In the Philippines, stories of money changing hands from litigants to judges are not new. But here is a case where a judge himself confirmed how money was used to buy "justice" in a criminal case. He was the judge who signed the decision convicting the accused. According to this judge, he did not pocket any penny. Other people- among them a prosecutor and a lawyer said to be the bagman of another judge- divided the hefty bounty from the private complainant among themselves.

The judge says he wrote a decision acquitting the accused. Oh, by the way, when the decision was read, the judge was absent. It was purportedly the birthday of a loved one. It was another judge (someone identified with the lawyer I mentioned) who did. His Honor was surprised that what was read was a decision convicting the accused.

In fairness to His Honor, he still gave the accused the opportunity to read the draft decision for acquittal. He told the poor guy's mother, "If the money taken from the private complainant will be returned, the decision will be overturned." To make a long story short, the family of the accused did not entertain the innuendo. (Come on- he did not say, "If you return the money...") The accused is now in a Metro-Manila jail. Oh, yes, I should not have forgotten this: The judge also said to the accused's mother, "But you know what? I saved your son. If I acquitted him, he would have been killed by killers hired by the private complainant." I know you are confused. Did he not say earlier that what he prepared was a decision acquitting the accused? I am also confused why he was surprised that what was read was a decision for conviction. It bore his signature!

I repeat: His Honor says he received no penny. He even pointed to a crucifix in his chambers. OK, fine, whatever.

Categorically, I state that this is not my case, although I was the man's counsel in another litigation. I have not made any unequivocal assertion that the case was decided in Baguio City where I was based when the events I sketchily described happened. It is good to keep the public guessing. When an administrative case against the judge is filed and the story hits the papers, you will know who he is.

By the way, it is good to visit jailhouses. The inmates are great story-tellers. They will tell you how much justice costs or does not cost.

Anyway, from the story came inspiration to write some lines that I wanted to give to the accused. I never did but I hope it reaches him. I am glad though that I was able to visit him in jail before he was transferred to the National Penitentiary. I even succeeded in making a plea on his behalf to stay his transfer for a week or so. The sight of his baby girl and his wife shattered my heart into tiny splinters.

One day when he is free, perhaps he will read this poem. Don't we always say, "The truth sets free?"

Footnote to a Conviction

Echoes cringe from the audacity
To inter Justice in her own Hall
The sable robe has been imbrued
Yet again
With the blood of innocence

Justice, orphaned, wanders
In the ebony of the nocturnal air
In the clarity of diurnal light
Banished from her own hall
By ghastly hoodlums in robes
Who claim to have touched
The sacred mind of God

A hollowed crucifix is suspended
From a wall in the chambers
Whose sterility is a chilling myth
Even to its two-faced occupant
The wall is straining to burst
With nefarious secrets caged
In the rhetoric of justice

The prisons are not deaf
They know Truth
Languishing within their walls

Let His Honor swim in his own filth
Let his stomach bulge from the bounty
Of his own depravity
One day, the Judge

Will be judged. chytdaytec/15june09

(I am reproducing in the Comments section some of the comments posted on Facebook.)


This is a story about how I got my package as much as it is a story about knowing what brassieres are made of. No, there is no word in what I am about to write that warrants either bowdlerizing or censorship.

On August 12 while still in the Philippines, I sent to Budapest via courier service a box of clothes and shoes with myself as consignee. Two days later, I was to fly to Hungary’s capital to study in Central European University, an international post-grad school established by Mr. George Soros. I thought that since my cabinets back home are bursting with clothes I accumulated through the years (Yes, I still have those caftans and shawls I had more than ten years ago. I never obeyed the rules of fashion so nothing goes passé for me.), it would be impractical if not a social offense to buy sweaters, jackets and suits in Europe. Besides, having traveled to the continent previously, I was already aware that clothes here fetch a fortune compared to Asia. The courier company told me that my unaccompanied luggage would arrive in Budapest three to four days later.

I flew to Hungary. As soon as I arrived at the student hotel, the receptionist handed me some papers faxed by the courier company. It was asking me to submit a copy of my passport, my flight ticket and accomplished value declaration form. Wow, the company's speed impressed me. After two days, I complied.

For more than a week, I waited for my stuff but none came. So I emailed the company asking for update and was told my faxed documents were not received. Deciding to be unstinting in giving the benefit of the doubt, I emailed my documents.

A day later, I got an email from the company’s Custom Clearance Supervisor. It said: “I received your filled form but I need a list of the items in the package. Please send this list with unit values and what kind of matter made of the clothes and shoes.” The message was cloudless enough to me. I mean I understood what she said. But not why. I felt harassed.

