The campaign period for local election has started last 26 March 2010, In today’s local politics, the only way by which candidates will assure victory is to engage in wholesale vote-buying or any act of bribing voters, ”umpisa ng mamulat ako sa isyung pulitika, ay wala akong natatandaan na halalan na walang nagaganap na bilihan ng mga boto. As always, the victors and the losers are guilty of vote-buying or bribing voters, an election offense, but nobody has been charged nor punished for such offense. Now, it’s time to change this culture and state of mind of the “Kandidatos” in bribing the “Botantes”, On the other hand, the Botantes would look up to the Kandidatos as an instant charitable institution/s,  the giver of money to the deprived people in the community.

 To change this culture, I would encourage all the Kandidatos in Sorsogon to be the catalyst of change for clean, peace, fair and honest elections, by signing in the proposed COVENANT herein below. The signing of the peace covenant will assure our constituents in Sorsogon to have an honest and peaceful election this May 10, 2010, san vote-buying, etc.

 The covenant enjoins all the candidates to uphold the fundamental principle of democracy that sovereignty resides on the people and all government authority emanates from them.

It also enjoins the candidates not to resort to vote-buying or intimidation in any manner and destroy the voters’ power and freedom of choice.

Furthermore, the covenant enjoins all of the candidates from Governor down to municipal/city councilors to campaign in accordance by the law and rules in the spirit of good grace and friendly rivalry.

Finally, the candidates will be answerable to the public if and when they will violate the covenant they have signed by voluntary withdrawing their certificate of candidacy. /

 Atty. Benjamin Gaspi








This Covenant made and entered by and among:






 WHEREAS, Undersigned signatories are Candidates in the May 10, 2010 local elections vying for the position of Governors, Vice Governors, Board Members, House Representatives, Mayors, Vice Mayors and Councilors in the Province of Sorsogon

  WHEREAS, the Constitution declares that the Philippine is a democratic and republican state. Sovereignty resides in the people (the electorates/voters) and all government authority emanates from them. And, the same charter guarantees every citizen of the state (of competent age) to have equal access to public service (and prohibit political dynasties as maybe defined by law), regardless of the status in the society.

  WHEREAS, in order to ensure a fair, honest, peace and clean elections in the Province of Sorsogon as well as to prevent electoral fraud, bribery, unnecessary spending, vote buying/selling and that every bonafide candidate/s be free from any form of harassment and discrimination in the upcoming local elections, the undersigned candidates have entered into this covenant in the spirit of peace and order electoral exercise regardless of political party affiliation, principle and belief.

 IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the parties hereby agreed and covenanted, as follows:


 Section 1.



The following are prohibited acts during the start of campaign period or election.

 As candidates, undersigned signatories are duty bound to abide by and comply with, in conscience and in principle, the provisions of the Omnibus Election Code (BP Blg. 881) specifically ARTICLE XI (Re, Electoral Contributions and Expenditures) under Section 96, (Soliciting and Receiving Contributions from Foreign Funds), Section 97 (Prohibited Raising of Funds), Section 99 (Report of Contributions), Section 100 (Limitations upon Expenses of Candidates), Section 101 (Limitations upon Expenses of Political Parties), Section 102 (Lawful Expenditures), Section 103 (Person Authorized to Incur Elections Expenditures), Section 104 (Prohibited Donations by Candidates) and to also observe religiously the mandates as stated in the following provisions ARTICLE XXII (Re, Election Offense), particularly Section 261 and all sub-paragraphs as provided in the said Code.

 Furthermore, the candidates who joined the peace accord have agreed not to engage in either vote buying or vote selling, not to bribe voters with money, directly or indirectly nor to intimidate them through violence or threat.

 They have also agreed to abide by the COMELEC rules and regulations not to carry or transport firearms and other deadly weapons as well as to hire security aides and bodyguards more than the allowable limit prescribed by the COMELEC.

 They have also agreed to a friendly rivalry and to observe the rules and regulations on prohibited propaganda such as the posting of posters, billboards, streamers and other propaganda materials outside the COMELEC poster areas.

 Any of the undersigned candidate who violates, or attempt to violate the afore-quoted stipulation, re, engaging in vote-buying, and giving money or material consideration to influence, induce or corrupt the voters or public officials performing electoral functions, committed acts of terrorism to enhance his/her candidacy, spending election campaign an amount in excess of that allowed by the Code and among other acts constituting election offenses, shall motu proprio voluntarily withdraw his/her certificate of candidacy from the COMELEC. No court action is necessary, but in conscience, she/he must tender and withdraw his/her from the political race for committing such violations.

 Undersigned commit themselves to be catalysts of reformation and transformation for a better society, insulated from the old system of traditional politics or politics of patronage and promise not resort to vote-buying to enhance the chances of winning in the election.


Section 2.



This covenant shall remain in force and effect until May 10, 2010 local election, and shall be binding between and among the undersigned candidates, who are law-abiding citizens.


Section 3.



This Agreement shall be effective immediately upon signing by the parties hereof.


 IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties, hereto signed this _____ day of April 2010 in Bulan, Sorsogon, Philippines.




(To sign online, please use the reply or comment  box  with your name, official e-mail and relevant candidate’s profile information. Or the candidates may print out this covenant and sign it among themselves.)

On Accusation And Conviction


by jun asuncion


Since quite a few of  the observers had indirectly suggested in their comments that the decisions made by the Sandiganbayan do not possess finality in their character, I reproduced herewith-  for clarification purposes and with due acknowledgement to the authors- entries from the Wikipedia about the Sandiganbayan Court, The Court Of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

First, it had astonished me to know that some of our Bulan Observers and writers do not classify the Sandiganbayan as an independent court by itself, that many of us do not know that verdict or convictions  made and promulgated  by its jurors are in themselves final, which means that if the convicted would not appeal his case to the Supreme Court for review, then  he or she must serve the sentence given by the Sandiganbayan.

