Long time friend and classmate Karl Bambi Tuano came home to Dumaguete with his family for the holidays. He brought his beautiful wife, and three cute children. Karl Bambi has been based in Australia for like, two decades already. It has been a long time. We were together in soccer high school football varsity where we played national games at the Ultra. His mother Tita Jean was an officemate of my mother at GSIS before. We got together at the residence of Alex Abregana right after Christmas. High school batchmates who attended were Jean Cimafranca, Jay Glenn Dizon, Rene Jay Dela Calzada, Cenon Voltaire Repollo.
It is the season of love, so let us digress a little bit. Let’s talk about love. If you think the Supreme Court deals only with the esoteric, you err. The high court is never detached to the mundane concerns of day-to-day life, specially on matters affecting the affairs of the heart. Perhaps, one of the Supreme Court decisions that cannot be forgotten by law students is the case of Wassmer versus Velez, decided a day after Christmas in 1964. This is the story of a groom who suddenly developed cold feet and “chickened out” two days before his wedding day. A frustrated, dejected and angry bride sued the elusive and indecisive groom for damages. The story of Beatriz P. Wassmer and Fracisco “Paquing” X. Velez, is indeed one for the Supreme Court books. This happened in 1954 where the love birds, Bet and Paquing, after professing their mutual promise of love for each other, decided to get married on September 4. Bet and Paquing applied for a marriage license. Invitations were printed and distributed to relatives, friends and acquaintances. The bride-to-be’s trousseau, party dresses and other apparel were purchased. Dresses for the maid of honor and flower girl were prepared. Even a matrimonial bed, where the two were to consummate their romantic liaison, was bought. Bridal showers were given and gifts already received. However, with all but two days before the wedding, the bride-to-be met the greatest shock of her life when the 28 year old groom-to-be left her with nothing but a note: “Dear Bet--- Will have to postpone wedding. My mother opposed it. Am leaving on the Convair today. Please do not ask too many people about the reason why---That would only create a scandal. Paquing” (Mama's boy?) It turned out that the future husband had enplaned back to his home city in Mindanao. Shock and disbelief consumed the distraught, lonely and mourning bride. The next day, September 3, one day before the scheduled wedding, Pacquing, telegrammed Beatriz another note: “NOTHING CHANGED REST ASSURED RETURNING VERY SOON APOLOGIZE MAMA PAPA LOVE.---PAKING” But the good Paquing never appeared, nor was he heard of again. Beatriz did not take this unparalleled humiliation sitting down. She sued her defaulting husband-to-be for damages. Even in court, Paquing chickened out. He did not file an answer to the charges. The trial court ruled in favor of Beatriz. Pacquing then appealed to the Supreme Court In the Surpeme Court Pacquing argued that his failure to marry Beatriz was due to a “fortuitous event” and/or circumstances “beyond his control”. Pacquing, sounding smart, argued there is no provision in the civil code allowing legal action for breach of promise to marry. But the Supreme Court thrashed the argument. The Supreme Court acknowledged that true, breach of promise to marry is not an actionable wrong. But this is not a mere case of breach of promise to marry, the court reminded. “To formally set a wedding and go through all the preparations and publicity, only to walk out of it when the matrimony is about to be solemnized, is quite different,” the high court said. “This is palpably and unjustifiably contrary to good customs for which Pacquing must be held answerable in damages,” said the court. The Supreme Court cited Article 21 of the civil code which says: “Any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy, shall compensate the latter for the damage.” The lesson for the irresolute grooms-to-be: if you chicken out, do not back out at the proverbial eleventh hour . For you can be held liable for damages. Also, never under-estimate a dejected bride. For as the famous line in The Mourning Bride aptly warned: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Happy Valentines!
I renewed my notarial commission today in Makati City. I was scheduled to take my oath at the sala of Executive Judge Winlove Dumayas at Branch 59. I arrived late and had to be called on the second round. The judge signed the appointment papers one by one, while at the same time asking whether there were any objections to the notarial application. Thereafter, we went down to teh office of the clerk of court of Makati where he also signed the papers. Last, we brought the papers to the notarial section to submit copies of our appointements. A notarial commission has a lifetime of two years. So a notary public renews his commission every two years.
