank, Puerto Princesa city accumulated a staggering P180.4
million worth of unliquidated advances. That whooper is the biggest
bill in all 136 cities.
Philippines, Samar racked up P25.8 million in unpaid advances.
outstripped that at P59.9 million.
Up north, unliquidated
cash advances in
amounted to P5.77 million. Management proved lax “in monitoring their
liquidation.” It shied away from clamping on sanctions such as
“withholding of salaries to settle cash advances. Of P836,207
disallowed, only P73,167 was paid.
Tawi-Tawi, unliquidated cash advances totaled P2.3 million. And Marawi
City granted cash advances even before previous releases were settled.
Unliquidated cash advances in Zamboanga Sibugay climbed to P34.4
Surigao del Norte
accumulated P43.8 million worth of IOUs because previous bills were
not settled. Cotabato City’s bill stood at P31.8 million.
“A small debt produces
a debtor,” the Roman author Publius Syrus once noted. “A large debt
creates an enemy.”
How big are the IOUs
of local government officials? The latest COA does not provide sum
totals. You can, however, guess the bill by looking at the number of
As of today, there are
43,356 cities, provinces, towns and barangays. Can we say: Each one,
without exception, has unsettled bills with with Juan Q. Taxpayer?
“We have to resolve
this issue”, Rep. Romulo said. HB 2009 would amend Article 217 of the
Revised Penal Code. It would thereby stiffen the curbs that
Presidential Decree 1445 already imposes on cash advances. How?
First, it’d make
refusal or failure of a public officer or employee, to settle cash
advances, prima facie proof of malversation or misappropriation of the
Second, the Bill would
clamp on tougher penal clauses. Persons who dodge settling cash
advances “shall suffer the penalty of perpetual special
disqualification”. He may not get a government job. Nor can he run for
Third, there would be
a jail term too. ”Depending on the amount involved, the penalty of
imprisonment ranges from prision correcional to reclusion
Fourth, there will be
stiffer fines too. Official found guilty must cough up a sum “equal to
the amount of the funds malversed or equal to the total value of the
Capacity of LGUs,
however, is sapped by its failure to collect what should be its main
financial prop, namely real estate taxes.
Flabby collection by
LGUs has now ballooned unpaid real estate taxes to P1.29 billion, says
the Commission of Audit.
An analysis of audits
conducted on 81 provinces, cities and towns, reveals “failure of LGUs
to intensify collection efforts,” notes
COA in it’s latest financial report on provinces, cities,
municipalities and barangays (Vol III).
Local officials shrink
from clobbering real estate tax deadbeats. Often, these belong to
political elites. Yet, administration of judicial sanctions are
High time LGUs
revise obsolete assessments on land. The treasurer’s list of
delinquent taxpayers should be published. More important “enforce
remedies” to collect overdue levies.
Selling charity today
By Fr. ROY
SELLING charity today
is like selling rotten fish. You would have more success selling it to
a wall. Charity has become a total outcast, hardly known, ignored if
not ridiculed by many who are driven only by their so-called sense of
This actually has
always been our universal human problem. The root cause is that we
pursue justice outside of charity. We make it subject only to our
feelings and passions. Or to purely human criteria and laws that
cannot go far from the eye-for-an-eye law of Talion, and the
tit-for-tat logic of our wiles.
It’s a justice that is
mired in legalism, very prone to manipulations, to knee-jerk
reactions, to the mob rule dynamics, that cannot free itself from the
motive of vindictiveness, and the temptation to gloat over the
misfortunes of others, to insult and do all sorts of below-the-belt
Without charity, it’s
a justice that is not an organic extension of divine justice, but its
caricature. It covers only a biased part of the over-all picture of
true justice, and its main if not sole purpose is to punish and demand
restitution, rather than to heal the offender, the sinner.
It considers only the
externals, and hardly the inner drama in men’s hearts. Its judgments
are therefore based mainly on appearances and impressions. Those who
dispense it tend to get hasty and rash in their decisions, often
abusing the discretionary part of law.
