Arroyo Supreme Court?

By Artemio V. Panganiban
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:12:00 03/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines—In the olden days, kings and queens ruled their domains absolutely according to their wiles and whims. They were not bound by pre-agreed rules to guide their actions. They simply imposed their wicked ways on the hapless people.Constitutional democracy. As time went by, absolute rulers were deposed and new ones democratically selected. The chosen took the place of the kings but their powers were severely limited by constitutions and laws crafted by elected representatives. The rule of law prevailed when the chosen leader ran the country pursuant to the constitution and statutes, no longer by unpredictable wiles and whims.

In our country, the elected ruler who took the place of the king is the president. As in all constitutional democracies, not all the kingly powers are vested on the President. The authority to make laws is with Congress. The Supreme Court reviews executive acts to assure the reign of the rule of law. To further restrict the kingly prerogatives, the Constitution has created several other agencies like the Commission on Elections, the Commission on Audit, and the Ombudsman.

At present, President Macapagal-Arroyo, by her lonesome, commands the armed forces and the police. She spends more than 95 percent of the national budget, controls more than 95 percent of all national employees and supervises all provinces, cities, towns and barangays. Although the Supreme Court, Comelec, COA, and OMB are designed to be independent, the President appoints all their members.

Awesome powers. Indeed, the powers of the president are awesome. She could run the country by herself, without need of the Supreme Court, Congress, Comelec, etc., as ably demonstrated by Ferdinand Marcos. In fact, a repressive and corrupt president could use his or her prerogatives to subdue these agencies and thus enable him or her to rule the nation like the monarchs of old.

This is why the vitality of our democracy is dependent on the courage and competence of these agencies and their members to review and check presidential actions. This is also why there is unease, if not teeth-gnashing, when these agencies, especially the Supreme Court, unreasonably expand executive prerogatives, or inexplicably fail to check abuses.

“Neri vs Senate Committee on Accountability,” promulgated last March 25, is a case in point. I have read the 35-page ponencia of Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro plus the concurrences of Justices Renato C. Corona (21 pages), Dante O. Tinga (14 pages), Presbitero J. Velasco Jr. (nine pages), Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura (15 pages) and Arturo D. Brion (nine pages), as well as the stirring dissents of Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno (120 pages), Consuelo Ynares-Santiago (seven pages), Antonio T. Carpio (36 pages), and Conchita Carpio Morales (31 pages).

With due respect, I believe that the majority decision failed to check presidential abuse; worse, it imprudently expanded executive privilege to cover wrongdoings.

First, to justify Secretary Romulo Neri’s refusal to answer the three questions linking President Arroyo to the ZTE-NBN mess, the majority considered “conversations that take place in the President’s performance of (her) official duties… presumptively privileged.” It deemed the bare, proof-less claim of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita that Neri’s disclosures “might impair our diplomatic as well as economic relations” with China. It faulted the Senate with rank failure to explain a “critical or compelling need for the answers.”

By shifting the burden of proof to the Senate, the nine-member majority reversed the much-acclaimed “Senate vs Ermita,” issued just two years ago, that unanimously placed the duty of proving the need for secrecy on the president. Disclosure is the rule because the Constitution expressly mandates transparency and accountability for all officials.

Second, by giving the “presidential communications privilege” presumptive confidentiality, the majority inexplicably expanded kingly prerogatives. It unreasonably suppressed the truth.

Third, executive privilege is not expressly provided in the Constitution. There is no sentence or clause mentioning the privilege directly. The Supreme Court merely implied it from other presidential powers. In contrast, the power to investigate in aid of legislation is expressly granted by the Constitution to Congress. In a clash between these two prerogatives, the choice is clearly in favor of the express grant.

Fourth, the majority agreed with the Senate that executive privilege should not be used to hide a crime or wrongdoing. Well and good. Yet, it still ruled against disclosure on the convoluted argument that “US vs Nixon” involved a “pending criminal action,” while the Neri petition related to a “legislative inquiry.” As I see it, this American case is simply inapplicable. The majority should have relied on the constitutional mandate requiring transparency and accountability of officials. Its decision would have been a great landmark.