Second, there seems to be a confusion among us about the meaning of accusation and conviction and quite a few suggest in their comments that conviction is the same as accusation.


most dictionaries define accuse (transitive verb) as follows:

1 : to charge with a fault or offense : blame

2 : to charge with an offense judicially or by a public process

 and con·vict is defined as follows:

1. Law : To find or prove (someone) guilty of an offense or crime, especially by the verdict of a court.

2. To show or declare to be blameworthy; condemn

3. To make aware of one’s sinfulness or guilt.

And in common parlance, we call a person who is released from prison after serving his sentence as ex-convict, not ex-accused.

These two legal terms are two different things, the usage of which clearly suggests the momentary stage of the court trial. Accusation is used before and during the court hearing and conviction is used to denote the end of the court hearing when the final verdict has been made.

Hence, during the court hearing, the accused or defendant can either be convicted or even vindicated.

(Perhaps the term vindication may help us also clarify the confusion. Vindication  is defined as “to clear of accusation, blame, suspicion, or doubt with supporting arguments or proof.” Notice, it is to clear of accusation, not to clear of conviction!  Synonymous with it is the verb to acquit someone of something which means “to establish someone’s innocence of a criminal charge or the blame for some wrongdoing”)

It is clear then, that an accused cannot be declared a convict unless a court of law hands in a verdict to this effect.

And Sandiganbayan is a court of law.

Now, back to Jose Solis’ case,- and just talking about facts and things as they are known : Mr. Jose Solis (who is probably on temporary liberty) was convicted last March 3-  after he was accused by the Ombudsman and tried at the Sandiganbayan of violating anti-graft laws and of falsifying documents.

Part of the confusion about the terms accusation and conviction may be traced to how the reporters in some of the newspapers of national – and internet – circulation have interchangeably used the two terms as in the Manila Bulletin report reproduced hereunder. Note that in the first paragraph, the reporter used “convicted” only to use the term accused” again in 8th paragraph.

Now, when the Solis’ Case is elevated to the Supreme Court, decisions made by the Sandiganbayan and Solis’ renewed defense will be reviewed. In my understanding (and I stand to be corrected), alone this act of appealing  to the Supreme Court does not make yet the prior conviction made by the Sandiganbayan null and void. This phase of the case is actually the main cause of confusing conviction with accusation since the public now expects from the Supreme Court  either conviction (or confirmation of Sandiganbayan’s findings and sentence) or acquittal ( or non-confirmation or reversal), hence, putting Solis’ status by this sole expectation (at this stage of event) back to that of an accused!

But actually, “review on appeal is not as a matter of right, but “of sound judicial discretion and will be granted only when there are special and important reasons therefor”.[13] In the exercise of appellate review, the Supreme Court may reverse the decision of lower courts upon a finding of an “error of law”. The Court generally declines to engage in review the findings of fact made by the lower courts, although there are notable exceptions to this rule. The Court also refuses to entertain cases originally filed before it that should have been filed first with the trial courts.” (Wikipedia)

Now, what these “sound judicial discretion”, “error of laws” and “notable exceptions” mean, are things that define Philippine judicial system within the given political landscape that we all know.

jun asuncion


Manila Bulletin

Sandiganbayan convicts Sorsogon representative

By GABRIEL S. MABUTAS March 4, 2010, 10:16am

The Sandiganbayan convicted on Wednesday Sorsogon Rep. Jose G. Solis for charges of graft and falsification of public documents allegedly for allowing the transfer of an inalienable land in favor of a private individual when he was still the Administrator of National Mapping and Resource Information Administration.

In a 67-page decision written by Associate Justice Efren Dela Cruz, the Sandiganbayan’s 3rd Division rendered the decision after finding the lawmaker guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 3-G of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The ruling was concurred in by Associate Justices Francisco Villaruz and Alex Quiroz.

Solis, along with private individual Florencia Garcia-Diaz, was slapped a jail term of six years and one month to 10 years.

The lawmaker was also meted out an accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

In the falsification case, Solis alone was sentenced to suffer an imprisonment of two years and four months and one day to six years and one day.

Solis personally appeared before the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division to hear the verdict.

“In every prosecution, the guilt of the accused has to be established invariably by proof beyond reasonable doubt. The elements of the crime must be shown to exist and be adequately proven. In this case, we are convinced that the prosecution has ably discharged this quantum of proof to sustain the conviction of accused Solis and Garcia-Diaz for violation of Section 3G of RA 3019,” the Sandiganbayan said.

It has given the accused five days to double their bail bond which shall be used for their temporary liberty. This, after the accused manifested that they are filing their motion for reconsideration.

The Sandiganbayan, however, acquitted other accused in the case namely Salvador Bonnevie, Virgilio Fabian Jr., Ireneo Valencia and Arthur Viernes, being the officials of NAMRIA who entered into the contract with Diaz, due to the failure of the prosecution to establish their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The case against former Solicitor General Ricardo Galvez was dismissed since he passed away before the case was promulgated.

Court records show that on May 18, 1999, Solis, then official of NAMRIA, conspired with Diaz to enter into a compromise agreement for the registration of a real property, with a land area of 4,689 hectares, in favor of the latter and in gross disadvantage to the government.

It was alleged that the said parcel of land is not alienable or registerable as the same falls within the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija.

