Begin the love-in


In case you were looking for something to show that politics in the Philippines is more about candidates than any actual polis, consider the diabetes-inducing wave of goodwill flowing from magnanimous officials-elect.

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III has extended an olive branch to defeated United Nationalist Alliance candidate Juan Miguel Zubiri months after Zubiri accused him of being a wife beater. Months after Pimentel called Zubiri a “fake senator”, to wit:

“Zubiri is the face of dagdag-bawas and other insidious and malevolent forms of electoral fraud in this country. He is one good reason why some of our people completely distrust elections and politicians.” (Press statement, March 12, 2013)

He was referring, of course, to the 2007 mid-term elections, when he was cheated out of a Senate seat. Zubiri resigned before Pimentel could be officially proclaimed the proper winner of those elections. Soon after his resignation, Pimentel and Zubiri were on TV holding hands and presumably slapping asses and talking about how they’re actually very good friends.

Until the 2013 elections, anyway. read more »

Keep it clean, LP


United Nationalist Alliance senatorial candidate Juan Miguel Zubiri has accused the Liberal Party of spreading malicious text messages about him and other UNA candidates.

In a press statement, Zubiri said UNA has “been warned early this week by our friends in the administration camp that a demolition job will be initiated by the spin doctors in the admin camp against me, Senator (Gregorio) Honasan, (San Juan Rep.) JV Estrada and (Cagayan Rep.) Jack Enrile.”

Zubiri said the party’s source told them “the LP has budgeted several millions to do this demolition job against us.” read more »

Lapu-Lapu City: Serious Business

Lapu-Lapu City is apparently up in arms over a TV commercial that shills diapers and also “gravely insults” the city named after Datu Lapu-Lapu, former ruler of Mactan.

The ad, for EQ diapers, implies the Battle of Mactan was not fought because Lapu-Lapu refused to  pay tribute to the King of Spain but because Ferdinand Magellan gave him inferior diapers as a gift.

Here it is in all its gravely insulting glory:


Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Razada said in a press conference that “distorting history and making the Battle of Mactan look funny on TV is a lame attempt to promote a product.” She has demanded an apology from the diaper company and wants the ad pulled off the air.

“I am disturbed to hear young children talk about the ad and consider it as a true reflection of history,” she also said, which, really, says more about the country’s education system than anything else. If our kids cannot tell the difference between make believe and history, parents and teachers are to blame, not advertising creatives who were only doing their jobs.

This isn’t the first time that EQ has gravely insulted history to sell its diapers, either. It has released an ad featuring Cleopatra, which sparked fierce protests across Egypt, and an ad with an Elvis Genie, which doesn’t even really exist.

In the past, the city also took umbrage at a local fish being referred to as a Lapu-Lapu. Since 1996, the Lapu-Lapu fish has been referred to–by virtue of an ordinance–as the “Pugapo”, its original and unappealing name. The city council passed the ordinance because it  “exposes Lapu-Lapu City to ridicule and embarrassment because more often the city is identified with the fish rather than with the hero.”

The council has yet to propose and put to a vote another true travesty against Lapu-Lapu, the 2002 Lito Lapid movie of the same name.

Sorry, guys

(Thx for the input, D.B.!)

Laguna Governor ER Ejercito ushers in the campaign season with Gangnam Style


That’s that bullshit right there. Rather, that’s Laguna Governor Emilio Ramon Ejercito dancing Gangnam Style in a Boy Scouts of the Philippines uniform on national TV.

Now, we can’t prevent public officials from appearing on TV to plug their movie or whatever. We can’t prevent them from making movies that we can’t prevent them from appearing on TV to plug either.  We can’t even keep them from campaigning early by appearing on TV and putting out “advocacy ads” before the official campaign starts. But can we, somehow, try to stop them from dancing on national TV? Maybe switching channels whenever a politician whips out their special talent will have some effect.

