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.

Divinely inspired

Who says history can only be written by the victor? It can be rewritten by his girlfriend, too.

As in the case of Divine Lee, former vice president for marketing of Globe Asiatique, who, when things have turned sour for the property development firm, now says she never had anything to do with the business.

I’m not part of the team. I don’t know anything (about the business and the estafa case her dad is now facing). Ako ang unang maba-bash kasi ako ang nasa harap,” the model-turned-TV host opened up.

So she has resigned herself to the fact that “at a certain point, you just realize people don’t understand.”

Divine adds that she’s helpless against the bashing.

“Wala akong magagawa if they’re bashing me because of my Dad. People will crucify me because of my last name. I guess I have to deal with then. And I can’t stop working. I have to earn a living.”

That living is apparently now earned by hosting a show on TV5, which means she is in the realm of the entertainment press.

Now, entertainment reporting goes by different rules: stars are not required by law to be truthful (unlike, say, politicians, who might get in hot water when their lies are found out) and their studios often make sure all press conferences are carefully managed. A press conference for a paracetamol-shilling matinee idol, for example, was suddenly cut short when someone rudely asked about something that was not on the agenda like a recent breakup with another celebrity.

Breaking the rules set by PR handlers and studios could mean an indefinite ban from events and being cut off from the supply of envelopes filled with money for gas and coffee. To be fair, not all entertainment reporters play by those rules. Enough do, however, for that not to be a hasty generalization.

Being in the realm of the entertainment press, nobody would, of course, dare to press Ms. Lee about her actual involvement with GA.

But consider this excerpt from a 2010 interview on Cosmo:

You’re a model, an executive, a businesswoman, and a socialite; how do you manage to do all those things?

Well, I’m rarely home for one, and I’m not yet married, so I don’t have kids to attend to. So far, I’m managing it pretty well.
I work for GA [Globe Asiatique] in the morning; I check the sites. Then I do all my meetings in the afternoon, then, after that, at night,
it’s free time…

What keeps you going?

I like what I do, I guess. It’s the best thing. I don’t count the hours. I really enjoy everything, from retail, to the club we have with Tim [Yap], even real estate. For me, real estate is like a clothing brand. You see something from paper, you see it being produced, and the next thing you know, you see someone wearing it; in real estate’s case, living there. It’s fun.

Granted, that last bit about real estate being like a clothing brand does bolster the contention that she knows nothing about the business.

Also, this picture.

More here though:

What kind of Philippines would you like to build?

Number one, because I’m in housing–I don’t know if this is too technical–but we have a three million deficit in housing, and when we ask the government [why], it’s always about the people who are illegal, squatters–they don’t have proper housing. But what i want to focus on are those people who are actually working but cannot afford a home yet. So, my dream is, by area, maybe I can provide good housing in line with what we do My dad can build houses, then on the side, we can provide a certain percentage for people who can’t afford housing.

But how can you do that, Ms. Lee, when you have nothing at all to do with GA? Give the poor over-sized sweaters they can turn into tents, maybe?

But that’s Cosmo, you may say (and by doing so be doing the magazine a disservice), that’s just stuff for fluff!

All right, then, here’s something from the Philippine Star:

Divine Lee, Globe Asiatique vice president for sales and marketing, says both Xevera Bacolor and Xevera Mabalacat are the results of extensive consultations his [sic] father held with residents of the area.

“My dad has always been an idealist. All his buyers know him personally. He goes to the projects, he talks to them and asks what their concerns are,” she says.

But wait, there’s more! This time from the Inquirer:

Lee denied being an officer of the realty firm after buyers of GA Tower 2 units filed complaints with the Pag-Ibig Fund (or the Home Development Mutual Fund) accusing the company of “double-selling” their units at the Edsa condomium.

However, in a general information sheet at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Divine Lee was listed as the CEO of the GA Tower 2.

Lee was also named as one of directors and incorporators of the condominium in the documents submitted by the realty firm to the SEC on March 18, 2010.

