July 15, 2006 Issue
On the cover: Manny Pacquiao whips Mexico’s Oscar Larios
By Dominic Menor
1. Uncertainly Safe
When does the constitutional ban on bringing a new impeachment complaint against President Arroyo really end—June 26, 27, 28, 29? Or is it July 24? The House of Representatives’ rules do not make this clear, so the opposition is trying to cover all the possible dates with a surplus of complaints, including one coming from another member of the Catholic clergy on July 24, the day when Mrs. Arroyo faces Congress to make her State of the Nation report. House leaders are using the uncertainty for the advantage of Mrs. Arroyo and if they are successful all the complaints brought last week, even the strongest one brought by 300 private citizens led by Zeneida Quezon Avanceña, President Manuel L. Quezon’s last surviving daughter, are dead. They interpret the ban as ending on July 24, the date of last year’s impeachment complaint to the House justice committee. Or is it July 25, a day after the referral? Maybe it’s September 7, a day after the shameless majority allies of Mrs. Arroyo threw out the first complaint last year? Or maybe after the Supreme Court has decided on Lakas Rep. Clavel Martinez’s petition for review of the House’s action on the first complaint? The picture is as uncertain as Limbo, which the Roman Catholic Church is considering dropping from its teachings because of the emerging theological view that innocent and virtuous but unbaptized people cannot be excluded from full blessedness and therefore should also be received in heaven. Given their political cupidity, Mrs. Arroyo’s allies will not accord the complaints this fairness. The only thing that matters is Mrs. Arroyo’s political survival, which means their own political survival. But even if one of the dates between June 26 and July 24 is correct, that is still no assurance that the House will impeach Mrs. Arroyo. Impeachment remains a numbers game and although some disgruntled members of the majority and some reelectionists who want to make political points ahead of next year’s congressional elections may support one of the complaints, it remains doubtful that the minority can get the 78 votes needed to hurdle the procedural barrier.
By Ricky S. Torre and Wendell Vigilia
2. Double Standard
Malacañang has asked the Catholic bishops conference to sanction Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Yñiguez for bringing an impeachment complaint against President Arroyo. That’s politicking, says presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor. Church and state should be separate. But instead of even reprimanding Yñiguez, the bishops conference throws its full support behind the Caloocan prelate’s action. Yñiguez has brought the complaint as a citizen of the Philippines, not as a member of the clergy, and the Constitution is clear about this. Sure, Yñiguez is a clergyman, but his action is consistent with the conference’s exhortation to the Filipino people to continue their search for the truth about the 2004 election. The conference has declared 2006 “Year of Social Concerns,” urging Filipinos to speak more about social issues and participate more in actions that can change their society. Why restrain Yñiguez? Former vice president Teofisto Guingona is right: Why the double standard? Why talk about separation when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo actively sought help from the church when she was trying to unseat Joseph Estrada? When it’s Mrs. Arroyo who is seeking help from the church, there is no question of separation. But when it is a clergyman that’s speaking against Mrs. Arroyo policies or actions, there should be separation. And doesn’t Mrs. Arroyo say God placed her in the Philippine presidency? And hasn’t she just attempted to use Pope Benedict XVI to picture herself as having papal blessing in insisting on ruling the Philippines? She has been beaten to the Vatican by Dagupan-Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz, who traveled to the Vatican last year and reported the true social and political conditions in the Philippines.
By Ricky S. Torre
3. Why Him Alone?
The Office of the Ombudsman, trying to beat a June 30 deadline imposed by the Supreme Court, has recommended the impeachment of Election Commissioner Resurreccion Borra for the irregular grant in 1993 of a contract to a private consortium for vote-counting machines. The Ombudsman also ordered the dismissal and criminal prosecution of eight members of the Comelec’s bids and awards committee and the criminal prosecution of the incorporators of the private supplier. A long-awaited decision coming as lame as this one causes great public disappointment, especially as Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has promised to be merciless to grafters. Mercy the Merciless is not even sure whether she has jurisdiction over impeachable officials, so she is leaving Borra at the disposal of the House of Representatives. Maybe she also doesn’t know that the Comelec acts as a collegial body, so she is singling out Borra as if the guy had the sole decision to award the contract to the unqualified bidder and winner, Mega Pacific Consortium. Members of the House minority say they will bring a complaint for Borra’s impeachment, but they are not sure whether it is fair to move against Borra alone because they know that no single member of the Comelec can approve contracts on his own—the decision is always the act of the whole commission. Gutierrez’s office says the other election commissioners are still being investigated. How? They are already retired. All the Ombudsman investigators need to do is review the records of the case and the Supreme Court’s evaluation of the facts. They have been keeping the records sent to them by the Supreme Court for nearly a year now.
By Guiller de Guzman
4. Beyond the Birds and the Bees
Are high school students ready for sex education? Shouldn’t this sensitive subject be left to parents to teach to their children? The Education Department has not even began introducing sex education in high school but the Catholic Church is already trying to block the new program, insisting that the subject be left a matter between parents and children. If it were only the church, which has a right to assert its teachings, the controversy will not be so scandalous. But self-appointed members of lay organizations are spreading lies about the program, claiming that the use of condoms will be taught in schools, complete with demonstrations. The program’s plan, however, does not include demonstrations and the word “condom” appears only twice in the text, cited only in the discussion of sexually transmitted diseases. The Education Department is going ahead with the program but for how long it can keep the subject up depends on Malacañang.
By Guiller de Guzman
5. The Roots of the Education Problem
One reason why sex education must be taught in high school is the runaway population growth, which is also the root of the acute classroom shortage in public schools. The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has long warned UN member countries about the problems that overpopulation can cause but apparently the Philippines has ignored the agency’s warning. The Unesco’s records show that as of July 2005, 36 million, or 35.4 percent, of the Philippines’ population are children up to 14 years of age and 22 million of them are eligible for public education. The Philippine government has built only 36,000 schools for these children.
By Ramiro C. Alvarez