I emailed back: “I already submitted the list to your office in the Philippines. In fact, your people were the ones who loaded my things in the box. For the list, just refer to the receipt because everything is there. If you want to open the package, you may. Everything is used clothing and shoes except for the Ponds facial cream. I cannot send a list detailing the materials of which the clothes and shoes are made. As it happens, in my most recent past life, I was a lawyer and a teacher and not an expert on determining kinds of materials used for clothes. I would just say they are all made of cloth. The rubber shoes are made of rubber; the leather shoes are made of leather and the facial cream is made of chemicals.” Well, I also had three pairs of brassieres -the only unused items- in the box but I was a bit bashful to mention them. But I was not shy enough to resist being sarcastic.

I could not also resist saying I "was" a lawyer, even if I come from that part of the world where the justice system has essentially nothing to do with justice. In a continent strong on rights, I thought it would paint the picture that I am legally brawny. Deliberately, I created the impression that a litigation was in the offing. I imagined the customs supervisor's facial muscle twitching a bit and her shoulder muscles going taut upon reading my mail. I must have smirked with self-assurance then.

But the supervisor did not, would not let up! She emailed me again: “We have a list but we don’t know the unit prices because this information isn’t on the list! If you don’t know the material we can make inspection but you should pay warehouse charge about 5100 HuF.”

I went ballistic and shot back: ““Don't you think it is unfair that (your company) did not tell me about your requirements when I shipped? And why should I be made to pay warehouse charge on account of your not telling me something I should have been told?

“What materials do you want me to say my goods are made of? The cream is made of chemicals. The clothes are made of cloth. The sweaters are made of polyester thread. The rubber shoes are made of rubber. The leather shoes are made of leather. And I am pretty sure of this: the brassieres are made of spandex! I am sorry for not mentioning this earlier.”

I was already seeing red. Literally. I had to be scathingly sarcastic and sarcastically scathing.

She emailed me: “ I try to help. If you want to get this package duty free we need your airplane ticket and passport copy.” Hey, I already sent my passport copy and ticket but since she was conciliatory, I answered: “Thank you so much. I will send you the passport copy and ticket tomorrow.” Hah, I did not even know that the requirement to submit a list had to do with taxation. I was not expecting to pay any tax on top of the hefty amount (approx. USD250 for 25 kgs) for courier service I paid.

I did not send my passport copy, neither my ticket because I completely forgot about them. My short-term memory failure is chronic. I realized my lapse only when I was in school. When I was in the computer room taking my computer test -which I flunked as I did not even successfully hurdle stage one- I looked at my mail box. The company sent me a mail saying my luggage was ready for delivery. Later I got a mail that said: "Shipment delivered."

When I got home in the afternoon, my package was waiting for me. Now that my swim suits arrived, I can dip in my hotel’s pool every night. Maybe, I will learn to like pinacolada so I can drink it by the "pool shore" and look chic. I think people get embarrassed when you are all in a bar and they order all these alcohol-laced drinks with names my tongue cannot pronounce (and back there in the Philippines, with names I cannot say but can write, such as Sex on the Beach) while you order tea, or in some cases, milk.

Morale of the story: When you ship unaccompanied luggage, always add brassieres. All the men out there surely have a wife, a girlfriend or both, if not a grandmother. When asked what your shipped goods are made of, just say: “I am pretty sure of this: the brassieres are made of spandex!” It is probably the only right thing you have to say.

(I am posting on the Comments Section some of the reactions that I received on Facebook.)


In the Philippines, the biggest political announcement this week is Sen. Mar Roxas' decision to give up his presidential ambition in favor of Sen. Benigno Simeon Noynoy Aquino, his partymate in the Liberal Party and son of martyr Benigno Ninoy Aquino and the late "People Power" icon Pres. Corazon Aquino. Even before the official announcement was made, my husband Leandro who happens to be the Liberal Party's regional chair in the Cordillera Region sent me a text message informing me about it.

Noynoy, who appears to have a strong middle class following, is said to be a reluctant candidate.

Dr. Carol Araullo wrote a very objective article
published in Business World, 4-5 September 2009 issue. I am reproducing it as I did on my Facebook wall. It is also interesting to read the comments posted on my Facebook wall which I am reproducing in the Comments section.

By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

Those who predicted the fizzling out of moves to enlist Senator Noynoy Aquino to run for President in the wake of the massive turn-out at the burial of his mother, former President Corazon Aquino, did not expect the relative ease and swiftness by which Senator Mar Roxas was dislodged from being the Liberal Party’s presidential candidate. Strangely enough, Mr. Roxas was apparently convinced to give way, not to a better candidate, not even to a more convincingly popular one at that.

The Noynoy-for-President supporters are invoking not his personal qualities and achievements but those of his departed famous parents. There is a discernible, if not conscious attempt, to draw parallels between the situation faced by Cory Aquino when she was drafted as a reluctant candidate in 1986 to run against the dictator Marcos and her son’s current circumstances. All the better it seems to invest him with the mantle of his parent’s political legacy.