Now, we’re not saying Divine Lee, or any of the Lees, is guilty of defrauding the country’s housing loan fund of billions of pesos. That’s for a court to decide, if at all. While the case was still developing, Ms. Lee declined commenting on its, saying the lawyers had told her not to speak. Which, because of sub judice and out of the presumption of innocence, we would have respected and still do.

To turn around completely and rewrite history when convenient, though, goes beyond that. She and her father were not estranged when it was convenient for GA to be a family company, but suddenly here comes a sob story about having to make it alone and, apparently, being shut out of the family corporation because that story sells better.

That Ms. Lee was kicked out of the house because of her modelling career might be true. But, surely, she and her family had mended fences by around 2009? Enough, at least, for her not to correct Cosmo when it said she and her dad were very close and all that stuff about working for GA.

Out Come The Wolves

The remains of Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, whose airplane crashed into the sea around Masbate island, and a state funeral is already being arranged. Retrieval operations for the downed Piper Seneca are ongoing but the bodies of Robredo and his two pilots Jessup Bahinting and Kshitiz Chand have either been found or retrieved.

The drama around the crash is done and what’s left is to deal with the loss. Which means, of course, that out come the wolves, if they aren’t already. Expect wailing and hair-pulling about the state of aviation in the Philippines. There will also be much hand-washing on why Robredo’s appointment as Local Government secretary was never confirmed by the Commission on Appointments.
In fact, it has started already:

(Camarines Sur Rep. Luis, Sr., who allegedly blocked Robredo’s confirmation,) Villafuerte said Robredo’s death should not be sullied with finger-pointing. Earlier reports said Villafuerte had a falling-out with his nephew and had even fielded his own sister against Robredo in the 1992 mayoral elections in Naga City.

“In this time, dapat sana these are moments of prayer and grief and remembrance. Lahat ng mabubuting ginawa niya yun na lang ang alalahanin. Kalimutan na natin ang mga kakulangan niya dahil bigyan na lang natin siya ng tribute at commendation,” he said.

Other politicians not directly involved also found ways to insert themselves into the narrative, like so:

Lacson revealed yesterday that Robredo had been “quietly helping” him find a way to resurface without having to be put behind bars in connection with the Dacer-Corbito double murder case.

“I will always remember and be thankful to Secretary Jesse Robredo for personally albeit quietly helping me during my difficult time while in hiding,” Lacson said in a text message to the Manila Bulletin.

Comments circulating on the Internet even before the bodies were found criticized President Benigno Aquino III for taking a hands-on approach to the search and rescue operations for his friend, party mate, and member of his Cabinet. They also criticized the impressive array of assets mobilized for the operations. There was just too much fuss for a handful of people, they said, in a plea to common sense that the opposition may pick up soon.

Ang daming nalunod sa baha ni maayos na paglipatan wala tau maibigay. iisang tao lng nawawala buong navy at airforce pa mobilize ng pangulo.. noynoying

Like so.

This is, of course, valid in the sense that all opinions are, in a sense, valid. This is also rather stupid.

One has to wonder, for example, what the BRP Simeon Castro (PG-374) and Diesel Fastcraft-339, two of many boats deployed to Masbate, could have done in the face of the widespread flooding that drowned parts of Luzon earlier this month. Fire their machine guns in futile frustration, possibly.

Would deep-sea divers have been of much use during the floods? Would motorized bancas based in Masbate?

Critics have to realize, too, that the units deployed to look for Robredo and the pilots came from nearby Coast Guard stations and would not have been of much help to flood and landslide victims in Metro Manila, Central, and Southern Luzon anyway.

It isn’t like the government didn’t do anything during the floods, either.  The President was also around then, distributing relief goods, and attracting criticism for early campaigning.

Laguna Lake: Bringing turtles to a knife-fish fight

Meanwhile, in news that cannot end well:

The Department of the Environment and Natural Resources is considering biological warfare against an invasion of knife fish in Laguna Lake.

The knife fish “an ornamental BUT carnivorous species”, has been terrorizing fisherfolk in Laguna de Bay by eating up their tilapia and milk fish and threatening them with low harvests.

