Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Spending Christmas

Christmas is the time of giving sharing one's blessings to others, sharing time with God's children who may need our companionship the most, specially at this time.
It has been our habit to be with God's special children during Christmas time, the orphaned and abandoned tots who do not have parents with whom they can spend Christmas.
Since we spent Christmas in Bohol with our grandmother and uncles, aunts and cousins, we visited our little friends at the Sunshine Home, the home of abandoned children and orphans.
Children at the Sunshine Home is a project of the Bohol Catholic Women's League of which my grandmother, Mommy Charing, remains an active member
The Sunshine Home is the project closest to her heart.
She relayed to us her children and grandchildren that they (CWL) have helped take care of abandoned children, specially children of prostitutes who just leave their children with relatives, who also could not properly take care of these children.
The Sunshine Home provides shelter and opportunities for growth for these children.
When we visited Sunshine Home today December 25, there were some training equipment for the children like computers, sewing machines which could help train them and provide skills as they grow.
Many of the children are still young and are in dire need of parental love and care.
So on this rainy Christmas afternoon, Mommy Charing, our aunts, Malou (who is based in New Jersey), Milet and Mamel and my wife Ruby and son Josh, cousins Daniel and Nikka shared our time with God's little children who could not spend Christmas the way many others spend theirs.
We brought them ice cream and cakes, while they performed songs for the visitors.
One child, Reynan, who is among the youngest at three could not escape our attention as he was very very entertaining.
There are twenty five boys and girls at Sunshine Home. They are taken care of until they graduate from high school.
Therafter they leave and look for homes where they can work and study for college as working students.
It is with these special children that I am really able to deeply appreciate the real meaning of Christmas.
The children I met today, Reynan, Peter, and the others, have no parents to spend Christmas with.
Yet, I saw in them incredible joy, all of them smiling, and very eager to perform for us, their visitors on Christmas.
This is in contrast with others who spend their lives complaining almost about everything that come to them.
The children probably receive no gifts on Christmas eve. Yet they were very willing and eager to give us gifts through songs and dances.
Want to know the real meaning of Christamas?
Spend December 25 with God's special children.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Broadcaster gets death threats

While here in Bohol on vacation, I received word that a fellow journalist and broadcaster, doing this thankless job of an information diseeminator in the outskirts of the remote town of Ubay, has receved threats to his life.

Senior management says the threat is serious.

The radio broadcaster received a message through text that he is supposed to be liquidated by a hired assassin for a measely sum of P20,000.

The family newspaper, the Bohol Chronicle (www.boholchronicle.com) published an article on this story on its latest publication:

"Broadcaster gets death threat


Ubay, Bohol. A local radio broadcaster has reported receiving a text message containing threats against his life.
The message he received alleged that the broadcaster was to be liquidated by a hired gunman at the price of P20,000.00.
The mastermind is allegedly a local politician and businessman.
During “Inyong Alagad” program simultaneously aired over dyRD and dyZD, in Bohol province, program host of “Sakada” Quito del Valle disclosed that he received a text message, the sender of whom introduced himself as the contact person, saying in vernacular that he (contact person) was tasked by a local businessman who is also an elected public official (identity withheld) to hire a killer to liquidate a radio announcer (del Valle), in the amount of P20,000.
Accordingly, the contact person was able to find one from Pilar town who asked for an advance payment of P5,000 plus the firearm to be used.
The message continued that the plotter (businessman) issued the gun and gave only the amount of P3,000 and changed the target person from del Valle to a local sanguniang bayan member, kagawad. Isidore “IC” Besas. This, on orders from a high official, del Valle quoting the same text message.
Considering the change of personality as target of the assassination plot, the hired killer would ask for a higher fee even as the advance payment was already handed over.
Three days after the elected official and businessman who ordered the killing asked the contact person why nothing has happened yet. Then, the mastermind allegedly pinned “the blame on me that I kept the money and the gun. For fear of my life and safety I left Ubay,” the alleged contact person for the gun-for-hire disclosed in one of his text messages to del Valle.
The radio anchorman said the sender who is hiding somewhere in Leyte, is willing to execute an affidavit to attest the veracity of the text message.
The same message is now being referred to PNP Prov’l Director Arturo Evangelista and Gov. Erico Aumentado for their appropriate action.
Kagawad. Besas is a last termer lawmaker who is eyeing to run as mayor in Ubay. When contacted by the Chronicle, Besas said he has yet to verify the threat."