There’s nothing wrong with dancing, per se. I mean, we do not live in some backwater town where dancing and rock and roll are banned. But that sort of dancing has been the staple of campaign sorties since people started getting bored of things like platforms and policy issues.

Sure, it entertains the masses and makes them feel they are close to a candidate’s heart. But politics should not be about entertainment, and if  history is anything to go by, the masses are rarely ever really close to a victorious candidate’s heart.

TV host Vice Ganda does not mince words when he tries to convince Ejercito to dance to Gangnam Style: “Gov, pag nasayaw mo ito, naku, lahat ng bagets ay boboto na sa iyo (Gov, if you can dance this, all the kids will vote for you).”

Maybe “convince” isn’t quite the right word since Ejercito begins dancing as soon as the music starts playing. He does it well, too. He has obviously put a lot of time, if not thought, into learning to dance that silly little dance. The thought is disturbing considering he should be attending to other things, like running a province that has the town with the highest income in the country, and had two high-profile murders in the same year.

His sons soon join in the dancing, showing people, as Vice Ganda calls it, “Gangnam Style, the Ejercito Way.” Clearly, they have also spent a lot of time rehearsing their moves. This will probably come in handy when the actual campaign season starts, or when they have to dance at their own campaign sorties a few years from now.

Why you trippin’?

With the Philippines banking so much on tourism, having crowd-sourced travel website TripAdvisor declare the Philippines fourth on a list of top 10 Asian “destinations on the rise” is good news. Or, at the very least, big news, going by these stories on the Philippine Star and on DZMM TeleRadyo.


The DZMM story goes, and no translation will be provided:


Sinabi pa ng report na ang naturang pagkilala sa Metro Manila ay matapos mailunsad ng Department of Tourism (DOT) ang bago nitong campaign na “It’s More Fun in the Philippines,” kung saan pinapakita na maraming maaaring gawin sa Ka-Maynilaan tulad ng shopping, clubbing, dining at iba pang entertainment at lifestyle offerings.


To be fair, the Yahoo news report that both the Philippine Star and DZMM cite did not say that. The story merely said the “recent accolade for Manila comes as the Department of Tourism on Wednesday launched a new international television campaign promoting entertainment and lifestyle offerings in Metro Manila. ” What it also does not say is why inclusion on the TripAdvisor list is an accolade for Manila, or if it is one at all. Neither does it say how TripAdvisor came up with the list.


Not, you know, that that’s important or anything. Maybe it’s because we’ve been investing, or promising to invest, in better airports. Maybe it’s because things are looking up for our economy. Maybe it’s because we have two Catholic saints now instead of just one. Maybe tourist volume has been rising. Maybe there’s a huge influx of international flights coming into Ninoy Aquino International. It’s certainly not because Philippine aviation has been upgraded on aviation safety lists.


This report on USAToday explains how Manila made it to the list of “destinations on the rise” in Asia. Apparently, winners were chosen based on “an algorithm that took into account factors including traveler feedback quality through reviews and opinions on destination accommodations, restaurants, attractions as well as interest through clicks on TripAdvisor, and ‘want to go’ pins placed by travelers on the TripAdvisor Cities I’ve Visited Facebook app.” That sounds totally legit.

The Do-Nothing Panel

An ethics complaint has been filed against Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges is busy preparing for hearings on it.


Unfortunately, those preparations are the same ones the committee was doing more than a year ago: deciding on the rules that it will use in ethics cases.


In January 2011, while Senator Panfilo Lacson was in hiding from the law, the committee’s chairman, Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, set a meeting with the members of his panel. “We will have [an] organizational meeting of the committee on ethics and first agenda will be the rules,” he told reporters then.


“The intention is to assure that I will not be bias or prejudice. We will not make rules in accordance with the pending complaints. I will be a mediator rather than advocate,” Cayetano said.


And Cayetano was true to his promise. The committee did, indeed, not make rules. At all.


