Obstruction Of Justice – In Good Times And Bad Times

by jun asuncion

It was like a chess championship match with the brave sacrificing act of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima leading to the checkmate of GMA. The thrill reached its peak as GMA attempted to flee from her impending checkmate – using  her ailment as cover up and with her team of lawyers exhausting her cornucopia of legal means so she could  escape prosecution – these in dizzying alacrity. Not to be dismissed as boring were the acrimony between the lawyers of each camp, political observers and netizens and  the diverging  opinions of the senators and constitutional experts on the legal imbroglio and pandemonium that transpired the last days.

Beside offering a cerebral entertainment, this match was a crossing of the Rubicon for Aquino’s administration with its determined fight against the culture of impunity – the catalyst and stabilizer of corruption engines – and its entrance into a culture of accountability with the arrest of GMA last Friday.

Big change shakes the foundations, brings with it conflicting situations and demands sacrifices and strong will. Though it was GMA’s histrionics that dictated the tempo of events, it was the seemingly collision of  the fundamental right to travel and the right of the state to prosecute high crimes and the contumacious actions of  Justice Secretary De Lima vis-à-vis  the Supreme court that interested keen observers the most. On top of that one questions: How absolute are human rights, the Constitution and the orders of the Supreme court? And how powerful is the judiciary against the executive? Was there a constitutional crisis? Opinions differed on these questions among lawyers and constitutionalists.

Everything appeared paradoxical and dramatic. Secretary De Lima was unfazed, controlled,  tough and very quick on the trigger. She had her angle  all the time and she’s proven her worth as Justice Secretary. For her justice must be served by all means – even to the point of disobeying a Supreme Court order- this Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).  Senator Escudero was among the antagonists who espoused blind obedience to the law and was quick to praise the Court’s decision.  Were he in command, GMA would have escaped prosecution.

Justice vs. the right to travel?  It was another instance of two good things colliding at a given space and time. Had Senator Escudero viewed the whole situation not as a lawyer but as visionary politician, he would have been part of the entourage that crossed the Rubicon. Hence, he was left behind with his myopic, legalistic view of the world. He cut a pathetic figure last week. The constitutional right to travel should not be used to obstruct justice and crimes committed should not be blinded out or relegated to the background as lawyers engage themselves in textbook debates on law. Accused persons must be tried by all means.

Crossing the Rubicon is disobedience yet groundbreaking. President Noy Aquino and his team have crossed the Rubicon in order that justice be served in the Philippines. This is reflective equilibrium, visionary politics, epoch-making leadership.

Democracy is not only about rights and individualism but also about duties and collectivism. GMA’s insistence on her human and constitutional right to travel (since when did she insist on human and constitutional rights?) must be viewed not in isolation or purely as an article in the 1987 Constitution but within the context of the crimes imputed to her. That’s why it was a piece of impudence and out of context  for her legal advisers to equate GMA’s deprivation of her right to travel as endangering all Filipinos’ right to travel. Not all Filipinos are Gloria Arroyo.

If Democracy is a balance of rights, duties, individualism (personal welfare) and collectivism (common good), then decisions involving conflicting rights or principles must also be balanced. Secretary De Lima was right when she mentioned the balancing of the situation before arriving at a decision. Some members of the Supreme Court seemed to have problem with balancing last week, hence, this TRO was far from being democratic because it was decided without this greater sense for justice, sense of social responsibility and in sheer disregard for the accountability of public officials and suspected criminals.  The  state’s decision for justice, accountability and to end impunity outweighs GMA’s personal right to travel. Naturally, GMA was in a hurry to leave for she knew that without the case being formally filed before a court-and with her one -way TRO ticket in her suitcase – she could still defy the Watchlist Order of the Justice Department. A fleeing suspect in prestissimo has no right to blame Judge Mupas and the Southern Police District  if they’re catching up with her tempo. Railroading a woman suspect on wheelchair? Had she not displayed the intention to follow the example of Ramona Bautista, everything would have been settled in adagio manner. So GMA was in command of the metronome last week – but to her disadvantage.

If the government represents democracy and if sovereignty emanates from the people, then the people who voted for Pres. Aquino and his promise to fight corruption surely supported all actions taken by Pres. Aquino’s team in preventing Arroyo from leaving the country until her arrest last Friday. That TRO could hardly be taken as representing the interest of the sovereignty. An ordinary Filipino doesn’t need the service of a  lawyer to decide not to entrust his child to somebody with records of stealing, violence and pedophiliac activities or send his housemaid he  highly suspects of stealing his  money for a vacation in her province before he has confronted her about the situation. Using the same common sense he would likewise not allow GMA to leave and escape prosecution.