Christmas eve

It's Christmas eve. I am spending Christmas in Bohol with relatives.
It was a hectic 24th day of December.
We went to Pamilacan island off Bohol island. We had such a nice time in such a nice island.
The island is a virgin, with everything unadulterated.
Then in the evening we had catered dinner with the relatives who came from all over.
Some just arrived today.
Then we had a Christmas program, and the traditional gift-giving.
My grandmother Mommy Charing distributed cash to her nine children and even to granchildren, and even great granchildren.
I have learned this lesson in life that one of life's greatest blessing is to have generous parents.
Somehow in the event, there is some emptiness still inside me.
I realized I need to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.
It is to remember and commemorate the birth of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
He has been my life's ally.
I shall continue to rely on his guiding light in the next year and the years to come.
With this thought, my Christmas is complete.
Merry Christmas.....

Saturday, December 23, 2006

19th century Christmas Belen

Part of the Filipino Christmas tradition is the setting up of Christmas Belens. This goes together witht he setting up of Christmas trees to spruce up homes with the scent and feeling of the yuletide season.
We are spending Christmas in Bohol, hometown of my father, and incidentally, the place of my birth.
This will be the first time in decades that we will spend Christmas in Bohol, although each year, we come to Bohol to spend the New Year.
We went to the town of Loay today for a dinner invitation.
In the refurbished ancetral house of our uncle, we saw perhaps one of the oldest Christmas Belens in the province, if not in the country.
A Christmas Belen, by the way, is a depiction of the nativity, where little figures or miniature statues of the main players of the nativity, like Joseph and Mary, the infant Jesus, the shepherds, the three kings, the angels, among others.
In our grandparents' home, we depict the scene of the nativity with a lot of motorized figures just to make the Belen interesting to watch.
It was very innovative that for years, it was an attraction to many people who dropped by our grandparents home.
Anyway, in Loay home where we were invited for dinner, we saw a Christmas Belen which according to our hosts Grace, was a 19th century Belen, as it was the Belen of their great grandparests yet in 1895.
We marveled at this sight, as it graciously portrayed the scene of Jesus birth, with all the angels above.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Criminal liability of a fake lawyer

One who performs the duties of an attorney even if he is not licensed to practice, can be held criminally liable.
First, this is a kind of usurpation which is punishable in the Philippines under the Revised Penal Code.
He can be held liable for "Usurpation of authority of official functions", under Article 177 of the criminal code.
This provision punishes a person who perofrms any act "pertaining to any person in authority or public office of the Philippine government ....or any agency thereof, under the pretense of official position, and without being lawfully entitiled to do so."
Lawyers,at least in the Philippines, are "officers of the court", hence public officers of the Philippine government or its agency.
In the case of a fake lawyer, who executes an affidavit---a sworn statement---he can be held, in addition, for perjury.
Perjury is also punishable under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.
Perjury punishes a person who executes in an affidavit upon a material matter, a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood, made before a competent officer authorized to receive or administer oath, which affidavit is required by law.
So a fake lawyer could be facing two criminal offenses.
My client, who was charged by this fake lawyer can initiate this criminal charge.
As a matter of litigation strategy, this would be a counter-move to "break down" the opponent.
However, the judicial autorities cannot act by itself (motu proprio) against this fake lawyer, because he is not under supervision of the Supreme Court, simply because he is not a lawyer.
Once I get that certification from the Supreme Court, this fake lawyer will be in hot waters.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Spotting a fake lawyer

