Sereno ousted

 

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Surprised?

Well, not really, if you ask me.

Ever since former president Benigno Aquino appointed Maria Lourdes Sereno as replacement for the ousted late Chief Justice (CJ) of the Supreme Court (SC) Renato Corona in 2012 for undeclared wealth, there was no denying that the writing on the wall was likewise ominous for her.

The fact that Sereno leapt over her more senior peers of associate justices was unfair enough, but it was even deemed more unthinkable that Sereno, then 52, was expected to stay in her post until reaching the mandatory retirement age in 2030. It is no secret that it is the dream of every associate justice who have aged and gone this far to head the SC one time or another before retiring.

Perhaps this is the reason why Sereno was joined by only five associate justices at her first flag-raising ceremony.  Local media viewed the absence of her eight other colleagues as a snub, and confirmation that she leads a divided court.

Divided court indeed, for at the crucial time when Sereno needed her associate justice’s support, eight (8) turned their back and left her to fall in disgrace.

This is what the writing on the wall was all about, so to speak. For one reason or for many reasons, for as long as it not only pleases the ears of those who dislike Sereno, but has found justifiable reason for her to be removed, then the mechanism for her ouster could immediately be initiated.

It all started last March when the House of Representatives’ justice committee voted on the impeachment complaint against CJ Sereno filed by lawyer Larry Gadon. During these times, Solicitor General Jose Calida also filed the quo warranto petition citing Sereno’s failure to submit the required statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth when she was applying for the Chief Justice position.

What happened is that the SC en banc granted the quo warranto petition that questioned the validity of Sereno’s appointment and, voting 8-6, ousted her.

The decision is expected to be immediately executory, pending the filing of a motion for reconsideration by Sereno.

Not a lawyer, I wanted to educate myself on what ‘quo warranto’ is all about and if it has all the legal basis in ousting an impeachable official like Sereno.

This is what I learned, and gladly sharing it with you, after I visited this site: https://oag.ca.gov/opinions/quo-warranto.

Quo warranto is a special form of legal action used to resolve a dispute over whether a specific person has the legal right to hold the public office that he or she occupies.

Quo warranto is used to test a person’s legal right to hold an office, not to evaluate the person’s performance in the office. For example, a quo warranto action may be brought to determine whether a public official satisfies a requirement that he or she resides in the district; or whether a public official is serving in two incompatible offices.

Quo warranto is not available to decide whether an official has committed misconduct in office. A person who commits misconduct in a public office may be penalized or even removed from office, but quo warranto is not the proper forum for those cases. Other processes are available for that purpose.

The term “quo warranto” (pronounced both kwoh wuh-rahn-toh, and kwoh wahr-un-toh) is Latin for “by what authority”—as in, “by what authority does this person hold this office?” The term “quo warranto” is still used today, even though the phrase no longer appears in the statutes.

Quo warranto originated in English common law as a process initiated by the crown to find out whether a person was legitimately exercising a privilege or office granted by the crown, or whether the person was instead intruding into a royal prerogative.

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Duterte’s decision to close Boracay

Perhaps one can say that this piece is already water under the bridge since President Rodrigo Duterte has already approved the recommendation of the three government agencies, namely, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to close the resort island of Boracay for six months.

The description by no less than the president of the famed place as “cesspool” indeed decidedly put a halt to the influx of tourist to the place.

“You go into the water, it’s smelly. Smells of what? Sh*t,” he had said.

Pretty strong and unfavorable words for the local government and stakeholders, but they all had it coming.

I am not writing this to discuss the inadequacies and ineptness of those governing and running their private entities while thinking only of the windfall of earnings they can make at the expense of the tourist who simply wants to experience fun in the Philippines, and the much talked about Boracay in particular, for this issue has received quite a beating already.

But it is perhaps proper and timely to mention here that the shortcomings, the myopic vision, and the vested interests of their own concerns took a toll on the environment, which is an important facet of tourism.

What I want to talk about, therefore, which certainly is not water under the bridge, is in the context of the urgency and necessity of the Boracay closure.

We must admit that the problems that caused embarrassment to Boracay, famous for its powdery white sand and shallow azure water, did not happen overnight, or to put it straightforward, during Duterte’s presidency.

It has been reported that Boracay’s degradation has been blamed on the failure of the local government to enforce ordinances on marine conservation, garbage and sanitation, and zoning and construction, among others.

Also, that at least 300 hotels, resorts and inns have been ignoring an ordinance that requires them to build their own sewage and wastewater treatment facilities. They have instead been dumping waste into canals meant only for rainwater and surface overflow.

Another upsetting revelation is that four of the nine wetlands on the island, meanwhile, are occupied by a shopping mall, a hotel and around 100 illegal settlers.

Talking about impunity by both the governing body and the governed!

While past administrations acted like the three proverbial monkeys exemplifying the proverbial principle of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, Duterte used his leadership and political will to make a difference in Boracay.

After all, it is the long range plan of sustaining the grandeur of Boracay for the country’s tourism industry that matters most.