Mr. Aquino’s own reluctance to run for president has been elevated to political virtue, interpreted to mean he is not lusting after the most powerful office in the land unlike the other presidential candidates, much in keeping with his beloved mother’s sterling example.

The delay in Mr. Aquino’s announcement that he will enter the presidential race lends itself quite nicely to the political drama of the man’s sudden foray into the big-time electoral arena. The campaign strategists in the Liberal Party are doubtlessly capitalizing on the people’s contempt for the kapit-tuko Arroyo clique by projecting the image of self-sacrifice and team spirit of the LP stalwarts, Messrs. Roxas and Aquino.

Noynoy’s lack of involvement in corruption scandals and any high-profile role in the horse trading and other opportunist maneuverings inherent in the decadent political order are pointed to by his supporters as added points that allegedly make him the ideal foil against the corrupt-ridden and morally-bankrupt Arroyo regime.

As for Mr. Aquino’s lack of preparedness for the requirements of being Chief Executive, cited not only by Malacañang and his detractors but by his own close-knit family, once more the example of his mother, the plain-housewife-turned-opposition-leader, is offered to trump the arguments against him. On faith, we are supposed to accept the line that if Cory could do it, so can Noynoy.

All this is secondary to the more forceful argument-- that Noynoy is the only person capable of uniting the opposition and galvanizing it into a cohesive machinery with a single presidential candidate that can square off with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's candidate, if not GMA herself. He is purportedly the only star in the Philippine political firmament that would auger our nation’s deliverance from the usurping, plundering and power-hungry Arroyo regime.

That idea appeared to have gotten a big boost last Monday when Mr. Roxas withdrew from the race in favor of Mr. Aquino. But it is still a long way to go from what the Noynoy-for-President drumbeaters are claiming he alone can do. What it achieved was galvanize the dominant Liberal Party faction into backing Noynoy instead of Mar Roxas, virtually clinching the nomination for Noynoy even as he defers his announcement to run.

As expected, survey frontrunner Sen. Manny Villar has promptly indicated he is not about to back out and give way to some people whose main credentials are in their surnames and aristocratic origins. Obviously referring to the Aquino-Roxas tandem, Mr. Villar reasoned that the people deserve to have a candidate who has plebeian origins and who knows what it's like to be destitute in this country. Again, obviously referring to himself.

It remains to be seen whether Noynoy would be able to persuade the likes of come backing deposed President “Erap” Estrada and young upstart Sen. Chiz Escudero to unite under his banner, but most will agree it's a long shot.

But this is not even the main and most important issue at hand. Buried under the rising anticipation and excitement on who will run with whom is the question: what do they stand for?

Roxas et al herald themselves as THE harbingers of "tunay na pagbabago" -- genuine change. Fine. It is at least recognition that the Filipino people need and demand more than a change of Malacañang tenants. (Ironically, it was from the Aquino presidency that the people began to realize that replacing a hated, despotic, plundering, fascist and puppet ruler with a benign and popular one does not necessarily rid government of corruption, puppetry and fascist rule.)

One of the most important lessons of the “people power” uprisings, EDSA 1 and 2, which are relevant to the current election campaign is that it is not enough to unite the opposition against an already isolated incumbent president. It is not enough to win the vote and expel that unwanted ruler.

What is more important – in fact, most important -- is to unite the opposition and the people behind a program of genuine change. From corruption and plunder to clean government; from political repression to upholding civil and political liberties; from subservience to foreign interests to an independent foreign and economic policy; from feudal exploitation and oppression arising from landlessness to genuine land reform, from wanton destruction of the environment for profit to ecological protection and sustainability; from a militarist solution to armed conflicts to negotiating in earnest with revolutionary armed movements for a just and lasting peace; and much more.

None of the serious contenders has so far come out with a substantial platform for change, including those who claim to stand for it. Beyond motherhood statements and rhetoric, not one has painstakingly elucidated his or her stand on land reform, foreign debt, trade liberalization, labor rights, US military presence and activities in Philippine territory, electoral reform, the right to self determination of the Moro people and other indigenous peoples, etc.

Too often, the candidate’s stand on major problems bedeviling our country is the last thing to be made known, if at all. Thus the quality of the political discourse during the election period does little to raise the political awareness of the electorate and bring about a more informed and wise choice of leaders.

A Noynoy-led Liberal Party, or for that matter any and all of the opposition parties, will be doing our people a great service if they clearly spell out their stand on these issues and unite our people behind a platform that is truly democratic, patriotic and just.

Until they seriously do so and while they continue to engage in the politics of personalities, opportunism and demagoguery, they would not have taken a single step away from the worn-out, rotten politics of old towards "tunay na pagbabago".*#

*genuine change