The title of the land was issued in the name of Melecio Padilla, from whom the title applicant Flora Garcia and now her heiress claimant Garcia-Diaz, derived her claim. But the Supreme Court later ruled that it is seriously flawed. On February 26, 1992, the Court of Appeals denied, in a ruling, the application of Garcia to have the lands registered in accordance with the agreement


MANILA, Philippines–The antigraft court Sandiganbayan on Wednesday sentenced to up to 10 years in jail an incumbent Sorsogon congressman after finding him guilty of graft and falsification for wrongly classifying a government lot to favor a private claimant more than 10 years ago.

The court’s third Division also disqualified from holding any public office Sorsogon second District Rep. Jose Solis, who is running for governor.

The court also found guilty of graft his co-accused, Florencia Garcia-Diaz, the private claimant who stood to benefit from the wrong classification of almost 5,000 hectares of the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija.

Solis, who was present when the decision was promulgated, is planning to appeal his conviction. His lawyers, however, refused to give any statement when approached by the Inquirer.

Congressman gets 6 years for fake land sale

THE anti-graft court on Wednesday sentenced Sorsogon Rep. Jose Solis to six to 10 years in jail for illegally awarding the title of a piece of land in Laur, Nueva Ecija, to a private person in 1999, when he was head of the National Mapping and Resource Information Administration.

The Sandiganbayan’s Third Division found Solis and his co-defendant, Florencia Garcia-Diaz, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating anti-graft laws.

“We are convinced that the prosecution has ably discharged [its duty] to sustain the conviction of [the accused],” the court said.

Solis, 70, a civil engineer and on his third term as congressman, was also perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

The court gave him and Diaz five days to post bail for their temporary liberty.

Associate Justice Efren Dela Cruz cleared three other defendants after prosecutors failed to establish their guilt. Another accused was not arraigned because he was at large.

The court said that on May 18, 1999, Solis conspired with Diaz to register in her name 4,689 hectares of land in Laur, Nueva Ecija, that was part of Fort Magsaysay, a military reservation.

It dismissed Solis’ defense that he was no longer connected with the Mapping Administration when the case happened, and that he had merely recommended the transfer of the piece of property on his subordinates’ recommendations.

“Accused Solis could not extricate himself from liability … [because] he was no longer connected with [the agency] at the time the compromise agreement was executed,” the court said. Macon Ramos Araneta



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Sandiganbayan is a special court in the Philippines which was established under Presidential Decree No. 1606. Its rank is equivalent to the Court of Appeals. The court consists of 14 Associate Justices and 1 Presiding Justice. The Sandiganbayan building is located at Centennial Building, Commonwealth Ave., Batasan Road, Quezon City in Metro Manila.

The creation of the Sandiganbayan was originally provided for by Article XIII of the 1973 Constitution of the Philippines:

“SEC. 5. The National Assembly shall create a special court, to be known as Sandiganbayan, which shall have jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases involving graft and corrupt practices and such other offenses committed by public officers and employees, including those in government-owned or controlled corporations, in relation to their office as may be determined by law.”

In obedience to this mandate, the late President Ferdinand Marcos, exercising the emergency legislative power granted him under Amendment No. 6 of the 1976 Amendments to the 1973 Constitution, issued on June 11, 1978, Presidential Decree No. 1486 creating the Sandiganbayan and putting it on the same level as what were then known as the Courts of First Instance, now the Regional Trial Courts. Shortly thereafter, however, the Sandiganbayan was elevated to the level of the Court of Appeals by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1606 issued on December 10, 1978.

At the start of its operation on February 12, 1979, the Sandiganbayan had only one Division, composed of the Presiding Justice, Hon. Manuel R. Pamaran, and two Associate Justices, Hon. Bernardo P. Fernandez and Hon. Romeo M. Escareal, and a skeleton force of fifteen (15). The start of the third year of the Court’s operation in 1981 was marked by the activation of the Second Division. The appointment of three more Justices of the Third Division in August 4, 1982 completed the full membership of the Court.

The People Power Revolution of February 1986 signaled the beginning of a new dispensation, caused substantial changes in the entire government machinery, including the judiciary. However, both the “Freedom Constitution” and the new Constitution have seen fit to maintain the Sandiganbayan as one of the principal instruments of public accountability. In furtherance of this, its jurisdiction has been broadened to include the so-called “ill-gotten wealth” cases investigated by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) through Executive Orders No. 14 and No. 14-A. In the reorganization program of the new government, the resignation of some of the members of the Court was accepted leading to the appointment of a new Presiding Justice in the person of Hon. Francis E. Garchitorena.

To further strengthen the functional and structural organization of the Sandiganbayan, several amendments have been introduced to the original law creating it, the latest of which are Republic Acts No. 7975 and No. 8249. Under these new laws, the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan is now confined to cases involving public officials occupying positions classified as salary grade “27” and higher. As restructured, the Sandiganbayan is presently composed of a Presiding Justice and fourteen (14) Associate Justices who sit in five (5) Divisions of three Justices each in the trial and determination of cases.


Philippine Court of Appeals

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Philippine Court of Appeals (Filipino: Hukumang Paghahabol ng Pilipinas) is the Philippines’ second highest judicial court, just after the Supreme Court. The court consists of 68 Associate Justices and 1 Presiding Justice. Pursuant to the Constitution, the Court of Appeals “reviews not only the decisions and orders of the Regional Trial Courts nationwide but also those of the Court of Tax Appeals, as well as the awards, judgments, final orders or resolutions of, or authorized by 21 Quasi-Judicial Agencies exercising quasi-judicial functions mentioned in Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, plus the National Amnesty Commission (Pres. Proclamation No. 347 of 1994) and Office of the Ombudsman (Fabian v. Desierto, 295 SCRA 470). Added to the formidable list are the decisions and resolutions of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) which are now initially reviewable by this court, instead of a direct recourse to the Supreme Court, via petition for certiorari under Rule 65 (St. Martin Funeral Homes v. NLRC, 295 SCRA 414)”. 

