Embrace your inner loser

From Juned:

David Goliath Event

Date: May 6, 2008
Time: 8pm
Venue: Mag:net Cafe, Bonifacio High Street

You are cordially invited to join us for a chance to embrace your inner loser.

In a testament to wit, candor and irony, meet David & Goliath’s newest brilliantly satirical horde representing what could be this generations’ biggest pop-culture paradox: being a loser has never been more cool. Expect the clever, tart-tongued graphic misfits to spin it into fun and games as they prove once and for all that there’s no better time to be a LITTLE LOSER.


You can sign up here.


Lost at iBlog 4

There are certain things to do when attending blogger events. Basically, you should expand your network by meeting new bloggers. You listen to talks, take down notes. Bring calling cards, or anything that will leave a good impression on everyone (chicken costume, anyone?); a calling card will do. If there’s a chance to broadcast your URL (the open mic session), grab it.

I did none of those things at iBlog 4.

Sure, I did listen to most (not all, unfortunately) of the talks, though my attention drifted from time to time. From the magician-like presentation by Juned Sonido to the wonderful and entertaining videos by Ms. Aileen Apolo and Coy Caballes to Ria Jose‘s funny asides to Mam Noemi Dado‘s presentation on online advocacies, one thought lingered in my mind. And no, I am not telling yah about it. Ok, maybe in another post.

Breaktimes were spent chatting with Dra. Tess Termulo and The Jester-in-Exile (whose cover was blown, no thanks to Juned); then with Manuel L. Quezon III, Dra. Tess, Jester, Eugene, Juned, and Benj.

I was actually looking forward to the Chicken Mafia‘s stunt, and what I thought to be a farce turned out to be true: Philos did come, and wore that chicken costume. And it was a hit! Everyone groped Philos for pictures, and I’m sure Joyfulchicken is envious ha ha ha! Imagine all those girls!

I finally got to fondlehandle a DSLR camera – and got to shoot two pics! – thanks to Dhon Jason. I will get one soon. If the economy improves, of course.

Oh, when Marcelle Fabie hit the stage, he was looking for me to be his “assistant.” It was thoughtful of him; one time, I complained that he did not show me his tricks, and so last Saturday was his chance. Too bad call of nature intervened. All was not lost however; he did show me SEVERAL tricks during the after-party, and he scares me, really (that’s my way of saying he’s awesome).

Seen at iBlog: Ade (isnabero sa personal), AJ (who came with Ernie, of course), Dexter, Fritz (too busy with someone), George, Jane, Marck, Shari.

The iBlog format this year is I think better than last year. What I mean is, the topics were better. There were still complaints, though, from other people, and saw Mam Janette Toral having to explain how the format came to be. I did saw one post that totally pissed me off, but not enough to rant about it. Anyway, for next year’s iBlog, here is my suggestion. This is not original, OK? I saw this format in action at The Varsitarian’s Thomasian Journalism Fellowship (I had attended the inaugural and the next two). Originally, it followed this year’s iBlog format, where all participants stay in one venue, listening to speakers. And since journalism is a wide field, the organizers thought of a variation of the iBlog 2 format: there were plenary sessions, one session in the morning and another one in the afternoon; and then concurrent sessions in between plenaries, grouped by subject, where participants can choose.

Of course, that would mean someone might want to sit in two sessions that share the same schedule. It can’t be helped, unless sessions are scheduled way in advance. (I hate Operations Research.)

And then there’s a complaint about Blogging 101. We can’t please everyone, I know, but that complaint has a point, in the eyes of those who were blogging since Freddie Mercury was still alive. That is why I believe the separate-track-and-plenary format is perfect for iBlog – to tailor the summit for everyone who wants to attend.

As for me, I attend iBlog for the community, to get to know new bloggers. Unfortunately for this year, it did not happen. No thanks to that preoccupation.


A perfect gift for a Hello Kitty fangirl

If you have a daughter/girl friend/niece/sister who is getting married and a huge Hello Kitty fan, I suggest giving her this as a wedding present (if you are the generous type, that is):

Hello Kitty Washing Machine

I am just not sure if it will really make her clothes clean. Or make her husband look cute.

(Image from Hello Kitty Hell)


What. A. Day.

Every Thursday and Friday, I wear jeans. Early today, annoyed that there was no pressed pair to wear. Was about to wear slacks when mom took out a new pair, which did not need pressing. Several minutes wasted.

Then on the usual corner, I hailed this AUV. As my usual, I went towards the front seat. I let this woman get in first, and then the driver told me to sit at the back instead, even if the front seat can sit another. Disgusted, I took another AUV.

And then the MRT. I know for certain that many were late today because of it.