Nowadays, it is easier to spot a fake lawyer.
I refer to a fake lawyer to one who claims to be a "lawyer by profession" but who actually is not because he has no license to do so.
Somebody filed a criminal complaint against my client. In his complaint affidavit, he claimed he "is a lawyer by profession"
I scoured over the attachements in his complaint, and he wrote a letter against my client and referred to himself as "Atty." --short for attorney.
While he placed his Professional Tax Receipt No. (PTR), he did not place his roll number.
That raised some signals in me.
Why would a lawyer write his PTR, but not his Roll number?
A roll number is a permanent number assigned to every lawyer. Its like one's Tax Identification Number, or Social Security Number.
I have mine, 42840.
Actually, a lawyer gets this number once he signs the roll of attorneys upon passing the bar. He is given a receipt that has a number,which becomes his Roll number, meaning his number in the roll of attorneys in the Supreme Court.
Normally, it would be a little inconvenient to verify whether one who claims to be a laywer is indeed licensed to practice law.
You would have to go to the Supreme Court and get a certification, based on the records in the roll of attroneys.
But nowadays, lawyers are listed in the list of lawyers in the website of the Supreme Court at www.supremecourt.gov.ph
Just click on the law list and you will arrive at an alphabetical listing of all lawyers, dead or living, with their respective dates of admission to the bar, their homeprovince and roll numbers.
Just as my instincts told me, the complainant who claimed to be a "lawyer by profession" is not in the lawyer's list.
Of course to charge this person criminally, I would have to get an official certification from the Supreme Court.
But for me, I have no reason to doubt the integrity of the lawyers' list in the website of Supreme Court.
Even during our student days we have been told of stories about people pretending to be lawyers, even arguing in court, and arguing much better than licensed lawyers.
This one may yet be my first actual encounter of a fake lawyer.

Senate hearing on charter change

The Senate conducted consultations from constitutional experts, in the same manner that the Supreme Court invites amicus curaei in resolving important issues before it.
The main issue in the hearing last Monday was to listen to constitutional experts on the matter of whether the Senate and the House of Representatives should vote separately in the process of convening a constituent assembly to propose changes in the constitution.
This was the Senate's response to the House's challenge to the Senate to pass within 72 hours a resolution calling for a constitutional convention.
Appearing guests included constitutionalists Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, Christian Monsod, both memebrs of the 1986 constitutional commission that draft the present constitution.
Also present was former Cebu governor Pablo Garcia, a member of the 1971 constituional convention.
They were one in saying that this is not the right time to even talk about changing the constitution because the atmosphere is so engulfed in intense partisanship and political turmoil that a rational decision on charter change would not be attainable.
The Senate met as a committee of the whole and held the hearing at the session session hall.
There were also other guests like Atty. Jovy Salazar, President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, former Senator John Osmena, Willy of the Kilusang Magbubikid ng Pilipinas, UP law professor Gwen De Vera, and some youth leaders.

Down with flu

I am down with flu for the past two days already.
While I am statying at home, still its work that dominates my day.
Yesterday, while having fever, I decided not to attend the pre-trial and just called up the court and the opposing counsel.
Still the judge fined me P200 for not attending.
This is really a problem in procedure. A counsel hasn't filed any motion to postpone, because he was really bent on attending the hearing.
But on the morning of the hearing, he experiences ill health preventing him from attending.
What can be done?
Anyway in the afternoon, while having head-wrecking colds, I went to file a motion with the Quezon City trial court, just to beat the three day notice rule.
The scorching heat made by condition worse.
Today I have to file pleadings to the Court of Appeals. Fever or no fever because its deadline.
That's the kind of job lawyers have which many do not get to see.
The deadlines do not accord a time out, fever or no fever.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Working weekend

It's been a tough weekend. It's been a working weekend.
I hate working on weekends.
But I have deadlines to beat, pleadings to make.
I have to prepare for the coming work week.
It's a rainy Sunday today. It rained all day.
I am having colds.
The rains have been caused by the passing typhoon called Seniang.
The storm did not hit Metro Manila. Nor did it hit Cebu, which was supposed to host the 12th Asen Summit.
But Gloria called it off, allegedly due to the storm.
It looks like it was another kind of storm which prompted the President to skip the Asean Summit.
Talking about politics, Jose De Venecia is falling to his own trap.
Senators have rebuffed De Venecia's challenge to pass a resolution calling for a constitutional convention.
The good Speaker had threatened to continue with the constituent assembly if the Senate does not heed his challenge.
Well, he will have to make good his threats.
Go ahead Joe. Continue with your charade.
It's your move now.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Speaker's bluff