Josh and I rode the zipline, our ultimate stunt during our Danao Bohol experience last Christmas. The video was taken by my brother Anton using his cell phone. Joshua sat on my back, without wearing any helmet because the people in charge forgot to provide him one. I had double goosebumps because aside from being terribly frightened being hundreds of meters above the ground, I was thinking of Joshua who was right on top of me.
Lump sum budgeting is a phrase I coined which describes a peculiar kind of making government appropriations. I have very serious legal issues about lump sum budgeting. This invites graft and corruption of horrific magnitude.
Lump sum family budgeting
Let’s go back to family budgeting. For example, in the family budget, the mother lists down one of the expenses as: “food expenses, say P1,000 ”. But this kind of expense or appropriation is very general. Mother has to specify what food she is referring to. She has to list down: Canned goods (P100), vegetables (P100), rice (P500), chicken (P200), pork (P100). In other words, instead of just listing P1,000 for food expenses, if would be better for mother to “itemize” how the P1,000 food expense would be spent. So it would be better for mother to “itemize” the family budget, instead of listing a lump-sum expense of “food.”
Lump-sum government budgeting
This should also be followed by government. Government should not sprinkle the budget with lump-sum appropriations. Lump-sum appropriations discards transparency. If you look at the national government budget, or the general appropriations law, you will encounter appropriations like: “P2,000,000,000 for maintenance of roads and bridges.” We, the people, will not know what are these specific roads and bridges that will be maintained. Another common lump-sum appropriation in the national budget: P200,000,000 for construction of school buildings.” We will not know where these school buildings will be constructed, and what type of school buildings will be constructed.
Lump-sum budgeting invites corruption
Lump sum budgeting invites graft and corruption. There is no transparency. Everything is in lump sum. It is very important that the people insist that appropriations must be itemized, and specific in the budget. We should say no to lump-sum appropriations. As I said the biggest corruption that is happening in government, starts with the lump-sum appropriations in the budget. It runs into billions of pesos. And the favorite department that contains billions of pesos of lump-sum appropriations is the department of public works and highways. You need proof? Very easy, just read the chapter of the budget pertaining to DPWH. Read also the budget for the Department of Education.
I have legal questions on lump-sum budgeting. The constitution provides: The constitution provides in Section 25(2) Article VI on the Legislative Department:
(2) No provision or enactment shall be embraced in the general appropriations bill unless it relates specifically to some particular appropriation therein.
I don’t think there is any intendment of the constitution to allow lump sum appropriations. With lump sum appropriations, the people will never know exactly how and where it is going to be spent. What we read are motherhood appropriations like “repair and maintenance of national secondary roads”, “construction of classrooms”, “construction of school buildings”. Lump sum provisions allow so much latitude for executive officials to play with peoples’ money. The solution is to do away with lump sum appropriations and let the executive department explain in detail their proposed appropriations so every single centavo will be properly accounted for, and monitored. Until this is done, widespread anomalies running into billions of pesos will hound the government. Study the budget, and you get to study wholesale graft and corruption.
We can transpose the concept of family budgeting to government budgeting. It’s not so different, if we consider the fundamentals. Government budgeting is also like family budgeting. The government derives income. This income is taken from the taxes that are paid by the people. For local governments, they have what we call Internal revenue allotment, or IRA. Local governments hugely rely on their IRAs to survive. There are also other sources of income other than taxes. These are called non-tax revenues. For example, if the local government has a huge tourism industry, and collects fees from visitors, and patrons, then the local government has a form of “non-tax” revenues. The rent collections from use of market stalls is also a form of “non-tax” revenue.
Out of these income derived by the government, the amounts will have to be used to cover the expenses of government, just like covering the expenses of the family.
Although it may look complicated, government expenses or expenditures can be simplified if we categorize it properly. In the government budget the main categories of expenditures are (1) personnel services (2) maintenance and other operating expenses and (3) special purposes appropriation.