If possible, what
injustice damaged, wounded and killed, justice should repair, heal and
resurrect to life. If possible, justice should go against the law of
nature, of biology and physics, etc., if only to recover what was
lost. It finds it hard to move on without satisfying its lust for
We have to understand
that without charity, justice can go unhinged, and can simply follow
the madness of a heart deprived of God who is precisely love, charity.
We have to understand that justice is never enough when we deal with
people, especially those who may have offended us.
Without charity, our
justice can only spring and strengthen our self-righteousness, or that
of the world, in its different forms. It’s a justice that cannot
understand the workings of grace, the value of the cross, the need for
forgiveness and the transcendent providence of God.
Still, no matter how
hard it is to sell charity today, we just have to make an act of faith
and hope that one day, people will realize we need charity, the
charity of God and not just our own version, when we pursue the cause
of justice. We just have to run the gauntlet.
Nowadays, the Church,
that is, the bishops and priests, gets accused for not doing enough of
justice. Some contributors of public opinion claim that the Church
gets quiet when one of its own gets involved in some crime, or when it
does not make any clear pronouncements on the volatile political
issues wracking the nation today.
Aside from mistaking
the Church to be composed only of bishops and priests (the Church is
hierarchy-clergy-and the laity and consecrated religious men and women
all together), they want the Church to follow their kind of earthly
justice. They want the Church to shame the suspect or the culprit, for
example. They cry for blood.
Perhaps, it’s partly
the fault of our Church leaders for not providing concrete Christian
guidelines on how to resolve problems and issues when they erupt. They
should do this as promptly and as clearly and strongly as prudently
But the truth is all
of us, clergy or lay, if we are to be genuine Christians and living
members of the Church, should practice justice always within the
sphere of the charity of God, revealed and lived by Christ.
Certainly, there are
loopholes in how cases of criminal offenses within the Church human
structure may be handled, or there can be cases of clerics
overstepping their competence and are falling already into partisan
These should be
repaired and corrected. But these are not excuses for the Church to
pursue justice without charity, just like what these Church accusers
want it to do. These accusers are making themselves the final
authority of what justice is and how it should be lived.
Granted, to preach
about justice within charity may be hard, but definitely it’s not
impossible. If we just learn how to be humble, if all of us just try
to assume the mind and heart of Christ, as we Christians ought to do,
then the ideal can be made real!
Christmas is Christ
By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, firstname.lastname@example.org
JUST in case we
forget, Christmas is about Christ born to us. The reminder has become
necessary because proofs of the disfiguring of Christmas are
No less than the Pope
reminded us not to be dazzled by the shopping lights of the season but
to keep focused on the coming of Jesus Christ, the “true light of the
In a town in the US, a
controversy erupted because a group put street signs saying, “Keep
Christ in Christmas.” Obviously when messages like that have to be put
up in public, there must be something quite wrong in that place.
This was verified when
another group precisely kicked up a fuss about it citing legal
provisions. Instead, the group wanted their own banner to be hung in
the streets, saying: “At this season of the Winter Solstice, may
reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or
hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and
superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”
Ah, ok. No problem. We
have freedom of expression and of consciences. If atheists want their
messages publicized, that’s just fine. But let’s not deny believers
their right also to show their faith in public, as long as public
order is observed.
The legal basis of the
group’s complaint is that the “Keep Christ in Christmas” signs were
put on public property, which turned out to be false, since they were
on private property. But that legal basis raises the questions like,
should public property then be devoid of religious signs? Would
religious signs already create public disorder?
I’ll leave the people
concerned and their public authorities to resolve that issue, but I,
frankly, just find the reasons behind the ban of religious signs on
public property funny. To me, it’s taking the principle of
Church-state separation to its ridiculous conclusions.
Truth is, for
Christian believers, we need God, we need Christ, who is the second
person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son of God who became man, to save
us, to complete our creation, to give us a way to attain the fullness
and perfection of our human dignity.