Also, by looking like this.

One proposed solution is releasing soft-shelled turtles into the lake to eat up knife fish eggs.

Isidro Mercado, DENR provincial officer, came up with the suggestion when they learned that the turtles (Pelodiscus sinensis) feed on the eggs of the knife fish.

He said the turtles, although considered “predators,” would not pose harm to marine species growing in the lake since they do not eat fish.

“We think these (soft-shelled turtles) could be a possible solution, although we are still conducting further researches to determine its characteristics,” Mercado said.

Characteristically ugly

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has warned against introducing foreign species into Laguna de Bay without first studying how that will affect the lake.

“In the case of Taal Lake, the fishermen complain about these turtles because they bite off and destroy the fish nets,” Leah Villanueva, chief of the BFAR Inland Fisheries Research Station said.

Should the release of knife-fish-killing turtles go awry, the DENR has a back-up platoon of turtle-eating crocodiles in reserve and ready for deployment.


Overplaying the Victim Card

Here’s an interesting update on the brawl between Inquirer columnist Mon Tulfo, Raymart Santiago, Claudine Barretto, and their pal in pink:

InterAksyon, the online news portal of TV5,where Tulfo’s brothers work, has a video showing Raymart and pals threw the first blow. It was a wimpy blow worthy of men in pink who beat down senior citizens, but there you go.

The video shows a man in a pink shirt who was talking to Tulfo. The man was beside a woman in pink tops and white shorts, attire that is similar to what Barretto was wearing during the May 6 incident at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City.

The man in pink shirt was seen on the video hitting Tulfo in the head with his left hand.

The scene reportedly took place before the melee.

And here’s the video:

But allegedly throwing the first punch–or any punch at all–is not the worst that this celebrity couple has done.

After the scuffle, Tulfo’s  brothers Erwin, Raffy, and Ben made threats against the couple, threatening retribution and hinting at a rematch. They have apologized for that, and were suspended by the network. The show itself was suspended by government censors.

That did not stop Santiago and Barretto from playing the victim card in the media, and, in effect, pissing on people with legitimate concerns like human rights.

The couple, for example, approached Gabriela Women’s Party for counseling, support and sympathy because, as a celebrity, Barretto’s only recourse is to run to a legitimate mass organization and make it look publicity hungry. Gabriela cannot be faulted for supporting her, of course. How can they turn away a victim of violence against women?

While we do not condone Ms. Barretto’s manner of confronting the Cebu Pacific staff for the inconvenience that her family encountered, and how she might have reacted to Mr. Tulfo, she and her family do not deserve, as no human being deserves, the violence they experienced,” Gabriela said on

What rankles is that Barretto is–except for being a woman–unlike the women that are in, or need, Gabriela. She is a celebrity, and probably has enough money for counseling from a psychiatrist. She certainly has enough money to hire lawyer Alex Avisado, who counts Senator Panfilo Lacson as a client. This writer gets the sense, then, that the move was more for publicity than for anything else: Look at us, we’re so poorwawa, we need Gabriela to defend us. And, during the time Barretto was milking that visit to Gabriela accompanied by television cameras and reporters, some other woman who cannot afford counseling or a big-name lawyer might otherwise have been served.

Not content with that, and possibly because Gabriela was smart enough not to let themselves be used to sway public opinion in an incident that does little for its cause, the couple then sought a writ of amparo (Recurso de Amparo) or protection from the Tulfo Brothers.

Which, to be fair, they can under the law.

Which, to be fair, doesn’t mean they should have. The writ, adopted from Latin American jurisdictions, was not originally intended as a legal relief in airport scuffles.

According to the Supreme Court, the writ was meant “to protect against human rights abuses especially during the time they were governed by military juntas. Generally, these countries adopted the writ to provide for a remedy to protect the whole range of constitutional rights, including socio-economic rights.”

The same Supreme Court annotation adds: “The writ covers extralegal killings and enforced disappearances or threats thereof,” a problem that this country has been having trouble addressing.