 On July 28, 1986, President Aquino issued Executive Order No.33 restoring the original name of the Court of Appeals with a Presiding Justice and fifty (50) Associate Justices.

On February 23, 1995, R.A. No. 7902 was passed expanding the jurisdiction of the Court effective March 18, 1995. On December 30, 1996, R.A. No. 8246 created six (6) more divisions in the Court, thereby increasing its membership from 51 to 69 Justices. These additional divisions – 3 for Visayas and 3 for Mindanao paved the way for the appellate court’s regionalization. The CA in the Visayas sits in Cebu City while Cagayan de Oro City is home to the CA for Mindanao.

On February 1, 2010, the Court celebrated its 74th Anniversary.[2]


Supreme Court of the Philippines

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 The Supreme Court of the Philippines (Filipino: Kataas-taasang Hukuman ng Pilipinas or Korte Suprema) is the Philippines’ highest judicial court, as well as the court of last resort. The court consists of 14 Associate Justices and 1 Chief Justice. Pursuant to the Constitution, the Supreme Court has “administrative supervision over all courts and the personnel thereof”.


The powers of the Supreme Court are defined in Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution. These functions may be generally divided into two – judicial functions and administrative functions. The administrative functions of the Court pertain to the supervision and control over the Philippine judiciary and its employees, as well as over members of the Philippine bar. Pursuant to these functions, the Court is empowered to order a change of venue of trial in order to avoid a miscarriage of justice and to appoint all officials and employees of the judiciary.[10] The Court is further authorized to promulgate the rules for admission to the practice of law, for legal assistance to the underprivileged, and the procedural rules to be observed in all courts.[11]

The more prominent role of the Court is located in the exercise of its judicial functions. Section 1 of Article VIII contains definition of judicial power that had not been found in previous constitutions. The provision states in part that:

Judicial power includes the duty of courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government.

The definition reaffirms the power of the Supreme Court to engage in judicial review, a power that had traditionally belonged to the Court even before this provision was enacted. Still, this new provision effectively dissuades from the easy resort to the political question doctrine as a means of declining to review a law or state action, as was often done by the Court during the rule of President Ferdinand Marcos.[12] As a result, the existence of “grave abuse of discretion” on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government is sufficient basis to nullify state action.


The Court is authorized to sit either en banc or in divisions of 3, 5 or 7 members. Since the 1970s, the Court has constituted itself in 3 divisions with 5 members each. Majority of the cases are heard and decided by the divisions, rather than the court en banc. However, the Constitution requires that the Court hear en banc “[a]ll cases involving the constitutionality of a treaty, international or executive agreement, as well as “those involving the constitutionality, application, or operation of presidential decrees, proclamations, orders, instructions, ordinances, and other regulations”.[4] The Court en banc also decides cases originally heard by a division when a majority vote cannot be reached within the division. The Court also has the discretion to hear a case en banc even if no constitutional issue is involved, as it typically does if the decision would reverse precedent or presents novel or important questions.

Appellate review

Far and away the most common mode by which a case reaches the Supreme Court is through an appeal from a decision rendered by a lower court. Appealed cases generally originate from lawsuits or criminal indictments filed and tried before the trial courts. These decisions of the trial courts may then be elevated on appeal to the Court of Appeals, or more rarely, directly to the Supreme Court if only “questions of law” are involved. Apart from decisions of the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court may also directly review on appeal decisions rendered by the Sandiganbayan and the Court of Tax Appeals. Decisions rendered by administrative agencies are not directly appealable to the Supreme Court, they must be first challenged before the Court of Appeals. However, decisions of the Commission on Elections may be elevated directly for review to the Supreme Court, although the procedure is not, strictly speaking, in the nature of an appeal.

Review on appeal is not as a matter of right, but “of sound judicial discretion and will be granted only when there are special and important reasons therefor”.[13] In the exercise of appellate review, the Supreme Court may reverse the decision of lower courts upon a finding of an “error of law”. The Court generally declines to engage in review the findings of fact made by the lower courts, although there are notable exceptions to this rule. The Court also refuses to entertain cases originally filed before it that should have been filed first with the trial courts.


Judicial corruption

On January 25, 2005, and on December 10, 2006, Philippines Social Weather Stations released the results of its 2 surveys on corruption in the judiciary; it published that: a) like 1995, 1/4 of lawyers said many/very many judges are corrupt. But (49%) stated that a judges received bribes, just 8% of lawyers admitted they reported the bribery, because they could not prove it. [Tables 8-9]; judges, however, said, just 7% call many/very many judges as corrupt[Tables 10-11];b) “Judges see some corruption; proportions who said – many/very many corrupt judges or justices: 17% in reference to RTC judges, 14% to MTC judges, 12% to Court of Appeals justices, 4% i to Shari’a Court judges, 4% to Sandiganbayan justices and 2% in reference to Supreme Court justices [Table 15].[27][28]

The September 14, 2008, Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) survey, ranked the Philippines 6th (6.10) among corrupt Asian judicial systems. PERC stated that “despite India and the Philippines being democracies, expatriates did not look favourably on their judicial systems because of corruption.” PERC reported Hong Kong and Singapore have the best judicial systems in Asia, with Indonesia and Vietnam the worst: Hong Kong’s judicial system scored 1.45 on the scale (zero representing the best performance and 10 the worst); Singapore with a grade of 1.92, followed by Japan (3.50), South Korea (4.62), Taiwan (4.93), the Philippines (6.10), Malaysia (6.47), India (6.50), Thailand (7.00), China (7.25), Vietnam’s (8.10) and Indonesia (8.26).[29][30]