God is our creator.
We, and the universe around us, just did not come to exist on our own,
quite spontaneously out of nothing, since from nothing, nothing comes.
We are not our own creator.
In our case, since we
are creatures of reason and will, our creation by God has to be
corresponded to with our reason and will also. Paraphrasing St.
Augustine, we can say that if God created us without us, he cannot
complete that creation without us. We need to correspond to God’s
creation of us. We need to cooperate and bring it to its completion.
In other words, our
creation by God is still a work in progress. And our life here on
earth is precisely where that “progress” has to take place, where the
lifelong drama of our correspondence or non-correspondence to God’s
work becomes the ultimate purpose of our life.
This is a truth of
faith that is actually meant for everyone, but especially more for
believers than for non-believers. For the latter, we need a different
tack that uses reason and philosophy more than faith and theology.
This piece is addressed more to believers.
We need to be reminded
that as Christian believers, we need to be ‘alter Christus,’ if not
‘ipse Christus,’ another Christ if not Christ himself. That’s because
Christ is the very pattern of our humanity. We cannot live properly
without him. Remember Christ saying, “I am the truth, the way, and the
We become another
Christ through God’s grace, but also through our cooperation, when we
let our mind and heart, our intelligence and will to get engaged with
Christ in the spirit.
In short, we need to
assume the mind of Christ, following what
said that “we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2,16) We need to train
ourselves for this ideal, realizing that our thoughts should not just
be our thoughts, but also those of Christ. The same with our will, our
desires, our plans, etc.
Our life is always a
shared life with Christ. It’s a reflective life driven by reason and
faith, and not just a life animated by the senses and reason alone.
For this, we need
humility, otherwise we won’t allow faith to guide our reason. We need
to study, develop virtues, so that Christ becomes alive in us, and
true Christmas becomes a reality!
Inability to protect
has created a 'parallel system'
A Statement by the
Asian Human Rights Commission on the Occasion of the International
Human Rights Day
December 10, 2011
The Asian Human Rights
Commission (AHRC) today published its 25-page report containing its
analyses on what it has observed as the irreparable 'social and
systemic impact' of the ongoing violations of human rights in the
country. The government remains incapable of providing the most
rudimentary forms of protection to its people despite the growing
intolerance of the public towards human rights violations. On the
other hand the improvements in the legal framework to protect rights,
has created the situation where despite the laws being in place to
protect the citizens they resort to an emerging 'parallel system' from
which they now seek remedies and redress.
The full report is
available for download at
The ongoing phenomenon
of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, with the
government admitting to the poor record of convictions, raises a
serious question as to whether the country's justice system is capable
of ensuring the protection of rights. While there remains the shared
perception in the notion of justice and democratic space victims are
rapidly losing confidence in the institutions of justice. They no long
see the importance of registering complaints.
For the possibility of
a remedy to be obtained, 'complainants' and their 'complaints' are two
indispensable elements in order that the process of seeking justice,
remedies and redress could take its course. However, due to the
government's failure to, for example, ensure those responsible for
killings and disappearance are held to account, the importance of
investigations, prosecution and the adjudication of cases in court,
has been severely questioned by victims and their families in recent
investigations, because of its flaws, themselves becomes the obstacle
in seeking possibilities of remedies and redress; the prosecution,
because of its apparent vulnerability to political control and public
pressure, becomes a political tool rather than a method of pursuing
the violations of victims' rights; and the court, because of its
failure to ensure cases are resolved promptly, has become complicit in
the deprivation of the possibilities of remedies.
As a result, when the
complainants file their complaints they do so without the expectation
that it will result in to something. This increasing absence of
confidence in the system of justice: the police, the prosecutors and
the courts, has resulted in victims resorting to a 'parallel system'.
Here, the report observes the phenomenon of 'remedy by publicity'.