Personnel services is an amount set aside to pay for the personnel (employees) of the government. The personnel are needed to run and operate the government so that basic services can be delivered to the people. This is like the family, when a part of the income is paid to pay for the househelp. Personnel services as a government expense is quite regularly because year-in, year-out, the government has to pay the salaries of government employees.
“MOOE” means maintenance and other operating expenses. This is the second main category of government expense. This kind of expense is used to operate the government. Government has to pay electricity, other utilities, buy bond paper, buy computers, or any other thing that is used to operate the daily affairs of government. The MOOE is also one category that is regular year-in-year out because each year the government needs money for operating expenses.
Special purpose appropriations
The third category is the most flexible, the most controversial. This is the so-called special purpose appropriations, or special purpose funds. The phrase speaks for itself. It is money set aside for “special purposes” Government needs to fund activities for special purposes like social services, health services, and all other services that the creative mind can think of. This is also prone to abuse, due to its flexibility. That is why, the people must guard this aspect of budgeting: special purpose funds. It doesn’t matter whether it is the national or local government budget that people are watching or monitoring. Special purpose appropriations are flexible because there are not hard and fast rules in determine what constitutes “special purpose” that needs to be funded.
Lump sum budgeting
This is also the most controversial category because this is where we find the so-called “lump-sum” appropriations. It is in the special purpose funds, where appropriations are juggled from one item to another, or one department to another, or one purpose to another. Lump-sum appropriations are amounts in millions of pesos identified for a general purpose, but does not contain an itemized list as to how exactly the millions will be present. You want to know where the biggest corruption is happening in government? Ask some of our quiet, but sly, witty congressmen. (There are only a very few congressmen who know this trade). Welcome to the exciting world of “lump-sum” budgeting. Next week: Let’s discuss lump-sum budgeting
One of the most interesting, yet dreadful aspects of governance is the budgeting process. Government budgeting is one of the most important, yet one of the most controversial processes in the operation of the government. Many in public policy will say that budgeting is so complicated. However, there is also a way to simplify our understanding of the budget. Think of government budgeting, in the way the family does the budgeting.
Family, gov’t budgeting similar The fundamentals are similar. In the family, usually the father works to gain income for the family. When he received his salary he gives income to the wife or mother. Often the mother is the one who budgets the family income. The income will be used to pay for the usual expenses of the family. The mother will then set aside part of the income to put food on the table. She will set aside part of the income to pay the utilities, like electricity, water bills. She will set aside money for the children’s education, and their ba-on and transpo fare. An amount is also set aside to maintain the family motorcycle, or car. A part of the income will also be set aside to pay for the househelp’s sweldo, if there is one. If the family has a loan (utang) from the cooperative, or the 5-6 (bombay), then an amount is also set aside for loan payment. That is family budgeting.
Balancing the budget What can be difficult for the mother is how to balance the family’s budget. In other words, the income must be sufficient to cover the regular monthly expenses of the family. This is the hard part. So it is important, that the father does not have many vices like smoking, drinking, bulang (cockfighting), mahjong, “good time.” If the income is channeled to the vices, then all the more, it would be difficult for the mother to balance the budget. If the income is not sufficient to cover the expenses, the result is what we call “deficit.” If the father’s income is way too low, that it cannot cover the family expenses, then the father may have to resort to “utang” from lenders and the loansharks or 5-6 (I am not talking about height here). It is important that there should be “responsible budgeting.” The idea is to have a “balanced” budget. One of the most effective ways to maintain a balanced budget is to cut-off on unnecessary expenses, eliminate the vices, and most significant, live simply or “simplified living.”. Next: Government budgeting.