An epochal Supreme Court is endearingly named after its chief, like the Davide Court or the Teehankee Court. However, when it unduly legitimizes kingly excesses, it is derisively named after the president it serves, like the Marcos Supreme Court. As a retired chief justice, I would like to believe that the Neri decision is a mere aberration and would not suffice to label the present tribunal as the Arroyo Supreme Court. But then, it must quickly choose what it wants to do. Is it to serve or to check President Arroyo?

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Comments are welcome at

Ramon Tulfo’s Fearless Forecast

My fearless forecast
By Ramon Tulfo
Last updated 03:23am (Mla time) 05/03/2007
MANILA, Philippines — Here is my fearless forecast a little less than two weeks before the May 14 election:

Sen. Lito Lapid, who was elected to his current post and, before that, Pampanga governor based on his popularity, will meet his political Waterloo in Makati where he’s running against the incumbent, Mayor Jejomar Binay.

I have no love lost for Binay, who has been accused of massive corruption (which politician is clean and honest, anyway?), but from what I’ve gathered from residents, he’s a modern-day Robin Hood. He has done for Makati what his predecessors—including the much-loved, albeit controversial Nemesio Yabut—had not done: Take care of the needs of the poor and elderly residents.

Board Member Lilia “Baby” Pineda will win by a mile in the Pampanga gubernatorial race against the incumbent Gov. Mark Lapid, the senator’s son, and Catholic priest Eddie Panlilio.

There’s been a lot of hype about Panlilio getting the support of the middle class, the rich and the intellectuals in the province. But do these sectors comprise the majority?

Pineda, married to alleged “jueteng” lord Bong Pineda, is known for her charitable work even before she ran for office a couple of years ago. She’s the first to lend a helping hand to calamity victims who are not even her constituents, like when she organized a 30-truck convoy to typhoon-ravaged Bicol a few months ago.

Panlilio’s fellow priests are, of course, secretly supporting the woman candidate. Why? Because when they need help in their parishes, they run to her or her husband Bong.

The poor and the unlettered, who comprise the majority of voters in Pampanga and who supported Lito and Mark Lapid, love Pineda.

Retired two-star police general Eduardo Matillano will not win against incumbent Edward Hagedorn, who’s leading his opponent by a mile in the surveys in the Puerto Princesa mayoralty race.

Like Pineda and Binay, Hagedorn is also a Robin Hood in Puerto Princesa.

Even if Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte had an opponent—he’s practically running unopposed—he would win by a landslide over his strong rival.

Duterte, whose alleged brand of governance is comparable to the mythical movie character “Dirty Harry,” is also loved by his constituents for bringing peace and order to their city.

Davao City residents don’t care about alleged human rights violations attributed to Duterte in dealing with notorious criminals like rapists, robbers and drug pushers.

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Banana king Antonio Floirendo Sr. is supporting the rival of his brother-in-law, Rodolfo del Rosario, for the Davao del Norte gubernatorial race, the incumbent Gov. Yayong Gemintiza.

Sources close to the Floirendo family said they consider Del Rosario an “ingrate.”

Floirendo Sr. gave Del Rosario the management of the Tadeco banana plantation and supported his candidacy for governor the first time.

The old man wanted his son, Antonio Jr. or “Tonyboy,” to run but Del Rosario opposed it and instead said he would join the race.

In order not to divide the family, Tonyboy withdrew his candidacy in favor of his uncle, the sources said.

But now, it seems all the resources of the Floirendo family, which include the billion-peso banana plantation, will be brought to bear against Del Rosario, a former governor. My sources said Gementiza would not have run had Tonyboy thrown his hat in the gubernatorial contest.

Cory Aquino’s phone bugged

Who would do such a thing as to bug the phone of an Ex-President? Would it be someone paranoid and insecure?

By Tetch Torres, Maila Ager
Last updated 11:47am (Mla time) 05/03/2007
MANILA, Philippines — A surveillance device has been discovered at the residence of former president Corazon Aquino in Quezon City.

As of posting time, Mrs. Aquino is giving a press conference at her home at no. 25 Times St.