Arriving at the office, my brother sent me a text message, informing me that one of the hamster pups died.

What a day. And that’s just the morning.

How’s your day today?


My hamster puppies

My hamster Berta gave birth last Holy Thursday. Mom was about to change her cage’s bedding when she saw some critters crawling.

“Ay, ano ito, bulate?” Mom shouted in alarm. (Ay, what are these, worms?)

Later, she recognized these to be small hamsters. It was a surprise for all of us, since we did not know she was pregnant. I was alarmed, though, that there were only three, since the average for teddy bear hamsters is seven (Berto and Berta’s batch was ten, though one died).

While the mother tended to be over-productive, we could not help but take a look every time, to see their progress. In their second week, one of them managed to slip in the mother’s milk bowl. Good thing there was only less than half a millimeter of milk. We had to get Berta’s attention, since we couldn’t touch them yet (the mother might get rattled and eat them).

Last Thursday, they reached three weeks, so it was safe to touch the pups. Time to change the bedding, which we did Saturday morning. They are so malikot, I had a hard time putting them back into their mother’s cage. They could always wiggle away from my hands. Here are some pictures:
Continue reading


Mr. T brings patient out of coma

Who’s afraid of Mr. T? Apparently, coma is afraid of Mr. T.

Mr. T, known for his tough guy roles (in The A-Team and WWE), apparently has mystical powers:

Former The A-Team star Mr. T once stunned a sick child’s family by bringing him out of a coma – after doctors begged the actor for help.

The poorly kid fell unconscious in Detroit, Michigan in the mid-1980s – and the only physical movement he made was in response to hearing Mr. T’s name.

And when the mohawked star was in town, he stopped by the hospital to visit the ill boy – with miraculous results.

He tells Empire magazine, “His family put toys around him and one of them was a Mr. T doll. And whenever my name came up, the boy moved his arm.

“Somebody told the doctors I was in town, so they called me down there. I closed the curtains and prayed. Then, as I was walking down the hall, the kid suddenly came out of the coma and hollered out.

“That was my supernatural moment.”

It must be the mohawk. And all that bling-bling.


The circle is complete: on executive privilege


The decision and the dissenting opinions made an exposition on executive privilege, which sounds like a lecture on the topic.

US v. Nixon is the most celebrated case regarding executive privilege. Justice de Castro outlined what she called as presidential communications privilege. In US v. Nixon, it serves public interest if “the confidentiality of conversations that take place in the President’s performance of his official duties.” is maintained. The US Court deemed this privilege necessary as to provide “the President and those who assist him… with freedom to explore alternatives in the process of shaping policies and making decisions and to do so in a way many would be unwilling to express except privately.”

In another case, In re: Sealed Case, executive privilege is further refined. According to the US Court of Appeals, there are two kinds:

(1) The presidential communications privilege, which pertains to “communications, documents or other materials that reflect presidential decision-making and deliberations and that the President believes should remain confidential.” This privilege, says de Castro, applies to the President’s decision making, rooted in the principle of separation of powers. It covers “documents in their entirety, and covers final and post-decisional materials as well as pre-deliberative ones.” Justice de Castro asserts that “congressional or judicial negation of the presidential communications privilege is always subject to greater scrutiny than denial of the deliberative process privilege.”

There are three elements that apply:

a. The protected communication must relate to a “quintessential and non-delegable presidential power.”

b. The communication must be authored or “solicited and received” by a close advisor of the President or the President himself. The judicial test is that an advisor must be in “operational proximity” with the President.

c. The presidential communications privilege remains a qualified privilege that may be overcome by a showing of adequate need, such that the information sought “likely contains important evidence” and by the unavailability of the information elsewhere by an appropriate investigating authority.

(2) Deliberative process privilege, which encompasses “advisory opinions, recommendations and deliberations comprising part of a process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated.” This applies to deliberations and decisions made by executive officials, based on common law privilege.

Also, in the same case (In Re Sealed Case), the decision defines who are covered by this privilege:

In Re Sealed Case confines the privilege only to White House Staff that has “operational proximity” to direct presidential decision-making. Thus, the privilege is meant to encompass only those functions that form the core of presidential authority, involving what the court characterized as “quintessential and non-delegable Presidential power,” such as commander-in-chief power, appointment and removal power, the power to grant pardons and reprieves, the sole-authority to receive ambassadors and other public officers, the power to negotiate treaties etc.

To be specific, executive privilege applies to documents and/or communications that might reveal military or state secrets, identity of government informers, and information relating to pending investigations; it is also applied in the field of foreign relations. The applicable Philippine judicial decisions are Chavez v. PCGG [360 Phil. 133 (1998)], Chavez v. PEA [ 314 Phil. 150 (1995)], and Senate v. Ermita.