Today, my good friend Rafael Raffy Olasiman received an order of release from jail by the court, after having been granted bail. Raffy who has been in jail for four years, was charged, along with three others, with murder for the killing of a U.S. citizen, the late Kyong four years ago. Kyong was my client when she pursued in court people who duped her of millions of pesos. Raffy, now thirty years old, served as Kyong's assistant. He served as driver, electrician, errand boy, and just about anything else that Kyong wanted him done. Kyonw was murdered in her home. In a twist of fate, Raffy was included as among those who allegedly conspired to kill her. Although I wasn't there to witness this incident, I know Raffy has got nothing to do with this crime. Even the self-confessed trigger-man who pintpointed Raffy, and who's affidavit was the basis for Raffy's inclusion as one of the suspects, did not know Raffy at all. After four long years, of applying for bail, the court has finally granted hiw release. So far, according to the court, the prosecution has not shown any proof that the guilt of the accused is strong. That is why the bail, notwithstanding the fact that the crime is murder, normally a non-bailable offense. I was in Dumaguete, and assistted him in any way I possibly can. This afternoon I went to the provincial jail to facilitate his release. Raffy had sent me a text that he couldn't be released because the jail guard in charge for the release of prisoners had gone home at four o'clock. I had wanted to have Raffy released, and tried to make some calls, but Raffy said he would just stay the night in jail, and would just wait for tomorrow's release when the guard-in-charge for release would report back to work. I wouldn't be there to see him come out of jail as I would be flying back to Manila first thing in the morning. Anyway, it's good he's free.
There is a spur of interest in the Miracle Tea of Dr. Tam Mateo. According to my wife, the interest rose perhaps upon Dr. Tam's appearance at Kris Aquino t.v. show. The latest is a query by email by Grace.
Im here in Dumaguete City I was browsing the net to see and look for infos about Dr. Tam Mateo's miracle tea... I need Your help pls where could I possibly get and buy? I have no idea where to purchase it since I am here in Dumaguete right now.... Or do You know any stores there in Manila that sells that product, a friend of mine will be there to take her NCLEX exams this 26th of Jan but she'll be staying at the Makati vicinity only since She's not sanay sa Manila... Any stores na that are selling sa may Makati na pwede palitan sa Miracle Tea of Dr, Tam Mateo? Your response is highly appreciated. God bless.
Ms Grace Guanzon, RN
I responded to Grace Guanzon that the Miracle Tea of Dr. Tam can be purchased at his main headquarters in Pasig. But we usually buy Miracle Tea at a nearer outlet, at Tiendessitas along C-5 in Pasig City.
Justice Erlyn is not the name of a lady magistrate, but names of two persons. In fact they're a couple. I am talking about Justice Demerre, and his wife Dr. Erlyn Demerre. We had lunch with the Demerre couple during the Christmas break, together with my parents and sister at Jo's by the sea in San Jose. Justice and Erlyn (seated left in the photo), are one of two Silliman high school classmates of batch 1978 who ended up as husband and wife. Both are now based in Manila. Justice is connected with a Canada-based engineering firm. Erlyn is a cardiologist at St Lukes hospital. Doktora Erlyn is my wife's physician, so they see each other quite often. Doktora Erlyn is one of the children of Mrs. Rosa Cabanag, our English teacher at Silliman high school. She is the brother of the late prosecutor Erwin Cabanag. Justice meanwhile, is the only person I know whom people call "justice" even if he is not a lawyer. He is the younger brother of Mrs. Naku the guidance counselor at Silliman high school during our time. His sister Rinalyn (spelling?)was a ballet instructor I recall at MEV Dance studio, where my twin sisters used to have ballet dance lessons. Justice and Erlyn were among old acquaintances we hooked up with during the holiday break in Dumaguete.
I found today my old law school ID from an old box. For posterity, and like other ID's I will just post it in my blog. There is a great chance this wouldget lost again. I went to the Ateneo law school at Rockwell last Friday and I saw that there are new kinds of IDs issued to students there, more sophisticated ones. IDs capable of being swiped. Ours in the nineties were just laminated. I met the same pretty faces at the adminitration office. "O, napasyal ka?" one of them said. "I want to re-enroll," I jokingly told them. The tuition fee has made leaps and bounds. It now costs P70,000.00 (US$1,400.00) per semester, excluding everything. My goodness. It would be more expensive for those coming from the province (like I was) since you need to cover board and lodging. But the experience, and expenses were all worth it. Very rigorous training and preparation. We use to call it the "drill-type" of training. The law professor was like a drill sergeant testing us, day-in and day-out for four years, whether we read the assigned cases and books. I can still vividly recall the venerable Justice Relova. In four years, it all becomes mechanical. Quite an experience...