The senator said in an interview on DZMM this morning that the committee has to meet again to finalize the rules.


Ang naging status po noong magdedesisyon na kami sa finality  ng rules ng komite noong Hunyo ng nakaraang taon, doon na po pumasok ang mabibigat na hearing sa Senado tungkol sa PCSO scam, sa 2004 at 2007 elections, at iba pang mga hearing. Matapos po nito ay pumasok rin po ang impeachment ni CJ Corona. Kaya ang nangyari po noon, hindi na po masyadong maganda ang attendance ng hearing ng Ethics Committee at hindi na bumalik yung consensus sa gagawing rules.


The senator says there were “several meetings, technical working groups and hearings that were working on the rules of the committee” before the members basically just lost interest. Who, after all, wants to have a mechanism in place to hold senators accountable, a mechanism that might one day be used against him?


Why was there a need to craft new rules for the ethics committee? Cayetano explains in Filipino that, during the 14th Congress, “the Ethics committee became controversial because there were always accusations within the Senate that cases were political in nature, or members of the Senate were using the committee against other members.” He neglects to mention that those accusations came from him and other allies of Senator Manuel Villar Jr., then aspiring for the presidency and facing an ethics probe.


Funnily enough, the head of the Ethics committee at the time was Senator Lacson, who was also Villar’s accuser.


Given the probe on Villar was partly political in nature (and achieved nothing in terms of accountability), Cayetano was right that better rules were needed when trying senators for disorderly conduct. He was wrong in not pushing for those rules to be finalized and adopted. As committee chairman, he certainly had the power to call for meetings and it should not have been impossible to get two to three members of the seven-member panel to attend.


Not shown: The Rules of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges. Because they don’t exist.


In his radio interview this morning, Cayetano mentions failed attempts in past Congresses to come up with a Code of Ethics for senators. He does not mention, however, whether he will try to come up with one.


And this is what is the most irksome about Cayetano. For all his statements and speeches about transparency and justice and good governance, he has done little in the way of legislation. It is not uncommon for his office to issue statements that sound great but are not backed up by bills or resolutions that will actually make things happen.


According to a GMA Network News report in 2011, Cayetano beat only Senator Joker Arroyo in the number of bills and resolutions filed. Considering Arroyo only filed 17 resolutions by then, that is really not saying much.


The ethics complaint against Sotto: A good fight that will end in defeat

Senate watchers hoping Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III will get censured by the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges for copying from American bloggers and a dead U.S. senator are in for a disappointment.


According to reports, professors from the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, and De La Salle University are getting ready to file an ethics complaint against Sotto. Three U.S.-based writers who say Sotto plagiarized from them for his speeches against the Reproductive Health bill have also said they want Sotto brought before the Senate ethics committee.


They will, no doubt, do so as promised, trooping to the Senate in front of photographers and reporters who will record the moment for posterity. And that is where the campaign to have Sotto censured by the Senate will end.


Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Sotto’s party-mate and ally in opposing the Reproductive Health bill, has already defended the senator even before a formal complaint has been filed. The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Matikas Santos writes,


[Senators] can’t be question [sic] by anybody outside this chamber,” Enrile told reporters Monday.

He said that senators are given immunity under the Constitution to speak on any issues before the Senate.

Under Article Six “The Legislative Department” Section 11 of the Philippine Constitution, “No member shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in the Congress or in any committee thereof.”


That is true, but Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who has given fiery (and most likely original) privilege speeches at the Senate had this to say about parliamentary immunity after Ilocos Sur Governor Luis Singson sued her for implicating him in jueteng:


You know parliamentary immunity is not meant to be abused by the senators and congressmen. It is meant to encourage them to speak the unspeakable without suffering the consequences. Otherwise we’d all be lying dead on the streets or our family would be assassinated.


That’s neither here nor there, but that show what parliamentary immunity was meant for.  Notice that there was no mention of passing somebody else’s words as your own as privileged speech.