In the September 23, 2008, Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (global survey ranking countries in terms of perceived corruption), the Philippines dropped to 141st, down 10 places from 2007, among 180 countries surveyed. It scored a 2.3 in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), lower than 2007’s 2.5, on a scale where 10 is the highest possible grade.[31][32][33] Vincent Lazatin, TAN executive director, said: “We are compared to our nearest neighbors Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, with Vietnam seen as eventually overtaking us in a few years. The difference is that (in other countries) when business sets aside money to grease the wheels, they know that they will get what they paid for. In the Philippines, there is no certainty.”[34]

“Bantay Korte Suprema”

“Watch the Supreme Court” coalition was launched at the Training Center, Ground Floor, Supreme Court Centennial Bldg on November 17, 2008, “to ensure the fair and honest selection of the 7 Associate Justices of the Supreme Court on 2009.” Members of “Bantay Korte Suprema” include retired Philippine presidents, retired Supreme Court justices, legislators, legal practitioners, the academe, the business community and the media. Senate President Jovito Salonga, UP Law Dean Marvic Leonen, Senate Majority Leader and JBC member Kiko Pangilinan, the Philippine Bar Association, Artemio Panganiban, and Atty. Rodolfo Urbiztondo, of the 48,000-strong Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), and the chambers of commerce, witnessed the landmark event. BKS will neither select nor endorse a candidate, “but if it receive information that makes a candidate incompetent, it will divulge this to the public and inform the JBC.” At the BKS launching, the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the public monitoring of the selection of justices to the SC was signed.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court Appointments Watch (SCAW) coalition of law groups and civil society to monitor the appointment of persons to judicial positions was also re-launched. The SCAW consortium, composed of the Alternative Law Groups, Libertas, Philippine Association of law Schools and the Transparency and Accountability Network, together with the online news magazine Newsbreak, reactivated itself for the JBC selection process of candidates.[35][36][37][38]


Still Tongue Makes a Wise Head


By Oliver Geronilla


Politicians and their apologists have never failed to amaze me. From their empty rhetoric to their convoluted orchestration of truth down to their infuriating chutzpah, everything seems to bring me to a fleeting rapture of guffaws every time I see them on national TV unsuspectingly shedding their own skin.

That’s true for national politics where the media seem to follow political demagogues quite naturally for juicy bits of information and commentaries. But does it also hold true for local politics? I’m afraid not. Perhaps it’s too parochial to merit the giant TV networks’ costly airtime and the major broadsheets’ precious op-ed page. Thank God we have Bulan Observer.

A couple of days ago, while dining with Dr. W. Scott Thompson, FVR’s biographer and former US assistant secretary of state, I mentioned how frustrated I was with the LGU’s nonchalance over some pressing matters in our hometown. He laughed and said: “Oh, perhaps they have forgotten what Thomas Tip O’Neill, a longtime Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress, once said.” He paused, banged the table (perhaps for theatrical effects), looked at me, and said: “Remind them that all politics is local.”

I nearly drew a blank. In fact, it took me almost half a minute before I recognized that he was waiting for me to react. When I was about to give my rejoinder, he started speaking again and ended up giving me a “lecture” on the dynamics of Asian politics particularly that of ours. He went on and on only stopping to have a sip of wine. Then, he mentioned “hiya” as one of the culprits of our flawed perception of leading and following—our own rendition of democracy.

According to Dr. Thompson, hiya, loosely translated as shame or sense of propriety, is a Filipino cultural trait that unites and divides us as a people. How? Well, look at those comments generated by the article posted by Mr. Jun Asuncion regarding the “fate” of Congressman Jose Solis. Most of them can be described just by using the word hiya and its cousins: nanghihiya, hiniya, walang hiya, nahiya, kahiyahiya, etc.

All these can either be a coping mechanism or a mere defense mechanism. But I could evidently see the angst, frustration, and resentment in their words. These, I suppose, were bottled up emotions just waiting to be “unleashed.”

In no time, BO became a temporary theater of word war. Yes, explosive bursts of emotions flooded BO’s comment page making it a repository of genuine sentiments and scathing remarks worthy of being “processed” to redefine our atavistic views.

I cringed in utter disbelief when I found out, through this site, how some of us could be vindictive—at least verbally. Still, I think there are many things that we can learn from out of this issue. One of them, and perhaps the most salient, is how we view success, failure, and downfall vis-à-vis “hiya.” We always bask in our victories walking tall thinking that our triumphs would last forever. That, of course, is an example of delusions of grandeur. Even mighty monarchs of great civilizations were dethroned. And in our case, we had the Marcoses who tried to cling to power at all costs disregarding that Filipino virtue of hiya (sense of propriety). In recent history, Erap suffered from more or less the same fate; but as we can see, he’s back in politics trying to have his last shot at the presidency. The Marcoses have long been back and, without a shadow of doubt, have reintegrated themselves to the local and national politics. Where is their sense of propriety?

What about Congressman Solis’ case? Is this the end of his political career? Maybe yes, maybe not. It’s just too bad that the verdict came out very close to the election season. Bad timing for Congressman Solis; good timing for his critics and political opponents. Well, as the cliché goes, “bad publicity or good publicity…it’s still publicity.”

Now, on the issue of hiya, is this something that is kahiyahiya? Perhaps, yes… for it has tarnished his reputation both as a public servant and as a private individual. But this is not the end. Vindication is not included in our lexicon for nothing. As pointed out by some observers, there are ways to prove his innocence. It is, in my own reckoning, clear to everyone how to do that, and where to do that.

BO writers and observers have no business defaming anyone. That’s for certain. Admittedly, some observers might have gone overboard. And their best defense? Of course, a good offense.