Not long ago, we spent an evening listening to rhythm and songs of the now world-renowned Loboc Children's Choir in Loboc Bohol. Listening to the childrens voices, I know there is so much talent that abounds in our land. With the right support, these young Filipino talents will go places around the world. And indeed they have. As amatter of fact, in Loboc town, there is an auitorium built specifically for the children where they would hold mini-concerts to visitors. I saw foreigners who were mesmerized, and even stood up in appreciation of the childrens songs and talent. I took video shots, but inadvertently, many of their songs I recorded were erased. Good thing there were some musical numbers left which I would like to share.
Th younger brood of the Dejaresco family had a blast in trying for the first time, the heart-pumping zip line in Danao, Bohol. It is so far the tallest and the longest zipline in the Philippines. When we tried this, it was still on its seventh day of operation, in time for the Christmas and fiesta. So it was, at that time relatively on its final testing stage. We were among the "guinea pigs" of this death-defying stunt.
I sent this e-mail to relatives after expeirencing quite a different new year in Bohol:
Happy New Year all! I hope all is well with you and the family. We went to Bohol before the new year, on Dec 29. We had planned to come to Tagbilaran for two days and just return to Duamguete on the 31st. However, we were stranded as the Ocean jet fast ferry ran aground on the 31st. There was no more ferry to takes us back to Dumaguete on the 31st so we spent the new year in Tagbilaran City . It has been quite a whale of a difference in celebrating news years day. The RD home was so unusually empty on new years day.Not too long ago, new year's day was marked with noise and food and gifts and piano and dancing in the RD home. Children were just running around the house. There were many people coming and going in the house. It was a busy sight. When Daddy was still alive it was their wedding anniversary with Mommy, and after mass at the cathedral there would be beach activities and/or dinner with relatives. I was able to witness those memorable events.As one who has always spent new years day in the RD home, it has been a heart wrenching experience seeing the home empty of people during the new year. I experienced an unexplainable emptiness seeing the home itself empty. I couldn't believe it. I never imagined it. On December 31st in the evening, we briefly dropped by the RD home (we were spending the night at Bohol Tropics).The silence in the house was deafening. December 31st has just gone to extremes. I can't believe a good part of our lives has simply faded away and has left us with only memories. There is that sad song reverberating in my mind, which is more prophetic rather than romantic: "Some good things never last" How true.
In this 2008 Christmas homecoming, it was for us, a discovery. We discovered something.
After Christmas we went home to Bohol, which is now a known tourist attraction nationally and beyond.
Bohol is known for chocolate hills, a top candidate for the seven wonders of the world.
Bohol is also known for Panglao island, with its pristine beaches that, according to many, is better than Boracay.
What we discovered
In Bohol, we discovered the tallest and longest zip line in the country. It is found in the municipality of Danao, erstwhile a quiet and sleepy town in the heart of this almost heart-shaped island province. But not any more.
What is a zip line?
A zip line is now a term used to describe an outdoor sports activity of traversing from one point to another (usually from a mountaintop to another) through a cable. A "zip-liner" is the parson who is hoisted and connected to this cable so he can slide from one point to the other. Naturally this activity uses the force of gravity so the starting point is higher than the destination point. It is an exhibirating ride. It pumps up that internal adrenalin rush. It is a blast. The Danao zipline, according to this young, dynamic mahor Luis thomas Gonzaga, is currently the tallest and the highest in the courntry. Maybe not for long, he says. But let's relish it while it lasts, he adds. The mayor likes to call it "sui-slide". It is the closest one can get to experiencing a suicide, one of his assistants jokingly relates. The ride is around 480 meters or half a kilometer. There are two zip-line rides, in two different directions, so the rush is twice experienced. These are two, one-minute, heart-pumping moments of one's life.