GMA is famous for her inconsistencies, very poor credibility rating,  betraying Public Trust and for being accused of committing a dozen of crimes, among these being electoral sabotage and plunder. So why let her go before her cases are cleared? The Supreme Court’s voting for TRO was  legally right but did it respect or consider the people’s covenant with the President? The Supreme Court justices – including the Chief Justice – who voted for TRO, all being appointees of GMA when she was still president, decided in favor of their ex-boss, a situation we could easily link with Utang Na Loob. Lawyers interpret a legal situation differently. The fact that the Supreme Court justices  were divided in their judgement on TRO issuance, supports this argument. Hence, the TRO was a personal gift for Arroyo, a one way ticket for  a world tour.

Gloria Arroyo’s theatrical performance at the airport was aimed to tickle that Filipino traits of Awa and Utang na Loob. But  she has been unmasked by the people and so it was a flop for no Awa came to her rescue. “Persecution, cruelty”, according to her husband. It’s amazing how justice can change someone’s vocabularies. This much heard promise of returning home may have been true but has anybody thought of asking them (Arroyos) when? Two weeks could also be stretched to twenty years. Or maybe forever – like their promise when they were wedded, to be together in good times and bad  times.


Bikol U.S.A of the Midwest Joins in Raising Funds 
For Building of Shrine & Monastery in Ligao City


(© 2011 Journal Group Link International

Joseph Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – The Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest led by its President Evelyn R. Tolledo joined Friday (Nov. 11) a dinner-dance fundraiser for the victims of typhoons and floods in Bikol region and Laguna province in the Philippines at Elk’s Club at 495 Lee St. in suburban Des Plaines, Illinois.

Money raised will also be used for the completion of the Divine Mercy Shrine and Carmelite Monastery of the Carmelite Nuns of the Holy Trinity (CNHT) in Kawakawa, Ligao City in Albay province.

Rev. Mother Maria Trinidad P. Bunac, CNHT Prioress General, said that part of the proceeds would also go to scholarship program of some poor and deserving students. She said so far the program has graduated two nurses, one of whom had just passed the nursing board at first attempt while another other is reviewing for the board.

Part of the proceeds will also be earmarked for treatment of some children with hydrocephalous medical condition.

Ligao native Romy Badiola, CEO of RC Trading and charter president of the Ligawenos of the Midwest which became Bikol U.S.A. in Chicago, appealed to the guests and his fellow Bikolanos to help CNHT in its fundraising.

Rev. Fr. Peter Caposo, associate pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Skokie, Illinois, led the invocation during the event.

Mother Trinidad Bunac thanked donors, who went out of their way, to buy dinner tickets while others sent in their donations.

John Arcilla and the Trio Carmelite Nuns also serenaded the guests while Anita Rosa, Ronald Zapata and Sister Maryjohn L. Mendones, CNHT, performed exhibition numbers.

Ria and Josephine Bonjoc played violin and guitar while Espie Nguyen and Danny Garcia acted as the masters of ceremony. Boy Bonjoc and Company provided the music and the band.

Those invited by Evelyn Tolledo chipped in half of the $50.00 dinner ticket to fund-raising event.

Among those invited by Ms. Tolledo to the fund-raiser were her husband Roberto Tolledo, Joseph G. Lariosa, G. Jun Delfin, President/Director of the Unlimited Agency, Inc. based in Naperville, Illinois, Bob Sioson, Hyde Sombilla, Tom Held and his wife, Letty “Nene” Servino-Held, first President of Bikol U.S.A. Romy Badiola and his friend, Heidi Lim.

The Bikol USA of the Midwest also donated $300.00 from its own fund. Those who did not attend but still sent in their donations are as follows: Aida and Rick Joseph and Virginia Ordonez in the amount of $50.00; Alice Llames, $50.00; Dulce Oreta and Efren Sarmiento, $50.00; Teresita Catorce and Lettecia Cope Costales, $50.00; Emelita and Jess Mante, $50.00; Alegria and Jay Bacerdo, $50.00; for a grand total of $600.00.

“Sister Trinidad will be sending us the letter of acknowledgement and the receipt of these donations.” Ms. Tolledo added.