By way of remedy by
publicity, possibilities of remedies or redress are there depending on
how the victims or their families apply pressure to influence public
opinion for the government to take action in their favour. Witnesses
or complainants at risk now prefer to expose their risk to
journalists, rather than to the police for them to investigate and to
provide protection; torture victims who are illegally detained,
tortured and falsely charged would rather employ public pressure for
their release than legal action.
In some parts of the
country, particularly in conflict areas such as Mindanao, the military
has virtually assumed civilian police powers and these go
unchallenged. In these areas, the notion of civilian policing,
civilian power above the military and due process hardly operates
because of the military's complete disregard to due process and
legality. This practice has since become commonplace to the point
where it obscures what is legal and what is illegal. Also, the
military establishment has been intruding into the civilian's way of
life unchallenged, on the pretext of terrorism and insurgency.
It explains the
practice of soldiers inspecting people before they board public buses,
in entering commercial establishments and conducting operations, not
in conflict areas, but in the urban areas heavily populated by
civilians. However, the tolerance, by way of agreement and
memorandums, by local elected officials, has justified the ongoing
intrusion of the military establishment into the people's civilian
Thus, this practice
has also obscured who are the police and not the police. The military
establishment, by the day, has obtained a certain legal or a de facto
legitimacy in their practice of routinely arresting, detaining,
torturing and investigating persons under duress, with complete
disregard to rules of criminal procedures. The courts tolerance of
their practice has also cemented the military's authority and control
over, not only of the police, but also in ordinary way of life of the
The AHRC has observed
this is probably because; firstly, this practice has become heavily
embedded as a social norm--meaning, there is nothing new in it. Also
the widespread arbitrariness and disregard to elementary due process
and legality that protects the rights is lacking if not completely
absent. There must be a substantive discourse on the irreparable
impact of how the flawed country's system of justice operates to this
The AHRC therefore
urges a discourse on the protection of rights by examining how the
country's system of justice actually functions when compared to how it
should function. The discussion should be more than a mere description
of the violations but rather raise questions as to why these
violations are taking place.
The full report is
available for download at
What a Difference
By DANIEL ESCUREL OCCENO, email@example.com
I was able to visit
Metro Manila. There are no automobile dealerships in the small town of Gubat, Sorsogon Province so we had to go to Metro Manila and it was
pretty costly getting the Toyota Revo serviced by the dealership
supposedly to be serviced once a year with a local mechanic beforehand
and we needed a place to stay for the two days with a two day drive
there and back; but my mother decided to live a little so we stayed at
a nice hotel instead of roughing it.
I almost did not want
to go because I was involved with NaNoWriMo 2011; the “National Novel
Writing Month is an annual internet-based creative writing project
which challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel
between November 1 and November 30.” – Wikipedia, the free
encyclopedia on the Internet.
The trip meant four
days of the 30 days during November while not writing on my novel
entered with the NaNoWriMo writing contest because I did not own a
tablet personal computer with a “word processor” software that I could
have brought with me to write even while riding at the front passenger
seat of the “Revo” during daylight.
I realize NaNoWriMo is
a personal challenged to write a novel in 30 days with no prize money
involved just personal satisfaction of writing a completed novel in 30
days and it might take me another ten years to publish a novel and get
paid for it, but it was the principle.
My father needed
wheelchair access so it was mandatory for me to accompany my parents.
I felt like one of the police officers on the old “Ironside” TV show
(1967-1975) wheeling around my father at the hotel, just to eat at the
breakfast buffet restaurant inside the establishment.
My mother hired a
driver that knew the “South Road” and the Metro Manila area, since I
could not drive the 14-hour one-way drive to Quezon City and I could
not drive the “Revo” to the Cubao commercial shopping area for the
yearly service at the dealership and I could not drive the 14-hour
one-way drive back to Gubat.