When we went to Danao right after Christmas, or on December 30 to be exact, this zipline had just begun operating. It was the seventh day of operation yet. But we were assured of its safety as the one who built the infrastructure had a long experience in building zip-lines, the mayor assured.
How to go to Danao
You go to Danao by land. It is in the interior of the province, and will take you more than an hour to travel. It is in the area of the chocolate hills. When you reach Danao, the famous cone-shaped hills are still within comfortable normal eye-vision.
In our case, we first motored to Carmen town, where tourists are brought to have that magnificent view of the chocolate hills. We spent the night there in Carmen, before continuing our ride to Danao. But of course, you can reach Danao much faster than spending the night in Carmen. We just opted to spend the night at Chocolate hills. There are decent hotels there at the top. In coming back, we used a different route and it was much quicker, through the town of Catigbi-an.
Upon reaching Danao, we were met by the youthful mayor, Luis Thomas Gonzaga, who was busy as he had many guests at that time. But he spent time with us. He even rode with us on the zip line. You have to walk-and-walk because one has to reach a higher plane to do the zip-line. But I assure you, you will forget getting tired because of the excitement, the un-avoidable fear, and the oozing adrenalin rush.
No fear You feel the adrenalin rush right from the start. It is the closest you can get to be like superman. It is frightening enough to see yourself sliding through a able in between tall mountains. In my case, it was me and son Joshua, who rode on the zip line together. While I was lying horizontally, with harness and all, Joshua was siting on top of me as if I were a horse. Then we took the one-minute glide of about one-half kilometer. It definitely was one of the most terrifying stunt I have ever made in my life. Joshua had no fear. He was enjoying the ride.
It is very important to maintain and preserve the independence of the judiciary. In college political science, we learned that there are three branches of government, i.e. the executive department, the legislative and the judiciary. The basic political concept is that these three branches must be co-equal with, and independent of, each other. In other words, neither department is superior, or subordinate to the other. But is this the reality? So let's have a reality check. Last week we reported that the local judiciary in Cebu has ranted against what they claim is "bullying" by the local executive department, the provincial government of Cebu. The Cebu judges refered to the threats to cut off their monthly allowances, if judges issued rulings not favorable to the local governments. I was in Bohol a few days ago, where I also got a glimpse of the state of the independence of the local judiciary there. The Bohol Chronicle reported that two regional trial court judges have already inhibited in a case involving the Tagbilaran city government as the respondent. I don't know if the judges there consider cases involving the city government like "hot potatoes": Drop it at the first chance. Ngano kaha? Why are some judges seemingly allergic to cases that involve the city or provincial government? Let's try to search for possible causes. The story in Tagbilaran is that concerned citizens sued the city government alleging there is a "sweetheart deal" between the city and an investor of their public market complex. The concerned citizens are praying for a temporary restraining order agasint the city government. But there is yet no T.R.O. because the case is passed from one court to another (like basketball: pasa-pasa). The latest RTC judge to inhibit in this Tagbilaran case is Judge Baudillo Dosdos, just minutes after the judge received a motion to inhibit by the concerned citizens-petitioners, according to the Bohol Chronicle. The first judge to inhibit was executive judge Fernando Fuentes III who also inhibited himself after receiving a motion to inhibit by the city government's counsel. The city's legal counsel cited the judge's prior inhibition in cases involving the city government. Why does this good judge inihibit when a case involving the city government is raffled to him? Ah, I forgot. There was a motion to inihibt. So, inhibit. Sometimes, I can't help but liken and "analogize" inhibition as a nice and convenient parachute. In the local level, is the judiciary co-equal, or subordinate to the other branch of governemnt? This question lingered in my mind during the holidays. From my end, I was concerned. So, I was prompted to write Judge Gabriel T. Ingles RTC Branch 58 of Cebu. Judge Ingles is the designated spokesman for Cebu judges, as they express their sentiments against moves to undermine judicial independence. I expressed my support and solidairty to Cebu judges in their moves to threaten judicial independence. Below is my letter to Judge Ingles.