Ms. Tolledo also invited Bikolanos and other guests at the event to join the Christmas party of the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest on Sunday, Dec. 11, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Social Gym of St. Henry Catholic Church at 6335 N. Hoyne Avenue in Chicago’s northside. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)


Rev. Mother Ma. Trinidad P. Bunac (third from left) of the Carmelite Nuns of the Holy Trinity (CNHT) in Kawakawa, Ligao City, Albay Province in the Philippines holds the $600.00 check turned over by Evelyn R. Tolledo (second from left), President of the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest, during the fund-raising of the CNHT at the dinner-dance at Elk’s Club at 495 Lee St. in suburban Des Plaines, Illinois last Friday, Nov. 11. Looking on from left are Bikol U.S.A. Charter President Romy Badiola, Sister Maryjohn L. Mendones of CNHT, Heidi Lim, Evelyn’s husband, Roberto Tolledo, and Joseph G. Lariosa, PRO of the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest. (jGLiPhoto by Dante de Guzman)


Rev. Mother Ma. Trinidad P. Bunac of the Carmelite Nuns of the Holy Trinity (CNHT) of Kawakawa, Ligao City in Albay province in the Philippines obliges Ligao City native and charter Bikol U.S.A. President Romy Badiola to a dance after Mr. Badiola pinned dollar bills on her habit during the fund-raising at the Elk’s Club at 495 Lee St. in suburban Des Plaines, Illinois last Friday, Nov. 11. At left are Sister Maryjohn L. Mendones, CNHT, Josephine Bonjoc and other members of the Boy Bonjoc band. Part of the money raised will go to the completion of the Divine Mercy Shrine, Carmelite Monastery, victims of typhoons and floods in Bikol region and Laguna province. Evelyn Tolledo, president of the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest donated $300.00 from the fund of the club and invited other members of the club and friends to donate to round out a total donation of $600.00.

(jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)


The Devil is in the Details

by jun asuncion

The MILF’s walloping of the AFP last October that killed 19 marines and wounded many  has sent a shockwave to global Filipinos. It was such a lamentable loss should not really  happen in modern warfare. This carnage showed us again the loopholes in our armed forces and government and that modernization is badly needed in the whole country – not only in the armed forces.

Peace talks and law enforcement? That’s music to our ears.  But if two notes collide at a given space and time in this music, for which note would you decide? I would opt for  law enforcement. Peace talks can be very broken-sounding.

This dilemma has exposed a certain weakness  in President Aquino and his political, security and communication advisers. No doubt, P-Noy is performing well in his anti- corruption campaign but he appears to be sailing on stormy waters when it comes to armed conflicts. The Luneta hostage crisis has already given us an inkling in this direction.

Appearing before the media after the Al-Barka massacre, he stressed  that he would continue with the peace talk and that he was against the idea  of an all- out war  against the MILF. He sounded broken and ill-advised and so was his adviser Mr. Leonen who described the massacre as “isolated” case, hence, negligible. It seems that too much diplomacy has robbed these two men of their manhood.

This all-out justice method should have been Pres, Aquino’s very first word.

Thus, his reputation suffered a blow, for he projected weakness and  more of saving his political face and of siding with the MILF than with his fallen soldiers and their aggrieved  families. He appeared in the first place as to be more concerned about  defending his politics and of begging the MILF peace panel not to walk out and start attacking villages again.

In times of crisis and real pains, the people need to feel the sympathy of the leader –  and real action. It was such a great loss and a heavy insult to the AFP, hence the people  and the military expected some hardness to come out from his mouth. But P- Noy missed that moment.

But a day or two after came out his concept of all-out justice and  the government forces started with counter attacks against the devious MILF.

This  all-out justice was a compromise with a face-saving value for P-Noy. He then learned that the people wanted vengeance. Employing the strength and touch of strong retaliation contained in the phrase “all- out” and replacing  the word “war” with the more civilized word “justice”,  this seems to have  appeased the people and the MILF peace panel. But this is in theory, in practice, it’s the same more or less- that of pounding the  MILF’s position with minimal civilian damage and of capturing or killing their leaders.

But the Aquino administration was wounded already.  The rumor of destabilization – true or just a product of fertile minds – was  born out of Aquino and Co.’s “amateurish” and “bookish” – according to Escudero-  handling of this entire peace negotiation and business with the MILF.  As if it were not enough, the public has learned  that Aquino had authorized the giving of PH 5- Million aid to the MILF and about Ph30-M  to another break away leftist group. This added more fuel to public dissatisfaction and demoralization… And what about the MILF’s  ATS? (Area of Temporary Stay)? This is a big disappointment for  Filipinos who recognize the territorial and political integrity and sovereignty of the Philippine nation as defined in its constitution, that there is only one Philippine government, one constitution, one territory,  one armed forces and one commander-in-chief. Those militant subgroups (such as the MILF, Abu Sayyaf  and even the NPA) who don’t call themselves Filipinos and don’t obey the laws of the land and use violence against the state and its  citizens are simply criminals and enemies of the state, their acts of violence be suppressed and their secessionist political agenda be given no support whatsoever.