Again, sure, Raymart and Claudine can certainly ask for a writ of amparo. They can also hire bodyguards or get their pink-shirted buddy to hang out with them more often for their protection. Or, you know, not pay the Tulfos any mind because, come on, they would have to be pretty stupid to make threats on TV and then actually carry those out.

The court granted the petition and they now have police protection, so hooray. We’re paying our Philippine National Police to babysit these two.

To illustrate how this is the height of douchebaggery and a mockery of what the writ of amparo was meant to be, consider who else has filed a petition for that writ: the parents of Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, two U.P. students who have been missing since 2006.

In Defense of Mon Tulfo

It must be a cold day in hell because, for the first time ever, this website sympathizes with Inquirer columnist Mon Tulfo.

Not because of anything he said but because of what happened to him: Held down and beaten by two celebrities and their man-tourage at an airport.

Also, too much pink

The fight apparently began when Tulfo, being both curious and at one time in his life vaguely a journalist, took out his mobile phone to take pictures of actress Claudine Barretto complaining about misplaced luggage.

According to the Inquirer, where Tulfo works:

Tulfo pulled out his mobile phone and took photos of the scene, which he said would form part of a column he intended to write, when a man from the actress’ group approached him.

The man, whom he later recognized as Barretto’s husband, “demanded to get my phone which I used in taking shots.” Tulfo said he refused to surrender his phone.

Santiago continued to force Tulfo to give up his phone when several men joined the actor, according to the columnist. Tulfo said he could not recall who threw the first punch because he was being ganged up [on].

Tulfo says he was blind-sided but Barrett and her husband Raymart Santiago say Tulfo started the fight:

In an interview with Inquirer Entertainment and posted on after the incident, Santiago said that when he approached Tulfo to ask him about his cellphone video, the columnist suddenly punched and kicked him and his wife.

“Why would I hit an older man in front of my children? I wasn’t brought up by my parents that way,” he explained.

As we have no way of knowing how the Santiagos brought Raymart up, we will have to take that at face value. We will also have to note, however, that “not being brought up that way” has as much weight as a legal defense as saying “It wasn’t me.”

Tulfo’s reputation as a hot-headed potty mouth works against him in this case, as was seen on the first reactions on Twitter: They were pretty much about how Tulfo is “less of a man” for getting into a fight with a girl (and her man-tourage). But this was before a video of the incident began circulating on the Internet:

Barretto insists, on,  that Tulfo kicked her and kicked her first:

Barretto said Tulfo also kicked her twice when she confronted him about why he punched her husband.

“Lumapit ako sabi ko ‘Anong problema mo? Bakit ka nanununtok?’ Tapos bigla na lang humarap siya sa akin, tinadyakan niya ako ng dalawang beses sa hita tapos tinulak ako sa may counter ng sobrang lakas,” she said.

Tulfo admits he may have kicked Barretto:

While trying to fight his way out, Tulfo said Barretto, who was nearby, repeatedly cursed at him. He said he might have hit the actress with a kick as he tried to fight back.

In that video, someone, presumably Santiago keeps saying “Hindi pa ako tapos! (I’m not yet done!).” And that, more than anything, makes whatever defense that Tulfo allegedly started the fight invalid.

Let’s say Tulfo did start the fight. Santiago and his man-tourage would have been justified in hitting back, but only to a certain extent. Knock him out, maybe. Or push him away and then form a protective circle around Barretto until security arrived. Engaging in a brawl does not count as self defense.

According to the Revised Penal Code, Santiago and his man-tourage can claim self defense in the face of unlawful aggression, but that hinges on the reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it and the lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.*

A choke hold while loudly proclaiming you are not yet done does not count as reasonable necessity in any case except in the Octagon. Tulfo was on the ground and, although he was fighting back, was no longer a threat to anything except his tough-guy image.** Security was also on the way by the time the video was taken, so Santiago, his pal in pink, and Barretto could have–should have–backed off already.

Also, Barretto is seen taking part in the brawl herself, which means she’s as much a part of it as their bad-ass friend in pink whom Tulfo actually hits with a kick. Despite being held in a choke hold. And being an old man. Good job, Turtle.