 

Dried fish packaging

 

While this article may legitimately apply to consumer advocates, I am addressing this, however, directly to the consuming public for their immediate awareness and vigilance when buying dried fish or any dried sea product for that matter in a transparent plastic packaging.

It used to be that the salted, sun-dried fish, especially the much sought after “danggit” variety (rabbitfish), which is a known delicacy for breakfast, can be bought loose at certain quantities and costs in transparent plastic packaging material.

The problem however is in the aesthetics as the goods inside simply piles up at the bottom of the container, especially when lifted, and does not appear as presentable and inviting as when the items inside are orderly arranged.

The marketing people perhaps thought that the best way of having the items in place, in lieu of a vacuum packaging machine, is to staple it to the plastic container so that even if it is displayed hanging from the hook or taken out for a closer look it remains immovable.

They may have considered it a brilliant solution to their marketing problem, but in the process their seemingly clever and artful act is posing a serious threat to the health and safety of the consuming public.

I am talking of course about the staple wires that one might miss removing once one decides preparing the dried fish for breakfast. You can bet that you will have a handful of these tiny wires once you start unpacking the whole thing.

I am also writing this just in case you get this kind of “danggit” packaging coming from Manila.

 

Assisted suicide

 

Professor David Goodall

This is about two resolute individuals with different medical concerns but with one gallant goal in mind – to be able to enlist assistance to bring about a “peaceful and dignified” death, a euphemism for physician assisted suicide.

Let me first talk about Professor David Goodall, an honorary research associate in Ecology at Perth’s Edith Cowan University, who, at 104, is considered Australia’s oldest scientist.

Goodall has produced dozens of research papers and until recently continued to review and edit for different ecology journals.

He does not have a terminal illness but his quality of life has deteriorated that he has secured a fast-track appointment with an assisted dying agency in Switzerland where euthanasia is legal.

“I greatly regret having reached that age,” the ecologist said in an interview on his birthday earlier in April. “I’m not happy. I want to die. It’s not sad particularly. What is sad is if one is prevented.”

Assisted suicide is illegal in most countries around the world and was banned in Australia until the state of Victoria became the first to legalize the practice last year.

But that legislation, which takes effect from June 2019, only applies to terminally ill patients of sound mind and a life expectancy of less than six months.

If that is not ironic, I don’t know what is.

Exit International, which is helping Prof. Goodall make the trip, said it was unjust that one of Australia’s “oldest and most prominent citizens should be forced to travel to the other side of the world to die with dignity”.

Noel Conway

The other individual who had already been to the Court of Appeal in London to win the right for what he calls his “fight for choice at the end of life” is Noel Conway, a 68-year-old retired lecturer from Shrewsbury, England, who has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease in November 2014 and his health continues to deteriorate.

When this neurodegeneration occurs, everyday activities become increasingly difficult or completely impossible.

Over time, the condition progressively worsens as the muscle weakens and can visibly waste.

The majority of those diagnosed with the disease are given a three-year life expectancy starting from when they first notice the symptoms.

When Conway has less than six months to live and retains the mental capacity to make the decision, he wishes to be able to enlist assistance to bring about a “peaceful and dignified” death.

This is how Conway, who says he feels “entombed” by his illness, describes his dire predicament now: “I now can no longer walk at all and have to be hoisted from bed to chair, as well as experiencing increasing difficulty with breathing and having to wear my ventilator for 22 hours a day.”

Feeling fatalistic about the whole thing, Conway also issued the following statements: “I know this decline will continue until my inevitable death.”

“This I have sadly come to terms with, but what I cannot accept is that the law in my home country denies me the right to die on my own terms.”

The High Court judges said that as the “conscience of the nation”, Parliament was entitled to maintain a “clear bright-line rule” forbidding assisted suicide.

Again, what an irony for a man destined to die soon, who says, “The greatest fear I have is still being alive but not able to use my body.

US hands-off policy on South China Sea dispute

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim recently issued a statement, saying that America will defend the Philippines should a foreign force attack any of the country’s territories.

“Our commitment set in the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) is absolute that we will defend the Philippines,” said Kim during the Ambassador Series forum organized by Asia Society Philippines.

The US ambassador is referring to the treaty between the Philippines and US that was signed in 1951, which provides for the US to come to the assistance of the Philippines if its metropolitan territory or island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific area would be attacked.

Kim made the statement, however, with a caveat, which is that their hands-off policy on the Philippine-China territorial dispute is irrefutable.

What this means is that while the US is monitoring closely developments in the South China Sea amid the continuing militarization efforts by China on its man-made islands in the area, what concerns most the US is that the freedom of navigation in this part of the world goes must remain unhampered and undisturbed.

Not only that.

The US military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies. This is what is described as free nautical movement.

“…What we do is freedom of navigation and overflight to the freedoms of assembly and expression online. These are the things that we will enforce and so we fly, sail, and operate wherever international law permits.”