But listening to the ongoing discussions one gets the impression that some Malacañang officials seem to be treating the MILF as a separate and recognized government already, nurturing it and even giving it a cash advance of PH5 million for the education of its future leaders. By definition, the MILF is a militant group, a “Liberation Front”, hence, leadership training is  understood in the first place as  military training, of training their fighters to fight in front to liberate themselves and parts of the southern Philippine territory. Government aid of any kind should take place only when the MILF (or any terrorist group) has surrendered its arms and has vowed to cooperate. Used or not used for ammunitions that killed our marines in Al-Barka, the truth is that the government will never get this money back, and if the MILF doesn’t get what it wants from these peace talks and leaves the table disgruntled, then you know already what it will do with this money and with our soldiers in Mindanao.

Giving money to a rebel group before or during the peace talks is a sign of weakness and political incorrectness. I’ve heard of critics accusing P-Noy of buying peace- or of bribing the MILF-  with that money. But how can you buy something from MILF which it doesn’t sell or is not in its assortment, namely PEACE?  The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was the first to separate from the MNLF and for reasons other than peace:   “(1) Bangsamoro Land should be an Independent Islamic State, and (2) the Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters should not negotiate with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines”.

With this in mind, one wonders about the outcome of these peace talks. Peace negotiation is genuine only when the rebel group of any type would surrender its arms to the government and renounces war and all forms of violence  as means to its ends. Without this being done, any peace talk is a calculated talk and  a cover only to build up their fire power and resume violence. In the case of the MILF, its leaders should realize the impossibility of attaining their goal of separating Mindanao or regions of it from the rest of the Philippines and the futility of war for these only  subject their “own” people to indefinite period of  poverty and isolation. Impossible because this is not supported by the majority of the Filipinos who are Christians (80 percent being Catholics). It is true that in a multi-ethnic, multicultural nation like the Philippines, the government must always negotiate in a position of integrity and of strength to prevent the total disintegration of the nation when each minority group would start building  its own armed forces and demanding autonomy or separation.

There are  legitimate grievances and  justifiable historical grounds to demand for autonomy but these should be within the right framework. A unitary form of government like the Philippines is not the right framework for the MILF’s demand for autonomy or independent sub-state. Several sound compromises could be supported in a Federal form of government but even then this demand for an independent Islamic State for the Bangsamoro could not be accommodated in a Federation. And at present, I think the Philippines is ready for everything except for Federalism.

How can a government give such a  dole out using the tax payers’ money to these state enemies who not only terrorize the people but don’t even pay their taxes to the government? President Aquino must be experimenting here with something new  but I doubt if he’s on the right direction. Peace talks and ceasefire with active militant groups have never culminated in a harmonious way as examples in other countries show us- the IRA in Ireland, ETA in Spain, Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, etc.,  as long as they continue to hang on to their secessionist plan and choose to load and sharpen their arms in the midst of peace talks.

The Philippines need peace but peace must be won sometimes and be enforced all the time. Peace, not war, is won in battlefields. It’s not a sign of peace when marines were and are being beheaded inside their own country. It’s not a sign of one country when the armed forces of the Philippines are not allowed to move in some regions to  fight for peace and order. I read PNP chief  Director General Nicanor Bartolome saying  “I think the best way to win a war is through peace,” ….  Well, it’s a wise sounding statement but it needs relativization. Active armed confrontation can indeed be prevented through peaceful means but it depends on the enemies and what’s at stake. The MILF would readily shake hands with us and kiss our cheeks if we  would just acquiese in their demands, if we would just give them the whole Mindanao and wash our hands of it. Giving is holier but one cannot give everything away. From the past till today, peace has been and is being won through wars. It was  only when Japan surrendered and Hitler defeated that peace came to Asia and Europe. A revolution ended recently Gadhafi’s reign of terror in Libya. Government should not trust armed rebel groups for they are devious and treacherous –  and it’s a natural strategy because they are weaker and in the minority, hence, their series of ambuscade, dry-gulching, bombings, kidnappings and other tricks such as peace talks and ceasefire.

Pres. Aquino’s desire to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao is good but it’s an illusion for the devil is in the details. There is a family background to Pres. Aquino’s ardent zeal of taming the MILF when we will recall that her mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, also tamed Nur Misuari- the MNLF commander who caused too much headaches to Marcos- when she talked peace with  him in Sulu which resulted in the passing of the  Republic Act No. 6734 known as the ARMM (Autonomous Region Of Muslim Mindanao) Organic Act  in 1989 as mandated in the 1987 Constitution. But even this, as we can see, did not bring lasting peace in Mindanao. So, President Noy Aquino should rather focus on law enforcement, education and economic programs to end extreme poverty in our nation. Extreme poverty and perceived social injustice are among the major details that make up the devil.