In a press conference this morning, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Jose De Venecia posed a challenge to the Senate to pass a resolution within 72 hours calling for a constitutional convention to pursue constitutional reform.
De Venecia hurled a condition, that if the Senate fails to pass such resolution, then the House will continue with their efforts to convene a constituent assembly all by themselves.
De Venecia is, by his own admission, turning the tables, on the Senate.
For me, this is all pure bluff.
The Senate should reject such foolish challenge by the Speaker.
First, The Senate is not under the dictates of the House.
Second, the Senate is an entirely separate constitutional component of Congress.
Third, the Senate sets its own agenda and should not be working on timetables and deadlines posed by a congressman whose mandate is only one district of one province. The Senate and its members have the mandate of the entire nation.
Fourth, it is too late for that resolution suggested by the Speaker as the Congress is due to go on Christmas recess.
Fifth, there is a need to debate that challenge of the Speaker, if at all the Seante will even listen and take on his challenge, to pass a resolution within 72 hours.
Sixth, assuming that a resolution is put on the Senate floor, it should go under the normal, legal process which is to refer the same to the committee on constitutional reforms, so that public hearings can be conducted and the people can be heard in these public hearings.
If I were to make an unsolicited advice to the Senate, they should reject this challenge by the Speaker which is bordering on desperatness and stupidity.
Let the House continue with their harebrained and unconstitutional undertakings to convene a constituent assembly, so they will face the wrath of the people.
Let the peoples' protests continue. After all, the House is not abandoning the constituent assembly mode.
The Speakers challenge today is all but an empty bluff.

A Preview of parliament

What is happening now in the House of Representatives is really a preview of what a Philippine parliament would be.
What we are seeing now in the lower house of Congress is a manifestation of the tyranny of numbers.
The majority in the House is ramming through like an express train their evil intention of changing the Constitution the unconstitutional way.
They seek to covene themwelves as a constituent assembly, even without the participation of the other component, the Senate.
Leading this immoral and illegal charge is the ambitious Speaker of the House, Jose De Venecia whose insatiable desire to be prime minister is unparalleled.
He wants to be prime minister because he can never become president.
De Venecia goes down in history as the presidential candidate who was resoundedly defeated by the winning rival, Joseph Estrada.
That is how unpopular De Venecia is, among Filipinos.
De Venecia is the best argument against a parliamentary system.
Even if their actions are absolutely devoid of logic, reason, and legality, De Venecia and his puppies still pursue it, for the sole reason that they have the numbers.
If their own rules pose a hindrance to their goals, they change it midstream.
They make proposals to change the constitution, yet the congressmen are the primary, beneficiaries of such act.
Do we really need a parliamentary system?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Garapalan sa Lower House

For lack of better word, garapalan na sa House of Representatives.
As I am watching the television, the desperate crocodiles in the House of Representatives are bent on convening themselves as a constituent assembly in order to change the Constitution.
First, they are now going to delete a House rule which requires that asoption of resolutions propsoing amendements or revision of the constittions should be mande in the same manner as the enactment of bills.
If the Hosue succeeds tonight in deleting this rule, they will just file asimple resolution conveninga constituent assembly, with or without Senate participation.
If the Senators will not participate, trhe House will just convene by themselves.
The Senate expectedly will seek to restrain this unilateral "express-lane" act of the House.
I am appalled at this sight, as congressmen are hell bent in their dastardly act, for self-interest, and nothing more.
There is nothing in this exercise that will benefit the Filipinos except the congressmen themselves.
For one, it will extend their expiring terms.
Second it will erode their term limits and will run anew as members of a new parliament.
This greediness, selfishness--this evil---should be stopped.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ella and Marnie