This statement was issued by Brian Hook, a senior adviser to the US Secretary of State on Asia Policy.

Hook described China’s militarization of the South China Sea as “provocative” and reiterated US commitment to uphold international law.

“We very strongly believe that China’s rise cannot come at the expense of the values and rules-based order… When China’s behavior is out of step with these values and these rules, we will stand up and defend the rule of law,” he said.

It will be noted that the Philippines has raised its claims on the South China Sea to the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration and was favored by the international court in 2016. China, however, has refused to recognize the ruling.

Be that as it may, the US policy on free nautical movement is consolation enough that somehow claimant nations in the territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea that are allies of the US are protected.

Genital-breathing turtle on the verge of extinction

I find the story of this species of turtle worth recording, while it is still around, for its unique appearance and peculiar ways. Its freakishness is what makes it worth saving.

Imagine, where else in the animal kingdom could one find a member that exhibits a very bizarre way of breathing using specialized glands in their cloacas—organs that are used for both excretion and mating and which allows it to stay submerged in water for up to 72 hours?

Indeed, the Mary River turtle, as it is called, does not only have a weird way of breathing, but it is also described as having a piercing gold eyes, ‘green hair’ and fleshy barbs on its neck and a tail that can grow to exceptional lengths – that is up to 70 percent longer than the length of its shell.

The gentle turtle’s scientific name is Elusor macrurus and the ‘hairs’ on its head are vertical strands of algae, which makes it look like a swimming patch of grass, the result of staying submerged in water for long hours.

Measuring up to 40cm, the turtle is said to take a long time to mature sexually, rarely mating before the age of 25.

They prefer to dwell in well-oxygenated, flowing sections of streams, known as riffles, though they are sometimes found in deeper pools.

It is because of its gentle/docile nature that the Mary River turtle was kept as a pet in Australia in the 1960s and 70s.

During that period, it was estimated that around 15,000 Mary River turtle eggs were sold to pet shops every year, and the unchecked raiding of the animal’s nests played a large part in driving the turtle towards extinction.

According to the Australian Zoo, Mary River turtles are also threatened by habitat degradation, which includes “problems such as a deterioration of water quality through riverside vegetation being cleared, water pollution through siltation, agricultural chemical contamination and water flow disruptions through the construction of weirs for irrigation and predation.”

As its name suggest, the Mary River turtle lives only in the flowing streams of the Mary River in Queensland, Australia.

Unfortunately the turtle is also at number 29 on the new official list of the most endangered reptiles in the world.

 

Scandalous Jinggoy never learns

Former senator JinggoyEstrada

I am talking of course about former senator Jinggoy Estrada, who until today and after spending 3 years in detention for plunder and graft charges relative to the scandalous P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), seems to have never learned to change his old ways.

The reason why I am emphasizing his individuality and ethos is because Estrada, an actor and a failed senator, is contemplating again in running for senator, and to think that he is just out on bail momentarily.

As if the plunder and graft charges against him are not shameful and degrading to his persona, enough to put him at the higher pedestal of corrupt government officials, it, however, shows no negative effect on him as he continues to beguile Filipinos with impunity.

Take for instance Estrada’s application for a travel motion to go to the US from April 21 to May 31, 2018. Accordingly, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan granted the motion on March 26 since it is a simple travel motion that the court almost always grants for defendants.

The problem, however, is that the scheming Estrada, not contented with just the travel motion request to the US, flaunted it as having been invited to speak in Michigan on Philippine affairs, and it was upon the invitation of the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG).

It was even reported that Estrada attached an invitation from William Dechavez, identified in the letter as USPGG president.

Apparently, this grandstanding by Estrada was debunked by no less than the incumbent USPGG president himself, Mr. Rodel Rodis, who issued a statement, saying: “I can confirm that there is no planned USPGG event on May 20 in Michigan. I communicated with Mr Wllie Dechavez, our USPGG Michigan chair, and he made no plans for this event as he is in the Philippines for a vacation and he has not been in touch with his members in Michigan.”

If this is not another reprehensible and dastardly act by Estrada, worthy of condemnation and boycott on his senatorial run again, I do not know what is.

Because of this fraudulent turn of events, the Ombudsman prosecutors told the Sandiganbayan: “With this information, the prosecution is constrained to pray that the Honorable Court hold in abeyance the issuance of the travel authority of accused Estrada since accused appears to have committed material misrepresentations in his motion, thus openly violating one of the terms and conditions of the court in allowing an accused to travel.

They added: “Allowing accused Estrada to travel to the United States with the consequence of making him beyond the reach of the Honorable Court, despite the falsity of the purported invitation letter, may constitute a travesty of justice.”

Jinggoy with President Duterte at the Palarong Pambansa 2018.opening.

Yet, unabashedly, Estrada continues his odious quest for a slot in the PDP-Laban senatorial slate for 2019 by working hard to be under the good graces of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Look how Estrada tries hard to ingratiate himself to the president by showing his slavish subservience – shaking the president’s hand and bowing so low.