In the case at hand, Ermita claims executive privilege on the grounds of presidential communications privilege and foreign relations. Justice de Castro is convinced that the three questions are covered by executive privilege. She based her conclusion on the following:

* The communication refers to the President’s power to enter into an executive country with other states, which is a “quintessential and non-delegable” power of the President. This power does not require concurrence of the Congress.
* The communications are directed to a close advisor of the President, which is within the operational proximity of the President.
* There is no compelling need to limit the privilege, and that information is available elsewhere.

Justice de Castro expounded on her third assertion. In US v. Nixon, the Court said that a claim of executive privilege must be balanced against other interests; it is not absolute. It can only be overcome “by mere showing of public need by the branch seeking access to conversations.” She claims that the Senate committees have not categorically shown “a compelling or citical need for the answers to the three (3) questions in the enactment of a law.”

On the argument that executive privilege does not apply on cases where a possible crime or wrongdoing can be disclosed, she agrees and does not dispute the fact. However, she says that in US v. Nixon, the information was requested for a pending criminal investigation and not for a legislative inquiry. Here, her reasons get a bit iffy:

Unlike in Nixon, the information here is elicited, not in a criminal proceeding, but in a legislative inquiry. In this regard, Senate v. Ermita stressed that the validity of the claim of executive privilege depends not only on the ground invoked but, also, the procedural setting or the context in which the claim is made. Furthermore, in Nixon, the President did not interpose any claim of need to protect military, diplomatic or sensitive national security secrets. In the present case, Executive Secretary Ermita categorically claims executive privilege on the grounds of presidential communications privilege in relation to her executive and policy decision-making process and diplomatic secrets.

On the argument that the right of the people to information on matters of public concern outweighing executive privilege, she disagrees because Neri did appear, and that he expressed his willingness to answer more questions other than the three. Besides, she says, the right to information is subject to limitation, as stated in Article III, Section 7 of the Constitution. She then stated these limitations as stated in several laws. She also said:

These are in addition to what our body of jurisprudence classifies as confidential and what our Constitution considers as belonging to the larger concept of executive privilege. Clearly, there is a recognized public interest in the confidentiality of certain information. We find the information subject of this case belonging to such kind.

She also contends that the right of Congress to information in aid of legislation cannot be equated with the people’s right to know. She quotes Senate v. Ermita:

Thus, while Congress is composed of representatives elected by the people, it does not follow, except in a highly qualified sense, that in every exercise of its power of inquiry, the people are exercising their right to information.

On whether the claim of executive privilege was properly invoked, de Castro says Ermita’s letter satisfies the requirements:

a.) There must be a formal claim of privilege, lodged by the head of the department which has control over the matter. Justice de Castro says the letter by Ermita is enough: “There he expressly states that ‘this Office is constrained to invoke the settled doctrine of executive privilege as refined in Senate v. Ermita, and has advised Secretary Neri accordingly.’ Obviously, he is referring to the Office of the President. That is more than enough compliance.”

b.) A formal and proper claim of executive privilege requires a “precise and certain reason” for preserving their confidentiality. She finds the grounds given by Ermita enough for the Senate to understand why the information is privileged. This requirement is specified in Senate v. Ermita: an allegation be made “whether the information demanded involves military or diplomatic secrets, closed-door Cabinet meetings, etc.” She quoted Ermita’s letter, which she asserts satisfies the requirement:

The context in which executive privilege is being invoked is that the information sought to be disclosed might impair our diplomatic as well as economic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Given the confidential nature in which these information were conveyed to the President, he cannot provide the Committee any further details of these conversations, without disclosing the very thing the privilege is designed to protect.

She then concluded:

At any rate, as held further in Senate v. Ermita, the Congress must not require the executive to state the reasons for the claim with such particularity as to compel disclosure of the information which the privilege is meant to protect. This is a matter of respect to a coordinate and co-equal department.

That ends the discussion on executive privilege as elucidated by the majority of the justices through Justice de Castro’s decision. To sum up:

The answer to the three questions are covered by executive privilege on the following grounds:

1. The answers to the three questions refer to a conversation between the President and a close advisor. This satisfies the presidential communication privilege and the operational proximity test.
2. The answers refer to an exercise by the President of powers that is “quintessential and non-delegable,” and does not require concurrence of the Senate.
3. There is no compelling need to limit the privilege and disclose the information.


The circle is complete: background

I believe that it is best that lawyers explain to us what Neri v. Ermita means. However, that doesn’t – and shouldn’t – deter us mere laymen from perusing the said decision, comprehending what the justices wanted to say (and hide, obfuscate, or justify), understanding what the decision meant, and analyzing its impact on our daily lives and on our country.