Rule X § 13 (2) in the Rules of the Senate gives the Senate ethics committee jurisdiction over “all matters relating to the conduct, rights, privileges, safety, dignity, integrity and reputation of the Senate and its members.” That, presumably, includes Sotto’s alleged plagiarism and general unsavoriness of character. Under Senate rules, the committee can recommend punishment and “with the concurrence of two-thirds of the entire membership, suspend or expel a Member.”


The ethics committee can, but it will not. In the first place, the Senate ethics committee will not be able to reach a quorum of members willing to attend hearings and dignify a complaint against one of their own. This was a problem even when Senator Manuel Villar Jr. was facing an ethics complaint over a more serious charge of corruption and of being Senate president in the run up to an election year.


Ethics investigations against Senator Panfilo Lacson, who was accused of not doing his job by virtue of being absent from the Senate because he was a fugitive from justice, also went nowhere.


For an offense like plagiarism, which Sotto says is not even a crime even if he did do it which he isn’t saying he did, committee chairman and Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano might not even bother booking a room to hold a hearing in. Besides, he’ll be busy preparing for his election campaign and nurturing his deep hatred for Commission on Elections chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr.


Should Sotto be held accountable for plagiarism? Certainly, and the bloggers and professors who want him to answer for his intellectual dishonesty should be commended for fighting the good fight. As with many good fights, though, this one is against windmills who haughtily condemn corruption and contemptuous behavior in others but would rather be the laughing stock of the World Legislators’ Club than admit that they can make mistakes.


Sorry, rest of the world. I win. #sorrynotsorry

Same Old Story

Here’s a development that surprised few but disappointed many: The Makabayan Coalition, an alliance of progressive party-list organizations promising a new brand of politics, has admitted guest candidates to its slate.

None of them is a new name and Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño’s justification for the team-up is as old as Cebu Representative Pablo Garcia, who, at 86, is the oldest lawmaker in Congress.

Citing the principle of “politics is addition,” Casiño said he and the guest candidates would “mutually” benefit from the alliance.

Makabayan Coalition has thrown its support behind Senators Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda and Aquilino Pimentel III, former Las Piñas representative Cynthia Villar and former Movie and Television Review and Classification Board chair Grace Poe Llamanzares, calling them, along with Casiño, the “Senate Champions.”

Escudero and Legarda are already old hands at the Senate while Pimentel is seeking his second term. Villar is the wife of Senator Manuel Villar Jr. and mother of Las Piñas Representative Mark Villar. Escudero, Pimentel, and Villar are from political families.

Escudero, Legarda, and Llamanzares are common candidates of the two big coalitions fielding candidates in the 2013 elections, the administration’s and the also-administration-but-not-as-much United Nationalist Alliance.

Villar is an official candidate of the administration coalition while Escudero and Pimentel are friendly to Malacañang. Casiño is not and has been critical of the Aquino administration, but that apparently doesn’t matter as long as everybody’s happy.

Casiño, before he officially filed his candidacy, promised an alternative to “basically the same names, faces and vested interests that have dominated Philippine politics for decades.” His challenge then: “Wala na bang iba?” Is there nobody else?

That question has apparently been answered.

Guess What? The Cybercrime Law is Totally Legit!

What’s our problem with the Cybercrime Law? None, really, other than the utterly ham-handed insertion of a libel provision, which goes like this:


What’s Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code?  It goes like this:

Art. 355. Libel means by writings or similar means. — A libel committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means, shall be punished by prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from 200 to 6,000 pesos, or both, in addition to the civil action which may be brought by the offended party.

This, of course,deserves the question, what is libel? That is answered by Article 353 of the RPC, making this piece of legislation seem more like a magical treasure hunt than a law:

Art. 353. Definition of libel. — A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead

What the senators did, essentially, was copy-paste the definition of libel (which, as words on a page, are totally sound) into the
Cybercrime Law and slapped “through a computer with the Internets lol” after it.