My first cousin Ingrid Pamela Dejaresco Araneta, in her twenties, will tie the knot on December 16 2006 a Saturday. We call her "Ella", short for Pamela. Her friends call her Ingrid.
She weds her boyfriend of more than five years, Marnie Calubaquib.
Anyway, Marnie and Ella hooked up when they were still in college at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
Both are currently working in Singapore.
Marnie is in Information Technology, while Ella, being a topnotch architecture graduate from UP (top of her class magna cum laude), works for a company in Singapore.
We stayed in their apartment when we visited Singapore early this year.
Ella is the eldest daughter of my father's younger sister Charito (Tita Ito) and Antonio Araneta (Tito Tony).
The family is based in Cebu. Ella's sister is Kristine "Ating" who is incidentally here in Manila right now.
She has two younger brothers, Dex, and Kyle.
Marnie hails from Tuguegarao.
We chose to give a simple gift for Ella and Marnie on their wedding.
Since she sent through yahoo photos, an album of their ante-nuptial pictorials, we took the opportunity to have one of the pictures drawn by charcoal.
I am posting the scanned charcoal portrait of the two, plus the black and white photo that I printed on my computer.
We are of course attending the wedding in Cebu, since our son Joshua is part of the entourage.
So we are going back to the province earlier.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Rodolfo Vasquez v Court of Appeals

The 1964 ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan handed down by the United States Supreme Court has been the barometer used in defamation cases involving public officials in both jurisdictions.
The Philippine case that comes comparably close in circumnstances with that of the New York Times ruling is that of Rodolfo Vasquez versus Court of Appeals.
It is similar to the New York Times v. Sullivan ruling in the sense that the plaintiff is also a public official (a barangay official).
When the barangay official sued for criminal libel (note: New York Times case was a civil case), the Supreme Court ruled that it was incumbent upon the prosecution to prove actual malice, and failing such, no liability attached against the accused.
In any event, the Supreme Court took ocassion to apply the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan standard in this case.

Here is the digest of that case:

Rodolfo R. Vasquez v. Court of Appeals
G.R. No. 118971
September 15, 1999

Petitioner Rodolfo R. Vasquez is a resident of the Tondo Foreshore Area. Sometime in April 1986, he and some 37 families from the area went to see then National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Lito Atienza regarding their complaint against their Barangay Chairman, Jaime Olmedo, a public official. After their meeting with Atienza and other NHA officials, petitioner and his companions were met and interviewed by newspaper reporters at the NHA compound concerning their complaint. The next day, April 22, 1986, the following exerpts of the news article appeared in the newspaper Ang Tinig ng Masa. In the article, pulished were supposed allegations by Vasquez that (1) “nakipagsabwatan umano si Chairman Jaime Olmedo upang makamkam ang may 14 na lote ng lupa”; (2) ang mga lupa ay ilegal na patituluhan, nagawa ito ni Olmedo sa pakikipagsabwatan sa mga project manager at legal officers ng NHA; (3) kasangkot din umano si Olmedo sa mga ilegal na pasugalan sa naturang lugar at maging sa mga nakawan ng manok. x x x”
Based on the newspaper article, Olmedo filed a complaint for libel against petitioner alleging that the latter’s statements cast aspersions on him and damaged his reputation.
On May 28, 1992, the trial court rendered judgment finding petitioner guilty of libel and sentencing him to pay a fine of P1,000.00. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed in toto. Hence, this petition for review.

Whether or not the atual malice standard in New York Times versus Sullivan is to be applied in prosecutions for criminal libel.

The standard of actual malice in New York Times versus Sullivan is to be applied in criminal prosecutions for libel.
For that matter, even if the defamatory statement is false, no liability can attach if it relates to official conduct, unless the public official concerned proves that the statement was made with actual malice — that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.
In this case, the prosecution failed to prove not only that the charges made by petitioner were false but also that petitioner made them with knowledge of their falsity or with reckless disregard of whether they were false or not.
A rule placing on the accused the burden of showing the truth of allegations of official misconduct and/or good motives and justifiable ends for making such allegations would not only be contrary to Art. 361 of the Revised Penal Code. It would, above all, infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.