We stayed at The Sulo
Riviera, a landmark hotel, in
to make the trip a somewhat costly vacation for my elderly parents in
their mid seventies just to have a personal automobile serviced by a
dealership. The last service was on June 2006 and (this time) I was
very impressed with The Sulo Riviera Hotel make-over.
The last time I
witnessed in person, not just on TV news events, the progress of the
Metro Manila area was on December 2008 when my father celebrated his
Golden Anniversary from graduating from
Medical School at
University of Santo Tomas.
Back then, I went
around saying that other than Makati City, the Manila area and Quezon
City looked dirty or old buildings needed paint or the entire area
needed renovation; but it was not poverty and it certainly was not
What a difference years make!
The new TOLL highways
and the new retail outlets to attract domestic tourism are comparable
to any major city of First World countries. It will attract tourism
throughout the world and more businesses will develop because of the
ambiance so I am so happy for my birth country. The Philippines has
ended its poverty.
The capable of success
Filipino kids want the small midsize four-door luxury automobiles
instead of motorcycles. Last time, the streets were scattered with
motorcycles. This time, I probably saw two or three motorcycles
zipping by during the various times while we drove around. There were
hardly any motorcycles parked on the side streets.
Because of tourism and
retail and entrepreneurship, the young upwardly mobile are finding
success early instead of waiting for middle-age to work overseas for
I was really impressed
with the new toll roads and the renovation of the business buildings
and the construction of new retail outlets of mega stores.
Yes, there is
congestion but city planning has organized the congestion and it did
not appear to be a free-for-all of every which way was the right away.
Luxury small four-door
midsize automobiles dominated the streets compared to the SUVs of
gas-guzzlers of before. I did not think the capable of success wanted
the two-door subcompacts promoted for preventing Climate Change, but
the midsize designed for families is a step in the right direction.
The luxury small
four-door midsize automobiles were what I wanted to manufacture in the
Philippines if I had success in America after college and I could
afford to buy General Motors to bring a manufacturing plant to Subic
Bay, Post Cold War industrial zone, after the Berlin Wall fell. I
knew; it was providence to eventually convert the American military
bases to commercial properties.
I ruined my college
education so not all dreams happen. I have a new dream; I would rather
write fictional novels. I can make up the success with words; however,
it might take years for reality to catch up, life imitating art.
My desires to be a
Filipino-American billionaire saving the Philippines from poverty have
fizzled so you Filipino kids capable of success should start an
automobile company in the Philippines similar to General Motors,
manufacturing luxury small four-door midsize “electric” automobiles or
ethanol blend from sugar cane or soy bean diesel motors, which can run
on current diesel engines using 100% soy bean diesel, especially for
delivery trucks and passenger “jeepneys” and commercial bus services
and the rail transits and power plants.
With the change over
from SUV gas-guzzlers to luxury small four-door midsize automobiles, I
can see sustainable growth for the next ten years with tourism and
retail in the Philippine Islands, but eventually the fear of gasoline
shortages and the need for alternative energy would be a thunderstorm
cloud waiting to happen someday, named Climate Change caused by Global
Warming from the fossil fuel discharge of waste gases.
The poverty is
definitely over. We have high unemployment. More job creations are
needed to prevent new poverty in the future, for without jobs an
educated society will only go backwards.
I am often criticized
that I promote the retail industry with the low wages in my quest to
end the poverty in the Philippines with my freelance writing of
articles, but I will again point out that retail products have to be
manufactured or grown, creating more jobs, so I hope small
manufacturing are flourishing in the Philippine Islands and local
farmers are making a living, not to mention those that deliver the
products or those that warehouse the produce.
I noticed several new
high-rise buildings but with the growing need for automobiles the
parking lot problem will be inevitable at locations of limited space.
I thought; I saw one building having a first floor indoor parking or
open sides for ventilation.
Solid cement molded
old buildings could always be renovated with the first floor for
parking and with escalators to the next level because of possible
power blackouts, but carrying packages might be a burden without
elevators powered by electricity.