Because, as Senator Edgardo Angara explains in deliberations recorded in the Senate Journal (which we took the liberty of reading for you): “lol cyberspace, or as they call it, the Internets, is just a new avenue lol for libel lol wtf”

What will this do to you, dear reader, from least to worst-case scenarios? Let’s face it. You’re probably not going to get thrown in
jail for Liking a funny picture of Tito Sotto as Robocop.

We suspect the DOJ Office of Cybercrime, backed by the PNP and NBI, are first going to come down hard on Anonymous Philippines, who so brazenly hacked a fistful of government websites in protest. Also, that Carlos Celdran, because he’s so goddamn outspoken and freeee.

The worst-case scenario, however, is no laughing matter: twelve years in jail, because if you commit crime with a computer, it apparently deserves the next higher degree of punishment. Also, you won’t have the Filipino Freethinkers to bail you out… Celdran.

Nobody is truly free.

But you know all this. What we’re going to talk about is how it happened, and why the production of such a law is ten times scarier
than what’s going to happen to your asshole in jail.

How did it happen? Legally, and through the proper avenues.  Scared yet?

The passage of the Cybercrime Law, libel provision included, followed due process, which means:

1. A senator filed a bill from his brain. In this case, Senator Angara.

2. It was referred to a committee which held hearings, and produced a
committee report.

3.That report was then delivered to twenty-three senators, who are
expected to read and discuss it.

4. The bill went through a period of amendments, a battering of comments like “change this word to that,” “make this illegal,” and “charge 50,000 pesos rather than 10,000.”

5. The bill was voted on twice, and passed twice.

6. The bill was then sent to a bicameral conference committee, AKA the shady number-crunching area, which reported back. With, well, a report.

7. Both Houses of Congress approved that report and sent it to the President for his signature.

8. He signed it.

9. Now it’s in your life. Fucking. You. Up.

Didn’t follow? It means the Cybercrime Law went through no less than presumably three hundred pairs of eyes and three hundred brains –including that of the President of the Philippines — before it decided to. Fuck. You. Up.

What the hell were these senators thinking? Let us, two indolent indios, try to guess.

Maybe the senator was assigned to a different section of the law, or missed the libel provision all together. We’re looking at you, Pia
Cayetano and Chiz Escudero, backpedaling furiously on your votes.

This suggests that our legislators approach lawmaking like college groupwork: a cocktail of dictatorship, halfhearted contribution, and a lot of “Bahala na si Batman.”

Dear senators, read the whole damn thing because you’re going to affix your name to it. Now that the populace has wrapped its collective head around the implications of the libel provision, certain senators are trying to take it back — which obviously means they didn’t read it and are now trying to convince the angry professor that their groupmates fucked up and they’re ready to do extra work to make up for their failing grade.

Maybe the senator skimmed the law. Sure, they read it, and checked off all the obviously bad things like child porn, fraud, and
cyberprostitution, and in the process, blissfully lumped libel into the Scary Things on the Internet category. This implies that libel is
as easy to identify and condemn as child porn and fraud.


It’s not, especially because identifying malice in a badly spelled Facebook status is more complicated, than, say, identifying malice in the act of owning ten gigabytes of naked ten-year-olds.

Child Porn! Fraud! Cyberprostiution! Libel!

Finally, maybe the senator read the law, understood it fully, and approved it anyway. Thirteen out of twenty-three approved it. This is
terrifying, but it’s also the most reasonable thing to assume because it implies that the senators were doing their job.

This also implies that they know that libel has long been used (since American colonial times, in fact) to “keep dissent responsible,” and
in one infamous case,  jail a man for more than two years. It also implies that they’re ready to do the same to us fucktards on the
Internet. But worse: Steeper fines and seizure of your shit. Also, more jail.

It also shows, not just implies, that legislation is based on personal experience and interest.