Libel was used as a form of harassment:

Instead of the claim that petitioner was politically motivated in making the charges against complainant, it would appear that complainant filed this case to harass petitioner.
It is curious that the ones most obviously responsible for the publication of the allegedly offensive news report, namely, the editorial staff and the periodical itself, were not at all impleaded. The charge was leveled against the petitioner and, "curiouser" still, his clients who have nothing to do with the editorial policies of the newspaper.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Tasting Krispy Kreme at The Fort

We lined up today at the first Philippine branch of Krispy Kreme at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig.
Still the line was long, as eager patrons longed to get a taste of America's most successful doughnut store.
It took us at least twenty minutes of waiting before we were able to get our two promo boxes of Krispy Kreme products.
I also got to taste for the first time their coffee, although I am not a coffee drinker.
There were free doughnuts available for tasting while waiting for our turn.
Ating, our cousin joined us in buying Krispy Kreme.
Their inaugural promo is selling two boxes of doughnuts, each box containing a dozen pieces.
One box contains a single flavor, the original glaced, while the other box contains all of the various flavors of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
The two boxes are sold at P550.
Each doughnut is sold for P30. BUt it comes cheaper if the doughnuts are bout in boxes.
Krispy Kreme lives up to expectations. It is so soft and the sugar coating just melts in your mouth.
Krispy Kreme at the Fort is just the first of many branches soon to open in various outlets and malls in Metro Mnaila.
The franchise holder for the Philppines is the group that runs the Max chicken chain of restaurants.
I thought it was only in the United States where the euipment that processes the doughtnut are shown to the customers.
The set up was all the same at the Fort. You can see the doughnut maker process the dought from start to finish, giving the impression that you really get the doughnuts freshly cooked.

Philadelphia Newspapers Inc v Hepps

Another significant decision handed down by the United States was Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.v Hepps.
The Supreme Court made it clear that a lesser standard is demanded for private individual plainitffs suing for defamation cases involving matters of public concern.
Private individual plaintiffs need to establish only falsity, and not actual malice i.e. knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard of the truth.

Here is the digest of that case I made:

Where a newspaper publishes matters of public concern, a private figure plaintiff cannot recover without showing the statements at issue are false.

Philippine Newspapers Inc versus Maurice Hepps
475 US 767 (1986)

Maurice Hepps is the principal stockholder of a corporation that franchises a chain of stores --- selling beer softdrinks, and snacks--- called “Thirfty Stores.” Hepps and a number of franchisees are the appellees. The Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. owns the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Inquirer published a series of articles alleging that appellees had links to organized crime and used some of those links to influence the States governmental process. The nature of these articles was exemplified in one headline which read: “How Mazzei Used Pull, Kept Beer Chain Intact.” The articles purported to link Maurice Hepps, General Programming Inc., and a number of independent corporate entities who operated beer and beverage distributorships as franchisees of General Programming, Inc. to certain ‘underworld’ figures and to organized crime.
The article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer, referred to Senator Mazzei whose actions displayed a pattern of interference in state government by the legislator on behalf of Hepps and Thrifty. The articles reported that federal investigators has found connection between Thrifty and the underworld.
Hepps then brought defamation suit against the newspaper owner and authors of the articles. The state Supreme Court ruled in favfor of Hepps, and the Philadelphia Inquirer elevated to the Supreme Court.

What is the standard used in defamation cases initiated by private persons involving publications that deal with public interest?

Falsity Standard. The rule laid down by the Supreme Court is that at least where a newspaper publishes speech of public concern, a private-figure plaintiff cannot recover damages without also showing that the statements at issue are false.
It should be the plaintiff who shall “bear the burden of showing falsity, as well as fault, before he could recover damages.”
Common law principle a defamatory speech is presumed to be false and that the one who uttered injurious statements bears the burden of proving the truth (because victims are presumed innocent) has collapsed because it is now the victim who must prove falsity of the statements.
The Supreme court said that if the burden of proving truth is placed on the defendant who utters speech of public concern, free speech is deterred and a there will be a chilling effect. To avoid this chilling effect, the private person must bear the burden of proving falsity.