As I write this, things aren’t fizzling out yet. In fact, everything seems to be coming to a head. I join Mr. Jun Asuncion in asking everyone to remain level-headed and to avoid mudslinging. Let’s give our readers something worthwhile to read, something that is edifying, something that identifies us as civilized Bulanenos. Remember, what sauce is for the goose is sauce for the gander. That can perhaps change our warped views, and put hiya to proper use.

Generally speaking, we, Filipinos, are magnanimous. That’s something to bank on especially for Congressman Solis and his family members. Criticisms are part and parcel of politics. Noynoy said it well when he reminded Kris “that in any election, we’ll have our share of fervent supporters and harshest critics. And if you can’t take the heat, then politics isn’t for you.”


A Better Place


by jun asuncion


The Solis event was for sure a big political event nationwide so we have allowed these emotional discussions to go on for a while since they’re in a way a part of the whole event.

But now it’s time to bring the discussions to a higher level after all these purely personal squabbles or family feud.

For though we react to political corruption cases, Bulan Observer remains a place for constructive dialogue and criticism and was never meant to be a hate site.

Again, we ask for more cultured reflections in relation to the Solis’ case after we had allowed enough room for the most basic of human emotions and after we had realized that we couldn’t achieve more if we have to remain in this level of discussion or in dealing with one another.

Joanne Solis has of course the right anytime to counter any hurled criticisms or insult to her or her family. But I ask the others now to refrain from posting purely personal attacks. In this way, we help one another break this cycle of aggression and hate and give way to a more civil and intelligent cycle of discussion.

Young people grew up in this kind of political system and, as expected, we have seen it mirrored in their dialogues. You cannot blame them. As I mentioned long ago, the younger ones suffer the most in this dog-eat-dog political landscape.

But remember that if we continue this way, we are voluntarily supporting the system that we oppose. That would be an insult to all of us.

So, we all are wanting to do a new landscaping for our younger people so that they grow more in an atmosphere of trust, which is healthier I supposed; for the minds of the youth reflect only the social reality that they perceive. And the fact that social perception differs from society to society, it gives us an important hint that a change in landscaping will change the social perception of the younger people.

But truth be told, this is a very complex issue, too vast that we don’t even know when or where this new landscaping (or social change) can start. We have talked about electoral reforms, etc., but all of these require time and many other factors to happen.

For the meantime we just forget its complexity and begin this new landscaping in the way that we treat one another here in this column with respect without sacrificing our right to freely express our own opinions on issues that matter to us all.

The Solis’ case is a matter of public interest and so we will observe its continuation. It’s also a chance for us to start this new landscaping.

With this in mind, I also personally hope that the people who post their comments here also learn something better about themselves- or experience new landscaping- every time they come back to review them.

Let’s all work for a better place.          


Yasmin Busran-Lao


by jun asuncion



Yasmin Busran was a good classmate of mine  in college and we both majored in clinical psychology. That was  in the early 80’s in FEU.  There we founded the FEU Psychological Society together with some other classmates, I being the first elected president and Yasmin being the technical adviser. She was very good in organization and in bringing clarity to some complicated issues, especially during our society’s regular meetings.

After graduation, I lost sight of Yasmin but I knew that she went back  to Marawi,  back to her people and ancestors, to serve and fight for the rights of disadvantaged  Filipino Muslim women and children on one side and- on the other side-  to continue with her scholarly interests by teaching at the Marawi University.

We parted ways with the same theories, college memories, friends and professors in our heads.  These figures of  Muslim women and children in her heart and mind  brought her immediately back to Marawi, while  figures like Bleuler, Marx, Freud and Jung brought me to Zürich University and to the C.G. Jung Institute of analytical psychology in Küsnacht.

Looking back, I had already sensed during that time  Yasmin’s strong political mind as I had admired her high sense for justice and human rights and for her belief in the usefulness of communication in resolving conflicting issues; looking back, Yasmin embodied that perfect harmony of sharp intellect and compassionate heart in ways very  feminine in an unassuming, modest character.

Now, she’s a senatorial candidate of  Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino  and Sen. Mar Roxas ticket of the Liberal Party-  presidential and vice-presidential candidates, respectively.

I just wrote her two weeks ago and she said she remembers me and I told her I would help in ways I can to spread her message to the Filipino people, particularly to the Bicolanos at home and abroad.

 I like to help introduce Yasmin to the readers of Bulan Observer not only because she was a good classmate of mine but because I support Article II, Section 26 of our Constitution which says that ” The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”

Yasmin is almost unknown outside Marawi City, for she is not a movie star but a Muslim scholar, a political mind yet not coming from a political dynasty. She represents those  lost segments of democracy which have been ignored by the current system and which we have been advocating for. In short, Yasmin represents an essential part of that  social change that we have recently  been talking about. 

I do not say vote Yasmin for that would sound very impolite, rather know her and reflect on the deeper meanings of her message and how they relate to the issues that have always been of interest to us here at BO-  the issues of social justice, human rights, peace and understanding  through dialogue and inclusive governance, political reforms and more democracy, indeed, issues that stand for a brighter Philippines. /

 jun asuncion


By Nixon Kua


Pagbigyan naman natin ang mga kandidatong walang pambayad ng ads o di kaya’y hindi masyadong kilala bagama’t karapat dapat manungkulan kung ibabase sa kanilang track record.

Unahin natin si Yasmin Busran – Lao, isa sa kandidato ni Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino at ni Sen. Mar Roxas ng partido Liberal sa pagka senador.

Ito ho ang liham ni dating Sec. Teresita “Ging” Quintos Deles (kasama ng Hyatt 10 na nagbitiw sa gabinete ni Madam Senyora Donya Gloria dahil hindi nila masikmura ang Hello Garci at kasama ng inyong lingkod sa pakikipaglaban sa mga katiwalian ng kasalukuyang administrasyon) tungkol kay Yasmin.