I know; some of you
Metro Manila residence want my opinion on how I feel about the toll
highways for building new roads and maintaining better highways
because personal transportation vehicles are needed to expand beyond
living at metropolises.
I would prefer non-tax
revenue for government responsibilities in taking care of the people
How about nationwide
legal “jueteng” and nationwide legal “mahjong” for non-tax revenue to
repair roads and to maintain highways, especially in the Bicol Region?
The potholes were vicious after the suggested yearly service from the
Toyota dealership at Cubao on the 14-hour drive back at night.
There is no doubt
in my mind; the Republic of the Philippines has ended its poverty.
By Fr. ROY
WHEN things are not
inspired by charity, when we fail to keep a supernatural outlook in
life, when we just depend on our reasoning and feelings, then most
likely we end up running amok, killing everyone we meet.
This cruelty can
easily be seen when political issues and controversies erupt. They
erupt in the first place because many people think politics is outside
the domain of charity, faith and religion.
mentality is that prayer and sacrifice have nothing to do with
politics. One would be accused of living in a different planet if they
behave along lines of charity and religion. He would not be “getting
This attitude has been
demonizing us for quite some time now that I’m afraid it has become
part of our culture. Proof to that is the openness with which this
inhumanity is expressed in public, and hardly anyone complains. On the
contrary, a great majority applauds it.
I thought, for
example, that gossiping and backbiting are done in whispers, quite
hidden in some corner and in small groups. No, it’s not like that
anymore. Gossips, backbiting, all sorts of impertinent ad hominems can
now be broadcast on radio, TV and the Internet, with many people
stoking them to their maximum viciousness.
What is worse – and I
hope I’m wrong – is that they think they are doing the right thing,
that their reaction is what is just and fair. They have lost the sense
of balance, and charity is, of course, regarded as an outcast in the
In this kind of
discussion, the targets are painted all in black. They do not seem to
have any saving grace. They seem to be beyond redemption.
This does not bode
well of us as a people. We will be hooked to divisiveness and to a
spiral of vindictiveness if we exclude charity and the finer
requirements of religion in our political discussions.
Let’s remember that
our Lord himself told us to love even our enemies. He himself forgave
those who crucified him. To the repentant thief, he also promised the
Paradise. He told us to forgive not only seven times, but seventy
times seven. He asked us to be merciful, because our heavenly Father
We need to consider
these words as the perfection of our humanity, a way to purify and
heal us of our spiritual and moral wounds. They serve none other than
to reconcile us with God and with one another. These commands and
counsels are not optional. They are necessary.
The truth is that we
are all sinners. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1,8) We need to understand each
other, and forgive each other. No use getting entangled with our sins,
mistakes and failures. We just have to move on, doing all to make that
possible as soon as we can.
I was both amused and
bothered when I heard a radio commentator say that since justice is
supposed to be equal, then everyone has to be treated in the same way
whether the one involved is a high official or just an ordinary Juan.
In the first place,
equality in justice is never to be interpreted as uniformity in
treatment. This is commonsensical. Even in our family life, parents
love their children equally but treat them differently, simply because
the children are different from one another.
Wherever we go we try
to be fair with everyone, but we always treat everyone differently,
because people are just different. We don’t make a big fuss about
this, unless there is clear injustice.
I froze in disbelief
when the commentator said that if a public official who happens to be
sick already has been arrested, he should go to prison with all the
other criminals who had to bear with all the inconveniences of prison
life, like hard labor and exposure to sickness because that is simply
a prisoner’s plight.
That, he said, is
equal justice. There should be no privileges like a hospital arrest.
Then he launched into personal attacks on the public official
involved, taking jibes at the physical defects of the person. All this
at prime time and in a major media outfit. Unbelievable!
He forgot that
everyone has a right to protect oneself, his name, his dignity. If
many prisoners are treated inhumanly, it’s not because of some
discrimination. It’s because of the imperfections of our human justice
and legal system.
Again, if there is
no charity, our justice can run amok.