Take, for example, the insertion of a provision making cybersquatting a crime. Based on the Journal notes, this was not prompted by a legitimate business concern (e.g. vs. but rather the fact that and are taken, with Tito Sotto bitching that “someone else was already using [] and that individual, in fact, asked him for a huge amount of money in return for the right to use the same.” (Lucky for him, is still available. As of
this post.)

It doesn’t take someone smarter than Tito Sotto to assume that the senators who passed the bill were thinking, “Aw fuck yeah, we can
finally shut Professional Heckler down.” Because, come on, what senator has not been criticized on the Internet? Bashing Senator Manuel Villar Jr., one of those who voted for the bill, was even a backyard industry during the 2010 presidential campaign.

Nobody objected to the inclusion of the libel provision, not even Senator Guingona, whose initial opposition stemmed from the imposition of morality on cybersex. Not libel. Among the senators there, though, he was on the right track and has done the most to make up for that oversight. So, go you!

Hey, at least I opposed it.

So now the Cybercrime Law, as of yesterday, is in force. The Palace is being smug, telling us uneducated masses to read the bill in its
entirety and to utilize “proper avenues” for opposing opinions. Fact of the matter is: those proper avenues are precisely what led to this.

Meanwhile, the government is asking us to trust that they will respect our basic rights. Sure, the Aquino administration might. The next president might not. Laws are as solid as Bong Revilla’s biceps, as enduring as Tito Sotto’s mustache. It will take another law to repeal this one, and as the production of Cybercrime Law proves: it’s not a cakewalk.

Upper House of Hypocrisy

Vitaliano Aguirre


Remember this guy?

He was cited for contempt during the Corona impeachment trial for covering his ears while Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago railed at the prosecution for being gago and epal and all sorts of things. This, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said was “a sign of disrespect to a member in this court and that can’t be allowed to pass and must be dealt with according to the rules.”

He was escorted out of the Senate session hall and was banned from appearing before the Senate impeachment court again. All this for covering his ears because a senator was screaming her lungs out. But that is understandable. We must, after all, protect the dignity of the Senate as an institution.

But nothing at all from our esteemed senators over a clear and present danger to the dignity the Senate holds so dearly and guards so jealously: its own majority floor leader making a mockery of discourse, intellectual property, and of the Senate itself.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, ending his multi-part turno en contra (literally “turn against”) speech against the Reproductive Health bill, appears to have appropriated parts of a speech made by the late U.S. senator Robert Kennedy in 1966 and claimed them as his own.

His response to critics who said he had copied someone else’s words again:

I found the idea good. I translated it into Tagalog [Filipino]. So what’s the problem?” Sotto told the Philippine Daily Inquirer when asked about his reaction to the fresh accusations.

“Ano? Marunong nang mag-Tagalog si Kennedy? (What now? Does Kennedy now know how to speak in Tagalog)?” he added.

This, apparently, is par for the course at the Sotto School of Rhetoric. Last month, when he was accused of stealing content from a U.S.-based blogger for use in his speech, he dismissed the accusation as silly.

When his staff later admitted to copying from the blog but without Sotto’s knowledge, the defenses became doubly damning: That copying is normal at the Senate, and that it is all right because it is not a crime.

Despite that, there has been nothing but support from the Senate. Neither Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago nor Senator Pia Cayetano, who are pushing passage of the Reproductive Health bill have said anything.

Enrile has dismissed the plagiarism allegations saying the copying was done in good faith and what matters is whether the copied content was factual or not. Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada’s reaction is even more reason to damn the whole Upper House of Hypocrisy: “I have no business meddling in the affairs of other senators.”

This from an institution that holds hearings on the barest hint of corruption and the slightest chance of TV time. This from an institution that earlier this year voted to remove then Chief justice Renato Corona from office for lying on his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth. This from a Senate that actually did meddle in the affairs of Senator Manuel Villar Jr. when he was accused of getting rich on a supposedly diverted road extension project.