“I have known Yasmin Busran-Lao for more than a decade. We first met as civil society advocates in the Philippine peace movement. I headed a peace institute and several national-level peace networks with secretariats based in Manila, while she was and continues to be based in Marawi City in Mindanao, heading a Muslim women’s NGO and, I think, initially also serving on the faculty of the Mindanao State University. Almost at the same time that she became engaged in the peace movement, she also joined the national women’s organization PILIPINA, to which I belong and was a co-founder, and she came to head the organization’s chapter in Marawi. In 2000-2005, I joined government as a member of the Cabinet, initially heading the National Anti-Poverty Commission until September, 2003, and then as the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process until my resignation from government in 2005. Throughout this period, Yas and I retained a close working and personal relationship, closely cooperating in advancing the peace and feminist agenda from our respective sides of the governance fence.

I consider Yas a truly outstanding champion for peace and women’s rights, particularly from the perspective of the Bangsamoro. Her work has been extraordinary in that it has combined both grassroots organizing and development work, on the one hand, with a high level of scholarship and public advocacy—both streams of her efforts contributing to both improving the conditions of communities, especially women and children, caught in the middle of armed conflict, and strengthening public awareness of the challenges confronting the search for peace in Mindanao as well as the rights of Filipino women under Islam.

I admire Yasmin for her clarity of vision and her courage in speaking out on issues, not only when they involve external sources of injustice and oppression but even when they reflect internal contradictions and challenge traditional powers and hierarchies within the Bangsamoro. She has demonstrated rigor and passion in advancing the causes of peace and feminism in national discourse, even as she has remained rooted in her community and island of origin. With the Al Mujadillah Development Foundation and the Nisa Ul-Haqq Fi Bangsamoro, which she founded with other Moro women, Yasmin has worked tirelessly and relentlessly, even through periods of personal trial and affliction, to bring about women’s empowerment, improved local and regional governance, civil society consensus-building and conflict mediation, and humanitarian assistance for families displaced by war in Central Mindanao.

She has been steadfast in her commitment to the cause of women, peace for her people, and the national welfare. I think the Philippines is badly in need of having someone like Yasmin Busran-Lao in the Senate.”



Mula sa magigiting na lahi at mabuting angkan

– Kaisa-isang Muslim (Maranaw) na babaeng tumatakbo sa Senado

– Anak ni Justice Mama Busran, ang kauna-unahang Muslim na husgado na naluklok sa Court of Appeals

May kakayahan at kasanayan

– Nagtapos ng Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Magna Cum Laude sa Far Eastern University

– Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Fellowship for Professional Development awardee (2005)

Tumataya para sa kabutihan ng Sambayanan

– Tagasulong ng kapayapaan sa Mindanaw at karapatan ng kababaihan; nagtatag at namumuno ng Al Mujadillah (babaeng sumasamo sa Kor’an) Development Foundation

– Naninindigan para sa tapat na pamahalaan; Regional Coordinator ng Change Politics Movement (CPM) sa Muslim Mindanaw

Boses ng Kapayapaan sa Senado

– Magtatrabaho upang tapusin ang tunggalian/digmaan ng mga armadong grupo tungo sa pangmatagalang kapayapaan sa mga komunidad

– Ipapawalang-bisa ang R.A. 9372 o Human Security Act

– Isusulong ang reporma sa militar at kapulisan upang sila ay mas tunay na makapagsilbi sa taong-bayan

– Babantayan ang Pambansang Badyet, lalong-lalo na ang nakalaan para sa Mindanaw at Gender and Development (GAD)

– Itutulak ang pagtuturo ng madrasah sa mga batang estudyanteng Muslim

– Palalawigin ang kaalaman ng mga kababaihan at kabataang Muslim ukol sa Code of Muslim Personal Laws (CMPL)

– Magpapasa ng batas ukol sa kalusugan ng kababaihan at pagpapaplano ng pamilya.


IN 2005 YASMIN BUSRAN-LAO was granted the Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Fellowship for Professional Development Award given by the American embassy and the Benigno S. Aquino Foundation. The award came as a surprise to the woman who had repeatedly spurned similar nominations by conveniently forgetting to submit her credentials. “I never expected to be publicly recognized for what I do,” she says. “Fighting for the rights of Muslim women and other marginalized groups is something personal for me. I get enough satisfaction helping people gain a certain control over their lives.”

What is not surprising is how this Psychology graduate of Far Eastern University came upon her advocacy. Yasmin recalls how, as an 11-year-old probinsyana, she had to contend with seatmates who would suddenly edge away when she was introduced before the class.

“Muslims were seen as devils, complete with tails and horns,” she recalls of the prejudice and stigma she had to put up with when her family moved to Manila in 1972. Like thousands of other families, they had to flee war-torn Marawi where private armies like the Ilagas and Barracudas had established a reign of terror. Her father, too, had just been appointed as the first Muslim judge in the Court of Appeals, and had to stay in Manila.

The experience, Yasmin says, made her conscious at an early age of the “impact of bigotry and discrimination on human relationships, especially on dignity and communal harmony.” It also made her a thorn in her mother’s side. She recounts: “It was at the Quiapo mosque where I met these women who were abandoned by their Iranian husbands. This was during the time of Khomeini in Iran. The women were disowned by their families and kicked out of their homes, so I decided to bring them with me. I was running some sort of a woman’s crisis center at home, and my mother could only shake her head.”

Soon, she was joining other activists when they visited Muslims in death row. “I just wanted to know what was happening,” says Yasmin. It was an unusual show of spunk for one who was only in her third year high school then.