More important than a celebrity couple beating up someone who is vaguely a journalist is a celebrity subjecting ordinary citizens to verbal abuse:

Barretto allegedly started cursing at Cebu Pacific ground staff Cid Charisse Bocboc and Kristina Anne Ilagan after she found out that their luggage had been left behind.

Aside from not having their luggage, Barretto also got mad because their flight was delayed, Bocboc told airport authorities.

Bocboc said she asked Barretto for the baggage claim stub and description of their luggages for proper tracing, but Barretto reportedly continued her tongue-lashing of the ground crew in front of other arriving passengers.

Ilagan, on the other hand, told authorities she explained to Barretto that due to weight limitations and for safety reason, their luggages had to be flown to Kalibo Airport, Aklan and that these would soon be brought to Manila.

Despite their explanations, Ilagan and Bocboc, in their handwritten statements to airport authorities, said Barretto continued to verbally abuse them.

We get that flying on Cebu Pacific can be a headache sometimes, but that is no reason to take it out on the ground crew in Manila for luggage left behind in Aklan. In the first place, they had nothing to do with it, being in Manila. And also, they are just wage slaves like the rest of us who aren’t celebrities and do not deserve that sort of treatment at all. Especially not for a problem that was already being addressed: the luggage was already being brought over to Manila.

One must also note that the luggage was supposedly left behind due to “weight limitations and for safety reason (sic)” so Barretto and Santiago may have had something to do with that. Maybe they packed too much stuff? Even if they didn’t, it bears thinking about that had Cebu Pacific loaded the luggage on the plane, the argument would not have happened. Possibly because the plane crashed into the sea.

*An Act Revising the Penal Code and Other Penal Laws [REVISED PENAL CODE], Act No.3815, art.11 (1932)

** I mean, he’s in pink even.

Guest Post: Sorry, I did not know American Idol is also the Olympics

Talent is something never to be taken for granted. It should be personally recognized, nurtured, and developed. To give the world a chance to witness something one has worked on for many years is truly a blessing.

TV shows have provided us a reasonable means to enjoy a multitude of individual and collective skills one has never thought were possible. We have countless variations of America’s Got Talent and American Idol, impressing us, the audience, and even their competitors.

Every time someone of Filipino ancestry comes out in a show like American Idol (AI), Filipinos go bananas, as if they’re related and are just one phone call away. Most of the time, the lineage of that person overshadows the talent she has.

Our brains work this way: If Filipino, then support.

Hey, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, this isn’t the Olympics. AI is not London 2012. If the other contestant obviously has more talent and is better at what she does, she deserves the attention. We tend to ignore that just because “the other one is Filipino.”

I remember seeing someone on my Facebook feed posting how she is pissed that Filipinos in America were not voting for Jessica Sanchez. Sanchez, who almost got the boot after failing to receive enough votes, was eventually “saved” by the judges who kept her in the show. The truth of the matter is, Filipinos aren’t expected to vote for her just because she is Filipino-American. That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard.

I, for one, am entitled to vote for who I think performs the best on that stage. Jessica is wonderful, but I may have a different opinion. I should not be crucified for that.

We get so excited that she might win it all, but the fact is she won’t even be marketable. I can’t even think of the last time an American-born Pacific Islander became a mainstream icon in a Western culture. Why else did former AI finalist Jasmine Trias, pop star Jay-R and others come to Philippines? We fail to recognize that the world seeing how great she is could be enough.

Ultimately, they are Americans. Filipino by bloodline, but, legally, they are American citizens. Why do we do this? Why do we feel like we need to attach ourselves to them?

The answer is the same reason people of the lower class are hooked on to Wowowee. It’s not them, so they’re happy someone else is doing it for them. That is fine, but when people are looking at it as some type of international battle and not a contest of individual talent, that’s when they have to think hard and look at themselves again.

In the end, it’s a money-making competition on  TV and the rest of the Philippines has some “reforming of the mind” to do.
(Thx, Ervin!)