I will try to summarize the decision in several posts.


Romulo Neri testified before the Senate Blue Ribbon, Trade, and Defense Committees about the aborted National Broadband Network. He was asked several questions, but refused to answer three questions:

a)Whether the President followed up the (NBN) project?

b)Were you dictated to prioritize the ZTE?

c)Whether the President said to go ahead and approve the project after being told about the alleged bribe?

He refused to answer these questions, citing executive privilege. He then refused to attend subsequent hearings. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita instead sent a letter stating the claim of executive privilege:

Maintaining the confidentiality of conversations of the President is necessary in the exercise of her executive and policy decision making process. The expectation of a President to the confidentiality of her conversations and correspondences, like the value which we accord deference for the privacy of all citizens, is the necessity for protection of the public interest in candid, objective, and even blunt or harsh opinions in Presidential decision-making. Disclosure of conversations of the President will have a chilling effect on the President, and will hamper her in the effective discharge of her duties and responsibilities, if she is not protected by the confidentiality of her conversations.

The context in which executive privilege is being invoked is that the information sought to be disclosed might impair our diplomatic as well as economic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Given the confidential nature in which these information were conveyed to the President, he cannot provide the Committee any further details of these conversations, without disclosing the very thing the privilege is designed to protect.

Because of his refusal to attend the committee hearings, an arrest order was issued against Neri. He then filed a petition to the Supreme Court to stop the Senate from compelling him to answer the three questions, and to revoke the arrest order.

I have converted the decision by Justice de Castro and the dissent by Chief Justice Puno into PDF. You can get them here:

* The decision by Justice Teresita de Castro on GR No, 180643, Neri v. Ermita
* Dissenting opinion by Chief Justice Reynato Puno on GR No. 180643, Neri v. Ermita


SC votes 9-6 in favor of executive privilege

From ABS-CBN News:

SC votes 9 to 6, rules Arroyo-Neri talks on NBN are secret

The Supreme Court today sustained the principle of executive privilege over Congress’ right to information, according to abs-cbnNEWS/Newsbreak sources.

Voting 9 to 6, the SC sustained former Socio-economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri’s defense that the Senate cannot force him to answer questions covered by executive privilege.

The ruling was penned by SC Associate Justice Teresita de Castro.

This gives the Office of the President the upper hand in its protracted power struggle with the Senate on whether officials of the executive branch should appear in Senate hearings in aid of legislation.

The Senate is presently investigating allegations of irregularity in the $329 million NBN-ZTE contract, and the SC decision could prematurely put an end to the inquiry.

The ruling may also quash efforts by the opposition-dominated Senate to finally pin down President Arroyo to the anomalous deal, after revelations by witnesses that First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and other close allies were dipping their hands into the project.

However, the Supreme Court voted 10 to 5 on whether the Senate’s arrest warrant and procedure on Neri were valid.

This means Neri will have to appear before the Senate but he cannot answer questions covered by executive privilege.

From GMA News:

It’s 9 vs 6: SC favors Neri’s plea vs ZTE probe – sources

In a 9-6 vote, the Supreme Court on Tuesday granted the petition of Romulo Neri, former socio-economic planning secretary, to hinder the Senate from grilling him on the alleged anomalies in the $329.48-million National Broadband Network project with China’s Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment, Corp.

Two well-placed sources from the high court said that nine of the justices that included newly appointed justice Arturo Brion voted in favor of the petition, which sought the invocation of executive privilege in relation to Neri’s communication with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on the botched NBN-ZTE deal.

The sources said that Chief Justice Reynato Puno, and associate justices Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Alicia Austria-Martinez, Conchita Carpio-Morales, and Adolfo Azcuna were among those who went against Neri’s petition.

Neri, who filed the suit in his capacity as former director of the National Economic Development Authority, claimed that the three questions posed to him during his first and only Senate appearance last year were privileged communications covered by the principle of executive privilege and which can only be divulged during an executive session.

The three questions are whether the President followed up the NBN-ZTE project with Neri; whether he was told by the President to prioritize the NBN-ZTE project; and whether the President told him to go ahead with the project after learning of the massive bribe offer.

Neri’s invocation of executive privilege on these questions had prompted senators to cite him for contempt. The Senate also issued an arrest warrant against Neri after he refused to attend the inquiry into the NBN-ZTE deal.

At the Palace, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said Malacañang “respect(s) the decision of the Supreme Court.

“We hope that, looking forward, the Senate and the Executive can work out mutually acceptable rules on appearances in Senate inquiries in aid of legislation, which will guarantee the rights of resource persons and parties affected by congressional hearings, as stipulated by the Constitution,” he said.