Such dissonance ushered her into an existentialist phase at 16, when she studied the Qur’an, Buddhism and other religions to find where some oppressive practices were coming from. “They were not in the Qur’an, so why are Muslims embracing them?” she asked.

The questions led her to establish the Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation (AMDF) in 1997, shortly after she attended the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women as a representative of the feminist group PILIPINA. “In Beijing, I was able to interact with Muslim women from other countries,” recounts Yasmin. “I realized that much of the Islamic teachings we adhered to, particularly those pertaining to women, are not really what is in the Qur’an, but rather cultural interpretations of Islam.”

What followed was intensive research on the situation of Muslim women-from their domestic roles to reproductive health and poverty, from politics to the impact of armed conflict. “This we did in response to allegations that gender issues are Western issues that have no resonance in Muslim Moro communities,” says Yasmin.

Main advocacy

The Foundation was inspired by a Qur’anic verse, Al-Mujadilah (Qur’an verse 58), which, depending on one’s source, either means “The Woman who Pleads,” “The Woman who Seeketh (Justice),” or “The Woman who Disputeth.”

The AMDF has been acknowledged by its partner networks for the significant role it plays in Maranao society, the Bangsamoro struggle, and society in general.

As an institutional partner, Oxfam NOVIB, the Dutch organization for international aid, had this to say about AMDF: “(It) has proven its worth in community organizing, convening of civil society organizations, organizing youth clubs for high school students, breaking the barriers with (Muslim) women theologians and other conservative sectors of the community, capacitating local government units (LGUs) in mainstreaming gender and pushing for the implementation of the gender and development (GAD) budget, legal literacy and popularization of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws, and the construction of a grassroots’ women training center. The AMDF has a good opportunity to further develop its distinctive role in the Lanao Sur area as a community-based nongovernment organization (NGO) advocating for women’s rights, peace and governance.

The Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute has been working with the AMDF since its inception and has been supportive of its various initiatives on peace building in the region. The AMDF is a member of civil society third party mediator for the declaration of ceasefire and third party observer to the peace process undertaken by government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It has created venues for the diverse civil society organizations to come together, share perspectives and collaborate in addressing the various peace, governance, poverty and other social issues confronting Maranao society. It has also trained LGU officials on conflict resolution, negotiation, counseling and paralegal in selected municipalities and their consequent organization into Barangay Justice Advocates (BJAs).

PILIPINA recognizes AMDF as its affiliate institution in Lanao del Sur. As such, it acknowledges its pioneering and unique contributions in advancing the discourse and praxis of putting gender values and principles in the center of peacebuilding, right to self- determination and governance efforts in the Bangsamoro homeland.

CO Multiversity, on the other hand, as the partner of AMDF in crafting its community-based strategies, acknowledges the remarkable transformative processes the organization has been able to catalyze as breakthroughs in Maranao culture as it makes a difference in governance and electoral politics while taking stock of the challenges it has to face such as (a) sustaining existing initiatives in people’s planning and decision making process; (b) maximizing participation in the barangay development planning and management; (c) participating in the educational processes for electoral reforms; and (d) sustaining initiatives on gender mainstreaming.

In 2007 Yasmin also cofounded the Nisa Ul-Haqq Fi Bangsamoro (Women for Truth and Justice in the Bangsamoro) to respond to the need of Bangsamoro women for a deeper understanding of Islam from a feminist perspective and reclaim the spaces and voices of women in Islamic discourse and praxis. Under her leadership as its current chair, the foundation has initiated the following activities: (a) conduct of study group sessions and round-table discussions on Islam and gender; (b) conduct of evidence-based researches to address the issues of Bangsamoro women such as early and forced marriages, polygamy, divorce, inheritance, reproductive health and rights, political participation, and economic empowerment; (c) engagement with the regional government of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on gender-responsive governance; and (d) collaborate with the ARMM regional government and the Philippine Commission on Women on the development of a GAD Code for ARMM.


Busran-Lao in Naga City


NAGA CITY – It was a very brief visit, lasting just under seven hours.

But, it was also a memorable visit that left enduring impressions on

Yasmin Busran-Lao.

Busran-Lao was in the Camarines Sur to drop by the johor, a Muslim

religious fellowship attended by thousands of Muslim males from all

over the country. This year’s three-day johor is being held in Naga

upon the invitation of Mayor Jesse Robredo since the city is home to a

significant number of Muslims.

Robredo brought Busran-Lao and Col. Joey Forteza, chief of staff of

fellow LP candidate Alex Lacson, around the grounds of Metro Naga

Sports Complex to meet Muslims who attended the johor. While the two

men were able to go inside the sports complex, religious traditions

prohibited Busran-Lao from going with them. This did not faze her,

however. She held a spontaneous dialogue with the men right on the

grounds of the sports complex. They were all one in saying that it’s

been too long since Muslims were represented in the Senate. That is

why they fully support candidate Busran-Lao for senator.

Aside from meeting with Muslim men, Busran-Lao, together with some

women kagawad, also met with ordinary women from four of Naga’s 27

barangays during their Bayanihan sa Barangay. She saw for herself why

Naga under Robredo is a perfect model of active citizen’s

participation and engagement in governance, a cause that is very dear

to Busran-Lao’s heart since she herself has been advocating for

transformative politics and active citizenship.

Busran-Lao was also interviewed by RMN Naga where she cited the city

as an example of how Christians and Muslims can co-exist in peace and

harmony and work for the community’s progress.

Accompanying Busran-Lao around Naga were barangay kagawads Medith

Bollosa, Lolita Nantes, Regina Alcantara, Janet Ayubo, Wenifreda

Villacruz, Jesus Barcena, Susan Bragais, and punong barangay Elmer



(click image for more)