The device was discovered by crew of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) who had been doing a regular check up every two weeks on so-called cross switching stations of the PLDT, according to Congressman Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, the former leader’s son, in a separate interview.

The equipment was a two-piece wiretapping device made up of a tape recorder and a power supply, the Tarlac lawmaker said.

“Kahapon binuksan [The box was opened yesterday] as part of the routine at may nakita silang [and they saw a] two-piece device consisting of a tape recorder and a power supply,” the young Aquino told reporters.

“Nung tiningan kung anong linyang kinabitan, natuklasan na sa nanay ko po kaya minabuti na informed nanay ko early evening [When they checked on which line the box had been attached to, they discovered that it was connected to my mom that’s why they informed my mother early evening],” he said.

Members of the Aquino household said they had been hearing static sounds during phone calls, which was why they have been very careful in their conversations.

The device was the size of a car stereo with an ordinary cassette tape inside, said police investigators.

The device has been turned over to Senior Superintendent Magtanggol Gatdula of the Quezon City police district.

The younger Aquino urged the PLDT to act on this matter as he challenged the government to put behind bars those responsible.

“Hinahamon po natin ang gobyerno na madala at makulong yung mga gumawa nito natural sila ang magiging unang suspek kung may gagawa ng ganitong operation [We are challenging the government to bring to justice and put behind bars those responsible. Naturally, the government will be the first suspect in such an operation],” the lawmaker said.

Since they are in the opposition, the young Aquino said they assumed that they would be monitored by their perceived enemies.

“But I think this [is] one of the first times na may [that] physical evidence kaming na recover [has been recovered],” he said.

The Tarlac legislator said however that he could not think of any reason why the former leader would be monitored except that she was a “person of interest.”



Mastercard’s “PayPass” is now available in the Philippines

Now that we see advertisements in the newspaper regarding the new MASTERCARD PayPass, let us see what this is all about and if it will be safe and secure for the innocent Filipino cardholder.

This is the Mastercard PayPass description based on the official Mastercard website.

And we will find one of the local Mastercard PayPass products as offered by Banco de Oro as their BDO Mastercard PayPass ATM .

Let us not get too excited as this new product could have different “terms & conditions” when given to us poor Filipinos.

Please note that the original Mastercard PayPass has

Safe and secure—just like your traditional card

Your card never leaves your hand. And you get the same level of security that you’ve been accustomed to: $0 liability on unauthorized purchases and a receipt for every purchase. The chip within your MasterCard PayPass card has the same information as that on the magnetic strip of your card. Current MasterCard and Issuer privacy and confidentiality rules apply as per your current cardholder agreement.

The above-mentioned statement in the Mastercard PayPass website cannot be found in our local Philippine version. Please note the “$0 liability on unauthorized purchases”.

In effect, it would seem that this PayPass is even more dangerous if a thief would get their hands on it. Imagine, no need for signature or PIN number to transact? Are we making products for the benefit of thieves?

There are no studies or data yet regarding the number of users of this local Mastercard PayPass here in the Philippines.

Just be careful of your belongings all the time and don’t have too much cash stored in “unsafe” type of cards.

But in the end, the last line of defense and security is the store or shop merchants themselves. Hopefully, they are not too eager to make a sale and forget about verifying who they are dealing with.

Credit Card for the Philippines

What kind of credit card do we Filipinos need to have to protect us from credit card theft or identity theft?

Here are two things which a credit card “must have” be prevent identity theft:

  1. Must have a clear and recent picture of the cardholder on the front of the card.
  2. Must have a “PIN Number” which is needed for every transaction.

Please note that these two “must haves” are applicable for merchant POS (point of sale) transactions.

For internet transactions, usually the CVV/CVV2 are required and this will not be stamped on the back of the credit card. This CVV/CVV2 shall be given in another mail and will not be visible on the credit card. And so only the cardholder should know the CVV/CVV2.

So now, if the credit card thief steals your card he/she has to go through several obstacles or challenges:

For Point of Sale transactions:

  • He/she must look like you somehow
  • He/she should know your PIN # which only you should know

And For Internet transactions

  • He/she should know your CVV/CVV2 and even your billing address.

Is this hard to “apply”? Not really since other countries are already doing it.

Why aren’t we doing it?

Maybe it is because the credit card companies will have “lesser” transactions due to a “lesser” number of thieves maxing-out credit cards.

To the Credit Card Association of the Philippines or CCAP: Please do something about credit card theft and please do not blame the victims. Stop crime by preventing the thieves by simply implementing various safety features to our credit cards. Thank you!

Credit Card theft in the Philippines

Credit card theft in the Philippines happens every single day. In fact, the credit card companies already know who the thieves are but are they doing anything to stop them? Please check out this forum topic

One modus operandi of these “gang of thieves” (maybe you can even call them to belong to a guild or syndicate) is for them to apply to a “company training seminar” or something similar. Once they infiltrate a company, they will scout for people to victimize. 90% of the known cases of this type of “sneaky” credit card theft is done by women. These thieves would simply get a wallet from a bag, get the cards and cash, then leave the wallet in the ladies comfort room. Within hours, the card has already been used or even “maxed-out”. And the victim is then shocked to notice that her wallet is stolen after a few hours.

Another type of theft is by direct “hold-up” or stealing with the use of force. And others use the tactic of bag-slashing etc. The victims are again women but the thieves could be men who give the credit card to their lady counterparts to use. But we do not have to be concerned with the “hold-up” type of theft since you know that something was stolen from you and you can report it right away.

Okay, now we know that credit card theft happens… what you do not know is what happens after….

  • You report the “theft” to the credit card company
  • The credit card tells you to write a dispute letter or fill-up a dispute form
  • You do this dispute letter or form and submit it
  • The credit card company tells you that they will investigate (yah right!)
  • You contact them after two weeks
  • The credit card company says they are still investigating
  • You get a your credit card bill and notice that the fraudulent transactions are increasing in value due to the high interest rates and so you call the credit card company.
  • The credit card company tells you that they are still investigating (yah right!) In actuality, they are stalling so that the interest fees increase and snow-ball.
  • You call them up again and complain that it is taking forever.
  • The credit card company then tells you that they have sent their decision in the mail.
  • You get a mail telling you that you are liable for the fraudulent transaction because you only informed them after the card was used. (but how can you inform them ahead of time when it was stolen without your knowledge in the first place)
  • And then the harassment and threats by “collectors” begin.

My advise is just to ignore these collection agencies and the harassment these credit card companies do. So long as you have proof that you were not the one who did it, they cannot put the blame on you. For example

  • The signature does not match at all
  • The merchant did not ask for a valid identification from the user (thief)
  • You were not anywhere within the vicinity of where the transaction took place and you have lots of witnesses to prove this.

Please note that once you do a “stolen credit card call” the credit card company holds the “funds” that would have been paid to the merchant or store. In effect, the funds are floating and therefore, they do not need to pay the merchant or store and so…. the store does not need to be paid and therefore you do not owe anybody.

Why will the credit card company say that you owe them money if they did not pay the merchant or store? And if the merchant or store did not abide by asking for a valid identification from the credit card user (thief), then they are held liable for their security breech or incompetence.

Now if the credit card company paid the merchant or store even after you reported that the credit card was stolen and you did not do those fraudulent transactions, then it is the credit card company’s fault for paying the merchant or store. It was their choice in giving a payment even if the transaction was reported to be fraudulent.

It is “only in the Philippines” that these credit card companies do not do anything to protect the honest credit card owners. With their policies, they are actually protecting the thieves and even persuade these thieves to steal more credit cards since the fault will be blamed on the victim.

Another theory is that these thieves use the credit cards “more than” the credit card owners themselves. And of course, the credit card companies benefit from this “thieves”. The credit card companies are actually protecting and promoting the credit card theft industry and this is the main reason as to why the Philippines is not even allowed on Google Checkout out of 100 countries.

And this was also what most likely prevented Paypal from allowing our country to transact with them.

The next topic will be how to protect ourselves against credit card thieves or what should the credit card companies do to protect the credit card owners (if they really did care).